Backyard Talk

Where Do Plastics Go?

When a plastic bottle gets recycled by an environmentally-conscious consumer, where does it go? Many people assume it gets trucked off somewhere nearby and ultimately gets reborn as a brand new product further down the line. The reality, however, is that a significant portion of America’s waste used to get sent to China to be processed and potentially turned into something useful.
Unfortunately, since January 1 of 2018, China has placed bans and restrictions on many types of waste the United States used to export, leaving huge amounts of potentially reusable materials with nowhere to utilize them. By 2030, 111 million metric tons of plastic waste that otherwise would have been processed in China now has nowhere to be handled.[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][1] The domestic factories that process these kinds of materials into usable goods are too few, too small, and too swamped to take on this extra capacity.
Under an administration that touts its “America First” values as paramount, it seems overwhelmingly hypocritical to be sending huge portions of our recycling, and the jobs and income associated with processing and repurposing it, away to other countries. The United States isn’t only missing out on a large economic opportunity by neglecting to re-establish a recycling industry on American soil. Unsurprisingly, the practice of shipping off our waste for someone else to deal with has had negative consequences for the countries burdened with it.
Currently, portions of what used to be sent to China now go to countries like Vietnam and Thailand without adequate facilities to process recyclable materials. Without the proper infrastructure it is common in some places to simply burn these pallets of plastics, metals, and e-waste releasing huge quantities of air pollution.[2] Under America’s current recycling system, we are essentially exporting toxic gases that damage the health and beauty of developing nations across the Pacific.
While public awareness of what can and can’t be recycled and government initiative to re-establish an American recycling industry are important, they do nothing to address the fact that Americans on average generate nearly 5 pounds of waste every day.[3] Ultimately, the best thing to do is consume less plastics and other single-use materials altogether. If you want to reduce the amount of waste you generate, consider using reusable water bottles and portable coffee mugs, bringing your own cutlery to work on days you eat out, and demanding that companies or businesses where you spend your money use less single-use packaging.

Homepage Superfund News

A toxic town, a search for answers

“Even before Hassan Amjad’s family buried him on a West Virginia hillside, phone calls flooded his daughter’s office.
The callers remembered him as a kind man, boundless in his curiosity, fiery in his convictions, who had long maintained a medical clinic in nearby Oak Hill, in an old whitewashed house with a squeaky screen door and creaking wood floors.

 But some of them also sounded worried. Ayne Amjad, a doctor like her father, heard the same questions again and again: Who will stand up for us now? Will we be forgotten?

Her father had made it his mission to get justice — or at least answers — for the people of this once-thriving coal town an hour south of the state capital. He told anyone willing to listen that industrial chemicals dumped decades ago by the now-defunct Shaffer Equipment Co. had long been poisoning residents.” Read More

Water News

Two Michigan Communities Drinking Polluted Water Since 2012

Two Kalamazoo-area communities were told not to drink the water because of  high levels of contaminants discovered in recent testing. Recent tests showed a concentration of more than 1,500 parts per trillion of PFAS coming from Parchment’s water supply, more than 20 times higher than the U.S. EPA’s health advisory of 70 parts per trillion. Read more.

Superfund News

Wildfire burns near Libby, MT Asbestos Superfund site

“Anytime you operate near any Superfund site, it’s very noteworthy …The fire’s probably the most simple thing that you have to worry about.”
Asbestos still lingers in Operable Unit 3’s trees and soil. Research shows that when this material burns, the majority of asbestos fibers stay in the ash rather than go airborne. But the fibers’ direction and impact can be difficult to predict, especially in a large fire. Read more.

Homepage Water News

AZ Residents Water Polluted

“If we’d known the water was this filthy, we probably wouldn’t have bought here. I feel like we were cheated,” said Jose, a Border Patrol agent, about the Saguaro Bloom well contamination.
Read more.

Homepage Water News

Sen. Gillibrand,N.Y. Introducing Bill to Cleanup Drinking Water

No one should ever have to wonder if their water is safe. Across NY state, drinking water contamination has been hurting communities. Read more. On a federal level there is a bill in the Senate that force all schools to test their drinking water and provides grants to replace pipes where necessary. Take action button is on the left side of our webpage. Please let your representative know you care.

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Bridgeton Landfill Update

A 2013 lawsuit regarding the Bridgeton landfill finally reached a settlement in Missouri courts. The settlement holds Bridgeton accountable and is a step in the right direction according to Missouri’s Attorney General. Republic Services will still manage the site. Additionally, Bridgeton will create a$12.5 million restitution fund and pay $3.5 million in fines and damages.
Read More. 

Superfund News

Georgia School Moved from Superfund Site

Community members were concerned over new plans to build a new elementary school on the existing site that has been contaminated for over 40 years. The Glynn Country board unanimously voted to move the school three-quarters of a mile from the existing school.
Read More

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Per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substamnces (PFAS) Summit

June 27, 2018
More than 200 people participated in the opening session of the first of several regional summits on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PSAS) and related chemicals that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to sponsor over the coming year.  The summit held in Exeter, New Hampshire included both a public forum Monday, June 25 and a series of workshops the following day which involved environmental officials from the state, the federal government, municipal officials and interested parties. This regional summit was a follow-up to the EPA’s National Summit held in Washington, DC in May as it considers new standards and regulations to deal with the threats posed by this group of chemicals and the development of effective environmental cleanup methods.  For more information on these chemicals and the community engagement process.
David Bond, from Bennington College, gave one of several presentations before the gathering. Bond said different regulations in every state and different levels of enforcement have made it more difficult to address the complex challenges posed by PFAS. Bond contrasted Vermont’s quick action when contamination was found in Bennington County with the slower, less vigorous response from New York state to PFAS contamination in the Hoosick Falls, New York, area.
However, Bond did praise a recent lawsuit filed by New York in an attempt to hold companies that released the chemicals into the atmosphere responsible for the costs of dealing with the contamination.  He also said “I think of Vermont as a model for how to respond,” when Former Gov. Peter Shumlin and other officials, swooped in immediately after the tainted wells were discovered and held informational sessions.  The governor ensured that water was delivered to residents, and the state pressured Saint Gobain to extend a water line to affected residents, as well as, having the Vermont Department of Health hold screening clinics.
Bond explained that exposure to perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and similar chemicals, primarily through drinking water, has been associated with high cholesterol, ulcerative colitis, thyroid disease, testicular cancer, kidney cancer and pregnancy-induced hypertension.  These highly soluble chemicals can be spread through spills, dump sites or through factory stack emissions, working their way into groundwater or reservoir water sources, where it is believed they will not dissipate for many years, if ever.
Bond recommended a uniform, national approach guided from the federal level, including legal action if necessary by the Department of Justice against polluters.
Bond also stated that the EPA released an 850-plus-page draft report on June 21  that indicated the standards for the level of PFOA in drinking water should be lowered significantly.  The EPA has set a safe drinking water standard at 70 parts per trillion, while Vermont set its standard at 20 parts per trillion.  Bond stated, that both might need to be lowered, according to the draft report.  The Comment Period for the draft report, prepared by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) must be submitted by July 21.

Homepage Superfund News

$100 Million Superfund Settlement in Rhode Island

The EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, and the state DEP reached a $100 settlement from Emhart Industires Inc. and Black & Decker Inc. will clean up the dioxin-contaminated soil at the Superfund site in Northern Providence and Johnson. The site covers nine acres on the Woonaskqutucket River.
Read more here