How to Incorporate Sustainability into Your Business

Since catapulting to the frontlines of news headlines and global consciousness, climate change is one of the most talked about and concerning topics of the modern age. Fortunately with this shift in cognition, manufacturers all across the globe have banded together to create green products in hopes of a more eco-friendly future. It’s these very products that can transform any business from a wasteful guzzler to a green success. With this guide, we’ll walk you through how you can incorporate sustainability into your daily business practice.

Switch out the incandescent light bulbs with CFL or LED bulbs for a longer-lasting and more energy-efficient brilliance. Compact-fluorescent (CFL) and LED light bulbs tend to carry higher price tags than the average fluorescent bulb, however they offer a far more attractive projected lifespan than typical fluorescent bulbs which tend to offer 1,200 hours of  light.

LED bulbs, on average, cost around $5 and offer 25,000 hours of light, while CFL light bulbs cost about $2 and offer 10,000 hours of projected lifespan. Not only are CFL and LED lights more practical from a sustainability standpoint, but they will also save you thousands on your business’s electric bill.

Using biodegradable kitchen supplies to save on plastic waste. Unless your office is the type of place where employees keep personal dishes in the kitchen cupboard, you will likely need to keep a stash of utensils, cups, and plates on deck for any catered lunches or work parties. Instead of giving into the cheap prices of eco-unfriendly plastic ware, invest in biodegradable kitchen packaging for a greener feast. With fewer resource requirements, these biodegradable forks, spoons, and knives will leave your business with a reduced carbon footprint.

Green SMEs

Recycling ink cartridges is a great practice to put in place for businesses equipped with a number of printers. Believe it or not, the vast majority of discarded ink cartridges end up in harmful, toxic landfills that eventually end up in our oceans. Ink cartridge recycling is the most eco-friendly solution to this preventable problem. There are a number of simple ways to take those empty cartridges off your hands and into the hands of a trusted recycler:

  • Find a local recycling facility: You may not even know where your local recycle center is located. Luckily Earth911 can guide you to the nearest location for easy cartridge recycling.
  • Find a local office supply store: Did you know most office supply stores offer recycle programs? Check online or call in to see if they accept ink cartridges.
  • Consider refilling original cartridges: Do a bit of research on the brand of your empty ink cartridge. You may find that they are able to refill your cartridge and you won’t ever have to worry about tossing them!

Opening up windows is an easy solution to a stuffy, warm office. When people are packed like sardines into their tiny cubicles, the air can quickly become stale and stifling. Instead of wasting money and energy on air conditioning, open a few windows to let fresh air flow in. Air conditioners put hydrofluorocarbons, a type of greenhouse gas emission, into the environment—so while you may feel refreshed, the earth is further harmed. Reduce your business’ contribution by saving the AC for the more-unbearable summer days.

Invest in renewable energy sources for a long-term, energy-efficient, and eco-friendly power solution. Every year, we see more and more solar panels sitting atop rooftops, which means the time to invest in solar panels is now. By converting sunlight into a sustainable power source, solar panels are the greenest source of energy on the planet today. Solar energy can be used heat buildings and provide energy to power lights on.

Turning to post-consumer waste to escape the cycle of high-volume paper waste is an exceptional solution for any company that uses a lot of paper. PCW paper is paper re-made at recycling facilities. According to the Environmental Paper Network Paper Calculator, PCW paper saves on

  • 5,610 gallons of water
  • 5,000,000 BTU of energy
  • 376 pounds of solid waste
  • 1,035 pounds of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions

In 2019, there are no more excuses for why a business is stuck in the past. The future can be a bright one if we all put our best foot forward and make the effort to make our spaces greener!

Water Conservation: How to Save Water at Your Home

The importance of saving water cannot be understated, especially as many countries around the world are facing drought conditions. Of course, there is an endless list of small changes you can make as a homeowner to improve the water-saving efficiency of your home, and they add up to a potentially significant difference in the long-term.

Re-Purpose Water

A staggering amount of water literally goes down the drain each day, when there are plenty of smart, safe ways to conserve as much of it as possible. Your bathroom is a key contributor to single-use wastage, and by keeping a container on the floor of your shower you can collect liters with each use. Meanwhile, in the kitchen, even seemingly small things like using a container to catch the water used in washing fresh produce can make a difference over time.

Get Smart About Lawn Care

It’s a common misconception that maintaining a healthy lawn requires a plentiful supply of water. Even during water-restricted periods, keeping your grass green is possible – you just have to get clever about your lawn care practices. Depending on the severity of restrictions, you may only be allowed to water your garden and lawn on certain days and at set times of day, and this will probably be enough, as long as you follow a few guidelines.

If possible, it’s best to water your plants and grass in the evening so that the water has plenty of time to soak into the soil and roots without the threat of evaporation. In case you’re unsure whether to water or not, feeling the topsoil for dryness will give you the best indication.

Use the Half-flush

The second button on the toilet is more than just an aesthetic feature. In fact, the half-flush button can save as much as 70% of the water used in a full flush, owing to the difference in flushing design. A wash-down design and a large trap way make it easier for waste to flow down the drain, meaning less water is required. If you can afford to replace an old, inefficient system, you stand to save a lot of water (and by extension, money) in the long-term.

Use Dual Sinks

Washing dishes by hand gets a bad rap in terms of water efficiency, and it often uses more water than a dishwasher, but it’s possible to prevent a great deal of wastage by using your sink effectively. If you have a double-barreled sink, using one side for washing and the other for rinsing will allow you to wash an unlimited load without needing to refresh the water.

Check the Ratings

Every water-using device has an efficiency rating, and choosing a well-rated model will help you prevent unnecessary wastage at the source. In some countries, large devices like dishwashers and washing machines come with a star rating to give an indication of their efficiency, and even if they don’t, you can still do your own comparative checks.

In the US, the toilet is typically the biggest source of water wastage, followed by the shower and faucets, but with modern water-efficient designs like water-saving vacuum toilets and low-flow showerheads, much of that water could be preserved.

Install Water-Saving Faucets

The only thing more efficient than collecting and re-using run-off from the shower is using less water at the source, and the right faucet can help with that. Just like dishwashers and washing machines, faucets often come with a water-efficiency rating, but they can also be made more eco-friendly through simple add-ons like aerators. An aerator installation is a perfect project for eco-conscious lovers of DIY – once it’s done, the difference will be practically undetectable, and you’ll be saving liters without even trying.

Buy Smaller Machines

Devices like dishwashers and washing machines are becoming more water-efficient with each passing year, but the fact remains that large machines tend to use much more water than their smaller counterparts. A smaller device will also make it easier to commit to only running full loads, since it will take less time to fill.

You might even consider investing in a double-gallon dishwashers, designed to run smaller loads with half the amount of water – there’s plenty of technology available to help in your quest to use less.

Install a Water Tank

If you have the money and the space available on your property, a water tank is one of the best long-term water-saving investments you can make. Even the average backyard water tank allows for the collection of several hundred liters, which is more than enough to keep your yard in good condition or fill your bathtub many times over. Tanks can be expensive to buy, but the savings you stand to make on your water bills will make it all worthwhile.

Fresh drinking water is a precious resource, and developing efficient usage habits has never been more important. The bottom line is that saving water isn’t difficult, and with a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, you’re fully-equipped to start doing your bit for the environment and the world as a whole.

How Can Oil-Free Air Compressors Benefit You and The Environment?

If you already have an air compressor, you will be aware of how they are an incredibly valuable tool for industries and DIY enthusiasts. Commonly used to power pneumatic tools but can be used for a variety of applications. Air compressors provide you with complete power over spraying, nailing, sanding and hammering at a fraction of the time it would take with manual tools.

These machines can also be used for inflating tyres, auto repairs and even creating home-made snow machines. Sandblasters, impact wrenches, grease guns, die grinders and angle disc grindles can also be attached.

We all love our power tools and would be lost without them; however, we are becoming more aware regarding the issue of carbon emissions. Reducing our carbon footprint is one of the most important things companies and individuals can do in their lifetime. Small changes within your business and homes can be a great start to decrease our carbon emissions and help save the planet.

If you are looking to purchase your first air compressor or to update an existing model, Direct Air has created a guide on why an oil-free air compressor is a great choice, not just for the environment, but to help you save on energy bills. You can see their full range of oil-free air compressors at https://www.directair.co.uk/products/oil-free-air-compressors/.

Every air compressor requires lubrication in order to efficiently and safely draw in air to its cylinder, commonly using a piston movement. The traditional method to achieve this is using oil, while oil-based air compressors do have their benefits as they are more robust and can handle large-scale applications, they are higher in initial cost, harder to maintain and far heavier than their oil-free counterparts.

Oil-free air compressors gain lubrication through a non-stick coating, generally Teflon. As extra elements to hold oil are eradicated from these machines, they are far lighter and smaller than oil-based air compressors which make them ideal for applications that are not static. Due to less components, oil-free air compressors are often cheaper to purchase.

Oil-based air compressors must remain static and upright when in use, oil-free are far more versatile. As you do not need to consider the oil flow, they can be positioned wherever you see fit. They are also operatable at any temperature, oil can become viscous in cooler climates and can cause problems when attempted to start the motor, oil-free erases this issue.

With these benefits in mind, you can achieve even more with your oil-free air compressor by helping to reduce the use of fossil fuels maintain the planet’s natural resources. You can also make a direct impact on your running costs, saving you and your business money on your energy bills.

With an oil-free air compressor, all costs to collect and dispose of oil-laden condensate will be removed, not to mention the initial cost of the oil itself. These compressors are less wasteful as they do not require the replacement of the air/oil separator and filtration elements which are required to get rid of oil aerosols, these parts are notorious for wearing down quickly. You will not needlessly be sending these parts to landfill and be bearing the cost of new ones on a regular basis.

If you are worried about direct harmful emissions from your air compressor, oil-free air compressors produce the purest form of air which will reduce any negative impact into the atmosphere, great for the planet and for those working around it. You will also not have the trouble of potentially contaminated products from oil spillages during projects.

A big bonus of oil-free air compressors is that they are safer than their counterparts, as there is no oil, you eliminate the risk of compressed air pipeline fires. An incredibly important factor to consider for the safety of you, your staff and your premises.

Oil-free air compressors can dramatically reduce your energy bills compared to the oil-based counterpart as they require less energy to run which will cut down your environmental impact. Oil-free air compressors do not need increased forces of power when the unit has a drop in the filtration in the downstream pressure, unlike oil-based. Oil-free units can, on average, unload in 2 seconds of your command which only uses around 18% of its full load horsepower.

Of course, all machines come with their downsides and oil-free air compressors are no exception. Oil-free air compressors are known to generate more noise which can be an annoyance and hazard to those using it and those around them.

There is a solution, you can invest in a low-noise air compressor. These reduce noise levels to around 40dB. The lowest safe level is considered 60 dB and anything over 80dB can cause long-term problems with hearing.

With the addition of an acoustic cylinder to contain this noise, opting for a low-noise air compressor is an investment worth making. It is recommended when using any power tool that protective gear is worn to eliminate lasting damage and long-term effects, even with a low-noise machine.

If you were considering purchasing a new air compressor or have simply been doing research on them, you should now have a comprehensive understanding of the benefits an oil-free air compressor possesses.

5 Best Things Students Can Do to Save the Planet

Like anyone else, students have an important role to play in counteracting current environmental problems. After all, they are the generations that would unjustly inherit some of the most perilous global challenges humanity has ever faced. They would also become the future leaders that are expected to implement key measures to save the planet in the coming decades. Below, we explore the most important means through which students can help the ongoing fight. For some key advice on how each of us can contribute, check this info guide from the World Wildlife Fund.

1. Consume Less

If there is one thing you must do before everything else in order to save the world, it is limiting the number of resources you require. This applies to most products – there are very few exceptions. It is crucial to reduce the amount of environmentally damaging products consumed, such as plastics in any form, various chemical products (detergents, bleach, cosmetics), industrial products, especially those that use valuable resources, are hard to recycle, or whose production is associated with high energy demands.

By reducing consumption, you can also save money, which is always relevant for a student. Given how our world and economy function, every time you buy something you cast a vote for a particular version of the future.

2. Recycle

Although probably having the greatest impact, avoiding consumption entirely is unrealistic or incredibly hard to achieve. Hence, for those products that you do consume, seek for ways to recycle them. Food waste can be turned into compost, while plastic, paper, metal, the glass could all be reused.

 

 

Also, ensure that you support producers that recycle materials. Even so, you should be aware that recycled materials are typically used only in producing lower-quality or less demanding industrial products, hence, it is not ensuring a closed circuit of resources.

3. Mind What and How Much You Eat

Even if food waste isn’t normally a polluting factor, the production of any food requires significant amounts of water, energy, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fossil fuels. Hence, when throwing food away, we waste considerable resources.

Apart from that, there are some foods that are associated with a much higher environmental impact, such as palm oil, which is associated with deforestation in tropical areas, or meat, which requires incredibly high amounts of water, energy, and crops/ land to produce.

4. Volunteer for the Environment

The state of our environment is such that there is always work to do. Volunteering is one important way in which we can help the environment and inspire others to do the same. It can take many forms, such as saving animals or animal habitats, cleaning urban or wild areas from litter, finding sponsors and raising donations for specific environmental projects, helping to gather products for recycling, etc.

All these activities could be time-consuming and could interfere with college coursework. Sometimes, college homework might prevent you from attending an important event or activity that you planned for much ahead. In such situations or whenever confronted with multiple pressing deadlines, getting help from EduBirdie Canada could be a life-saver. Note that any accomplishments in environmental volunteering could become a strong point in your CV as well as a convincing argument for your future academic or job applications, so they shouldn’t be ignored.

5. Travel Less Using Vehicles

Burning fossil fuels are an important contributor to air pollution (an important cause of disease worldwide) but also to rising CO2 levels, which cause global climate change. Hence, it makes sense to substitute, whenever possible, your trips by vehicle with bike rides or walks. Importantly, air travel typically results in hundreds of kilograms of CO2 per passenger, which represents a much higher environmental footprint compared to land transportation.

Conclusion

We have listed above some key directions in which you should act in order to embrace a greener lifestyle. However, there are many more ways to help the environment. Feel free to check these energy-saving tips for additional advice. Importantly, the same goals could be achieved by using a great variety of paths – the way how you implement your personal environmental plan is up to you. You are highly welcome to come up with creative new ways and share them with your community. The world is in desperate need of solutions that would address the environmental disaster we are witnessing.

Challenges in Hazardous Medical Waste Management

Medical waste management is a concern of healthcare facilities all over the world; about 10-20% of the facility’s budget every year is spent on waste disposal. According to the WHO, about 85% of the total amount of generated waste is non hazardous but the remaining 15% is considered infectious, toxic or radioactive. While non-hazardous medical waste poses less problems, the risks and challenges of hazardous medical waste management must be considered carefully, since incineration or open burning of hazardous medical waste can result in emissions of dangerous pollutants such as dioxins and furans.

medical-waste-management

For this reason, measures must be taken to ensure safe disposal of hazardous medical waste waste in order to prevent negative impact on the environment or biological hazards, especially in developing countries.

Health Risks

Biologically hazardous waste can be a source of infection due to the harmful microorganisms it contains; the most exposed are hospital patients, hospital staff, health workers. However, the situation is potentially harmful for the general public as well. The risks include chemical burns, air pollution, radiation burns and toxic exposure to harmful pharmaceutical products and substances, such as mercury or dioxins, especially during the process of waste incineration.

Other risks can also derive from the incorrect disposal of needles and syringes; worldwide, it is estimated that, every year, about 16 billion infections are administered. Unfortunately, not all needles are safely eliminated, creating risk of infection but also the possibility of unintentional reuse. Even though this risk has decreased in recent years, unsafe infections are still responsible for many new cases of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Environmental Impacts

Incorrect disposal of untreated healthcare waste can contaminate drinking and ground water in landfill, and also release dangerous chemical substances in the environment. Deficient waste incineration can also release hazardous pollutants in the air, and generate dioxins and furans, substances which have been linked to cancer and other adverse health conditions. Heavy metals, if incinerated, can lead to the diffusion of toxic metals in the environment.

The Way Forward

There is still a long way to go in order to ensure safe disposal of hazardous healthcare waste. A joint WHO/UNICEF assessment conducted in 2015 found that only 58% of analyzed facilities over 24 countries had appropriate medical waste disposal systems in place.

Strategies to improve healthcare waste segregation is an essential step in medical waste management

In the workplace, it is important to raise awareness and promote self-practices. Training in the areas of infection control and clinical waste management is important in order to maintain a clean, safe environment for patients and staff alike. Specialized industrial cleaning can also be effective in reducing risk of infection.

It is also essential to develop safe methods and technologies of treating hazardous medical waste, as opposed to waste incineration, which has already been shown to be ineffective and dangerous. Alternatives to incineration, such as microwaving or autoclaving, greatly reduce the release of hazardous emissions.

Finally, developing global strategies and systems to improve healthcare waste segregation is another essential step; since only about 15% of clinical waste is hazardous, treatment and disposal costs could be reduced significantly with proper segregation practices. Furthermore, these practices also reduce risks of infections for those workers who handle clinical waste.

Top 4 Benefits Of Natural Gas

All areas of our lives are literally run by energy. And with various options of energy consumption choices, it’s always good to know the benefits of each one of them so that you make a great consumer choice. Today, in this article, we are focusing on natural gas and are going to take you through some of its top benefits. So if that’s what you have been searching for, then you are at the correct place. Let’s get started!

  1. Clean Burning Fuel

When compared to coal, oil, and diesel, natural gas is cleaner as it emits the least percentage of carbon dioxide and other related harmful chemicals. So when you use one, you don’t have to invest in emission lowering technologies as the efficiency is top notch. Also, since it’s odorless, it makes little contribution to air pollution and doesn’t cause any harm when inhaled by people and animals.

  1. Versatile

There is a given sort of flexibility and convenience that comes with the use of natural gas. With it, you enjoy the ease of starting and turning off as it won’t take much of your time. Also, since it isn’t dependent on the wind or the sun, it can function pretty well when used with solar and wind powers. It’s a source you can depend on no matter the weather conditions outside.

So if this seems like something you would like to try out, then it’s advisable to carefully go through an apples to apples comparison of the various natural gas providers and settle for one according to your needs and financial capability.

  1. Affordable

With the current hard economic times, people are always on the lookout for affordable but efficient options when it comes to products or services affecting their billings. So natural gas couldn’t have been easily accessible at a better time. In fact, it’s by far one of the cheapest energy options in the current market. This is because, even as you calculate the long-term costs of seemingly cheap options such as generators, you will realize that they aren’t as affordable as they might appear in the beginning. Take the fuel and maintenance costs, for example, you will end up spending much more than you can ever imagine.

But this isn’t the case with natural gas. According to recent findings, its cost is expected to remain constant or relatively unchanged at least even for the next decade. So you can be sure that it’s a long-term investment, worth every cent. You make one and forget about unnecessary expenses.

  1. Reliable Delivery Infrastructure

This is probably one of the natural gas‘s primary benefits. This is because you can still receive your delivery of natural gas even during extreme weather conditions such as storms, through the pipes. A case that’s different from other energy sources. Also, the infrastructure is already established in most urban areas.

Final Thoughts

Natural gas is a clean fuel that can be used in various places while keeping the air fresh and clean. Together with this, there are various benefits associated with its use and this includes the affordability, reliable infrastructure, versatility, among others. The above list isn’t exhaustive.

Pet Waste Management in UK – Prospects and Challenges

Pet waste is a growing public health and environmental risk. According to a report commissioned by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, 13 million UK households (45%) keep pets of some kind. Cats and dogs are each kept by 8.5 million households (these numbers are not additive, as some will of course keep both).

pet-wastes

Can those of us who want both the joys of animal companionship and waste minimisation, find ways to cut down, or better manage, the huge amount of pet waste generated in the UK every year? With so many cats and dogs in the UK, pet waste must represent a significant mass of organic matter within the residual waste stream.

Does this waste represent a floater in the residual waste stream by necessity—due to inherently unpleasant and possibly dangerous characteristics of the waste—or is it only there out of convention and squeamishness?

I’ve written before about the relationship between waste management and squeamishness, and talking about faeces really brings the point home. There are some undoubtedly nasty pathogens present in pet faeces, notably the parasites Toxocariasis and Toxoplasmosis. But might these be safely killed off by the temperatures reached in anaerobic digestion (AD). If so, provided any litter and bags were made of organic matter, might pet waste be collected along with food waste?

I began by contacting a local authority waste officer, but was told that no one had asked this question before, and that I might be better off talking to AD plant operators. This I did, but most seemed similarly baffled by my query. However, one mentioned that AD digestate goes through a pasteurisation process, where it is heated to a temperature of 70oC for one hour, in order to make it safe for land application. I also attempted to contact some technical specialists in the field, but to no avail.

There are some theoretical indications that this pasteurisation should be sufficient. Hanna Mizgajska-Wiktor and Shoji Uga’s essay Exposure and Environmental Contamination states: “Anaerobic waste treatment kills Toxocara spp. eggs at temperatures in excess of 45oC”, well below the 70oC mentioned by my operator. The susceptibility of Toxoplasma to heat is less clear, although numerous internet sources suggest this can be killed in meat by cooking at 66oC. So far, then, I haven’t confirmed or falsified my initial inkling, and so the collection of pet waste in the municipal organic stream remains a theoretical possibility.

Motivated dog owners can already turn their pet’s waste into a resource within their own home. The website London Worms explains how you can turn your dog’s poo into rich and useful vermicompost, although it warns that the results will only be suitable for use on non-edible plants.

Foul Pay

Household pet droppings may still be largely fated for disposal, but even when binned this waste is at least moving through proper waste management channels. Unfortunately, not all pet poo is binned, and we have real data measuring public perceptions of the disamenity resulting from dog fouling. For most, the presence of this unwelcome waste in our streets, parks and footpaths is of much higher concern than its diversion from landfill. Therefore, it is necessary to make use of biodegradable dog poop bags to keep our environment clean.

A 2011 Defra-funded study on local residents’ willingness-to-pay — via an increase in council tax — for improvements across a range of environmental factors found that dog fouling was the third most important issue out of the presented range (with litter and fly-tipping taking first and second place). Surveys were conducted in inner-city, suburban and rural/semi-rural areas around London, Manchester and Coventry.

In order to move from the current level of dog fouling to the best possible scenario, it was found that inner-city residents would on average be willing to pay £8.87 per month, suburban residents £7.79 per month, and rural residents £2.72. Combining these figures with population statistics allows us to place a disamenity value on dog fouling. National statistics only allow for an urban-rural split, but based on a 2012 Defra rurality study which found that 18.9% of the population lives in rural areas, we can calculate that across England we would collectively be willing to pay £462m per year to achieve best case scenario improvements in dog fouling.

This somewhat crude calculation gives an indication of the perceived disamenity of dog fouling. Presenting the matter in terms such as these may allow economically minded policy makers a means of engaging with this important street scene issue and evaluating the costs and benefits of interventions.

Food for Thought

Let’s wash our hands of poo (with plenty of soap and warm water) and look to the other end of the pet waste problem. According to a report published by WRAP, the UK uses around 75,000 tonnes of primary packaging annually. This holds 1,263,000 tonnes of wet and dry cat and dog food, of which 9,000 uneaten tonnes are thrown away. Although this wasted food constitutes less than 1% of the total sold (if only we were as careful with food for human consumption) the estimated cost to the consumer is still £21m a year.

WRAP examined a number of designs intended to cut to down on the amounts of both pet food and packaging thrown away. A major problem with packaging design is the need to account for portion sizes, which vary from animal to animal and change depending on age and level of activity. Single serve packaging may actually lead to regular food wastage if the portion provided is too big for a particular pet; indeed, this is a problem I am experiencing with my own cat, whose appetite seems to fluctuate wildly. Re-sealable packaging that allows owners to dish out meals in accordance with the changing appetites of their pets is therefore preferable.

The material that packaging is made of is also significant: for example, relatively heavy tins are recyclable, whereas lightweight plasticised plastic foil packets are not. Pet food and its packaging can be pushed up the waste hierarchy by simply choosing a recyclable and resealable container which will allow them to adequately provide for the appetite of their pet. However, these issues are likely to be given less weight compared with health, convenience and cost in the minds of most householders. The onus has to be on manufacturers to develop packaging which is both low cost and easily recyclable.

Love pets, hate waste?

People love animals, but are rather less keen to engage with pets as an environmental issue. Leaving aside questions of whether it is sustainable for so many of us to have pets at all, there are clearly ways in which we can reduce their impact. The convenience of single serving pouches of pet food seems to win out over more recyclable and waste-avoiding alternatives, although pet owners might be willing to change their choices if presented with a better option.

While worrying about recovery options for cat poo might seem somewhat academic, it may be easier to tackle than dog fouling. It might even help to tackle the common psycho-social root of both issues. Cultural distaste perhaps lies behind the lack of information available on dealing with household pet waste, and the persistence of dog fouling as a street scene issue. Things were very different in Victorian London when “pure finders” earned a living by seeking out doggie doo to supply the tanning trade. But for us this kind of waste is a disagreeable fact of life which we deal with as simply and with as little thought as possible. But as a nation of animal lovers, it’s our responsibility to engage with the waste management issues our pets present.

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original article can be viewed at this link

How Polyurethane is Better for the Environment Than Plastic

Stated by urethane manufacturers, today’s manufacturing community is becoming increasingly mindful of environmental impacts that arise during industrial processes. Industrial recycling, waste to energy systems, and emissions improvements are just part of a wide-ranging effort to minimize the impact of manufacturing on the environment.

Plastics have become a lightning rod for environmental commentators, as pictures go viral of various waste being found in far-flung areas of our planet.

Something that is not discussed in these discourses is the wide variety of plastics currently available, and how not all plastics degrade in the same fashion. Polyurethane has been unduly spotlighted in these negative conversations.

With limited resources available to the public on the matter, there is plenty of misinformation which we hope to clarify in this article.

Plastic Waste & A Start to Policy Changes

There have been some extremely shocking photos and stories that have come out in recent years with regard to plastic waste. Photos of all sizes of plastic waste being found in rivers, oceans, and forests have been circulated millions of times.

Some cities and countries have started enacting policy changes in a reactionary fashion after seeing the widespread outpouring of anger on social media.

Most plastics that have been illustrated in these campaigns are thermoplastics, which amount to well over 95% of all plastic found during ocean studies. Polyurethanes, however, account for less than 2% of all waste detected during ocean surveys.

Damaging Thermoplastics

In thermoplastics, no molecular bonds are holding the individual strands of polymer together. It’s held together by weak ionic forces, called Van Der Waal forces.

Think of these bonds as a ball of yarn, essentially being held together by the tangled ends of molecular chains. Simply put, the plastic will break down until the last thing left is individual strands. These are the “micro-plastics” which are commonly talked about in the news.

Finer than a human hair, sometimes even microscopic, this is the smallest the material will degrade to. Individual atoms will not separate from the polymer strand and will continue to linger in the environment for decades.

Eco-Friendly Polyurethane

If you aren’t familiar with cast polyurethane it is considered a thermoset plastic. Do not confuse these with the thermoplastic we just discussed.

Polyurethane differs in that once the polymer has been reacted, the individual strands change on an atomic level and crosslink between each other. At these crosslinks, a new molecule is formed, entirely changing the properties of the material.

This molecular cross-linking is what makes polyurethane much more resilient in heavy-duty applications. Once the material has reached the end of its life, it can not be melted down and reformed.

Don’t think of this as a disadvantage since polyurethane materials will generally last longer than any thermoplastic equivalent. This minimizes the amount of polyurethane entering the waste stream right at the initial source.

Recycling Polyurethanes

There are multiple avenues that can be pursued when it comes to the recycling of polyurethane. Parts may be chemically reacted to turn back into their prepolymer state, however, the cost involved in this process can be quite steep.

When polyurethane breaks down in the environment, it will not break down into its individual polymer strands. Instead, individual bonds are broken down between molecules, releasing individual molecules into the environment.

These molecules are almost exclusively inert compounds that will not react or accumulate toxicity in natural environments.

Microbial degradation has become increasingly prevalent, especially in the area of fungi. Scientists have been able to find microorganisms that are well-suited for breaking downcast urethane products ecologically.

Polyurethane For the Win

The chemical makeup of polyurethane, combined with the increased lifetime of individual parts, means you can lower your commercial ecological footprint. Polyurethanes are non-toxic to the environment as they break down, and do not contain BPA’s or other chemicals which can interfere with endocrine systems.

The minimal effects on the environment will make this polymer even more desirable as we become increasingly environmentally conscious.

Addressing India’s Waste Management Problems

Out of all the measures that are necessary in addressing India’s impending waste management crisis, the most efficient will be changes at the national policy and planning level. It is well-known among the small but growing waste management sector that urban India will hit rock bottom due to improper waste management.

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Unfortunately, they think such a crisis is required to bring about policy changes, as they generally tend to happen only after the damage has been done. This attitude is unfortunate because it indicates a lack of or failed effort from the sector to change policy, and also the level of India’s planning and preparedness.

An average of 32,000 people will be added to urban India every day, continuously, until 2021. This number is a warning, considering how India’s waste management infrastructure went berserk trying to deal with just 25,000 new urban Indians during the last decade. The scale of urbanization in India and around the world is unprecedented with planetary consequences to Earth’s limited material and energy resources, and its natural balance.

Rate of increase in access to sanitation infrastructure generally lags behind the rate of urbanization by 33% around the world; however, the lack of planning and impromptu piecemeal responses to waste management issues observed in India might indicate a much wider gap. This means urban Indians will have to wait longer than an average urban citizen of our world for access to proper waste management infrastructure.

The clear trend in the outbreak of epidemic and public protests around India is that they are happening in the biggest cities in their respective regions. Kolkata, Bengaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Srinagar are capitals of their respective states, and Coimbatore is the second largest city in Tamil Nadu. However, long term national level plans to improve waste management in India do not exist and guidance offered to urban local bodies is meager.

Apart from the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM), there has been no national level effort required to address the problem. Even though JnNURM was phenomenal in stimulating the industry and local governments, it was not enough to address the scale and extent of the problem. This is because of JnNURM is not a long term waste management financing program, sorts of which are required to tackle issues like solid waste management.

Are Cities Hands-tied or is Change Possible?

In the short term, municipal corporations have their hands tied and will not be able to deliver solutions immediately. They face the task of realizing waste management facilities inside or near cities while none of their citizens want them near their residences. Officials of Hyderabad’s municipal corporation have been conducting interviews with locals for about eight years now for a new landfill site, to no avail.

In spite of the mounting pressure, most corporations will not be able to close the dumpsites that they are currently using. This might not be the good news for which local residents could be waiting, but, it is important that bureaucrats, municipal officials and politicians be clear about it. Residents near Vellalore dump protested and blocked roads leading to the site because Coimbatore municipal officials repeatedly failed to fulfill their promises after every landfill fire incident.

Due to lack of existing alternatives, other than diverting waste fractionally by increasing informal recycling sector’s role, closing existing landfills would mean finding new sites.  Finding new landfills in and around cities is nearly impossible because of the track record of dumpsite operations and maintenance in India and the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) phenomenon.

However, the corporations can and should take measures to reduce landfill fires and open burning, and control pollution due to leachate and odor and vector nuisance. This will provide much needed relief to adjacent communities and give the corporations time to plan better. While navigating through an issue as sensitive this, it is of the utmost importance that they work closely with the community by increasing clarity and transparency.

Municipal officials at the meeting repeatedly stressed the issue of scarcity of land for waste disposal, which led to overflowing dumpsites and waste treatment facilities receiving more waste than what they were designed for. Most municipal officials are of the sense that a magic solution is right around the corner which will turn all of their city’s waste into electricity or fuel oil or gas, or into recycled products. While such conversion is technologically possible with infinite energy and financial sources, that is not the reality.

Despite their inability to properly manage wastes, the majority of municipal officials consider waste as “wealth” when approached by private partners. Therefore, a significant portion of officials expect royalty from private investments without sharing business risk.

Waste Management in Olive Oil Industry

The olive oil industry offers valuable opportunities to farmers in terms of seasonal employment as well as significant employment to the off-farm milling and processing industry.  While this industry has significant economic benefits in regards to profit and jobs; the downside is it leads to severe environmental harm and degradation. In 2012, an estimated 2,903,676 tons of olive oil was produced worldwide, the largest olive oil producers being Spain, Italy, and Greece followed by Turkey and Tunisia and to a lesser extent Portugal, Morocco and Algeria. Within the European Union’s olive sector alone, there are roughly 2.5 million producers, who make up roughly one-third of all EU farmers.

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Types of Wastes

Currently, there are two processes that are used for the extraction of olive oil, the three-phase and the two-phase. Both systems generate large amounts of byproducts.  The two byproducts  produced by the three-phase system are a solid residue known as olive press cake (OPC) and large amounts of aqueous liquid known as olive-mill wastewater (OMW).  The three-phase process usually yields 20% olive oil, 30% OPC waste, and 50% OMW.  This equates to 80% more waste being produced than actual product.

Regardless of system used, the effluents produced from olive oil production exhibit highly phytotoxic and antimicrobial properties, mainly due to phenols.  Phenols are a poisonous caustic crystalline compound.  These effluents unless disposed of properly can result in serious environmental damage.  There is no general policy for waste management in the olive oil producing nations around the world.  This results in inconsistent monitoring and non-uniform application of guidelines across these regions.

State of Affairs

Around 30 million m3 of olive mill wastewater is produced annually in the Mediterranean area.  This wastewater cannot be sent to ordinary wastewater treatment systems, thus, safe disposal of this waste is of serious environmental concern.  Moreover, due to its complex compounds, olive processing waste (OPW) is not easily biodegradable and needs to be detoxified before it can properly be used in agricultural and other industrial processes.

This poses a serious problem when the sophisticated treatment and detoxification solutions needed are too expensive for developing countries in North Africa, such as Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, where it is common for OMW to be dumped into rivers and lakes or used for farming irrigation.  This results in the contamination of ground water and eutrophication of lakes, rivers and canals.  Eutrophication results in reductions in aquatic plants, fish and other animal populations as it promotes excessive growth of algae. As the algae die and decompose, high levels of organic matter and the decomposing organisms deplete the water of oxygen, causing aquatic populations to plummet.

Another common tactic for disposal of olive mill wastewater is to collect and retain it in large evaporation basins or ponds.  It is then dried to a semi-solid fraction. In less developed countries where olive processing wastes is disposed of, this waste, as well as olive processing cake and SOR waste is commonly unloaded and spread across the surrounding lands where it sits building up throughout the olive oil production season.  Over time these toxic compounds accumulate in the soil, saturating it, and are often transported by rain water to other nearby areas, causing serious hazardous runoff. Because these effluents are generally untreated it leads to land degradation, soil contamination as well as contamination of groundwater and of the water table itself.

Even a small quantity of olive wastewater in contact with groundwater has the potential to cause significant pollution to drinking water sources. The problem is more serious where chlorine is used to disinfect drinking water. Chlorine in contact with phenol reacts to form chlorophenol which is even more dangerous to human health than phenol alone.

Remedial Measures

The problems associated with olive processing wastes have been extensively studied for the past 50 years.  Unfortunately, research has continued to fall short on discovering a technologically feasible, economically viable, and socially acceptable solution to OPW.  The most common solutions to date have been strategies of detoxification, production system modification, and recycling and recovery of valuable components.  Because the latter results in reductions in the pollution and transformation of OPW into valuable products, it has gained popularity over the past decade. Weed control is a common example of reusing OPW; due to its plant inhibiting characteristics OPW once properly treated can be used as an alternative to chemical weed control.

Research has also been done on using the semisolid waste generated from olive oil production to absorb oil from hazardous oil spills.  Finally, in terms of health, studies are suggesting that due to OPW containing high amounts of phenolic compounds, which have high in antioxidant rates, OPW may be an affordable source of natural antioxidants. Still, none of these techniques on an individual basis solve the problem of disposal of OMW to a complete and exhaustive extent.

At the present state of olive mill wastewater treatment technology, industry has shown little interest in supporting any traditional process (physical, chemical, thermal or biological) on a wide scale.This is because of the high investment and operational costs, the short duration of the production period (3-5 months) and the small size of the olive mills.

Conclusion

Overall, the problems associated with olive processing wastes are further exemplified by lack of common policy among the olive oil producing regions, funding and infrastructure for proper treatment and disposal, and a general lack of education on the environmental and health effects caused by olive processing wastes.

While some progress has been made with regards to methods of treatment and detoxification of OPW there is still significant scope for further research.  Given the severity of environmental impact of olive processing wastes, it is imperative on policy-makers and industry leaders to undertake more concrete initiatives to develop a sustainable framework to tackle the problem of olive oil waste disposal.