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Tons of microplastic rain onto western US (earthsky.org)
151 points by lerie1982 17 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 113 comments



I don't like plastic in the air any more than anyone else does, but

1) stop wearing those stupid fucking polyester hoodies (and other artificial fibers; aka your socks, gym shirts and underpants) -that's where most of it comes from. I'm looking at you, SF hacker nerds.

2) Even assuming the entire population of the Western US breathed all that plastic waste in and it was permanently deposited in the lungs:

1000e3 kg/ 100e6 people = 0.01kg or 10g plastic each person accumulated in their lungs. In a year. Pretty sure I have more shit in my lungs from being around diesel engines for a few days, or, like being around potheads.


> stop wearing those stupid fucking polyester hoodies

According to this chart, the main sources of pollution are by far wear and tear from car tyres and road surfaces. Synthetic clothing comes last.

https://i.imgur.com/KmbY72h.jpg

That being said, one should never forget secondary effects of reducing consumption which is economic stagnation, which in turn leads to inequality and social unrest. At the same time, it is not really proven microplastics are particularly harmful. Its benefits may outweigh some harm to organisms when it only shortens live expectancy by a few years. That being said, it is of course always worthwhile to remove pollutants where adverse effects are obvious and where alternatives are available.


63% from cars (tyres, road surfaces, paint marks) [0].

No one yet know has bad it is. Plus living near the road causes

* cancer, asthma, reduced lung growth in children [1]

* dementia, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis [2]

Killing millions worldwide [3] and injuring millions just in USA [4]

That's inequality.

[0] https://www.celticwater.co.uk/bloghow-does-plastic-get-into-...

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/25/living-n...

[2] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/01/200123152616.h...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-r...

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motor_vehicle_fatality_rate_in...


Even though that may be true it is not clear there is a way out that does not jeopardize millions of existences/sources of purpose and meaning for millions of people. Without a careful plan out it will be a disaster. It's a complex problem that has no simple solution and most solutions tend to drive people apart, e.g. the elites may decide it is best to get rid of most of the population using drones or bio-weapons.


I can’t find it any more, but there used to be a fine grained map of the bay area’s air pollution. It it basically the inverse of per capita income.



10mg per year is potentially a much bigger problem due to biological magnification - i.e. everything below us in the food chain is exposed to the same 10mg per year, so we accumulate the sum of whatever our food sources have consumed.


Which is a great reason to eat as low on the food chain as you can.


So steak ok?


You aren't absorbing 10g, 10mg or 1mg of plastic in your lungs every year. Most of it is falling on the ground and being turned into dirt.

It's gross and people should do something about it, but it is a neurotic worry rather than a real problem. Most accounts (including this one) even have the temerity to try to link plastic bottles to it (which, also gross, are not a problem as far as plastic fibers in the environment goes) because it freaks people out; so they buy a metal drinking container they shove in their plastic hoodies, which will eventually become a few pounds of environmental plastic fiber pollution.


It seems you have anger towards a group of people you have defined as bad. That seems to be clouding your judgement. For example, you somehow have convinced yourself that the use of metal water bottles is bad if used by synthetic fabric hoodie wearers in SF.

First, everyone wears synthetics, not just in SF.

Second, less plastic is less plastic.


Thanks for the psychoanalysis, pal. How many polyester garments do you own?


A fair number of synthetic undergarments. I live in Vietnam, so breathable, wicking clothes are important. I have tried rayon, but I am not impressed. I tried wool boxer briefs, but they were comically small. After reading your post, I did order another two pair of wool shorts. We’ll see how they do.

For the record, I also use a metal water bottle.


Plastic bottles float. They float far and wide. There are billions of them in the oceans, right now, as we speak. Now imagine a plastic water bottle versus this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m9EyXLDlu0

A 15 meter wave breaking in 1-2 meter deep water above an absolutely razor-sharp reef. A plastic water bottle--or really anything at all, will be absolutely obliterated by this. The oceans are full of a microplastic soup that is the ground-up dust from our massive garbage problem. That is now raining back on us. It's not hoodies, dude.

I'd like you to explain how these microplastics are being turned into "dirt". Do you have a specific chemical process in mind? Because I don't. Microplastic is alien to the biosphere. Nothing, short of some lab experiments, nothing processes microplastics. It just gets ground up smaller and smaller and bleached and flaked by UV. It will be around for centuries. It's not biologically inert, either. It's been show to be an endocrine disruptor and kill microorganisms. It hits the bottom of the foodchain. It attracts other pollutants and concentrates them, filling a role as a kind of carrier of poisons that absolutely do kill life of all kinds. It's bad shit.

You have a lot of anger in your comment. It's not neurotic to study carefully what our massive carelessness is doing to this planet. Rather, it is depressing to see how flippant and dismissive some people are because they are uncomfortable seeing the cost our economies are exacting on our home planet.


> It's gross and people should do something about it, but it is a neurotic worry rather than a real problem.

I wonder if it is going to be more like lead where at the time it was thought to be benignish and as the evidence mounted it was clear just how destructive it was.


Or maybe it will show that humans can manage the plastic over their life times but maybe insects can not. It certainly seems to coincide with the declining bug population and increasing plastic use.


I guess time will tell... that's an interesting theory.


Indeed I’ve noted a trend the last few years of “tech”-(article of clothing): tech chinos, tech sweatpants, etc.

All synthetic, all imbued with who knows what kind of chemicals. Then add all the Patagonia & the The North Faces that everyone is hip with...


And we wonder why the tech 'soy boy' label stuck ;)


Most consumer plastic ends up in a landfill and typically don't leech microplastics in to the watertable.

Fishing nets on the other hand? Top polluter in the ocean https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/03/great-pacifi...


I don't know about the oceans proper or the rest of the "western US" that we seek to address in our parent article, but I was specifically told the biggest source of microplastics in Califonia's coastal waster was car tires.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/04/us/microplastic-pollution-car...

And that synthetic fibers were only #2.


Ocean pollution, especially in fishing areas is especially detrimental due to biomagnification. Unfortunately the more I learn about micro-plastics, the more bleak my outlook gets.


This is true. It's also true that far more than 99% of bullets fired in wars don't hit people.


.. and then people spend the next century slowly cleaning up toxic lead and leftover explosives, like the "iron harvest" of WW1 battlefields.


Military small arms ammunition must be jacketed, per the Hague Convention.


Recycles fabrics, like fleece made from PET, leeches ridiculously large quantities of microplastics every time you wash them.

Wool, cotton, linen and hemp fibers seem like the way to go to me. Synthetics have their place and their uses, but there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing".

And I'm sure people will start whinging about how much water it takes to grow cotton, but they will conveniently forget to mention all the shit caused by synthetics.


Also synthetic fibers are mostly used in "fast fashion", out side of functional fabrics.

I am a trans woman and when I switched the fashion sections I was shocked by the amount of low quality plastic shit marketed at girls/women. Pullovers made from 100% polyester jeez...

The fashion industry is one of the worst offenders in terms of environmental and climate damage. Fashion...


Praying for cotton and wool to become stylish. And I hope we get creative with natural fibers like linen, beech fiber, spider silk, et.


One cotton t-shirt equals 2,700 liters of water—what one person drinks in two-and-a-half years. Google about Aral Sea.

Cotton farming is also responsible for 24 percent of insecticides and 11 percent of pesticides despite using about 3 percent of the world’s arable land.

https://www.wri.org/blog/2017/07/apparel-industrys-environme...


We also need to buy less clothing overall. But this doesn't invalidate GP's assertion that natural fibers are more desirable.


Yep, but that requires a big mindset change; the insane amount of 'throwaway' clothes people buy is embarrassing. Not sure how you someone can be proud to own 50 pairs of shoes and 100 different outfits. I pity people who are that shallow (then again, I walk around like a vagrant, that's probably a bit too extreme as well), but it seems to become more normal vs less so as in; less fortunate people can (and do) do this now too. I know women and men in Philippines who make a few $100/month working online and spend almost everything on after market or knock off brand clothes and shoes. My colleague from the Philippines who is a coder and makes a fortune compared to the average there, buys new complete outfits for the wife, daughter and himself weekly (in the weekend they go clothes shopping and then to a family sunday lunch with that); they must have 100s of boxes of unused clothes stacked in their storage room (luckily they have a storage room?).


The water people drink is negligible percentage of overall water usage. Compare a single shower vs a weeks drinking water.


What is the point you are trying to make though? Are you saying to make a cotton tshirt a chemical reaction takes place and 2700 liters of water is destroyed and is no longer water?

The Aral Sea, a place I have visited, was dried up by digging to redirect rivers that filled it to irrigate crops.

Now, let's say they made tshirts instead by pulling the water out of those rivers. They'd make the tshirt, and dump the dirty water. That dirty water would then get cleaned, evaporate and rain into the soil or rivers, or get dumped into a river directly.

Maybe you meant "potable water." Using potable water for tshirts is good - not bad. After making the tshirt, the water is no longer clean. You can't make more tshirts with it, you can't shower with it, you can't drink it. Just like the water in lake michigan where my city gets its water from.

When we need 2700 liters of water per tshirt, we need to make more potable water from the lake. We build bigger industrial cleaning systems. They are more efficient, and the water becomes cheaper. That factory that paid for the extra water, helped pay for those cleaning systems, and made the water cheaper for people.

Now, here's the biggest lie made of eco-spin strawman. The 2700 liters. Most of that is to water the cotton plants, so they can pull carbon out of the atmosphere and give us that sweet oxygen and stop global warming. Are you saying that growing plants is bad because it uses water? Well, let's cut down the rainforest then!! That's a lot more plants than the tshirt water.

As far as pesticides... We're not eating the tshirts buddy. "Pesticide use" is bad because it gets into our food. It's not bad on its own. You know what else kills insects? A bar of soap. If you stop showering you'll save the insects and the water.


I can't tell if this is satire or an extreme example of the logic motivated reasoning leads to


as opposed to the comment I was replying to, which is straight up misinformation to prove the opposite of what is actually happening. so someone who works at fox news.


Producing cotton clothes also releases more CO2.


fortunately producing the original cotton plants those tshirts are made from captures hundreds of times more CO2 from the air. you know, because they're plants.


Buy good quality clothing with timeless styling (not fashionable, or worse fast fashion). Take good care of it. They can potentially last decades if taken care of properly (obviously not cycling the same three shirts every week, but a proper wardrobe that’s seasonal with enough option for any occasion). Goes a long way.


> obviously not cycling the same three shirts every week

Wouldn't the total amount of use you get out of your shirts count? So while only using any single shirts once a year will easily get you decades of use out of them, it's not really beneficial or is it?

Or do clothes get better with resting in between uses? (I heard leather shoes do benefit from a rest.)


I have nice looking shirts (that are hardly dated nor much frayed) from 20 years ago.

I buy all cotton, and organic if I can.

Proper and not too-frequent washing can help.


What makes washing proper (or improper)? How frequent is too frequent?


Machine drying removes a tremendous amount of fibre from clothes, vs. line-drying. That's what dryer lint is. Both tumbling and temperature contribute to wear.

Clothes washing itself as well, though I believe to a lesser extent.

Sufficient vs. excessive laundering helps greatly.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990831080157.h...


Cold or warm wash, don’t overagitate air dried helps a lot.


I think most people don't have enough money for a "proper" wardrobe.


It's not a binary thing. Within any budget you can move towards more or less 'proper'.

However, there are also trade-offs with convenience. Basic cotton t-shirts are so cheap, that it can be worth it for some people to not bother taking care of them and just replacing them more often.


Cotton and wool are totally in style, not sure why they wouldn't be? I'm slowly eliminating polyesters from my wardrobe. If you like the feel, you can do rayon or other processed natural fibers.


Rayon is still incredibly toxic to produce because of the process.


How so? Carbon disulfide is rather nasty, but it's straightforward to recover most of it. TLV is 10 ppm, while the effluent air from Teepak is 100 ppm [0], meaning you could spend hours a day with just over a 10:1 dilution of the factory exhaust. And there are lots of efforts to get those emissions way lower.

If it means less microplastics, I'm all for it.

[0] https://www.osti.gov/biblio/5518183


Tencel brand is a closed-loop version of the lyocell rayon process.


Are you saying cotton and wool aren't stylish? My wardrobe is exclusively cotton, linen and wool. I don't know (m?)any people who wear mostly synthetics. Maybe garment fabrics vary more by region than I'd assumed.


If anyone looking for a particular brand - I swear by Icebreaker - mostly for underwear, base layers, hoodies and sweatpants, but others like tshirts. Allbirds is another one but they are unreliable and too warm for summer.


I thought cotton was pretty much the default fibre?


Nope, especially not the cheap Walmart clothes. Most fabrics are at least 60% polyester


Oh, ok. Walmart doesn't exist in any countries I lived in, so I can't say.

I buy most of my very limited wardrobe at Muji at the moment. But even growing up poor in Germany, it was mostly cotton everywhere as far as I remember.

(Another commentor pointed out apparently female clothing has more polyester.)


I assume you shop in the dude's section. In the dudette's market there is polyester everywhere.


I guess for female clothing I mainly only have exposure to the higher quality stuff, so don't see much polyester?


and hemp, one of the best fabrics for many reasons.


Don't forget hemp.


> 1) stop wearing those stupid fucking polyester hoodies (and other artificial fibers; aka your socks, gym shirts and underpants) -that's where most of it comes from. I'm looking at you, SF hacker nerds.

Other benefits of not wearing clothes made out of plastic or primarily plastic (into which I am lumping all human made fibres), particularly anything that touches your skin directly, and particularly in areas prone to perspire, include that you'll smell a lot nicer.


By mass, 8 million tons of plastic garbage is estimated to be entering the oceans every year. The oceans, with their hundreds of thousands of miles of shoreline and reef breaks, are the world's broadest, most powerful erosive force. The oceans grind up our plastic garbage into micro and nanoplastics and clearly that is now being swept up into the hydro cycle and rained back on Earth. This is not that hard to grasp.

Yes, artificial fibers are bad. They cause lots of microplastic problems in local water sources. I agree we should stop wearing them. But this problem is huge and global.

The risk to human health from microplastics seems lower than some other types of pollution. But microplastics are persistent pollutants that don't go away after a year or two or five; they might survive centuries. They sicken and kill aquatic life, over and over. They are poison pills that never stop being poisonous.

It's truly bad shit. We need to think about whether we want to address this problem at a global scale or not. If not, then we are accepting a big loss of biological life due to our utter carelessness.


> I'm looking at you, SF hacker nerds.

I just wear what they hand out.


'vendorwear'


A long while ago I started refusing the offer of vendorware at conferences and events, and recycled everything I did have. I never wore it and it just creates waste and clutters my drawers.


This is obviously a huge overestimate. But go actually weigh out 10 grams of flour on your kitchen scale. Do you really think you have more diesel exhaust in your lungs than that?


Weight from a full Year? Absolutely. Volume - probably not.

It won't take up even close to as much space as the flour. That diesel exhaust also weighs much more than the hydro(1)carbon(12) chains flour is made from, simply because things like N(14)O(16) and metals in the particulate matter are much, much heavier.


Diesel exhaust soot density is in the 1 to 2 g/cm3 range. Flour is about 0.6 g/cm3. So the soot is indeed a bit heavier. But you can adjust the amount of flour you weigh out to visualize the volume, and it still seems like a lot. The point your parent comment was making still seems valid to me.

I could not immediately find a reference for typical soot exposure.


volume of 4mg of flour vs the 10 proposed is not "a bit heavier" - it's quite a bit less flour. A single puff of a cigarette I believe deposits about 6-20mg (depending on study) of crap into your lungs. I'm guessing about 10-15 puffs per cig.

so, 10mg/puff * 10 puffs/cig * 20cigs = 2g per pack of cigs. so the comment is saying 4-5 packs of cigs worth of soot, over a Year. that's literally nothing.


Well, it’s not literally nothing, it’s literally a massive amount of pollution. Puffing on cigarettes is literally inhaling pollution without air so I’m fairly certain you were never intending to engage in good faith in the first place.


strange. I would have thought "take 10g of flour" - something 2-5 times the comparable volume, is "never intending to engage in good faith." it's certainly a false statement.

I'm sorry, but saying the equivalent of 5 packs of cigarettes, smoked over an entire year, is "literally a massive amount of pollution," is not only in bad faith, it's quite literally crazy thinking.

my intention was for facts. I guess by your definition, facts and calculations are "bad faith," and "good faith" is screaming the sky is falling.

here's another comparison. we shed about half a kilo of skin per year. when you cough up a loogie, that's a couple of grams by the way, for that one loogie. that comes from your lungs too.


When did we go from grams to milligrams?

And sure, weigh out ten grams of sand or powdered charcoal if you're worried about the density. This is an order of magnitude estimate, so a factor of two here or there is nothing.


right. and something like 4g of sand is a very small volume. ever cough up a mucus thing when you're sick? that's about the same weight for a couple of those. so smoke from smoking under 5 packs of cigs over a full year. we probably get that amount over a year from second-hand smoke. There are plenty of people who smoke a pack a day. This is one cig every 3 days. Tiny amount, easily cleared out. the flour example would be a cig every day. I'd say that's a pretty big difference. kinda like going 30 vs going 90 on a side street in your car.

As far as your question - I'm not sure what you're asking here. the soot statistic is in grams. the statistic for weight of crap in cig smoke is per puff, and is in mg. when you add up the crap in a pack of cigs, it's about 2000mg as the simple arithmetic shows. you are free to google factor/label method, or take an 8th grade science class.


With all this talk about microplastics in the environment, I was a bit surprised to learn that water cleaning facilities use e.g. "moving bed biofilm reactors" such as "Bioportz" which are small, round, hollow plastic things in moving water.

When seeing those move about and bump onto each other, my immediate thought was to wonder if any environmental microplastic comes off from those through abrasion/wear.


I wonder how much the biofilm on the surface manages to prevent erosion of the substrate.


>Pretty sure I have more shit in my lungs from being around diesel engines for a few days, or, like being around potheads.

Character of shit in the lungs > quantity. Making assumptions here, but prefer to have cannabis combustion byproducts over plastic.


I imagine you already do not drive car, wear only rawhide sole shoes and use eco packaging - to prevent all the bigger real pollution sources by longtom.


Don't forget plastic sneakers, which create microplastic every time you take a step.


Stop wearing them and landfill them because we don't have much better plastic remediation options?


Buying fewer of them will result in fewer being made, which should result in fewer being landfilled, surely?

I don't know what the state of plastic recycling is these days, but it used to be terrible but with promising prospects.


What’s your point? I’m hoping this is not yet another contrarian remark without an end.


I read this in Jotaro Kujo’s voice


We can legislate to stop producing it, or drastically reduce it. We did so with CFCs to stop destroying the ozone layer. The doomsayers weren't the scientists who predicted the problems, but those who said we'd lose refrigeration etc.

They were wrong. Legislation helped the ozone layer and society did fine. The same will happen if we legislate on plastic as we did on CFCs.


plastic is a slightly larger category than CFCs


Any other "solution" results in a local maximum. If I learned one thing last years of all the denying is that you cannot put the bar high enough especially when it concerns long term planning of the ecosystem of Earth. Just realize where we would be today if climate change was taken seriously in the 1960's. Let's not make that same mistake with plastic all over again.


So are the chemicals we place on fields of food. Everything we're doing is toxic. We think the earth can support 7 or 8 billion people but in the current ways of doing things, it can probably only do so for another 100 years maximum.


> So are the chemicals we place on fields of food. Everything we're doing is toxic. We think the earth can support 7 or 8 billion people but in the current ways of doing things, it can probably only do so for another 100 years maximum.

I gave it more like 300 years back in 2008, whereas Hawking gave it closer to 100 by which time he said if we're not multi-planetary we'll will have destroyed the Earth sue to our collective myopic behaviour; the time frame may differ but sentiment is the ultimately same: Humanity needed this reality check we've had with COVID, what we do from here on out may determine the fate of our entire Species' fate.

And we should act accordingly.


Earth does not really care (:


It's in air, it's in water, it's in food... ultimately, it's also in us.


Watched dark waters last night. Pretty unreal how these companies behaved.

https://imdb.com/title/tt9071322/


Please keep in mind biopics and historical films are fictionalized movie and not documentaries but entertainment.

Link to NYT article: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/magazine/the-lawyer-who-b...


I'm amazed at the current health externalities companies aren't held accountable for.


Our era will be known as the plastic age


Biodegradable plastic has been a thing since the late 70's.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodegradable_plastic

My dad once showed me transparent cellulose-based plastic envelopes you could eat. They didn't taste like anything but were totally non-toxic. That was in the 80's.


What is the solution? Maybe massive taxes for manufacturing plastics for consumer uses? Just brainstorming here.

It seems like the incentives need to align somehow.


Yes. Carbon tax, plastic tax. Basically we're still in the full denial phase. We need more energy, and we need clean energy. (Because ultimately every problem with plastics and pollution is solvable via spending more energy.) And some serious transformation.

* Tyres? Make them out of biodegradable organic materials. Maybe they'll need to be replaced every year, and they'll cost more, that's why the pollution tax has to make the safe/sane/eco/green version competitive. (Also more investment in infrastructure, mass transit, denser cities, more walking, etc.) Urbanization is already ongoing, but somehow instead of building efficient dense cities many countries on Earth are just building sprawling slums and/or suburbs. (Plus we need carbon-efficient concrete and a more carbon-efficient construction industry as a whole.)

* Synthetic fibers. Cotton. Sure, but you'll need non-polluting cotton farms, so closed loop energy intensive [indoor/vertical] farms.

* Plastic packaging. Meh, just use biodegradable alternative packaging. Eg. paper. (Heavier, needs more energy to transport.)

* Plastic bottles. Use aluminum cans. Again, heavier, plus needs more energy to manufacture, but endlessly recyclable.

* Plastic pigments in paint. Meh, find biodegradable alternative or stop using them.


In some just universe, oil == pure evil. It's underground for a reason and poking a million painful needles into Mother Earth to suck it out and spew it into every biome is bound to have implications on our own health.

As above, so below.


It’s underground because anaerobic decay of organic material with heat and pressure produces oil. Chemicals aren’t inherently good or evil. Some, like oxygen, we’ve evolved to live with, while some we haven’t had the chance.

In millions of years something will probably evolve to eat all this plastic, just like it did with cellulose.


Oxygen originally killed off most of the biosphere.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Oxidation_Event


Oil has horrible consequences, but your rational for it being evil by being out of "reach" isn't very enlightening. By your logic we should not tap aquifers for drinking water, but mass desalination is fine. Instead, oil is bad because. It's not renewable, it's refinement/combustion is readily linked to cancer and other deadly/health issues, extraction/transport routinely kills ecosystems/creates toxic waste sites.


Mass desalination via solar energy seems like it would be a huge win for the environment. Plus you could sell the salt.

I wonder if it's feasible.


Desal plants cause localised brine concentration and screw ecology. If you built them at Salinas (salt pans) maybe that would be ok, and we'd get more flamingoes once the brine shrimp population rose. So you need strong solar and large flat expanses. North Africa? There was a serious proposal to sell solar power to Europe from north Africa. Maybe this is the triple play?


I've looked at Desalination in Southern California. One thing they're trying is to mix the saline water with waste water discharge. One assumes that's better. Other thing I found when poking about is the energy expenditure for some of LA's water sources is close to that of desalination.

I think I'm firmly down on the side of I'm against desalination if it just means more water for almonds. For desalination if it means replacing expensive imported water sources and leaving more water for what's left of the states natural environment.

I feel like things are complicated with a inescapable level of fucked.


Carbon tax (or a similar, more general environmental impact tax) would sort thing out in no time.

It wouldn't matter if someone uses water to raise almonds in the middle of the desert, but it should have its env. impact priced in.

Similarly, it's absolutely ridiculous that large states can't plan ahead for ~20-50 years and instead of building efficient power plants we're stuck with windmills and solar and batteries as the "green" option.


> we should not tap aquifers for drinking water

We shouldn't tap aquifers.

https://ca.water.usgs.gov/projects/central-valley/images/sub...


Oil was bubbling to the surface of the Earth before we harvested the stuff that was easy to get at.

Not that microplastics are okay -- they're my biggest environmental concern -- but oil itself is "natural".


> but oil itself is "natural".

Burning it in mass quantities, is not so "natural", unless you go down the rabbit hole of calling all human activities "natural".


Is there any reason not to go down that rabbit hole? How do we distinguish natural from unnatural?


> How do we distinguish natural from unnatural?

I can think of a few ways to answer that question.

One is whether or not the material can be re-consumed or otherwise recycled and isolated from broader ecosystem damage by non human-designed biological or physical processes. Petroleum derived plastics don't fit that definition (yes I know that every few years there is a "breakthrough" plastic-eating microbe engineered or discovered, but it hasn't really dealt with the scale of the current problem). Curiously CO2 is "natural" by this definition (plants consume it), but unfortunately not anywhere near the rate needed to remove how much of it humans put into the atmosphere.

The other is that consumed material is "natural" if there is a near-term counter process, either pre-existent or emergent, that will shut down the "natural" process. For example, overgrazing by wild ruminant herds in an area will result in a population explosion, which will eventually result in population reduction either via starvation or predation. We know that the overgrazing by wild ruminants is a "natural" occurrence because the ecosystem has evolved counter measures. In the case of humans burning petroleum, there is no natural counter-measure.

Then again, perhaps climate-change and the resulting social upheavals will be exactly that. It's too early to know whether humans are going to be able to dodge the impact of that, or if climate change is to us as the disappearing pasture is to the wild ruminants.


Plastic isn't burning it.


From: http://large.stanford.edu/courses/2010/ph240/hamman1/#:~:tex....

"non-feedstock energy [for plastic production is] (between 1.4 x 1018 J and 2.2 x 1018 J)". Non-feedstock means the stuff that doesn't turn into plastic, but just powers the product. From the same paper, adding both feedstock and non-feedstock together:

"between 2.5% and 4.0% of total U.S. primary energy consumption in 2008 was due to the energy for plastic."

Also, plastics are a fossil fuel, and a lot of waste plastic is burned for energy production, which results in significant fossil-fuel based CO2 emissions.


Things are not evil or good. They do not give birth, because they are things. A chair does not feel pain because it's not a person.

You seem to think nature is a person, with a purpose, and designs things for that purpose. There is a christian unintelligent design subreddit for that. I believe this site is for technical and scientific discussion.

Now, let's start a nice healthy 5-page discussion about appropriate harshness of tone, ending with a shadowban of the IP of this hilton hotel.


"Rocky Mountain National Park, which had the greatest amount of microplastics among the national parks and wilderness areas in the study"

Surprised to see Colorado so affected.


That is surprising, especially considering that it's on the continental divide and has mostly headwaters.

I live a bit south of there in the mountains, also close to the divide. A lot of our precip, especially in winter, is moisture carried by the jet stream from the north pacific that gets caught on the mountains. Could be the source, but that's a wild guess.


It’s crazy how much waste we produce. You only realize that after you start separating your trash for recycling.




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