9. All states shall adopt norms and procedures for the production, recovery, and recycling of materials

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Liz Couture, Rapporteur

Industrial companies around the world are not using the most efficient product design procedures, nor the most eco-friendly materials, nor the best “cradle to cradle” recycling opportunities possible and available. Every bit of wasted material translates to excess energy that was used to produce it, which in turn translates to excess carbon emissions if the energy source did not come from renewables.

The solutions to carbon emissions reductions in producing a product should be applied at any point in the life cycle of the product. Organizations such as Rocky Mountain Institute(1) and books like Natural Capitalism(2) have been working on them for decades. In the book DRAWDOWN: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming(3) the most promising solutions are researched and documented. Each solution states how many tons of carbon dioxide emissions will be avoided cumulatively until the year 2050, how much the implementation of the solution would cost, and how much the net savings or benefit would be to the world. Then, all the solutions are ranked considering several criteria, including the ease with which the solution can be implemented, the lesser of the estimated costs to scale it up, or perhaps the greater the savings and benefits achieved—but always with the most important consideration, which is the amount of carbon emissions reduced if the solution is implemented.

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Mutant Enzymes feed on Plastic

Party time!

I have heard a number of reports of microorganisms or microorganism-derived compounds which have been discovered to have potential to decompose plastic. Most of the time it appears as if these are studied, though subsequently have limited applications outside of laboratories and test sites. Has anyone heard of large-scale applications of these microorganisms that eat plastic?

Regardless, I would like to share this interesting article with readers of Plank 9 – as it bears relevance to the subject. This article specifically discusses an enzyme – discovered in a compost pile – which breaks the plastic down to building blocks that facilitate recycling of the material into high quality (and food quality) products. Notably, the enzyme can be derived from specific types of fungi.

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Crocheting Plastic

“Renee Outhouse is crocheting plastic sleeping mats for people who are homeless, just as Fundy Region Solid Waste plans to stop accepting plastic bags for recycling beginning in March.”

“Because the mats are made of plastic, fleas or bedbugs won’t nest in them, Outhouse said. The mats would melt if exposed to fire, however.”

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What a nutty form of charity! Wouldnt you do better spending your time working on a campaign to ensure that everyone has a place to live?

Is recycling really worth it?

This recycling morality may be running its course. People feel virtuous doing it, but from everything I read about its effectiveness, it may not be worth the effort. Anyway there seems to be no way to make it a profitable business. A lot of stuff goes to landfill sites in the end, and some countries were even shipping their debris over to other countries, until finally China, and maybe other recipient countries, refused to accept it. So what is left to do with our materialistic residue? I don’t know. Stop buying things? But we won’t. (Tell the truth: Will you?)

Burn it instead!

Okay, so my question is naive, but I still want to know. Whatever I read about recycling says it is not very helpful. It takes a lot of labor to process it, and a lot of the stuff gets sent to the landfill anyway. And there are other arguments that I haven’t followed closely. But then why not just burn it? Isn’t a big incinerator better than a landfill? Especially if we use the heat for some useful purpose– either to heat something that needs it, or as a source of energy.

There must be a good, reasonable answer or else we would be burning our trash. But I haven’t heard it. Can anyone explain? Thanks.

Flouting Environmental Law

It’s quite safe to assume that, had the (central B.C., August 4, 2014) Mount Polley copper and gold mine massive tailings pond release of a slurry of years’ worth of waste into Polley Lake—yet for which there were no B.C.-environmental-law charges laid against Imperial Metals regardless of its clear recklessness—been located in plain sight just off of, say, Vancouver’s scenic attraction Stanley Park instead of in a region of natural wilderness, it would not have received the relatively minute mainstream news-media coverage it has to date.

Denial, Even By Kids

It doesn’t surprise me, as general human mentality collectively allows us to, amongst other forms of blatant pollution, throw non-biodegradables down a dark chute like we’re safely dispensing it into a black-hole singularity to disappear into nothing.
And then there’s the astonishing short-sighted selfishness. I observed this last year when a Global TV news reporter randomly asked a young Vancouver man wearing sunglasses what he thought of government restrictions on disposable plastic straws. “It’s like we’re living in a nanny state, always telling me what I can’t do,” he recklessly retorted.

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Canada exports its trash!

There have been several alarming articles in Canadian media over the past week or so around the exportation of Canadian waste products to other countries due to a limited capacity and limited industry here in Canada. Several alarms were raised previously – in early 2019 – around this trend – though it is being re-examined in September 2019.

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Isn’t this exploitative? I’ve heard that this is bad for other countries. Also when did we even get into the habit of doing this? When did we even stop processing our own garbage? C’mon Canada…

Garbage Bags are Canadian

Did you know garbage bags are a Canadian invention circa. 1950s? Perhaps there is increased research and development potential here. For many years – they were manufactured in my hometown – among other locations – though the City of Kawartha Lakes recently banned black garbage bags in hopes of reducing trash output and promote increased recycling rates (clear bags = ease of identifying recycling materials in garbage; etc.). Residents are allowed one small opaque bag per trash collection cycle.

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Second Life for Plastics

“A pilot project in Whitby, Ont., is using technology to give plastic waste a second life by turning it into diesel fuel and gasoline.

The technology, dubbed the Phoenix, can convert single-use items like plastic bags and Styrofoam — items that would otherwise end up in landfill.

John O’Bireck, president of energy investment company Sparta Group, says he sees plastic “as a resource, not a scourge.”

He says the fuel produced by Phoenix is already being used in his company’s fleet of trucks that transport industrial waste. “Five tonnes of plastic can be converted into about 4,000 litres. And 4,000 litres can drive our whole fleet of 10 vehicles back and forth every day running 16 hours a day.”

O’Bireck says Phoenix uses a process involving pyrolysis — using heat to bring about decomposition — to upcycle plastics that can’t go into the recycling stream.”

Currently, about 45% of the world’s steel production comes from recycled metal, along with about one third of the world’s aluminum and over 40% of the world’s copper. In 2014, approximately 135 million metric tons of scrap metal was recycled in the United States alone.

Everyone is focused on plastic recycling now. I saw a clear plastic bottle the other day that is 45% made from plant material. It looked like any other water bottle. A bit flexible.
The really interesting invention is that place in Arizona or some nearby SW state where they have built a set of buildings out in the desert made largely from old tires. They pile the tires up, put something in them (dirt or is it concrete?) and that is their wall. Terrific insulation. Very thick. I bet the acoustics are good too.

A triumphant recycler!