Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Plastic survey shows 'recycling doesn't work'

What counts as "working"? Why should we be reducing how much plastic ends up as waste? If plastic is properly disposed of either through recycling or going into properly managed landfills, what is the problem? We are not told. It is apparently just an article of Greenie faith that plastic is a problem

It is unattractive when it ends up in the ocean but very little of that plastic comes from advanced nations. Places like the UK, the USA and Australia collect their rubbish rather than letting it flow out to sea. It is places like Africa, China and South America where the people just toss their refuse into nearby rivers -- where it flows out to sea. Ocean pollution is a Third world problem, not our problem

The organisers of Britain's biggest ever survey of household plastic waste have called for immediate action to tackle what they say are "jaw-dropping" findings.

The Big Plastic Count was run across a week in May and its results show that the average participating household threw away 66 pieces of plastic in a week.

Using those figures the organisers, Greenpeace and Everyday Plastic, estimate that the UK throws out nearly 100 billion pieces of plastic a year.

The survey involved nearly 100,000 households meticulously documenting the type and amount of plastic they dispose of for seven days.

Its organisers say the results prove that recycling alone is not a solution for reducing how much plastic ends up as waste.

"This is a jaw-dropping amount of plastic waste," Greenpeace UK's plastics campaigner Chris Thorne said.

"Pretending we can sort this with recycling is just industry green-wash. We're creating a hundred billion bits of waste plastic a year, and recycling is hardly making a dent."

Those taking part in the survey were asked not just to count the number of pieces but also to record which type of plastic they used. Of the plastic, 83% was from food and drink packaging waste, with the most common items being fruit and vegetable packaging.

In response to the survey, Nadiya Catel-Arutyunova, sustainability policy advisor at the British Retail Consortium said: "The UK retail industry is leading the way in protecting the environment by reducing single-use packaging, regardless of the material type."

"The ability to remove branded single-use plastic (SUP) packaging is challenging but can be unlocked with partnerships and collaboration with producers and does not alter retailers' underlining drive to make quick and effective changes in reducing single-use plastics."

The UK government publishes data about the amount of plastic waste being collected from households and the latest statistics (2021) show that more than 2.5 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste was created, of which 44.2% is recycled. Half of that recycling (55%) takes places in the UK with the rest exported. Turkey is the most common destination.

"We are going further to tackle single use plastics through our landmark Environment Act," a spokesperson for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs said. They highlighted measures that had already been taken to restrict the supply of plastic straws and cotton buds and said proposals were being finalising for a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles.

Not all plastic is equally easy to sort and recycle. Data from Recoup, a plastics charity, suggests that 61% of plastic bottles are recycled, 36% of plastic tubs and just 8% of plastic films.

The Big Plastic Count report authors discovered that more than half the plastics we throw out are the harder to recycle soft plastics. The report cross-referenced their findings with Recoup's data and calculated that just 12% of our plastic waste ends up being recycled in the UK.

"Recycling doesn't work, we all know it," Everyday Plastic founder Daniel Webb told BBC News, "If we think things are being recycled we can carry on the way we are. We need to address things further up the chain. By reducing the amount we produce it will reduce the amount that is thrown away."

It's a very similar message to that of Prime Minister Boris Johnson back in October 2021 when he told a group of school children that recycling "doesn't work" and "is not the answer".


Dutch farmer protests against emissions cuts spread across EU

Dutch farmer protests over government policies and rising “agflation” destroying their businesses have spread to more European countries.

The farmers are protesting about rising costs and government restrictions put on livestock numbers and fertiliser use in a bid to cut carbon emissions.

Last month, the Dutch cabinet announced plans for a £22bn programme to cut nitrogen emissions by 50% by 2030, to comply with EU regulations on nitrate pollution. In some areas, emissions cuts of 70% or more may be required.

Under the proposals, farmers would have to drastically reduce – by 40% – the amount of nitrous oxide and ammonia emissions their livestock produce, which would force many farms to downsize and some to close (see panel below).

Thousands of angry Dutch farmers have used their tractors to blockade ports, airports and roads. Straw bales have been torched in streets and manure has been dumped at government buildings.

Meanwhile, videos have emerged of Dutch supermarkets running out of food.

Now, in a show of solidarity, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish farmers have launched protests, in what is fast becoming an EU-wide campaign against “anti-farming” policies.

The farmers fear they could be next and that their governments will seek to impose similar climate policies to comply with EU rules, which they say would threaten their livelihoods and disrupt global food supplies.

On Wednesday 6 July, German farmers joined their fellow Dutch farmers to block roads into the city of Heerenburg, on the Dutch-German border.

In Italy, farmers have held tractor protests on roads in rural areas and have threatened to take their protests to the streets of Rome.

A video posted on social media shows dozens of tractors gathering on a rural road, narrated by one farmer shouting: “We are not slaves, we are farmers! We cannot make ends meet!”

In Poland, thousands of farmers held a protest in Warsaw, carrying anti-government banners and placards. They shouted: “Enough is enough! We won’t let ourselves be robbed!” and “We workers cannot pay for the crisis created by politicians!”

Polish farmers say the rising costs of production, especially fertiliser, are threatening their livelihoods. At the same time, they say their government is allowing cheap food imports.

On 1 July, Spanish farmers blocked the A4 highway in Jaén, Andalusia, to protest against the rising cost of fuel and essential products.

On Twitter a French account called “Le convoy de la liberté” (Freedom convoy) tweeted: “German farmers are also rising up. Dutch, Italian, Polish and German, it becomes a worldwide movement.”


The Hummer EV emits 21 grams of carbon dioxide per mile more than a gasoline powered Chevy Malibu

When it comes to exciting EVs, it’s hard to beat the new GMC Hummer. The brand-new GMC Hummer is General Motors' showcase of just how far it can push EV technology. This technological marvel may produce impressive results and capability, but the GMC Hummer falls short of the electric vehicle’s promise of reduced emissions.

A new massive Hummer seems to pop up every time the economy reaches a peak and goes on sale just in time for the impending recession. It’s no secret that the Hummer name is associated with off-road decadence rather than efficiency, however, this time, with its EV powertrain the new GMC Hummer was set to be the first environmentally friendly Hummer even built.

According to a study by ACEEE, a non-profit research organization focused on reducing energy waste and negating the impacts of climate change, the new GMC Hummer EV isn’t as green as it seems. Their research shows that the small Bolt EV emits 92 grams of carbon dioxide per mile while the new Hummer EV is responsible for 341 grams of carbon dioxide per mile.


Wind droughts

With the energy crisis prompting governments everywhere to turn coal plants back on, wiping out many years of hard won emission reductions in advanced economies, the major limitations of renewable energy have now, at last, been acknowledged by all.

Well, almost all, with Victorian government energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio in late June ruling out paying coal and gas companies to keep them operating as part of a proposed national capacity market, saying that the state’s new offshore wind projects will ‘blow any shortfall out of the water’.

Never mind that the bulk of the advanced economies, many with far higher dependence on renewables than Victoria, have such capacity markets – ideological demands must trump operational experience.

Chief among the lessons about those limitations is the phenomena now known as ‘wind droughts’. Late in 2021 as delegates in the annual climate summit, held in Glasgow that year were noisily demanding more renewable energy, the UK had to turn on mothballed coal-power plants because of a shortage of gas and a wind drought.

In an article on the Australian edition of the academic site the Conversation published in October 2021 a researcher in climate risk analytics at the University of Bristol in the UK, Hannah Bloomfield, says that the period of still weather around the time of the Glasgow conference resulted in the power company SSE reporting that its renewable assets produced 32 per cent less power than expected.

In the article Dr Bloomfield says these ‘wind droughts’ can be classified as an extreme weather event, like floods and hurricanes. Researchers in the UK have shown that that periods of stagnant high atmospheric pressure over central Europe, lead to prolonged low wind conditions over a wide area and those conditions may be ‘difficult’ for power systems in future. Further, Dr Bloomfield notes, it is important to understand just how such events occur, as that means they can be forecast and the grids prepared for them. There is no discussion about just how the grids might be prepared for such droughts and, in any case, scientists have enough problems forecasting the frequency and severity of cyclones during cyclones seasons, and are continually taken by surprise by floods, despite studying those extreme events for decades.

But it is known that just like rain droughts, wind droughts can persist for a long time.

During a wind drought in the UK in 2018, wind made no contribution to the UK grid at all for nine days and only slight contributions for another two weeks. In the wind drought of late 2021 noted earlier, there were days when wind made no contribution at all.

Then there are the much shorter periods, perhaps ranging from an hour or so up to a day that can also be found by anyone who examines wind’s contribution to total energy supply to the UK grid over time. However, the short and long-term wind drought phenomena has received some academic attention in the UK, it is difficult to point to any systematic study of the problem in Australia.

A few concerned citizens have looked at the easily accessible figures for wind production on the National Energy Market, the grid for Australia’s east coast, to find a number of periods where the whole of the NEM was in wind drought for periods ranging from a few hours up to 33 hours. But that study was for just one year, 2020. More extensive research could well find wind droughts of much longer periods.

Activists may sneeringly dismiss all of this as having not been done by properly qualified scientists. Very well, where is the independent analysis done by academics with qualifications of any kind? While they are on the job those same academics can work out just how much storage capacity would be required to tide the national market over for a day and a half. The NEM has north of 50,000 MWs (50 GW) of generating capacity. If for the sake of argument, we assume that an average of half that is used (more during demand peaks and less during troughs) in any given period, then the market may need around 900,000 megawatt hours to get through a 36-hour drought without fossil fuel plants.

The giant water battery known as Snowy Mountain 2.0 should store about 350,000 MWh, when it is finished and assuming that it can find enough fresh water, which means the NEM might need three or four Snowy 2.0s at a bare minimum, although only one is being built.

Batteries don’t count. The Hornsdale Power Reserve Battery built in South Australia in 2017 with considerable fanfare, for example, cost $90 million but stores just 125 MWh. The photovoltaic panels now on suburban roofs all over Australia are not subject to wind droughts, but they are at their peak around the middle of day, do not work well on cloudy days or at all at night, and the excess energy still has to be stored.

To make matters worse, grids have to be designed to cope with worse case scenarios such as a very hot day, which also happens to be a calm, cloudy day. Perhaps enough power might be stored to see the grid through one such event, but then when the Snowy projects have expended one load of fresh water through turbines to generate power, it may take days to completely recharge, so to speak, by having the water pumped back into it. What happens if another extreme event occurs soon after the first?

Activists insist that all these problems can be overcome simply be building more wind turbines, particularly offshore turbines as planned by Minister D’Ambrosio. In the days of sail, ships might be becalmed for days, but the trade winds which blow down Bass Strait are thought to be different. Well, are they? King Island, well out in Bass Strait, has the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project, part of which is a wind farm, plus solar power as a supplement to the island’s long-standing diesel generators. Material produced by the owner Tasmanian Hydro estimates that renewable energy now accounts for 65 per cent of the island’s power demand.

That’s fine but what about the other 35 per cent supplied by diesel? Why couldn’t the wind farm supply all of the island’s needs, and was the outcome worth the $18 million spent on the project, all to service the island’s 1,600 residents? The Victorian government could at least produce some material apart from activist assurances that its projected reliance on offshore wind farms will be anything but a disaster.




No comments: