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Meet Mossy PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Yisbel Marin   
Sunday, 19 December 2010 02:40
Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 January 2011 22:33
The majestic plastic bag PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Mariana Bravo   
Friday, 17 September 2010 19:45

Behold! The life cycle of the majestic plastic bag! Watch as it undergo an epic migration to the great Pacific. Narrated by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons, this "mockumentary" video, hammers home the stark reality of California's plastic bag pollution situation.

Last Updated on Saturday, 30 October 2010 07:35
Water after the toilet... PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Maria Lasprilla   
Thursday, 02 September 2010 09:59

    Have you ever wondered what happens to all the liters of water you flush daily down the toilet? Every day, probably without even being aware of it, you use liters and liters of water to brush your teeth, do the dishes, water the plants, take a shower, do the laundry, cook, and a longer list of other activities. Now, can you imagine a day without this precious resource? Just ONE. I bet you can't. The truth is that billions of people in this world don't have access to this resource to satisfy their BASIC needs. Yet, in cultures like ours* we tend to use water as if it was infinite, but it is not. Because of this, in Ideals Matter we wanted to explore deeper into the world of water after we use it.

    We started our adventure by watching a documentary (Crapshoot: The gamble with our wastes) that showed us the origin of the water systems that we currently use in most of “developed” cities around the world. It was astonishing to discover that these systems were invented in times when needs were different. It seems acceptable to think of these systems as the solution to many of the disease problems caused by dirty water running down the streets of cities when they were created. However, it looks like we didn't think of what the consequences of adopting the same system would have been in a world with billions of people before copying and spreading it all around. We didn't even care for making it better! The result is that (luckily!) we are not seeing the tons and tons of dirt we produce everyday. No. Worse yet: we are eating it! Read further to see how come this happens and what can we all do to help reduce this and other problems caused by flushing things down to our toilets...


Video made by Ave Kris Lend

To continue with the adventure, after all the questions that arouse while watching the documentary, we decided to set one of our trips of the summer to the water treatment plant of Tallinn. The plant, which is located in the Paljassaare peninsula, one of the districts of the Estonian capital, receives the sewage water that once belonged to the lake Ülemiste. This lake, which is located to the southeast of the city, provides its citizens with 90% of the water that is consumed.



Paljassaare Wastewater Treatment Plant


The sewage water then goes through eight stages before it is released into the sea, where it will go back to its natural cycle. These stages involve mechanical, chemical and biological processes. Let’s take a closer look at these stages:



Wastewater being pumped into the plant
to start the treatment process
        1. Removing solid: the first stage, which is one of the mechanical ones, is aimed to remove trash that is visible and floating on the water, like bags, bottles and others of the kind. It can be shocking to see how many things we throw into the water. And that’s only the part that is visible. You probably know the smell of it. Unbearable. Many things can go through your mind while standing on this spot looking at this brownish, black liquid mixture of filth that was once crystal clear water.

        2. Grit removal: in this second stage, also mechanical, smaller solid particles are removed using primary sedimentation basins. This particles, result in a mass called sludge which is extracted for a parallel treatment. This mass deserves us to take a pause and give some further explanation.

Mechanical process where visible solid waste is removed

What is sludge?

It is a scary word. Why? The documentary mentioned above and Wikipedia have helped us a bit with this definition. Sludge is basically a word used to name the undefinable. It is a mixture of solids - stop here for a second and think of all the solid things that go down the kitchen sink after cooking a meal, the ones resulted from doing the laundry, your mouth, the toilet or the industrial processes- and water. When treated, it is then used with agricultural purposes. To put it in simpler words: we eat our own crap...and chemicals...and metals...and much more.

You have an idea now...let’s go on with the next stage:

  1. Removing phosphorus: this is the first chemical stage of the process, in which coagulants are added to the water to extract the phosphorus. This component is a chemical usually found in soap, detergents, shampoos, toothpaste, and other cleaning and cosmetic products.

The problem with phosphorus...

is that it stimulates the growth of algae. And when there’s too much algae, the oxygen of natural bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes and seas, is depleted making it harder for other water creatures to survive. In a water treatment process, even with the wonderful aim of purifying the water we have made dirty, it is impossible to remove 100% of the things we dump into it and this only means we are not only eating our filth, we are leaving some of it into our water, the water we eventually consume again.

  1. Nitrogen removal: For the biological treatment the wastewater is conducted to the aeration tanks where the vital activity of various bacteria helps to remove nitrogen and biologically decomposing substances from the water. To ensure a living environment suitable for the bacteria and to make their work more efficient, air and additional carbon in the form of methanol are injected.

  2. More solid removals: just like in stage number two, the water goes again into sedimentation basis, this time into a secondary phase, where activated sludge is removed. The first sludge (from the second stage) is called primary sludge, which is mainly excrement. The second sludge is a culture of bacteria that is used in previous stages to remove contaminants.

First sedimentation basin. In here the grid removal takes place
    1. Water is returned to the sea: although the process of purifying the water is finished in this stage in which water is pumped back into the sea, the activity in a water treatment plant does not end here.

    2. Sludge treatment: the sludge that was removed in the previous stages is treated in the plant sending it into digesters, where anaerobic bacteria will do a decomposition process. From this stage there are two final by-products: one is a biogas that is then reused in the plant to continue with the cycle, and the other one is the digested sludge. The latter is dried and mixed with peat and is later sold as mass for cultivation.


 Sludge is later dried and mixed with peat
               to be is for cultivation

 Sludge is later dried and mixed with peat
               to be is for cultivation


To finish the story of our adventure we want to remind you that, even if we visited a local water treatment plant, we are sure that what we saw there is probably not very different from what happens in your city, whichever it is. As we mentioned above, the water system we adopted has existed for centuries and has been transferred from one society to another. And although there are probably differences from one another, we believe the reality, and most importantly, the problems that these systems represent, are applicable to all of us.

Because of this, it is important to remember that, even if the whole process is made with the great objective of offering us clean water, we do have to consider the dangerous consequences of polluting our water in the first place. Because of this, we encourage you to become more attentive on the way you use the water at home and pay special attention to the substances you pour in it. We recommend you to dispose them in alternative ways and find products to clean your house and yourself that contain none or the lowest amount of chemicals that’s possible. This way, you will not only avoid polluting the water, but you will also be taking care of yourself by reducing the amount of chemicals your body is exposed to.

*If you have access to this article, published only on the Internet, you can figure out for yourself what we mean by ours.



Last Updated on Saturday, 30 October 2010 06:42
Plastic Debris in our Seas PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Mariana Bravo   
Friday, 06 August 2010 14:00
Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he's drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.
Last Updated on Saturday, 30 October 2010 07:43
The Story of Bottled Water PDF Print Write e-mail
Written by Yisbel Marin   
Saturday, 24 July 2010 03:38

The film explores the bottled water industry attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. The film concludes with a call to take back the tap, not only by making a personal commitment to avoid bottled water, but by supporting investments in clean, available tap water for all.

Please click on the image below to watch the video


Last Updated on Saturday, 30 October 2010 07:43
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