Materials and Waste

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Solid Waste

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$180bn investment in plastic factories feeds global packaging binge

"The global plastic binge which is already causing widespread damage to oceans, habitats and food chains, is set to increase dramatically over the next 10 years after multibillion dollar investments in a new generation of plastics plants in the US."

"Fossil fuel companies are among those who have ploughed more than $180bn since 2010 into new “cracking” facilities that will produce the raw material for everyday plastics from packaging to bottles, trays and cartons."

Disposal of Paper and Paperboard Waste, by Year

Peak use of paper and paperboard was in around year 2000, after which electronic communication started to cut into the amount of paper used and discarded. Subsequently paper recycling grew, which cut the amount going to landfills and garbage incinerators. Numbers are in thousands of tons per year, nationally.

Hefty EnergyBag ends yearlong recycling pilot in Omaha; program remains controversial despite saving 10 tons of materials from landfills

"It works like this: People in the Omaha area buy orange Hefty-brand bags from local Hy-Vee stores or from online vendors. They then fill the bags with stuff that’s not otherwise recyclable, like foam cups, chip bags and plastic utensils. The bags go into recycling bins, and once they arrive at the City of Omaha’s contracted recycling sorting facility, they’re picked off a conveyor belt and stockpiled for alternative uses. One such use is a fuel source at a Kansas City-area cement kiln."

"Dawaune Lamont Hayes, 23, of Omaha has spent the better part of this year stuffing the orange bags with such plastics. Hayes, who is communications director for a local art gallery, says he fills one up about every two months."

“I know that I have an option not to throw it into a landfill,” Hayes said.

"Sounds simple, right? But along the way, the program has also found vociferous criticism."

"On one side, program advocates say finding alternative uses for these materials is an improvement over sending them to rot in a landfill."

"On the other, local and national sustainability advocates have blasted the program. They say if we’re going to continue to use such materials as they’re currently made — think the multilayered potato chip bag — it’d be better to just let the stuff sit in a landfill. If that potato chip bag, for instance, is incinerated, as has been one use case with the program so far, it will emit carbon dioxide — exactly what environmentalists and many scientists say the Earth doesn’t need more of."

The Divide: Time for NY to Become the Resource Recovery State

"Landfills have been the talk of the town(s) the past year. Solid waste management on all levels – local, state, national and worldwide – must be taken seriously in 2018. Municipal landfills are reaching the end of their lifespans (see the city of Albany). Privately-owned dump operators are taking in more trash than they are legally permitted to accept (see Colonie/Waste Connections, Inc.). Enormous landfills (many in southern states) that take in waste shipped from out-of-state producers are filling up at a record pace. And, according to a report by Kadir van Lohuizen in The Washington Post, “The world produces more than 3.5 million tons of garbage a day – and that figure is growing.” The divide between the proposed goals set to decrease the amount of waste we produce and the actual implementation of programs to meet those goals is as deep and wide and high as Albany’s Rapp Road landfill."

Dunn Construction Landfill, Monthly Tonnage 2016

Many people don't realize that the Albany-area's largest landfill in total tonnage in 2016 was the Dunn Construction Debris Landfill in Rensselaer. It only accepts construction debris unlike the Rapp Road Landfill which takes in a variety of wastes. Nearly every month the Dunn Landfill took in a greater tonnage of waste then any other Capital Region Landfill. Compare to the Rapp Road Landfill:

Data Source: NYSDEC Annual Solid Waste Facility Reports, 2016.

Rapp Road Landfill Yearly Tonnage, 1991-2016

In recent years, the City of Albany has tried to maximize their profitability at the Rapp Road Landfill by taking in more different types of waste, including asbestos-contaminated materials, industrial wastes, sewage sludge incinerator waste, and petroleum contaminated soil.

Data Source: NYSDEC Annual Solid Waste Facility Reports, 2016.

Why the Deadly Asbestos Industry is Still Alive and Well

"Despite irrefutable scientific evidence calling out the dangers of asbestos, 2 million tons of the carcinogen are exported every year to the developing world, where it's often handled with little to no regulation."

"For this episode of VICE Reports, correspondent Milène Larsson traveled to the world's largest asbestos mine in the eponymous town of Asbest, Russia, to meet workers whose livelihoods revolve entirely around the dangerous mineral. Surprisingly, the risks associated with asbestos mining didn't seem to worry the inhabitants; in fact, asbestos is the city's pride, celebrated with monuments, songs, and even its own museum."

"Larsson then visits Libby, Montana, another mining town almost on the other side of the globe, where the effects of asbestos exposure are undeniable: 400 townspeople have died from asbestos-related diseases, and many more are slowly choking to death. Why is the deadly industry of mining and selling asbestos still alive and well?"