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.(more…)
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.
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.
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.
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’.(more…)