All posts by SustainableRossmoor


WHEN: Wednesday, Feb 14, 7:00-8:30 pm

WHERE: Peacock Hall


The best way to truly understand weather is to get inside it. Sustainable Rossmoor screens  WILD WEATHER at Peacock Hall on Wednesday, February 14 at 7 pm — a fresh and informative documentary produced by NOVA that introduces a global group of experts who risk their lives to demonstrate the power of wind, water and temperature, taking these simple “ingredients” and transforming them into something spectacular and powerful for everyone to understand. Maverick experts and renowned specialists from around the world reveal a whole range of fascinating new discoveries from the cutting edge of science. 

Despite scientists studying it for thousands of years, we know far less about how weather works than anyone might expect. We hear that global warming is causing Extreme Weather –exacerbating both cold and hot atmospheric conditions, and excessively dry or wet ones. But, understanding the mechanics of the basics is still a challenge. Sometimes crazy and fun, watch these professionals as they explore the mysteries of hurricanes, sandstorms, and icy cyclones. They change the way you think about whether forever. Captions included. 

Wild Valentine Chocolates will be available!


American meteorologist Reed Timmer uses a bizarre tornado-proof armoured car called “The Dominator 3,” to attempt to do something that no-one has ever done before: fire a flying probe right into the heart of a tornado.

Engineers Jim Stratton and Craig Zehrung from Purdue University, USA, use a high powered “vacuum cannon” to fire homemade hailstones at over 500 mph. It sounds like fun, but their work has a serious purpose: to discover whether hail is actually stronger than ordinary ice.

Walter Steinkogler of the WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF in Davos, Switzerland, tries to find out how something as light and delicate as snow can travel at 250 mph when it’s in an avalanche.

Dr. Kazunori Kuwana from Yamagata University, Japan has spent the last 10 years trying to capture the rare moment that can turn a bushfire into a formidable fire whirlwind. In “Wild Weather” he fulfils a lifelong ambition by starting a 10-meter high fire whirl of his own.

Dan Morgan of Cobham Laboratories, U.K. creates lightning bolts in his lab to try and measure the destructive power not of lightning, but of thunder. Although we think of thunder as merely the sound of lightning, it is actually a powerful destructive force of its own. In a world-first “Wild Weather” makes it possible to actually see thunder for the first time.

Below, scientist Dr. Nigel Tapper of Monash University, Australia tries to create his own massive dust storm so he can examine the microscopic moments when dust particles begin to bounce high into the stratosphere. 



WHEN: Wed, Jan 10, 7:00-8:30 pm

WHERE: Peacock Hall

DESCRIPTION:  Plastic is everywhere — for better and worse: floating ocean swirls as big as Texas, artificial organs, water bottles, and wind turbines. This film explores the history of plastic and how it came to dominate our lives. From styrofoam cups to automobiles, plastics are perhaps the most ubiquitous and versatile material ever invented. No invention in the past 100 years has had more influence and presence. But this progress has come at a cost.

No ecosystem or segment of human activity has escaped the grasp of plastic. ADDICTED TO PLASTIC is a global journey to investigate an industry worth $375 billion/year in the US alone. Review what we really know about the material of a thousand uses and why there’s so much of it. On the way we discover a toxic legacy and about some of its effects on our health.

We also meet some men and women dedicated to cleaning it up — groups dedicated to physically cleaning up the beaches and the oceans. We learn from experts about cutting edge solutions in recycling plastic and what actually happens when newer plastics biodegrade. These solutions will provide viewers with a new perspective about our future with plastic. It’s also an opportunity to examine our role in a throwaway culture.

85 minutes long. Captions available.


In recent years there has been considerable industry pushback against research demonstrating the adverse health effects of plastics.

Tips for reducing your exposure to the toxins in plastic

  • Use glass cups for drinking.
  • Instead of plastic water bottles, use stainless steel or glass.
  • Use glass containers for food storage.
  • Never heat food in plastic containers.
  • Use parchment paper or beeswax fabric instead of plastic wrap.
  • Avoid canned foods, as the linings typically contain BPA or a BPA alternative.
  • Read labels on cosmetics and personal care products, and avoid those that contain phthalates in the ingredients list.
  • Skip the receipt, as most have a BPA or equivalent coating.
  • Choose wood or fabric toys for children instead of plastic.


This month’s featured film:


A special evening of light-hearted short films on a variety of environmental topics will be presented by Sustainable Rossmoor. Clever, amusing, and funny perspectives on promoting a healthy planet can sometimes give pause . . . and lead to reflection.

A panel of judges has selected from among dozens of nominations submitted by residents as well as culled from eco-comedy film festivals to create a delightful evening while taking a fresh look at a large variety of subjects. You might wonder, what could be amusing about global warming, climate change, solar energy, wind power, plastic, water pollution, air pollution, traffic, landfill, oil spills, concern for other species, food waste, overpopulation, or extreme weather. Come to the theater and find out; see if you agree that these environmental short films provoke thought . . . and chuckles!

A Big Thank You to THE JUDGES

Ellen Bulf

Jo Alice Canterbury

Barbara Coenen

Edie Edelman

Herb Salomon

Lynne Thorner

Carol Weed

Iris Winogrond

Tod Elkins, Digital Editor

Vince Mayweather, A/V technician

And all the Rossmoor residents who sent in nominations



The Plastic Bag Problem

The Rescue

An Energy-Independent Future: A Presidential Perspective, Jon Stewart

Restaurant Scene: “Water Please”

The Climate Change Debate, John Oliver   

PLASTIC, an Operetta

Alternative Energy, Jimmy Tingle

The Little Green Man Learns about TV

The Matt Damon Goes on Strike

Weather Girl Goes Rogue

Solar Panels, Tom Gleeson


Skip Showers for Beef

Fighting Food Waste, Ed Begley Jr.

Wind Power’s Health Hazards, Steven Colbert

 5-Day Weather Forecast

Who Are the Koch Brothers?

Al Franken & David Letterman

Mercedes AA Class

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

SNL sketch

To make suggestions for the club’s next collection of eco-comedy short films, contact Carol Weed at

How Much Does Global Warming Increase the Power of Hurricanes?

Readers can actually estimate the impact of global warming on hurricanes for themselves. Here we use kitchen measure rather than metric.

In his New York Times editorial of Sept. 12, “Irma, and the Rise of Extreme Rain,” columnist David Leonhardt published a graph of global yearly average surface temperature from 1905 to today. These averages were taken from actual measurements around the world (some scientists, for example Dr. Charles Keeling at the Mauna Loa Observatory, actually spent a lifetime measuring temperature and other atmospheric and ocean data).

Converting Leonhardt’s graph data to Fahrenheit, the ocean surface temperature has increased just a little over 2-degF in the hundred years between 1917 and 2017. The graph is bumpy, but none of the bumps or dips are at all far off the line gradually moving upward.

Now as all of us who watched MSNBC or public television learned during this 2017 rather impressive hurricane season, the energy of a hurricane is gained by heat-transferred from the water over which it travels. This is a dynamic and complex phenomenon, but the weather folks, using super-computers, can model this process sufficiently to reasonably accurately predict the path, the strength and the behavior of a hurricane.

Yes, there were slight corrections that had to be made as the various hurricanes proceeded this August and September across the Gulf and Atlantic to landfall, but the predictions were startlingly accurate. Here we will not attempt anything that complicated. We will simply ask one question: For a 150-mile diameter hurricane, how much difference does an extra 2-degF make in its power?

A water heater measures heat in British Thermal Units (BTU). One Btu is the energy required to raise 1-pound of water 1-degF. If you have a gas water heater, you get your bill in dollars-per-therm, the cost of gas to produce 100,000 BTU. If you have an electric water heater, your bill is the cost of the number of kilowatt hours to do the same work. Here we only consider the extra energy 2-degF warmer water adds to the hurricane. So that comes to 2-BTU for every pound of water at the surface of the ocean.

When scientists make simplifying assumptions, they always simplify in the opposite direction of what they want to show. We know that the ocean also adds heat from below the surface layer, but that requires complicated heat transfer equations and we would need a powerful computer. So we will consider only the surface transfer of heat. Now a pound of water is, the world around, a pint of water. And the volume of a pint is 0.0167-cubic feet. Which tells us that if we consider the top 0.0167-ft (about 1-quarter-inch) of ocean water, 1-square-foot in area, as the source of heat energy for the hurricane – we can roughly estimate the average extra energy gained from every square foot of today’s 2-degF warmer water as 2-BTU extra energy per square foot of hurricane. For a small 150-mile diameter hurricane, that comes to around 500,000,000,000-BTU.

That is a big number, but energy can be expressed in all sorts of ways. If you look around on the Internet, you can find a conversion of energy in BTU to energy in kilotons of TNT explosion. I ran the conversion and came up with 126-kilotons. The Hiroshima bomb, called “Little Boy,” was estimated as 15-kilotons TNT. So the extra energy gain from 2-degF water warming a 150-mile hurricane is roughly the equivalent of eight atom bombs.

Of course, hurricanes do not stay in one place. They move across the water slowly. So if we stay with our simple model, every 150 miles a 150-mile diameter hurricane moves adds another extra eight atom bombs of destructive power.

This article first appeared in the October 11, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Wayne Lanier can be emailed at

The End of Fossil Fuels Is Near

The Trump administration is planning on radical actions to advance a dirty energy agenda. Energy Secretary Rick Perry has issued a report stating that nuclear and coal are vital to our national security.

For decades, dirty energy promoters have tried to sell their products under the banner of “energy independence.” Three mile island, Chernobyl and Fukushima should make all of us leery of nuclear power. For good reasons, all of California’s nuclear power plants have been shut down except Diablo Canyon, and its days are numbered.

Coal, natural gas and petroleum are still rather abundant on planet Earth, but because of the threat of climate change, most scientists believe that their use should be greatly reduced. It is common sense that at some point in the future they will be gone anyway, because they aren’t being produced any more and the supply is finite.

Wind power and solar power are growing by leaps and bounds as alternatives to fossil fuels, but have limitations: The wind doesn’t always blow 24 hours a day and solar power isn’t produced at night. Improved storage capacity is part of the answer here, but I believe that future generations will rely more on a power source yet largely undeveloped…the heat from the core of the Earth. Here is a power source that is non-polluting, goes 24 hours a day, won’t ever run out and is virtually unlimited.

A small amount of the electricity we use each day is produced at geo-thermal wells here in Northern California. The area we live in has many hot springs and even a few geysers, which is an indication that the core earth heat is closer to the surface here than in most places. Geo-thermal wells have been utilized in Lake County to produce electricity for the past 40 to 50 years.

What has been done up until now has merely scratched the surface of the Earth. The heat at the Earth’s core exists in huge amounts, is completely renewable and emits no carbon dioxide. This heat at the core of the Earth has two sources: About a third of it has been stored there since the planet was formed. The other two-thirds have their origin in the decay of radioactive isotopes in the Earth’s crust.

This process produces heat where temperatures rise the deeper one goes. The process involves pouring water into the deep hole and harnessing the steam that comes back up to power turbines.The reason geo-thermal hasn’t advanced more rapidly than it has is due to the fact that the hot rocks needed are far below the Earth’s surface. Even in most of the western United States the drilling must reach depths of 5,000 feet or more. In the east, the wells must be even deeper. The limiting factor so far has been developing drilling systems what are capable of reaching the needed depths.

Fortunately, the Norwegians, Germans and Swedes are working on developing drill bits that are up to the task. The bits must be capable of drilling through bedrock which is much harder than what we have had to contend with in most petroleum recovery areas. One Norwegian company is developing an electric percussion rotary drill that crushes rock by hammer-like blows while the drill-bit turns.

Government funded research into geo-thermal was active in the 1970s and 80s, but greatly reduced when oil prices dropped. Maybe it’s time to put some money into this again, instead of continuing to subsidize oil and nuclear projects. Other potential energy sources that badly need research dollars are tidal energy and wave energy. Let’s say goodbye to oil and coal.

This article first appeared in the September 27, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Bob Hanson, can be emailed at doctoroutdoors@

The Dangers of Roundup In Food and the Environment

Ever wonder why so many people prefer to eat organic food and are even willing to pay more for it? Or why so many people are suddenly gluten sensitive when they eat wheat or other grains which contain gluten? And, why are there such increases in the rates of allergies, asthma, auto-immune diseases, cancers, autism, dementia and other modern diseases of the western world?

Human beings, along with all living things and our environment, have never before in history been exposed to so many different synthetic chemicals nor in such large amounts. Some scientists think of it as a grand experiment. This exponential increase in chemical use parallels the increases in modern diseases.

The use of so many chemicals in our daily lives started after World War II when large chemical companies that had manufactured chemical weapons, nerve gas and mustard gas no longer had a market for their products. So, they diluted their products and sold them to the public to use as pesticides, (an umbrella term that includes herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and rodenticides).

One of these companies, Monsanto, produced an herbicide called Roundup. Roundup has become the most heavily used herbicides in history. There’s a good chance that when you sit on a park bench, walk along the pavement or lean on a fence, you’ll come into contact with Roundup.

Because Monsanto has been so successful in claiming it is very safe, it is sometimes used indiscriminately, sloshed all over sidewalks, parks and landscaping. It is also heavily used by farmers, particularly those in large industrial agriculture.

On July 7, 2017, Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, was listed on the Proposition 65 list as, “known to the state of California to cause cancer.” It had already been listed as a “probable carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health organization.

Scientists have found Roundups’ glyphosate is a unique chemical that destroys the beneficial bacteria in the intestinal tract thus allowing the pathogenic bacteria to overgrow. Many scientists think that is why it is capable of causing so many different types of diseases.

Our “good” gut bacteria is very important to our ability to stay healthy. Because Roundup and other glyphosate based herbicides are the most widely used in the world and have been used for decades, despite Monsanto’s claims of safety, many people worldwide have discovered its negative effects.

Roundup Ingredient Label

Many countries, cities and localities around the world have either banned glyphosate based herbicides like Roundup or greatly restricted its use. It is banned in the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and Malta. Sri Lanka banned it because it was linked to a fivefold increase in chronic kidney disease resulting in roughly 20,000 deaths in Sri Lanka’s farming communities.

Another reason we are exposed to so much glyphosate (it is in our air, soil, water and in the bodies of 99.6 percent of us), is because of genetically engineered food crops. GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are food crops or animals that have had a gene from another completely different organism, plant or animal, forced into them through genetic engineering. This has been done to corn, soy, canola, sugar beets and a handful of other widely used crops.

Monsanto has developed these genetically engineered foods for the express purpose of making them “Roundup ready,” which means, capable of withstanding massive amounts of Roundup without dying. Because Monsanto has patented these seeds, it not only makes money on the patent, it sells more and more Roundup, not only because the crops can withstand more, but also because “superweeds” have developed which are also capable of withstanding more Roundup.

In 1996, New York’s attorney general won a lawsuit against Monsanto for using “false and misleading advertising” in claiming it was, “safer than table salt,” “practically nontoxic” and “stayed where you put it.”

Monsanto has also claimed that genetically engineered food will produce higher yields, and, thus, “feed the world,” but this claim has proven untrue.

An environmental group, also in New York, is suing the Environmental Protection Agency for ignoring the dangers of glyphosate, which it claims has caused the demise of the Monarch butterfly population. Glyphosate has also been linked to harming honeybees and contributing to colony collapse disorder.

An article titled, “Roundup Revealed – Glyphosate in our Food System” says, “The modern industrial food system, which heavily uses herbicide-resistant GE crops, is increasingly understood to be unsustainable. Investors, companies and communities will all benefit from a more sustainable food system that will feed the planet today and for generations to come with reduced human and environmental impact.” We cannot afford the health consequences or the environmental damage caused by the use of Roundup and other toxic chemicals.

This article first appeared in the September 6, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author Karen Perkins can be emailed at

The Solar Eclipse: What Happens to Solar Energy?

On Monday, Aug. 21, the Great American Total Solar Eclipse will be seen only in the United States, the first such exclusive event in the nation’s history. The moon will pass in front of the sun; the sky will become dark and the air temperature will drop.

There will be a total eclipse with the moon covering all of the sun if viewed from a 70 miles wide “path of totality” as the duo pass over northern Oregon, travel east and exit land over South Carolina. The trip will take most of the day and the sky will be darkened for many hours, but in any one location the total eclipse lasts less than three minutes.

The total eclipse reveals the sun’s corona (the sun’s outer atmosphere) as well as bright stars and planets. The last time a total eclipse could be viewed in United States was in 1979; the last time it passed from coast to coast was 1918.

If you think you’ll now read advice about not looking directly at the sun, even during an eclipse, you’re correct. This is especially true for seniors because our retinas and optic nerves are already affected by age. The safest way to view an eclipse is on TV or streaming online. Sunglasses are not protective and neither is viewing it through a camera or binoculars.

There’s another precaution to take: Avoid using electricity as much as possible. California currently gets about 10 percent of its energy from the sun – more than six times as much as the next ranking state, North Carolina, followed closely by Arizona and Nevada. In the Bay Area, MCE Clean Energy includes 9 percent solar in its energy mix for basic Light Green customers and 25 percent solar for customers who opt up to the Deep Green (100 percent renewables). PG&E includes 13 percent solar energy in its standard mix. But both these energy providers as well as 80 percent of utilities in California put their energy on the grid. So do most owners of rooftop solar. Owners of solar panels who are “living off the grid” have backup storage or generators in preparation for sunless periods far more extreme than a solar eclipse.

The problem is timing; California’s 10 percent solar energy is an average over all the hours in a year – day and night, summer and winter. The eclipse will darken our skies during a time when solar power can account for as much as 40 percent of the load on the statewide electricity grid.

Power experts believe as much as two-thirds of that clean energy will be lost as the moon’s shadow rolls across the state. But, Cal-ISO says it’s ready. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO), nicknamed Cal-ISO, says it’s ready for the solar eclipse. It manages California’s electrical grid – that complex interconnected network of cables, transformers and other infrastructure that delivers electricity from producers to consumers.

In fact, solar is the easiest portion of the energy mix for it to adjust, either up or down. It’s done just that when there was too much solar power on the grid, as there was several days already this year. CAL-ISO will compensate for the lack of solar power during the eclipse the same way it does any night of the week. However, at night, a large part of the population reduces electricity use substantially.

It’s anticipated that during the eclipse up to 6,000 megawatts of power will be lost in CA, an amount that by itself could supply about 4 million homes. So CAL-ISO is asking people to be thoughtful about energy use all day on Monday, Aug. 21. Lower or turn off your air conditioning and fans; remember it’ll be cooler without full sunlight. If possible, avoid cooking, washing clothes or using hot water. In fact, you could turn off your hot water heater (if you know how). Unplug appliances, including electronics not in use.

Amazingly, 23 percent of the electricity used to power homes is consumed while electronic devices are turned off. That’s right – turned off. So if you want to save 23 percent on your electricity bill, unplug electronic devices every day and night when not in use.

On the fun side, there will be many street festivals and celebrations throughout the country, including San Francisco’s Embarcadero, the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley and the Chabot Space and Science Center on Skyline Boulevard in Oakland.

In 2024, the next total eclipse will travel in an almost opposite diagonal from Maine to Texas. Want to see a 100 percent total eclipse from San Francisco? It’s going to be a while . . . you’ll have to wait until Dec. 31, 2252.

This article first appeared in the August 16, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Carol Weed can be emailed at carol4ofa@ This column relies on information from NASA,, the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Press Enterprise,, the Mercury News and the Pleasanton Patch.

Global Warming and India

Now that Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, concerned environmentalists are wondering if the conference goals can be achieved. Progressive states like California hopefully will step up to take actions where Washington is ducking out. Individual actions by folks like you and me are also important and may help make up for the nation’s lack of responsibility.

A lot of attention is being paid to what China will or won’t do … much less to another important living lightly on this small planet Earth Matters player – India. India, with well over a billion people, could soon compete with China for the dubious distinction of being the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses. The country is rapidly evolving from a place where few people had electricity to one where everyone enjoys the comforts of modern living.

Today, India badly needs a green revolution. Most of its electricity production is coming from coal. Coal is cheap and abundant, but the worst source of greenhouse gases. At present, about 120 coal burning power plants are being constructed there.

At the climate change conference in Paris, it was India, rather than the United States or China that was the bogeyman. If any scientist at the conference were asked to define the biggest threat to the global environment, he or she would automatically say “India.”

India’s pursuit of the China experience would be a nightmare scenario for global warming. China’s annual emissions per person are 7.1 tons. In India, it is only two tons. If India continues to go the coal route, they will catch up with China in terms of emissions in a generation or two.

Climate scientists agree that the success or failure to achieve temperature goals will depend more on India than on any other nation. Over 300 million Indians are not yet on the grid, but will be soon, one way or the other. Fortunately, India has good potential for developing power from wind and solar instead of coal and oil. All that they need is a trillion or so dollars of green development. India will have to up its game if it wants scads of private financing for wind and solar. It will need a fair tax structure, governmental incentives and land use policies designed to encourage renewables.

Indians, of course, have no interest in feeling guilty to please the developed world. They argue that North America, Japan and Europe have built their national wealth on the back of cheap oil and coal and that denying India that same opportunity would be morally wrong. But implicit in India’s argument is a pledge verging on blackmail … pay us or we will embrace a high-carbon future. They have less to lose than most other nations.

It clearly is in the interest of the developed world to help India go the route of renewables, rather than coal. Hundreds of billions of dollars in private or public funds will be required if that is going to happen.

Wouldn’t it be great if the United States and the other countries of the world that are spending massive amounts of money on weapons of war would realize that spending some of that money on solar panels and wind generators for South Asia would help save the world from the consequences of global warming?

This article first appeared in the August 2, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Bob Hanson can be emailed at

BECOMING CALIFORNIA – a documentary about environmental change

When: Wed, November 8, 7:00 – 9:30 pm
Where: Peacock Hall

BECOMING CALIFORNIA is an Emmy-Award winning public television documentary about environmental change on America’s western edge. Narrated by Jane Fonda and with original music by Pat Metheny, the film shows how the needs of nature can be reconciled with the demands of civilization.

From the fog shrouded redwoods of the northern coast to the sun drenched deserts of the south, Becoming California is the story of natural change across deep time – how colliding land forms interact with the ocean and atmosphere to create one of the most beautiful, diverse and biologically rich places on earth. Award winning Producer/Director Kit Tyler brings California’s ecological transformation to life through stunning cinematography, astonishing aerials from across the state, over 40 interviews with top scientists, educators and business leaders, and through personal and inspiring stories of how everyday Californians are creating a new and hopeful story: the California of tomorrow.


Jane Fonda wrote:

“When I was asked to narrate the California Legacy Project’s documentary “Becoming California” I jumped at the chance. I’ve learned much about the makeup of the California landscape from its State Parks, having hiked in the Redwood forests and camped in Sequoia National Park among others, but I was surprised to learn there was much I wasn’t familiar with and even areas I thought I understood turned out to be far more unique and interesting than I ever imagined. I loved finding out about the geological histories that brought us what we see today— from the vast oil field that lay beneath what is now Los Angeles; to the the movements of tectonic plates.

By exploring California in three parts, “Becoming California” asks the question; Can nature and civilization coexist? What I like is that it rather than bringing gloom and doom there is a sense of hopefulness.  I was so moved that it was frequently hard to read some of the lines without tearing up.”

World’s Plastic Binge

Sandra Laville and Matthew Taylor reported in the Guardian on June 28 that a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20 percent by 2021, creating an environmental crisis. More than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300 billion a decade ago.

Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable, but efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans are failing to keep up with usage. Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7 percent of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5 million and 13 million tons of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year. Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University in the UK reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish.

There has been growing concern about the impact of plastics pollution in oceans around the world. In May of this year, scientists found nearly 18 tons of plastic on one of the world’s most remote islands, an uninhabited coral atoll in the South Pacific. Another study of remote Arctic beaches found they were also heavily polluted with plastic, despite small local populations.

The majority of plastic bottles used across the globe are for drinking water, according to Rosemary Downey, head of packaging at Euromonitor and one of the world’s experts in plastic bottle production. “This increase is being driven by increased urbanization,” said Downey. “There is a desire for healthy living and there are ongoing concerns about groundwater contamination and the quality of tap water, which all contribute to the increase in bottle water use,” she said. China, India and Indonesia are witnessing strong growth.

Plastic bottles are a big part of the huge surge in usage of a material first popularized in the 1940s. Most of the plastic produced since then still exists; the petrochemical-based compound takes hundreds of years to decompose. Major drink brands produce the greatest numbers of plastic bottles. Coca-Cola produces more than 100 billion throwaway plastic bottles every year according to an analysis carried out by Greenpeace after the company refused to publicly disclose its global plastic usage.

The top six drinks companies in the world use a combined average of just 6.6 percent of recycled Pet in their products, according to Greenpeace. A third have no targets to increase their use of recycled plastic and none are aiming to use 100 percent across their global production.

Plastic drinking bottles could be made out of 100 percent recycled plastic, known as RPet and campaigners are pressing big drinks companies to radically increase the amount of recycled plastic in their bottles. But brands are hostile to using RPet for cosmetic reasons because they want their products in shiny, clear plastic, according to Steve Morgan, of Recoup in the UK. In evidence to a UK House of Commons committee, the British Plastics Federation (BPF), a plastics trade body, admitted that making bottles out of 100 percent recycled plastic used 75 percent less energy than creating virgin plastic bottles. But the BPF said that brands should not be forced to increase the recycled content of bottles.

The industry is resisting any taxes or charges to reduce demand for single-use plastic bottles – like the 5p charge on plastic bags in the UK that is credited with reducing plastic bag use by 80 percent. Coca Cola said it was still considering requests from Greenpeace to publish its global plastics usage. A spokeswoman said: “We continue to increase the use of RPet in markets where it is feasible and approved for regulatory food-grade use – 44 countries of the more than 200 we operate in. If we are to increase the amount of recycled plastic in our bottles even further then a new approach is needed to create a circular economy for plastic bottles,” she said.

This article first appeared in the July 19, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News, Judith Schumacher-Jennings, author.