Dangerous landfill pollutants ranked in order of toxicity

Read the full story from the University of Missouri.

To help environmental agencies battle the toxic threats posed by landfills, researchers have developed a system that ranks the toxins present in a landfill by order of toxicity and quantity, allowing agencies to create more specific and efficient plans to combat leachate.

Cement’s the same but the packaging is greener

Read the full story at The Construction Index.

Tarmac says it is first major cement manufacturer in the UK to move to 50% recycled plastic in its packaging. The weatherproof bags are also recyclable.

Products manufactured at the company’s cement plant packaging facilities in Scotland and Wales are all now in production with the new bag, which has the same rip, tear and puncture resistance as the previous plastic packaging (which was only 30% recycled), as well as providing protection from rain and water.

Other sites currently producing a 30% recycled content bag are due to switch to the new packaging in the coming months.

Microplastics’ Hidden Contribution to Snow Melting

Read the full story from the American Geophysical Union.

Microplastic particles, present everywhere on the planet, may complicate assessments of black carbon’s role in the melting of snow and of its contributions to Earth’s radiative balance.

ACI Unveils Ambitious Circular Packaging Roadmap

Read the press release.

As part of the cleaning product supply chain’s commitment to a more circular economy, the American Cleaning Institute announced a new roadmap for sustainable packaging.

ACI’s ambition for the industry is for all cleaning product packaging to be circular. The roadmap for reaching this ambition includes a drive towards improving packaging design, by ensuring packaging is recyclable or reusable, reducing virgin material use and increasing post-consumer recycled or renewably sourced content.

How urban planning and housing policy helped create ‘food apartheid’ in US cities

Black neighborhoods have a higher density of fast-food outlets than in white districts. David McNew/Getty Images

by Julian Agyeman (Tufts University)

Hunger is not evenly spread across the U.S., nor within its cities.

Even in the the richest parts of urban America there are pockets of deep food insecurity, and more often than not it is Black and Latino communities that are hit hardest.

As an urban planning academic who teaches a course on food justice, I’m aware that this disparity is in large part through design. For over a century, urban planning has been used as a toolkit for maintaining white supremacy that has divided U.S. cities along racial lines. And this has contributed to the development of so-called “food deserts” – areas of limited access to reasonably priced, healthy, culturally relevant foods – and “food swamps” – places with a preponderance of stores selling “fast” and “junk” food.

Both terms are controversial and have been contested on the grounds that they ignore both the historical roots and deeply racialized nature of food access, whereby white communities are more likely to have sufficient availability of healthy, reasonably priced produce.

Instead, food justice scholar Ashanté M. Reese suggests the term “food apartheid.” According to Reese, food apartheid is “intimately tied to policies and practices, current and historical, that come from a place of anti-Blackness.”

Regardless of what they are called, these areas of inequitable food access and limited options exist. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 54.4 million Americans live in low-income areas with poor access to healthy food. For city residents, this means they are more than half a mile from the nearest supermarket.

More expensive, fewer options

The development of these areas of limited healthy food options has a long history tied to urban planning and housing policies. Practices such as redlining and yellowlining – in which the private sector and government conspired to restrict mortgage lending to Black and other minority homebuyers – and racial covenants that limited rental and sale property to white people only meant that areas of poverty were concentrated along racial lines.

In addition, homeowner associations that denied access to Black people in particular and federal housing subsidies that have largely gone to white, richer Americans have made it harder for people living in lower-income areas to move out or accrue wealth. It also leads to urban blight.

This matters when looking at food access because retailers are less willing to go into poorer areas. A process of “supermarket redlining” has seen larger grocery stores either refuse to move in to lower-income areas, shut existing outlets or relocate to wealthier suburbs. The thinking behind this process is that as pockets in a city become poorer, they are less profitable and more prone to crime.

There is also, scholars suggest, a cultural bias among large retailers against putting outlets in minority-populated areas. Speaking about why supermarkets were fleeing the New York borough of Queens in the 1990s, the city’s then-Consumer Affairs Commissioner Mark Green put it this way: “First they may fear that they do not understand the minority market. But second is their knee-jerk premise that Blacks are poor, and poor people are a poor market.”

In the absence of larger grocery stores, less healthy food options – often at a higher price – have taken over in low-income areas. Research among food providers in New Haven, Connecticut in 2008 found “significantly worse average produce quality” in lower-income neighborhoods. Meanwhile a study of New Orleans in 2001 found fast-food density was higher in poorer areas, and that predominantly Black neighborhoods had 2.5 fast-food outlets for every square mile, compared to 1.5 in white areas.

‘Whole Foods and whole food deserts’

Geographer Nathan McClintock conducted a detailed study in 2009 of the causes of Oakland’s food deserts. Although restricted to one Californian city, I believe what he found holds true for most U.S. cities.

McClintock details how the development of racially segregated areas in the inter-war period and redlining policies afterward led to concentrated areas of poverty in Oakland. Meanwhile, decisions in the late 1950s by the then all-white Oakland City Council to build major freeways cutting through the city effectively isolated predominantly Black West Oakland from downtown Oakland.

The net effect was an outward flow of capital and white flight to the wealthy Oakland Hills neighborhoods. Black and Latino neighborhoods were drained of wealth.

A Burger King outlet displaying a 'We Accept EBT' poster in the window.
A Burger King in Oakland, Calif. advertising that it accepts benefits issued to low-income families for food. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This, together with the advent of surburban Oakland supermarkets accessible by car in the 1980s and 1990s, led to a dearth of fresh food outlets in predominantly Black districts such as West Oakland and Central East Oakland. What was left, McClintock concludes, is a “crude mosaic of parks and pollution, privilege and poverty, Whole Foods and whole food deserts.”

Urban planning as a solution

Food disparities in U.S. cities have a cumulative effect on people’s health. Research has linked them to the disproportionately poor nutrition of Black and Latino Americans, even after adjustment for socioeconomic status.

As much as urban planning has been part of the problem, it could now be part of the solution. Some cities have begun using planning tools to increase food equity.

Minneapolis, for example, has as part of its 2040 plan an aim to “establish equitable distribution of food sources and food markets to provide all Minneapolis residents with reliable access to healthy, affordable, safe and culturally appropriate food.” To achieve this, the city is reviewing urban plans, including exploring and implementing regulatory changes to allow and promote mobile food markets and mobile food pantries.

My hometown of Boston is engaged in a similar process. In 2010, the city began the process of establishing an urban agriculture overlay district in the predominantly Black and Latino neighborhood of Dorchester, by changing zoning to allow commercial urban agriculture. This change has provided employment for local people and food for local cooperatives, such as the Dorchester Food Coop, as well as area restaurants.

And this could be just the start. My students and I contributed to Boston mayoral candidate Michelle Wu’s Food Justice Agenda. It includes provisions such as a formal process in which private developers would have to work with the community to ensure there is space for diverse food retailers and commercial kitchens, and licensing restrictions to discourage the proliferation of fast-food outlets in poorer neighborhoods. If Wu is elected and the plan implemented, it would, I believe, provide more equitable access to nutritious and culturally appropriate foods, good jobs and economically vibrant neighborhoods.

As Wu’s Food Justice Agenda notes: “Food justice means racial justice, demanding a clear-eyed understanding of how white supremacy has shaped our food systems” and that “nutritious, affordable, and culturally relevant food is a universal human right.”

Julian Agyeman, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University

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

How scientists scrambled to stop Donald Trump’s EPA from wiping out climate data

Read the full story at The Verge.

After hearing the news that then President-elect Donald Trump had appointed a notorious climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency transition team in 2016, Nicholas Shapiro, an environmental anthropologist, penned an urgent email to a dozen or so fellow scientists…

He was worried that the EPA was about to be torn apart from the inside under Trump’s leadership. Others on the email thread were concerned that vital environmental data would be taken down from federal websites and destroyed. They’d just seen brutal attacks on science in Canada — irreplaceable scientific records were dumped in the trash under conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper — and they feared that something similar could happen in the US. So Shapiro took a cue from his sister, an organizer for the Women’s March, and tried to bring researchers together to mount an offensive.

“Does anyone know of any social scientists inside the EPA that might be able to document its dismantling?” Shapiro, now an assistant professor at UCLA, wrote at the top of his note. “It seems like it could be a humble contribution of our craft — just one stopgap idea that came to mind.”

The effort sparked by the email eventually snowballed into a movement to rescue key environmental datasets and information about climate change from government websites. Shapiro and his colleagues succeeded in connecting with scientists within the EPA to document the agency’s transformation into an antagonist to environmental efforts in the US. And in some cases, the scientists were even able to mitigate the damage.

The scrappy cadre of scientists, academics, and other supporters is now a largely volunteer-based group called the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI). Their work is far from over, despite Trump leaving office, as they work to make sure another president can’t drastically remake federal websites or destroy data in the future.

PSU awarded almost $150,000 in grants to fund research for greener future

Read the full story in the Joplin Globe.

Nearly $150,000 in grants awarded to the Kansas Polymer Research Center, housed in the Tyler Research Center at Pittsburg State University, will help scientists and students fund research on the production of polymers from soybean oil.

Predicting the Importance of Global Warming as a Voting Issue Among Registered Voters in the United States

Eryn Campbell, John Kotcher, Edward Maibach, Seth A. Rosenthal, Anthony Leiserowitz (2021). “Predicting the Importance of Global Warming as a Voting Issue Among Registered Voters in the United States.” Current Research in Ecological and Social Psychology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cresp.2021.100008

Abstract: Limiting climate change requires effective policy solutions. In democratic societies, voting for candidates who support climate policy solutions is arguably the most important action citizens can take. Therefore, understanding the dynamics of global warming as a voting issue is crucial for building public and political will for climate solutions. Using data from two nationally representative surveys conducted in November 2019 and April 2020, this exploratory study investigated the influences of cognitive, experiential, socio-cultural, and sociodemographic factors on two measures of perceived importance of global warming as a voting issue: absolute importance (i.e., how important is it?) and relative importance (i.e., is it the most important issue?). As expected, in both surveys, Democrats were more likely than Republicans to perceive global warming as an important voting issue. The perceived importance of global warming as a voting issue was also positively associated with certainty in belief that global warming is happening, perceived risk, worry, positive social norms, and discussing global warming with family and friends; in April 2020, it was also negatively associated with exposure to conservative media (The Fox News Channel). In both surveys, discussing global warming with family and friends was positively associated with considering global warming to be the most important voting issue, whereas perceived personal experience and worry were significant predictors in only one survey. These results suggest that global warming’s importance as a voting issue is influenced by a range of individual, social, and media influences, and that the predictors of the issue’s absolute importance to voters overlap only partially with the predictors of its relative importance.

Washington Senate passes bill to promote recycled content in plastics and reduce expanded polystyrene

Read the full story at Waste Today.

The bill would require increased recycled content in plastic beverage containers, trash bags and bottles for household products and ban expanded polystyrene food ware and other products.

Behavior, Energy & Climate Change (BECC) virtual conference now accepting abstracts

This year’s theme: Reimagining the Future

Submission Deadline: Extended to April 22, 2021 (Earth Day)
Length: 300 Words

Submit your abstract on the conference website.

In this time of uncertainty, global threats, and transition, humanity has a singular opportunity to reimagine our collective future. For the past 15 years, the Behavior, Energy & Climate Change (BECC) conference has presented behavioral research and practice to foster individual and organizational change. At this year’s virtual conference (November 8-10, 2021), we want to showcase your ideas for reimagining and realizing an equitable, low carbon future.

BECC invites you to present your work and learn from others about how to encourage behavior change that reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions, evaluate behavior-change programs, understand why individuals and groups change, and make transitions in fair and equitable ways. BECC participants and presenters represent a variety of backgrounds and communities: research, academia, business, utilities, government, and the nonprofit sector. All come together to learn and network at this unique conference.

Review: Abstracts will be reviewed by a panel of experts. Authors will be notified of acceptance in early summer 2021. Priority will be given to new work with original findings.

Who should submit:

  • Researchers
  • Academics
  • Commercial businesses
  • Utilities
  • Government policy & research labs
  • For-profit & non-profit organizations
  • Sustainability organizations
  • Program designers and implementers

Issue Areas

Social Science Insights

  • Psychology, Economics, Sociology, Anthropology
  • Organizational and Institutional Behavior
  • Marketing and Communications

Behavior-Based Programs

  • Commercial and Industrial Programs
  • Residential Programs
  • Sustainability Programs and Strategies
  • Program Design
  • Evaluation


  • Technology and Innovation
  • Renewables
  • Electrification

Climate Change

  • Resilience and Adaptation
  • Models and Metrics


  • Federal, State, and Local Government Policy
  • Utility policy

Sectoral Approaches

  • Transportation, including New Mobility, EV adoption…
  • Food, Water, Waste

Equity & Empowerment

  • Equity, Underserved, and Disadvantaged Populations
  • Social Movements and Culture Change

Virtual Posters – A Great Way to Present at BECC!

Virtual Posters are a key part of the BECC Virtual Conference. They receive broad exposure through email blasts, social media posts and the BECC website, and are presented in person at Virtual Poster Receptions throughout the conference. Not only are virtual posters a great way to get onto the BECC agenda and present your work to other attendees, they also reach the general public through the conference website and the BECC YouTube channel.

What is a Virtual Poster? A Virtual Poster is a presentation slide deck saved as a PDF file (e.g., PowerPoint slide deck saved as PDF) that describes your project clearly and succinctly in eight slides or less (with “notes,” if desired). In addition, Poster presenters are invited to submit a short (four minute) video recording of themselves narrating their Virtual Poster. Virtual Posters and (optional) narrations are uploaded to the conference website “Virtual Poster Reception Hall” to be available on demand before, during and after the event. Presenters that are accepted for a Virtual Poster will be asked to upload their materials no later than September 15, 2021. Like all presenters at BECC, Virtual Poster presenters will receive the “speaker” rate for registration and must register for the conference.

What is a Virtual Poster Reception? In effect, it is a poster session. But for BECC 2021, presenters will share their posters in advance (“on demand”) and the reception is a specially designated time for attendees to meet presenters virtually and chat with them about the content. It is not designed for formal presentations, but rather for attendees to discuss the poster which they can access on demand. Like at an in-person conference, this gives you the opportunity to network, share contact information, and chat with conference attendees who are interested in your work.

To be considered for a Virtual Poster, submit an abstract on the conference website and indicate your preference for a Virtual Poster.