Saturday, October 15, 2011

Throwing trash all in one bin works in some cities

At a so-called dirty mixed-waste materials recovery facility, equipment and workers separate paper, glass, plastic, metal and other commodities so residents don't have to sort them into different bins.


It's called mixed waste processing, and it's an alternative way some cities have tried to increase recycling rates. (Ignácio Costa)


When South Pasadena homeowners recycle, it's as easy as throwing their tuna cans and soda bottles into the trash can along with their food scraps and meat wrappers. It's called mixed waste processing, and it's an alternative way some cities have tried to increase recycling rates.



In 2000, just 6% of South Pasadena's single-family residential waste was being recycled under a voluntary program that had residents sort recycling into a separate container. That percentage shot up to 25% in 2001 after the city decided to let waste and recycling go into one bin bound for a so-called dirty MRF, or mixed-waste materials recovery facility, where sorting equipment and trained workers separate paper, glass, plastic, metal and other commodities on the back end instead of the front.

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Why recycling in Los Angeles is so confusing

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"We didn't do well with the volunteer system. All the recyclables that went into the trash can were being missed," said South Pasadena public works assistant Diana Harder. "Now the recycling program is automatic. Residents don't have to worry about it."



Nor do they have to pay extra. Single-family households pay $36.49 monthly for the service, about the same as single-family residents in L.A.



The stakes have been high since 1990, when California instituted AB 939, a law that required municipalities to reduce the amount of waste taken to landfills by 25% by 1995 and 50% by 2000 or be fined $10,000 a day. Recycling wasn't mandated, but the law prompted cities to institute source-separation programs similar to the one in effect in L.A., where residents are provided separate bins for green waste, trash and recycling.



"We all started the same way with a two- or three-crate system for newspaper, glass and plastic food and beverage containers. That was it," said Dennis Chiappetta, executive vice president of Athens Services, a waste collection, recycling and disposal company based in the City of Industry that serves 19 cities, including Riverside, West Hollywood and South Pasadena. For all the work that residents did, less than 5% of residential waste was diverted from landfills in 1990, he said.



Now, about 40% of what's put in a mixed-waste bin is recycled, Chiappetta said. With yard clippings separated into a green waste bin, landfill diversion in the cities that Athens services rises to at least 50%, and sometimes almost 80%, he said.



CalRecycle, the state agency responsible for regulating disposal and recycling in California, does not keep track of how many cities process their recyclables as mixed waste. But cities of radically different demographic stripes, from West Covina to Beverly Hills, have adopted the approach.



The latter used to ask its residents to sort recyclables into separate bins, but it switched to mixed-waste processing in 2004. Just 13% of Beverly Hills' waste was recycled in 1995. Now the city has a recycling rate of 35% and an overall landfill diversion rate of 78%.



Still, not everyone agrees that mixed-waste processing is a better system. Critics say higher rates of contamination can decrease the value of the recycled materials. The L.A. Bureau of Sanitation prefers its blue-bin system because contaminated materials such as soiled paper cost more to manage, transport and ultimately deposit in a landfill, a spokesman said.



"It's something we grapple with," said Coby Skye, a civil engineer with the environmental programs division of the L.A. County Department of Public Works, which implements the county's recycling program. "It's a trade-off between contamination and participation. The benefit of having everything go in one bin is you have 100% participation whether people want to recycle or not, or whether they know what goes in the right bin or not."


http://www.latimes.com/features/home/la-hm-dirty-mrf-20110813,0,971510.story


Target commits to 100% sustainable, traceable fish by 2015


The second largest discount retailer in the U.S. announced Thursday that it will sell only sustainable, traceable fish by 2015. Minneapolis-based Target Corp. operates 1,762 stores, many of which are converting to incorporate PFresh markets that sell fresh and frozen foods, including fish.



In 2010, Target stopped selling farmed salmon, Chilean sea bass and orange roughy due to various sustainability issues. It currently sells 50 different brands of fish certified by either the Marine Stewardship Council or the Global Aquaculture Alliance.



"We thought this larger commitment to fully eliminate anything that's not certified by 2015 would be the right thing to do to encourage our guests to make the right decisions," said Shawn Gensch, vice president of marketing for Target's sustainability initiatives.



Target is partnering with the nonprofit marine conservation group FishWise to reach its sustainability goals. According to FishWise executive director Tobias Aguirre, the group will assess all Target seafood products with vendor surveys to understand how the seafood is caught or farmed and will evaluate the environmental impacts associated with each product.



Aguirre said the fish species with the largest such impacts include big eye tuna caught with 50-mile fishing lines that snag high levels of unintended catch, including sharks, turtles and sea birds, and farm-raised shrimp that may have contact with natural bodies of water and spread disease.



Tracing Target's fish from the water to the store is likely to be more difficult because "there is no national traceability policy and the seafood supply chains are incredibly complex," Aguirre said. Supplier audits and a tracking system are among the tools FishWise plans to implement in partnership with Target.



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not currently have a seafood tracking database. Just 2% of the seafood eaten in the United States is inspected, according to a seafood fraud report issued earlier this year by the Washington, D.C.-based international ocean advocacy group, Oceana.



RELATED:



Fish often mislabeled as wild salmon or red snapper, report finds



Gov. Jerry Brown signs shark fin ban, sparks protest



Genetically engineered salmon must be labeled



-- Susan Carpenter



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mercury Converted to Its Most Toxic Form in Ocean Waters

University of Alberta-led research has confirmed that a relatively harmless inorganic form of mercury found worldwide in ocean water is transformed into a potent neurotoxin in the seawater itself.


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•After two years of testing water samples across the Arctic Ocean, the researchers found that relatively harmless inorganic mercury, released from human activities like industry and coal burning, undergoes a process called methylation and becomes deadly monomethylmercury.



Unlike inorganic mercury, monomethylmercury is bio-accumulative, meaning its toxic effects are amplified as it progresses through the food chain from small sea creatures to humans. The greatest exposure for humans to monomethylmercury is through seafood. The researchers believe the methylation process happens in oceans all over the world and that the conversion is carried out by microbial life forms in the ocean.



The research team, led by recent U of A biological sciences PhD graduate Igor Lehnherr, incubated seawater samples collected from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Lehnherr says conversion of inorganic mercury to monomethylmercury accounts for approximately 50 per cent of this neurotoxin present in polar marine waters and could account for a significant amount of the mercury found in Arctic marine organisms. The researchers say this is the first direct evidence that inorganic mercury is methylated in seawater.



The research was published earlier this month online in Nature Geoscience.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110427131935.htm



HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles

http://www.ewastedisposal.net