Plastics clogging up our landfills and polluting our oceans are a scourge of modern life and we struggle with ways to combat this growing problem. The biggest issue is that most plastics are simply not biodegradable. Polyethylene, the common plastic found in shopping bags and numerous other products, takes between 100 and 400 years to degrade in a landfill.
The seven northeastern U.S. states that make up the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative have all set ambitious emissions reduction goals and renewable energy targets that will be difficult to meet. For example, New York has the goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by the year 2030.
Researchers at Ohio State University have developed a way to use food waste to partially replace the petroleum-based filler that has been used in manufacturing tires for more than a century.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, more than one billion international tourists travel the world each year. Tourism has become a powerful and transformative force for many millions of people. But all this travel is not as positive for the planet. To that end, the luxury travel network Virtuoso assembled a short, simple list everyone can follow to reduce the environmental impact of their travel.
Most of the blame for climate change has been placed on the growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but methane also plays a major role. Estimates are that about 1/5 of greenhouse effect warming is caused by methane in the atmosphere. There is far less of it than carbon dioxide, but methane is tremendously more effective at trapping heat.
As the world’s population grows and becomes more urban and affluent, the amount of solid waste we produce grows and grows. Over the past century, the total amount has risen tenfold. By 2025, the world-wide total is expected to double again. The average person in the United States throws away their body weight in garbage every month.
New York City, the financial and cultural center as well as the largest city in the country, is known for a lot of things: skyscrapers, shopping, and pizza immediately come to mind. But we should add another thing to that list. Trash.
Apparel giant Nike recently announced that 71% of its footwear now contains materials made from waste products from its own manufacturing processes. They call the waste material “Nike Grind,” and it is made from recycled sneakers, plastic bottles, and manufacturing scraps from Nike’s factories.
People continue to find new ways to generate energy from unusual sources. A team of scientists at several universities recently reported on a new fuel cell that uses tomato waste left over from harvests in Florida.
Our nation’s landfills are overflowing and we are constantly seeking ways to reduce the amount of waste that needs to go into them. Usually, we are thinking about food waste, plastics, glass and paper. However, one of the largest sources of waste generation is actually construction and demolition waste. Estimates are that between 25 and 40% of the national solid waste stream comes from these activities and very little of it gets recycled.
We have talked quite a bit about food waste and in particular its impact on world hunger and on the economy. The world wastes more than $750 billion worth of food each year and 1.6 billion tons of food is left in fields, sent to landfills or scattered about the landscape. Another 7 million tons of fishery discards are dumped in the sea.
Many people compost their food scraps and yard waste because they think it is the right thing to do. In some places, like San Francisco and Seattle, there is curbside pickup available to have these organic materials composted.