Tag Archives: waste

Loving the Plastic Bag

Since their invention in the 1960s, disposable plastic bags have made lives easier for lazy shoppers the world over. But once used, they become a blight. This is particularly true in poor countries without good systems for disposing of them. They are not only unsightly. Filled with rainwater, they are a boon for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Dumped in the ocean, they kill fish. They may take hundreds of years to degrade. On March 15th Kenya announced that it will become the second country in Africa to ban them. It follows Rwanda, a country with a dictatorial obsession with cleanliness, which outlawed them in 2008…

As Kenyans get richer and move to cities, the amount of plastic they use is growing. By one estimate, Kenya gets through 24m bags a month, or two per person. (Americans, by comparison, use roughly three per person.) Between 2010 and 2014 annual plastic production in Kenya expanded by a third, to 400,000 tonnes. Bags made up a large part of the growth.

Kenya has tried to ban polythene bags twice before, in 2007 and 2011, without much success. This latest measure is broader, but few are ready for it. The Kenyan Association of Manufacturers says it will cost thousands of jobs. Some worry that supermarkets will simply switch to paper bags, which could add to deforestation. And then there is the question of whether Kenyan consumers will accept it. In Rwanda, since its ban was imposed, a thriving underground industry has emerged smuggling the bags from neighbouring Congo.

Excerpts African Rubbish: Plastic Bantastic, Economist, Mar. 25, 2016

To Scrap or not to Scrap: the future of recycling

About 90 percent of the 8 billion soda cans sold in California every year get turned in for recycling and a 5¢ refund. But cheaper commodity prices, plus lower Chinese demand for America’s used bottles and cans, have upended the economics of the state’s recycling industry. Over the past two years, California’s recycling rate has fallen enough to relegate more than 2 billion containers a year to landfills.  About 700 of the 2,400 redemption centers California had in 2011 have closed, according to CalRecycle, the state’s recycling agency, the majority in the past year. The mostly small companies that run the shedlike centers in parking lots outside grocery stores are being squeezed by a commodity bust that’s lowered the price they receive for recycled glass, plastic, and aluminum. The price they have to pay consumers for this detritus has stayed fairly high. A state subsidy program that was supposed to help make up the difference hasn’t kept up.,,

The decline in the value of scrap is draining California’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund, which relies on the proceeds from bottle deposits consumers pay upfront to reimburse redemption centers. As of June 30, it had $195 million, down from $246 million a year earlier. At this rate, it’s expected to run out of money in the first half of 2018.

“There’s been a massive crisis and a massive failure to respond to that crisis,” says Susan Collins, president of the Container Recycling Institute, an advocacy group in Southern California. Collins says the state needs to boost its “outdated” payment formula by as much as $1 million a month or follow other states, where bottling companies pay recycling centers a fixed amount per container. A spokesman for CalRecycle says the state is looking at all options.

China is the largest destination for U.S. scrap exports, taking about 11 percent by volume in 2015. Since 2013, under a government program called Operation Green Fence, China has been aggressively inspecting and in some cases turning away bottles and cans that are mixed in with food waste or other nonrecyclable scrap. The policy has forced waste processors in the U.S. to screen discarded containers more carefully, driving up costs and diminishing the value of some waste.

Excerpts from California’s Recycling Industry is in the Dumps, Bloomberg Business Week, Oct. 6, 2016

Hazardous Waste in the Pacific Islands

Vunato rubbish dump Fiji.  Phote from Fiji Times online

EnvironmentT Minister Colonel Samuela Saumatua highlighted at a regional workshop that waste management is one of the biggest challenges facing Pacific Island countries today.  He said growing volumes of solid and hazardous waste had become a major threat to the environment.  “Globalisation is accelerating with increasing urbanisation, migration and participation in international trade,” Col. Saumatua said.  This is resulting in an escalation of solid and liquid wastes, more shipping and land transport and more infrastructure and industry throughout the region, all of which increase the risk of land, coastal and marine pollution from waste.”  He said the lack of controls on imported goods, with the lack of capacity to manage waste threatened to undermine the quality and health of vulnerable island ecosystems on which Pacific Islands depended.

Ana Madigibuli, Hazardous waste rises,Fiji Times Online, Mar. 8, 2013

Indigenous Peoples against the Waste Pipeline: human rights

Fishers and indigenous people in southern Chile have petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in their 15-year conflict with Celulosa Arauco y Constitución (CELCO), a paper pulp company which plans to dump toxic waste in the ocean, and with the Chilean state for alleged human rights violations.

The Valdivia pulp mill, one of several owned by CELCO, is located 500 metres from the south bank of the Cruces river in the Los Ríos region, upstream from the Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary and 40 kilometres from the Bay of Mehuín (or Maiquillahue), the home of communities that depend on fishing for a living.  The company wants to lay a 40-kilometre waste pipeline from the pulp mill to Mehuín, including a 2-kilometre undersea extension, that would discharge the plant’s effluents directly into the ocean at a depth of 18 metres.  Small-scale fishers and people belonging to the Lafkenche (“people of the coast”) branch of the indigenous Mapuche community, living on the Bay of Mehuín, 800 kilometres south of Santiago, have been fighting the pipeline project since 1996.

In 2004 the company began discharging its effluents into the local Cruces river, but after a massive die-off and migration of black-necked swans (Cygnus melancoryphus) in the Anwandter Nature Sanctuary, in 2006 it resumed its original plan to build the waste pipeline to the ocean.  The Valdivia pulp mill produces 550,000 tonnes of pulp a year for export. In March, however, production had to be suspended due to the low rate of flow in the Cruces river, which fell below five cubic metres a second – the lowest limit established by the authorities for pulp production, which consumes enormous quantities of water.  Chile provides six percent of the 48 million tonnes of paper pulp traded on the world market every year. Last year, it brought in export revenues of 1.79 billion dollars. The forestry sector as a whole contributes 3.1 percent of GDP.

CELCO was granted permission to build the waste pipeline Feb. 24, 2010 by the Regional Commission for the Environment (COREMA), and it is expected to be completed in two years’ time. The population that will be affected by the project includes 20 coastal communities of Lafkenche people and small-scale fishers in Mehuín, Cheuque, La Barra and Mississipí.  Another 20 or so native communities further south and associations of fisherfolk with nearly 1,000 members, in neighbouring bays and inland areas, could also suffer harmful effects….

The Committee for the Defence of the Sea, an organization of local people, lodged appeals in the courts against the environmental permit granted by COREMA, and demanded protection for the integrity and lives of fisherfolk and Lafkenche people, and for the right of the native peoples to live on the coast, which is guaranteed under Chilean law. But the Supreme Court denied the motion. When all efforts to obtain justice in the national courts failed, the Committee for the Defence of the Sea took its case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), requesting urgent precautionary measures and a restraining order against any work related to the construction of the pipeline…[O]ne of the legal petitions has to do with the rights of native communities, who were not consulted over this project in their territory, as stipulated in International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which came into effect in Chile Sept. 15, 2009…

CELCO, which owns five pulp mills in Chile and another in Argentina, has a record for polluting. Operations have had to be suspended at the Valdivia plant on several occasions because of judicial injunctions, among other reasons for exceeding its permitted production limit.

Excerpt, Pamela Sepúlveda, Fishing Villages Turn to Int’l Justice in Fight Against Waste Duct, Inter Press Service, May 5, 2011