Environmental studies and Forestry


Environmental studies and Forestry

Do you know what happens to your MSW after it leaves your home? Find out (try the web or calling your county or city or waste hauler) and let the class know where it goes (as in its FINAL destination using the name of a place – city or town). If you had a choice what do you think is better – incineration or landfill? This is AFTER you have reduced, reused and recycled. Defend your choice.

Fixit: Nonstick pans caught up in a sticky controversy
Fixit Karen Youso,

A panel of scientists advising the Environmental Protection Agency recommended two weeks ago that a chemical used to make nonstick and stain-resistant products be considered a “likely carcinogen.”

Nobody knows for sure if it causes cancer in humans. The chemical’s effects on health or the environment are not understood.

That’s troubling considering that the synthetic chemical in question, perfluorooctanoic acid (called PFOA for short), has spread around the globe.

To the surprise of scientists, it’s found in the blood of nearly everyone tested. Practically every newborn on the planet is born with some PFOA. Animals are contaminated, too. Even those as remote as the polar bear and albatross have PFOA in their bodies.

Bringing the issue home — to the kitchen, specifically –some people wonder: Is my nonstick cookware safe to use?

It’s not a new worry.

Question with a history

Twenty years ago, when Minnesotans began to notice that the coating on their newfangled nonstick pots and pans was chipping, peeling and getting into their scrambled eggs, they asked: Is this harmful?

No, was the FDA’s answer. The chemical coating is inert and basically passes right through the body. The pans are perfectly safe to use.

Later, people heard reports that nonstick cookware killed canaries. They wanted to know if it was true.

Oddly enough, it is. When hot, nonstick pans emit fumes that can sicken and kill pet birds. But it’s only a problem for birds because they’re so sensitive, experts said. Birds also are affected by fumes from overheated cooking oil and new carpet. Just keep birds out of the kitchen, was the advice. The pans are perfectly safe to use.

Then came the reported case of a cook with “polymer fume fever.” That’s the flu-like illness first found in factory workers exposed to overheated polymers, the coating on nonstick cookware.

But it’s very rare and unlikely to happen in conventional cooking, a nutritionist said. As long as the cookware is not abused — such as cooking at 500 degrees for four hours — risk is nonexistent.

The Environmental Working Group, an industry watchdog organization, disagreed. Its tests showed problems occurring within minutes after nonstick coatings were heated on a kitchen burner.

Now nonstick cookware is under suspicion again. This time it’s not the fumes or the chips, but PFOA itself — used in the production of nonstick coatings.

Dupont, the manufacturer of Teflon, maintains that PFOA isn’t a big problem because little or none is left on the finished cookware. The EPA agrees. Nonstick cookware is safe to use, they say. 3M, a longtime maker of PFOA, stopped its production in 2004. Dupont and other manufacturers are phasing out the use of the chemical.

On the other hand, scientists think that other chemicals associated with nonstick may break down in the body and the environment to create PFOA.

Still uncertain about your nonstick cookware?

Even if you change to stainless steel, cast iron or anodized aluminum cookware, that won’t be enough to avoid PFOA, because it’s everywhere. To avoid contact, you’d have to:

• Forgo microwave popcorn and takeout pizza and fast foods. It’s commonly applied to the packaging of greasy foods, including fast-food French fries.

• Forget about rain-repellent coats and stain-repellent clothing.

• Get rid of carpet and household goods, such as the clothes iron or curling iron, which can have nonstick coatings. Even cosmetics, such as nail polish, may use chemicals similar to PFOA.

But don’t think even those measures will make a difference. After all, how did the chemical get into polar bears?


Send questions to Fixit in care of the Star Tribune, 425 Portland Av. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488, or call 612-673-9033, or e-mail fixit@startribune.com.


Watch “The Story of Stuff” at http://www.storyofstuff.com/
Watch the original 2007 20 minute movie. It is way at the bottom of the “other movies” button.Or this direct link might work http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/ The others are optional if your interest is spurred.Here is the you tube link for it (using Mozilla) https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=story+of+stuff&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002
Follow the trail of toxic e-waste on “60 minutes” (air date 11-19-08)http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/11/06/60minutes/main4579229.shtmlIf it tells you to subscribe to watch, here is the u tube link on mozilla, for the moment anyway https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=25jyPURkJVM


Let’s get radical! Go to http://www.garbagewarrior.com/


Watch the full length trailer for the film (graphic language).
Then click on “about” and read the brief description


For best results it is generally best to copy and paste the links into your browser.


There will be exam questions from these materials.
Doug Grow: Puny Township 1, Big Ag 0

By Doug Grow

You’ve surely never heard of Ripley Township, in Dodge County in southeastern Minnesota.

It’s 6 miles by 6 miles (most townships are) of mostly flat farmland. There are only about 115 registered voters in the sparsely populated place, but they may be the feistiest 115 in all of Minnesota.

The residents have been battling, in no particular order: Dodge County government, state politicians, state boards, state agencies and the powerful corporate giants of the agriculture industry.

So far, puny Ripley is holding on just fine.

On the surface, the issue is the desire of a New Jersey investor to build a 3,000-cow dairy operation in the township. Seventy-five percent of the township residents oppose it.

“But this isn’t about a township versus a big dairy operation,” says Kerry Schroeder, one of three supervisors on the Township Board. “This is about a township protecting its people. It’s about a township doing what the people want. It’s about democracy.”

Sweet sentiment. But most of us have grown cynical when it comes to what happens when the will of people runs up against corporate dollars. The dollars win.

But in this case, the dollars are being held at least to a tie. The Township Board, so far, has been able to block the unwanted factory dairy farm with a temporary zoning regulation.

Big ag has not given up. And big ag, like other business giants, has become adept at coming across as our friend.

In Minnesota, Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, is a face and voice of agribusiness, though the industry has many friends in high places. Minnesota’s governor and commissioner of agriculture, for instance, believe that when it comes to farming, bigger is not only better, it’s inevitable.

A farmer himself, Dille wrote a 13-point plea during this legislative session calling for the end to the “feedlot wars,” which he traces back to the mid-1980s. The first three points: 1) Peace; 2) Harmony; 3) Love.

The Senate adopted his letter as an official resolution.

“All I’m saying is that we have a serious situation in Minnesota,” Dille said in a telephone interview. “I’m just saying we should respect all approaches to growing the livestock industry. Promote your way of operating; don’t tear down the other person’s approach.”

When Dille describes the proposed Ripley Township dairy operation with as many as 3,000 cows, you can almost smell the sweet scent of lilacs wafting from the manure pits.

Everyone would benefit from this fine operation, he says.

Dille says he doesn’t necessarily believe that small farms are doomed, but then, he rattles off doomsday statistics. There are 80,000 farms left in the state, but only 9,000 of those farms gross enough to support a family.

In Dille’s world view, “Three farm families were just trying to pool their resources so they could make a living.”

What of the New Jersey investor behind the deal?

“Yes, I’ve heard something about that,” Dille said, before going on about the poor families who received permission to start the operation only to have the Ripley Township Board “pull the rug out from under them.”

But Dille really doesn’t blame the people of Ripley Township for all the tumult. He blames his favorite target for all things bad, a nonprofit called the Land Stewardship Project.

“I’ve tried to make peace with them, but all they want to do is fight,” he said. “… They’ve come into this and made a mountain out of a molehill.”

Schroeder scoffs at the notion that Land Stewardship has stirred up trouble. (The project’s main mission is to foster sustainable agriculture and communities.)

“They came in because they were asked,” Schroeder said. “They’ve done a good job.”

And the fight, as it turns out, is much bigger than one factory farm vs. one little township.

Ripley Township’s resolve has shown the ag industry that something needs to be done to take away the zoning power of these troublesome townships. Legislation expected to make it through the special session would chip away a small hunk of township autonomy. Dille is trying to work in language that would overrule the Ripley Township action that stopped the factory farm.

“But I don’t think my language will pass,” he confessed.

That’s because the people of Ripley Township and their friends have refused to roll over.

“We don’t believe the Land of 10,000 Lakes should become the Land of 10,000 Manure Lagoons,” Schroeder said. “And we really believe the people should have a voice.”

Doug Grow is at dgrow@startribune.com.

© Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.

Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up

Jodi Hilton for The New York Times

“We never saw this coming,” said Johnny Gold, an official of the Newark Group, at the company’s plant in Salem, Mass.


Published: December 7, 2008

Trash has crashed.

Skip to next paragraph Across the country, materials like paper and cardboard are accumulating by the ton. The economic downturn has decimated the market for recycled materials like cardboard, plastic, newspaper and metals. Across the country, this junk is accumulating by the ton in the yards and warehouses of recycling contractors, which are unable to find buyers or are unwilling to sell at rock-bottom prices.

Ordinarily the material would be turned into products like car parts, book covers and boxes for electronics. But with the slump in the scrap market, a trickle is starting to head for landfills instead of a second life.

“It’s awful,” said Briana Sternberg, education and outreach coordinator for Sedona Recycles, a nonprofit group in Arizona that recently stopped taking certain types of cardboard, like old cereal, rice and pasta boxes. There is no market for these, and the organization’s quarter-acre yard is already packed fence to fence.

“Either it goes to landfill or it begins to cost us money,” Ms. Sternberg said.

In West Virginia, an official of Kanawha County, which includes Charleston, the state capital, has called on residents to stockpile their own plastic and metals, which the county mostly stopped taking on Friday. In eastern Pennsylvania, the small town of Frackville recently suspended its recycling program when it became cheaper to dump than to recycle. In Montana, a recycler near Yellowstone National Park no longer takes anything but cardboard.

There are no signs yet of a nationwide abandonment of recycling programs. But industry executives say that after years of growth, the whole system is facing an abrupt slowdown.

Many large recyclers now say they are accumulating tons of material, either because they have contracts with big cities to continue to take the scrap or because they are banking on a price rebound in the next six months to a year.

“We’re warehousing it and warehousing it and warehousing it,” said Johnny Gold, senior vice president at the Newark Group, a company that has 13 recycling plants across the country. Mr. Gold said the industry had seen downturns before but not like this. “We never saw this coming.”

The precipitous drop in prices for recyclables makes the stock market’s performance seem almost enviable.

On the West Coast, for example, mixed paper is selling for $20 to $25 a ton, down from $105 in October, according to Official Board Markets, a newsletter that tracks paper prices. And recyclers say tin is worth about $5 a ton, down from $327 earlier this year. There is greater domestic demand for glass, so its price has not fallen as much.

This is a cyclical industry that has seen price swings before. The scrap market in general is closely tied to economic conditions because demand for some recyclables tracks closely with markets for new products. Cardboard, for instance, turns into the boxes that package electronics, rubber goes to shoe soles, and metal is made into auto parts.

One reason prices slid so rapidly this time is that demand from China, the biggest export market for recyclables from the United States, quickly dried up as the global economy slowed. China’s influence is so great that in recent years recyclables have been worth much less in areas of the United States that lack easy access to ports that can ship there.

The downturn offers some insight into the forces behind the recycling boom of recent years. Environmentally conscious consumers have been able to pat themselves on the back and feel good about sorting their recycling and putting it on the curb. But most recycling programs have been driven as much by raw economics as by activism.

Cities and their contractors made recycling easy in part because there was money to be made. Businesses, too — like grocery chains and other retailers — have profited by recycling thousands of tons of materials like cardboard each month.

But the drop in prices has made the profits shrink, or even disappear, undermining one rationale for recycling programs and their costly infrastructure.

“Before, you could be green by being greedy,” said Jim Wilcox, a professor at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. “Now you’ve really got to rely more on your notions of civic participation.”

Skip to next paragraph The impact of the downturn on individual recycling efforts varies. Most cities are keeping their recycling programs, in some cases because they are required by law, but also because the economics, while they have soured, still favor recycling over landfills.

In New York City, for instance, the city is getting paid $10 for a ton of paper, down from $50 or more before October, but it has no plans to cease recycling, said Robert Lange, the city’s recycling director. In Boston, one of the hardest-hit markets, prices are down to $5 a ton, and the city expects it will soon have to pay to unload its paper. But city officials said that would still be better than paying $80 a ton to put it in a landfill.

Some small towns are refusing to recycle some material, particularly the less lucrative plastics and metals, and experts say more are likely to do so if the price slump persists.

Businesses and institutions face their own challenges and decisions. Harvard, for instance, sends mixed recyclables — including soda bottles and student newspapers — to a nearby recycling center that used to pay $10 a ton. In November, Harvard received two letters from the recycler, the first saying it would begin charging $10 a ton and the second saying the price had risen to $20.

“I haven’t checked my mail today, but I hope there isn’t another one in there,” said Rob Gogan, the recycling and waste manager for the university’s facilities division. He said he did not mind paying as long as the price was less than $87 a ton, the cost for trash disposal.

The collapse of the market is slowing the momentum of recycling overall, said Mark Arzoumanian, editor in chief of Official Board Markets. He said the problem would hurt individual recycling businesses, but also major retailers, like Wal-Mart Stores, that profit by selling refuse.

Mr. Arzoumanian said paper mills in China and the United States that had signed contracts requiring them to buy recycled paper were seeking wiggle room, invoking clauses that cover extraordinary circumstances. “They are declaring ‘force majeure,’ which is a phrase I’d never thought I’d hear in paper recycling,” he said.

Mr. Arzoumanian and others said mills were also starting to become pickier about what they take in, rejecting cardboard and other products that they say are “contaminated” by plastic ties or other material.

The situation has also been rough on junk poachers — people who made a profitable trade of picking off cardboard and other refuse from bins before the recycling trucks could get to it. Those poachers have shut their operations, said Michael Sangiacomo, chief executive of Norcal Waste Systems, a recycling and garbage company that serves Northern California.

“I knew it was really bad a few weeks ago when our guys showed up and the corrugated cardboard was still there,” he said. “People started calling, saying ‘You didn’t pick up our cardboard,’ and I said, ‘We haven’t picked up your cardboard for years.’ ”

The recycling slump has even provoked a protest of sorts. At Ruthlawn Elementary School in South Charleston, W.V., second-graders who began recycling at the school in September were told that the program might be discontinued. They chose to forgo recess and instead use the time to write letters to the governor and mayor, imploring them to keep recycling, Rachel Fisk, their teacher, said.

The students’ pleas seem to have been heard; the city plans to start trucking the recyclables to Kentucky.

“They were telling them, ‘We really don’t care what you say about the economy. If you don’t recycle, our planet will be dirty,’ ” Ms. Fisk said.


Last Updated on February 14, 2019 by