The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Michigan Native Develops Visionary Solution for Flint’s Plastic Bottle Problem
When Detroit-area native Ali Rose VanOverBeke came back home in 2016 to volunteer with the Red Cross at the height of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, she probably didn't expect to get a business idea with the potential to change both her and Flint's future.
But that is exactly what happened. VanOverBeke noticed the buildup of plastic water bottles outside people's homes, which residents had to rely on for drinking water since their tap water was contaminated by lead.
"They're not just facing a manmade water crisis," VanOverBeke told ABC News in a story published Thursday. "Now, there's like this localized, environmental stress because of the surplus of plastic that they've been forced to use."
To solve the problem, VanOverBeke turned to her former classmate at New School's Parsons School of Design Jack Burns.
The pair came up with a creative plan to transform the discarded water bottles into unique eyeglasses designed to fit anyone.
"Our goal is simple: do good for people and the planet using design and collaboration to be the change we want to see," a Kickstarter campaign for the project reads.
Last year, the pair set up a company for the glasses called Genusee, named after Flint's Genesee county. They plan for the company to be a "for Flint, by Flint" effort and are working on setting up a manufacturing facility in Flint.
"We are working toward really being a part of not just like the immediate solution in Flint but being a part of the long-term solution," VanOverBeke told ABC News.
To this end, they launched the Kickstarter campaign April 18 with the goal of hiring 17 new workers. With six hours to go as of this writing, they have raised $71,329, more than exceeding their $50,000 goal.
"Genusee is bringing a new manufacturing legacy to the city of Flint by creating jobs; turning the surplus of plastic waste caused by the man-made water crisis into closed loop eyewear," the Kickstarter campaign says.
Each pair of glasses recycles 15 single-use plastic bottles.
The glasses so far come in one style, called The Roeper, that the Kickstarter says is "democratically designed" to flatter a diverse array of face shapes. The frames come in Crystal Fog and Classic Black, and can be used for prescription glasses or sunglasses.
Currently, Flint residents are already involved with sewing the glasses' polish bags at a center that provides employment training for women.
"That we are able to take the water bottles that are just trash, to have them processed into new material, is so amazing to me," one of the sewers, Marty Calhoun, told ABC News.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Global Banks, Led by JPMorgan Chase, Invested $1.9 Trillion in Fossil Fuels Since Paris Climate Pact
By Sharon Kelly
A report published Wednesday names the banks that have played the biggest recent role in funding fossil fuel projects, finding that since 2016, immediately following the Paris agreement's adoption, 33 global banks have poured $1.9 trillion into financing climate-changing projects worldwide.
By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.