Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Nutty Canadian recycling scheme

It does NOTHING for the environment. It involves a huge WASTE of resources and INCREASES Canada's "environmental footprint". One can only conclude that "recycling" is more a sacred ritual than anything else -- a potlatch, perhaps

Ontario's recycling scraps - dirty peanut butter jars, plastic toys, and unsorted paper - are being shipped to Asia at a rate of thousands of tonnes a month. The blue-box castoffs are sorted by low-paid workers in huge factories, and recycled into inexpensive toys, shoes and colourful cardboard packages, before being sold back to Ontarians, where they fill the blue boxes once again. Garbage experts say this revolving door is a necessary evil that will continue until the province has better recycling facilities so cities can process their own garbage.

"The question is, how much do we want to transport materials around?" said Glenda Gies, executive director of Waste Diversion Ontario, which oversees the provincial blue-box program. "We really do want to support the Ontario economy, we want to process these materials here."

Most residents recycle with the belief they are helping the environment and are unaware that their municipalities are shipping materials to China and South Korea, creating a huge new carbon footprint. "It is a contentious issue here," said Jo-Anne St. Godard, executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario. "We took advantage of (China's) cheaper labour force to have them clean, or re-clean, our recyclables, to sort out the more valuable items from the less valuable."

With the downturn in the recycling commodities market, China's demand for low-end mixed paper and plastic "residue" from blue boxes dropped considerably. But, Toronto, which sent up to 20,000 tonnes of mixed paper to China's massive Nine Dragons mill in both 2007 and last year, reports that in January, the mill began requesting more of the city's paper.

Toronto gets paid roughly $30 to $40 per tonne of mixed paper sent to China. According to Geoff Rathbone, general manager of Toronto's solid waste department, that worked out to be about $600,000 to $800,000 in 2007 and 2008. In addition to shipping to China, Rathbone said the city sends about 10,000 tonnes a year of its "polycoat" milk and juice cartons to South Korea. If Toronto moves ahead with plans to recycle disposable coffee cups, it will send them to the same South Korean facility, as long as the owners can handle the influx, he said. Still, Rathbone believes local paper mills and recycling facilities are the best option. "In the long term, I don't think (shipping to Asia) is a sustainable way to go," he said.

It is not clear how many tonnes of Ontario's recycled goods are sent to Asia each year. A study published by Waste Diversion Ontario looked at shipping data - voluntarily supplied by municipalities and private recyclers. Based on their information, the authors of the report concluded that four per cent of the 937,979 tonnes of blue-box materials sold in 2006 went to China, and a lesser number to South Korea. WDO's Gies said more ongoing studies are needed before the full picture is known.

St. Godard said North American mills generally require materials be properly sorted and clean. But some municipalities, like Toronto, allow all recycled goods to be mixed into the same blue bin, because it is cheaper and easier for residents. "You end up co-mingling materials that have to be sorted and re-sorted and re-sorted and by the time they actually reach the end market they are still so contaminated that the mills here cannot take them. But China has an extra layer of labour that can sift through them," she said.

To get to China from Toronto, the mixed paper is stacked in bales, placed in shipping containers and sent across country to the port of Vancouver by train, said Jake Westerhof, of Canada Fibres, which sells Toronto's paper to Nine Dragons. From Vancouver, it is placed on a large freighter ship and spends several weeks at sea before arriving in one of China's southern ports. It is moved into a truck a driven several hours before arriving at the massive Nine Dragons paper mill in the province of Guangdong.

Rathbone believes the increase in orders from China means the market will slowly rebound. He says Toronto will continue shipping its paper to Nine Dragons, and pointed out the city's contract requires that the mill adhere to environmental standards, along with health and safety rules for its workers.


Environmental protection, in name only

The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, promised during her confirmation hearing to base agency policies and decisions on science, not politics: "If I am confirmed, I will administer with science as my guide, " she said. "Political appointees will not compromise the integrity of EPA's technical experts to advance particular regulatory outcomes."

There are two reasons for skepticism. First, the EPA has long been a haven for zealots in career positions and for scientifically insupportable policies, so it has little integrity to compromise. It has a sordid history of incompetence, duplicity, and pandering to the most extreme factions of the environmental movement, all of which are likely to become even worse during the Obama administration. Second, Ms. Jackson herself is a veteran of 16 years at the EPA, during which she developed some of the agency's most unscientific, wasteful, and dangerous regulations.

While at the EPA, Ms. Jackson worked on Superfund (officially the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act), an ongoing EPA program intended to clean up and reduce the risk of toxic-waste sites. This program was originally conceived as a short-term project-$1.6 billion over five years to clean up some 400 sites (by law, at least one per state and, not coincidentally, about one per congressional district). But it has grown into one of the nation's largest public-works projects: more than $30 billion spent on about 1,300 sites. Various studies have attempted to evaluate the effect of Superfund's massive and costly cleanups, but the results are uncertain. Putting that another way, no beneficial results have been demonstrable after the expenditure of tens of billions of dollars. On the other hand, Superfund projects have caused a great deal of harm.

UC-Davis medical economist J. Paul Leigh has analyzed the occupational hazards of environmental cleanup projects. He concluded that the risks of fatality to cleanup workers-a dump-truck driver involved in a collision or a laborer run over by a bulldozer, for example-are considerably larger than the cancer risks to individual residents that might result from exposures to unremediated sites.

Even former EPA Administrator William Reilly admitted that Superfund's risk-assessment methods are flawed. In a speech at Stanford University while a visiting lecturer, he discussed the excessive costs of basing cleanups on exaggerated worst-case scenarios:
The risks [Superfund] addresses are worst-case, hypothetical present and future risks to the maximum exposed individual, i.e., one who each day consumes two liters of water contaminated by hazardous waste. The program at one time aimed to achieve a risk range in its cleanups adequate to protect the child who regularly ate liters of dirt. . . . And it formerly assumed that all sites, once cleaned up, would be used for residential development, even though many lie within industrial zones. Some of these assumptions have driven clean-up costs to stratospheric levels and, together with liabilities associated with Superfund sites, have resulted in inner-city sites suitable for redevelopment remaining derelict and unproductive.

In his excellent book Breaking the Vicious Circle, written shortly before he became a U.S. Supreme Court justice, Stephen Breyer cites another, similar example of expensive, non-cost-effective regulation by the EPA: a ban on asbestos pipe, shingles, coating, and paper, which the most optimistic estimates suggested would prevent seven or eight premature deaths over 13 years-at a cost of approximately a quarter of a billion dollars. Breyer notes that such a vast expenditure can be expected to cause more deaths than it would prevent from the asbestos exposure, simply by reducing the resources available for other public amenities. Also, perversely, the very act of removing asbestos from existing structures poses greater risk from asbestos than simply leaving it where it is: During removal, long-dormant asbestos fibers are spread into the ambient air, where they expose workers and bystanders to heightened risk.

When the EPA banned asbestos in 1989, it was already an old product whose risks and benefits were well understood. Nevertheless, political pressures from environmental activists pushed the EPA to make a decision that turned out to be risk-increasing.

The EPA has long been more concerned with public relations than public health. An EPA scheme that was exposed in 2005 planned to divert research funds to pay outside public-relations consultants up to $5 million over five years to improve the website of its Office of Research and Development, conduct focus groups on how to polish the office's image, and produce ghostwritten articles praising the agency "for publication in scholarly journals and magazines."

It's no surprise that EPA must buy good press. The agency is relentlessly inept and corrupt, and motivated by radical ideology rather than a genuine desire to protect the environment. It serves not the public interest, but the most extreme and doctrinaire environmentalists.

The EPA's payola scheme is similar to the agency's longstanding practice of buying influence by doling out hundreds of millions of dollars each year to non-profit organizations-money that, according to the inspector general and Government Accountability Office, is dispersed with no public notice, competition, or accountability. Specifically, they documented systematic malfeasance by regulators, including: (1) making grants to grantees who were unable to carry out the terms of the grants; (2) favoring an exclusive clique of grantees without opening the grants to competition; (3) funding "environmental" grants for activities that lack any apparent environmental benefit; and (4) failing to ensure that grantees performed the objectives identified in the grants.

Misconduct, mendacity, and conflicts of interest are just business as usual at the EPA. Even if Ms. Jackson were serious about bringing integrity and sound science to EPA, she would certainly be thwarted by Carol Browner, who will coordinate environmental policy throughout the government. An Al Gore acolyte who was EPA Administrator during the Clinton administration. Ms. Browner was the scourge of American innovation and technology. She never met a regulation she didn't like, no matter how costly or worthless, and she permitted politics and pressure from environmental groups to make the EPA arguably the most scientifically challenged regulatory agency on the planet.

On her watch, for example, new regulatory policies toward the use of biotechnology were disastrous. Contrary to scientific consensus (and to what was supposed to be overarching federal policy), the agency imposed stultifying regulation on the use of the newest, most precise, most predictable gene-splicing techniques, thereby obstructing research on organisms for toxic-waste cleanup and others that could provide alternatives to agricultural fertilizers and pesticides. The EPA's bizarre regulation of garden and crop plants as pesticides elicited condemnation from eleven scientific societies representing 80,000 biologists and food-science professionals, and a blue-ribbon panel convened by Browner herself accused the agency of abusing the mechanisms whereby it obtains external scientific advice and of adjusting science to fit policy instead of the other way around.

Obama's elevation of Jackson and Browner exemplifies a venerable government tradition: No bad deed goes unrewarded.


Stupid French Greenie scheme comes unglued

It didn't work when the Dutch tried it either -- but the taxpayer can afford it, apparently

It was introduced to roaring success - hailed by environmentalists and cycling enthusiasts as the ideal solution to congestion on the streets. But life is now proving brutish and short for the Velib, the self-service bicycle that the city of Paris introduced 18 months ago. So far, 7,800 of the "damage-resistant" grey bicyclettes - which can be hired for up to one euro per half-hour - have simply vanished, while 11,600 have been vandalised, their operating company said yesterday.

Hung from trees, thrown in the river or shipped to foreign parts, the Velib bikes have met much more aggressive treatment than expected when the first of the 20,000 of them were docked at their 1,250 stations in July 2007. The damage has forced JCDecaux, the advertising company that supplies them to the city, to replace most of the original bicycles at a cost of more than 400 euros each. "We underestimated the degree of damage that they would suffer," said Albert Asseraf, the marketing director of JCDecaux. The scale of the Paris scheme had consequences that his firm had not encountered with its operation in Lyons, the second-biggest in the world but with still only one fifth of the Paris bikes, he said. Many were being stolen because tourists and first-time users were not docking them carefully when they returned them to their computerised stations, Mr Asseraf said. Some have turned up in Eastern Europe and Africa, according to the media.

The cycles - the name is a contraction of velo (cycle) and liberte - have also fallen victim to a new craze called "Velib extreme". Young riders use them for daredevil stunts that they film and post on the internet set to rock music. They include fast descents down the long stairs of the Montmartre hill, and jumps. The most common vandalism reported by the 500 repair personnel is tyre-slashing.

So far five people have been killed on the bikes, which in the depth of winter are still being widely used. Since last month, the high-tech scheme, launched by Bertrand Delanoe, the Socialist Mayor of Paris, has started opening in 29 surrounding boroughs. It is also being copied by many overseas cities, including London, San Francisco and Singapore.

Under pressure from JCDecaux, the city has recently agreed to pay for a proportion of the destroyed and stolen machines. JCDecaux had complained that the city was making all the money from the rentals - 20 million in the first year - while the operating firm was bearing all the costs.

Last week the city council approved the outline of Mr Delanoe's latest self-service transport scheme: Autolibs - 2,000 clean-energy cars that will be stationed at bays around the city from autumn next year.


Is the green lobby destroying the planet?

Have you noticed how the grins on the faces of the global warming crowd are starting to look increasingly sickly? Even climate change zealots are starting to wonder if they've been guilty of scaremongering

Global temperatures continue to decline. James Hansen, the global warming lobby's most celebrated cheerleader, has been disowned by his old mentor John Theon. He has been called "an embarrassment to NASA" and his work has been branded "unscientific".

I don't believe global warming is anthropogenic. But even if I did, the hysterical climate change industry (I use that word advisedly) has yet to provide plausible solutions to the "crisis". On Friday, New Scientist published an article suggesting that even sustainable power is unsustainable:

"[T]he most advanced "renewable" technologies are too often based upon non-renewable resources, attendees heard [...] although silicon is the most abundant element in the Earth's crust after oxygen, it makes relatively inefficient cells that struggle to compete with electricity generated from fossil fuels. And the most advanced solar-cell technologies rely on much rarer materials than silicon."

In other words, the green lobby could be about to rob the planet of scarce natural resources. How incredibly selfish of them. Have they no regard for "future generations"?


A Nation Immune to Global Warming Hysteria

Perhaps there is hope for America after all. Despite the incessant hysteria about how mankind's irresponsible use of fossil fuels has put our whole planet in imminent peril, few Americans seem to be sitting up late at night fretting over any global-warming apocalypse. Statistical support for this premise came last month from a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which asked a random sample of 1,503 adults to rate 20 concerns -- jobs, Social Security, tax cuts, immigration, etc. -- as their "top priority" for 2009. To the surprise of no one, a top concern -- chosen by 85 percent of those polled -- was the "economy," followed closely by "jobs" (82 percent) and "terrorism" (76 percent). Way, way down at the very bottom of the list -- far below even "lobbyists" -- was "global warming." Only 30 percent considered it a top concern.

This is encouraging news for those who've lost faith in the collective intelligence or judgment of the American people. It shows that many if not most Americans have either ignored or not been influenced much by the exaggerations, propaganda and lies that they've been subjected to since 1988 by global-warming alarmists like NASA's James Hansen and their press agents at The New York Times, The New Yorker, CBS, CNN, Time, et al.

No one in the elite mainstream media dares to dissent or laugh when Hansen says New York City will be under 50 feet of water 100 years from now or when Al Gore tells Congress, as he did last week for the 101st time since he sold his portfolio of Occidental Petroleum stock, that the planet soon will be uninhabitable for humans unless we switch to alternative energy sources.

But look at how skeptically, irreverently and "all-Americanly" the Great Unwashed reacted to a straightforward Jan. 29 article that previewed the text of Prophet Al's most recent "tipping point" sermon to Congress. It's true that some of the 155 comments came from Americans with monikers like "Turtlehead" (who said Gore "should go into hiding") and bad spellers like "Hurricane Bob" (who quipped: "I hope Gore slips on the global warmed ice and breaks his legs. What a giant scam. Not all scientests [sic] buy into this fraud. I am one of them!").

It's also true that many commentators resorted to dumb global-warming jokes and ad hominem attacks on Gore and environmentalists in general. Others taunted Gore with calls to "drill ... baby ... drill" or pointed out good climate facts like "Man's contribution to atmospheric CO2 is only 0.12 percent of the greenhouse effect." All but a few of the commentators attacked Gore and/or ridiculed his message of carbon doom. They were what he and his green soulmates in the elite media would smear as "global warming deniers."

The politically incorrect responses to CNN's piece -- and the similar derisive commentary that usually predominates whenever a mainstream news organization posts a global warming piece -- are by no means proof of what a majority of Americans really believe about global warming.

But they do prove that many of our fellow Americans still have the right genetic stuff that made our country so great. They can still recognize a load of you-know-what when it's dropped on their heads every day by their government and the liberal media.


Australia's public radio network censors poll finding that 94% of listeners believe 'global warming is a myth'

By Andrew Bolt

ABC NewsRadio last week asked listeners: Is Global Warming to blame for the current heatwave in Australia? The ABC can't have liked the answer much. The poll, and its emphatic result, has been deleted from the poll archive.

UPDATE Reader Michael gives the results that the ABC won't: 1. Global warming is a myth (94.4%) 2. Yes (2.8%) 3. No (2.8%) Number of voters: 15,451.

UPDATE 2 We're told that the ABC had to junk this poll because 90 per cent of the votes were rigged. All right, let's assume all those 13,906 bogus votes were cast entirely by warming sceptics and remove them from the results. That leaves us with these figures: Is Global Warming to blame for the current heatwave in Australia? 1. Global warming is a myth (40%) 2. Yes (30%) 3. No (30%) I'll accept even these "corrected" figures. Let the ABC publish them.

UPDATE 3 Incidently, reader Tom rang Laura of the ABC NewsRadio's web polling section this morning and was assured by her these polls were proof against multiple voting. But she didn't know until Tom told her that what her poll had just measured.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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