Tag Archives: biodegradable

Something might be missing in that sustainable packaging playbook.

As we embark on 2017 a number of companies have rolled-out their packaging sustainability initiatives. I have to wonder, what the heck are some of them doing?  Last I checked the major problem is still the environmental impact that plastic waste is having on our planet – right?  I assume so, considering the latest projections estimate more plastic waste in the oceans (by weight) than fish by 2050. Which is plausible since production is through the roof and expected to double in the next 20 years, while we continue to struggle with dismal recovery rates and an antiquated view of recycling.

You might have also noticed an increase in the demand for clean, renewable energy.  With the world needing to greatly increase energy supply in the future, especially cleanly-generated electricity, this has become a top prioritySo, with that being said, how is it that the major producers of single-use plastic packaging seem to be unable to truly define the most common means of disposal and the value that can be achieved by simply complying with this fact?  Instead, they continue to irrationally demonize an asset that sits right under their proverbial noses.

Let’s try this exercise together. Let’s say you’re one of the giant producers of plastic packaging (Unilever, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nestle, Pepsico, Kraft) and I were to ask you, what’s the most common disposal method of the plastic packaging you produce?  The collective and honest answer, albeit extremely basic, is a landfill. However, before panic sets in over this fact, let’s take a moment to define this a little more accurately.  Because today, 85% of all municipal solid waste in the U.S. actually ends-up in well-managed and heavily regulated anaerobic environment that controls and converts biogas into clean renewable energy. This is a fact and these facilities are generating power for communities and businesses, providing heat for homes and fuel for vehicles.

Can we stop pretending that this is a mystery? Recognize the innovations around how we manage waste and see what’s happening today. GM harnesses landfill-gas-to-energy for its 2.08-million square-foot facility reducing greenhouse gas emissions by a whopping 5,000 tons a year!  Tammy Giroux, manager of government relations for GM said, “(It’s) good for the environment, good for business and good for the community.” Waste Management’s landfill-gas-to-energy facilities power the equivalent of 470,000 households, offsetting 2.5 million tons of coal and 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year. At the 2016 Resource Recycling Conference in New Orleans, David Steiner (former CEO of Waste Management) specified, “When you combine state-of-the-art landfill gas-to-energy systems with best-in-class recycling…That’s where you get the biggest bang for the buck environmentally.”  So why aren’t these major producers of single-cycle packaging including energy recovery as part of the overall “recycling” efforts and ensuring performance compliance with this asset?

Please don’t tell me that the molecules that make-up my bag of chips are far too valuable to waste and that it would make more sense to collect, sort and process this material into a worthless commodity rather than ensuring its removed from the environment and converted into energy.  Or worse, jeopardize both product stability and performance (including the ability to recycle) to achieve performance compliance with the least common disposal method that offers no end-of-life value.

According to the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF), consumers are generating 6 lbs. of waste per day. It would take heavy-handed regulations and stiff government subsidies to program consumers into becoming hyper-vigilant garbage sorters.  For the foreseeable future, the political atmosphere does not appear to be conducive for such tactics.  We need to be smarter about the options before us and increase the value that can be derived from our existing infrastructures.  When high recycling rates are touted around the world, they usually include waste-to-energy.  Yet, too many companies still manage to overlook this valuable resource, disregarding the intrinsic environmental and economic benefits that it offers.   Hopefully, as we set forth into a new era, more emphasis will be placed on using LCA’s and factual scientific data to address the sustainability challenges we face.

Recovery Cannot be Ignored in a Circular Economy :

Hierarchy

There’s about 78 million tons of plastic waste produced each year that is non-recyclable, non-reusable, already light-weighted and unavoidable. The next feasible option we have to “cycle” this material at its highest level possible is in energy recovery.  Fortunately, the vast majority of this material is already entering a waste-to-energy facility and there’s no need for infrastructure or behavioral changes. For this to happen, these applications simply need to be designed conducive for anaerobic environments.

The recovery of Landfill Gas-to-Energy provides predictable results and a better value proposition for single-cycle applications than any other disposal method we have available today.   As we embark on creating a “Circular Economy” we need to harness the resources available to us.  The idea is to recoup, or recover, the greatest value possible within a products life-cycle, including disposal.  Plastics cannot be recycled perpetually, it is not an end-of-life solution.  In order to get plastics out of the environment and into the grid, it falls on producers, the brands and manufactures, to ensure its applications are designed to comply with this disposal method.

A collaborative approach is vital, yet there are still some companies, even ones who’ve pledged their commitment to creating a circular economy, that scoff at the idea. Unwilling to design for disposal and dismissing the returns of alternative energy, they stay committed to a recurrent single strategy for nearly half a century.  Is it because consumers won’t understand?  I doubt that, but using consumer comprehension as a litmus test in harnessing innovation may not be the best idea.  Besides, as a consumer myself, I’d prefer an honest approach that provides intrinsic benefits, and less of my own involvement, to being misled that anything’s really being done at all.

 

 

 

 

 

Pack Expo’s Trashiest Girl Speaks Out!

Houston, we might be the  problem!

 Pack Expo – Las Vegas, my first major event within the “plastic industry” and it was a very eye-opening experience for me.

I went to this convention in a dress that was made completely out of plastic “trash.” I was very nervous to be in public dressed in what could be construed as a controversial outfit; however, the second I walked into the door I could tell that most people were going to be receptive and accepting of my “statement.”

I thoroughly enjoyed being at Pack Expo. I had a lot of fun walking through the aisles and meeting so many great people. I was often stopped and asked by many of the attendees to just take a picture with me and then was asked why I was wearing this particular outfit. Unfortunately, most people didn’t quite understand what was behind the sentiment of  my plastic dress and they thought I was there to endorse recycling. My colleagues and I were able to take the opportunity to share with so many people that even though we think recycling is great, it’s not enough and that there are more options for being truly sustainable.

Something that I think the plastic industry would be more cognizant of, is recycling and sustainability. However, there weren’t even recycle bins at Pack Expo (well, there was actually only one recycle bin that I saw. There were, however, bins for garbage at practically every corner) This is definitely indicative of the sustainability problem we face. Most of the plastic discarded doesn’t even get recycled, it ends up in landfills. The entire Pack Expo is a reflection of the plastic packaging industry and yet they didn’t even offer a sustainable option for discarding plastic refuse from the show.  Not to mention that on the final day when booths were being torn down, workers were just throwing away huge piles and handfuls of plastics into the garbage.

If we, the “experts” in plastic packaging, don’t come up with solutions for sustainability the problem is only going to get worse. For being an event encompassing the plastic packaging industry, I was very surprised to learn that people in this industry aren’t more concerned with the end of life of their plastic packaging.  I thought for sure that the people in this business would realize that recycling just isn’t enough.

I wore a dress made out of plastic bags and packaging to make a point that represented the many items on my dress would not be recycled; but would ultimately end up in a landfill. What happens to all that plastic when it’s not recycled and gets discarded? Right now, nothing happens; it will stay buried in a landfill for thousands of years. Doesn’t it make sense to think that more should be done?

Unless you’re doing something with your packaging to make it more sustainable; you’re part of the problem!

 

 

 

The Truth Shall Set You Free

We produce well over 200 billion pounds of plastic each year.  This is a well-documented environmental issue of grim proportions; plastic is literally trashing our planet.  Brands, manufactures and consumers are fully aware and the search for solutions is in full swing.  Fortunately, our awareness has spurred incredible technological advances to address this problem, some better than others.

As a brand, being environmentally accountable is a trait that serves well in the marketplace.  It’s a hallmark that projects the greater good.  But in a Cass Sunstein meets George Orwell world,  where the FTC, EPA, FDA, IRS, (insert acronym),  are watching your every move and new terms such as Extended Producer Responsibility emerge, it can be paralyzing to make that technological decision.  You want to choose something that is justifiable, reliable and proven.

In a small microcosm of the larger issue, we catch a glimpse of the efforts and problems we face.  In a recent article Coffee Makers wrestling with recyclability of single-serve pods,  TerraCycle is boasting about recovering 25 million coffee capsules over the last couple years, but has essentially found no use for them.  Are we to understand that companies are paying TerraCycle to collect and store these things in some warehouse?  Add to this, according to the article, 41 million adults drink a coffee made in a single-cup brewer every day.  So in a two year effort, TerraCycle could not recover a single days’ worth of coffee capsules?  Clearly, the Customary Disposal Method for this application is the garbage, in other words, the Landfill.   Let’s not jump on a bandwagon for the sake of waiving a green flag, the overall effect is useless.

Here’s one, California is now floating a new Bill to put the burden on companies to find solutions for plastic waste in our waterways.  The same State that bans the claim of biodegradable materials (and has sued companies legitimately making those claims), is now requiring brands and manufacturers to seek out and implement biodegradable solutions?? Are they expecting producers to put their necks on the line in search for innovation? Good luck taking that bait!

Unfortunately, the principle concern of environmental safety is being contaminated with agendas that have not proven capable of long term sustainability.  There is a tendency to gravitate towards colorful Green language instead of clear, black and white solutions.  Today, we have the capability to address plastic pollution on an incredible scale, without contamination.  Unfortunately, too many producers are paralyzed with uncertainty or are turning to the least point of resistance.

A perfect example is the less than bold stand that one of the largest producers of bottled water took, “Lightweighting”.  Holy crap! That’s it?  Reduce your costs and provide a rigid bag for a bottle?  C’mon…the “commitment to minimizing the environmental impact” is lackluster., considering 50 billion plastic water bottles end up in U.S. landfills each year.

Here’s my humble opinion.  Within a generation, we have witnessed the birth of the plastic EVERYTHING.  We began filling-up our Landfills with EVERYTHING and noticed NOTHING was reprocessing back into nature.   The raging river of plastic is pouring onto our planet and we place the majority of this material in Landfills.   There is a biodegradation process in Landfills that is beaming with potential and we have the proven ability to produce, capture and harness one of the most inexpensive and cleanest energy resources and fundamentally address our plastic pollution problem.

Recycling is an industry I support, but the numbers don’t lie and the goal is not to prop-up one particular industry, it’s to clean our planet.  We need to stop kidding ourselves and start dealing with reality.  I also understand Sourcing from renewable resources, but harvesting Corn for plastic in order to claim “Compostable” is absolutely wrong.  I’ve lived in many places over the years and I have yet to find my local Industrial Composting facility.  But if I did, I would respectfully not bring them my plastic waste.  Let’s face it, you can claim it, but it’s not going there and where it is going, this technology does nothing.   For those adding metal into the equation, this technology is borderline criminal.  That probably explains the parasitic tendencies of this technology in underdeveloped countries.  Both of these technologies have an adverse effect on our Food Source/Supply, which alone is highly irresponsible.

When making the decision on how to be accountable for your Plastic Footprint, know what is out there, get the full story and get the proof that it performs as claimed.  If you stand in the light of truth, you will be safe.  70% is greater than 30%, 2+2=4, what’s right is right.

landfill biodegradation

Manufacturers Beware!

Have you ever thought about where your plastic garbage goes?

Shopping for items packaged in plastic may end up costing you more in the long run; that is, if you discard the packaging incorrectly. The same could be true for plastic manufacturers if California passes their latest bill (Assembly Bill 521) on “extended producer responsibility”.

Right now; in San Francisco, California it is against the law to not recycle your trash.  That’s right…you; as a law abiding citizen must separate all of your garbage, recyclables, and compostable items.  To ensure that all citizens are complying with this law, trash auditors check garbage bins the night before it is scheduled for pickup. If you do not comply after several warnings, the non-complying residents will receive fines and/or have to take educational classes on recycling.

Taking this a step further, California is now working towards making plastic manufacturers responsible for the end of life of their product; ultimately, charging hefty fines for material that is not disposed of properly.  (This, after recently making the word biodegradable illegal on labeling)

So who is responsible for all of this plastic pollution that is littering our oceans and filling our landfills? Is it the consumer?  Is it the plastic manufacturer? Is it the recycling industry? (Who happens to discard more plastic than it recycles.) California may think they are doing the right thing by penalizing those who are in the path of plastic – from beginning to end – but they’re not supporting or encouraging better solutions…so who’s fault is it, really?

Despite whose responsibility this may be; it leads to a very important question…”Why are we not producing plastic that is biodegradable or even marine degradable? And, (ok, two questions) if there is a solution, why, as consumers and manufacturers, are we not jumping on that solution?”

I think that if there is a solution to this plastic pollution problem and a plastic manufacturer is using a product that is proven to be biodegradable and/or marine degradable, they are showing their end-of-life responsibility and it should be encouraged and rewarded amongst those companies; as well as, consumers who use such a product.

Does such a product exist?

Yes!

ENSO Plastics has created an additive, that when added to the plastic manufacturing process will cause the plastic to become biodegradable; as well as, marine degradable. There are two customizable blends that offer many options to manufacturers – ENSO RESTORE and ENSO RENEW.

This is the solution California needs to recognize, before they start penalizing all of their citizens and plastic manufacturers. California may want to make the people responsible, but I think the state needs to be responsible by allowing new technology and better options for their residents and local commerce.

Wake up California! The solution is staring you in the face!

 

Are We Our Own Worst Enemy in Fighting Plastic Waste?

The “Green” plastics industry can be very puzzling.  When I first came to this industry, I felt great that I could be involved in something that’s good for the world.  Save the world!

But then, one starts to question if the world even wants to be saved – bizarre.  This industry includes bioplastics, composting, recyclers, oxo-degradables, PLA, Biodegradables, brand owners, manufacturers and of course our wonderful legislative leaders – each with differing perspectives and objectives.  I’m fortunate to be involved with a company that provides multiple options, so I don’t have a single horse in this race.  But I’m certainly happy not to be betting on a few of these ponies.

Nevertheless, there is no single technology available that can address all the problems or appease everyone, but there are solutions that do take a very responsible approach to the problem of plastic waste, depending on realistic methods of disposal.  And this is where we run into a problem.

The recyclers do not want anything to contaminate the recycling stream.  Understandable, it’s a viable industry, but the infrastructure is not capable of handling a significant enough percentage of the plastic output.  I strongly support increasing our capacity to recycle. Yet, we have just as much, if not more, ability to harness landfill methane capturing (LFG) for clean, cheap energy. And due to the fact that the majority of this plastic is heading that way (landfill), we need to focus resources on supporting this effort.   We can’t dismiss the greater value for the sake of a fledgling industry, it doesn’t make sense.

California (legislatures), you’re the mother ship for the quagmire that prevents innovation.  California, for some very curious reason, supports solutions that are absolutely incapable of being a viable option for plastic waste.  There are more practical options that address “plastic pollution” without compromising efforts to reuse.  Limiting manufactures to one technology that supports only compost-ability, especially when this is such an inferior option in the big scheme of plastic usage and waste, is mind-boggling and counterproductive.

We have a raging river of plastic being produced every year, over 30 MILLLION TONS, the very large majority of this material is heading to a landfill – it needs to be managed.  Many companies don’t want to get in the game, too much fluid legislation and regulation – shocker.  Many adopt solutions that placate the cause of the day, despite their full knowledge that it is fundamentally flawed.

We need to get our heads out of our proverbial asses and start addressing the bigger problem, the larger percentages.  There are amazing technologies out there, but there is no doubt that we are getting in our own way of making incredible progress.   This is a young and rapidly evolving industry; the progress being made to address the fundamental problem we face is phenomenal.  Instead of hindering ourselves with knee-jerk legislation and bans; perhaps we allow our ingrained ability to rise to the occasion with innovation.  Technologies that have misrepresented their performance should not stand as the be-all to end-all to what we can achieve, it’s premature and shortsighted.

The question we need to ask ourselves is not who will win the race, but what race are we trying to win?

The plastics race is a close one, but PLA shows a clear advantage and recycling continues to drag behind.

The plastics race is a close one, but PLA shows a clear advantage and recycling continues to drag behind.

Biodegradable Plastic – Compostable Not So Fast Says Stanford Daily

There was a recent press release issued by Media Juice titled “Biodegradable Plastic – Compostable Not So Fast Says Stanford Daily.”  The press release reviews a study performed by students at Stanford University regarding compostable utensils and their performance in “real world” environments.

The study points out that what the company markets as a compostable PLA material and the “Compostable” certifications that organizations (such as BPI Biodegradable Products Institute) issue on the material is not necessary a reflection of what happens in real world environments.

This brings up a great point and discussion topic and one ENSO has pushed for the past five years and that is that we are mistaken in our approach to promoting, marketing or pushing materials that will go away in any real world environment in a specific timeframe.    Even the much touted and pushed material of PLA is not a rapidly compostable as is promoted in marketing materials.  Sure, we can create test environments which are highly controlled and manipulated that will maximize biodegradation and provide results that look and sound great, but the variety that nature brings in the real world can mean a huge difference in the amount of time needed for a product to biodegrade, from months to even years. This does not change the fact of whether a product is biodegradable, just simply that to dictate exactly when it will biodegrade is a bit misleading to the consumer.

So yes – labs can show specific time frames for biodegradation, but what happens when that same material ends up in real world environments?  9 times out of 10, it doesn’t perform as promised.  So, what does this mean?  How can a material tested and certified by industry organizations such as BPI not perform when introduced into real world natural environments?  After all legislators are passing laws based on such certifications.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

http://www.sbwire.com/press-releases/biodegradable-plastic-compostable-not-so-fast-says-stanford-daily-225526.htm

http://forkprintproject.wordpress.com/

http://www.news.pitt.edu/news/Landis_polymers_LCA

http://new.ensoplastics.com/theblog/?p=1143

 

Bacteria Strain

Bacteria Strain that Biodegrades Polyethylene

Most people understand standard plastics to be resistant to the biodegradation process, but did you know that research from back in 2005 isolated a microbial strain called Brevibacillus borstelensis that is capable of utilizing polyethylene as the sole carbon and energy source?

So what does all that mean and how did they do this?

Soil taken from a polyolefin waste disposal site was used to isolate the bacteria strain that had adapted to its environment and energy source to be able to secrete the enzymes needed to utilize the carbon within the polyethylene chemical chain.  From the research there were a few BIG discoveries with one being that Brevibacillus borstelensis was able to use the carbon found in polyethylene as the sole source of energy.  This is important because we typically find that microbes will develop where there are easily accessible sources of energy.  This is the reason traditional plastics take so long to biodegrade, the carbon is too difficult to utilize by microbes resulting in plastics lasting for hundreds of years in the environment.  We now know of a microbe that is indifferent in using the carbon from polyethylene plastic or from other sources.

This research has opened the door to better understanding the adaptive nature of those microscopic creatures we share the planet with.  Although we can’t see them, they outnumber the human inhabitants by a factor of many trillions of them to each one of us.  They have also had millions of years more time on the earth than us humans have, and are instrumental in the cleaning process of creating a healthy viable planet.  There is a lot we can and will continue to learn about the tiniest creatures we call microbes.

To read the full paper: Biodegradation of polyethylene by the thermophilic bacterium Brevibacillus borstelensis

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2672.2005.02553.x/full

Regulation: Friend or Foe? Is it coming soon to your town?

We have heard regulatory agencies wanting to do more to protect the consumer and the environment alike.  And while regulation is a necessity for a properly functioning society, what does the current trends of regulation do for your business?  What does it do for our economy?  What does it do for innovation and ultimately the environment?

Unfortunately, there is also an additional qualifying question anyone familiar with the way the world spins around will ask themselves… “it depends on which private business is lobbying for, and what agenda…”  Todays environmental issues have an opportunity to be treated with innovation and forward thinking.  Perhaps never before in our history have we been more prepared and evolved to address the real problems relating to the environmental issues we face.  Words like; Life Cycle Analysis, Carbon Footprint, Sustainability, green movement…the list goes on-all in the name of greening up business and consumer habits.  But at the end of the day, what has been the net result?  Because in the end, what is paramount is results-positive results.

How is regulating this “green movement” helping?  Today, innovations have to answer questions of legitimacy and solid science.  Federal agencies like EPA, FTC, FDA are all both educating and becoming more educated on what the market trends are doing, and what materials are available to help green up materials and processes.  They demand companies to sufficiently demonstrate the validity of their claims, and help to curb “green washing” for the irresponsible opportunists looking to only capitalize on our consumer base sincerely wanting to do the right thing.

We at ENSO take this demonstration of legitimacy and solid science behind our innovative material VERY seriously.  We have engaged top-of-their-field scientific minds to aid in the quest to help our innovation receive the understanding and market reception it warrants.  Sometimes innovation outpaces conventional understanding, and what helps bridge the gap between innovation and acceptance is education and credibility.  Some of these processes take more time than desired, but in the end, things that are worthwhile and lasting often endure hurtles.  Many of our past innovations were looked at as a “pipe dream” only to turn into life changing propositions for markets-cars, electricity, a round earth etc. all took time for conventional wisdom to catch up to these innovations.

Today, I believe the market is ripe to receive an increase in both innovation and education, with responsible regulatory agencies sifting through relevant information to help environmental and economic impacts in our market.  Although the budgets in many agencies have been drastically reduced, they are hard at work to create a viable market which will include an earth friendly future marketplace.  Hopefully this work combined with everyone’s convictions and individual effort will drastically reduce the length of time processes can take, so we can more efficiently make innovative materials a positive conversion in our market.  So all can answer, regulation is a friend, not a foe.  One thing is for sure, we need regulation, as long as it helps an ever evolving marketplace.  Indeed nothing these days seem to remain static, questions and answers will always evolve, and so will regulatory process.

 

Secrets of the Amazon – A solution for the Pacific Garbage Patch?

For decades we have known that the Amazon is home to more species than almost anywhere else on Earth. Amazon Rainforest constitutes the world’s largest “pharmacy” yielding thousands of previously unknown substances found no where else.  Compounds from tropical flora relieve headaches, help treat glaucoma and provide muscle relaxants used during surgery.  The Amazon Rainforest has also yielded guanine for the treatment of malaria and periwinkle for the treatment of leukemia.  Given the rainforest’s teeming biological diversity, its value to humanity as a laboratory of natural phenomena and as a medical storehouse is priceless.

Recently, the “pharmeceutical” benefits of the Amazon have been expanded to the potential of healing the Earth from the plague of plastic waste. A group of Yale students discovered, quite by accident,  a fungus that  appears to be quite happy eating plastic in airless landfills. This fungus shows a voracious appetite for a very common group of plastics: polyurethane.

Human beings have only begun to catalog and name the creatures that live here.  Home to thousands of varieties of flowering plants, the rainforest supports endless varieties of hummingbirds, butterflies and insects such a the rhinoceros beetle and the army ant.  It is also home to the spider monkey, pink and gray dolphins, Amazon river otter, piranha, anaconda, jaguar, blue and yellow macaw, toucan, harpy eagle, fishing bat, tapir sloth, tarantula, Cayman crocodile, manatee, etc.

The Amazon Rainforest, the largest rainforest and richest ecosystem on earth, has stood inviolate for thousands if not millions of years since its creation.  The profusion and variety of life forms present in the rainforest and its critical role in supplying the world with air has resulted in its being called the “Heart and Lungs” of the Planet. Indeed, the majority of the world’s oxygen is supplied by its dense foliage and teeming plant life which upon first inspection, seems boundless and indestructible.

A recent study by the Smithsonian Institution indicates that about 90% of all of the plant and animal species extant in the world today reside in the Amazon Rainforest and depend upon its complex ecology.  As the greatest repository of nature’s treasures and most significant source of air, the Amazon Rainforest is crucial to the survival of all life on the planet and to human beings’ understanding of their place in the web of life.  In the words of Guatama Buddha, “The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously, the products of its life and activity.  It affords protection to all living beings.”

Before the arrival of Europeans and up to the third decade of this century, the Amazon Rainforest covered nearly 45 million acres in what is today Brazil, parts of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador.  Brazil has the greatest amount of tropical forest in the world.  It is also experiencing the worse losses:  between twelve million and twenty two million acres a year, according to the World Resources Institute.

Brazil’s rainforest is being decimated by a vast army of homesteaders, farmers, ranchers and corporate interests that include large scale mining and intensive farming. Drilling and mining leave scars, and farmers find that raising crops quickly exhausts the thin soil of cleared forest land.  Many farmers merely abandon their plots and clear new ones.  The cultivation of crop production leaves rivers polluted with chemicals.  The extraction of gold and other metals fouls waterways with mercury and other toxins used in processing.

Today, scarcely twenty years since the intensification of the development of the rainforest, it has shrunk to 88% of its original size.  It is estimated that each second, an area the size of a football field is destroyed, adding to the daily toll of approximately fifty thousand acres.  In one year, an area the size of Italy is decimated and made uninhabitable to nearly all forms of life.  Already thousands of plant and animal species about whom little was known have been irrevocably lost to the bulldozer, the chain saw and to the slash and burn methods employed by regional farmers, ranchers and miners.

Although its arboreal canopy reaches hundreds of feet into the air, the rainforest and its groves of giant trees are in fact rooted in very shallow soil and exist in a fragile balance.  The rainforest experiences an abbreviated life cycle in which the creation of top soil is bypassed through the efficient decomposing activities of tropical bacteria and fungi.  Rather than collecting in the soil, the nutrients are absorbed by the trees.  A layer of nutrient-poor soil in the rainforest is generally less than four inches deep.  Unlike other forests around the world, the rainforest once disturbed, cannot renew itself, remaining instead a barren sandy wasteland subject to erosion.

At the current rate of destruction, parts of the Amazon promise to turn into great stretches of desert within our lifetime.  The repercussions of this activity are global.  As the rainforest gets smaller, it is less able to supply the world with much needed oxygen or to absorb as much carbon dioxide contributing to global warming and the greenhouse effect.  The burning forest adds even more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere jeopardizing the stability of ecosystems worldwide.

Given the immense size of the Amazon Rainforest and it’s unimaginable bio-diversity, we have just begun to scratch the surface of the solutions residing within. If we can find cures for cancer, malaria, polyurethane waste and more; perhaps it holds the ability to cure the incomprehensible problem we face today of plastic fragments choking our oceans? What other mysteries lie hidden within the green foliage and moist soil?