ENB on break

We're taking a holiday break. Posts resume January 7.

Commentary: Compostable Products Have A Role

Read the full story in Biocycle.

In October, Greenpeace released a report entitled, “Throwing Away the Future: How Companies Still Have it Wrong on Plastic Solutions”. The report warns consumers “to be skeptical of the so-called solutions announced by multinational corporations to tackle the plastic pollution crisis. These false solutions, such as switching to paper or ‘bioplastics’ or embracing chemical recycling, are failing to move us away from single-use packaging and divert attention away from beneficial systems that prioritize refill and reuse.”

For the love of God, don’t buy that ugly Christmas sweater

Read the full story at Fast Company.

Don’t fall for Brita’s new “eco-friendly” ugly Christmas sweater. In fact, skip the ugly sweater concept altogether.

Watchdog report: Agencies bungled air-pollution response during Hurricane Harvey

Read the full story from Grist.

As Hurricane Harvey barreled toward Houston in 2017, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state environmental agency, shut down its expensive air quality monitors in the area to protect their equipment.

Over the next week, petrochemical plants and other industrial facilities around Houston released hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals into the air. An oil storage tank at a Valero plant released 12.5 tons of cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene, hexane and toluene. An explosion at a nearby chemical plant resulted in a series of fires. The entire time, state and federal regulators weren’t keeping track of the region’s air quality. Even as residents reported headaches and nausea, the EPA and TCEQ reassured the public that the air quality was fine.

A report out Monday from the EPA’s Office of Inspector General confirms red flags raised by environmental and community groups after Harvey. The report found that the EPA and TCEQ did not collect data when emissions of numerous carcinogenic chemicals were at their peak. And when they did begin conducting air monitoring, the agencies collected data that could not be used to draw meaningful conclusions about the risks to public health.

Nearly a fifth of US emissions come from public lands. A new House bill aims to cut them to zero by 2040.

Read the full story from Vox.

The House Natural Resources Committee just introduced one of the most aggressive climate bills of the current Congress.

It’s time to trash recycling

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

Traditional recycling is the greatest example of modern-day greenwashing.  

Recycling is championed as the strategy to enable a cleaner, healthier world by those businesses that have profited the most from the extractive, take-make-waste economy. In reality, it is merely a cover to continue business as usual. Corporations espouse the efficacy of recycling via hollow “responsibility commitments” in order to avoid examination of the broader negative consequences that their products and business models have wrought. 

Recycling is good for one thing, though — it helps us dodge the responsibility of our rampant and unsustainable consumption. 

EPA requests applications for $2 million in funding for Great Lakes trash-free water projects

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it is seeking applications under a newly developed Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) grant program focused on keeping trash out of the Great Lakes. Approximately $2 million is available through the Trash-Free Great Lakes program to fund up to 12 projects. The deadline for applications is Feb. 14, 2020.

“Combatting freshwater and marine litter – and preventing trash from reaching our waterways in the first place – is one of EPA’s highest priorities,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Through the Trash-Free Great Lakes Grant Program, EPA will support communities in cleaning up beaches and waterways so that the Great Lakes watershed will continue to provide habitat for wildlife as well as drinking water and recreation for the tens of millions of people it serves for generations to come.”

The trash-free water projects EPA selects will support the larger effort to restore and protect the Great Lakes through the GLRI. In October, EPA Administrator Wheeler announced the GLRI Action Plan III, an aggressive plan that will guide Great Lakes restoration and protection activities by EPA and its many partners over the next 5 years.

“This first-of-its-kind grant program will once again rely upon the collaboration and strong partnerships which have fueled progress and so many successes under the GLRI,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator/Great Lakes National Program Manager Cathy Stepp. “This funding will help communities across the Great Lakes basin ensure that their beaches, shorelines and waterways are trash-free.”

Eligible projects include:

  • Great Lakes beach and shoreline cleanup projects, which could include funding for single entities to organize clean ups in multiple communities. The maximum grant amount is $300,000 per project.
  • Great Lakes harbor and river cleanup projects, which could include the purchase of trash collection and removal equipment capable of operating in water. The maximum grant amount is $500,000 per project.

State agencies, federally recognized tribes and tribal consortia, any agency or instrumentality of local governments, nonprofit organizations, interstate agencies, and colleges and universities are eligible to apply for the grants.

EPA will host a webinar on January 7, 2020, at 1 p.m. CST to provide additional information and answer questions. To register for the webinar or learn more about the request for applications, visit https://www.epa.gov/great-lakes-funding/trash-free-waters-rfa.


The GLRI was launched in 2010 to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes. Federal agencies have funded more than 4,700 projects totaling over $2.4 billion to address the most important Great Lakes priorities such as addressing agricultural nutrients and stormwater runoff, cleaning up highly-contaminated “Areas of Concern,” combating invasive species and restoring habitat. Making GLRI funding available through a competitive application process is just one way that the GLRI achieves results.

EPA works directly with states, municipalities, and businesses through its Trash-Free Waters program to reduce litter, prevent trash from entering waterways, and capture trash that is already in our waters.

For more information on the GLRI, visit https://www.glri.us/

Freshwater mussels are dying at an alarming rate, and scientists want to know why

Read the full story in USA Today.

On a recent late fall afternoon at Kyles Ford, the white branches of sycamore trees overhung the banks of the Clinch River, leaves slowly turning yellow. Green walnuts covered the ground. The shallow water ran fast and cold over the rocky bottom, but it was littered with the white shells of dead mussels.

Freshwater mussels range from about the size of a large button to the size of a billfold, but the work they do for ecosystems is enormous. They can filter around 8-10 gallons of river water each day, cleaning it of algae, silt and even heavy metals and making the whole river a better environment for fish, amphibians, plants and bugs. Mussels also benefit the people who use their rivers as a source of drinking water.

That’s why scientists are working quickly to discover the cause of a massive mussel die-off on the Clinch and understand whether it is related to similar die-offs on at least five U.S. rivers and another in Spain.

Planning ahead for mounting challenges of special waste at landfills

Read the full story in Waste Dive.

Rich Thompson evaluates the steps required in managing these difficult streams as increased recycling rates begin to change the chemistry of landfills.

Next Steps on Addressing PFAS Contamination in Drinking Water

Read the full story from the National League of Cities.

Throughout the year, there was a growing concern across all levels of government about drinking water contamination from PFAS – a group of man-made chemicals that were made and used in a variety of industries around the globe, which have made their way into drinking water systems across the country, particularly in communities near military installations or industrial sites. To combat this, local leaders from the NLC Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee and the NLC Military Communities Council developed a resolution calling on Congress and the Administration to holistically examine PFAS contamination and to take comprehensive action to address this problem.