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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Apple Patent Could Prevent Cracked iPhones
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week awarded Apple a patent for a "protective mechanism for an electronic device," i.e. a gravity-defying handset with cat-like reflexes. Thanks to an integrated motion sensor, the phone would detect when it is in freefall, then run rapid calculations to reposition itself in mid-air, landing in the safest way possible. With an air of science fiction, the patent describes the phone's various sensors, including the accelerometer, GPS, gyroscopes, camera, and an as-yet-unreleased ultrasonic emitter, all working together to determine the iDevice's trajectory, spin, and angle of descent--in real time. Source: PC Magazine, 12/3/14

Google, Big Data and robots: Tech's new food security moonshot
Innovation Endeavors, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm co-founded by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, has teamed with supply chain solutions company Flextronics to convene a "collective" of corporations angling to capitalize on the many obstacles -- and opportunities -- in the agricultural sector. The new collective, Farm2050, already has announced partners including Google, DuPont, AGCO, Sensitech and 3D Robotics. Innovation Endeavors Founding Managing Partner Dror Berman told GreenBiz that he hopes to add to its roster incumbent leaders in food and food manufacturing. Source:, 12/1/14

Panasonic's New Smart Town Can Teach Business a Thing or Two About Smart Growth
Tech companies are going to new lengths to showcase their innovations, and here's the latest case in point: a consortium called Fujisawa SST Council will develop an entire "Sustainable Smart Town" for 3,000 souls in Fujisawa City, Japan, under the leadership of Panasonic Corporation. The town, named Fujisawa SST (SST stands for Sustainable Smart Town) had its grand opening last week, and completion of construction is expected by 2018. The stated goal is to create a smart growth community that can support sustainable development for at least 100 years. Source: Triple Pundit, 12/3/14

Tuesday, December 2, 2014
What Role Should Cities Play in Sustainable Consumption?
Interview with J. Lauren Norris who runs the Resourceful PDX program, encouraging Portlanders to buy smart, reuse, borrow and share, and fix and maintain to reduce waste. Source: Shareable, 11/22/14

Nominations now open for 20th Annual Green Chemistry Challenge Award
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced its call for nominations for the 2015 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for companies or institutions that have developed a new process or product that helps protect public health and the environment. Nominations are due by December 31. Source: U.S. EPA, 11/13/14

Monday, December 1, 2014
Blu-ray Discs get repurposed to improve solar cells
Using Blu-ray Discs to watch movies is so 2006. Now they can boost the efficiency of solar cells. Imprinting the discs' data-storing etchings onto solar cells increases the cells' absorption of sunlight, according to a study published November 25 in Nature Communications. Previous research has shown that making nanometer-sized etchings onto a solar cell's surface helps trap more light, so Jiaxing Huang, a materials chemist at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., looked to Blu-ray Discs, which store data in the form of tiny bumps and pits. He and his team collected various movies and TV shows, and used a mold of the discs to imprint their patterns onto polymer solar cells. The patterned solar cells that Huang's team tested absorbed nearly 22 percent more light than smooth cells. Source: Science News, 11/25/14

What Can Cities Really Do About Climate Change?
Grand Rapids, Mich., stands as tangible evidence of what cities can do to reduce human impact on the environment. But the city's efforts also underscore its limitations. Source: Governing, December 2014

5 keys to a successful energy performance contract
Set it up well and an energy performance contract (EnPC) can achieve amazing things for businesses with must-be-met targets to save or generate their own energy. Such as finally getting postponed maintenance and asset replacement projects underway. Or overcoming scepticism that promised benefits will materialize. Or doing away with the need for upfront capital, when a project would pay for itself quickly if it could just get done. Source: GreenBiz, 11/28/14

Rethinking the language of environmentalism
The movement must more effectively communicate its goals and transformative potential. Could the language of freedom and justice help? Source: GreenBiz, 11/26/14

Greener stadiums: Sports world sees the (LED) light
Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights are both high performing and energy efficient, but they initially faced a slow adoption curve in the industry because of high costs. As the cost curve moves down, however, more venues are making the switch to LEDs. Source: GreenBiz, 11/26/14

3 energy efficiency myths debunked
Common misconceptions about efficiency not only can increase energy use, but actually can end up costing consumers and business money. From using less energy to energy audits to the cost dilemma, below are three common misconceptions that should be debunked. Source: GreenBiz, 11/25/14

Gamification: What's your next move to engage employees?
Just four years ago, "gamification" projects were one of the loudest-hyped trends in employee engagement -- not just for advancing sustainability initiatives but for pretty much any program aimed at reshaping behavior. Today, that enthusiasm is far more muted: technology research firm Gartner famously predicted that 80 percent of all gamification investments will fall short by the end of this year. Yet, initiatives that play on people's natural competitiveness, their desire to come out ahead of others, still can be highly effective. Source: GreenBiz, 11/24/14

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
IL: Electronics recycling bill introduced in Springfield
A proposed change in state law aimed to save underfunded electronics recycling programs made its debut Wednesday in Springfield.House Bill 4204, sponsored by state Rep. Emily McAsey, D-Lockport, was aired on the first day of the lawmakers' November veto session during an Illinois House Environmental Committee subject matter hearing. "If some changes are not made, I'm concerned [some programs] will cease to be able to operate," McAsey told members Wednesday during a hearing. "There's the possibility of widespread illegal dumping [of electronics]." Illinois does not allow most electronic appliances, including TVs and computers, in landfills. Will County and other local governments have created recycling programs as an option. Marta Keane, recycling specialist for Will County, was among those who testified in favor. She characterized the situation as a crisis, while representatives from the manufacturing industry argued against advancing the legislation without careful vetting. To blame is the rising cost of recycling and the low annual recycling goals set by state law for electronics manufacturers, Keane said. Once manufacturers meet certain weight goals, they no longer have to pay recycling contractors to process items. In turn, some recyclers -- such as Vintage Tech in Will County -- end up footing the bill. But how long that can last is uncertain. Others have shut down or begun charging local governments for the services. Source: The Herald-News, 11/19/14

New Gorilla Glass 4 Reduces Shattered Screens
Corning officially revealed Thursday the next iteration of its formulation for Gorilla Glass -- a super damage-resistant cover glass for handheld electronic devices and other applications that also allows for ultra-thin (and thus lightweight) characteristics. The latest formulation -- called Gorilla Glass 4 -- is said to produce up to two times the damage resistance of the previous Gorilla Glass 3 version introduced a year ago and even greater strength than hardened, aluminosilicate glasses on the market. In addition, Corning has developed other processes manufacturers can select to add features -- like anti-microbial characteristics and bonding with other materials, like stainless steel, to keep surfaces for things like major appliances resistant to scratching and fingerprints. Source: TWICE, 11/20/14

Tuesday, November 25, 2014
BIR Roundtable Sessions: Electronics recyclers seek clarity
In providing an update on the different rules imposed for transboundary movements of electronic scrap, the Bureau of International Recycling (BIR) Environmental & Technical Director Ross Bartley confirmed that his organization continues to receive numerous inquiries on this subject because of a lack of clarity. "It is unclear when a waste is not listed how it is controlled. For example, in a number of countries notification is required," he told delegates attending the BIR E-Scrap Committee meeting in Paris on Oct. 27. As for transboundary movement of a pre-owned item for reuse, he said, "There needs to be sufficient certainty that it will actually be reused, because if it is not its disposal may pose a threat to human health and the environment." Source: Recycling Today, 11/23/14

CEA releases study on electronics recycling
The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), a technology trade association headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, has released a study showing that electronics recycling continues to receive significant support from consumers. The report, titled "Recycling and Reuse Study, 2014 Edition," shows that 82 percent of U.S. adults say that recycling obsolete electronics is important. The survey also finds that 30 percent of consumers surveyed have recycled electronic products over the past year. Source: Recycling Today, 11/24/14

Utah recycler abandons three facilities in the state
The Basel Action Network (BAN), Seattle, reports that Stone Castle Recycling, previously one of Utah's largest recyclers of electronic scrap, has abandoned its three facilities in the state. The company has ceased all operations and has left behind several warehouses and yards filled with an estimated 7,600 tons of toxic electronic scrap and charred residues, the organization says. Source: Recycling Today, 11/19/14

Electronics Recycling Asia: Getting more formal
The valuable materials found in some obsolete electronic items have helped create a thriving underground economy of dismantlers and recyclers. However, the existence of hazardous substances in some of these same items creates a bad combination that means this "informal sector" can harm people and the environment. How to engage and potentially reform this informal sector was a topic of discussion at the Electronics Recycling Asia conference, held in Singapore in mid-November. Source: Recycling Today, 11/24/14

Other Environmental News

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