Tag Archives: e waste

Friday Linkage 12/13/2019

It’s Friday the 13th and I am wondering how we got here.  By here I mean the current situation that we find ourselves in.  A situation where a literal madman is President of the United States and restrained solely by his incompetence.  A situation where a dime store version of that same madman is the elected leader of the United Kingdom and taking that country down a ruinous path purely for vanity.  A situation where we all realize, at some level, that our climate is changing because of our behaviors but we act as If we are powerless to change.

Are we doomed?

On to the links…

American Trash: How an E-Waste Sting Uncovered a Shocking Betrayal—You should just assume that whatever you drop off to be recycled is not going to be recycled.  Whether it is e-waste being shipped around the world to illicit dumps or plastic being burned in an incinerator the idea and reality of recycling in the West is broken.

The Dark Side of Recycling—Not buying as much stuff that needs to be recycled is the important thing, not figuring out ways to recycle our trash.  Remember: reduce, reuse, and recycle.  The first R is the most important because it is the most impactful.

Air Pollution is Much More Harmful than You Know—Air pollution is a prime cause of cognitive impairment in people who are exposed.  Naturally, the Trump administration wants to allow companies to pollute even more because…reasons.

New Energy Secretary: Trump has Directed Agency to Find ‘Different Ways to Utilize Coal’—When no one wants to use your product you have to find new markets.  Get ready to hear a lot about coal as Trump heads out on the never ending campaign rally.  It’s about the only thing his mind can get a handle on anymore.

Move Over, Coal: Gas now Emits More CO2 in U.S.—It was bound to happen as coal was replaced by natural gas.  However, it brings home the fact that while natural gas is better than coal it is not better than renewables.

Natural Gas Companies Call for Carbon Tax—When an industry is amenable to a tax on itself you know that it is trying to protect itself from something far worse.

Island Utility Aims For Two-Thirds Renewable Energy By 2020—Kauai can show us the future.

A 2.9-Megawatt Solar Project For 10 Schools & 24% Of Richmond Public Schools’ Electricity Needs—How much energy could we make if we covered all of our big buildings with solar panels.  Let’s say its twenty percent or so.  That means without using any additional land we could make twenty percent of our energy from existing buildings at the point of use.

Electric Car Battery Production Causes Less CO2 Emissions than Once Thought: Study—The holidays are not over yet, so you might end up in an argument with your Fox News loving drunk Uncle Carl who thinks that the production of a single battery for a Tesla is the equivalent of the Exxon Valdez running aground because Alex Jones told him so.

Nissan Showcases Brake Regen Tech With LEAF Christmas Tree—As the owner of a Nissan Leaf I wish there was a way for me to know how much energy I have recaptured through regenerative braking.  Like a little dash readout or something.

These 3 Supertrees can Protect Us from Climate Collapse—Anyone who knows me knows that I am a “tree guy.”  I believe that trees hold the potential to save us from a climate catastrophe if we are willing to help reforest the planet.  Whether it is forests of “super trees” or just basic trees in your suburban yard, it is trees that have the power.

The No-Flush Movement: The Unexpected Rise of the Composting Toilet—Is this really a thing?  I get composting toilets for people who do not want to deal with a septic system or who have an otherwise “off grid” lifestyle.

Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?—Will there be any havens when the climate crisis gets bad?

Friday Linkage 3/10/2017

There will be no Friday Linkage next week since I will be in Colorado enjoying all that Beaver Creek has to offer a low-rent skier like myself.

On to the links…

Iowa Sees Second Warmest February in 145 Years—Nothing to see here, right?

These Photos Show How the EPA Transformed America—Now that the fox is in charge of the hen house it is important to remember what America was like before the EPA and other agencies focused on cleaning our air and water.  No one wants to bring disco back and no one wants to bring 1960s style pollution back either.

Scientists Are Standing Up to Trump Because They’ve Always Stood Up to Bullshit—The right wing loves people to be active in politics as long as they agree with their narrow world view and, generally, assume positions that are free from a factual basis.  “But, Jesus said so in the Bible!”  Scientists and scholars are duty bound to resist this shit.

Yet Another Energy Company Bails On Canadian Tar Sands Oil — Is Koch Next?—Tar sands are too expensive to extract under the current market conditions, too dirty for most people to accept as a fuel source, and stuck in Canada.  So why exactly are people in the fossil fuel industry and the White House so hell bent on the Keystone XL pipeline?

California Just Hit an Incredible Solar Power Milestone—It was for just a moment, but California was producing some serious solar power in the middle of the day.

Colorado’s Solar Power Capacity Jumped 70 Percent in 2016—The best part for me is that even though Colorado added 70% more capacity its relative ranking compared to other states feel because it did not add enough capacity.  When you add 70% more capacity in one year and lose ground you know that something is happening that is going to be hard to stop.

Solar Now Cheapest Electricity Option On Average In 58 Emerging Economies—The new guard of electricity is here and it is based on the sun.  These countries have no incentive to build out a fossil fuel based grid because they have no capital investment tied to legacy systems.

Chinese Coal Draw-Down Gathers Pace—China is always the savior of some down-on-its-luck industry.  Guess what?  China does not want our coal anymore.

Coder Creates Ultimate Tesla Model S + Home Solar Data Visualization Tool—I cannot create the fuel for my truck at home, but I could create the fuel for a Tesla Model 3 or Chevy Bolt at home.  The future seems to be happening right now.

America’s Television Graveyards—When the apocalypse comes in the next couple of years I imagine people will roam the shattered United States and happen upon one of these warehouses full of old CRTs.  It will be a gigantic metaphor for how we got into this mess.

General Mills Boosts Eco-Friendly Grain Kernza—What if we could replace a portion of destructive annual wheat production with perennial Kernza?  What is wide strips of Kernza were planted along streams to slow runoff and deter erosion?  Imagine the potential.

Climate Ecoforestry—Let’s look to restorative ecology to rebuild our planet’s lost resilience.

This Man is Cloning Old-Growth Redwoods and Planting them in Safe Places—Imagine efforts like this replicated on a larger, dare I say nationally mobilized scale, and imagine what we could achieve in a short period of time.  This requires no new technology or process.  It would simply require political will and capital.

You’re Using Recipes Wrong—I have this complaint with cookbooks and recipes because I feel like I am buying bespoke ingredients only to repeat effort time and time again.  Ugh.  An efficient kitchen in terms of time and money should be one of my 2017 goals.

Friday Linkage 4/24/2015

Earth Day came and went. I hardly even noticed save for some really shameless corporate greenwashing and lame ass ads about “going green.” Not using plastic t-shirt bags and single use bottles is great, but there are much larger problems that we fail to start a conversation about and these are the problems that threaten our very survival.

On to the links…

The Deepwater Horizon Disaster Was Five Years Ago Today. Here’s What We Still Don’t Know.—On April 20th of 2010 the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and began spewing oil. It was one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. The scariest part is that we have little to no idea about the long term impacts of all that oil in the gulf. Heck, we wonder where some of it even went.

Idaho’s Panther Creek Comes Back from the Dead—We have the ability to bring restoration to the landscapes that we have destroyed. It may not be pristine, but it can be better.

Interior Considers Hike in Oil and Gas Royalty Rates—It is critical to remember that we lease lands to oil and gas companies out of the public trust for low rates. Not only do these companies enjoy generous subsidies and are not required to compensate anyone for the externalities associated with fossil fuels, our government allows them to do it for a rate far below what the market would bear.

Conservatives Upset At Pope’s ‘Green Agenda’—The Catholic Church may be behind the times on a lot of issues, but it is amazing to see the transformation of tone under Pope Francis. The conservatives of the world who used the Catholic Church as a common ally in all things retrograde are flipping a gasket that the pope would talk about things like poverty and equity.

Emissions, Economic Growth Parting Ways—The lockstep rise in emissions and economic growth was one of those economic laws you just figured on. When emissions went down it was usually because the economy was in a recession. The reverse being true when emissions went up. Data suggests that this linkage may be broken.

How Solar Got Cheap—A lot of factors went into making this dramatic drop in costs happen. Take fifteen minutes and listen.

SolarCity Gets Help From Credit Suisse To Finance Over $1 Billion In Commercial Solar + Storage Projects—Solar plus storage is going to be the next big development in distributed renewables. Mark my words. Or better yet, mark Elon Musk’s words.

Tesla’s New Battery Could Solve One of Solar Power’s Biggest Problems—Everyone is anticipating that on April 30th Tesla will announce the development of a battery meant to store power generated at a home. It might be a game changer.

China’s Risen Energy Lands 1.2 GW Solar Power Deal In Inner Mongolia—Even Inner Mongolia is getting on the solar PV bandwagon.

Ghana Off-Grid Households To Benefit From 100,000 Solar PV Systems—In the developing world solar and other distributed renewables have the chance to leapfrog the centralized power grid paradigm of western economies.

300 MW Of Solar Connected To UK Grid In March By Schneider Electric—Remember for a moment that these are numbers coming from one company in one country that is not known for its great solar resources. It would have not been too long ago that the announcement of 300MW of solar capacity would have been cheered. Now it is barely noticed.

We Can’t Let John Deere Destroy the Very Idea of Ownership—All companies that sell you products want to make it a rental economy because that guarantees a stream of revenue. If they can prevent you from customizing or repairing your items than you do not really own them. You are just renting them from The Man.

Inside the Hellscape Where Our Computers Go to Die—The western world’s e-waste is out of sight and out of mind. However, someone ends up dealing with the waste and trying to make a living from whatever value can be extracted despite the huge environmental and health cost.

The Problem with E-Waste

I cancelled DirecTV over a month ago and spent the time in between waiting for the company to send me a so-called recovery kit for the two receivers that I had used prior to cancellation. Lo and behold, DirecTV had no interest in taking back the two ancient receivers. This is what I was left with:


See the problem here? DirecTV, which owns the receivers that a subscriber rents, has no obligation to take back their own product to dispose of properly when they deem the cost to recover more than the cost to just write the asset off.

E-waste is a huge problem. How many of these types of products end up in landfills? In Linn County we are fortunate enough to have a solid waste agency that takes e-waste from residents of the county for free. This ensures that no one is just throwing the products away with the trash where hazardous materials could leach into the soil and groundwater.

The other part about this saga that is so frustrating is DirecTV’s position. Prior to cancelling I wanted to upgrade my equipment without committing to two more years of service. DirecTV gave me the run around, but when it came time to actually pay to ship their receivers back the company punted the responsibility to me because there was no value. What a joke.

Friday Linkage 12/12/2014

Have you seen the storm bearing down on Northern California and the Pacific Northwest? Strange weather in that region, particularly California, reminds me of Marc Reisner’s thoughts on the instability of the region’s hydrology. Why would anyone choose to build so much infrastructure and plant so many people in an area with such instability? It’s beyond me.

On to the links…

Fate Of The Struggling Greater Sage Grouse Shaping Energy Development In U.S. West—The fight over the listing of the greater sage grouse is shaping up to be the spotted owl of the 21st century. If you do not think so take a look at what Congress is doing in the abomination of a spending bill winding its way through the halls of government.

After Steep Decline, Signs of Hope for World’s Sea Turtles—People just love sea turtles. It is good to see that this group of animals is showing some signs of population recovery due to the efforts of a lot of people worldwide. Keep on trucking little honus.

US Fuel Economy Average Down for the First Time in Four Years—Gas prices drop on the back off a precipitous oil price drop and people clamor for extra large SUVs and trucks. Ugh.

Our E-Waste Problem Is Ridiculous, and Gadget Makers Aren’t Helping—Increasingly, integrated electronics with small embedded components are harder and harder to recycle. What could once be pried off a board and reused or upgraded is not only recoverable through means like melting or acid leaching. It’s nasty stuff.

Narendra Modi, Favoring Growth in India, Pares Back Environmental Rules—Development seems to always win. In India it appears like the prevailing attitude is going to be “we’ll clean things up later.”

India’s Largest Power Generator Signs Deal For 375 MW Solar Power Plant—For every bad story coming out of India there are at least half a dozen highlighting the progress being made. I hope the trend of one step back for every five forward can continue for a while.

Softbank May Finance 10,000 MW Solar Power Capacity In Indian State—Development may be winning, but the development of clean power is moving forward at a pretty good pace as well.

Far More Americans Trust EPA Over Congress To Set Pollution Standards—Does anyone trust Congress to do anything?

As Coal Crashes, US Governors Push Wind Energy—As fewer and fewer people work in extractive industries like coal, whether that is due to increased mechanization or reduced demand, governors are forced to face the reality of green jobs expansion. Wind is good for the environment and good for the economy.

Grassroots Anti-Coal Movements to Watch—There is a burgeoning worldwide sentiment that coal is the fuel of the past and needs to be retired. No amount of astroturf pro-coal groups can compete with the growing calls for the end of coal.

US Sees Second-Largest Solar Installation Growth In Q3—Third quarter 2014 solar installations were up 41% over the same period of time in the prior year. If the same trend continues for the fourth quarter then it will result in a lot of solar.

Tweaking Thermostats In Boston Would Save Energy Equivalent To 17,000 Fewer Cars On The Road—There is a huge potential for energy savings in changing our behaviors and tweaking the settings of our energy using devices. Think about what we could save if everyone, nationwide, made a concerted effort to save energy. It would be amazing.

Is The Food Babe A Fearmonger? Scientists Are Speaking Out—There was going to be a backlash against Vani Hari, but I wonder how much of it is centered on her premise of certain food additives being mysterious and potentially harmful. At the end of the day we need to be suspicious of anyone who stands to make money from fearmongering—as Vani Hari does with her books—but it does not mean she is wrong.

Hoping to Change the Industry, a Factory Farmer Opens His Barn Doors—This is an act of economic bravery not commonly seen among the farmers under the thumb of massive agribusiness corporations. It will be very interesting to see how the industry responds to Craig Watts’ bravery.

What is driving deforestation and what can you do about it?—What actions do you take that contribute to deforestation:


You Must Read—Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade

Hard as I try to imagine the cars that this rubble once was, I can’t. It’s like standing in a supermarket meat section, staring at a package of hamburger and trying to imagine cows. [Page 229]

We, as consumers in Western countries, do not really recycle. We harvest. When we dutifully put our recyclables in one bin or seven, depending on the country’s recycling norms, we are just harvesting the raw material for the people who really recycle our old bottles, cans, Christmas lights, and so on. For most of us that bin of nearly-trash is out of sight and out of mind while we have assuaged our green guilt for another day.

9781608197910The words at the top are Adam Minter’s, who brings childhood memories of being the son of a scrapyard owner and a unique perspective to Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade, so it is surprising that sometimes he cannot see the trees for the forest when it comes to scrap. It speaks to the transformation that our end products go through once they leave our possession and become “trash.” I, like the author, am hesitant to call anything trash after reading this book because somewhere, usually in a developing economy hungry for jobs and cheap raw materials, has found a way to extract something of value for either reuse or recycling from our refuse.

Adam Minter’s father and grandmother ran a scrapyard in the Twin Cities, which sparked a lifelong interest in the colorful world of scrap. The story, like so many nowadays, really comes to fruition in China where the author details the workshops and companies that hoover material in the United States and other countries to fuel China’s economic growth. Without the recycling of scrap from the developed Western countries it is quite possible that China would not be enjoying the amazing economic growth of recent history.

It’s stunning the value that can be gleaned from surprising places. There are workshops in China that specialize in removing the copper wire from string lights. You know, those little twinkly lights that hipsters love to decorate patios with, have some copper but it’s wrapped in a lot of nearly worthless insulation. I say nearly worthless because someone figured out that slipper makers could use the plastic for the soles of inexpensive shoes.

The story about the recycling of cars surprised me the most. I always assumed that cars were recycled, but there was a period when rising wages post-World War II combined with a boom in the sales of cars created a situation where more cars were being junked than could be economically broken down into recyclable parts. Millions of cars polluted the landscape until someone came up with an effective way to shred the cars into little flakes of metal. It was only recently that we finally caught up to the backlog of cars that were abandoned and that was perhaps a function of the economic crisis that slowed the retirement of older automobiles. Also interesting was the fact that the average junked car has $1.65 in loose change. How come I can never find that money when I am looking for meter fare?

The thing that nagged at me the entire book was the thought of how much stuff was buried in landfills across the United States. Before it was economical to shred cars or mechanically separate mixed metals or strip metals from electronics that trash was probably buried. It’s just sitting somewhere, interred until we could figure out a way to economically mine and process the material. Are we sitting on billions of dollars of buried waste?

Junkyard Planet is a trip into a world most of us will never see or consider because we have no access or concept of how the scrap economy functions. Heck, most of us could not tell you where the closest junkyard actually is located unless we repair cars or have a predilection for odd Instructables that require things like washing machine motors.

Friday Linkage 5/10/2013

The blooms are out on the crabapples and flowering quince…the rains have been coming at a regular pace…the temperatures have been just about perfect…it almost feels like a normal spring here in Eastern Iowa.  I wonder how long this idyll will last?

On to the links…

Large Scale Solar Projects now Cost Comparable in Oregon—Every day, there is another story about how solar has reached cost parity with traditional fuel sources like coal and natural gas.  The tipping point is here baby!

Four Must See Charts on Why Renewables are Disruptive…in a Good Way—Again, we are coming close to the tipping point where it makes no sense to invest in non-renewable power unless you have a vested monetary interest in maintaining the old regime.  Like Congress.

Even a Moderate Carbon Price has a Big Impact on Emissions—I do not think I will live to see the day when a functioning market for carbon exists in the U.S.  Too bad, because it looks like such a system could have a big impact on what we emit in this country.  Play with the scenarios for a moment.  It’s fun and distracting to imagine what could happen.

What if We Never Run Out of Oil—It’s not Daniel Yergin level prose on the history and future of oil as a commodity, but the piece does bring up some interesting ideas.

Big Oil Profits and Tax Breaks Remain High Despite Sequestration—So, Head Start and SNAP get eviscerated.  Air traffic control is a victim until some senator has to wait an additional fifteen minutes for his flight.  But the tax breaks for the most profitable companies on Earth continue unabated.  We know where Congress’ priorities lie.

White House Seeks to Change International Food Aid—It is great that the U.S. delivers food aid around the world.  However, when we dump commodities produced by U.S. farmers into developing markets it tends to devastate the local farmers because prices become depressed quite quickly.  Farmers exit the business and the struggle to maintain food independence spirals downward.

7 Dodgy Food Practices Banned in Europe but Okay in U.S.—Our food safety system is a joke because it favors industry profits over consumer safety.  It should be renamed Industrial Food Profit Preservation Regime.

NRA Leader Warns of Rising Cost of U.S. Senators—I always knew that politicians were in the pocket of well-financed special interest groups, but little did I know that it was getting more expensive to keep these guys under foot.  Pity the poor NRA when it has to shovel more blood money to further its violent agenda.

Where do Old Cell Phones go to Die?—E-waste is a big problem.  The nasty nature of e-waste combined with our ever increasing desire to “upgrade” has led to a tsunami of bad shit scuttling around the globe.

9 Spots in Your Kitchen that Could Use a Good Scrub—It’s spring, so it’s time to clean.  I am pretty good about cleaning my kitchen, but I have never thought to clean the knife block.  Needless to say, I am looking for ways of getting rid of my knife block and going to a storage concept that is easier to clean.

Interview with Kevin McCloud—This is an interesting and short interview with Kevin McCloud.  I particularly loved the quote about housing:

“What happened in 2008 stopped people in their tracks. People stopped looking at their homes simply as commodities to exploit and starting thinking about how they might personalise that space and make them less bland and more autobiographical and that’s healthy I think.”

Spot on.

Starving Sea Lion Pups Get Helping Hand—A while back I linked to an article detailing the rash of sea lion pups washing up onshore in starvation state.  Here is a slideshow showing the rescue efforts in California.  Why can’t we find more money for programs like this that are run on small dollar amounts?  We do give tax breaks to the world’s most profitable corporations after all.

Student Documentary Shows Threat to Sea Turtles—Man, this stuff is just sad.

Studios Donating Film Set Materials to Habitat for Humanity—I doubt that anyone outside of Hollywood has ever thought about the amount of waste that is generated by movies.  It’s good to see it being used by someone.

Art for Advocacy: 13 Posters for Sustainable Social Change—A nice little aside.  Take a spin through these enjoyable graphic representations of social change sentiment.

Friday Linkage 3/22/2013

It’s officially spring, but the temperature was in the low teens last night so there was no real euphoria for the arrival.  Maybe that damn Easter bunny will bring more spring time feel in a week.

On to the links…

Who Put These Agribiz-Friendly Riders into This Unrelated Bill?—The U.S. Congress really does yeoman’s work when it comes to carrying industrial agriculture’s water.  Because the companies behind so much of our food do so many despicable things the solution has become to criminalize the exposure of the bad behavior rather than stopping the bad behavior.  That’s logic in the halls of government.

Clean Energy Future is All About Deployment—The technologies exist today to displace traditional carbon based power sources with clean renewables at an even cost basis.  Now, to decarbonize our economy we need to deploy those technologies in massive ways.

Xcel hits Upper Midwest Wind Power Record—Talk about deployment.  Normally, Xcel gets about 12 percent of its power from wind sources but on a steady, windy night in November it hit one third.  And the utility is putting more wind power online.  Why aren’t we talking about renewable energy targets closer to 50% now that we can see utilities regularly getting more than 20%?

Los Angeles to be Coal Free—The Department of Water and Power in Los Angeles is moving to end its power purchasing relationship with a massive coal fired plant in Arizona and is moving to convert a plant in Utah to natural gas.  The move is expected to be complete by 2025.  It’s two years sooner than the mandated 2027.

China’s Wind Power Production Increased More than Coal for the First Time Ever in 2012—Even China is beginning to deploy renewables on a scale that is measurable against its traditional power sources.  “Big thinkers” always talk about the China or India price being the tipping point for new technologies.  Guess what?  For renewables that tipping point is passed.

Algae Blooms Threaten Lake Erie—I will never forget reading stories about the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland catching fire in the 1970s.  It is one of those things as a kid that you just cannot believe.  The water was on fire?  Algae blooms seem so benign by comparison, but pose a clear and present danger to the health of our waters.

Bacteria may Provide More Sustainable Biofuel Production—Every day seems to bring a story about incremental improvements in the fundamental technologies behind turning woody biomass into biofuel.  This could be a game changer.

Ethanol’s Days of Promise and Prosperity are Fading—It seems like a bad dream for the Midwest, but ethanol is proving to be a devil’s bargain yet again.  Following the first oil crisis in the 1970s, the industry boomed and then faded.  Again we are looking at it fading because the economics just do not make sense.  And the environmental case is specious at best for first generation biofuels.  Now, give me switchgrass ethanol and I will change my tune.

EPA Fuel Economy Report: Americans Vehicles Saw 1.4 MPG Jump Last Year—  Here’s another nail in first generation ethanol’s coffin.  We are using less fuel to transport ourselves in automobiles.

Old Monitors and TVs Proving to Be Recycling Nightmare—It looks like our conversion to flat screens of various sorts has not only destroyed the market for traditional CRT displays but also the market for the recycled glass from CRT displays.  So now millions of monitors are piling up in warehouses for want of demand.  The number that got me was the high side estimate of $360 million to recycle all of the glass responsibly.  For the cost of three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters we could erase this environmental problem?  Sounds like a deal to me.

The Ins and Outs of Recycling—Did you think I would not include at least one infographic this week?  This one lays out the numbers behind recycling:


10 Food Related Infogrpahics, Charts, and Flowcharts—If one infographic is good, then 10 must be even better.  Right?