Europe Relegates Single-Use Plastics to History

This sea turtle doesn't know that plastic bags could choke it to death. (Photo by Troy Mayne) Posted for media use.

This sea turtle doesn’t know that plastic bags could choke it to death. (Photo by Troy Mayne) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 20, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Targeting the 10 plastic products most often found littering European beaches as well as abandoned fishing gear, the European Parliament and Council have reached a provisional political agreement with the Commission on new measures to tackle marine litter at its source.

The agreement, reached Wednesday, is based on the Single-Use Plastics proposal presented in May by the Commission as part of the world’s first comprehensive Plastics Strategy, adopted in January.

Every year, Europeans generate 25 million tonnes of plastic waste, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling.

Across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter. Plastic residue is found in marine species such as sea turtles, seals, whales and birds, and also in fish and shellfish, and therefore in the human food chain. And microplastics in air, water and food are having an unknown impact on human health.

The new EU Directive on Single-Use Plastics will be the most ambitious legal instrument at the global level addressing marine litter. It envisions different measures to apply to different product categories.

Where alternatives are easily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market from 2021. This will apply to such products as plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, products made of oxo-degradable plastic and food and beverage containers made of expanded polystyrene.

In the case of drinking straws, for instance, plastic straws could be replaced by straws made of all kinds of materials: paper, corn, hay, bamboo, metal, silicon or glass.

For other products, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; on design and labeling requirements; and waste management and clean-up obligations for producers.

The new rules contribute to the goal of turning Europe into a more sustainable, circular economy, reflected in the Circular Economy Action Plan adopted in December 2015. Europe’s businesses and consumers will take the lead in producing and using sustainable alternatives that avoid marine litter and oceans pollution.

The provisional agreement must now be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council. Following its approval, the new Single-Use Plastics Directive will be published in the EU’s Official Journal and the Member States will have to transpose it after two years.

Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said, “When we have a situation where one year you can bring your fish home in a plastic bag, and the next year you are bringing that bag home in a fish, we have to work hard and work fast.”

“We have taken a big stride towards reducing the amount of single-use plastic items in our economy, our ocean and ultimately our bodies,” said Vella.

From the European Parliament, Lead MEP Frédérique Ries (ALDE, BE) said Wednesday, “Citizens expected only one thing from the European Union, that it adopts an ambitious directive against disposable plastics responsible for asphyxiation of the seas and oceans. This is done with our agreement closed at 6:30 this morning. It will reduce the environmental damage bill by €22 billion – the estimated cost of plastic pollution in Europe until 2030.”

The proposed Directive follows a similar approach to the successful 2015 Plastic Bags Directive, which brought about a rapid shift in consumer behavior. These days, few rely on single use plastic bags but rely instead on reusable cloth shopping bags.

The new measures are expected to bring about both environmental and economic benefits. They are projected to avoid the emission of 3.4 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent; avoid environmental damages which would cost the equivalent of €22 billion by 2030; and save consumers a projected €6.5 billion.

“Europeans are conscious that plastic waste is an enormous problem and the EU as a whole has shown true courage in addressing it, making us the global leader in tackling plastic marine litter,” said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development. “Equally important is, that with the solutions agreed upon today, we are also driving a new circular business model and showing the way forward to putting our economy on a more sustainable path.”

The Single-Use Plastics Directive is supported by other measures taken against marine pollution, such as the Directive on Port Reception Facilities, on which the European Parliament and the Council reached a provisional agreement just last week.

This Directive will tackle waste from ships, with a focus on sea-based marine litter. It sets regulations to ensure that waste generated on ships or collected at sea is always returned to land, recycled and processed in ports.

Earlier this month the European Commission launched also the Circular Plastics Alliance, an alliance of industry stakeholders covering the full plastics value chain as part of their efforts to reduce plastics littering, increase the share of recycled plastics and stimulate market innovation.

The Circular Plastics Alliance aims to improve the economics and quality of plastics recycling in Europe, and will in particular strengthen the match between supply and demand for recycled plastics, which is identified as the main obstacle to a well-functioning EU market for recycled plastics.

With this new initiative, the Commission wants to contribute to the objective of achieving at least 10 million tons of recycled plastics offered as new products on the EU market by 2025, as set in the European Strategy for Plastics.

On January 16, the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics was adopted as a part of the transition towards a more circular economy.

Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

Continuing in the spirit of the 2015 Circular Economy Package, the Plastics Strategy and the Single-Use Plastics Directive have been prepared by a core project team of First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and Commissioners Vella and Elżbieta Bieńkowska. Many other commissioners were also involved in its preparation and helped identify the most effective tools covering a wide range of policy areas.

Vice-President Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “Tackling the plastics problem is a must. At the same time it brings new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation. We will discuss those thoroughly with industry within the Circular Plastics Alliance.

“With the agreement reached today,” said Katainen, “we are showing that Europe is doing a smart economic and environmental choice and is advancing towards a new truly circular plastics economy.”

Featured Image: Plastic rope entangled with seaweed on a North Sea beach in Denmark, January 19, 2014 (Photo by anriro96) Creative Commons license via Flickr.


Supermarkets Purge Plastic With Shoppers’ Help

Plastic Free Zone at Thornton’s Budgens showcases organic vegetables, 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.

Plastic Free Zone at Thornton’s Budgens showcases organic vegetables, 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.

LONDON, UK, November 8, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – A London supermarket today became one of the world’s first to introduce dedicated Plastic Free Zones. The Thornton’s Budgens store in Camden’s Belsize Park has assembled more than 1,700 plastic-free products and displays them in marked zones.

The zones are stocked with everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to bread, cheese and wild game such as squirrel and wild boar, as well as packaged food and drink products.

The products showcase a wealth of innovative plastic-free materials such as beechwood nets, pulp, paper, metal, glass, cellulose and cartonboard.

Signage and shelf talkers tell shoppers about the packaging to encourage them to make plastic-free choices. The zones are identified by plastic-free branding signs created by London design studio Made Thought.

The British nonprofit A Plastic Planet, a social impact movement for change, worked in partnership with Thornton’s Budgens to create Plastic Free Zones.

Sian Sutherland, A Plastic Planet co-founder, said, “Plastic is totally nuts. Thornton’s Budgens are disrupting the market and showing that wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as long-lasting as plastic is the definition of madness.”

“In just 10 weeks the store has removed plastic packaging from more than 1,500 products, finally giving their customers the choice they want,” said Sutherland. “While big retailers claim it will take 10 years to create real plastic-free change, Thornton’s Budgens has shown that we can start to wean ourselves off plastic in 10 weeks.”

A Plastic Planet has called for an urgent transformation of the UK’s entire approach to waste management. Their goal is to inspire everyone to turn off the flow of plastic.

Andrew Thornton, Thornton’s Budgens Founder, said, “As the community supermarket that really cares, we believe in taking a strong stance on major issues that affect our wellbeing and our planet.”

“The issue of plastic is one that can no longer be ignored so we’ve chosen to be the first mainstream supermarket in the UK to introduce Plastic Free Zones. This means our customers will be able to do a comprehensive shop without the need to use any plastic packaging.”

“Our aim is to show the big supermarkets that it is not as difficult to go plastic-free as they think,” said Thornton. “If we with our limited resources in 10 weeks can introduce more than a thousand plastic-free products just imagine what the major chains could achieve.”

A Plastic Planet is calling for the Conservative minority government of Theresa May to use the new UK plastics tax to fund a national infrastructure that mandates both recycling and composting.

On October 30, the May Government announced a tax on plastic packaging. The tax will apply to any business that produces or imports plastic packaging that does not contain at least 30 percent recycled content.

The government proposed the new tax in its autumn budget. Revenues from the tax will be used to address single-use plastics, waste and litter.

In addition, the UK announced 20 million pounds in funding to increase recycling and combat plastic waste.

The announcement follows the UK’s ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds as part of a growing effort to decrease the country’s plastic pollution and protect its rivers and seas. These single-use items are only used for a few minutes but take hundreds of years to break down.

The government says the ban on plastic straws, drink stirrers and cotton buds follows its success in charging for single-use plastic bags, which has resulted in an 86 percent decrease in plastic bag distribution in supermarkets.

Plastic-free shops are popping up elsewhere too.

The world’s first plastic-free supermarket aisle was unveiled in Amsterdam, Netherlands in February.

With nearly 700 plastic-free goods to select from at one of the branches of Ekoplaza, a Dutch supermarket chain, the aisle gives shoppers the opportunity to buy their groceries in “new compostable bio-materials as well as traditional materials” such as glass, metal and cardboard.

Sutherland said the aisle is “a symbol of what the future of food retailing will be.”

“We totally understand what we’re asking for is highly inconvenient – it’s difficult,” she told CNN. “However, it’s indefensible for us to continue to wrap up our perishable food and drink in this indestructible material of plastic. So everybody knows now that progress has to be made.”

Ekoplaza, which has 74 stores across the Netherlands, intends to introduce the plastic-free aisle across all its branches.

In Vancouver, the first package-free grocery store in Canada, Nada, was incorporated in 2015 after marine biologist Brianne Miller had an idea that would completely change her relationship with food.

Miller had seen firsthand the masses of harmful plastic swirling around in ocean gyres, much of it food packaging waste. She realized that even the most ethical, local, and organic stores were still caught in a cycle of waste. So, she created Nada – a different kind of store – with no plastic packaging at all.

The first customer to shop at waste-free NADA Cafe, East Vancouver, Canada. Founder Brianne Miller, center, in black. October 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy NADA) Posted for media use.

The first customer to shop at waste-free NADA Cafe, East Vancouver, Canada. Founder Brianne Miller, center, in black. October 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy NADA) Posted for media use.

Nada operated with just pop-up shops for the first two years, then launched its first retail store in 2017.

Customers bring their own containers to stock up on local, fresh, responsibly-sourced, and organic groceries and personal care items. They use Nada’s digital smart scales to weigh and label their purchases and automatically deduct the weight of the containers.

Not only do shoppers reduce their packaging waste, they waste less food by buying only what they need. This saves them money – an average of C$1,500 per family per year, Nada claims.

On october 22, Nada opened a waste-free cafe at the store and in the first two weeks diverted 950 single-use containers/paper bags and 740 disposable cups from the waste stream.

In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, a new package-free goods store, Bare Market opened its first pop-up shop June 27 at the Bathurst-Finch Hub’s Farmers’ Market.

“You can get basically anything you need like at a grocery store or supermarket, but all package free,” says Maya Goodwill, a Bare Market spokesperson.

Founder Dayna Stein was inspired to launch Bare Market while living in Vancouver, where she shopped at the city’s first refill shop, The Soap Dispensary.

Bare Market encourages shoppers to bring their own containers. If people forget their containers, they can purchase them from Bare Market, or borrow a reusable container for a refundable fee.

Bare Market hopes to open a permanent location in 2019. Until then, they’ll be popping up all over Toronto.

Zero-waste shops are catching on all across the United States. Celia Ristow, the co-founder of the grassroots group Zero-Waste Chicago, has started the website Litterless, which features a state-by-state directory of U.S. grocery stores featuring foods in bulk that permit shoppers to bring their own packaging.

On her blog, Ristow speaks of the joys of plastic-free living, “The most unexpected benefit of zero waste for me has been how much it has meant learning to lean on myself, my friends, and my community, and how much doing so has improved my life. So much of what is sold to us as convenience can have the effect of encouraging us to believe we can’t do things for ourselves, that the things we need can only be found in stores. Choosing to try to buy less and to waste less means taking back some of that power.”

Featured Image: Thornton’s Budgens supermarket bakes its own bread in house and packages it in paper to cut down on plastic waste. 2018 (Photo courtesy Thornton’s Budgens) Emailed for media use.


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Grappling With an Avalanche of Waste

 Electronic waste viewed by a delegation from Zimbabwe that visited the Rwanda Green Fund - FONERWA - to learn about the fund's structure and operations. They toured some of the fund's investments: low carbon construction materials with Zero Carbon Designs and the E-Waste Recycling Facility. June 14, 2018 (Photo by Rwanda Green Fund) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Electronic waste viewed by a delegation from Zimbabwe that visited the Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA – to learn about the fund’s structure and operations. They toured some of the fund’s investments: low carbon construction materials with Zero Carbon Designs and the E-Waste Recycling Facility. June 14, 2018 (Photo by Rwanda Green Fund) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 9, 2018 ((Maximpact.com News) – Due to the growing volume of plastic waste now being produced and the plastic waste import ban imposed by China on December 31, 2017, plastic wastes, primarily from Europe, Japan, and North America, are now adrift on the global market. They have been arriving in the ports of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia in alarming amounts.

The plastic scrap is often contaminated and mixed in ways that makes it difficult or impossible to recycle, so it ends up being dumped or burned openly in the recipient countries, creating toxic emissions and terrestrial and marine pollution.

In the first five months of 2018, Thailand had already seized 30,000 container loads of plastic scrap in their ports and was forced to impose an emergency import ban.

Governments worldwide are struggling with an avalanche of waste and coming up with solutions, large and small.

The most recent meeting of the world’s only international treaty on waste control ended with expressions of widespread and growing support for a proposal by Norway to add plastics to the list of wastes subject to the trade controls under the treaty, known as the Basel Convention.

The proposal, made at a September meeting in Geneva, is seen as a key mechanism to stem the tide of marine debris and plastic litter. It would add plastic waste to the list of wastes that require notification by exporting countries and consent by importing countries before export.

“Southeast Asia is already being hit hard by a tsunami of plastic waste,” said Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic movement. “The Norwegian proposal to place plastic scrap under Basel controls will be a significant first step to protect Southeast Asia and developing countries everywhere from becoming the trash bins of the developed world.”

Many countries voiced their support for the Norwegian proposal on the floor of the meeting, including: China, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, El Salvador, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Libya, Maldives, Malaysia, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Panama, Senegal, South Africa, State of Palestine, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

While there was broad support for the proposal, Canada, Japan, Australia and the European Union are seeking to block, delay or water down the proposal.

“The severity of the plastic pollution problem and its impacts on human health and the environment are undeniable and require urgent action. We cannot let a few countries or industry sectors prevent much-needed and in fact overdue action from the global community,” says David Azoulay, senior attorney for the Center for International Environmental Law.

The meeting also recommended the creation of a multi-stakeholder global partnership on the minimization of plastic waste. Both proposals – partnership and trade control – will go to the 14th Conference of the Parties of the Basel Convention for a decision in April 2019.

“The Basel Convention is uniquely positioned to take a leadership role in stemming the flood tide of plastic waste now engulfing the entire planet,” said Jim Puckett, director of the Basel Action Network, based in Seattle, Washington.

“They can do this not only by controlling unwanted trade, but by promoting steps to minimize the production of single-use and other unsustainable plastic products,” said Puckett. “We are thrilled that this week’s meeting has clearly signaled a turning of the tide.”

In VTT’s PlastBug projects, microbes are being screened through a three-stage process. (Photo courtesy VTT) Posted for media use

In VTT’s PlastBug projects, microbes are being screened through a three-stage process. (Photo courtesy VTT) Posted for media use

Cleaning the Oceans of Plastic Waste

To help cleanse the world’s oceans of the tons of plastic waste that have gathered in swirling gyres, the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has developed a mobile container unit called PlastBug. The unit acts to remove plastics from the water and treat them with microbes to turn them into useable chemicals.

“Our idea is to design a mobile container where microbes degrade plastic waste to valuable products like fuels or chemicals,” says Kari Koivuranta, principal scientist at VTT.

The small, container-based factories could be placed in areas where centralized plastic waste collecting or recycling is not possible. The container factories could be located on a beach or ship.

The factory units would get most of the energy needed for the process from solar energy and wind power.

The goal is for the pilot unit to operate on the Baltic Sea in 2021, but funding still needs to be secured for the realization of this plan.

The Urban Mining chart of tungsten alloys placed on the market per country in tonnes for all collection categories is an example of the multitude of charts offered by the ProSUM consortium. 2018 (Image courtesy ProSUM) Posted for public use

The Urban Mining chart of tungsten alloys placed on the market per country in tonnes for all collection categories is an example of the multitude of charts offered by the ProSUM consortium. 2018 (Image courtesy ProSUM) Posted for public use

Building With Waste Materials

A growing scarcity of resources, along with the desire to move away from today’s throwaway mentality, means that the building sector must give more thought to the multiple use and recyclability of materials, as well as to alternative methods of construction.

A residential module fully constructed from reusable, recyclable, and compostable materials is the premise for the newest unit in NEST, the modular research and innovation building run by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Dübendorf.

On February 8, the NEST Urban Mining & Recycling unit opened its doors to house two students. At the same time, as an active lab, it is helping to advance the construction industry’s transition to a recycling economy.

The residence features structures and materials that can be fully reused, repurposed, recycled, or composted after deconstruction of the module.

The concept was designed by Werner Sobek with Dirk Hebel and Felix Heisel. Sobek is director of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design at the University of Stuttgart.

Hebel is the director and Heisel is the head of research at the Chair of Sustainable Construction at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Future Cities Laboratory at the Singapore-ETH Center, established in 2010 by two Swiss government agencies that conduct high tech research.

“The ongoing, sustained growth of the global population as well as dwindling resources urgently require us to do some rethinking in the construction industry,” says Sobek. “In future, we must reduce our consumption of construction materials and build for many more people.”

So, the concept of cycles must play a central role on the path to more sustainable construction. “The materials that we utilize will not just be used and then disposed of; instead they will be extracted from their cycle and later returned to it,” Hebel explains.

Database for Urban Waste Miners

In one of the more sweeping solutions to the world’s waste problems, European organizations have united to create the world’s first database of valuable materials available for urban mining from scrap vehicles, spent batteries, waste electronic and electrical equipment, and mining wastes.

The Urban Mine Platform <urbanmineplatform.eu>, created by 17 partners in project ProSUM (Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes), presents the flows of precious and base metals and critical raw materials in products in use and throughout their journey to end of life.

The database reveals the amount of valuable materials recovered or lost in the EU’s scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, phones, devices, appliances and other high tech products discarded annually – roughly 18 million tonnes in all.

The ProSUM consortium says urban mining to recover valuable critical raw materials from wastes is vital for securing ongoing supplies for manufacturing and to limit dependence on non-EU suppliers.

This platform displays all readily available data on products put on the market, stocks, composition and waste flows for electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles and batteries for all EU 28 Member States plus Switzerland and Norway. Iceland is also included for vehicles.

The EU, Norway and Switzerland generated some 10.5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment in 2016 – about 23 percent of the world total. In addition, two million tonnes of batteries and some seven to eight million tonnes of EU vehicles reach their end-of-life each year.

All represent a rich source of secondary critical raw materials.

The recently published Global e-Waste Monitor reported that the world’s 44.7 metric tonnes of e-waste alone in 2016 contained €55 billion worth of precious metals and other high value materials.

The Urban Mine Platform contains data for elements and materials in high abundance in these waste products, mainly base metals, precious metals, and critical raw materials.

Dynamic charts on the Urban Mine Platform offer detailed data and market intelligence on The number and type of products placed on the market, in-stock, and generated as waste. The compositions of key components, materials and elements, such as aluminum, copper, gold or neodymium are given, in batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), and vehicles.

Pascal Leroy, secretary general of the WEEE Forum, a Brussels-based not-for-profit association and ProSUM project coordinator says, “Three years in the making, this consolidated database is the world’s first ‘one stop shop’ knowledge data platform on CRMs in waste products – easy to access, structured, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, up-to-date, impartial, broad in scope, standardized and harmonized, and verifiable.”

Featured Image: Plastic bottles in Findon, Adelaide, South Australia, April 17, 2018 (Photo by Michael Coghlan) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Refugees_Mirgrants

8 – 10 October – Live online Webinar: Register before the 3rd October – LAST CALL

integratedwastemanagement

Need training in Sustainable Solid Waste Management?

This is, literally, a growing global issue and more and more people will need to acquire skills to combat waste. Recent estimates put global waste production from cities alone at 1.5 billion tons, and project an increase to 2.3 billion tons by 2025 – this is a problem that’s only going to get worse. It’s vital we educate people to deal with all the related issues and impact of global waste.

About the Training

Training fee: $350

Training Period: 3 full days

Where: Live online – you can attend from anywhere

What will the training cover 

During the training you will learn about:

  • how to assess local conditions and needs
  • what solutions to choose to solve identified waste problems
  • most important elements of integrated sustainable waste management.
  • the main phases of a solid waste system.
  • the actors involved, the main phases of a solid waste system.
  • the enabling environment conditioning waste management and the main drivers steering solid waste policy development.

Want to deliver compelling workshops that make an impact? The training will demonstrate the most advanced tools and techniques available in solid waste management, and will instruct you on how to employ them in participatory interventions with local stakeholders, especially during decision making processes related to solid waste management.

Click here to see the agenda

 Key Benefits of Waste Management Training

  • Increase understanding of the wide range of environmental, health and social issues related to waste disposal and management.
  • Understand the skills required to prevent pollution and to transform waste back into wealth and place that wealth at the service of the community.
  • Identify practical, integrated and sustainable solutions for waste management and pass these onto NGOs in the sector.
  • Understand how to transfer knowledge to others – a direct benefit of this training.

About the Trainer

Jeroen IJgosse is an urban planner, urban environmental specialist and planning process facilitator, with 24 years of professional activity in waste management and sustainable sanitation in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe. He holds a MSc International Development Technology Sciences; Urban Planning for Developing Economies, from the University of Technology of Eindhoven, Eindhoven, The Netherlands.

During his professional career, he has worked within the international development sector, 20 years working and living permanently in 5 Latin American countries (incl. Brazil, Peru and Costa Rica), through long term assignments in countries including India, Egypt, Nicaragua, Belize and Colombia, and short-term assignments including Mozambique, Nepal, El Salvador, Surinam. He has worked with a broad range of stakeholders at national and international level, on waste related projects funded by EU, Worldbank, IADB, KfW, GiZ, DGIS, US-AID, DFID, UN-Habitat and other international donors.

Sign up now! We look forward to welcoming you to our Waste Management Training programme and to help others combat this global issue. Click here to register or contact info@maximpact.com

Tidal Wave of Foreign Trash Hits Thailand

 Searching the housands of containers at Thai ports for illegal waste shipments is a monumental task. While there has been shipping along the Chao Phraya River for centuries, construction of Bangkok Port was started in 1938. Construction of Laem Chabang Port on Thailand's Eastern Seaboard, now much larger than Bangkok Port, was begun in 1987. (Photo by Guido Vanhaleweyk) Posted for media use.

Searching the housands of containers at Thai ports for illegal waste shipments is a monumental task. While there has been shipping along the Chao Phraya River for centuries, construction of Bangkok Port was started in 1938. Construction of Laem Chabang Port on Thailand’s Eastern Seaboard, now much larger than Bangkok Port, was begun in 1987. (Photo by Guido Vanhaleweyk) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BANGKOK, Thailand, August 9, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Government officials in Thailand are struggling to limit a waste scandal after discovering a massive amount of plastic and electronic waste was imported to the Southeast Asian country this year, often illegally, by factories involved in recycling.

Thais have been shocked to learn that hundreds of thousands of tons of electronic waste has been shipped into the country since China decided to stop taking waste from wealthy countries at the end of 2017.

The waste scandal became public in late May after Thai police raided a waste management plant in Chachoengsao, east of Bangkok, after claims that hazardous waste smuggled from abroad was being burned at the facility.

Media reports show that untrained and unregistered migrant workers paid just 9,000 baht a month (US$272) were handling toxic items and burning electronic circuit boards, exposing themselves and the environment to heavy-metal contamination.

The Chinese owner of the plant was accused of importing potentially dangerous waste under false Customs declarations, the U.S. publication “The Nation” reported in a June 11 article. Foreigners were smuggling trash and declaring it as second-hand goods, police said.

The revelation led to other illegal waste sites being raided. Officials admitted they often had “no idea what kind of waste is toxic” or how to deal with it.

More than 210,000 metric tons of waste was found to have been imported from 35 countries in the first five months of this year, Thai police said.

Fears that Thailand – or “Trashland” as some cynics have labeled it – could become the new dumping ground for the world’s electronic waste. That spurred concern about the long-term toxic hazards from waste piled up at e-waste dumps.

The world is generating more e-waste than ever. Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, “Global Waste Recycling Market Outlook, 2018,” reveals that close to 48.2 million tonnes of eWaste was generated in 2017, of which only 20 to 25 percent was documented to be collected and recycled. The remaining waste was either landfilled or disposed of unsafely or illegally in countries like Thailand.

This scenario is likely to persist in the absence of stringent regulations, closed-loop supply chains, and greater producer responsibility. China made a market-altering decision when it announced a ban on the import of 24 categories of recyclables and solid waste by the end of 2017.

This decision will force the world’s biggest waste importers, which include the UK, the US, Europe, and Japan, to build new recycling infrastructure in their own facilities or look to other Southeast Asian countries for waste management.

On June 1, four containers packed with plastic waste were found in eastern Bangkok. By the third week of June, nearly 20 illegal waste sites had been raided and there was speculation that legal changes brought in by the military government had opened the door to the “surge in foreign trash,” because such facilities could now be set up anywhere regardless of an area’s zoning.

A representative from Greenpeace said, “Electronic waste (e-waste) can be used as fuel in waste incinerators, as well as unrecyclable plastic. This order has eased restrictions for incinerators and waste factories.”

The NGO ReReef Thailand, which wants to build a business case for sustainability based on the vulnerabilities of the country’s coral reefs, said, “The substance never disappears … Since the beginning of plastic production, about 60 years ago, 6.3 billion tons of plastic never really gone. Less than 10 percent of recycled materials mean that more than five billion tons of plastic has become waste in the environment. It has become one of the most important environmental crises of this era.”

Concerned about the scale of the problem, and media reports that perhaps that national politicians had been involved in the illegal trade in waste, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan said there may no longer be imports of foreign waste to Thailand.

The licenses of five importers were suspended after they were found to have hired illegal factories to recycle waste.

Interior Minister Anupong Paochinda said the government will establish a multi-agency panel to work out how to regulate garbage from other countries. “It’s not just e-waste but also other types of garbage,” he said. “If the trash does not benefit the country and causes negative impact and burdens, we won’t allow it to be imported.”

Meanwhile, about 400 containers thought to contain electronic waste, plastic and discarded metal are now sitting abandoned at ports in Bangkok and Laem Chabang. Customs officials have warned that if they are not claimed within 15 days, they will dispose of these containers and their contents or send them back to where they came from – countries such as the United States, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

All of this disruption has triggered a warning from a U.S. environmental group that the experience Thailand has gone through could happen to many countries in South and Southeast Asia.

Basel Ban Amendment Close to Becoming Law

The Seattle-based NGO Basel Action Network said Monday that developing countries could be “hit by a tidal wave of electronic and plastic waste” if they don’t move to ban the import of such waste by ratifying an international agreement called the Basel Ban Amendment.

This change to the Basel Convention, an existing treaty agreed by 194 countries, would make it illegal to export hazardous and electronic waste from developed countries such as those in the European Union to poorer states.

The Basel Action Network says most e-waste from North America and Europe is exported to Asia – to Hong Kong, and increasingly to Thailand and Pakistan.

“Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka have ratified the agreement, but Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have not,” said the Basel Action Network in a statement.

“It is especially ironic that while the Thai government is rightly very concerned about the dumping on their territory, they have not made a move as yet to ratify the Ban Amendment. The Ban Amendment is but three ratifications short of going into the force of international law.”

New Technology Could Relieve Waste Burden

“The waste recycling market, like its end-user industries, is experiencing disruptive changes due to the advent of advanced digital technologies,” said Deepthi Kumar Sugumar, Frost & Sullivan research analyst. For example, smart waste bins with Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities will play a significant role in changing the way waste is collected and sorted.”

Using an ultrasonic sensor, an Internet of Things system gives a real time indicator of the garbage level in any trash can at any given moment. Using that data garbage companies can then optimize waste collection routes to reduce fuel consumption.

“Similarly, the rise of 3D printing technologies has made it much easier to recycle plastic waste. Many industries are turning plastics into high-quality filaments to replace spares, lowering the need for re-manufacturing,” said Sugumar.

Although technology has improved waste management considerably, market participants using these technologies will be challenged to convince industries employing conventional methods to switch to modern systems. They need to be made aware of the role novel recycling systems can play in enabling a circular economy, said Sugumar.

Meanwhile, the use of cutting-edge technologies is giving rise to innovative business models such as commercial waste collection zones. These models allow haulers to invest in infrastructure improvement and introduce inventive methods for minicipal solid waste collection.

By optimizing waste collection routes, combining real-time data, and employing data-related technologies such as predictive analytics, it will be possible to eliminate the unplanned dispatch of vehicles to collect waste.

“Another important technology that could have far-reaching consequences for the waste management market is augmented reality (AR),” observed Sugumar. “AR can help any manufacturer make informed decisions to prevent waste in the first place. Though AR is still evolving, it will change the way waste reduction and management is conducted in the future.”

Featured Images: Trash at the Nonthaburi landfill, Bangkok, Thailand, February 4, 2014 (Photo by Thibaud Saintin) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Is Space Junk Polluting Space Before We Even Live There?

by Anna Kucirkova

August 2,2018 originally published (Industrial Ovens) – Scientists have predicted that the maximum number of people the Earth can sustain is somewhere between nine and ten billion. Current population is estimated to hit nine billion by the year 2050. So humans have roughly 32 years before overpopulation becomes a really, really big problem.

But, where else can we go?

People around the globe have developed space agencies for exploration (think Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc.). There are private companies sending rockets and satellites into low orbit. We’ve been to the moon and back.

It is clear that our intention is to colonize the only place left: space.

However, can it be that easy if we have already filled space with our junk?

The Problem Of Space Pollution

NASA scientist Donald Kessler warned in a paper written in 1978, that every collision of man-made objects in space generates more shrapnel and debris as pieces fly apart on impact. The effect is cumulative, as new debris collides with other objects it creates even more debris.

Ultimately, space will become impassable because of the continuous cascade of colliding debris, including destruction of telecommunications systems and nullifying of further space launches.

Twice every year, if not more frequently, the International Space Station moves to avoid a hypothetically disastrous crash with space junk.

Estimations vary, but there are approximately 4,000 active and inactive satellites in space. They could be hit by the 500,000 bits of floating space debris, some micro-millimeters in size, all the way up to pieces the size of two double-decker buses.

Space debris encompasses both natural (meteoroid) and artificial (man-made) particles. While meteoroids orbit the sun, most man-made debris orbits the Earth. Therefore, the man-made junk is usually called orbital debris.

These include broken spacecraft, abandoned launch vehicles, manned mission-related debris, and disintegration debris.

Estimates suggest that more than 20,000 items of debris larger than a softball currently orbit the Earth. They travel up to 17,500 mph, which would allow a relatively small piece of orbital debris to seriously damage a satellite or a spacecraft. Additionally, there are 500,000 pieces of debris marble-sized or larger. There are millions of pieces of debris too small to be tracked.

“The greatest risk to space missions comes from non-trackable debris,” said Nicholas Johnson, NASA chief scientist for orbital debris. The Department of Defense sustains a hyper-accurate catalog on objects in Earth orbit bigger than a softball.

Are you starting to get the picture? There’s a lot of stuff in space that can cause serious problems for space travelers.

Space Debris and Human Spacecraft

More than 500,000 pieces of debris, or “space junk,” are tracked as they orbit the Earth.

The increasing amount of space debris multiples the danger to space vehicles, but particularly the International Space Station, space shuttles, and other spacecraft with human passengers.

NASA monitors space debris to predict collisions and uses a long-standing set of guidelines to prepare for such events. These guidelines are part of the existing flight rules and specify that when a piece of debris becomes close enough to increase the probability of a collision, evasive action or other precautions are put in place to ensure the safety of crew members.

Often times, there is plenty of advance notice, which allows for time to move the station slightly (called a “debris avoidance maneuver”). Other times, the tracking data does not give a precise enough targeting of debris or a close pass isn’t identified in time to make orbital adjustments.

When that happens, the control centers around the world may agree to move the crew into the Soyuz spacecraft used to fly humans to and from the station. The crew would then have the ability to leave the station if a collision occurred and caused a loss of pressure in the life-supporting module or caused critical damage.

Debris avoidance moves are primarily small and occur between one and several hours prior to the predicted collision. These maneuvers with the shuttle can be planned and implemented in just a few hours. The space station requires nearly 30 hours to plan and execute moves because of the need to utilize the station’s Russian thrusters, or to activate the propulsion systems on one of the docked spacecraft.

In 2009, we witnessed the first major collision between two intact satellites — a U.S. Iridium satellite and an aging Russian Cosmos. The collision created 2,000 extra chunks of metal space debris orbiting the Earth.

A 2011 report by the National Research Council warned that Earth orbit paths may be reaching a “tipping point” where collisions will become more common. The researchers suggest that the immediate, orbital space around Earth could be 10 to 20 years away from severe issues.

The Space Pollution Facts

It is estimated that hundreds of millions of pieces of space debris float through our area of the solar system. Many are as big as trucks, while some are smaller than a fleck of paint.

NASA tracks rocket boosters, spacecraft pieces, and particles and fragments cause by space crashes or explosions are the kinds of space trash whirling around Earth up to 36,000 km per hour.

Earth’s gravitational field grabs lots of space trash and drags it into lower and lower orbits until it burns up in the Earth’s atmosphere. When space trash orbits at higher altitudes, it will remain in orbit years longer than space trash moving in orbits lower than 600 km. Scientists estimate that space trash at altitudes higher than 1,000 km above Earth’s atmosphere can continue orbiting for a hundred years or more.

Space Debris Removal

Jason Held is a scientist who has created a device he hopes will be useful in cleaning up space trash. He holds a PhD in robotics from the University of Sydney and founded the university’s space engineering laboratory. There, he built rocket engines and led space satellite development.

Held has high hopes that the device he and his team created will be able to drag space trash back down into the atmosphere for a fiery death. The module, called the DragEN, is a yo-yo like device weighing in at just under 100 grams. It can be attached to satellites and other spacecraft.

When used, DragEN unspools hundreds of meters of a conductive material that grabs onto electric and magnetic forces as it travels through the planet’s magnetic field. This force drags the trash back to Earth’s atmosphere, where it explodes.

Held cannot estimate the time it would take for a satellite in the DragEN to burn up. However, the Indian Space Research Organization will try it in space on a satellite launch planned soon.

“The satellite mission is to take photos of the earth and downlink photos,” Held says.

“At the end of its mission, the team will release the DragEN tether, which will start dragging the satellite back to Earth. We are all very interested to learn how DragEN unspools in space and how quickly or slowly it takes to come back down.”

Today, Held leads Saber Astronautics in Sydney, where he built DragEN, and he believes it will aid in the destruction of space of debris, a vital issue for space programs around the world.

And Held isn’t the only one racing to obliterate space junk. Though Australia doesn’t build spacecraft or satellite systems, it does collect data and information from space. Australian space researchers monitor roughly 29,000 pieces of space junk and warn human space dwellers of imminent collisions.

The international timeline for self-destruction of any space satellite or orbiting craft, originally set by NASA’s Orbital Debris Program Office, is 25 years after operational life of a satellite ends. This remains the goal for new launches in order to limit the growing pile of space trash.

Internationally, addressing this problem is urgent; satellites worth billions of dollars are constantly threatened with collisions. We are sending craft into space more frequently than they are being destroyed.

The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs has worked with NASA and the European Space Agency to develop a set of guidelines on space debris mitigation. But, space archaeologist Dr. Alice Gorman, of Flinders University in Adelaide, says the voluntary UN guidelines are followed in only 40% of all missions.

Humans filled waterways, landfills, and streets with trash, so it’s no surprise the same thing happened in Earth’s orbit. Some space trash removal missions focus on dead satellites, catching them with robotic arms, spearing them with harpoons, or slowing them with sails or tethers. Smaller pieces are targeted with lasers or collected through adhesives.

There are currently several space junk removal missions on the books:

  • RemoveDebris from Britain was planned for 2017
  • Japan’s just-launched Kounotori 6 satellite, carrying the Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiment
  • e.Deorbit from the ESA is scheduled for 2023 or 2024
  • Japanese startup Astroscale is designing a debris-removal satellite planned to launch this year

Astroscale plans to demonstrate its satellite, ELSA, in October 2019. Both NASA and the ESA continue to study and develop technologies to capture and safely de-orbit non-functioning objects.

Will Space Be Clean Enough in Time?

These great advances in tracking and eliminating space junk and debris will help clear out the orbital paths around the Earth.

The primary concern is if the clearance will happen in time for our population to successfully colonize outer space. As human population grows and grows, the only viable answer for expanding our world is in settling in outer space.

‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ Motivates World Environment Day

 Monkey investigates plastic trash on the roof of a hut near the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, February 18, 2017 (Photo by Malcolm Payne) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Monkey investigates plastic trash on the roof of a hut near the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, February 18, 2017 (Photo by Malcolm Payne) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW DELHI, India, June 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “Greetings on World Environment Day,” said India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. “Together, let us ensure that our future generations live in a clean and green planet, in harmony with nature.”

As global host of World Environment Day 2018, India today launched an historic slate of activities from nationwide clean-ups, to single-use plastic bans across states, universities and national parks.

For World Environment Day, the government of India says it will be cleaning up 100 of its historic monuments, including the world-famous Taj Mahal.

Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2018, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” is a call to action, and it invites everyone to consider how we can make changes in our lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our oceans, our wildlife, and our own health.

While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic, with severe environmental consequences, says UN Sectretary-General António Guterres.

“Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste,” Guterres said. “Every year, more than eight million tonnes end up in the oceans. Microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy. From remote islands to the Arctic, nowhere is untouched. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish.”

“On World Environment Day, the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use,” the secretary-general said. “Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world.”

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (Photo by British High Commission) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (Photo by British High Commission) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Urging all stakeholders at both national and international levels to work towards betterment of the environment, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that to India “Beat Plastic Pollution” is more than a slogan – India means business about it.

Delivering the inaugural address of the State Environment Ministers Conference Monday in the run-up to World Environment Day, Dr. Vardhan said that environmental protection is not merely a technical, but a moral issue.

He pointed out that India generates 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day. In India, 70 percent of total plastic consumption is discarded as waste.

Humans have created 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment, according to a 2017 study by scientists at American universities led by the University of Georgia.

Global production of plastics increased from two million metric tons in 1950 to over 400 million metric tons in 2015, according to the study, “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made,” outgrowing most other human-made materials.

By 2015, human beings had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, 6.3 billion tons of which had already become waste. Of that, only nine percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.

If current trends continue, roughly 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050, the scientists estimate.

Speaking to the state environment mininsters, Vardhan asserted that there is no waste which cannot be transformed into wealth. He gave the example of a plant in the city of Kashipur, where 10 tonnes of biomass has been converted into 3,000 liters of ethanol.

The environment minister called on the developed world to provide technology, funds and research results to solve this environmental problem.

He asked the state environment mininsters to inspire people to take up Green Good Deeds and build small, social movements.

“If every Indian adopts one Green Good Deed per day, a revolutionary change can be brought about in the nation,” Vardhan urged.

In his address, Minister of State Dr. Mahesh Sharma recalled the Gandhian thought “Cleanliness is Godliness,” and identified this as the spirit behind the theme of “Beat Plastic Pollution.”

Minister Sharma advocated implementation of Prime Minister Modi’s mantra of Six Rs: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Retrieve, Recover, Redesign and remanufacture to eliminate single use plastic,

Addressing the gathering, Erik Solheim, executive director of United Nations Environment (UNEP) pointed out that in India efforts are needed not only from the government side, but also from the people.

“We need to make environment a citizen’s issue,” Solheim said.  The senior UN representative felt that universities should form rules and regulations for students to follow environmental norms. He said that UN leadership will help take Indian practices to the world.

“India has demonstrated the magnitude of what is possible when leaders, individuals and businesses come together to tackle a challenge – even one as great as plastic pollution,” said Solheim.

“The momentum for World Environment Day on June 5 is picking up,” he said, “and all across India we are witnessing exactly the kind of global leadership we need to save our planet from the rising tide of plastic pollution.”

Solheim is hopeful that humans can reverse the plastic disaster. Released today, a new report from his agency, UN Environment, finds a “surging momentum in global efforts to address plastic pollution.”

The first-of-its-kind accounting finds governments are increasing the pace of implementation and the scope of action to curb the use of single-use plastics.

Single-use Plastics: A roadmap for Sustainability,” is a global outlook, developed in cooperation with the Indian Government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It presents case studies from more than 60 countries.

Among the recommendations are specific actions policy makers can take to improve waste management, promote eco-friendly alternatives, educate consumers, enable voluntary reduction strategies and successfully implement bans or levies on the use and sale of single-use plastics.

The report was launched in New Delhi today by Prime Minister Modi and Solheim on the occasion of World Environment Day.

“The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable, with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution,” said Solheim. In the report’s foreword he writes, “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

Featured Image: Wild boars and a dog root through the plastic garbage on a street in Bundi, Rajasthan, India, November 8, 2012 (Photo by Oliver Laumann) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Climate-Healing Strategy Emerges From Messy Waste

A "poo-powered" Fair Oaks bus rolls through a barn where cows munch grass and provide the poo that becomes renewable natural gas. (Photo courtesy Fair Oaks Farms) Posted for media use

A “poo-powered” Fair Oaks bus rolls through a barn where cows munch grass and provide the poo that becomes renewable natural gas. (Photo courtesy Fair Oaks Farms) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, May 22, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Wet organic wastes are mucky: livestock manure; sludge from wastewater treatment; inedible fats, oils, and greases from commercial and industrial food processing operations; food and yard waste – what a mess!

But all that waste is no longer lost. Some U.S. companies and municipalities are now making good use of wet waste materials by converting them into renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane or upgraded biogas. It’s an emerging strategy to slash greenhouse gas emissions by turning wet organic waste into a low-carbon vehicle fuel.

In a new working paper “The Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas as a Climate Strategy in the United States,”, Rebecca Gasper and Tim Searchinger of the World Resources Institute (WRI) find that RNG has the potential to be an effective greenhouse gas reduction strategy when it meets two conditions: 1) it is produced from waste, and 2) its use reduces methane emissions to the atmosphere.

“The United States generates millions of tons of food scraps; inedible fats, oils and greases; sewage and manure. Some of this organic waste is used for energy or fertilizer, but most of it – around 50 million tons a year – is sent to landfills, incinerated, or otherwise left to decompose,” writes Gasper. “But this trash doesn’t have to be wasted.”

Gasper and Searchinger say that turning certain types of organic waste into renewable natural gas could provide heavy-duty vehicles with a fuel that avoids more greenhouse gas emissions than it creates over its lifecycle.

The most promising RNG projects include food and yard waste diverted from landfills and livestock manure projects on farms that aren’t already capturing methane. Analyses have shown that using RNG from these projects in heavy-duty vehicles can result in net greenhouse gas reductions on a life-cycle basis.

Municipalities, states, and companies considering RNG as a climate strategy will need to determine the net greenhouse gas impacts, costs, and benefits on a case-by-case basis, the authors say.

The WRI working paper, “The Production and Use of Renewable Natural Gas as a Climate Strategy in the United States,” documents that RNG production grew from 1.4 million ethanol-equivalent gallons in 2011 to nearly 190 million in 2016, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a 2017 report.

Cities and towns are increasingly using RNG to more efficiently manage local waste and power municipal vehicle fleets like garbage trucks and buses.

Private companies, particularly waste disposal services and companies that use heavy-duty vehicles for freight, are beginning to add RNG as a domestic, renewable, low-carbon fuel option in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Cities, towns and businesses from Louisiana, Indiana, Michigan, Colorado, Georgia among other states around the country are already using RNG to more efficiently manage local waste and power vehicle fleets like garbage trucks, city buses and freight vehicles.

Fair Oaks Farms in Indiana, for instance, found that powering its milk delivery trucks with RNG made from cow manure saves them $2.5 million in fuel costs each year while reducing methane emissions by the carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent of 24,000 tons.

“Our entire facility runs on cow & pig manure,” the dairy farm says on its website. “We transform our farms’ waste into energy by way of our anaerobic digesters, we reduce our dependency upon natural gas and electricity during the milk and manufacturing process. This year the use of CNG will reduce the amount of diesel that our milk tanker/trailers use by 2 million gallons. Our barns and plants are also powered by this cutting edge ‘poo power.'”

Private companies with large vehicle fleets like UPS are using RNG as one low-carbon fuel option to meet corporate sustainability goals. (For the record, UPS contributed financial support to the production of this WRI working paper, but the authors say UPS did not try to influence their work.)

The five-step process of transforming wet organic waste into renewable natural gas is straightforward. (Image courtesy World Resources Institute) Creative Commons license

The five-step process of transforming wet organic waste into renewable natural gas is straightforward. (Image courtesy World Resources Institute) Creative Commons license

RNG is part of California’s plan to reduce emissions 40 percent below 2020 levels by 2030.

RNG will typically replace conventional natural gas in existing natural gas trucks or displace diesel fuel when a fleet owner replaces a diesel truck with a natural gas vehicle that runs on RNG, the authors explain.

Here’s how it works.

When wet organic wastes decompose in typical management facilities – food scraps in a landfill or dairy manure in an open lagoon – they produce methane, a greenhouse gas that’s at least 28 times as potent as the most prevalent greenhouse gas, CO2.

Landfills, livestock manure and wastewater treatment facilities contribute around 30 percent of all U.S. methane emissions.

When RNG is made from waste that would otherwise lead to methane emissions, it can have a much lower lifecycle carbon footprint than conventional natural gas, diesel and other fuel options.

RNG from food scraps and dairy manure are considered carbon-negative under California’s low-carbon fuel standard, meaning the emissions avoided from RNG production and use completely outweigh the emissions it causes when it’s produced, transported and burned in a vehicle, explains Gasper.

RNG from food scraps and yard trimmings is about 120 percent less carbon intensive than fossil fuels under California’s low-carbon standard; RNG from dairy cow manure is nearly 400 percent less carbon intensive.

But each facility must be analyzed on a case-by-case basis, the authors caution.

“In cases where biogas produced by wet wastes is collected and flared as part of typical management practices – which is the case at many landfills and wastewater treatment plants – production of RNG may lead to a net increase in methane produced,” they warn.

For example, in 2014, the California Air Resources Board said that its certified wastewater sludge-to-RNG pathway indicated that RNG production at medium-to-large wastewater treatment plants could increase methane emissions by at least 34 percent, because biogas at these facilities would otherwise be flared.

Yet, in these cases, the calculated life-cycle carbon intensities may still be lower than fossil fuels due to the avoided carbon dioxide emissions from flaring, the authors point out.

Capital costs for RNG projects can be high, ranging from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of dollars depending on the technologies used and the scale of production.

Gasper and Searchinger advise that project developers can limit the capital investments required by locating projects at sites that require relatively less buildout than others. Landfill projects, for instance, require only installation of a collection system to gather biogas that is already being produced from the organic waste disposed of on-site, rather than installation of a digester.

“Much recent research has focused on RNG’s potential benefits, but a detailed analysis of the conditions under which RNG can generate climate benefits and its potential risks is missing

from the discussion,” write Gasper and Searchinger. “This working paper begins to address that gap by providing an analysis of RNG’s potential as an effective and economically viable GHG reduction tool, drawing on and synthesizing relevant literature.”

Municipalities, companies, and states considering RNG as part of their climate strategy can use this WRI working paper as a resource to understand the basics of RNG production from organic waste, the conditions under which it can lead to large net greenhouse gas reductions, its costs and incentives, and critical gaps in data and analysis of the issue.

Featured Images: Anaerobic digesters at the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, Point Shirley, Boston, Massachusetts, September 20, 2014 (Photo by malone545) Creative Commons license via Flickr


What Rubbish! Europe’s New Waste Rules

Tagged wheelie bins in London, England, July 16, 2017. (Photo by Tee Cee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Tagged wheelie bins in London, England, July 16, 2017. (Photo by Tee Cee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STRASBOURG, France, May 1, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Parliament has formally approved higher recycling targets and new measures to reduce waste across Europe.

Environment ministers from all 28 EU countries are expected to approve the agreement in the coming weeks. Their approval must be secured before the new laws can officially be transposed into national legislation within 24 months from that moment.

The Parliament’s vote comes four months after the same laws and targets were agreed by the European Commission, Parliament and EU governments.

Under the new measures, EU countries will be required to recycle at least 55 percent of their municipal waste by 2025, 60 percent by 2030 and 65 percent by 2035.

Other approved measures include a 10 percent cap on landfills by 2035, mandatory separate collection of biowaste and stricter schemes to make producers pay for the collection of key recyclables.

Recommendations include economic incentives for reuse, deposit-return schemes, food donations and the phase out of subsidies that promote waste.

In addition to the separate collection which already exists for paper and cardboard, glass, metals and plastic, new provisions for separate collection, including of bio-waste, will boost the quality of secondary raw materials and their uptake.

Hazardous household waste will have to be collected separately by 2022, biowaste by 2023 and textiles by 2025.

“After lengthy negotiations with the Council, we have succeeded in bringing home a great result that lays new foundations for sustainable European economic and social development,” said lead MEP Simona Bonafè of Italy, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

“Member states will be obliged to follow clear and common measures on the life cycle of raw materials and waste disposal,” she said.

“The package, in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development objectives, also reduces food waste by 50 percent and aims for a 65 percent recycling threshold by all member states. A battle that will make the economy of the Old Continent one of the most virtuous in the world,” Bonafè added.

The new package of laws and targets is a key element of the Circular Economy Action Plan the European Commission adopted in December 2015.

Environmentalists wanted the agreement to do more, but they say now it’s time to activate the new measures.

Said Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau, a coalition of more than 140 environmental groups, “Cities across Europe have already made steps forward to reduce waste and improve recycling. The new laws could have been more ambitious, but their successful implementation will help governments consolidate this progress with benefits for the people and society as a whole.”

“After years of discussions, it is now time for EU countries to walk the talk on waste reduction,” said Barczak. “These laws are necessary to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues such as pollution in our cities and environment.”

The Dublin Waste-to-Energy Plant, locally referred to as the Poolbeg Incinerator, is a waste-to-energy plant serving the Greater Dublin Area. The facility was designed to process 600,000 tonnes of waste per year and produce 60 megawatts of electricity every year, enough to heat 80,000 homes. The plant took its first delivery of waste on April 24, 2017. (Photo by William Murphy) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The Dublin Waste-to-Energy Plant, locally referred to as the Poolbeg Incinerator, is a waste-to-energy plant serving the Greater Dublin Area. The facility was designed to process 600,000 tonnes of waste per year and produce 60 megawatts of electricity every year, enough to heat 80,000 homes. The plant took its first delivery of waste on April 24, 2017. (Photo by William Murphy) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Weaker Waste Incineration Rules

A three-year process to update EU environmental standards for waste incineration plants could be about to lead to new rules that most currently operating facilities already comply with.

The latest draft even weakens some key protections compared to existing guidelines, reveals a report published April 18.

The EEB report, “A Wasted Opportunity? EU environmental standards for waste incineration plants under review” also contains a scorecard revealing the position taken by national government representatives during the drafting process.

While the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Belgium are commended for their efforts to raise standards, Germany, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and the Czech Republic are condemned for their efforts to weaken the new rules.

EEB technical expert Aliki Kriekouki, who has taken part in working group meetings that provided advice to those drafting the rules, said, “People in Europe expect the EU to have the world’s best environmental standards, yet after three years of work to update the rules for waste incineration, we’re stuck with a proposal that makes some progress but falls short of boosting the deployment of effective, readily available technologies that prevent or minimise harmful pollution.”

More than 80 million tons of waste is burned in Europe every year, which campaigners warn is incompatible with the aim of moving to a circular economy, where waste is prevented and products reused or recycled.

“For air pollution, maximum emissions levels have largely remained unchanged, with the levels of some critical pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and mercury being raised compared to the existing guidance. Sadly, especially for people living near these plants, it’s a clear cut case of one step forward, two steps back,” said Kriekouki.

Waste incineration plants are responsible for toxic emissions of health-harming substances including dioxins, heavy metals and particulate matter known to cause respiratory diseases, cancers, immune system damage and reproductive and developmental problems.

The EEB report calls for a tightening of levels for the emissions of key pollutants to air and water. It demands that current flexibilities be removed and that exceptions be tightened or erased. It also recommends that certain techniques be made compulsory and that the requirements to monitor harmful emissions be strengthened.

The EU sets minimum binding standards for industry as part of the Industrial Emissions Directive. Standards documents are known as BREFs. Along with industry and Member State representatives the EEB takes part in a consultation process that informs the European Commission while drafting these standards.

The current draft proposals for an updated Waste Incineration BREF to replace the last one adopted in 2006 have been under development for almost three years and will likely not need to be complied with until 2024.

This agreement further strengthens the “waste hierarchy” by placing prevention, re-use and recycling clearly above landfilling and incineration.

MEPs say managing waste in a more efficient manner is the first step towards a circular economy, where most if not all products and materials are recycled or repeatedly re-used.



Bacterium Makes Tasty Meals of Nasty Oil Spills

The burning oil tanker Sanchi emits smoke and flames as it burns at sea off the coast of eastern China, January 2018 (Photo credit IRNA)

The burning oil tanker Sanchi emits smoke and flames as it burns at sea off the coast of eastern China, January 2018 (Photo credit IRNA)

By Sunny Lewis

QUEBEC CITY, Quebec, Canada, April 10, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – An enzyme derived from bacteria has been found to clean soil or water contaminated by oil spills in an effective, simple and eco-friendly way.

Scientists at Quebec City’s Institut National de la Recharche Scientifique (INRS) have been testing enzymes produced by Alcanivorax borkumensis, a bacterium that feeds on hydrocarbons.

Oil spills from pipelines and tankers, oil wells and drilling platforms and the devastating impact they have on the environment worry scientists, insurers and environmental activists alike.

One of the worst recent ongoing spills is going into its fourth month and is still not cleaned up.

The Sanchi oil tanker collision and sinking in the East China Sea occurred on January 6, 2018. The Panamanian-flagged, Iranian-owned tanker Sanchi, with a full natural-gas condensate cargo of 136,000 tonnes (960,000 barrels), was sailing from Iran to South Korea, when it collided with the Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship CF Crystal 160 nautical miles (300 km) off Shanghai, China.

The Sanchi caught fire shortly after the collision. After burning and drifting for over a week, it sank on January 14.

A slick 13 kilometres long by 11 kilometres wide formed on the sea surface, pushed toward Japan by high winds, and efforts to contain it were begun by ships surrounding the spill.

Condensate is a volatile, highly toxic material harmful to the environment. In addition to the slick on the water’s surface, the sinking of the Sanchi means that as the remaining condensate cargo and an estimated 2,000 tonnes of bunker oil, a heavier form of fuel oil, are emanating from the wreck, contaminating the ocean depths.

The part of the East China Sea affected by the spill is where edible fish spawn at that time of year, and is a migration path for whales.

This incident was compared in magnitude with the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska in March 1989, but is smaller in size than the world’s largest oil spill, the three-month-long Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Oil spill disasters occur far too frequently, posing decontamination challenges that require massive investments of time and resources.

Widespread and serious though the damage may be, the solution could be microscopic – Alcanivorax borkumensis, a rod-shaped bacterium that feeds on hydrocarbons such as natural-gas condensate.

Professor Satinder Kaur Brar in her laboratory at the Institut National de la Recharche Scientifique, Quebec City, Canada. (Photo courtesy Institut National de la Recharche Scientifique) Posted for media use

Professor Satinder Kaur Brar in her laboratory at the Institut National de la Recharche Scientifique, Quebec City, Canada. (Photo courtesy Institut National de la Recharche Scientifique) Posted for media use

Professor Satinder Kaur Brar and her team at the Institut National de la Recharche Scientifique (INRS) have done lab tests showing the effectiveness of enzymes produced by A. borkumensis in degrading petroleum products whether in soil or in water.

Their results, published in the current issue of “Biochemical Engineering Journal” offer hope for an effective, environmentally harmless method of decontaminating water and soil at oil spill sites.

Scientists from Brown University and the University of Rhode Island have also investigated A. borkumensis, a dominate bacterium in marine environments that contain high hydrocarbon levels. This team is exploring how the bacterium can be supported to naturally and effectively degrade spilled oil.

In 2015, the Brown-URI team conducted laboratory experiments across oil-water interfaces to observe the responses of A. borkumensis to the presence and absence of nitrogen.

They found that A. borkumensis grew faster when the oil-water interface was supplemented with dissolved organic nitrogen. Nitrogen reduced the time it took bacteria to enter an exponential growth phase and increased bacteria’s growth rate and oil degradation rate.

In recent years, researchers have sequenced the genomes of thousands of bacteria from various sources, seeking the perfect candidate for the difficult task of cleaning up oil spills.

INRS research associate Dr. Tarek Rouissi pored over technical data sheets for many bacterial strains. He focused on the enzymes the bacteria produce and the conditions in which they evolve.

A. borkumensis, a non-pathogenic marine bacterium, aroused his curiosity. The microorganism’s genome contains the codes of a number of interesting enzymes and it is classified as “hydrocarbonoclastic,” a bacterium that uses hydrocarbons as a source of energy.

A. borkumensis is present in all oceans and drifts with the current, multiplying rapidly in areas where the concentration of oil compounds is high, which partly explains the natural degradation observed after some spills.

But its remedial potential needed more investigation.

“I had a hunch,” Rouissi said, “and the characterization of the enzymes produced by the bacterium seems to have proven me right!”

During its evolution, A. borkumensis has accumulated specific enzymes that degrade almost everything found in oil. Among these, the bacteria’s enzymes known as hydroxylases stand out from those found in other species.

Researchers found they are far more effective, more versatile and resistant to chemical conditions.

To test the microscopic cleaner, the INRS research team purified a few of the enzymes and used them to treat samples of contaminated soil.

“The degradation of hydrocarbons using the crude enzyme extract is really encouraging and reached over 80 percent for various compounds,” said Professor Brar.

“The process is effective in removing benzene, toluene, and xylene, and has been tested under a number of different conditions to show that it is a powerful way to clean up polluted land and marine environments,” she explained.

Next, Brar’s team will investigate how these bacteria metabolize hydrocarbons and explore their potential for decontaminating sites.

One of the advantages of the approach developed at INRS is its application in tough-to-access environments, which present a major challenge during oil spill cleanup efforts.

This research was funded by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Techno-Rem Inc, a Quebec company that provides engineering services for groundwater management, characterization and environmental restoration.

Featured image: Mixed images of Alcanivorax borkumensis. (Photo by Shivam Kumar) Posted for media use.  Oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico is eaten by the microscopic bacteria Alcanivorax borkumensis. (Photo by SkyTruth, public access by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Public domain.


Training-of-trainers in Waste Management

Pacific Gyre Could Be Plastic-Free by 2028

Ship tows The Ocean Cleanup's 2016 prototype plastic collector into the North Sea for testing. (Photo courtesy The Ocean Cleanup)

Ship tows The Ocean Cleanup’s 2016 prototype plastic collector into the North Sea for testing. (Photo courtesy The Ocean Cleanup)

By Sunny Lewis

DELFT, The Netherlands, April 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – A new ocean cleanup prototype is being deployed on the North Sea today. It is one of the last steps as the nonprofit The Ocean Cleanup prepares to launch the first ocean plastics cleanup system in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) this summer.

Since the summer of 2016, The Ocean Cleanup has been testing a series of prototypes at its North Sea site offshore of The Netherlands.

These tests are helping the group’s workers to gain experience in deploying offshore structures and to maximize the cleanup systems’ capacity to handle the harshest conditions they could face in the Pacific Ocean.

Afloat in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons – and new research shows the situation is rapidly getting worse. These are the findings of a three-year mapping effort conducted by an international team of scientists affiliated with The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company. Their findings were published March 22 in the journal “Scientific Reports.

The study shows the region contains up to 16 times more plastic than previously estimated, with pollution levels increasing exponentially.

“We were surprised by the amount of large plastic objects we encountered”, said Dr. Julia Reisser of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, chief scientist of the expeditions. “We used to think most of the debris consists of small fragments, but this new analysis shines a new light on the scope of the debris.”

Oceanogrpaher Laurent Lebreton of The Ocean Cleanup, lead author of the study, explains, “Although it is not possible to draw any firm conclusions on the persistency of plastic pollution in the GPGP yet, this plastic accumulation rate inside the GPGP, which was greater than in the surrounding waters, indicates that the inflow of plastic into the patch continues to exceed the outflow.”

Map of the five ocean gyres of the world where ocean plastic accumulates. (Map by The University of Waikato) Posted for media use

Map of the five ocean gyres of the world where ocean plastic accumulates. (Map by The University of Waikato) Posted for media use

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth.

Cleaning up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using conventional methods – vessels and nets – would take thousands of years and tens of billions of dollars to complete.

The Ocean Cleanup’s passive systems are estimated to remove half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years, at a fraction of the cost. Their first cleanup system is set to be deployed mid-2018.

Here’s how it works. Instead of nets, this cleanup system is equipped with an impermeable screen to catch the sub-surface debris. Sea life can safely pass underneath the screen with the current.

Scale model tests show the screen can catch anything from one centimeter plastic particlesup to large discarded fishing nets several meters in size.

The screen is made from a tightly constructed, geotextile-inspired material that is impermeable to marine life.

The system has a floater, a two kilometer long continuous hard-walled pipe made from high density polyethylene (HDPE) a durable and recyclable material.

Togther with the screen, its purpose is to catch and concentrate plastic while providing buoyancy to the whole system.

A large sea anchor slows the system down to let it move slower than the plastic, thus capturing it.

Algorithms help specify the optimal deployment locations, after which the systems roam the gyres autonomously. Real-time telemetry will allow The Ocean Cleanup team to monitor the condition, performance and trajectory of each system.

These systems fully rely on the natural ocean currents and do not require an external energy source to catch and concentrate the plastic. All electronics used, such as lights and the AIS, an automatic tracking system used on ships and by vessel traffic services, will be solar powered.

These ocean cleanup systems are scalable. The group says, “By gradually adding systems to the gyre, we mitigate the need for full financing upfront. This gradual scale-up also allows us to learn from the field and continuously improve the technology along the way.”

“Over the past three years,” the group says, “we moved from feasibility research, to reconnaissance missions, to extensive scale model and prototype testing. We expect our first operational cleanup system to be deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by mid-2018.

“Our idea has developed and improved substantially since the first conceptual design and the feasibility study. Since there is no previous technology like ours, we believe the best way to move forward is to test fast and often to look for the things that do not yet work as planned,” the group explains.

By scaling up, researching and working together with offshore companies such as Boskalis, SBM Offshore and Heerema and institutes, including IMARES, Deltares and MARIN, we believe initiating the cleanup by mid-2018 is achievable, the group says.

Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Cleanup and co-author of the GPGP study, said, “To be able to solve a problem, we believe it is essential to first understand it. The results provide us with key data to develop and test our cleanup technology, but it also underlines the urgency of dealing with the plastic pollution problem. Since the results indicate that the amount of hazardous microplastics is set to increase more than tenfold if left to fragment, the time to start is now.”

The major gyres of the ocean are located in the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

Ocean gyres in the Northern hemisphere rotate clockwise and gyres in the Southern hemisphere rotate counter-clockwise due to the Coriolis effect, and both types gather plastic marine debris.

As most everyone in the world knows by now, plastic debris is a serious threat to marine animals. While large pieces of litter can have big impacts on marine animals, less obvious are the dangers of plastics measuring less than five millimeters in size, known as microplastics. These tiny bits of debris are affecting some of the planet’s largest animals.

Baleen whales strain thousands of gallons of water each day for plankton, small fish, or crustaceans. Not only does their filter feeding behavior enable them to consume microplastics, reportedly by the thousands per day, but because most whales have a thick blubber layer, fat-soluble chemicals leached from the plastics can be readily absorbed into their bodies.

Other marine mammals, such as dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions can also be affected. If the small fish and other prey they consume have themselves consumed microplastics, the debris can accumulate as it makes its way up the food chain.

In a recent study scientists found 83 percent of observed oceanic-stage loggerhead sea turtles in the North Atlantic had plastic in their gastrointestinal tracts. Plastics ranging from one to five millimeters in length were noted in 58 percent of individuals. This is especially bad news for sea turtles, as all seven species of sea turtles are endangered or threatened.

Although it’s not an ocean gyre, the Mediterranean Sea, too, is greatly affected by marine litter. In this area, research on the impact of plastic debris on large filter-feeding species such as the fin whale is still in its infancy.

Though removal is an important piece of the puzzle, prevention is the ultimate key. By working to prevent marine debris through education, outreach, and making an individual effort to reduce our own contributions, we can put a stop to this global concern.

Featured image: A live leatherback turtle entangled in fishing ropes, Grenada 2014. (Photo by Kate Charles, Ocean Spirits) Posted for media use.


BUSINESS_SERVICES

Waste Management and its Challenges

Waste Management and its_Challenges

‘Jaipur cows eating trash’ Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons

The Importance of Integrated Sustainable Waste Management

To manage waste in an effective way appears to be one of the greatest challenges facing humanity and the planet. The ongoing trend of industrialization and economic growth have resulted in increased municipal solid waste especially in cities with high population. With recent estimates putting the global waste production from cities alone at 1.5 billion tons, and projecting an increase to 2.3 billion tons by 2025, it’s a problem that’s only going to get worse.

The concern is serious, as increasing quantity of waste negatively impacts every aspect of society. Failing to address the problem strategically and on sustainable way leads to the creation of long term environmental and public health disasters influencing national economies on entirely destructive way.

Identifying the needs

If not addressed effectively, waste generated has a negative impact on all countries regarless of their socio-economic development. However, developing countries with less developed infrastructure have further to go in order to tackle the problem. As urbanization continues to take place, the management of solid waste is becoming a major public health and environmental concern in urban areas of many developing countries.

Developing countries often display an array of problems regarding their typical waste management system, including low collection coverage and irregular collection services, unpolished open dumping and burning without air and water pollution control, and the handling and control of informal waste picking or scavenging activities. Development of effective solid waste management systems in developing countries has been even more demanding due to absence of technical, financial, institutional, economic, and social factors.

In other words, developing countries frequently suffer from the lack of human resources with technical expertise necessary for solid waste management planning and operation. This is often combined with insufficient and/or poorly managed funds allocated to resolving waste problems, as well as with weak legislation and coordination among main institutions in charge of waste issues. All these influence on low public awareness and education on waste and its devastating impact.

Where to start then and how to change existing practice? There are several crucial factors involved in identifying the needs of local communities. The adequate assessment of the composition and volume of waste can be a deciding factor in choosing an efficient way to manage its disposal. Other important measures include examining the options for introducing the most effective legislation and regulations, ensuring accessibility of waste for collection, and the existing level of public awareness.

In each country, region and community we must identify opportunities to minimize waste output. This is being addressed in many countries by building a system

Why it’s so important

When efficient waste management isn’t present the impact on the community can be devastating. The waste poses a threat to the environment. Polluted water flowing from dumps and disposal sites can cause serious pollution of the surface water, which can also impact marine life, and ultimately leads to a decline in health of the local population.

A build up of solid waste can also lead to soil contamination, especially during the rainy season, which spreads the secreted toxins at a quicker rate. Relocating waste management to areas sufficiently removed from public spaces to allow for incineration or disposal in a safe manner helps to decrease the risk of exposure to biohazards and reduces pest infestation.

Uncontrolled waste management can lead to medical and healthcare waste being mixed with household waste. This increases the risk of poisoning or injury to children and adults who are working sorting waste.

Indiscriminate burning of waste can cause major air pollution and increases greenhouse emissions. As well as the immediate affect on the local air quality, often accompanied by an increase in respiratory diseases, it also contributes to global warming.

A build up of solid waste promotes the breeding of rats, flies and mosquitos, all of which will cause the spread of disease.

How waste management can help a community

When waste management is handled properly it has several benefits for the local community. As well as avoiding the negative impact of the above problems, it can also be a vehicle for change. Through job creation and an improvement in health whole communities can be given a new lease of life.

Recycling can also be used to reduce future waste by ensuring a portion of solid waste is reused. Whether it’s on a small local scale, or a larger industrial scale, many useful things can be generated from proper waste disposal. Everything from electricity generated through incineration and composting, to furniture being built from recycled plastics, are projects being refined all over the world.

Recycling also helps to conserve local resources by reducing the need to manufacture using new raw materials.

Leading the charge in an ever-changing world

With political instability, social unrest and poverty gripping some nations, the ability to educate and implement efficient waste management can be a challenge. There are several NGOs working all over the world to identify and train key individuals, work with whole communities, and implement sustainable change within municipalities and governments.

Committed specialists with decades of experience are taking it on their own shoulders to help underdeveloped communities to take control of their own waste management, and improve their overall health and local environment in the process. They are being proactive in educating communities, arranging waste collection, and ensuring the infrastructure is in place to maximise the disposal.

Through qualified training, experts and professionals working with NGOs, communities, governments and others in waste related sector can obtain the necessary technical skills as well as training skills and how to train others in the topics.

Maximpact and qualified technical training expert in waste management has designed a training with the following objectives:

  • To demonstrate understanding of the wide range of environmental, health and social issues related to waste disposal and management
  • To understand what skills are required to prevent pollution and to transform waste back into wealth and place that wealth at the service of the community
  • To identify practical, integrated and sustainable solutions for waste management
  • To enhance practical skills of NGOs in delivering waste management projects
  • To obtain training of trainers skill sets in order for participants to carry out trainings to their communities
  • To understand how to transfer knowledge to others

 

Find out more about the training


Waste-Management-of-Training.140636

About the Training-of-Trainers in Waste Management

Your greatest asset is your knowledge.

Maximpact Trainings are carried out by a live trainer through an online conference classroom, where participants are able to ask questions, participate in discussions and conduct practical exercises.

This method of delivering training is one of the most efficient ways for you to obtain the needed knowledge within the set training days. This is perfect for those who find it difficult to set time aside to do self-paced e-courses.

Training is carried out by a technical field and training expert. This allows the participants to receive today’s most advanced information on industry practices and know-how.

Participants will acquire not only first-hand knowledge but also essential tools, tips and tricks to carry out their job tasks on the most efficient way.

The training is designed around the “Learning by Doing” methodology, where practical exercises simulating real life situations will be comprised of 60% of the training.

Upon successful completion of training you receive a certificate acknowledging your training accomplishment.

After each training, Maximpact offers post- training mentoring virtual assistance where trainees can reach out to the expert trainer for further advice and support.

Find out more

Why Training is Important?

If you were given the choice between two different pilots—one was trained, the other not—which one would you choose? But what if there was no “up-front” cost for the untrained pilot? You still wouldn’t do it? Yet many business owners do not recognize the importance of employee training.

Reasons for training are:

  • Training boosts motivation and self confidence resulting in happier staff
  • Staying up to date and ability to perform different skills will keep your value higher
  • Obtaining new knowledge and skill sets will impact positively on your performance both quantitative and qualitative
  • Increased productivity and possibly fee/salary increase

Don’t miss your opportunity to invest into your own capacity.

Register now


Maximpact_services

EU Circular Strategy Incorporates Plastics

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Yarn made of recycled plastics (Photo by Lorna Watt) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STRASBOURG, France, January 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – All plastic packaging on the market across the EU will be recyclable by 2030 under the first-ever Europe-wide strategy on plastics adopted by the European Commission earlier this month, “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.

As part of this transition towards a more circular economy, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “If we don’t change the way we produce and use plastics, there will be more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050. We must stop plastics getting into our water, our food, and even our bodies.”

“The only long-term solution is to reduce plastic waste by recycling and reusing more,” Timmermans said. “This is a challenge that citizens, industry and governments must tackle together.”

“With the EU Plastics Strategy we are also driving a new and more circular business model. We need to invest in innovative new technologies that keep our citizens and our environment safe whilst keeping our industry competitive.”

There are over 1,000 different types of plastics, mainly derived from petroleum. Industry figures show the demand for European plastics amounted to 46.3 million tonnes in 2013. The main uses were packaging (39.6 percent), building and construction (20.3 percent), automotive (8.5 percent) and electronics (5.6 percent).

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has estimated that plastics production and the incineration of plastic waste give rise globally to approximately 400 million  tonnes of CO2 a year.

Recent trends show a decrease in landfilling and an increase in energy recovery and recycling.

Even so, Europeans generate 25.8 million tonnes of plastic waste every year, but less than 30 percent is collected for recycling.

Marine plastic litter is especially harmful. Across the world, plastics make up 85 percent of beach litter. Studies have shown that plastics are reaching citizens’ lungs and dinner tables, with microplastics in air, water and food having an unknown impact on human health.

Building on the Commission’s past work, the new EU-wide strategy on plastics will tackle the issue head on. Timmermans says the strategy will protect the environment from plastic pollution while fostering growth and innovation, turning a challenge into a positive agenda for the Future of Europe.

The European Commission finds that there is a strong business case for transforming the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. By taking the lead in this transition, the Commission says the EU will create new investment opportunities and jobs.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “With our plastic strategy we are laying the foundations for a new circular plastics economy, and driving investment towards it. This will help to reduce plastic litter in land, air and sea while also bringing new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and high quality jobs.”

The goal is to protect the environment while at the same time laying the foundations for a new plastic economy, where the design and production of plastics fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed.

“This is a great opportunity for European industry to develop global leadership in new technology and materials,” said Katainen. “Consumers are empowered to make conscious choices in favour of the environment. This is true win-win.”

PlasticsEurope is the overarching European plastics trade association. With centers in Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Milan and Paris, its more than 100 member companies produce more than 90 percent of all polymers across the 28 EU member states, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Turkey.

PlasticsEurope said its members welcome the publication of “A European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy.”

“We, the European plastics manufacturers, are committed to ensure high rates of reuse and recycling with the ambition to reach 60 percent for plastic packaging by 2030. This will help achieve our goal of 100 percent reuse, recycling and recovery of all plastics packaging at European level by 2040”, said Karl-H. Foerster, executive director of PlasticsEurope.

To support its ambitious recycling goals, the Strategy for Plastics stresses the need to discourage the landfilling of plastics waste and recognizes that effective waste management systems are key to avoid littering and ensure that collected waste finds its way to proper treatment.

“This is a step in the right direction as no plastic should end up in the environment,” said Foerster. “Since 2011, the European plastics industry has been calling for Zero Plastics to Landfill. Only a legally binding landfill restriction on all recyclable and other recoverable post-consumer waste will put an end to the landfilling of all waste which can be used as a resource.”

“These measures, should be proportional, effective and harmonized at EU level,” said Foerster.

In this context, PlasticsEurope has made a voluntary commitment representing the plastics industry contribution to achieve a fully circular and resource efficient Europe. “Plastics 2030” sets a series of ambitious targets and initiatives up to 2030, in “a spirit of commitment to future generations.”

At the January 16 news conference announcing the new strategy, Vice-President Katainen said, “The Plastics Strategy is part of our Circular Economy Strategy. In the Circular Economy both words count. Without economic logic there is no Circular Economy. Without circulation our economy is not sustainable. That is why our aim with the Plastics Strategy is to create a Single Market – a true Single Market – for plastic waste.”

Click here for answers to the most frequently asked questions about the new plastics strategy.

Featured image: Members of Greenpeace groups protest in 62 cities in Germany against the pollution of the oceans. This bag of waste was collected on the banks of the Elbe River in Hamburg. March 19, 2016. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace Hamburg) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Training

EU Maps Rich Resources for Urban Waste Mining

This massive salt pile is visible from the A4 Autobahn near Heringen, Germany is left over from potash mining in the region. (Photo by Gord McKenna) Creative Commons license via Flickr

This massive salt pile is visible from the A4 Autobahn near Heringen, Germany is left over from potash mining in the region. (Photo by Gord McKenna) Creative Commons license via Flickr

by Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 19, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Gold, platinum, aluminum and copper are just a few of the valuable materials lying hidden in vast piles of waste batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), scrap vehicles and mining wastes across the European Union.

Today, for the first time, expert organizations have unveiled the world’s first European database of valuable materials available for “urban mining” from these waste heaps.

The new Urban Mine Platform , created by 17 partners in project ProSUM, which stands for Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes, presents the flows of precious and base metals and critical raw materials for products in use and throughout their journey to end of life.

The database reveals the roughly 18 million tonnes of valuable materials recovered or lost in the EU’s scrap vehicles, batteries, computers, phones, gadgets, appliances and other high tech products discarded every year.

The 28 European Union Member States, plus Norway and Switzerland, generated around 10.5 million tonnes of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) in 2016 – about 23 percent of the world total.

In addition, two million tonnes of batteries and some seven to eight million tonnes of EU vehicles reach their end-of-life annually. All are a rich source of secondary critical raw materials (CRMs).

Pascal Leroy is secretary general of the WEEE Forum, a Brussels-based not-for-profit association and ProSUM project coordinator.

“Three years in the making, this consolidated database is the world’s first one stop shop knowledge data platform on critical raw materials in waste products – easy to access, structured, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, up-to-date, impartial, broad in scope, standardized and harmonized, and verifiable,” said Leroy.

The recently published Global e-Waste Monitor reports that the world’s 44.7 metric tonnes of e-waste alone, not including vehicles, in 2016 contained €55 billion worth of precious metals and other high value materials.

The Urban Mine Platform contains data for elements and materials in high abundance in these waste products, mainly base metals, precious metals, and critical raw materials.

Charts offer detailed data and market intelligence on:

  • The number and type of products placed on the market, in-stock, and generated as waste
  • The compositions of key components, materials and elements, such as aluminum, copper, gold or neodymium, in batteries, electronic and electrical equipment (EEE), and vehicles
  • Waste flows, including amounts collected, estimates for small batteries and EEE in unsorted municipal solid waste, exported used vehicles, as well as the amount of vehicles, batteries and EEE of unknown whereabouts.

The ProSUM consortium says “urban mining” to recover valuable CRMs from wastes is vital for securing ongoing supplies for manufacturing and limit dependence on non-EU suppliers.

To that end, the project partners created from over 800 source documents and databases what they call “a state of the art knowledge base, using best available data in a harmonized and updateable format, which allows the recycling industry and policymakers to make more informed investment and policy decisions to increase the supply and recycling of secondary raw materials.”

The ProSUM report notes that a smartphone contains around 40 different critical raw materials, with a concentration of gold 25 to 30 times that of the richest primary gold ores.

The consortium explains that mining discarded high tech products produces 80 percent less carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gold than primary mining operations do.

ProSUM has shown that an increasing number of products contain precious resources such as neodymium, vital for making permanent magnets in motors; indium, used in flat panel displays; and cobalt, used in rechargeable batteries.

The Urban Mine Platform makes it possible to see the stocks and flows of these products.

Jaco Huisman of the United Nations University, and ProSUM Scientific Coordinator, says, “Until now, data on such critical raw materials have been produced by a variety of institutions, including government agencies, universities, NGOs, and industry, with the information scattered across various databases in different formats and difficult to compare or aggregate and often representing an outdated snapshot for a certain year only.”

“The ProSUM effort helps remedy that problem, and enables the identification of so-called hotspots – the largest stocks of specific materials,” said Huisman.

Europe can potentially mine two million tonnes of batteries a year.

The ProSUM report points to a sharp jump in battery waste the European Union, Switzerland, Norway since year 2000, with 2.7 million tonnes expected to be put on the market in 2020, up from roughly 1.7 million tonnes in 2000.

European authorities know the fate of only half of the estimated two million tonnes of batteries discarded in 2015, about 90 percent of them lead-based.

Other types of batteries available for urban mining – nickel-metal hydride, zinc-based and lithium-based – are a significant source of lithium (7,800 tonnes), cobalt (21,000 tonnes) and manganese (114,000 tonnes).

Vehicles are an increasingly rich source of critical raw materials.

Europe’s end of life vehicles represent a large source of secondary base metals like steel (213 million tonnes), aluminium (24 million tonnes) and copper (7.3 million tonnes), as well as platinum and palladium used in car catalysts.

Vehicles also contain large amounts of critical raw materials due to electronics, as well as alloying elements used in steel, aluminum and magnesium.

Few electric vehicles have yet reached end of life. Still, with sales rising, these will be a source of growing importance for secondary raw materials like neodymium, lithium and cobalt.

The report notes that more than 40 percent of registered vehicles are “of unknown whereabouts” – a gap attributable in part to unreliable data on used vehicles traded within the EU, unreported recycling, and exports beyond Europe.

Mining waste is rich in low grade metals.

The project is also amassing information about resources available in mining waste, which deposits are commonly very large but of low metal grade. New data, such as location, type of waste and origin available in a special extension of the database at Minerals4EU .

Mining waste differs in many respects from the other product groups in ProSUM in that there is no EU legislation that requires recycling, there is no major recycling industry, and Eurostat statistics on mining waste are sparse and only at country level.

The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission’s (EC) Raw Materials Information System to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU.

With this information, manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies. Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.

The mining industry can use this information for greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.

Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.

Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.

Katerina Adam, associate professor, School of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering, National Technical University of Athens said, “The ProSUM project has advanced the knowledge base for extractive wastes by assessing the availability of data on CRMs in mining waste deposits and expanding the scope of the Minerals Knowledge Data Platform to include more mining, processing, and waste reprocessing activities in future.”


Featured: Wrecked cars in a scrapyard near Wokingham, England, UK contain valuable raw materials. (Photo by sleepymyf) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Grant_Writing

E-waste Proliferates as Incomes Rise, Prices Fall

The Rwanda E-Waste Recycling Facility in Rwanda's Bugesera District, the second largest such facility in Africa. This is a Rwanda Green Fund investment. September 2017 (Photo by Rwanda Green Fund) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The Rwanda E-Waste Recycling Facility in Rwanda’s Bugesera District, the second largest such facility in Africa. This is a Rwanda Green Fund investment. September 2017 (Photo by Rwanda Green Fund) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, December 14, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Last year, the world generated e-waste – everything from end-of-life refrigerators and TV sets to solar panels, mobile phones and computers – equal in weight to 1.23 million fully loaded 18-wheeler heavy-duty freight trucks, enough to form a line from New York to Bangkok and back.

A new report on global e-waste shows a staggering 44.7 million metric tonnes (Mt) generated in 2016, up 3.3 Mt or eight percent from 2014.

Experts foresee a further 17 percent increase, to 52.2 million metric tonnes of e-waste by 2021, in this, the fastest growing part of the world’s domestic waste stream.

Only 20 percent of 2016’s e-waste – discarded products with a battery or plug – is documented to have been collected and recycled, despite rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials.

The conservatively estimated value of recoverable materials in last year’s e-waste was US$55 billion, more than the 2016 Gross Domestic Product of most countries.

These numbers come from the new report, “Global E-waste Monitor 2017,”  issued this week.

The report is a collaborative effort of the United Nations University (UNU), represented through its Sustainable Cycles (SCYCLE) Programme hosted by UNU’s Bonn-based Vice-Rectorate in Europe, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA).

Jakob Rhyner, vice-rector, United Nations University, said, “The world’s e-waste problem continues to grow. Improved measurement of e-waste is essential to set and monitor targets, and identify policies. National data should be internationally comparable, frequently updated, published, and interpreted.”

“Existing global and regional estimates based on production and trade statistics do not adequately cover the the health and environmental risks of unsafe treatment and disposal through incineration or landfilling,” said Rhyner.

About four percent of 2016’s e-waste is known to have gone into landfills. Experts estimate that about 76 percent, or 34.1 Mt, is likely to have ended up incinerated, in landfills, recycled in informal backyard operations or remains stored in homes.

On a per capita basis, the report shows a rising trend in the amount of e-waste generative.

Falling prices now make electronic and electrical devices affordable for most people worldwide while encouraging early equipment replacement and new acquisitions in wealthier countries.

As a result, the average worldwide per capita e-waste generated was 6.1 kilograms (13.4 pounds) in 2016, up five percent from 5.8 kg (12.7 pounds) in 2014.

The highest per capita e-waste generators – at 17.3 kilograms (38.1 pounds) per inhabitant – were Australia, New Zealand and the other the nations of Oceania, with only six percent of their e-waste formally collected and recycled.

Europe, including Russia, is the second largest generator of e-waste per inhabitant with an average of 16.6 kg (36.5 pounds) per person.

However, Europe has the highest collection rate, 35 percent.

The Americas generate 11.6 kg (25.5 pounds) per inhabitant and collect only 17 percent, comparable to the collection rate in Asia, which is 15 percent.

However, at 4.2 kg (9.2 pounds) per inhabitant, Asia generates only about one third of America’s e-waste per capita.

Africa, meanwhile, generates 1.9 kg (4.1 pounds) per inhabitant, with little information available on its collection rate.

ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao said, “Environmental protection is one of the three pillars of sustainable development and ITU is at the forefront of advocating for the safe disposal of waste generated by information and communication technologies. To this end ITU has produced several recommendations that help deal with e-waste and the Global E-waste Monitor will be an added resource to assist governments develop better management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste.”

The three Electrical and Electronical Equipment (EEE) categories that contribute the most to e-waste are also growing the fastest.

These three EEE categories, which already constitute 75 percent of global e-waste by weight – 33.6 of the total 44.7 million metric tonnes – will also see the fastest growth.

Top of the list is small equipment, such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, ventilation equipment, toasters, electric kettles, electric shavers, scales, calculators, radio sets, video cameras, electrical and electronic toys, small electrical and electronic tools, small medical devices, small monitoring and control instruments. In 2016: 16.8 million metric tonnes was generated in this category, with an annual growth rate of four percent a year to 2020.

Next comes large equipment, such as washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, large printing machines, copying equipment and solar photovoltaic panels. In 2016, 9.2 million metric tonnes was generated in this category, with an annual growth of four percent a year to 2020.

Third is temperature exchange equipment, like refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners and heat pumps. In 2016: 7.6 million metric tonnes was generated in this category, with an annual growth of six percent per year to 2020.

Expected to grow less quickly by weight due to miniaturization is small IT and telecommunication equipment, such as mobile phones, Global Positioning Systems (GPS), pocket calculators, routers, personal computers, printers and telephones. In 2016: 3.9 Mt generated, with an annual growth of two percent a year to 2020.

Little growth is expected in the category of lamps, such as fluorescent lamps, high intensity discharge lamps and LED lamps.

In 2016: 0.7 million metric tonnes of waste was generated in this category, with an annual growth rate of one percent per year to 2020.

Expected to decline by weight in years to come are:

Screens, such as televisions, monitors, laptops, notebooks, tablets, as heavy CRT screens are replaced with flat panel displays. In 2016: 6.6 million metric tonnes of waste was generated in this category, with an annual decline of three percent per year to 2020.

Each product within the six e-waste categories has a different lifetime profile, which means that each category has different waste quantities, economic values, and potential environmental and health impacts if recycled inappropriately.

Antonis Mavropoulos, president, International Solid Waste Association, said, “We live in a time of transition to a more digital world, where automation, sensors and artificial intelligence are transforming all the industries, our daily lives and our societies. E-waste is the most emblematic by-product of this transition and everything shows that it will continue to grow at unprecedented rates.”

The fastest growth of EEE sales is in developing countries.

There is an increasing number of applications and services in such areas as health, education, government, entertainment, and commerce, delivered at increasingly high speeds attracting more users to a growing number of networks.

The report notes that with a population of 7.4 billion, the world now has 7.7 billion mobile-cellular subscriptions. More than eight in 10 people on Earth are covered by a mobile broadband signal.

Some 3.6 billion people – close to half the world’s population, now use the Internet, up from 20.5 percent in 2007. Roughly half of humanity has a computer and Internet access at home. Some 48 percent of households have a computer, up from 30.2 percent in 2007, and 54 percent have Internet access, up from 23 percent in 2007.

In addition to basic prepaid mobile cellular services and handsets becoming more affordable worldwide, prices are falling for many other types of equipment such as computers, peripheral equipment, TVs, laptops and printers

The report calls for stepped up global efforts to better design components in electrical and electronic equipment to facilitate reuse and recycling of electronics, greater capture and recycling of old electronics, and better tracking of e-waste and the resource recovery process.

Encouragingly, more countries are adopting e-waste legislation, the report says. Today 66 percent of the world’s people, living in 67 countries, are covered by national e-waste management laws, up from 44 percent in 61 countries in 2014, an increase caused mainly by India’s adoption of legislation last year.

Still, the report states, only 41 countries quantify their e-waste generation and recycling streams officially and “the fate of a large majority of e-waste (34.1 of 44.7 Mt) is simply unknown.”


Featured Image: One of many dismantlers of electronic waste, location unknown. December 2017 (Photo by ITU) Posted for media use.

Public-Private Solutions for Asia’s Waste Crisis

A girl searches for recyclable materials in a garbage dump with smelly gases rising around her. Mandalay City, Myanmar, February 2009 (Photo by Nyaung U courtesy UN Development Programme Global Photo Contest in China) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A girl searches for recyclable materials in a garbage dump with smelly gases rising around her. Mandalay City, Myanmar, February 2009 (Photo by Nyaung U courtesy UN Development Programme Global Photo Contest in China) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MANILA, Philippines, August 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Public-private partnerships have an important role to play in improving solid waste management in Asia, according to lessons learned from a five-city project undertaken by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) over the past three years.

Bringing expertise from both private and public sectors to bear on a routinely neglected area of municipal service in Asia would be the most effective way of upgrading landfill design, remediation, construction, and operation, project leaders found.

The senior project leader, Andrew McIntyre, is an urban development specialist with 32 years of experience who leads ADB’s Future Cities Program. He works with Asian cities over the long term, by facilitating cross-sectoral knowledge and financing partners, broadening project pipelines and ensuring integrated results.

“Asia’s cities are the engines of incredible economic growth. For many countries, they generate over 80 percent of GDP and improve the lives of millions of people. But this prosperity comes with a price. Take for example the more than one million tons of solid waste that cities generate every day as they grow,” says McIntyre in a report ‘Improving Waste Management: Solutions from Five Asian Cities’ on the project written for the bank.

“Without proper management, the deluge of solid waste causes severe pollution, helps diseases spread, and generates greenhouse gas emissions. It can also exacerbate urban flooding, which can endanger lives and compromise livelihoods particularly for the poor and marginalized,” he says.

Yet in spite of these risks, waste management has been a low priority for most Asian cities, while more attention is given to transport, water, and health services.

McIntyre says that “urban solid waste management interventions can no longer be piecemeal or underfunded” if the world is to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 12, one target of which is to reduce waste generation by 2030, and ensure sustainable patterns of consumption and production.

During the three-year project five cities in Asia received technical assistance from the bank’s project team on mainstreaming solid waste management.

The $1.4 million project worked with local authorities in Mandalay in Myanmar, Quezon City and Sorsogon in the Philippines, and Buriram and Mahasarakham in Thailand.

Key assistance was a review and upgrade of municipal 10-year plans for solid waste management plus one tailored project per city.

Issues covered were waste avoidance, minimization, and recycling; waste haulage and disposal; and information, education, and communication campaigns to help avoid and minimize waste and encourage reuse and recycling.

Lack of funds and technical skills to develop and implement environmentally sound methods of waste management is the main constraint in municipal solid waste management, McIntyre concludes. He says private sector participation that can infuse funds, technical skills and operational efficiencies is a key prerequisite for addressing the problem.

In country presentations and workshops were held in each city to develop and confirm action plans and address policy reform issues. A final workshop was held in January 2017 in Bangkok.

Each of the five project cities has completely different issues that need unique solutions, but all involve both the public and the private sectors. Here, we focus on three of the project cities – two large and one small.

In Myanmar, once called Burma, the project team addressed waste generated by the six townships in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city with a population of over 1.7 million. ‘Mandalay City: Outsourcing Waste Collection Services‘.

Mandalay’s waste collection is supposed to be door-to-door, but large areas have only community bins and informal dumping areas.

The waste collection fleet is composed of compactor vehicles, tipping vehicles, hook lift bins with both covered and uncovered containers, small tricycle collection vehicles, and push carts.

The city’s two landfill sites are operated as uncontrolled dumps and are in urgent need of changes to avoid generating landfill leachate, the bank project team found.

“Staff appear to lack skills required for improving the operation. For example, both sites have extensive areas of uncovered waste placed at very flat slopes, thereby maximizing leachate generation and associated hazards. Leachate was observed flowing off the southern dumpsite onto neighboring properties in dry weather,” the project team reports.

“Overall, the sites are poorly run, and fundamental operational and design errors are compounded by budget limitations, which impacts on availability of suitable equipment and material. Examples include an adequate supply of soil cover for daily, intermediate, and final cover application,” writes the team.

After consulting stakeholders, the project team and the Mandalay city government developed and agreed on an enhanced 10-year integrated solid waste management plan.

Due to strong interest from city, the project team conducted a pre-feasibility study on privatizing waste collection in Chan Aye Thar Zan, the main business district of downtown Mandalay. It is home to the city’s biggest shopping center, the Zegyo Market, and most international standard hotels

The study looked at a privatized fleet of compactors that collect waste door-to-door or from bins. It would be fully mechanized and efficient. The private operator could be contracted to provide the staff and technology, but could also be contracted to supply the collection equipment if a longer contract term was awarded.

Quezon City, with three million people, is the largest city in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region of the Philippines. It is the site of many government offices, including the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of the Philippine Congress, yet the municipality does not have a financially sustainable waste collection system.

Reasons for this state of affairs relate to fees for waste management and the length of time private waste collection companies can be contracted to operate the service.

Contracts are limited to one year due to restrictions in the national procurement law. So, private operators are not guaranteed a payback period for modernizing equipment, and there is limited incentive for investing in specialist compactor vehicles and a modern processing plant.

Quezon City is not collecting garbage management fees due to a legal issue on how waste management fees are calculated. Even though local government units in the Philippines have budget allocations for solid waste management, the cost of collection is often higher.

One solution is to provide more incentives to private companies to invest in solid waste management by extending contracts to a term of seven to 10 years or longer. Then private companies could schedule repayment of purchase costs for specialized equipment, but this would require changes to the country’s procurement laws.

As it is, residual waste is hauled to the Payatas dumpsite, which was converted into a controlled landfill 15 years ago. About five years ago, a lined landfill was established on the site. The site is operated and maintained by a private contractor and has more than five years of life remaining with just the current landholdings. But time and landfill space are running out.

The Payatas landfill development in Quezon City, Philippines, (Photo by Lyndsay Chapple courtesy Asian Development Bank) Posted for media use.

The Payatas landfill development in Quezon City, Philippines, (Photo by Lyndsay Chapple courtesy Asian Development Bank) Posted for media use.

The project team and the Quezon City government designed and agreed on an enhanced 10-year integrated solid waste management plan and a pre-feasibility study was conducted on setting up a waste-to-energy facility with a modular waste capacity of 1,000 tons a day using a stoker-type incinerator.

In Thailand, the project team worked with municipal officials in a small city of 28,000 people in the northeastern part of the country called Buriram, which literally means city of happiness.

They conducted a pre-feasibility study on whether refuse derived fuels could provide a possible method for diverting waste from the landfill. The waste would be separated and prepared to quality specifications, then transported and sold to cement kiln owners who might buy it as a coal substitute for the heating process.

Many small to medium domestic companies had already approached Buriram municipal officers promoting waste-to-energy plants, and in particular, refuse derived fuels. Municipal officers expressed high optimism for refuse derived fuels as a solution to the issue of ever-increasing quantities of solid waste going to landfill.

But the base case model showed a significant negative return on investment.

The bank project team concluded that such projects may not be viable in small cities in northeast Thailand due to small waste quantities and high transport costs.

A suggested solution is a public-private partnership that would take in funds from a subsidy to the refuse derived fuels developer through direct Buriram municipality tipping fees and/or central government capital subsidies.

Using lessons learned from the five-city project, the ADB is moving to help other Asian cities deal with their overflowing landfills in a clean, modern way.

In Vietnam in July, the bank and the Da Nang City People’s Committee signed a transaction advisory services agreement to develop a new landfill and waste treatment facility.

Da Nang, a rapidly growing industrial and tourism hub in central Vietnam with a population of over a million, collects about 700-750 tons of solid waste a day. Waste is disposed of in the city’s existing landfill, but the remaining capacity will be fully utilized by 2020.

The project will use a public-private partnership plan. The private sector will design, build, finance, operate, and maintain the waste disposal and treatment facilities that meet the city’s requirements beyond 2020 by applying modern technologies for treating waste.

The concession period and the technologies to be used will be determined based on a feasibility study.

“ADB has been a key development partner to Da Nang City,” said Norio Saito, ADB deputy country director in Vietnam. “This transaction advisory support to Da Nang for the solid waste treatment facility will complement the work we are doing in the urban sector in Vietnam, and create a template for delivering waste treatment solutions via public-private partnerships for other cities across the country.”

In the last analysis, whatever the circumstances, better solid waste management means investing more funds and increasing cooperation between the public and private sectors.

“Over the next decade, along with energy and transport infrastructure, we need to invest more in integrated solid waste management processes and facilities,” says McIntyre. “If we don’t, making developing Asia’s cities livable in the future will be nothing more than a pipe dream.”


Maximpact+WASTE

Cleaning Up Space Waste, Gecko Style

By Sunny Lewis

STANFORD, California, June 29, 2017 (Maxipact.com News) – At this moment, there are more than 20,000 pieces of debris larger than a softball orbiting the Earth, traveling at speeds of 17,500 mph, fast enough to damage a spacecraft. Scientists have now designed a way to grab them based on the way geckos climb walls.

SpaceDebris

At least 20,000 pieces of space debris larger than a softball are orbiting Planet Earth. (Image courtesy NASA) Public domain.

 Space junk is a real threat to satellites and even the International Space Station. There are 500,000 pieces of debris the size of a marble or larger and many millions of pieces of debris so small they can’t even be tracked.

NASA has a set of long-standing guidelines used to assess the threat of a close approach of orbital debris to a spacecraft. The question they must answer is: does it warrant evasive action or precautions to ensure the safety of the crew? Several evasive actions have been taken over the past 10 years.

It would be best to clean up the debris, but in space this has presented a major challenge. Suction cups don’t work in a vacuum. Traditional sticky substances cannot withstand the extreme temperature swings. Magnets work only on objects that are magnetic. Other proposed solutions could cause forceful interaction with the debris, and that could push the objects in unintended, unpredictable directions.

But now, researchers from Stanford University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory have designed a new kind of robotic gripper to grab and dispose of the debris based on the way small lizards called geckos cling to walls and ceilings.

“What we’ve developed is a gripper that uses gecko-inspired adhesives,” says Mark Cutkosky, professor of mechanical engineering and senior author of the paper published in the June 27 issue of the journal “Science Robotics.”.

“It’s an outgrowth of work we started about 10 years ago on climbing robots that used adhesives inspired by how geckos stick to walls,” he said.

Geckos can climb walls because their feet have microscopic flaps that, when in full contact with a surface, create a Van der Waals force between the feet and the surface.

These are weak intermolecular forces that result from subtle differences in the positions of electrons on the outsides of molecules.

The scientists’ gripper is not as intricate as a gecko’s foot – the flaps of the adhesive are about 40 micrometers across while a gecko’s are much smaller, about 200 nanometers, but the gecko-inspired adhesive works in much the same way as the real gecko functions.

Like a gecko’s foot, the adhesive is only sticky if the flaps are pushed in a specific direction, but making it stick only requires a light push in the right direction.

“If I came in and tried to push a pressure-sensitive adhesive onto a floating object, it would drift away,” said Elliot Hawkes, a visiting assistant professor from the University of California, Santa Barbara and co-author of the paper.

“Instead,” Hawkes said, “I can touch the adhesive pads very gently to a floating object, squeeze the pads toward each other so that they’re locked, and then I’m able to move the object around.”

The pads unlock with the same gentle movement, creating very little force against the object.

The group tested their gripper, in larger and smaller versions, in their lab and in multiple zero gravity experimental spaces, including the International Space Station.

Promising results from those early tests have led the researchers to wonder how their grippers would work outside the station, a likely next step.

The gripper the researchers created has a grid of adhesive squares on the front and arms with thin adhesive strips that can fold out and move toward the middle of the robot from either side, as though it’s offering a hug.

The grid can stick to flat objects, like a solar panel, and the arms can grab curved objects, like a rocket body.

One of the biggest challenges of the work was to make sure the load on the adhesives was evenly distributed, which the researchers achieved by connecting the small squares through a pulley system that also serves to lock and unlock the pads.

Without this system, uneven stress could cause the squares to unstick one by one, until the entire gripper let go.

This load-sharing system also allows the gripper to work on surfaces with defects that prevent some of the squares from sticking.

The group also designed the gripper to switch between a relaxed state and rigid state.

“Imagining that you are trying to grasp a floating object, you want to conform to that object while being as flexible as possible, so that you don’t push that object away,” explained Hao Jiang, a graduate student in the Cutkosky lab and lead author of the paper.

“After grasping, you want your manipulation to be very stiff, very precise, so that you don’t feel delays or slack between your arm and your object,” said Hao.

The group first tested the gripper in the Cutkosky lab. They closely measured how much load the gripper could handle, what happened when different forces and torques were applied and how many times it could be stuck and unstuck.

Through their partnership with JPL, the researchers also tested the gripper in zero gravity environments.

In JPL’s Robodome, they attached small rectangular arms to a large robot with the adhesive, then placed that modified robot on a frictionless floor to simulate maneuvers in a 2D zero gravity environment.

“We had one robot chase the other, catch it and then pull it back toward where we wanted it to go,” said Hawkes. “I think that was definitely an eye-opener, to see how a relatively small patch of our adhesive could pull around a 300 kilogram robot.”

Next, two of the scientists went on a parabolic airplane flight to test the gripper in zero gravity. Over two days, they flew a series of 80 ascents and dives, which created an alternating experience of about 20 seconds of 2G and 20 seconds of zero-G conditions in the cabin.

The gripper successfully grasped and let go of a cube and a large beach ball with a gentle enough touch that the objects barely moved when released.

Then, Parness’s lab developed a small gripper that went up in the International Space Station, where the astronauts tested how well the gripper worked inside the station.

Next steps for the gripper involve getting it ready for testing outside the space station, including creating a version made of longer lasting materials able to hold up to thte high levels of radiation and extreme temperatures of space.

The current prototype is made of laser-cut plywood and includes rubber bands, which would become brittle in space. The researchers will have to make something sturdier for testing outside the Space Station, likely designed to attach to the end of a robot arm.

“There are many missions that would benefit from this, like rendezvous and docking and orbital debris mitigation,” said Aaron Parness, group leader of the Extreme Environment Robotics Group at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“We could also eventually develop a climbing robot assistant that could crawl around on the spacecraft, doing repairs, filming and checking for defects,” said Parness.

The adhesives developed by the Cutkosky lab have already been used in climbing robots and in a system that has enabled humans to climb up walls.

Cutkosky hopes his group can manufacture larger quantities of the adhesive at a lower cost. He imagines that someday gecko-inspired adhesive could be as common as Velcro.


Featured Image: The bottom of a gecko’s foot was the inspiration for a new gripper that could clear space of floating debris. (Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen) Creative Commons license via Flickr 

Maximpact+WASTE

E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

E-Waste Piles Proliferate in Asia

Creative reuse of Used PCBs, Agbogbloshie , February 28, 2014 (Photo by Fairphone) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

TOKYO, Japan, January 26, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The volume of discarded electronics in East Asia and Southeast Asia rose nearly two-thirds between 2010 and 2015, and e-waste generation is growing fast both in total volume and per person measures, new United Nations research shows.

The study shows that rising e-waste quantities are even outpacing population growth.

Driven by rising incomes and high demand for new devices and appliances, the average increase in e-waste across all 12 countries and areas analyzed was 63 percent in the five years ending in 2015.

The e-waste totaled 12.3 million tonnes, a weight 2.4 times that of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

These calculations are drawn from the first-ever Regional E-waste Monitor: East and Southeast Asia compiled by the UN’s think tank, the United Nations University and funded by Japan’s Ministry of Environment.

To conserve resources and avoid serious health and environmental problems, the report urges a crackdown on improper recycling and disposal of electrical and electronic equipment, which includes anything with a battery or a cord.

The countries and other jurisdictions covered by the report are: Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

China alone more than doubled its generation of e-waste between 2010 and 2015 to 6.7 million tonnes, up 107 percent.

For many countries that already lack infrastructure for environmentally sound e-waste management, the increasing volumes are a cause for concern,” says co-author Ruediger Kuehr of UN University.

Increasing the burden on existing waste collection and treatment systems results in flows towards environmentally unsound recycling and disposal,” he warned.

Regionally, the average amount of e-waste generated by each person was about 10 kg in 2015, with the highest generation found in Hong Kong (21.7 kg per person), followed by Singapore (19.95 kg) and Taiwan (19.13 kg).

There were large differences between nations, with Cambodia at 1.10 kg per person, Vietnam, with 1.34 kg, and the Philippines at 1.35 kg per person being the lowest e-waste generators in 2015.

The report cites four main trends responsible for the increasing volumes of electronic waste:

•             More devices: Innovation in technology is driving the introduction of new products, particularly portable electronics, such as tablets, and wearables like smart watches.

•             More consumers: In the East and Southeast Asian region, there are industrializing countries with growing populations, and also rapidly expanding middle classes able to afford more devices.

•             Decreasing usage window: The usage time of devices is getting shorter as rapidly advancing technologies make older products obsolete – for instance flash drives have replaced floppy disks.

Software requirements also play a role in decreased usage time. For instance, there are minimum requirements for computers to run operating software and other applications, and there are “soft factors” such as product fashion, the report states.

As more devices are replaced more rapidly, piles of e-waste grow.

•             Imports: Import of electrical and electronic equipment provides greater availability of products, both new and second-hand, which also increases the e-waste that arises as the devices reach their end of life.

The report warns of improper and illegal e-waste dumping prevalent in most countries in the study, regardless of national e-waste legislation.

Consumers, dismantlers and recyclers are often guilty of illegal dumping, particularly of “open dumping“, where non- functional parts and residues from dismantling and treatment operations are released into the environment, the report points out.

The main reasons for illegal dumping are: lack of awareness, lack of incentives, lack of convenience, the absence of suitable hazardous waste disposal sites, weak governance, and lax enforcement of whatever laws do exist.

The report points to common practices such as open burning, which can cause acute and chronic ill-effects on public health and the environment.

Open burning of e-waste is practiced by informal recyclers when segregating organic and inorganic compounds. For example, they may burn cables to recover the valuable copper.

Though less common, spontaneous combustion can occur at open dumping sites when components such as batteries trigger fires due to short circuits.

Informal recycling, called “backyard recycling,” is a challenge for most developing countries in the region, with a large and growing number of entrepreneurs conducting unlicensed and illegal recycling practices from backyards.

These processes are not only hazardous for the recyclers, their communities and the environment, but they are also inefficient, as they are unable to extract the full value of the processed products, the report points out.

These recyclers recover gold, silver, palladium and copper from printed circuit boards and wires, using solvents such as sulphuric acid for hazardous wet chemical leaching processes, or acid baths, which release toxic fumes.

Open burning and acid bath recycling in the informal sector have serious negative impacts on processers’ occupational health,” co-author Shunichi Honda warns. “In the absence of protective materials such as gloves, glasses, masks, etc., inhalation of and exposure to hazardous chemicals and substances directly affect workers’ health.

Associations have been reported between exposure from improper treatment of e-waste and altered thyroid function, reduced lung function, negative birth outcomes, reduced childhood growth, negative mental health outcomes, impaired cognitive development, cytotoxicity and genotoxicity,” explains Honda.

Indirect exposure to these hazardous substances is also a cause of many health problems, particularly for families of informal recyclers who often live and work in the same location, as well as for communities living in and around the area of informal recycling sites.

The report gives top marks to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. These three jurisdictions have a head-start in the region in establishing e-waste collection and recycling systems. They began to adopt and enforce e-waste specific laws in the late 1990s.

Among the most advanced economies and areas in the region, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are also characterized by high per capita e-waste generation, formal collection and recycling infrastructure and relatively strong enforcement.

Hong Kong and Singapore do not have specific e-waste legislation. Instead, these governments collaborate with producers to manage e-waste through public-private partnerships.

As small jurisdictions with large shipping and trade networks, Hong Kong and Singapore must cope with major transboundary movements of e-waste generated domestically, as well as e-waste in transit from other countries.

China, the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam all have recent e-waste legislation. These four countries are in a transitionphase, with a mix of formal and informal elements in an evolving ecosystem in terms of collection and recycling infrastructure.

Cambodia, Indonesia and Thailand have yet to establish legal frameworks for e-waste management. There is an active informal sector in these countries with an established network for collection and import of end-of-life products and their recycling, repair, refurbishment and parts harvesting.

Asia, including the 12 nations and jurisdictions in this new study, is the world’s largest consumer of electrical and electronic equipment, buying nearly half of all such equipment on the market, amounting to 20.62 million tonnes in 2005; and 26.69 million tonnes in 2012.

The increase is striking given the drop in sales of electrical and electronic equipment in Europe and the Americas in 2012 following the global financial crisis.

e-wasteHongKong

A tracking device inside an old printer led investigators from the Seattle-based nonprofit Basel Action Network to this e-waste scrapyard in rural Hong Kong, June 22, 2016. (Photo by Katie Campbell, KCTS/EarthFix) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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First Flight ‘On Wings of Waste’

WingsofWastePlane

Pilot Jeremy Rowsell with the On Wings of Waste aircraft. Rowsell was born in London into a family of military pilots. He first flew solo at age 14, flew during university, then travelled and flew extensively in Africa. Working as a broker at Lloyds of London led to a job in Australia. He currently lives Sydney and works for multinational insurer Jardine Lloyd Thompson, who supported his flight On Wings of Waste. (Photo courtesy On Wings of Waste) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Pilot Jeremy Rowsell made history this week by flying a light plane across Australia from Sydney to Melbourne, using blended fuel  – 10 percent derived from plastic waste blended with 90 percent conventional fuel.

After years of preparation and many ups and downs we’ve finally shown that the eight million tonnes of plastic dumped into the oceans each year can be put to good use,” said Rowsell as he arrived in Melbourne today.

The flight from Sydney to Melbourne covered 500 miles. The Vans aircraft RV9a traveled at 100 nautical miles an hour over a period of 20 hours.

With the unique ‘On Wings of Waste‘ flight, Rowsell, co-pilot Chris Clark and their team set out to prove that plastic waste can be transformed from a pollutant into an alternative fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel.

We blended 10 percent of fuel manufactured by Plastic Energy with conventional fuel and the flight was a dream,” Rowsell enthused upon landing in Melbourne.

The team’s campaign to inspire people to recycle plastic waste has taken four years to lift off. The four-stage proposition is:

re-cycle – public support for a recycling campaign

re-use – plastic waste is transformed into fuel to be blended with Jet A1 fuel

re-fuel – airlines adopt a 10 percent blend of fuel derived from plastic waste

rescue – pollution of the world’s oceans is slowed down and eventually halted

The unique project came about after Rowsell observed from the air the danger posed by ever-increasing amounts of plastic waste found in the ocean.

Marine debris comes in all shapes and sizes, from large trawl nets, discarded or lost at sea, to plastic pieces smaller than a grain of rice that float throughout the water column.

The equivalent of a garbage truck full of waste plastic is dumped into the sea every minute, says Rowsell, the equivalent of eight million tons of plastic that enters the oceans every year.

He was inspired to test out a solution.

For the fuel that made up the 10 percent derived from plastic, Plastic Energy used end-of-life plastic, normally found in garbage patches in the ocean and in landfill sites, where it takes hundreds of years to degrade.

The waste can be turned into recyclable material; 95 percent is usable for diesel fuel and the other five percent, known as Char is a solid that can be used for fuel additives and pigments. 

Plastic Energy uses a process called thermal anaerobic conversion. Plastics are heated in an oxygen-free environment to prevent them from burning, and then broken into their component hydrocarbons to create the equivalent of a petroleum distillate. This can then be separated into different fuels.

As there is no burning of the plastics, but rather a melting process, no toxic emissions are released into the environment.

Carlos Monreal, president and CEO, Plastic Energy, said, “Jeremy’s flight is a tremendous opportunity to showcase how plastic waste can be put to productive use instead of thrown away to pollute the oceans or despoil the land. We are delighted to be supporting this adventure.”

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A seal approaches discarded fishing nets that cover a coral reef in Hawaiian waters. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

Plastic breaks up into small particles, mixing with the plankton at the ocean surface. Plankton is at the heart of the food chain and provides us with more than half the oxygen we breathe – our oceans keep us alive,” explains Jo Ruxton, part of the On Wings of Waste team and one of the producers of “A Plastic Ocean,” a film on plastic pollution to be released January 20. 

We can’t yet safely remove plastic particles from plankton that lives in the ocean, so we must stop dumping plastic waste in the ocean,” Ruxton said.

There are estimated to be 5.25 trillion particles of plastic floating – mainly at the bottom – of the world’s seas,” she says.

Besides using waste plastic that otherwise could be dumped in the ocean, Jeremy’s flight could have a major effect on the aviation industry.

Rowsell points out that 33 percent of airlines’ operating costs are spent on fuel.

A 747 aircraft on a 10,000 mile flight burns 36,000 gallons of fuel. If 10 percent of fuel burned on that flight were sourced from plastic waste, 3,600 (UK) gallons, it would be the equivalent of 18 tonnes of waste plastic, utilized, not dumped.

Calculate in the 1,200 flights a day that are made from Heathrow alone, and it is possible that more than 21,000 tonnes of waste plastic could be transformed from pollutant to fuel – every day.

The On Wings of Waste team is looking for support from the general public and other investors to build a recycling plant in Australia that could lead to a change in culture and attitude about how we dispose of single use plastic.

World renowned naturalist and filmmaker Sir David Attenborough has backed the project saying, “The Wings of Waste flight, I hope, will bring the attention of the world to this great solution that is there waiting to be taken if only we can get the support of people to do so.” 

Rowsell and survival trainer Tony Loughran from Zerorisk International have started to roll out an educational campaign in Australia, building a groundswell of support for On Wings of Waste.


Featured Image: This photo, taken after a marine debris removal effort by NOAA’s Pacific Island Fisheries Service Coral Reef Ecosystem Division, shows 4,781 bottle caps collected from Midway Atoll’s shoreline. Most plastic bottle caps are made from polypropylene, a hard, durable plastic that can be tough to recycle. (Photo courtesy U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program) Public domain.

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Hope for the Hungry

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By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, July 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Hundreds of millions of people throughout the world go to bed hungry while at the same time, a third of the world’s food is wasted, say the number-crunchers at the United Nations food agencies.

But there is fresh hope for the hungry. Leaders of two UN agencies fighting hunger worldwide are applauding new legislation in the United States that aims to strengthen global food assistance programs in the years ahead.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) praised U.S. President Barack Obama for his July 20th signing of the Global Food Security Act (GFSA). The United States is the largest donor to both UN agencies.

The measure was passed by the U.S. Congress on July 6 by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties, during a time of otherwise great division in the U.S. Congress and politics.

The United States is helping to put and even stronger emphasis on how food security and economic development are intertwined, while stressing the central role of small-scale family farmers in the fight against hunger and poverty,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

This law will have a dramatic impact on the lives of people throughout world, showing once again why the United States is a leader in promoting food security and helping those who struggle to feed their families so they can start to build their own future,” says WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

The new law supports initiatives to develop agriculture, assist small-scale food producers and improve nutrition, especially for women and children worldwide. It seeks improve the provision of water, sanitation and hygiene to poor communities and build their resilience to withstand shocks, such as conflict, droughts and floods.

President Obama signed into law the Feed the Future program, the U.S. government’s global hunger initiative, ensuring it will continue helping countries provide their people with enough food – even after the Obama presidency ends in January.

The new law authorizes for the first time USAID‘s International Disaster Assistance and Emergency Food Security Program. This means future White House administrations and future Congresses could more easily make cash assistance available to people experiencing hunger unexpectedly, due to natural disasters or war.

And it has never been more needed. One-third of all the food produced worldwide is lost or wasted as it moves from farm, ranch or orchard to table, at a global cost as high as US$940 billion a year, calculates the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

At the same time, more than 800 million people around the world are undernourished, the FAO reminded everyone in June.

Food loss and food waste generates about eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the UN agency says, adding that if it were a country, food loss and waste would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter – behind China and the United States.

In an attempt to lose less food and feed more people, a partnership of international organizations has launched a new global framework to giv businesses, governments, and other organizations ways to measure, report on and manage food loss and waste.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the partnership, and they have developed the global Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard for quantifying and reporting on food removed from the food supply chain due to waste or loss.

The new Standard was launched at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) 2016 Summit June 6 in Copenhagen.

3GF enables public-private partnerships to support the large-scale adoption of green technologies, practices and policies that they hope will accelerate solutions to intractable problems that markets and governments have been unable to solve on their own.

This set of global definitions and reporting requirements comes as a growing number of governments, companies and other organizions are making commitments to reduce food loss and waste.

Waste makes everybody poorer,” Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kristian Jensen said. “I am pleased that a new strong alliance between public and private actors will provide an efficient answer to the global challenge of food loss and waste. 3GF has promoted yet another green and innovative solution to global challenges.

The new Food Loss and Waste Standard will reduce economic losses for the consumer and food industry, alleviate pressure on natural resources and contribute to realizing the ambitious goals set out in the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Jensen. “We need to push for more solutions like this for the benefit of people, profit and the planet.

The Food Loss and Waste Protocol is the multi-stakeholder partnership convened by the nonprofit World Resources Institute and begun at the Global Green Growth Forum in 2013.

This standard is a real breakthrough,” declared Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute. “There’s simply no reason that so much food should be lost and wasted. Now, we have a powerful new tool that will help governments and businesses save money, protect resources and ensure more people get the food they need.

FLW Protocol partners include some of the largest and most influential of organizations: The Consumer Goods Forum, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the European Union-funded FUSIONS project, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), The Waste and Resources Action Programme and World Resources Institute.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner acknowledged, “The scale of the problem of food loss and waste can be difficult to comprehend. Having this new standard by which to measure food loss and waste will not only help us understand just how much food is not making it to our mouths, but will help set a baseline for action.

UNEP is urging all countries and companies to use the new Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard to start measuring and reporting food loss and waste, in parallel to taking action to deliver on Sustainable Development Goal SDG Target 12.3: Halve food waste by 2030.

Wasting a third of the food we produce is a clear symptom of a global food system in trouble,” said President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development Peter Bakker. “The FLW Standard is pivotal to setting a reliable baseline for streamlined and efficient action on the ground for countries, cities, and small and big businesses along the food value chain.

Together with tangible business solutions,” said Bakker, “the FLW Standard can help to significantly reduce food loss and waste around the globe.”

The FLW Standard will also help reduce food loss and waste within the private sector.

In 2015, The Consumer Goods Forum, which represents more than 400 of the world’s largest retailers and manufacturers from 70 countries, adopted a resolution for its members to reduce food waste from their operations by 50 percent by 2025, with baselines and progress to be measured using the FLW Standard.

Some leading companies, like Nestle and Tesco, are already measuring and publicly reporting on their food loss and waste.

An executive summary of the Food Loss and Waste Protocol can be found at Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard


Main Image: In the Philippines, girls eat food offered by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit organization. (Photo by Feed My Starving Children) Creative commons license via Flickr

Wood Pulp Waste Transformed Into Biocrude Oil

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The Licella Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) at Somersby, NEw South Wales, Australia (Photo courtesy Licella)

By Sunny Lewis

 VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada, June 28, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Canfor Pulp Products Inc. has formed a joint venture with an Australian energy startup to convert biomass from its kraft pulping processes into biocrude oil that can be blended into petrochemical refinery streams to generate renewable fuels.

Publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, Vancouver-based Canfor Pulp is the largest North American producer of Northern bleached softwood kraft, used for manufacturing printing and writing paper and tissue products.

Based in Sydney, Australia, the startup Licella has developed the unique process in partnership with the University of Sydney. Their Catalytic Hydrothermal Reactor (Cat-HTR™) technology converts low-cost, non-edible, waste biomass from pulping into biocrude oil.

The biocrude can then be used to produce next generation biofuels and biochemicals.

The ITQ laboratory in Valencia, Spain has demonstrated the upgrade of Licella’s biocrude to kerosene and diesel utilizing standard refinery infrastructure.

CanFor President Brett Robinson says Licella’s Cat-HTR™ technology could transform their company. “The opportunity to directly produce advanced biofuels from our existing streams could transition Canfor Pulp from being strictly a pulp and paper manufacturer to a bio-energy producer as well,” he said.

Currently, pulp and paper waste is burned for low-quality process heat. But now Licella’s Cat-HTR technology can theoretically process any form of lignocellulosic biomass, without the need to dry the feedstock before processing nor transport it over long distances at great expense.

 Sugars derived from lignocellulosic biomass already have been fermented to produce bio-ethanol, and other lignocellulose-derived fuels are of potential interest, including butanol, but the unique Licella process is not based on fermentation.

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Biomass waste from the pulpmaking process at a Canfor pulp mill in Prince George, British Columbia. (Photo courtesy Licella)

Licella’s process uses a supercritical water-based technology and catalysts to break up the pulp waste biomass and reform it into biocrude. It uses all of the biomass, including lignin and provides all its own process heat and water. Uniquely, it is a net producer of water.

The Licella process produces a stable, blendable bio-oil that is expected to be competitive with petroleum fuel.

The Licella process has a small physical footprint compared to fermentation technologies because of its continuous flow design and a rapid processing time measured in minutes, not days.

Licella was co-founded by University of Sydney chemistry professor Dr. Thomas Maschmeyer, who saw a way to make use of the millions of tons of biomass waste left from the pulping process each year around the globe.

“Only 30 percent or so of a tree becomes paper, the rest is waste. We use this waste to make a new product – biocrude oil from renewable, already aggregated waste,” Maschmeyer explained.

Over the past nine years Licella has invested A$60 million in its technology development. “After nine years of very hard work by an amazing team of individuals at Licella and the university, it is extremely pleasing to see this Australian green technology going global; it will make a substantial impact,” Maschmeyer said.

“In the pulp and paper industry worth billions of dollars, this shift will have global impact for good,” he said.

Licella CEO Dr. Len Humphreys said, “Licella’s Cat-HTR technology may add significant value to Canfor Pulp’s kraft process by creating new products from Canfor Pulp’s waste streams. What we are potentially building towards is a bio-refinery to utilize the entire tree, rather than part of the tree.”

“Using the whole tree and not just a minor part will move the industry towards biorefining,” said Humphreys.

The Cat-HTR™ upgrading platform will be integrated into Canfor Pulp’s kraft and mechanical pulp mills in Prince George, British Columbia.

Licella is a subsidiary of Licella Pty. Limited, which in turn is a subsidiary of Ignite Energy Resources Ltd., an Australian public unlisted natural resource and energy technology development company.

In late May, Licella Fibre Fuels Pty Ltd. and the publicly-traded Canfor Pulp Products Inc. signed an agreement to form a joint venture under the name Licella Pulp Joint Venture.

The agreement follows a successful program of preliminary trials conducted on feedstock from Canfor Pulp’s Prince George pulp mill at Licella’s pilot plants located at Somersby, an hour north of Sydney in New South Wales, Australia.

In these trials, wood residue streams from Canfor Pulp’s kraft process were successfully converted into a stable biocrude oil.

CPPI chief executive Don Kayne said, “Biofuels and biochemicals represent the next frontier in the utilization of sustainable wood fibre to produce green energy and chemicals.”

“This initiative underscores Canfor Pulp’s commitment to innovation and the importance of green energy and chemicals in our future product mix, and we look forward to developing this potentially transforming technology with Licella,” he said.

Upon successful integration of the Cat-HTR™ technology, the Licella Pulp joint venture will look at offering this technology to other third party pulp mills.


Closing the Loop: EU Quarrels Over Circular Economy Plan

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By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 30, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Package it says will help European businesses and consumers contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use.

But Members of the European Parliament are critical of the new package.

The Commission says its plan will extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste, encouraging energy savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing benefits to Europe’s environment and economy.

The changes are needed, the Commission says, because global competition for resources is increasing. The concentration of resources outside the EU, particularly critical raw materials, makes industry and society within the 28 Member States dependent on imports and vulnerable to high prices, market volatility, and the political situation in supplying countries.

The new Circular Economy Package sets a common EU target for recycling 65 percent of municipal waste and 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030.

The plan calls for a binding target to reduce landfill to a maximum of 10 percent, with a complete ban on landfill for separately collected waste.

There will be economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment as well as vehicles, among other products.

There are also plans to harmonize the way recycling rates are calculated across the Member States.

The proposals require action at all stages of the life cycle of products – from the extraction of raw materials, through material and product design, the production, distribution and consumption of goods, repair, re-manufacturing and re-use schemes, all the way through to waste management and recycling.

All these stages are linked. For instance, use of certain hazardous substances in the production of products can affect their recycling potential, and improvements in terms of resource and energy efficiency can be made at all stages.

In July 2014, under President Jose Barroso, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package that included a proposal for the review of waste legislation in response to the legal obligation to review the targets of three Directives: the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive, and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Then, on November 1, 2014, a new Commission took office under President Jean-Claude Juncker. In its 2015 Work Programme, the Juncker Commission announced its intention to withdraw the 2014 proposal on Waste Review and to replace it with a new, more ambitious proposal to promote the circular economy by the end of 2015.

Two main reasons motivated this withdrawal.

First, the overall approach presented in July 2014 had an exclusive focus on waste management, without exploring synergies with other policies such as the development of markets for secondary raw materials.

Second, the Juncker Commission wanted to make the proposal more country specific and improve the implementation of waste policy, particularly existing problems of non-compliance.

On December 2, the Juncker Commission presented its new Circular Economy Package to the European Parliament.

The new initiative would establish a framework to overcome past shortcomings and create conditions for the development of a circular economy “with a clear and ambitious political vision combined with effective policy tools that can drive real change on the ground,” the Juncker Commission said.

The Commission said its new package “contributes to broad political priorities by tackling climate change and the environment while boosting job creation, economic growth, investment and social fairness.”

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The package was prepared by a core project team co-chaired by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, with the close involvement of Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella and Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the ‘take, make, use and throw away’ approach. We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them.”

“The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works,” Timmermans said. “By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs. With today’s package, we are delivering the comprehensive framework that will truly enable this change to happen.”

“It sets a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe with supportive actions that cover the full product cycle. This mix of smart regulation and incentives at EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation,” said Timmermans.

Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “These proposals give a positive signal to those waiting to invest in the circular economy. Today we are saying that Europe is the best place to grow a sustainable and environmentally-friendly business.”

“This transition towards a more circular economy is about reshaping the market economy and improving our competitiveness,” said Katainen, a former Finnish prime minister. “If we can be more resource efficient and reduce our dependency on scarce raw materials, we can develop a competitive edge. The job creation potential of the circular economy is huge, and the demand for better, more efficient products and services is booming.”

The Juncker Commission is in partnership with the European Investment Bank to fund the new package.

On December 10, Vella blogged that the partners signed an amendment to the InnovFin Delegation Agreement “that will enable higher-risk, yet innovative sustainable business models and plans to access credit through InnovFin – an EU finance support programme under Horizon 2020.”

Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds will suppport the new Circular Economy Package, the Commission said.

“The proposals are a powerful enabling framework, but we will also need substantial private sector funding directed towards the circular economy,” wrote Vella. “The European Fund for Strategic Investment (the ‘Juncker Plan’) is one tool to support this. The Commission would like to also guide future investment, steering it more towards green choices, with progressive divestment from unsustainable activities.”

Vella wrote that the EIB, the Commission and national banks plan to work together to increase awareness of circular economy financing.

But many Members of the European Parliament are not impressed with the new package.

The 65 percent target is a point of contention. Although the Juncker Commission says the new package is far more ambitious than its predecessor, MEPs point out that Barroso’s team wanted to introduce a 70 percent target in 2014.

Karl-Heinz Florenz, a German Member of the European Parliament who sits with the European People’s Party group, told the “Parliament Magazine” that the new proposal amounts to “much ado about nothing.”

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Vice-Chair Kathleen Van Brempt of Belgium said, “This ambitious roadmap needs to be supported by specific targets, and our political group will try to build a consensus in the Parliament to introduce those targets, to make sure the roadmap is accomplished.”

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, shadow rapporteur on the circular economy with the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, accused the Commission of, “wasting months of work and many hours of parliamentary time.”

“With a weakened waste proposal and an action plan copy-pasted from the 2010 roadmap to a resource efficient Europe, it’s clear the European Commission is failing to deliver on this important agenda for growth and jobs,” the Dutch MEP told the “Parliament Magazine.”

Greens/European Free Alliance Group Vice-Chair Bas Eickhout commented, “While we welcome the fact that the Commission has finally come forward with revised proposals on the circular economy, we are concerned that the plans are undermined by the reduced ambition. This is contrary to the commitment by the Commission for a more ambitious proposal.”

“A year on from the initial decision by the Commission to withdraw its original proposals, we have lost both time and ambition in the push to stimulate the circular economy at EU level,” said Eickhout.

Green environment spokesperson Davor Škrlec said, “It is a major shame that the Commission is not seeking to maximize the potential of the circular economy. We will seek to address some of the shortcomings in Parliament.”

Responding to criticism of the new package, Vice President Timmermans pointed out that the legally-binding 10 percent cap on land-filling was, “completely new” and that the 65 percent target for recyclables was, “an extremely ambitious goal, which for many member states will require a huge effort.”

Key actions under the Juncker Commission’s new Circular Economy Package include:

  • Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds;
  • Actions to reduce food waste, including a common measurement methodology, improved date marking, and tools to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by 2030;
  • Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials to increase the confidence of operators in the single market;
  • Measures in the Ecodesign working plan for 2015-2017 to promote reparability, durability and recyclability of products, in addition to energy efficiency;
  • A revised regulation on fertilizers, to facilitate the recognition of organic and waste-based fertilizers in the single market and support the role of bio-nutrients;
  • A strategy on plastics in the circular economy, addressing issues of recyclability, biodegradability, the presence of hazardous substances in plastics, and the Sustainable Development Goals target for reducing marine litter;
  • A series of actions on water reuse, including a legislative proposal on minimum requirements for the reuse of wastewater.
  • A clear timeline for the actions proposed and a plan for a simple and effective monitoring framework for the circular economy.

Vice President Katainen said, “We will remove barriers that make it difficult for businesses to optimize their resource use and we will boost the internal market for secondary raw materials. We want to achieve real progress on the ground and look forward to delivering on this ambition together with not only Member States, regions and municipalities, but also businesses, industry and civil society.”

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Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main image: Members of the European Parliament in plenary session, 2015. (Photo courtesy European Parliament) © European Union 2015 – European Parliament.
Featured image: Naples, Italy struggles with longstanding garbage problems, June 2007 (Photo by Chris Beckett) under Creative Commons license via Flickr
Image 01: EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen addresses the European Parliament, January 2015 © European Union 2015 – European Parliament. (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Creative Commons licenses creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Image 02: Landfill at the Selly Oak Battery Park redevelopment site in Birmingham, England, May 2015 (Photo by Elliott Brown) under Creative Commons license via Flickr