Video Excerpts Archives - | be Waste Wise
The Health Impacts of plastic pollution was discussed as part of the 2016 Global Dialogue on Waste
What can individuals do to protect their own health?
What do Adventure Scientists do? How can someone join you?
Your experience with plastic pollution and what are you currently doing to combat it?
Plastic pollution is a global problem. How do we tackle it?
Question: Are there any examples of the impacts of plastic pollution on human health and wildlife?
“Bio-plastics have a role, but there is no standard to say what makes a bio-plastic which truly degrades in the ocean.” ~ Nicholas Mallos
“The oceans are so huge. Cleaning them up is like sifting the Sahara desert by using a kitchen strainer.” ~ Bill Francis
“As I learned more and more about plastic recycling, I discovered that it has its own drawbacks. So, I started reducing my own personal plastic as the first step .” ~ Beth Terry
“When people see you do it, it becomes part of the norm. So, take your own bag to the store and bring your own bottles.” ~ Beth Terry
“Plastic pollution isn’t just about plastic in the oceans but the entire life-cycle of plastics, from when it’s first made, through all the pathways until it becomes plastic pollution” ~Nicholas Mallos
During discussions and debates, environmentally competent people showed that the facts are for waste-to-energy through a thorough analysis. But, the public acceptance was still at stake, so the Mayor asked Friedensreich Hundertwasser, a famous Austrian artist if he could do something about the appearance of the Spittelau plant. Friedensreich Hundertwasser then took an year to discuss and check his spirit and conscience about the request and finally accepted to do it. He then wrote a long letter explaining why he decided to do so. A qualified public opinion poll conducted later showed that almost 50% were in favor of the Spittelau waste-to-energy plant. About 47% or so, had no opinion and only 3% were actually opposing it.
The major reason why you see higher recycling rates in areas with waste-to-energy compared to those that don’t is basically the state and local policy environment. To just make the decision to move to waste-to-energy facility there has to be a lot of studies of feasibility, including understanding the waste stream, thinking through what the different streams of waste you have. How can you best maximize those streams? The kind of planning that goes into this type of a facility really engages the whole gamut of the waste management stream. So, those localities, and solid waste districts that have sited or are looking at moving to waste-to-energy as one part of their waste disposal strategy are also engaged in an integrated waste policy initiative.
“After doing the material and energy balances for waste-to-energy in the city of Vienna, we found that by providing both district heating and electricity, waste-to-energy in Vienna reduces the equivalent of 1.4 tonnes of CO2 emissions compared to landfilling with recovery of some landfill gas for electricity generation. So, 1.4 tonnes of CO2 can be saved by 1 tonne of municipal residual waste going into the waste-to-energy facility in Vienna.”
“Some U.S. liberal groups like the Center for American Progress are beginning to realize that times have changed, the science has changed, and that we’re contributing to climate change by landfilling so much of our waste, and that waste-to-energy is actually a way of reducing climate change. So, if more environmental groups that provide information and messaging to liberals take a closer look at the science, I think that we can begin to move the conversation in a little more productive way.”
A lot of it has to do with U.S. history around science and the birth of environmental science in the 1970’s with Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring and the revelation that chemicals in the environment maybe poisoning us without our knowledge. That caused a political split in our conversation between environmentalists on the political left and the chemical and petroleum industries which moved to the political right. And, we see that alignment existing even to this day.
In the last 15 years, waste-to-energy as the percentage of waste generated has come down. Starting from 19% in 1995 down to about 12% of the waste now. So, we’ve actually gone backwards in terms of waste-to-energy. Recycling has gone up, from about 25% to about 34% from 1995. But that’s not a huge increase either in 15 years! If you add these two rates, the waste that’s converted to energy and waste that’s recovered by recycling hasn’t changed in the last 15 years. We’re still landfilling about 54-55% of waste.
Waste-to-Energy is a strategy that many cities with dense population, have issues with landfilling, and want to decrease waste transportation distances are using and continue to look at. Waste-to-energy is also a technology that has been evolving over the years and there are many new developments in this technology, moving in mainly one direction – to be able to applied to smaller size waste streams. Not only is it a strategy that has real importance for the current public policy, it is a strategy that will definitely present itself to additional areas.