Minnesota Reclassifies Separated Compostables As Recyclable Material
In its 2011 session, the Minnesota legislature added “source separated compostable materials” (SSCM) to its recyclable materials definition, removing them from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) mixed municipal solid waste category. Recyclable materials are defined as being separated from mixed MSW for the purpose of recycling or composting. The SSCM are “comprised of food wastes, fish and animal waste, plant materials, diapers, sanitary products and paper that is not recyclable because the commissioner has determined that no other person is willing to accept the paper for recycling,” states Subd. 32a of the rule. “SSCM are delivered to a facility to undergo controlled microbial degradation to yield a humus-like product meeting the agency’s Class I or Class II, or equivalent, compost standards and where process residues do not exceed 15 percent by weight of the total material delivered.” The materials can be brought to an MSW transfer station or mixed MSW solid waste processing facility solely for the purposes of composting or transfer.
“This change did a number of things, chief among them exempting SSCM from the Organized Collection statute,” explains Ginny Black of MPCA. One of the barriers to collecting SSCM curbside is that cities could not contract on a city-wide basis for the collection of SSCM without going through a process set out in the statute. Second, by classifying SSCM as recyclable materials, they can now officially be counted in the state’s recycling goal.”
2010 MSW Fact Sheet Highlights
The US EPA recently released its annual MSW report for the most current year available, “Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010.” The agency has been collecting such data for more than 30 years and uses it to measure success of waste reduction and recycling programs across the country. According to the report, Americans generated just under 250 million tons of trash in 2010, of which about 85 million tons (or 34 percent) was either composted or recycled. That means we recycled approximately 1.51 pounds of 4.43 pounds of waste generated per capita per day. Newspaper was recovered at about 72 percent, yard trimmings at 58 percent and metals (including aluminum, steel and mixed metals) recycled at a rate of about 35 percent, according to the report. Food scraps recovery was less than 3 percent.
About 54 percent of MSW generated was landfilled and 11.7 percent was combusted for energy recovery. Also according the report, about 3,090 community composting programs were documented in 2010, down from 3,227 in 2002.
California’s Cap And Trade Bill Okayed
A San Francisco judge has approved California’s cap-and-trade plans, which will make it the largest carbon market in North America and the second largest in the world. The bill, AB32, was passed in 2006 but came under fire from opponents claiming it would destroy jobs and hurt the economy. A Superior Court Judge had ruled in March 2011 that the California Air Resources Board (CARB) had not looked adequately at other programs, such as numerical limits on emissions or taxing carbon-based fuels. An appellate court issued a stay allowing CARB to keep working on the cap-and-trade program. In his early December ruling, the original judge said the state had now adequately studied alternatives and could proceed with cap and trade.
The program is currently scheduled for implementation in 2013, at which time utilities, large industrial facilities and fuel distributors must decrease their carbon emissions so that by 2020 they will have returned to 1990 levels. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the state has received more than $9 billion in venture capital for clean energy technology since the bill was passed in 2006.
Cap and trade sets industry limits on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Businesses that exceed set limits can buy “carbon credits” from companies whose actions have a positive effect on the environment and can also offset their negative actions through their own green initiatives such as planting trees. While many mainstream environmental groups applaud the cap-and-trade approach, some say it is not restrictive enough and allows companies to buy the right to be heavy polluters.
Economic Impact Of Aging Water Infrastructure
In mid-December, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) released a new report titled “Failure to Act: The Economic Impact of Current Investment Trends in Water and Wastewater Treatment Infrastructure.” The report found that unless $84 billion beyond current spending levels is invested in aging water infrastructure over the next decade, U.S. businesses will face $147 billion in increased costs while U.S. households will incur an additional $59 billion in costs. Additionally, the report projects that if the necessary water and wastewater infrastructure investments are not made, the U.S. economy could lose up to 700,000 jobs and suffer a gross domestic product (GDP) loss of $416 billion.
The report identifies three sectors of the economy that will bear the brunt of the water infrastructure impact. Retail, restaurants/bars, and construction businesses are expected to face the greatest job losses as a result of aging infrastructure, driven by a combination of less-disposable income, increased water costs and the higher costs of water-based goods. The report’s projections assume needs and available funding based on current trends, and do not adjust for possible costs associated with climate change, changes in regulations or other factors. Find the full report at www.asce.org/failuretoact.
Zero Waste In Davis, California
The Davis City Council passed a motion in December adopting a Zero Waste Resolution and setting a goal of 75 percent diversion by 2020. California passed its Integrated Waste Management Act (AB 939) in 1989, mandating that all of the state’s municipalities divert at least 25 percent of waste from landfills by 1995 and a minimum of 50 percent by 2000. Governor Jerry Brown increased California’s recycling goal from 50 to 75 percent by 2020 when he signed AB 341 into law in October 2011. While not yet a mandate for individual cities and counties, it is anticipated that the state will soon extend the AB 939 requirement to 75 percent. Other cities, such as San Francisco, have set goals and target dates even more ambitious, with the ultimate goal of complete diversion or zero waste.
“The City of Davis can now develop plans to reach that goal,” said Dean Newberry, chair of the city’s Natural Resources Commission “Those plans will help reduce the amount of waste going to local landfills, and increase reuse and recycling of existing resources and purchasing of recycled and environmentally preferable products.” Once officially approved by the Natural Resources Commission and City Council, the Zero Waste Resolution will provide the basis for developing a solid waste strategic plan that city staff is currently drafting and will guide the community’s future recycling program.
Textile Manufacturer, National Park Partner To Recycle
Plastic bottles collected from Grand Teton National Park will be converted into nonwoven fleece material used to manufacture high-performance environmentally friendly backing for carpeting and synthetic turf, thanks to a partnership between Universal Textile Technologies (UTT) and the park. Other partners in the “PET Park Project” include Teton County Solid Waste and Recycling, the United Soybean Board and CPE, Inc. UTT combines the recycled bottles with soybean-based polylols to produce its BioCel and EnviroCel polyurethane backing. “Grand Teton National Park has proven its commitment to promoting beneficial environmental stewardship practices, and the PET Park Project is an excellent example of how private companies can work with the National Park Service to find innovative recycling solutions,” said Margaret Wilson, Grand Teton National Park’s Planner & Sustainability Coordinator.
Elsewhere in the National Park Service (NPS), plastic bottles have become a point of contention. After initially blocking Grand Canyon National Park’s attempt to ban the sale of small plastic water bottles, NPS Director Jon Jarvis now says parks within the system may enact such bans but under certain conditions. Parks contemplating a ban will be required to compile reports including details such as the amount of waste to be eliminated and the economic impact on concessionaires. Coca-Cola, which donates millions of dollars annually to the National Park Foundation, had opposed the ban a year ago when it was within weeks of being put into effect.
Off The Grid Solar Charging Station
Hook your Nissan Leaf up to the new solar charging station at El Hassan Science City Princess Sumaya University for Technology (PSUT) in Amman, Jordan, and in less than four hours later you will be set for the next 100 miles (the Leaf is engineered to go that distance on one charge). DBT, Europe’s leading electric vehicle (EV) charging station manufacturer, has provided the university with what the company says is a first-of-a-kind off-the-grid solar canopy charging station. The DBT station features two plugs, allowing for simultaneous charging of up to two electric vehicles.
“We are aware that Jordan imports approximately 90 percent of its energy needs, and from here this project is considered the nucleus to build a green Jordan and will work on enhancing the security of the Kingdom in the fields of energy by relying on renewable energy resources, which leads in turn to promoting sustainable economic development,” Princess Sumaya bint El Hassan, president of El Hassan Science City and the Royal Scientific Society, said in a keynote address at the October 2011 inauguration of the project. Additional partners included several other companies along with the Jordanian Ministry of Environment and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “The Ministry of Environment’s interest in this pilot project stems from two main reasons: to support and develop the green economy and mitigate the effects of climate change, and out of our responsibility and compliance with laws and agreements which call for preservation of the environment and reducing negative effects on it,” said HE Eng. Raouf Dabbas, the Ministry’s senior advisor.
Court Delays Power Plant Emission Standards
A U.S. federal appeals court issued an 11th-hour order to delay implementation of stricter federal limits on pollution from coal-fired plants. The new rule, finalized by the EPA in July, set tighter limits on sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions from power plants in 27 states in order to protect the health of residents in states downwind of the emissions. It was to go into effect January 1, 2012. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit granted a request to stay the US EPA’s Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, pending further court review. “The EPA firmly believes that when the court does weigh the merits of the rule it will ultimately be upheld,” the agency said in a statement following the ruling. Challengers to the new rule included electric power producers. “Petitioners have satisfied the standards required for a stay pending court review,” a three judge panel wrote in its ruling.
The rule has caused a divide between power companies that produce electricity from less-polluting sources such as natural gas and those that produce electricity from coal (which accounts for 45 percent of all domestically produced electricity). Those in the latter camp claim that the rule threatens U.S. electricity supply and puts undo financial burden on electricity companies by causing them to shutter older plants that can’t perform to the new standards. Proponents of the rule said these companies need to adapt and that any additional burden on an already fragile economy would be offset by reduced healthcare costs.