COP26: Climate Activism leads to Climate Inaction

COP stands for Conference of the Parties. Attendees consist of countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  The 2021 meeting will be the 26th meeting, hence the name COP26. Over 100 world leaders attended COP26, but there were notable exceptions. Namely, Russia and China were absent. I think their absence was due to the goals of the event. The article, “Countries pledge to quit coal — but the U.S., China and India are missing,” pretty much sums up the failures of COP26. We are not any closer to a more sustainable future in regard to the climate if the biggest polluters don’t commit to limit emissions. And I believe this is inaction is caused by unrealistic expectations being set by climate activists.

According to the article, coal fuels more than a third of the energy consumed world wide and is the single biggest contributor to climate change. Reducing reliance on coal would have a significant impact on reducing new CO2 emissions. During COP26, 28 countries joined an alliance to phase out coal. Notably including Poland and Germany, Europe’s biggest consumers of coal. However, the world’s biggest burners of coal, the U.S., China, and India did not join. Several government officials have been quoted saying that these commitments mark the beginning of the end for coal. However, I do not think the timeline, all coal eliminated by 2030, is reasonable. Poland gets nearly 50% of its electricity from burning coal. There are not clean energy sources Poland can transition to that will replace coal by 2030. And in the case of Germany, the only realistic clean energy source they could transition to, nuclear power, is being eradicated. They plan to shut down all their nuclear power plants by 2022. They will instead transition to natural gas, not clean energy. The new Nord-stream 2 pipeline between Germany and Russia will help meat the demand for natural gas.

Vietnam also joined the alliance to phase out coal, but they seem to be doing the opposite. Data from 2019 shows the ratio of energy consumption from coal increasing in Vietnam.

Developing economies like Vietnam’s have increasing energy demands that cannot be met with renewables. If Vietnam was really going to transition away from coal by 2030, they would need to somehow replace all the electricity generated by coal with renewables, and continue to improve renewables to meet new electricity demand. Considering how minimal the current share of energy being consumed from renewable sources other than hydropower is, I doubt Vietnam is going to phase out coal by 2030.

Despite the climate activism and pledges from world leaders at COP26, it seems fossil fuels will still remain the primary method for electricity production, especially in developing economies. The U.S., China, and India did not join the alliance because they realistically couldn’t. And the actions of countries that did join, such as Germany and Vietnam, show a need for fossil fuels as an energy source.



While scrolling through images of plastic litter being turned into art, I came across this sculpture. I immediately clicked on it and began to read about it. I was drawn to the brightness of it and was curious about what materials it was made of. The sculpture was created by Von Wong and Joshua Got and is named “Plastikophobia”. The name comes from the fear the artist’s felt while creating this sculpture. The sculpture is made from over 18,000 single use plastic cups. With the help of  around three dozen volunteers, the cups were collected from local food centers across Singapore. The collection process took about roughly a day and half. The cups were then cleaned off and  assembled to form a shiny crystal cave. They installed fairy lights throughout the cups to finish it off. The sculpture itself took around seven days to complete.

The picture above shows Max Pagel, one of the volunteers, dressed up as a scuba diver posing in the sculpture. The picture below shows contemporary dancer Jialin Neo posing  in the sculpture.  The sculpture is currently on display in the Sustainable Singapore galleries in the Marina Barrage.

The beauty of the sculpture attracts tourists to come take pictures with it while also spreading awareness on the dangers of single use plastic cups. The goal of the sculpture was to show how the plastic we consume on land can end eventually end up in the ocean. It’s crazy to think that all of the cups used in the sculpture were gathered in a day and a half, strictly from local food centers in Singapore. There needs to be more sustainable or reusable options. The term “Plastikophobia”, created by Von Wong,  has already started to gain popularity and is being used by local artists and photographers to start the conversation around the problem with plastics.

Making Art with Plastic Waste


Life Cycle Of Bubble

The life cycle of plastic products is rarely talked about, or even shown by the product manufacturer. We have begun to rely on our own research to see where our own products come from and eventually end up. In the shower, I began thinking of which product I could track the life cycle of. I happen to also run out of shampoo and threw the bottle in the trash. Basically, I am going to be tracking the life cycle of this shampoo bottle.

Many shampoo and soap bottles on a bathroom shelf. stock photo

The beginning of its story starts by acquiring the raw materials that are needed to make a shampoo bottle. The type of plastic that makes up shampoo bottles is low-density Polyethylene, a heavy, durable, and sometimes recyclable plastic. In order to make this polyethylene, plastic goes through a manufacturing process which is made up of a range of organic polymers including polyethylene and ethylene, thus making a low-density polyethylene for a home for our shampoo. The bottle itself is made of small beads of plastic that get melted down into a mold that forms the shape of our bottle as it cools down. a 500ml shampoo bottle costs about 2 cents to make and 2.5 cents for a 1-liter bottle.

Production line for juice bottling Bottling factory - Apple juice bottling line for processing and bottling juice into bottles. Selective focus. plastic factory stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

The bottle is then slapped with a sticker and is shipped to a location around the world in order to be sold. The process of shipping from the factory to the store usually takes around 1-2 days. Over 548 million units of shampoo were sold in the United States in one year.

Although these products can be reused, the majority of these bottles get thrown away. From the trash can, it is transported to a trash facility. Here, trash and dirt are removed and the plastic is washed, the plastic is then grounded into small plastic pellets. In a perfect world, these microplastics would be able to be used as new products or packaging. Around 550 million empty shampoo bottles are thrown away each year. However, in reality, a huge amount of these plastic parts end up in a landfill or in the ocean, breaking down our environment one shampoo bottle at a time.

One way to reduce this plastic waste is to make a change from shampoo bottles to shampoo bars. Shampoo bars are similar to your average dove soap bar, however, it is shampoo. It completely gets rid of the wasteful plastic.

Shampoo Bars

White soap bar and foam White soap bar and foam on white background in morning light soap bar stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images

Time to Ban the Bags

 In my opinion plastic pollution is 100% not talked about enough. All over the world we are using tons of plastic and it’s just a waste and we are worsening our environment by the second.There aren’t enough news articles that are making the front page and spreading awareness today and we need to start to spread the word before it’s too late. Since Covid hit so many people have had time to sit at home and realize a bit more about what’s going on around them but that still isn’t enough. Now here’s one thing that is happening across the water I just read about that is going to benefit our environment over the next year and I’m really happy to read about it. Over in France starting in January they are planning to ban plastic packaging from fruits and vegetables. Below is a picture of the unnecessary plastics that are used to help keep fruit fresh. But we need to start finding better alternatives for this. 

Even though this isn’t happening in our country this may boost other countries to start to do the same. The government says that it “ expects to prevent the use of more than 1 billion plastic packages a year” Which our environment is excited to hear about. They have about 30 fruits and vegetables that have been administered to have a plastic packaging band for them. leeks, courgettes, aubergines, peppers, cucumbers, potatoes and carrots, large tomatoes, onions and turnips, cabbage, cauliflower, squash, parsnips, radishes, and root vegetables, the ministry said in a statement. And that it’s just the start. Hopefully over the next coming years they will start to add more items from sale in plastic. I love that France has started to make their mark on plastic pollution and try to limit plastic waste as much as they can. I hope other countries see this big step that they took and start to take action from this as well. We need to start focusing more on how we treat our earth and stop being so lazy. When you were first introduced to plastic we thought it would help benefit us because we didn’t always have to clean the dishes and it makes carrying things from the grocery store easier. But now we have gotten too lazy with it and we are using plastic in dumb ways where we dont need it. We see it everywhere. We sit in the grocery store and restaurants in our homes. We even basically put it into our systems by digesting micro plastics. None of this is hoping for us in a healthy way and it’s not helping my environment either. People need to start making their small changes and deleting plastic in their life could help to make their environment healthier in so many ways. And for that fact governors and ministers need to start taking action so that the plastic that builds up in our grocery stores and restaurants doesn’t keep hurting the consumers and the planet around us. I hope this change in France starts a movement so that the next generation doesn’t have to worry about the damages we made and just left for them to clean up.

The Plastic Lining of Waste

It is well known, plastic does not belong in our lakes, rivers, and especially our oceans.  A place of no return for plastic and other waste that enters the forbidden seas.  What if there was something we could do to utilize that plastic already in the ocean to clean up more plastic in the ocean.  Well, this is exactly what is happening because of Michael Timko from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts.  Timko and his colleagues have proposed a plan that could decrease the amount of waste in our oceans  by also utilizing the waste to convert into fuel.  A news article from NewsScientist published on November 1st, 2021 gives the details on his great idea.

As much as 12.7 million tons of plastic enter into our oceans annually. This plastic can end up in our stomachs by consuming the seafood that constantly feed off of it, usually mistaking it for their actual food.   Ships to decrease this plastic intoxication must use a lot of fossil fuel in order to make their voyages.   Ships requiring a lot of power use and waste a lot of fossil fuel per year, almost canceling out any good efforts of cleaning up the plastic.  This is where Timko and his colleagues come in.

Timko and his colleagues believe that this plastic already dumped into the ocean can be actively converted to fuel the ships while on the ocean.  This would synonymously power the ships cleaning the plastic in the ocean while reducing the use of limited fossil fuel resources and the litter in the ocean. To convert plastic into fuel while on the ship, a process called hydrothermal liquefaction is used.  The plastic material is broken down into polymers at extremely high temperatures of 1022º Fahrenheit while using extremely high pressure.



Because of the high quantity of plastic in the ocean, these scientists believe that not only this plastic can be collected, processed into fuel as it is being collected, but also stored in excess on the ship.  Although, the process to create fuel from plastic would release carbon emissions due to the burning stage, the amount of emission would still have less of an impact on the environment than using a ship powered by fossil fuel, and returning the plastic to be recycled, further creating more carbon emission.  Timko says, “This is not a silver bullet, but we think it’s an interesting way to add to the technological solutions already out there.”.

Michael Timko focuses his efforts at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts to chemical engineering.  I do not believe he has biases, and is just using his knowledge, time, and resources in the way scientists should start focusing on, on our environment and our one Earth.  The authors intended audience is anyone willing to expand their mind and learn about the new technological options we have or can create to help out plastic problem.



I believe that with the rapid increase of technology, and discovering new technological advancements every day, our society should focus these efforts and energies (no pun intended) on saving our Earth from it’s ultimate devastation.  Instead of looking to advance our space exploration, or social media platforms we should start by doing the bare minimum for saving our Earth, the psychical and only place we live and can exist.