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EarthTalk®

by E - The Environmental Magazine


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: So many chemicals in everyday products are harmful to our health and the environment. Why aren't we developing safer alternatives? -- Donna Langston,
Asheville, NC

Researchers today are beginning to question the safety of many chemicals used in consumer products. Studies have linked Bisphenol A (BPA), flame retardants, phthalates and many other chemicals found in everyday products to a wide range of health problems, including cancer, learning and behavioral problems and reproductive illnesses.

Despite the federal government’s slowness in calling for it, nonprofit labs and for-profit companies alike have been busy developing safer alternatives to some of these harsher chemicals. The brave new world of “green chemistry,” ­in which reducing or eliminating the use or generation of hazardous substances is top priority in the design, use and disposal of products,­ is leading to a rash of new, safer ingredients.

Companies looking to put a “BPA-free” sticker on their bottles, for instance, can make them instead with Eastman Tritan copolyester, a plastic alternative that doesn’t disrupt hormones as Nalgene and CamelBak do. Phthalates—used to soften plastic toys—can be replaced with a product called Grindsted Soft-N-Safe, made from acetic acid and castor oil from the castor plant. Formaldehyde adhesives used to make plywood and other wood products can be replaced with soy-based resins, wood fibers and plastic-wood fibers.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports the effort through its sponsorship of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. The annual awards program recognizes and helps fund efforts to reduce the amount of hazardous substances released into the environment or entering the waste stream, and efforts that reduce the public health hazards associated with the release of such substances­.

But while the EPA has the power to spur green chemistry, it is powerless to ban many dangerous chemicals in widespread use. The 1976 law that still governs use of many chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), presumes that chemicals are innocent until proven guilty. TSCA has failed to require basic testing for the toxicity of some 62,000 chemicals grandfathered in when the law was first passed.

“Once thought to pose little likelihood of exposure, we now know many chemicals migrate from the materials and products in which they’re used—­including furniture, plastics and food cans—­into our bodies,” reports the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families campaign. The campaign warns that just about every American carries hundreds of these chemicals in their bloodstreams.

Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) recently introduced a bill, the Safe Chemicals Act, aimed at overhauling the outdated TSCA. It would require safety testing of all existing chemicals and would promote so-called green chemistry and the development of safe alternatives to unsafe chemicals. The Act would provide the EPA with the authority it needs to protect public health, while enabling the marketplace to innovate safe products, reports Richard Denison of the Environmental Defense Fund. The bill’s sponsors say it expects to have widespread support on both sides of the partisan divide.

CONTACTS: Green Chemistry Challenge Awards, www.epa.gov/gcc/pubs/pgcc/presgcc.html; Safer Chemicals Healthy Families, www.saferchemicals.org; Environmental Defense Fund, www.edf.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: I'm looking for the best places to search for green jobs but am having trouble locating them on traditional job search sites. Where should I look? -- H. Jenkins,
Biloxi, MS

With the environment now high atop the public agenda, green jobs are more popular than ever. Defined by eco.org (a leading green jobs website) as any job in any company where the primary focus is on reducing the impacts of our activities or products on the environment, green jobs serve to maximize efficient use of resources while minimizing degradation of the planet from pollution and waste. “Eco-jobs can range from engineering a photovoltaic solar cell to designing a building for more energy efficiency to landscaping a yard to minimize erosion to finding more sustainable forestry techniques,” reports eco.org.

While you may be hard pressed to find environmental job opportunities on general employment search websites, sites like eco.org that specialize in green job listings can make your search easy. Also, many general environmental sites have employment sub-sections. Green job seekers and employers alike use these websites to find each other and get their work done, whether in the non-profit or for-profit worlds.

Eco.org prides itself on hosting a wide range of listings from colleges, environmental and other nonprofit groups, media outlets and government agencies. With Google and Bing listing the site first for the search term “eco,” the website generates hundreds of thousands of page visits per month from thousands of green job seekers and employers, and also keeps its audience engaged through social networking.

Another leader in the field is the nonprofit Green Jobs Network, which provides online services including a green job board and a 20,000 member group on the professional networking site LinkedIn. The group also uses its GreenJobs.net website as a platform for webinars, and is the home of the frequently updated Green Collar Blog, which provides career resources and information on the green jobs sector.

Environmental Career Opportunities (ecojobs.com) is another tried and true source for green job listings. Some 50,000 targeted job seekers subscribe to the company’s bi-weekly newsletter that contains unique green job opportunities. Still other places to look for green jobs include EcoEmploy.com and the
Environmental Career Center
.

Another site, Greenjobs.com, focuses on job opportunities specifically in the renewable energy sector. Jobseekers can use the website to apply for jobs, post their resume, obtain guidance on finding and applying for jobs, gain background information on the renewable energy sector, and access a directory of relevant companies and organizations. Employers can take advantage of the firm’s recruitment services.

Browsing job listings at other more general environmental websites could also turn up that perfect opportunity. SustainableBusiness.com and the U.S. Green Building Council feature extensive green job listings as sub-sections of their websites. And yet another way to find a green job is to sniff around the website of a company, organization or institution in your field of interest for specific job listings—or better yet, call them on the phone to find out if there are any openings.

CONTACTS: Eco.org, www.eco.org; Environmental Career Opportunities, www.ecojobs.com; EcoEmploy.com. www.ecoemploy.com; Environmental Career Center, www.environmentalcareer.com; Green Jobs Network, www.greenjobs.net; GreenJobs, www.greenjobs.com; SustainableBusiness.com, www.sustainablebusiness.com; U.S. Green Building Council, www.usgbc.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: Why don’t we reprocess and re-use our nuclear waste like
France does? Would it be possible for us to start doing so? -- Albert Jukowsky, Silver Spring, MD

Reprocessing nuclear waste to extract more energy from it, while expensive and controversial, is indeed to this day still practiced in France, the UK, Russia, India and Japan—but not in the United States, where it was invented. The process involves breaking down spent nuclear fuel chemically and recovering fissionable material for use in new fuels. Proponents tout the benefit of reducing the amount of nuclear waste, resulting in less highly radioactive material that needs to be stored safely.

Nuclear reprocessing was first developed in the
U.S. as part of the World War II-era Manhattan Project to create the first atomic bomb. After the war, the embryonic nuclear power industry began work to reprocess its waste on a large scale to extend the useful life of uranium, a scarce resource at the time. But commercial reprocessing attempts faltered due to technical, economic and regulatory problems. Anti-nuclear sentiment and the fear of nuclear proliferation in the 1970s led President Jimmy Carter to terminate federal support for further development of commercial reprocessing. The military did continue to reprocess nuclear waste for defense purposes, though, until the collapse of the Soviet Union
and the end of the Cold War made continuous ramping up of our nuclear arsenal unnecessary.

More recently, George W. Bush pushed a plan, the Global Nuclear Energy Project (GNEP), to promote the use of nuclear power and subsidize the development of a new generation of “proliferation-resistant” nuclear reprocessing technologies that could be rolled out to the commercial nuclear energy sector. Federal scientists came up with promising spins on reprocessing nuclear fuel while minimizing the resulting waste. But in June of 2009 the Obama administration cancelled GNEP, citing cost concerns.

Proponents of nuclear power—and of reprocessing in particular—were far from pleased with GNEP’s axing, especially in light of Obama’s earlier decision to close Yucca Mountain as the U.S.’s future nuclear waste repository. “GNEP may have gone away, but the need to recycle spent fuel in this country is more important than ever because of the government’s stupid decision to close
Yucca Mountain,” said Danny Black of the Southern Carolina Alliance, a regional economic development group, on the Ecopolitology blog. “Without Yucca Mountain
, the pressure is on the industry to do more with recycling.”

But a 2007 report by the nonprofit Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (
IEER) would seem to justify Obama’s decision. IEER found that nuclear reprocessing would actually increase our volume of nuclear waste six fold. IEER also reported that France
, which runs the world’s most efficient reprocessing operation, spends about two cents per kilowatt hour more for electricity generated from reprocessed nuclear fuel compared to that generated from fresh fuel. IEEE further reports that the costs to build the breeder plants needed to convert spent nukes into usable fuel would “create intolerable costs and risks.”

For now,
U.S. nuclear plants will continue to store waste on site, with spent rods cooled in pools of water for upwards of a year and then moved into thick steel and concrete caskets. While proliferation and terrorism have long been risks associated with hosting nuclear plants on American soil, recent events in Japan
underscores that even Mother Nature poses a threat. As such, advocates of reprocessing probably stand little chance of reviving plans in a political climate now so hostile to nuclear development.

CONTACTS
: Ecopolitology, www.ecopolitology.org; IEER, www.ieer.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: I understand that fast-food giant YUM! Brands, owner of KFC, is under fire by Greenpeace and others for rainforest destruction. What’s the story? -- Betsy Barnard, Wellesley, MA

YUM! Brands, which operates 38,000 fast food restaurants in 110 countries (including not only KFC but also Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, WingStreet, A&W and Long John Silver’s), has come under fire of late from Greenpeace and other rainforest advocacy groups for sourcing palm oil, paper and other goods from suppliers notorious for destroying tropical rainforests in Indonesia and elsewhere. While McDonald’s and Burger King have worked in recent years to cut their ties with palm oil and logging companies linked to rainforest destruction, YUM! continues to ignore calls to source their resources more responsibly.

Indonesia’s tropical rainforests are home to orangutans, tigers, elephants, clouded leopards and dozens of other endangered plants and animals. Environmentalists report that 40 percent of Indonesia’s rainforests have been logged over in the last half-century, mostly to clear the way for palm oil plantations. The cleared timber is sold at huge profits for paper and pulp, while the palm oil brings in continuous revenue for multinational corporations despite denuding lands once rich in biodiversity.

Tropical rainforests also sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in their growing woody biomass; chopping them down only accelerates the rate of global warming by allowing more CO2 to escape into the atmosphere where it contributes to the greenhouse effect. Despite a partial moratorium on rainforest destruction announced by the Indonesian government in May 2011, analysts believe that nearly half of the country’s remaining tropical rainforests will be cleared within two decades.

Over-exploitation of natural resources—and deforestation in particular—is a huge obstacle to
Indonesia
’s growth. According to the Rajawali Institute for Asia at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, by eliminating its natural capital for negligible gains, Indonesia lost $150 billion in future revenues between 1990 and 2007, wiping out one-third of the country’s national savings in the process.

There are “major economic risks for Southeast Asia’s agriculture and timber sectors if they don’t take prompt action to conserve their forests,” reports Glenn Hurowitz, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. “Global consumers are increasingly demanding deforestation-free products,” he says, adding that Nestle, McDonald’s, Unilever and others have pledged to obtain their palm oil from sources certified “sustainable” by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

YUM! Brands is not the only offender. Greenpeace has also targeted Mattel toys for supporting suppliers that contribute to Indonesian deforestation. And two
Michigan girl scouts were shocked to find out the cookies they were selling contained palm oil obtained from deforested land in Indonesia. They spread the word to fellow girl scouts across the country, thousands of whom have stopped selling cookies as a result.


Concerned consumers should write the company a letter asking them to stop using products derived from deforested rainforest lands. Greenpeace makes it easy by hosting an online form letter that sympathizers can sign onto and the group will take care of delivering your message directly to
YUM! executives.

CONTACTS: YUM! Brands, www.yum.com; Center for International Policy, www.ciponline.org; Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, www.rspo.org; Greenpeace Form Letter to YUM!, https://secure3.convio.net/gpeace/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=689.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: Can earthquake energy be harnessed for power, particularly in places like
Japan? Also, how can Japan, so vulnerable to earthquakes, even have nuclear power? -- Sasha M., Australia

While it is no doubt theoretically possible to generate electricity by harnessing the kinetic energy of shifting tectonic plates below the Earth’s crust, pulling it off from a practical standpoint would be a real logistical challenge—not to mention prohibitively expensive compared to harnessing other forms of energy, renewable or otherwise.

Big earthquakes throw off vast amounts of energy. According to Beth Buczynski of the CrispGreen website, researchers have calculated that the January 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake that killed upwards of 220,000 people in
Haiti released as much energy as 31 of the atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. And the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck northeast Japan in March 2011 unleashed the equivalent of more than 15,000 Hiroshima
bombs. That’s a lot of energy indeed.

“The total energy from an earthquake includes energy required to create new cracks in rock, energy dissipated as heat through friction, and energy elastically radiated through the earth,” reports the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Hazards Program. “Of these, the only quantity that can be measured is that which is radiated through the earth.” Likewise, only this radiated energy—which is what shakes buildings and is recorded by seismographs—could be harnessed given the dedication of enough resources and the proper implementation of the right technologies.

Just how to harness tectonic energy is the big question. One way would involve stringing quartz crystals, which can transfer electricity via piezoelectricity, underground along known fault lines. When tectonic plates shift, the crystals could transfer the energy they pick up to a grid-connected storage medium for later use. But this is hardly practical, for one because earthquakes rarely happen in a predictable manner let alone in the exact spots where energy harvesters would have set up their gear. Also, fault lines tend to run deep below the Earth’s surface, so laying down a network of quartz crystals would involve mining out shafts and connecting them underground on a scale way beyond what humans have done to the present.

Regarding why
Japan is so reliant on nuclear power despite the tectonic risks is a matter of economics. Lacking the rich oil, coal and other energy reserves of many other nations, Japan relies on nuclear power for some 30 percent of its electricity. Prior to the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Japan
was gearing up to boost its nuclear power reserves to account for half of its electricity needs by 2030. This increased reliance on nuclear power was set to play a big part in the country’s rollback of greenhouse gas emissions.

Prior to the earthquake and tsunami, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency had modeled a 54 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2000 levels by 2050, and a 90 percent reduction by 2100, with nuclear energy accounting for upwards of 60 percent of the country’s total energy mix. Now it looks like the country may scale back its nuclear expansion plans, which in the short term will only increase its reliance on fossil fuels which will in turn drastically limit
Japan
’s ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Of course, one would hope that turning away from nuclear expansion would spur the growth of alternatives such as wind power and other forms of renewable energy.

CONTACTS: CrispGreen, www.crispgreen.com; U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Hazards Program, www.earthquake.usgs.gov.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: I have a carpet made out of recycled PET bottles in my baby’s room and I started noticing a lot of the fibers on our clothes and even in my mouth! Is it dangerous for me or my baby to be in contact with and possibly ingest these fibers? -- Ashley Riccaboni, via e-mail

The jury is still out as to whether PET plastics can leach contaminants into our systems, but most reputable consumer advocates seem to think the stuff is relatively benign. That said, it can’t be good to ingest carpet fibers of any kind, and a 2009 study by German scientists found that some PET water bottles contained trace amounts of chemicals that could mimic hormones if ingested. So while there is no documented proof that PET carpet fibers are bad for you, why risk it? Stay safe by keeping them out of your mouths and noses. Also, frequent vacuuming (once a week or more often) should help to contain the problem, and is recommended for general maintenance anyway.

Overall, PET carpet—which is indeed made from recycled soda and water bottles and is sold under the name brands Resistron and Permalon, among others—is a pretty green choice. Buildings in several national parks have used PET carpet in lobbies and other high-traffic areas with minimal need for maintenance and excellent results. PET fibers are naturally stain resistant and do not require the chemical treatments used on most nylon carpets, and they retain color and resist fading from exposure to the sun or harsh cleaning. PET carpet advocates report that because plastic beverage containers are made with top quality resins as required by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, recycled PET is superior to lower grades of virgin synthetic fibers used in making other brands of polyester carpet yarns.

Also, old PET carpet can live another day when it is “down-cycled” for use in other applications such as car parts, insulation, and even furniture stuffing. PET carpet advocates brag that their products keep plastic soda and water bottles out of the landfill, but who knows how many of those sacrificed bottles could have lived on as more bottles instead of other end of the line products.

GreenAmerica, publisher of the popular yearly-published National Green Pages, recommends the 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET carpets for sale on Liberty Carpet One’s GreenFloors.com website. Liberty Carpet One claims that every square yard of PET carpeting they sell keeps 40 water or soda bottles out of landfills. The company also reports that its dyeing method is less polluting and requires less energy to produce than other flooring options, and that all of their carpets have been tested and meet indoor air quality standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Of course, if you’re starting from scratch, good old natural fibers such as wool, sisal, jute and seagrass may be the greenest and healthiest carpet choices out there, especially when paired with pads made from cotton or rag (not petroleum). Other than GreenFloors PET carpeting, GreenAmerica also vouches for natural fiber offerings from the likes of Contempo Floor Coverings and Natural Home. And besides carpeting, there is a whole world of harder flooring choices that meet environmentalists’ strict criteria, from sustainably harvested hard woods to bamboo to cork.

CONTACTS: “Plastic Water Bottles May Pose Health Hazard,” Discovery News,
dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/04/28/water-bottles-health.html; Go Green Flooring, www.gogreenflooring.com; GreenAmerica, www.greenamerica.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: I’ve been hearing more and more references to the need to clean up our agricultural practices for reasons pertaining to health, food quality, even global warming. What are the major environmental issues today associated with agriculture? -- Tony Grayson, Newark, NJ

What amazes many environmental advocates to this day is how the widespread adoption of synthetic chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers for use in agriculture was dubbed the “Green Revolution,” when in fact this post-World War II paradigm shift in the way we produce food has wreaked untold havoc on the environment, food quality and human health.

Agricultural output has certainly increased as a result of these changes, but with the vast majority of the world’s farms now relying on petroleum-derived synthetic chemicals to grow crops and petroleum-derived fuels to drive the engines of production—modern agriculture has become overwhelmingly toxic to the atmosphere and is hastening global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports that agricultural land use contributes 12 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; here in the
U.S. almost 20 percent of our carbon dioxide emissions come from agricultural sources.

Intensive use of chemicals isn’t good for our nutrition intake, either. Overworked, depleted agricultural soils generate fruits and vegetables with fewer nutrients and minerals than those produced by farmers decades ago. And much of the food we eat is laced with chemicals that end up in our bloodstreams.

Beyond its effect on the food we put in our bodies, modern agriculture generates large amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous and other fertilizers running off into our streams, rivers and oceans, compromising not only the quality of our drinking water and the health of riparian ecosystems, but also causing those huge oxygen-depleted ocean dead zones we hear about in coastal areas such as the Gulf of Mexico.

Yet another issue with modern farming is the amount of animal waste generated and concentrated in small areas, which creates unsanitary and potentially dangerous conditions for the animals and humans alike. And the widespread use of antibiotics on farm animals to keep disease in check results in the development of stronger strains of bacteria that resist the antibiotics used by humans to ward off infection and sickness.

Also, many worry about the potential impacts of the widespread use of genetic engineering, whereby genes in plants, animals and microorganisms are manipulated to select for specific traits. These genetically modified organisms, reports Greenpeace, “can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms,” thus contaminating the natural environment in unforeseeable and uncontrollable ways.

The good news is that rapidly increasing consumer demand for healthier food is forcing agribusiness to see the wisdom of moving away from business-as-usual. Organic farming, which eschews chemical fertilizers and pesticides in favor of more natural choices, holds considerable promise for greening up our agricultural systems. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic cropland acreage averaged 15 percent increases between 2002 and 2008, although certified organic cropland and pasture accounted for only about 0.6 percent of
U.S. total farmland in 2008. So we still have along way to go.


CONTACTS: IPCC, www.ipcc.ch; USDA, www.ers.usda.gov/Data/Organic.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine ( www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine


Dear EarthTalk: Why can’t plastics of all types, instead of being initially sorted, simply be melted together to be separated later? It must be a monumental and error-prone task to separate truckloads of plastics. -- L. Schand, via e-mail

The reason plastics aren’t typically melted together and then separated later is a matter of both physics and economics. When any of the seven common types of plastic resins are melted together, they tend to separate and then set in layers. The resulting blended plastic is structurally weak and difficult to manipulate. While the layered plastic could in theory be melted again and separated into its constituent resins, the energy inputs required to do so would make such a process cost prohibitive.

As a result, recycling facilities sort their plastics first and then melt them down only with other items made of the same type of resin. While this process is labor-intensive, the recycling numbers on the bottom of many plastic items make for quicker sorting. Many recycling operations are not only reducing sizable amounts of waste from going into landfills but are also profitable if managed correctly.

Manufacturers of plastic items choose specific resins for different applications. Recycling like items together means the reclaimed polymer can be used to create new items just like their virgin plastic forebears. The seven common types of plastic are: #1 Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE); #2 High-density polyethylene (HDPE); #3 Polyvinyl chloride (PVC); #4 Low-density polyethylene (LDPE); #5 Polypropylene (PP); #6 Polystyrene (PS); and #7 Other/Mixed (O). One complicating factor is trying to recycle unmarked plastics and those embossed with a #7 (representing mixed resins, also known as polycarbonate). According to Earth911, a leading online source for finding recyclers for specific types of items across the
United States
, in some cases #7 plastics can be “down-cycled” into non-renewable resin; in other cases recycling operations just send their unmarked and #7 plastics into local landfills.

But even though recycling operations have developed relatively efficient systems for generating reclaimed resins, many environmentalists recommend that consumers still avoid plastics as much as possible. “Simply recycling these products does not negate the environmental damage done when the resource is extracted or when the product is manufactured,” reports EcoCycle, a Colorado-based non-profit recycler with an international reputation as an innovator in resource conservation. The group adds that over the past half century, the use of disposable packaging—especially plastic—has increased by more than 10,000 percent.

Along these lines, products (or packaging) made out of reusable metal, glass or even wood are preferable to equivalent items made from plastic. For starters, an item of metal, glass or wood can be re-used by someone else or recycled much more efficiently than plastic when it does reach the end of its useful life to you. Wood products and other items crafted out of plant material—even so-called “polylactic acid (PLA) plastic” made from plant-based agricultural wastes—can be composted along with your yard waste and food scraps, either in your backyard or, if your town or city offers it, through your municipal collection system. Happy reducing, reusing and recycling!

CONTACTS: Earth911, www.earth911.com; EcoCycle, www.ecocycle.org.

EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E - The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: earthtalk@emagazine.com. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


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