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Chemical Recycling – A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Photo credit: GAIA

By Stephen Lester.

Several years ago, the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) released a report warning about a growing trend promoted by the chemical plastics industry called “chemical recycling” (also referred to as “advanced recycling,” “waste-to-fuel,” “waste-to-plastic,” “plastic transformation,” and “plastics renewal”). According to GAIA, eight states had passed laws at that time that relaxed pollution regulations and/or provided subsidies for facilities that promoted these processes. Some even explicitly defining them as recycling facilities, despite numerous reports from media, watchdog, and nonprofit groups concluding that they are doing little more than burning plastic.

In a legislative update released this month, GAIA now lists 20 states that “have passed laws redefining these processes as non-waste, including several that inaccurately “define chemical ‘recycling’ as recycling” (emphasis in the original). According to this excellent new report, many of these laws reclassify waste or incinerator processes (including pyrolysis and gasification) and/or feedstocks in a way that would subject them to less stringent air and water quality requirements. Some of these bills redefine solid waste processing as manufacturing, or plastic waste as a post-use polymer or recovered feedstock.

This is a disturbing trend that GAIA warns is being accelerated by the petrochemical industry, who is chiefly behind it. The report argues that this “aggressive legislative strategy” has focused on passing laws at the state level that feature two approaches. First, some laws provide financial incentives to build facilities while making them exempt from some state laws. The second approach pushes for the inclusion of chemical “recycling” in the definition of acceptable recycling in Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) bills. These aim to reduce packaging by requiring producers, rather than municipalities, to pay for the recycling of plastic packaging. At the federal level, GAIA notes that the industry has targeted regulators instead of legislators. As an example, GAIA points out that the USEPA included chemical “recycling” in its 2021 National Recycling Strategy.

GAIA names the American Chemistry Council (ACC), the industry lobby arm, as the chief perpetrator of this campaign and describes a report released by ACC this year announcing “$8.7 billion in investments in 83 projects in advanced recycling and recovery, as well as mechanical recycling, aimed at revolutionizing the use and reuse of plastic resources.”

Several advocacy groups are circulating a sign-on letter to Congress to oppose industry sponsored plastic burning legislation. That letter begins: “The American Chemistry Council is working to have federal legislation introduced that would strip regulations from pyrolysis and gasification incinerators and pave the way for a national network of plastic burning facilities that the industry continues to greenwash as so-called ‘advanced recycling.’” Sign on to this letter urging members of Congress to reject any such industry bill and uphold longstanding environmental law designed to protect public health from industrial polluters. The deadline for signing is September 9th.

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International Environmental Governance

Photo credit: Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Images

By Arien Hernandez.

Climate injustice, alongside a lack of state responsibility and commitment, is arguably one of the world’s most formidable challenges regarding climate change. Measured by the extent of damage that would occur if no climate action was taken, developing countries are more vulnerable to climate change, and yet have fewer resources to combat it (Chap. 3, Morin et al.).

Regardless of their emissions, developing countries deal with a disproportionate impact of pollution and environmental degradation due to their reliance on natural resources. Climate change is one of the greatest risks to lower wealth communities, as it is a “force capable of literally ‘undoing’ decades of development”. Meanwhile, some developed states, such as the U.S., have favored minimal agreements in environmental treaties or policies, which are sometimes incomplete or ambiguous (Chapter 7, Morin et al.). Although states have shown initiation in climate action through international treaties such as the Paris Agreement, the ambition gap is a clear indicator that states need stricter emissions targets. If every country shared a systematic and structural view on the environment, these issues would be easier to solve (Chap 6, Morin et al.).

Developed countries can help remedy this issue by taking responsibility for their historic and current emissions while supporting developing nations by transferring funds, expertise, and technologies. Thus, alleviating some of the climate inequity. To fully commit to stricter emissions targets, developed states could enforce emissions trading, ratify more environmental treaties with binding emission targets, or divest from fossil fuels and encourage sustainable energy.

The increasing involvement of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and their significant contributions in addressing collective action problems in global environmental politics, has restored a majority of my hope for the future. A perfect example is noting California’s initiation in air pollution legislation and greenhouse gas emission policies, whereas the U.S. federal government fails to uphold similar goals. It is promising to know that amid inaction and irresponsibility across state actors, many groups and organizations are committed to combating climate change. However, more environmental cooperation and action is needed if we are to restore the Earth’s climate to sustainable and healthier levels.

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UX Thinking for Online Advocacy and Fundraising

UX Brainstorming

By Gregory Kolen II.

Online fundraising and advocacy are two important aspects of any nonprofit’s digital strategy. However, without user experience expertise, these can often be ineffective and frustrating for donors and supporters. In this post, we will discuss how to use ux knowledge to improve online fundraising and advocacy efforts. We will also provide tips on how to create a positive user experience for your supporters!

User experience (UX) refers to the way users interact with and perceive a website, application, or product. Creating a positive UX is essential for any organization that wants to be successful online. Why? Because if your users are unhappy with their experience on your site, they are likely to leave and never come back. And we all know that acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining existing ones!

You want to make sure the experience is:

  • Usable
  • Equitable
  • Enjoyable
  • Useful

By ensuring the experience is usable, you want to make sure to reduce the cognitive load required to help your audience acheive their goals.

To keep the experience equitable means to take into account audiences of different abilities and backgrounds. Keeping in mind additonal options and accessibility tools to help support diverse needs and those in often disenfranchised groups.

The experience should be enjoyable, does it bring satisfaction to the audience user? Does it feel good or rewarding? Can the user connect with the experience in a way that makes them feel like you understand them. It’s helpful to run through any experience you create, and imagine it from the perspectives of any of the audience personas you plan to serve.

And of course, the experience should be useful, in addition to being usable. Ask yourself if the process and design (of donating, taking action, learning more…etc) is presented in a way that adds value to the experience of the user as they seek to acheive their goals.

So how can you use UX expertise to improve your online advocacy and fundraising efforts? Let’s take a look at some tips:

– Make sure your website is easy to navigate and understand. Users should be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. If your website is confusing or difficult to use, potential donors will likely give up and go to another site.

– Use strong calls to action. Your website should have clear and concise calls to action (CTAs) that tell users what you want them to do. For example, if you’re raising money for a new playground, your CTA might be “Donate Now.”

– Create engaging content. In order for users to donate or take action, they need to be engaged with your content. This means creating compelling and interesting blog posts, infographics, videos, etc. that will inspire people to support your cause.

– Make it easy to donate. The donation process should be quick and easy; otherwise, potential donors may get frustrated and abandon their donation altogether. Be sure to include multiple payment options and make sure the donation form is short and simple.

By following these tips, you can create a positive user experience for your supporters and enhance your online advocacy and fundraising efforts. If you’re not sure where to start, consider working with a UX expert who can help you assess your current website and digital strategy, and make recommendations for improvement.

Several of these things may seem like common conventions once you’ve gone through the process and patterns a few times. But challenge yourself to think further and empoly a deep level of empathy as you examine each step of the process. For example think of the classic ketchup bottle, typical glass container that held ketchup and was good enough. But by observing people’s pain points you’ll see; the inability to sqeeze extra ketchup out, or having to leave the container upside down to get the last bit of ketchup to the cap. At the end of the day, the user of the classic ketchup bottle is able get ketchup from the bottle, but the friction of the experience could be reduced. After a few iterations, we’ve arrived at a sqeezable bottle with a large cap at the bottom of the bottle that aims to make the experience of retreiving the last bit of ketchup so much easier.

Don’t forget that ux isn’t only about websites! Creating a great user experience extends to all aspects of your digital strategy, from social media to email marketing. By keeping ux in mind, you can create an overall better experience for your supporters – which will lead to more donations and engagement!