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Scientists identify fungus that eats plastic

Scientists from Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) have identified a soil fungus Aspergillus tubingensis that uses enzymes to rapidly break down plastic materials. The plastic-eating fungus was found Islamabad, Pakistan.

The new discovery in an advance can help to deal with plastic waste problem that threatens our environment in safer and more effective way

Key facts
  • Scientists have found that Aspergillus tubingensis fungus which ordinarily lives in the soil can also grows on the surface of plastics.
  • In order to grow on plastics, it secretes enzymes on the surface of the plastic which break the chemical bonds between the plastic molecules, or polymers.
  • This fungus also uses the physical strength of its mycelia (the network of root—like filaments) to break apart the polymers.
Significance of discovery

Plastic waste materials can persist in the environment over long periods of time as they do not break down in the same way as other organic materials. The conventional plastic waste disposal through burying, recycling, incineration or other methods are unsustainable, costly and result in toxic by-products, which are hazardous to human health. This discovery can offer cheap sustainable solution to degrade plastic and its toxic by-products without having any negative impact on environment and human health.

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Government launches BS-IV grade fuels

Government has formally launched Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV) grade transportation fuel across the country to keep carbon emission in check.

The launch came days after the Supreme Court banned sale and registration of BS-III vehicles from 1 April, 2017. It sets target of ushering in BS-VI fuel by April 2020 by skipping BS-V fuel. 

All state-run oil marketing companies will provide BS-IV-compliant fuel at their 53,500 retail fuel stations across the country.

BS-IV fuels
  • BS-IV fuels contain far less sulphur than BS-III fuel. Sulphur in fuel makes it dirtier and lowers the efficiency of catalytic converters, which control emissions.
  • The BS-IV complaint vehicles release less pollutants Carbon Mono-oxide (CO), Hydrocarbon (HC), Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx), Sulphur (SOx) and particulate matter (PM) compared to BS III complaint vehicles.

About Bharat stage emission standards

  • BS emission standards are emission standards instituted by the Union Government to regulate output of air pollutants from internal combustion engines and spark ignition engines equipment, including motor vehicles.
  • The standards and the timeline for implementation are set by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change (MoEFCC).
  • The standards, based on European regulations were first introduced in 2000. Since then, various stages Bharat Stage compatible fuel and ungraded and modified vehicles were introduced throughout the country.
  • Each stage specifies a certain limit on the pollutants released, Higher the Bharat Stage goes lesser it emits pollutants. BS-I, BS-II and BS-III stages were launched in  2000, 2005 and 2010 respectively
  • The harmful emissions that are identified for regulations in different Bharat Stages (BS) are carbon monoxide (CO), unburnt hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate matter (PM).

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El Salvador becomes world’s first country to ban metal mining

Central America’s smallest nation El Salvador became first country in the world to ban metal mining nationwide. In this regard, it has passed a law that bans all mining for gold and other metals.

The law imposes broad prohibition on the extraction of minerals to protect the nation’s allegedly quite fragile environment, water reservoirs and reduce social tensions.

Key Facts

  • The new law bans all exploration, extraction and processing of metals both in open pits and mines
  • It bans the use of cyanide and mercury for mining.
  • It does not apply to quarrying or the mining of coal, salt and other non-metallic resources.
Background

According to UN, El Salvador is one of the most densely populated countries and second-most environmentally degraded in America afterEl Salvador Haiti, making it sensitive to potential impact of large mining projects. The new mining ban law comes after a long-dragged dispute over a proposed gold mine by Pac Rim Cayman, a unit of Canadian-Australian company OceanaGold Corp over the environmental issue. In October 2016, El Salvador Government had won an international arbitration case filed by Pac Rim over a rejected licence to build gold mine in the country’s north. The international arbitration panel had rejected the company’s claim for compensation.

 

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