Recycling crisis: China rejects most of our plastic. Now what?

With probes and clipboards, Chinese inspectors tour Bay Area recycling centers at least once a month, testing our trash to see if it meets their new high standards.

Until recently, almost all of our vast piles of plastic and paper refuse were sold and shipped overseas, promising a new life for much of what we so blithely tossed away.

Now much is rejected as wet, dirty or worthless – a reversal that has turned our once-reliable recycling world upside down, as prices plummet and the cost of cleanup soars.

As a result, California’s once-proud recycling reputation is in a tailspin. About 35 million tons of garbage were dumped into landfills in 2016, up from 29.3 million tons in 2012. Recycling rates have fallen from 50 percent to 44 percent. The state’s goal of reaching a 75 percent recycling rate by next year is slipping further away.

With a shrunken market for our waste, fewer materials can be reclaimed – forcing us to re-think familiar conveniences. Certain plastics and papers are the biggest problem, especially if soiled by food or fluids. Careless customers may discover a note on their bin or no pickup at all.

That stuff inside your blue bin used to be worth about 65 cents. Now it costs 47 cents to haul it away and find someone who wants it.

“We’ve been lulled into thinking that we don’t have to pay for what’s put in the recycling cart,” said Mark Bowers of Sunnyvale’s Materials Recovery and Transfer Station, which sorts and processes much of the Peninsula’s solid waste. “But we do.”

Our largest customer, China, was overwhelmed by the West’s waste. So it cut off imports of all but our cleanest and highest-grade materials — allowing only certain plastics, corrugated cardboard, newsprint and a few other categories. It has imposed a 99.5 percent purity standard …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


Federal government opens probes into mysterious fires in Kia and Hyundai vehicles

Courtesy Center for Auto Safety

Courtesy Center for Auto Safety

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Courtesy Center for Auto Safety

Courtesy Center for Auto Safety

Courtesy Center for Auto Safety

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened formal investigations into spontaneous fires in thousands of Kia and Hyundai vehicles that have resulted in more than 100 injuries and one death.

After much prodding, the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation announced Monday it has launched two separate probes to nail down the whys and hows of the mysterious fires.

Drivers report eerily similar experiences of tooling along at 60 mph when they hear an abnormal banging noise, lose power, and watch with horror as black smoke and flames pour from under the hood. That happened to a driver in West Hollywood, whose Kia Optima hybrid was totaled, and to a couple in Big Bear who learned their Optima’s turbocharger “was glowing red hot like lava.”

Variations on the theme have befallen Hyundai and Kia drivers in San Clemente, Pico Rivera, Corona, Santa Ana, Chino Hills, Rialto, Norco, Tracy, Sunnyvale, Eureka, San Jose, Taft and hundreds of other cities across America, according to complaints to the NHTSA and the Center for Auto Safety.

Officials have logged 3,125 reports of similar fires in the cars, according to the NHTSA.

The automakers — both with North American headquarters in Orange County — have recalled more than 1 million cars in the wake of unexplained fires. The latest probes involve about 3 million vehicles, so more recalls may be on the way.

The action is a victory for the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, which last June asked the NHTSA to investigate the fires and take firmer action to protect the driving public.

“It is long past time for the full power of the federal government to be brought to …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


Shell is parting ways with U.S. oil lobbying group because it doesn’t support fighting climate change

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell said Tuesday it’s leaving the U.S. lobbying organization American Fuel & Petroleum Manufacturers (AFPM) because a review of Shell’s industry ties uncovered “material misalignment on climate-related policy positions with this association.” Among the disagreements cited was AFPM’s lack of “stated support for the goal of the Paris Agreement,” which Shell backs, and approval of President Trump’s efforts to roll back auto mileage standards.

“The rupture signals how Shell and some other oil giants, largely headquartered in Europe, are moving more aggressively on climate than the petroleum industry as a whole,” Axios explains. But of the 19 trade group memberships Shell reviewed, under a deal reached in December with green activist investors, the oil giant severed ties only with AFPM. Shell found “some misalignment” on climate policy with the top U.S. oil lobbying group, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, but it pledged only to “continue to engage further with these industry associations to promote climate-related policies that support the goal of the Paris Agreement.”

…read more

Source:: The Week – Business


GOP and business groups nervously mull how serious Trump is about closing the U.S.-Mexico border

Economists and business groups say the costs of President Trump following through on his threat to close the U.S.-Mexico border would be very bad or worse, but many Republican lawmakers appears to believe there would be a political cost, too. A day after Trump’s top aides insisted he wasn’t bluffing in his weekend tweets and statements, “even administration officials and congressional Republicans were bewildered and guessing at his next move,” Politico reports.

Trump has not taken any concrete steps to shut legal ports of entry, a “reasonably easy” thing to do “operationally,” The Washington Post reports. And he has been quiet on the issue since returning from Mar-a-Lago late Sunday night. But Republicans are torn between regarding his threat as mere “bluster” or taking it seriously, Politico reports, “and some Hill Republicans warned that any dramatic disruption to regular traffic across the U.S.-Mexico border could bring Trump into a new confrontation with his own party.”

Closing all or even some lanes at ports of entry to some or all types of traffic would disrupt trade with America’s third-largest trading partner, likely causing shortages and price hikes on everything from fresh produce to electronics, disrupting business supply chains, and stranding U.S. citizens in Mexico. It wouldn’t slow the influx of migrants between ports of entry, the proximate impetus for Trump’s threats.

In fact, “the administration already has taken some of those actions, though they have gotten little attention,” Politico reports. “Customs and Border Protection said in a March 29 memo to shipping companies, importers, and other businesses that it would halt a Sunday screening program for commercial trucks at a Nogales, Ariz., port of entry and blamed an ‘unprecedented humanitarian and border security crisis’ for the cutback.” The Department …read more

Source:: The Week – Business


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