Called the “three R’s” of waste management, this waste hierarchy is the guidance suggested for creating a sustainable life. Reduce, recycle, reuse. You might be wondering as to how can you incorporate these principles in your daily life. They are not hard to implement.
And if Walmart can manage to do it, I think we all can.
Our weekly shopping draws from 4 stores. Each Sunday morning, we head out to the 2 with the best deals/prices [mostly] for our groceries and consumables for the coming week. This Sunday morning started out at Walmart – followed by Trader Joe. Just happened to notice these boxes on our way to the self checkout.
❝ The federal government stepped up efforts to deal with the nation’s growing, heavily guarded stockpiles of nuclear waste…convening westerners in Denver to search for a path to a locally accepted site somewhere for deep burial.
That radioactive waste — 70,000 tons, increasing by 2,000 tons a year — comes from nuclear power plants that provide one-fifth of the electricity Americans use, twice the share the wind power industry expects to provide by 2020. More nuclear waste comes from nuclear weapons. Decades of failure to find a central disposal site has backed up spent fuel at 99 commercial plants and 14 shut-down plants…forced the government to pay utilities $4 billion as court-ordered compensation.
❝ “It makes sense to deal with this now instead of kicking the can down the road,” acting Assistant Energy Secretary for Nuclear Energy John Kotek said in an interview before Tuesday’s session…“At a minimum, it is about responsibly dealing with waste that was generated for our benefit. We’ve benefited from the electricity. We benefited from the nuclear deterrence.”
[All American politicians nod their heads at that bit of sage analysis.]
❝ U.S. officials are acting as China and other nations construct nuclear plants as a cleaner source of energy to meet obligations under the International Climate Change Treaty. Nuclear plants don’t emit carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases that scientists blame for global warming. A new U.S. plant is nearly complete in Tennessee. Four more are planned in Georgia and South Carolina.
❝ For 22 years, federal officials worked toward central disposal at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Nevada politicians opposed the project. President Obama in 2009 declared Yucca Mountain an unworkable solution.
There was also a problem with falsified information about the project.
❝ Local resistance to nuclear waste remains fierce. The recent plans to drill an exploratory bore hole three miles deep under North Dakota were scuttled this year as residents objected. Federal energy officials say they’re now looking at bore hole sites in South Dakota to test geological conditions.
❝ Guarding the spent fuel at 113 locations is expensive. Energy officials said waste is stored in different ways at each site and eventually would have to be re-packaged for safety. Federal regulators have said the waste in Colorado can stay until at least 2030, or until a permanent disposal facility is built.
Cold War decisions continue irrevocable, cast in political alloys as fixed as decisions made a half-century ago. There will be no discussion of recycling nuclear material – in the United States.
Every now and then, Areva, the French firm handling most European nuclear recycling drops a note to whoever has their butt planked in the Oval office offering to quote a price for recycling our leftover nuclear crap. The power rods are 94% recyclable. France – which gets the majority of their power from nuclear plants – gets 17% of all their electricity from recycled radioactive material.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, every year approximately 455,000 tons of discarded eggshells must be transported and disposed of in the US alone. Now, however, scientists at the University of Aveiro in Portugal have developed a method of using such eggshell waste in the production of ceramic goods.
Although the specifics of the technology are still under wraps, it involves incorporating crushed eggshells into a ceramic slurry which is subsequently processed “according to a specific protocol that includes a 3-cycle cooking phase.” Samples of porous pavement made from the slurry exhibit desirable qualities such as porosity and water absorption, and are overall considered to be of sufficient quality to meet industry standards.
Besides keeping eggshells out of landfills, the process could also allow ceramics manufacturers to save money – the calcium in the shells would be a lower-cost alternative to calcite, which is traditionally used in the production of ceramic items. Additionally, calcite must be mined, with all the environmental consequences that doing so entails…
The process has been tested in the lab, and the university’s Technology Transfer Office is now seeking industry partners to help finance a large-scale pilot project. And should ceramics manufacturers not have a need for all of the world’s eggshells, scientists in India are working on a method of using them for carbon sequestration…
I’m not holding my breath waiting for carbon sequestration courtesy of Earth’s poultry. The ceramics project sounds like a solid idea – as anyone who’s ever tried to chew egg shells in a slip-shod omelet can attest.
Cripes. The sexy lines of the Prius Gen 1.
How’s this for a “willing buyer”? Toyota is going to recycle nickel-metal hydride batteries from old hybrids into energy management systems and will then sell those systems to Toyota dealerships in Japan.
Starting in April, the company’s Toyota Turbine and Systems will sell an Electricity Management system to dealers as part of its effort to get those dealers to cut energy consumption costs. Toyota is also getting its distributors to move towards solar power, LED lighting and other tree-hugging energy policies.
The recycled-battery systems can story up to 10 kilowatt hours (kWh) of power…The systems can be used for backup power and can cut costs by, for instance, being deployed as a primary energy source during peak usage and pricing hours of energy consumption.
By the way, those systems weigh about 2,100 pounds each (not all that much lighter than the early Prius models, actually), and are small enough that about six of them can fit into a typical parking space.
I love easy-as-pie solutions for repurposing items like used batteries from hybrids. We still bump into ivory tower undergraduate analysis from folks who believe solutions to recycling problems stop with production of the original product. No one is ever going to support a new remedy – it’s all wasted investment.
It’s reckoned that most of the 22 million tons of rubber that is processed every year worldwide goes into making vehicle tires and that once rubber products reach the end of their useful lives, for the most part they end up being incinerated. Even when the rubber residues are reclaimed and re-used to make new products, the lack of techniques for producing high-quality materials means that the recyclables are relegated to secondary products such as arena or playground floor coverings or padded doormats.
Looking for new ways to optimize the recycling of rubber waste, researchers have developed a material called EPMT that has the desired material properties and characteristics for use in the manufacture of high quality products such as wheel and splashguard covers, handles, knobs and steerable castors.
Holger Wack, Damian Hintemann and Nina Kloster from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT in Oberhausen, Germany, have so far developed three basic elastomer powder modified thermoplastics (EPMT) recipes and have formed a new company named RUHR Compounds to bring EPMT to market…
Machines currently used by the researchers are capable of producing up to 350 kg (770 pounds) of EPMT every hour and individual material properties like elasticity, breaking strain and hardness can be modified according to the need of the customer…
The new compounds can contain up to 80 percent residual rubber and the researchers claim that EPMT can be easily processed in injection molding and extrusion machines. EPMT used in the manufacture of new products can itself be recycled again when those products reach the end of their useful life.
Scrap tires are the bane of arroyos and vacant land in rural America. There have been so few useful schemes which consume these leftovers of our fossil-fueled society, there is always some slothful creep dumping worn-out tires someplace they hope won’t be noticed for a while.
If re-use is possible on an economic scale through this process – every rubber-tired nation will benefit.
“It’s not because of Climate Change. It’s because I’ve never been able to leave food on my plate.” This is the motto of sustainable housing design firm Infiniski, whose dwellings are up to 80-percent comprised of reused, recycled and non-polluting materials. Among them are, you guessed it, shipping containers, but also railway tracks, forklift paletts and even old bottles. Though each house is tailored to the needs of the client, the one thing they have in common – in spite of the eye-catching design – is surprising affordability.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Infiniski is that, unlike other shipping container houses, its developed an adaptable process rather than a one-off design…”Depending on the project, Infiniski will use prefabricated steel modules, re-used maritime containers and/or wooden prefab modules,” which can be deployed to construct anything from family homes and residential blocks to hotels or offices.
The project pictured above is the Manifesto House built in 2009 over a period of 90 days in Curacaví, Chile. The 1700-sq ft house is built primarily from three reused shipping containers. The container at ground floor has been split and separated, with the containers on the upper level bridging the gap. By enclosing the resultant gap with thermally-efficient glass panels, the floor area is achieved despite using containers with a collective footprint of 970 sq ft…
…The house’s thermal performance is improved with the use of adjustable wooden solar shading made of wood from sustainable forest sources on one side, and making novel use of forklift pallets on the other. The idea here is that the pallets will open in winter allowing direct solar radiation on the container’s metal surfaces, providing a natural source of heating within. In summer they close to insulate the house from the unwanted source of heat.
This works well at Santa Fe’s latitude. There’s a shading structure using movable planks at Ghost Ranch.
Infiniski tells us the total cost of the project…was $105,000. It further claims that due to the “alternative energy systems” (presumably the natural heating and lighting systems) employed at the house, it’s 70-percent autonomous.
Built over six months in 2010, the Infiniski-designed Casa El Tiemblo in Avila, Spain, is a larger house 2050 sq ft in area. The house makes use of four shipping containers arranged in an L-formation with future extensions in mind. This house is also naturally heated, but complemented with a biomass boiler. In summer, the house exploits deciduous climbing plants shade rather than wooden shades. Its total cost was $186,000.
I get a small chuckle over “biomass”. The sawmill that supplies our home with slab waste just finished building a big addition to chip all waste into “biomass” to supply a couple of power generation plants in the eastern part of the state. I hope they continue to keep a few “spools” of slabs around for folks like us who also heat their homes with “biomass”.
Regular readers know I’m a big fan of reusing shipping containers. Even though the trade balance between the US and China has diminished significantly I doubt if our politicians will ever have the smarts to do a thorough job of rebuilding the export segment of our economy. So, shipping containers will continue to accumulate on our shores.
It hasn’t happened for most Totoya Prius drivers, but one day – perhaps 150,000 or so miles down the road – it will. An indicator light will appear on the dash to signal that the battery pack is past its prime and needs to be replaced.
Some critics of hybrids and electric vehicles have pointed to this moment as proof that these vehicles actually have more environmental impact than conventional autos, as battery packs potentially clutter up landfills with toxic materials. Only, that’s not what’s happening at Toyota.
When a Prius battery pack reaches end of life, Toyota provides a UPS shipping container so the battery can be sent to a recycling center. For U.S. cars, that center is in California. The batteries are shorted out to prevent accidents with any remaining charge, then all of the components are disassembled. The plastic case is shredded and recycled. The electrolyte is decanted and the rare earth elements recovered. The nickel plates are sent to a smelter where they are used in making steel. All the components of the pack are recycled or reused, leaving nothing to go to the landfill. The same recycler is already equipped to deal with the lithium batteries found on the Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, and plug-in Prius.
Of course, there is the problem of cost. Toyota has lowered the price over the years, but a new Prius battery pack still rings up at $2,589. And while some Prius batteries are fine up to 300,000 miles, facing a potential bill that large can make Prius owners decide that seeing 150k miles on the odometer makes a good time to trade…That’s why some dealers have instituted a policy of replacing batteries on high mileage trade-ins before they’re put up for sale.
Having a fresh battery on board assures purchasers that they’ll drive for years without worrying about that little light, and helps assure dealers that a used Prius won’t spend too long on the sales lot.
Also a reason why a used Prius might be a tad more expensive than you thought it was going to be. Demand also has a lot to do with it, though. One of the few used cars I’ve ever tucked away in the back of my mind as potential for the next family commuter-mobile.
Yes – be certain the dealer puts in writing the fact that he replaced the battery. 🙂
The Fukushima Daiichi disaster is focusing attention on a problem that has bedeviled Washington policymakers since the dawn of the nuclear age — what to do with used nuclear fuel.
[Any regular reader of this blog knows what my answer be. The rest of y’all should read on.]
Currently, spent fuel — depleted to the extent it can no longer effectively sustain a chain reaction — is stored in large pools of water, allowing the fuel to slowly cool and preventing the release of radiation.
But events in Japan, where two of the six spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi facility were compromised, have raised questions about practices at the nation’s 104 nuclear reactors, which rely on a combination of pools and dry casks to store used fuel.
[CNN is progressing. First mention I recall of dry casks.]
Currently, there is no maximum time fuel can remain in spent fuel pools, the NRC said Wednesday. As a result, critics say, nuclear plants have made fuel pools the de facto method of storing fuel, crowding pools with dangerous levels of fuel, industry critics say.
As of January 2010, an estimated 63,000 metric tons of spent fuel was in storage at U.S. power plants or storage facilities, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission…
“Spent fuel pools are considered ‘safety significant’ systems, so they meet a lot of the same standards that the reactor itself would have to meet,” said Greg Jaczko, chairman of the NRC. “For example, the spent fuel pools themselves are required to withstand the natural phenomena like earthquakes and tsunamis that could impact the reactor itself…”
A nuclear industry representative said the “lack of a national strategy” on waste storage is exacerbating the problem, since it does not know whether to place spent fuel in permanent, on-site containers, or containers suitable for transport.
The Yucca Mountain storage fiasco will raise it’s ugly head once again. I thought it was dead and buried, literally, after  geologic faults were revealed and  they had been known for years and covered up by site reports filled with lies.
Our “national strategy” has always been deformed by a Cold War mentality which presumed a spy ring would steal uranium from any breeder reactor and build a bomb big enough to destroy Foggy Bottom. So breeder reactors are outlawed on a power generation scale. The rest of the world uses breeder reactors to recycle 95% of their spent fuel.
Congress still thinks recycling anything is a mortal sin.
The power plant at the centre of the biggest civilian nuclear crisis in Japan’s history contained far more spent fuel rods than it was designed to store, while its technicians repeatedly failed to carry out mandatory safety checks, according to documents from the reactor’s operator…
According to documents from Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), the company repeatedly missed safety checks over a 10-year period up to two weeks before the 11 March disaster, and allowed uranium fuel rods to pile up inside the 40-year-old facility…
The revelations will add to pressure on Tepco to explain why, under its cost-cutting chief executive Masataka Shimizu, it opted to save money by storing the spent fuel on site rather than invest in safer storage options.
The firm already faces scrutiny over why it waited so long to pump seawater into the stricken reactors and, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper last week, turned down US offers of help to cool the reactors shortly after the disaster.
Critics of Japan’s nuclear power programme say the industry’s patchy safety record and close ties to regulating authorities will have to change if it is to regain public trust…
One month before the tsunami, government regulators approved a Tepco request to prolong the life of one of its six reactors by another decade, despite warnings that its backup power generator contained stress cracks, making them more vulnerable to water damage.
Weeks later, Tepco admitted it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment inside the plant’s cooling systems, including water pumps, according to the nuclear safety agency’s website…
When disaster struck earlier this month, the plant contained almost 4,000 uranium fuel assemblies kept in pools of circulating water – the equivalent of more than three times the amount of radioactive material usually kept in the active cores of the plant’s reactors.
And like the First and second-generation nuclear plants in the United States – those uranium fuel rods could have been recycled. Beancounters in charge? You can almost be guaranteed that cost was more important than efficiency – or safety.