Day: August 12, 2020

ASHRAE Standard 191P Draft for the efficient use of water in building mechanical systems Available for public comment

A draft of ASHRAE Standard 191P, Standard for the Efficient Use of Water in Building Mechanical Systems, is now available for public comment. The steps to submit a comment are:

  • Download the draft standard.
  • To offer comments, read this page, then click on “Access Now.”
  • Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the specific announcement related to Standard 191P. Click on Comment where you will be asked to Log In.
    • If you have not previously developed an ASHRAE log-in, you will be required to do so.
  • On the Document Comments page, click on New Comment and follow the instructions.

The 45-day public comment period closes on September 14, 2020.

Udall, Lowenthal Circulate Blueprints for Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to State Legislators

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) are calling on state and local legislators to introduce and enact legislation to tackle America’s growing plastic pollution and packaging waste crisis at the state level. In a memo to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) for its 2020 National Forum Udall and Lowenthal encourage the lawmakers to draw from their Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act for state bills to reduce the production of wasteful plastic and work together to tackle a mounting crisis in plastic pollution and packaging waste. Drafted for the NCEL 2020 National Forum, Udall and Lowenthal intend the memo to be used broadly by other state and local lawmakers at all levels of government at the same time Congress debates meaningful action to solve this crisis.

The memo includes guidance for local legislators in drafting bills that suit the needs of their community to effectively reduce plastic pollution and packaging waste that causing rising state and local financial burdens and offers a portfolio of policy options that can be utilized based on the specific needs of local communities.

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA) goes beyond plastic to tackle all manner of products and packaging that are impacting our environment, straining our budgets, and threatening our health. This memo is broken into components of the [the Act]. We encourage you to use the attached blueprints along with the bill text and our supplemental materials to craft robust legislation for your state. Whatever you decide, we encourage you to build on the great action that has already taken place across the country and to further push for change that will have a lasting impact,” the lawmakers write in the memo.

In February, Udall and Lowenthal introduced theBreak Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA) after a year’s long effort that included soliciting input from over 200 individuals, organizations, and state and local lawmakers. The BFFPPA is based on proposed legislation and existing statutes from various states combined for the first time to create a comprehensive bill to address plastic pollution and packaging waste in the United States. The bill phases out unnecessary single-use plastic products, makes polluting companies pay to clean up their plastic pollution and packaging waste, sets up a nationwide beverage container refund program, requires post-consumer recycled content in new products, requires accurate labels for recycling and composting, prohibits the export of plastic waste to developing countries, and pauses the build-out of new plastic producing facilities until regulations are updated.

“State and Federal leaders should all know about the damage caused to communities and the environment by the enormous amount of production, dumping, and burning of single-use plastic. This catastrophe requires action at every level of government, and state legislators are excited to see the many ways their leadership has informed policy work in Washington, D.C., and vice versa,”  said Jeff Mauk, NCEL Executive Director.

“The Surfrider Foundation recognizes that many state and local legislators would like to introduce bills similar to policies outlined in the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act,” said Jennie Romer, Legal Associate at the Surfrider Foundation’s Plastic Pollution Initiative. “Such bills would reduce plastic pollution and shift the costs of collection, recycling, disposal, and cleanup of packaging away from the municipality, holding the producers of packaging responsible. This memo provides valuable insights on how to structure such bills, including background on why certain clauses were chosen and which states’ laws inspired certain clauses of the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act.”

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act includes the same extended producer responsibility (EPR) elements contained in packaging EPR bills already introduced in numerous state legislatures,”  said Scott Cassel, CEO and Founder of the Product Stewardship Institute. “With EPR at its core, the BFFPPA shifts the responsibility to finance and manage packaging from local governments to producers. It represents legislative best practices to reduce waste and recycle all material types back into the circular economy, with a particular focus on eliminating unnecessary plastics that create significant pollution.”

“Deposit systems represent the most effective beverage container recycling programs available, and the BFFPPA provides a valuable framework for modernizing them in the 10 state with these laws and in developing them in the 40 without,” said Susan Collins, President of the Container Recycling Institute, a nonprofit recycling industry authority. “With the use of consumer-focused technologies, coverage of all relevant beverage types, an increase in deposit amounts and adequate handling and processing fees for redemption centers, we can achieve beverage container recycling rates of more than 80 percent, compared to the current 23 percent in non-deposit states. This would mean dramatically less litter and harmful marine debris, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and deposit money back in consumers’ pockets.”

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act should serve as a model for legislators across the country on how to comprehensively tackle the plastic pollution crisis. For too long, corporations have diverted blame for the plastic pollution crisis they have created. They have told us that if we just recycle more or participate in beach cleanups that we can turn this around. That has not worked. It is time to end our reliance on single-use plastics and prevent petrochemical companies from locking us into decades of additional plastic production,” said Kate Melges, Greenpeace USA Senior Plastics Campaigner.

“Latinx communities stand up for solutions that will protect our pristine ocean and waterways, but also protect our communities from harmful toxins in our water and air. We need to come up with practices that greatly reduce single-use plastics and packaging through reduction, sustainable alternatives and holding producers accountable. We believe the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act can greatly reduce the amount of plastic pollution currently being produced and processed in our communities. By investing in concrete steps to reduce our waste, we are investing in the health of our environment and communities of color, ” said Mariana Del Valle Prieto Cervantes, Clean and Healthy Waters Consultant for GreenLatinos.

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act assembled our best policies to reduce plastic pollution at the source. Now, the full blueprint is available to state and local leaders, many of whom contributed to the process. With this comprehensive model, we can effectively reduce the amount of disposable plastic in our lives and hold producers responsible for the problematic waste they create, ” said Alex Truelove, Zero Waste Director for U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

“States and cities have the power to propel the nation forward in the fight against plastic pollution, and the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act has provided a blueprint for meaningful change. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean every year — roughly the equivalent of dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the sea every minute. To reverse this crisis, we need robust, comprehensive policies, like the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, that stop plastic pollution at its source and promote a shift to reusables and refillables. Plastic production’s current trajectory paints a grim picture for our blue planet’s future, but policy-makers have the power to change course before it’s too late,” said Christy Leavitt, Oceana plastics campaign director.

“Plastic pollutes not only our waterways and oceans, but from source and production, it negatively impacts the health of communities nearby. Latinxs have a long track record of common sense approaches to conservation, and support long term solutions that protect both people and nature ,” said Marce Gutiérrez-Graudiņš, Founder and Executive Director for Azul.

“We simply can’t make so much plastic without trashing our oceans, climate and the life they support. The Break Free From Plastic Act works to address the crisis by reducing plastic packaging and putting the brakes on increased plastic production. The Act also sets the goal posts for state and local governments to hold the plastic industry accountable for the pollution it creates. We need strong actions at every level of government to stop the conversion of fracked gas into mountains of throwaway plastic,” said Delia Ridge Creamer, Oceans Campaigner, Center for Biological Diversity.

  • The full memo to the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators can be found HERE.
  • The full text of the BFFPPA can be found HERE.
  • A summary and extensive background materials can be found HERE.

Contact: Ned Adriance (Udall) 202.228.6870 / Keith Higginbotham (Lowenthal) 202.225.7924

Webinar: Reporting and Pollution Prevention Calculators

August 19, 2020, 9 am CDT
Register here.

Reporting can be confusing if you are unsure of how to use the calculators and tools that are provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This webinar will be breaking down the EPA’s Pollution Prevention Calculators and Tools to help us better understand how they work. Kathy Davey is one of the individuals that created these calculators and will be able to answer any questions that you may have regarding them.

How to use ventilation and air filtration to prevent the spread of coronavirus indoors

Open windows are the simplest way to increase air flow in a room. Justin Paget / Digital Vision via Getty Images

by Shelly Miller, University of Colorado Boulder

The vast majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs indoors, most of it from the inhalation of airborne particles that contain the coronavirus. The best way to prevent the virus from spreading in a home or business would be to simply keep infected people away. But this is hard to do when an estimated 40% of cases are asymptomatic and asymptomatic people can still spread the coronavirus to others.

Masks do a decent job at keeping the virus from spreading into the environment, but if an infected person is inside a building, inevitably some virus will escape into the air.

I am a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. Much of my work has focused on how to control the transmission of airborne infectious diseases indoors, and I’ve been asked by my own university, my kids’ schools and even the Alaska State Legislature for advice on how to make indoor spaces safe during this pandemic.

Once the virus escapes into the air inside a building, you have two options: bring in fresh air from outside or remove the virus from the air inside the building.

A drawing showing an air conditioning unit blowing air into a building and a fan blowing air out of an open window.
All of the air in a room should be replaced with fresh, outside air at least six times per hour if there are a few people inside. Pico/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

It’s all about fresh, outside air

The safest indoor space is one that constantly has lots of outside air replacing the stale air inside.

In commercial buildings, outside air is usually pumped in through heating, ventilating and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. In homes, outside air gets in through open windows and doors, in addition to seeping in through various nooks and crannies.

Simply put, the more fresh, outside air inside a building, the better. Bringing in this air dilutes any contaminant in a building, whether a virus or a something else, and reduces the exposure of anyone inside. Environmental engineers like me quantify how much outside air is getting into a building using a measure called the air exchange rate. This number quantifies the number of times the air inside a building gets replaced with air from outside in an hour.

While the exact rate depends on the number of people and size of the room, most experts consider roughly six air changes an hour to be good for a 10-foot-by-10-foot room with three to four people in it. In a pandemic this should be higher, with one study from 2016 suggesting that an exchange rate of nine times per hour reduced the spread of SARS, MERS and H1N1 in a Hong Kong hospital.

Many buildings in the U.S., especially schools, do not meet recommended ventilation rates. Thankfully, it can be pretty easy to get more outside air into a building. Keeping windows and doors open is a good start. Putting a box fan in a window blowing out can greatly increase air exchange too. In buildings that don’t have operable windows, you can change the mechanical ventilation system to increase how much air it is pumping. But in any room, the more people inside, the faster the air should be replaced.

A carbon dioxide meter mounted on a white wall showing a reading of 300 parts per million.
CO2 levels can be used to estimate whether the air in a room is stale and potentially full of particles containing the coronavirus. Vudhikul Ocharoen/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

Using CO2 to measure air circulation

So how do you know if the room you’re in has enough air exchange? It’s actually a pretty hard number to calculate. But there’s an easy-to-measure proxy that can help. Every time you exhale, you release CO2 into the air. Since the coronavirus is most often spread by breathing, coughing or talking, you can use CO2 levels to see if the room is filling up with potentially infectious exhalations. The CO2 level lets you estimate if enough fresh outside air is getting in.

Outdoors, CO2 levels are just above 400 parts per million (ppm). A well ventilated room will have around 800 ppm of CO2. Any higher than that and it is a sign the room might need more ventilation.

Last year, researchers in Taiwan reported on the effect of ventilation on a tuberculosis outbreak at Taipei University. Many of the rooms in the school were underventilated and had CO2 levels above 3,000 ppm. When engineers improved air circulation and got CO2 levels under 600 ppm, the outbreak completely stopped. According to the research, the increase in ventilation was responsible for 97% of the decrease in transmission.

Since the coronavirus is spread through the air, higher CO2 levels in a room likely mean there is a higher chance of transmission if an infected person is inside. Based on the study above, I recommend trying to keep the CO2 levels below 600 ppm. You can buy good CO2 meters for around $100 online; just make sure that they are accurate to within 50 ppm.

Air cleaners

If you are in a room that can’t get enough outside air for dilution, consider an air cleaner, also commonly called air purifiers. These machines remove particles from the air, usually using a filter made of tightly woven fibers. They can capture particles containing bacteria and viruses and can help reduce disease transmission.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that air cleaners can do this for the coronavirus, but not all air cleaners are equal. Before you go out and buy one, there are few things to keep in mind.

A stock image of an upright air cleaner.
If a room doesn’t have good ventilation, an air cleaner or air purifier with a good filter can remove particles that may contain the coronavirus. EHStock/iStock/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

The first thing to consider is how effective an air cleaner’s filter is. Your best option is a cleaner that uses a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, as these remove more than 99.97% of all particle sizes.

The second thing to consider is how powerful the cleaner is. The bigger the room – or the more people in it – the more air needs to be cleaned. I worked with some colleagues at Harvard to put together a tool to help teachers and schools determine how powerful of an air cleaner you need for different classroom sizes.

The last thing to consider is the validity of the claims made by the company producing the air cleaner.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers certifies air cleaners, so the AHAM Verifide seal is a good place to start. Additionally, the California Air Resources Board has a list of air cleaners that are certified as safe and effective, though not all of them use HEPA filters.

Keep air fresh or get outside

Both the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that poor ventilation increases the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.

If you are in control of your indoor environment, make sure you are getting enough fresh air from outside circulating into the building. A CO2 monitor can help give you a clue if there is enough ventilation, and if CO2 levels start going up, open some windows and take a break outside. If you can’t get enough fresh air into a room, an air cleaner might be a good idea. If you do get an air cleaner, be aware that they don’t remove CO2, so even though the air might be safer, CO2 levels could still be high in the room.

If you walk into a building and it feels hot, stuffy and crowded, chances are that there is not enough ventilation. Turn around and leave.

By paying attention to air circulation and filtration, improving them where you can and staying away from places where you can’t, you can add another powerful tool to your anti-coronavirus toolkit.

Shelly Miller, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Colorado Boulder

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Upcycled Food Association’s Wyatt Wants to End Food Waste

Read the full story at Waste360.

Turner Wyatt is a on a mission to reduce food waste around the world. Wyatt, who was named a 2020 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient, serves as CEO of the recently formed Upcycled Food Association. He spoke with Waste360 about why he believes that upcycled food products can provide a delicious, creative, and effective solution to a global waste problem.

What is the Inevitable Policy Response?

Read the full story from the UN Principles for Responsible Investment.

Financial markets today have not adequately priced-in the likely near-term policy response to climate change. The Inevitable Policy Response (IPR) is a pioneering project which aims to prepare investors for the associated portfolio risks.

Webinar: How Cities are Divesting from Fossil Fuels

Tue, Aug 25, 2020 1-2 PM CDT
Register here.

In January 2018, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that three of the city’s largest pension funds would divest from fossil fuel companies and in September of the same year announced a commitment to double investments in climate solutions. Since then, 16 other U.S. cities have joined New York in adopting a fossil fuel divestment policy, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors recently passed a resolution supporting what has now become a global movement to build an economic recovery grounded in clean energy.

Join us for a free 1-hour webinar on Tuesday Aug. 25 as Lolita Jackson, Special Advisor, Climate Policy & Programs in the NYC Mayor’s Office, and city of Pittsburgh Chief Resilience Officer Grant Ervin explain how the two cities are implementing their divestment policies. They’ll walk us through a divestment toolkit New York recently developed in partnership with the city of London and C40 Cities.

This new guide was prepared as part of the C40 Divest/Invest Forum, a first-of-its-kind initiative that helps urban leaders make the leap to effective and efficient divestment from fossil fuels, and accelerate green investment. For more information about our presenters, visit: https://urbanelephantmedia.com/speakers

More than 100 coal-fired plants have been replaced or converted to natural gas since 2011

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Generator Report and Preliminary Monthly Electric Generator Inventory

According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 121 U.S. coal-fired power plants were repurposed to burn other types of fuels between 2011 and 2019, 103 of which were converted to or replaced by natural gas-fired plants. At the end of 2010, 316.8 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity existed in the United States, but by the end of 2019, 49.2 GW of that amount was retired, 14.3 GW had the boiler converted to burn natural gas, and 15.3 GW was replaced with natural gas combined cycle. The decision for plants to switch from coal to natural gas was driven by stricter emission standards, low natural gas prices, and more efficient new natural gas turbine technology.

Two different methods are used to switch coal-fired plants to natural gas. The first method is to retire the coal-fired plant and replace it with a new natural gas-fired combined-cycle (NGCC) plant. The second method is to convert the boiler of a coal-fired steam plant to burn other types of fuel, such as natural gas.

Between 2011 and 2019, owners of 17 coal-fired plants adopted the first method, replacing old coal-fired power plants with new NGCC plants. The new NGCC plants have a total generating capacity of 15.3 GW, 94% more than the 7.9 GW capacity of the coal-fired power plants they replaced. The increase in capacity is largely a result of the advanced turbine technology installed in NGCC plants.

During this time period, 104 coal-fired plants adopted the second approach, converting the steam boiler to burn other fuels, most commonly natural gas, although some were configured to burn petroleum coke (a refinery by-product), waste materials from paper and pulp production, or wood waste solids.

Coal-fired plants in the eastern half of the country have been good candidates for conversion because they tend to be smaller-capacity units and are mostly over 50 years old. Of the 104 coal-fired plants in this age range, 86 have converted their boilers to burn natural gas, representing 14.3 GW of capacity. Although most transitioned entirely to natural gas, a few maintained coal-burning capabilities, allowing them to burn whichever fuel is most economically efficient.

The utility with the most conversions between 2011 and 2019 was Alabama Power Co., which converted 10 generators located at four coal plants in Alabama, totaling 1.9 GW of capacity. These conversions took place between 2015 and 2016, largely to comply with the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As the U.S. coal-fired electric generation fleet continues to manage challenges from emission standards and low prices for natural gas, EIA expects more of these conversions to take place in the future, particularly in the Midwest and Southeast. EIA has been notified of eight planned NGCC projects, five of which are currently under construction, which will replace existing coal plants.

Principal contributor: Lindsay Aramayo for the Energy Information Administration’s Today in Energy.

During COVID-19, a growing interest in recycling food waste at home

Read the full story at MPR News.

COVID-19 has created new challenges for organics composting. First, it put additional stress on the fact that Minnesota needs more places to process food waste. There’s also been another big change the past five months: Where food waste is coming from. More people are cooking and eating at home.

Vomela unveils largest solar array in St. Paul at new headquarters

Read the full story in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal.

The Vomela Cos., a graphic design and printing company has completed an installation of a 3,400-panel solar arrary at its new 300,000-square-foot headquarters.

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