Saturday, June 4, 2011

Solutions to Plastic Pollution

Trash that would be buried and useless
Plastic, paper, and cans recycled instead of landfilled
Kathy Russell from TFC Recycling is one of the many people trying to make good on one time use plastic, paper, cans, and cardboard.  Her work is on the other end of the spectrum from Algalita's, 5Gyres, Jennifer O'Keefe, Danielle Richardet and what I’ve been doing over the past few years.  While we have been researching the breadth of plastic pollution and educating people on the problems with one-time use plastics, the people of TFC Recycling have been taking on this issue from another angle.  They’re giving trash value and I’m a firm believer once we give trash value, we’ll make sure it goes where it belongs, like putting money in a bank.  We don’t just throw money on the ground – that would be silly.  So is it to throw trash on the ground. 

Trash that is burned to create steam energy
The materials collected from "trash" generate dollars for this business.  These items end up going back into more products instead of sitting on the floor of a landfill while we cut down more trees, drill for more oil and gas, and extract aluminum from the earth.  Of course the companies that do that work don’t like recycling.  These businesses lose out even though their some of the richest companies in the world.   How do we fight big business?  Use less plastic and one time use items and recycle the ones you do. 

Because of Kathy’s connections we, the Richardet family and me, were also able to visit the Hampton/NASA Steam Plant.  Here they take garbage and burn it to create steam for our government lab research.  The emissions are of critical concern and of course one of my most pressing questions.  According to our tour guide, the plant surpasses  government standards of emissions meaning they burn cleaner than legal requirements while reducing the demand for petroleum, coal, and natural gas.  And other than trucking it around (we have to with petroleum, coal, and gas anyway) it is free energy.  Makes more sense than drilling miles off shore and a mile deep into the ocean floor.  Not that there aren't risks but it is much easier to put a fire out on land than it is to contain millions of barrels of oil sprawled 1000s of miles across the ocean or getting chemicals out of drinking water from fracking for natural gas.  Think about it.