California Fails to Pass Bills That Would Have Led Nation in Fighting Plastic Waste
Assembly Bill (AB) 1080 and Senate Bill (SB) 54 would have required plastic producers to cut pollution 75 percent by 2030 through a combination of recycling, composting and reducing packaging. In addition, they would have mandated that all single-use plastic products sold in California by 2030 be either recyclable or compostable. While other states have banned individual plastic items like straws or bags, these bills would have been the nation's first to target single-use packaging and dining ware at the source, conservation group Oceana explained in a press release emailed to EcoWatch. But the ambitious bills only cleared one chamber each, not the two required to pass.
"It's time for policymakers and companies to take bold steps to curb the production of unnecessary single-use plastic and ensure consumers are provided with plastic-free choices. California had the opportunity to be a national leader in protecting the planet and its inhabitants from the plastic increasingly entering our oceans, soil, air, food and bodies," Oceana plastics campaign director Christy Leavitt said in the press release.
RT: If #California demands an end to plastic waste, the world’s manufacturers will listen. So do it already… https://t.co/BfB3GuKs2c— Oceana (@Oceana)1568398137.0
The bills' passage was stymied by opposition from industry lobbyists, The Los Angeles Times explained. Opponents included the Grocery Manufacturers Association, waste management companies and some agricultural and glass manufacturing industry players. They worried, among other concerns, that the bills would grant too much power to CalRecycle, the agency that would have enforced them, and said they were not specific enough.
"We remain opposed because we think there are some fundamental flaws in the bill which would prevent it from being implemented," Executive Director of State Government Affairs for the Plastics Industry Association Shannon Crawford told The Los Angeles Times.
However, the bills' proponents did manage to negotiate changes that won over the California Grocers Association and Dow Chemical, and persuaded the American Chemistry Council, Proctor & Gamble and Walmart to cease their opposition.
The bills were written in response to China's decision to stop accepting recycling imports from the U.S. and other countries. This has led some states and municipalities to put more waste in landfills. One of California's biggest recycling companies, rePlanet, closed 284 collection centers in August, according to The Mercury News.
Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), who wrote SB 54, had hoped it would help drive a global solution to the plastic crisis. Around 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enter the ocean every year, according to Oceana, and the bills estimated that the U.S. discards 30 million tons of plastic a year.
"We want to show that we can build a model that we can truly scale around the rest of the world," Allen told The Los Angeles Times. "We also need to show the rest of the world that they can and ought to be doing something about this."
However, the legislators will have another chance to pass the bills in the 2020 session.
"We weren't able to get the votes necessary this late hour," Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) wrote in a tweet reported by The Mercury News. "But rest assured, we will be back in January."
We weren’t able to get the votes necessary this late hour for #SB54. But rest assured, we will be back in January w… https://t.co/2B5ket6e4w— Ian C. Calderon (@Ian C. Calderon)1568454862.0
The California legislature did pass one other plastics bill: AB 792 will mandate that beverage containers sold in the state be made from 50 percent recycled plastics by 2030.
"This is the most aggressive recycled-content mandate not only in the United States, but in the world," Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) told The Mercury News.
It now awaits a signature from Gov. Gavin Newsom.
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Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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