“It just keeps coming:” Piles of trash continue to plague Houston’s bayous

Read the full story from Houston Public Media.

When trash gets in the waterways, it can worsen water quality, harm plants and wildlife, and create health issues.

To reduce trash, some states charge the companies producing it

Read the full story at Stateline.

Municipalities and waste managers around the country are raising the alarm about limited landfill capacity, and some see Extended Producer Responsibility policies as a piece of the puzzle.

Could a trash-eating compost bin solve our organic waste problem?

Read the full story from Fast Company.

Bob Hendrikx, an architect and biodesigner based in the Netherlands, has developed a concept for a “living bin” inspired by sea anemones. Though they look like colorful flowers, some species of anemones are omnivorous marine animals that feed on plants and other small animals like fish, crab, and plankton. According to Hendrikx, our trash cans could work in a similar way.

Ocean plastics: How much do rich countries contribute by shipping their waste overseas?

Read the full story at Our World in Data.

Many countries ship plastic waste overseas. How much of the world’s waste is traded, and how big is its role in the pollution of our oceans?

Environmentally responsible firefighting is a reality

Read the full story at Waste360.

When it comes to fighting fires, one must not only think about safety but also about being environmentally responsible as we need to work to leave the world in a better place than we found it. In the waste and recycling occupancy, we need to start taking some of the weight off firefighters’ shoulders by doing what we can to minimize fires in our facilities.

Mars is littered with 15,694 pounds of human trash from 50 years of robotic exploration

Rovers on Mars frequently come across debris – like this heat shield and spring – from their own or other missions. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cagri Kilic, West Virginia University

CC BY-ND

People have been exploring the surface of Mars for over 50 years. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, nations have sent 18 human-made objects to Mars over 14 separate missions. Many of these missions are still ongoing, but over the decades of Martian exploration, humankind has left behind many pieces of debris on the planet’s surface.

I am a postdoctoral research fellow who studies ways to track Mars and Moon rovers. In mid-August 2022, NASA confirmed that the Mars rover Perseverance had spotted a piece of trash jettisoned during its landing, this time a tangled mess of netting. And this is not the first time scientists have found trash on Mars. That’s because there is a lot there.

A smashed, round, white metal object on the surface of Mars.
All spacecraft that land on Mars eject equipment – like this protective shell – on their way to the Martian surface. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Where does the debris come from?

Debris on Mars comes from three main sources: discarded hardware, inactive spacecraft and crashed spacecraft.

Every mission to the Martian surface requires a module that protects the spacecraft. This module includes a heat shield for when the craft passes through the planet’s atmosphere and a parachute and landing hardware so that it can land softly.

The craft discards pieces of the module as it descends, and these pieces can land in different locations on the planet’s surface – there may be a lower heat shield in one place and a parachute in another. When this debris crashes to the ground, it can break into smaller pieces, as happened during the Perseverance rover landing in 2021. These small pieces can then get blown around because of Martian winds.

A small tangled piece of netting on the surface of Mars.
The Perseverance rover came across this piece of netting on July 12, 2022, more than a year after landing on Mars. NASA/JPL-Caltech

A lot of small, windblown trash has been found over the years – like the netting material found recently. Earlier in the year, on June 13, 2022, Perseverance rover spotted a large, shiny thermal blanket wedged in some rocks 1.25 miles (2 km) from where the rover landed. Both Curiosity in 2012 and Opportunity in 2005 also came across debris from their landing vehicles.

Three photos showing black soot and debris from above.
The European Space Agency’s Schiaparelli lander crashed onto the surface of Mars in 2016, as seen in these photos of the crash site captured by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

Dead and crashed spacecraft

The nine inactive spacecraft on the surface of Mars make up the next type of debris. These craft are the Mars 3 lander, Mars 6 lander, Viking 1 lander, Viking 2 lander, the Sojourner rover, the formerly lost Beagle 2 lander, the Phoenix lander, the Spirit rover and the most recently deceased spacecraft, the Opportunity rover. Mostly intact, these might be better considered historical relics than trash.

Wear and tear take their toll on everything on the Martian surface. Some parts of Curiosity’s aluminum wheels have broken off and are presumably scattered along the rover’s track. Some of the litter is purposeful, with Perseverance having dropped a drill bit onto the surface in July 2021, allowing it to swap in a new, pristine bit so that it could keep collecting samples.

A photo of the wheels of Curiosity rover with holes visible.
The wheels of the Curiosity rover have taken damage over the years, leaving behind small bits of aluminum. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Crashed spacecraft and their pieces are another significant source of trash. At least two spacecraft have crashed, and an additional four have lost contact before or just after landing. Safely descending to the planet’s surface is the hardest part of any Mars landing mission – and it doesn’t always end well.

When you add up the mass of all spacecraft that have ever been sent to Mars, you get about 22,000 pounds (9979 kilograms). Subtract the weight of the currently operational craft on the surface – 6,306 pounds (2,860 kilograms) – and you are left with 15,694 pounds (7,119 kilograms) of human debris on Mars.

Why does trash matter?

Today, the main concern scientists have about trash on Mars is the risk it poses to current and future missions. The Perseverance teams are documenting all debris they find and checking to see if any of it could contaminate the samples the rover is collecting. NASA engineers have also considered whether Perseverance could get tangled in debris from the landing but have concluded the risk is low.

The real reason debris on Mars is important is because of its place in history. The spacecraft and their pieces are the early milestones for human planetary exploration.

Cagri Kilic, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Robotics, West Virginia University

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

Need to Enforce: Waste Bans in Massachusetts

Download the document.

The goal of this report is to shine a spotlight on the fact that every year in Massachusetts more than 2 million tons of waste (approximately 40% of total waste), which ends up in landfills, incinerators, or as litter, is composed of materials that were banned from disposal long ago by Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulations. We hope that with more attention on this problem, MassDEP, with help from Massachusetts cities and towns, can launch an effective
effort to eliminate this substantial portion of the waste stream.

His family fished for generations. Now he’s hauling plastic out of the sea.

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

One catch at a time, Lefteris Arapakis is cleaning the Mediterranean.

Plastic pollution: Birds all over the world are living in our rubbish

Read the full story from the BBC.

Birds from every continent except Antarctica have been photographed nesting or tangled in our rubbish. Photos were submitted by people from all over the world to an online project called Birds and Debris. The scientists running the project say they see birds ensnared – or nesting – in everything from rope and fishing line to balloon ribbon and a flip-flop. Nearly a quarter of the photographs show birds nesting or entangled in disposable face masks. The focus of the project is on capturing the impact of waste – particularly plastic pollution – on the avian world.

How New Jersey’s environmental justice law is beginning to affect operators around the country

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Environmental lawyer Matthew Karmel offers insight on the law’s newly-released draft regulations, plus M&A considerations and tips for navigating EJ risk assessments in any state.