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Adidas's Parley Ultraboost.

Adidas is getting serious about ocean plastic, turning the pollution "from threat into thread."

The sportswear giant, along with partner Parley for the Oceans, has released three new models of its shoes made from marine debris—the Ultraboost, Ultraboost X and Ultraboost Uncaged.

According to Business Insider, each pair uses an average of 11 plastic bottles and incorporates recycled plastic into the shoe's laces, heel webbing, heel lining and sock liner covers.

The company has a goal of creating 1 million pairs of the popular running shoes from recovered ocean plastic in 2017.

"The new additions to the adidas x Parley collection are another step in our journey to creating one million pairs of Ultraboost from up-cycled marine plastic," said Mathias Amm, a product category director at adidas.

The new, ocean-inspired sneakers will be available in-store and online May 10.

Adidas partnered with Parley for the Oceans—a team of artists, musicians, actors, directors, fashion designers, journalists, architects, product inventors and scientists addressing major threats to the world's oceans— to develop materials made from ocean plastic waste to use in its products starting in 2016. Last November, adidas and Parley rolled out 7,000 pairs of its 3D-printed shoes made from recycled ocean plastics.

To ramp up its commitment to sustainability, adidas phased out plastic bags in its 2,900 retail stores around the world, saving 70 million plastic shopping bags by switching to paper bags in its stores.

EcoWatch has extensively covered the devastating global issue of ocean plastic, which is a major threat to marine life, marine ecosystems and our own health. A staggering 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans every year.

Ocean plastic has reached the northernmost ends of the earth. The remote and icy waters of the Arctic Ocean are also being inundated by this form of non-biodegradable pollution.

According to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances, currents carrying trash, originating mostly from the North Atlantic, are flowing north into the Greenland and Barents Seas. An estimated 300 billion bits of plastic debris has accumulated in those waters, in sea ice or even the seafloor.

Researchers from the University of Cádiz in Spain and several other institutions found that in some parts of the Greenland and Barents Seas, concentrations of plastic were in the hundreds of thousands of pieces per square kilometer. The researchers dubbed the region a "dead end for this plastic conveyor belt."

"It's only been about 60 years since we started using plastic industrially, and the usage and the production has been increasing ever since. So most of the plastic that we have disposed of in the ocean is still now in transit to the Arctic," said Carlos Duarte, one of the study's co-authors and director of the Red Sea Research Center at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

The scientists warned that climate change could make the problem worse as rising temperatures melt sea ice.

"The growing level of human activity in an increasingly warm and ice-free Arctic, with wider open areas available for the spread of microplastics, suggests that high loads of marine plastic pollution may become prevalent in the Arctic in the future," the paper stated.

The multinational team of scientists analyzed plastic debris from survey sites around the Arctic Ocean. Most of the plastic was in tiny fragments, mostly ranging from 0.5 millimeters to 12.6 millimeters. Fishing line, film or pellets were also uncovered.

Lead author Andrés Cózar Cabañas, a professor of biology at the University of Cádiz, told the New York Times that he was both surprised and worried about the results.

"We don't fully understand the consequences the plastic is having or will have in our oceans," he said. "What we do know is that these consequences will be felt at greater scale in an ecosystem like this" because it is unlike any other on Earth.

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The Ooho. Photo credit: Skipping Rocks Lab

Bottled water is bad for the planet in many ways, especially since it tends to leave behind a mountain of plastic waste and other wasteful packaging material.

To help make this problem disappear, London-based startup Skipping Rocks Lab created the Ooho, a biodegradable and fully edible capsule for water.

These golf ball-sized sachets are made from seaweed extract and look like springy bubbles of water. You can drink them by tearing a hole into the skin and pouring the water into your mouth, or they can be consumed whole.

Not only does this novel solution address the United States' dismal plastic recycling rate—only 30.1 percent of PET bottles are actually recycled—the company says its packaging is cheaper than producing a plastic water bottle.

According to Fast Company, the Ooho's membrane is made through a molecular gastronomy technique called "spherification," the same process used to make fake caviar or the juice-filled balls you find in boba tea.

Skipping Rocks Lab is currently crowdsourcing funds for the Ooho and trialling the product at events as an alternative to plastic bottles.

"Where we see a lot of potential for Ooho is outdoor events—festivals, marathons, places where basically there are a lot of people consuming packaging over a very short amount of time," Pierre Paslier, cofounder of Skipping Rocks Lab, told Fast Company.

The crowdsourcing campaign as well as its accompanying video have gone quickly viral this week. The company announced Thursday it has raised more than one million dollars from 1,000 investors in a mere three days.

Photo credit: EPA / Mike Nelson

Kenya just became the latest country to ban plastic bags. According to Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu, "The ministry has banned the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging."

Kenya's ban follows the United Nations' new Clean Seas initiative, which has already inspired 10 governments to address plastic pollution.

Indonesia has pledged to reduce marine waste by 70 percent within the next eight years, and Africa, Rwanda and Morocco have already announced bans on plastic bags, with other countries expected to sign on within a month.

"Kenya should be commended for its environmental leadership," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. "It's a great example that I hope will inspire others, and help drive further commitments to the Clean Seas campaign."

"Kenya is taking decisive action to remove an ugly stain on its outstanding natural beauty," Solheim added. "Plastic waste also causes immeasurable damage to fragile ecosystems—both on land and at sea—and this decision is a major breakthrough in our global effort to turn the tide on plastic."

Recent reports tell of whales suffering and dying after ingesting plastic waste. Including a whale found dead with more than 30 plastic bags in its stomach.

Many marine creatures such as fish, seabirds and turtles are choking on the 8 million metric tons of plastic garbage infesting oceans each year.

According to Douglas Broderick of the UN, "5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are swirling around in the world's seas. Five giant 'patches' of garbage are floating in the world's oceans. They are nearly equivalent to the entire land mass of Indonesia. They're growing. Patches have collected so much trash—mostly plastic—they can be seen from space."

Broderick estimated that at current pollution rates, "there could be more plastic particles than fish in the oceans by 2050."

Kenya's ban, which begins in September, will require sweeping changes to business as usual. Supermarket shoppers, for example, use about 100 million plastic bags annually. Local entrepreneurs are already preparing to sell sustainable alternatives. Watch here:

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The United Nations is "declaring war" on the biggest sources of planetary pollution—ocean plastic. On Thursday, the intergovernmental organization's environment program (UNEP) launched its #CleanSeas campaign at the World Ocean Summit hosted by The Economist in Bali, Indonesia.

The unprecedented global initiative urges governments and businesses to take measures to eliminate microplastics from cosmetics and personal care items, ban or tax single-use plastic bags and dramatically reduce other disposable plastic items by 2022. Everyday citizens are also encouraged to join the fight.

Ten countries have already joined the campaign. Indonesia aims to reduce marine litter by 70 percent by 2025. Uruguay will tax plastic bags later this year. Costa Rica will implement better waste management and education strategies to slash single-use plastic.

Estimates say that 8 million tonnes of plastic ending up in our oceans every year, wreaking havoc on aquatic life and ecosystems and costing at least $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems. If plastic continues to be dumped at its current rate, the oceans will carry more plastic than fish by 2050 and an estimated 99 percent of seabirds will have ingested plastic by then.

There is also a growing presence of tiny plastic particles that shred off of larger items such as plastic bags, bottles and clothing. According to UN News, "as many as 51 trillion microplastic particles—500 times more than stars in our galaxy—litter our seas, seriously threatening marine wildlife."

The campaign's organizers want to banish plastic pollution from entering the world's seas before it's too late.

"It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans," Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, said. "Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We've stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop."

The program is also calling on consumers to shrink their own plastic footprint, from bringing reusable bags to avoiding cosmetics with microbeads.

"I support the Clean Seas campaign because I believe there are better alternatives to single-use disposable plastics, and that we as consumers can encourage innovation and ask businesses to take responsibility for the environmental impact of the products they produce," Jack Johnson, a musician and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador, said.

"We can all start today by making personal commitments to reduce plastic waste by carrying reusable shoppings bags and water bottles, saying no to straws and choosing products without microbeads and plastic packaging. We can also support the efforts of the emerging youth leaders around the world working for healthy and plastic free oceans," Johnson said.

The singer-songwriter is also promoting a new documentary The Smog of the Sea, which highlights the problem of microplastics. Watch here:

Companies such as DELL are also onboard with the UNEP clean seas campaign. In a tech industry first, the computer company announced this week it will use packaging trays with 25 percent recycled ocean plastic content. The pilot project will keep 16,000 pounds of plastics out of the ocean, the company said.

"DELL is committed to putting technology and expertise to work for a plastic-free ocean," said Piyush Bhargava, vice president for global operations. "Our new supply chain brings us one step closer to UNEP's vision of Clean Seas by proving that recycled ocean plastic can be commercially reused."

Other major announcements are expected at the upcoming The Ocean conference at the UN Headquarters in New York in June, and UN the Environment Assembly in Nairobi in December, according to UNEP.

"The ocean is the lifeblood of our planet, yet we are poisoning it with millions of tonnes of plastic every year," said Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly. "Be it a tax on plastic bags or a ban on microbeads in cosmetics, each country [can] do their bit to maintain the integrity of life in the Ocean."

Meet Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel—a pair of floating, solar and hydro-powered trash interceptors keeping Baltimore's waters clean. These frankly adorable trash wheels can collect as much as 38,000 pounds of debris in a single day.

Mr. Trash Wheel, located at the mouth of Jones Falls, has stopped more than one million pounds of garbage from entering Baltimore's Inner Harbor since its installation in May 2014. Because it has been so effective, a second water wheel, "Professor Trash Wheel," was installed at Harris Creek Park in Canton and opened this past December.

Professor Trash Wheel has googly eyes like Mr. Trash Wheel but with eyelashes.

The anthropomorphized wheels have become so popular they have their own merchandise, their own social media pages (Mr. Trash Wheel: Twitter and Facebook; Professor Trash Wheel: Twitter and Facebook) and have done several amusing AMAs on Reddit.

When one Redditor asked, "If there were a 6th season of The Wire centering around trash in the Inner Harbor, what would the main plot points be? What roles would you and Professor Trash Wheel play?"

Mr. Trash Wheel responded:

"Here's the plot: Trash is over flowing the streets of Baltimore. Trash storms plague the city on a regular basis and micro plastics have formed a choking fog that sits on the city at all times. Professor Trash Wheel believes she can work within the system to get litter of the streets. She creates coalitions with nonprofits and government agencies to battle the rising tide of trash. Mr. Trash Wheel obeys no law or man. He goes rogue attacking trash on the streets, in the harbor, wherever he can find it. Who will win out? Find out on Season 6 of the Wire. David Simon, you have my number. Stop ignoring my texts"

The wheels are a part of the Waterfront Partnership's Healthy Harbor Initiative, which aims to make Baltimore Harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020.

The iconic harbor is "polluted by millions of gallons of sewage, hundreds of tons of trash, and stormwater runoff are polluting the harbor and streams every year," the local environmental nonprofit states on its website.

"These conditions are threatening the lives of the fish, crabs, turtles, birds, and river otters that are part of the harbor, and even simple contact with the water can be dangerous due to the threat of waterborne diseases."

The Baltimore Sun reported that local environmentalists would like to see at least two more water wheels to address the city's litter problem.

So how do these devices work? Using water currents, trash and debris floats into containment booms in front of the wheel. The trash moves onto a conveyor belt that leads to a dumpster barge. When the dumpster is full, the trash is towed away. A backup solar panel array powers the wheel when the current is not strong enough.

The collected material is weighed and separated into different categories: plastic bottles, polystyrene containers, cigarette butts, glass bottles, grocery bags and chip bags. Some of the trash is incinerated to help generate electricity for the city.

The trash wheel's creator, John Kellett, told National Geographic that it's a common misconception that people are littering directly into the water. Instead, most of the garbage—such as trash thrown from cars, illegal dumping and cigarettes butts—ends up in the watershed after it rains.

"If it rains, there is always trash," Kellett told the publication.

In about two-and-a-half years, Mr. Trash Wheel has picked up almost nine million cigarette butts and more than 300,000 plastic bags. It also picks up an average of 14,000 Styrofoam containers a month.

According to National Geographic, "the data is used to support environmental legislation. For example, the Waterfront Partnership recently supported a bill that would ban Styrofoam containers."

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Politics

New York's Republican-controlled State Senate voted 42-18 Tuesday in favor of a measure that would kill New York City's five-cent fee for carryout bags.

"Many families have a hard time just getting by, paying for groceries, rent and heat," Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), who introduced the bill, said before Tuesday's vote.

As the Gothamist noted, Felder's bill took specific aim at New York City, as it would "prohibit bag taxes or fees in cities with a population of 1 million or more." The Big Apple is the only city in the state with 1 million people.

After two years of heated debate, the city council voted 28-20 in May to impose a small fee for each plastic, paper or cloth carryout bag provided by retail and wholesale stores. The Carryout Bag Law, slated to take effect Feb. 15, is aimed at "[reducing] the amount of waste we send to landfills, and will also help keep bags out of our trees, streets and oceans." New York City shoppers were encouraged to bring their own reusable bag to stores instead.

People on the supplemental nutrition assistance (SNAP), aka "food stamp," program do not have to pay the fee, as stores will provide carryout bags for these customers free of charge.

According to the New York League of Conservation Voters, the city spends more than $12 million each year sending 10 billion plastic bags to landfills. The organization argues that the bill would save taxpayers millions of dollars while also cutting bag litter in the streets, parks, waterways and landfills.

Raul A. Contreras, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, defended the fee. He told the New York Times that similar laws already exist in more than 200 municipalities in 18 states across the country.

"This is the type of progressive and environmentally conscious action that helps create a more sustainable city," Contreras told the newspaper via email. "We are going to continue to work with our partners in the city council and Albany on implementation of this legislation."

Democratic Senators also argued that the Senate should not overrule the city council's wishes.

"This is the nullification of the wishes of a legislative body representing 8.5 million people," Sen. Brad Hoylman, (D-Manhattan) told the New York Daily News, adding the Senate measure was "breathtakingly arrogant."

"I understand that people don't want to pay the fee. But a much easier way to avoid the fee than pre-empting our law is just to bring a reusable bag," Democrat Councilman Brad Lander told the Times. "It's just not that hard."

However, the American Progressive Bag Alliance said in a statement that the fee would "disproportionately impact those who can least afford it—without providing any meaningful benefit to the environment or New Yorkers."

The measure now heads to the Democrat-controlled Assembly. If the measure is approved by both chambers, Democratic Gov. Cuomo could sign it into law.

"If the Legislature passes a bill, we will review it," Cuomo's spokesman, Frank Sobrino, told the Times. The governor's position on the measure is currently unclear.

In recent years, carryout bag legislation in the form of bans or taxes has taken center stage in many cities and even entire states. While states like California have legislated against these single-use items, a growing number of states are spearheading bans on bag bans.

Last month, Michigan passed a law making it illegal for local governments to enact ordinances that ban or place fees on plastic bags or disposable containers used by stores and restaurants. Other states that have banned local plastic bag ordinances include Wisconsin, Idaho, Florida and Arizona.

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