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Environmental News

Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Friday, December 19, 2014
IL: Lake County agency to close electronic waste collection sites
Lake County residents with unwanted electronics may want to hustle to the nearest collection point before the plug is pulled on free drop-off sites. The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, which works with 40 municipal partners and collects from 18 permanent sites, plans to close them all until further notice beginning Thursday. Whether they will reopen at some point is in flux as the agency determines its next step in what could become a $200,000 annual expense for what had been a free service. Source: Daily Herald, 12/15/14

Why Cellphone Unlocking Could Soon Be Illegal Once Again
Kyle Wiens of iFixit discusses the continuing legal controversy over cellphone unlocking and its relation to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA). Source: Wired, 12/9/14

IL: Kuusakoski acquires processing firm
Illinois-based Vintage Tech Recycling has been purchased by Kuusakoski, a central player in the ongoing industry debate over CRT glass management. A U.S.-based Kuusakoski executive confirmed the deal in an interview with E-Scrap News this week. Kuusakoski USA's parent company, Finland-based Kuusakoski Recycling, which has owned 40 percent of Vintage Tech since 2011, has acquired the remaining 60 percent of the company's shares. Vintage Tech was founded in 2005 and operates six processing facilities (two in Illinois and one each in California, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania). Most of those facilities carry both e-Stewards and R2 certification, and the company is active in several state take-back programs. Karrie Gibson, the processing firm's president, told E-Scrap News Vintage Tech operates more than 1,000 permanent collection sites nationwide. "The OEMs that Vintage Tech serves chose the destination for the glass produced under their respective programs, and this will not change," said Rich Hipp, CEO and president of Kuusakoski USA. Source: Resource Recycling, 12/19/14

MN: Project to create sustainable magnets wins $10K prize
A project aimed at developing magnets that don't require the use of rare earth elements captured the $10,000 top prize in a Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) competition held Dec. 4 at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment in St. Paul. Source: Unniversity of MInnesota, 12/8/14

Will New Technologies Give Critical Boost to Solar Power?
Promising new technologies, including more efficient photovoltaic cells that can harvest energy across the light spectrum, have the potential to dramatically increase solar power generation in the next two decades. But major hurdles remain. Source: Yale 360, 12/11/14

Monday, December 15, 2014
Swiss Researchers Create Eco-Friendly Plastic From Biofuel Waste
A new method for making biodegradable plastic could mean more free farmland for food. Source: Smithsonian, 12/12/14

So, you've finished your materiality exercise -- now what?
A first dive into materiality can result in more questions. Here's the approach to take in finding the answers -- and spreading the word -- for success. Source: GreenBiz, 12/12/15

What's your company's chemical risk?
Have you ever had a customer ask about chemicals in products or request that you don't use specific ones? Source: GreenBiz, 12/15/14

Friday, December 12, 2014
See Microsoft's in-office urban farming experiment
When it comes to challenges such as figuring out how to grow food more efficiently, we're always interested in the role that IT is playing in shaping new strategies to reduce the amount of resources drained in the process. In fact, one experiment in urban farming is taking place right under our own roof here at Microsoft, run by Mark Freeman and the company's dining services team, Dining at Microsoft. By growing food onsite and vertically integrating part of our food production, the team has created a unique opportunity to improve customer experience and quality of produce served on-site while also decreasing the company's ecological footprint. Source:, 12/5/14

Sims Recycling receives e-Stewards 2.0 certification
West Chicago, Illinois-based Sims Recycling Solutions, a global leader in IT asset reuse and recycling, has announced that it has been certified to the e-Stewards 2.0 Standard at all of its U.S. facilities. In adherence to the standard, Sims says it continues its commitment to process electronic devices in a manner that protects customer data and provides the greatest assurances in environmental and social responsibility. Sims' North American facilities were e-Stewards certified in early 2014 and also retain a number of other health, safety and environmental certifications, including the Responsible Recycling Practices (R2) Standard, ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. Source: Recycling Today, 12/9/14

Dunkin' Donuts Bakes Energy Efficiency Into Franchisee Program
It's only been three years since Dunkin' Donuts published its first corporate sustainability report. Now the coffee and baked goods giant is pushing franchisees to invest in energy-efficiency measures at their restaurants. Its DD Green initiative is a green building certification framework that recognizes investments in measures such as LED lighting fixtures, water-conserving fixtures and plumbing, recycling and waste management policies, and the use of construction materials and paints containing low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). DD Green was reviewed by certification body UL Environment, which audits sustainable business practices and products. Source: Forbes, 12/9/14

Thursday, December 11, 2014
Move Over Lithium-Ion: Vanadium-Flow Batteries Gain Commercial Traction
Having closed its first sales contracts here in the U.S., Imergy Power Systems' vanadium-flow battery systems offer distinct advantages as compared to their Li-ion counterparts, company President Tim Hennessy told 3p. For those unfamiliar with vanadium, it is a soft element, found in about 65 different minerals, that naturally resists corrosion. Longer discharge duration and greater scalability are other key differentiating factors of vanadium-flow batteries, Hennessy continued, making Imergy's ESP30s better suited for grid-scale applications. Furthermore, the electrolytes used never need to be replaced, they're nontoxic and non-flammable. Source: Triple Pundit, 12/11/14

Plugging the leaks: how digital tools can prevent water loss
Water companies are using artificial intelligence to tackle the loss of one-fifth of treated water before it reaches your tap. Source: The Guardian, 12/11/14

The hidden environmental cost of the Internet of Things
As M2M technologies continue revolutionize industries, there are concerns about the toll that the connected objects that comprise the IoT will exact on the environment. Source: ComputerWorld Australia, 12/8/14

New NYC law will ban e-waste with regular trash
Starting New Year's Day, it will be illegal to include electronics with normal trash and recycling, and those who do will face a $100 fine for each violation. Source: Capital New York, 12/9/14

Turning E-Waste into Light
Bangalore-based IBM Research India has a bright idea for keeping discarded lithium laptop batteries out of landfills: repurposing their cells as energy supplies for the powerless. The idea, presented at this weekend's fifth annual Symposium on Computing for Development (DEV 2014) in San Jose, has passed a small proof-of-principle test run with Bangalore's working poor. Source: IEEE Spectrum, 12/8/14

Our E-Waste Problem Is Ridiculous, and Gadget Makers Aren't Helping
Chances are high that you'll be getting or giving new electronics this holiday season: an iPhone upgrade for mom perhaps, or maybe a new Windows 8 ultrabook. Device upgrades have become increasingly frequent for many of us. Unfortunately, too many people give virtually no thought to what becomes of all these discarded gadgets. And neither are most device manufacturers. Source: Wired, 12/8/14

EPA Announces New Energy Star Tool for Homeowners to Save Money, Energy This Winter
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched its Energy Star Home Advisor, an online tool designed to help Americans save money and energy by improving the energy efficiency of their homes through recommended, customized and prioritized home-improvement projects. The updated Energy Star Home Advisor guides the homeowner through a "do-it-yourself" energy assessment to create an Energy Star home profile. Based on the newly created profile, the Home Advisor provides customized, prioritized recommendations for improvements. From these recommendations, users can create their own to-do lists of projects such as adding insulation to the attic or replacing an HVAC air filter. Source: US EPA, 12/8/14

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Discarded Laptop Batteries Keep the Lights On
Many of the estimated 50 million lithium-ion laptop batteries discarded every year could provide electricity storage sufficient to light homes in poor countries, researchers at IBM say. In work being aired this week at a conference in San Jose, researchers at IBM Research India in Bangalore found that at least 70 percent of all discarded batteries have enough life left to power an LED light at least four hours a day for a year. The IBM group, working with a hardware R&D firm called RadioStudio, tore open discarded laptop battery packaging and extracted individual storage units called cells, tested those individually to pick out the good ones, and recombined them to form refurbished battery packs. Then, after adding charging dongles as well as circuitry to prevent overheating, they gave them to five users in Bangalore who lived in slums or operated sidewalk carts. Source: MIT Technology Review, 12/3/14

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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