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Maine First U.S. State to Ban Styrofoam Containers
Maine became the first state to officially ban single-use Styrofoam cups and containers on Tuesday.
Democratic Maine Governor Janet Mills called the bill an "important step forward in protecting our environment" when she signed it into law, The Associated Press reported.
The bill would ban grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, food trucks and other similar businesses from using cups or containers made from polystyrene, otherwise known as Styrofoam, The Portland Press Herald reported. The ban will go into effect January 1, 2021 and would not cover hospitals, seafood shippers or vendors of pre-packaged meat.
"Maine has proven itself an environmental leader once again, this time in eliminating disposable foam containers that have become a common, costly, and deadly form of plastic pollution," Sustainable Maine Director at the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) Sarah Lakeman told the Portland Press Herald.
Maine is at the head of a growing number of states that are considering bans on the material. Maryland is another early leader: A Styrofoam ban passed its House and Senate in early April with enough votes to override a potential veto from Republican Governor Larry Hogan, National Geographic reported. As of April 24, Hogan had less than a month to sign the bill, or let it pass into law without a signature, according to U.S. PIRG. Once it is officially passed, the Maryland bill will enter into effect July 1, 2020, six months ahead of the Maine bill, according to National Geographic.
Bills to ban foam containers are also close to passing the state legislatures of Colorado, New Jersey and Oregon, U.S. PIRG said. The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators counted 11 states in addition to Maine that are considering legislation on polystyrene.
Municipalities and counties moved ahead of the states in restricting the material, among them Seattle, Washington, D.C., Portland, Oregon, New York and San Francisco, National Geographic reported. In both Maine and Maryland, the state bans followed local restrictions, including in Portland, Maine and Maryland's most populous Prince George's and Montgomery counties. In total, more than 150 U.S. cities or regions have banned Styrofoam, MRCM said in a press release.
Brooke Lierman, a Democrat representing Baltimore in Maryland's House of Delegates, said she introduced legislation banning Styrofoam twice before her third attempt succeeded, in part thanks to a growing movement against plastic pollution.
"I think we've reached a tipping point," she told National Geographic. "People are seeing how ubiquitous single-use plastics are, that they are not recyclable and never going away. People are beginning to understand the importance of living more sustainably."
Opponents of the bills in both Maine and Maryland said they would impose higher costs on small businesses.
"These types of issues are better dealt with on a regional or national basis due to unbalanced cost impact it will have on Maine businesses," Maine State Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Ben Gilman told The Associated Press.
Supporters, on the other hand, see the bans as a way to reduce plastic litter in the environment and in waterways. Baltimore's Mr. Trash Wheel, which collects trash from the harbor, gathers an average of 14,000 Styrofoam containers a month. In Maine, 256 pieces of single-use foam are used a year, but cannot be recycled, MRCM said. Plastic foam containers are also one of the 10 most littered items nationwide.
- Schools Ditch Styrofoam Lunch Trays for Compostable Plates ... ›
- 6 Plastic Bag Bans Making a Huge Difference - EcoWatch ›
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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
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Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.