Sierra Club Annual Report

Explore. Enjoy. Protect.

How bad has this year been for our environment?    Here are 60 things in the last 12 months:

29 rules overturned 24 rollbacks in progress 7 rollbacks in limbo

Michael Brune
Executive Director
Sierra Club

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From Cup To Car

Image: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Coffee gets us started every morning.  Now it gets your car started too.

With help from Shell Oil Company, bio-bean, a company that has been collecting London’s 220,000 tons of annually spent coffee grounds, put their new biofuel into the gas tanks of London’s famous double decker buses.  By partnering with large coffee shops like Costa Coffee and Caffe Nero, a steady stream of grounds will produce enough fuel to power a city bus for a year.

On the American front, Mano Misra’s , Susanta Mohapatra’s, and Narasimharao Kondamudi’s study has been published online in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a bi-weekly publication.  Written by Mark T.Sampson, they report that waste coffee grounds provide a cheap, abundant, and environmentally friendly source of biodiesel fuel.  They found that spent coffee grounds contain between 11 and 20 percent oil by weight, which could add an estimated 340 million gallons of biodiesel to the world’s fuel supply.

In 2016, about 143.22 billion gallons of finished motor gasoline (a complex mixture of relatively volatile hydrocarbons with or without small quantities of additives, blended to form a fuel suitable for use in spark-ignition engines) were consumed in the United States.

The new “B20” coffee-based fuel smells like java and has the major advantage of being more stable than traditional biodiesel; due to coffee’s high antioxidant content.  Solids left over from the conversion can be converted to ethanol or used as compost.  The biofuel is 20% coffee oil, while the rest of the mix comes from fossil diesel.

Biofuels burn cleaner than fossil fuels, releasing less carbon into the atmosphere, but the production and harvesting of plants destined for fuel (like corn, wheat and sugarcane) can cancel out the benefits.  Using waste products—like coffee grounds—to create fuel minimizes damage to the environment on the production end, and reduces overloading of landfill.

Through a partnership with Argent Energy, many households in the UK have begun to use this in their homes.  This is a technology I want to hear more about.

Put Put Put Off You Go

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Beauty Queens and Companies Contribute To Coastal Clean Up

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 5.20.49 PM

Half a million people worldwide joined The Ocean Conservancy  International Coastal Cleanup and raised awareness about the human impact of plastics on our oceans.

A bold new initiative on the world stage occurred!  Ocean Conservancy, the Trash Free Seas Alliance®, and Closed Loop Partners, with the support of world leading brands—including Procter & Gamble3MPepsiCo and plastic makers from the American Chemistry Council and the World Plastics Council—will create a new funding mechanism to raise over $150 million in the next five years targeted to improve waste collection, sorting and recycling markets in Southeast Asia (the world’s biggest polluters).  This combined effort helps reach a goal of cutting the amount of trash entering our oceans in HALF.  Many years went into working on this issue.  Because of this year’s support, The Ocean Conservancy was able to show the world that the public stands behind their dream of trash free seas®.

The Trash Free Seas Alliance is comprised of:

Ocean Conservancy, Algalita Marine Research and Education, The Coca-Cola Company, Covanta Energy, The Dow Chemical Company, ITW, Keep America Beautiful, The Marine Mammal Center, The Ocean Recovery Alliance, Project AWARE Foundation, Amcor, American Chemistry Council, Bank of America, Cox Enterprises, DANONE, Dart Container Corporation, Georgia Aquarium, Nature Works, Nestlé Waters NA, Procter & Gamble, REDISA, Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean, The Consumer Goods Forum, Vancouver Aquarium, Walmart, World Animal Protection, The World Plastics Council, World Wildlife Fund 

There are some very environmentally destructive companies making an effort to partner with environmental groups involved in this important cause. Visit their website to learn more.
www.trashfreeseas.org

Of the top ten countries responsible for plastic waste entering the ocean, six are in Asia, with China the top offender producing 2.22 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, and  Indonesia second at 1.29 million, according to Surya Chandak, a senior program officer at the United Nations Environment Program, quoted in local media. Chandak cited the region’s growing economies and populations as prime culprits.  The Philippines is third, Vietnam fourth, Thailand sixth and Malaysia eighth.

Miss Oceans Vietnam was designed to draw attention to the plastic pollution problem in the South China Seas.

Until next time,    

Garbage Girl

Rwanda and Kenya Plastic Pollution Leaders

Plastic bags get buried in the sand and become part of the beach.

Rwanda and Kenya are leading the world by eliminating a familiar problem: billions of plastic bags choking waterways and destroying entire ecosystems.  To fight this evil, all non-biodegradable plastic is banned from these countries.

At Kigali International Airport, a sign warns visitors that plastic bags will be confiscated.  Agents from the Rwanda Environment Management Authority (REMA) inspect travelers’ suitcases and discard all plastic films. Throughout the country, businesses have been forced to replace plastic carrier bags with paper ones.  The ban was a bold move. It paid off with an obvious improvement in clean countrysides, roadways, and water.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/15/rwanda-banned-plastic-bags-so-can-we

The United Nations, has begun a #CleanSeas campaign to eliminate the use of plastic microbeads and single-use plastic bags by 2022.   With more than 40 countries acting now to help meet this goal, there is no excuse for the rest of the world to wait.

Many other countries, states and cities are in the news because they are trying to deal with this horrific issue.

England imposed a 5-pence charge on plastic bags in 2015 and usage dropped 85 percent in the first nine months!

California became the first American state to ban plastic bags, in 2014.  State laws are slow to pass.  See where your state stands in the Ban the Bag push.   http://www.bagtheban.com/in-your-state

Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocked a New York City bill in 2014 to impose a 5-cent fee on plastic bags because less advantaged people would be unfairly targeted and the NYC economy is dependent on consumer convenience.  Early this year, Mr. Cuomo formed a task force to create passable legislation. That law cannot come soon enough.  The New York Department of Sanitation collects an average of 1,700 tons of plastic bags per week, costing $12.5 million per year in disposal expenses.    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/14/nyregion/cuomo-blocks-new-york-city-plastic-bag-law.html?mcubz=1

No bag is free of an environmental impact, whether that’s contributing to climate change, ocean pollution, water scarcity, or pesticide use. We tend to favor reusable bags in an attempt to reduce our chronic overconsumption, but they come with many associated problems.

Considering what we put in the bag at the store (unnecessary packaging, meat, products wrapped in plastic, single use products) and how we discard or use the bag after its achieved its original purpose has a real impact on the environment.

     
These books will open up a whole new world.  Color photographs, maps, and graphics explore one of the planet’s most dynamic environments—from tourist beaches to Arctic beaches strewn with ice chunks to steaming hot tropical shores.  The World’s Beaches tells how beaches work, explains why they vary so much, and shows how dramatic changes can occur on them in a matter of hours.  It discusses tides, waves, and wind; the patterns of dunes, washover fans, and wrack lines; and the shape of berms, bars, shell lags, cusps, ripples, and blisters.  This fascinating, comprehensive guide also considers the future of beaches, and explains how extensively people have affected them—from coastal engineering to pollution, oil spills, and rising sea levels.  The Beach Book tells sunbathers why beaches widen and narrow, and helps boaters and anglers understand why tidal inlets migrate.  It gives home buyers insight into erosion rates and provides natural-resource managers and interested citizens with rich information on beach nourishment and coastal-zone development.

Until next time,  

Garbage Girl

NY’s Bottle Bill Joins The OWM Hall of Shame

A cheap drink made in Brooklyn that is polluting Brooklyn

How does New York’s Bottle Bill work?

New York State’s Returnable Container Act requires every deposit initiator to collect a $.05 deposit on beverage containers containing less than one gallon of carbonated soft drinks, beer, malt beverages, wine coolers or water, sold in New York.

A deposit initiator is the first bottler, distributor, dealer or agent to collect the deposit on a beverage container sold in New York State. You’re a deposit initiator if you:

  • Bottle beverages in beverage containers
  • Distribute beverages in beverage containers
  • Sell beverages in beverage containers
  • Act as an agent on behalf of a registered deposit initiator

Dealers (“retailers”) pay the distributor or deposit initiator at least a 5-cent deposit for each beverage container purchased.

Consumers pay the dealers the deposit for each beverage container purchased. (we pay $.05 to Pepsico and Arizona Teas to litter our environment with every purchase)

Consumers may then return their empty beverage containers to a dealer or redemption center to get their deposit back.

Retailers and redemption centers are reimbursed the deposit plus a 3.5-cent handling fee by the distributor or the deposit initiator for each empty beverage container returned.

http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/57687.html

What beverages are covered by NY’s Bottle Bill?

Carbonated Soft Drinks, Sparkling Water, Carbonated Energy Drinks, Carbonated Juice (anything less than 100% juice, containing added sugar or water)
Soda Water
Beer and Other Malt Beverages
Mineral Water – Both carbonated and non-carbonated mineral water
Wine Products
Water that is flavored or nutritionally enhanced

What beverages are not covered by NY’s Bottle Bill?

Milk Products
Wine and Liquors
Hard Ciders
Tea  hello@drinkarizona.com
Sports Drinks  there is no contact info for Gatorade
Juice
Drink Boxes
Waters Containing Sugar

Let’s look at what is littered on our streets from Gatorade and Arizona Teas.  Both companies do not have deposit agreements with NY. I encounter this litter everyday on my 15 minute walk to work from Clinton Hill to Downtown Brooklyn on Dekalb Ave.

     

Take a moment to learn which companies have deposits for your state. It makes a difference.

The consumer deposit tax is not the best system to protect our environment but that is a topic for another blog.

Natural Ways To Consume Electrolytes

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

POPS, PCBs and Plastic Pellets

In 2005, Dr. Hideshige Takada founded International Pellet Watch (IPW) to track and study plastic pellets.  Pellets are the raw material that gets remelted and molded into plastic products.  Citizens across the globe collected plastic pellets from the beaches they visited and sent them to his laboratory at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.  The content of the pellets are analyzed to determine its global POP distribution. The results are sent to the participants via email and released on the web.

So far, pellet samples from approximately 200 locations in about 40 countries have been analyzed.  Five samples are analyzed from each location to see piece-to-piece variability.  About 1000 pellet samples have been analyzed so far.  POPs were detected in every one of those 1000 pellet samples from around the world, even from remote islands, providing evidence that plastic pellets transport POPs for long distances.

POPs are hazardous human-made chemicals that are resistant to degradation in the environment. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), different sorts of organochlorine pesticides (e.g. DDTs and HCHs) and brominated flame-retardants are all POPs.

Analyzing plastic pellets enables IPW to observe spatial patterns of POP concentrations. For example, PCB concentrations were two to three orders of magnitude higher in highly-industrialized areas.  Even though, usage of PCBs was banned in the 1970s, they accumulated in the bottom sediments in coastal zones and rivers.  (General Electric caused The Hudson River to become a Super Fund Site by dumping PCBs into the water for decades).  Due to their persistent and hydrophobic nature, PCBs are easily remobilized by wind, waves, and currents, sediments stirred up by organisms, dredging and underwater construction.  PCBs continue to contaminate coastal waters by becoming absorbed into plastic pellets.

I googled plastic pellets and . . . . yikes!

https://www.google.com/search?q=plastic+pellets&oq=plastic+pellets&gs_l=psy-ab.3..35i39k1l2j0l4j0i67k1j0l3.165391.167158.0.168302.11.11.0.0.0.0.166.1252.3j8.11.0….0…1.1.64.psy-ab..0.11.1249…0i22i30k1j0i22i10i30k1.0.qqd1N-bxI3U

Until next time,

Garbage Girl

Our Best Guide to Waste and Garbage Gurus

My Garbage Girl alter ego and founder of Waste Warriors is Jodie Underhill.  She is on a mission to clean up India and educate people about litter.  Her organization started by cleaning up the base camps after the adventure tourism industry sold the thrill of conquering our earth’s highest peaks to climbers.

This is a glaring example of us having the desire to be “at-one” with our planet’s unique offerings and yet our footprint of accomplishment is our waste.  The definition of waste is an act or instance of using or expending something carelessly, extravagantly, or to no purpose.

What is this behavior?  How is it possible that we don’t feel responsible for what we use once and leave behind?  Why does the next person have to experience our waste?  Who pays the cost for our lack of community and the guardianship of our home?                Kenneth Worthy of Psychology Today blogs about answers to these questions.  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-green-mind.  

Let’s pause for a moment and consider that plastic bag we saw blowing down the street or the plastic water bottle lying in the gutter.   If it rains before that item is disposed of properly, it is washed into the storm sewers.  There it clogs up the filters in our waste water treatment plants (if there is a treatment plant).  If the storm is heavy enough, and the filters are full, that item bypasses the system and finds its way into our rivers and oceans.  It takes a ride on the currents and gets consumed by birds and marine life.  If it isn’t consumed, it starts to break down further and further to become part of the ocean ecology forever.  Think about that… forever… as in it will NEVER go away.  And then the cycle infinitely repeats itself all over again.  https://www.helpstoplitterbugs.com/educational-resources   Help Stop Litterbugs explores the global costs of littering and offers anti-littering ads and activities for kids as well as Educational Resources for teachers, parents and volunteers.

Let’s take that plastic bag and fill it with the litter we pass along our way and dispose of it properly by sorting what is recyclable.  We can follow Jodie Underhill and become Waste Warriors in our own lives.

 

TED Talks is a great resource for ideas about waste.  Here are just a few links to some of the most inspiring waste and garbage gurus:

Until Next Week,

Garbage Girl

Waste Wanted

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Sweden, population 9.7 million and slightly larger than California, has a program of generating energy from garbage that is wildly successful, but recently its success has also generated a surprising issue: there is not enough trash.  Due to its efficiency in converting waste to renewable energy, Sweden started importing around 800,000 tons of trash annually from other countries.

Only 4 percent of Swedish garbage ends up in a landfill, according to Swedish Waste Management. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency states 250 million tons of trash was generated in 2010, but only about 34 percent was recycled.  (I wonder what the statistic is for 2014!)

Swedish trash incineration plants approach or exceed 90% efficiency. Most power plants only achieve 15-25% efficiency.  90% of garbage is available as energy! The efficiency is possible because they generate electricity by burning the trash, they use the heat to heat water, the hot water is piped to communities, a heat exchange system transfers the heat to a self-enclosed local system which sends the heated water to radiators and faucets in homes and businesses. Efficient, well designed, reliable, engineering.

Called District Heating Systems, its less expensive than heating by electricity and oil.  A typical Swedish city of 110,000 with the system installed over the last 30-40 years has nearly 100% coverage.

The technology is not new. Countries that have no landfill space and no deep supply of fossil fuels place a priority on recovering valuable resources. In the US, waste-to-energy facilities are not popular because of the air born pollutants that are a byproduct of burning, the truck traffic to transfer the garbage, the unsightliness of the facility not wanted near where we live and the potential to reduce recycling incentives.  Yet! Sweden has the 5th cleanest air quality (US rates 12th) and the 3rd cleanest water (US rates 39th) and the priority placed on aesthetics can be witnessed by the design of the above plant.  Even the lights change position and color to inform the community of the stages occurring in the process!  Byproducts such as bottom ash, are sorted for metals and recycled as fill for road construction and fly ash, which is toxic, is deposited in a landfill certified to handle hazardous materials. Air emissions are cleaned through a series of scrubbers and filters that exceed environmental standards.  “The same manufacturers are supplying both continents. This means that the emission levels are comparable,” said Matt Kasper, a special assistant for energy policy at the Center for American Progress.  In addition, Kasper reports, “Waste-to-energy and recycling are compatible with one another. Countries in Europe that utilize waste-to-energy have some of the world’s highest recycling rates.”

Sweden recognized and confronted the rapid national and international loss of natural resources and took a lead in organising the first UN conference on the environment, held in Stockholm in 1972.

Sweden’s proactive environmental policies have led to a reduction in acidification and eutrophication (excessive richness of nutrients in a body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen).  Held up as a role model in water management; Sweden’s tap water is drinkable and you can safely swim in central parts of the capital, Stockholm.

At present, Sweden has the highest percentage of renewable energy in the EU (over 47 per cent). By 2020, the Government says its within reach of making half of the country’s energy renewable.

Although Sweden is a frontrunner in environmental policy, it recognizes that there is plenty of room to improve for the benefit of future generations.  Sweden’s environment policy is based on 16 environmental quality objectives:

  • Reduced climate impact
  • Clean air
  • Natural acidification only
  • A non-toxic environment
  • A protective ozone layer
  • A safe radiation environment
  • Zero eutrophication
  • Flourishing lakes and streams
  • Good-quality groundwater
  • A balanced marine environment, flourishing coastal areas and archipelagoes
  • Thriving wetlands
  • Sustainable forests
  • A varied agricultural landscape
  • A magnificent mountain landscape

Its incineration plants offer a look into the future where countries could potentially make money off of their trash. Environmental technology is a growing economic sector in Sweden, with some 3,500 companies in the field. Sweden’s main strength lies in producing systemic solutions resource management, waste management and renewable energy.

Leave it to the Scandinavians to make even trash chic.

images

Does it look so bad?

How You Can Help:

  • Vote on November 4th for politicians who support renewable energy policy. The growing political clout of renewable energy interests is challenging the huge financial backings from powerful groups such as Americans for Prosperity, i.e. Koch Industries.  Measures have been introduced in about 18 states to expand the battle over fossil fuel and renewable energy to the state level. The new rules would require utilities to use solar and wind energy, as well as proposed Environmental Protection Agency rules that would reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
  • Learn more about local improvements and initiatives. http://www.alternative-energy-news.info/technology/politics/
  • Green Mountain Power can be a great alternative to Con Edison to receive your power from solar and wind. http://www.greenmountainpower.com/smart/

Until next week!

Garbage Girl