16 posts categorized "Current Affairs"

April 01, 2011

Hawaii-sized Recycled Island to be Built from Ocean Garbage Patch

Mother Nature Network 4.1.11

PatchDutch architect Ramon Knoester has an ambitious design that will turn the 7 billion pounds of plastic trash swirling in the Pacific Ocean into the world's most eco-friendly society. That's right. He wants to create a 100 percent sustainable floating island for interested inhabitants. The island made from collected debris will bob somewhere between San Francisco and Hawaii. And although the idea may seem unthinkable, Koester's firm, WHIM architecture, is already in the process of designing a prototype for the fittingly named "Recycled Island," reports Discovery News.

Check out the project's website for more information about Recycled Island, or learn about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here

Click here to read the full article.

Image: Ingrid Taylar/ Flickr

March 30, 2011

Turtle Found that Pooped Plastic for a Month

Mother Nature Network 3.30.11

Main_turtle_16 One of the more disturbing effects of our over-indulgence and reliance on use-and-toss disposables rests in the significant health risks it poses to animals via marine pollution. Of the issues being discussed this week at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, one report that has experts talking is the appalling story of a sea turtle that ingested a large piece of plastic that became lodged in its gastrointestinal tract, preventing the turtle from normal digestion. After researchers dislodged the shard of plastic, the animal proceeded to defecate 74 foreign objects over the next month!

According to the report, which was issued by Seaturtle.org's Marine Turtle Newsletter (pdf), about half of all surveyed sea turtles have ingested plastic. 

See what shocking items this turtle ingested by reading the full article here. To access advice and follow conference events, visit the group's website here.
Image: Mnn.com

Republicans Scrap 'Compostable' Utensils in House Cafeterias

Los Angeles Times 3.25.11

60390430 After gaining control of the House, Republicans are piling their plates with a controversial issue that's separating lawmakers significantly along party lines.

According to Republicans, the use of "compostable" cups and utensils was "neither cost-effective nor energy-efficient," as reported by the L.A. Times. Notorious plastic utensils and flimsy polystyrene cups are back, and Democrats have a mouthful to say about it. Modifying utensils in the cafeteria, which serves approximately 230,000 meals a month, was an essential part of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Green the Capitol initiative.  Some lawmakers are advocating the wisdom of reusables by bringing mugs from home and suggesting metal spoons and forks as a solution to the issue.
 
Take a look at our disposable lunch item facts for information regarding cutlery and lunch waste.

Read the full article here.

Image: Jim Young / Reuters

Plastic: Too Good to Throw Away

New York Times 3.23.11

18opedimg-popup Persistently avoiding plastic may seem key to combating over-consumption and the production of plastic-based materials, but, in reality, the issue is far more complex. In a recent Op-Ed piece, Susan Freinkel, a New York Times contributor and author of the forthcoming book Plastic: A Toxic Love Story, dispels the common misconception that suggests shunning plastic and settling for bag bans and fees will drastically alter the ethos of our culture.

Instead, Freinkel advocates for shifting the public perception of plastic as cheap and worthless to durable and profitable by eliminating its presence in disposables.

 Check out our "I'm not a . . ." or "Thank you" series, which offer affordable, sustainable alternatives to use-and-toss disposables like plastic bottles and bags.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: www.nytimes.com

March 22, 2011

Bangalore: Plastic Bag Ban Remains Ineffective

Expressbuzz.com 3.17.11

2011031763900301 Bangalore, a city in south central India, recently implemented a ban on plastic bags of less than 40 microns that seems to have little effect on Bangaloreans. According to the notification from Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), March 15 was the deadline for banning such bags; but city folks were seen carrying bags of even less than 20 microns despite the ordinance. 

“Since a 40-50 micron bag costs more than a 20 micron-thick plastic bag, demand is always higher for the latter from medicine shops and small retailers,” according to a small scale plastic manufacturing unit owner as reported by Sohini Das

The previous provision focused on a thickness limit of 20 microns, but now the recent Plastic Handling Rules of 2011 mandates that manufacturers do not produce plastic below 40 microns in thickness. Without proper enforcement and continual awareness, shop-owners and consumers remain resistant to the newly modified ban.

Check out the full article here

Check out our stance on fees vs. bans here.

Image: Hindu.com

Japan's Wind Turbines Provide Power After Disaster

Treehugger.com 3.18.11

20110318-japan-wind-turbine Since last week, the scale of destruction caused by the Japanese trifecta disaster of earthquake-tsunami-nuclear power plant crisis, and the unfortunate casualties, has captivated individuals worldwide. As Japan struggles to recooperate, they're relying on a familiar, green power source.

Japan's wind turbines are currently producing 175 MW of Japan's approximate total wind capacity of 275 MW, according to the Huffington Post as reported by Kelly Rigg. Operators are being asked to increase operations where possible to assist with electricity shortfalls, and while shares in the Tokyo stock market have fallen during the crisis, the stock price of Japan Wind Development Co. Ltd. has risen from 31,500 yen on 11 March to 47,800 yen on 16 March, according to the Huffington Post.

To read the full article, click here

Image: Treehugger.com

 

China, Malaysia and Czech Republic Become Latest Nations to Ban BPA

GreenBiz.com 3.15.11

Detskelahvegrafika China, Malaysia and the Czech Republic have joined the list of countries setting bans on the notorious endocrine-mimicking chemical Bisphenol-A, which has been linked in lab tests to a wide range of health issues. However, the rationale behind the ban is arguably diminished by an erroneous compromise: Baby bottles will go, but cups, plastic food containers, receipts and the linings of tin cans containing BPA will remain available to the public. Only items with a higher probablility of exposure in children and infants are being targeted.

China's Ministry of Health announced it plans to ban any BPA-containing baby bottles or other food and drink items for children, but has no start date as of now, reported Shanghai Daily. Malaysia's ban on baby bottles made with BPA begins next March; and in order to comply with a European directive, the Czech Republic must recall polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA as of June 1, 2011.

The Centers for Disease Control says 93-percent of us have BPA in our bodies.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: czechposition.com 

March 15, 2011

TED talk: Using Nature's Genius in Architecture

TED.com 02.11

How can architects fuel sustainable architecture and eliminate raw materials? Peering into the beautiful, organic world of molecular plant structures and insect biology, developers are looking at nature for answers. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn illustrates how biomimicry could potentially revolutionize the way humans develop and sustain resources.

This extraordinary science and art of emulating nature's complex biological systems to solve human issues involves three habits of nature: radical resource efficiency, closed loops, and drawing energy from the sun. Take a look at why Pawlyn suggests that adopting these habits is not only possible, but critical if we are to encourage sustainable design.

 

New Trade Organization for Sustainable Packaging

TreeHugger.com 3.10.11

Cola Packaging In order to facilitate sustainable packaging, prominent companies such as Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Kellogg's and others have formed a trade organization that will help the packaging industry maximize initiatives through relevant research and data collection. The Michigan-based institution, American Institution for Packaging and the Environment (Ameripen), will advocate science-based decision making by partnering with academic institutions, trade associations, non-profits and government agencies, according to Environmental Leader.

Earth911.com reports that packaging and containers contribute to approximately 56 percent of all plastic waste and about 75 percent of waste from residential households. As some of the most ubiquitously used product lines adopt more eco-friendly practices, we are one step closer to becoming a more sustainable economy.

To read the full article, click here.

Image: Treehugger.com

Plastic bag manufacturers sue Marin County over plastic bag ban

Plasticbaglaws.org 2.26.11

S-PLASTIC-BAG-BAN-REJECTED-large Following California's attempts to implement a statewide legislation to reduce consumption and distribution of plastic bags, Marin County and others continue to battle over effective methods of local regulation. Meanwhile, opposition groups like the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition pose a challenge.

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (a plastics industry front group) filed suit against Marin County Feb. 24 over the plastic bag ordinance that the county's Board of Supervisors adopted in January, according to Plasticbaglaws.org. However, Marin County isn't the only one being targeted. The STPB has threatened and/or sued every California city that adopted a plastic bag ordinance after statewide legislation failed, leaving counties to consider their own bag fees and bans.

To read the full article, click here

Check out our stance on fees vs. bans here.

March 04, 2011

Hawaii County Council advances plastic bag ban bill

Hawaii Tribune-Herald 2.17.11

HawaiiCouncil-250x159 The Hawaii County Council advanced a bill that would make the island of Hawaii the third island to prohibit retailers from distributing plastic bags to consumers for free. However, the bill has been met with controversy as councilmen and retail merchants battle over penalty provisions and enforcements. In Kauai County, its council is already revising its bag ban less than a month after it went into effect in order to address complications that surfaced.

Despite controversy, Maui and Kauai implemented plastic bag bans January, 11, 2011, which have been praised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for reducing waste and preventing plastic from accumulating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, potentially harming turtles and other marine life.

Read more about out stance on fees vs. bans here.

Read the full article from Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

Image:Change.org

 

January 13, 2011

Italy bans the bag in 2011

Treehugger.com 1.3.11

Italy-Ban-Plastic-Bags Earlier this month Italy took a dramatic step to reduce its consumption of single- use, non-biodegradable plastic bags – use of such bags is now banned as of New Year’s Day. According to several reports, Italy was one of Europe’s top plastic bag consumers – using about 1/5th of the 100 billion bags used annually across Europe.  

Despite opposition from some retailers who argue that biodegradable bags are too expensive and not as durable, similar bans in other countries have proven successful. According to Treehugger, China’s bag ban has kept 100 billion bags out of the landfill since its inception two years ago.

Bag fees have also proved successful over the years – from Washington DC’s recent 5 cent fee to Ireland’s PlasTax back in 2002.

While we applaud Italy’s effort to curb wasteful consumption of plastic shopping bags, we continue to advocate plastic bag fees and taxes over bans for the following reasons:

  1. Fees are market-based solutions that get people to change their consumption habits – and with a nudge not a shove. Even small, 5-cent fees make a huge impact.
  2. Fees are practical for the consumer.
  3. There is evidence that fees can be adopted in the U.S., and they work! We have an example of a major city (D.C.) reducing consumption of use-and-toss bags by 80% with a small fee.
  4. The money collected from fees can go directly toward addressing the problem.
  5. If you don’t like the idea of your money going to fatten government coffers, no problem. Bring your own bag, and they don’t get a dime.

Read more about our stance on fees vs bans here.

Read the full Treehugger article here.

Image: Guardian

November 18, 2010

ACC Helps Block BPA Legislation

 New York Times  11.17.10         

Just yesterday, the American Chemistry Council successfully mobilized Republicans to block a pending food safety bill attempting to limit the use of BPA in baby bottles and dinking cups.

The bill would allow a six-month grace period for baby item manufacturers to cease use of the endocrine-disrupting chemical.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, expressed consternation, positing that the ACC’s choice to block the bill placed potential monetary gain over the health of our nations infants.

Read the whole article at The New York Times.

October 19, 2010

Washington DC Bag Fee Update

CNNmoney.com 10.5.10

Ten months after it was imposed, the fee on disposable bags in Washington, DC still makes sense, although it's not bringing quite the revenue boost that the district was hoping for.

 

Before the tax went into effect, the district's Chief Financial Officer was projecting income of $3.6 million dollars. But so far income has only amounted to $1.3 million.

 

This is reason to celebrate; it means the fee works. Because people are required to pay for bags upfront, people are using half as many plastic bags as before.

 

Under the tax, district residents are charged 5 cents for each disposable bag they got at the store. One penny goes to the shop while the other four cents go to the city. The four cents going to the city go toward cleaning up polluted rivers. Those in charge of cleaning up those rivers claim that they have already noticed a reduction in bag pollution.

 

Read the complete article at CNN Money.

September 21, 2010

American Samoa Bans the Bag

USA Today 9.2.10

U.S. territory American Samoa has signed a law banning stores from handing out plastic shopping bags.

The law will take effect Feb. 23, and excludes biodegradable shopping bags and compostable plastic bags.

This ban was signed only a few days after California rejected a very similar law, although a growing number of California cities have taken steps to ban bags at a local level. Some of these cities include San Francisco, Palo Alto, Malibu, and others.

Read the full article here.

Our Take: We like their commitment to reducing consumption, however it's fees - not bans - that are the best way to go. Ireland's PlasTax reduced plastic bag consumption by 90% in its first year alone.

BPA Wiping Out Lobster Population

Lobster-die-offs Treehugger 8.11.10

Scientists at the University of Connecticut recently linked a major decline in the population of lobsters native to the New York coast with a rise in a few pollutants, including bisphenol A(BPA) from plastic waste.

The three-year, $3 million dollar study claims that a specific group of pollutants are working as endocrine disruptors. This lengthens the maturing lobsters' molting cycle, leaving them without chitinous armor for weeks at a time. This further results in deformities, increased susceptibility to disease, and in many cases, death. The coastal lobster population has declined 85% in the last twelve years.

Read the whole article here.

Our Take: Most of us have heard about BPA leaching from some plastic bottles. This article just offers further cause for worry. This data confirms the no-brainer advice we've been giving for years - avoid BPA as much as possible. And remember, it's not just plastics that pose a risk. Cans are another important source of BPA

Catastrophes like this come from decades of mindless waste and pollution. Buy high-quality reusables; they won't wind up floating in the ocean and they don't contain toxins like BPA to begin with.