EDITION: February - April 2021

Ibiza Optimista - We are good news!

Cleaning plastic from rivers

The Ocean Cleanup Project is famous for working to clean up the vast amount of plastic waste known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This non-profit, created by Boyan Slat of Holland, has undertaken another novel ecological solution based on stopping plastic from entering the oceans via rivers. Removing waste from the oceans is of course important, but stopping the flow of new plastic trash is arguably even more important. Over eight million tons of plastic waste enters the oceans each year, and the vast majority of it comes from rivers in Asia and Africa.

The Ocean Cleanup Project’s solution to this problem is to create a fleet of solar-powered barges to clean these rivers before the waste can get to sea. The first barge was named the “Interceptor”, and it is a 24 meter-long vessel that resembles a large houseboat. It uses a curved barrier to catch waste floating downstream. The collected trash is directed to the “mouth” of the barge from where it rolls up a conveyor belt and is dropped into dumpsters.

The Interceptor is capable of collecting up to 50 tons of waste a day, and it has been working in the Klang River of Malaysia. This was one of the most polluting rivers in the world, sending more than 15,000 tons of plastic towards the sea each year - but now that flow has been significantly stopped by the Interceptor. Other Ocean Cleanup barges are wroking in Vietnam, the Dominican Republic and Indonesia. The Ocean Cleanup has an ambitious target of stationing one of its trash-collecting barges in each the most polluting waterways of the world.

Honey for coughs and colds

Scientists from Oxford University Medical School say that good quality honey may be better than conventional treatments for coughs, blocked noses and sore throats. They recommend it as a better alternative to antibiotics, which are often prescribed for such infections, even though they are not effective. Their research looked at the results for treating upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) with honey as compared to other usual treatments: antihistamines, expectorants, cough suppressants and painkillers. The analysis of several studies indicated that honey was more effective for improving symptoms, especially the frequency and severity of coughing.

However, the researchers noted that high quality honey that is created with a natural process is most effective. Much of the commercial honey in supermarkets would not work well as it is either not pure honey, or it is over-processed - you need to read the labels. Writing in the journal BMJ Evidence Based Medicine, the authors of the study said: “Upper respiratory tract infections are the most frequent reason for antibiotic prescription. However, the vast majority of URTIs are viral, so antibiotic prescription is both ineffective and inappropriate. We conclude that honey is more effective and less harmful than the usual care alternatives.”

Samsung reduces plastic packaging

The world’s largest smartphone maker, Samsung, has pledged to reduce the amount of plastic packaging typically used to wrap and protect its electronic devices and appliances. Samsung phones, tablets and wearable devices will be packaged in paper, pulp molds and bio-based or recycled plastics. In addition, the glossy plastic exterior of the phone charger will be replaced with a recycled matte finish, and plastic protection films will be discontinued. The plastic bags used to protect the surface of Samsung’s large home appliances will be replaced by bags made from recycled materials and bioplastics, which are produced from non-fossil fuel materials such as starch and sugar cane. This reduction of single-use plastics is set to be a gradual process with no timetable set for when they will be phased out completely. But it is encouraging to see Samsung joining the growing number of international companies that are actively reducing the amount of plastic waste that their businesses produce. This is the result of consumer pressure to make these firms more responsive to ecological concerns.

A Whale Tail Tale

A fatefully placed whale sculpture in the Netherlands saved a careening train from certain devastation by catching the lead carriage on the graceful arc of its mammoth tail. This amazing incident happened at a metro station when the train’s brakes failed and it overran the track. It would have crashed ten metres to the ground, but was stopped by one of two whale tail sculptures at the end of the track. The driver of the train was able to escape, and there were no other passengers aboard. The sculpture was created in 2002, and it is made out of strong plastic. Its designer, Maarten Struijs, was surprised that it could hold a moving train, and said that he was impressed by how artistic the train looked on his creation. The final irony is that the artwork’s official name is “Saved by the Whale’s Tail”. It seems that fate has a sense of humour!

Young and old live together in harmony

The port city of Helsingborg in southern Sweden is the site of a radical experiment in multigenerational living in. Its name is “Sällbo” which blends the Swedish words for companionship (sällskap) and living (bo). The name speaks to the project’s goals – to cure loneliness and promote social cohesion through productive interaction.The project sought to solve two problems at once. Their research showed that elderly people were feeling isolated from society. At the same time, the 2015 refugee crisis had brought in many immigrants who were struggling to integrate with Swedish society.

Sällbo was created for Swedish retirees to live together with young people - both Swedes and refugees. More than half of the residents are over 70, and the rest are aged 18-25. There are 51 apartments spread over four floors of a refurbished retirement home. Activity areas include a gym, yoga room, library, arts & crafts studio, and a large communal kitchen on every floor.

Residents of all ages praise the project: A retiree says, “It’s a real community and the mix of people works well.” A young Afghan refugee adds, “In my old apartment I didn’t know any of the neighbours. But here I know everyone, and it feels like home.” The director of Sällbo reflects on its aims: “We hope that people see that youngsters from other countries are not to be feared, and that you can have wonderful relationships between the young and the elderly. We want this to spread to society in general.”

Ecological waste treatment on Ibiza

Driving towards Cala Llonga from Santa Eulalia you can see large structures on the distant hills. This is the new recycling plant at Ca na Putxa – the place where all of Ibiza’s rubbish is sent. The new plant began full operation in January 2021, and its mission is threefold: 1) to reduce the volume of garbage that is deposited in the landfill by 50%; 2) to keep the landfill free of biowaste (food and other plant-based rubbish); 3) turn the biowaste into bio-fuel that produces clean electricity. This operation will extend the life of the landfill for many years because all of the space that would have been used to dump biowaste will be available for other rubbish.  

The main feature is a state-of-the-art triage plant that separates what can be used for bio-fuel from what must go to the landfill. Processing the biowaste produces up to three megawatts of electricity, which is enough to run all of the plant’s equipment plus a large surplus that is put back into the grid. In addition, 3,000 solar panels on the roof of the plant generate another 1.5 megawatts for the grid. There is also a process to convert sewage sludge (a by-product of the fuel production) into high-quality agricultural compost (1,500 tons per year) and stabilized organic material for agricultural uses (20,000 tons).

More recess is better for education

The Eagle Mountain Elementary school in Forth Worth, Texas (US) has tripled recess time by giving children four 15 minute breaks per day, and the results have proven to be very positive. There were initial worries from the teachers about losing classroom time, and thus not being able to cover all the material they needed to in the time left. However, they have found that the kids are actually learning more because they are better able to pay attention in class without fidgeting. In addition, the children follow directions better, attempt to learn more independently and have fewer disciplinary issues.

And it is not only the teachers who are seeing good results. Many of the parents say they have noticed their children being more independent and creative at home. The extra recess time seems to have helped their kids socially, as they are able to make friends more easily. These results make sense when taken in the context of studies which have supported the idea that unstructured play time is a necessary component of a child’s development. Giving them regular breaks that allow them to exercise and blow off steam is good for their minds as well as their bodies. School children have a lot to learn in a short amount of time, but it seems that giving up class time for regular, short recess breaks is an exchange that is well worth it.

Laundry truck for the homeless

Laundry Truck LA is a mobile laundry service for homeless people in Los Angeles (US). It was founded by Jodie Dolan who was a volunteer at the Shower of Hope charity that offers free mobile showers. Jodie was inspired to take action after seeing homeless people benefitting from this mobile shower service, only to have to put their dirty clothes back on their clean bodies. Today Laundry Truck LA and Shower of Hope operate side by side, giving homeless people the opportunity to take a shower and then change into warm, clean clothes. But Laundry Truck LA provides more than just clean clothes. They have organized weekly gatherings where numerous other service providers offer food, haircuts and clothing to the homeless. These events are a great way for these people who have been left behind by society to feel a sense of normality by giving them a place to socialise, network, and experience a real sense of community.

Bon Jovi’s ‘Soul Kitchens’

World famous rock star Jon Bon Jovi is making a new name for himself by opening special restaurants that care for people in need. He already has three ‘Soul Kitchens’ in New Jersey (US), and has plans to keep opening more of them. These restaurants give customers the option to either pay for their food, or volunteer to work in the kitchen if they do not have money. Bon Jovi’s aim is to help people who are facing economic despair. “It is obviously not the same as performing on stage, but after a long night of volunteering at the restaurant I feel a similar sense of fulfilment. It feels good to do good for others.”

Drones that plant trees

The Toronto based tech company, Flash Forest, is aiming to plant one billion trees by 2028 in the first drone project of its kind in Canada. Using pre-germinated seed pods, the aerial drones are capable of planting trees at a quarter of the cost of typical planting methods and ten times faster than human planters. Flash Forest uses eight different species of trees in order to diversify the ecosystems of the areas in which they plant. The overall goal is to have a significant and measurable impact on mitigating climate change, while also combating deforestation and biodiversity loss on a global scale. Planting began in April 2020, and will accelerate each year.

Music brings back memory

Music has always been an important part of human culture, and new research is uncovering the reasons why it has such a profound impact on our brains and bodies. These studies show that music produces many beneficial effects including reduced stress, lower blood pressure and boosting the immune system. But perhaps its greatest medical use will be in the treatment of dementia.

We have all had the experience of certain songs bringing back memories from the past, and these musical recollections often remain intact for people with dementia. Many Alzheimer’s patients can sing the lyrics of old songs from their past - even if they cannot remember the names of their own children. This finding is backed up by imaging studies which show that these songs activate areas of the brain that remain strong even in the later stages of the disease.

Music-based treatments for people with cognitive decline is a growing field. Nicc Johnson, who grew up here in Ibiza, is on the leading edge of this with a music service called Muru Music Health. His technology analyzes music in the same way the human brain does. It quickly identifies which songs are most likely to maximise the benefits of stimulation for the user based on their age, language, place of birth and much more. These songs are placed into playlists which are easy to access from any device and can be set up remotely for people with advanced cognitive decline. Nicc launched Muru Music Health in Australia at the end of 2020 and will be bringing it to the UK and then the rest of the world in 2021. www.murumusichealth.com

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