Plastics & pollution - Sept 1
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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
Plastic and the albatross
David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton, Sierra Club Magazine
Ocean-borne trash plagues the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The stomach of this dead albatross held more than a half pound of plastic.
Photographs by David Liittschwager and Susan Middleton
UPDATE (Oct 5, 2007). Photographs removed at request of originators. Click on Sierra Club article to see them.
Message in the Drink Bottle: Recycle
Betsy McKay, Wall Street Journal
When activists and some top chefs uncorked an attack on bottled water as wasteful and a contributor to global warming, beverage makers showed few signs of concern, partly because so many consumers are guzzling branded water as a chic, healthier alternative to soda.
Things are starting to change. Following months of unflattering news coverage, press releases and even a resolution by the U.S. Conference of Mayors calling for research into the impact of discarded bottles on municipal waste, the beverage industry is stepping up efforts to promote recycling and use more recycled plastic in production of its soda, water, juice and tea bottles. Some companies are reformulating containers to reduce the amount of plastic.
...Until now, Coke, Pepsi and other beverage companies typically fought laws mandating deposits on bottles and cans. Now, though, some beverage makers are starting to warm up to financial incentives for recycling.
...The tidal wave of bottled water has increased the beverage industry's ravenous appetite for plastic. Demand for recycled polyethylene terephthalate, familiarly called PET, is especially fierce, because it can cost as much as 50% less than newly made plastic.
(30 August 2007)
Not in Whose Backyard?
Amanda Griscom Little, New York Times
Consider this curiosity of United States environmental policy: Countless federal laws have been written to preserve far-flung wilderness that Americans rarely visit (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, for instance) and endangered species that we scarcely see (from longhorn fairy shrimp to piping plovers). Yet no legislation has been tailored to protect a landscape that is perhaps the most vulnerable: the low-income communities that shelter most of America's polluting facilities.
Later this month, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will introduce the Environmental Justice Renewal Act, which would direct additional federal funds to assisting environmentally beleaguered communities. The bill complements another proposal Clinton helped sponsor, which would require the Environmental Protection Agency to monitor and mitigate the health impacts of power plants, waste-transfer stations, truck fleets, refineries and other industrial infrastructure, which tend to be overwhelmingly concentrated in America's poorest neighborhoods.
Both bills are expected to meet opposition in Congress. Nevertheless, their introduction suggests a coming of age for the environmental-justice movement. The movement - whose proponents hold that minority and low-income populations should not be subjected to more environmental burdens than others - has been growing at the grass-roots level for decades. Yet disproportionately high pollution levels continue to plague poor communities, and race often correlates with which populations are hit the hardest: African-Americans, for instance, are 79 percent more likely than whites to live in areas where air-pollution levels pose health risks, according to a 2005 Associated Press analysis of E.P.A. data. Lead-poisoning rates among Hispanic and black children are roughly double those among white children.
Environmental-justice advocates take pains to assert that they are neither antidevelopment nor anti-industry. "We can't fight this battle at the expense of jobs," says Majora Carter, a MacArthur fellow from the South Bronx, where children's asthma rates are several times the national average. "We need to work; we also need to breathe - our goal is to find a way of doing both."
(1 September 2007)
Amanda Griscom Little has been a writer for Grist online magazine.
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