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  1. As the levels of plastic use in global society have increased, it has become crucial to develop statute, regulation, and policy to regulate plastics of all sizes including both microplastics and nanoplastics (MPs/NPs). In this paper, the published literature on the current laws passed by Congress and regulations developed by various federal agencies such as the EPA and the FDA in the USA that could be used to regulate MP and NPs have been reviewed and analyzed. Specifically, statutes such as CWA, SDWA, TSCA, RCRA and the CAA can all be used to address plastic pollution. However, these statutes have not been invoked for MP and NP waste in water or air. The FFDCA provides guidance on how the FDA should evaluate plastics use in food, food packaging, cosmetics, drug packaging, and medical devices. Currently, the FDA has recommended that acceptable levels of ingestible contaminate from recycled plastic is less than 1.5 µg /person/day which is 476,000 times less than the possible ingested daily dose. Plastic regulation is also present at the state level. Local states have banned plastic bags, and several cities have banned plastic straws. California is the only state to begin to focus on monitoring MPs inmore »drinking water. The future of MP regulation in the USA should use TSCA to test for the safety of plastics. The other statutes simply need to include MPs in their definitions. In terms of the FDA, MPs should be redefined as contaminants—allowing tolerances for MPs to begin to be set for MPs in food and beverages. Through minor changes of how MPs are classified, it is possible to begin to use the current statutes to understand and begin to minimize the possible effects of MPs on human health and the environment.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 29, 2023
  2. Construction-related ground-disturbing activities leave exposed land susceptible to soil loss and increase the risk of polluting adjacent waterbodies with sediment-laden discharge. State and federal regulations require stormwater pollution prevention plans to be implemented during construction to mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff. Areas prone to soil loss can be identified early in site planning using soil loss modeling. Identification of these critical areas could influence the design and placement of erosion and sediment control practices. The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) can be applied to estimate the soil loss on construction sites in tonnes per Ha per year (tons/acre/year) by considering factors of rainfall erosivity, soil erodibility, length of slope, erosion control, and sediment control. This study integrates geographic information system (GIS) with RUSLE to create soil loss models for residential, commercial, and highway construction scenarios in the contiguous U.S.A. These three construction types were modeled in various locations throughout the country to assess erosive risk. Soil loss outputs were categorized into five risk tiers ranging from very low to very high. Southeastern states had the highest estimated soil loss during residential, commercial, and highway construction, reaching rates of 1,464, 706, and 1,302 tonnes per Ha per year (653, 315,more »and 581 tons/acre/year), respectively. This study provides a customizable model for any site-specific slope-length factor outside of the three construction scenarios modeled. Integration of GIS provides a unique opportunity to apply RUSLE across a larger landscape. The presented macro-scale data can be used for the design of erosion and sediment control practices.« less
  3. Wicked problems are inherent in food–energy–water systems (FEWS) due to the complexity and interconnectedness of these systems, and addressing these challenges necessitates the involvement of the diverse stakeholders in FEWS. However, successful stakeholder engagement requires a strong understanding of the relationships between stakeholders and the specific wicked problem. To better account for these relationships, we adapted a means, motive, and opportunity (MMO) framework to develop a method of stakeholder analysis that evaluates the agency of stakeholders related to a wicked problem in FEWS. This method involves two key components: (1) identification of a challenge at the FEWS nexus and (2) evaluation of stakeholder agency related to the challenge using the dimensions of MMO. This approach provides a method for understanding the characteristics of stakeholders in FEWS and provides information that could be used to inform stakeholder engagement in efforts to address wicked problems at the FEWS nexus. In this article, we present the stakeholder analysis method and describe an example application of the MMO method by examining stakeholder agency related to the adoption of improved swine waste management technology in North Carolina, USA.
  4. Although vegetables are important for healthy diets, there are concerns about the sustainability of food systems that provide them. For example, half of fresh-market vegetables sold in the United States (US) are produced in California, leading to negative impacts associated with transportation. In Iowa, the focus of this study, 90% of food is imported from outside the state. Previous life cycle assessment (LCA) studies indicate that food consumption patterns affect global warming potential (GWP), with animal products having more negative impacts than vegetables. However, studies focused on how GWP, energy, and water use vary between food systems and vegetable types are less common. The purpose of this study was to examine these environmental impacts to inform decisions to buy locally or grow vegetables in the Midwest. We used a life cycle approach to examine three food systems (large-, mid-, and small-scale) and 18 vegetables commonly grown in/near Des Moines, Iowa. We found differences in GWP, energy, and water use (p ≤ 0.001 for each) for the three food systems with the large-scale scenario producing more emissions. There were also differences among vegetables, with the highest GWP for romaine lettuce (1.92 CO2eq/kg vegetable) approximately three times that of leaf lettuce (0.65more »CO2eq/kg vegetable) at the large scale. Hotspots and tradeoffs between GWP, energy, and water use were also identified and could inform vegetable production/consumption based on carbon and water use footprints for the US Midwest.« less
  5. With over 65% of agronomic crops under no-till in Pennsylvania, herbicides are relied on for weed management. To lessen the environmental impact and selection pressure for herbicide resistance, we conducted a nine-year experiment to test herbicide reduction practices in a dairy crop rotation at Rock Springs, PA. The rotation included soybean (Glycine max L.) – corn (Zea mays L.) - 3-year alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) - canola (Brassica napus L.). The following practices were used to reduce herbicide inputs: i. banding residual herbicides over corn and soybean rows and using high-residue inter-row cultivation; ii. seeding a small grain companion crop with alfalfa; iii. plowing once in six years to terminate the perennial forage. These practices were compared with standard herbicide-based weed management (SH) in continuous no-till. We hypothesized: i. There would be more weed biomass in the reduced herbicide treatment (RH), ii. leading to more weeds in RH over time, but iii. the added weed pressure would not affect yield iv. or differences in net return. We sampled weed biomass in soybean, corn, and the first two forage years. In corn and soybean, weed biomass was often greater in RH than SH and increased over the years in the RHmore »treatments. In the forage, weed biomass did not always differ between treatments. Yield and differences in net return were similar in most crops and years. Results suggest that weed management with reduced herbicide inputs supplemented with an integrated approach can be effective but may lead to more weeds over time.« less
  6. Most people in the world live in urban areas, and their high population densities, heavy reliance on external sources of food, energy, and water, and disproportionately large waste production result in severe and cumulative negative environmental effects. Integrated study of urban areas requires a system-of-systems analytical framework that includes modeling with social and biophysical data. We describe preliminary work toward an integrated urban food-energy-water systems (FEWS) analysis using co-simulation for assessment of current and future conditions, with an emphasis on local (urban and urban-adjacent) food production. We create a framework to enable simultaneous analyses of climate dynamics, changes in land cover, built forms, energy use, and environmental outcomes associated with a set of drivers of system change related to policy, crop management, technology, social interaction, and market forces affecting food production. The ultimate goal of our research program is to enhance understanding of the urban FEWS nexus so as to improve system function and management, increase resilience, and enhance sustainability. Our approach involves data-driven co-simulation to enable coupling of disparate food, energy and water simulation models across a range of spatial and temporal scales. When complete, these models will quantify energy use and water quality outcomes for current systems, andmore »determine if undesirable environmental effects are decreased and local food supply is increased with different configurations of socioeconomic and biophysical factors in urban and urban-adjacent areas. The effort emphasizes use of open-source simulation models and expert knowledge to guide modeling for individual and combined systems in the urban FEWS nexus.« less