Showing posts with label Greenpeace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greenpeace. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

7 Environmental Problems That Are Worse Than We Thought

With as much attention as the environment has been getting lately, you’d think that we’d be further along in our fight to preserve the world’s species, resources and the beautiful diversity of nature. Unfortunately, things aren’t nearly that rosy. In fact, many of the environmental problems that have received the most public attention are even worse than we thought – from destruction in the rain forest to melting glaciers in the Arctic. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

7. Mammal Extinction

One in four mammals is threatened with extinction. That’s 25%, a huge number that will totally change the ecology of every corner of the earth. We could see thousands of species die out in our lifetime, and the rate of habitat loss and hunting in crucial areas like Southeast Asia, Central Africa and Central and South America is growing so rapidly, these animals barely have a chance.

If you think the extinction of an animal like the beautiful Iberian Lynx is no big deal, and wouldn’t have that much of an effect on the planet, think again. Not only would we be losing – mostly due to our own disregard for our surroundings – so much of the awe-inspiring diversity of nature, mass extinctions like this would cause a serious imbalance in the world’s food chain. When a predator disappears, the prey will multiply. When prey dies out, the predator will see its ranks decrease as well. Many people fail to realize just how interconnected all species on this planet really are.

6. The Ocean Dead Zones

In oceans around the world, there are eerie areas that are devoid of nearly all life. These ‘dead zones’ are characterized by a lack of oxygen, and they’re caused by excess nitrogen from farm fertilizers, emissions from vehicles and factories, and sewage. The number of dead zones has been growing fast - since the 1960’s, the number of dead zones has doubled every 10 years. They range in size from under a square mile to 45,000 square miles, and the most infamous one of all is in the Gulf of Mexico, a product of toxic sludge that flows down the Mississippi from farms in the Midwest. These ‘hypoxic’ zones now cover an area roughly the size of Oregon.

Spanish researches recently found that many species die off at oxygen levels well above the current definition of ‘uninhabitable’, suggesting that the extent of dead zones in coastal areas that support fishing is much worse than previously thought. Robert Diaz, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science biologist, said “Everything is pointing towards a more desperate situation in all aquatic systems, freshwater and marine. That’s pretty clear. People should be worried, all over the world.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, global warming will likely aggravate the problem. A rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will change rainfall patterns, which could create an increase in runoff from rivers into the seas in many areas.

5. Collapsing Fish Stock

Millions of people across the world depend upon fish as a major staple in their diet. As such, commercial fishermen have been pulling such a huge quantity of fish from the oceans that we’re heading toward a global collapse of all species currently fished – possibly as soon as the year 2048. Like large-scale mammal extinction, the collapse of fish species would have a major impact on the world’s ecosystems.

It’s not too late – yet – if overfishing and other threats to fish populations are reduced as soon as possible. Marine systems are still biologically diverse, but catastrophic loss of fish species is close at hand. 29 percent of species have been fished so heavily or have been so affected by pollution that they’re down to 10 percent of their previous population levels. If we continue the way we are fishing today, there will be a 100 percent collapse by mid-century, so we’ve got to turn this around fast.

4. Destruction of the Rain Forest

Saving the rain forest’ has been at the forefront of the environmental movement for decades, yet here we are facing huge losses in the Amazon all the same. You might have thought that, with all the attention the rain forest has gotten, it wouldn’t need so much saving anymore – but unfortunately, global warming and deforestation mean that half of the Amazon rain forest will likely be destroyed or severely damaged by 2030.

The World Wildlife Fund concluded this summer that agriculture, drought, fire, logging and livestock ranching will cause major damage to 55 percent of the Amazon rain forest in the next 22 years. Another 4 percent will see damage due to reduced rainfall, courtesy of global warming. These factors will destroy up to 80 percent of the rain forest’s wildlife. Losing 60 percent of the rain forest would accelerate global warming and affect rainfall in places as far away as India. Massive destruction to the rain forest would have a domino effect on the rest of the world.

The WWF says that the ‘point of no return’, from which recovery will be impossible, is only 15 to 25 years away.

3. Polar Sea Ice Loss

Polar sea ice is melting at an unprecedented rate, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. It’s perhaps the most dramatic, startling visual evidence of global warming, and it’s got scientists rushing to figure out just how big of an effect the melting is going to have on the rest of the world.

British researchers said last week that the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic decreased dramatically last winter for the first time since records began in the early 1990s. The research showed a significant loss in thickness on the northern ice cap after the record loss of ice during the summer of 2007.

Scientific American warns that “human fingerprints have been detected” on both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Antarctica had previously appeared to be the only continent on the planet where humanity’s impact on climate change hadn’t been observed. The collapse of the Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula shows just how fast the region is warming.

2. CO2 Levels in the Atmosphere

The aforementioned polar sea ice loss is yet another sinister sign of carbon dioxide levels building up in the atmosphere – the main force behind global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by our modern way of life – vehicles, power plants, factories, giant livestock farms – will bring devastating climate change within decades if they stay at today’s levels.

Average temperatures could increase by as much as 12 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century if emissions continue to rise, a figure that would easily make the world virtually uninhabitable for humans. A global temperature rise of just 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit would cause a catastrophic domino effect, bringing weather extremes that would result in food and water shortages and destructive floods.

The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represents “the final nail in the coffin” of climate change denial, representing the most authoritative picture to date that global warming is caused by human activity. According to the panel, we must make a swift and significant switch to clean, efficient and renewable energy technologies in order to prevent the worst-case scenario.

1. Population Explosion

Whether we like to admit it or not, our very own rapidly multiplying presence on this planet is the biggest environmental problem there is, and it’s getting bigger by the minute. We voraciously consume resources, pollute the air and water, tear down natural habitats, introduce species into areas where they don’t belong and destroy ecosystems to the point of causing millions of species to become endangered and, all too often, go extinct.

It took nearly all of human history – from the first days of man on earth until the early 1800’s – to reach a global population of 1 billion. In just 200 years, we’ve managed to reach 6.5 billion. That means the population has grown more since 1950 than in the previous four million years. We’re adding roughly 74 million people to the planet every year, a scary figure that will probably continue to increase. All of those mouths will need to be fed. All of those bodies will need clean water and a place to sleep. All of the new communities created to house those people will continue to encroach upon the natural world.

All seven environmental problems detailed above are very serious, and we’ve got to start treating them that way. We may not have easy solutions, but the fact is, we simply can’t continue living our lives as if everything is peachy. These problems aren’t going to magically solve themselves. We should have begun acting generations ago, but we can’t go back in time, and that means we have to step up our efforts. If we want to keep this planet a healthy place for humans to live – for our grandchildren to enjoy – it’s time to buckle down and do everything in our power to reverse the damage we’ve done.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

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.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Where does eWaste go?

Where does e-waste end up?

Truck overloaded with hazardous computer waste on the way to scrapping yards. Enlarge Image
Many old electronic goods gather dust in storage waiting to be reused, recycled or thrown away. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that as much as three quarters of the computers sold in the US are stockpiled in garages and closets. When thrown away, they end up in landfills or incinerators or, more recently, are exported to Asia.

Landfill: According to the US EPA, more than 4.6 million tonnes of e-waste ended up in US landfills in 2000. Toxic chemicals in electronics products can leach into the land over time or are released into the atmosphere, impacting nearby communities and the environment. In many European countries, regulations have been introduced to prevent electronic waste being dumped in landfills due to its hazardous content.

However, the practice still continues in many countries. In Hong Kong for example, it is estimated that 10-20 percent of discarded computers go to landfill. Incineration: This releases heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury into the air and ashes. Mercury released into the atmosphere can bioaccumulate in the food chain, particularly in fish - the major route of exposure for the general public. If the products contain PVC plastic, highly toxic dioxins and furans are also released. Brominated flame retardants generate brominated dioxins and furans when e-waste is burned.

Reuse: A good way to increase a product's lifespan. Many old products are exported to developing countries. Although the benefits of reusing electronics in this way are clear, the practice is causing serious problems because the old products are dumped after a short period of use in areas that are unlikely to have hazardous waste facilities.Recycle: Although recycling can be a good way to reuse the raw materials in a product, the hazardous chemicals in e-waste mean that electronics can harm workers in the recycling yards, as well as their neighbouring communities and environment.In developed countries, electronics recycling takes place in purpose-built recycling plants under controlled conditions.

In many EU states for example, plastics from e-waste are not recycled to avoid brominated furans and dioxins being released into the atmosphere. In developing countries however, there are no such controls. Recycling is done by hand in scrap yards, often by children.Export: E-waste is routinely exported by developed countries to developing ones, often in violation of the international law. Inspections of 18 European seaports in 2005 found as much as 47 percent of waste destined for export, including e-waste, was illegal. In the UK alone, at least 23,000 metric tonnes of undeclared or 'grey' market electronic waste was illegally shipped in 2003 to the Far East, India, Africa and China. In the US, it is estimated that 50-80 percent of the waste collected for recycling is being exported in this way.

This practice is legal because the US has not ratified the Basel Convention. Mainland China tried to prevent this trade by banning the import of e-waste in 2000. However, we have discovered that the laws are not working; e-waste is still arriving in Guiya of Guangdong Province, the main centre of e-waste scrapping in China. We have also found a growing e-waste trade problem in India. 25,000 workers are employed at scrap yards in Delhi alone, where 10-20000 tonnes of e-waste is handled each year, 25 percent of this being computers.

Other e-waste scrap yards have been found in Meerut, Ferozabad, Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai.© UNEP How did the trade evolve?In the 1990s, governments in the EU, Japan and some US states set up e-waste 'recycling' systems. But many countries did not have the capacity to deal with the sheer quantity of e-waste they generated or with its hazardous nature. Therefore, they began exporting the problem to developing countries where laws to protect workers and the environment are inadequate or not enforced.

It is also cheaper to 'recycle' waste in developing countries; the cost of glass-to-glass recycling of computer monitors in the US is ten times more than in China.

Demand in Asia for electronic waste began to grow when scrap yards found they could extract valuable substances such as copper, iron, silicon, nickel and gold, during the recycling process. A mobile phone, for example, is 19 percent copper and eight percent iron.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Greenest laptop ever?

New Mac greenest laptop ever?

Apple (Cupertino, California) Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs recently unveiled the new MacBook Air, the company's entry into the ultra-light laptop computer niche market. The new computer features an all-aluminum case, which Jobs noted is one of the most recyclable materials on the market, and the company's first mercury-free display device made with arsenic-free glass. The MacBook Air has primarily bromide- and PVC-free circuit boards, and the packaging is 56-percent smaller than current MacBook models. The new laptop computer also meets Energy Star 4.0 standards and has attained a Silver EPEAT rating. Greenpeace (Amsterdam, The Netherlands), however, is not so impressed. "Apple is getting greener, but not green enough," Rick Hind, legislative director of Greenpeace's toxics campaign, told Wired magazine (San Francisco). "The Macbook Air has less toxic PVC plastic and less toxic BFRs; but, it could have zero, and that would make Apple an eco-leader," he added.

HVAC boot cleared of Asbestos in Los Angeles