E-Waste: Why You Need To Recycle It

The following article was submitted by Melissa Maranto. Melissa studied English at UCLA. She is now a magazine editor who still loves the beach as much as she did as an undergrad.

It’s estimated that up to 50 tons of electronic waste, or e-waste, is generated worldwide each year. E-waste consists of electronic devices such as computers, circuit boards and broken office supplies — anything that’s electronic that has been discarded. And while e-waste might not seem like that big of an issue going to the dump and landfill along with all of the other garbage, think again — it is a big issue and can have extreme health and environmental effects.

Many municipalities have begun to organize electronic waste recycling days where residents are invited to bring any unwanted devices for proper discarding to help reduce the amount of e-waste that hits the landfills. But e-waste still remains a worldwide problem that needs fixing and fast.

Just why does e-waste need fixing? Consider the following reasons why it can potentially be so harmful and why you should properly recycle it:

Lead

You know those old box TV sets we had before plasma, LCD and LED took over the television landscape? They contain lead, so much so that it’s estimated that it could potentially be as much as eight pounds per unit. That’s a lot of lead getting thrown out when you upgrade to better, more modernized sets. And chances are, these sets are going out on the curb with commercial waste, leading to a lot of lead in landfills. While waste industries are doing their best to dispose of dangerous items, this has the potential to become a serious health threat to humans, animals and the environment. Lead is just one example of many highly toxic chemicals that are found in e-waste, many of which can lead to reproductive disorders and cancer.

Injuries

Despite some of the hazardous chemicals found in e-waste, there are also beneficial metals such as aluminum and copper which can be salvaged and sold. But then you’re opening yourself up to even further injury by risking abrasions and cuts when roaming through the dump to find materials that could be salvaged. Not to mention that it’s never a good idea to roam around a landfill with harmful chemicals and waste that could get you seriously ill. This type of scavenging leads to increased criminal activity and increased attendance at landfills. Good things don’t typically occur when you mix people and landfills.

Take it down to zero!

Pollution

A common way to manage trash in landfills is by burning it. Ideally, this strategy helps eliminate the waste through combustion. But it has the potential to cause great harm to the environment when e-waste is being torched. That’s because harmful chemicals often found in e-waste are even more hazardous if they enter the atmosphere and can cause more than just pollution, but a significant decline in air quality. And e-waste pollution is likely not only to affect the air, but the water quality as well.

For instance, any e-waste that sits for periods of time eroding in landfills can seep toxic chemicals into the soil. This can eventually find its way to the lakes and ponds, which then eventually trickles into the water supply. Studies have shown that residents have a higher presence of toxic metals in their blood in countries that report high e-waste numbers.

It’s Available

Why should you recycle e-waste? Well if all of the reasons we’ve listed off above aren’t enough, why not do it because it’s available. As we previously mentioned, many municipalities are holding electronic waste recycling days where residents can drop off old items so they can be handled properly. Many recycling centers now offer e-waste recycling as well — all it takes is a quick trip.

Threatened and Endangered Plants

When we think of endangered species, we generally think of animals.  However, most people are usually unaware that plant species are endangered as well.  There is actually a species of tree that is so rare that there are only two remaining in the entire world.  In Japan there are even two ginkgos in Hiroshima that were there when the atomic bomb was dropped, and although they were partially burned, they are still standing today.

Bois dentelle flowers
Bois Dentelle – There are only two remaining in the entire world

Many of the causes for endangered plants are similar to those of animals, such as habitat loss, changes in climate, other species disappearing, etc.  They are also affected by changes such as soil chemistry and drops in pollinator population.  Many plants are endangered because of the drop in the pollinator population, as some plants are pollinated only by certain birds/insects/bats.  Gymnosperms are the most endangered plant group – gymnosperm meaning that their seeds are exposed; like a Ginkgo or conifer tree.  Plants play a very important part in every ecosystem, they are the basis of the food chain.  Many herbivores eat only certain plants or certain parts of the plant.  Other animals also depend on the fruit and flowers of plants for making nests.  While they are unable to move, plants are constantly busy making seeds, absorbing nutrients and water from the soil, and soaking up sunlight for photosynthesis.

Baobab Tree

About 1 in 5 plant species are endangered.  There are about 9,322 endangered plant species, and that is probably a low number.  There are most likely many species which have not yet been discovered, but are already endangered.  Plants are most threatened in South and Central America, Africa, Australia and parts of Asia.  This is probably because of the deforestation of tropical rainforests in these areas, and in places such as Australia and the Galapagos there is also the threat of invasive species.  The Plant Kingdom is equally threatened as mammals and even more threatened than birds.

To name a few, examples of endangered plants include the Amazon lily, blushing bride, gingko, baobob tree, bois dentelle (of which only two remain), Venus flytrap, tatan arum, black bat flower, and green jade flower.

What are some ways we can protect plants around the world?

 

Amazon Lily

 

Do The Right Mix

 

Are you keen to promote sustainable mobility?  Or maybe the high gas prices are affecting your pocket, or you’re looking to improve your health by getting more exercise.  There’s a new mobility culture going on across the EU!  Soon, automobiles will not the only methods of transport available in most cities in Europe.

By doing the Right Mix, you can discover not only many benefits to public transportation you might not have been aware of before.  Most people aren’t aware how automobile dependency affects and limits their choices and everyday lives.  It can affect things like where you work, live, and time.  When looking for a house or apartment, you might want it to be close to the freeway.  Or you might want to get to work an hour early to avoid traffic.  Or, as Dr.Blight discovered, it can be a major drawback when you’re trying to avoid being caught.

Advantages to doing the Right Mix include meeting new people on public transportation or through carpooling, or making the most of your time by checking email, or reading the newspaper while on the bus or train.  Others are saving money on fuel, making the planet cleaner, and staying healthier by walking or cycling.

Cities where public transportation usage is high can save up to 500 litres of fuel a year.  It can also make cities more livable by reducing the need for roads or freeways, and also cutting down on traffic noise, and traffic accidents.  If everyone started doing the Right Mix, much of what is roads could actually be converted to parks, for example.  This would also mean eliminating parking lots, which also consume a lot of space.  This can also even have an effect on the temperature.  Asphalt can hold in a lot of heat and helps create ‘heat islands’.  If even half of the roads and parking lots were replaced by vegetation it would probably lower the temperature significantly.  This, in turn, could cut down a bit on air conditioning use, especially in hot climates.  Those are just some examples of how doing the Right Mix can affect only one city.  It could also have an effect on the whole planet.  If the cycling rate in the entire EU was the same as in Denmark, where the average person cycles 965 km a year, this could cut down on transport emissions by 25%.  That’s just in the EU.

The EU believes that cities should be rewarded for their efforts.  Like the European Green Capital Award, the EU offers a SUMP (Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans) Award.  Do the Right Mix is part of European Mobility Week, but is all year round.  Like European Mobility Week, the award focuses on a different theme each year.  The theme for 2012 will be ‘Stakeholder and Citizen Participation’, in 2013, ‘Integration of Economic, Social, and Environmental Policy Criteria’, and in 2014, ‘Monitoring Implementation to Improve SUMPs’.  But it’s not just towns and cities that get the award.  Three individual winners will be chosen and receive a reward as well.  You can post your own success stories on the Do the Right Mix website.  The deadline to submit your application will be November 9 of each year.

Automobile Dependency

Today is World Car-Free Day.  In celebration, let’s talk about something that plagues most of the world: Automobile Dependency.

Automobile dependency is a term used to describe the predicament in most cities in the US, Canada, and to a lesser extent, the larger cities in the European Union.  Automobile dependency in a city implies that automobiles are the dominant source of transportation, denying residents freedom of choice about the way they live and move around the city.  This may sound a little harsh and extreme, but in many cities it’s actually very true.  It’s nearly impossible to live without a car in some cities.

One of automobile dependency’s biggest problems is traffic congestion.

One can sit for hours in traffic on freeways.  This produces a demand for more and bigger roads and the removal of impediments to traffic flow, including pedestrians, cyclists, traffic lights, and street based public transportation, such as streetcars and buses.  After all, no one likes to be stuck behind the bus, especially at a bus stop.  The removal of these impediments then makes driving a car more advantageous, leading to an even bigger increase in automobile use.

Automobile dependency also has an effect on urban design.  Space is needed for parking lots and bigger roads causing there to be an even longer walking distance from one building to another.  It’s much easier and convenient to drive across the parking lot rather than walk all the way across it and back.  These kinds of environments make it not only more convenient for automobiles, but less convenient to walk, leading to increased automobile use which leads to more traffic congestion, increased road usage and parking space, continuing the cycle.  Roads and parking lots get bigger, consuming space which could have been used as farmland, for housing, parks, or other buildings.  Public transportation becomes less available, and can even be socially stigmatized.  No one likes to be riding the bus when everybody else can drive.  It might make people think you can’t afford a car.  People’s choices and mobility without a car are greatly limited.  It’s very hard to live in an automobile dependent city without a car.  Cars are not a luxury only certain people can afford in such cities, but a necessity.

Automobile dependency has a vast effect on the environment.  Not only do cars emit greenhouse gases, but also consume large amounts of fuel.  Today it seems more fashionable and appropriate to drive an SUV, which being bigger requires more fuel and emits more greenhouse gases, instead of a small car.  Small cars seem to have become for the most part a thing of the past.  And even in automobile dependent cities, people don’t really take care of their cars the way they should.  Few people take their car to the shop to be checked often, replace parts as often as they should, and check the tires.  Usually, people wait until a problem happens before taking their car to the shop.

There are a number of plans and designs approaching the issue of automobile dependency, many focusing on urban design and investment in good public transportation.  In some automobile dependent cities, it is not only socially stigmatized to ride the bus, but also inconvenient in that there are few bus stops, the bus stops at a particular spot only a couple of times a day, and sometimes, that the buses breakdown often.  It’s not exactly surprising to see a bus that broke down.  There is also research into the future of the automobile industry in designing smaller cars and more sustainable fuel resources.  Another way to address the issue of automobile dependency would also be giving people more transportation options by making public transportation better and more accessible, adding bicycle paths and walkways.

So, Planeteers, how would your life be different without your car?  How can you change your habits to use your car less?

Lions killed in Kenya

 

Six lions were killed in the capital of Kenya in the early morning of 20th of June.  This happened 15 kilometers south of Nairobi Park.  The lions were two females, two juveniles, and their two cubs.

 

 

Many local communities argue that the losses of their livestock by lions and other predators are not taken seriously by the government.  A few days before, residents on a revenge mission killed a leopard who had strayed from the Thogoto forest and killed a goat.  That the government has said they will arrest those responsible has only hardened the community’s stance.  A resident said that he was ready to go to jail to defend his community’s livelihood.

 

The Kenya Wildlife Services tried to catch the lions after they had wandered into the village, and dissuade people from killing them.  However, some people became too rowdy, and it was not possible to stop them from killing the lions.

 

Lions are listed under Vulnerable.  Only about 2,000 lions remain today in Kenya, and the number is quickly decreasing.  Lions will not usually hunt livestock or hurt people.  Beef or mutton are not exactly high on the lion menu, and lions prefer to hunt mostly what their mothers teach them to hunt, such as water buffalo, zebra, and wildebeest.  However, with the growing population in the cities, not only is there less land for the lions, but also for prey animals.  With the land being turned to use for urbanization and agriculture, this also disrupts the migratory routes the herds follow in search of water and fresh grass.  In the 1970s, large herds of wildebeest were a common sight.  Now, there are little more than a handful left.  Nairobi Park, where the lions live, is now surrounded on three sides by Kenya’s capital city.

 

Many people are trying to come up with ways to help lions, including building livestock enclosures called bomas.  This has decreased the rate of lion predation on livestock, which has decreased retaliatory killing of lions.  Educating the population about conserving wildlife is also important.

Effects of Global Warming on Oceans

 

One of the major effects global warming has on oceans is the rise is sea level, but it is not limited to rising sea levels.  There are many other ways in which climate change will affect the ocean and marine life.  It might seem at first that marine life would benefit from the rising sea levels.  The oceans will get deeper and bigger, giving marine animals more room.  But like many things, it’s not that simple.  Already many species are now on the endangered species list due to the effects of climate change on the ocean.

 

The rise in sea level can pose a problem for many animals that live in the shallower part of the ocean on the coast and on the coasts themselves.  Coral reefs and sea grasses depend on the shallower water and might not be able to adapt quickly enough to the rising sea levels.  Coastal habitats and those in the intertidal zone are also lost.  Natural and manmade barriers such as cliffs or walls also stand in the way of migrating inland.

 Tide pool     Rock showing different levels

 

Apart from the rising sea levels, global warming will cause the oceans to be warmer as well.  The water absorbs the extra heat.  Many species require a certain temperature to feed and reproduce.  With the warmer temperatures, many animals will migrate away from the equator towards the poles in search of cooler waters.  As they keep going towards the poles, eventually they will have nowhere to go.  The changes in temperature will also affect the weather patterns which in turn will affect ocean currents.

 

Melting of the polar ice caps will also affect animals such as polar bears.  Diminished sea rise will result in loss of habitat for polar bears, penguins, walruses and other animals that inhabit the Arctic and Antartic.

 

There is then the chemistry of the ocean itself.  Burning of fossil fuels not only releases greenhouse gases which are contributing to climate change, but it is also altering seawater, making it more acidic.  Acidification harms ocean plants and those animals that build shells of calcium carbonate, both which provide habitats and food for other organisms, as well as coral reefs.  Warmer water also less free oxygen than cooler water, leading to hypoxic or even anoxic areas in the ocean.  This makes it more difficult if not maybe even impossible for fish and other marine animals to survive in the water.

   

Predators

 

Vulnerable, threatened, endangered, critically endangered.  Many people are aware of many species which population is dropping.  But what about those which population is rising?  Could these be considered vulnerable or threatened?

 

Normally, such things would not happen with wild animals.  The population is kept steady by predators.  In the episode Night of the Wolf, Gaia explains a bit on the relationship between prey and predators, using wolves and elk as an example.  When hunting, predators look for an animal that is at a disadvantage, and first eat the old and sick animals, or foals/calves.  This ensures the survival of the strong animals, and controls the population.

 A herd of wildebeest A herd of elk

 

It’s not pretty and might even seem cruel to some people, seeing lions, leopards, hyenas, wolves or other predators hunt and kill other animals, and then feed on the carcass, but as Gaia said, ‘nature isn’t always pretty, but it maintains a balance’.  Predators play a very important role in their environments.  Without predators, prey species breed beyond their food and water supply(population boom), ending up with more animals than the environment can support.  This can then end up with individuals competing for the now scarce resources, with many dying of thirst or starvation, leading to a drastic drop in population(population crash), which in turn might lead to extinction.  Overpopulation of one species, also affects others, such as the plants they eat, which can lead to habitat loss for other animals, and other animals that also share the same habitat.

 

    

 

It’s not likely that animals can become extinct through predation, since as the population of the prey animals grow, so does the population of predators that feed on them.  The same happens when the population of the prey animals drop.  Predators can actually increase biodiversity by ensuring that one species does not become dominant.  Removing then can have a drastic effect on the balance of organisms in their ecosystems, as was seen with the removal of wolves at Yellowstone Park.  Many predators, such as tigers, are on the endangered species list, and many others, such as lions are listed as vulnerable.  Unfortunately, as was the case with the wolves, people fear many predators.  It’s important that people understand all predators’ ecological role.

Pet Overpopulation

 

Each year almost 8 million strays or more are taken in by animal shelters.  About half of these animals must be euthanized because there are simply too many pets and not enough homes.  Euthanasia in animal shelters is actually the leading cause of death for dogs and cats in the United States.  Many of these animals could have made wonderful pets if they’d been given the chance.  There are many causes for pet overpopulation including irresponsible breeding, choosing to not spay/neuter, and ‘disposable’ pets.

 

 

A lot of the animals in animal shelters aren’t just litters of kittens and puppies.  Many are stray or owner relinquished.  Sometimes it is necessary for people to relinquish their pets, however, many pets are relinquished simply because they have become an inconvenience, or even because as they’ve grown up, they are no longer cute.  A big one is also moving.  Instead of taking their pets, some people choose to leave them behind, some even leaving them tied in the yard with no food or water.  Others are left to fend for themselves, and when not brought to a shelter, usually starve, freeze to death, get run over by cars, or die of heatstroke.  Apart from the effects on the animals themselves, they can also have an effect on the environment.  They can spread disease, and hunt wildlife.

 

 

To help these animals, there are things everyone can do:

 

  • The most important would be to spay/neuter your pets.  Sometimes at certain shelters you can bring your pet to be spayed/neutered at a reduced cost.  This will help prevent that other puppies and kittens don’t end up on the street or at the shelter.
  • When getting a pet, consider adopting from a shelter.
  • Before getting a pet, remember that you are making a lifetime commitment to your pet, and consider all the responsibilities of owning a pet.
  • Educate friends, family, and co workers on the problem of pet overpopulation and the importance of spaying and neutering.

 

If there are stray dogs or cats in your neighborhood, you can call Animal Control, or a shelter.  Chances are, if there’s a cat, it might be part of a cat colony.  Most dogs can usually be taken and adopted.  Cats can go feral in only one generation and are usually then not adoptable.  The best option would be TNR(Trap Neuter Return).  You trap them, neuter them, and return them to the same place.  It’s not ideal, but at least they won’t breed.  Also, it’s not recommendable to put food out for strays.  Especially if there’s more than one, pretty soon they’re going to move into your yard, and it can be quite difficult to get them to leave.

Dawn of Solar Energy in Arizona

The state of Arizona is known mostly for its arid climate, and of course, for the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. With a sizable quantity of open and flat landscape, and a virtually unlimited supply of sunlight, Arizona has the potential of becoming ‘the Persian Gulf of Solar Energy’.

Although solar power has been suggested for Arizona before, it hasn’t developed due to the high cost and a large scale solar power plant requires a unique set of conditions including an area unaffected by summer monsoons and heavy blowing dust. Another consideration is water, as a solar power plant requires more cooling water than nuclear power plants.

Arizona is also home to Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station, which is the only nuclear generating station not built close to a large body of water. They use evaporated water from treated sewage as cooling water instead. Palo Verde supplies power not only to many parts of Arizona, but also California and other states.  There are currently plans to build several solar generating stations, including Solana Generating Station, among others. Solana is being built 70 miles southwest of the state capital, Phoenix. Solana Generating Station is to be one of the largest solar power plants in the world; laid flat, Solana’s mirrors would cover 36 football fields.

Touchdown!

Construction began in 2010, and the plan is for Solana to be producing energy by 2013. It is being built by Abenoga, a Spanish solar company, and already has several small power plants in Spain. Solana will be their largest project to date. Solana will have a total capacity of 280 MG, enough to power 70,000 homes without emitting greenhouse gases, including 475,000 tons of carbon dioxide, and would cut out 520 tons of sulfur dioxide and 1,065 tons of nitrogen oxides. This would be the equivalent of removing almost 80,000 cars from the freeways a year. Solana will also have six hours of storage for cloudy days, and will help meet the demand for the energy used for air conditioning during the summer.

Apart from the environmental benefits, there are also economic benefits to using solar power, including:

  • · 280 megawatts of power
  • · 1,500 construction jobs to build the plant
  • · Over 85 full time employees to run the plant, and thousands of indirect jobs
  • · Uncertainty over the rising and unpredictable price for natural gas, coal, petroleum and other fossil fuels

 

22 Years of Planeteers

Cap’s first appearance, 22 years ago today.

September 15th, 1990.

That’s the day children around the world were introduced to the world’s first “eco” superhero.  The first show to attempt to teach us about our surroundings, and how we could make a difference in them – even as children.  The show that motivated us, inspired us, and told us “the power is yours.”

It’s hard to believe it’s been 22 years – after all, it doesn’t feel like that long ago I would play “Planeteers” with the other kids on the playground.  You know, I don’t remember anyone ever being Cap; we wanted to be Planeteers.  I was always fire.

Even more amazing to me is that today marks the second anniversary of the launch of the Planeteer Movement.  A little over two years ago, I had begun working with Captain Planet co-creator Barbara Pyle on various projects when she began unveiling an idea that had been forming between her and a group of young people she had brought together.

A little back-story: Barbara, in her various travels, had both sought out and been sought out by young people who felt the show made a significant impact on their lives.  They professed their “Planeteerdom” to her, that they believed the show was much more than a cult 90’s phenomenon, and had actually reached our generation deep down and changed the way we look at the world.  She showed me a book she had put together, “The Moral Imperative to Bring Back Captain Planet,” dozens of pages long filled with quotes, emails, and testimonials from fans.  This was not a one-or-two person thing.  The idea that Captain Planet changed the way our generation perceives the environment literally extends across the globe.

A core team began to form, driven by the idea that if we could reach out to fans of the show who believed in the power of Captain Planet’s message, that message could live on through us.  The Planeteer Movement, we decided to call it.  Once we launched the webpage (the one you’re on right now) and began interacting with the fanbase, we saw it grow; and grow; and it continues to grow exponentially.  I will never forget the incredible moment when Captain Planet hit 500,000 fans back in February – wow!  In reality, there are many, many more fans out there – it’s been estimated that the show potentially reached a billion people in its original run. They may not have all added Cap on Facebook yet, but it’s been proven time and time again that our generation operates with an enhanced knowledge of environmental and social issues – because of the questions the show forced us to ask ourselves as children.

So here we are, at the 22nd anniversary of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and the 2nd anniversary of the Planeteer Movement’s launch, on Captain Planet Day!  If you believe that the show made you a stronger person, let’s continue to share Cap’s message.  Show the series to your kids.  Watch it with your friends.  Look back, laugh, and enjoy what once was a staple of our childhoods and continues to live on inside us.  Because we’re the Planeteers, and you can be one too.

Join series Co-Creator Barbara Pyle and Exec. Producer Nick Boxer today on Reddit for a fan Q&A where YOU ask the questions TODAY (Sept. 15th) at 3PM Eastern!  Here’s the link: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/zxr0j/we_are_barbara_pyle_and_nick_boxer_cocreators_and/