Aquatic Moss Makes Contaminated Water Drinkable

Algae used to be fashionable, what with eco-friendly biomass algae shoes and green chandelier air purifiers. Something that looks quite similar (though is biologically different), moss, used to be functional and innovative, with equally eco-friendly moss-covered tires that absorb moisture and expel oxygen.

But now moss is just plain genius and essential, as scientists in Sweden discover an aquatic one that purifies water contaminated with arsenic, enough that it even becomes potable.

Researchers at Stockholm University say the aquatic moss, warnstofia fluitans, which flourishes in northern Sweden, can rapidly absorb arsenic, removing as much as 82 per cent of the toxins within one hour in some tests.

Due to mining operations in this part of Sweden, wetlands and water sources used for drinking and for growing crops are often contaminated with arsenic.

Arsenic is known to be a waste product from mining. Mine tailings are often toxic and difficult to separate from waste deposits, and toxin concentrations often end up in water sources. This makes mining a major environmental issue.

“We hope that the plant-based wetland system that we are developing will solve the arsenic problem in Sweden’s northern mining areas,” said Maria Greger, associate professor at the Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant Sciences at Stockholm University and leader of the research group.

The process of cleaning the contaminated water done by the aquatic moss is called phylofiltration. The researchers have also mentioned that sometimes this process takes no more than an hour, which is indeed very quick. If only more humans are inspired to be as quick to act in the name of the environment.

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Discarded Electronics Are Literal Gold Mines

If you have seen any dystopian film or have read any piece at all of dystopian literature, you would know that a landscape made of metal offers intense horrors that bank on some of the deep-seated fears of today’s society.

Realistically speaking, we have been inventing ways to address the problem of metal such as recycling laptop batteries into a source of alternative energy or something as strangely innovative as making stylish backpacks out of car parts, but there is a need to push further. A trio of researchers recently took a shot at that and conducted a study which tries to answer how profitable it is to recover metals from old electronics.

In 2016 alone, the world discarded 44.7 million metric tons of unusable or simply unwanted electronics, according to the United Nations’ 2017 Global E-Waste Monitor report. That’s 4,500 Eiffel Towers-worth of phones, laptops, microwaves, and TVs. Only 20 percent of this e-waste was properly recycled that year. The rest was likely either incinerated, pumping pollution into the atmosphere, or added to a landfill somewhere, with its toxins now leaking into our soil and water supply.

It turns out, urban mining costs much less than traditional mining. The researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Sydney’s Macquarie University published their results in a scientific journal after collecting data from recycling companies in China. While the cost of recycling might vary from country to country, China’s status as the world’s biggest producer of e-waste makes light of the truth that the practice of urban mining could have a big impact on both economic and environmental matters.

[W]e already knew electronics contain precious metals in addition to all that glass and plastic. While a single smartphone might not contain all that much, consumers buy about 1.7 billion of the devices each year. In just one million of those, you’ll find roughly 75 pounds of gold, 35,000 pounds of copper, and 772 pounds of silver.

Necessary reminder though: this is no reason at all to justify our technological consumption practices. If anything, it should make us ask more conscientiously, what do I do with my smartphone once I find a new replacement that has great upgrades and loads informative online articles (like this!) much faster?

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Brazilian Judge Saves Amazon Region From Miners

Just weeks ago, the Chilean government snubbed an iron mine to rescue endangered penguins. Now, more mining projects are being placed on the back burner. Brazilian judge Rolando Valcir Spanholo halted a mining effort that would’ve destroyed 17,700 square miles of the Amazon rainforest.

The ruling came after the government sought to respond to an international outcry by issuing an updated version of the Renca decree that more broadly outlined steps to mitigate environmental damage, safeguard the rights of indigenous communities and retain protected areas.

Behind the initial plan is Brazilian President Michel Temer, a controversial leader who has narrowly escaped corruption charges. Since coming into power, Temer has slashed budgets meant to protect the environment and indigenous communities. As the Brazilian government is working on appealing a decision against Judge Spanholo’s ruling, activists have little time to strike back.

“The suspension of President Temer’s unilateral decree with its severe threats to vast Amazonian forest offers a welcome and temporary reprieve. Today’s ruling upholds constitutional guarantees and puts the brakes on this drastic regression, but is ultimately vulnerable to being overruled by higher courts.”

The Amazon may not be as appealing as Chilean penguins, but remains equally as valuable as an environmental resource.

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Chile Snubs Iron Mine To Save Endangered Penguins

It may not be everyday that a group of elephants rescue 300 tourists from a flood. But when humans need them, animals are always eager to lend a hand — or paw. For the Chilean government, protecting wildlife the way they do us is very much a priority. It recently rejected a billion-dollar mining project in order to save endangered penguins.

A Chilean company, Andes Iron, had wanted to extract millions of tonnes of iron in the northern Coquimbo region as well as building a new port.

The area is home to 80% of the world’s Humboldt penguins as well as other endangered species, including blue whales, fin whales and sea otters.

Chile’s environmental minister asserted that while he believes in development, risking ecological areas is a no-go.

Correspondents say mining companies have in recent years had a harder time obtaining permits in Chile because of growing interest in the environment from politicians and public opinion.

Chilean miners are infuriated, understandably. However, the rejection is also a wake-up call. Mining may be the easy answer, but not necessarily the best one.

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