Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Water sustains life on this planet. Over two-thirds of earth’s surface is covered with water. Over ninety seven percent of the planet’s water is saltwater, unfit for human use. Water pollution is a large factor that affects the earth's ecosystem. Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies and comprises of ocean pollution, river pollution, lake pollution and ground water pollution. Perhaps the most startling prediction of the twenty-first century is the looming concern about water shortage. In fact it is already happening in parts of the planet at this moment. It is not a much as a shortage of water, but a shortage of clean drinking water and water to sustain life on this planet.
The world is running out of usable water. Humans are polluting, depleting, and diverting its finite freshwater supplies so quickly, we are creating massive new deserts and generating global warming from below. This, along with variations in water availability, means that the water to produce food for human consumption, industrial processes and all the other uses is becoming scarce. Right now there are over one billion people on this planet without adequate drinking water. In many parts of the world, surface waters are too polluted for human use. Ninety per cent of wastewater in the Third World is discharged untreated. Eighty per cent of China's and 75 per cent of India's surface waters are too polluted for drinking, fishing, or even bathing. The story is the same in most of Africa and Latin America. Even in North America large water bodies like the Great Lakes are dumping spots for some heavy industries. Currently, over 80 countries, representing 40 per cent of the world’s people, are subject to serious water shortages. Conditions may get worse in the next 50 years as populations grow and as global warming disrupts rainfall patterns. Since 1950 worldwide water consumption has more than tripled and the trend is expected to continue. Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict. Agriculture accounts for over 80 per cent of world water consumption. This planet faces a water crisis. A shortage of water will make a shortage of oil and other commodities seem pale in comparison. A water crisis that will hit Asia and other parts of the world is eminent if we don't change our ways.
Causes of Water Pollution:
We are polluting our water supply at an alarming rate. Water pollution has many causes and characteristics. Organic wastes such as sewage put high oxygen demands on the receiving water leading to oxygen depletion with potentially harsh impacts on the whole eco-system. Industries discharge a variety of pollutants in their wastewater including heavy metals, organic toxins, oils, and solids. Discharges can also have thermal effects, especially those from power stations, and these also reduce the available oxygen. Silt-bearing runoff from many activities including construction sites, deforestation and agriculture can also add to damaging ecological systems. Population growth alone does not account for increased water demand. Since 1900, there has been a six-fold increase in water use for only a two-fold increase in population size. Higher water usage is associated with rising standards of living and consumption. In other words a high amount of water is used to sustain our lavish style of living in the western world.
Water pollution can come from various sources. Industry and agriculture involves the use of various chemicals that can run-off into water and pollute it. Metals and solvents from industry can contaminate lakes and rivers. Petroleum is another form of chemical pollutants that usually contaminates water through oil spills. It is easy to dispose of waste by dumping it into a river or lake. In large or small amounts, discharged intentionally or accidentally, it may be carried away by the current, but will never totally vanish. It will reappear downstream in changed form or diluted. Freshwater bodies have some ability to break down some waste materials, but not in the quantities discarded by modern society. This overload that results, called pollution, eventually puts the ecosystem out of balance. Most often our waterways are being polluted by municipal, agricultural and industrial wastes, including many toxic synthetic chemicals, which cannot be broken down at all by natural processes. Even in tiny amounts, some of these substances can cause serious harm to human and animal health.
Groundwater pollution is often caused by pesticide contamination from the soil, which can infect our drinking water. Groundwater pollution occurs when contaminants find their way into the ground water area. There are many sources of these contaminants including pesticides, nitrates, salt buildup and microorganisms. Contamination of drinking water sources by sewage can occur from raw sewage overflow, septic tanks, leaking sewer lines, land application of sludge and partially treated wastewater. Sewage itself is a complex mixture and can contain many types of contaminants. Seepage overflow into drinking water sources can cause disease from the ingestion of microorganisms such as E Coli, giardia, cryptosporidium, Hepatitis A, and helminthes. Dumps and landfills are a threat to water supplies when water percolates through waste, picking up a variety of substances such as metals, minerals, organic chemicals, bacteria, viruses, explosives, flammables, and other toxic compounds. Run-off from mines and stockpiles pose a threat to drinking water sources due to the release of salts, metals, and acid drainage. Removal of salts and metals from water resources is difficult and very costly. Urban run off is another source of ground water contamination and can consist of water that has drained from man-made non-porous surfaces in densely populated areas. These surfaces consist of roads, freeways, sidewalks, roofed structures, parking lots, airports and industrial sites.
Offshore drilling is a threat to economic livelihood in coastal regions and toxic to our coastal environment. Environmentally sensitive and safe offshore drilling methods do not exist. While drilling technologies have improved, accidents can and still do happen. In addition to the dangers of oil drilling, offshore natural gas drilling has significant environmental consequences for our coast and marine life with chronic water pollution and air pollution and onshore industrialization. In addition to the threat of a major accident or spill, there are routine discharges of spent drilling mud that contain heavy metals and other toxins which accumulate in marine organisms, and produced water pumped from below the seafloor containing elevated levels of radium, which contaminate seafloor sediments and marine organisms. Also produced are substantial amounts of pollutants into the air from the massive machinery operating on each drilling rig, and the on-shore refineries and ports that will be built on our coastline? Our ocean, coastal marshes and waters, marine fisheries, and our tourism industry, are all affected from offshore drilling. Ocean transportation of oil is very risky as is noticeable by the continuous spills of oil along our coastline.
One of the most common causes of water pollution is from pesticides. Pesticides run off from farms and individual home owners into streams and rivers and are also absorbed into the ground water polluting the water that people drink and causing trouble with the fish in the rivers where the pesticides run off. Another one of the causes of water pollution are fertilizers and nutrient pollution. Nitrates and phosphates that are prevalent in the manure, sewage and chemical fertilizers that run into the streams and rivers causes excessive growth in aquatic plants and algae leading to clogged waterways and dead zones. Oil, gasoline and additives spills such as what happens when a major oil tanker has a leak is one of the causes of water pollution that gets a lot of coverage and press due to its effects on marine animals, local fisherman and coastal businesses. Oils can also seep into the waterways through the groundwater as a result of a leak or small spill. Another one of the causes of water pollution as a result of an industry is mining which exposes heavy metals ad sulfur compounds that get leached and absorbed into the ground water and make their way into the nearby water sources. Mines can continue to drain toxic elements into the water supply long after the mining has come to a close. A few additional causes of water pollution are sediment build up as a result of clear cutting, sewage and air pollution due to emissions from vehicles. A lack of water has increased the use of wastewater for farming. More than ten percent of the world's people consume foods irrigated by wastewater that often contain chemicals or disease-causing organisms.
North American Water Issues:
We in North America tend to take water for granted. Many of us in certain areas think water in infinite. We are so used to turning our taps on in our kitchen or showers and have water come out. Most of us in North America have access to fairly clean drinking water, whether it is from a tap in your kitchen or bottled water. The vast majority of us in North America have access to take a shower when we wish. Considering that less than one percent of all the water on the planet is usable freshwater, we’re not nearly as careful as we should be with this precious resource. Here are a few facts to consider how much we take water for granted in North America. Even though the average person only requires 48 liters of water on a daily basis, individuals in the United States use an average of 500 liters, those in Canada an average of 300 liters. In comparision, there are a half dozen countries in the third world that use less than 10 liters a day. The recommended basic water requirement per person per day is 50 liters. Most people can get by with about 30 litres-5 litres for cooking and drinking and another 25 for basic hygiene. It has been estimated that of all the water that enters each North American household, about 95% of it ends up down the drain. It takes an average of 300 gallons to water your lawn. During the summer months, this can account for almost half the water usage of a basic household.. There are already water shortages looming in parts of the US, such as California, Arizona and New Mexico.
However, the water in the homes and offices in the western world is not as safe as you may think. A Ralph Nader Report stated that over 2300 chemicals that can cause cancer have been detected in U.S. drinking water. Drinking water pollution is growing rapidly. North Americans use over 75,000 water pollution chemicals in total and over one thousand new ones are developed each year. Many of these chemicals will end up in our drinking water supply in one form or another. Our planet reuses and recycles the same water over again and as a consequence, there are traces of health threatening water pollution chemicals in much of our drinking water.
Over forty percent of the rivers and lakes in America are too polluted to fish in, swim in, or maintain marine life. There are many causes of water pollution. Water pollution comes from two different types of sources. A point source is a result of pollutants being emitted directly into a water body, such as a pipe from an industrial facility leaking toxics directly into the water. There is also a non point source type of polluting that is a result of pollutants being indirectly transported to the water such as run off from fertilizers flowing in to a larger body of water by rain. As well, the majority of the planet's liquid freshwater is stored in underground aquifers. When pollution enters our soil it often ends up in this water supply and is very difficult to treat.
Pharmaceutical pollution is another type of water pollution that could have major implications on wildlife, agriculture and humans. Over one trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are discharged into US waters annually according to the US EPA. Residues of birth control pills, antidepressants, painkillers, shampoos and a mixture of other chemicals are turning up in North American waterways. North Americans are prescribed millions of doses of prescription drugs every year and livestock are given millions more. As the body does not always absorb these drugs completely, they are excreted and now prescription drugs re showing up in our ground water, soil, waterways and even our drinking water according to findings by scientists. Conventional sewage treatments don't always purge the remnants of drugs that are disposed of. Adding to the issue are prescription drugs that aren't used, then are flushed down the toilet or put in landfills, which sequentially end up in our water. Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drug making. For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder, nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives. These are just a few ingredients that often end up in our water.
Other toxic chemicals in our homes also end up in our water supply. Personal care products and household cleaning products such as bleach, fabric softener, lotion, perfume and hair dye end up in our water supply. The water coming out of our taps and showerheads is not as clean as we may believe. There is even a toxic rocket fuel ingredient that has fouled public water supplies around the United States. The ingredient, perchlorate, has been discovered in at least 395 sites in 35 states at levels some scientists say could interfere with thyroid function and cause developmental health concerns, particularly for babies and fetuses. Another major contaminate in water is atrazine. Atrazine is a widely used herbicide applied on a variety of crops such as corn and sugar cane. It is a tightly regulated chemical in regards to allotment in the levels in water. According to a USA Today report, every day, millions of Americans turn on their taps and get tap water that exceeds the legal limits for dangerous contaminants. It is estimated that up to seven million people in the United States alone get sick from drinking tap water every year.
In North America we don't take this as seriously as we should. Consider this: Providing water free of disease and toxins is ever more difficult, as old methods prove inadequate and new perils arise. Water shortages have become widespread to many regions, as record drought and population sprawl deplete rivers and lakes. Then there's the threat, unimaginable not too long ago-terrorism. It would be catastrophic if a terrorist group deliberately put biological agents in our water supply. More than half of humanity will be living with water shortages, depleted fisheries and polluted coastlines within 50 years because of a worldwide water crisis, warns a recent United Nations report. Put it all together, and it's easy to see why fears over clean drinking water might someday make the energy crisis look small in comparison.
Asian and Third World Water Issues:
According to reports from the Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply and Sanitation by the World Heath Organization and the United Nations Children's Fund, in 2002, one out of six people lacks access to safe drinking water, that is about 1.1 billion people, and more than one third of the global population lack adequate sanitation, that is close 2.6 billion people. With access to just 5 liters of water each day, more than a billion people in water poor regions around the globe survive on the same amount of water used to flush a toilet or take a five minute shower.
Asian rivers are the most polluted in the world. They have three times as many bacteria from human waste as the global average and twenty times more lead than rivers in western industrialized countries. In 2004, water from half of the tested sections of China's seven major rivers were found to be undrinkable because of pollution. Bangladesh has some of the most polluted groundwater in the world. In this case, the contaminant is arsenic, which occurs naturally in the water sediments. Around 85% of the total area of the country has contaminated groundwater, with at least 1.2 million Bangladeshis exposed to arsenic poisoning and with millions more at risk. Poor water quality can increase the risk of cholera, typhoid fever, dysentery and other infections. Water scarcity can lead to typhus, plague and trachoma, an eye infection that can cause blindness. Much of the water in third world countries is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and parasites as well. In Africa, for instance, 300 million people—40 per cent of the population—live without basic sanitation and hygiene, an increase of 70 million since 1990.
China, the world’s most populated county, has serious water shortage problems caused by over-use and pollution and lots of people living in places that don't have much water. China has about the same amount of water as Canada put around 40 more times people. The water available for each person in China is one quarter of the global average. Water shortages cost China an estimated $39 billion a year in lost crops, lower industrial production and stalled economic output. According to a 2004 study 400 of 669 Chinese cities experiences water shortages, with 100 of them severe and 20 million hectares of farmland are affected by drought, cutting grain production by 28 million tons. Beijing suffers from water shortages as well. Rural areas also suffer from water shortages. More than 80 million people in rural China have to walk more than a mile for drinking water. It has greatly affected agricultural areas as well. Water shortages in China are blamed on rising demands of new industries, an expanding population, agriculture, pollution, reckless development, and poor planning.
Disease and significant deaths arise from people using contaminated water supplies. Poor water supplies particulary affect children in underdeveloped countries, where 3900 children per day die of diarrhea alone. Malaria, borne by water-breeding mosquitoes, is the biggest killer, killing one to two million a year. At any given time close to 100 million people are affected by malaria. Intestinal worms infect about ten percent of the world’s population. About 200 million people are affected by schistosomiasis (bilharzia), with 200,000 dying each year. After peaking in the late 1980s, guinea- worm infections have been declining as water sources are better monitored.
Corporate Water Exploitation:
The 2008 Global Corruption Report states that corruption in the water sector is affecting the entire world. The report also suggests that corruption has become the root cause and catalyst for the global water crisis. According to the report, overuse and pollution have made water-based ecosystems the world's most degraded natural resource, and by 2025 more than 3 billion people could be living in water stressed countries. Some powerful corporations seek to control water supplies in many areas of the world. They do this for their own benefits in many cases, even though, they promise at first it will improve the lives of citizens living in those areas. In many cases it does not improve the lives of citizens in that area. In fact it often makes matters worse. The policies of privatization imposed through the World Bank and rules of trade liberalization being negotiated in the World Trade Organization (WTO) under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) are rules and conditions that create corporate states that take over resources from people for meeting essential needs and put them in the hands of private corporations. This results in these corporations making profits through the privatization of essential services. Having created scarcity and pollution through the promotion of non-sustainable water use, the World Bank is now transforming the scarcity it has created into a market opportunity for water corporations. The World Bank estimates the potential water market at $800 billion. Big corporations such as bottled water companies and soft drink makers have scorched certain areas of water for their own interests and disregarded the concerns of the citizens who depend on their water supplies for their livelihood. Water has become big business for global corporations that see limitless markets in the growing scarcity and growing demand for water. Bottled water for instance is a multi billion dollar per year industry. The more scarce public drinking water is the more profitable their business is. One example of water exploitation by the rich is in Dubai, where the Tiger Woods Golf Course uses 4 million gallons of water every day to maintain its lavish appearance, while many die each day to to lack of water in parts of the world not far away.
A film that I highly recommend is “Flow. For Love of Water”. It will open your eyes to the worldwide water issue if they have not already been opened. It describes how human intervention and corporate greed have made water scarce in pockets around the globe. Some corporations have put their own interests ahead of water conservation and environmental practices.
The bottled water industry is a very profitable industry for a few large corporations. In the US alone Americans purchased 31 billion liters of bottled water, which amounted to 10 billion dollars. Bottled water in the United States is less regulated than tap water. There are some major corporations that have gone into areas to take all the water they can with no regards to the consequences. One example of this is Nestle. Nestle owns over 70 water brands around the world. In Mecosta, Michigan, Nestlé pumps an average of 218 gallons per minute out of Michigan waters after winning a court battle. This is even with much public outrage and parts of the water supply drying up in this area. Nestle has water pumping facilities in other states as well.
In India, tens of thousands of people across the county are challenging Coca-Cola for its abuse of their water resources. Coca-Cola bottling plants have greatly affected both the quantity and quality of groundwater resources as a result of its operations, making access to water by communities even more prohibitive. Coca-Cola's water use ratio in India is 4 to 1. That means that three quarters of the freshwater it extracts is turned into wastewater. The company has indiscriminately discharged its wastewater into the surrounding fields, drastically polluting the scarce remaining groundwater as well as the soil. This is in a county where thousands lack access to clean water. In 2004, for instance the Coca Cola Company used 283 billion liters of water around the globe.
Suez is the world’s second largest water company with energy, water and wastewater operations in 130 countries. Suez has been backed by the World Bank and has won large water privatization contracts in the Philippines, Argentina, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, Indonesia and other third world countries. Suez bribed the governments of these countries with promises that were often never kept, leaving countries deeper in debt and leaving millions of people without access to safe and affordable water. Suez owes compensation to the millions of citizens around the world whose lives have been made more difficult due to water-borne diseases, cut-offs, lack of access to potable water and connection fees and water rates that are unaffordable to many people in these areas. There are certainly other corporations in the mix in regards to controlling a great deal of the world’s water supply. Many of these companies main motive is not “green”. In fact their main motive is “greed”.
Many dams are have been built around the world greatly affecting the flow of water. In poorer countries these projects are often funded by the World Bank. Dams are often built to produce hydro power, but dams are also built to provide irrigation, flood control, water supply and navigation improvement. Often when a dam is constructed water flow is cut off in other areas, particularily poorer areas where people have less power to fight against these massive projects. Dams do serve a purpose and sometimes are beneficial, but the negative issues due to dams cannot be ignored. In addition to causing water shortages in certain spots, storing water above ground risks flooding, contamination, evaporation, and damage to ecosystems. It has been stated that the world’s 45,000 large dams have done a lot of harm worldwide. The World Commission on Dams, a World Bank-sponsored initiative backed by both critics and dam supporters estimated that 40 to 80 million people have been displaced by dams. It is common that a river crosses through two different nations. The nation residing upstream, if it chooses to dam the river, can degrade the value and quality of the water where it flows through the other nation. This can lead to disputes and conflicts.
Corruption and mishandling of water resources is obvious every where in all water related activities. It is rampant in drilling wells, in constructing water treatment plants and water dams. Privatization of water has become the major means of manipulating the poor. These companies that control the flow of water exploit the poor people and their essential resources. Their interests lie only in profit making and not the poor themselves. These multinational companies often ignore the law. Corruption has made water costly all over the world and billions of lives are in danger. Water shortage is a major cause of food shortages! One thing that happens when a resource gets scarce is that the people with money get access to it first. In regards to water this is happening to a large extent but will get worse unless something is done. Another result of scarce water is that people and even countries may go to war over water supplies. We are all aware by now that a well known resource “oil” has caused wars. With water as well, many oceans, rivers and lakes cross international boundries and pollution and toxins may flow from one country to the next by way of our water ways.
Global Warming and our Oceans:
Our oceans are increasing becoming more polluted with trash all the time. It seems that corporations and some people seem to regard our oceans as dumping grounds for waste without stopping to think of the ramifications that this has. Also, if we throw pollutants into our lakes, rivers and oceans and even the soil and ground, they can eventually end up in our oceans. Polluted oceans are a major concern since they are connected to our rivers and lakes; therefore fish and animal life become affected and even poisoned. When fish and animals get poisoned it ends up in our bodies when we eat the affected animals. There are many toxins that end up causing diseases in humans, including cancer, caused from eating contaminated wildlife. One example of a toxin is mercury. Mercury, which has been put in our water systems, become consumed by fish. When we eat fish at times we get traces of mercury along with our food. Once in the human body, mercury acts as a neurotoxin, interfering with the brain and nervous system. Exposure to mercury can be particularly hazardous for pregnant women and small children. Human activities are putting oceans under increasing pressure. Resulting changes in the marine environment are occurring at a faster pace than anticipated, affecting especially the most vulnerable marine ecosystems such as coral reefs. There are many documented cases of what is happening to our ocean waters. One example is in a remote patch of the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 miles northeast of Hawaii, small pieces of plastic and other debris are found in the Pacific garbage patch, an area of widely distributed trash that doubles in size every decade and is now believed to be roughly twice the size of Texas. Scientists say the garbage patch is just one of five that may be caught in giant circles scattered around the world’s oceans. We see endless amounts of trash wash up on our shores, not to mention the thousands of toxic chemicals that we often can’t see. Carbon-dioxide emissions are also turning ocean waters into acid at an unprecedented rate. About a quarter of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere by factories, power stations and cars now ends up being absorbed by the oceans. That represents more than six million tonnes of carbon a day. This carbon dioxide dissolves and is turned into carbonic acid, causing the oceans to become more acidic. Much of the precipitation that falls over the planet is formed from the oceans. Since over 95 percent of the world’s water is ocean water, polluting our oceans can have devastating effects on our eco system.
Climate changes, including rising temperatures and sea levels, precipitation change, droughts and floods wreak havoc on eco systems. Arctic ice is melting rapidly. Arctic ice also plays a crucial role in stabilizing global climate and weather patterns. Weather patterns across the globe will become more unstable and numbers of devastating storms will increase. Changes in the ocean currents originating from the arctic move warmer and cooler water around to new places, greatly affecting the climate. With the climate affected there are more droughts in places and more floods in other places, which affects our water supply. More carbon dioxide can dissolve in cold water than warm, amking the Arctic more acidic than oceans in tropical areas. A scientist with of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, suggests suggests that 10% of the Arctic Ocean will be corrosively acidic by 2018; 50% by 2050; and 100% ocean by 2100. Over the whole planet, there will be a threefold increase in the average acidity of the oceans, which is unprecedented during the past 20 million years. That level of acidification will cause tremendous damage to the ecosystem and the food chain, particularly in the Arctic.
Global warming accelerates the normal cycle of rainfall and evaporation, destroying balance of water supply and demand and even possibly expanding worldwide gap in water availability. Global warming is expected to account for about twenty percent of the global increase in water scarcity in the twenty first century. It is predicted that global warming will alter precipitation patterns around the world, melt mountain glaciers, and worsen the extremes of droughts and floods. Water shortages will increase food shortages around the globe!
What can we do?
Most of us in the North America and the developed world need to be aware of the issue regarding dwindling water supplies and water pollution. Each one of us should conserve water when possible and not needlessly waste it. As well we all need to be aware of the chemicals we pour down the drain. There are things we can do at home to cut down on water waste. While you may think that what you do may not make a huge difference, collectively it will. Don’t let water needlessly run while you are brushing your teeth or doing your dishes. Shorten your daily shower by a minute or two and you'll save up over one hundred gallons per month. Run your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full, therefore saving up to 1,000 gallons of water a month. If you must water your lawn and garden do it in the morning or evening when temperatures are cooler to minimize evaporation. In North America and the western world many of us still have the luxury to reduce water consumption. In many parts of the world they do not! There are many other water saving tips that can be found at various websites that we should all practice when possible.
One thing that has been done to a very small extent is desalination. Desalination involves reducing its mineral content by taking salt out of seawater and brackish water and producing water of freshwater quality. It is used mainly by cities and industry. However, desalination can be costly and that energy is produced primarily with fossil fuels, which pollute the air, and each method of disposing of the by-products of desalination—for example in the ocean or in deep wells—has an impact on the environment. Desalination is not necessarily the answer to our water crisis but it is something that may need to be done in one way or another, at least to some extent, if we continue depleting our supply of fresh water.
We as citizens need to make corporations and individuals that pollute or water supply more accountable. We also need to make corporations that exploit our water supply in the name of profit and greed more accountable. One example is to boycott products that are manufactured by companies that do not respect our environment including our water. Another example is to make people aware of actions that corporations take to pollute and delete our water sources. Avenues like twitter and facebook allow the average citizen to voice their concerns. We as citizens that are concerned about our environment cannot be totally muzzled anymore as there are ways to voice your concern. (We welcome anyone to post your articles on our website relating to this. You may have a story about water issues and concerns in your area http://www.nexplanrecycling.com/submitted-articles.html) We need our governments to have stricter laws concerning companies and people dumping toxins in our oceans, river and lakes as well as the soil which eventually seeps into our water.
Water is something every living person requires whether you are young or old, rich or poor. Unless population growth can be slowed quickly or our way of managing this resource is drastically changed, it is feared that there may not be a practical non-violent or humane solution to the emerging world water shortage. It is going to take a unified effort by everyone and every nation to adress this issue. Water is not limited to a particular nation’s borders in many cases. Clean water should not be a privledge, it should be a right, however this precious resource should never ever be taken for granted. We as citizens of this planet must take care of this resource. Our future and our children’s future depend on it.
Air Pollution: Air is the ocean we breathe. Air supplies us with oxygen which is essential for our bodies to live. Air is 99.9% nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. Human activities can release substances into the air, some of which can cause problems for humans, plants, and animals. Air quality is important simply because we can’t avoid breathing in the air around us. The average adult breathes in about 20 cubic meters, or 20,000 liters of air a day. Air pollutants can cause a variety of health problems - including breathing problems; asthma; reduced lung function; lung damage; bronchitis; cancer; and brain and nervous system damage. Air pollution can also irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and reduce resistance to colds and other illnesses. Air pollution can be especially harmful to the very young, the very old, and those with certain preexisting medical conditions. Small portions of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions comes from natural sources, such as forest fires, bogs and volcanic activity. Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, using chemicals and industrial processes are the source of most air pollution. Air pollution and greenhouse gases are the cause of smog, climate change and land and water contamination when pollutants fall in rain or snow. Air pollution is the human introduction into the atmosphere of chemicals, particulate matter, or biological materials that cause harm or discomfort to humans or other living organisms, or damages the natural environment. Air pollutants fall into four main categories: criteria air contaminants, persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and toxics. Individual pollutants differ from one another in their chemical composition, reactions with other chemicals, sources, persistence, ability to travel through the atmosphere, and impacts. Air pollution is often identified with major stationary sources, but the greatest source of emissions is mobile sources, mainly automobiles. Gases such as carbon dioxide, which contribute to global warming, have recently gained recognition as pollutants by climate scientists, while they also recognize that carbon dioxide is essential for plant life through photosynthesis. There are several main types of pollution and well-known effects of pollution which are commonly discussed. These include smog, acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and "holes" in the ozone layer. Each of these problems has serious implications for our health and well-being as well as for the whole environment. The exhaust from burning fuels in automobiles, homes, and industries is a major source of pollution in the air. Some authorities believe that even the burning of wood and charcoal in fireplaces and barbeques can release significant quantities of soot into the air. Another type of pollution is the release of noxious gases, such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and chemical vapors. These can take part in further chemical reactions once they are in the atmosphere, forming smog and acid rain. The Greenhouse Effect, also referred to as global warming, is generally believed to come from the build up of carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is produced when fuels are burned. Plants convert carbon dioxide back to oxygen, but the release of carbon dioxide from human activities is higher than the world's plants can process. The situation is made worse since many of the earth's forests are being removed, and plant life is being damaged by acid rain. Thus, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air is continuing to increase. This buildup acts like a blanket and traps heat close to the surface of our earth. Changes of even a few degrees will affect us all through changes in the climate. Refining oil is a dirty procedure that contributes to pollution and global warming. Refineries that keep cars and trucks running also contribute to global warming. Fuel must be burned to make gasoline from oil, generating carbon-dioxide pollution. Oil refineries pollute our air, water, and land. Oil refineries are one of the largest sources of air pollution in the North America. Refineries are the single largest stationary source of various organic chemical compounds, the primary source of urban smog. Refineries are also one of the largest industrial source of toxic emissions and the single largest industrial source of benzene emissions. Our air is polluted by up to one hundred pollutants emitted from the stacks and leaking equipment at refineries. Chemicals emitted from oil refineries include metals like lead, and small dust particles called PM10, which get deep into our lungs and harm our ability to breathe. Finally, refineries emit many gases like sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxide (NO2), carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, dioxins, hydrogen fluoride, chlorine, benzene and others. Many of the gases emitted by refineries are harmful to humans, and can cause permanent damage and even death. They can cause respiratory problems such as asthma, coughing, chest pain, choking, and bronchitis. Oil refinery emissions also can lead to skin irritations, nausea, eye problems, headaches, birth defects, leukemia, and cancers Air pollution also can exist inside homes and other buildings. It can, and every year, the health of many people is affected by chemical substances present in the air within buildings. There are many sources of indoor air pollution. Tobacco smoke, cooking and heating appliances, and vapors from building materials, paints, furniture, etc. cause pollution inside buildings. Radon is a natural radioactive gas released from the earth, and it can be found concentrated in basements Carbon monoxide (CO) is a gas that forms whenever you burn fuel like propane, natural gas, gasoline, oil, coal and wood. Because it is colourless, odourless and tasteless, it is hard to detect without a carbon monoxide detector. Carbon monoxide can cause health problems before and even death. Fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, fireplaces, gas stoves and water heaters (especially those that are not properly vented or maintained) or when chimneys are blocked or dirty; Idling vehicles in garages that are attached to homes or buildings; Barbecues, grills, space heaters and other non-vented fuel-burning appliances that are designed for outdoor use; and tobacco smoke. The growing use of synthetic materials, modern office equipment (photocopiers, laser printers, and computers), cleaning products, and outdoor air pollution also contribute to indoor air contamination The most harmful and widespread contaminant of indoor air is tobacco smoke. Mould and dampness, improperly maintained combustion appliances, off-gassing from domestic chemicals and dust mites and their byproducts in the indoor environment can also cause a number of health problems. Mould growing in your home can release mould spores, toxins from mould and moldy odours. Harmful chemicals can be released from synthetic fabrics, furnishings and household products. Other sources of indoor air pollutants are burning candles, or improperly maintained or vented combustion devices, such as gas or propane cooking stoves, furnaces, water heaters, wood stoves and fireplaces.Smoking tobacco is the main source of indoor air pollution in the developed world. Tobacco smoke contains about 4,000 chemicals, including 50 that are known to cause cancer Air pollution has resulted in the increase of ailments related to respiratory infections such as bronchitis, lung diseases, acute respiratory distress syndrome and respiratory allergies, including attacks of severe asthma. Increased air pollution has also caused cases of middle ear infections which lead to various degrees of hearing impairment. Secondhand smoke, also known as environmental tobacco smoke, is the single largest contributor to indoor air pollution when a smoker is present. . Second-hand smoke can drift under doors, through open windows, vents and even electrical outlets. Drifting tobacco smoke is a problem for many people who live in multi-unit buildings as renters or as owners Studies of secondhand smoke indicate that air pollution in general can affect the heart and circulatory system. Fortunately in many countries laws are becoming much stricter regarding smoking in public places. For example in some provinces in Canada, smoking is not permitted in restaurants, shopping malls, public buildings and even licensed bars. From growing tobacco plants to disposal of butts and packaging, the life cycle of a cigarette creates a lot of pollution. Tobacco causes environmental damage where it is used as well as where it is produced Tobacco cultivation involves a great deal of pesticides, which are used in the early stages of tobacco growth. Pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers poison farm workers, seep into the soil and pollute waterways and ecological systems, and poison livestock and food crops In many countries in the world, steps are being taken to stop the damage to our environment from air pollution. Scientific groups study the damaging effects on plant, animal and human life. Legislative bodies write laws to control emissions. Educators in schools and universities are teaching students about the effects of air pollution. Many countries have set legislations on pollution emissions for transportation vehicles and industry. This is usually done to through a variety of coordinating agencies which monitor the air and the environment. In addition, it is possible to prevent many types of air pollution that are not regulated through personal, careful attention to our interactions with the environment. Only through the efforts of scientists, business leaders, legislators, and individuals can we reduce the amount of air pollution on the planet. This challenge must be met by all of us in order to assure that a healthy environment will exist for ourselves and our children.
Paper is a wonderful material that has a number of uses, including manufacturing notebooks, hard covered and soft covered books, calendars, newspapers and magazines, and wrapping gifts and items in stores. Paper is one of the most versatile and most common materials used in homes, schools and businesses throughout the world. Every day we enjoy the benefits of paper products, such as the newspaper we read in the morning; cereal and juice boxes, the paper we use for school and business purposes and for personal documents.
Paper has been used for a few thousand years and hand-made production methods were used until the nineteenth century. The industrialization of the paper making process helped to bring education and books to a broad spectrum of people, and continued advances have resulted in better and more efficient products that meet our needs, while leaving a smaller impact on our environment. Paper, cardboard and paperboard are widely recycled. Today paper is the most recycled product in North America.
How Paper is Made:
Over the centuries, paper has been made from a wide variety of materials such as wood pulp, rice, water plants, and cotton. Fiber is needed no matter what you use to make paper. Today's paper fiber comes mainly from two sources -- pulpwood logs and recycled paper products. Actually, much of the paper we use every day is a blend of new and recycled fiber.
Some paper is made brand-new from trees, either trees harvested just for that purpose, or from sawmill scraps left over when larger trees are made into lumber. A second source of papermaking material is recycled fiber. Each year, more and more paper is recycled, its fibers used a second, third or fourth time. Every year, about half of the paper North Americans use is recovered for recycling and other uses.
Almost all of the paper you use today is made of wood fibers. Some specialty papers, like stationery and currency, are made from linen, cotton, or other plants. Other papers contain a combination of cellulose fibers and synthetics such as latex. Others are made entirely from synthetic materials such as polyolefine, but natural fiber paper is found almost everywhere.
Most of the paper you see today is made from both hardwoods and softwoods, a special blend used for each purpose The paper making process consists of eight stages: debarking, chipping, pulping, bleaching, paper machine, blade coater, super calendar, and sheet converting. Hardwood trees such as oaks and maples have wood with very short fibers. Paper made from these species is weaker than that made from softwoods, but its surface is smoother, and therefore better to write and print on..Softwood trees such as pine and spruce have wood with long fibers, and paper made from this type of wood is much stronger. This paper is ideal for making products like cardboard shipping containers that need superior strength,. but the finish is rougher, and that's not as good for printing, writing, and many other uses. Fiber from hardwoods and softwoods can be blended into a single paper, getting just the combination of strength, whiteness, writing surface and other features that consumers want.
How Cardboard is Made?
Most items at your local supermarket, retail store, or shopping mall were reliably delivered in boxes made of corrugated cardboard, and many items are displayed in the same cardboard boxes, which were manufactured so they could be opened and used for this purpose. Because corrugated cardboard is such a versatile packaging material, millions of tons are used each year to protect and display products. Cardboard is inexpensive to produce and to date is the most efficient shipping container used to package and move materials securely. Typically, the more we consume the more cardboard that is needed.
Fast-growing pine trees provide the chief raw material used to make corrugated cardboard. The largest packaging companies own thousands of acres of land where trees are matured, harvested, and replaced with seedlings. After the trees are harvested, they are stripped of their limbs; only the trunks will be shipped by truck to a pulp mill. The largest packaging companies also own the mills where trees are converted to kraft paper
They make cardboard out of outer flat sheets or liners of puncture resistant paper, inserting a central filling of corrugated short fiber paper. Corrugated cardboard is a stiff, strong, and light-weight material made up of three layers of brown kraft paper. Corrugated boxes are used for packing, storing and transporting products to factories, warehouses, retail stores, offices and homes. Corrugated boxes are also known as old corrugated cardboard, or OCC, if the boxes have been deposited into either a recycling bin or a garbage receptacle. OCC is the most widely recycled of all packaging materials. Corrugated boxes have a fluted, corrugated medium layer inserted between layers of linerboard.
Environmental Issues from Manufacture of Paper Products:
The manufacture of paper has some major environmental issues to be concernend about. Trees offset carbon emissions by fossil fuels and can be used as an alternative renewable biofuel, replacing the use of fossil fuels. The more that trees are used to manufacture paper and cardboard the worse it is for our environment. Furthermore, chlorine is generally used in the paper bleaching process, releasing carcinogenic chemicals and other toxins. Chlorine creates dioxins and poisons our fish and pollutes our water when it is released into oceans, lakes and rivers. As the demand for paper has increased, more timber has been needed to meet the demand for wood pulp. In some cases this has meant the loss of valuable wildlife habitats and ecosystems, as managed plantations, usually of fast-growing evergreens, have replaced old forests. The lack of tree species diversity in managed forests has a direct impact on the biodiversity of our forests.
Pulp and paper mills have been around for centuries and have caused much pollution being released into our atmosphere and environment. Paper mills can be fully-integrated mills or non-integrated mills. Integrated mills consist of a pulp mill and a paper mill on the same site. A pulp mill is a manufacturing facility that converts wood chips or other plant fiber sources into a thick fiber board which can be shipped to a paper mill for further processing. It is the pulping section of the mill which is the cause of the foul odor commonly associated with these mills. Pulp and paper mills have employed many people over the years and have been a great source of revenue for many businesses. There has, however, been many toxins from pulp and paper mills that have wreaked havoc with human health and the environment. Pulp pollution is a serious problem. Pulp and paper mills pollute our water, air, and soil. The pulp and paper industry is one of the largest and most polluting industries in the world and it is the third most polluting industry in North America. In Canada, for example, mills produce an average 40 oven-dry tonnes of sludge per day, which is de-watered and then either land filled or burned. Because of the different disposal methods, sludge pollutes soil, air, and water.
Kraft pulping, also known as sulphate, or chemical pulping, uses sulphur to get fiber out of trees. The sulphur chemicals cause the rotten egg smell of many pulp mills. Kraft pulping uses less than half of the tree. The rest ends up as sludge, which is burned, spread on land or land filled. Pulp mills emit a wide range of air emissions, such as particulate matter, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, volatile organic compounds, chlorine, chloroform, and chlorine dioxide. People need paper products but we need sustainable, environmentally safe production of paper products.
Recycled paper is made from waste paper, usually mixed with fresh wood pulp. Almost all paper can be recycled today, but some types are harder to recycle than others. Even papers that are recycled are not usually recycled together. Different grades of paper are recycled into different types of new products. Unlike most other recyclables, paper cannot be recycled over and over again. That is why virgin paper fiber is usually mixed with recycled paper when new paper products are made.
The demand for post-consumer and other post-mill materials is less because paper companies can label mill waste as recycled. When consumers buy what they think is recycled paper, they often get fake recycled and inadvertently erase their efforts to recycle waste paper. There have been several attempts from the private sector to get consistent and effective definitions for recycled paper so that the public can be assured that when they buy recycled paper, it is truly reducing the solid waste, as well as being more environmentally favorable than other papers. The paper marketplace has always offered buyers thousands of choices among virgin papers in different cost and quality ranges and now it offers a similar range of products in recycled papers.
Recycling paper helps make sure we get the most out of every tree we use, and it helps keep paper from clogging up our landfills. Each time paper is recycled, the cellulose fibers get shorter, and until eventually the paper won't hold together. That's why most recycled papers contain some new paper fibers mixed in with the old. Recycling requires businesses that collect, haul, and process recyclables, as well as businesses that manufacture products from recycled materials. There are various types of paper that can be recycled. Magazines, newspapers and catalogs should be recycled. In addition phone books, office paper, computer paper, mail, and some other paper products can be recycled.
Types of Paper that can be Recycled:
Newspapers and store flyers are one of the main sources of paper in society today.
Not only have old newspapers been used to produce recycled newsprint, newspapers are recycled into other products such as cereal boxes, egg cartons, grocery bags, tissue paper, cellulose insulation materials, animal bedding products and many more diverse products. Recycling newspapers saves valuable space in landfills. Anyone should be able to do this by putting newspapers in paper bags or tie in bundles. In general, you can include any inserts such as advertisements originally delivered with the paper. You can then bring them into recycling centers or put them in recycling bins. Your business, school or community may have green-recycling containers or recycling bins set up for newspapers and similar recyclables.
Office paper is another widely used paper source. There are several good reasons why office paper must be recycled. In North America, papers used in offices are usually high-grade, and these quality papers should not be reduced to waste. About three quarters of these papers are recyclable. An average business office employee can produce over a pound of paper waste in working for a business office daily. The quality of paper fibers degrades with repeated recycling, so there is a separate market for recycled white office paper. Production costs can be lowered simply by reducing office paper costs and using used paper whenever possible. Removing office paper from the garbage can reduce waste collection fees in half. One word of advice is to use a paper shredder when disposing of papers with sensitive information on them. Most recovered office paper can be sent to a de-inking mill, which separates the ink, coatings and other extra materials from the paper fibers. Sometimes the ink is not removed from the paper when it is reprocessed. The ink is dispersed into the pulp, discoloring it slightly, which is why recycled paper can have a grayish tinge. If the paper is to be de-inked, this can be done by washing or flotation.
Millions of phone books are disposed each year in North America. What do we do with them? Phonebook papers are 100 percent recyclable and are used primarily to make new phonebooks and are also sometimes recycled into building other materials and products you use in your home. However, many recyclers won’t accept telephone books because the fibers used to make the books’ lightweight pages are too short to be reformulated into new paper and mixing old phonebooks in with other waste paper can even contaminate the batch, hindering the recyclability of the other paper fibers. It is important to find out where to specifically bring old phonebooks for recycling. Your office or local telephone company probably have recycling bins set up so you can dispose of them properly for future recycling.
Tons of paper is used every year to make magazines and books. One of the first things to do in regards to magazines and books is to donate them to non-profit organizations like schools, libraries, clubs, churches and general meeting places when you are through with them. Some places have bins set up to drop old magazines and books in. However, these products tend to be more difficult to recycle because of the glossy material to make them and the glue used to bind books together.
Greeting cards that we distribute by the billions each year are big business. We should recycle this source of paper as well. In some areas special recycling bins have been set up to dispose of the cards properly. Gift-wrap is another source of paper that needs to be mentioned. This is not normally recycled so we need to reduce and reuse when possible. In fact, the Christmas holiday season in many parts of the western world with its accompanying buying, wrapping and celebrating substantially increases the amount of solid waste we generate, and paper is a huge part of that waste. However, there are many opportunities for the consumer to reduce, reuse and recycle the remnants of the holiday season. The Christmas holiday season has generally epitomized waste in all areas whether it is paper, electronic waste, not to mention the trees we chop down every year and dispose of a few weeks later. If we are going to make a difference in cutting waste and recycling we need to look at our habits at this time of year and make adjustments.
Cardboard is the single largest source of municipal solid waste that businesses produce every year. Even with the huge increases in recycling efforts over the past few decades, the amount of cardboard disposed, as municipal solid waste, is still overwhelming. Cardboard recycling can reduce waste disposal costs since the cardboard is removed from the waste stream. It is up to businesses and individuals to reuse and recycle cardboard. If you have a large number of boxes, you should flatten and take to a cardboard collection location nearest your building or to a cardboard recycling facility. Depending upon the amount of cardboard that ends up in the trash, your business may need to consider changing its waste processing practices to accommodate an efficient, recycling program. Efficient recycling of cardboard can not only free space and create a safer working environment; it can be a source of revenue when managed as a part of an extensive, waste management system.
Businesses that process and recycle cardboard can make money since the recycled cardboard market is a viable industry. Cardboard recycling can generate revenues from the sale of the recycled cardboard. When evaluating a cardboard recycling program there are many things to take into regard, but the main consideration is to understand the advantages that apply to your business by not only removing the cardboard from your waste stream and thus reducing hauling and landfill fees but also the revenues that can be generated from the sale of your recycled cardboard. The majority of cardboard recycled in the North America is collected and processed on-site by medium and large commercial establishments, including, department stores, supermarkets, other retailers and businesses with active shipping and receiving operations.
Cardboard is also one of the most frequently recycled materials, however not all cardboard containers are recyclable. Some of the cardboard sources that can be recycled are cereal, shoe, beverage, gift, and cardboard boxes, paper towel and toilet paper tubes and cardboard egg cartons. There are some consumer items that are made from paper and cardboard those are more difficult to recycle. Milk and juice cartons are not made from paper alone but comprise of about 75% paper and 25% plastic polyethylene and other materials. As they are a mixture of materials, they cannot be recycled along with ordinary cardboard. They are reprocessed into other items or incinerated to produce energy, or unfortunately disposed of in landfills.
Reduce Reuse and Recycle Paper:
When it comes to paper and cardboard we need to practice the 3 Rs of “reduce reuse and recycle”. We can cut our paper consumption by not printing out useless articles on a printer and to print of both sides of the paper. We can opt to read store flyers and catalogs on line when that option is available. Online billing is another option for individuals and businesses. Saving newspaper and cardboard for repacking is another option. Reusing gift boxes and wrap can also go a long way in cutting down the need to manufacture more paper. These are just a few examples of waste management that each one of use needs to participate in.
Producing recycled paper involves up to two-thirds less energy consumption than virgin paper and uses less water. This is because most of the energy used in papermaking is the pulping needed to turn wood into paper. Recycled paper produces fewer polluting emissions to air and water. Recycled paper is not usually re-bleached and where it is, oxygen rather than chlorine is usually used. This reduces the amount of dioxins, which are released into the environment as a by-product of the chlorine bleaching processes. Paper is a biodegradable material. This means that when it goes to landfill, as it rots, it produces methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas. Methane is estimated to be twenty times more potent than carbon dioxide. Global warming is an increasing reality, and methane and carbon dioxide emissions have to be reduced to lessen its effects. A lack of demand for post-consumer recycled paper products is the limiting factor in recycling more paper. However, many communities now provide a solid waste solution that is environmentally sound, highly efficient, safe and innovative, by utilizing the optimal mix of waste reduction, recycling, and disposal.
There are many options now for individuals and business to recycle paper products. Recycling centers are becoming more common along with recycling bins in diverse locations. Recycling is essential for a healthy environment. Waste management is crucial to saving our planet. The benefits of recycling are enormous and we owe it to future generations to practice environmentally sound principles to offset climate change and global warming.
Monday, May 10, 2010
With the rapidly changing technology for electronic devices and cheap production of electronics a serious issue arises regarding the disposal of them. We are disposing of electronics at a record pace in our modern society. As society becomes more dependent on electronic products to make life more convenient, the stockpile of used, obsolete products grows. Proper electronic disposal and electronic recycling is something each individual and each business needs to participate in if we are going to cut down on electric waste going to dumps and landfills.
Television TV Disposal and Recycling:
LCD and Plasma TVs are becoming very common now. Unfortunately that leaves many of the older television sets more unpopular to the consumer. We end up discarding of them when we no longer want or need them. CRT televisions are no longer worth fixing, so they end up in landfills more frequently. Televisions are one of the main sources of electronic waste. There are several reasons why television recycling is important. Like old computer monitors, televisions have a device inside that enables the viewing of the image. Before LCD screens came to market, the viewing device used inside a monitor was a Cathode Ray Tube or CRT. Contained within the CRT inside your old computer monitors and televisions, there are large quantities of lead, phosphorous, cadmium, barium and mercury. When a computer monitor or TV is land filled, large equipment is commonly used to crush the waste. As a finished product, these hazardous materials are sealed, however, the crushing of such waste causes the hazardous materials to be released into the soil and a leaching process occurs as a result. Eventually, these hazardous materials may find their way into a water supply or our food chain. When monitor glass is crushed by trash facilities, the lead-bearing particles become an airborne hazard. There are some companies that specialize in television and computer monitor recycling and diverts 100% of the components from landfills. Although most electronics contain hazardous materials, most parts of any electronic device can be recycled. Everything from the monitor glass, to the plastic casing, to the copper, power supply, and even the processor can be recycled. The panel glass and funnel glass that are removed from a TV is recycled to make new cathode ray tubes. Even the steel and other metals that televisions contain are recycled to make other products. It is important to utilize the services of a recycler that specializes in monitor and television recycling. In addition to TVs, many VCRs are ending up in landfills and dumps since that technology is being phased out. Millions of remote controls for these electronic devices get discarded as e-waste every year as well. If you have an old VCR or DVD player that you no longer want there are many charities and non-profit organizations that you can give them to. There are also probably some companies in your area that recycle old VCRs and even newer DVD players that would otherwise be thrown out in the dump. It is the goal of electronic manufacturers to always come out with new features and functions on televisions and DVD players. They want us to keep buying new units so their profits keep increasing. Now with mass production and relatively low prices it makes it easier for consumers to dispose of electronics they no longer want. Unfortunately much of this e-waste ends up in landfills.
You should not throw old cameras away. Working cameras have secondhand value, and can be found at many camera shops. Disposal cameras are something we should avoid when possible. Recent studies have shown that, despite the recycling claims on the boxes, more than half of disposable cameras are never actually recycled. Enough cameras have been tossed to circle the planet, stacked end-to-end. Local film developers often have little or no incentive to return the camera bodies to the manufacturers, and not all parts of the cameras can be recycled.One huge advantage of digital cameras is that we tend to hang on to them longer. As well only photos that we want are printed out, so that cuts down on paper waste. Batteries are a huge concern with digital cameras. Since digital cameras are a huge drain on batteries we should only use rechargeable batteries for them. Digital cameras contain many of the same potentially toxic materials found in laptops and computers. Like recycling computers, digital cameras need to be recycled as well. You can donate old cameras or if they don’t work at all there may be someone in your area that recycles old digital cameras. In addition, more and more vendors are providing easy ways to recycle their old products. Some “waste management sites” will collect, store, and dismantle the products into the form of common raw materials where they can be bought and sold on the global market. Kodak is an example of one company that has made a commitment to protecting the environment . Kodak's various waste reduction activities is its "One-Time-Use Camera" recycling program. The program allows Kodak to refurbish used single-use cameras and offer them for resale. After Kodak launched the program in 1990, the camera recycling rates increased dramatically, reaching 77 percent in the United States and 67 percent worldwide.
Cell Phone Recycling:
The number of discarded cell phones, which contain lead, arsenic and cadmium, has been growing as cell phone use rapidly increases. Millions of used cell phones wind up in landfills, leaking toxic metals and chemicals into the ground every year in North America alone. Because cell phones and their batteries contain many hazardous materials that can harm the environment if not disposed of properly, it's important to know how and where to recycle e-waste in an environmentally responsible way no matter how old and busted it is. Like many other modern electronic devices, cellular phones contain circuit boards, batteries and LCDs that each contains a number of harmful materials in them. When cell phones are dumped in landfills, these elements eventually break down and seep out into the environment. Lead, cadmium and mercury pollution could potentially cause deadly side effects as far as human health and the environment is concerned. Certain states like California have made cell phone recycling mandatory for any retailers that sell mobile phones.Many used cell phones get refurbished or recycled under donation programs that help charities, but it's a tiny fraction of the millions of cell phones that are retired each year in North America. While the cell phone industry recently launched a new initiative to publicize recycling, existing efforts by individual wireless companies with collection boxes in their stores have so far attained only modest success. And even those phones that are refurbished raise environmental concerns because they still may eventually end up in the garbage, especially if sold in poorer nations with no recycling programs, as many of refurbished phones are. Charitable recycling programs encourage the donation of used cell phones and will provide a monetary contribution to charity for each cell phone donated.
Household Appliance Recycling/Stove & Fridge Recycling
In our modern society we often throw away household appliances when they no longer work. They include microwaves, toasters, blenders, juicers, coffee makers, vacuum cleaners and many other household appliances. Add to this the disposal of old refrigerators and stoves that go to the dump after they don’t work anymore. Due to the impact of the amount of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) found in your fridge and freezer their disposal is now tightly controlled by regulations. Ozone depleting substances are tightly controlled because of their harmful effects on the earth’s ozone layer and their contribution to global warming. Older fridges contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) but in the 1970's it was discovered that CFC's cause a thinning of the earth's protective ozone layer. Newer models of refrigerators use hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC's) and hydrofluorcarbons (HFC's). These chemicals don't deplete the ozone layer to the same extent as CFC's, but they do contribute to global warming. Stoves along with washers and dryers should also be recycled when they no longer work. We need to be careful on how we dispose of home air conditioners. Older air conditioners used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as their refrigerant, but because these chemicals are damaging to Earth's ozone layer, CFC production stopped in the United States in 1995.Today's main refrigerant for home air conditioners, HCFC-22 (also called R-22) also contributes to ozone depletion.
People are using more and more household batteries. The average person in North America throws out about eight household batteries per year. About three billion batteries are sold annually in the U.S. averaging about ten per person. A battery is an electrochemical device with the ability to convert chemical energy to electrical energy to provide power to electronic devices. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can contaminate the environment when batteries are improperly disposed of. When incinerated, certain metals might be released into the air or can concentrate in the ash created by the combustion process. Batteries produce many potential problems or hazards. They pollute lakes and the water supply and contribute to heavy metals that potentially may seep from landfills. They also contain strong corrosive acids, which are an environmental, and health hazard. Dry-cell batteries include alkaline and carbon zinc (9-volt, D, C, AA, AAA), mercuric-oxide (button, some cylindrical and rectangular), silver-oxide and zinc-air (button), and lithium (9-volt, C, AA, coin, button, rechargeable). On average, each person in the United States discards eight dry-cell batteries per year. Secondary batteries (rechargeable) include lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, and potentially nickel-hydrogen. Americans purchase nearly 3 billion dry-cell batteries every year to power radios, toys, cellular phones, watches, laptop computers, and portable power tools.
In landfills, heavy metals from batteries have the potential to leach slowly into soil, groundwater or surface water. Dry cell batteries contribute about 88 percent of the total mercury and 50 percent of the cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. In the past, batteries accounted for nearly half of the mercury used in the United States and over half of the mercury and cadmium in the municipal solid waste stream. When burned, some heavy metals such as mercury may vaporize and escape into the air, and cadmium and lead may end up in the ash.
Using rechargeable batteries are one way to cut down on toxic waste caused by the reckless disposal of batteries. These are known as secondary cell batteries and are commonly used for cameras, rechargeable appliances such as portable power tools, camcorders, computers, portable radios and tape players, cellular phones and other hand held devices. Unfortunately there are not many ways to recycle non-rechargeable batteries and most get discarded as waste. However the use of rechargeable batteries such as Nickel cadmium (NiCd), nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium Ion (Li ion) is increasing at a rapid pace. These batteries last longer. They should also be recycled. The NiCd battery is one of the more hazardous batteries in terms of disposal. If used in landfills, the cadmium will eventually dissolve itself and the toxic substance will seep into the water supply, and into the food chain causing serious health problems. Our oceans are already beginning to show traces of cadmium along with other toxins, but the source of the contamination is unknown. Under no circumstances can batteries be incinerated as this can cause them to explode. Although NiMH batteries are considered environmentally friendly, this chemistry is also being recycled. The main derivative is nickel, which is considered semi-toxic. NiMH also contains an electrolyte that, in large amounts, is dangerous to the environment.
Other Electronic E-Waste:
There is other electronic waste or e-waste that many people throw out. Stereos, clocks, alarm clocks, radios, watches, hairdryers, smoke detectors, lamps, portable heaters and other consumer electronics are being thrown out at a record pace.
Smoke alarms are items we need to discard of properly. The most common type of smoke detector contains a small amount of Americium 241, a radioactive material. On your wall this presents little threat. When broken open in an incinerator or landfill, the material can pose a serious health hazard. Also we throw away a lot of damaged and unwanted CDs. Damaged CD's can be repaired, and repair or reuse is definitely a better environmental option than recycling. Obsolete or unrepairable CD's can be recycled. Also we have thrown away unwanted vinyl records that we no longer use along with cassettes and other sources that hold media.We normally dispose off used light bulbs along with the household garbage which is dumped in landfills. By disposing of this e-waste in this manner toxins are released in the air and gradually reach our water system. CFL or Compact Flourescent Bulbs are dangerous if not disposed of properly. Even though they lower greenhouse gas emissions but a used CFL bulb contains hazardous componds and if a bulb breaks at home harmful compounds are released. It contains mercury vapour which is injurious and poisonous. Mercury in any form is injurious to humans and can lead to serious complications including impairment of the nervous system, major organs and numerous other ailments including effecting brain development in children.The amount of this e-waste is very toxic to the environment and contributes to human health issues and even global warming.
Electronic Environmental Fees:
Some areas in North America and Europe have imposed environmental fees
These environmental fees are used for the collection, transportation and recycling of unused and unwanted electronics. It's also used for research into new recycling technologies, and public information and awareness-building programs as well.
To achieve the highest environmental outcome, e-waste items must be manually dismantled into individual materials and components. This is labour intensive and expensive, as difficult waste streams such as glass, mercury, batteries and wood must be forwarded on at a charge for environmentally friendly recycling. The costs involved, are higher than the returns from the materials contained within electronic waste. Therefore to provide this service a fee must be charged to cover the gap between the costs of disassembly and revenue earned from the components and materials of the discarded electronics. Recycling electronics involves processing the materials and recovering metals, glass and plastics that can be recycled into new products. Other disposal methods may be cheaper or free. The electronics will be transported to a consolidation centre where they will be sorted for processing. From there,all material will be transferred to approved processingand recycling facilities. Recyclers will be required to meet quidelines which outlines the requirements for environmentally sound recycling in accordance with appropriate health, safety and export provisions.These are most likely to result in large volumes of material which can be recycled and toxic materials often contained in electronic waste going to landfill. Disposal routes for e-waste which are cheap or free do not reflect the true cost of recycling this material. If we do not recycle electronics and reduce the pace of electronic disposal, the environment and communities living in future generations will bear the expense of living and cleaning up contaminated land and water. One individual may think that his or her decision to either recycle or to throw out electronic items may not make an environmental impact. Multiply one individual by a few billion people and you can see we have a potential environmental catastophe to deal with. There is certainly an environmental price to pay for our modern lifestyle in North America and many other parts of the world.
What exactly is a plastic? What are the different kinds of plastics? How are each type of plastic recycled? How can plastic waste be turned into energy? Can plastic be harmful to our health and the environment? Does continuous heavy disposal of plastic contribute to global warming? Plastic plays a big part of our everyday lives here in North America. Let’s examine some uses of plastics and how we can all play a part in recycling plastic.
Types of Plastic:
Today plastics are used in thousands of products ranging from computers, automobile parts and important medical equipment, to toys, cookware, sports equipment, and even clothes. And the plastics industry continues to grow rapidly. Just where do plastics come from? Plastic is one form of polymers that are composed of a long chain or line of smaller molecules that are known as monomers. Monomers themselves are made of atoms that are usually extracted from natural or organic substances, and are generally classified as petrochemicals. All sorts of monomers can be utilized in the creation of plastic. Crude oil and natural gas are often the source of some of these elements, which include monomers such as styrene, vinyl chloride, and vinyl acetate. Plastic products, plus hundreds of the other products we take for granted, are made from petrochemicals. One of the main ingredients in petrochemicals is oil. For example, In the United States, 10 percent of the petroleum consumption goes to make plastic. As you can see the North American appetite for oil goes beyond filling our vehicles. We need oil to manufacture plastics, which are a major part of our modern lifestyle. There are different types of plastics for different products and applications and the process in plastic manufacturing varies.
There are many types of plastic in common use. Plastic must be sorted by type for recycling since each type melts at a different temperature and has different properties. The plastics industry has developed an identification system (or identification codes) to label the different types of plastic. The identification system divides plastic into seven distinct types and uses a number code generally found on the bottom of containers.
Polyethylene terephthalate (commonly abbreviated PET) is one of the common types of plastic. It is type #1 for recycling purposes. It is a thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in beverage, food and other liquid containers, thermoforming applications, and engineering resins often in combination with glass fiber. PET Plastics are generally clear, tough and are a good barrier to gas and moisture. PET also has a good resistance to heat. PET Plastics are a good choice for product packaging because of its many desirable favorable characteristics. PET is available in a wide range of colors shapes and sizes. PET is highly resistant to dilute acids, oils, and alcohols. PET is a recyclable polymer that can be successfully recycled and used in many applications, meaning that virgin material does not have to be produced.
High Density Polyethylene (HDPE) is plastic type # 2. Common uses of HDPE include detergent bottles, milk jugs, and grocery bags. Most curbside recycling programs accept rigid narrow neck containers.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is plastic type #3. Common uses include plastic pipes, outdoor furniture, shrink-wrap, water bottles, salad dressing and liquid detergent containers. Recycling centers almost never take #3 plastic.
Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) is plastic type #4. Common uses: dry cleaning bags, produce bags, trash can liners and food storage containers. Some recycling centers that accept HDPE (#2) also accept LDPE (#4) bags.
Polypropylene (PP) is plastic type #5. Common uses: aerosol caps, drinking straws. This type of plastic is seldom recycled.
Polystyrene (PS) or Styrofoam is plastic type #6. Common uses include packaging pellets or peanuts, cups, plastic tableware, meat trays, and to-go containers. Many shipping/packaging stores will accept polystyrene peanuts and other packaging materials for reuse. Cups, meat trays, and other containers that have come in contact with food are more difficult to recycle
Other types of plastics are considered type #7. Common uses include certain kinds of food containers and Tupperware. This plastic category is any plastic other than the named #1-#6 plastic types. These containers can be any of the several different types of plastic polymers. Recycling centers do not take plastic #7.
Many types of plastic can be recycled. One huge example is plastic shopping bags. Plastic shopping bags revolutionized how people shop for food and essentials. They are everywhere we shop. Over a million plastic bags are consumed per minute, worldwide. How to we recycle plastic bags and cut down on waste? Many organizations have programs in place to recycle plastic bags. Many retail outlets offer an at-store collection program for plastic shopping bags. This means that shoppers can bring back their bags to these retail locations so they can be recycled. You can also use them the second time around for household use, for example, using them in a trash container. Buy or make a couple of cloth bags and say no to plastic carrier bags in the future. Certainly the 3Rs “reduce, reuse and recycle” should be practiced by all in relation to plastic bags.
Another common use for plastic is for beverage containers. Much of our soda pop, juice, water, milk and other drinks come in plastic. Unfortunately a lot of these plastic containers are thrown in garbage bins, and even on the ground and waterways. An irony today, is that due to polluted water caused by pollution, we are drinking more bottled water than ever before. The majority of this bottled water comes in plastic containers. It is tragic that tap water is no longer fit to drink in many parts of North America. Therefore, more plastic is needed to keep up with the ever-increasing demand of bottled water. Many of these plastics can be further recycled, depending on the type of plastic. There have been reported health risks from plastic beverage containers, so we need to consume beverages in them in moderation. This would not only prevent possible human health issues, but also would cut down on plastic containers in landfills and help our environment and even offset global warming.
A lot of the foods we purchase come in plastic containers. Whether it is microwave dinners, pasta, and other foods, they are put in plastic, ready to be put into the microwave. Many fast food restaurants use plastic to serve food in to customers. Unfortunately most of these types of plastic containers are not recyclable and end up being disposed of as plastic waste. We should attempt to reuse and recycle these types of plastics when possible.
Most of our health and beauty products come in plastic. Cosmetics, such as lipsticks, and other beauty items come in plastics. Shampoo, dental products, and hair and body products come in plastics. Most of these types of plastics eventually end up as plastic waste as well. Many containers including garbage cans, totes, hampers, and other large containers are made from plastic. Recycling containers and recycling bins are often made of plastic. Automobiles, trucks, boats and other vehicles have a large amount of plastic in them. Plastic is used in parts of a vast array of other consumer items.
Most electronic devices such as televisions, computers, stereos and computer peripherals are housed in plastic casings. These products are even wrapped in plastic when you purchase them new. Most of the toys we purchase for our children for Christmas are made of plastic. Unfortunately when we get tired of these items or they wear out, they end up in landfills and cause environmental damage. Also take into account that most consumer items we purchase are paid for with plastic whether it be a credit card or debit card. Most of us have many consumer loyalty plastic cards as well. When these cards get damaged or expire they get thrown out. It may not seem like a lot if it is one person, but multiply the amount of plastic cards by a few billion and that is a lot of plastic going in the trash.
Plastic Recycling Obstacles:
Recycling plastics as opposed to glass or metallic materials, poses some exceptional challenges from a recycling perspective. Plastics or plastic bottles are much harder to break down, which is due to the high molecular weight of large polymer chains. Another way of stating this problem is that, since a macromolecule interacts with its environment along its entire length, its enthalpy of mixing is large compared to that of a small organic molecule with a similar structure; thermal excitations are often not enough to drive such a huge molecule into solution on their own. Due to this uncommon influence of mixing enthalpy, polymers must often be of nearly identical composition in order to mix with one another. To take representative samples from beverage containers, the many aluminum-based alloys all melt into the same liquid phase, but the various copolymer blends of PET from different manufacturers do not dissolve into one another when heated. Instead, they tend to phase-separate, like oil and water. Phase boundaries weaken an item made from such a mixture considerably, meaning that most polymer blends are only useful in a few, very limited contexts.
Another barrier to plastic recycling is the widespread use of dyes, fillers, and other additives in plastics. The polymer is generally too viscous to economically remove fillers, and would be damaged by many of the processes that could cheaply remove the added dyes. Additives are less widely used in beverage containers, plastic bottles and plastic bags, allowing them to be recycled more frequently.
The use of biodegradable plastics is slowly on the increase. Plastic recycling companies are starting to develop, however most plastic recycling to date is very little and in most places none. There is issues with recycled friendly plastics for recycling, the recycled plastic is less valuable and cannot be mixed with plastic that is not good for recycling.
Many such problems can be solved by using a more elaborate monomer recycling process, in which a condensation polymer essentially undergoes the inverse of the polymerization reaction used to manufacture it. This yields the same mix of chemicals that formed the original polymer, which can be purified and used to synthesize new polymer chains of the same type.
Part of the issue in recycling plastics is the cost. Prices for virgin resin soared, and the demand for recycled plastics increased. There are success stories in plastics recycling, nonetheless. In recent years, several plastics recycling companies have closed their doors. Soft-drink bottles, however, are one success story in plastics recycling. Of course, plastics are generally very lightweight. Putting plastics into landfills is not always the best disposal method.
Look for the number 1 or 2 in a triangular recycle symbol on the container. Only plastic #1 and #2 items with a neck are recyclable as a general rule. Recycled plastics are tomorrow's commercial materials, available today. Coupled with this increased consumer participation is a rising interest in the commercial applications of recyclable plastics. Energy concerns have drawn attention to used plastics as an alternative source of energy for industry. One reason that a greener plastics industry is possible is the thermoplastic elastomers. Plastic scrap recycling began with the PET in plastic soda bottles and the HDPE found in milk jugs in part because these plastics are able to be cleaned, broken-down, and returned to the thermoplastic elastomers can be recycled at every stage in the manufacturing and use- cycle. At the plastic recycling company, scrap pieces can be cleaned, melted down and put back into the supply; at home, consumers can clean out their soda bottles and participate in a community scrap recycling program which reclaims the plastics for another cycle of use
Biodegradable plastic is a degradable plastic in which the degradation results from the action of naturally occurring microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and algae. Hydro-biodegradable plastics tend to degrade and biodegrade somewhat more quickly than oxo-biodegradable ones but the end result is the same both are converted to carbon dioxide, water and biomass. Degradable Plastic are plastics designed to undergo a significant change in its chemical structure under specific environmental conditions resulting in a loss of some properties that may vary as measured by standard test methods appropriate to the plastic and the application in a period of time that determines its classification. This results in their physical disintegration and a drastic reduction in their molecular weights. No toxic by-products are known to result from PHB or PHV. With a little bit of care much plastic can be recycled, and collection of plastics for recycling is increasing rapidly.
Plastics Impact on Health and Environment:
Plastics are the fastest growing component of the waste stream. Plastic does not biodegrade in the natural environment. When littered, items that had been designed for useful life of minutes at most, many of these plastics degrade the environment for a lifetime as litter. Plastic litter has killed thousands of marine birds and mammals and threatens endangered species like sea turtles that mistake them for food. Plastics have historically suffered from a low recycling rate.
Although plastics have had a remarkable impact on our culture, it has become increasingly obvious that there is a price to be paid for their use. In the western world plastic plays a part in our everyday life and most of that plastic gets discarded as plastic waste. These wastes may pose a potential hazard to the human health or the environment (soil, air, water) when improperly treated, stored, transported or disposed off or managed.
The material used in bottled water – a thermoplastic polymer known as PET – can take hundreds of years to break down in a landfill. Recycling doesn't capture all the empties.
Plastic waste in the oceans poses a potentially devastating long-term toxic threat to the food chain, according to marine scientists. Studies suggest billions of microscopic plastic fragments drifting underwater are contributing to pollutants.
PVC is a commonly used type of plastic found in baby shampoo bottles, packaging, saran wrap, shower curtains and thousands of other products—yet there is very little public awareness of its serious health and environmental dangers. PVC is the most harmful type of plastic. In the United States as much as 7 billion pounds of PVC are discarded every year. PVC disposal is the largest source of dioxin-forming chlorine and phthalates in solid waste as well as a major source of lead, cadmium and other toxins–which pose serious health hazards. PVC production poses serious environmental health threats due to the manufacture of raw chemicals, including chlorine and cancer-causing vinyl chloride monomer. PVC includes high amounts of toxic additives, which are released during use and disposal, resulting in elevated human exposures to chemicals. Disposing of PVC in landfills poses long-term problems of toxic additives getting into groundwater. When burned, PVC plastic forms dioxins, a highly toxic group of chemicals that build up in the food chain, can cause cancer and harms the immune and reproductive systems. PVC is very difficult to recycle because many additives used in PVC products make it impossible to retain.
Bisphenol A is another dangerous type of plastic. Adults exposed to higher amounts of the plastic compound bisphenol A are more likely to be afflicted by cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes, and have liver enzyme abnormalities, according to a study by the Journal of the American Medical Association. Those with high levels of the BPA type of plastic had nearly three times the odds of developing heart disease and 2.4 times the odds of diabetes, compared to people will low exposures. Biphenyl A is a hormone disruptor. Studies have linked low-dose BPA exposure with such effects as: permanent changes to genital tract; increase prostate weight; decline in testosterone; breast cells predisposed to cancer; prostate cells more sensitive to hormones and cancer; and hyperactivity.
Bisphenol A, a chemical that doesn't occur in nature and is derived from petroleum, is commonly made into plastic, and companies frequently used it in consumer products such as beverage containers. It has since become one of the highest volume chemicals, with annual output of more than 3 million tonnes. Besides its food contact use, it is found in a ton of applications in such products as food wrap, cars, sports helmets and DVDs
What is Being Done on Plastic Reduction and Recycling?
Some countries as well was local municipalities are taking steps to reduce the amount of plastic in our landfills and incinerators. The city of Toronto, Canada is considering tough action to curb waste generated by overly packaged consumer products. From an outright ban on materials used in food takeout to a tax on retail plastic bags to city-run deposit-return programs, Toronto is considering many options. Other Canadian municipalities have moved on specific products, such as a recent bottled-water ban at city-owned buildings in London, Ontario. Many jurisdictions have implemented deposits on soft drinks and juice at the retail level to encourage consumers to return plastic bottles to recycling depots for a refund. In the United States, Seattle recently banned plastic foam in food packaging, with an alternative suitable for composting to be in place by 2010. San Francisco became the first city in North America to ban the use of traditional plastic grocery bags in 2007, a step that municipal leaders hope will spread across the country. In most parts of Switzerland throwing away rubbish costs money - each rubbish bag has to have a sticker on it and each sticker costs at least one euro (60 pence). Plastic PET bottles are the most common drinks containers in Switzerland, and 80% of them are recycled - far higher than the European average of 20 to 40%. These are a few examples of governments getting involved to entice people to recycle plastic. We need to all play a part to keep plastic out of landfills. We are paying the price to live a convenient lifestyle. We seem to live a disposable society. If we want to offset global warming and reduce pollution and toxins going into the environment we need to make adjustments to our lifestyle. The term “reduce reuse and recycle” certainly applies to plastic.