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Used Car Battery Problems Take Shine Off China’s ‘Green’ New Energy Vehicles

Used Car Battery Problems Take Shine Off China’s ‘Green’ New Energy Vehicles

In the last decade, China has rapidly expanded its “green” new energy vehicle (NEV) industry but recycling and disposing of hundreds of thousands of tons of used car batteries has become a pressing issue due to environmental concerns.

Growth in China’s NEV industry took off in 2014 when nearly 78,500 NEVs were produced and some 75,000 were sold. As of September of this year, China’s NEV registration reached 6.78 million, of which 5.52 million are fully electric vehicles.

The NEV industry predicts that its production and sales growth rate will remain above 40 percent in the next five years prompting the question of how to best manage the growing numbers of discarded lithium batteries from the NEVs.

Industry data shows that the service life of lithium batteries used in electric vehicles is generally 5 to 8 years, and the service life under warranty is 4 to 6 years. That means, tens of thousands of electric car batteries will soon need to be discarded or recycled, and millions more down the road.

According to the latest data from China Automotive Technology and Research Center, the cumulative decommissioning of China’s electric car batteries reached 200,000 tons in 2020 and the figure is estimated to climb to 780,000 tons by 2025.

Presently, most end-of-life batteries are traded in the unregulated black market, raising serious environmental concerns. If such batteries are not handled properly, they could cause soil, air, and water pollution.

“A 20-gram cell phone battery can pollute a water body equivalent to three standard swimming pools. If it is buried in the ground, it can pollute 1 square kilometer (247 acres) of land for about 50 years,” Wu Feng, a professor at Beijing Institute of Technology, once publicly stated.

Electric car batteries are many times larger than cell phone batteries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Plastic, plastic everywhere

Plastic, plastic everywhere

When we discard a plastic bag, an electronic device encased in plastic, a plastic pen emptied of its ink or any of the myriad plastic objects which populate our lives, we usually say we are throwing the object “away.” By that we mean into a trash or recycling bin and from there to a landfill or recycling facility.

I put “away” in quotes because if there were ever any piece of evidence to convince us that there is no “away” in the sense described above, it is the discovery of tiny particles of plastic in the Arctic ice, deep oceans and high mountains.

These so-called microplastics are so ubiquitous now that they are believed to be floating in the air practically everywhere. Some tiny plastic bits have been seen the lungs of cancer patients who have died. Humans not only breathe them in, but also supposedly eat 50,000 of these particles every year.

And, of course, we know absolutely nothing about the potential health effects of these microplastics on humans. We are frequently told that the novel chemicals humans design are supposed to bring us advantages which will make our lives better, more productive and less toilsome. The problem is that once these are released into the environment, they go everywhere.

The industry line is that these releases are small, and that any which end up in the bodies of humans and animals will have little or no effect. But this has proven to be merely an industry ploy designed to delay the recognition of hazards as I wrote a few weeks ago.

There has been for some time a movement called “green chemistry” which aims to reduce the hazards associated with synthetic chemicals significantly. It does not, however, aim to eliminate them, at least in green chemistry’s current form.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Recycle Crisis Sweeps Across America After China Halts Plastic Waste Imports

Recycle Crisis Sweeps Across America After China Halts Plastic Waste Imports 

The green movement of the 1970s formed the modern American recycling industry, although there is some concern today that it could be collapsing in many parts of the country, The New York Times warned.

“The sooner we accept the economic impracticality of recycling, the sooner we can make serious progress on addressing the plastic pollution problem,” said Jan Dell, an engineer who leads Last Beach Cleanup.

The report cited Philadelphia, Memphis, and Sunrise and Deltona, Florida, as metropolitan areas where the economics of recycling are not feasible anymore.

“We are in a crisis moment in the recycling movement right now,” California state treasurer Fiona Ma told the Times.

The major dilemma, per the Times, is China’s ban on imported plastic waste.

Recovered plastic shipments to China collapsed by 99.1% in 2018 versus 2017. The government halted mixed paper and post-consumer scrap plastic on Jan. 1, 2018.

“Recycling has been dysfunctional for a long time,” nonprofit Recycle Across America Executive Director Mitch Hedlund told the Times. “But not many people really noticed when China was our dumping ground.”

It seems like Americans are recycling more than they need too, blending trash with recycled items, which triggered the Chinese to ban plastic waste shipments from abroad.

With China no longer a buyer of American post-consumer plastics, recycling and waste companies are now slapping municipalities with higher service fees.

“Amid the soaring costs, cities and towns are making hard choices about whether to raise taxes, cut other municipal services or abandon an effort that took hold during the environmental movement of the 1970s,” the Times reported.

Sunrise, Florida is now burning its recycled waste and transforming it into energy.

Philadelphia has also resorted to burning its recycled waste.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Pollution Panic” Strikes US Cities As Officials Face Consequences of China’s Waste Blockade

“Pollution Panic” Strikes US Cities As Officials Face Consequences of China’s Waste Blockade

Beginning in Feb 2017, as part of China’s broader “National Sword” campaign, the largest buyer of recyclables from the US, banned 24 types of solid waste from being imported and placed tougher restrictions on the ones it continues to accept.

The move left the recycling industry and authorities in a number of US cities struggling with the disposal of plastic, paper and glass trash, and as RT reports, US officials say it creates pollution, negatively impacting the health of residents.

“Communities around trash incinerators have experienced elevated levels of certain cancers,” environmental activist Mike Ewall told Ruptly video agency in Chester, outside Philadelphia, where a large incinerator is located.

It burns around 200 tons of recyclable materials every day.

Ewall noted that burning trash releases “28 times more dioxin pollution” than burning coal, emitting “the most toxic chemicals known to science,” like mercury and lead.

The residents complain that the incinerator affects house prices as well.

“It destroyed the sense of community, because people that were here moved. You cannot sell the house. It has destroyed the foundations,” local activist Zulene Mayfield told Ruptly.

Finally, some have suggested Beijing’s move to crack down on waste imports may be part of the ongoing trade war with Washington:

“I have to take off my hat to China: it’s a very clever trade move,” Jeffrey Tucker, the editorial director at the American Institute for Economic Research, told RT, adding that Beijing “would never admit that this is part of the trade war.”

For some context, U.S. plastic waste exports to China plummeted by 92 percent between the first part of 2017 and the first part of 2018. 

Infographic: China Won't Accept U.S. Plastic Waste. Now What? | Statista

You will find more infographics at Statista

“It’s a way of putting a huge tariff or a blockade on the worst of American exports to China. If it is a tactic, it’s a brilliant one.”

Your Recycling Might Be Poisoning Poor Communities

Your Recycling Might Be Poisoning Poor Communities

You know the routine, which has become a required liturgical rubric of the American civic religion. You separate your trash: plastics here, glass here, cans here, papers here. Doing so is our little way of showing we care about the environment. Not doing so – let’s just say it would be better not to be spotted in noncompliance by anyone with an elevated civic consciousness. 

What happened to all the recyclable material then? Most people hadn’t had a clue. The mostly unknown fact is that it has been mostly sent to China, which has thus far had an insatiable need for cheap raw materials for manufactured products to feed its astonishing rise over the last twenty years into the leading industrial power in the world. 

The system worked beautifully. Americans got to feel good about themselves by recycling as much as possible. China obtained the lowest possible prices for essential materials. The system worked, until suddenly it stopped working. 

The End of Recycling 

In the last year, everything changed with a new law that China passed at the onset of America’s trade war. The law, which came into effect in February 2018, is called the “National Sword” and its aim is to stop China from being used as the dumping ground for refuse from all over the world. It bans imports of 24 types of waste material. And it sets a regulatory standard for contamination that US recyclables cannot meet – with enforcement of that standard imposed by X-rays of shipping containers and much deeper inspections.

Basically, China no longer wants your leftover pizza box. Nor your empty 2-liter bottle of Mountain Dew. 

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Circular is the Circular Economy?

How Circular is the Circular Economy?

Circular-economy-2

Illustration: Diego Marmolejo.

Introducing the Circular Economy

The circular economy has become, for many governments, institutions, companies, and environmental organisations, one of the main components of a plan to lower carbon emissions. In the circular economy, resources would be continually re-used, meaning that there would be no more mining activity or waste production. The stress is on recycling, made possible by designing products so that they can easily be taken apart.

Attention is also paid to developing an “alternative consumer culture”. In the circular economy, we would no longer own products, but would loan them. For example, a customer could pay not for lighting devices but for light, while the company remains the owner of the lighting devices and pays the electricity bill. A product thus becomes a service, which is believed to encourage businesses to improve the lifespan and recyclability of their products.

The circular economy is presented as an alternative to the “linear economy” – a term that was coined by the proponents of circularity, and which refers to the fact that industrial societies turn valuable resources into waste. However, while there’s no doubt that the current industrial model is unsustainable, the question is how different to so-called circular economy would be.

Several scientific studies (see references) describe the concept as an “idealised vision”, a “mix of various ideas from different domains”, or a “vague idea based on pseudo-scientific concepts”. There’s three main points of criticism, which we discuss below.

Too Complex to Recycle

The first dent in the credibility of the circular economy is the fact that the recycling process of modern products is far from 100% efficient. A circular economy is nothing new. In the middle ages, old clothes were turned into paper, food waste was fed to chickens or pigs, and new buildings were made from the remains of old buildings. The difference between then and now is the resources used.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Repurposing Wood

REPURPOSING WOOD

Not so long ago, my wife Emma and I bought our property, a place for which we’d been looking for nearly four years. And, in doing so, the enormity of what we were about to undertake sunk in. I’d been gathering up wood in anticipation of us needing to build a home, but the pace had been leisurely and the collected resources a bit aimless in there (re)purpose.

Amazingly, the property came with a bonus: There was already a structure on it. A picnic shelter, that is our future home already had a slab and a roof. This was a major relief because we’d been contemplating how to balance foundations, ecology, and building codes for the floor of the house. Suddenly, that was done. We’d have never voluntarily poured concrete, but we are happy to (re)use a slab. As for the roof, it was an instant spot to keep materials out of the weather.

However, with the dimensions of our home now official and the plan roughed out in a real way, I started calculating the amount of wood we had versus what we needed. We were short. Very much so. Hoping to get started within the next year, I realized we were going to have to seriously up our efforts for squirreling away some wood for the project. We wanted to repurpose the bulk, if not all, of our lumber, so that added a challenge, amongst the many before us, that many builders don’t have to worry about.

Pallets

What We Had Stacked

From the moment we’d decided we were going to live in North Carolina, I’d started looking out for lumber. I started with pallets. At our last home in Guatemala, I’d become quite the pallet enthusiast, particularly building tables, benches, and garden furnishings.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Perils of Plastic Pollution

The Perils of Plastic Pollution

Plastics are found in the products we use every day: the toys we give our children, the clothing we wear, the disposable cups we drink from, the automobiles we make, the straws we use, the list goes on.  Cheap and easy to make, plastic goods and plastic production have exploded in recent years.  Yet the junked cars, the used straws and cups, they all end up somewhere, perhaps in a landfill, or perhaps drifting in the wind.  91% of plastic goods are not recycled.  Most have found their way to rivers, lakes, and oceans, and over time break down into tiny microscopic particles of plastic.  Microplastics are everywhere, even in the deepest sea floor sediments and in the Arctic.  They can originate in small form from toothpaste or makeup, or can be derived from larger pieces of plastic, which over time break down into small particles.

Not very long ago (Sept. 8, 2018), a giant 2,000 foot long tube was launched from San Francisco to be towed to a suitable site.  The brainchild of a young 24-year-old Dutchman named Boyan Slat, it is intended to trap some of the ever-increasing tons of plastic polluting our oceans.  To be sure California lends a more sympathetic ear to pollution problems than does Washington or the federal government these days.

Researchers have sought to determine the extent of plastic pollution and tested water samples from cities and towns on five continents.  The results: microscopic plastic particles were present in 83%.  Ironically samples that tested positive included the US Capitol building and the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC, as well as the Trump Grill in New York.  Researchers say these plastic particles are also likely in foods prepared with water, such as pasta and bread.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Low Oil Prices Take Their Toll On Recycling Sector

Low Oil Prices Take Their Toll On Recycling Sector

That’s just as true today, despite many changes in societal priorities. Plastics are still ubiquitous, whether they’re made from oil or recycled from scrap. But a major change has come over the past 19 months, and there’s no telling how long it will be with us: The price of oil has fallen so low that it’s now less expensive to make plastic than to recycle it.

And this is hurting recycling, which is more than a social movement, it’s a $100 billion-a-year business in the United States. And it’s a complex one. One company sorts and cleans items such as used water bottles and food containers, then sells them to other companies that melt them down to make new items ranging from grocery bags to more water bottles.

Related: Cheap Oil Hits Housing In North Dakota, Texas, and Others

Now with the price of oil below $40 per barrel – down dramatically from more than $110 per barrel in June 2014 – it’s gotten to the point where making new plastic from oil makes more sense because there’s no additional process of cleaning and sorting, according to Tom Outerbridge, the general manager of Sims Municipal Recycling in Brooklyn, N.Y.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Outerbridge said negotiating with other companies over the price of cleaned and sorted plastics had become brutal over the past year. “You’re negotiating around a penny or a half-penny a pound,” he said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Getting it wrong on recycling

Getting it wrong on recycling

Let’s see what those disparaging America’s rate of recycling as “too high” either get completely wrong or fail to understand. You can read recent commentary suggesting that the recycling rate is too high herehere and here.

The number one complaint is that it costs more to recycle some categories of waste than to put them into a landfill. What the critics fail to comprehend is that unlike a couple of generations ago when most landfills were owned and run by local governments, today most are run by profit-making enterprises such as Waste Management Inc. and Republic Services Inc. which haul some 80 percent of the nation’s refuse. Those enterprises developed their large centralized landfills for the purpose of keeping down their disposal costs.

Since the private waste disposal industry has organized its infrastructure around cheap landfill disposal, it’s no wonder that landfilling seems like the most cost-effective option. It follows that if we Americans had built a waste infrastructure with the goal of zero waste as Germany did, our infrastructure would naturally have delivered lower costs for recycling than it does.

The Germans landfill about 1 percent of their waste compared to America’s 68 percent. Germans recycle about 70 percent of their waste and burn almost all the rest to produce energy. Americans recycle about 25 percent of their waste and burn about 7 percent.

Consider this analogy. You can make your house energy-efficient in two ways. You can build it to be energy-efficient in the first place. Or, you can add energy-efficient features later on. Which do you think would be more cost-effective?

That’s what we’ve been facing with the boom in recycling. We are retrofitting a system designed for cheap landfilling rather than building a system designed for cheap recycling (which ought to be our goal).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

6 Useful Ends for Spent Tea and Coffee

Coffee in the Garden (Courtesy of Montgomery Cty Division)

6 Useful Ends for Spent Tea and Coffee

Coffee is just divine. I’ve woken up other ways and have even taken to drinking a glass of water first thing every morning, before coffee happens, but nothing makes the world feel so right as the sun coming up over a steaming mug, even in—especially in—the muggy climates of Central America, where I spend most of my time.

My wife, on the other hand, comes from proper British roots and often fancies a cup of tea as opposed to the more jolting Guatemalan roast. So, for her, it’s tea that makes the day, and in nearly a decade of living abroad, it’s one of only two things—the other being Marmite—that she requests when family visits from the Isles.

Without a doubt, this love of tea and coffee is nothing exclusive to us, and so it feels fairly safe to assume there are a lot of old tea bags and spent coffee grounds making the rounds out there. Thus, many of us permie-, enviro- types could be making good use of our beverage leftovers, cycling our garbage into a advantageous resource

Here are some of the things we do, and some of the things in store for the future.

1. COMPOST:

The obvious destination for anything organic is the compost bin. Coffee is a powerful nitrogen element to compost heaps, and despite popular belief, it isn’t nearly as acidic as people think. The acid found in roasted coffee is water-soluble so that, by the time the coffee has been brewed, the grounds have a nearly neutral pH-balance. Coffee is also thought to attract worms. Tea is respected for its antifungal qualities, as well as pest repelling, and more importantly, it attracts good bacteria and speeds up the decomposition process. In fact, the old bags can be brewed together in a pitcher one last time to be poured onto the heap.

Compost at Capacity (Courtesy of Alan Levine)
Compost at Capacity (Courtesy of Alan Levine)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Canadians piling up more garbage than ever before as disposables rule

Canadians piling up more garbage than ever before as disposables rule

There’s a high price to pay for our love affair with products of convenience

We like to think we’re behaving like model citizens, hauling our recycling to the curb and composting our banana peels. But the sad truth is, Canadians are piling up more household garbage than ever before. It appears that even in an era of environmental awareness, we just can’t quit our love affair with convenient, disposable products.

Unfortunately, all that convenience is costing us both environmentally and financially.

According to Statistics Canada’s latest data, the total amount of trash that Canadian households tossed increased by almost seven per cent since 2004 to 9.6 million tonnes in 2012. Although the population rose at a slightly faster rate over that period, the growing trash output is still startling considering the significant ramping up of the country’s many recycling and composting programs over those years.

“I’m not totally surprised but I am disappointed,” says Emily Alfred, waste campaigner with Toronto Environmental Alliance. She says a big culprit is the rapid pace of disposable products piling up in the marketplace.

“The rate of product design and new things being put on the market is faster than most municipalities’ [recycling systems] can keep up with,” she says.

Can’t get enough of convenience

recycling frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables in stand-up plastic bags on display in a store freezer. The City of Toronto cannot recycle these bags. (CBC)

One good example — those convenient resealable plastic bags often containing frozen fruit or vegetables that stand upright in a grocery store’s freezer. “It’s great for advertisers because you can now see their products,” says Alfred.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The circular economy’s missing ingredient: Local

The Chicago flag, made from wood salvaged at The Plant.

One Saturday in early June, a group of people gathered behind an old meatpacking plant on Chicago’s South Side, armed with shovels and handmade compost sifters.

In teams of three, the group began sifting a huge pile of rubble excavated from the lot in order to install an anaerobic digester. One person scooped rubble on to the screener, while the other two shook the screen back and forth, forcing small particles through while keeping large rocks and branches out.

“Soil has three components: Sand, silt and clay,” explained soil expert Dominic Brose as the group rested between bouts of sifting. “This is mostly sand we’re getting here. Hardly any clay.”

Soil scientist Dominic Brose explaining soil structure at a Plant Chicago soil-building workshop.

The setting was The Plant, a former meatpacking facility turned urban food hub. The occasion wasOpen Source Circular Economy (OSCE) Days 2015, a worldwide hack-a-thon aimed at inspiring people to reconsider waste, production and the economy as we know it.Because Plant Chicago focuses on urban agriculture and material reuse, we decided to host an OSCE Days workshop with the challenge of building soil from all locally available materials.

We invited Brose, a soil scientist with the local wastewater treatment facility. He brought a 10-cubic yard load of composted wastewater solids (biosolids). We also had a truckload of woodchips dumped on site and set to work creating the sand portion of our soil recipe. With Dominic, a few Plant Chicago staff and six other workshop attendees, we sifted for two hours, yielding about a cubic yard of sand.

Estimating that the lot would need about 500 cubic yards of sand to meet our soil-building goals, we’d obviously need to innovate beyond hand-sifting. We spent the rest of the workshop brainstorming and drawing plans for building our own automated sifting machine from salvaged materials.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

 

 

THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX

The Workshop/Store in Paris’ 18th Arrondissement – Photo (CC): Carton plein

THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX

In the North of Paris, the Carton plein association collects, cleans and sells discarded boxes. People in precarious situations recycle, deliver by bike and help move – gaining professional and life skills in the process.

It all began with Francis, a rag man who makes a living reusing and recycling things. He was peeved by the heaps of empty boxes that are dumped on the streets of Paris. “The yellow bins for paper and cardboard aren’t big enough for all the stuff that people throw out,” he says. “The city doesn’t have the resources to deal with the problem. There are some companies that take care of the problem, and it works out because the demand is there.” He and his friend Antoine Aumonier decided to collect part of these boxes to compact them into smaller bales and resell them.

They invested in a compacter. Yet the project was off to a rocky start: The machine cost several thousand euros, the boxes took up a lot of space, and the compacted bales didn’t sell well. “They also thought it was a pity to crush perfectly fine boxes”, says Hélène, a volunteer for the association that Francis and Antoine founded following their difficult launch. The project turned a corner: They now collected boxes from private citizens, associations and companies in order to clean and reuse them.

Reselling for reintegration

So now, 33 rue du Nord in Paris is home to the unusual store of the Carton plein (‘full box’) association. You can buy boxes here –– individually, if you just need to store some unused items, or in bulk for a major move. .

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Local Governments Increasingly Poking Through Your Garbage

Local Governments Increasingly Poking Through Your Garbage

Civil libertarians are worried about an increasingly common form of domestic surveillance that has nothing to do with listening to your phone calls or reading your emails; it has to do with looking through your garbage.

Municipalities across the United States are implementing intrusive methods of monitoring the stuff people throw away as part of a push to increase efficiency and conformity to recycling rules. But the end result is that some garbage trucks now have the ability to record the contents of your trash cans on video to inspect each object.

“This kind of automated garbage monitoring raises very serious privacy concerns,” the American Civil Liberties Union warned in a press release on Friday. “While encouraging residents to recycle is commendable, any program involving the government’s systematic monitoring of citizens crosses a line. The contents of your trash can be surprisingly revealing.”

Residents in several Wisconsin cities are already subject to the new video monitoring practice. In Seattle, where garbage men can visually inspect garbage and levy fines on bad recyclers, residents are suing the city for violating their privacy.

There are also digital methods of tracking people’s garbage. In some cities, trash cans are monitored with RFID devices (Radio-Frequency Identification); the chips are attached to the bins, so that computers inside trash trucks can determine and record their movements. In Charlotte, N. C., collectors monitor the chips to “track and manage cart inventory,” and determine who is actually putting their recycling bin out on the curb. Dayton, Ohio, has been tracking trash can locations since 2010, and residents who recycle are eligible for a cash prize. In Cleveland, if the chip shows a recyclable cart hasn’t been brought to the curb in weeks, a trash supervisor can sort through the trash and impose a $100 fine if the regular trash has more than 10 percent recyclable material — although no fines have yet been levvied.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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