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7 posts from October 2008

October 22, 2008

The Art Is Trash

Newsweek 10.20.08 Newsweek_2

Mountains of garbage have never looked more beautiful than in Vivan Sundaram’s photographs. His exhibit “Trash,” now on view in Manhattan’s Sepia gallery (before traveling to Sydney and Tokyo), includes 15 large-scale photos and three video installations that depict the underside of the economic boom gripping his home city, Delhi. Used soda cans, soiled milk bags, empty yogurt containers, dirty toothbrushes and plastic toys mix with industrial waste products to create a striking indictment of consumption.

Our Take: Trash as art compels us to stop and think about what happens to all of these “things” we consume, whether recycled or not. It also shines a light on the culture of consumption that has made its way to India – a country known for its cradle-to-grave recycling practices.

Link: The Art Is Trash

Dallas council refuses to tax or ban plastic shopping bags

The Dallas Morning News 10.14.08Dallas_news_2

The City Council appears unlikely to tax and ultimately ban plastic shopping bags, despite a recommendation from staffers that Dallas do away with them for environmental reasons...


The plan [Eric Griffin, interim director of the city’s Office of Environmental Quality] suggested involved seeking state authority to levy a fee of 5 cents per bag on consumers in Dallas to initiate a ban in three to five years if the fee did not substantially reduce the number of bags used.

Our Take:

Dallas would have joined the likes of Ireland in passing a bag fee – the most successful government initiative to overconsumption of plastic and paper bags. As in Seattle, industry interests are effectively squashing the issue with misinformation and money, and legislators aren’t fighting back – whether because of a lack of resources or simply feeling overpowered.


They’re missing out: Ireland's PlasTax cut plastic bag consumption by 90% and generated $9.6 million in its first year alone, earmarked to improve the environment. Talk about a win-win (or in this case, a lose-lose).

Link: Dallas council refuses to tax or ban plastic shopping bags

Stop Eating BPA

Cans_3 Care2 10.14.08

Is it just me–or is it really maddening that we are pelted with industrial toxins and told by governmental regulating agencies that they are safe?

Canned foods are thought to be the predominate route of BPA exposure. Numerous studies support this fact, including an investigation of BPA exposures for 257 young children in North Carolina and Ohio day care centers.

Our Take: Most of us have heard about BPA leaching from some plastic bottles. But the primary source of BPA may be canned items – everything from tomato sauce to baby formula. This alarming fact has gotten buried in the frenzy over BPA in plastic bottles. Here are some great tips to reduce BPA exposure from all sources.  

Link: Stop Eating BPA

BPA Legislation Heats Up

CBC News 10.18.08 Wsj_2 

The federal government has decided to add bisphenol A to the country’s list of toxic substances and draft regulations that ban the sale in Canada of plastic baby bottles containing the chemical…

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog 10.14.08

There’s a bit more heat this week on bisphenol A, this time courtesy of attorneys general in Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware. The AGs sent letters to 11 companies asking them to voluntarily stop putting the chemicals into baby bottles and formula.

Our Take:

Two big moves to ban BPA – Canada is a model for when government acts responsively and proactively in the interest of public safety. Fortunately, we’re seeing some great leadership on the part of Conneticut, New Jersey and Delaware. We hope it’s only the beginning of Americans taking matters into their own hands – politically and personally – to put health before profit.


Link: Canada moves to ban bisphenol A in baby bottles

Link: States Ask Companies to Stop Putting BPA in Baby Bottles

October 15, 2008

Recyclers are cashing in on the fortune in your bin

Times Online 08.11.08Times_online_7

The price of recyclable plastic, newspaper and cardboard has doubled in 18 months, giving councils a source of “green gold” that could be spent on improving local services. Many are locked into 20 to 30-year contracts with recycling companies and are unable to cash in on the higher cost of plastic and copper...

This year alone the rising cost of oil – used to make plastic – has pushed prices of domestic rubbish even higher. The sale price of mixed plastic bottles has nearly tripled to £230 a tonne in the past six months. Six years ago it was £10 per tonne.

Our Take:  Part of a growing trend of legislation (still outside the U.S. mainly) that takes aim at disposable items often perceived as free. Hopefully, more cities will continue targeting the wasteful over-consumption of food containers and paper cups. 

Link: Recyclers are cashing in on the fortune in your bin

Plastic-Munching Bugs Turn Waste Bottles Into Cash

Plastic_bugs_2 CBC News 09.15.08

Newly discovered bacterial alchemists could help save billions of plastic bottles from landfills. The Pseudomonas strains can convert the low-grade PET plastic used in drinks bottles into a more valuable and biodegradable plastic called PHA…

"We wanted to see if we could turn the plastic into something of higher value in an environmentally friendly way," [Kevin O’Connor at University College Dublin, Ireleand] says.

Our Take: This interesting lab development will take years to perfect – who knows if it will ever be a viable technology, but we’re seeing more work trying to create organisms that will break down plastic…sounds kinda scary!

BTW, plastic bottles are being turned into cash right now – including many viable fabrics and textiles, like clothing, fiber fill, and bags made out of recycled PET (an innovation that we’ve been offering for years).

Link: Plastic-Munching Bugs Turn Waste Bottles Into Cash

Wal-Mart and Ikea aim to curb plastic bag use

Reuters UK 09.26.08Walmart_plastic_bags_4

Wal-Mart Stores Inc will give out fewer plastic shopping bags, and encourage shoppers to reuse and recycle them, as the retailer aims to slash its plastic bag waste by a third worldwide by 2013.

Environmental Leader 10.06.08

IKEA announced that starting this month, the company will no longer be offering plastic or paper bags at any of its U.S. stores. They will only offer reusable bags.

Our Take: Ikea’s plastic bag ban has great sound bite appeal and while we applaud Wal-Mart for doing some of the harder work to reduce consumption, cheap reusable bags aren’t going to solve the problem either. Let’s not forget, part of Wal-Mart’s strategy is to have millions of people carrying around reusable shopping bags with their logo. It’s a crafty form of free advertising for the company that shouts “Wal-Mart’s green!”

We’d love to see both retailers adopt some of the progressive tactics of other retailers – charge for plastic bags and offer a credit for any reusable shopping bag customers bring with them.

See our take on plastic bag bans and the problem with cheap reusable shopping bags. (10/20/08: Thanks for all of your comments - read our response in the continued reading link below.)

Link: Ikea Drops Plastic and Paper Bags in U.S. Stores

Link: Wal-Mart aims to curb plastic bag use

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