Hilbert Morales | EL OBSERVADOR
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Most individuals today will accept the conclusion by meteorology’s weather projections. They all include some degree of Global Climate Change. Just this morning, National Public Radio (NPR) commentator stated that this past July 2019 was the warmest July month since weather records began being recorded. The increase was seven degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees Celsius) warmer.

Several civic groups are proposing that fossil fuels not be used to generate electricity at major power plants, of which over 2,000 exits in this world.

The goal is to reduce the emission of methane and carbon dioxide, known as greenhouse gasses. On a global basis it would take both time and investments to transition to green energy (wind & solar).

In my assessment, it is also essential to deal with inappropriately discarded plastics. I recently viewed a TV documentary which demonstrated that discarded plastics of all types could be found on the beaches of the Marianna Islands located in the South Pacific Ocean. Many of these islands have no habitants, but nonetheless, discarded plastics are found on their beaches.

Another recent NPR televised report conveyed the information that a dead grey whale carcass beached on a northern California coast had large amounts of plastics in its stomach as established by the autopsy performed by marine biologists.

I decided to take note of the many plastic wrappings and containers used by the food industry. This past weekend when I purchased my weekly supply of groceries my supermarket grocery bags yielded more than ten items having plastic packaging.

Another NPR report I recall conveyed the observation that plastic items discarded along creek beds end up in the ocean where they break down into very small pieces which are present in sufficient amounts to block the level of sunlight penetrating the coastal waters. That sunlight is vital to the growth of all manner of sea weeds. Fish, especially hatchlings, use these sea-weed beds as a protective place until they are large enough to venture out into the open waters because when too small, they end up being eaten (devoured) by larger predatory fish.

Our food chain is already impacted by plastics suspended in oceanic waters. Salmon caught in the Gulf of Alaska which may be purchased at your local supermarket now is slightly tainted with microscopic pieces of plastics.

THERE IS AN URGENT NEED TO RECOVER, REPROCESS AND RECYCLE ALL PLASTICS. The U.S. Congress must conduct public hearings which reveal ways to recover, reprocess and recycle all plastics. It is We, The People who are discarding all sorts of plastics inappropriately. The consequence is that plastics, especially those which fragment into little pieces which continue to exist for decades can now be found everywhere. Those industries which produce plastics from crude oil organic raw materials must be encouraged to devise and implement methods of recovery leading to recovery, reprocessing, and recycling of plastics.

Our national culture is to use things once and then discard. This applies to plastic wrappings; bags, and other materials which end up polluting the environment in ways not foreseen initially. This is the consequence of not initiating and implementation of recovery, reprocessing and recycling so that re-use is achieved. There is a need to initiate recovery-reprocessing for re-use thinking into all our product management because this nation is running out of landfills for disposal of waste materials.

Call to mind that today a few materials are recovered, preprocessed and recycled. One is scrap iron; another is used lumber. Also, many paper products are recovered, reprocessed and re-used. This approach needs to be applied to all plastics.

As a trained chemist, I am aware that certain plastics dissolve in organic solvents such as toluene, xylene, and benzene. While these organic solvents are highly inflammable, I am certain that chemical engineers can create recovery processes which would enable the recovery and re-use of many plastics currently discarded. The cost of doing this is really part of responsible approach to recovery and re-use of these plastics.

This recovery, preprocessing for re-use systems really enable our society, its culture and commerce, to practice a higher level of sustainable stewardship. The result is that certain basic materials, in this case, plastics, are recycled repeatedly, just like iron, copper, tin, and the cellulose of paper products.

Our local, state and federal government agencies must begin to search for ways to expand the practice of recovery, reprocess for re-use of many items now simply discarded.

Certainly, many of these discarded items are never recovered, re-processed and recycled because of the present approach of economic assessment. If not profitable, it does not happen.

Nonetheless, I would present the case for re-assessment of how this nation and its throw-away culture needs to be guided towards more recovery, reprocessing, and re-use approaches. The main reason to initiate this is the reality that basic raw materials are becoming even more scarce and costly. Thus, we need to assess what we do now to recover scarce raw materials.

Iron, aluminum, cellulose, copper & brass are now recovered and recycled. We can responsibly examine all the stuff that is commercially produced to see where recovery, re=processing and recycling may be applied. The result is that our culture, society and nation will benefit by the implementation of better stewardship of vital raw material resources which may be used repeatedly.

In addition, certain organic waste materials may be recycled and recovered using fermentation processes. Oil may be produced in this manner (but is not commercially competitive).

WHY DO I BRING THIS UP? Because, if someone out there may have an insight that leads to the recovery and re-use of a material. A new industry is created; new owners; skilled workers all benefit.

Our global environment also benefits because we have addressed a major challenge: The prevention of pollution. The practices which enable having a reliable sustainable environment – especially where we live, must be reliably sustained. As a biologist, chemist, and biochemist, I am aware of the many opportunities to begin to recover, reprocess and recycle which will make certain raw materials available for re-use repeatedly.

This earth, our home, already has many cycles which existed in equilibrium which permitted human occupancy and development. The excessive production of greenhouse gasses has impacted that equilibrium with the result that global temperatures are rising. The responsible stewardship is to identify and implement processes which re-establish the former environment which sustained our biological lifestyle we took for granted. It is the responsible thing to do currently regardless of cost.

Let me remind you that becoming a good steward who supports a sustainable global environment all begins with the individual who becomes aware of his/her contributions to the conditions that exist today. Corrective mitigation begins with each individual who takes responsibility to do what he/she is able to do and resolves to contribute that effort. I hope you decide to participate rather than be a bystander. Improvements all begin with each of us as individuals who decide to become committed, engaged, informed, and involved.

Collectively, we will be effective stewards of this earth, our home – the only home we know of in this universe. This results in creating the wholistic recovery approach for reprocesses and recycles in a way that reliably sustains the environment we reside in. Our nation and society need this wholistic approach to recovery coupled with recycling and re-use to have a sustainable environment conducive to our lifestyle and which reflects our values.

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