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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


Europe Bans Plastics for Ocean Health

Plastic fishing gear and strapping litters a beach in northern Norway, which is not an EU member state. April 27, 2014 (Photo by Bo Eide) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Plastic fishing gear and strapping litters a beach in northern Norway, which is not an EU member state. April 27, 2014 (Photo by Bo Eide) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, May 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Beachgoers love to have fun in the sun, eating, drinking and smoking all the while, but the plastic food and drinks containers, straws, cigarette butts and plastic carrier bags they use just once are littering oceans and seas and piling up on coastlines.

Plastics can be carried by wind and rain into drains or rivers that flow into the sea. Plastics can blow away from landfills and end up in rivers or oceans.

A member of the Gullane Beaver Scout Group finds cotton buds with plastic stems on Scotland's Gullane Beach, January 11, 2018 (Photo by Scottish Government) Creative Commons license via Flickr

A member of the Gullane Beaver Scout Group finds cotton buds with plastic stems on Scotland’s Gullane Beach, January 11, 2018 (Photo by Scottish Government) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Now the European Commission is proposing new EU-wide rules to target the 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas, as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear.

Announcing the new rules on Monday, EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly. Single use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice, and today’s proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives.”

“This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”

“Our collection target for plastic bottles will also help to generate the necessary volumes for a thriving plastic recycling industry,” said Katainen, who hails from Finland on the Baltic Sea, where waste generated by recreational and tourism activities is piling up.

With the new rules, Europe is tackling the 10 plastic waste items most found on Europe’s beaches and promoting sustainable alternatives.

If the proposed rules become law, there will be a plastic ban on products where alternatives are readily available and affordable. The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks, and for balloons, which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead.

These 10 types of items together account for 70 percent of the marine litter in Europe.

  1. Cotton buds: Ban on single use cotton buds made with plastic, to be replaced on the market with sustainable alternatives.
  2.  Cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers: Ban on single use cutlery, plates, straws and stirrers made with plastics, to be replaced with more sustainable alternatives.
  3. Sticks for balloons and balloons: Plastic sticks for balloons to be banned and replaced with sustainable alternatives. On balloons, producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection, waste treatment and introduce new labelling on the environmental impact of the product and recycling options for consumers.
  4. Food containers: Significant national consumption reduction of plastic food containers. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment.
  5. Cups for beverages: Significant national consumption reduction of plastic cups for beverages. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment.
  6. Beverage bottles: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of beverage containers; product design requirements to attach caps and lids to beverage containers; 90 percent separate collection target for plastic bottles. Member States will be obliged to collect 90 percent of single-use plastic drinks bottles by 2025, for example, through deposit refund schemes.
  7. Cigarette butts: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, cleanup, collection and waste treatment of cigarette butts and other plastic tobacco product filters.
  8. Bags: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of lightweight plastic carrier bags, in addition to existing measures in the existing Plastic Bags Directive.   After addressing plastic bags in 2015, 72 percent of Europeans said they have cut down on their use of plastic bags, according to Eurobarometer.
  9. Crisp packets/sweets wrappers: Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of plastic packets and wrappers.
  10. Wet wipes and sanitary items: New labelling requirements for sanitary towels and wet wipes to inform consumers on environmental impact of the product and how to dispose of it properly. Producers to contribute to awareness-raising, clean-up, collection and waste treatment of wet wipes.
  11. Fishing gear: For fishing gear, which accounts for 27 percent of all beach litter, the Commission aims to complete the existing policy framework with producer responsibility schemes for fishing gear containing plastic.

Producers of fishing gear containing plastics will be required to cover the costs of waste collection from port reception facilities and its transport and treatment. They will also cover the costs of awareness-raising measures.

The Commission reasons that the new rules will give companies a competitive edge. Having one set of rules for the whole EU market will create a springboard for European companies to develop economies of scale and be more competitive in the booming global marketplace for sustainable products, the Commission said in a statement.

By setting up re-use systems, such as deposit refund plans, companies can ensure a stable supply of high quality material.

In other cases, the incentive to look for more sustainable solutions can give companies the technological lead over global competitors.

The packaging producers, on whose cooperation the success of these new rules depends, appear to be on board.

Kristian Hall, president of the Alliance for Beverage Cartons and the Environment , said on May 23, “Our industry is committed to supporting increased recycling of its packages and securing long-term sustainable recycling solutions. Hence, the members of ACE, BillerudKorsnäs, Elopak, SIG Combibloc, Stora Enso and Tetra Pak, have decided to launch a dedicated platform to drive and coordinate the industry’s engagement in beverage carton recycling, including the non-paper components of our packages across Europe.”

The new platform will be based in Frankfurt, Germany. It will collaborate with national carton industry associations, member company initiatives and other stakeholders.

Hall said, “Recognizing that sustainable recycling programs require collaboration within and beyond our own industry, the new platform will actively seek alliances and partnerships with industry actors sharing similar needs to optimize recycling solutions.”

All the materials used in beverage cartons are recyclable. Recycling beverage cartons reduces carbon emissions and enables a better use of raw material resources.

Recycling of beverage cartons in Europe (EU-28) has grown steadily over the last years, with around 430,000 tonnes recycled in 2016. This represents a rate of 47 percent of all cartons sold in Europe being recycled, with some countries like Belgium or Germany having rates over 70 percent.

PlasticsEurope, an association of plastics manufacturers, says it has been “at the forefront of the fight against marine litter and is fully committed to helping put an end to the leakage of plastics into the environment.”

But PlasticsEurope is against plastic product bans. The association says, “…plastic product bans are not the solution and will not achieve the structural change needed to build the foundation for a sustainable and resource efficient economy; as alternative products may not be more sustainable.”

To reduce littering, PlasticsEurope wants governments to integrate the issue of marine litter in their national waste management strategies. It says waste management infrastructure needs to be improved so that all plastic waste is collected and then used as a resource. Landfilling has to be avoided.

PlasticsEurope supports innovation and mindful product design and also supports awareness-raising campaigns, “which lead to responsible consumption and an understanding that waste is a resource.”

Together, the new rules are expected to put Europe ahead of the curve on a big issue with global implications.

The EU’s First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “This Commission promised to be big on the big issues and leave the rest to Member States. Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food.”

“Today’s proposals will reduce single use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures,” said Timmermans. “We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favorite products.”

Featured Image: Plastic litters a beach on the Atlantic Ocean at Igueldo, Basque Country, Spain,  February 17, 2009 (Photo by Igeldo Donostia) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Fundraise

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.



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

Which U.S. States Care About The Planet?

texas-energy-hero

Houston, Texas January 12, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) Energy companies, around the globe are paying attend to environmental issues, as much as countries, states and cities are showing a renewed interest in green energy.

Amigo Energy a electric company from Texas recently ran an analysis of Google Trends data and state statistics related to the planet and environmental issues.

Below are the results of their compiled research as written by Mike Strayer, Amigo Energy blog writer.

Recycling and Reusing

How to recycle in Washington, as it turns out, is rather easy. 87 percent of Washingtonians have access to curbside recycling, while the remaining 13 percent of the population has access to 109 drop-off locations throughout the state. In Texas, how to reuse waste seems to be on everyone’s mind. The City of Irving’s Green Seam Project—which takes scraps of fabric and turns them into reusable bags—is a real-world example of just how scrappy one Texas town is.

Renewable Energy

Home to the wind-swept Badlands, wind power is on the rise in North Dakota. Combine that with a higher concentration of Internet searches in the region and it looks like fracking has a cleaner rival poised to power more Roughrider State homes and businesses.

While you may have guessed that sunny places like Hawaii would rank high for solar power, Leesburg, Virginia probably didn’t come to mind. It’s strange, but community efforts like Solarize NOVA (Northern Virginia) may account for Leesburg’s ranking.

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Energy Efficiency

Solar power is hot in California. According to data from 2015, California generated the most solar energy in the US, which might help explain why so many Californians are curious about installing residential solar panels.

We all know that Virginia is for lovers, but did you know that Virginians love to save energy? Maybe that’s because saving energy has boosted business—energy efficiency in Virginia is a $1.5B industry that employs over 75,000 people.

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Air Quality

Utah is famous for its national parks and powdery mountains. Counterintuitively, the region also has the worst air quality in the US, which probably accounts for tons of Utahns searching for information on air quality.

It’s no secret: traffic in California can really suck. Luckily, carpooling is more convenient than ever with programs like 511 SF Bay that make commutes easier by connecting residents via cutting-edge technology.

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Sustainability

Because Google Trends calculates the relative popularity of keywords, tiny towns like Drexel often rank higher than big cities. Perhaps the city’s number one ranking is due to the Western Piedmont Community College Program in Sustainable Agriculture, which features a 40-acre student-run farm.

Colorado may be known for a different sort of “green,” but Coloradans also search more for “sustainable living” than any other state. This might be because of the Sustainable Living Association based out of Fort Collins, which specializes in educating people about sustainable choices.

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Planting and Composting

Those who know Portland may not be surprised by the city’s ranking. You could probably even say that gardening is a town pastime—the city maintains nine community garden sites with plots costing only $15-50 a year to lease. Aside from preserving pristine beaches and forests, Oregonians are interested in greening their homes, too. That may be because the state runs its own environmentally-friendly programs like this super useful composting resource page.

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If Internet searches are any indicator, it looks like Americans are becoming more and more interested in greening our country. For more information on how to go green in Texas, check out the Amigo Energy Blog—we’ve got helpful resources and interesting information that can help you green your life today.


Consulting_time

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.

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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Firms Flock to Circular Economy 100 USA

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By Sunny Lewis

SAN FRANCISCO, California, April 12, 2016 (Maximpact.com News)

“A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design,” says Dame Ellen MacArthur.

She has taken a special interest in circular systems. Four years after becoming the fastest solo sailor to circumnavigate the globe, a 2005 record that still stands, MacArthur founded the UK charity that bears her name to advance the sustainability that flows from a well-functioning circular economy.

In the latest curve, in March the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced the launch of a U.S. chapter of its popular international Circular Economy 100 (CE100) program.

CE100 brings together leading organizations such as Google, CocaCola and Apple, with the goal of innovating, developing and implementing circular economy opportunities.

The kick off event for CE100 USA members was a one-day workshop in San Francisco on March 31

Executives from SunPower, Tarkett and Walmart Stores were there. These latest corporate members of CE100 USA will share their expertise in implementing circular economy opportunities and learn from their new associates.

SunPower’s Chief Operating Officer Marty Neese said, “At SunPower, we are the first and only company to offer solar solutions that are as sustainable as the energy they produce by manufacturing Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver solar panels in facilities that are landfill-free and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified.”

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with influential organizations as a member of the international Circular Economy 100, and now here in the U.S. as a member of the CE100 USA, to create a truly regenerative economy,” said Neese.

That’s really what the CE100 does, wherever the chapter is based – member organizations enjoy unique collaboration, capacity building, networking and research opportunities to help them achieve their circular economy ambitions more quickly.

They can even learn from the world’s biggest retailer. Walmart’s senior vice president of sustainability Laura Phillips said, “Walmart is pleased to join Circular Economy 100 USA to share our learnings and learn more from other companies so that we can better engage suppliers and customers in these practices.”

ECOStructure

ECOR biogradable, infinitely recyclable advanced material can be engineered into curves or grids, among many other shapes. (Photo courtesy ECOR Global)

Noble Environmental Technologies is a San Diego, California company, a CE100 USA member and featured innovative technology partner that manufactures design-flexible building panels from the advanced green material ECOR.

ECOR solves waste stream problems by using the discarded cellulose fiber.

Developed in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ECOR can be made from cellulose fibers from a wide variety of materials: office paper waste, cardboard, recycled denim and other fabrics, hemp, jute, sugar cane bagasse, corn husks, wood dust and trimmings.

When retail giant Walmart decided to commit to zero waste to landfill by 2025, they turned to ECOR. There are currently 300 ECOR display units in Walmart stores across the United States.

Used by architects, designers, furniture and cabinetry manufacturers, ECOR is Cradle to Cradle® certified. Manufacturing, done in Shanghai, produces no waste, uses no chemicals and creates a biodegradable material made from 100 percent recycled content.

There are no adhesives, no chemicals, no formaldehyde, no petroleum – no additives at all.

It’s strong, structurally solid and 75 percent lighter than conventional panel product – an endlessly recyclable alternative to wood, particleboard, fiberboard, aluminum, plastic, cardboard and other composites.

Manufactured with a simple pressure and heat process, old ECOR can be broken down again to the cellulose fiber level and put back through the process to create another batch of the material in an endless circular loop.

This is the kind of company and product that Dame Ellen believes will have advantages in a resource-constrained future.

“The circular economy offers many quantified benefits, and provides a positive way forward for businesses wishing to hedge themselves from market volatility. Our 2013 report Towards the Circular Economy Vol. 2, featuring analysis by McKinsey & Co, highlighted the US$700 billion opportunity in global consumer goods material savings from adopting circular economy practices,” she said.

Take another new member of the CE100 group, Tetra Pak, which makes drinks packaging. The Swiss-Swedish company aims to offer packages entirely made of renewable materials and is already working towards this goal.

Tetra Pak packaging materials are made up of paperboard (73%), plastic (22%) and aluminium foil (5%).

The paperboard is primarily made of materials from sustainably managed forests which carry the FSC™-label. In 2014, Tetra Pak launched its first milk package made entirely from plant-based materials – paperboard and plastics derived from sugar-cane.

Tetra Pak CEO Dennis Jönsson said, “Joining the CE100 programme reflects Tetra Pak’s commitment to maintaining a leadership position in recycling and in the use of renewable materials from sustainably managed sources.”

“For organizations which embrace the opportunities offered by the circular economy, there are first-mover advantages available,” said MacArthur. “The CE100 USA program provides key insight to support organizations in their transition, and to help accelerate their rate of circular economy innovation.”


Featured image: CE100 USA logo from Ellen MacArther Foundation

Main image: Ellen MacArthur Creative Commons license via Youtube: Circular economy a massive opportunity – meet Dame Ellen MacArthur

Making Plastic Waste Disappear

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Some plastics are just lucky, they become the raw materials for artworks. (Photo by Steven Depolo) creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis,

WASHINGTON, DC, March 15, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Every ton of plastic bottles recycled saves about 3.8 barrels of oil, says the Plastics Industry Trade Association, which has just launched a Zero Net Waste program to help members evaluate waste reduction opportunities and maximize landfill diversion.

The $427 billion U.S. plastics industry, employs nearly one million American workers and is the third largest manufacturing industry in the United States.

Founded in 1937 and based in Washington, DC, the Plastics Industry Trade Association was originally the Society of the Plastics Industry is still known by those initials, SPI.

The Zero Net Waste program grew out of the SPI Recycling Committee’s Emerging Trends Subcommittee, chaired by Kathy Xuan, CEO of PARC Corp, and then developed by a broad workgroup of the association’s members.

“As chair of the subcommittee and a recycler who provides zero landfill services,” said Xuan, “we feel this program will be instrumental in providing tools and resources to accelerate the industry’s pursuit of zero waste.”

The ZNW program manual is designed to enable companies of all sizes to begin pursuing zero waste in their facilities, from building the business case for zero net waste, to educating employees and offering practical guidance on finding the right service providers.

The Zero Net Waste Program isn’t just for companies looking for Zero Waste certification, said Robert Flores, director of sustainability for Berry Plastics, a global manufacturer and marketer of plastic packaging based in Evansville, Indiana.

“The accompanying manual is applicable to a wide variety of companies and provides the basics for how get started, as well as how to enhance existing programs that a company already may have in place,” said Flores.

Reducing reliance on landfills provides both environmental and economic benefits, which are being driven by many of the major brand owners in the plastics industry today, said Nina Goodrich, executive director of GreenBlue, an environmental nonprofit based in Charlottesville, Virginia that works towards the sustainable use of materials.

“GreenBlue and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition support SPI’s Zero Net Waste Program,” Goodrich said. “Providing companies the tools and resources to demonstrate leadership in landfill diversion is an important step towards reducing carbon emissions and developing a circular economy.”

In Europe, companies are working towards reducing the negative impact of plastics on the environment by contributing to a circular economy, and many are seeking funding for these efforts from Horizon 2020.

Horizon 2020 is the biggest ever EU Research and Innovation program with nearly €80 billion of funding available over the seven years 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investments that this seed money will attract.

Making Plastic Waste Disappear

Baled plastics in Switzerland awaiting a buyer (Photo by mbeo) creative commons license via Flickr

The European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, ESME, manages the calls for proposals under Horizon 2020’s societal challenge, Climate Action, Environment, Resource Efficiency and Raw Materials.

The agency is funding projects under the Horizon 2020 program that guarantee a sustainable supply and use of raw materials, and the protection and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystems.

On December 8, 2015 EASME organized a networking meeting for 21 waste-related research and innovation projects.

The meeting kicked off 13 projects selected under Horizon 2020’s “Waste: A resource to recycle, reuse and recover raw materials” call for proposals in 2015.

This year, by the call deadline March 8, the European Commission had received 333 proposals for Horizon 2020 funding for projects in the areas of climate action, environment, resource efficiency and raw materials.

A budget of about €283 million is available in 2016 for projects in these areas. In April, independent expert panels will evaluate the proposals, choosing which ones to fund.

A project funded this way is revolutionizing the secure envelope market. Inspired by EU efforts to promote products made from eco-friendly materials, this Italian initiative seeks to replace envelopes made from polluting polyethylene plastic, with paper, laminated with eco-plastic that incorporates tamper-indication techniques.

The goal of the SELOPE project is to produce at industrial scale an innovative security envelope, made from certified Forest Stewardship Council paper, laminated with eco-plastics and Mater-Bi, a biodegradable, compostable bioplastic made from plants.

By using these innovative materials, the company says it cuts its CO2 emissions, diverts waste from landfills and promotes recycling and compostability.

In the UK, Impact Laboratories Ltd. has developed a method for the cost-efficient separation of mixed polymers, using a patent pending process of vertically arranged blades oscillating to produce separation.

Developed to meet the needs of the recyclers, the process involves a low capital and operational expenditure. This opens the equipment to small and medium sized recyclers across Europe, allowing them to separate plastics which are now classed as too expensive to separate.

This adds value to the recycler, creates jobs, reduces the plastic going to landfill, and provides manufacturers with a rich source of useable recycled material at a local level.

“Our technology has the potential to make a major change in the way plastics are recycled across Europe,” Impact says. “Every unit will reduce plastic to landfill by 2,000 tonnes a year, helping Europe meet the EU goals for plastic recycling by 2020.”

plasticbottles

Crushed plastic bottles awaiting recycling (Photo by Lisa Risager) creative commons license via Flickr

The European Commission has adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package.

Still working its way through the legislative process is a proposal on waste sets an EU target for recycling of 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030; and a binding target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10 percent of all waste by 2030.

It specifies simplified and improved definitions, harmonized calculation methods for recycling rates throughout the EU will be coupled with economic incentives for packaging producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes.


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.

What is Circular Economy

what-is-circular-economy

(Maximpact.com News)

Citizens of the world have realized that people do not have infinite resources. Demand on raw materials has escalated, with no management of waste and the limited supply we have of those materials. Environmental repercussions of climate change and sustainability are now at the top of the global agenda and are mission-critical.

This article focuses on the circular economy and its benefits to help combat our global problems. European countries, particularly the Nordic ones, have embraced the circular theory years ago and are reaping the benefits of zero waste economies while setting good examples for their neighbors.

What Is Circular Economy?

The concept of circular economy calls for the reuse of materials for as long as this is feasible. These materials should be used to their greatest extent and, when a person is done using said materials, should be able to renew or restore the power of these materials for further use down the line. Besides materials, circular economy may also apply to components and products.

Circular economy is in direct opposition to what is known as a linear economy. With this concept, much less thought is put into the long-term ramifications of use of a material, component, or product. Instead, this material is made, a person uses it, and then they throw away what’s left. This creates a productivity dead-end. Over the years we have become a throwaway society.

What Is the History of Circular Economy?

If any one person created the concept of circular economy, they didn’t promote themselves, because research doesn’t attribute this to anybody specifically. Instead, the move towards a circular economy is estimated to have started in the 1970s and gained momentum as the years went by.

There are numerous models that have led to the development of circular economy as it’s understood today. These are as follows:

  • Regenerative design — Credited to John T. Lyle, the concept of regenerative design is similar to what we know as circular economy.
  • Blue economy — Gunter Pauli of Belgium, who worked as the CEO at Ecover, developed the blue economy, which tells us what is left over from a product could become the basis for a new product and revenue stream.
  • Industrial ecology — Focusing specifically on the industrial field, industrial ecology deals with energy flow and material usage in this area.
  • Biomimicry — Popularized by Janine Benyus, biomimicry involves borrowing successful concepts that have already been used and redesigning them for your own purposes.
  • Performance economy — An early pillar in circular economy, industrial analyst and architect Walter Stahel developed this concept back in 1976. He believed that a circular economy could prevent waste, produce more resources, create competition, and make more jobs.
  • Cradle to cradle — Bill McDonough (an architect from the US) and Michael Braungart (a chemist from Germany) developed the cradle to cradle concept. Simply put, this model seeks to cut back on product waste and embrace more production.

How Can Businesses Use This Concept?

As you’ve seen, while circular economy can indeed apply to the universe itself and preserving finite resources, it can also be used as a business model. Business owners big and small can benefit from the school of thought associated with circular economy. Research has found that tens of thousands of jobs can be made to positively stimulate the economy just by following the circular economy model.

Are You Looking for a Circular Expert / Consultant?

At Maximpact, we can help you find the right circular expert consultant. Maximpact consulting network is a select global network of certified consultants in over 200 sectors and sub-sectors, experience in over 680 projects. All consultants are verified through a certification screening process, so that Maximpact can assist clients in making the best decision in finding the exact skill set they need.

Maximpact offers access to a network of circular, impact and sustainability consultants and experts. No matter the scope of your project or the size of your company, you can receive assistance through all stages of the project development process. Maximpact Ecosystems offers advisory, marketing, consulting, and financial services for sectors like environment, water, clean technology, renewable energy, agriculture, and more. With offices in Hong Kong, California, Abu Dhabi, and Monaco, Maximpact can help you move towards a circular economy.

Marketing Key to Return on CSR Investment

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By Sunny Lewis

AMES, Iowa, February 23, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The combination of skillful marketing and corporate social responsibility can yield a 3.5 percent gain in stock returns for a company’s shareholders, a new study by U.S. and Canadian researchers shows.

The study is useful because regardless of the positive effects for society of corporate social responsibility (CSR), there remains an extensive debate regarding its consequences for shareholders.

“A lot of firms question the benefit of corporate social responsibility activities, because they are often viewed as more of a cost. Firms may not always see the benefit because they have to make an investment,” said co-author Sachin Modi, an associate professor in Iowa State University’s College of Business.

“What we want to show is that if a firm is good and has some complimentary capabilities, it can gain a lot from CSR activities,” Modi said.

The researchers defined CSR as “discretionary firm activities aimed at enhancing societal well-being.”

The study, published in the “Journal of Marketing,” analyzed six different types of CSR – environment, products, diversity, corporate governance, employees and community to determine whether marketing of these efforts increased long-term firm value and stock price.

WalmartCardboardRecycling

Walmart employee moves bundled carboard packaging out of a store for shipment to a recycling facility. (Photo by Walmart Corporate)

Walmart’s company-wide goal is to create zero waste. Corrugated cardboard is bundled into bales and sent to paper mills to be recycled into new paper products. But do consumers buy more at Walmart as a result? Not if the company’s marketing doesn’t dramatize and promote its corporate social responsibility, the study finds.

Co-author Saurabh Mishra, an associate professor at McGill University with a PhD in Marketing, says there is a “direct and measurable link” between corporate social responsibility initiatives and financial performance.

The analysis conducted by Modi and Mishra utilized secondary information for a large sample of 1,725 firms for the years 2000-2009.

The findings demonstrate that the effects of overall CSR efforts on stock returns and risk are not significant on their own but only become significant in the presence of superior marketing capability.

Firms benefited from five of the six types of CSR efforts studied, with the exception of charitable giving and philanthropy.

Many companies engage in CSR activities, but do the shareholders benefit?

Will toy buyers associate these Hasbro My Little Pony characters Shining Armour and Princess Cadence with Hasbro's purchase of renewable energy and be more likely to buy them as a result? (Photo by Lass With Toys and Camera)

Will toy buyers associate these Hasbro My Little Pony characters Shining Armour and Princess Cadence with Hasbro’s purchase of renewable energy and be more likely to buy them as a result? (Photo by Lass With Toys and Camera)

Hasbro, Inc., the U.S. playtime giant, specializing in toys and games, television programming, motion pictures and digital gaming, last December announced the purchase of enough wind power to equal growing 164,767 trees for 10 years.

Hasbro’s renewable energy purchase qualifies the company for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Club, a distinction given to organizations that have significantly exceeded the U.S. EPA’s minimum purchase requirements.

“We are pleased to be among leading businesses partnering with the U.S. EPA as we continue on our sustainability journey,” said Brian Goldner, chairman, president, and CEO. “Hasbro’s decision to use green power is an important choice in advancing our energy conservation efforts in support of a low carbon economy.”

“Hasbro should be congratulated for its purchase of clean, renewable green power,” said James Critchfield, director of EPA’s Green Power Partnership. “Hasbro’s green power purchase and leadership is something its employees can feel empowered by, the community can stand behind, and its customers can take notice of.”

The purchase of renewable energy benefits the climate and the environment generally, but will the shareholders and customers take notice?

Modi said, “As firms pick what initiatives to get involved with for the community and for charitable giving, they might want to focus on those which are more easily verifiable by consumers. They don’t necessarily have to advertise it, consumers just come to know this firm does a lot for a particular charity.”

“It is very important to give from a community and charity standpoint. And it may be a more true form of giving, because it doesn’t always give the firm value in return,” he said.

The biggest payoff comes from letting shareholders know about a firm’s efforts to improve products, be environmentally friendly, create a diverse workplace and use sustainable resources.

But Modi says it’s important to note this return is not a guarantee for all firms. It depends on effectively communicating and executing a strong marketing strategy. A weak marketing department can translate to weaker returns or payoffs.

Firms must also recognize that some efforts to be more socially responsible can backfire. As an example, Modi asks the question, “Would you buy a recycled toothbrush?”

While most consumers are supportive of and applaud recycling efforts, this is a product few would be likely to buy.

SunChips_Bag

This Sun Chips bag says it’s compostable and a customer is giving the claim a personal test. (Photo by Alan Levine)

Fans of Sun Chips may also remember another example, when the company created a biodegradable bag for its chips.

It was a good move for the environment, but Modi says the bag made a loud crinkling sound at the slightest touch and irritated consumers complained about the noise.

Not all efforts will be a win-win, but that should not be a deterrent for firms, he said.

“Our hope is that firms see it is important to be socially responsible. It’s not a choice of one versus the other. Firms have to do multiple aspects of being socially responsible,” Modi said. “Different types of CSR will have different benefits for firms. Some will be more critical and some will give firms more bang for their buck.”

 


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.

Closing the Loop: EU Quarrels Over Circular Economy Plan

MEPs2015

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.”

KatainenJyrki

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.”

LandfillUK


 

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

Shipbreaking Moves Off the Beach

ShipbreakingWorkers

SEATTLE, Washington, October 14, 2015 (Maximpact News) – A protest by the environmental justice organization Basel Action Network (BAN) over an obsolete ship owned by Matson, Inc. being sent to a shipbreaker in India, prompted the shipping company to stop scrapping its vessels on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Because of concerns with recycling practices in South Asia, Matson has decided to expressly prohibit recycling of its vessels in this region going forward,” the company said in a statement last month.

Founded in 1882, Matson provides ships goods Pacific-wide, mainly between the Hawaiian islands and the West Coast of North America. The company’s decision affects 23 vessels that will be scrapped over the next few years.

Shipbreaking companies in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh operate under dangerous and polluting conditions. Workers labor on tidal sands to cut ships by hand. They breathe in toxic fumes and asbestos, and fall victim to explosions and accidental crushing. And these crude practices pollute the beaches where the shipbreaking takes place.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, children under the age of 15 make up nearly 20 percent of the shipbreaking workforce in Bangladesh. (see report here)

In September there was an accident on the notorious shipbreaking beach at Chittagong that killed four workers. Five other workers were killed in July, and over 200 deaths have been documented over the past five years.

“Ship owners today can no longer claim ignorance,” said Colby Self, the Green Ship Recycling director at BAN, which is based in Seattle. “They know very well the environmental and human health impacts of their ship recycling decisions, which for too long have been ignored to maximize profits.”

“Matson’s off-the-beach commitment reflects a level of corporate leadership which we hope will be echoed by other U.S. shipping companies,” said Self.

In fact, Matson’s decision is part of a growing awareness among shipping companies of the dangers of on-the-beach shipbreaking and a shift in values toward safer, less toxic ship recycling practices.

The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and its 160 members recently voted not to permit Norwegian-owned ships to be scrapped on South Asian beaches.

Other large ship owners that have also adopted more responsible ship recycling policies include German Hapag-Lloyd, Danish Maersk Line, Royal Dutch Boskalis, Canadian CSL Group, and the Singaporean China Navigation Company.

dismantling on a beach in Bangladesh_

Globally, 1,026 ships were dismantled in 2014.

A total of 641 ships, or 74 percent of the total gross tonnage of dismantled ships, were scrapped in the beach shipbreaking yards of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, based in Brussels.

Ships contain both valuable and toxic materials. Old ships are a source of valuable scrap steel for construction industries. In addition, obsolete ships contain aluminum, copper, silver and brass.

But there are toxics in the old ships too: lead; mercury; asbestos; oil sludge; polychlorinated biphenyls; biocidal anti-fouling paint such as tributyltin; bilge water containing oil, urine, detergents and solvents; and ballast water that can contain tiny animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria.

There are greener ways to dismantle ships that keep these toxics out of the environment while recycling the valuable components.

For example, the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas has been operating as a licensed ship recycling, metal processing, and environmental remediation contractor since 2003. The company handles such old vessels as the USS Forrestal, the U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier, commissioned in 1955 but now ready for scrapping.

Jacob Sterling, global head of Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility at Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, is part of the growing consensus that is moving the shipping industry toward greener recycling.

Writing in the publication “gCaptain” last month, Sterling said, “The vast majority of ships are taken to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to be scrapped on the beach. There is something quite wrong with that. People in flip flops on beaches are OK. But people on beaches wearing flip flops and no safety gear while taking apart massive cargo ships with hand tools is simply wrong.”

Sterling wrote, “NGOs argue that beaching must end now. We agree. In Maersk Line we have a policy on responsible ship recycling. Since 2006, we have recycled 23 ships responsibly, and we have sent none to the beach.”

But he says private corporations need government support to make this shift. “We really don’t think that the issue of unsafe and unsustainable beaching is well addressed by private companies alone,” Sterling wrote.

He says the real answer is global regulation that raises the legally acceptable minimum standard for ship recycling.

In 2009, the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted. Yet in 2013, only two countries have ratified it, Sterling points out.

“The Hong Kong Convention is not perfect, actually it doesn’t ban beaching, it just makes it a lot harder to scrap ships this way,” wrote Sterling. “But it is the best we have, and if it entered into force, it could be improved over time. So we need more countries to ratify the convention.”

Even before the convention enters into force, it is influencing some South Asian shipbreaking operations to dismantle ships more responsibly.

The Japan-based ship classification company Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, known as ClassNK, has just issued Statements of Compliance (SoC) to two ship recycling facilities in Gujarat, India – the R.L. Kalthia Ship Breaking Pvt. Ltd. and Priya Blue Industries Pvt. Ltd.

The SoCs verify that these two facilities are in line with the Hong Kong Convention.

Although the convention has yet to enter into force, ClassNK said in a statement September 29 that “Kalthia and Priya Blue have both carried out substantial improvements to their facilities in a bid toward safer and greener ship recycling as well as developed the Ship Recycling Facility Plans required for a competent authority’s certification” under the convention.

ScrapMetalCrane


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.


 

Featured image: Jafrabad Chittagong shipbreaking via Wikimedia Commons
Image 01: Shipbreaking workers on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 02: Ships lined up for dismantling on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 03: Crane dismantles an obsolete ship at the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas (Photo courtesy Scrap Metal Services)