Latest issue

Jun 2024, Volume 18 Issue 6
  • Select all
    Shan-Shan Yang, Wei-Min Wu, Federica Bertocchini, Mark Eric Benbow, Suja P. Devipriya, Hyung Joon Cha, Bo-Yu Peng, Meng-Qi Ding, Lei He, Mei-Xi Li, Chen-Hao Cui, Shao-Nan Shi, Han-Jun Sun, Ji-Wei Pang, Defu He, Yalei Zhang, Jun Yang, Deyi Hou, De-Feng Xing, Nan-Qi Ren, Jie Ding, Craig S. Criddle

    ● Insect damaging and penetrating plastic materials has been observed since 1950s.

    ● Biodegradation of plastics by insects has become hot research frontiers.

    ● All major plastics can be biodegraded with half-live on hourly basis.

    ● The biodegradation is performed by the insect hosts together with gut microbiota.

    ● Future perspectives focus on biodegradation mechanisms and potential applications.

    Insects damaging and penetrating plastic packaged materials has been reported since the 1950s. Radical innovation breakthroughs of plastic biodegradation have been initiated since the discovery of biodegradation of plastics by Tenebrio molitor larvae in 2015 followed by Galleria mellonella in 2017. Here we review updated studies on the insect-mediated biodegradation of plastics. Plastic biodegradation by insect larvae, mainly by some species of darkling beetles (Tenebrionidae) and pyralid moths (Pyralidae) is currently a highly active and potentially transformative area of research. Over the past eight years, publications have increased explosively, including discoveries of the ability of different insect species to biodegrade plastics, biodegradation performance, and the contribution of host and microbiomes, impacts of polymer types and their physic-chemical properties, and responsible enzymes secreted by the host and gut microbes. To date, almost all major plastics including polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polyurethane (PUR), and polystyrene (PS) can be biodegraded by T. molitor and ten other insect species representing the Tenebrionidae and Pyralidae families. The biodegradation processes are symbiotic reactions or performed by synergistic efforts of both host and gut-microbes to rapidly depolymerize and biodegrade plastics with hourly half-lives. The digestive ezymens and bioreagents screted by the insects play an essential role in plasatic biodegradation in certain species of Tenebrionidae and Pyralidae families. New research on the insect itself, gut microbiomes, transcriptomes, proteomes and metabolomes has evaluated the mechanisms of plastic biodegradation in insects. We conclude this review by discussing future research perspectives on insect-mediated biodegradation of plastics.

    Danni Xie, Xiaodong Ge, Lei Duan, Jan Mulder

    ● S and N leaching from forest soils declined due to recent decreases in anthropogenic S and N emissions in China.

    ● Streamwater chemistry recovery was delayed by at least 5 years after peak S and N deposition.

    ● N2O–N emission are particularly high in (sub)tropical forests and may amount to 8% of total N deposition from the atmosphere.

    ● N2O emissions from forest soils declined with reduction in N deposition.

    For many decades, acid deposition used to pose a significant regional air pollution challenge in China. After substantial emission control of anthropogenically derived sulfur and nitrogen containing gasses, both sulfur and nitrogen deposition, as well as the acid rain-affected area, have significantly decreased compared to their peak levels. Forests, particularly in the humid subtropics, are sensitive to acid deposition, as evidenced by soil acidification, sulfate and nitrate leaching in stream water, and elevated soil nitrous oxide emission. Reduction in the total deposition of sulfur and nitrogen, caused a significant decline in sulfate and nitrate leaching from subtropical forest and subsequently in sulfate and nitrate concentrations in stream water, although there was about a 5-year delay. This delay may be attributed to the desorption of accumulated sulfate and continued elevated mineralization of accumulated nitrogen pools. Emissions of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, also declined in nitrogen-saturated subtropical forest soils, as soil water nitrate concentration decreased. Therefore, subtropical forests in China suffering from elevated acid deposition have begun to recover. Yet, the current levels of sulfur and nitrogen deposition continue to exceed the critical loads, i.e., the assigned threshold levels in accordance with emission control policies, in more than 10% of the country’s land area, respectively, indicating remaining risks of acidification and eutrophication. Thus, further emission reductions are urgently needed, also because they will help achieving goals related to air quality and nitrous oxide emissions.

    Tong Zhu, Yingjun Liu, Shunqing Xu, Guanghui Dong, Cunrui Huang, Nan Sang, Yunhui Zhang, Guanyong Su, Jingwen Chen, Jicheng Gong, Guohua Qin, Xinghua Qiu, Jing Shang, Haobo Wang, Pengpeng Wang, Mei Zheng

    ● Environmental health research has surged in China over the past decade

    ● The scope extends beyond health effects of classic pollutants to include those of emerging pollutants and climate change

    ● Future research priorities and opportunities are proposed

    Environmental health research aims to identify environmental conditions suitable for the healthy living and reproduction of human beings. Through the interdisciplinary research bridging environmental sciences and health/medical sciences, the impacts of physical, chemical, and biological environmental factors on human health are investigated. This includes identifying environmental factors detrimental to human health, evaluating human exposure characteristics to environmental factors, clarifying causal relationships between environmental exposure and health effects, analyzing the underlying biochemical mechanisms, linking environmental factors to the onset and progression of diseases, establishing exposure-response relationships, and determining effect thresholds. Ultimately, the results of environmental health research can serve as a scientific basis for formulating environmental management strategies and guiding prevention and intervention measures at both the public and individual levels. This paper summarizes the recent advances and future perspectives of environmental health research in China, as reported by a group of Chinese scientists who recently attended a workshop in Hainan, China. While it is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of this expansive field, it offers a glimpse into the significant progress made in understanding the health impacts of environmental factors over the past decade. Looking ahead, it is imperative not only to sustain efforts in studying the health effects of traditional environmental pollution, but also to prioritize research on the health impacts of emerging pollutants and climate change.

    Shihan Zhang, Yao Shen, Chenghang Zheng, Qianqian Xu, Yifang Sun, Min Huang, Lu Li, Xiongwei Yang, Hao Zhou, Heliang Ma, Zhendong Li, Yuanhang Zhang, Wenqing Liu, Xiang Gao

    �?Recent advances in promising CCUS technologies are assessed.

    �?Research status and trends in CCUS are visually analyzed.

    �?Carbon capture remains a hotspot of CCUS research.

    �?State-of-the-art capture technologies is summarized.

    �?Perspective research of carbon capture is proposed

    Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) technologies play an essential role in achieving Net Zero Emissions targets. Considering the lack of timely reviews on the recent advancements in promising CCUS technologies, it is crucial to provide a prompt review of the CCUS advances to understand the current research gaps pertained to its industrial application. To that end, this review first summarized the developmental history of CCUS technologies and the current large-scale demonstrations. Then, based on a visually bibliometric analysis, the carbon capture remains a hotspot in the CCUS development. Noting that the materials applied in the carbon capture process determines its performance. As a result, the state-of-the-art carbon capture materials and emerging capture technologies were comprehensively summarized and discussed. Gaps between state-of-art carbon capture process and its ideal counterpart are analyzed, and insights into the research needs such as material design, process optimization, environmental impact, and technical and economic assessments are provided.

    Chiheng Chu, Lizhong Zhu

    ● The safety and health of soil face global threats from widespread contamination.

    ● Tackling soil pollutions require holistic soil remediation and management.

    ● Big data can revolutionize contaminated soil management and remediation.

    Soil is a non-renewable resource, providing a majority of the world’s food and fiber while serving as a vital carbon reservoir. However, the health of soil faces global threats from human activities, particularly widespread contamination by industrial chemicals. Existing physical, chemical, and biological remediation approaches encounter challenges in preserving soil structure and function throughout the remediation process, as well as addressing the complexities of soil contamination on a regional scale. Viable solutions encompass monitoring and simulating soil processes, with a focus on utilizing big data to bridge micro-scale and macro-scale processes. Additionally, reducing pollutant emissions to soil is paramount due to the significant challenges associated with removing contaminants once they have entered the soil, coupled with the high economic costs of remediation. Further, it is imperative to implement advanced remediation technologies, such as monitored natural attenuation, and embrace holistic soil management approaches that involve regulatory frameworks, soil health indicators, and soil safety monitoring platforms. Safeguarding the enduring health and resilience of soils necessitates a blend of interdisciplinary research, technological innovation, and collaborative initiatives.

    Wenqing Liu, Chengzhi Xing

    ● A system of environmental optical monitoring technology has been established.

    ● New optical monitoring techniques and stereoscopic system should be established.

    ● The focus on interdisciplinarity should be increased.

    ● Pay more attention on greenhouse gases monitoring and atmospheric chemistry.

    The achievement of the targets of coordinated control of PM2.5 and O3 and the carbon peaking and carbon neutrality depend on the development of pollution and greenhouse gas monitoring technologies. Optical monitoring technology, based on its technical characteristics of high scalability, high sensitivity and wide-targets detection, has obvious advantages in pollution/greenhouse gases monitoring and has become an important direction in the development of environmental monitoring technology. At present, a system of environmental optical monitoring technology with differential optical absorption spectroscopy (DOAS), cavity ring-down spectroscopy (CRDS), light detection and ranging (LIDAR), laser heterodyne spectroscopy (LHS), tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy (TDLAS), fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and fluorescence assay by gas expansion (FAGE) as the main body has been established. However, with the promotion of “reduction of pollution and carbon emissions” strategy, there have been significant changes in the sources of pollution/greenhouse gases, emission components and emission concentrations, which have put forward new and higher requirements for the development of monitoring technologies. In the future, we should pay more attention to the development of new optical monitoring techniques and the construction of stereoscopic monitoring system, the interdisciplinarity (among mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology, etc.), and the monitoring of greenhouse gases and research on atmospheric chemistry.

    Hui Huang, Rui Ma, Hongqiang Ren

    ● Wastewater treatment targets and processes change with demands.

    ● Research hotspots in wastewater treatment were described using bibliometrics.

    ● Five pathways for technology development were proposed.

    ● Material genetics, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence were highlighted.

    The “dual-carbon” strategy promotes the development of the wastewater treatment sector and is an important tool for leading science and technology innovations. Based on the global climate change and the new policies introduced by China, this paper described the new needs for the development of wastewater treatment science and technology. It offered a retrospective analysis of the historical trajectory of scientific and technological advancements in this field. Utilizing bibliometrics, it delineated the research hotspots within wastewater treatment, notably highlighting materials genomics, artificial intelligence, and synthetic biology. Furthermore, it posited that, in the future, the field of wastewater treatment should follow the paths of technological innovations with multi-dimensional needs, such as carbon reduction, pollution reduction, health, standardisation, and intellectualisation. The purpose of this paper was to provide references and suggestions for scientific and technological innovations in the field of wastewater treatment, and to contribute to the common endeavor of moving toward a Pollution-Free Planet.

    Changbo Qin, Qiang Xue, Jiawei Zhang, Lu Lu, Shangao Xiong, Yang Xiao, Xiaojing Zhang, Jinnan Wang

    ● The Beautiful China Initiative (BCI) provides Chinese wisdom for the sustainable development and welfare of all humanity.

    ● The progress of the BCI is summarized.

    ● Challenges and opportunities faced in implementing the BCI are analyzed.

    ● Policy suggestions for comprehensively advancing the BCI are proposed.

    The Beautiful China Initiative (BCI) is a vivid embodiment of the harmonious coexistence between humans and nature during modernization. Implementing the BCI is an effective method for achieving the goals of building a beautiful China, while offering a “Chinese solution” to global sustainable development. This article summarizes the progress and main experiences of the BCI, as well as analyzing the primary challenges facing its future development. Finally, five policy recommendations are proposed, which emphasize the importance of top-level design, coordinated planning, and a robust support system in the implementation of the BCI.

    Bruce Logan, Fang Zhang, Wulin Yang, Le Shi

    ● Express energy use and carbon emissions in understandable numbers.

    ● Normalize energy use to daily food energy using “D”.

    ● Ratio carbon emissions to those from daily food using “C”.

    ● Based on the entire country China emitted 22.5 C and the US emitted 43.9 C (2022).

    ● Personal choices such as the car you drive, food you eat, and home heating lower C.

    There is a global need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the extent of climate change. A better understanding of how our own activities and lifestyle influence our energy use and carbon emissions can help us enable changes in activities that can lead to reductions in carbon emissions. Here we discuss an approach based on examining carbon emissions from the perspective of the unit C, where 1 C is the CO2 from food a person would on average eat every day. This approach shows that total CO2 emissions in China, normalized by the population, is 22.5 C while carbon emissions for a person in the US is 43.9 C. A better appreciation of our own energy use can be obtained by calculating carbon emissions from our own activities in units of C, for example for driving a car gasoline or electric vehicle a certain number of kilometers, using electricity for our homes, and eating different foods. With this information, we can see how our carbon emissions compare to national averages in different countries and make decisions that could lower our personal CO2 emissions.

    Zheng-Yang Huo, Xiaoxiong Wang, Xia Huang, Menachem Elimelech

    ● Modifying local environment can intensify the performance of flow-through electrodes.

    ● Reaction rate and selectivity can be improved by local environment modification.

    ● Modifications include spatial confinement, enhanced local field, and periodic vortex.

    ● Near-complete removal of low-concentration emerging contaminants can be realized.

    ● Electrified flow-through systems are promising for fit-for-purpose water treatment.

    Removing high-risk and persistent contaminants from water is challenging, because they typically exist at low concentrations in complex water matrices. Electrified flow-through technologies are viable to overcome the limitations induced by mass transport for efficient contaminant removal. Modifying the local environment of the flow-through electrodes offers opportunities to further improve the reaction kinetics and selectivity for achieving near-complete removal of these contaminants from water. Here, we present state-of-the-art local environment modification approaches that can be incorporated into electrified flow-through technologies to intensify water treatment. We first show methods of nanospace incorporation, local geometry adjustment, and microporous structure optimization that can induce spatial confinement, enhanced local electric field, and microperiodic vortex, respectively, for local environment modification. We then discuss why local environment modification can complement the flow-through electrodes for improving the reaction rate and selectivity. Finally, we outline appropriate scenarios of intensifying electrified flow-through technologies through local environment modification for fit-for-purpose water treatment applications.

    Bin Zhao, Shuxiao Wang, Jiming Hao

    ● Major challenges of air pollution control in China are summarized.

    ● A“health-oriented” air pollution control strategy is proposed.

    ● Directions of air quality standard amendments are discussed.

    ● “One-atmosphere” concept shall be adopted to synergistically address multiple issues.

    Air pollution is one of the most challenging environmental issues in the world. China has achieved remarkable success in improving air quality in last decade as a result of aggressive air pollution control policies. However, the average fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentration in China is still about six times of the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Air Quality Guidelines (AQG) and causing significant human health risks. Extreme emission reductions of multiple air pollutants are required for China to achieve the AQG. Here we identify the major challenges in future air quality improvement and propose corresponding control strategies. The main challenges include the persistently high health risk attributed to PM2.5 pollution, the excessively loose air quality standards, and coordinated control of air pollution, greenhouse gases (GHGs) emissions and emerging pollutants. To further improve air quality and protect human health, a health-oriented air pollution control strategy shall be implemented by tightening the air quality standards as well as optimizing emission reduction pathways based on the health risks of various sources. In the meantime, an “one-atmosphere” concept shall be adopted to strengthen the synergistic control of air pollutants and GHGs and the control of non-combustion sources and emerging pollutants shall be enhanced.

    Jiuhui Qu, Jiaping Chen

    ● Zero pollution does not mean no discharge of pollutants.

    ● Control of sound balance between pollution and decontamination capacities is important.

    ● Key pathways to achieve balance between pollution and decontamination capacities are given.

    The mission of “Establishment of Zero-Pollution Earth” defined by United Nations Environment Programme aims at creation of a clean, safe and prosperous home for all human beings. It is of rational choice from each individual to protect our environment and demonstrates our great ambition to achieve our goals. The key message given in this article is that, zero pollution does not mean no discharge of pollutants and instead it can be achievable through optimizing and controlling a sound balance between pollutants discharge and capacities of decontamination through treatment and natural environmental accumulation, which can be termed as “Principle of Equilibrium” between pollution and decontamination. Based on this principle, we propose and illustrate several key factors and synergistic pathways toward a pollution-free planet: quantitative determination on purification and wastewater; source control through green measures; minimization of negative side-effects; precise management through digitalized systems; and keeping sound balance between pollutants and natural purification. It should be noted that we would face a series of difficulties and challenges in moving forward to “Zero-Pollution Earth”. We should further develop theories, principles and tools to achieve the balance between quantity of pollutants and decontamination capacities. Environmentalists should work together to break through the bottleneck limited by “Principle of equilibrium” to establish new environmental remediation systems leading to “Zero-Pollution Earth”.

    Jiuhui Qu, Jiming Hao, Yi Qian