Leonardo DiCaprio, Ralph Lauren Recipients of 'Big Fish' Award at Riverkeeper's Fishermen's Ball
Most Americans picture rural farms, rather than city sidewalks as the cradle of environmentalism, but New Yorkers are “all about the environment. We'll do everything we can to protect it," TV host Andy Cohen said as he arrived Wednesday evening at Chelsea Piers 60 to MC the Riverkeeper's 50th anniversary Fishermen's Ball, which raised $1.6 million with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Ralph & Ricky Lauren Family Foundation each awarding $100,000 grants.
Riverkeeper, one of New York's most venerable grassroots environmental organizations, protects the environmental, recreational and commercial integrity of the Hudson River and its tributaries, and safeguards the drinking water for 9 million New York City and Hudson Valley residents.
Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio and Ralph Lauren received the Fishermen's Ball's "Big Fish" award. Riverkeeper's 2016 “Hudson Hero" went to Robert De Niro and the “Big Fish Emeritus" award to Howard Rubin. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Sting were among others that participated in the celebratory event.
“The first 50 years at Riverkeeper were all about undoing the damage of the past," Riverkeeper President Paul Gallay said during his opening remarks. "The next 50 years will be about bringing the Hudson back to its former glory and assuring that we all have clean, abundant drinking water, no matter who we are or where we live."
Fifty years ago, the southern reaches of the Hudson served as a dumping ground for sewage waste, industrial pollutants and nuclear releases. Long stretches of the river were devoid of wildlife and living organisms. Other parts of it were dying. In 1966, local fishermen got together and formed the organization to champion the river and clean it up.
DiCaprio applauded Riverkeeper for its perseverance. “My Foundation partners with many effective organizations that fight to protect our world's lands and waterways, and I am proud to count the Hudson Riverkeeper among them. We know that ignorance, greed and political malfeasance stand in the way of our simple vision of achieving the basic right of access to clean water for every living being on our shared planet. The work of the Riverkeeper is critical to creating and protecting a healthier future for millions of people."
“I'm a New Yorker. I was born here. I was married here. I raised my children here. And almost 50 years ago, I started a company here," Lauren said after being called to the stage by Kennedy, Riverkeeper's chief prosecuting attorney.
"The Hudson is my river—it's our river. Like Riverkeeper, next year, our company celebrates our 50th anniversary," Lauren continued. "We have accomplished much to make our workplace and our products environmentally sound and we recognize that we have much more to do in our future, and we are committed to this endeavor."
The Fishermen's Ball also featured the premiere of a short documentary created by the Tribeca Film Fellows, Keeping On, which explores Riverkeeper's history, accomplishments and future plans to preserve the integrity of the Hudson River.
The evening finished with a special live acoustic performance by 16-time Grammy Award winner and past "Big Fish" honoree, Sting.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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