Saturday, April 5, 2008

Plastic and the Ocean

Two San Diego environmental groups are saying 80-percent of the trash washed up on San Diego beaches last year was made of plastic. Reporter David Nogueras has more.

Twice a month, San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation organize beach cleanups throughout San Diego County. Beginning last year, they asked their volunteers to fill out surveys about what they found.

The groups say that volunteers picked up more 3 and a half tons of trash in San Diego County, most of it plastic products and cigarette butts.

Danielle Miller is with San Diego Coastkeeper. She says the problem of plastics in the ocean isn't just specific to San Diego.

She describes a giant soup of plastic swirling in the Pacific Ocean.
Miller: Past studies have shown this island to be twice the size of texas, more recently I'm hearing statistics from scientists that's more like twice the size of the continental United States.

Miller says there are currently 46,000 pieces of plastic litter floating on every square mile of the ocean.
Green yard waste from recycling bins is being buried in county landfills by the ton. It’s happening in several communities in San Diego County. It’s legal. In fact, the state of California calls it recycling. KPBS reporter Joanne Faryon has more.

At the Sycamore Landfill in Santee, the grinder works throughout the day to shred all the green waste that is dumped here. In 2006, this machine devoured 128,000 tons of leaves, branches and other yard waste collected from recycling bins in several neighborhoods.

WEB EXTRA: Explore the interactive map to find out where your community's yard waste is going.
Once the green material passes through the grinder it’s called Alternative Daily Cover, or ADC. That transformation, in size and name, makes it a recycled material in California.

Landfills are free to use it to cover garbage to keep rats away and smells at bay. And communities are free to count every ton dumped in the landfill, as recycling.

Wayne Williams, county recycling expert: The green waste is not recycled in the way people would expect.

Wayne Williams is the recycling expert for San Diego County. He says green yard waste is an organic material and organics in landfills create greenhouse gasses.

Williams: Green material in the landfill is bad because it rots. During the rotting process, methane is produced, all kinds of noxious gasses, cancer causing volatile organic compounds are produced, a lot of carbon dioxide is produced and water is produced. And these gasses either are some of them are poisonous and very dangerous.

According to the state agency that regulates recycling in California, more than 260,000 tons of ground up green yard waste, or ADC, was buried in two of the county’s three largest landfills. And every ton is counted as recycling.

In fact, four jurisdictions in San Diego County would not meet their required 50 percent recycling rate if it wasn’t for all that green going into the landfill. Escondido, Chula Vista, La Mesa and unincorporated San Diego County would fall below 50 percent.

Faryon: Is using green waste as ADC recycling?
Mary Matava: Of course not. ADC is a method of utilizing green waste that does not go to a compost facility.

Mary Matava owns and operates a compost facility in Oceanside. One of the few cities where all green waste is recycled by composting, rather than putting it in a landfill.

Matava: That is an income stream and it’s a very lucrative income stream for landfill owners to take in this green waste, grind it up and put it in the landfill and say it’s a beneficial reuse.

Faryon: The more you put in the landfill, the more money you make.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

Facts & Figures

The rapidly growing quantities of e-waste make for some astonishing facts. Did you know that the annual amount of e-waste generated from end-of-life electrical and electronic products (WEEE) is estimated to be a two digit amount, in million tons! And this is predicted to double in the coming decades. Explore further statistical data showing global comparisons and country specific factsheets on quantities of e-waste, per capita e-waste generation, composition of different appliances in the waste pile etc.

Valuable Materials
Electronic appliances are composed of hundreds of different materials that can be both toxic but also of high value. Gold, silver, copper, platinum etc. are valuable materials which recyclers recover from e-waste.

Hazardous Material
Electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) are made of a multitude of components which contain toxic / hazardous substances, e.g. carcinogens such as lead and arsenic. The recycling processes and disposal of these components, while being a lucrative business proposition for some, poses serious health risks and environment dangers.

Californians Against Waste

With towering redwood forests, pristine mountain peaks, and rugged desert landscapes, the wild lands of California encompass some of the most beautiful and diverse places on earth. These are refuges where eagles still soar across the horizon and salmon still swim from ocean to river–-lands where nature thrives and the human spirit is free.

California’s wild places offer a retreat from the frenetic pace of everyday life, and are also critically important to the ecological health of our region. Wilderness provides homes to threatened wildlife, supplies clean drinking water to California’s growing communities, and contributes to clean air in our skies.

CWC's primary goal has been and remains achieving formal wilderness designation and protection by the state or federal government for as much of the wild California landscape as possible. Usually this requires legislative action and deep grass-roots organizing. CWC also monitors and responds to development threats to proposed or existing wilderness areas as staff resources permit.

Since 1976, we have been a key player in achieving wilderness protection for more than 10 million acres in California. Most recently, CWC helped pass the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which protects 275,000 acres of oak woodlands, salmon rivers and old growth forest -- including the fabled Lost Coast. In addition to other projects, we are currently working on wilderness legislation covering 200,000 acres of desert, chaparral, and oak forest in Riverside County.

We believe that local activism is often the most effective defense of our wild lands. To support local efforts, CWC has field offices in Redding and San Bernardino County, and a central office in Oakland. We publish a quarterly news journal, the Wilderness Record, guides and white papers on wilderness issues, an e-mail newsletter, Untrammeled, and periodic action alerts on key conservation issues.

CWC has more than 3,700 members - individuals, organizations, and business sponsors - including the California Native Plant Society, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, Desert Survivors, the South Yuba River Citizens League, and the Los Angeles Chapter of the Audubon Society.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dead Zones

In case you didn’t know, the “dead zone” isn’t just a novel by Steven King or an old TV show, it’s an area about the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico that during the summer months is incapable of supporting sea life. The dead zone is created when fertilizer run off promote algae growth, which in turn throws off the oceans equilibrium by using all the available oxygen, killing everything else. So, good for algae perhaps, but bad for the sea life in general.

Carectomy recently reported that ethanol production for passenger vehicles could be responsible for a growth in this dead zone. In their words:

Corn is the biggest culprit in creating these environments, and now that the U.S. is looking to biofuels as a solution to its energy needs, the problem’s only getting worse. Bush signed legislation at the end of 2007 that will triple the amount of corn ethanol produced over the next several years.

More after the jump!

Because corn is the crop most used for ethanol in the US (other countries, such as Brazil, use sugar cane), it is clear that corn will have an adverse affect on the Gulf of Mexico’s ecosystem as the fertilizer heavy crop’s run off travels down the Mississippi and dumps itself into the ocean.

Carectomy goes on to give a scathing overview of how ethanol is the wrong direction for the US and the world, as it solves no problems, but simply makes it seems like problems have been solved. While I would heartily agree with them on many counts, there is much more to ethanol than meets the eye. Political pressures have made most US ethanol production corn based thus far, but other technologies have a promising future.

Cellulosic ethanol, for example, can use any plant matter and turn it into ethanol. That means that food waste, grasses, and just about anything that’s a plant could be made into ethanol. With this technology extremely efficient ways of producing ethanol with environmentally friendly crops could be used, therefore lowering the impact ethanol has on the environment.

With that said, the dead zone is truly an alarming spectacle, and if the US wants to continue to hurdle towards an ethanol economy, it’s going to have to reform its ways and “kick the corn habit” as much as it needs to kick the oil habit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Where and what to recycle

RecycleWhere to Recycle | Schools and State Agencies | Resources

Recycling is the practice of recovering used materials from the waste stream and then incorporating those same materials into the manufacturing process.

Many communities in California now offer curbside collection or drop-off sites for certain recyclable materials. But collecting materials is only the first step toward making the recycling process work.

Successful recycling also depends on manufacturers making products from recovered materials and, in turn, consumers purchasing products made of recycled materials. Do your part--"close the loop" and buy products made of recycled materials whenever possible.

Where to Recycle
Construction debris. You can search for facilities by county that reuse or recycle types of construction and demolition (C&D) debris, such as asphalt, drywall, and metal, on our site.
Plastic. You can also find facilities that reuse or recycle specific types of plastic, such as acrylic, nylon, high density polyethylene (HDPE), and low density polyethylene (LDPE) on our site.
Electronic Waste. Discarded electronic products can present environmental hazards if not properly managed. Search this directory by county and/or product type to find an organization near you that may handle anything from televisions and monitors to cell phones and CPUs. To find out more about California's electronic waste recycling law and what it means to you, please visit
The Waste Prevention Information Exchange recycling page includes a comprehensive list of recycling databases.
Find Your Nearest Recycling Center. Enter your ZIP code to go to the "Earth's 911" website and find local centers for recycling materials, including household hazardous waste.
Recycling for Schools and State Agencies
School Waste Reduction and Recycling. Schools can help communities reduce their waste, while saving money and teaching kids valuable lessons.
Project Recycle. Recycling programs for State agencies.
Resources and Tools
Beverage Containers. Beverage container recycling is managed by the Department of Conservation, Division of Recycling.
Food Waste. Food scraps can be turned into valuable soil amendments through the simple techniques of composting or feeding a worm box.
Recycling Tools. Helpful tools listed on this page include lists of manufacturers of containers for home and office and of recycling processing equipment.
Tire Recycling. Californians use a lot of tires, which can be recycled in California to produce crumb rubber for new products, recycled in rubberized asphalt concrete (RAC), used in civil engineering applications, or combusted as fuel.
Used Oil Recycling. Oil doesn't wear out, it just gets dirty! Find out more...
Recycling Coordinator Information and Resources. Materials and assistance to help you set up and operate a successful waste reduction program in your business, office, or locality.



Recycling is the third R of the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Recycling means taking a product or material at the end of its useful life and turning it into a usable raw material to make another product.

This section provides information about how to recycle, why to recycle and what you can recycle. The Earth 911 green recycling locator box can also help you find where you can recycle by entering a product and your location.

Curbside Recycling

Curbside recycling now serves half of the U.S. population, providing the most convenient means for households to recycle a variety of materials.

While all curbside programs differ, the most commonly included materials are The Big Five: aluminum cans, glass bottles, paper, plastic and steel/tin cans.


Technology has revolutionized our lifestyle through telephones, radios, TVs, computers and cell phones. However, the brisk pace of technology means these devices become obsolete quickly.

A more recent issue is how our old electronics should be disposed of, because they often contain dangerous elements such as lead and mercury that can contaminate our soil and water supply.


Managing organic material at your home can not only decrease the amount of material you send to the landfill; it can also help turn your organic waste into a landscape asset.

Composting will reduce the amount of food waste in your garbage can, while creating nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden.

Garage Garbage

Did you know that used motor oil can be recycled? How about paint? It turns out many of the items in your garage are recyclable.

Claim your garage back, learn what to do with the mess and help the planet while you’re at it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Recycling for everyone!

Bringing the Opportunity to Recycle to Everyone

California may have reached it's goal of a 50 percent diversion rate, but many Californians still do not have access to recycling in their homes. Of the 37 million residents of California, 7.1 million live in a multifamily dwelling (apartments), yet only 40 percent have access to a convenient recycling program. Even in single family homes, no more than 70 percent have access to curbside recycling. Apartments or multifamily dwellings account for 8 percent (3.3 million tons) of the disposed waste stream in California, but only 15% of this waste is actually diverted from landfills. Bringing this waste stream in line with the current diversion rates for single family homes would greatly help local governments reach their waste diversion goals, as well as reduce green house gas emissions from California landfills.

More about this Issue:

Learn more about California's disparity of recycling opportunities
Learn what CAW is doing to make multifamily recycling a reality
Additional Resources:

Check out the California Integrated Waste Management Board report: Recycling in Multifamily Dwellings: A Model for Local Government Recycling and Waste Reduction
See if your county has access to multifamily recycling
Help CAW bring recycling to all Californians by making a donation
Apartment Recycling Opportunities Lacking
What CAW is Doing to Make Multifamily Recycling a Reality
‹ Where Can I Recycle My Cellphone and Batteries?


USPS Approves Reusable Envelope Line
by Earth 911 on February 22nd, 2008
1 Comment
Tired of all the paper associated with credit card bills and your electricity statement? You may soon have one less piece to worry about.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) has certified ecoEnvelopes’ reusable envelopes for use in U.S. mail. These allow for the initial envelope to also be used as the reply envelope.
While there is no word on which companies will utilize this service, it has the potential to save 80 billion reply envelopes from being processed.
Regardless, you can recycle your commercial mail using Earth 911’s recycling locator. Check out some of the benefits of paper recycling.
Across the country, local governments are faced with the challenge of meeting recycling goals, reducing solid waste tonnage and minimizing costs. Glass is one of the most challenging materials to recycle, with most county and city recycling programs incurring net costs to recycle the material. Over the years, several alternative uses for recycled glass have been identified, such as “glassphalt” and landscaping applications. However, a Florida program evaluating the feasibility of using pulverized recycled glass for beach renourishment may provide a cost-effective approach for managing this material.
In the July 2005 issue of Waste Age, an article entitled “Beach in a Bottle” ( described a project that Broward County, Fla., is conducting to investigate the feasibility of using recycled glass for beach renourishment. The following is an update on that project.
The first phase was designed to gauge public perception of the project while conducting a comparative analysis of the properties of natural beach sand and the artificial sand made from glass cullet. On the public perception side, tourism officials and beach professionals were very interested in the concept, while Broward County residents found the idea equally appealing. Meanwhile, geotechnical and contaminant analyses of grain size, distribution, munsell color, carbonate content, grain angularity and chemical composition revealed that glass cullet compares closely to natural sand.
More recently, the county has been conducting additional research to determine the long-term viability of using recycled glass for beach erosion control and renourishment.
Aquarium and Abiotic Testing
In 2005, the county developed a biological analysis program to monitor the survivability of fish and other fauna species within specific proportions of natural sand and glass cullet. Species then were introduced into a matrix comprised of varying ratios of cullet and natural sand. The species' ability to survive was monitored for any deviations from natural sand. The glass cullet utilized for these and subsequent tests was similar in grain size to natural beach sand (approx. 0.33 to 0.90 mm). After two months of testing, officials determined that pulverized glass cullet does not adversely affect macro or microorganisms. The species studied displayed normal active behavior with the glass cullet and showed no adverse signs of physical stress. Results indicated that the organism mortality rate was equivalent to natural sand.
In March 2006, a test plot was constructed on the upland portion of Hollywood Beach for a six-month experiment to determine if glass cullet mixtures exhibit the same abiotic characteristics (temperature, moisture content, gas exchange) when compared to natural beach sand. The test plot simulated a sea turtle hatchery enclosure and contained 16 individual test areas, each measuring 5 feet square and 3 feet deep. The results indicated that the glass cullet/sand mixtures displayed no significant difference from natural sand, and the mixtures could allow for proper sea turtle embryo development.
Next Steps
The overall results of the geotechnical, public perception, aquarium and abiotic tests indicate that the project is technically feasible. In Broward County, the presence of nesting loggerhead turtles and the beach-based economy create unique concerns that must be considered and addressed in all beach erosion control and renourishment efforts. However, research shows that manufacturing a sand product from recycled glass is a promising solution anywhere beaches are eroding and glass is a net cost to recycle.
Broward County currently is permitting phase two of this demonstration project, which will involve experimental testing at the shoreline on Hollywood Beach. Approximately 2,000 cubic yards of pulverized glass cullet will be placed at the shoreline, allowing the county and its project consultants to monitor its performance and evaluate its similarities to the existing beach sand when subjected to wind and waves. Specifically, the testing will determine if glass cullet can be used to address erosion “hot spots” on the beach, which are smaller areas that suffer from critical erosion problems. As part of this phase, the county also will be investigating the feasibility of long-term methods of producing the pulverized glass.
Peter Foye, Director, Recycling and Contract Division, Broward County, Fla.; Phil Bresee, Recycling Program Manager, Broward County, Fla.; Sanford Gutner, PE, Senior Associate, Malcolm Pirnie Inc.; Holly M. P. Burton, PE, Associate, Malcolm Pirnie Inc.; Ryann M. Davis, Engineer, Malcolm Pirnie Inc.

Monday, March 31, 2008

CASH CONTINUED TO FLOW INTO the solid waste industry in 2006. That's one of the conclusions to take away from the 14th annual Waste Age 100.

The top five companies remained the same when compared with the 2005 listing, and all of those firms posted revenue increases from the previous year. Furthermore, the list is heavily populated with companies that did the same. And in this era of rising fuel prices, spiking insurance costs and more expensive containers, that's news that the industry will gladly take.
Industry executives are optimistic about how their firms will perform in 2007. “We produced excellent financial results throughout 2006 and laid a foundation on which we will build during 2007,” said David Steiner, CEO of Houston-based Waste Management, in a press release announcing the company's end-of-year results.

James O'Connor, chairman and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic Services, is similarly bullish about his firm. “In 2006, we experienced another record-setting year,” he said in a press release detailing Republic's 2006 financials. “Annual revenue increased 7.2 percent for the full year as the company exceeded $3 billion in revenue for the first time in its history.”
Moving past the publicly traded companies, the revenue increases continued throughout the list.
Westboro, Mass.-based E.L. Harvey & Sons, which is ranked No. 42 on this year's list, reported $45 million in revenue for last year, a whopping increase of 25 percent from the $36 million the firm brought in in 2005.

Also, coming in at No. 95 on this year's ranking, Gap, Pa.-based TIER Holdings received $8.3 million in revenue in 2006, up from $7.9 in 2005.

Whatever challenges waste firms may have, continued revenue growth indicates they're getting the job done.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles