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Posted by Tom McCarry on Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

For many years, China grew to become the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials. The rise of single-stream recycling in the U.S., which saves Americans the headache of sorting their recyclables, passed the headache on to Chinese processors. As a result, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment cited environmental damage caused by "dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes" mixed in with solid waste that can be recycled into raw materials. The country has now placed strict standards for what it will and will not accept from other countries. In one fell swoop, China essentially changed the entire world market.

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Posted by Tom McCarry on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

California has recently become the first state to ban plastic straws in restaurants. Beginning in 2019, customers will have to ask for straws if they want them. They will no longer be offered without asking.Other places, such as Seattle, have also joined this movement. In July, Seattle became the first major US city to ban single-use plastic straws and utensils.Even some big corporations, like Starbucks, Aramark, and American Airlines, are making the move to ban plastic straws.

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Posted by Tom McCarry on Friday, January 11th, 2019

Recently, the U.S. federal government has shut down, leaving national parks open, but largely unmanned. Beginning on December 21, trashcans and toilets in our nation’s national park have been overflowing and trespassing has been reported.


The issues have become so bad, that the Department of the Interior announced that they would dip into funds collected from entrance fees to pay for trash clean up, restroom maintenance, and additional law enforcement patrols. However, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) responded that using entrance fees would divert badly needed funds from the park service’s massive $11 billion maintenance backlog. In addition, only 117 of the more than 400 national parks collect fees. This means that hundreds of parks will have to compete for funds. The NPCA has not responded on how much funding will go to each park.

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Posted by Tom McCarry on Monday, December 10th, 2018

Cargo ships transport about 90 percent of the world’s consumer goods. At any given time, 5 to 6 million shipping containers are crossing the oceans, each stuffed with a variety of items. Many of these items are, at least partly, made of plastic or wrapped in plastic packaging. Unfortunately, data from The World Shipping Council shows that the shipping industry loses 10,000 containers a year at sea.

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Posted by Tom McCarry on Friday, November 30th, 2018
Everyone knows that recycling is an easy way to help keep the planet clean. When in doubt, many people will just drop an item in the recycling bin rather than the trash can. However, even those who have the best of intentions with recycling can actually be contributing to more garbage to piling up in landfills. (more…)
Posted by Tom McCarry on Friday, November 16th, 2018
Some changes are being made in Washington following the recent midterm elections. Namely, the Democrats recaptured control of the House of Representatives, while the Republicans strengthened control of the Senate. This switch of control in the House means that there will be changes in committee chairmanships, including the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. Both members of the House Recycling Caucus and the new House Food Waste Caucus won re-election, so there will be no changes there. (more…)
Posted by Tom McCarry on Friday, September 28th, 2018
Public Recycling Centers have been disappearing across the country. In some states, such as California where residents pay a five to ten cent deposit on beverage containers, this issue is even bigger because residents are having a hard time recycling. When consumers recycle these items, they are refunded the deposit. If there is nowhere to recycle them, they are left paying to throw the item out. This program, in California and nine other states, was designed to encourage people to recycle. However, within the last year, 350 recycling centers have closed in California alone. (more…)
Posted by Tom McCarry on Tuesday, September 25th, 2018
When Hurricane Florence crashed into the east coastline last week, flooding abounded. More than 30 inches of water accumulated in some areas. Now that the floodwaters are receding, another major problem is beginning to pile up: garbage. Many areas affected by the storm have only recently had roads opened for vehicles. This means that not only could people not get their trash out, but garbage trucks could not get in. According to Michael Regan, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary, “Hurricane Florence carved a long, slow path of destruction…and the true impacts have yet to be seen as many are still waiting for rivers to crest and recede. In some areas, people are returning home, beginning to clean up and trying to figure out what to do with storm debris.” For those in the affected areas, state environmental officials have offered guidance for debris disposal following Hurricane Florence: (more…)
Posted by Tom McCarry on Tuesday, September 18th, 2018
Beginning in January 2018, China’s new “National Sword” policy banned plastic waste from being imported. The Chinese government stated that this law was passed in an effort to protect the environment and people’s health. Before the passing of this law, China imported more than 106 million metric tons of the world’s plastics from countries like the U.S., Japan, and Germany. This large amount of plastic, about 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste to be exact, has been exported to China since the early 1990s. China profited from this arrangement by taking plastic waste and recycling it, then creating new products for export. (more…)
Posted by Tom McCarry on Friday, September 7th, 2018

While trash disposal may seem like a dirty business, Sweden sees it as one of the “cleanest.” In Sweden, waste-to-energy incinerators are used to burn trash and convert the “waste” into energy. Since 2002, the country has adopted a ban on putting biodegradable waste in landfills. This has resulted in a number of waste-to-energy plants appearing across the country. Burning waste has become so popular in Sweden that some 700,000 tons of garbage a year has been imported to help produce energy and heating for many of its cities.

How Does It Work?

While waste-to-energy incinerators are popular in Sweden, they have remained a controversial topic among American environmentalists. There is much debate over waste burning in the US, as many fear that it will slow recycling rates and increase air pollution. However, research in Sweden has shown that these issues have not turned out to be issues at all. In fact, only 1 percent of Sweden’s waste ends up in landfills, while half of it is recycled, and the remaining 49 percent is burned in waste-to-energy facilities. In fact, Sweden’s recycling rate is double that of the United States’.

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