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13 posts from January 2009

January 19, 2009

The Surfrider Foundation wants to wipe out pollution

SurfriderNJ APP.com 1.18.09

Bill Rosenblatt picks up dozens of plastic bottle caps and cigar tips every time he takes his dog Happy for a walk on the beach.

All told, the former mayor has collected about 5,000 to 10,000 caps and about 2,000 tips from beaches in Asbury Park, Allenhurst and here since November.

"I'm really heartbroken," said Rosenblatt, a Loch Arbour resident and member of the Jersey Shore Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, an international nonprofit environmental group. "What kind of oceans are my grandchildren going to find when they're adults?...Plastic is forever."

Link:  The Surfrider Foundation wants to wipe out pollution

'Trashion' Trend: Dumpster Couture Gets a Boost at Green Inaugural Ball

The Wall Street Journal  1.13.09Obamajacket

In the world of trashy fashion, designer Nancy Judd has hit the big time.

Ms. Judd spends her days in a studio here crafting clothing from castoff plastic bags, electrical wire and old cassette tapes...

The star piece: A man's coat made from Mr. Obama's campaign fliers. She says it took her 200 hours to cut and paste and sew it.

Link:  'Trashion' Trend: Dumpster Couture Gets a Boost at Green Inaugural Ball

Price meltdown takes the green out of recycling

Recyclingpile MLive.com - The Grand Rapids Press  1.04.09

Recycling isn't generating the right kind of green these days...

Just months after riding an incredible high, the recycling market has tanked almost in lockstep with the global economic meltdown.

As consumer demand for autos, appliances and new homes dropped, so did the steel and pulp mills' demand for scrap, paper and other recycled materials used to manufacture new products.

Recyclers across the country are finding it more difficult to find buyers. Some are describing the downturn as the worst and most rapid ever.

Link: Price meltdown takes the green out of recycling

Affluence is a lot of garbage

SF Gate  1.04.09SFGate

Looking back on it now, the straw that broke America's back was the advent of the no-deposit, no-return bottle.

For a generation, Americans had paid a 2-cent deposit on their soft-drink and beer bottles. No decent American, imbued with Yankee thrift, could bear to throw one away...

A decade later, Americans were happily heaving out 30 million no-deposit, no-return bottles a day. Guilt free.

It was the beginning of the nation's new Never-Use-Anything-Twice syndrome.

Link:  Affluence is a lot of garbage

January 09, 2009

Biggest Stories of 2008: Bag Fees, BPA and More

BabyBottleAP ReusableBags.com  1.28.09

2008 was a tipping point for several important consumption issues that we cover.

It marked the beginning of the end for BPA, Seattle voted to tax the plastic bag, and stores everywhere were flooded with an onslaught of cheap reusable shopping bags.

Here's our round-up of the must-read stories of the year:

  • Let the BPA controversy begin... - A segment on The Today Show in April marks the beginning of the BPA media maelstrom (we've been drawing attention to the issue for years). Watch here...
  • First major U.S. city approves a plastic bag fee - In July, Seattle follows in the footsteps of Ireland's PlasTax to become the first U.S. city to approve a bag fee. Unfortunately, the plastics industry later brings the initiative to a grinding halt. Read more...
  • An inconvenient bag?!? - Reusable bags flood the market in 2008. Then, in September, The Wall Street Journal publishes a backlash piece bashing the viability of the bags. Read more...
  • Retailers push cheap reusable bags - In an attempt to be green, it sure smacks of a cheap marketing ploy. Read more...
  • The FDA backpedals on BPA - In December, a second look at the safety data on BPA is called for. We hope it isn't too little, too late. Read more...

January 08, 2009

Clemson research boosts biodegradable plastics

GreenvilleOnline.com 12.29.08

The plastic bottles you are drinking from could soon be made from corn instead of petroleum, with research at Clemson University making biodegradable plastic more applicable for widespread uses, experts say…

Although the plastic is biodegradable, it’s not necessarily as simple as throwing a bottle onto a compost heap…

Our Take:  Bio-plastics are a promising invention for replacing some plastics. But an obvious downside – it still take significant natural resources to grow and process the corn to create the plastic. Overall, reducing consumption and using reusable items to replace our disposables addiction is a smart thing we can all do right now that will have a huge impact.

Link: Clemson research boosts biodegradable plastics

A life without plastics?

The Chicago Tribune 12.27.08ChicagoTribuneLogo

Amid a recent flurry of worrisome reports about plastic, a simple question came up: Could we live without it?

I decided to try. For one week, I pledged to buy no new plastic and to keep the kids away from it as much as possible.

Our Take:  A great article by a working mom that shows it’s possible to make gradual changes towards consuming less plastic in our daily lives. She discovers the wisdom of reusables – and reinforces that none of us will ever eliminate plastic items, but every small step makes a big difference!

Link: A life without plastics?

FDA to Reconsider Plastic Bottle Risk

Nytimesbottle The New York Times 12.24.08

Weeks after its own advisory board accused the Food and Drug Administration of failing to adequately consider research about the dangers of bisphenol-A, found in many plastic baby bottles, plastic food containers and metal can linings, the agency has agreed to reconsider the issue.

Our Take:  Finally, the FDA is admitting that BPA may pose a risk to human health. Based on the overwhelming evidence, we expect this “second look” at the data will confirm 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 – more than 2 billion pounds of which is produced a year, according to this article.

Link: FDA to Reconsider Plastic Bottle Risk 

Toronto votes for plastic bag fee, banning the water bottle

National Post 12.02.08 Posted_Toronto

After two days of debate and as many as 25 proposed amendments, Toronto council last night voted by a margin of three-to-one for a groundbreaking series of packaging-reduction bylaws.

Our Take:  Huge news! While Chicago implemented a bottled water tax in 2008, this is the first bottled water ban we’re aware of – congratulations, Toronto. Banning the sale of plastic water bottles at all city-run facilities is sure to put a dent in consumption. Unfortunately, the 5-cent bag fee voted through just isn’t enough to change consumer behavior.

Link: Toronto votes for plastic bag fee, banning the water bottle 

State panel floats 'litter tax' to curb debris along coast

Sign On San Diego 12.01.08

The influential California Ocean Protection Council has proposed an attack on everyday threats to sea life, including a ban on some popular take-out food containers and fees on plastic and paper bags…

Ocean litter threatens rare sea turtles, sea birds, sea otters and hundreds of other marine species…Eighty percent of ocean litter comes from land sources, the ocean council said. Read more...

Our Take:  Following in the footsteps of France, California would be the first U.S. state to propose a ban or fee on everyday sources of trash – a huge culprit in the “plastic island” of debris floating in the Pacific Ocean. We applaud California’s continuing leadership to reduce consumption, beyond bags and bottles.

Link: State panel floats 'litter tax' to curb debris along coast

Beaujolais Nouveau looking green this year

The Denver Post 11.16.08Beaujolaisbottles

With an eye toward shipping costs and the environment, Boisset Family Estates in France has announced it will export all its Beaujolais Nouveau to the United States this year in plastic. Other wine and champagne producers, such as Fetzer Vineyards in California, also are converting to lighter-weight packaging…

The move will save the company up to 33 percent on freight charges, but Boisset is emphasizing that the switch will reduce its carbon footprint, because the plastic bottle weighs one-eighth as much as a typical 14-ounce glass bottle. 

Our Take:  Who knows if the environmental benefits of lightweight plastic outweigh glass – even if it saves fuel, once you produce plastic it’s here to stay. Not to mention, who wants to drink wine out of a plastic bottle?!? Sounds disgusting – and we’re concerned about leaching, too.

Link: Beaujolais Nouveau looking green this year

Controversial coffee cup proposal put on hold

Coffeelids CBC News 11.13.08

After a marathon meeting, a Toronto city council committee has decided not to ban paper drink cups with plastic lids — for now, but will push ahead with two other controversial recycling moves…

The committee also decided to take the next step in its proposal to ban on the sale of water in plastic bottles at all city-run facilities — that the issue go before council.

Our Take:  Part of the “disposables” story we’ve been following, drawing attention to other common forms of wasteful consumption, such as coffee cups and lids. Toronto is sending a clear message that overconsumption must be stopped. Although the ban on cups and other disposables was rejected, perhaps a fee (like France’s ‘picnic tax’) is still viable – and the best solution for changing consumer behavior.

Link: Controversial coffee cup proposal put on hold

Turning plastic into art

Plasticart The Union Tribune 11.08.08

On a recent morning, Peggy Ann Jones, an artist and photography instructor at MiraCosta College, put the finishing touches on her creation, a round, 13-foot white plastic carpet speckled with red, blue, yellow and black…

The carpet is the focus of “Vortex Plastique,” an art show with an environmental message that will open Tuesday at MiraCosta College's Kruglak Gallery. The title is a reference to the swirling mass of plastic debris in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Our Take:  It’s great this art exhibit draws attention to the issue of wasteful consumption – and, more importantly, the plastic “monster” floating in the Pacific (an issue we've covered extensively). Plus, profits go to the Surfrider Foundation, a fantastic organization committed to preserving our oceans and beaches that we also donate to.  

Link: Turning plastic into art