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Environments, Volume 9, Issue 1 (January 2022) – 11 articles

Cover Story (view full-size image): The conservation of earth resources and reduction of waste and its harmfulness from extractive industries can be carried out using waste in the production of building materials. Phosphogypsum has huge potential to become an effective secondary raw material. To reduce the prejudice of using such materials, a step-by-step action plan must be implemented, including gradual waste incorporation in existing production, performance research, and calculation of environmental benefits. An effective approach to phosphogypsum use was offered, and its environmental benefits calculated. View this paper.
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Review
Potentially Toxic Elements’ Contamination of Soils Affected by Mining Activities in the Portuguese Sector of the Iberian Pyrite Belt and Optional Remediation Actions: A Review
Environments 2022, 9(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010011 - 12 Jan 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1139
Abstract
Both sectors of the Iberian Pyrite Belt, Portuguese and Spanish, have been exploited since ancient times, but more intensively during and after the second half of the 19th century. Large volumes of polymetallic sulfide ore were extracted in open pits or in underground [...] Read more.
Both sectors of the Iberian Pyrite Belt, Portuguese and Spanish, have been exploited since ancient times, but more intensively during and after the second half of the 19th century. Large volumes of polymetallic sulfide ore were extracted in open pits or in underground works, processed without environmental concerns, and the generated waste rocks and tailings were simply deposited in the area. Many of these mining sites were abandoned for years under the action of erosive agents, leading to the spread of trace elements and the contamination of soils, waters and sediments. Some of these mine sites have been submitted to rehabilitation actions, mostly using constructive techniques to dig and contain the contaminated tailings and other waste materials, but the remaining soil still needs to be treated with the best available techniques to recover its ecosystem functions. Besides the degraded physical structure and poor nutritional status of these soils, they have common characteristics, as a consequence of the pyrite oxidation and acid drainage produced, such as a high concentration of trace elements and low pH, which must be considered in the remediation plans. This manuscript aims to review the results from studies which have already covered these topics in the Iberian Pyrite Belt, especially in its Portuguese sector, considering: (i) soils’ physicochemical characteristics; (ii) potentially toxic trace elements’ concentration; and (iii) sustainable remediation technologies to cope with this type of soil contamination. Phytostabilization, after the amelioration of the soil’s properties with organic and inorganic amendments, was investigated at the lab and field scale by several authors, and their results were also considered. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Pollution Assessment and Sustainable Remediation Strategies)
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Article
Tin and Antimony as Soil Pollutants along Railway Lines—A Case Study from North-Western Croatia
Environments 2022, 9(1), 10; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010010 - 08 Jan 2022
Viewed by 757
Abstract
The aim of this study was to determine the extent and patterns of antimony and tin contamination in soils along railway lines, as there are very few data in the literature on this subject. The study was conducted in north-western Croatia. Total and [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to determine the extent and patterns of antimony and tin contamination in soils along railway lines, as there are very few data in the literature on this subject. The study was conducted in north-western Croatia. Total and bioavailable concentrations of Sn and Sb were detected using high resolution inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (HR-ICP-MS). The following results were obtained: total concentrations of Sb ranged from 0.98 to 52.0 mg/kg and of Sn from 3.04 mg/kg to 97.6 mg/kg. The soil samples showed pronounced Sb and Sn enrichment, up to 87 and 33 times the median value for European soils, respectively. In contrast to the total concentrations, the bioavailable concentrations showed relatively low values. For Sn, the percentage of total content ranged from 0.001 to 0.021%, while for Sb it ranged from 0.001 to 0.136%. Statistical data analysis suggests that the distribution of Sb and Sn in soils near railway lines is influenced by the functional use of the site, distance from the tracks, topography, age of the railway line, and also by soil properties such as soil texture, humus content, and soil pH. This study demonstrates that rail transport is a source of soil pollution with Sn and Sb. The origin of Sb and Sn enrichment is abrasion by brakes, rails, wheels, freight losses, exhaust gasses, etc. Both elements in soils along railway lines pose an environmental risk to humans, agricultural production, and wildlife, and therefore further detailed studies are required. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2021)
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Perspective
Two Birds with One Stone: Bioplastics and Food Waste Anaerobic Co-Digestion
Environments 2022, 9(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010009 - 07 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1145
Abstract
Following the BBC’s Blue Planet II nature documentary series on marine ecosystems, plastic packaging has come under public fire, with consumers demanding greener alternatives. The biodegradable properties of some bioplastics have offered a potential solution to the global challenge of plastic pollution, while [...] Read more.
Following the BBC’s Blue Planet II nature documentary series on marine ecosystems, plastic packaging has come under public fire, with consumers demanding greener alternatives. The biodegradable properties of some bioplastics have offered a potential solution to the global challenge of plastic pollution, while enabling the capture of food waste through anaerobic digestion as a circular and energy-positive waste treatment strategy. However, despite their increasing popularity, currently bioplastics are being tested in environments that do not reflect real-life waste management scenarios. Bioplastics find their most useful, meaningful and environmentally-sound application in food packaging—why is there so little interest in addressing their anaerobic co-digestion with food waste? Here, we provide a set of recommendations to ensure future studies on bioplastic end-of-life are fit for purpose. This perspective makes the link between the environmental sustainability of bioplastics and the role of food waste anaerobic digestion as we move towards an integrated food–energy–water–waste nexus. It shines light on a novel outlook in the field of bioplastic waste management while uncovering the complexity of a successful path forward. Ultimately, this research strives to ensure that the promotion of bioplastics within a circular economy framework is supported across waste collection and treatment stages. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2021)
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Article
Bond to Bar Reinforcement of PET-Modified Concrete Containing Natural or Recycled Coarse Aggregates
Environments 2022, 9(1), 8; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010008 - 06 Jan 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 769
Abstract
The use of post-consumer plastics in concrete production is an ideal alternative to dispose of such wastes while reducing the environmental impacts in terms of pollution and consumption of natural resources and energy. This paper investigates different approaches (i.e., reducing water-to-cement ratio and [...] Read more.
The use of post-consumer plastics in concrete production is an ideal alternative to dispose of such wastes while reducing the environmental impacts in terms of pollution and consumption of natural resources and energy. This paper investigates different approaches (i.e., reducing water-to-cement ratio and incorporating steel fibers or polymeric latexes) that compensate for the detrimental effect of waste plastics on the drop in concrete mechanical properties including the bond to embedded steel bars. The polyethylene terephthalate (PET) wastes used in this study were derived from plastic bottles that were shredded into small pieces and added during concrete batching at 1.5% to 4.5%, by total volume. Test results showed that the concrete properties are degraded with PET additions, given their lightweight nature and poor characteristic strength compared to aggregate particles. The threshold PET volumetric rates are 4.5% and 3% for concrete made using natural or recycled aggregates, respectively. The reduction of w/c from 0.55 to 0.46 proved efficient to refine the matrix porosity and reinstate the concrete performance. The incorporation of 0.8% steel fibers (by volume) or 15% polymers (by mixing water) were appropriate to enhance the bridging phenomena and reduce the propagation of cracks during the pullout loading of steel bars. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2021)
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Article
Environmental Policy for the Restriction on the Use of Plastic Products in Taiwan: Regulatory Measures, Implementation Status and COVID-19’s Impacts on Plastic Products Recycling
Environments 2022, 9(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010007 - 04 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 812
Abstract
In response to international trends regarding the reduction in plastic waste (or plastic pollution), this work used the official statistics that were recently released, focusing on regulatory actions restricting the use of plastic products and/or the increase in recycling in Taiwan. In addition, [...] Read more.
In response to international trends regarding the reduction in plastic waste (or plastic pollution), this work used the official statistics that were recently released, focusing on regulatory actions restricting the use of plastic products and/or the increase in recycling in Taiwan. In addition, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on plastic waste generation and plastic products’ recycling were also addressed in the present study. The results showed that the plastic compositions in the garbage slightly increased in recent years, suggesting that the effect of restrictions on the use of plastic products in Taiwan was not significant, even though the regulatory measures have been implemented since 2002. However, chlorine contents in the garbage were significantly increased in 2020. The increase could be attributed to the fact that kitchen waste (containing salt), household waste containing disinfectant (e.g., chlorine dioxide, sodium hypochlorite) or PVC-made products were generated more during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, the data also indicated that the monthly quantities of recycled plastic containers and other plastic products had no significant change since January 2020, especially in the outbreak period from May 2021 to July 2021. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2021)
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Article
Environmental Benefit of Alternative Binders in Construction Industry: Life Cycle Assessment
Environments 2022, 9(1), 6; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010006 - 04 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 783
Abstract
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with Portland cement (PC) production is ranked as the highest among the construction materials and it is estimated that 8% of the worlds CO2 discharges is due to PC production. As an average, the production [...] Read more.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with Portland cement (PC) production is ranked as the highest among the construction materials and it is estimated that 8% of the worlds CO2 discharges is due to PC production. As an average, the production of PC clinker including calcination process generates 0.81 kg of carbon dioxide per one kg of cement. Hence, new approaches which limit the negative environmental impacts of cement production and are aimed at the development of advanced methodologies are introduced. Implementation of lower energy consumption materials in production, which could moderately substitute PC in binders, can be addressed as one of the probable methods in mitigating environmental risks. Therefore, alternative binders fit into the most promising solutions. Present research investigates the environmental impact of the building sector, if an alternative to PC binder is used. Life cycle assessment (LCA) was used in this research to assess the environmental impact of the alternative ternary gypsum-PC-pozzolan binder in the production of mortar, and the environmental benefits were calculated and compared to traditional cement-based building materials. Phosphogypsum was considered as a secondary raw material, as in the current approach it is collected in open stacks bringing environmental concerns. SimaPro LCA software with the Ecoinvent database was used for most of the calculation processes. Results indicate that with alternative binders up to 30% of energy can be saved and 57 wt.% of CO2 emissions can be reduced, bringing positive impact on the construction industries contribution to the environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2021)
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Article
Parks and Recreational Areas as Sinks of Plastic Debris in Urban Sites: The Case of Light-Density Microplastics in the City of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Environments 2022, 9(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010005 - 30 Dec 2021
Viewed by 939
Abstract
Soils of parks and recreational areas are potential sinks of microplastics because they are under multifunctional use. The aims of this research were to quantify and determine the types and abundance of light-density microplastics in one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the [...] Read more.
Soils of parks and recreational areas are potential sinks of microplastics because they are under multifunctional use. The aims of this research were to quantify and determine the types and abundance of light-density microplastics in one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world: Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Therefore, potential differences between the city districts were explored through the assessment of light-density microplastics’ concentrations in soils together with the soil properties. Microplastics were extracted from 74 soil samples. Predictions of microplastic concentrations and soil characteristics were made for the entire city by using ordinary kriging; 97% of the samples contained microplastic particles (MPPs), and on average, there were 4825.31 ± 6513.85 MPP/kg soil. A total of 21 hotspot samples were identified, and all of them contained LDPE, which represented 40.82% of the plastic types, in addition to 35.06% PAC and 15.58% natural polyamide. Other types of plastics were PP (0.19%), PS (1.30%), bioplastic (0.19%), PA (0.37%), PU (0.56), PVC (0.19%), and unidentified plastics (0.19%). There were no significant differences in MPP concentration between city districts. Our results showed that MPPs are abundant in urban soils, which represents a high risk for soil life. Further studies are required for identifying the sources of this pollution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plastic Contamination: Challenges and Solutions)
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Article
On the Road to Sustainable Water Supply: Reducing Public Health Risks and Preserving Surface Water Resources in the Milluni Micro-Basin, Bolivia
Environments 2022, 9(1), 4; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010004 - 24 Dec 2021
Viewed by 1109
Abstract
Bolivia is among the countries with the highest availability of freshwater globally. However, many of its natural sources are impacted by anthropogenic activities, such as mining. Water is intimately linked to public health and is essential to achieving sustainable development. It is necessary [...] Read more.
Bolivia is among the countries with the highest availability of freshwater globally. However, many of its natural sources are impacted by anthropogenic activities, such as mining. Water is intimately linked to public health and is essential to achieving sustainable development. It is necessary to preserve water resources by designing and validating monitoring programs that help control the quality of the sources that supply important population centers. The study area in this research is the upper part of the Milluni micro-basin, whose lagoon system supplies water for two large cities. Milluni is close to illegal and abandoned mining areas, making the region highly vulnerable to heavy metal contamination. This study aimed to optimize the resources available for monitoring Milluni. The frequency of monitoring was statistically determined, and the correlation between parameters measured in situ (pH and conductivity) and metal ion concentrations to determine low-cost indicators to monitor the presence of heavy metals. A multivariate analysis of friction of the results of the pilot year of the monitoring program designed for Milluni, considering the characteristics and economic limitations, is presented. An approximation of the quality of the surface water resources of Milluni is presented as a result of the monitoring operations. Full article
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Article
A New Testing Facility to Investigate the Removal Processes of Indoor Air Contaminants with Different Cleaning Technologies and to Better Assess and Exploit Their Performances
Environments 2022, 9(1), 3; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010003 - 24 Dec 2021
Viewed by 1006
Abstract
Residential air cleaners exploiting different technologies re commonly used today to remove air contaminants from indoor environments. Different methods have been developed in the USA and Europe to test their efficiency. The one used in the USA provides a more comprehensive view of [...] Read more.
Residential air cleaners exploiting different technologies re commonly used today to remove air contaminants from indoor environments. Different methods have been developed in the USA and Europe to test their efficiency. The one used in the USA provides a more comprehensive view of indoor processes, because testing is performed in a large simulation chamber (28.5 m3), using anthropogenic emissions, such as cigarette smoke, to generate pollution. Testing rooms are also important to investigate new removal technologies, or to improve them. Since no such testing facilities exist in Italy, one of 12.4 m3 was built in which cigarette smoke, resuspended dust from agricultural soil and, for the first time, diesel exhaust emissions were used to generate indoor pollution. Performances were tested with two air cleaning systems, exploiting completely different removal technologies. Accurate values of decay rates of indoor pollutants were obtained using a suite of on-line and out-of-line monitors for the measurement of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and some inorganic gases. Proton-transfer mass spectrometry (PTR-MS) provided an almost real-time detection of several VOCs and H2S, at trace levels (0.01 ppbv). A method using a common in vitro bioassay was developed to assess the ability of air cleaners to remove indoor toxic substances. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Indoor Air Quality and Health Risks)
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Article
Evolution of Flood Defense Strategies: Toward Nature-Based Solutions
Environments 2022, 9(1), 2; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010002 - 23 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1212
Abstract
Flood defense strategies have evolved from hard-engineered systems to nature-based solutions that advocate for sustainability to meet today’s environmental, social, and economic goals. This paper aims to analyze the historical progression and evolutionary trends in flood control strategies that have led to nature-based [...] Read more.
Flood defense strategies have evolved from hard-engineered systems to nature-based solutions that advocate for sustainability to meet today’s environmental, social, and economic goals. This paper aims to analyze the historical progression and evolutionary trends in flood control strategies that have led to nature-based solutions. An evaluative literature review was conducted to narrate the evolution of nature-based flood management approaches for different flood types, river floods, coastal floods, and stormwater run-offs. The analysis reflected three evolutionary trends: the transformation of hard measures to soft measures; secondly, the increase in society’s attention to ecosystems and their services; and, finally, divergence from single-function solutions to multi-function solutions. However, continuous monitoring and evaluation of the previous projects and adapting to the lessons learned are the key to progress towards sustainable flood management strategies and their societal acceptance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Feature Papers in Environments in 2021)
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Article
Bioremediation Capacity of Edaphic Cyanobacteria Nostoc linckia for Chromium in Association with Other Heavy-Metals-Contaminated Soils
Environments 2022, 9(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments9010001 - 23 Dec 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 935
Abstract
Anthropogenic activity is the main factor contributing to soil pollution with various toxic metals, including Cr(VI), which dictates the need for decontamination. Often, the traditionally used remediation methods (soil removal, stabilization/solidification, physicochemical extraction, and soil washing) are not sufficiently efficient. Among gentle soil [...] Read more.
Anthropogenic activity is the main factor contributing to soil pollution with various toxic metals, including Cr(VI), which dictates the need for decontamination. Often, the traditionally used remediation methods (soil removal, stabilization/solidification, physicochemical extraction, and soil washing) are not sufficiently efficient. Among gentle soil remediation, options can be considered. The aim of this study is to assess the ability of Nostoc linckia to remediate soils contaminated with Cr(VI) in association with other metals. Metal uptake by biomass was assessed using neutron activation analysis, while the components of Nostoc biomass were determined using specific methods. The capacity to accumulate chromium from the contaminated environment (Cr in association with Fe, Ni, Cu, and Zn) by the Nostoc linckia is kept at a high level for three generations of cyanobacterium, and the capacity to accumulate Fe, Ni, Cu, and Zn is growing over the cultivation cycles. The process of accumulation of heavy metals is associated with significant changes in the biochemical composition of Nostoc biomass. Due to the high bioaccumulation capacity and the specific growth mode with the formation of crusts on the soil surface, the edaphic cyanobacteria Nostoc linckia is an important candidate for the bioremediation of soil contaminated with chromium in association with other metals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Soil Pollution Assessment and Sustainable Remediation Strategies)
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