Music Festivals – Beasts of Consumption and Waste

A seventy year old woman collects aluminum cans at the Jazz Festival in 5 Points, Denver while local police look on. No other visible recycling was available at this event.

It’s the beginning of summer in America and that means it’s festival season. Festivals are great ways to get members of the community out of their homes, into common spaces where mass quantities of food and beverages are made available for purchase at inflated prices and music fills the air so that people don’t mind so much. Underneath the pretty layers of Sun and Fun for the consumers are teams of laborers who’s responsibility is to ensure that the waste disappears from sight so that event goers have a wonderful time without the hassles of dealing with real world issues for a few hours.

In Denver, Colorado; the topic of trash became big news in 2017 when the expectations city planners envision when an event is held did not align with the specific permit code requirements. The original ‘420 Organizer’ Miguel Ortiz lost his permit battles and received a 3 year ban from getting permits in the city. The major event that has drawn out this conversation about permit holder responsibility. April 20th celebrations of Cannabis that occur in Denver – the first state in the US to authorize consumption of ‘Marijuana’ since the US created a global effort of prohibition in the 1900’s. Local organizers and permit holders who managed this event for years- have not had effective solutions for waste management and in 2017 had the authority to hold this permit removed. The 2018 event proved to be just as ineffective even though corporations took over the permit and responsibilities.

Wasteful consumption such as these plastic rings on alcoholic beverage tickets are an example of avoidable waste and

Complaints of trash in recycling systems are highlighting the issues specific to not having a standard of clear standards for recycling in the US. Since China’s 2017 ban on plastics that aren’t 99.5% pure, this issue is becoming more prevalent in the local conversations. Many communities have single stream recycling systems that are contaminated with materials that aren’t actually recyclable, a process called “Wishful Recycling“. This issue is why many events struggle to even attempt any form of recycling at music festivals.

What is the solution to solving this issue? There are several types of ideas that are presented. One of the most successful types of ideas is for concertgoers to get a single cup to use on arrival.

FloydFest hands a Klean Kanteen–conceived stainless steel pint glass to each ticket holder when they enter the festival, a move that nixes 100,000-plus cups or bottles that would’ve been used in their stead. Lollapalooza encourages attendees to bring their own bottles, and a whopping 1,136,313 of them were filled over the course of the festival’s 2016 run. (MTV,2017)

Waste Disposal station at an event in Denver, CO

Organizers have placed samples above each waste disposal bin station to show users where items belong.

This type of model reduces the quantity of plastics used by the tens of thousands. We need to establish an understanding that one cup per person for the event is viable, logical and not a violation of health codes.  Through this effort alone, massive amounts of single use plastics can be eliminated. Other efforts festival planners have attempted is single stream recycling, composting and landfill stations that clearly identify what products go where. In combination, some events are moving from plastic to biodegradable plant based beverage containers, providing water refill stations and eliminating straws from being used.

One problem that organizers face is that even among waste management companies there aren’t unified standards. Trash haulers like Waste Management and Allied Waste are still struggling to develop standard offerings for events and festivals as well as getting people to be effective at home. As these companies catch up to having standard offerings to educate people how to manage waste materials, they are providing single stream trash hauling from event sites. Recycling is generally not an option and sorting the waste after the event is not part of these services, sending most of the materials directly into the landfill.

Solutions for these issues must begin months before the events. To make public festivals sustainable events, partnerships between organizers, performers and corporations must be formed. Efforts to promote shifts in practices have to be promoted through both social media and direct communications to event goers at the time of ticket purchase. In addition educational signage at ticketing/entrance gates, at vending locations and at waste disposal sites are required. Provisions to have water refill stations are much less profitable than selling 12 oz bottles at $2 or more, but the bring real reductions in environmental impacts. As discussed in our earlier post, “I drink bottled water and recycle my bottles, isn’t that good enough?” , each case of plastic water uses an average of 2.25 quarts of oil just to manufacture and distribute.

These solutions are not always easy to implement either. In addition to acquiring equipment to meet the needs of thousands or tens of thousands of event goers, education of both attendees and security personnel is also key. Ensuring that all participants are aware of these efforts is also a real challenge. One advantage for many festival organizers is that participants tend to be environmentally contentious. This will be an advantage in helping Americans in shifting the conversation and practices of consumption.

Hopefully in the years to come, this will also shift the way we consume, helping Americans be more responsible in how we use the resources of the planet.
In the meantime, you can help. Write to local organizers requesting water refill stations, that permission to bring water bottles into venues and encouraging them to eliminate wasteful practices. Encouraging events to allow for multi use beverage containers, be it beer or water, changes the quantity of consumption at any event immediately. Most importantly, either by joining the event teams or by direct communication, stay actively involved in the discussion so that you will reflect the change you want to see in the world!

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Changing the Narrative – a look at our collective responsibility.

Cut The Plastic Environmental Mitigation Solutions  – Colorado / Fiji / Samoa
Plastic Pollution information to change your life Solutions to change the world

Plastics and our planet Urgent action is required by all consumers to reverse the course of destruction

 

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Styrofoam, several types of hard plastic, aluminum foil, tires collect among banana, taro, mangoes and more at villages in Apia, Samoa.  This scene is common among islands where recycling does not exist.

 

by Brian Loma – Founder Cut The Plastic EMS

If you’re reading this either in it’s original English, or translated into your local language, you have consumed, or purchased, plastic at some time in your life.  Plastic was used to store the ink this is flyer is printed on. Plastics have, for better or worse, changed the way humans consume and have allowed for major improvements in advancements for all of humanity.  Unfortunately, as humans continue to increase the quantities of plastic that we use year after year, the methods and amount of plastic that is recycled or used again to make new things does not keep up with the demand for plastic products.  

The role of Cut The Plastic EMS is to bring a closed loop consumption process to end users, reducing plastic pollution into the environment. By using modern technology to reprocess plastics on the very islands around the world where plastic is burned into the atmosphere or directly enters the ocean.  Instead, we can develop enhanced infrastructure to eliminate dependencies on single use water while creating jobs, and enabling villages to have sufficient water for drinking and crops.  By providing these resources, we close the gap in consumption, impacting health, poverty and long term impacts of poisoning by plastic.

Simply put, we use the post consumer plastic to improve the lives of people who don’t have the means to get rid of the waste.  On islands, like most places in the world there is no extended manufacturers responsibility.  In the United State we call them Deposits and they are only available in 10 of 50 states.  Paying to have the plastics removed by boat from one island to the next in reverse order is currently not an effectively practiced idea as it can be where things like glass bottling exists.   By incorporating a multi level community focused approach we have begun plans for providing long term solutions through strategic partnerships in Fiji, Samoa and beyond.

From Apia to Savaii

Plastics can be found on serene nesting grounds on the shores of beaches around the world, but they are not yet seen from views like this between the islands of Samoa

Closing holes in the consumption process to prevent environmental pollution is a social responsibility.

Microplastic, considered less than 3 mm in size, is already contaminating most of the world’s oceans, great lakes and many of the worlds water infrastructure.  The plastics are found in soaps, sanitizer, shed from clothing and come from larger pieces of plastic as they deteriorate in the environment. Plastic now contaminates all levels of ocean life, beer in Milwaukee via the Great Lakes, and Salt around the world.  Most microplastic comes from large plastic that breaks down into smaller pieces. These pieces attract chemical pollutants to their surface. The pollutants are then transferred up the food chain as the plastic is eaten and bio-accumulates up the food chain. To read more about plastic pollution and the environment read my piece : The Midway Atoll, an example of Plastics Destructive Power

Solving plastic pollution requires local clean, potable drinking water

Since Princess Diana first call for united change to impact the needs of water and food for those in Africa in the 1980’s, the urgency to ensure clean water access for all around the globe continues to grow.  Unfortunately, so does the planets dependence on plastic single use water. Each case of bottled water consumes approximately 2.25 quarts of oil – burned into the atmosphere, just to manufacture and deliver it for use in the United States.  If you drink a case of bottled water a week, that is ONE BARREL of oil burned into the atmosphere per year – just to drink water.


Global climate change is about increases in frequency and intensity of storms or weather patterns.  They are occurring because of the quantities of carbon we burn into the atmosphere, for things like plastic bottled water.  This is having long term impacts on island nations around the world. In Puerto Rico, like New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; access to clean water is an issue more than 6 months into the recovery relief.  It is for these reasons that communities throughout the world need to become self sufficient in ensuring that they have adequate access to clean water. Unfortunately, many in these far reaching places of the world, also buy and drink plastic water.  In these places most people don’t earn two dollars (US) per hour, a version of poverty is rampant.  In these places the plastic is burned into the atmosphere or ends up in the ocean.

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Classroom programs engage students in the conversation about Social Responsibility, Consumption Practices and how plastics need to be managed effectively.  These students from Robert Lewis College (High School) are well versed in plastics, pesticides and our bodies.

Recycling old plastic into new water collection systems.

In order to change this culture and to shift island villages into places where clean water brings greater economic freedom Cut The Plastic Environmental Mitigation Solutions.llc is designing a micro recycling factory to take to island overseas, as well as to encourage changes here in the States.  Previous articles like Issues Island Nations face with Modern Consumption Practices  look at some of the issues I’ve already examined by living in the South Pacific.  Based on these experiences I am on a mission to transform the post-consumer or ‘waste’ plastics into a clean water infrastructure.  By combing a variety of existing technologies like spooling, 3D printing, shredding and injection molding we can take old plastic and make new items out of it.  To learn more about plastic recycling and the processes we’re incorporating into our project be sure to check out Precious Plastic.   In addition to the shared global vision they bring, we are incorporating additional technologies and practices observed while researching life on islands south of the Equator.

This projects long term goals are: to reduce or eliminate dependencies on imported water supplies and single use plastics, crate jobs through the development of new recycling infrastructures and to close gaps in plastic consumption by utilizing manufacturing as the method to export post consumer plastics off the islands they are shipped to.  Additionally we’re hoping to improve the world around us, sparking the conversation around how we consume and what our social responsibilities are. We’re already engaging in the conversation and teaching people around the world to use less plastic and to be smarter in how they dispose of it.

Building a better future together

The next stage is rolling out the design and fundraising campaign. Later this summer we will be rolling out several campaigns both here in Denver and across the globe.  Our effort is to design and manufacture  portable wind and solar powered recycling facilities here in Denver utilizing ideas I gathered from a project in Swains Island that processes green bananas into flour using a shipping container factory and later found similar ideas in the Precious Plastic global community.  At the same time launching several partnerships through sponsored beach cleanups, teaching recycling practices and developing new locations where plastic materials will be sorted and stored, awaiting the micro factory arrival.  Our campaign will be teaching proper recycling techniques, which include eliminating consumption through responsible practices. The goal is to have facilities destined for the South Pacific Ocean and the island nations of Fiji and Samoa. We’re currently working with ministry and community leaders in both countries to approve initial target locations and to coordinate further education and mitigation projects.  


The entirety of these projects will be funded starting with social resource funding and targeting strategic partnerships with corporations that should be financially liable for the mitigation of the materials they sell that pollute our planet.  There are existing Social Responsibility entities whose coordinated relationships which will be announced also.

Why we need to rinse or wash plastic before recycling.

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This Starbucks beverage container found in Denver, CO is an example of contaminated plastic.

Have you ever purchased a car before?  Was the interior full of dirt, food crumbs and the debris of life from the previous owner?  How about your apartment or home?  Was the outside or floors covered in mud? The answer is likely, “No”.  When we buy cars, clothes, food or whatever – there is a general expectation that the item we purchase will be in good condition free of excess debris or dirt.  When most people are presented the same idea regarding the plastic and paper packages of waste from their food purchases, for some reason the idea doesn’t correlate.  However, this is a very real and basic reason that China set stringent conditions for contaminants in the plastic and other recycling that we create for processing overseas.

Reporting on a statement made to the World Trade Orginization in 2017 China, Waste 360 reported that US plastics are to dirty for use.

To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted. Protection of human health or safety; Protection of animal or plant life or health; Protection of the environment

These changes are causing the waste and recycling industries to look internally at the processes need to re imprint the culture. in order to create a cultural shift in our understanding. For now, the reality is that some states are telling consumers, this is garbage and you cannot put it in the recycling indicating that the inefficiency of our current system. In this January 2017 USA today article one single steam recycling faculty operator describes the problem-

“…all day every day there are plastic shopping bags (recyclable at a grocery store but not from a household), chunks of Styrofoam, diapers, syringes, food-contaminated containers … a nearly endless litany of things that residents throw into their curbside recycling carts figuring they are or ought to be recyclable.”

Contamination like straws, liquids and plastic bags are a daily problem for recyclers.

National waste management companies (USA) like Waste Management, Allied Waste as well as government and non government entities throughout the world are struggling with this problem as our populations continue to grow.

The problem in the US stems from the way beverage companies who oppose bottle bills or programs that ‘pay people to recycle’. According to the Container Recycling Institute, between 1989 and 1994, 14 billion was spent by the beverage industry to fight these laws.  This battle, fought by the beverage industry to deflect responsibility for the packaging materials they push into the consumption stream.  The fact that only 1/5 of the United States has a system of returning beverage containers in a deposit program says a lot about our basic cultural practices in considering the waste we generate.

In most industries, just like in recycling, the are basic standards. Those who are in the industry, including the scrap metal collectors who pick up appliances and metals off the roadsides and trash piles; understand that the “cleaner” the metals are, the more valuable they are. In my post, “Recycling household items- the fan, is it really worth it” I cover more on separating metals for increased value.  The cleanliness standards for plastic being set by recycling giant China, are too stringent to meet our cumulative  cultural understanding.  This means that when bales of recycling arrive in China, they can be returned to the US for being to dirty.

In the United States there is not a standardized national set of guidelines that are being taught as the proper process to organize and dispose of the ‘ things of life’.  Talking about our how we manage or process the ‘trash’ isn’t an exciting topic for most people.  This problem is one that organizations large and small alike struggle with.  How do I process this packaging so that its ready for the next step, and engage in the conversation so that company or community wide, people are working within the same standards.  Considering that for most people around the world, this isn’t a conversation that has ever occurred. The interaction between our consumption and its processing is currently, just beginning.  Because of these standards, as well as other struggles in ‘wishful recycling’ practices; Waste Management is among the entities driving the conversation. ‘Wishful recycling’ is putting things in the recycling that cannot actually be recycled via single stream. These include plastic bags, batteries, dirty plastic, Styrofoam (by community) and soiled food packages. Check out the video and hey, let me know your thoughts.

Mosquitoes, Litter and Disease – American Samoa has a litter problem that’s breeding and spreading disease

In October of this year the 7th annual Bilateral Health Summit of the Samoa’s. This health summit is held between the Samoa nations of Western Samoa and American Samoa were held in Utulei, American Samoa for 2016. The event covered a variety of topics over the three days of gathering. Some of the focuses being mental health, mosquito spread diseases, alcohol and woman abuse.  As an outsider growing up in the United States, is surprised at the apparent aloofness regarding addictions and abuse.

Image result for mosquito in american samoaThe event itself, while open to the public, did not have a large community participation of non medical personnel. Overall between the two delegations there appeared to be about one hundred people participating consistently over the week. Participating agencies were primarily government bodies and the attitude in general seemed to lack value toward NGO’s.  Catering provided dozens of waste plastics from water bottles, Styrofoam packaging, plastic containers and non compostable sandwich bags.

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The consumption of single use plastics is an epidemic as seen in this photo at a local church gathering.

For me, day two provided some of the most interesting material. The afternoon’s discussions surrounded Dengue, Zikia and other mosquito spread diseases. I leaned a wide spectrum about these diseases. The most important being that most diseases are not from the mosquitoes but spread diseases by going from human to human drawing blood. Over the last decade, both countries have endeavored to study and understand the impacts and causes of these diseases. This unfortunately is where the similarities seem to end.

What presents a stark difference is the responses to this issue by county. Overall the response to managing mosquito spread diseases is to manage the mosquitoes. To manage this problem in Western Samoa, agencies have taken drastic steps in several key areas. The biggest of these is trash management. Steps that were taken were to clean up the island by cleaning all trash throughout all villages. This included tire cleanup, fines for litterbugs and instituting a recycling program. Additionally the press has stayed involved, pressing the importance of litter control in this article. One of the ways villages were motivated to clean up their pollution was to open up tourism in villages by having visitors stay with families throughout the island, invoking island pride by having beautiful surroundings for their guests. Through instituting a recycling program, waste management practices became standardized and the understanding of individual responsibility became widespread.  Additional measures included the spraying of airplanes at the airport to reduce the chances of transferring mosquitoes from island to island, thus spreading more diseases to various islands.

Conversely, while American Samoan Heath Department officials recognize the importance of these programs but gathering inter-agency support appears to be an insurmountable task. Less than 16 hours after these presentations this example was seen in the attitude of American Samoa’s EPA director, Mr. Ameko Pato, who stated that recycling want a priority of the agency’s agenda. This is in direct contrast to both the stated needs of the Health Department and a planning meeting held with Region 9 EPA Director in July 2015.  Litter and trash reduction are important in some areas of the islands government agencies.  Radio advertizing can often be heard, ” I ain’t your momma; pick it up!”.  Additionally there are efforts by the American Samoa EPA  who are focused on a strictly voluntary program called “Keep American Samoa Beautiful” or KASB for short.  While this program was started in 2013, efforts to expand this program and enhance it’s efficiency are definitely needed.  Various attempts to join members of the community to clean up litter in American Samoa will leave one wanting…

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A Snail crawls over a littered Gatorade bottle – an example of mosquito breeding grounds in the jungle.  This plastic bottle could take more than 300 years to decompose.

 

 

Efforts to work with the Corral Reef Advisory Group, another community entity focused on cleaning beaches and preventing pollution from getting into the ocean – have provided little to no results, with email responses taking months at a time to be responded to; turning efforts from at least two faith based efforts away from this valuable community effort over the last 6 months of 2016.  Additional efforts, like charging fines for littering constantly face an uphill battle.  In 2016 legislature finally came out with plans to charge fines for littering – yes in 2016!!!! The responsibility falls among a variety of groups including EPA and other government officials as well as local village aumaga ( a group of men with no title who serve the village chief), but largely is NOT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY.

Why is it important to work together to clean up trash, especially litter on an island?  The answers are quite simple.  First of all, in tropical environments there is only one season.  It’s nice out.  That nice can mean rain and sunshine or just sunshine all day long, with spritzes of rain.  Rain brings water, water – STANDING WATER – provides the breeding ground for mosquitoes.

“Trash. All manner of trash, with rain water collecting in it, can be home to mosquitoes. This can be the case in many places you didn’t think of, such as a pile of lumber scraps, old mop buckets, hub caps, and tires. Patrol your property after every period of rain and dump out anything that collects water – and you might want to keep anything that collects water overturned or in the garage so that it doesn’t become a problem in the first place.” – from the website SkeeterBite

Mosquitoes suck.  Currently there are 12 different species of mosquitoes in American Samoa according to this press relase by the American Samoa Community College. Mosquito spread diseases are on the rise in American Samoa and according to the speakers at the conference, the majority of those infected are never tested due to a lack of capacity to test for the disease.  These diseases include Zikia, Dengue, filariasis and chikungunya.  With growing levels of pollution, there are growing levels of mosquitoes.  The only way to solve this growing problem is to clean up the trash and prevent it from accumulating around your home.   The most important space, to protect your home – is to ensure the removal of trash from about 300 feet in any direction, and to lead by example.

 

 

Some tips to running a successful community litter cleanup

 

 

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Students from the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado having fun cleaning the Cherry Creek in Downtown Denver as part of 2015 Earth Week Activities.(www.facebook.com/wassup)

Participating in a community based litter clean up group has many great benefits.  In addition to making an impact on the visible trash in the environment; cleanups are great ways to enjoy some sunshine, teach your children about littering, and to make or strengthen friendships.  If you aren’t already participating in a community cleanup, they are easy to start and a great way to meet new people or build upon the relationships between those in community organizations you are already involved in.  Here are some tips to making  your own community clean up teams experience a successful one that will last for years to come.

Partnerships

When it comes to the issues of pollution, there are already a wide number of agencies in your community who are fighting the problem and they are just waiting for you to reach out and contact them.  The first place you contact will probably be the only one you have to reach out to.  Start with your towns park district office or other natural spaces office.  These government entities are dependent on volunteers to assist with many community tasks like maintaining parks, bike paths and trails.  Without the hundreds of thousands of hours volunteers give annually across the country, guests and frequent users would find these areas in a significantly different condition.  One added bonus of working with these groups is that there are often volunteer appreciation events on an annual basis or other perks like passes into zoo’s or museums based on the number of volunteer hours.  More importantly, your local park district is likely to have the materials you will need to organize a monthly cleaning event, thing like garbage bags and trash grabbers, to be used free of charge.  Many organized administrators may also have their district mapped out by area so that no one group is cleaning an area that was just cleaned the day before by a different group.  They will also likely send paid staff out to collect the bags of debris collected so that your efforts are not wasted by animals opening bags searching for food.  Many agencies will also ask for a total of hours volunteered for statistical purposes.

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Small quantities of litter have become a big problem all over the world.

Organization

When it comes to planning a clean up, being organized is very important.  If partnering with an agency like the EPA, they may have scientific data to be gathered to assist in their continuing efforts to identify areas which need greater oversight and assistance.  Such scientific data often includes specifics like, how many aluminum cans, cigarette butts or plastic particles of debris were collected.  Plan on separating the debris by recyclable and non recyclable materials. Also make sure your partner organization knows when you are having your clean up so that they can come and remove the debris that is collected. Having a plan in advance of a team gathering will be especially important.  Identifying how many persons will be needed and their roles can help in recruiting to ensure that there are plenty of people to make the work load light.  Additionally, individuals who may not be able to physically bend and pick up human debris may be encouraged to come if they understand that there are different roles like data collection or event photographer to be filled.  Photographing your cleanups is always a great way to share the wonderful work your group is doing and at some annual volunteer gatherings photos of groups in action may be shared before or during the thank you ceremonies.

Other areas of organization should include – verifying the location, having adequate gloves, waste bags and garbage grabbers for those who will need them; having a map of the area to be cleaned and setting time limits.  If your group is going for monthly cleanups, setting a limit – generally 2 hours – will encourage repeat volunteers.  It can be easy to focus on the total amount of waste in an area, by setting time limits you help minimize the risk of burnout.  By sticking to your planned area and knowing that your group has done it’s part a sense of pride will be felt by all.  If there is more than your group can manage within it’s set time, there is always the opportunity to invite friends join in and cover more ground at future events.  It is also important to remember to provide an option for post clean up fraternization.  Finding a monthly community event like an art walk, or grabbing refreshments at a local favorite provides time for both talking about the action ( cleanup ) and strengthening bonds between participants.  This will be a reinforcement that builds repeat volunteers and often encourages them to bring a friend next time.

Social Media
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Besides likes and loves of photographs, social media can be a powerful tool in many ways.  Social media allows for volunteers to find and share pictures of their wonderful experience so that friends and family will consider both the act of cleaning up after others and thinking twice about littering in the first place.  Additionally, tech savvy volunteers will not only register for clean ups, but they can also take advantage of such features such as sharing and saving the event in their personal calendars so that they get a reminder on the day of that they have something important to do like help protect the planet they love so much!  Making a page for your group can also be a fun way to stay in touch about the global issue and solutions others are creating to fight the problem.  Make sure one of your volunteers is dedicated to catching people in the act of cleaning up, as well as taking photographs of the total amount of waste being collected.  Group photo’s are also an important way to show how much effort goes into keeping protecting the nature we love.  In time you may be able to use your groups photos to generate business support such as free or discounted food at your local gathering place or to ensure important grant funding for agencies like your park district who need it very much or placing infrastructure like recycling bins where they can do the most good.

I hope these three tips will be helpful in getting your group started in this important community responsibility, taking care of the world around us!  Pride in picking up is a great way to build community, get some exercise and make a difference in the world around you.

You can learn more about the need to clean plastic and other trash from these great websites:

http://www.earthguardians.org

http://www.5gyres.org/

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/

 

 

Issues island nations face with modern consumption practices.

Beach debris at Lion’s Park -Tutuilia, American Samoa shows the impacts of both localized littering and ocean debris being deposited on the shoreline.

In the modern era, gone are the days when whole island villages consumed all the food they needed by planting gardens, fishing in the ocean and picking food off of the trees.  With the modernization of consumption practices comes a whole new slew of issues island nations have to face.  These items can be listed in three major categories:  health, infrastructure and pollution.  Over the last 40 years as consumption practices around the world have significantly changed the way island communities interact with the world around them.

Non Communicable Diseases – Issues with Health

One of the largest problems with modernization of island communities is the overall diet that is being consumed by the population as a whole.  According to the World Health Organization, a transition has occurred from pathogen based diseases to food intake and activity based health concerns.  In the 2011 report on American Samoa the WHO reports;

“The most serious health issues relate to the increase in chronic diseases associated with lifestyle, with their roots in improper nutrition and physical inactivity. Significant increases in the prevalence of obesity, in both sexes and at increasingly younger ages, are associated with a number of these conditions. Hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, type II diabetes mellitus and its complications, arthritis, gout and some forms of cancer are among the most important chronic diseases. (http://www.wpro.who.int/countries/asm/1FAMSpro2011_finaldraft.pdf)

These dietary concerns are largely focused on the prevalence of foods packaged in metal lined plastic bags.  Prepackaged foods fall out of shipping containers like waves on a shore.  The names and varieties are as diverse as the country of origin the store owners call home.  In American Samoa, local markets are rarely operated by indigenous islanders and are instead run by entrepreneurs from places like Vietnam and China.  As part of the big picture of the problems with the local economy, this is one of the issues that many may point to regarding causes of money leaving the local economy at a catastrophic rate.  What can be said to be growing in America Samoa at an enormous rate is the wasteline of children.  With the prevalence of packaged food, the tastes of children are turning to this highly addictive, easy to consume food.  And the results are showing.  Diabetes, anemia, cancer and heart disease are all appearing as part of a modernized Samoa that are not part of it’s history and culture.  According to a guest speaker at a recent farming education event, the island of American Samoa is currently facing a 40% or greater population diagnosis of Diabetes.  This staggering statistic is supported by the American Diabetes Association

Pollution – What happens to all that packaging?

 Another part of the island life that was never part of it’s original heritage is the packaging from these manufactured goods.  Items like steel food containers, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and bags with a metallic lining are being shipped to the island and are offloaded from shipping containers by the tens of thousands every couple of weeks.  With these imported materials comes a requirement to dispose of these materials on island or export them for reclamation of the natural resources they contain.  In the case of many Pacific Island Nations with no recycling programs, the eventuality for the majority of these items is the community landfill.   For islands with recycling initiatives in place, these programs are often source separated materials – requiring individualized participation at a community drop off point instead of curbside pickup.  The need to expand collection he problem can be addressed by acquiring the next stage in technology, MRF Units.  The issue is expanding the capacity to recycle to include single stream sources like generated from public recycling containers like those found in community parks and at business locations, further allowing or even mandating by law – curbside collection that occurs in most, but not all, states.

Littering is a common behaviour in American Samoa.

Aluminum cans are littered into this hole in the sidewalk on a regular basis even though they are collected multiple times a week. This type of mentality shows the lack of education and need for local recycling programs.

What do you do when there is no concentrated focus on recycling as part of the cultural norm?  Unfortunately, as is often seen in American Samoa, where the focus of recycling does not exist – excessive littering and open burning of trash does.  This creates two specific problems.  One, emissions from burning trash are often toxic, especially when burning plastics and hazardous materials like batteries.  In addition, island based littering adds to the global burden of mitigating ocean pollution efforts by groups like The Plastic Pollution Coalition and 5 Gyres.  Due to the creation of litter on island nations combined with relatively short distances for litter to travel to reach the ocean,  much of this debris can become ocean debris as it enters streams and estuaries that feed into global currents.

With limited space to increase infrastructure, meet growing population needs and prepare for rising sea levels  expected with continued melting of the global ice shelves and glaciers; island governments will face many difficulties between balancing the population’s desires for manufactured and consumer goods and the need manage the waste stream produced by a growing consumption of these goods.  Without the implementation of infrastructure to separate and process the packaging from these goods, many governments are likely to find themselves beyond reasonable capacity in managing their island’s waste streams.

Unfortunately, even with a focus toward capturing recycling goods, there are other issues to be focused on throughout the search to develop solutions.  One reason recycling programs often have difficulty taking off is the cost of shipping materials off island.  When local businesses ship items inbound for the community to purchase, it’s easy to add the costs of shipping these items into the retail price.  However, without enhanced manufactures responsibility to reclaim or assist with the costs of shipping the items or their packaging off island, governments will continue to find the cost of shipping recycled goods to be greater than the resale value of the raw materials themselves.  It will only be with a blend of government action, education, and increased infrastructure that the combined issues of healthy lifestyles and waste management can be effectively tackled.

It’s all about the MRF (merf) unit, A look at the potential growth of recycling in Kauai, HI.

One of the blessings of this trip is being able to have educated conversations with one of the people responsible for recycling programs out here in Hawaii.  It’s been a great warm up on this journey to reengage in the discussions of waste management that I enjoyed in the classes and interviews leading up to my graduation from Metropolitan State University in Denver, CO.  In my conversations and visual touring of places around the island of Kauai, there have been several things that point in one direction – to the effective capture and separation of consumed materials as a key factor holding back increased recycling rates.  This is a bold statement, and one many readers won’t understand off the bat; so let’s take a minute to break this down.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County.  Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County. Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

One of the first things I recognized about being in Hawaii is that the types of recycling accepted is far out of proportion to what I am currently accustomed to. In the majority of North America, recycling systems accept the majority of plastics, including Styrofoam products.  The reason for this ties into several global factors.  The first is a concern about the value of shipping things in adequate quantity.  When a manufacturer or point of sale location orders product, they generally follow principles of economics where the products will be delivered ‘on time’; or when they will be needed for the purpose of the specific operation.  These quantities are required to fill demand, in this case the second concern – sufficient quantities of source separated product.  For post-consumer plastics there are many aspects of the brokerage requirements, including minimum packaging requirements, generally at minimum – one shipping container of source separated product.  This requirement is the same in Denver as it is in Kauai.

I have been pleased with the interaction I have been able to have with the Kauai Solid Waste Management representatives and the level of presence they have attained here in Kauai.  I have found many aspects of the recycling program quite interesting.  The first is that there is a Bottle Bill in place, and actually it is the last one passed in the US, “celebrating over 6.6 billion containers in the last decade”, according to the official government’s info website.  That’s a lot of plastic!

In addition to the idea that only #1 and #2 plastics are currently processed through a recycling stream,  at the county’s government building in Lihue, HI for example there are 4 separate recycling containers! They are for: a) 1 and 2 plastics only (no black plastic allowed), Glass and Aluminum, Cardboard, and Steele.  This system is designed to allow members of the community access to drop of materials should they so decide.  For businesses, this type of separation will prove cumbersome.  In order to increase the overall effectiveness of closing the loop between purchase and capture of consumable packaging single stream recycling will have to become available for this island nation.

For many, the culture of recycling on the island is becoming one that has the look and feel of a natural process.  Throughout the communities are recycling drop of stations where HI5 and other materials can be dropped off.  There are accessible containers in many parts of the community and overall the towns I have been to all have minimum micro trash issues.  It may be due to the lack of single stream systems, but I have noticed that the majority of business spaces do not have public recycling.  Businesses like the ABC Stores, banks and restaurants may have in house systems for their employees to use in the back of the house, but the access to the common public is sorely lacking.  Municipalities will find this struggle to be one that cannot be won unless the process is easy to manage – like single stream recycling offers.

In order to build this type of facility, there are going to be many steps to the process. Fortunately for the citizens, many steps of the process are well under way.  To have a closed community with both a plastic bag ban and a bottle bill is a wonderful thing to find.  Unfortunately there are battles that still have to be fought.  Corporations seeking to sell mass incineration systems regularly press municipalities attempting to convince government officials that purchasing this incineration management system is the solution to their problems.  We already know that burning anything leads to excess greenhouse gasses, something that is bad.  ( If you want to know more – check this page out – it’s great for your whole family!)

For more information on recycling programs in Kauaii, HI please check out this awesome page!

http://www.kauai.gov/Government/Departments/PublicWorks/SolidWaste/RecyclingPrograms/TheKauaiResourceCenter/tabid/108/Default.aspx

Dead white corral and no sea shells – a first observation

On September 6, 2015 I left for the “other side of the world”, to places I have never been but have read about in books and online.  The anxiety and angst of leaving the comforts of home, exhaustion from spending the last week packing over and over again, and the stresses of being in a horrible automobile accident where the at fault party could have very well lost his life had all taken a toll on me, but life and time move forward.  The process of experiencing change is very important to me.  To be in the midst of changes in the global processes means that the battlefront is exactly where you and I are at this moment in time.  According to many including 5 Gyres, our first challenge is to REDUCE the amount of manufactured goods we consume on a daily basis.  Here are some important words from “The Dude” – Jeff Bridges about this specific issue via his partnership with the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Having arrived on the island of Oahu and have been on the island for 24 hours, I have had the pleasure of touring the island, seeing many beautiful locations.  The beaches we swam in were beautiful, but turbid (cloudy/murky)   from recent tropical storms and hurricanes that have been traveling through to Pacific Ocean.  There were not large quantities of plastics or any waste on the beaches I went to.  Much of the beach had storm debris and dead corral that has come in from the storms that have been occurring. Based on tidal patterns, the north shore of Kauai is relatively immune from ocean plastic.  Today I anticipate going to see some of those beaches.  I was quite intrigued to learn about the hurricanes and had to do some research of my own this morning.  This brief article by Mother Jones will provide some greater insight to both the weather and an some of the leading agencies indicating why this trend will continue to grow. In addition to going swimming and snorkeling in the Pacific Ocean, we took a tour of some of the places on the North Shore like animal sanctuaries, recycling drop off locations including places where Jurassic Park was filmed like this scene!

Last night I had the pleasure of speaking to one of the island’s civil servants, one whom is responsible for much of the island’s recycling efforts.  With effective recycling at about 40%, with directional movement towards 70% – I enjoyed an insightful, and very tired, conversation about the issues and struggles facing creating regulations to require effective solutions that are integrated into all parts of culture.  Many of the classroom discussions from the last 2 years have popped into my head over this time.  The visits and interviews with the operators of MRF units in Denver like that of Alpine Waste.  MRF Units are where single stream recycling occurs.  This system is not currently available on most islands, but is a type of facility that more and more communities are developing, as the greater demands for reclaiming natural goods instead of filling landfills.  Here is a quick video about how these units work.

As I awoke today, I spent some early morning time to meditate on the things I have experienced.  The strongest of all yesterday’s activities was the fact that while swimming and snorkeling, I recognized lots of bleached, dead corral in the water and on the beach.  This occurs when the acidity of the water, CO2 concentrations and other factors cause corral reefs to die.  In addition to the dead corral, I noticed the lack of sea shells.  We did find 3 yesterday, ones that were on the inland side of the beach, at the farthest reaches where waters could come ashore.  The real and lasting impact of carbon emissions, waste management and agricultural processes and tourism are visible already, and the vision of the dead corral awakens me.

Plastic recycling, water conservation and good values, something you don’t see everyday.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like plastic.  I don’t like that in many ways I’m forced to over consume the natural resources of our planet while working to survive our planet. So when I purchase plastics I recycle them, and I do what I can to make up for those that don’t.  At work and school I openly remind people of the importance of conserving and recycling all the materials we use.  Don’t get me wrong, the concept and use of plastics can be a good thing.  Honestly, I prefer plastic that allows me to live a better life, while minimizing overall consumption. This means that I want products made in the USA and they should be made  of recycled plastic.  In addition I want to avoid the sins of green-washing and I want it to minimize my overall carbon footprint.   My three most important pieces of plastic are my water bottle, my coffee cup and my public transportation pass.  Each is reusable, and minimizes my impact on my planet by minimizing the need  for  mining the oil, generated electricity and greenhouse gases and over-consumption of water that is required to generate unnecessary waste materials. In addition my participation in the process helps to establish societal norms like refill stations that are built into water fountains, and coffee shops giving a discount for bringing your own cup.

Tonight, while surfing the web and reading about barges being used to clean up rivers, plastic recycling concepts and solutions, I was watching a rerun of Shark Tank  and it really stirred me, so much you have to learn about this too!!!  I have it brings value and reduces my overall footprint.  I have a plastic  I’m looking for some specific things.  I want the plastics I invest in to represent a benefit to society.  The modern use of plastics, when originally presented to the word were supposed to be a benefit to the planet.  Common ideology in cos  When the company goes the extra mile and finds methods to take existing waste plastic and recycle it, I’m all ears.  When you lay out a simple and logical example of effectively creating long term waste elimination processes while protecting natural resources and reducing the use of  fertilizers I’m excited.  And that’s why I can wholeheartedly get behind a company like Tree T-Pee.

One of the things that makes me feel so good about this guy is how I learned about him.  I was watching a national TV show, and on the show walks in a man, not like the rest.  He cares about doing the right thing, about water and farmers an American business man, trying to do a better job of taking care of those people who lived in the direct 9 acres around him. What he didn’t see, and almost missed out on, was that these people mostly saw his product as a $10 profit. He presented himself in a way that just struck me, its a rare breed of man.  What also makes this so stirring to me is that he really brings value.  The concept of recycled plastic that reduces water consumption and the water cost of feeding society.   Its low tech, but it works.

And here’s how it gets even better – what these ‘businessmen’ missed out on, is that this product concept could be worth BILLIONS.  Something they obviously missed as they were so intent on jacking a product’s profits so they could sell these for a fat cat sack of money.  I am so glad that there are times when the wealthiest of fat cats are blinded by their greed and the needs of the common person, the other 99% if you will, that the miss an obvious window of opportunity to fleece the people of the world.

Most people are unaware that the effective rates for water evaporation from irrigation systems has farmers from all over the United States paying attention.   In recent years farmers in Kansas and Nebraska have begun making agreements limiting their water consumption because the Ogallala Aquifer is becoming dangerously low, especially when the majority of water used in irrigation evaporates or  dissipates as groundwater.  In addition private corporations are continuing to seek ways to purchase your natural resources, and not so they can protect them.  Examples of this can be seen in the drought conditions that occurred in Texas last year, forcing families to be unable to turn on the water faucet to receive potable water, while fracking operations continued to demand – and consume – clean unpolluted water for the sole process of making it unconsumable by humans ever again.

Which brings me back to Tree T-Pee.  Not only is owner, Johnny Georges, an obviously passionate man – he cares about the people who’s lives he is interacting with.  This is a quality not commonly seen in the world of public media, big business and the faceless corporations.  Johnny Georges, was a man who took his passion as his lively hood and stands to make a difference in the lives of humans around the globe.  Water issues are becoming a greater and greater topic of concern in institutions everywhere, just type “Water Crisis” into any search engine and you may be stuck reading articles for weeks to come.  The idea that we can use simple technology to build a long lasting product that provides value for citizens AND incorporates the concepts of “Reduce” and “Reuse” – this product definitely has my stamp of approval.

Update: How could I forget,

How the Philippines disaster from Hurricane Haiyan will highlight problems with material recycling.

Hurricane Haiyan was hitting the interwebs as it’s oceanic pathways and expected approach to land predicted the one of the worst environmental events in modern history.  Now that it has hit and global communications are exposing the real damage of this storm, the world is witnessing one of the worst events in modern history.    According to a blog by Dr. Jeff Masters, this hurricane is  the strongest hurricane to hit land in recorded history and the worst in over 50 years.  In the coming days the news will cover nothing but this hurricane, and the world will unite to support the  100’s of thousands that will have a catastrophic change of life having survived the event.  In reality this support is needed.  The spread of disease due to dead bodies, the need to clean debris, to sort natural resources and waste, to reestablish an infrastructure and provide food sources, machinery, medical care and most importantly consumable water.  Agencies like the Red Cross, who have already sent support teams, are fundraising and the world is looking at this disaster with compassion and heartache.

This is a good thing, for people in our world to tend to the needs of those that don’t have – especially in times of dire troubles.  The sad thing is that as our populations continue to grow, the impact of weather events will continue to worsen.  There are several simple truths to be examined that will help put this into perspective.  First of all, it is proven that people are drawn to live in areas of mild climates, with fresh water and bountiful food sources.  According to a newscast by CNN, Florida is a perfect example of this fact.  Some data from the video – if a storm the size of Hurricane Haiyan hit the state of Florida, over 11 Million people would be displaced due to flooding in a state that produces over 1 billion dollars worth of food each year.

It puts things into an interesting scope for me because I have been on the teeter-toter lately with the feasibility in instilling change in humanity’s capacity to react to the environmental remains of such a tragedy.  News casts are already reporting the ‘need to take care of the living’; which is a true and necessary component of surviving a tragedy.  Having been in and out of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina I know how slow the recover process is.  The mass scope and level of reclaiming the ability to reuse land effectively continues to be a struggle in Haiti as this Nation still struggles to rebuild amid the lessons of ‘effective humanitarian aid’ do’s and don’ts.  If you are unaware, this blog from Jezebel.com provides some great insight to the real tragedy as Americans have unintentionally polluted and caused more harm in the inability to process excess waste products, primarily due to over consumption, but also out of good will.  It was the Haiti event that most recently pulled so many together, seeing such devastation so close to home.  This is I believe, the biggest event with loss of life in a single day in my lifetime.  I say that very specifically because, with the waste of humanity strewn about everywhere, diseases- especially waterborne, are going to be a prevalent issue of concern in the weeks to come.
In addition, the timeline of cleanup must be prompt and swift.  Our military will be moving in to assist,  and one of the fist and most necessary requirements is that the bodies be removed.  In such a temperate zone, decay is rapid and will cause the spread of human and waste borne diseases rapidly.  To complicate these matters, metal, plastic, wood  debris will be mixed within making these areas necessary for quick remediation or habitats for mosquitoes will quickly increase and the spread of disease like Malaria will spread.  In addition to insects, the debris poses a special problem – a mass amount of it is not made of natural materials.  In this island nation, where will all the garbage go?
My opinion is that many of these masses of materials will end up as ocean pollution.  Besides the masses of material that washed out to sea, much of the material currently clogging streets, all the stuff of society – will be stuffed in a landfill, maybe even have a new one created in the middle of the jungle.  Either way, the one thing that you won’t see happening on a grand scale – recycling.   As we globally prepare to handle circumstances of the environment, humanity needs to find or create greater ways to manage cleaning up the messes we make through consumption.