The Digital Divide – The Differing E-Waste Laws (with related video)

Read the full story in Waste Age.

When Utah’s governor signed Senate Bill 184on March 22, the United States reached another milestone in the development of our national patchwork of state electronics recycling laws. Half of the states, covering two-thirds of the U.S. population, now boast some type of e-waste law. Utah also continues the trend of no two states passing an exactly identical bill. The Utah e-waste law, like all but the law in California, uses a producer (manufacturer) responsibility approach. Another four states — New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Vermont — passed e-waste recycling laws in 2010. By January 2012, all 25 state e-waste laws will be implemented, barring any legislative delays.

Despite the number of laws and their differences, there does not appear to be a federal e-waste law on the horizon. However, there is increased federal attention to the issue, primarily on the part of the Obama Administration rather than in Congress. In the absence of a federal program, state agencies and impacted stakeholders are beginning to work together to harmonize the overlapping aspects of their programs to avoid duplication of activities. Coordination and attempts at crafting new laws based on lessons learned from older laws are just two of the key current e-waste recycling trends. Other trends include the sole use of market share in allocating collection goals to manufacturers, the requirement of a minimum number of devices collected by county, and the expansion of the scope of electronic products covered.

Putting a Lid on Paint

Read the full story at Waste Age.

The California Product Stewardship Council (CPSC) is working to make an economic resource out of many costly-to-manage waste products, including paint. The organization is completing a three-county project in California that assists paint manufacturers with the collection and management of leftover paint. The program will impact every paint purchaser and user in the state and could be a model for other states as well.

Fuel for the Future

Read the full story at Waste Age.

Emerging technologies can use MSW and C&D wastes to produce cleaner, cheaper truck fuels. However, these technologies have yet to become available on a commercial scale.

New Energy for Waste-to-Energy (with related video)

Read the full story at Waste Age.

The title of Bob Dylan’s song, “The Times They Are a-Changin,” is an apt description for developments in today’s waste-to-energy (WTE) industry. Although combusting municipal solid waste (MSW) to produce electricity has matured into a proven technology that has earned a place on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) integrated solid waste management hierarchy, the last traditional WTE facility — meaning a site that combusts MSW or that produces refuse-derived fuel to fire utility boilers — to begin operations in the United States did so in 1996.

However, recent years have seen expansions of traditional WTE facilities in Hillsborough County, Fla.; Lee County, Fla.; Honolulu; and Olmstead County, Minn. Other locations in the midst of procuring or developing proven technology projects are Frederick County, Md.; Harford County, Md.; Baltimore; Palm Beach County, Fla.; and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Furthermore, many communities are starting to look at newer waste-to-energy technologies — known in the industry as “conversion” technologies — that produce vehicle fuel and electricity from MSW. Examples of these technologies include gasification and pyrolysis. Using the research of Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB), a Fairfax, Va.-based solid waste consulting firm, this article will provide an overview of projects that are using these technologies. Despite mentioning some of these projects, GBB makes no endorsement of the companies involved or the technologies.

How degrading? University of Minnesota experiments degradable plastics

Read the full story at SmartPlanet.

The University of Minnesota in Minneapolis/St. Paul is reporting that its chemistry department and Center for Sustainable Polymers have created a line of degradable plastics made from polylactides (PLAs).

Break-Even Cost for Residential Solar Water Heating in the United States: Key Drivers and Sensitivities

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This paper examines the break-even cost for residential rooftop solar water heating (SWH) technology, defined as the point where the cost of the energy saved with a SWH system equals the cost of a conventional heating fuel purchased from the grid (either electricity or natural gas). We examine the break-even cost for the largest 1,000 electric and natural gas utilities serving residential customers in the United States as of 2008. Currently, the break-even cost of SWH in the United States varies by more than a factor of five for both electricity and natural gas, despite a much smaller variation in the amount of energy saved by the systems (a factor of approximately one and a half). The break-even price for natural gas is lower than that for electricity due to a lower fuel cost. We also consider the relationship between SWH price and solar fraction and examine the key drivers behind break-even costs. Overall, the key drivers of the break-even cost of SWH are a combination of fuel price, local incentives, and technical factors including the solar resource location, system size, and hot water draw.

Sprint Sets Ambitious Zero E-Waste Goal for 2017

Read the full story at GreenerDesign.

Sprint Nextel today unveiled a new, holistic environmental policy and a series of ambitious goals addressing its e-waste streams, on the same day that it received a sustainability leadership award from an electronics recycling trade group.

The goals announced today — which include updates to existing goals as well as new stretch goals — come as Sprint was awarded the “Sustainability Leadership Award” at the annual International Electronics Recycling Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. Sprint was recognized at the event for its industry-leading initiatives on addressing e-waste. Its new goals include:

  • Collect 100 percent of Sprint’s own electronic waste for reuse and recycling by 2017;
  • Collect 90 percent of all phones sold for reuse or recycling by 2017;
  • Require that 70 percent of all new devices launched by 2017 meet Sprint’s environmental criteria; and
  • Requiring 100 percent of Sprint’s recycling and remanufacturing vendors meet one of several responsible recycling certifications by 2013.

Scouting the Top Tools to Put Nature on the Corporate Balance Sheet

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

[Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the BSR Insight and is reprinted with permission.]

In March, the apparel company Puma joined a growing roster of companies trying to improve their understanding of corporate performance by placing a dollar value on their use of “ecosystem services,” the natural systems that businesses rely on to provide raw materials, adequate supplies of clean water, and protection from natural disasters.

Following in the footsteps of companies like Dow Chemical, which launched a US$10 million initiative to value and incorporate nature into its global business decisions, and Disney, which passed a corporate policy to produce a “net positive impact” on ecosystems, Puma plans to produce an environmental profit-and-loss statement that reflects its full economic impact on ecosystem services.

As interest in this area grows, companies such as Parametrix and Exponent have developed tools businesses can use to measure and value ecosystem services. While this is a positive development, the value of these tools has been difficult to determine, most notably due to the limited number of tests in corporate settings, as well as uncertainty related to data, time, expertise, and costs required to run the tools.

Puma Reports $133M of GHG, Water Impacts in Environmental P&L

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

If Puma had to pay for the impacts from its water use and greenhouse gas emissions, the shoe and sportswear company would be paying around $133 million (€94.4 million) a year.

Puma is developing an environmental profit and loss statement to put a monetary figure on its various environmental impacts, and has first revealed the cost of its two biggest impacts.