(Please pardon this machine translation until we have time to manually edit and clean it up)
I’m David Torcivia.
I'm Daniel forkner.
[0:11] And this is Ashes Ashes, a show about systemic issues, cracks in civilization, collapse of the environment, and if we’re unlucky, the end of the world.
[0:12] But if we learn from all this maybe we can stop that. The world might be broken, but it doesn't have to be.
[0:19] This week we're flying over a broad topic. One that is global in scope, and encompasses issues in technology, industry, consumption, and of course the environment. This is something that has entered literally every part of our lives, and our world so completely, that it’s nearly impossible to avoid.
We will be joined later in this episode by an environmental attorney working hard in his local municipality to bring awareness to some of the issues we're going to be highlighting.
[0:45] But first David I just have one word for you.
[0:48] Oh great, okay Daniel.
Plastics. Think about it.
Plastic is everywhere and there's really no better way to say that. The first plastic ever produced was something called Bakelite, created in 1907, but large-scale industrial production of plastic outside very specific military uses did not begin until about 1950. And since then, the scale of our production has exploded at an unbelievable pace.
Since 1950, plastic production has doubled every 15 years. We are now producing 200 times as much as when we started, and this is growth that has outpaced just about every other man-made material in existence. But that's not plastic’s only unique distinction. One scientist points out that while half of all the steel we make gets used for construction, well half of all the plastic we make ends up as trash in less than one year.
And all this plastic that we just throw away? Well it's made from oil. 8% of global oil production is now used to make plastic items. How's that for energy security David?
[1:55] It’s a good one Daniel.
Researchers recently tried to quantify the total Global Production of plastic since 1950, and they came up with this staggering figure of 8.3 billion - with a B - metric tons. To put that in perspective, if you weighed all of humanity - that is every single man, woman, child, and the entire population of the world on to one giant enormous scale - we come just a little over 300 million tons.
[2:21] That's a lot
Wait I want to know how much this scale weighs.
Well now we’re just getting off topic.
[2:27] Is this scale made out of plastic?
[2:28] Bear with my thought experiment for one second.
That's 22 times less than the amount of plastic that we created in just a few decades. Of that figure, only 9% has ever been recycled. Jenna Jambeck, environmental engineer at the University of Georgia says:
Quantifying the cumulative number for all plastic ever made was quite shocking ... this kind of increase would 'break' any system that was not prepared for it.
We’re going to go into what it might look like when plastic starts breaking un-prepared systems, but before we do that let's just get an idea of just how much plastic there is all around us all the time.
So Daniel do you want to start trying to paint a picture here?
[3:05] Yeah well the thing is you really can't go throughout your day without interacting with plastic in some way. It's in literally everything - well I guess not literally - but the clothes that we wear, the shoes on our feet,
[3:18] CDs, DVDs, even shopping receipts, something you think would be paper.
[3:22] The interior Linings of metal cans, and bottles. Even the water pipes in our cities in some cases.
[3:30] Don't forget the flame retardant found in your couches and children's car seats.
[3:35] That’s oddly specific but I guess that's right. Maybe even detergent, paint, shampoo. Even that liquid that you put on your hair yes that is filled with plastic.
Also packaging of everything from Electronics to -
[3:48] Yes to broccoli. Your contact lenses, your cell phone,
[3:52] And the exfoliant in your face lotion.
[3:54] These are wonderful examples coming from you Daniel, but the one that reigns supreme, that stands out in all of our minds, is of course the ubiquitous, the ever-present plastic bottle.
[4:06] I just drank from a plastic bottle. Cut that out! Don't put that in! Don’t let our listeners know.
[4:11] What a hypocrite.
It's not surprising though Daniel. There are 1 million plastic bottles per minute. That’s 20,000 per second globally.
In 2016, 480 billion plastic bottles were sold, and of that 110 billion came from Coca Cola. 59% of Coke’s global packaging in 2016 was the single-use plastic bottles.
[4:33] And we mentioned the clothes that we wear David, and this cannot be overstated, because right now 60% of all global textiles are made from plastic, and that fact alone has some pretty serious consequences as we’ll explore in just a little bit, but all this production raises a serious question.
[4:51] If we make so much of it, and it becomes trash in less than a year, where does it all go? Well here's a hint:
By 2050, more plastic will exist in our oceans, metric ton for metric ton (and for our imperial listeners that's ton for ton), than fish.
[5:11] You might already be aware that there's a huge pile of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It's enormous. Caught in an ocean gyre, new detection methods have put the area at 1.6 million square kilometers, making it much bigger than previously reported.
[5:28] David just to form of mental picture of just how big that is, it's the combined area of California, Texas, and Spain.
You put these three things together, and that’s -
[5:39] Wait wait wait. Spain? You really had me going with the places right next to each other, and now I have to mentally move Spain halfway around the world to combine with this?
[5:48] Look David, uh it doesn't matter, you just need three large things, you put them together and that's how big this garbage patch is.
[5:54] That's science.
[5:55] Yeah well it doesn't even really matter because as big as this is, and yes it is getting bigger at an exponential rate, this doesn't tell the whole story. Not even close. Only 1% of the plastic that's in the ocean floats on the surface. The other 99% is not even visible to the naked eye.
[6:12] So this gets us into what is really the biggest threat of this plastic pollution, and that's these teeny tiny little bits of plastic called micro plastics.
Under the umbrella of microplastics are subcategories like microbeads, microfibers, and of course nano-sized particles, but those are just a bunch of jargon, so what really are these things?
[6:29] Typically, microplastic is less than 5 microns, or the size of a human red blood cell, and it's a general term that encompasses a variety of shapes.
Microfibers are uniquely shaped, kind of like a human hair although much smaller, and nano-sized particles which we really don't know much about at this point, are less than 1 micron. And when it comes to detecting these, we're still new at it and not very good. We've actually only been aware of microplastics as a threat since around the year 2000, but what we do know is that they are everywhere.
So microplastics are a huge threat and they’re very small, but when we think about plastic pollution I think many of us picture those water bottles floating in the ocean, or plastic bags from chips and cookies, and we don't really picture these microplastics. I mean they are too small literally to see so how can we imagine them, so where do they come from exactly?
[7:23] Well for me this is really an out-of-sight out-of-mind sort of problem. It's very simple to look at the ocean, to look at these beaches that have these dramatic plastic bags and styrofoam peanuts all over them forming huge rotating gyres in the ocean, but the big threat and the majority of this plastic like we talked about are these teeny tiny, almost microscopic and sometimes totally microscopic, bits of plastic.
And where that comes from is everywhere.
All this plastic degrades into smaller tiny bits and pieces, and how that happens is from a variety of sources, some of them human-caused, and some of them just degrading from sitting in these massive oceans were waves beat on this, and make up the plastic and microbes do their bit, and you would be surprised where some of these sources are.
[8:03] You mentioned degrade, and that's something we don't typically think about when it comes to plastics. We know it goes into the environment and it stays there, but it does physically degrade. It gets exposed to saltwater, it gets exposed to the sun's rays,
[8:17] And that UV is a major part of this degradation.
[8:19] Yea and this is called the secondary source of microplastics. These larger pieces, they break down physically, but chemically these hydrocarbons that are linked tightly together, they don't come apart, and they just form smaller and smaller bits.
But like you said they also come from a variety of surprising sources and these are the primary sources where we are introducing these microplastics directly into the environment without them having to break down.
[8:44] My favorite one of these in the one that really caught me by surprise when we started digging into this episode is actually just washing our clothes is one of the major contributors of these microplastics.
You normally don't think of your clothes as being plastic. You have synthetic clothes, maybe it's polyester, or other types of things, but you don't think of that as a type of plastic. But really your yoga pants, your jackets, these are all made out of plastic, and when you put it in your washing machine and you have that abrasion going on where it beats against the edge of the washer and you add chemicals to it, well this plastic breaks down a little bit. It enters the water system, is pumped out, and ends up in the ocean. This is one of the major contributors of microplastics.
[9:21] Every time we wash these synthetic clothing - and remember 60% of all clothing made worldwide is from synthetic material - hundreds of thousands of microfiber get into the water that comes out of a washing machine. That water is carried to wastewater treatment plants where half or more escape filtration, and then it winds up in our drinking water.
It gets dumped into rivers and sent to the ocean, and it contaminates sludge used in agriculture where it goes into the soil affecting crops and animals. And that's going to be a big topic of this show because these microfibers - like we said this is just one piece of a larger microplastic umbrella – well because of their shape they actually have a very unique way of harming the environment and potentially our health.
But another example of primary source of microplastic is the tires that we drive our cars and trucks on. About 20 grams, and I didn’t convert this to our imperial listener so I'm sorry, well about 20 grams of synthetic material gets shed from are tires for about every 100 km or 62 miles that we drive, and they also come from our paint. Road markings, boat and shipping paint, and house paint contribute up to 10% of the microplastics in the ocean by one researcher’s estimate.
[10:36] And the one that you may have heard about in the news, talked about and with a ban that's coming soon, is microbeads. These are tiny little bits of plastic that these brilliant innovators at cosmetic companies, personal care companies like Johnson & Johnson, decided to put in things like soap; things like facial exfoliant, and even toothpaste. Will a lot of this ended up going straight into the streams, and then from the streams into the rivers, from the rivers to the oceans, and it became a huge problem.
[10:58] David you just said they put microbeads in our toothpaste.
[11:02] Yes. They did. They decided “oh you know...”
[11:04] Little plastic balls.
[11:06] Little bits of plastic straight into your toothpaste and of course you're going to swallow some of that, it goes down and it's dangerous stuff.
[11:12] David we've been listing a lot of facts on our listeners about where all this plastic comes from, and we actually had this conversation David because this topic really caught me by surprise.
[11:23] We are on The Cutting Edge right now. Let me just throw that out there, this is the cutting edge of research in plastic.
[11:28] But even beyond that was the scope of this problem that just I could not believe, and I kind of got a little bit in the weeds of the factual information, and we have this software that we collaborate our notes on David and you were like “hold on Daniel we have way too many facts in here, this is going to be way too boring for our listeners,” and I just couldn't get away from it was just so fascinating, but rather than listing more facts about how much there is in our environment: on the land, in our oceans, in our rivers, this could get boring pretty fast why don't we just talk about the fact that this stuff is everywhere, and what this might mean for our health and our environment?
[12:05] Yeah I think that's a great thing. This could very quickly turn into a lecture, there's so many facts, there are so many numbers, but the basic point that gets across over and over and over again is microplastics are everywhere. Literally everywhere. They’re in the water you drink, they’re in your table salt, in the oceans. It gets into seafood; you eat the seafood. Microplastics are in every single thing you could possibly think of and if it's not, well it's a whole plastic that you’re surrounding and touching and it has its own set of problems that we’ll discuss later.
[12:30] Well you just mentioned that it's in the water we drink, so why don't we just land there for a second David.
[12:36] Okay just a couple facts.
[12:38] Let's start with our tap water. In the United States we are very proud of the fact that we have clean drinking water.
There was a study that was done in a large number of countries around the world and it found that 83% of all tap water globally is contaminated with plastic. Now David, that's the global average, so let me ask you where do you think that the United States falls in terms of percentage of tap water polluted with plastic?
[13:01] Well I feel like you're leading me on a little bit with this question and the way that you went with it and I'm going to guess not so good.
[13:07] Just come on, just give me a guess.
[13:09] Just give you a guess? You said like globally it was 83% of plastic? Well we do things exceptionally here. If we're going to go plastic we’re going to go all out, so I'm going to say 90%.
[13:19] Okay well I couldn't lead you in the direction I wanted to, but you're still wrong.
It's actually 94%. We in the United States are the highest on the list of countries worldwide for plastic pollution in our tap water.
America. We’re number one.
Okay the next highest is Lebanon followed by India.
[13:36] Oh Lebanon was my number two guess for sure.
[13:38] I'm sure it was David, and before you say “Okay hold up, the US is a big country, and they could have tested the water anywhere,” well these researchers sampled tap water in the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters. They sampled it in the Trump Tower in New York City, and Congress buildings in our nation's capital Washington DC.
[13:57] Of course then the answer to that is everyone I know is drinking bottled water, they say “oh I don't trust my city’s tap water so I'll trust some company to do a better job because they have to! It’s a customer, we're paying more for it, we’re paying for the extra filtration” right?
[14:10] Well you would be wrong again.
93% of bottled water that was tested around the world had an average of 10 plastic particles per liter that were larger than 100 Microns, and remember the standard for microplastic is just 5 microns. A human hair for comparison is about 75 Microns, so these are pretty large pieces, and in these water bottles tested there's an average of over 320 pieces smaller than 100 microns. The BBC actually contacted all the companies whose brands were tested - and these are the major water bottle companies that you would think of - and all of them said that their bottling plants have the highest standard possible.
[14:50] So 93% of bottles had plastic in them.
That's better than 94% of tap water, just saying.
No, I'm drinking out of a steel bottle right now after researching this episode I guess I can't trust my tap water but I can control this at least.
[15:04] So it's everywhere, that means that it must be in our bodies. If it's in the water that we're drinking, if it's in the food we are eating - I think you even mention salt right David?
[15:13] Yeah even table salt.
So the sea salt that we get from the sea by evaporating that water, well when you evaporate the water that has this plastic in it, well of course it leaves behind the plastic in the salt itself, so there's really no avoiding this.
[15:26] But this isn't just a hypothesis. Some scientists at a university in the United Kingdom did a study and found that 86% of teens tested were found with BPA in their body. That's a very specific plastic that we’ll get to a little bit later in this episode.
And we're still giving our listeners facts.
[15:44] That's what we were saying, that there's so many terrible facts in news on this that it’s easy to get buried in, and this is again a very broad flyover episode. We can go much deeper into other topics as we go in future episodes.
But trying to get a sense into the scale of the problem is really what we're trying to do here today.
[15:59] We’re again talking a lot of facts: it’s here it's there, but let’s look at one of the consequences of this plastic in the environment.
So one of the biggest places where this ends up in is of course is the ocean, but what does that really affect? I mean these are teeny tiny little bit of plastic, the ocean is enormous, what does that matter? It turns out when you're a teeny tiny organism living in in the ocean, this matters a lot, because these micro plastics look a lot like food, and if I’m a little zooplankton swimming around the ocean, well I come across a little something that's smaller than me - it's about the same size as all my food - I don't have a lot of brain cells, I’m a microscopic organism I don't know any better! So I'm going to eat this plastic.
Well the plastic is very large compared to my body size and it ends up jamming up my body. My gastrointestinal system is filled with microplastics and I can't eat anymore actual food and of course what happens then? I starve to death.
Or say I’m a slightly larger animal, say a fish fry. That is a baby fish that's born, it's teeny tiny, a little bit bigger than these microscopic organisms, but it's still small. Well these larger microplastics, the ones that maybe we can barely see, well those also look like food and I'm going to eat those and again what happens? It jams me up, it gets stuck in my body and maybe I starve.
[17:06] Maybe before you even have the chance to starve David, because you're a small organism and you are the foundation of marine life in the ocean, a larger organism eats you, and now that plastic has a chance to accumulate within the organisms that make up this food chain.
[17:23] What's at the top of that food chain? Well it's not a fish that you might guess, but it’s us! So where does that plastic ultimately end up concentrating? In our seafood and ultimately in our own bodies.
[17:34] So obviously this is something we're going to be talking about: what are the human health effects. But this is contributing to the global collapse of fisheries that we are experiencing worldwide in combination with some of these climate affects that we mentioned in an earlier episode.
[17:48] As well as overfishing which is something that we’ll get to in future episodes.
[17:52] Right there's a lot to talk about in terms of our global fisheries that you know maybe in our lifetime we won't have the opportunity to talk about them anymore, much less eat them, but that's not the focus of this episode.
This stuff gets in our body, and real quick not just through the food that we eat, but there's even some new research suggesting that these microfibers in our clothes end up in the air that we breathe because of the friction our clothes experience from everyday use, they’re winding up in the air that we actually breathe, and we have no idea the effect that might have on our health on things like respiratory cancer.
[18:26] I'm going to hazard a guess that it's probably not so good. Just throwing it out there.
[18:31] We need more research.
[18:33] Well that really comes into a point where a lot of this stuff that we’re talking about, we just don't yet quite know the health effects of this. The fact that these micro plastics are building up and developing in the ecosystem and in our environment took a very long time to discover because they’re so small. But once we realized it we started collecting date of just how great of a magnitude this problem actually is.
Now that we know how serious this is, we’re only just beginning to start to look into the health effects it has on us, and the other animals and creatures in this environment.
[19:02] Okay so what do we know?
[19:04] What we know is not good.
[19:06] No it's not good, and some of the reasons why it's not good has to do with how this plastic starts interacting in the environment once it gets there. In terms of its effect on biological health, it's really three categories in which this microplastic effects life.
It’s either physical, biological, or chemical.
Under the umbrella of physical effects, you have microfibers that entangle in fish digestive systems and literally choke off certain parts of their digestive tract; it causes starvation like you mentioned.
Now biologically, these plastics have been known to actually carry bacteria on them. So in an environment where perhaps it would be unusual to run into certain bacterial species, well when this plastic is present some of this bacteria can latch on to them and then currents in the ocean or other environmental factors carry this plastic and they wind up in these organisms and then obviously they get infected.
But maybe one of the biggest risks is in their ability to sorb chemicals.
Do you mean absorb?
No actually David it's sorb, well I don't know if I'm pronouncing it right but this is a word I had to look up because some of these articles were using it: sorption. And sorption is a combination of absorption, which is a physical process, and adsorption which is a chemical one.
So chemicals are able to physically connect to this plastic, and sometimes there's a chemical reaction that binds them together, but either way some of these microplastics collect chemicals 10,000 times more than the water around them, and what it does is it picks up all these toxins that are in our environment, and then it acts as a delivery mechanism for putting them into fish bodies, other organisms, and ultimately our own.
Sometimes it's literally the plastic having a physical impact on our bodies; other times it’s the fact that it’s delivering bacteria and chemicals to us that we otherwise would not be interacting with.
[20:56] But in some cases the plastic itself can be toxic.
So we all remember the BPA scare that happened a few years ago where we realized we are making plastics with this additive, BPA or bisphenol-a, which is a critical component of some plastics, but also mimics hormones in the human body. This was common in many plastic bottles, and when you would expose this bottle to heat or to UV light, well this would seep into the water, we would drink it, and we would have this pseudo-estrogen response in our bodies from our plastic directly into the water that we would drink. Obviously this was a major health concern which is something that we knew about for a while, but how much was safe to ingest, well that keeps getting updated lower and lower and lower, and while the FDA has not yet banned BPA from contact with food items - in the United States at least though some countries have like France - well that safe contact amount keeps getting lower.
The public logically freaked out about this, and so now a lot of plastic bottle manufacturers reacted by cutting that chemical out of their plastic formulations, but in doing so they introduced some other chemicals that might be even worse for us. The science is still out on that but we're waiting to hear.
But in fact it turns out many plastics that we use commonly throughout our throwaway society, some of them are not so good for us. My favorite of these, or maybe the worst example, is polystyrene; it's tat 6 you see when you look at the bottom of a plastic bottle and then inside the recycling symbol. Well polystyrene is commonly used in foam cups and containers for coffee, but it also leeches a toxic chemical styrene when in contact with high temperatures, which is something we commonly find in hot coffees. Meaning we’re directly inserting this chemical which many doctors consider to be listed as a carcinogen in the near future, straight into our coffee. That's a budding lawsuit for Starbucks and many other companies.
[22:33] The toxic effects of these plastics aren't anything new, and it's not uncommon in our recent regulatory history to ban these products. There was something called polybrominated diphenyl ethers, or PBDEs. That's a mouthful to say but all you need to know really is that this was a common flame retardant used in all manners of plastics throughout the mid and late 20th century.
Well it turns out PBDEs accumulate in the bodies of animals and humans, especially in the breast milk of mothers. Well when children are exposed to PBDEs, they’re prone to subtle but miserable developmental problems. Regulators, industry, and independent researchers make slow and sometimes contradictory calls on how much an effect a given pollutant might be safe, well that delay can be costly, especially in this case with PBDEs. By the time the US fazed out use of this fire retardant in electronics, baby clothes, furniture, and yes we were putting these directly in baby clothes despite the health effects we later realized, well the exposure to the chemical had chopped off tens of millions of IQ points off the intellectual abilities of tens of thousands of US children, costing in the economy hundreds of billions of dollars, and measurable heartaches to the families affected.
[23:35] Just like lead; just like CO2: the toxins and the effects of all this industrial activity that we're doing impacts us.
Speaking of chemicals. We know that this micro plastic is in our environment. It’s in the water. It’s picking up chemicals and delivering it to our bodies.
What are these chemicals? Where are they coming from?
[23:53] Well I want to stop for a second. When we say chemicals that sounds really scary. It’s one of those fear-monger words you see a lot in poorly sourced non-scientific essays about “oh no the chemicals are coming to get us,” and there's nothing wrong inherently with a chemical. Everything ultimately is chemicals, and I don't want to be accused here of being anti-science or something, but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of registered chemicals. There's over 85,000 registered chemicals in products in the United States alone. A lot of those are trade secrets, and almost none of them have been analyzed for their long-term health effects in our body.
[24:26] Specifically 85,000 registered chemicals in use in our products and our everyday life, and that's a problem because like you said we don't know the long-term health effects, but even more than that, sometimes a chemical that on its own is totally harmless, when it combines with another chemical it forms a molecule that's able to bind with our hormones and have these massive disruptions in our body that otherwise wouldn't happen. So there's a lot that we don't understand; there's a lot of complexity going on, and one of the problems is that we don't have any way of measuring the health effects of these chemicals before they're introduced into the environment and before they're introduced into our products.
We have a very strange situation where the burden of proof in terms of the health effects of our products falls on our regulatory bodies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, that the scope of trying to test all these chemicals and prove that they're harmless is so costly, and takes so much time that it really just doesn't get done.
Now historically what does this process look like? It's different from the drugs that you take. So a pharmaceutical company or companies that produce things like pesticides, they have to do studies on the products that they're creating to show our regulatory bodies these will not harm. Or at least that's in theory how it works, but the burden of proof, or “hey my product does not harm people and it does what it's supposed to do in terms of health benefits,” well that falls on the pharmaceutical companies, but chemicals don’t work that way.
The EPA and the FDA don't test products or require companies to test their products for health effects before they go to the market. These products just go to the market with whatever chemicals are in them, and then later if we happen to find out that there is some health effect, then the EPA, then the FDA has some very loose methods for trying to get this product or this chemical off the market. It’s very costly and very time-intensive.
And now there was a law that was passed to try and prove this at least for the EPA - it's called the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.
[26:32] That's a mouthful.
[26:33] Yeah well it was signed into law in 2016, and basically what it says is “hey the Environmental Protection Agency: we've got 85,000 chemicals that are registered in use today, we have no idea what they do, you need to go test them; you need to test tens of thousands of these unregulated chemicals that are currently on the market, and also a couple thousand that are incoming to the market.”
Ultimately the EPA will review about 20 chemicals at a time, and it has 7 years to do this, and if it finds any problems with these chemicals the industry that it affects then has about 5 years to comply to any rules that are put into place, so the pace at which we're tackling and discovering the effects of some of these chemicals is extremely slow.
I mean it would take over a hundred years just to cover what we have in our environment right now.
[27:22] I think that's optimistic.
[27:23] Yeah, maybe.
And this is a big problem because these regulatory bodies really just don't have the resources. They don't have the powers to do anything about these chemicals.
And a popular example of this is there is a chemical hair straightener that is used in salons all over the world that's very popular. As far back as 2012 we knew that this product had extremely high levels of formaldehyde.
[27:44] Yeah this is keratin therapy, and it's even now they insist that it's fine, but a lot of places won't give this to pregnant women, because they know it's not so good. You can walk by these salons that are doing keratin treatments and you can smell the formaldehyde in it. Maybe it doesn't affect the person who is getting this put on the hair but for the people who work in these salons putting this on all day long, well they're inhaling a lot of this toxic chemical.
[28:06] And it's impacting them in major ways. A lot of salon workers will experience nausea, irritated eyes and nose, respiratory infection, they're at risk for asthma and blisters inside their nose and mouth, and this is a chemical that has been linked to an increased risk of cancer as far back as 2004.
[28:24] It does make your hair look really shiny though.
[28:27] That's right, we do have to weigh the benefits and costs here.
But despite all this, nothing on our governmental levels have been done to ban this product or the chemical that’s used in it, so I bring this up just to illustrate the lack of regulatory enforcement powers that we have to do anything about these chemicals that are in our environment.
Which, the whole point of this is these are the chemicals that are also being scooped up by all these microplastics in the environment and delivered straight into our bodies.
[28:53] Will just gets me to one of my favorite rants here Daniel, both the plastic nature of this larger conversation, and this specific chemical regulatory body that we’re talking about as a side note of this story, and that’s we’ve sort of disincentivized companies from actually looking into the harmful effects of their practices, both in the product they’re creating and in their toxic natures of whatever chemicals are there, and also in what happens to those products after they're done. So I'm looking at you Coca-Cola with your hundred billion plastic bottles generated each year.
[29:24] 110 and climbing. Well nobody stops to think about these consequences or to price these out because ultimately they can ignore these from their bottom line. You can be profitable while pretending everything you're doing has no harmful effects, no expensive externalities, they just do it, and if an independent researcher later comes in and says “oh this product causes harm,” and this is something we see right now with the court cases that are opening up against ExxonMobil, and other oil companies where municipalities from around the United States are suing these companies saying “you knew about climate change but you kept drilling this oil and pumping it in any way, so you're going to foot the bill for the rising seas that are burying our very expensive real estate on the ocean shores,” which I don't want to get into the conversation of “did Exxon Mobil or these other companies do something wrong, or do these municipalities deserve recompense for the actions of this,” but the idea that ExxonMobil got caught in this situation.
They had done studies, they found what they were doing was contributing to climate change, and burning this fossil fuel would do that, I mean it's a very obvious thing even at the time. Literally if you go back to the 1800s there are publications saying “if we keep continuing burning coal we're going to raise the global temperature.” It was a new science, but somebody needed someone to blame. They did these studies internally, but they kept them secret. They didn't tell anybody “oh what we're doing has negative external effects.”
And that's where they got caught; that's where they messed up.
[30:40] So are you saying that if they hadn't explored this question of harmful effects they would have been okay?
[30:44] Yeah if they were just like “oops we didn't realize it,” and later on the science sort of solidified around this at the time… and that’s actually the defense they’re using. So the defense is saying “yes we thought it could potentially be contributing this, but we weren't sure yet the science wasn't positive, and we kept updating our studies every 10 years as the science got better, and eventually when we did realize ‘oh yes burning fossil fuels is 100% contributing to this climate change, it is a man-made action,’ well then we're going to actually stop and do something about it.”
But if they had just played ignorant the whole time, well then these municipalities would have no ability to turn around and sue them. The same thing is true for a lot of these companies.
Later on in this show we’re going to be talking to an environmental attorney, here in New York City, and one of the things he will discuss is cleaning up the Hudson River. The Hudson River was so polluted just a few decades ago that literally no one would go swimming in it because you would come out with rashes, weird marks on your skin and stuff, and a lot of that was because companies farther up the river in Upstate New York were producing products, using lots of chemicals and dangerous things, but nobody knew it was dangerous at the time, and they would just dump their waste into the river.
It would build up and now we have lots of Superfund sites along the river trying to clean up these huge toxic waste spills - for lack of a better word - but nobody got in trouble for it. Yes, they had to fund some of their clean up stuff when they knowingly broke laws, but when nobody knows what you're doing is wrong, and there's no study saying that this is toxic, well then you get away scot-free.
So we created this system that incentivizes companies not to see if things are harmful, because if they do, and they find out that their product is harmful, well then they have either option of pulling it off the market and losing lots of money, or hiding that and then later facing huge legal fines and payouts if they get caught hiding this information.
[32:23] But if they do a poor job with the study, or if the study never happens in the first place, well whenever somebody like some third-party regulatory body or independence citizen science discovers that this is a product that's not so good, well then they say “oops we didn't know better, we can pull it off the market, and nothing is lost,” except of course the health of thousands to millions of people.
[32:43] Tell me if I got this straight: you’re saying we have in a way disincentivized companies from looking at the possibility that what they're doing is harmful. We've literally incentivized them to just close their eyes; close their ears; and close their nose for some of these aromic chemicals...
[33:01] Okay this is a stretch.
[33:03] …and just ignore any possibility that what they're doing could be harmful because if they do open their eyes, and ask that question, and find that something is a problem, now they're liable, and they can be punished.
It’s kind of like that phrase “don’t ask permission, just ask forgiveness.” In a way it’s “don't look for problems, just let scientists figure it out later and claim ignorance.”
[33:27] Yeah and I don't want to over simplify this, because there is a lot of regulatory frameworks and they have to do some of these studies anyway, but it's easy to under-fund studies; it’s easy to do short term studies, when a lot of these effects especially are cumulative, and it ends up taking decades potentially before the health effects are seen and really understood. No one is doing that because you need to bring a product on-line very quickly, and outside of the pharmaceutical industry which has these stringent regulations on research and long-term health effects, well I mean cosmetics for example almost none of that stuff is regulated. The things that you put directly on your skin, rub straight into your body, well there is almost no oversight of what those chemicals are doing in any sort of long-term health effects, depending instead on the other companies to do research themselves.
[34:11] But David, I think you're stretching a little bit here because I mean you just mentioned Cosmetics. Microbeads have been a serious threat to the environment, and it was something that's been in a lot of personal care and cosmetic products like face lotion, like toothpaste. The companies would put these little tiny plastic balls in cosmetics, in personal care products that we would apply directly to our skin, and then just wash down the sink, and that was recognized as a serious environmental problem, and now laws have been passed that have banned microbeads from these products.
The UK passed a law, and the United States passed a law, and so microbead cosmetics will not be in any retail stores in the United States I believe it's July of this year. Maybe June it's one of the J months that's not January.
So I do feel like there are things that get done, and we mentioned the pharmaceutical company, well in the same way that these industries don't have to test for harmful effects in their chemicals and pesticides, well the pharmaceutical industry used to be the exact same way. They could just make a drug, put it out on the market, and if there were any bad side effects “oops we didn't know,” and it would get recalled. Well there was one drug they gave out on the 1950s, it was supposed to help women with morning sickness, but what it was doing was causing severe birth defects in these pregnant women and -
[35:32] Mmhmm, Thalidomide.
[35:33] Yeah and there was such a public outcry that it pushed a change in the way that we brought drugs to market so that we had a better understanding of any possible ill-effects. So maybe this is just a situation where we need to do the same thing with some of these companies… well I guess it's really all companies because anybody with a factory can start producing plastic products with chemicals in it but you get the idea. I'm sure we could do something similar.
[35:58] I know Daniel you're trying to be this “good cop” counter to what I'm saying, but really I think you ended up just agreeing with me. Without these regulatory frameworks saying that we need to look at everything, well people were quite literally dying.
[36:09] But the fact of the matter is this regulation is what makes Pharmaceuticals and the pharmaceutical industry so expensive and slow to bring new products to market. If we were to bring this sort of regulation across the board into every single registered chemical product that hits the market, everything would grind to a halt.
Could you imagine building a shampoo bottle that would take 10 years of testing? Because that's what it might take to see if something has any sort of environmental or toxic effect, long-term in our health, and in the world around us, but how could that work?
And this becomes something of a longer conversation that I've been itching to get into at some point and we're just going to touch on a bit now, but that's the fact that nothing is actually profitable.
Let that sick in for a minute.
What do you mean?
Nothing, no industry, no product, nothing is profitable, except with some tricky accounting.
If you are to ignore all the negative externalities of a product: environmental, health in terms of the ecology of the world around us, well then yeah sure you can make money off selling things, but when you integrate the fact that a lot of products are based on just straight exploitation of the environment, or have disastrous effects on the environment, things like this plastic we’re talking about now which does both through the collection of oil, the releasing of CO2 contributing to climate change, and then ultimately to the degradation it causes the environment…
Well if you add up all these external costs that people ignore because it's hard to quantify that, then we’re losing money on every single product made and nothing is profitable.
[37:32] David when you say nothing is profitable, that goes a little bit against everything we learn in economics, and I don't think it really makes a lot of sense because profit is just my revenue minus my cost. I can set up a lemonade stand, and I purchase my lemons for a dollar, purchase my sugar for $0.50, mix in some free tap water hopefully not contaminated by microplastics but hey I don't test for that -
[37:57] Where do you get this free tap water from?
[37:59] Ummm from my parent’s house. They pay the...
Hey I'm a 12 year old kid in this example, just roll with me okay? Maybe I pay rent to my parents or you know I share my profits with them okay? So I pay a dollar for the lemons, $0.50 or $0.20 for the sugar, and then I charge $2.50 for my lemonade, so I make a dollar. Right? That’s profit. So what do you mean I’m not actually making that profit?
[38:25] I think simplifies too much.
When you think of a company like Exxon Mobil differing their profit calculations of the damage they're doing to the world as one of the most profitable industries in existence, it's very simple to see the negative effects, but when it’s the kid with the lemonade stand, like okay yeah well what are the environmental effects of sugarcane slash-and-burn fields in Brazil, chopping that up and harvesting it with basically slave labor, packaging it, shipping it to the United States and the environmental cost of that, driving to the store, buying it, putting it in there, and then dumping it in there, like you see how it becomes more convoluted, this process of negative externalities? Rather than “ExxonMobil sells products like this, but at the same time it causes these negative effects in the environment - burning this stuff – and that’s Going to erase $2trillion dollars just for starters of real estate value in the United States alone over the next few decades.”
That’s s a very simple one to one, but who pays for those lost externalities is not ExxonMobil, it's the people who own these real estate, and so if ExxonMobil had to on their balance books account for future cost of burning this is going to end up costing this much money, well suddenly this very profitable and most profitable industry in the world, oil exploration and extraction, is suddenly one of the biggest losers.
So yeah absolutely the kid is losing money. It's much harder to trace that track, and again this is why maybe this is so difficult and why this never happens, and why trying to track down these unquantifiable or difficult to quantify externalities and costs gets just ignored.
This isn't just things like effects on the environment, but this is also a labor thing. Unpaid labor, women raising children at home historically has been a huge thing that enabled the economy to grow but was never accounted for, and is one of the only things that made growth in the modern history possible.
Same thing with school systems now. People look at this as a cost, as a tax, but it's a giant day care system that enables both parents to work, and if you had to account for the cost of schooling to instead these companies that benefit from it where there is no more day care service basically provided… for example the reason schools start as early as they do it's, not because it's healthy for the kids -
[40:31] David, I want to tell you one thing.
[40:33] I'm getting… this is really bad.
[40:35] David are you ready for this?
Think about it.
Yeah, we got a little…
We got off a little track here, and you're bringing up some good points, a little bit going over my head, and I think this is something we're going to just have to table for a different show, a different episode.
Thank you Daniel.
But these externalities that you're talking about, these hidden and displaced costs that arise from our industrial activities, these are something we still don't have a good grasp of, but there are some interesting consequences that occur when these hidden externalities get exposed and thrown back on us.
[41:08] So it's that time of the episode, let's look at China.
The restriction and ban on importing solid waste is a major measure the Chinese government has taken to implement the new development philosophy, improve the quality of the environment and ecosystems, and safeguard national ecological security and protect people’s health. We will continue to implement the ban and try to reach the goal and reach the requirements made by the Chinese government.
[41:39] So the European Union has been exporting about 3 million tons of plastic among other trash to China for years and years. And last year China announced “hey we're not taking any more foreign garbage; we have enough of our own, and we want to gain a tighter control on our own pollution.”
This announcement took effect in January of this year, literally four months ago they just stopped allowing foreign trash to enter their country with a couple months lag time I think if it was still in transit. It has sent many countries scrambling to figure out what to do. The United Kingdom is one of those countries. It has historically sent about 2/3 of its plastic to China, and when this announcement was made, the Environment Secretary was so taken aback he said he had no idea what they would do, and that it wasn't something he had given any thought to. That's short-term thinking for you, and after this ban went into effect, the chief of the UK's Recycling Association noted that he already noticed his trash piling up and maxing out capacity at many of the United Kingdom's plants.
[42:43] This is such a great example of one of these hidden externalities where the system only works if we can literally shove our garbage and push it somewhere out of sight to deal with for cheaper costs with looser environmental regulations. And when we have to deal with these costs for taking these environmental externalities in our own country, well suddenly the system falls apart.
[43:04] That's a good point David, and you might be onto something about these externalities because as they become too big to ignore, there are some pretty funny reactions locally as businesses and governments try and deal with them.
[43:16] In December of 2016, the state of Michigan enacted of a Statewide law that affects all local governments, and it prevents them from banning, regulating, or imposing any taxes on the use of plastics in the state. So effectively what this is, is a ban on banning plastic. And this stands in stark contrast to the regulations being established around the world as countries and municipalities wake up to the reality of this plastic crisis.
Maybe this is where we should introduce our guest for this show, someone who actually has experience working and navigating the legal and political environment associated with this plastic, and some pollution in the city of New York.
[44:01] John is an environmental consultant and private attorney working with the legal environment advocacy fund of the Hudson Valley. He is Professor of environmental law at Pace University, and serves on the legislation and executive committees of the New York State Bar Association. He served as director of legal programs at the nonprofit Riverkeeper, and has worked to improve environmental policies and practices throughout the state of New York. He can be found on LinkedIn at John Louis Parker.
[44:31] So John can you tell us a little bit more about the work you're doing, and the work you've done in the past to deal with some of these issues related to plastics pollution in the water in New York?
[44:42] Sure I've had a great career so far and I've been honored to work in a number of ways both in government as a regulator of environmental quality, and in the not for profit sector with respect to different organizations looking to make the environment better, and a lot of the issues that I’ve focused on has been clean water, whether it’s drinking water, whether it’s treatment plants potentially polluting the rivers and the lakes.
[45:07] But in any event water is always been a key focus, and it's a large section of law, it’s a serious responsibility, but it takes a lot of effort and work.
[45:16] Why is it so much work? Because you think that as a city, if I'm New York City, I want my citizens to have good clean drinking water, right? That's going to attract people to my city.
[45:25] Especially is city like New York that prides itself on its water supply.
[45:29] Well there's multiple things that happen. One is, do we drink clean water from the tap? But what we're concerned about is that what we return to the oceans, lakes, and rivers is as clean as possible.
[45:42] So we understand that this plastic pollution has become a serious problem. It’s getting into everything, and it sounds like from your perspective the biggest efforts are needed on the waste side, so we put the pollution in the water, and we try to treat that, but then we send that water back into the environment. Are we doing enough right now in your Municipality of New York to prevent this microplastics and these pollutants from getting back into our environment from the wastewater that we get rid of?
[46:12] Quite a lot of microplastics get into the water supply right through our laundry every day. When it goes down the drain it's got to go to these treatment plants. They’re very sophisticated operations, and they’re very, very effective.
[46:23] Sewage treatment plants in the United States alone has changed everybody's perception of the environment. For example the Hudson River right here. Beautiful, powerful, mighty river, one of the first rivers exploited when the United States was colonized, it was widely considered an open sewer in the 60s, but by the time the state and federal government invested in sewage treatment plants, by the 80s and 90s, what a massive turn around, and those plants take about 90% of these plastics out, which is pretty good.
[46:49] Well yeah that means 10% just gets past the filter so.
[46:52] Yeah yeah I mean we're talking about like 15,000 to 4.5 million little microplastic pieces per plant per day. That’s not even for the large plants like for New York city for example, and it’s being found everywhere and so why would we care? Well it's getting into the food chain, and it also in these small particles, and some toxic chemicals in them as well, that gets in the water, gets in the fish, we eat fish, so it’s getting out there no question.
[47:16] Do you think that in light of the fact that our water treatment plants, sewage plants, are losing 10% of this plastic back into the environment, are we taking a proactive approach to dealing with that? Or are we being more reactionary trying to address that?
[47:31] I think we're being somewhat reactionary because the amount of knowledge that microplastics is really starting to come into its own. We are starting to learn more, understand more, and see what the sources are, and that will I think ultimately result in finding solutions.
[47:49] So what does that mean? Well it means a lot of different things in terms of practical everyday life. For example New York state and New York City, there's been conversations and discussion that a little bit of tug-of-war about doing things like banning the use of plastic bags. If you don't use it you don't need to deal with it right? And that’s become very visible, you know it doesn't take very far to walk outside to see a plastic bag blowing around down the road. That gets into the sewers in the side of the road.
[48:15] So this incredible successive of decades of sewage treatment plants, cleaning the water, is somewhat taken for granted, but if 10% of this one source of pollution is getting through, I mean there’s better standards when we start understanding what we can do with filtration, and there are ways you can filter these microplastics out even higher than the 90%, but it’s expensive right?
[48:35] In New York alone, $70 billion plus is estimated - that's actually as number from 10 years ago so it’s higher than that - just to repair our sewage treatment plants and our drinking water plants. That’s just like to keep it going. That’s not to expand the technology and find ways to do better.
[48:52] So if there's not awareness, and it’s more than just a plastic bag blowing down the road, it's your bills right? Water bills, that commitment need to exist to go to the store with your own bag and not bring plastic, but also to realize that the price of civilization is you have to pay the price to keep it clean, especially with more people, and more and more water use. It’s going to be a growing burden.
[49:13] Let me ask you a question with that plastic bag example that you brought up. This problem about plastic and dealing with water and making sure it's clean, is this something that's going to fall more on us as individuals and consumers, bringing tote bags and other things to the grocery store, or is this something we should be looking more towards government bodies as regulatory bodies in this banning plastic bags, levying the taxes we need to repair these programs? What is the solution here, or is it a combination of these?
[49:38] I often find when asked questions like that, the answer is yes no maybe and yes.
[49:42] All the Above.
[49:44] It exactly did you know if it was like multiple choice exam.
[49:51] The Clean Water Act was passed in 1969 1970 and is a dramatic turnaround in the quality wooden United States of the Decades. It wasn't for that law on the funding to push the change to stop the open sewers like the Hudson River once was you no Governor absolutely.
[50:08] Then you talk about stuff like well what about you know I brush my teeth I don't want microplastics in my toothpaste.
[50:15] Federal government against its actually coming to this year.
[50:19] With microbeads.
John Parker: [50:20] Write me up a July deadline for the interstate. Trading of products that have microbeads in it so again the government had to approach across the entire country but there's more alive.
[50:37] Organizations here where folks try to encourage recycle they try to encourage folks to stop using plastic bags now I hear from local organizations inside your plastic.
[50:49] In some estimates 10% of the plastic that's accumulated in some parts of the ocean are plastic straws so it's a huge huge number.
John Parker: [50:57] Yeah I am I so yes government has to do it government has to find it but also we can do things every day like you had mentioned you know maybe bring a guy, try to not use the plastic bags every day when I go and I see the amount of straws now that I'm conscious of it. I know about what's happening. Don't give me a straw I asked for it but you go to restaurants. Relations can do everyday. In addition to the larger questions but it will make a difference I mean I would hate to Discount you don't use it you don't have to deal with the waste that's a big deal so you get some of these issues off the table.
[51:40] But there is one other area that I think is really important for the future that's business right straws end up then just end up at the restaurant.
[51:49] What same is true for all Packaging.
[51:51] That's definitely.
[51:59] So are kind of feeling the pressure from that business Community for instance Michigan is one of the states that recently passed a law. Prevent local municipalities from enacting bans or taxes in any way that might affect plastic you so in a way it's a ban on banning plastic.
John Parker: [52:17] The fact that we're having this conversation is really the proof in the pudding as it were the awareness of these issues is the only way we're going to have any will to deal with them. John: Importance Of Awareness
[52:25] Now there are many examples in history that had states of Vino Banning the band as you just said it's been horrible a variety of social issues and other issues even Commerce.
[52:36] But when folks become aware of things I think that's the only way we can ultimately change it because democracy experiment that is his country can ultimately Trend the right way.
[52:47] But it requires vigilance and the only way that individuals as people know more about does requiring a deposit on a plastic bag. Because a person that has more financial means wouldn't think twice about spending and nickel if they forgot their Canvas Bag receipt and care about. Every time you go to the store you have to spend you know $0.50 for plastic bags because you didn't have your own.
[53:18] Yeah there's a lot of very complicated factors going on here but the fact that we're trying to figure out how to deal with it.
[53:25] How to figure out how to get rid of plastic bags for example understanding how.
[53:31] I spoke start sampling their waterways because people are becoming more conscious about it.
[53:37] Denial just increasing we are understanding the pain right now we can start to deal with I think that's really it be those two things are crashing here and I think that's good.
[53:46] I think things through.
[53:47] But let me ask you one thing you just mentioned people sampling their waterways to the awareness of the plastic in the water in the tap water that they study that just happened finding plastic all across the world in tap water and in water weigh, is there something is happening by private groups by Charities by public advocacy groups and if so who are these groups.
John Parker: [54:05] You know you erase a really great question and if you don't look for a problem you don't find it right. John: Who Is Leading Awareness?
[54:13] And I think what you'll find in a lot of states and in a lot of government regulation is that there is an unwillingness to the resources into cussing I know as a regulator New York State the budget for testing me environmental issues.
[54:27] I'm in New York I've done that lead water, test your just because I could I was curious about it so I went and got that package in send it off there and found I had zero lead in my pipes but it's the only water testing program I think I could find that the municipality was doing.
John Parker: [54:43] Good place like Flint Michigan where we start to realize what.
[54:47] Water that someone cost that could actually do to the pipes because of the issue so what you're fine and I think is that there are cherries and not-for-profit.
[54:58] And for a while though so cold at citizen science.
[55:01] Like literally people go out on certain days of the year will designated day and we're going to test the 5 miles of this river to see what's going on.
[55:12] But that's not a government-issued if it's a citizen an issue in the New York City metropolitan area in Chile down the Jersey coast sewage treatment plants discharge their water it gets into the very serious when people want to make sure they're saying.
[55:23] John we want to be cognizant of your time are there any organizations or groups that you want to highlight that are doing positive things in New York City or the broader state of New York.
John Parker: [55:34] It's important to look at what's going on locally for example Westchester County great example there's New Jersey New York, John: Groups Doing Good
[55:43] Hudson River Keeper these are some of the groups and organizations that are trying. Did you something and I think it's substantial it's kind of a two-part message what is to reconnect people to their water but incredibly important part of The Human Experience since the beginning of the experience is to assist governments. Or push government did you better weather its sewage treatment plant laws were.
[56:05] Like some of local groups here I'm making sure folks are recycling plastic bags so it's a little things but it's big thing.
[56:12] Groups in this area that I think are good and important and it again it's not for profit work outside of government.
[56:18] A lot of folks are interested in figuring out ways that they can actually contribute or participate in improving your varmint special water quality some part of it at group of boats in the Hudson Valley.
[56:29] Try to make that easier we've created the legal environment avex on the Hudson Valley or leave Hudson Valley. Try to find a way for folks to contribute to get that money to causes and two legal cases that make our water cleaner and environment better place by thank you.
[56:45] Is there a website or something for that group.
John Parker: [56:47] So you can find us a leaf hudsonvalley.org and it'll tell our story.
[56:53] I will put that on our website so all our listeners can go directly to that John thanks so much again for joining us.
[56:59] Yeah we really appreciate it.
John Parker: [57:01] Thank you very much I always appreciate the time to talk about these important things only when folks understand again what's really going on and they act to try to do something better.
[57:10] Timothy lot of great advice from John on things that he's working on and it different organizations that we can become involved with but also brings up to our favorite part of the show what can we do to help with horrible massive scale problem. What Can We Do?
[57:25] The Daniel what can we do.
[57:26] To be honest David this topic was a little overwhelming in terms of its scope. Like I mentioned the beginning in a way that I really didn't expect so personally I'm not that prepared to offer a lot of knowledge on Solutions I mean that being said we've covered the problem with synthetic clothing by less clothing. Buy more durable clothing washer clothing less I have two pairs of pants and I will wear them for weeks at a time unless you know.
[57:52] I've got one pair of jeans that have literally never been washed.
[57:55] Right so we are literally saving the Earth right now and in our listeners can follow our lead but.
[58:00] This is why we're on radio and not live shows.
[58:03] But in all seriousness look I think awareness of this issue is the first step this is a serious problem microplastics are getting in our environment they're not going away we've created 8.3 billion metric tons. It's still here except for the small fraction that may be incinerated in which case it's floating in the form of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. So it's still here it's not going away and we need to lower our dependence on it. Examine your life examine the activities that you do as an individual that you and your family do that perhaps you and your company doing and see if there are ways that you can, reduce the level of consumption let me tell you David it's not easy. The other day I went to a fast food joint I was out and about I was driving around I didn't have time to cook for myself that day and, I ordered the bowl of food it came in a plastic container they gave me a plastic fork and I wanted some water to drink with my meal and they gave me a plastic cup.
[58:59] With a plastic straw I'm sure.
[59:01] It was I refuse the straw as John said following his lead but it kind of made me upset I was like I didn't know what to do because, I had to eat but you know it's not like I could say hey give me something that's not plastic that's all they had. Obviously there are things that we should try to do as individuals but this is also something that must be tackled on the business side. It must be something that our governments are aware of these businesses these governments are only going to do that we make them feel that we're concerned.
[59:28] Beyond that we need to start looking into the health effects of these microplastics and how they affect both our bodies and the animals in our environment immediately, research of this is just starting and we need to make sure that we're setting aside proper funding to look into these problems because these microplastics aren't going anywhere there their they're in the varmint and we're not going to be able to take them out, so we need to start learning now how they affect life in this environment so we can start getting proactive about how we treat this problem.
[59:54] And also the chemical effects of these Plastics as horrible as they might be a lot of them do pass through the body very quickly I think BPA. One of those chemical Plastics that we mentioned as a short half-life of round 6 hours in the body so, if you can find a way to reduce your exposure to that it might have some very immediate health effects of course getting away from that and the ease of that is in a whole nother story.
[1:00:17] I'm real quick Daniel cuz I love this fact because a lot of environmentalists a all you know I'm being responsible I'm not using plastic bags instead of got this canvas tote bag and they open their cabinet and is like 200 canvas tote bags in there, I just feeling guilty for 5 more than keep coming up I don't know where they all come from, yeah we should absolutely be turning towards renewable products that we can keep using over and over again because they're durable and not these one time use plastic bags but one thing to remember is that it takes a lot more energy to create these canvas tote bags in it does it simple plastic. The break-even point for one canvas tote bag to come out ahead of plastic bags is 130 trips give or take depending on how big the bag it is. If you keep buying new canvas tote bags what you just contributing to the problem to remember that trying use just one thing for really focus on making sure that this is just a single product using and you don't end up using anything more, and you need to but I'm getting off topic here.
[1:01:10] We do I often think in terms of the end use of these products but we do have to remember these externalities and the energy that goes into the production of them I mean even with cars 50%, in some cases of all the energy that suspended in the life cycle of a car, aplenzin manufacturer but sometimes buying that electrical vehicle is actually worse for the environment than either continuing to drive your old car or purchasing a used, gas guzzling truck or something it's counterintuitive again because of the way that we've arranged are economics around this profit incentive we ignore the externalities every chance we get. Something to think about.
[1:01:47] And as Daniel mention we're going to be looking into this plastic stuff at much deeper levels with a lot more experts. Lots of research is being made on new types of plastic that maybe don't have the same effects so anything that can encourage this would have research weather by buying products that are testing out new more bile responsible plastic, or Alternatives that are plastic such as bamboo well we as consumers should be looking towards those products first and foremost.
[1:02:12] And of course we do have an email address it's contact at ashes ashes. Org. And if you are an expert in plastic in this environmental issue, and you want to set a straight on some of the things we said oh you want to add some expertise to this bring awareness to something that you're doing in your field, we would love to bring you on the show in explore this topic in depth or if you know anybody that fits that description let us know so that we can bring even more awareness to this issue.
[1:02:40] It's great to know this is all a lot to think about and like we mentioned several times will be going into more depth about this and future episodes. But if you want to go into more depth about some of the topics we talked about how you can find sources links a full transcript of this episode and much more on our website ashes ashes. Org you can also find us on your favorite social media Network. Ashes ashes cast.
[1:03:02] A lot of time in research goes into making these episodes possible we will never use adds to support the show and we will never purchase ads as effective as that might be to clutter your news feed Zoe, if you enjoy it and would like us to keep going you can support us by giving us a review and recommending us to a friend real quick before we close out, Gavin
[1:03:22] use a little bit of real news from one of our listeners Javan from Fairfax County Virginia was among those affected by wind storms along the United States East Coast in March of this year and his family were without power for 4 days, and although it was a significant hardship two things help them get through the experience. One because of his love for camping Gavin had some battery powered light sources and a propane stove for cooking and boiling water and second him and his family had friends with power that they could visit when they needed to recharge. Preparation and Community two things we stress here and something to think about going forward or Gavin thanks for sharing.
[1:04:02] That wraps it up for this week we got a very exciting show coming next week and we hope you'll tune in to join us until then this is ashes ashes by by.