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.

How Water, Waste and Energy Systems Shape Our Future

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Our cities are massive, interconnected systems marked by complexity. But often the most crucial components of urban life are overlooked because they happen underground or out of view. In this edition of FutureStructure, we examine three of these critical systems – water, waste and energy. We discuss the challenges cities face, including outdated infrastructure and siloed decision-making, as well as the promise for positive change in emerging technologies and more informed policies. Download this issue to access the following articles:

• The Unseen City: How What We Can’t See Shapes Our Future
• The Blue Economy: New Strategies for Optimizing our Most Precious Resource
• From Trash to Treasure: Recapturing and Repurposing our Waste
• Generating the Post-Carbon City: Clean Energy Cities will Require Changes in Both Policy and Technology

The Cigarette Litter Menace: Is It Time To Ban Cigarette Butts?

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Cigarette butts are no ordinary litter menace. First, there are so many of them; they’re always the most numerous in litter counts. In one audit in San Francisco, “tobacco product wastes” (which includes butts, wrappers and packaging) made up 24.6% of the total litter count.

Butts also contain several toxins that accumulate after smoking, including chemicals from preparing tobacco, and additives that flavor cigarettes and let them to burn longer. That includes the flavoring ethyl phenol, which is harmful at higher concentrations.

In a new paper in Current Environmental Health Reports, Thomas Novotny and Elli Slaughter of San Diego State University argue that “tobacco product wastes” (TPW) are an under-appreciated problem, and that current strategies like anti-littering laws aren’t addressing it enough.

Michigan use of state’s landfills continues decline; Canadian imports up

Read the full post at Great Lakes Echo.

Despite a slight increase in Michigan’s population, 2013 witnessed a decline of 0.5 percent in solid waste generated in the state, continuing a 10-year  trend, according to a report by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

And the state still has almost three decades’ worth of landfill capacity, the report said.

Waste imported from other states and Canada increased by more than 8 percent.

Canada is the largest source of imported trash, accounting for about 17 percent of the total waste landfilled in Michigan last year, according to the report.

New 3D Visuals Simplify Waste Sorting

Read the full story from the University of Washington.

Sorting your waste at UW is now a little clearer with 3-D visuals showing ideal disposal. The new visuals, located in the HUB and By George Café, aim to simplify waste disposal on campus and encourage greater composting and recycling. UW Sustainability led the project in partnership with the UW Garbology Project, UW Housing and Food Services, and UW Recycling.

The visuals are made from waste bins cut in half and filled with items commonly disposed of on campus. A set of three visuals (compost, recycling, landfill) each show items sorted into the correct bins. This cross-section approach proved to have an improved impact on waste sorting behaviour in a two-month study conducted by the UW Garbology Project.