Eco Blog: dedication to Green Hauling

Albertsons Settles Case Alleging Mishandling of Hazardous Waste

June 30th, 2014

Albertsons-shopAlbertsons, a grocery chain with more than a thousand locations nation-wide, has agreed to pay $3.3 million dollars to settle a case brought against them alleging stores in California mishandled the disposal of hazardous waste.

In the lawsuit, filed in the Orange County Superior Court, several government agencies accused Albertsons of illegally transporting and disposing of dangerous and possibly deadly materials including pool chemicals, batteries, and various types of over-the-counter medication. It was claimed that these products were disposed of in dumpsters meant for non-hazardous material and transported to unauthorized waste processors.

Although Albertson’s has asserted that they have done nothing wrong, they have agreed to overhaul the waste management policies and practices at all 118 California locations. The overhaul includes implementing a computerized waste management tracking system, expanding employee training on the proper handling of hazardous materials, and conducting regular internal audit. Albertsons is also required to submit progress reports over the next five years, or face further penalties.

This is quite a setback for the chain, which in the last few years has made great strides towards putting more environmentally friendly policies into action in the state where these allegations took place. In 2012, the Albertson’s location in Carpintina earned the EPA GreenChill Environmental Achievement Award for being the first grocery store in the nation to use low global warming potential refrigerants. Two stores in Santa Barbara achieved “zero waste” goals, diverting 95% of waste away from landfills. Three stores in Carlsbad, Oceanside and Alpine are currently using rooftop solar panels to power the stores.

Hopefully, whether these charges took place or not, Albertsons can use this opportunity to promote better communication and continue to strive towards an eco-friendly business model.

(Source: http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/06/26/albertsons-to-end-waste-disposal-case-with-3-3m-payout/)

By Ethan Malone

San Francisco Looks Towards Becoming A “Zero-Waste” City by 2020

June 10th, 2014

rec_zw_bins_group3_07Adding to their long list of groundbreaking waste-reduction measures, the city of San Francisco is looking to see the fruits of their labor culminate with a complete end to all landfill contributions by the year 2020. Though it seems like quite a lofty goal for a modern metropolitan city, SF’s senior Commercial Zero Waste coordinator Jack Macy is confident that it can be reached.

Since 2002, Macy has worked towards getting some of the most progressive waste management legislation passed, including requiring construction waste to be recycled, banning plastic bags from the checkout line in grocery and retail stores, and requiring the separation of food waste and recyclables from trash. Implementing these measures contributes to San Francisco’s 80 percent compost/recycle rate, which more then doubles the national average.

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Senior Commercial Zero Waste coordinator
Jack Macy

In a recent discussion with Yale Environment 360’s Cheryl Katz, Macy further explained his vision for seeing San Francisco becoming a “zero-waste” city. Macy pointed out that eliminating waste is a two way street, noting “Part of the principle of zero waste is that the local government can’t shoulder all the burden…so it’s important that we encourage consumers to take responsibility for what they buy and producer responsibility for the products they design and market.”

Another fascinating point Macy made during the interview was that changing our current waste/recycling habits requires us to take another look at discarded materials and what we consider waste. Macy believes that there is valuable material in all waste; not only in the material itself, but in the fact that re-using and recycling that waste limits the need to extract, refine, manufacture, and transport raw materials.

While Macy has experienced a significant degree of success reducing overall waste in San Francisco, it doesn’t mean there have not been roadblocks along the way. He identified the residents fear of a so-called “garbage police” checking everyone’s bins and levying fines for infractions. While Macy notes that he wants to be able to enforce the cities rules, fines will always serve as a last resort to offenders.

For more info, read the full interview here.

By Ethan Malone

The Low-Down on Lowes: Lowe’s ordered to pay $18.1 Million Settlement for Environmental Violations

May 18th, 2014

lowes-charleston-sc1-480x30236 years ago, the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, New York, began coming under serious scrutiny as disproportionate rates of reproductive disorders (miscarriages and birth defects) among its residents sparked an investigation which disclosed that the community had been built on a former chemical waste ground used to dump over 20,000 tons of toxic waste – and the city knew it. Two years later, and multiple civic actions to pressure government to relocate residents, culminated in a declaration that the city was a “national emergency” by President Jimmy Carter, who then sanctioned government-funded relocation of the residents (Source: http://unioncity.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/alameda-county-judge-orders-lowes-to-pay-181-million-settlement-for-environmental-violations#).

The phrase history repeats itself comes to mind after the latest revelation that four Lowe’s stores in Alameda County, CA were just found guilty of illegal dumping of hazardous wastes. California law specifically states that merchants must keep hazardous waste in separate and labeled containers to minimize the chance of exposure to humans, and further, to avert dangerous chemical reactions among incompatible chemicals. However, a two-year investigation (from 2011 to 2013) of Lowe’s stores by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office Environmental Protection Division and investigators from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (and other state environmental regulators), unearthed a consistent practice of sending hazardous wastes to local landfills not permitted to receive those wastes (despite the fact that dumping hazardous wastes at landfills has been prohibited on the residential level for decades). Moreover, the investigation also revealed that instead of recycling compact fluorescent light bulbs and batteries solicited at store kiosks for this express purpose, the stores were illegally dumping them in their trash.  Compact fluorescent light bulbs are known to contain mercury, which is linked to cancer and other serious health hazards.

The Final Straw

California, and the Bay Area (which includes Alameda County) in particular, is especially concerned about preventing environmental damage and health hazards associated with toxic wastes – as evidenced by its local ordinances which prohibit or inhibit the generation, or diversion to landfill, of household and industrial hazardous wastes. Consequently, the civil enforcement action filed this month in Alameda County (spearheaded by the District Attorneys of Alameda, San Joaquin and Solano counties) alleges that more than 118 California Lowe’s stores have unlawfully handled and disposed of hazardous wastes ranging from pesticides, to solvents, to aerosols, to paint and colorants, in addition to electronic waste (e-waste) and other toxic, combustible and corrosive materials.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge George C. Hernandez, Jr. ordered Lowe’s Home Centers, LLC, to pay $18.1 million (part of a civil environmental prosecution settlement) of which nearly $6 million will be allocated for hazardous waste minimization projects and consumer protection environmental projects.

By: Ethan Malone

Upcycle It! Turning Trash into Treasure

May 1st, 2014

Making stuff out of junk lying around goes back to our earliest memories of making pies out of mud.  It’s instinctive…and it’s as much a part of being a kid, as getting ice cream all over your face.  For the past two years, kids have been getting to be kids – and – do something great for the planet at the Richmond Art Center’s second-annual maker festival: Upcycle.  The family-centric event invites kids of all ages to make art and essentials out of, well, junk.  While families create art from the stuff of landfills, they also are treated to some timely lessons about how they can continue to be creative about waste, rather than just kicking old stuff to the curb – another popular habit with kids (Source: http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Upcycle-Kids-learn-how-to-turn-trash-into-art-in-5390176.php).

Building on the runaway popularity of the Bay Area’s Maker Faire, kids learn to turn water into wine, so to speak, fashioning bags from old clothing scraps, rugs from T-shirts, and a timeless favorite – making mosaics out of old plates and tile pieces. The old inner tube conundrum gets worked out, as old bicycle inner tubes are transformed into – you guessed it! – jewelry. The Crucible, a bastion of upcycle creativity, would be proud to see the kids, parents and friends getting a taste of soldering 3-D stuff that may or may not be sculptural. Rounding out the experience, artists will be on hand to help connect participants with their inner artist, musicians who make music out of recycled/upcycled materials. A d as an extra bonus, all materials are free – of course.

For those who weren’t able to make it to this year’s Upcycle, there are a bunch of cool things you can do all on your own to make magic outta messy stuff. In honor of Earth Day last year, junk hauler Fast Haul put together a nifty list for those who aren’t afraid to be creative and craft with junk (Source: http://www.fasthaul.com/ecoblog/2013/04/12/turning-trash-into-treasure-infographic/).

Disposable_Chopsticks_Making_Machine_1Number One: Chopstick

Ever notice how sturdy these are and feel a pang of guilt at just throwing them away?  Banish that remorse by turning them into an earth-friendly fruit bowl for yourself or as a gift.

 

 

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Number Two: Bottle Glasses

Lately, it seems that we have almost as many options for non-alcoholic specialty drinks in the refrigerated section of the grocery store as we do alcoholic beverages. And the bottles are increasingly highly stylistic and artsy.  While recycling these is acceptable in more and more communities, an even better solution is to re-use or upcycle them.

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Number Three: the Ugly Tie Solution

It’s inescapable that at some point, if you’re a guy, you’ll be given (with due affection) the ugliest tie you’ve ever seen.  Where do these things go?  Thrift shops, most likely.  Ties don’t have huge resell value, so they are – in terms of yardage – a real steal…and they make great source material for funky clutches, and the like.

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Number Four: the Accidental Tourist (Suitcase Pet Bed)

Thrift stores practically throw old suitcases with broken handles, missing hinges, etc. at you when you walk in the door.  For a fraction of the cost of a ready-made pooch bed, you can make your own out of one half of a suitcase.

 

 

 

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Number Five:  Coast-to-Coast Cardboard Coasters

Easy, fun, and oh-so-earth-day, these are a nice way to upcycle some of the packaging that comes from all our online shopping.

 

 

 

By: Ethan Malone

 

Garbage Collection Fees Going Up in Berkeley

April 21st, 2014

SideLoader-Truck-with-Extended-Arm-004The money is not there in waste collection. That’s what the city of Berkeley has come to realize, as it moves to offset its loss (or projected loss) of nearly $3 million in waste pickup services, by increasing garbage collection rates by 25% coming into effect July 2014. In addition to this, Berkeley residents will notice some new language on their bills; “Zero Waste Services” will replace “Refuse”. According to city officials, they simply weren’t charging enough to cover the associated recycling and compost pickup costs.

In a recent meeting of the City Council of Berkeley, members were given two choices: either increase fees by 24.7%, or, phase in a 35.5 percent increase over three years. City Council members voted to for the former approach. How will this breakdown? Those on the bottom of the food chain (residents using the smallest bins) will see a $3 increase, those with 20-gallon bins, $5, and those using 32-gallon bins will see a $7 increase service.

In addition to mitigating the deficit, funds raised by these increases will help rebuild and improve the transfer station, Materials Recovery Facility, and support recycling outreach and education campaigns.  Notices are scheduled to go out to residents on March 28 and a public hearing is scheduled on May 20.  City spokesman Matthai Chakko wanted to assure residents that Berkeley’s pickup fees are still in line with the average rates of nearby cities. To offset these kinds of cuts in the future, the city is considering cutting back some pickup services, a move that has worked for other cities.

Junk Hauler’s Rates Remain Competitive

While the City of Berkeley is planning to increase rates, companies like Fast Haul are making their business more competitive, to pick up the slack. Fast Haul’s truck are 15 to 30% larger than their large franchise competition – the old adage of being lean and mean, fits them well. This bodes well, as it lets them keep prices down while taking on more projects and servicing a wider area. This follows good business, as more and more cities in the Bay Area clamp down on the objects that can be collected, recycled, and/or diverted into landfill, in the surge to reach the Zero Waste frontier. See Fast Haul’s rates.

Source: http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2014/02/28/berkeley-to-increase-garbage-collection-fees-by-25-february-27-2014-230-pm-by-emilie-raguso/

By: Ethan Malone

 
 
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