When wishcycling met rosy scenario: Recycling goals should be ambitious but also need to be realistic

Read the full story at Waste360.

Wishcycling is the bane of recycling programs. It happens when well-intentioned people put the wrong thing in a recycling bin. Usually, they do this because they hope the item is recyclable.

This wishful thinking creates problems for recycling facilities. Processing equipment doesn’t work on the power of wishes.  Instead, it has to find and reject the misplaced item.  Some wishcycling is harmful.  Plastic bags are a particular problem because of their ability to clog processing machinery.

Unfortunately, legislators and recycling advocates are also guilty of wishcycling. This happens when they endorse policies that sound good on paper but fail to take into account either science or human behavior. I’ve seen more and more of this in the last few years due to the increase in recycling bills at the state and federal levels. 

This Ohio island has a problem: There’s no ice

Read the full story in the New York Times.

The trouble with the island right now is that it is surrounded by water.

In the summer, the water is the selling point. The village of Put-in-Bay supplies all the daiquiri-serving bars of a Key West getaway but lies a mere 20-minute ferry ride from a port on Lake Erie, about halfway between Toledo and Cleveland. Tens of thousands of vacationers pour in for a party that goes on for months.

But when the cold sets in and the ferries stop running, the few hundred people who live here year round watch intently for signs that the blue all around them is turning white. This, they insist, is the real high season: ice fishing time.

More bison herds to be restored to Native American lands

Read the full story from Oregon Live.

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland that calls for the government to tap into Indigenous knowledge in its efforts to conserve the burly animals that are an icon of the American West.

Haaland also announced $25 million in federal spending for bison conservation. The money, from last year’s climate bill, will build new herds, transfer more bison from federal to tribal lands and forge new bison management agreements with tribes, officials said.

We can’t let the petrochemical industry off the hook for the East Palestine disaster

Read the full story at The Hill.

I’ve worked closely with local, state and federal elected officials and senior leadership at environmental agencies for 40 years, running one of the largest environmental non-profits in Pennsylvania. In my experience, these individuals — and particularly career staff at the agency level — mostly want to do the right thing for the public interest, even if it sometimes takes some prodding, from groups like mine (including legal actions when necessary).

But after seeing the devastating environmental disaster unfolding in East Palestine, Ohio, my frustration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Ohio EPA is running high. Following the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern train derailment and the reaction from state and federal officials, it is harder to trust the promises and assurances from those leaders responsible for protecting our communities, especially frontline communities. The only way we can responsibly move forward from this tragedy is to take full account of who is to blame and hold those actors accountable — and without question that includes the petrochemical industry.

‘A foundation of racism’: California’s antiquated water rights system faces new scrutiny

Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.

It’s an arcane system of water law that dates back to the birth of California — an era when 49ers used sluice boxes and water cannons to scour gold from Sierra Nevada foothills and when the state government promoted the extermination of Native people to make way for white settlers.

Today, this antiquated system of water rights still governs the use of the state’s supplies, but it is now drawing scrutiny like never before.

In the face of global warming and worsening cycles of drought, a growing number of water experts, lawmakers, environmental groups and tribes say the time has finally come for change. Some are pushing for a variety of reforms, while others are calling for the outright dismantling of California’s contentious water rights system.

Calls for reform were heightened recently when the environmental group Restore the Delta released an analysis that concluded that the people who make decisions about California’s water are overwhelmingly white and male.

Revealed: 1,000 super-emitting methane leaks risk triggering climate tipping points

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Vast releases of gas, along with future ‘methane bombs’, represent huge threat – but curbing emissions would rapidly reduce global heating…

Satellite data analysed by the company Kayrros has identified 1,005 super-emitter events in 2022, of which 559 were from oil and gas fields, 105 from coalmines, and 340 from waste sites, such as landfills. The events can last between a few hours and several months.

Western forests three times the size of Yellowstone could be transformed by midcentury

Read the full story at The Hill.

Hotter and drier conditions are destroying the ability of many Western conifer forests to spring back after wildfires, a new study has found.

The onslaught of destructive fire and climate change risks turning an area of Western forests three times the size of Yellowstone National Park — about 2.2 million acres — into ecosystems where pine, spruce and fir seedlings cannot grow, according to the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But deliberately set, lower-intensity fires offer a way out, researchers noted — and added that this is a method that the U.S. Forest Service had embraced after a long history of fighting all wildfires.

Rethinking the global food system: S2G Ventures highlights trends impacting the future of food

Read the full story at Food Navigator USA.

Stakeholders across the food system – from farmers to CPG manufacturers – must embrace science and technology more deeply to better meet consumer demand for healthy, sustainable food choices and to reinforce supply chains and food security with climate-smart practices, argues investment firm S2G Ventures.

Will we eventually have to send our trash into space if we run out of room on Earth?

A trash compactor rolls over an active dump site at Pioneer Crossing Landfill in Birdsboro, Pa. Natalie Kolb/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

Curious Kids is a series for children of all ages. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskidsus@theconversation.com.

by Kate O’Neill, University of California, Berkeley

Will we eventually have to send our trash into space if we run out of room on Earth? Aiden, age 13, Maryland Heights, Mo.

Our planet holds a lot of trash. Since the Industrial Revolution, we humans have produced 30 trillion tons of stuff – from skyscrapers and bridges to clothes and plastic bags. Much of it is still with us in the form of waste.

Globally, people add 350 million tons to this total every day. What’s worse, much of the world’s garbage is mismanaged – dumped on land, in waterways and in open dumps in cities and towns. This exposes people to serious health risks. It harms plants and soil, and a lot of waste finds its way into the oceans. Thinking about what a mess we’re making can be pretty overwhelming.

Managing trash in the U.S. is big business.

Waste in space?

Sending trash into space isn’t as off the wall as it might sound. After all, there’s a lot of room out there, with no one – as far as we know today – to claim it.

Some researchers have suggested sending waste into space. They’re mainly thinking about used radioactive fuel rods from nuclear power plants. It’s true that nuclear waste will remain extremely hazardous for tens of thousands of years, and humans have done a lousy job so far of disposing of it safely on Earth.

These proposals, though, have never moved forward, for many reasons. One is the risk: What if a rocket carrying tons of highly radioactive waste exploded on takeoff? Another is the cost, which would be vastly higher than the already high price of storing it safely on Earth.

There is also a lot of “space junk” already orbiting the planet, including broken satellites and meteor debris. NASA estimates there are over half a million pieces the size of a marble or larger in Earth’s orbit. They travel at high speeds, so they can really damage spacecraft in a collision. It wouldn’t be smart to add to this problem.

Here’s a much better strategy: Reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills, incinerators, open dumps on land and the oceans. Part of that job is up to governments, which set rules on issues like whether to allow single-use plastic bags. But there are many things people can do to reduce waste in their daily lives.

Many U.S. communities are starting to compost organic wastes, like food scraps and yard trimmings. This reduces the volume of waste going into landfills and produces a valuable fertilizer.

Many Rs

You might be familiar with the “3 Rs of trash”: reduce, reuse, recycle. Each step means less waste at the end of the day.

If you want to reduce waste in your life, choose reusable mugs, cutlery or grocery bags instead of single-use plastic items. Many towns and cities have made this the rule.

Some communities also collect organic wastes, like food scraps and yard trimmings, and turn them into compost – a soil-like material that gardeners and landscapers use as fertilizer. And many gardeners do their own composting at home.

You can reuse by buying secondhand goods and clothes and donating your unwanted but still usable stuff. Freecycle networks make it easy to give away usable items that you don’t need and get different goods in return.

Recycling paper, plastics, glass and aluminum keeps them out of landfills. It also helps to slow climate change, since it can take less energy to make new products from recycled materials. In 2018, nearly one-third of municipal solid waste in the U.S. was either recycled or composted.

Some items, like plastic bags and straws, can be hard to recycle. But aluminum cans, paper, cardboard and certain kinds of plastic are successfully recycled at much higher rates. Knowing what can be recycled where you live, and how to do it, is important – the rules vary a lot from place to place.

There are more than 3 Rs to act on. You can repair, reclaim and reimagine how you buy and use things.

There’s growing discussion about the right to repair – giving consumers access to information and parts so they can repair their own goods, from electronics to cars. Companies would rather have you buy new replacements, but many people are pushing for rules that make it easier to fix your own stuff.

There are many options for reducing waste before space is the only place left to put it. Once you try some, you’ll find it’s easier than you think.

Hello, curious kids! Do you have a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to CuriousKidsUS@theconversation.com. Please tell us your name, age and the city where you live.

Kate O’Neill, Professor of Global Environmental Politics, University of California, Berkeley

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

Disparities, Concerns, and Recommendations for LGBTQ+ Data Collection within the Biological Sciences

Nathan B Alexander, Douglas Knutson, Leslie K Morrow, Isaac Klimasmith, Emmett M Smith, Madeleine Spellman, Michael Rivera, Maxine Scherz, Kae Fountain, Lucas T Allen-Custodio, Loren Lynch, Thea E Clarkberg, Jaime J Coon (2023). “Disparities, Concerns, and Recommendations for LGBTQ+ Data Collection within the Biological Sciences.” BioScience, biad011 https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biad011

Abstract: The omission of lesbian, gay,  bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, and expansive minoritized sexual and gender identities (hereafter, LGBTQ+) from demographic data collection in science is a critical issue. Ignoring these identities perpetuates practices that drive people out of science, erase experiences, and discount systemic barriers navigated by LGBTQ+ scientists (Freeman 2020). Adding gender diversity and sexual orientation to surveys is one step toward increasing inclusion of LGBTQ+ researchers. Recently, scientific societies have increased collecting demographic data; however, there is still a need for longitudinal studies (Rushworth et al. 2021). LGBTQ+ demographic data allow institutions, educators, and employers to identify systemic barriers, pinpoint key policy changes, and track efforts to improve equity (Freeman 2020, Rushworth et al. 2021, Guyan 2022). However, groups that collect demographic data, such as state and federal agencies, granting agencies (i.e., the National Science Foundation), and universities do not collect data on LGBTQ+ identities, prohibiting evidence-based efforts to increase inclusion and further limiting interpretation of professional society and small-scale surveys (Rushworth et al. 2021). Although there are inherent risks in collecting data on LGBTQ+ people, improvements in data collection are imperative if we are to understand and address diversity, equity, and inclusion issues within the sciences (Aramati Casper et al. 2022).