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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Monday, August 1, 2016
The Fix Is Out: Product Repairs Get Tougher in New Age of Obsolescence
Mike Tyran, a nurse living near Corpus Christi, Texas, bought a used Apple iPod in 2010 and tried to repair it after the battery wouldn't charge. But when the inveterate "fixer" attempted to open the white-and-chrome rectangle, he was stumped. "I had worked on old tube radios ... (which) had diagrams (and) ... schematics. I know where the wiring goes and I know how to open it," said Tyran, 56, a former heavy diesel mechanic. "I looked at an iPod and I had no idea how to open it & because there were no screws." Tyran's realization that the sleek but defective digital music player was nearly impenetrable opened his eyes to a broader truth: He and his fellow tinkerers are living in a New Age of Obsolescence -- a time where repair is, by design, often not an option. There are many reasons that consumer products are increasingly manufactured in ways that make it nearly impossible to fix them. Among them: Ever-tighter design requirements, manufacturers' fears of intellectual property theft or liability if a repair goes wrong, and the growing number of products that contain proprietary software -- a class that will explode in the era of the Internet of Things. But critics say profit generated by repeat product sales is the biggest driver behind disposable consumer products. Source: NBC News, 8/1/16

Friday, July 29, 2016
EPA Issues Final Rule to Protect the Public from Exposure to Formaldehyde
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today moves to reduce exposure to formaldehyde vapors from certain wood products produced domestically or imported into the United States. The agency worked with the California Air Resources Board to help ensure the final national rule is consistent with California requirements for composite wood products. Source: U.S. EPA, 7/27/16

Thursday, July 28, 2016
Researchers Study Whether Renewable Is Always Better
Making plastics from plants is a growing trend. It's renewable, but is it better? A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers examines the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of three plant-based plastics at each stage of production compared with that of their common fossil fuel-based counterparts. Source: Carnegie Mellon University, 7/19/16

How Milwaukee is brewing energy efficiency, financial innovation
Brew City is removing financial barriers, embracing partnerships and touting a 'new triple-bottom-line' ethos. Source: GreenBiz, 7/25/16

Wine without waste: De Bortoli aims to be Australia's first zero-waste winery
Solar energy, no sodium and organic fertilizer: how one of Australia's biggest wineries is reducing waste while saving money and energy Source: The Guardian, 7/25/16

New P2 Impact column: Why water is more expensive than most companies think
In the latest GreenBiz P2 Impact column, Monique Dubos of MnTAP provides some tips for how manufacturers can save water. Read all of the P2 Impact columns here. Source: GreenBiz, 7/13/16

Grinding Chemicals Together in an Effort to be Greener
James Mack of the University of Cincinnati researches mechanochemistry technology to reduce the amount of harmful, flammable and volatile solvents often used in chemistry. Source: New York Times, 7/18/16

Thursday, July 21, 2016
California hikes consumer fees on new electronics
California will boost the sums consumers pay when they buy new display devices, ensuring the solvency of a state fund backing e-scrap recycling. Scott Smithline, director of the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), on July 20 approved increasing the fees. The fees are currently $3 for devices with screens less than 15 inches in diameter, $4 for devices with screens between 15 inches and 35 inches, and $5 for screens larger than 35 inches. The increased advanced recovery fees (ARFs) use the same tiered structure as the old ones but bump the numbers up to $5, $6 and $7. California is the only state to use ARFs to fund its e-scrap recycling program. ARFs in the state currently apply to purchases of LCD displays, laptops with LCD screens, plasma TVs and personal DVD players. Consumers bought nearly 15.8 million electronics with ARFs during the 2015-16 fiscal year. Source: Resource Recycling, 7/21/16

Rising metals values pull minerals producer into e-scrap refining
A Nevada mining and refining company announced it will start accepting e-scrap -- specifically, ground up circuit boards from computers. Itronics Inc. plans to make silver bullion from its own internal silver concentrates and the silver found in recovered circuit boards. The company will also extract gold, palladium, copper and aluminum from e-scrap for other uses. Itronics noted it is getting the circuit boards from a Reno-based computer repair and sales company. It is also close to inking a similar deal with New2U Computers, a nonprofit group that repairs and resells old computers. Source: Resource Recycling, 7/21/16

Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Kane County [IL] trying to relaunch electronics recycling
Kane County is working to revamp and reactivate its electronics recycling program, which was suspended months ago after the county received an unmanageable volume of materials. By creating a new system for daily collection sites and resuming special recycling events, the county hopes to again provide residents with opportunities to safely dispose of their TVs, computers and electronics, said recycling coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Source: The Daily Herald, 7/18/16

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