Plastic Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic

Plastic Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic

SOURCE: NPR DATE: March 31, 2020 SNIP: For decades, Americans have been sorting their trash believing that most plastic could be recycled. But the truth is, the vast majority of all plastic produced can’t be or won’t be recycled. In 40 years, less than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled. In a joint investigation, NPR and the PBS series Frontline found that oil and gas companies — the makers of plastic — have known that all along, even as they spent millions of dollars telling the American public the opposite. Starting in the late 1980s, the plastics industry spent tens of millions of dollars promoting recycling through ads, recycling projects and public relations, telling people plastic could be and should be recycled. But their own internal records dating back to the 1970s show that industry officials long knew that recycling plastic on a large scale was unlikely to ever be economically viable. A report sent to top industry executives in April 1973 called recycling plastic “costly” and “difficult.” It called sorting it “infeasible,” saying “there is no recovery from obsolete products.” Another document a year later was candid: There is “serious doubt” widespread plastic recycling “can ever be made viable on an economic basis.” Despite this, three former top officials, who have never spoken publicly before, said the industry promoted recycling as a way to beat back a growing tide of antipathy toward plastic in the 1980s and ’90s. The industry was facing initiatives to ban or curb the use of plastic. Recycling, the former officials told NPR and Frontline, became a way to preempt the bans and...
Revealed: Monsanto predicted crop system would damage US farms

Revealed: Monsanto predicted crop system would damage US farms

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 30, 2020 SNIP: The US agriculture giant Monsanto and the German chemical giant BASF were aware for years that their plan to introduce a new agricultural seed and chemical system would probably lead to damage on many US farms, internal documents seen by the Guardian show. Risks were downplayed even while they planned how to profit off farmers who would buy Monsanto’s new seeds just to avoid damage, according to documents unearthed during a recent successful $265m lawsuit brought against both firms by a Missouri farmer. The documents, some of which date back more than a decade, also reveal how Monsanto opposed some third-party product testing in order to curtail the generation of data that might have worried regulators. And in some of the internal BASF emails, employees appear to joke about sharing “voodoo science” and hoping to stay “out of jail”. The new crop system developed by Monsanto and BASF was designed to address the fact that millions of acres of US farmland have become overrun with weeds resistant to Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weedkillers, best known as Roundup. The collaboration between the two companies was built around a different herbicide called dicamba. Dicamba has been in use since the 1960s but traditionally was used sparingly, and not on growing crops, because it has a track record of volatilizing – moving far from where it is sprayed – particularly in warm growing months. As it moves it can damage or kill the plants it drifts across. The companies announced in 2011 that they were collaborating in the development of the dicamba-tolerant cropping systems, granting each...
2,000 renewable energy projects shown to have negative biodiversity impact

2,000 renewable energy projects shown to have negative biodiversity impact

SOURCE: Engineering & Technology DATE: March 26, 2020 SNIP: Researchers have claimed that more than 2,000 renewable energy facilities are built in areas of environmental significance and could be negatively impacting local biodiversity. The team from the University of Queensland in Australia have mapped the location of solar, wind and hydropower facilities in wilderness, protected areas and key biodiversity areas. Lead author José Rehbein said he was alarmed by the findings: “Aside from the more than 2,200 renewable energy facilities already operating inside important biodiversity areas, another 900 are currently being built. “Energy facilities and the infrastructure around them, such as roads and increased human activity, can be incredibly damaging to the natural environment. These developments are not compatible with biodiversity conservation efforts.” The majority of renewable energy facilities in western Europe and developed nations are located in biodiverse areas. Rehbein said there is still time for developers to reconsider facilities under construction in Asia and Africa. University of Amsterdam senior author Dr James Allan said effective conservation efforts and a rapid transition to renewable energy was essential to prevent species extinctions and avoid catastrophic climate...
E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

E.P.A., Citing Coronavirus, Drastically Relaxes Rules for Polluters

SOURCE: NY Times DATE: March 26, 2020 SNIP: The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday announced a sweeping relaxation of environmental rules in response to the coronavirus pandemic, allowing power plants, factories and other facilities to determine for themselves if they are able to meet legal requirements on reporting air and water pollution. The move comes amid an influx of requests from businesses for a relaxation of regulations as they face layoffs, personnel restrictions and other problems related to the coronavirus outbreak. Issued by the E.P.A.’s top compliance official, Susan P. Bodine, the policy sets new guidelines for companies to monitor themselves for an undetermined period of time during the outbreak and says that the agency will not issue fines for violations of certain air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting requirements. Companies are normally required to report when their factories discharge certain levels of pollution into the air or water. “In general, the E.P.A. does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the E.P.A. agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the E.P.A. upon request,” the order states. It said the agency’s focus during the outbreak would be “on situations that may create an acute risk or imminent threat to public health or the environment” and said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. The memo said the compliance changes were retroactive to March 13. Environmental groups and former Obama administration officials described the policy as an unprecedented relaxation of rules for petrochemical...
Great Barrier Reef suffers third mass coral bleaching event in five years

Great Barrier Reef suffers third mass coral bleaching event in five years

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: March 25, 2020 SNIP: The Great Barrier Reef has experienced a third mass coral bleaching event in five years, according to the scientist carrying out aerial surveys over hundreds of individual reefs. With three days of a nine-day survey to go, Prof Terry Hughes told Guardian Australia: “We know this is a mass bleaching event and it’s a severe one.” It follows the worst outbreaks of mass bleaching on record killing about half the shallow water corals on the world’s biggest reef system in 2016 and 2017. Hughes said the first four days of aerial surveys last week covered almost 500 reefs from the Torres Strait to Cairns. They revealed a mixed picture, with some severe bleaching on reefs closer to shore, but outer “ribbon reefs” in the far north escaping damage. He said surveys this week in the central parts of the reef had found extensive bleaching at levels “comparable to 2017”, when it is estimated about 22% of shallow water coral along the reef’s 2300km died. Hughes said about 80 reefs between Tully and Townsville were badly bleached. Both inner and outer reefs were hit. “We could see that some of those corals were big enough that they must have survived the 2017 bleaching and now they re-bleached,” he...