Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Wednesday, February 4, 2015
'Clicking Clean:' The Overlooked Opportunity and Scalable Benefits of Sustainable Web Design
According to a phenomenon known as Jevons Paradox, the increase in efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of that resource's consumption. In other words, the easier it becomes to use something, the more said thing gets used. It happened with coal, it happened with automobiles, and now it's happening with the Internet; we are unwittingly tweeting and posting our way to a warmer planet. With sustainable web practices, however, the latter doesn't have to follow the same environmentally disastrous path as the two former. Source: Sustainable Brands, 2/4/15

These Companies Want to Make Your Smartphone Truly Smart
Mike Hower discusses modular phone designs (like the Puzzlephone, Phonebloks, and Project Ara), as well as Fairphone, which focuses on a more ethically manufactured product. Source: Sustainable Brands, 1/27/15

More big businesses push for stricter environmental regulations
For many companies, it's becoming increasingly clear that you cannot be successful in a society that fails. Source: The Guardian, 2/4/15

Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Energizer Makes First Recycled AA Batteries
Energizer will begin selling AA batteries made partially from old recycled batteries, a small step towards decreasing the environmental impact of powering our gadgets. The batteries, called EcoAdvanced, will be the first from a major brand to contain recycled battery material--about 4%. And over their lifespan they'll contribute to 7% fewer greenhouse emissions than other disposable batteries, according to Energizer. They'll cost about $5 for a 4-pack, some 25% more than traditional high-performance batteries. Source: The Wall Street Journal, 2/3/15

Global supply chain still yawns at climate risks, CDP finds
Climate change warnings keep growing more dire, and the world's business leaders now even cite water crises and extreme weather as top economic risks. And yet the supply chains leading to many of the world's biggest companies reflect only middling attention to these issues. That's the conclusion of a new report by CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, and Accenture Strategy, which was informed by responses from 3,396 supply chain companies that sell goods or services to 66 of the world's largest multinational corporations Source: GreenBiz, 1/29/15

Researchers find salmon semen can be used to extract rare earth elements from waste
A team of researchers affiliated with several academic/research facilities in Japan has found that dried salmon semen can be used to extract rare earth elements (REEs) from liquid ore waste. In their paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, the team describes how they came up with the idea, the process they used, and the prospects of using their technique in commercial applications. Source:, 1/16/15

Crystal light: New family of light-converting materials points to cheaper, more efficient solar power and LEDs
Engineers have shone new light on an emerging family of solar-absorbing materials that could clear the way for cheaper and more efficient solar panels and LEDs. The materials, called perovskites, are particularly good at absorbing visible light, but had never been thoroughly studied in their purest form: as perfect single crystals. Using a new technique, researchers grew large, pure perovskite crystals and studied how electrons move through the material as light is converted to electricity. Source: University of Toronto via Science Daily, 1/29/15

Monday, February 2, 2015
Sprint Smartphone Encore Challenge Invites Students to Find New Life for Old Mobile Devices
Sprint launched today its inaugural Smartphone Encore Challenge, in conjunction with Brightstar Corp. and HOBI International, as a call-to-action for students to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components. The challenge will be facilitated by Net Impact, the leading nonprofit that empowers a new generation to work within and beyond business for a sustainable future. Source: Herald Online, 2/2/15

West Africa turns into dumping ground for e-waste
As measures by countries in East and Southern Africa to prevent the dumping of e-waste take effect, West Africa has become a destination for old computers, mobile devices and components. European Commission and U.N. studies show that West Africa is becoming a dumping site for e-waste from various parts of the world. Meanwhile, communication technology and services firm Ericsson says West Africa is becoming highly affected by e-waste, relative to other regions on the continent. The problem is compounded by the fact that most countries in Africa do not have e-waste recycling facilities. The lack of facilities results in careless disposal of electronic products. Ericsson is moving to address the issue, and last week partnered with mobile phone service provider MTN Benin to launch the first e-waste collection center and awareness drive in the West African country. Source: PC World, 1/30/15

Friday, January 30, 2015
Full disclosure: Another toxic villain rides into the sunset
This year is the deadline for phasing out PFOA and related compounds, which have been commonly used in waterproof clothing, firefighting foam, nonstick cookware and other products. On Jan. 15, the EPA announced that it would also seek the power to block any new use or imports of those chemicals. Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 1/24/15

Food Industry Drags Its Heels On Recyclable And Compostable Packaging
Let's face it: We are people who consume many of our meals on the go. That means we're not eating on real plates or bowls but out of plastic containers and paper boxes. And perhaps daily, we drink our coffees and sodas out of plastic or plastic-lined paper cups. Overall, Americans recycle at the lamentable rate of 34.5 percent and recycle plastic packaging at the even measlier rate of 14 percent. So the majority of that food packaging is ending up in landfills, or on the street as litter, where it may eventually get swept into the ocean. There, our wrappers and cans and cups become a much bigger problem -- a direct threat to marine life that may ingest it and die. According to a report published Thursday by the environmental groups As You Sow and the Natural Resources Defense Council, most of the major players in the restaurant and beverage industry are not doing a whole lot to ameliorate this problem. There's a big onus on the makers of packaged foods and beverages to reduce plastic and paper waste and also make it easier for us to recycle and compost the materials we use. Source: The Salt, 1/29/15

Coffee Horror: Parody Pokes At Environmental Absurdity Of K-Cups
You want a cup of decaf. Your significant other is craving the fully caffeinated stuff. With the simple push of a button, Keurig's single-serving K-Cup coffee pods can make both of you happy. But those convenient little plastic pods can pile up quickly, and they're not recyclable. And that's created a monster of an environmental mess, says Mike Hachey. Literally. Source: The Salt, 1/28/15

IL: Will County cuts back on electronics recycling
JOLIET -- Will County government will scale back its electronics recycling collection events this year to stave off possible increased costs, said Dean Olson, who heads up the county's Resource Recovery and Energy Division. Residents should expect two collection events, instead of the usual six, Olson said. The move is precautionary, as county leaders urge lawmakers to review a 2012 law that sets annual recycling goals for electronics manufacturers -- a key funder of programs statewide. Nearly all electronics manufacturers met pre-established quotas for pounds of electronics to recycle before the end of 2014. At that point, they stopped paying for recycling for the year, and the costs shifted to local government or recyclers. Last year, Vintage Tech Recycling, the county's vendor, absorbed those costs and suffered a financial hit. But the county's latest agreement with Vintage Tech requires the county to pick up the tab once a certain goal is met. Source: The Herald-News, 1/13/15

UK Dept. for Business, Innovation, and Skills confirms it will set WEEE compliance fee
BIS has confirmed to WEEE compliance schemes that it will be pressing ahead with its plans to introduce a compliance fee, and will reveal next week how the fee will be calculated. The announcement, from the Department for Business, comes ahead of the January 31 deadline for schemes to post their final WEEE evidence for the 2014 compliance period. Source:, 1/27/15

MTN and Ericsson partner to drive e-waste disposal and recycling in Benin
MTN Benin, has partnered with Ericsson, under their Ecology Management Program, to launch the first electrical and electronic equipment waste (e-waste) collection and awareness drive in Benin. This campaign is geared towards creating awareness and minimizing the potential environmental impact associated with the disposal of decommissioned electrical and electronic equipment in the country. Source: Market Watch, 1/19/15

Innovative Projects Engage Consumers, Businesses in Energy Savings via Technology
CHICAGO -- The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) celebrates nine winners that helped Midwestern businesses and consumers save energy and money in new and innovative ways. The recipients of MEEA's 2015 Inspiring Efficiency Awards include the development of an interactive smart phone app, which allows residential electric customers to see their energy usage in real-time; an initiative that has helped to make Chicago a more affordable, competitive and sustainable city; an industry leader who developed and managed an energy efficiency program portfolio that achieved the highest natural gas savings in the U.S.; and, an innovative new program to advance energy efficiency in low income housing, saving residents energy and money. Source: Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, 2/2/15

E-scrap interests push for "right-to-repair" law in Minnesota
Three entities with ties to e-scrap recycling are gearing up to push legislators in Minnesota to craft legislation that would give refurbishment professionals and others access to tools and information necessary to repair electronic devices. Auditing firm Greeneye Partners is working with Kyle Wiens, founder of iFixit, and Jennifer Larson, owner of Minnesota-based Vibrant Technologies, to organize a group of industry representatives for the effort in the Gopher State. Source: Resource Recycling/E-Scrap news, 1/29/15

CRT glass brought Creative Recycling Systems down
The trustee appointed to handle the liquidation of Creative Recycling Systems told E-Scrap News the company's collapse came down to one thing: CRT glass. Source: Resource Recycling/E-Scrap news, 1/29/15

Thursday, January 29, 2015
More important than money? Environmental health benefits inspire people to cut back on electricity
Telling people how much pollution they could prevent is more likely to reduce power use than touting cost savings. Source: UCLA, 1/12/15

Minnesota tops nation in pollution prevention
Minnesota businesses are the best in the nation at reducing or eliminating some dangerous pollutants, according to a Toxic Release Inventory report released by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This information is reported by manufacturing and other industrial facilities around the U.S. 2013 data showed Minnesota led the nation in implementing measures that resulted in toxic reductions. These activities helped contribute to a reduction of nearly 1 million pounds in toxic releases from 2012 to 2013 in Minnesota. Source: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency1/28/15

IERC 2015: Electronics recyclers gather in Austria
Innovative electronics recycling strategies, challenging market conditions and scrap exports were among the top discussion points at the International Electronics Recycling Congress (IERC) held in Salzburg, Austria, 21-23 January. Source: Recycling Today, 1/27/15

ERI participates in 'Person in Port' program
Electronic Recyclers International (ERI), Fresno, California, hosted and helped train guests from around the world last week as part of the "Person in Port" program. The United Nations University (UNU), the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Basel Convention Coordination Centre for Africa (BCCC) in Nigeria--each members of the Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) initiative--launched the program. The StEP partners are teaming up with ERI to gather information and reliable data on Nigeria's importing of used electronics and e-waste. Nigeria is one of the main countries in West Africa through which electronic waste flows. The project focuses on identifying the types and amounts of e-waste imported; its functional status; how it is packaged, labeled and transported; its origin (exporting countries); and what will become of it once it arrives in Nigeria. Timing of the project is to be determined, ERI says. Source: Recycling Today, 1/28/15

Donating food to the hungry should be easy -- why isn't it?
'If we want food recovery to become as commonplace for restaurants and food service providers as recycling and composting have become, then we need policymakers to address the bureaucratic tangle around what can be donated and how.' Claire Cummings, Waste Specialist for Bon Appetit Management Company Foundation, explains that 'we need shared national standards around what food recovery entails and how to donate prepared food safely.' Source: GreenBiz, 1/21/15

What plastic can learn from steel in a circular economy
According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), "steel produced by predominantly scrap-fed electric-arc furnaces accounted for more than 60% of the total raw steel produced in the United States in 2013." Plastics, an even more versatile material than steel, could follow the same trajectory and for the same reasons. Why don't more US recycled material processors build the capacity to intercept this material and process it more responsibly in the US? Mike Biddle expores these questions for Guardian Sustainable Business. Source: Guardian Sustainable Business, 1/29/15

Other Environmental News

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