Woolzies dries clothes without toxic chemicals

Woolzies dryer ballsFor many, the days of hanging clothes out on clotheslines to dry isn’t an option. It’s currently popular for clean clothes to smell like something – ostensibly as fresh sunshine or mountain streams. But it takes lots of chemicals to get that artificial scent you love.

Woolzies dryer balls are a better, greener alternative.

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Commercial recycling may become mandatory in California

Recycling bins may soon become mandatory fixtures for businesses in California

As someone who writes extensively about all forms of green, I was shocked recently to discover that here in my hometown, and the entire state of California, it isn’t mandatory for businesses or apartments to recycle – it’s an option. The fact that the recycling movement began here in sunny California back in 1973 makes it’s difficult to fathom why.

A  local city Supervisor for Recycling & Hazardous Waste told me that a majority of businesses here don’t recycle, choosing to load up their dumpsters and trash bins with all their recyclables instead. When offered recycling bins and pick-up for free, the collective thought was “no thanks.”

All that may be about to change.

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Illinois to test curbside e-waste pickup

The majority of cities across the U.S., though strangely not all, have curbside pick-up for recyclables. Some – including San Francisco, and Seattle – are now even experimenting by including  with compostables with their curbside recycling efforts.

Illinois is going one better, testing out a pilot program that focuses on curbside pickup of electronic waste products.

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Two companies caught by EPA trying to export hazardous discarded electronics to Vietnam

Two recycling companies were caught by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency trying to illegally export e-waste to Vietnam.

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EPA expands on clean-up rules for broken CFL

CFL’s (compact fluorescent light bulbs) contain what the Environmental Protection Agency and major retailers consider a “small amount” of powdered mercury in them.

Today, the EPA has updated their policy on how to safely deal with a broken compact fluorescent light bulb, a backhanded way of telling consumers that “small” is still toxic and dangerous.

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Target charged with illegal dumping of hazardous products

Target has had a preliminary injunction filed against its retail stores by the city of Los Angeles and California state prosecutors for allegedly dumping hazardous consumer products that were returned or damaged. If found guilty, the retail giant faces civil penalties.

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Minnesota to test removing VOC's from landfill

landfillThe Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has created a pilot project to remove volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination from the closed Waste Disposal Engineering landfill in Andover, Minnesota.

The state is testing what it calls “soil vapor extraction technology” to remove and contain the landfill contamination from an underground hazardous waste pit. They anticipate the project will continue until the end of the year.

landfill 2“We are anticipating that this project will prove to be a success. If it is, we will focus on designing a permanent extraction system at the WDE site,” said John Moeger of the MPCA´s Closed Landfill Program.

This process of “cooling, condensing and compressing gases”, as the state calls it, will pull gas from the pit into the system and convert it into liquid. The liquid will then be recycled  or  used in a fuel blending process.

Intriguing idea. If it’s successful, it could be replicated at closed landfills around the country, providing an unexpected but steady fuel source. Stay tuned.

EPA cites USDA for hazardous waste violations

After allegations by the U.S. EPA  of violations of underground storage tank and hazardous waste regulations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Md. has agreed to pay a $65,066 civil penalty to settle alleged violations of federal UST regulations, which are designed to prevent, detect, and control fuel leaks from underground storage tanks.

The EPA cited the USDA for failing to conduct required release detection tests on schedule for some of its underground storage tanks.
The USDA was also cited for violating the federal law governing treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste (RCRA Subtitle C).

These violations include operating a hazardous waste facility without a permit, failing to clearly label containers of accumulated hazardous waste, not maintaining records of hazardous waste training for facility personnel, and failing to determine if the solid waste generated by the facility was hazardous waste. The alleged violations aren’t related to discharging of hazardous waste. Interesting when one federal agency goes after another. Anyone else in line?

Corn Syrup Shown to Contain Mercury

Mercury – considered hazardous waste – has been steadily phased out of use in consumer products due to its toxicity.

Yet a new study shows that traces of this silvery metal have shown up in a common food sweetener. High fructose corn syrup – a known risk factor in type 2 diabetes – is used in a variety of consumer food products like soda, juices, candy, cough syrup, cereal and snack food (see http://tinyurl.com/ajlzg for a more complete list) . Now this prevalently-used sweetener is showing signs of containing mercury, said peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health, published on January 26th.

It’s believed the mercury’s source is the caustic soda and hydrochloric acid solution used by manufacturers to transform corn into the food additive. A small number of plants mix this combination in electric vats of mercury. This has allowed some of the mercury to end up in the final product.

Manufacturers insist that their products are mercury-free. Yet of the 20 samples tested by researchers, nine tested positive for mercury.

Because Americans consume significant amounts of high fructose corn syrup in a variety of products daily, the possibility of even minute amounts of mercury contamination increases exponentially.

Elemental mercury – the type found in the corn syrup samples – has no set safe dosage, but

the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cautions an average size woman to limit her intake to 5.5 micrograms a day of methylmercury, the type found in fish. Researchers estimate that if this same sized woman regularly consumes corn syrup contaminated at 0.57 micrograms (the highest level found in the study), this could result in her ingesting five times the amount suggested by the EPA.

Most chlorine plants – who manufacture the caustic soda and hydrochloric acid – have already switched to mercury-free technology. However, the Chlorine Institute, a Washington, D.C. trade group, issued a statement saying, “”It is conceivable that measurable mercury content can be found in high-fructose corn syrup regardless of how it is processed.”

National Recycling and Product Stewardship Become a Reality

On January 15th, the Electronic Manufacturers Recycling Management Company (MRM( will begin electronics recycling nationwide.

Founded by Panasonic Corporation of North America, Sharp Electronics Corp. and Toshiba America Consumer Products LLC. MRM will have at least one recycling station in every state, with 280 in all. Plans call for having at least 800 drop-off stations by 2011.

Any of those companies’ electronics can be dropped off and recycled for free.

David Thompson, MRM president, stated that the company is also committed to eliminating hazardous electronic waste exportation to third world countries, an escalating world health crisis.