Caribbean Island is On Track to Become the World’s First ‘Hurricane-Proof’ Country

When a category 5 hurricane makes landfall, few things borne of our civilization can resist the power of the winds and surging, violent waves.

Yet the tiny nation of Dominica—which is even smaller than its neighbor Dominican Republic—is on course to hurricane-proof its country after being devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The cat. 5 that struck the island two years ago, destroyed 226% of the country’s GDP and 90% of the structures.

Describing the project as creating the first “climate resilient” nation, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addressed the UN general assembly in the aftermath of Maria’s landfall, asking for the funds to create such a nation—one that cannot only resist powerful storms physically, but also economically and spiritually.

“In the past, we would prepare for one heavy storm a year. Now, thousands of storms form on a breeze in the mid-Atlantic and line up to pound us with maximum force and fury,” he said to the UN.

Skerrit’s plan is to create cities of hurricane-proof structures that won’t leave mountains of debris behind after storms.

“The challenges are not just related to infrastructure. Resilience in our view is how vulnerable you are in the first place,” Pepe Bardouille told National Geographic.

That’s why they are starting with the building codes.

By Hugh Fiske, CC license

A CREAD to live by

Bardouille is CEO of the government’s Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD), and he believes that building a climate-resilient nation starts with every person considering how the planning decisions they make will hold up under winds higher than 150 mph.

CREAD has been charged with establishing uniform building codes, geothermal energy plants, a hurricane-proof hospital and healthcare system, and improving public transit.

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“How to keep a society and economy in a small country with a limited tax base and a huge number of climactic challenges running on a shoestring. Those are the challenges,” Bardouille says.

But the Prime Minister’s vision also includes a prosperous ecotourism industry that could replenish the state’s coffers before and after storms deplete them.

There is one landfill on Dominica, and it’s nearly full. Cleaning up plastic waste and switching to biodegradable items like bottles, food packaging, and more will be key to CREAD’s strategy of helping the country look nicer for travelers. Plastic trash is whipped around in powerful storms and scattered hither and yon, despoiling the natural beauty of the country.

In 2018, GNN reported that Skerrit had enacted a ban on plastic and other debris such as single-use straws, and Styrofoam food items to try and aid in creating the image of a pristine Caribbean island that will attract tourists with deeper pockets. The following year, the Climate Resilience Act went into full force, and gave birth to CREAD.

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The economy has since grown by 9 percent. Tourists are back on the beaches, and children are back in the classrooms. A new state-of-the-art hospital opened in August of 2019, while construction around the island has created five hundred new homes with another 1,000 on the way.

Described as “The Nature Island”, tropical rainforests filled with colorful birds encircle volcanoes looming above coral reefs and beaches of white, brown, and even black sands—things which typify Dominica as not just a place for margaritas and sunny days in a resort, but adventure and exploration.

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As with so many countries, Dominica represents a great place for a vacation—and a vacation represents a way to directly and effectively support the climate-resilient economy.

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In a Victory for the Environment Germany Bans Single-Use Plastic and Styrofoam

Germany is making major strides towards trying to practice what she preaches in terms of environmentalism.

The country announcement yesterday that it will be implementing a ban on the sale of a multitude of single-use and disposable items in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic and polystyrene waste in the environment.

This includes things like plastic straws, polystyrene cups and boxes (think Cup-O-Noodles), single-use cutlery, plates, and stirring sticks.

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German Environmental Minister Schulze said the move was part of an effort to move away from “throw-away culture,” according to AP.

The government’s ban will go into effect next year on July 3, 2021.

The new plan also legislates the closure by 2022 of eight brown-coal operations—mostly located in economically depressed regions—as the number of jobs in renewable energy, which already generates 50% of Germany’s power, increase in those regions.

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(Photo by Swansea University)

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Newly-Developed Enzyme That Breaks Down Plastic Bottles in Hours is On Track to Change the Recycling Game

Utilizing an enzyme found within composted leaves, scientists are now breaking down plastic all the way into a recyclable form in a matter of hours.

Carbios, the French company responsible for the breakthrough, is already collaborating with Pepsi and L’Oréal to unleash industrial market-scale production of the new substance within five years.

“We are the first company to bring this technology on the market,” the deputy chief executive at Carbios, Martin Stephan, told The Guardian. “Our goal is to be up and running by 2024–2025, at large industrial scale.”

Their discovery, which sources described as a major advance, joins an arsenal of solutions for plastic pollution control that have appeared over the last decade.

Just like Boyan Slat who took on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the bracelet folks at 4Ocean who took on the problem of ocean pollution in rivers, the scientists from the University of Toulouse are applying their breakthrough to another part of the problem—the recycling of plastic.

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Plastic isn’t straightforward to recycle. There are common varieties of plastic made from multiple layers of different esters, each one requiring different equipment or temperature to breakdown. And, there are a lot of plastic esters that could be recycled but aren’t because the market value for the recycled material is so low it can’t financially sustain the operation.

In the scientist’s paper published in Nature, they detail how poly(ethylene terephthalate) PET, the most common polyester plastic, loses much of its mechanical utility when heated for recycling. Therefore, creating new material is preferred, and PET waste continues to accumulate.

Their new enzyme achieves a minimum of 90% de-polymerization in just 10 hours, meaning that the polymers—large complex particles, become monomers—small single particles in less than a day, and perhaps even more amazing, end up as biologically depolymerized plastic that can actually be reused to create things like plastic bottles.

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While manufacturing plastic bottles from recycled PET made by this enzyme would cost about 4% of the amount needed to make new bottles from fresh petroleum, the recycling infrastructure, including the grounding up and heating of the plastic bottles before the enzyme is added would still make it more expensive in the end.

Nevertheless, the future is bright for this technology. Co-enzymes could be synthesized, companies could produce more inexpensive recycling infrastructure—both of which could finally bring down the cost of producing recycled plastic goods.

Carbios has also begun tackling the normally unrecyclable plastic film problem. In an alliance with several other European companies under the name Carbiolice, they demonstrated a plastic film last year that can be compostable in home or municipal compost piles. Their objective will be to address the markets of plastic films and single-use bags—and later on, rigid packaging and disposable tableware.

“These milestones reinforce our ambition to offer the market circular economy solutions that are both competitive and eco-friendly, and which will revolutionize the end of life for plastics and textiles.”

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Revolutionary New Recycling Method for Plastic and Waste is Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Carbon capturing and carbon sequestering, meaning the uptake and storage of CO2 molecules in a solid object, like a building or a tree which it can’t escape from, is one of the many tools for entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and businessmen, who want to do their part to combat the climate crisis.

Similarly, a startup working in Israel is eradicating one environmental toxin by placing it inside of another. UBQ Materials is taking household waste that would normally end up in landfills, and embedding it in liquefied recycled plastic to create “a thermoplastic, composite, bio-based, sustainable, climate-positive material”.

The trash is sorted, passed over a magnet to remove metals, before being dried and shredded into a kind of trash-confetti. It’s then added to plastic that’s ready for recycling and melted together before finally being dried and chopped into little pellets.

The resulting pellets can be easily shipped out and used in various manufacturing processes like injection molding and composite brick-making. Dye can be added at any point along the way to ensure the customer can have plastic of any color he desires.

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The company’s founders were so confidant that the science behind their revolutionary recycling process would prove successful they commissioned Swiss environmental consulting firm Quantis to perform an analysis on just how green their operation was.

Quantis found that substituting a ton of UBQ’s pellets for the same amount of polypropylene saves the equivalent of about 15 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, making it the most sustainable thermoplastic material on earth.

The concept of taking landfill-bound trash, which would generate harmful greenhouse-methane gas, and encasing it inside recycled plastic can be traced back, according to The Post, to an Israeli military man who thought that by mixing mud from the polluted Kishon River with plastic he might help the river recover. This idea never worked, but encasing environmentally-damaging substances in plastic that would then be used to make other materials and products and thereby ensuring it doesn’t have a chance to pollute (or further complicate the climate of) our planet, was a core concept which wasn’t abandoned.

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Generating a $50 million dollar fortune as a hummus food mogul, Rabbi Yehuda Pearl has helped the company go from a bankrupt idea to the brink of international acclaim and wealth through $3.5 million in slow savvy investing and R&D. UBQ, short for Ubiquitous. is already selling its thermoplastic composite plastic granule to Plasgad, an Israeli company that manufactures pallets, crates, and recycling bins—2,000 of which are on their way to the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority.

The UBQ facility on the Tze’elim Kibbutz can produce about one ton of their special material in an hour, resulting in between 5,000 and 7,000 tons produced annually. The company’s success is leading to a new facility that will produce 100,000 tons annually.

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China is Now Phasing Out Single-Use Plastics as Early as This Year

Since being identified as the world’s largest producer and manufacturer of plastic, China has begun ramping up its restrictions on harmful single-use plastics.

According to Reuters, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Ecology and Environment this week issued a new policy which will ban the use of plastic bags in all major cities by the end of 2020, with smaller towns and cities required to follow suit by 2022.

Plastic straws will also be phased out in major cities by the end of this year, and the restaurant industry will be required to reduce single-use plastic consumption by 30% in towns and smaller cities before 2025.

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Other disposable tableware items, such as plastic cutlery and carryout containers, are soon expected to be included in the phase out as well.

Reporters go on to say that China has continued to speed up recycling rates by implementing more and more “comprehensive resource utilization” facilities across the country.

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Company Collects 80% of City’s Recyclable Plastics and Turns It All into Lumber

Photos by Mike Chassie

This trailblazing Canadian company is building a new standard for sustainability since they started recycling the bulk of their municipal plastic waste into lumber.

Roughly 80% of the plastic recyclables collected throughout Halifax, Nova Scotia are now being processed by Goodwood Plastic Products Ltd so they can be turned into building blocks.

The plastic lumber can be drilled, nailed, glued, and handled the same way as wooden lumber—but without any of the same deterioration.

The other 20% of municipal plastics are reportedly being sent to other Canadian recycling markets, but Halifax Solid Waste Division Manager Andrew Philopoulos says that provincial legislators are particularly grateful for Goodwood’s initiative.

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“We are very, very fortunate here in Nova Scotia to have that local company taking the material,” he told CBC’s Information Morning. “Without them, I think we would find it challenging to find a market for a lot of the plastic packaging that we are collecting.”

Goodwood also made a name for themselves back in December when they partnered with a Sobeys grocery store in order to create one of the nation’s first parking lots made entirely out of post-consumer plastics saved from local landfills.

Although the bulk of Goodwood’s recycled plastic comes from single-use bags, they also process food jars and other common consumer packaging.

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Thus far, CBC says that the lumber has been used to make everything from picnic tables and park benches to agricultural posting and guardrail structures—and Goodwood vice president Mike Chassie says he hopes their business model will inspire other regions to launch similar ventures.

“We can take this business—the knowledge and our skills—and we can export it and take it to other places,” he told the news outlet. “Post-consumer plastic is not going away, so we need to continue to find ways to give it a new life so it becomes a resource, instead of a waste.”

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