Maybe plastics won't eat the world

Scientists at Ohio State University say they have developed a viable alternative to petroleum-based plastic food packaging. That alternative may use natural tree-based rubber, according to a recent article in YaleEnvironment 360.

The researchers say this new biodegradable material holds promise for fighting the world's growing plastic pollution problem, as well as for curbing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Until now, finding a greener material for food packaging has been a major challenge, with nearly all other proposed solutions being either too expensive or too brittle to withstand the demands of shipping, handling, microwaving and freezing.

The Ohio State research, detailed in the journal "Polymers," involves melting natural rubber into a plant-based biodegradable plastic called PHBV. To strengthen the naturally soft PHBV, they've added an organic peroxide and a seemingly safe additive chemical, trimethylolpropane triacrylate.

Research is continuing to make the new product stronger still, with researchers focusing on the potential use of tomato skins, egg shells, or even invasive grasses being removed from waterways.

Plastic pollution is a serious issue worldwide, as it can take more than 400 years to biodegrade.

Think about that: Since a National Geographic study last year found that only 9 percent of plastic actually gets recycled, it means that almost every piece of plastic ever created still exists on Earth today.

All of us can do more by not accepting plastic bags or straws. We can use a thermos, pack our own lunches and shop for plastics-free products, but this is harder than it sounds. We're glad researchers are actively seeking alternatives.


Swamp conflicts still abound

Meanwhile back in President Donald Trump's Washington, things still look grim for the only planet we call home.

Late Thursday, the Senate voted 56-41 to approve ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt to permanently replace scandal-plagued Ryan Zinke as secretary of the interior.

Critics appropriately call Bernhardt "a walking conflict of interest."

Before joining the Trump administration, he worked at a Washington law and lobbying firm on behalf of mining companies, oil and gas giants, a politically powerful western water agency and other groups that have long had business before the interior department.

Now he'll be in charge of overseeing more than 500 million acres of public lands and other resources, including national parks, monuments and wildlife refuges — places he's previously tried to help his clients mine and drill and otherwise plunder.

So much for draining the D.C. swamp.


WikiLeaks who?

Speaking of "the swamp," chief crocodile, Donald Trump, has certainly changed his tune on WikiLeaks.

You remember when he used to crow from campaign stages, "I love WikiLeaks!" More than 100 times, Trump extolled WikiLeaks, and The Associated Press reported that a poster of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange hung backstage at the Republican's debate war room. Never did the campaigning Trump express misgivings about how WikiLeaks obtained Hillary Clinton's emails or her campaign's emails. Never did he express concerns over "stolen" sensitive U.S. government information.

But on Thursday, after Assange was arrested on federal charges of taking part in a computer hacking conspiracy, there was no crowing. Assange is accused of scheming with Chelsea Manning, a former Army intelligence analyst, to break a password for a classified government computer at the Pentagon long before the 2016 campaign.

With that, Trump on Thursday said quietly and matter-of-factly: "I know nothing about WikiLeaks. It's not my thing."


Forget the Earth, save the planes

Yet even in the Swamp, Pentagon officials and some in Congress haven't completely succumbed to the Trump nonsense of dismissing climate and environmental concerns.

The Pentagon has long acknowledged that the effects of climate change threaten national security, and last week Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii; Jerry Moran, R-Kansas; and Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, penned a new bill aimed at protecting military bases from the effects of extreme weather. (Note, the bill does not contain the phrases, "climate change," or "global warming." Rather, it references "extreme weather events, mean sea level fluctuation, wildfires, flooding, and other changes in environmental conditions.")

"Our military cannot afford to ignore extreme weather as it becomes more frequent and severe," said Schatz, lead Democrat on the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee.

Last year alone, hurricanes caused billions of dollars in damage to military installations in the United States. This year, floodwaters inundated Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The base houses the U.S. Strategic Command.

At least some folks in Washington are smart enough to get out of the rain and seek higher ground.