Flat-screen technology has been a game changer for electronics makers, yet the sudden shift away from traditional displays is resulting in heaps of discarded televisions and computer monitors with nowhere to go. Recycling companies are becoming overwhelmed by the mounting volumes, which is no longer in demand due to the rapid adoption of newer technologies by consumers.
The previous generation of displays were composed of thick lead glass screens. Now being discarded en masse, these monitors are creating what industry experts are calling a “glass tsunami,” and the high concentrations of leaded material — roughly 660 million pounds nationwide — is causing a serious hazardous waste headache for recyclers.
Recycling the new flat screens may prove to be even more problematic in the future, as they contain highly-toxic mercury. While materials recovery is fast gaining in the US, demand for this tainted glass on the steep decline, leaving fewer but more costly options for responsible disposal.
Houston is aiming to boost its recycling rate up to as much as 75 percent within the next few years by embracing new waste separation technologies. The rate of materials recovery in the Lone Star State’s biggest city is presently 14 percent, well below the national average. The plan was recognized by the Bloomberg Philanthropies, winning a $1 million prize as part of the organization’s Mayors Challenge.
The city’s plans to implement a “One Bin For All” program, in which residents may mix nearly all types of waste — common household trash, yard clippings and recyclables — in a single container for pickup. The refuse will then be taken to a $100 million advanced sorting facility, to be built and operated by a private company.
Last Friday, the New York Times shuttered its Green blog, a popular and widely followed environmental news outlet that published over five thousand posts during its three-year operation.
Of course, I was very disappointed to learn of the news. The Green blog made some important scoops over its relatively brief life online and some of these ended up being presented on this very portal.
As someone who works in news media, part of wants to sympathize with the Times management. Since I got out of college nearly 10 years ago, I’ve been acutely aware of the tough challenges facing print media. This decision was surely neither easy nor popular within that organization.
However, given that the newspaper also recently dismantled its Environment desk, I have to question how the country’s third largest newspaper by circulation hopes to give proper attention to environmental stories, especially as the stakes on this front are only being raised by the day.
The timing of these closures could not be worse. With the nation engaged in such intense, thorny conversations about energy and climate change, where is the wisdom in such an influential voice essentially bowing out of the discourse?
The twin blows against NYT coverage of such vital topics strike me not only as misguided, but also socially irresponsible, as well. So despite my solidarity with my fellow news professionals in New York, I am very much critical of this move.
Environmental news from the world’s soon-to-be most populous nation just keeps getting worse. A study put forth this week by the New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment has found that up to 80 percent of India’s urban sewage is going untreated and winding up in the country’s extensive river systems.
The news comes as India’s Hindus wrap up Kumbh Mela, a major religious pilgrimage held along the banks of the Ganges River — a waterway of great spiritual significance in Hinduism. The festival is considered to be the world’s largest religious gathering, with nearly 100 million visitors expected to bathe in waters of the sacred Ganges before the holiday’s end this upcoming Sunday.
Yet perhaps unbeknownst to the majority of celebrants this year is how severe the pollution has become in the waters they bathe in. Worse still, however, is how the situation affects the other 90 percent of the country. Largely rural India is almost completely reliant on its groundwater resources, which due to an acute lack of sewage management, are absorbing much of the waste produced by rapidly urbanizing parts of the country.
One of the companies that will be involved with post-Sandy reconstruction is the Trex Company. Founded by former oil executives, the Va.-based organization is a major supplier of wood-alternative building materials. Trex recycles around 1.3 billion plastic bags each year, which are gathered from the nation’s big-box retailers. The bags are processed with wood scraps and converted into a durable decking material, 95 percent of which comes from recycled products.
Ironically, this plastic scourge of the sea is being used to rebuild four stretches of badly damaged boardwalks in New Jersey and New York. Trex currently operates mainly in the residential market but may see more opportunities in post-storm related construction in the future.
France’s Veolia Environnement, the world’s largest private sector waste and water group, returned to profitability in 2012, and its chief is looking to new areas to boost revenues while making further cuts to the company’s debt load.
CEO Antoine Frérot says that his company intends to target growth with industrial clients and “new geographies” in the developing world in the coming years. Veolia aims to capture more business from companies by increasing its handling of hazardous materials like polluted water from the booming shale oil and gas sector, and wastes from the nuclear industry. The company also plans to shift its focus from fully developed economies so that it may expand its footprint in emerging markets in Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Mr. Frérot hopes that revenues from corporate groups and developing regions will each account for 50 percent of Veolia’s revenues in five years.
source: Dow Jones Newswires
When I was a (finicky) young lad, my parents used to say: “You must eat everything on the plate, for there are children your age in [blank] who are starving and would give anything to have what you’ve got there. No wasting.”
Who among you readers have not heard this before? For generations, this sort of statement has been uttered by millions of parents in the developed world, with many variations on the region in question. Most often for me, the “blank” was India, where my parents immigrated from in the late 1970s, and whose position in the Global Hunger Index is surpassed only by the very poorest countries in Africa.
Yet for all the familiarity of this dinner table directive, industrialized society has somehow abandoned its moral duty to conserve some of the planet’s most precious resources — the ones that enable human nourishment.
THINK of Hunger
One of the primary focus points of the United Nations’ global mission this year is food waste, now occurring worldwide on a monumental scale. Accordingly, the theme for World Environment Day 2013 is “Think.Eat.Save.”
Food for Thought:
Approximately one-third of all food grown or manufactured globally is lost to systemic production/distribution inefficiencies and consumer behavior; About half of this is discarded even though it is fit for consumption; The total quantity wasted — roughly 300 million tons — would be enough to feed the world’s 900 million hungry people.
Despite the enormity of the problem, it may be possible to make a significant dent in these shameful figures by making simple, slight adjustments to your food consumption habits and promoting these among your circles.
- Take Stock: Before shopping for food, perform a quick inventory of your pantry. While shopping, stick to a list. Buy only what you need.
- Buy Local: It may just seem like a current hip trend, but eating locally-produced food is actually a pragmatic and rewarding choice. Foods that are grown closer to you require less resource inputs (e.g. fuel) and are inherently more sustainable than ones shipped long distances. There is also less risk of spoilage in transit, thereby reducing the possibility of waste.
- Embrace Leftovers: When dining out, take that half-eaten meal home and eat it later. Don’t think you’ll want that doggy bag later? Then give it to someone. Show compassion to a homeless person or simply give it to a friend.
- Donate Food: Give back to your community by making a donation to a food bank. I’m well aware of the food crisis in my own country so it gives me pleasure to support Philabundance, a local organization that connects with individuals, producers and retailers to divert surplus food items to those who need them. Last year, the group distributed over 20 million pounds of food in my region.
- Clean Your Plate (or Eat Less!): This is fundamental. Don’t be one of those people who tosses perfectly good food into the trash; It’s an highly unattractive habit. (Seriously, I pay close attention to this on first dates!)
SAVE the Planet
Uneaten food constitutes most of the volume of solid waste in the US. Ultimately, most of it winds up in landfills. As this mass of material decomposes, it releases significant amount of methane, one of the greenhouse gases responsible for climate change.
In addition to cutting down on your own food waste, go a step further by composting. I have a worm bin in my apartment, enabling me to produce my own organic fertilizer for my houseplants while cutting my environmental impact!
Reduce your foodprint, help save the world.
I have entered this post in a blogging competition for this year’s World Environment Day. The contest is sponsored by UNEP, in partnership with Treehugger. If you enjoyed the post, please show your support by sharing with friends and family, tweeting about it using the hashtag #WED2013 or “liking” the post on Facebook. Thank you, dear readers!
Even the most benign technology can have a dark side, and it seems that solar power is no exception. An investigation by the Associated Press reveals that US solar panel makers have been generating much hazardous waste as production has boomed over the past five years.
The amount of physical waste is a growing problem – For example, the once giant, now defunct Solyndra reported producing roughly 12.5 million pounds of carcinogenic wastewater between 2007-2011. Of equal concern is how the material is handled. In many cases, solar manufacturing waste is shipped to processing facilities over long distances, adding both spillage risk and greater carbon impact to the equation.
Yet most worrisome is an apparent lack of transparency surrounding the issue. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, a group that monitors environmental issues tied to California’s high-tech industries, has observed that most solar companies in the state decline to voluntarily report their waste output and specific disposal methods.
Solar power is still undeniably more sustainable than fossil fuel energy, yet the waste issue needs to be soon confronted for this clean technology to remain competitive in an increasingly green-conscious marketplace.
A new electronics recycling law took effect in Pennsylvania late last month, prompting me to take stock of all my gizmos and gadgets that have too rapidly grown obsolete. I remembered that I was still in possession of an Apple iBook, a relic that I had for some reason dragged with me over several moves, even after the machine quit on me in the mid-2000s. I held onto the thing for years because I wanted its toxic components kept out of the landfill, but never ended up finding an easy and responsible way to rid myself of it.
Enter EraseMyLaptop, a business that I found after a quick search online. This recycler disposes of old laptops in a safe, secure manner by thoroughly wiping all data from the computers’ hard drives before recovering parts and materials for reuse and resale. This ensures that your old computer does not enter the hazardous e-waste stream, while preserving the security of any personal files may remain on the machine after you have stopped using it.
How it works: You fill out a form online, EML sends you a prepaid UPS label to ship your laptop to them. Within a few days, you receive email confirmation that the contents of your machine have been erased according to the highest standards, and that the device will be processed according to the company’s zero-landfill policy. Finally, if you reuse an old box as a package, the entire transaction is completely free!
Through this efficient process, the company has diverted over five tons of laptops from the landfill. To my delight, EML is local business based here in Philadelphia (but they accept laptops from all over the US), making me all the happier with my computer recycling experience.