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  • News

    This plastic can be recycled over and over and over again

    There’s a great future in plastics.

    A new kind of plastic can, when exposed to the right chemicals, break down into the same basic building blocks that it came from and be rebuilt again and again. The recyclable material is more durable than previous attempts to create reusable plastics, researchers report inthe April 27 Science.

    Designing plastics that can be easily reused is one...

    04/26/2018 - 15:40 Pollution, Chemistry, Materials
  • Science Ticker

    This plastic-gobbling enzyme just got an upgrade

    Just a few tweaks to a bacterial enzyme make it a lean, mean plastic-destroying machine.

    One type of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is widely used in polyester clothing and disposable bottles and is notoriously persistent in landfills. In 2016, Japanese scientists identified a new species of bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis, which has a specialized enzyme that can naturally...

    04/19/2018 - 07:00 Microbes, Pollution
  • News

    Microplastics may enter freshwater and soil via compost

    Composting waste is heralded as being good for the environment. But it turns out that compost collected from homes and grocery stores is a previously unknown source of microplastic pollution, a new study April 4 in Science Advances reports.

    This plastic gets spread over fields, where it may be eaten by worms and enter the food web, make its way into waterways or perhaps break down...

    04/05/2018 - 16:17 Pollution, Oceans
  • The Science Life

    Humpback whale bumps have marine biologists stumped

    Off the Kohala coast on the Big Island of Hawaii, Christine Gabriele spots whale 875. The familiar propeller scar on its left side and the shape of its dorsal fin are like a telltale fingerprint. Gabriele, a marine biologist with the Hawaii Marine Mammal Consortium, confirms the whale’s identity against her extensive photo catalog. Both Gabriele and this male humpback have migrated to this...

    03/26/2018 - 13:56 Animals, Pollution, Oceans
  • Science Stats

    The great Pacific garbage patch may be 16 times as massive as we thought

    We’re going to need a bigger trash can.

    A pooling of plastic waste floating in the ocean between California and Hawaii contains at least 79,000 tons of material spread over 1.6 million square kilometers, researchers report March 22 in Scientific Reports. That’s the equivalent to the mass of more than 6,500 school buses. Known as the great Pacific garbage patch, the hoard is four to 16...

    03/22/2018 - 10:00 Pollution, Oceans
  • News

    Household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution

    AUSTIN, Texas — To reduce your impact on air quality, you might expect to trade in your gas-guzzling clunker of a car — but you can also unplug those air fresheners. 

    In urban areas, emissions from consumer goods such as paint, cleaning supplies and personal care products now contribute as much to ozone and fine particulate matter in the atmosphere as do emissions from burning gasoline...

    02/15/2018 - 14:00 Chemistry, Pollution
  • Science Ticker

    Shipping noise can disturb porpoises and disrupt their mealtime

    Harbor porpoises are frequently exposed to sounds from shipping vessels that register at around 100 decibels, about as loud as a lawnmower, scientists report February 14 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Sounds this loud can cause porpoises to stop echolocation, which they use to catch food.

    While high-frequency submarine sonar has been found to harm whales (SN: 4/23/11, p. 16), low...

    02/13/2018 - 19:05 Conservation, Animals, Pollution
  • Science Stats

    Humans are overloading the world’s freshwater bodies with phosphorus

    Human activities are driving phosphorus levels in the world’s lakes, rivers and other freshwater bodies to a critical point. The freshwater bodies on 38 percent of Earth’s land area (not including Antarctica) are overly enriched with phosphorus, leading to potentially toxic algal blooms and less available drinking water, researchers report January 24 in Water Resources Research.

    Sewage,...

    02/07/2018 - 11:00 Ecosystems, Pollution
  • News

    Gassy farm soils are a shockingly large source of these air pollutants

    California’s crops are creating some noxious air.

    The Golden State is at the vanguard in the United States in reducing auto emissions of nitrogen oxide gases, which help produce toxic smog and acid rain. But the NOx pollution problem isn’t limited to auto exhaust. California’s vast agricultural lands — particularly soils heavily treated with nitrogen fertilizers — are now responsible for...

    01/31/2018 - 14:13 Earth, Pollution, Agriculture
  • News in Brief

    Plastic pollution increases risk of devastating disease in corals

    View the video

    Coral reefs are sick of plastic.

    More than 11 billion plastic objects are polluting Asia-Pacific coral reefs, a new estimate finds. This waste can harbor pathogenic bacteria known to make corals sick. Reefs littered with plastic were at least 20 times as likely to have diseased corals as unpolluted reefs, researchers say. 

    Corals succumbing to disease can throw...

    01/25/2018 - 17:00 Pollution, Oceans, Ecosystems