We feature scientists, business owners, activists, entrepreneurs, cooks, and other experts from around the world who have found ways to live more sustainably.
115. Plastic in the North Sea
Susanne Khün holding up a fulmar
Susanne Khün has a Ph.D from Wageningen Marine Research in the Netherlands where she has put years of research into her thesis called "Message in a belly - Plastic pathways in fulmars".
Tune in to hear all about Susanne's research on whether seabirds are ingesting plastic from fish, what's happening with toxicants from plastic once in their guts, and how ships are contributing to a fulmar's diet.
There's even some really good news about plastic pollution in the North Sea you won't want to miss!
114. Endocrine Disruptors and Plastics
Scott Coffin has a Ph.D in environmental toxicology from the University of California Riverside and works for the California State Water Resources Control Board.
Scott has done many studies on toxicants in plastic that involve some fascinating scientific techniques. He found that estrogen receptors are being activated by many different toxicants in plastic, not just BPA, and discusses how this is not only worrisome for fish populations but also for humans.
113. Holiday Shopping Ideas
For this year's holiday episode I've collaborated with three sustainable Canadian companies with eco friendly gift ideas for the holiday season!
Dave O'Connor from Genuine Tea won best tea in Toronto in the Now Reader's Choice Awards and offers high quality teas without plastic tea bags, as well as a new line of ready to drink teas.
Madeleine Tan (pictured below with her sister) from the Rose Company in Vancouver offers a number of sustainably packaged self care products and has offered the discount code ZEROWASTECOUNTDOWN for 20% off your online purchase.
Kathryn Hogan is the founder of KMH Touches, a company offering silk and vegan dental floss that's plastic and PFAS free, so good for your body and good for the planet.
112. Toxins In Bioplastic
Lisa Zimmermann is a Ph.D researcher in the Department Aquatic Ecotoxicology at Goethe University Frankfurt and part of the PlastX Research Group.
She recently conducted a study that was published in September 2020 called: Are bioplastics and plant-based materials safer than conventional plastics? In vitro toxicity and chemical composition.
Lisa discusses what she found in the study, and the implications those findings have on our choices as a consumer when it comes to packaging. She was also featured on episode 102. Toxins In Our Plastic Products.
Further comments from Lisa after recording:
1) On the question whether plants can contain toxins:
Yes, some plants naturally produce toxins, e.g., as a natural defense mechanism against predators, insects or microorganisms. In a usual balanced, healthy diet, the levels of natural toxins are well below the threshold for acute and chronic toxicity. For instance potatoes contain solanines and chaconine but especially in the sprouts and green parts, that are not eaten nor used to extract starch for bio-based plastics. Compared to these single natural compounds, in the production process of conventional and bioplastics many synthetic compounds are intentionally added (e.g. additives) or get unintentionally in the product (e.g. reaction products). Some of these might be toxic at certain concentrations.
2) On how the study transfers to human health:
The results of the study cannot be transferred on humans directly. Reasons include that in vitro tests were performed. Here isolated cells are used that can give first hints of effects but don’t reflect the complexity in the human body. Besides, the study examined the intrinsic chemical toxicity present in the products. In a next step, migration studies with food simulants are needed in order to identify the toxicity and chemicals migrating under real-world conditions and to estimate the human exposure to those. Thus, the study is a first step and demonstrate that the chemical mixtures contained in the analyzed plastic product have the potential to be toxic to human health (if exposure concentrations are high enough).
111. Nuclear Energy
Paul Acchione is an engineer and management consultant in Ontario who has worked in the nuclear and fossil fuel industries for over 48 years and has a wealth of knowledge about how nuclear power works, how nuclear waste is stored here in Canada, and the benefits nuclear power brings to an electricity grid.
Darlington Nuclear Power Station
We discuss how public opinion of nuclear energy has changed over time during his career, the current issues around renewables, and why it's unlikely we can save the Pickering nuclear station here in Ontario, which means one of the cleanest grids in the world is about to get a lot dirtier.
110. Keeping Produce Fresh With Hazel Tech
According to Hazel Technologies, the U.S. wastes more than 25 billion pounds of post-harvest fruits and vegetables annually, which amounts to over $86B in wasted resources.
Aidan Mouat is the CEO of Hazel Technologies, and they have developed small biodegradable packaging inserts that are dropped into boxes of avocados during shipping. By time-releasing temporary ethylene blockers, Hazel's tech slows the fruit's aging process. The USDA-supported solution is entirely atmospheric, does not touch the produce, and leaves no residue. Further, the technology has been tested by the country's top agricultural universities (UC Davis, Cornell, Oregon State).
Hazel has more than 150 customers (across 12 countries) which include Zespri (the world's largest kiwi distributor, based in New Zealand), Oppy (Canada's largest produce distributor), and many more. Hazel's tech is projected to be used with 3.2 billion pounds of fresh produce in 2020, preventing more than 270 million pounds from going to waste.