Garbage ‘patch’ is much worse than believed, entrepreneur says

Read the full story at SFGate.

It is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — a mass of plastic floating debris estimated to be twice the size of Texas and concentrated between California and Hawaii.

But to Boyan Slat, the 21-year-old Dutch entrepreneur who is orchestrating what he envisions as the largest ocean cleanup effort in history, “patch” is far too gentle a term. He prefers “ticking time bomb.”

Residents Sue Seattle, Saying New Trash Rules Violate Privacy

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Environmental goals about garbage in this and other like-minded cities increasingly come down to three words: Throw less away. So Seattle residents are given different bins to put out on the curb — one for yard and food waste, another for recycling — and are encouraged to use ever-tinier cans for the stuff that really is trash.

The rules were given teeth this year, when Seattle became one of the first cities in the nation to penalize residents for sorting poorly. If, on inspection, more than 10 percent of a garbage can’s contents should have properly been in another kind of bin, the trash collector can pin a bright red tag on the offender’s receptacle. Financial penalties have been authorized but not yet levied. A primary goal of the policy is to keep people from throwing food and recyclable materials into trash cans.

This week, a group of Seattle residents — while stressing that they agreed with the city’s goals — said the inspections violated their privacy, as protected by the Washington State Constitution. What people toss away, the group argued in a lawsuit filed on Thursday, is still theirs to protect, however much, especially in these warm days of summer and rot, they might want to get rid of it all as soon as possible.

Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013

The Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013 Report was previously named Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures. The report’s new name emphasizes the importance of sustainable materials management (SMM). SMM refers to the use and reuse of materials in the most productive and sustainable way across their entire life cycle. SMM conserves resources, reduces waste, slows climate change and minimizes the environmental impacts of the materials we use.

New this year is additional information on source reduction (waste prevention) of municipal solid waste (MSW); information on historical tipping fees for MSW; and information on the Construction and Demolition Debris generation, which is outside of the scope of MSW.

The full report, which is released every two years, contains data on:

  1. MSW generation, recovery, and disposal from 1960 to 2013;
  2. Per capita generation and discard rates;
  3. Source reduction (waste prevention);
  4. Materials and products that are in the waste stream;
  5. Aggregate data on the infrastructure for MSW management, including estimates of the number of curbside recycling programs, composting programs, and landfills in the US; and
  6. Trends in MSW management from 1960 to 2013, including source reduction, recycling and composting, and disposal via combustion and landfilling.
  7. Construction and demolition debris generation (starting with Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures 2013)

Reports from previous years are also available.

2014 GameDay Recycling Challenge Highlights Leaders

The 2014 results highlight those institutions with the highest total waste diversion rate (stadium and tailgating areas combined). Humboldt State University tops the Diversion Rate leader board at 86.05 percent, while Clemson University had the highest total recyclable material at 60,724 pounds. Results by conference and full results are also available.

The GameDay Recycling Challenge is a friendly competition for colleges and universities to promote waste reduction at their football games. During the challenge, colleges and universities implement waste reduction programs during home football games, track and report the data.

Garbage Incinerators Make Comeback, Kindling Both Garbage and Debate

Read the full story in the New York Times.

Rising from a denuded landscape not far from this area’s famed beaches, the nation’s first new commercial garbage incinerator in 20 years is about to be fired up, ready to blast up to 3,000 tons of trash a day into electricity for thousands of houses.

With landfills shunned, recycling programs stalled and the country’s record-setting trash output unyielding, new waste-to-energy plants are being eyed as a path to salvation. Facilities similar to the $670 million incinerator here, common in Europe, are under consideration in Massachusetts, Nevada, Virginia, Wisconsin and elsewhere.

Americans produce 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day, the most in the world, and the talk of returning to incineration, industry experts say, is an acknowledgment of defeat in the effort to reduce output and step up recycling.

Baltimore’s Water Wheel Keeps On Turning, Pulling In Tons Of Trash

Read the full story from NPR.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a city landmark teeming with tourists, restaurants and — until recently — floating trash.

John Kellett used to walk by Pier 6 every day on his way to work at the Baltimore Maritime Museum on the Inner Harbor. He’d notice the trash floating in the water and hear tourists call the harbor disgusting — and it bugged him.

That’s when he developed his idea: a big water wheel to collect the plastic cups, cigarette butts and Cheetos bags that flow into the waterway after rainstorms. Kellett approached Baltimore officials about ways to remove the trash — and they listened. The water wheel is now docked in the harbor.

From Trash to Treasure: Recapturing and Repurposing Our Garbage

Read the full story in Future Structure.

Closing the loop on waste – and integrating it with other systems – may be more than a noble policy goal. In fact, it may make smart economic sense as well. Waste streams often still contain things of remarkable value – if they are extracted and used in the right way. Landfill mining advocates note that landfills have a higher concentration of aluminum than the metallic ore that is normally used as a raw material. The East Bay Municipal Utility District in California is using food and bio waste to save $3 million per year and generate more than enough electricity to meet its own needs. “Waste to energy” projects are cropping up in Mexico, Canada, Scotland and Norway. And as water rights become an increasingly difficult issue – especially in the American West and South – reusing water from the waste stream is a particularly encouraging prospect.