Tag Archives: garbage

Rome, the eternal city – of trash

When visiting Rome, any of the 20 million tourists that arrive every year is probably expecting monumental sites, breathtaking artwork and tasty food, among many other things. But, the Eternal City also welcomes visitors with some more unexpected sights.

The Trevi Fountain in Rome. Credit: Chris Yunker (Flickr)


Dumpsters overflowing with trash, rats and seagulls foraging through garbage bags and wild boars attracted by trash are now a common scene on the streets of Rome, as part of its never-ending garbage crisis that has turned the city into what many describe as an open-air dump.

But, the problem isn’t actually new, despite only now reaching the media.

Rome’s difficult relationship with trash is decades-long and starts with “a big black hole,” which is what locals used to call the Malagrotta landfill. It was once the largest in Europe and the only site devoted to the city’s garbage disposal for about 30 years, until it was closed in 2013.

Since then, the city has been left with no major site to dump or treat the 1.7 million metric tons of trash it produces every year, and no real strategy for recycling, as successive mayors from different parties all proved incapable of solving the waste emergency.

And money isn’t the problem. The city spent more than 597 euros (US$670) per inhabitant on household waste treatment in 2017 — by far the highest in the country, ahead of Venice (US$353 euros) and Florence (US$266 euros), according to a report by the Openpolis Foundation.

Now, most of Rome’s garbage is shipped to other Italian regions or even abroad. Only 40% gets collected separately and recycled. The capital exports 1.2 million tons of its garbage every year, at a cost of 180 million euros (US$206 million). The remaining half-million tons sits uncollected for weeks.

Virgina Raggi, a 30-year old lawyer, was elected as mayor in 2016, vowing to solve the crisis. After almost three years in office, her promises are far from being fulfilled, leading to frequent protests by both citizens and tourists that can’t simply stand the smell.

Raggi’s plan contemplated the gradual expansion of door-to-door waste collection from a few neighborhoods to the whole city, with the target of 70% of waste collected separately for recycling by 2021. But the ambition felt through, with separate collection now stuck at 44%

The sites that were supposed to replace the Malagrotta landfill never became operational, as they faced staunch opposition by local residents and mayors. AMA, the city-owned company in charge of collecting Rome’s garbage, recently proposed to build 13 new facilities, which would help quite a lot.

But there’s a catch. AMA has about 600 million euros in debt and some of its former managers are being investigated, along with dozens of local officials, for allegedly teaming up to rig bids for city contracts. So moving forward with the new facilities isn’t as easy as it seems.

This means that despite money, politics and complaints, the smelly trash is here so stay, at least for the short term.

Great Garbage Patch.

The Pacific Garbage patch is 16 times bigger than we thought

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a lot bigger than we’ve estimated — and more dangerous in composition.

Great Garbage Patch.

A map showing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) floating in the ocean, and trash concentration levels in the gyre.
Image credits The Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Out on the waves of the Pacific Ocean lies one of man’s greatest accomplishments. I use the last term in the loosest way possible since, by ‘great’, I mean sheer size; the aptly named Great Pacific Garbage Patch now measures a stunning 620,000 square miles (roughly 1,605,800 square km) — some 16 times larger than previously estimated.

Resting between California and Hawaii, in an area known as the Pacific gyre, the Patch has been steadily growing in current-borne plastics; and it has grown fat indeed — it now contains some 87,000 tons of plastic, a new study reports. The authors note that with the massive deluge of plastic pollution we’re generating, this Patch is growing right as we speak, and will likely keep doing so. Data gathered between 1970 and 2015 shows the plastic levels in the garbage patch are increasing at a faster rate than in surrounding waters.

Patches of Plastics

As far as huge spans of thrash are concerned, the Patch is very cosmopolitan — microplastics stew alongside larger bits of plastics, all entangled in fishing nets and gear. But, worryingly, the largest chunk of all this ‘ew’, some 46%, is made up of fishing nets, the authors report. Other types of commercial fishing gear, such as eel traps, ropes, or oyster spacers account for a majority of the rest of the trash.

The findings are part of a three-year mapping effort involving Ocean Cleanup, an international team of scientists, six universities and an aerial sensor company. They used two aircraft surveys and 30 vessels to cross the debris field and get an accurate idea of its size and composition.

“I knew there would be a lot of fishing gear, but 46 percent was unexpectedly high,” said Laurent Lebreton, member of the Ocean Cleanup Foundation. “Initially, we thought fishing gear would be more in the 20 percent range. That is the accepted number [for marine debris] globally – 20 percent from fishing sources and 80 percent from land.”

Having a lot of fishing equipment lying about in the middle of the ocean is quite a poor development; all this refuse can entangle turtles, seals, and whales; plastic items kill or injure some 100,000 marine animals each year, National Geographic reports.

Despite the gloomy outlook, the team says there are still many unknowns in regard to this garbage patch: how polluted are deeper waters? How much plastic has sunk to the sea floor? More research will have to answer these questions.

The paper “Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Aerial survey shows the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is much larger than we thought

In case you didn’t know, there’s a huge garbage patch floating around in the Pacific. New aerial surveys have shown that it’s even larger than we thought.

Approximate size of the garbage patch (the patch is not truly visible with the naked eye). Image via Remarkably.

There’s a lot of garbage floating around the world’s oceans. Much of it is above the surface, some of it is below the surface and another part sinks to the bottom. This isn’t bottles or plastic bags, it’s mostly very small particles not very well defined in a surface. A big chunk of that gets sucked in by oceanic currents and tangles up with other garbage (mostly plastic), developing into huge patches. This isn’t something clearly defined like an island and can be quite hard to study.

The largest such garbage patch is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a simple and descriptive name. The patch is characterized by exceptionally high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. Because the suspended particles are so small and they have such a low density (4 particles per cubic meter), the patch is in a large sense invisible. It’s invisible from satellite imagery, it’s invisible for boats passing by and even for divers.

But when a team from Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, went to inspect the patch, they found a much higher concentration of plastic particles.

“Normally when you do an aerial survey of dolphins or whales, you make a sighting and record it,” said Boyan Slat, the founder of the Ocean Cleanup.

“That was the plan for this survey. But then we opened the door and we saw the debris everywhere. Every half second you see something. So we had to take snapshots – it was impossible to record everything. It was bizarre to see that much garbage in what should be pristine ocean.”

Captain Charles Moore was the first to notice the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997. Here, he is holding a sample from the patch.

The previously accepted size of the patch was about 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles), with the periphery spanning a further 3.5m sq km (1,351,000 sq miles), according to The Guardian. Of course, that’s an average size, as the shape and surface of the patch is constantly morphing under the influence of the oceanic currents. But the patch is continuously growing – thanks of course, to human activities. In the UK alone, more than 5 million tonnes of plastic are consumed each year, of which an estimated mere 24% makes it into recycling systems. That leaves a remaining 3.8 million tonnes of waste and much of it ends up in the ocean, where it threatens the entire ecosystem. It’s a huge ticking time bomb, and it’s much bigger than we thought.

New reconnaissance flights from California have found that the overall size of the patch, as well as the density of plastic has been “heavily underestimated.” Slat added:

“Most of the debris was large stuff. It’s a ticking time bomb because the big stuff will crumble down to micro plastics over the next few decades if we don’t act.”

A 2014 study found that there are over 5.25 trillion plastic pieces in the ocean, weighing an estimated 269,000 tonnes. The real number, however, may be even much larger than that.

Marine debris accumulation locations in the North Pacific Ocean. (NOAA Marine Debris Program)

Containing Asia’s coasts is out best bet for plastic-free ocean

Plastic bags, bottle caps and plastic fibres are among the myriad of micro plastic debris that wash out into the Pacific Ocean. These get ingested by the marine life like fish, mammals and birds which are dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation. Moreover, some are toxic pollutants that are absorbed, transported, and consumed in the food chain eventually reaching humans. Containing and eventually pulling out this plastic debris has proven to be a challenge. One proposed solution is to put a network of floating barriers around the ‘Great Pacific Garbage patch’ — an area where currents concentrated a huge mass of microplastics.

Underneath the floating debris in the Pacific Ocean. Credit: NOAA - Marine Debris Program

Underneath the floating debris in the Pacific Ocean. Credit: NOAA – Marine Debris Program

An analysis made by Dr Erik van Sebille and undergraduate physics student Peter Sherman from Imperial College London found that containing the garbage patch is not the most effective solution. The team modeled the movements of the plastics to trace their source. They found a large portion comes from the Asian coasts, particularly China and Indonesia. By placing plastic collectors like those proposed by the The Ocean Cleanup Project around these coasts way more micro debris would be collected. Namely, 31 per cent of microplastic would be removed compared to only 17 percent in the case of placing all collectors inside the patch, the authors report in Environmental Research Letters.

“The Great Pacific garbage patch has a huge mass of microplastics, but the largest flow of plastics is actually off the coasts, where it enters the oceans,” said Sherman.

“It makes sense to remove plastics where they first enter the ocean around dense coastal economic and population centres,” added Dr van Sebille. “It also means you can remove the plastics before they have had a chance to do any harm. Plastics in the patch have travelled a long way and potentially already done a lot of harm.”

The size and mass of the Great Pacific Garbage patch is disputed. As of now, there is no sound estimate — it’s darn big and dangerous that’s for sure.

Marine debris accumulation locations in the North Pacific Ocean. (NOAA Marine Debris Program)

Marine debris accumulation locations in the North Pacific Ocean. (NOAA Marine Debris Program)

For one, you shouldn’t conjure up an image of floating plastic bottles and yogurt cups miles long. These popup for sure, but most of this garbage is actually small bits of plastic (microplastics) that are suspended throughout the water column, like “flecks of pepper floating throughout a bowl of soup,” says NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Carey Morishige.

To gauge efficiency of containment, the researchers also looked for the areas where the microplastics overlapped with phytoplankton rich waters. Phytoplankton are microorganisms that form the base of the marine food pyramid. By placing the collectors at the coasts, the overlap was reduced by 46 per cent versus 14 percent. Previously, Dr van Sebille showed that 90% of seabirds swallow plastics. This makes sense in light of these most recent findings since seabirds linger around coasts where food is plentiful.

“There is a lot of plastic in the patch, but it’s a relative dead zone for life compared with the richness around the coasts,” said Sherman.

“We need to clean up ocean plastics, and ultimately this should be achieved by stopping the source of pollution,” said Sherman. “However, this will not happen overnight, so a temporary solution is needed, and clean-up projects could be it, if they are done well.”

US puts twice as much trash in landfills than previously thought

Americans are sending much more trash to landfills than federal agencies estimated – twice as much, according to a new study.

Staten Island landfill. Image via Wiki Commons.

The average American tosses on average 2.3 kilograms (five pounds) of trash every day – that’s non-recycled thrash that simply ends up in landfills. Researchers at Yale University looked at the records for more than 1,200 landfills and calculated amounts, which came out to be significantly higher than what the EPA estimated. They found that 263 million metric tons (289 million tons) were dumped in 2012, while the EPA reported 123 million metric tons (135 million tons) for the same year. Jon Powell at Yale’s Center for Industrial Ecology said this difference comes from the way the garbage was calculated: adding up actual measurements instead of estimates and reports from different organizations.

If this study is correct, then it doesn’t only mean that Americans are creating more trash than previously thought, but it also means that they recycle less than estimated. EPA estimated that Americans recycled 34.5 percent of their waste in 2012, but if Powell’s data is correct, then they only recycle 21.4 percent – that’s a big difference.

The reception for this study has been positive, with many scientists trusting Powell’s data more than the EPA’s, but Thomas Kinnaman, a Bucknell University professor who studies the economics of solid waste and recycling said that the findings don’t change much, because landfills have plenty of room to expand. Still, I feel that having an accurate picture on how much garbage people are generating and how much is actually being recycled is important.

Americans generate more trash than other countries, but the figures are comparable to those of the developed world. This study was partly funded by the EPA.

Journal Reference: Jon T. Powell, Timothy G. Townsend & Julie B. Zimmerman – Estimates of solid waste disposal rates and reduction targets for landfill gas emissions. Nature Climate Change (2015) doi:10.1038/nclimate2804


NASA research put together into a video showing how the ocean’s garbage patches formed over the last 35 years

Aaah, the ocean. The true final frontier. Full of wonderful and exciting things, such as strange fish, stranger crustaceans, beautiful hydrothermal vents, and lovely, ever-growing garbage patches.

Image via supplyshield

Image via supplyshield


Due to the rotation on the Earth, ocean currents tend to form five gyres. While the term can refer to any type of vortex in air or sea, it is most commonly used in oceanography to refer to immense circular structures of ever-churning water.

All the stuff we dump into the ocean is picked up by the current, and eventually end up in one of the gyres, and the portion that does not degrade gets to stay there for a while. And that is why they’re often believed to be floating islands of trash (some false estimates would have them bigger than Texas).

In reality, plastic does get degraded up to a point by the Sun, so the waters around the gyres are more similar to very thick soups, filled with waste the size of confetti pieces. This ‘microplastic’ waste is literally strewn all across our ocean, from the surface to the depths below, but in those five areas around the world there’s way more of the waste than usual, and these are known as the Earth’s ‘garbage patches’.

As Carey Morishige from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Marine Debris Program explains:

“While it’s true that these areas have a higher concentration of plastic than other parts of the ocean, much of the debris found in these areas are small bits of plastic (microplastics) that are suspended throughout the water column. A comparison I like to use is that the debris is more like flecks of pepper floating throughout a bowl of soup, rather than a skim of fat that accumulates (or sits) on the surface.”

But how did these areas form? The team over at NASA’s Scientific Visualisation Studio has collected 35 years of the NOAA data, and represented it in the handy video below, which shows how ocean currents have carried plastic waste to five specific gyres.

The research is based on hundreds of data-collecting buoys released by the NOAA over the past four decades – represented here as white dots – and it creates a pretty mesmerising but terrifying picture of just how far waste travels. It also shows why garbage naturally gravitates together and forms these large concentrations of plastic waste.

New technology is being developed to clear our wold’s waters. But new technology is sometimes difficult and almost always expensive to implement. The easiest way to fix this is for each and every one of us to become aware and take action.

So the next time you decide not to recycle plastic, or glass, or even a tin can, just remember those white dots. Some fish will wear your soda bottle as a hat. Forever.


Aesthetic arrangements from garbage? Alejandro Duran’s site-specific dirty decorations

They say that one man’s trash is another man’s gold, but artist Alejandro Duran gave a whole new meaning to that saying. Walking along the coastline in Sian Ka’an, Mexico’s largest federally-protected reserve, he collects many bits of trash that wash up on the coast from all over the world and uses them for site site-specific installations for an ongoing project titled Washed Up.

The goal is to take one of the most disheartening sights you can get (garbage), and make them into beautiful arrangements, in a painful and eye-opening juxtaposition – drawing attention to ocean pollution.

“Over the course of this project, I have identified plastic waste from fifty nations on six continents that have washed ashore along the coast of Sian Ka’an. I have used this international debris to create color-based, site-specific sculptures. Conflating the hand of man and nature, at times I distribute the objects the way the waves would; at other times, the plastic takes on the shape of algae, roots, rivers, or fruit, reflecting the infiltration of plastics into the natural environment.

More than creating a surreal or fantastical landscape, these installations mirror the reality of our current environmental predicament. The resulting photo series depicts a new form of colonization by consumerism, where even undeveloped land is not safe from the far-reaching impact of our disposable culture.”

Duran is a multimedia artist working in photography, installation, and video. His work examines the fraught intersections of man and nature, particularly the tension between the natural world and an increasingly overdeveloped one. He recently received the Juror’s Award from CENTER for his efforts, and has upcoming exhibitions at Habana Outpost in Brooklyn and at the XO KI’IN Retreat Center.

His work really strikes a nerve with me. I feel that his art is visceral and succeeds in drawing attention – I just hope people can get the right idea and get the right take-away from this.

The process. El proceso.

All image credits: Alejandro Duran.

Man cleans up entire river on his way to work

We all see garbage in our daily routine, be it on the way to work, school, or just on the streets. But most people just choose to ignore it; after all, what difference could one man possibly do? Well, Tommy Kleyn didn’t think like that when he was walking pass a polluted river to work. He took a bag of garbage every day after work, and managed to clean up a river – by himself.

Netherlands is known as one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the world – but even the Dutch have their pollution problems (who doesn’t, these days?). Tommy Klein decided to take matters into his own hands and clean the river he passed by every day on his way to work. In just six days, he managed to make a noticeable difference, and – here’s where it gets even cooler – the neighbors also started to chip in. Everyday, Klein monitored the changes to the river, taking pictures and sharing them on Facebook: Project Schone Schie.

“The idea is to motivate people to fill one garbage bag with litter each year. It only takes 30 minutes, it really makes a difference and you will be amazed about how good you feel afterwards,” he said.

After five weeks, the river was clear sparkling clean, and he made his point – just as clearly.

“I want to show how easy it is to remove the clutter,” he added. “Hopefully there will come a time when manufacturers are thoughtful and their products are no longer wrapped in layers of plastic.”

Not long after that, his story went viral, as it should – the Facebook page has grown and has inspired numerous people who now share their own clean-up stories. Klein actually challenges people to spend no more than 30 minutes a year to fill a trash bag with litter, and see what a difference they can make.

“It feels great and you’ll make a big impact,” he wrote. People are free to share their ‘before’ and ‘after’ pics on the page. The challenge has caught on, with people in countries as far as Taiwan responding with their own photos and stories!

So the take-away message here is that we can all make a significant difference in our community – after all, if one man managed to clean a river by himself in five weeks, then what would all of us be able to do, if we really worked for it, even just 30 minutes a year?

All images via Tommy Klein.

ants city garbage

City ants are garbage eating, rat-fighting machines

Ants often get a lot of bad rep for being “pests” in the city, but a new study has shown that ant populations are actually very helpful in urban environments. Scientists researching the behavior of ants have found that they dispose of garbage with remarkable efficiency, keeping rats and other garbage-dependent pests at bay.

ants city garbage

City dwelling ants are very effective garbage disposers. Image via UT Static

“Urban green spaces provide ecosystem services to city residents, but their management is hindered by a poor understanding of their ecology. We examined a novel ecosystem service relevant to urban public health and esthetics: the consumption of littered food waste by arthropods”, researchers introduce their paper.

The study was already well underway in 2012, when Hurricane Sandy struck New York; they decided to take advantage of this new setting and also observe how the behavior of insect populations changed. What they found was pretty surprising – ants are very effective at eliminating garbage; the ants that live on the median of Broadway alone can eat up to 60,000 hot dogs a year! They sampled ants and millipeds in street medians and parks by placing weighed samples of commonly dropped foods — hot dogs, cookies and chips — into wire mesh cages that only ant-sized creatures could crawl into. Next to these set ups, they put the same bait, but in the open, available for any creature to come and eat. After 24 hours they took both samples back, to see how much garbage ants alone eat compared to all the garbage-eating population combined. This is how they found that ants eat a lot of food, but they also learned that ants on the street eat much more than those in parks.

“We thought, oh, the parks, with their more diverse species — that’s where we’re going to see the ants doing a more thorough job. So we were surprised when the opposite was true,” said lead author Elsa Youngsteadt, a research associate at North Carolina State University.

As it turns out, even though street populations are less diverse, they eat 2-3 times more garbage than those in parks. Scientists believe that the pavement ants (so named for their habitat of choice) are probably the voracious eaters causing the imbalance.

“We calculate that the arthropods on medians down the Broadway/West St. corridor alone could consume more than 2,100 pounds of discarded junk food, the equivalent of 60,000 hot dogs, ever year-assuming they take a break in the winter,” said Elsa Youngsteadt, one of the researchers, in a news release. “This isn’t just a silly fact. This highlights a very real service that these arthropods provide. They effectively dispose of our trash for us.”

ants city garbage

Ants on Broadway alone can eat the equivalent of 60,000 hot dogs a year

Indeed, we often tend to forget that insects are not just there to annoy us – they provide valuable ecosystem and even urban services. If the ants on a single street consume that much garbage, can you imagine what kind of service they provide for an entire city like New York? Unfortunately, most people still only see ants as a pest. When Youngsteadt was setting up her cages for the experiment, she said, a passerby asked her about her work.

“When he found out I studied ants, he said, ‘I sure hope you’re figuring out how to kill them.’ They’re definitely not popular,” Youngsteadt said. “But this study highlights that they have a purpose in the city ecosystem that we don’t even notice. They may be taking away food from rats, who it’s safe to say we like even less.”

Indeed, ants aren’t the only garbage-loving populations. The openly-placed bait food clearly showed that ants are fighting for this resource with other populations, most notably rats.

This study shows that ants play a very important role in a big city – they are effectively garbage cleaners. Oh, and even a hurricane can’t stop them. When Hurricane Sandy flooded many of the research sites with salty water, the team expected to see a drop-off in activity there – but ant populations emerged just as hungry as ever.

“You’d think that several feet of salt water would deter some ants,” Youngsteadt said. She’s not sure why they didn’t drown — it’s possible they just weren’t submerged for long enough. “But it’s good news for urban ecosystems. They’re going to stick around and keep doing their thing no matter what — even when a disaster happens.”

Ants are awesome, we should try to better understand them, and, I feel, we should respect them more.

Journal Reference: Elsa Youngsteadt, Ryanna C. Henderson, Amy M. Savage, Andrew F. Ernst, Robert R. Dunn and Steven D. Frank. Habitat and species identity, not diversity, predict the extent of refuse consumption by urban arthropods. Article first published online: 2 DEC 2014 DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12791


Great garbage patches in the Great Lakes resemble those in the Pacific



In the 1980s a report described how a ginormous patch of plastic trash was guided by currents and concentrated right in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in an area that some estimated as being roughly two times the size of Texas. Naturally, people all over the world were outraged, but I guess it didn’t last too long, nor did it matter too much. Since then, plastic production and subsequent dumping has increased several times, and more and more previously pristine environments have now become polluted with plastic litter. Many of the Great Lakes for instance, home to some of the most amazing freshwater ecosystems in the world, have recently been reported as being actually more infested with plastic than the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.

In the past 30 years or roughly since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first reported, plastic production worldwide has increased by a whooping 500% in an attempt to satisfy demand, which is still on the rise. Cheap and durable, plastic is possibly the most successful material of the past century. It’s so reliable that it needs hundreds of years to decompose, time in which it pollutes the ground and hurts animals who mistake it for a food source.

Waters are no strangers to plastic either, as presented earlier and a recent study looking to assess just how polluted the Great Lakes – the largest groups of fresh water lakes in the world – are with plastics. Their findings, presented recently at the Great Lakes meeting of the American Chemical Society, were nothing less of startling.

If you live near the Great Lakes and haven’t noticed the massive plastic pollution that’s going on there, know that you aren’t alone. This is because the bulk of the plastics debris found in the lakes aren’t made out of voluminous items like bottles, bags and other trash – it’s made out of tiny pieces and particles of plastic, unnoticeable at a glance, but taken as a whole they represent a massive ecological disaster. Because 85 percent of the particles are smaller than two-tenths of an inch, though, it’s difficult to properly clean up the waters too.

“People became aware of plastics in the oceans and waters in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and the great Pacific garbage patch. But from far away, bits of plastic look just like the water. So it’s not so noticeable or recognized in the greater topic of plastics in the environment.”

Typically, the plastic debris form a thin film right below the surface of the water that is often mistaken by fish, birds and other wildlife in the area for food. Harmful substances that make up the plastic also pose a significant hazard to the aquatic ecosystem as they get absorbed into the water itself. To get an idea, check this Wired article which documents how albatross chicks were found stuffed with plastic trash instead of food, as they were fed by their mother which couldn’t tell the difference – ADVISED: not for the faint of heart! Also, when you consider the cycle – human trash –> animals eat it –> humans eat animals – it kind of seems we’re now eating our trash. Serves us right.

“The massive production of plastic and inadequate disposal has made plastic debris an important and constant pollutant on beaches and in oceans around the world,” said Lorena M. Rios Mendoza, who spoke about the topic at the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society, in a press release. “And the Great Lakes are not an exception.”