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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015
This Super Bowl party won't waste any food
This week, in partnership with the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee and Super Bowl XLIX, the first Reduced Waste Challenge is taking place at Super Bowl Central. That's the 12-block area in the heart of downtown Phoenix where thousands will enjoy parties and live music. Source: AzCentral, 1/26/15

EPA Recognizes Outstanding Food Recovery Challenge and WasteWise Program Participants
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes the accomplishments of organizations and businesses participating in EPA's Food Recovery Challenge and WasteWise program for reducing their climate footprint, improving efficiency, helping communities and achieving cost savings through waste reduction. These programs save money, protect the environment and feed the hungry. Source: US EPA, 1/28/15

Measuring Phosphorus Loss from Midwest Crop Fields
Field runoff from farms in the Lake Erie basin is often rich in soluble plant nutrients, including phosphorus. When this nutrient-rich runoff reaches the lake, the phosphorus can support abundant algal blooms that contaminate municipal drinking water supplies. Source: Agricultural Research Service, 1/13/15

How these cities and regions are seriously tackling waste
On January 20th, the Danish Business Authority was crowned king of cities and regions at The Circular Economy Awards. This post from 2Degrees profiles all of the nominees in the Cities/Regions category. Source: 2Degrees, 1/13/15

Developing Cities Hold Big Key To Climate Action
Cities -- the best of which are bastions of transit networks, bike paths, compact apartments and chirpy baristas -- are growing faster than litters of sewer rats, exacerbating their already-high hungers for energy. The trend is so steep that a new analysis projects that urban centers will be burning through three times more energy in the year 2050 than was the case in 2005. But what sounds like a threat could also be viewed as an opportunity. The new study, by five European and American researchers and published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, pinpoints staggering potential climate benefits of smart growth, gasoline taxes and other measures that can reduce energy demand in urban centers, which is where a growing majority of the world's population is becoming concentrated and where most of its energy is used. Source: Climate Central, 1/15/15

Four Ways Cities Are Using Innovative Technology to Build Resilience
It takes a thoughtful approach for cities to leverage new technologies that help build their resilience. Here are four exciting ways that cities are thinking about how to use new technology to become more resilient. Source: 100 Resilient Cities, 1/21/15

Scope 2: Changing the Way Companies Think About Electricity Emissions
Approximately 40 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from energy generation, and about half of that energy is consumed by industrial or commercial users. If a fifth of the world's emissions come from the energy that keeps the world's businesses running, how does business report those emissions? Source: World Resources Institute, 1/20/15

10 members of Congress who actually get sustainable business
One key to connecting the dots between economic prosperity and sustainability: Recognition from Washington's top brass. Source: GreenBiz, 1/28/15

Ford, Nest, the Internet of Things: Can mobility merge with smart energy?
One priority at Ford Motor Co.'s new Silicon Valley R&D center is working with "Internet of Things" companies such as Google-owned Nest. Source: GreenBiz, 1/28/15

Four ways cities are using innovative technology to build resilience
It takes a thoughtful approach for cities to leverage new technologies that help build their resilience. Here are four exciting ways cities are getting it done. Source: GreenBiz, 1/28/15

Tuesday, January 27, 2015
Are prescription drugs harming fish? [Audio]
Lots of things end up in Great Lakes that shouldn't be there. Plastic bottles and microbeads, fertilizer runoff from farm fields, and invasive species to name a few. Now, add to that list prescription drugs. Researchers are increasingly worried about how chemicals from prescription medication could be impacting aquatic wildlife. Current State talks with Rebecca Klaper, a professor of freshwater science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Source: Great Lakes Echo, 1/27/15

Oregon Water Treatment Company Wants To Turn Sewer Water Into Beer
A water treatment company in Oregon says that it does such a good job of cleaning sewage that the resulting clean water could be used for human consumption rather than just irrigation and similar other purposes permitted by state law. And to prove their point, they are asking the state to let them provide a group of home brewers with recycled water for the brewing of beer. Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting, 1/22/15

What do businesses think of their CSOs?
Solid business sense is the top trait desired in sustainability professionals, according to a GlobeScan/BSR survey. Communication skills and ability to promote sustainability were also seen as key traits for CSR leaders. Source: GreenBiz, 1/27/15

Composting Coop Taps into the Unbroken Spirit of Rust Belt Cities
Daniel Brown is co-founder of Rust Belt Riders Composting, a worker-owned, bike-based, organic waste removal company in Cleveland. Here, he shares the story of how the Riders got their start, how cooperatives create a new framework for communities, and how rust belt cities are imbued with a changing, yet unbroken, spirit. Source: Shareable, 1/20/15

Why businesses should support the EPA's pollution rules
As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, sustainability advocate Ceres sets its sights on getting corporations to support proposed US power plant rules. Source: The Guardian, 1/27/15

All that glitters? 10 problems we need to tackle in the gold supply chain
The Guardian's panel of experts discussed how the gold industry could become more sustainable and transparent. Source: The Guardian, 1/27/15

Startup Looks to Computing to Heat Buildings
Ask any computer user and they'll all pretty much agree they don't want their machine running too hot. Whether a desktop, a laptop or a smartphone -- users try to keep things cool. The team at Project Exergy believes the opposite. They are working on a supercomputer that runs as hot as possible so that, according to this press release, it can store that heat and apply it to a home's space, water heating and air conditioning needs. In other words, almost all appliances and devices today have some sort of computer inside of them. Those computers all generate heat. Project Exergy's prototype is a centralized computer for the home that also heats the building it resides in. Source: Future Structure, 1/19/15

Telecoms, Data Center Trends Heighten Climate Risks, Vulnerability
Like water, energy and waste management, digital telecommunications and data centers have become utilities essential for modern societies to function sustainably. It is generally accepted that the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events -- and the onset of gradual, long-terms shifts in weather patterns and climate -- pose existential threats to critical information and communications technology (ICT) supply chains, as well as infrastructure. But a recent report from Riverside Technology and Acclimatise found that the business risks of climate change as they relate to telecommunications and data centers are poorly recognized -- particularly with respect to infrastructure and supply chains. Similarly, climate change resiliency and adaptation plans in this critical segment of the U.S. ICT sector are poorly developed, concluded the report, which was conducted on behalf of the federal government's General Services Administration (GSA). Source: Triple Pundit, 1/21/15

SGP Joins Esteemed Group of Members of Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council
By becoming a member of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC), the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) has joined forces with leaders from government, industry, academia, standards organizations and NGOs to develop a groundbreaking guidance program for leadership in sustainable purchasing. Public and private sector organizations will use the program to guide trillions of dollars in collective purchasing towards goods and services that simultaneously meet the needs of their organization, society and the planet. As a member of the SPLC, SGP will play an instrumental role in solving the biggest obstacle to sustainable institutional purchasing: a lack of standardization in how sustainable purchasing is defined, guided, measured and rewarded. Source: Sustainable Green Printing Partnership, 1/22/15

Other Environmental News

GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange, a national network of regional information centers: NEWMOA (Northeast), WRRC (Southeast), GLRPPR (Great Lakes), ZeroWasteNet (Southwest), P2RIC (Plains), Peaks to Prairies (Mountain), WSPPN (Pacific Southwest), PPRC (Northwest).


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