Showing posts with label NBC Channel 4 Los Angeles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label NBC Channel 4 Los Angeles. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A collapsing carbon market makes mega-pollution cheap

'Roll up for the great pollution fire sale, the ultimate chance to wreck the climate on the cheap. You sir, over there, from the power company - look at this lovely tonne of freshly made, sulphur-rich carbon dioxide. Last summer it cost an eyewatering €31 to throw up your smokestack, but in our give-away global recession sale, that's been slashed to a crazy €8.20. Dump plans for the wind turbine! Compare our offer with costly solar energy! At this low, low price you can't afford not to burn coal!"

Set up to price pollution out of existence, carbon trading is pricing it back in. Europe's carbon markets are in collapse.

Yet the hiss of escaping gas is almost inaudible. There's no big news headline, nothing sensational for TV viewers to watch; no queues outside banks or missing Texan showmen. You can't see or hear a market for a pollutant tumble. But at stake is what was supposed to be a central lever in the world's effort to turn back climate change. Intended to price fossil fuels out of the market, the system is instead turning them into the rational economic choice.

That there exists something called carbon trading is about all that most people know. A few know, too, that Europe has created carbon exchanges, and traders who buy and sell. Few but the professionals, however, know that this market is now failing in its purpose: to edge up the cost of emitting CO2.

The theory sounded fine in the boom years, back when Nicholas Stern described climate change as "the biggest market failure in history" - a market failure to which carbon trading was meant to be a market solution. Instead, it's bolstering the business case for fossil fuels.

Understanding why is easy. A year ago European governments allocated a limited number of carbon emission permits to their big polluters. Businesses that reduce pollution are allowed to sell spare permits to ones that need more. As demand outstrips this capped supply, and the price of permits rises, an incentive grows to invest in green energy. Why buy costly permits to keep a coal plant running when you can put the cash into clean power instead?

All this only works as the carbon price lifts. As with 1924 Château Lafite or Damian Hirst's diamond skulls, scarcity and speculation create the value. If permits are cheap, and everyone has lots, the green incentive crashes into reverse. As recession slashes output, companies pile up permits they don't need and sell them on. The price falls, and anyone who wants to pollute can afford to do so. The result is a system that does nothing at all for climate change but a lot for the bottom lines of mega-polluters such as the steelmaker Corus: industrial assistance in camouflage.

"I don't know why industrials would miss this opportunity," said one trader last week. "They are using it to compensate for the tightening of credit and the slowdown, to pay for redundancies."

A lot of the blame lies with governments that signed up to carbon trading as a neat idea, but then indulged polluters with luxurious quantities of permits. The excuse was that growth would soon see them bumping against the ceiling.

Instead, exchanges are in meltdown: a tonne of carbon has dropped to about €8, down from last year's summer peak of €31 and far below the €30-€45 range at which renewables can compete with fossil fuels.

The lesson of the carbon slump, like the credit crunch, is that markets can be a conduit, but not a substitute, for political will. They only work when properly primed and regulated. Europe hoped that the mere creation of a carbon market would drive everyone away from fossil fuels. It forgot that demand had to outstrip supply, and that if growth stops, demand drops too.

There is not much time to rescue the system. Carbon trading remains at the heart of the international response to climate change. Obama backs what Americans call cap and trade. Australia wants to try the same thing. It should be at the heart of a deal at the Copenhagen summit this winter. But both are hesitating, given Europe's mess.

The market must be unashamedly rigged to force supply below demand. The obvious way would be to cut the number of permits in circulation, but in a recession no government will be brave enough to do that. And private initiatives such as Sandbag, which encourages individuals to buy and lock away permits, can exert little pressure on price in a market awash with them.

Europe can choke off tomorrow's supply, however, without hitting business today. First the EU must stop importing permits from countries such as Russia - a bonus for a paper transaction. No one really believes that 15m tonnes of imported permits will not still be emitted by a steelworks somewhere east of Novosibirsk.

Second, it must publish plans to crack down on the surplus of permits when the recession is over. Warnings of famine ahead, when the scheme enters its third stage in 2012, would raise prices now, if believed.

Like medieval pardoners handing out unlimited indulgences, governments have created a glut. Reformation must follow. Wanted - a modern Martin Luther to nail a shaming truth to industry's door: Europe's whizz-bang carbon market is turning sub-prime.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

George W Bush moves to protect ocean reefs, fish and volanoes

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Three Quarters of Americans Support Investment in Clean Energy

Written by Timothy B. Hurst

Throughout his campaign, though more fervently towards the end of it, Barack Obama made it clear that investing in renewable energy and focusing on building a new energy economy would be a centerpiece of his agenda should he have won. And now that he has, the results of a new Zogby poll suggest he’s got the public mandate to do it.

According to the post-election survey, 78% believe investing in clean energy is important to revitalizing America’s economy. Of those, 50% said they strongly agree clean energy investment is vital to the nation’s economic future.

Support for clean energy investment is particularly strong among younger voters - 87% of those age 18-24 and 80% of those age 18-29 believe this type of investment is necessary to help improve the U.S. economy. While the vast majority of Democrats (96%) and independent voters (77%) view clean energy investment as a key means to boost the U.S. economy, more than half of Republican voters (58%) also said the same.

The results also indicate that most voters want their elected officials to focus on global warming - 61% said they agree their elected officials should make combating global warming a high priority, an increase from 58% of voters who said the same in 2006.

Some of the most striking findings were that the desire for a greater political emphasis on global warming has increased 10% among African American voters from 78% in 2006 and to 73% among Hispanic voters from 64% two years ago.

The results of this poll suggest the political calculus has changed somewhat. Pollster John Zogby says that clean energy has emerged as part of voter expectations for getting the economy back on track. “Support for action on global warming, already strong in the 2006 election, was even stronger in 2008, particularly among young voters that are the future electorate,” he said.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


(NaturalNews) Xerox subsidiary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) has developed a type of paper that, combined with a special printer, can print documents that erase themselves after a day so that the paper can be reused.

Xerox says that 25 percent of all documents get recycled the same day they are printed, and that 44.5 percent are intended only for a single viewing. Using the new printer and paper for one-shot documents like daily menus, work summaries and office memos could vastly reduce paper and energy use, the company said.

"Think of the Google map you printed to get here," PARC Area Manager Eric Shrader said at a product demonstration. "Thirty years ago, we said the future was paperless."

"Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on the printed page for reading and absorbing content," said Paul Smith, manager of Xerox's new materials design and synthesis lab.

The new paper is coated with a chemical that turns dark upon exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. In order to create a document, the printer simply bombards the paper with UV radiation in the appropriate places.

While the "ink" will eventually fade on its own, after 16 to 24 hours, the printer can also be used to erase a page and print something new. Tests by Xerox found that if it was not torn or crumpled, a single piece of paper could be put through the print-and-erase cycle hundreds of times.

According to Shrader, it takes 204,000 joules of energy to create a new piece of paper and 114,000 to recycle one. Printing onto a normal sheet of paper uses about 2,000 joules.

It takes only 100 joules to print one page of the special erasable paper. If the printer also has to erase the prior image, printing uses about 1,000 joules of energy.

The erasable paper and ink are available in a variety of colors. Xerox expects to take the new product commercial within the next few years.

Monday, August 4, 2008

245 Million Chances to Recycle

245 million tons. That’s the amount of garbage Americans consign to landfills every year.

For America Recycles Day, November 15, please take a moment to think of ways to decrease your own landfill contributions.

The good news is recycling programs are working, with almost half of all paper products and aluminum cans reclaimed every year. Unfortunately, only a small fraction of technology products are reused. As an example, a meager two percent of the 130 million used cell phones replaced every year are recycled.

The cause, according to the Consumer Electronics Association, is that three-quarters of Americans are not aware of recycling options. In addition, the shrinking size and price of new wireless cell phones has created a misperception that they are a “disposable” technology.

As result, the vast majority of used cell phones are temporarily stashed in junk drawers and storage closets before ultimately being discarded – contributing a staggering 13,750 tons of unused cell phones to landfills every year.

Many of these cellular phones are still functional, and could be reused by other mobile phone subscribers. Those that aren’t functional contain valuable materials that can be reclaimed, reducing the need for new sources of gold, platinum, nickel and plastics.

To raise awareness for cell phone recycling, ReCellular, Sprint and Keep America Beautiful is holding a nationwide recycling campaign to “Wipe Out Wireless Waste.” Our goal is to collect and recycle 100,000 pounds of wireless cell phones, batteries and accessories.

Please help support our mission by donating your cell phones to a Keep America Beautiful affiliate in your community, or by downloading a prepaid mailing label at

About half of the cell phones collected from this program will be refurbished and reused – the ultimate form of recycling. The remaining equipment will be smelted down at a facility regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency to reclaim valuable materials, including precious metals from circuit boards, heavy metals from batteries and plastic from cases and accessories.

Proceeds from the collections will benefit Keep America Beautiful affiliate programs across the US, including litter clean-ups on public lands and waterways, additional recycling events, tree and flower plantings, educational workshops, vacant lot restorations and a diversity of hands-on stewardship projects.

We believe that each of us holds an obligation to preserve and protect our environment. Through our everyday choices and actions, we collectively have a huge impact on our world. It’s really a simple concept, but one with far reaching effects.

So, please, answer the call to action on America Recycles Day and recycle your newspaper, aluminum cans, plastic containers … and your used cell phones.

Friday, July 18, 2008

E-waste in trash prohibited in California

It is illegal in California to place most consumer electronics, such as computers and televisions, as well as fluorescent bulbs and batteries in the trash.

eWaste Disposal Inc - PCs CRTs TV cell phone printers 501c3 approved non profit

New state rules that took effect Thursday require that residents no longer dispose of printers, videocassette recorders, microwave ovens, fluorescent lighting, glass thermometers and old thermostats in the trash, the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News reported Friday.

Residents must dispose of so-called e-waste at a household hazardous waste collection center where recyclers can pick up the items, according to solid waste officials.

The measure is to reduce the amount of lead, mercury, copper and other heavy metals that can leach out when electronic devices are crushed in landfills and pollute groundwater, streams and wildlife.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control said it will rely on voluntary compliance, the Mercury News said.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Asthma Inhalers To Go Green

Asthma Inhalers Going Green
By the end of the year, 22 million Americans who suffer from asthma will have to switch to a new, environmentally-friendly type of inhaler. Dr. Emily Senay reports. |

(CBS/ AP) Old-fashioned asthma inhalers that contain environment-harming chemicals will no longer be sold at year's end - and the U.S. government is urging patients not to wait until the last minute to switch to newer alternatives.

Patients use inhalers to dispense airway-relaxing albuterol during asthma attacks.

Chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, once were widely used to propel the drug into the lungs. But CFC-containing consumer products are being phased out because CFCs damage the Earth's protective ozone layer. As of Dec. 31, asthma inhalers with CFCs can no longer be made or sold in the U.S. Inhalers instead will be powered by ozone-friendly HFAs, or hydrofluoroalkanes.

The ozone layer shields the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Patients have been warned of the change for several years, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory last week saying anyone still using CFC inhalers should ask their doctor about switching now.

The FDA warns that patients will face a learning curve: HFA inhalers may taste and feel different. The spray may feel softer. Each must be primed and cleaned in a specific way to prevent clogs. And they tend to cost more.

Users will have to wash the plastic mouthpiece more frequently and dry it overnight, CBS' The Early Show medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay said.

CFC-free albuterol inhaler options include GlaxoSmithKline's Ventolin HFA, Schering Plough's Proventil HFA and Teva Specialty Pharmaceuticals' ProAir HFA. Sepracor's Xopenex HFA is also CFC-free, but it contains levalbuterol, a similar medication.

The FDA said Armstrong Pharmaceuticals is the sole remaining maker of CFC inhalers and is expected to stop production even before the deadline. A spokesman for Armstrong's parent company would not say when production would stop, but sales of remaining inventory will continue until Dec. 31.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How to Escape From a Black Hole

Written by Nancy Atkinson

According to Einstein's theory of general relativity, black holes are regions of space where gravity is so strong that not even light can escape. And in the 1970's physicist Stephen Hawking asserted that any information sucked inside a black hole would be permanently lost. But now, researchers at Penn State have shown that information can be recovered from black holes.

A fundamental part of quantum physics is that information cannot be lost, so Hawking's claim has been debated. His idea was generally accepted by physicists until the late 1990s, when many began to doubt the assertion. Even Hawking himself renounced the idea in 2004. Yet no one, until now, has been able to provide a plausible mechanism for how information might escape from a black hole. A team of physicists led by Abhay Ashtekar, say their findings expand space-time beyond its assumed size, providing room for information to reappear.

Ashtekar used an analogy from Alice in Wonderland: "When the Cheshire cat disappears, his grin remains," he said. "We used to think it was the same way with black holes. Hawking's analysis suggested that at the end of a black hole's life, even after it has completely evaporated away, a singularity, or a final edge to space-time, is left behind, and this singularity serves as a sink for unrecoverable information."

But the Penn State team suggest that singularities do not exist in the real world. "Information only appears to be lost because we have been looking at a restricted part of the true quantum-mechanical space-time," said Ashtekar. "Once you consider quantum gravity, then space-time becomes much larger and there is room for information to reappear in the distant future on the other side of what was first thought to be the end of space-time."

According to Ashtekar, space-time is not a continuum as physicists once believed. Instead, it is made up of individual building blocks, just as a piece of fabric, though it appears to be continuous, is made up of individual threads. "Once we realized that the notion of space-time as a continuum is only an approximation of reality, it became clear to us that singularities are merely artifacts of our insistence that space-time should be described as a continuum."

To conduct their studies, the team used a two-dimensional model of black holes to investigate the quantum nature of real black holes, which exist in four dimensions. That's because two-dimensional systems are simpler to study mathematically. But because of the close similarities between two-dimensional black holes and spherical four-dimensional black holes, the team believes that this approach is a general mechanism that can be applied in four dimensions. The group now is pursuing methods for directly studying four-dimensional black holes.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Printed wiring board scrap holds its record course

The average price of printed wiring board scrap metals hit yet another record high in March, at $5.03 per pound. The March price was up 43.8-percent over the year-earlier level and 5.2-percent over February's level, which also had been a record high. The price for the first quarter of 2008 was $4.74 per pound, up 38.6-percent over the first quarter 2007.
This data represents the full metallic values of boards over time and are not the recycling values, as those values do not include the costs involved in actually extracting metal from boards, including freight, sampling charges, assay assessments, smelting, refining, process loss, return on investment, and penalties for various elements, including beryllium, bismuth and nickel.
These values are for the estimated intrinsic metal content of recovered PC boards. Some consumers label such material as mid-value. Lower-value scrap includes monitor and television boards. Higher-value scrap includes network, video and IT cards and mainframe boards.
The March 2008 numbers were the highest of the last six-plus years, with a printed-wiring board value at $5.03 per pound; the lowest was $1.62 per pound (November, 2001).

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.

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.

Monday, March 24, 2008


E-waste is growing by more than bits and bytes as outdated stereos, TV sets and VCRs make way for newer technology. As these products pile up in garages, attics and basements, electronic waste (e-waste) recycling efforts have become a priority for businesses and municipalities.

To take action on burgeoning e-waste, Houston-based Waste Management Inc., began to offer e-waste recycling several years ago under its Phoenix, Ariz.-based Recycling America subsidiary. Simultaneously, the company has focused on large commercial accounts, such as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and other commercial businesses, to expand its electronics recycling.

Services now are provided to public, private and nonprofit customers in 20 states through a network of more than 50 collection depots and four regional processing centers. Recycle America's electronics recycling program, branded eCycling in March 2002, is expected to recycle more than 40 million pounds of e-waste by the end of the year.

Recycling America's collection services include curbside collection, typically through bulky goods and drop-off programs for electronics. The company also has hosted than more 40 special collection events this year in California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota and several other states.
Processing costs range from $0.15 per pound to $0.35 per pound, depending on the commodity, customer needs (e.g., product identification, proprietary destruction, ability to resell) and material quantities. Rebates also are offered for precious metals, working and resalable equipment and components, and other select e-waste streams.

Recycle America faces challenges with electronics recycling. Even with the economies of scale and strong commodity marketing capabilities, the company has difficulty with certain markets that change frequently or are underdeveloped.

“The U.S. electronics recycling industry must overcome immature markets for materials such as cathode ray tubes (CRTs) and plastics,” the company says.

Despite the challenges, Recycle America encourages other businesses and municipalities to develop their own e-waste recycling programs. Doing so will help reduce a city's or company's disposal costs, better manage resources and minimize future liabilities from storing potentially hazardous products, according to the company.

The eCycling program, which began in 1996, has grown three-fold this year compared to 2001 and nearly eight-fold since 2000, particularly with municipal and government contracts, according to the company. Recycle America expects high growth from municipalities and limited commercial growth until an economic recovery is in full swing.

To prepare for growth, Recycle America is adding to its number of existing e-depots and e-waste consolidation facilities. Also, the company has focused on developing partnerships with other recyclers to deliver service through an integrated network of local and regional facilities.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

One company's experience sets a standard for recycling computers and other technological equipment in an efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sound way.
While computer industry pundits are crowing, waste management officials are groaning. Lying in the wake of the more than 100 million new computers sold yearly is another phenomenon: computer graveyards.

Recognizing that waste management officials would soon see a plague of high-tech junk as old computers became obsolete, Robert Knowles Jr. saw a need for a recycling alternative and created Denver-based Technology Recycling.

Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., estimates that only about 5 percent of all computers are being recycled, and the term recycling is used rather loosely at that. Recycling, to many firms, means extracting the minute amounts of precious metals and landfilling the rest.

As this glut of high-tech junk grows larger every year, Knowles knew the waste industry needed to determine how to dispose of the materials, as well as how to divert the equipment's inherent hazardous waste.

True Technology Recycling

In 1998, Knowles was running a company specializing in central processing unit (CPU) upgrades for large, national corporate customers with offices in Colorado, such Lockheed Martin Corp., Bethesda, Md., Raytheon Co., Lexington, Mass., and AT&T Corp., New York. These clients often asked him what to do with old systems that no longer could be upgraded. Somehow, it just didn't seem right to throw those systems away, but there was no alternative.

Repeatedly pressed for a solution, Knowles researched which hazardous materials were contained in computers, solid waste studies and the EPA's position on how to handle obsolete technology. It became obvious to him that high-tech junk posed potentially large disposal problems.

So that year, Knowles launched Technology Recycling and began the arduous task of educating the business community about obsolete computers and the hidden costs of warehousing these items from here to eternity.

Building the Base Unit

The company business model is simple: collect old equipment from companies, and charge them a recycling fee of $35 per component, or $35 per monitor, CPU or printer. This fee accommodates the labor, shipping and processing costs to recycle and dispose of the materials, plus a small profit.

As companies with a minimum of 10 obsolete computer components arrange for pickups through Technology Recycling's website or toll-free phone number, staffers prepare an invoice for the number of components being recycled and arrange for payment.
Originally, Technology Recycling picked up the old systems and delivered them to disabled work centers for dismantling, ultimately shipping the parts and materials to locations around the United States for processing.

Initially, businesses weren't used to recycling their computer equipment, so volume levels weren't steady, Knowles says. The biggest obstacles, in fact, were landfills that accepted the computer materials, companies that stored the old materials and created a potential environmental hazard, or companies that donated the equipment to local charities that could not use the equipment.

For example, many companies believe that they can donate their old systems to schools and nonprofit groups. Unfortunately, schools and nonprofits require systems that are Internet-ready, and older systems often cannot accommodate Internet requirements without expensive upgrades, Knowles says.

As a result, Knowles started a public relations campaign to publicize his service. Thanks to support from the Colorado media, Technology Recycling recycled about five tons of obsolete computers in its first year.

Building a Nationwide Infrastructure

By 1999, Technology Recycling had experienced solid success in Colorado and began building an infrastructure to allow expansion of its services in major cities in the continental United States. Knowles wanted to continue providing high-paying technology jobs for disabled workers, who would disassemble the systems, sort parts and materials, and then ship the goods out for reprocessing.

However, it became apparent that the disabled workshops could not handle the volume of work that started to pour in. In addition, workshop managers said that their disabled clients were better at repetitious work, and the increasing loads of computer systems coming in were vastly different from each other. Ultimately, Technology Recycling shifted to automated systems to process the obsolete computers.

As the company branched out nationwide, it began to pick up national accounts with large numbers of computer systems. Media coverage helped again in 2000, as new legislation and pending EPA decisions heightened the awareness of high-tech junk as a looming environmental problem.

Currently, the EPA is working on strengthening regulations for dumping computer equipment. A number of states, with Massachusetts in the lead, have adopted legislation that bans landfilling old computer systems because of the potential affects of its hazardous substances.

Gradually, more businesses began to appreciate the value of being environmentally responsible, in terms of community relations and various perks and tax credits offered by many states. As a result, Technology Recycling's business grew exponentially business volume increased tenfold in the year 2000, Knowles says.

On Nov. 15, 2000, America Recycles Day, Technology Recycling announced a series of milestones:

In its 30 months of business, the company had collected and diverted approximately 100 tons of obsolete computer systems, or roughly 10 to 15 tons of lead, from landfills.
The company had acquired a roster of key national accounts, such as Budweiser, Norwest Banks, Guaranty Bank and Trust, Phillips Electronics, the National Park Service and Multum Infoservices.

Strict adherence to EPA disposal standards has earned the company preferred status in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington. These states now refer companies seeking computer disposal services to Technology Recycling.
Keeping Good Company

Knowles attributes much of his company's success to a growing awareness that obsolete computers and other types of high-tech junk facsimile machines, copiers, mainframe computers, etc. contain significant amounts of hazardous materials. Specifically, old computer components contain a long list of toxic substances, including lead, cadmium, mercury, silver, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), chlorofluorocarbons/freons (CFCs), phosphors, tungsten, lithium, nickel cadmium (NiCAD), copper, iron, silver-oxide, mercury-oxide and zinc-carbon.
Of this list, lead, cadmium, mercury and silver are dangerous enough to each have their own EPA-designated hazardous materials number. (See the Code of Federal Regulations [CFR] 40, Sections 255-270.)

Additionally, many companies recognize that it's more cost-effective to dispose of old systems and buy new ones, rather than refurbish them. Knowles notes he receives several calls per week from various nonprofits, such as local chapters of Goodwill Industries, asking what to do with obsolete systems that cannot be sold.

Businesses also turn to Technology Recycling when issues related to refurbishing equipment arise such as product liability for the refurbisher and copyright violations for software licenses because there could be patent violations when putting non-approved parts into a computer.
Because the company classifies computer equipment by serial number before it is dismantled, Knowles says his company can certify its disposal process. Once equipment is taken apart, Technology Recycling provides written documents certifying the system's destruction so that companies don't have to worry about confidentiality. This Technology Recycling documentation also can be used to remove the old systems from property tax rosters.

Expanding Beyond

Eventually, Technology Recycling's management believes it can grow by expanding into all facets of automated office equipment, including facsimile machines, copiers, phone systems, mail equipment, mainframes, typewriters, uninterruptable power supply devices (UPSs), and all networking equipment such as routers, bridges and servers. In fact, in February, the company announced its ability to collect and dispose of several types of high-tech junk. Plans also are under way to expand into selected areas of Europe.

Knowles believes that business will continue to be good into 2001, predicting that Technology Recycling will divert another 500 tons of obsolete computers from landfills in 2001.
For information, call (800) 803-5442, or visit

K. Courtney DeWinter is a free-lance writer based in Denver.

Saturday, February 23, 2008


HIGH-PITCHED DIGITAL MELODIES and the phrase, “Can you hear me now?” have become mainstream in recent years, thanks to the growing popularity of wireless phones. But while consumers are buying phones equipped with games, text messaging and cameras, the industry has yet to provide for another important demand — an easy disposal system for that outdated phone and a product that is easy to recycle or refurbish.

Next year, Americans are predicted to buy more than 100 million new cell phones and stuff their old phones into closets, drawers and other nooks around the house or office. At that point, the stockpile of out-of-service phones will rise to 500 million units weighing 250,000 tons (about one pound each), according to “Calling All Cell Phones,” a 2003 report by Inform Inc., a New York-based research organization.

“The numbers today are the same as what we found in 2003,” says Eric Most, who authored the Inform report. “At current rates of recovery, hundreds of millions of used cell phones will soon wind up in landfills or incinerators where they'll release arsenic, lead, cadmium and many other toxic materials that threaten human health and the environment,” he says.

Thus, the cell phone industry is scrambling to develop comprehensive disposal alternatives. Cell phone recycling programs are moving in the right direction, Most says, but their scope is dwarfed by the stunning growth of the industry. In 1995, wireless phone carriers supplied service to approximately 34 million subscribers. At the beginning of 2003, there were 141 million cell phone users. According to industry estimates, the average cell phone lasts about 1.5 years. If this estimate is correct, 141 million more phones will require disposal by the end of 2005.

But developing recycling streams for new products takes time. Between 1999 and early 2003, cell phone recycling efforts netted fewer than 5 million phones, about 1 percent of those discarded.

Wireless industry affiliates account for the lion's share of discarded cell phone collection and recycling, according to Inform. Programs include Donate-A-Phone, operated by the Washington, D.C.-based Wireless Foundation, and the Call-To-Protect program, which Verizon Wireless of Bedminster, N.J., operates through its organization HopeLine. AT&T Wireless recently entered the field with a Wireless Reuse & Recycle program.

Additionally, a number of manufacturers and wireless carriers participate in Wireless Foundation programs: Alltel, Cingular, Motorola, Nextel, Rural Cellular Corp. and Sprint. These programs refurbish phones and donate them to charities or resell them to new users. Cell phones that cannot be refurbished are recycled back into the manufacturing process. However, that leaves 495 million cell phones with no place to go but the landfill.

“Bottom line, this is a matter for concern, but not alarm,” says Bruce Parker, president and CEO of the Washington, D.C.-based National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), a sub-association of the Environmental Industry Association (EIA). “Every few years, the e-waste stream changes as technology replaces older products. The technical ability to discover toxic and potentially negative aspects of electronic products is still far ahead of the ability to deal with those discoveries in terms of social policies.”

Parker goes on to note that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., currently is working with companies that manufacture electronic products to develop an infrastructure of programs to refurbish and recycle e-waste, including cell phones. Yet he believes the responsibility for dealing with e-waste must ultimately fall on manufacturers and retailers.

“It is an ups
tream responsibility,” Parker says. “We are part of the loop in that we eyeball incoming trash and comply with landfill bans by sending banned materials back. But you can't deal with the problem itself downstream at the landfill.”

The Inform report draws a similar conclusion and recommends a number of steps to help cell phone retailers and manufacturers control the problem.

The recommendations include national advertising campaigns that advise consumers to return their old cell phones to stores and manufacturers, to take advantage of cell phone collection drives, and to donate cell phones to charities that refurbish and redistribute the phones.
Inform also recommends that manufacturers develop more durable plastic components to reduce the number of parts that must be replaced during phone refurbishing. Manufacturers also could standardize cell phone design elements, such as adapters, batteries and accessories, to speed refurbishing and allow more parts to be recycled back into manufacturing. Other recommendations include reducing toxic contaminants in parts, simplifying software reprogramming procedures and color-coding batteries to simplify sorting.

The Inform report also makes four suggestions to public policy makers:

Require consumers to make deposits on cell phone purchases. The promise of a refund would provide an incentive to return used phones for reuse and recycling.

Institute landfill bans on cell phones.

Make manufacturers responsible for managing end-of-life cell phones to create incentives for manufacturers to design products that are easier to refurbish and recycle.
Evaluate the effectiveness of such policies by requiring manufacturers, retailers and recyclers to report on the collection, recycling, refurbishment and eventual end-use of old cell phones.
Efforts to keep cell phones out of landfills may not hold huge selling power among consumers. But if the industry continues to develop technology at its current pace, investing in reusable products could be music to the waste industry's ears.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Digital TV going away 1 year from today!

On February 17, 2009, analog television signals—the mode of TV delivery since the 1940s—will be completely replaced by digital. Here are the basics behind this monumental change, and what it means for TV viewers.

Simply put, a digital signal is an improvement over analog. Analog signals are susceptible to interference or "noise." Digital signals are more efficient, providing better picture and sound, and the opportunity to broadcast multiple content streams.

How dramatic is the digital transition? Eighteen broadcast channels—52 through 69 on the UHF band—will no longer exist. Since digital delivery frees up space, TV broadcasts along those frequencies will be discontinued. Roughly 145 stations in the US currently use those channels, and nearly all will continue on digital channels.The newly available space won't stay empty for long. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has begun accepting auction bids on five portions of the 700 MHz frequency (don't bother unless you have a couple billion dollars). Additionally, a small section, 20 MHz in size, has been set aside for public safety communications.

What will it mean to you when stations and providers cease analog signals in February 2009? That depends on the equipment you useto watch television.There's no need to do anything if:
You subscribe to digital cable TV

You subscribe to satellite TV programming, like DirecTV or DISH Network

You receive over-the-air TV signals with an antenna and digital TV, or antenna and digital tuner
You'll want to take action if:

You have an analog TV and receive signals via antenna. In this case, you'll need to purchase a converter box to watch digital programming The good news: The government is offering converter box coupons worth $40 each.

To learn more and see if you're eligible, visit the TV Converter Box Coupon Program website.
Simple facts about digital TVs:

Any TV shipped after March 1, 2007 must include a digital receiver
There may be some new televisions shipped before March 1 that don't include a digital receiver. In that case, the box must have a sticker explicitly saying so

TVs without digital tuners aren't necessarily "old." For instance, some HDTV models from 2006 are "digital ready"—they'll display digital signals, but only when connected to digital cable or a digital receiver. For these, you may see phrases like "digital monitor" or "HDTV monitor" on the box

Our advice: Read carefully and ask questions if you're not sure. Check your TV manual. Call your cable service. Many of you already watch digital television. For you, our advice is simple: Enjoy.

Bose has a variety of home theater audio options to complement your digital TV. From innovative two-speaker setups to premium 5.1-channel surround sound systems, Bose brings more to your home entertainment experience.See home theater systems on »

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Waste Management

Waste managers want to combine software systems to automate tasks, increase productivity and overcome problems.

As a scale supervisor for transfer stations operated by Helena, Mont., Kathy Goroski wants a single software application that will handle scale transactions, collections and routing. For years, she's had no luck.

Why, she asks, isn't there a software application that automates all of the information tasks associated with a solid waste management operation — from collection through disposal? Today, her vendors are working out the final details of an integration project that will automate many of those tasks by enabling different software systems to talk to each other.

Waste operation managers across the country are demanding a connection of systems to automate expensive, time-consuming manual tasks. They want the various software applications at work in their organizations to combine forces, swap data and solve costly productivity problems.

Integration in Helena

In Helena, Kathy Goroski's transfer station scales process solid waste for 60,000 residential, commercial and roll-off customers. For years, the facility has used Wilmington, N.C.-based Carolina Software Inc.'s WasteWORKS to automate and record scale house transactions.
Not long ago, the city purchased RAMS-Pro, an application developed by Alpine Technology Corp., Colorado Springs, Colo., to handle route management, billing and other administrative functions. The product provides an automated route manager that re-balances service routes. It also smoothes the wrinkles that solid waste billing systems confront, such as managing letters to customers and handling spreadsheets that tabulate sales quotes.

The system also integrates related tasks. If, for example, a receptionist transfers a phone call to customer service, the account automatically appears on the representative's screen. In addition, the program checks container inventories and generates work orders to have containers delivered. But the system doesn't have scale-house capabilities, Goroski says.

“One day Kathy asked me: ‘Can RAMS-Pro talk to WasteWORKS?’” recalls Jon Leeds, a vice president of Carolina Software. “We talked with Alpine and discovered that we had similar philosophies about data integration and decided we could make it work for Helena.”
Leeds says local governments, haulers and disposal facilities would all benefit from considering how they would like to manipulate information and then working to create partnerships between suppliers rather than purchasing packages and discovering that the two systems can't be made to talk to each other.

While Goroski awaits the integrated software, she is making plans to mine and organize data in ways not possible without the integration. For instance, she wants to evaluate the city's solid waste programs and pricing. Helena residents pay $161 per year for solid waste services, entitling them to once-a-week pickup of a 90-gallon container (additional containers are covered under a pay-as-you-throw program), bulk waste pick-ups and a permit to self-haul two tons of solid waste to the landfill.

“In the past, we have not been able to track how many residents use the bulk-hauling service and the landfill permit,” Goroski says. With the software integration, “I'll be able to track tonnage brought in on permit and bulk orders and determine how often customers use those services.”

“It's possible that a large percentage of our residents use just the weekly collection and never call the bulk truck or use the landfill permit,” she adds. “If that's true, it might be possible to lower residential rates by $40 per year by doing away with the landfill permits. If just a few people use the permits and bulk pick-ups, then we shouldn't charge everyone for those services.”

The integration also will enhance billing services for commercial, roll-off and landfill customers alike. Right now, the city's Solid Waste Department piggybacks on the city's water bills, a system that has worked poorly. Property owners traditionally pay water bills, while tenants pay for waste collection, so the city is, in some cases, sending bills to the wrong person, Goroski notes.
In addition, since there is no room to provide service details, the city can't justify fees on the invoices. As a result, customers call and ask for details. Roll-off customers, for instance, want to know the daily charge, the number of hauls and the tonnage. “We have the details, but we can't put them on the bills,” Goroski says. “So, someone has to take the time to look up the information and provide it to customers.”

The new system will provide two-sided paper bills with details about both collection and transfer station services made possible by the integration. After the integration, Helena also will provide customers with online billing services.

Efficiency in Sacramento Co.

In Sacramento County, Calif., a private contractor processes the county's single-stream recycling collections. The county wants a weekly report from the contractor summarizing the tonnages collected. Up until last year, the contractor exported the data to an Excel file using its own scale-house software. Then, county personnel entered the data by hand into the county's WasteWORKS scale-house software.

Now, the two systems communicate to automatically enter the information into the county's program, says Doug Kobold, program manager for the county's Department of Waste Management and Recycling.

Kobold is planning another system integration. On the collection side, the county uses Routesmart from Columbia, Md.-based Routesmart Technologies Inc. to optimize routes. “It would be great to use information from the scale-house system to give [the routing system] a way to balance routes based on tonnage as well as on a map,” he says.

Kobold also has a small consulting business and is working with a hauling company that wants two of its systems to talk to each other about the commercial and roll-off sides of the business. One system is a routing software package with a billing component. When a truck makes a pick-up, the pick-up is entered in the billing module as a transaction. The second system is the scale-house system that tracks tonnage at disposal sites.

Sometimes, the billing module in the routing system needs tonnage information from the scale-house system to complete its billing work. For example, roll-offs that dispose of more than four tons generate an extra charge. Right now, tonnage data for disposal transactions must be keyed into the routing system.

Kobold's plan is to set up both the routing system and the scale-house system to export relevant data, which a spreadsheet can then combine and make available to the billing system as needed. “Another goal is to get the reporting to a level acceptable to regulators,” Kobold says. “This will require procedures that will send certain tonnage information to one system for reporting purposes and certain tonnage information to the billing system. Tonnages used by the billing system, however, will not be used for reporting.”

Automating Analyses

Last year, Hillsboro Garbage Disposal Inc. in Hillsboro, Ore., converted to PC Scales' Tower 6.0 routing, billing and accounting software. One of the first projects Information Technology Director Jason Barnes set for himself was to use the system's reporting capability to evaluate route profitability. However, the only way to get relevant real time route data from another system into the software was to enter it by hand. “We didn't want to get caught up in mass data entry that can occur when using incompatible software applications,” Barnes says.

So, Barnes integrated Tower 6.0 with the Routeware Back Office software, which works in conjunction with Routeware's on-board computer system. “The on-boards give us the actual time of service we need to evaluate route profitability and efficiency,” he says. “Additionally, we can analyze profitability at the individual customer level using drive time to location, time spent servicing containers and time spent traveling to the next customer.”

The integration has made it possible for data to move back and forth between the two systems. As a result, Hillsboro can view the data using reporting features from either application. “This eliminates the need to manually import and export data between the two applications,” Barnes says.

Helena's Goroski probably won't get her wish of one all-encompassing solid waste software capable of operating on an enterprise level. The market seems too small to support such an undertaking. Still, vendors across the industry are talking to customers about integrating their products with others. To facilitate those integrations, many software application packages are becoming less proprietary and more capable of combining forces.

Michael Fickes is a Westminster, Md.-based contributing writer.

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