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Environmental News from the Great Lakes Region

Friday, September 26, 2014
Best Buy pledges to double e-scrap collection
Best Buy recently reached a major e-scrap recycling milestone, and the company's sustainability chief says the retailer intends to significantly grow collection totals moving forward. Best Buy announced it has taken in 1 billion pounds of end-of-life electronics and large appliances in the past six years. For a bit of perspective, that total is roughly equivalent to the amount the entire state of California collected through the first six years of its consumer-funded e-scrap program. What's more, Best Buy thinks it can collect 2 billion pounds of e-scrap and appliances in the next six years, through continuing to offer free recycling services at 1,400 stores throughout the U.S. "We're selling the products and we need to be part of the solution as well," Scott Weislow, senior director of environmental services at Best Buy, told E-Scrap News. "We are ready, we are committed to it. ... I don't foresee any reason why we would have any hiccups getting to that next 2 billion pound mark." Though traditionally thought of as a retailer, Best Buy is also one of the nation's largest original equipment manufacturers because it owns and sells the Insignia electronics brand. Source: Resource Recycling, 9/26/14

EPA indicates landfill cover is not CRT recycling
U.S. EPA has clarified its regulatory stance on whether leaded glass destined for tile manufacturing or landfill cover should be considered recycling. In separate letters dated Sept. 10 and uploaded onto the agency's website, Barnes Johnson, the director of the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, addresses the use of CRT glass as alternative daily cover (ADC) and as a flux and lead oxide in making ceramic tiles. According to those letters, the ADC option is considered legitimate disposal while the tile option is legitimate recycling. "Hazardous waste, such as CRT glass, that has been treated & and that no longer exhibits hazardous characteristics may be disposed in a landfill," Johnson writes in the ADC letter. On the tile front, the agency states, "Based on the provided information, the EPA finds the legitimate recycling factors set forth in EPA policy & appear to have been met." The letters are addressed to two of the biggest names in the end-of-life electronics game: The ADC letter was sent to Sony, and the tile letter was sent to Sims Recycling Solutions, the electronics recycling wing of publicly traded Sims Metal Management. Sony had asked the agency for clarification on the ADC front, while SRS had requested clarification on the tile option. It's significant that the tile process received an OK to be deemed recycling while landfill cover is only considered "disposal." Source: Resource Recycling, 9/26/14

Smart Homes Make For Angry Roommates
If you've ever come home to a roommate's dread passive-aggressive note tacked to the refrigerator door, you might not want to move into a smart home. Researchers have discovered that the smarter your home, the angrier roommates get at one another for wasting utilities. Source: Fast Company, 9/26/14

Illinois professors and students study community resilience around polluted waterways
There's no such thing as a good place to have a natural disaster, nor has there ever been an appropriate site to release toxic pollutants. But scientists have long recognized that some areas can handle such catastrophes better than others. As early as the 1970s, they used socioeconomic data from the U.S. Census to develop a tool called the Social Vulnerability Index, known as SoVI, to gauge the likely resilience of different communities. Now a team of professors and graduate students at the University of Illinois is testing and tweaking the SoVI model by studying at a more granular level the communities around two polluted Midwest waterways. Bethany Cutts, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences, and Andrew Greenlee, a professor of urban and regional planning, received a two-year Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant to study communities around the Lincoln Park-Milwaukee Estuary and portions of the Grand Calumet River south of Chicago, both designated "areas of concern" by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Source: Inside Illinois, 9/2/14

Thursday, September 25, 2014
We Don't Have to Ditch Capitalism to Fight Climate Change
We know how to address the problem of climate change, and it doesn't require ditching the market economy. Instead, it relies on harnessing it. Source: HBR Blog Network, 9/24/14

Two Forces Moving Business Closer to Climate Action
This week, CEOs and world leaders met at the UN to talk climate. In the run-up to these high-level talks, many companies and some relatively new voices from the business community have been sounding both the alarm and the rallying cry for action. At the same time, the cost of renewable energy has dropped very far, very fast. It's a perfect storm bringing us to two important tipping points: one of belief and commitment to action, and one of economics. But there's still a major disconnect happening in one other area: the relationship between business and citizen consumers. Source: HBR Blog Network, 9/24/14

Microplastic Pollution Discovered in St. Lawrence River Sediments
A team of researchers from McGill University and the Quebec government have discovered microplastics (in the form of polyethylene 'microbeads,' less than 2 mm in diameter) widely distributed across the bottom of the St. Lawrence River, the first time such pollutants have been found in freshwater sediments. Source: McGill University, 9/23/14

Actions on Climate Change Bring Better Health, Study Says
The number of extremely hot days in Eastern and Midwestern U.S. cities is projected to triple by mid-century, according to a new study led by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers and published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison, 9/22/14

Live Long and Phosphor: Blue LED Breakthrough for Efficient Electronics
In a step that could lead to longer battery life in smartphones and lower power consumption for large-screen televisions, researchers at the University of Michigan have extended the lifetime of blue organic light emitting diodes by a factor of 10. Source: University of Michigan, 9/25/14

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
These 5 companies strive to convert CO2 to cash
A growing list of innovative companies is dedicated to reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions by turning them into something else entirely. Unlike traditional carbon-capture technologies, the focus is on creating something that could produce a stream of revenue while addressing emissions. Source: GreenBiz, 9/22/14

Businesses find cash in composting organic trash
Small businesses have sprung up to serve the needs of those willing to pay a little extra to have their garbage recycled into compost. Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/13/14

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Can cloud computing stay green?
On one hand, organisations of all sizes are being urged to throw their data and operations into the cloud to radically boost their efficiency. On the other, they are being told to think about environmental sustainability and boosting their green credentials. With the former trend involving such huge consumption of power and data, is this fundamentally incompatible with 'greenness'? To find out, we put some questions to Peter Hopton, founder and CEO of server platform specialist Iceotope. Source: TechRadar Pro, 9/9/14

New Chin Strap May Harvest the Power of Chewing to Provide Energy to Electronic Devices
Scientists continue to search for ways to collect power for sustainable energy. Now, they've created a chin strap that can actually harvest energy from the jaw movements associated with chewing, which may just be able to power small devices in the future. Source: Science World News, 9/19/14

Friday, September 19, 2014
EPA Rules Could Breathe New Life into Cap and Trade
Cap and trade may be dead on Capitol Hill, but states could use it to meet new EPA targets for reducing power plants' carbon emissions. Source: Governing, September 2014

Avnet's Global Solutions Center A Model Of Efficiency And Sustainability
For a production and distribution facility that measures 228,000 square feet, it'd be understandable for one to assume that its eco-footprint would correlate to a large impact. For Avnet and its Global Solutions Center, it's quite the opposite. Avnet's Global Solutions Center uses a warehouse-management system, just-in-time production and in-house repair systems to be more effective, reduce life cycle carbon emissions, and reuse and recycle electronic waste. "We realized that as the sustainable recycling product industry matures in the interim, we can't have one or two partnerships," said John Beimfohr of Avnet. "We have to find lots of local partnerships to make sure this stuff doesn't end up in the ground. This all took years to figure out." Source: Industrial Distribution, 9/11/14

Why we buy organic and fair trade: Feelings matter
Many people visit sites like TreeHugger to learn about environmentally friendly products and design solutions, but new research suggests that ethical consumer choices are motivated by more than just having all the facts. Ahir Gopaldas, a researcher and assistant professor at Fordham University, is working to understand how emotions also play an important role in motivating ethical consumers. "Thoughts become action when they are emotionally charged," Gopaldas says. Source: TreeHugger, 9/18/14

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