What is the Real Break Down on Plastic

The Price Behind Plastic

People held out so much hope for plastic. It was seen as a solution to so many problems just a few generations ago. But now we know that the rampant use of plastics comes with a hefty price. It fills our dumps, litters our land, clogs our streams, and creates huge mats of debris in our oceans.

And it can last from several to hundreds of years before it a plastic item breaks down. It depends on the type of plastic and the conditions (Temperature? Sunlight? Oxygen present? Buried? In the ocean? etc.).

The Breakdown of the Plastic Break Down

When it breaks down, most plastics release toxic chemicals and further crumple or break into smaller pieces of plastic. Very little of the plastic littering our world breaks down into new, non-hazardous compounds. And these smaller and smaller pieces of plastic, along with breakdown chemicals, have now entered the food chain. Animals eat plastic, where it clogs digestive systems, disrupts endocrine and reproductive systems, and pollutes bodies with hazardous chemicals, like bisphenol A, which is a known carcinogen. It’s the very reason the use of plastic nanobeads is banned. And now, plastics, and their bi-products are showing up in humans.

 

Knowing all of this, people ask us, how we can wrap our soaps in plastic.

Benefit of Biolefin

It’s because not all plastics are equal when it comes to environmental problems. We have gone to great lengths to be as environmentally conscious as we can be, while at the same time balancing other demands placed on us. For example, some of the markets we participate in require that body products be packaged and labeled. We researched materials and settled on Biolefin shrink wrap, made by Wells Plastics using Reverte technology. It is an oxo-biodegradable polyolefin plastic film that breaks down to simple non-toxic compounds in a shortened time frame. It is food-grade and acid free. According to the manufacturer, the Reverte additive causes the plastic polymer chains in the film to break down into much shorter fragments, which can then be consumed by bacteria that is abundant in the environment.

 

When exposed to sunlight, heat, and air, the wrap we use begins to decompose within 1 year. When fully decomposed (1-3 years), only water, carbon dioxide, and biomass are left behind. The biomass is chemically different than plastic and is consumed by microorganisms in the environment. If left in the dark without oxygen, the biolefin breaks down to methane and biomass that can be consumed by microorganisms. This process takes longer, around 4 years according to the manufacturer.

More Bees Wrap

We like it because it keeps the soap dry, clean, and contained. It allows us to affix labels so the customer knows what they have purchased. It has the added benefits of allowing the soap to breathe, and allowing the customer to smell the soap. We even chose paper labels without a plastic coating. Are our choices perfect? Probably not, but we’re trying.

National Geographic article on marine plastic waste

Article about microplastics in human stool

Time for garbage to decompose

National Geographic on degradation of ocean plastics

Biolefin information page

Wells plastics Reverte oxo-biodegradable polyolefin page.

Reverteplastics page

Magic Mushrooms: A New Hope for Bees Plagued By Mites

Today, I read an article that I just had to share. It isn’t the longest, but it could turn out to be quite significant.

Tiny Mighty Terror

It was about varroa mites, honey bees, and a possible remedy to some of the problems plaguing the honey bees. Introduced to the US in the 1980’s, varroa destructor, a parasitic mite, has been wreaking havoc with beehives across the country. These mites sap the strength of the bees on which they feed.

But they do even more than that. You see, just like fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes can carry illnesses that infect humans, varroa mites can carry viruses that infect bees. As rodent fleas caused the Bubonic Plague, the varroa mites are contributing to the die off of a large percentage of honeybee hives in many parts of the world. It is estimated that in the US, 40% of hives were lost from April 2017-April 2018.

Plight of Flight

There is more than one virus that the mites can pass to honey bees, but the most significant seems to be deformed wing virus (DWV). It causes wing deformities in the bees, particularly those incubated with the mites. The wing deformities range from mild to severe. But any deformity is significant in a species that has to be able to fly to feed itself.

It’s easy to see why varroa mite infestations are a concern for beekeepers. The varroa mites spread from bee to bee and larval cell to larval cell within a hive very easily. Mites can also be spread from hive to hive when hives are kept in very close proximity to each other, or when a infected bee comes into contact with other bees when foraging. They can even jump off one bee, hang out on a flower, and jump onto a bee from a different hive.

Scientists have know for a few years that the mites can spread diseases such as deformed wing virus (DWV). For that reason, beekeepers try to control levels of varroa mites. Most do this with with chemical miticides. While initial results seem good when hives are treated, some beekeepers have noticed the miticide resistant populations develop quickly within their hives. Since resistant varroa can thrive in a hive, and pass viruses on to the bees, some scientists are looking at treating the viruses that infect the bees.

Magic Mushrooms

Recently, it was discovered that a couple of different conk wood mushrooms, amadou and reishi, are effective against DWV. Conk wood mushroom extract, when mixed with sugar water, and delivered by feeder has proved effective at combating DWV. Not only have these mushroom extracts shown positive results against DWV, they have shown an even greater antiviral effect on Lake Sinai virus, which is also causing serious problems in some beehives.

Studies are just beginning on the effectiveness of these mushroom extracts. It will be interesting to see if the initial results carryover to real world beekeeping situations. This could turn out to be a new front for helping the bees. We all know they could use all the help that they can get. If you would like to read more in depth on the topics we covered above, feel free to follow the links below.

 

The article that started this blog post

Basic info on Varroa Destructor

Mushroom extract as medicine

Cool article on conk wood mushrooms

 

Murder Mystery Dinner

On February 15th, there was a murder.

It took place in Downtown Portland, at the Old Spaghetti Factory where my husband and I went to dine, with friends.  We were called upon to help solve the crime, and so were our friends.  One of them was even implicated as a suspect!  We had a blast! Mystery dinner theater is so much fun!

 

If you have never been, you should give it a try.  Most major cities, and many not so major ones, have dinner theater troupes.  Just look up “mystery dinner theater near me” on the internet to find your nearest options. Ticket prices may seem high, until you consider that you are getting dinner and a night of entertainment all rolled into one.

 

The experience varies a little by theater company, but some things are the same.  Your ticket usually gets you dinner and dessert, as well an interactive mystery performance.

 

Beyond that, things start to differ. Some shows are set in the here and now.  Others have a theme and you can dress up if you like. The one we attended, put on by The Murder Mystery Company, was set in the 1920’s, and the majority of the diners were dressed in some semblance of 1920’s dress. In some troupes, the performers are hidden amongst the other diners, in others a handful of clearly labeled actors help set the tone.  Either way, the paying diners are lead through the murder mystery to solve the questions of who committed the murder and why.  Who knows, it could even be you! Some troupes give prizes and/or certificates to the diners for solving the crime and/or for their performance and participation in the mystery theater.

Things to know:

  • Usually tickets must be purchased in advance, before the night of the show. Most shows sell out, so don’t wait too long to purchase tickets, or you may miss the show.
  • Some shows have a minimum age, so if you would like to take minors, make sure to check the minimum age, before purchasing tickets.
  • While your ticket gets you a 3-4 course dinner (exact number depends on the troupe), drinks are usually extra.
  • You usually get to choose between 3-4 entrees, and most troupes allow special requests for those with special dietary needs, but they need to be made in advance, when ordering tickets.
  • Some troupes prepay tips to the servers and/or the actors (two distinct, different sets of workers).  Check web sites to see if you will be encouraged to pay one, the other, or both gratuities, so you are not caught unawares.
  • Most have a bar available, but you will have to pay for your drinks. The bar is often cash only.
  • Most locations have an ATM on site, but not all. Check in advance, so you can plan accordingly.
  • Some theater companies have different levels of tickets, others have add-on packages, so read the web material provided before picking which tickets/add-ons are right for you.
  • Plan on being at the venue for about 3 hours.

 

Why not treat yourself, loved ones, and/or friends. We had a blast with great food and wonderfully engaging entertainment. We are sure you will too. Find all your fellow mystery lovers and see if you can crack the case as we did; even tell us about your experience. You can post your story below, let us know on facebook, or use the hashtag #MoreBees to share your night or murder and mystery.

3 Out of 4 Bottles of Honey Contain Toxic chemicals

I was reading some of the most recent scientific information about honey bees and the news is not good. It’s not good for us as honey consumers or people that desire to have a clean food source but the news is even worse for the bees. What I read is that 75% of all the honey is contaminated with pesticides! Sorry I did not mean to yell that but wtf; 75% of all the honey in the world is contaminated with pesticides. This is a catastrophe! Didn’t you know that 1 in 3 bites of the food we eat either directly, or indirectly reliant upon pollination by pollinators (That means Honey bees!).

beehives, field, yellow, plants, flowers, brown, honeybee, The news may not be that drastic for us, the people that like to eat honey. You don’t have to run home to throw away all your honey. While the pesticides were detectable, they were well below the threshold concentrations that would cause harm to humans.  But you will not have any of that great sweet tasting honey if you don’t have any honey bees.

So, you’re safe- for now.

White, honey, girl, blonde, blue, eyes, pale, tanktop,

I say it that way because the levels detected in 48% of the samples were at unsafe levels for honey bees. We are losing honey bees worldwide (see previous post in our blog). The nectar and pollen bees consume in the spring, summer, and fall are contaminated with these pesticides. The bees make honey from the nectar they collect as their winter food source. The pesticides are concentrated in the honey, the only source of food to keep the honey bees alive until spring arrives. Chronic, long term exposure to pesticides causes well documented problems for the bees.

“According to research, two pesticides commonly used by farmers today could affect bees brains. The two pesticides namely, neonicotinoids and coumaphos target bees brains, thus making it a slow learner and make the it forget floral scents. They also found that, the combination effect of these two pesticides, were far greater than individual effect. Bees that were exposed to combined insecticides, were slow to learn or sometimes completely forgot important associations between their ability to nectar and floral scent.

Hiveandhoneyapiary.com

                                Author Unknown”

How can we help the bees? Should you insist on only getting pesticide free honey? Should you start a boycott of the companies that supply pesticides? Should you kick your neighbor when you see him spraying to kill the ants around his picnic table. I wish I had the answer; unfortunately, to get the pesticides out of the honey will require regulatory action to limit or ban source chemicals.

The sources of the pesticide contamination are well know and the effects (i.e lower birth rates, mutations, weakened immune system and death) on the bees have been know for years. I will link you to an article from 2010 that lists the different types of pesticides and it gives very thorough discussion of the impact of the listed pesticides on bees.  It also highlights the fact that this issue has been known about for some time, but our government has chosen not to address the dangers of these pesticides through restriction of use or outright banning, nor have they attempted to educate consumers of the unintended negative impact these chemicals can have.

Harmful pesticides to pollinators This article

This problem does not just affect the United States of America but it is worldwide. With 75% of all honey samples showing pesticides in them and 86% of the samples from North America tested positive for at least one Neonicotinoid.

These shocking and scary statistics came from an extensive and well documented article published in Science Magazine and a shorter article in The Scientist, both released last week. They warrant reading, as they discuss how these pesticides negatively affect bees and why we should care. Here is an excerpt from the Science article:

“Bees rely on nectar and pollen sources for their survival. Nectar is transformed into honey and stored in the hive for daily adult consumption and is essential for winter survival. A mature colony can be populated by up to 60,000 adult bees and therefore needs vast amounts of food. “

Organophosphate pesticides, such as Naled and Chlorpyrifos, have been shown to cause damage to the bees as well.  In 2016, South Carolina accidently killed millions of bees when they sprayed Naled to control mosquitoes. While Naled poses the immediate problem of mass deaths due to acute poisoning by a neurotoxin, Chlorpyrifos poses an indirect danger to the bees. Even very small amounts have been shown to “dumb down” bees, by interfering with their memory and affecting the mental development of larvae and young bees. In this way, it causes a slow and steady decline in bee populations, by causing the bees to starve to death, as well as causing them to forget where their hive is. Sadly, earlier this year, The US EPA chose to reverse an Obama era order that was to go into effect banning Chlorpyrifos, against that agencies own findings.

In contrast, when Germany experienced a massive bee loss in 2008 that was determined to be due to the Neonicotinoid Clothianidin, Clothianidin, as well as other neonicotinoids, were banned in Germany. The EU imposed a temporary ban on the three most widely used Neonicotinoids on certain crops in 2013. There are EU proposals for a complete ban on the use of Neonicotinoids, with the only exception being for plants grown entirely in greenhouses. The proposed ban is to be voted on this year.

In the United States, the EPA is currently working on risk assessments for 5 out of the 7 Neonicotinoid pesticides that are used pesticide formulations, with preliminary assessments to be completed in 2018. We can only hope our government is responsive to the hazards these pesticides pose to pollinators, and therefore to us. Unfortunately, after seeing how Chlorpyrifos was handled by the EPA last year, chemical companies are likely to win again over bees and people.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Do not buy or use products that contain these hazardous chemicals. Here is a listing of products that contain neonicotinoids. This link provides names of common organophosphate pesticides.
  3. Contact your lawmakers. Let them know what you think, and let them know this is an issue, that as a voter, you are concerned about. The use of these hazardous chemicals needs to restricted or banned.
  4. Contact Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and other store chains that sell and/or use these dangerous pesticides. Let them know that you will spend your money at stores that ban the sale or use of these products.
  5. And finally, don’t get discouraged or distracted, and give up.  This is really important, and you are the voice for the bees.