Twenty twenty-two will bring another election in the United States, a blessing bestowed upon Americans every 24 months. There will be the usual market basket of issues to debate — or, at least, to knock down the opposition with whatever it takes. We’ll hear about the economy, jobs, immigration, wages, vaccines, health care, housing, guns, abortions and — wait for it — climate change and ESG.
Yes, climate and mandatory ESG reporting will be on the ballot in scores of states and localities — not necessarily directly but as part of an orchestrated effort by the conservative right to thwart, and possibly reverse, efforts to transition to a low-carbon and just economy.
A contract with Veregy, an energy services company out of Missouri, to design and construct a solar array at the Quincy Regional Airport at a net cost of about $841,000 will be up for a council vote on Monday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s administrator said Sunday that the swarm of deadly tornadoes that hit the Midwest and the South this weekend will be the “new normal” in the era of a worsening climate crisis.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Deanne Criswell told Jake Tapper that her agency sent a federal urban search-and-rescue team to Kentucky, one of six states hit by the twisters that landed on a mid-December night with springtime temperatures. The team will help localities with ongoing rescue efforts ― as officials already count dozens dead ― while FEMA will work with states and the American Red Cross to support short-term shelter and long-term housing needs.
Owners of coal-fired power plants are required to host public meetings for their coal ash mitigation plans. A flurry of sessions was held last week, including for two of the state’s most controversial impoundments.
Communities across the U.S. Southeast and Midwest will be assessing damage from the deadly and widespread tornado outbreak on Dec. 10-11, 2021 for some time. But it’s clear that the cleanups will take months, and possibly years.
Dealing with enormous quantities of debris and waste materials is one of the most significant challenges for communities in the wake of natural disasters. Often this task overwhelms local waste managers, leaving waste untouched for weeks, months or even years.
The most destructive and costliest wildfire in California’s history, the Camp Fire, killed 85 people and destroyed nearly 19,000 structures in November 2018. A year later, crews were still collecting and carrying away piles of wood, metals, appliances, contaminated soil, toxic household chemicals, and other debris and waste totaling more than 3.2 million metric tons – roughly the weight of 2 million cars.
Hurricane Michael, which hit Florida in October 2018, left about 13 million cubic meters of debris. To visualize what that looks like, picture a pile of 13 million boxes, each the size of a washer and dryer. More than a year later, crews were still removing the waste.
As researchers who study urban engineering, disaster management and planning, and waste management, we see this as a critical and under-studied problem. Disasters will continue to happen and the losses they cause will continue to grow as a result of climate change, population growth, urbanization, deforestation and aging infrastructures. Societies urgently need better strategies for dealing with the wastes these events leave behind.
Trails of wreckage
Climate-related disasters like floods, landslides, storms, wildfires, and extreme hot and cold waves afflict millions of people around the world. These events have been increasing over time, particularly over the past several decades, and so have the losses they cause.
Disasters commonly produce thousands to millions of tons of debris in a single event. For example, waste from hurricanes includes vegetation, such as trees and shrubs; municipal solid waste, such as household garbage; construction and demolition materials; vehicles; and household hazardous materials, including paints, cleaning agents, pesticides and pool chemicals.
Debris from wildfires largely consists of ash, contaminated soils, metal and concrete, along with other structural debris and household hazardous items such as paints, cleaners, solvents, oils, batteries, herbicides and pesticides.
Dangerous and in the way
Debris collection and cleanup following a disaster is a slow, expensive and dangerous process. First, crews clear out debris from roads used for rescue efforts. They then move the material to temporary storage areas. No one has yet invented a way to easily sort or contain hazardous materials, so they remain mixed into the debris mass. This poses major challenges for reusing and recycling post-disaster waste.
Beyond direct health and safety risks, debris also threatens the environment. It can emit air pollutants and contaminate groundwater, surface waters and soil. Uncollected debris and waste can hamper rescue and recovery efforts and slow down rebuilding efforts.
As an example, when Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans in 2005, it left behind an estimated 75 million cubic meters of waste that interfered with and slowed down recovery efforts. The debris included close to 900,000 white goods, such as refrigerators, 350,000 cars and more than 16,000 metric tons of rotten meat. Cleanup costs were estimated at roughly US$4 billion.
Toward reusing disaster waste
At an expert workshop that we organized in 2019, we identified steps for sustainably managing disaster debris and waste. As we see it, the key tasks are to (1) identify what is contained in these wastes; (2) find better approaches to recycling and reuse; (3) design new technologies to identify hazardous components and sort the different types of waste; and (4) develop markets to promote reuse and recycling.
Today public officials and planners know little about the amount and types of materials generated during disasters – what they contain, in what proportions, whether they are large and sortable versus fine and mixed, and how much can be reused or recycled. Developing new technologies and management approaches that can assist debris characterization, reuse and recycling should be a top priority.
For example, drones and autonomous sensing technologies can be combined with artificial intelligence to estimate amounts and quality of debris, the types of materials it contains and how it can be repurposed rapidly. Technologies that allow for fast sorting and separation of mixed materials can also speed up debris management operations.
Turning the problem around, creating new sustainable construction materials – especially in disaster-prone areas – will make it easier to repurpose debris after disasters.
Finally, new business models can help generate demand for and access to waste and recycled products. With proper sorting, some disaster materials can be used to make new products or materials. For example, downed whole trees can become timber resources for furniture makers. Today, opportunities to match materials with markets are wasted – pun intended.
COVID-19 Update: EPA is providing flexibilities to applicants experiencing challenges related to COVID-19. Please see the Flexibilities Available to Organizations Impacted by COVID-19 clause in Section IV of EPA’s Solicitation Clauses.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Science Advisor, Policy and Engagement Office of Research and Development Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program
Solicitation Opening Date: December 10, 2021 Solicitation Closing Date: February 9, 2022: 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking applications proposingcutting-edge transdisciplinary research (integrating diverse disciplines such as behavioral science, psychology, economics, public health, and sociology) to develop, apply, and test innovative and creative community-engaged approaches/methods to reduce household food waste through prevention (i.e., not redistribution) in the United States (U.S.) in real world settings. Prevention of household food waste means that the amount of food available for consumption in a household that is not ultimately eaten by the household is reduced. Applicants should propose a community-engaged research project that addresses at least one of the following three pathways to reduce household food waste through prevention:
Changing the U.S. food environment to discourage waste by consumers.
Strengthening consumers’ motivation, opportunity, and ability to reduce food waste.
Leveraging and applying research findings and technology to support consumers in food waste reduction.
Join us for an informational webinar on this funding opportunity. The webinar will cover application information and provide an overview of what has already been provided in the RFA. Webinar
Share general information and information on research areas for the RFA (EPA Project Officer)
Learn about the submission, eligibility, relevancy review and peer review processes (EPA Eligibility, Submission, and Peer Review Officers)
Question & answer session
A copy of the webinar presentation will be available on the Research to Reduce Consumer Food Waste in the United States Request for Applications (RFA) for those unable to participate in the scheduled webinar.
Scope 3 emissions are Sysco’s “largest opportunity for impact” as they make up 98% of its total carbon footprint, according to the report. The majority of the company’s emissions stem from food production and transportation between growers, suppliers and customers.
The company is also taking steps to reduce its direct emissions, in part by electrifying 35% of its U.S. tractor fleet by 2030. Sysco has already conducted tests of the zero-emission Freightliner eCascadia at its Bay Area operating site and will deploy its first group of EVs in Riverside, California in fiscal year 2023.
“The agriculture sector needs to be a leader,” said Siobhan Kelly, agribusiness economist, food systems and safety division, Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “It needs to step up and demonstrate that it sees its negative contribution and is on board to set targets, reach those targets and be held accountable. The agri-food sector more than any other sector has such a widespread outreach in terms of the overall health, wealth and well-being of people globally, so it really does need to be the leader in terms of what types of innovations, technologies and the multi-stakeholder approach it brings to the table.”
It’s important though for companies to identify for their own enterprises where they can make the greatest impact.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law a tax incentives package Tuesday state lawmakers hope will help Illinois become a manufacturing hub for the budding electric vehicle industry.
The Reimagining Electric Vehicles in Illinois, or REV Act, passed the General Assembly with near-unanimous bipartisan support during the recently concluded fall session. It provides tax credits for income tax withheld for EV manufacturers and costs to train new or retained employees.