In response to the global recycling crisis caused by China’s recent ban, Australia has looked into new ways to combat its waste problem. Its main concern? Keeping recyclables out of the Pacific.
To do so, Australia wants to reuse and recycle its waste completely on-shore. In the past, the country exported its recycling overseas, which led to ocean pollution. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has therefore pledged to ban exports of waste plastics, paper, glass, and tires. Instead, Australia plans to handle it all domestically. In addition, Australia is finding new ways to transform its waste into long-term recycling solutions.
Why Australia’s recycling process needs reinventing
For over three decades, most of the world’s countries — including Australia — relied on China to accept and process their recycling waste. But last March, China surprised the world with increased regulations on what waste they would accept in their facilities.
These requirements for recycling imports rose to a “nearly impossible [standard],” according to More Recycling CEO Nina Bellucci Butler. Indeed, the rise in recycling waste over recent years has led to inefficient processing in China. The country’s industry no longer profits from accepting the world’s waste due to an increase in labor cost, its own waste, and processing mistakes.
So without China to rely on, Australia is now forced to rethink its recycling process — a long-overdue task.
A report published last year by Australia’ environment department reveals Australia’s lagging recycling system. Only 12% of the plastic Australians put in their curbside recycling bins actually gets recycled.
And without China recycling the 620,000 tons of waste Australia used to send them each year, Australia needs a new approach. A few potential solutions look promising: on-shore processing and engineering waste into long-term solutions.
Australia’s PM vows to recycle all waste at home
After a Council of Australian Governments meeting last Friday, PM Scott Morrison vowed to eliminate exports of recyclable waste “as soon as practicable.”
This comes in response to high levels of plastic waste from Australia ending up off its coasts in the Pacific. The PM commented that continuing to export its waste to Vietnam, Indonesia, and China “runs the risk of [it] floating around in our oceans.”
But is this truly achievable?
The current plan involves transforming waste into packaging, furniture, railway sleepers, roads, and more. But Australia’s recycling industry will need a complete make-over to do this.
Since Australia has always relied on exporting its recycling, it has no at-home method for sorting its recyclables. That’s because it was always more economically efficient to have it sorted abroad, so Australia’s curbside recycling system just isn’t equipped with a sorting process. The country also only has 21 plastic recycling plants. So for PM Morrison’s plan to take off, major change is in order.
This plan will do more than just limit ocean pollution, though. PM Morrison also pointed out that domestic recycling would boost Australia’s economy by creating new jobs. “There is the work on the science but there is also the work on the economics,” he said.
That said, the recycling economy is currently in a ditch, with the value of discarded plastic and paper almost nothing at the moment.
Australia recycling its waste in new, creative ways
Beyond enlarging its domestic recycling industry, Australia is pursuing new ways to utilize its recycled materials.
Outside of Melbourne, Australia constructed the first road in the world made of Reconophalt. This material combines recycled plastics and glass with asphalt to create more sustainable infrastructure. So far, the road has used about 200,000 plastic bags, 63,000 glass bottles, and 4,500 printer cartridges, according to the New York Times.
A National Container Deposit Scheme
By enlarging their container deposit scheme to the national level, Australia could incentivize more recycling and help its sorting problem. Certain Australian states already have the system in place, but federal supervision could increase efficiency and lower costs. The vending machine-like depots allow you to recycle plastic bottles and aluminum cans for a 10c refund.
Taking after Sweden, Australia is developing a Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plant that will convert household waste into electricity. Although these facilities lead to air and water pollution, the effects may be offset by the benefits of waste disposal. While this isn’t a perfect solution, it would reduce Australia’s reliance on nonrenewable energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions created by waste.
Traditional recycling factories are large, expensive, and only capable of manufacturing certain items. But new technology in Australia could lead to the micro-factory: a portable recycling site that’s about 50 square meters. This project is off to a good start. Two e-waste recycling micro-factories began operation last year at the University of New South Wales. The micro-factories “offer a cost-effective solution to one of the greatest environmental challenges of our age, while delivering new job opportunities,” according to project leader Veena Sahajwalla.
This is only the beginning
Despite these efforts to increase decrease waste, Australia still has a lot to do before it catches up with other developed economies. In comparison, Australia lags behind, recycling less and creating more waste.
So going forward, Australia will need to financially incentivize businesses to use recycled materials, whether through increasing landfill levies or subsidizing the cost to recycle. It will also need to invest in more recycling facilities, processing plants, and a new method to sort recyclables.
Another issue is the lack of national organization. A 2018 report revealed that only about half of Australia’s 544 councils actually accept all seven types of recyclable plastics at curbside pick-up. The country will need to set national recycling standards if it truly wants change.
Australia has something to prove.
Let’s Say Trump Starts A War With Iran. What Would Happen To The Environment?
Since President Trump assassinated Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani via drone-strike on January 3rd, the world has stood still with bated breath. Will war break out between the United States and Iran? If it does, it will certainly destroy lives, properties, and economies. But how would war with Iran affect the environment?
A War With Iran Could Expedite Ecocide
One of the many tragedies of war is the environmental toll it inflicts. And this toll will only be compounded by the constantly rising threat of climate collapse. As the climate crisis becomes more and more dangerous in the 2020s, war (let alone world war) will only expedite its advance.
Much of war’s environmental consequences arise from chemical pollution. Especially in war zones with heavy military vehicle presences, the oil residue will contaminate natural resources. In addition, the uranium found in discarded ammunition rounds can cause radiation, which hurts both plant and human life.
Ramifications of Chemical Weapons
Chemical weapons can also easily produce carcinogenic environments. High radiation levels from chemical warfare can increase the risk of cancer around war zones — alongside poisoning soil, water, and crops.
Not only that, but air force bases can generate toxic fuel spills. These spills contaminate drinking water sources and pollute land and natural resources. Wartime destruction of infrastructure, oil fields, and military bases also cause widespread oil and chemical leaks.
Deforestation Becomes a Bigger Threat
Deforestation becomes a bigger threat during wartime as well. As warfare increases the number of displaced peoples, they often must resort to using timber for warmth in the winter months. Warlords can then take advantage of this demand, furthering deforestation.
To make matters worse, bases will oftentimes purposefully burn military garbage. These ‘burn pits,’ alongside causing long-term health problems, are disastrous for the environment.
And What About Nukes?
A war with Iran, in particular, may promise an added threat. The U.S. has an extensive supply of nuclear weapons at its disposal, although Iran has not pursued a nuclear arsenal. If the U.S. or any other nuclear powers choose to pursue nuclear warfare, the environmental outlook is grim.
Researchers have analyzed the environmental consequences of small-scale nuclear war. Only 100 deployed nuclear weapons would toss so much sun-blocking soot into the atmosphere that the global temperature would lower one degree Celcius.
This may sound like a possible combative to global warming, but the temperature drop would distribute unevenly, mainly targeting inland areas responsible for agriculture. This could cause food insecurity — or nuclear famine — that could reach the whole globe.
If that doesn’t sound too pleasant to you, then you probably won’t like to hear that global precipitation rates would also plummet, as would the security of many food chains.
The U.S. Department of Defense’s Carbon Footprint
All those consequences would certainly create an enormous environmental disaster. Unfortunately, another (even larger) environmental disaster must be considered. That disaster is the astronomical carbon footprint of the U.S. Department of Defense, which would only increase in the event of a war with Iran.
Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in 2001, the U.S. military has emitted around 1,212 million metric tons of greenhouse gases. This is a larger figure than the greenhouse gas emissions of 140 nations combined.
And, based off of 2017 estimates, the military has emitted 59 million tons of carbon dioxide. The Department of Defense is also the number one institutional user of petroleum across the globe. Even without a war with Iran, these numbers are unsustainable.
And, in comparison, the U.S.’s climate defense budget is 0.2% of the Department of Defense’s budget.
All these alarming numbers add up to one climate catastrophe. If a war with Iran is imminent, so is further climate collapse.
“Addressing climate change” is the #1 issue for 14% of voters in the 2020 election, poll finds
The last year seems to have been an environmental wake-up call for many, realizing addressing climate change should be a top priority. From company policies to green technology, more and more organizations are engaging with eco-friendly practices. But it’s not just companies — it’s also people like you and me.
It’s not just anecdotal either. Polls and studies are repeatedly finding that people are indeed dedicated to addressing climate change — especially in the 2020 elections.
With the 2020 elections fast approaching, the public is constantly assessing the qualities of presidential candidates. A new poll finds, almost unsurprisingly, that addressing climate change and protecting the environment are top priorities for many American voters.
New Poll Shows Addressing Climate Change is a Priority
According to an Environmental Voter Project poll, environmental issues are one of the leading voter concerns.
In fact, after assessing 1,514 U.S. registered voters, the team found that 14% of the sample designated “addressing climate change and protecting the environment” as their single most important issue. Additionally, the research notes that the group is primarily composed of 18-29-year-olds, Democrats, and individuals who self-identify as “very progressive”.
Although seemingly small, these numbers show exponential growth from previous data collected 4 years ago. During the 2016 Presidential election, only 2-6% of registered voters considered addressing climate as their prioritized issue.
Environmental Voters Show Outstanding Dedication
Compared to previous years, individuals show a record-breaking motivation to participate in the 2020 presidential election.
In fact, some 35% of sampled voters were willing to wait over an hour to cast their ballot.
However, out of all categories, individuals who listed addressing climate change as their most important issue seem to display the most dedication to their civic duties. In this group, voters are willing to wait an average of an hour and 13 minutes to cast their ballot. This is approximately 10 minutes more than the next longest wait time.
Storming Polling Booths in Waves
According to Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the project, “There are almost 30 million climate voters who are already registered to vote. That’s a huge constituency”. He continues to note that these numbers are approximately “four times the number of NRA members”. Historically, the NRA is a group that helped influence previous elections.
These numbers can only increase. With this, the overall political advocacy for the environment should strengthen over time.
Summary (oh, and Register to Vote!)
Although other matters such as healthcare and immigration seem to play an important role in voters’ minds, it’s comforting to see a trend in environmental dedication. However, it does not stop here.
From raging bushfires in Australia to the melting of the Arctic, it is evident that more effort needs to be put into addressing climate change.
Fortunately, we are becoming rapidly weary of the implications climate change has on the planet. Despite tens of millions of individuals already committed to voting for the environment, you can still play a role.
The Real MEAT Act Of 2019: A Vicious Political Attack On Plant-Based Meat
Plant-based meat has gained significant traction in the past year as companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods released their products to a mainstream audience. Using ingredients like soy, beetroot, and herbs to create a surprisingly convincing plant-based burger, these companies have received generally positive reception from consumers and critics alike.
The market is growing at a rapid pace too; in fact, some estimates show that the plant-based meat market could reach $85 billion in the next decade. Hence, it is unsurprising that the beef industry is worried about plant-based meat taking market share. But what is surprising is the way the industry is fighting back.
Introducing the Real MEAT Act, a piece of legislation supported by strong political and financial backing from some of the most prominent companies in the meat industry.
How the Fight Between Plant-based Meat and the Meat Industry Began
Though on one hand consumers have found plant-based meat to be tasty, they are also an environmentally-friendly substitute. Providing a valuable nutrition source at a fraction of the energy necessary for naturally-sourced beef, plant-based meat is giving the beef industry a run for its money.
Today, the methane that cows belch out is one of the many sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, cattle herds require wide swaths of cleared land. Land clearing has most recently allowed the Amazon fires to ensue.
These sustainability concerns have made plant-based meat all the more appealing for consumers and companies like Beyond Meat and others.
The beef industry is worried; hence, it is looking to take competitors down with legislation.
Introducing The Real MEAT Act of 2019
In October, Representatives Roger Marshall (Republican, Kentucky) and Anthony Brindisi (Democrat, New York) introduced the Real MEAT Act to the House.
MEAT stands for Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully, which nicely caps off an obvious bow to vested interests with a succinct acronym. The bill received raucous applause from NCBA (National Cattlemen’s Beef Association) elites, their profits seemingly assured.
The bill asserts that plant-based meat products are confusing customers. Though the bill makes no specific mention of any companies, it seems to assert that companies like Beyond Meat are ruthlessly deceiving customers.
The Real MEAT Act would force these companies to stop using words like “burger”, “sausage”, and “meat” in their products. Instead, legislation would force companies that sell plant-based meat to use clinical and un-appetizing adjectives to describe their products.
That, unsurprisingly, would likely lead to decreased sales.
Understanding the Real MEAT Act and Its Interests
More recently, Nebraska Senator (Republican) and career cattle rancher Deb Fischer proposed the Real MEAT Act in the Senate. She defended her bill in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.
The article features a plethora of willfully obstinate and patently false arguments, but this is one of them:
“Many of these fake-meat companies are running smear campaigns against actual beef, using deceptive labeling and marketing practices. This has left consumers confused about the ingredients and nutritional values of so-called beef alternatives.” — Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer
What the Real MEAT Act Means for Plant-Based Meat
The bill seems to have a nefarious motivation behind it, but there’s a chance that it still passes. On the bright side, a federal judge recently swatted down a similar bill from Arkansas state legislature.
The Real MEAT Act, however, is supported by financial and political backing on a nationwide scale.
What You Can Do Today To Help
If you are for free-market competition in the beef industry, consider calling your Congressional Representative today. Urge them to speak against the Real MEAT Act.
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