CBD creams and other topical ointments are a great way to help treat pain naturally. If you've been in the market for a CBD topical but don't know where to begin, we've got you covered. Read on to see which brands are our top picks for the best CBD creams, salves, and lotions.
While oils, gummies, vapes, and other edible/inhalable options of CBD offer users a natural way to help manage various health conditions, a topical cream is the best way to target specific muscle and joint aches and pains.
Topical creams are a wonderful way to bring CBD directly to any area of the body that is having tension, aches, and pains. Many people who deal with chronic muscle aches, arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions often turn to CBD cream because it offers fast, targeted, natural relief.
Our guide to the best CBD creams will not only inform you about CBD topicals and how they work, but we will also give you our top picks for the best CBD creams out on the market today so that you can get the very best natural relief possible.
Our Picks for Best CBD Creams and Topicals
- FAB CBD Topical Cream - Best Overall
- Spruce CBD Cream - Strongest CBD Cream
- Plant People CBD Balm - Best for Sprains and Bruises
- Medterra Pain Cream - Best for Joint Pain
- CBDistillery CBD Balm - Best Post-Workout Cream
- cbdMD Freeze Roller - Best Broad Spectrum Roll-On
- Charlotte's Web Hemp-Infused Cream - Best Price
How We Selected the Best CBD Creams
The CBD market is flooded with brands and products claiming to be the very best. But not all brands are the same, and not all products are created equally. We want to remove the frustration and confusion of finding the right CBD product so you can easily find the right CBD cream.
We evaluated each brand of CBD cream on the following six key categories.
- Value — How much does the CBD cream cost?
- Strength — How many milligrams of CBD does the cream contain?
- Source — Where does the hemp used for CBD come from?
- Scent — Is the cream scented at all, and does it use natural ingredients?
- Transparency — Does the brand use third-party lab testing to ensure quality?
- Customer Experience — Do customer reviews show a positive experience overall?
Learn more about each of the CBD creams on our list below.
Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn a commission.
Best CBD Creams & Salves
Every one of FAB's products contains the very best full spectrum extract that's been sourced from organically grown Colorado hemp. FAB's topical cream is made with 600mg of CBD from a full spectrum hemp extract. Not only is the cream smooth, silky, and non-greasy, it's also light as a feather and has a lovely subtle blood orange scent.
FAB CBD is also known for having a strong customer service department that makes ordering and shipping a breeze.
When you're looking for a CBD cream, you should be zeroing in on the following:
- Value — The price of FAB's topical cream is right in line with many of the other highly regarded brands. Not only is FAB's cream affordable, it's also highly effective, clean, and of the highest potency.
- Strength — 600mg full spectrum CBD per jar
- Hemp source — All of FAB's organic hemp is cultivated in Colorado.
- Scent — Blood orange
- Transparency — FAB believes in transparency, so it makes all of its third- party lab test results easy for customers to find on its website. Along with ensuring that all of the hemp is free from chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, and toxic unnatural fertilizers, FAB also uses state-of-the-art equipment to both clone and harvest the hemp. FAB uses an extremely safe and clean Co2 extraction process to ensure that there are no chemicals or impurities in the extracts.
- Customer experience — Many customers regularly use FAB's topical cream to help with tough health issues including arthritis, nerve pain, muscle aches, sleep issues, and many other difficult conditions. A host of verified positive customer reviews solidify the fact that FAB has one of the most effective and highly potent creams on the market today.
Why buy — We love FAB not only because the brand's products are top-notch, but also because the FAB team truly cares about their customers. FAB's products are not only affordable, they're also very potent and highly effective. We recommend FAB's CBD topical cream for its light feel, silky texture, and fresh citrus scent.
Spruce makes its salve from full spectrum CBD; this means that, in addition to CBD, there may be other plant parts and terpenes that can help bolster the product's therapeutic effectiveness. These ingredients combine with the full spectrum CBD for powerful pain relief. In fact, their CBD salve offers the highest concentration of CBD per ounce of any product on our list.
- Value — At $89 for 1000mg of CBD per 0.87oz. container, or $169 for 3000mg of CBD per 1.7oz. container, Spruce offers a very strong product at a reasonable price point.
- Strength — 1000mg or 3000mg full spectrum CBD per container.
- Hemp source — Kentucky and North Carolina
- Scent — None
- Transparency — Third-party lab tested with easily-accessible results online.
- Customer experience — Customer reviews offer plenty of success stories from patients who have used Spruce CBD salve to treat their arthritis symptoms and other chronic pains.
Why buy — We love the Spruce product line for a number of reasons, not least the fact that their product is made with natural ingredients and plant-derived scents. These ingredients combine with the full spectrum CBD for powerful pain relief.
Plant People makes an outstanding CBD balm, which is formulated with full spectrum CBD to soothe aches and pains. It's specifically cited for its effectiveness reviving sore knuckles, muscles, and knees. Indeed, Plant People boasts that its CBD balm is good for recovery as well as for addressing stiffness and swelling.
- Value — The price point is just under $50, but you can save on each order if you subscribe to regular deliveries.
- Strength — The Plant People CBD balm offers 450mg of CBD in its 2oz. package.
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
- Transparency — All Plant People products are tested by independent third-party labs and the results are easy to access on each page of their site.
- Customer experience — Customers who have used this CBD balm claim that it works well to help relieve sore muscles and joints, and that they love the scent provided by its natural ingredients.
Why buy — Plant People's CBD balm is said to be highly effective at enhancing circulation, and can also be a good topical remedy for athletic sprains and bruises. It's non-GMO, USDA organic, and gluten-free.
Medterra is another company that offers a range of salves, lotions, and creams. The basic Medterra CBD Pain cream is recommended for those who suffer from arthritic pain of any kind, as well as those afflicted by swollen joints, a stiff neck, or a tender back.
- Value — This cream comes in two different strengths, with the 500mg option starting at $35.
- Strength — 500mg of CBD, or 1000mg of CBD, per 1.7oz. container.
- Hemp source — Kentucky
- Scent — None
- Transparency — The CBD is carefully tested by independent labs and verified to be strong, pure, and efficacious.
- Customer experience — Medterra customers say that they enjoy this product because it works fast and has a soothing and pleasant fragrance from its natural ingredients.
Why buy — There's a lot to appreciate about this CBD cream, including the fact that it's made with U.S. hemp and it's grown organically, without any GMO use. Peppermint, jojoba oil, menthol, arnica, and aloe enhance the product's therapeutic effect.
CBDistillery's CBD salve offers 500mg of CBD in a 1oz. tub. Made with a number of natural oils, it's designed to be quickly absorbed into the skin, offering prompt relief. This product is recommended for anyone who deals with chronic pain, or simply wants to revive their muscles after strenuous physical activity.
- Value — You can get 1oz. of this CBD cream for $50, which makes it very affordably priced for the concentration.
- Strength — 500mg of full spectrum CBD per 1oz. tub.
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
- Transparency — All CBDistillery products are vetted by a third-party lab to ensure their quality.
- Customer experience — CBDistillery is one of the most trusted of all CBD brands, and not without reason. Customers say they love this product for its effectiveness and its affordable price.
Why buy — CBDistillery makes all of its products using natural, eco-friendly farming practices, and there are no GMOs in the hemp oil. Non-greasy balm formula makes it easy to apply and fast to absorb.
cbdMD is one of the most popular CBD companies, and a quick look at their lineup of topical products shows you why. There are a lot of great options to choose from as you seek CBD-enhanced pain relief. For example, cbdMD offers basic creams, lip balms, hemp-infused roll-ons, and more.
The cbdMD Freeze roll-on is made with menthol, arnica montana, and aloe vera to support soothing and healing.
- Value — cbdMD's Freeze roller starts at $30 for the 300mg option and goes up to $150 for the 3000mg option, making it easy to select the right strength and price for you.
- Strength — 300mg, 750mg, 1500mg, or 3000mg broad spectrum CBD per 3oz. container.
- Hemp source — USA
- Scent — None
- Transparency — Third-party, ISO-certified lab tested to ensure purity and safety
- Customer experience — Customer reviews attest that this product works quickly to help relieve different types of pain. cbdMD also offers a 60-day money back guarantee which makes it easy to try this product for yourself.
Why buy — cbdMD's CBD roller uses a broad spectrum CBD that includes other cannabinoids (CBD, CBG, CBN) and terpenes without THC. It also includes menthol for a natural cooling sensation, and the non-greasy roller makes it easy to apply.
Charlotte's Web basic CBD cream offers a botanical formula that's designed to go on smoothly, and to provide comfort and relief even for those with sensitive skin. Best of all, the Charlotte's Web CBD cream is made without any parabens, artificial colors or dyes, GMOs, or synthetic fragrances.
- Value — This is the most affordable CBD cream on our list; the smaller of the two tubes costs less than $20.
- Strength — The 2.5-ounce tube includes 750mg of full spectrum CBD; the 1-ounce tube contains 300mg.
- Hemp source — Colorado
- Scent — None
- Transparency — Third-party lab test results available online for all products.
- Customer experience — Multiple customer reviews state this cream offers fast-acting and long-lasting relief.
Why buy — In addition to full spectrum CBD, some of the therapeutic ingredients used in Charlotte's Web CBD cream include aloe vera, coconut oil, and oat extract. It's also both gluten-free and vegan, and is made without any animal testing.
Learn More About CBD Creams, Balms, and Salves
Why are CBD Topical Creams and Salves Popular?
Topical creams and salves are fast becoming the go-to method of CBD intake among people with an active lifestyle. Topical creams infused with CBD offer athletes, weekend warriors, pain-sufferers, and anyone and everyone a quick way to target tough muscle aches and pains. Moreover, along with muscle pain relief, topical cream may also help to increase relaxation.
Many individuals who suffer with chronic or acute pain are discovering that CBD is a safe, natural alternative treatment over prescription painkillers that can be both dangerous and addictive. Not only that, but unlike oils, capsules, edibles, and other forms of CBD, topical creams and salves go right to work when massaged into the affected area. Therefore, creams and salves are becoming the product of choice for those wanting quick relief from painful muscle strains, arthritis pain, fibromyalgia, nerve pain, and other conditions.
How Do CBD Creams Work?
Topical creams and salves work so well because, once massaged into the skin, the CBD goes to work with the body's endocannabinoid system. This system is a highly intricate cell-signaling system that was first discovered in the 1990s by researchers who were exploring the cannabis compound tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC.
While doctors and researchers are still trying to completely comprehend the endocannabinoid system, or ECS, they do know that it plays a pivotal role in regulating both functions and processes such as:
- Mood regulation
- Pain reduction and regulation
- Motor Control
- Inflammation and immune responses
- Skin and Nerve Functioning
- Bone Remodeling and Growth
- Liver Function
The body has two main endocannabinoid receptors: CB1 receptors that are located in the central nervous system, and CB2 receptors that are found in the peripheral nervous system. All of these functions help to keep the body in a state of homeostasis, or stability. Pain, chronic health conditions, or injury can throw these functions off, and that's when the ECS jumps in to help the body return to normal functioning or balance.
CBD Creams and Pain Management
When you use full-spectrum products like a full-spectrum CBD topical cream or salve, the trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and cannabidiol, or CBD, in the cream interact with the ECS. Researchers have found that THC helps to reduce pain and stimulate appetite by binding with CB1 and CB2 receptors, while CBD prevents the breakdown of endocannabinoids, which in turn allows them to have a stronger effect on the body. Researchers also believe that CBD helps to reduce pain, nausea, and other uncomfortable symptoms that are caused by various health/medical conditions.
When you rub CBD topical cream or salve into an area of discomfort, the CBD enters into the skin and sebaceous glands to synergistically work with the body to help reduce pain and inflammation while returning the body to a state of balance. Topical creams can directly help to relieve pain in the specific areas of the body where it's applied.
Targeting Various Conditions and Injuries
Yes, you can achieve relief by applying a CBD topical cream or salve onto your body. However, you can also add in other modalities to help get more relief. For example, if you're using topical cream for a sports-related injury, why not try adding ice or heat to further help calm down the swelling or inflammation.
Likewise, heat or ice on top of topical cream can also be a great way of calming arthritis pain and other chronic pain from conditions such as fibromyalgia, bursitis, Crohn's Disease, gout, knee injuries, and so many others.
CBD topical cream can be used to help treat:
- Chronic Pain
- Acute Pain
- Sore Joints
- Sore Muscles
- Skin Infections
How to Use CBD Creams for Pain
When you begin using CBD cream, you first need to apply the cream around the painful area to treat it locally. Actually, applying topical cream is very much the same as applying regular lotion. The main issue is that you have to use more care when using a CBD topical.
In order to make sure you're getting the correct dosage of CBD cream, you need to find out how many milligrams of CBD are in the topical. This way, you will know right off the bat whether there's enough CBD in the cream to give you therapeutic relief. Typically, topical creams with lower milligrams of CBD in them will be less effective than those with higher milligrams.
In general, you should use topical CBD creams as you would use CBD oil: start low and go slow. Begin with a low dose and then gradually increase the amount of the topical until you find the dose that gives you the most optimal therapeutic relief.
When it comes to deciding on a cream, there are a lot of varieties to choose from. Some topicals are lotions that help to moisturize the skin, while others are balms, salves, liniments, or ointments that contain CBD and extra natural ingredients to create hot or cold sensations for extra help with pain relief. Topical creams can contain a host of natural ingredients including citrus, mint, pepper, menthol, camphor, methyl salicylate, and triethanolamine salicylate. The type of topical you choose will purely be based on both preference and need. Regardless of the variety, the topical will still have the same function.
Generally, when you are applying cream to an area of pain, you would apply it exactly to where the pain is stemming from. However, if you are unsure as to where the pain is originating, then you should apply it close to the area that hurts.
Applying cream to various trigger points will also help alleviate pain in the general area. Some specific trigger point areas you an apply cream to are:
- Soles of the feet
- Any joint and the muscles surrounding it
Another great tip for applying cream is to always make sure the area you are massaging it into is clean and free from sweat, dirt, and dead skin cells. When your skin is clean, the CBD molecules will have a better chance of reaching the affected area. When you apply the cream to the area, make sure that you use a good sized dollop. The goal is to not just rub the cream onto the area, but to thoroughly and gently massage it into the skin. Deeply massaging the topical into the skin serves to both increase the blood flow to the area as well as help the cream penetrate deeper into the tissue and spread over a wider area of the body.
Lastly, always wash your hands after applying topical cream. Since some brands have cooling or heating ingredients added to them, it definitely would not feel good if you rubbed your eyes or touched your nose or mouth after an application. Likewise, you also might want to avoid applying creams with mint, pepper, camphor, or menthol to the insides of your elbows or the backs of your knees as the skin could be easily irritated.
How Long Does It Take for CBD Creams to Work?
While you will feel almost immediate relief from general aches and pains such as sunburns, sore, strained muscles, or minor skin irritations, chronic pain issues caused by arthritis, bursitis, or other medical conditions will take a little longer to manage. The key is to be patient and understand that some conditions require more time than others to get under control. If your pain worsens, or if you are dealing with chronic pain generally, you should consult with your primary care physician to fully treat the issue.
What are the Benefits of CBD?
CBD, a compound of the hemp and cannabis plants, has many health benefits associated with it including:
- Relief from chronic pain
- Nerve pain reduction
- Relief of muscle spasms and muscle tension
- Nausea relief
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Reduced inflammation
- Improvement in sleep and relaxation
Not only can CBD topical cream help to alleviate these conditions, it can also help to improve the overall health and wellness of your skin. CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can benefit the skin to help reduce oil production, relieve pain and itching, and help to moisturize. In fact, topical CBD cream can help to treat eczema, psoriasis, and other inflammatory skin conditions .
Many people falsely worry about purchasing full cspectrum products because they fear that they will get "high" from them. By law, all full spectrum CBD products must contain less than 0.3% THC; therefore, you can use full spectrum oils, creams, edibles, vapes, etc., without any fear of getting high. The good news is that when you use full spectrum topical creams, your body will be able to reap all of the benefits of the entourage effect.
During the entourage effect, CBD, THC, and other cannabis compounds and terpenes work together to decrease each other's negative effects while increasing their positive effects. For example, THC is known to cause nausea, paranoia, and anxiety in some people, however, when combined with CBD, these negative side effects are drastically reduced, therefore allowing for greater pain reduction and appetite stimulation.
Final Thoughts on Our CBD Creams and Salves List
Whether you suffer from sports injuries, muscle strains or sprains, or acute or chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis, Crohn's Disease, Fibromyalgia, bursitis, back pain, or others, a topical CBD cream might be a great option to help you treat specific localized areas of pain on your body. Even though oils, gummies, vapes, and capsules are also helpful and effective in their own way, a topical cream is the best option for painful areas on your body because it offers fast, targeted relief in a way that ingestible options cannot.
Topical creams can be used alone or with other modalities such as heat or ice to add further relief from tough muscle pain, sports injuries, and muscle tension issues.
Do Your Research
Regardless of how you use the cream and what you use along with it, it's always a good idea to first ensure that you've purchased the very best product for yourself. Because CBD continues to grow in popularity, so have the number of brands and products that are out on the market today. But before you spend your hard-earned money on a product that could potentially be inferior and ineffective, it's advised that you scour the brands' websites to locate third-party lab results. Remember, a brand that hires a reputable third-party lab not only cares about the quality, purity, and strength of its products, it also cares about what its customers are putting into their bodies.
After you've found those lab test results, take some time to pour through them and learn exactly what's in the topical cream that you intend on buying. If you're feeling overwhelmed or confused at any time during your research, you can always begin your journey by looking into the brands that our list. FAB CBD's Topical Cream is our number one choice not only because of the brand's stellar reputation and transparency, but also because FAB truly creates a potent, clean, and highly effective product.
When it comes to how pain sufferers are choosing to treat their tough chronic or acute pain, a great number of them are opting to forego the use of dangerous and potentially addictive prescription painkillers. Instead, many of them have successfully treated their health issues by using safe, natural, and non-addictive CBD topical creams.
Topical creams, as well as all other CBD products, contain a host of benefits which include nausea reduction, pain relief, reduction of muscle tension and spasms, increased relaxation, a reduction in sleep-related issues such as insomnia, reduced inflammation, nerve pain relief, and so much more. Rather than have to worry about the damage that a prescription medication is potentially doing to your body, you can have peace of mind knowing that your body is benefitting from the many benefits that CBD is giving it.
Consult With Your Doctor
Lastly, if you have any questions or concerns about using CBD, never hesitate to schedule a visit with your primary care provider or specialist. CBD is a wonderful, natural, safe way to help heal a great many health issues. So if you think it might be the best option for you but are still nervous, unsure, or have questions, then your healthcare provider can help you sort them out so that you can make the best decision possible for your health.
So many people are discovering first-hand the many benefits that CBD has to offer. If you've been wondering about what a topical CBD cream can do for you, then look no further than our top brands. The time to stop suffering with pain is now. Why not explore the many ways that CBD can both improve your health issues and enhance your life?
Marc Lewis aims to help people access the scientific consensus on natural health topics in a simple and direct format. His perspective on CBD as a natural remedy has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, MarketWatch, and Yahoo.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. According to The National Museum of American History, this popular slogan, with its iconic three arrows forming a triangle, embodied a national call to action to save the environment in the 1970s. In that same decade, the first Earth Day happened, the EPA was formed and Congress passed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, encouraging recycling and conservation of resources, Enviro Inc. reported.
According to Forbes, the Three R's sustainability catch-phrase, and the recycling cause it bolstered, remain synonymous with the U.S. environmental movement itself. There's only one problem: despite being touted as one of the most important personal actions that individuals can take to help the planet, "recycling" – as currently carried out in the U.S. – doesn't work and doesn't help.
Turns out, there is a vast divide between the misleading, popular notion of recycling as a "solution" to the American overconsumption problem and the darker reality of recycling as a failing business model.
The Myth: Recycling Began as a Plastics' Industry Marketing Tactic
A recycling dumpster in Los Angeles. Citizen of the Planet / Education Images / Universal Images Group / Getty Images
When it was first introduced, recycling likely had altruistic motivations, Forbes reported. However, the system that emerged was never equipped to handle high volumes. Unfortunately, as consumption increased, so too did promotion of recycling as a solution. The system "[gave] manufacturers of disposable items a way to essentially market overconsumption as environmentalism," Forbes reported. Then and now, "American consumers assuage any guilt they might feel about consuming mass quantities of unnecessary, disposable goods by dutifully tossing those items into their recycling bins and hauling them out to the curb each week."
Little has changed since that Forbes article, titled "Can Recycling Be Bad For The Environment?," was published almost a decade ago; increases in recycling have been eclipsed by much higher consumption rates. In fact, consumerism was at an all-time high in January 2020 before the pandemic hit, Trading Economics reported.
But, if the system doesn't work, why does it continue? Turns out, consumers were misled – by the oil and gas industry. News reports from September 2020 revealed how the plastic industry-funded ads in the 1980s that heralded recycling as a panacea to our growing waste problem. These makers of virgin plastics were the biggest proponents and financial sponsors of plastic recycling programs because they created the illusion of a sustainable, closed-cycle while actually promoting the continued use of raw materials for new single-use plastics.
To the masses, these programs justified overconsumption and eased concerns over trash that could be thrown into recycling bins, Forbes reported. Generations of well-meaning Americans since the 1970's and '80's – believing these communications masterminds – have dutifully used-then-recycled plastics and other materials. They trusted that their discards would be reborn as new goods instead of ending up in oceans and landfills.
The plastics industry went even further, lobbying 40 states to put the recycling triangle symbol on all plastic – even if it wasn't recyclable, Houston Public Media reported. This bolstered the public image of plastic as a renewable resource, but the cost was clarity about what actually can be recycled. As recent as 2020, a Greenpeace report found that many U.S. products labeled as recyclable could not actually be processed by most domestic material recovery facilities.
The Reality: Most Recyclables Aren't Being Recycled
An initial pre-sort removes contaminates, items that can't be recycled, at Republic Services in Anaheim, California on Thursday, April 15, 2021. Paul Bersebach / MediaNews Group / Orange County Register / Getty Images
The U.S. relies on single-stream recycling systems, in which recyclables of all sorts are placed into the same bin to be sorted and cleaned at recycling facilities. Well-meaning consumers are often over-inclusive, hoping to divert trash from landfills. Unfortunately, the trash often ends up there anyways – with the additional cost of someone at a recycling plant sorting through it.
The single-stream system is easier on consumers, but results in a mixed stream of materials that is easy to contaminate, hard to sort and more expensive to process. There are a variety of items – including dirty pizza boxes, old clothing, hangers, plastic bags, aerosols, batteries and electronics – that, if added to a residential recycling bin, will contaminate the entire batch of recyclables, a Miami recycling center representative told EcoWatch. At that point, it can be too costly and too dangerous for employees to hand-pick out erroneous items. Because these items cannot be processed in the same way as recyclable materials, their inclusion often means the whole batch will fetch a lower price from buyers or must be thrown away.
"Most people have the attitude that if they just put it in the blue bin, it will get taken away and somebody will figure out what to do with it, but putting something in the blue bin and actually recycling it are two very different things," said David Biderman, CEO and executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America.
Misunderstandings, misinformation and mislabeling aside, the harsh reality was and remains that most plastic can't and won't be recycled, reported NPR. For example, the EPA reported that plastic generation in 2018 was 35.7 million tons, accounting for 12.2 percent of municipal solid waste (MSW) that year. Of this total, only three million tons were recycled (an 8.7 percent recycling rate). The vast majority – 27 million tons – ended up in landfills, and the rest was combusted. The environmental agency also estimated that less than 10 percent of plastic thrown in bins in the last 40 years has actually been recycled.
The situation is slightly better for other recyclables, though they make up a smaller percentage of MSW. For example, glass products totaled 12.3 million tons in 2018, or 4.2 percent of the annual MSW generation. Almost 25 percent of glass was recycled, 61.6 percent ended up in landfills and 13.4 percent was combusted.
Post-consumer paper and cardboard for 2018 totaled 67.4 million tons, or 23.1 percent of total MSW generation for the year. The material also had the highest recycling rate of any other material in MSW – 68.2 percent. 25.6 percent of paper ended up in landfills and 6.23 percent was combusted.
According to this EPA data, recyclable plastics, glass and paper accounted for 18.5 percent, 5.2 percent and 11.8 percent of MSW landfilled in 2018, respectively. Those three materials alone comprised 35.5 percent of the total landfilled trash in the U.S. for the year; had they been properly collected, processed and purchased, they theoretically could have been diverted and recycled.
The Reason: Recycling Is Bad Business Around the World
Recyclable waste must be sorted, cleaned and processed before it can be sold as a commodity on the open market. Nareeta Martin / Unsplash
Unfortunately, the EPA data also shows that 2018 was not an anomaly but rather another data point showing how the single-stream system in the U.S. has never been economically viable or feasible on a large scale. To further understand why recycling in America is failing, we need to think of recycled goods as commodities – because that's what they are.
According to the recycling center representative, municipalities and counties pay for residential and commercial recyclables to be trucked to local and regional recycling plants for processing. Clean batches are sorted and/or compressed into bales of similar plastics, paper, aluminum or glass. The centers sell the cleaned recyclables on the open market to buyers who will process them into recycled materials like plastic pellets or post-consumer paper; these can be turned into new products.
This entire process – the processing and creation of saleable recycled goods – costs money. As with any good, profitability requires selling for a higher price than it costs to make. Contaminated batches are harder to process into new products and therefore fetch a lower price on the market, if they can be sold at all. Currently, U.S. recyclables are no longer profitable, and no one wants to buy them.
China used to buy the majority of the world's plastics and paper for recycling, The New York Times reported. The U.S. has been the #1 generator of plastic waste in the world for years and used to ship more than half of its total plastic production to China, a November 2020 study found. The research also noted that up to one-fourth of American plastics sent abroad were contaminated or of poor quality, which would make it extremely difficult to recycle anyways.
Starting Jan. 1, 2018, China banned imports of most scrap materials because shipments were too contaminated, The Times reported; the country no longer wanted to be the "world's garbage dump."
As a result, the U.S. and other Western nations who had relied on China to offload their recyclables saw a "mounting crisis" of paper and plastic waste building up in ports and recycling facilities, The Times reported.
The Western nations began sending recyclable waste to other Southeast Asian countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, India and Malaysia. These countries often lacked the infrastructure to handle recyclables, so a lot of the waste ended up incinerated or landfilled
In response, in 2019, the United Nations passed an amendment to the Basel Convention hoping to protect the poor and developing countries who'd taken up China's vacated role in the global recycling trade. The amendment ambitiously aimed to clean up the global trade in plastic waste, making it more transparent and better regulated and allowing developing countries to reject contaminated shipments. The U.S. did not ratify the amendment, and new evidence suggests it continues to send illegal and/or contaminated shipments to developing countries.
Domestically, the closing of the Chinese market to U.S. recyclables bankrupted many domestic recycling programs because there was too much supply and no real demand. The smaller Asian countries could not accept nearly as much as China had. Prices of recyclables dropped, and bales of scrap materials were sent to landfills and incinerators when they couldn't be sold, another Times article reported.
This left waste-management companies around the country with no market for recyclabes, The Atlantic reported. They've been forced to go back to cities and municipalities with two choices: pay a lot more to get rid of their recycling or throw it away. The news report noted that most are choosing the latter.
"The economics are challenging," agreed Nilda Mesa, director of the Urban Sustainability and Equity Planning Program at the Earth Institute's Center for Sustainable Urban Development. "If there is not a market for the recycled material, then the numbers do not work for these facilities as well as cities, as they need to sell the materials to recoup their costs of collection and transportation, and even then it's typically only a portion of the costs," Columbia's State of the Planet reported.
Tiffany Duong is an avid ocean advocate. She holds degrees from UCLA and the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and is an Al Gore Climate Reality Leader and student member of The Explorer's Club.
She spent years as a renewable energy lawyer in L.A. before moving to the Amazon to conduct conservation fieldwork (and revamp her life). She eventually landed in the Florida Keys as a scientific scuba diver and field reporter and writes about the oceans, climate, and the environment from her slice of paradise. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram @lilicedt.
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One of the silver linings of the coronavirus pandemic was the record drop in greenhouse gas emissions following national lockdowns. But that drop is set to all but reverse as economies begin to recover, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned Tuesday.
Overall energy demand is expected to rise 4.6 percent this year compared to 2020 and 0.5 percent compared to 2019, according to the IEA's Global Energy Review 2021. Demand for fossil fuels is expected to jump to such an extent that emissions will rise by nearly five percent in 2021. This will reverse 80 percent of the emissions decline reported in 2020, to end emissions just 1.2 percent below 2019 emissions levels. Because the lockdown saw the biggest drop in energy demand since World War II, the projected increase in carbon dioxide emissions will still be the second-highest on record, BBC News pointed out.
"This is a dire warning that the economic recovery from the COVID crisis is currently anything but sustainable for our climate," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement reported by AFP.
Birol said much of that increase was being driven by the resurgence of coal use. In fact, coal demand is expected to increase by 60 percent more than all forms of renewable energy, according to the report. Overall coal demand is expected to increase by 4.5 percent in 2021. More than 80 percent of that growth is in Asia, and more than 50 percent is in China. While coal use is expected to increase in the U.S. and Europe as well, it will remain far below pre-pandemic levels. Still, global coal use is expected to rise to nearly its 2014 peak, BBC News reported.
Natural gas demand is also expected to rise by 3.2 percent in 2021, to put it more than one percent above 2019 levels, according to the report.
There are, however, two bright spots in the report from a climate perspective. The first is that oil demand, while up 6.2 percent from 2020, is still expected to remain around 3 percent below 2019 levels. This is because oil use for ground transportation is not expected to recover until the end of 2021, and oil use for air travel is expected to remain at 20 percent below 2019 levels by December of 2021.
"A full return to pre-crisis oil demand levels would have pushed up CO2 emissions a further 1.5%, putting them well above 2019 levels," the report authors wrote.
The second bright spot is that renewable energy demand is set to rise in all sectors in 2021. In power, where its rise is the greatest, it is set to increase by more than eight percent. This is "the largest year-on-year growth on record in absolute terms," the report authors wrote.
Renewable energy will provide 30 percent of electricity overall, BBC News reported, which is the highest percentage since the industrial revolution. The problem is that the increase in renewables is running parallel to an increase in fossil fuels in some places. China, for example, is also expected to account for almost half of the rise in renewable electricity.
"As we have seen at the country-level in the past 15 years, the countries that succeed to cut their emissions are those where renewable energy replaces fossil energy," energy expert and University of East Anglia professor Corinne Le Quéré told BBC News. "What seems to be happening now is that we have a massive deployment of renewable energy, which is good for tackling climate change, but this is occurring alongside massive investments in coal and gas. Stimulus spending post-Covid-19 worldwide is still largely funding activities that lock us into high CO2 emissions for decades."
To address this issue, Birol called on the world leaders gathering for U.S. President Joe Biden's climate summit Thursday and Friday to pledge additional action before November's UN Climate Change Conference, according to AFP.
"Unless governments around the world move rapidly to start cutting emissions, we are likely to face an even worse situation in 2022," said Birol.
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The guide, 40-year-old Charles "Carl" Mock, was attacked Thursday while fishing alone in a forested area near West Yellowstone, Montana, The AP reported. He died in the hospital two days later. Wildlife officials killed the bear on Friday when it charged while they were investigating the attack.
"They yelled and made continuous noise as they walked toward the site to haze away any bears in the area," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote in a press release. "Before they reached the site, a bear began charging the group. Despite multiple attempts by all seven people to haze away the bear, it continued its charge. Due to this immediate safety risk, the bear was shot and died about 20 yards from the group."
The AP reported the bear to be an older male that weighed at least 420 pounds. Wildlife workers later found a moose carcass about 50 yards from the site of the attack.
"This indicates the bear was defending a food source during the attack," Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wrote.
Mock was an experienced guide who worked for Backcountry Adventure, which provides snowmobile rentals and tours in Yellowstone National Park, according to The AP. His friend Scott Riley said Mock knew the risks of working around grizzly bears.
"He was the best guide around," Riley told The AP. "He had sight like an eagle and hearing like an owl... Carl was a great guy."
Mock carried bear spray, but investigators don't know if he had a chance to use it before the attack. Grizzly attacks are relatively rare in the Yellowstone area, CNN reported.
Since 1979, the park has welcomed more than 118 million visitors and recorded only 44 bear attacks. The odds of a grizzly attack in Yellowstone are about one in 2.7 million visits. The risk is lower in more developed areas and higher for those doing backcountry hikes.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks advises being aware of surroundings, staying on trails, traveling in groups, making noise, avoiding animal remains, following food storage instructions and carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it. Above all, it's important to back away slowly if a bear encounter occurs.
It's also important to pay attention to the time of year.
"Now is the time to remember to be conscientious in the backcountry as the bears are coming out of hibernation and looking for food sources," the sheriff's office of Gallatin County, Montana, wrote in a statement about the attack.
Historically, people pose more of a threat to grizzly bears than the reverse.
"When Lewis and Clark explored the West in the early 1800s, grizzly bears roamed across vast stretches of open and unpopulated land between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains," the U.S Fish and Wildlife service wrote. "But when pioneers moved in, bears were persecuted and their numbers and range declined. As European settlement expanded over the next hundred years, towns and cities sprung up, and habitat for these large omnivores — along with their numbers — shrunk drastically. Of the many grizzly populations that were present in 1922, only six remained when they were listed by the Service in 1975 as a threatened species in the lower-48 states."
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By Brett Wilkins
In the latest of a flurry of proposed Green New Deal legislation, Reps. Cori Bush and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday introduced the Green New Deal for Cities Act of 2021, a $1 trillion plan to "tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
If approved, the bill would provide federal funding for state, local, tribal, and territorial governments to respond to the climate crisis, while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in communities disproportionately affected by economic inequality.
"St. Louis and communities across the nation need the Green New Deal for Cities," Bush (D-Mo.) said in a statement introducing the bill. The St. Louis native added that Black children in her city "are 2.4 times more likely than white children to test positive for lead in their blood, and are 10 times more likely to visit the emergency room for asthma each year than white children."
"Black neighborhoods host the majority of the city's air pollution sources," Bush continued. "And there is a nuclear waste site—the West Lake Landfill, which is a catastrophe-in-progress."
"This legislation would make sure every city, town, county, and tribe can have a federally funded Green New Deal," she added. "This is a $1 trillion investment to tackle the environmental injustices that are making us and our children sick, costing us our homes, and destroying our planet."
We're introducing the Green New Deal for Cities. Here's what it means for you: ☀️ $1 trillion investment in our c… https://t.co/uJnnbM5NNx— Congresswoman Cori Bush (@Congresswoman Cori Bush)1618852007.0
Specifically, the GND4Cities would:
- Authorize $1 trillion, with a minimum of 50% of all investments going each to frontline communities and climate mitigation;
- Fund an expansive array of climate and environmental justice projects including wind power procurement, clean water infrastructure, and air quality monitoring;
- Support housing stability by conditioning funding to local governments to ensure they work with tenant and community groups to prevent displacement in communities receiving investment; and
- Support workers by including prevailing wage requirements, equitable and local hiring provisions, apprenticeship and workforce development requirements, project labor agreements, and "Buy America" provisions.
In an interview with St. Louis Public Radio, Bush explained that the Green New Deal for Cities is personal for her.
"I remember talking about lead paint as a child, hearing about it on the television and showing up at parks and people testing us for lead," she recalled. "It was like this thing when I was a kid, and it just went away."
Tune in to @STLonAir at noon to hear @RepCori discuss her and her colleagues' proposal for a Green New Deal for Cit… https://t.co/q3N0hmJndg— St. Louis Public Radio (@St. Louis Public Radio)1618845961.0
Bush said that "this whole thing is about saving lives," adding that "there are labor provisions in this bill to make sure that the workers are well-paid and well-treated for work."
"The urgency of this climate crisis and environmental racism demands that we equip our cities and our local governments with this funding," she added.
In her statement introducing the measure, Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that "the GND4Cities would provide local governments the funding to create good-paying, union jobs repairing their infrastructure, improving water quality, reducing air pollution, cleaning up parks, creating new green spaces, and eliminating blight."
"The desire for these investments is there," Ocasio-Cortez added. "We need to give our local communities the funding and support to act."
Although only Monday, it's already been a busy week for Ocasio-Cortez and the Green New Deal. Earlier in the day, she and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reintroduced the Green New Deal for Public Housing, which they said would significantly improve living conditions and costs for nearly two million people who reside in public housing units, while creating more than 240,000 new jobs.
It’s Green New Deal week!👷🏽♂️🌎 This week we’re highlighting: ✅ Green New Deal reintro tomorrow w/ new Congression… https://t.co/3kEllAc40y— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez)1618878563.0
Later on Monday, Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) announced they will reintroduce their landmark 2019 Green New Deal bill on Tuesday. In a Spanish-language statement previewing the bill's introduction, Ocasio-Cortez said the measure "aims to create a national mobilization over the next 10 years that fights against economic, social, racial crises, as well as the interconnected climatic conditions affecting our country."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Offshore oil and gas drillers have discarded and abandoned more than 18,000 miles of pipelines on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico since the 1960s, a report from the Government Accountability Office says.
The industry has essentially recovered none of the pipelines laid in the Gulf in the last six decades; the abandoned infrastructure accounts for more than 97% of all of the decommissioned pipelines in the Gulf.
The pipelines pose a threat to the habitat around them, as maritime commerce and hurricanes and erosion can move sections of pipeline.
The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement does not conduct undersea inspections even though surface monitoring is "not always reliable for detecting ruptures," according to the GAO.
For a deeper dive: