How To Save A Mermaid

Emma Cohen
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Café Scientifique - Los Alamos


How To Save A Mermaid Café
Presenter: Emma Cohen, Los Alamos National Laboratory
By Elijah Pelofske


Los Alamos National Laboratory Scientist Emma Cohen sorts through the trash showing what could be recycled instead of thrown away.

Emma Cohen from the Los Alamos National Laboratory first introduced herself and her educational background and the non-profit organization she started called Save the Mermaid. She then talked about the fallacies of the recycling process. Particularly how all plastic are downgraded in the recycling process, and that process itself is 6 times more expensive than creating virgin plastics.

Ms. Cohen then discussed the consequences of electronic recycling and how first world countries usually export their used electronics to 3rd world countries. She then discussed the trash islands in the ocean, and how large of a problem it is for sea life. Specifically areas of water vortices called gyres that collect trash and damage sea life.
Also the issue of single use items was discussed; roughly 500 million straws are used every day in America that is 1.6 straws per person, per day, just in the United States alone. Particularly the time it takes to break down these materials.


Café Scientifique – Los Alamos hosts another successful Teen Science Café.

Ms. Cohen then presented the concepts behind the ways to reduce the waste. These concepts included zero waste events and closed loop systems specific to recycling. The idea of small changes on a large scale to reduce waste were emphasized. For example, the very simple technique you can use to dry your hands using only one paper towel. This very simple process involves shaking the majority of the water off of your hands and then folding one paper towel in half. Due to capillary action and osmosis, this water transversal   two membrane drying technique ensures dry hands and dramatically reduced waste of paper products. The call to action involved spreading the word on these shocking statistics, and creating more zero waste events. Especially spreading these ideas to friends, at school, and at home.

Hands on Activity

The hands on activity was relatively short, but based on the very impactful question; what have you thrown away today? Most of us don’t think twice about it. This question was then discussed with the table groups and the entire group as a whole. In addition, ways to create zero waste events and spread the idea of closed loop systems were discussed. These concepts allowed everyone to think about the impact we are having on the world around us.