Company pioneers plant-based plastic bottles

New bottles made from corn, wheat and beets to replace plastic bottles starting in 2023.

Avantium, a renewable chemicals company based in the Netherlands, announced it has developed plastic bottles made solely from plant products and that Coca Cola, world food producer Danone, and Carlsberg, a beer-making company, plan to use the new bottles.

Tom van Aken, Avantium CEO, plans to reveal partnerships with additional food and beverage distribution companies this summer and is seeking major investment into the new product by year’s end.

The new bio-plastic, which is strong enough to hold carbonated beverages, will be made via sugars from corn, beets, and wheat. While the company will initially produce 5,000 tons of the plastic each year, that amount is expected to increase with growing demand.

Carlsberg plans to sell its pilsner beer in cardboard bottles lined with plant plastic.

Eventually, Avantium hopes to make the plastic from sustainably sourced bio-waste, to prevent the harm depletion of plants would do to the global food chain.

Van Aken said development of the plant plastic is not being slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Plastic pollution has caused major damage to ocean life, and it is produced using fossil fuels, which worsen climate change. Currently, approximately 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year.

“This plastic has very attractive sustainability credentials because it uses no fossil fuels, and can be recycled–but would also degrade in nature much faster than normal plastics do,” he said.

In contrast to fossil fuel-based microplastics, which take several hundred years to completely decompose, plant plastic decomposes in just one year with use of a composter and only several more years without one, Van Akers stated.

Unlike most standard plastics, which are not recycled, Van Akers said he hopes most plant plastic products will be recycled.

The bio-plastic will be made by breaking down sustainable plant sugars into simple chemical formations that can be manipulated into a plastic form without use of fossil fuels, he explained.

Current expectation is that the new plastic will be fully in use by 2023.

Wildlife provides a context for teaching empathy

Parents can use wildlife as a valuable context for teaching their children to care for others.

According to National Wildlife Federation naturalist David Mizejewski, wildlife provides valuable context for teaching children to care about others. “All of these are fellow creatures who need a happy and safe habitat,” he said.

Kevin Coyle, the NWF’s vice president of education says research shows that even very young kids can develop a sense of caring about things other than themselves. He and Mizejewski agree that parents who want their children to become empathic adults should take time to explore nature with them.

They urge parents to use the following strategies:

1. Create an awareness of backyard wildlife.

The first stage is awareness. Give your child something to focus on. Talk about how the wild animals living around humans deserve respect and understanding.

2. Help local wildlife.

Children need help putting into action what they know and making the connection between something they do and the benefits to others. A good idea is to set up a bird feeder and allow your child to refill it.

3. Plan meaningful outdoor experiences

Getting outside is important for kids’ growth. Focus on interpreting nature together. A good place to do this is a park.

4. Learn about lifecycles.

Observing a plant or animal pass through its life cycle can be mesmerizing for children. For example, a monarch butterfly has a four-stage life cycle and only lives for a few weeks. However, a turtle’s life cycle is similar to a human’s and the phases are egg, hatchling, juvenile and adult.





Epic safaris outside of Africa

Experience amazing wildlife expeditions outside of Africa.

Many people identify Africa with wildlife safaris. However, if travel to the African Continent is not in your immediate plans, you can experience incredible expeditions in the following five places:

1. The Pantanal Wetlands, Brazil

This is the world’s biggest tropical wetland system. It is in Midwestern Brazil and has a spectacularly biodiverse environment. The best time to go is during the dry season between July and October.

2. Ranthambore National Park, India

India has the world’s largest tiger population. Ranthambore is one of the country’s best tiger reserves. Other wildlife there includes panthers, bears, wolves and monkeys. The best time for tiger sightings is from April to June.

3. Jungles of Malaysian Borneo

Borneo is an exotic land of unexplored jungles and obscure tribes. The rainforests are home to extraordinary wildlife including 44 mammal species found nowhere else in the world. Any time of year is a good time to go.

4. Kamchatka Coast and Chukotka Autonomous District, Russia

These remote areas are some of the most wildlife-rich places in the Arctic region. Kamchatka is famous for its brown bears. The summer salmon run takes place in Chukotka every year. The best time to visit is in the summer from June to August.

5. Kakadu National Park, Australia

Kakadu is a land of monsoonal rivers and waterfalls. Wildlife safaris traverse the park by 4WD and boat. The most breathtaking spectacle is the annual bird migration. The best time to go is the dry season from May to October.


Indigenous peoples manage or own at least one quarter of world’s land surface

A new study sheds light on the large portion of the world’s land that Indigenous peoples own and the implications of this ownership.

A new study reveals that Indigenous Peoples have use, management, and ownership rights over a minimum of the one quarter of the world’s land surface. The data supports the push for the recognition of Indigenous rights to their waters and lands as both an ethical obligation as well as to meet both local and global conservation efforts.

“Understanding the extent of lands over which Indigenous Peoples retain traditional connection is critical for several conservation and climate agreements,” said Stephen Garnett of Charles Darwin University in Australia, who led the international consortium that created the maps. “Not until we pulled together the best available published information on Indigenous lands did we really appreciate the extraordinary scale of Indigenous Peoples’ ongoing influence,” he said.

“We are not surprised this has never been done before,” said Ian Leiper, also from Charles Darwin University. “It has taken three years to track down credible sources of data from around the world.”

“In many countries Indigenous peoples are taking an active role in conservation,” said Neil Burgess of the United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. “What this new research shows is the huge potential for further collaborative partnerships between indigenous people, conservation practitioners and governments. This should yield major benefits for conservation of ecologically valuable landscapes, ecosystems and genes for future generations.”

But these partnerships must be created quickly to beat pressure for the development of Indigenous lands.

“Where I work in central Africa, Indigenous Peoples are synonymous with tropical rainforests in the best condition,” said John E.Fa, co-author on the study. “But change is happening fast. Empowering Indigenous Peoples will be key to conserving these forests.”

Researchers analyze conditions that facilitate cooperation in nature

Research team develops a mathematical model of how individual animals inherit their social connections.

There are many examples of cooperation in nature. However, it is also easy to find examples of selfishness and conflict.

Researchers have been studying the conditions that lead to cooperation for years. The implications are for understanding the forces that drive animal behavior, charitable giving and international relations.

A basic doctrine of these studies is that cooperative behavior emerges when individuals interacting in a social network obtain some benefit from being generous with one another. Thus far, social networks are not fixed.

Erol Akçay, an assistant professor of biology at University of Pennsylvania School of the Arts and Sciences, addresses this question of how a developing social network influences the possibility of cooperation in a theoretical social group. He found that where connected individuals are closely related they are more likely to cooperate. Nevertheless, these same groups can trigger a feedback loop that leads to the collapse of cooperation.

“We know from a half-century of study that cooperation is quite easy to evolve in principle,” says Akçay. His academic work points to a reason why. It is the possibility that social structure that brings about high levels of cooperation may not be stable in such a cooperative environment.

He and former postdoctoral researcher Amiyaal llany collaborated on a research study and developed a mathematical model of how individual animals inherit their social connections. This model can explain the structure of social networks in animal groups.