Standing at the base of the MILENA gasifier, research scientist Mark Overwijk (second from left) explains its applications. (David Helfenbein for The WorldPost)

Hidden behind undulating sand dunes and fog rolling off the North Sea, the sprawling, gated campus of the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands (ECN) sits on a spit of land about an hour north of Amsterdam. Crying gulls circled a building crammed with pipes, machinery and scaffolding, while in a nearby control room, engineers in yellow hardhats peered at a confounding series of digital flowcharts and graphs. They were working on one of clean energy’s intransigent problems: how to turn waste into electricity without producing more waste.

Decades ago, scientists discovered that when heated to extreme temperatures, wood and agricultural leftovers, as well as plastic and textile waste, turn into a gas composed of underlying chemical components.…  Seguir leyendo »

Workers dismantle old computers at an e-waste recycling factory near Bangalore. Photo: Getty Images.

The latest Global E-Waste Monitor places India as one of the highest contributors to global e-waste, generating over 2 million metric tonnes in 2016. Posing serious health and environmental risks, growing e-waste represents the hidden cost of increasingly digital lives in an information society.

With just 33 per cent of the population owning a smart phone, India already has the second largest number of smart phone users in the world, nearly 4 times that of the United States. The amount of e-waste generated will exponentially increase in the coming decade as the cost of consumer electronics decline, middle-class incomes rise, and the frequency at which devices are discarded increases.…  Seguir leyendo »

This is an article from Turning Points, a magazine that explores what critical moments from this year might mean for the year ahead.

Turning Point: France becomes the first country to outlaw food waste.

Not long ago, just before boarding a trans-Atlantic flight, I overheard a woman tell her friend that she had packed her own water bottle because she disliked wasting all the plastic bottles given out on planes. A few minutes later she was on the phone with another friend, explaining that she was on her way to Europe for the weekend to shop and relax.

Which got me thinking about food waste.…  Seguir leyendo »

Es la ecología una religión

La ecología se reivindica como ciencia. Pero, si leemos a Karl Marx, el socialismo, en su época, también se consideraba «científico»; las ideologías avanzan siempre disfrazadas. Lo que es realmente científico, como bien ilustró el filósofo Karl Popper, es lo que se puede criticar: el conocimiento solo progresa por lo que Popper llama « falsificabilidad ». Lo que es correcto es lo que puede demostrarse que es falso. Pero intenten debatir con un ecologista. Es imposible. Desde el momento en que uno no está de acuerdo con su credo medioambiental, es un hereje. Para los ecologistas, hay que amar a la Tierra antes que a los hombres y la naturaleza prevalece sobre la cultura.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Reign of Recycling

If you live in the United States, you probably do some form of recycling. It’s likely that you separate paper from plastic and glass and metal. You rinse the bottles and cans, and you might put food scraps in a container destined for a composting facility. As you sort everything into the right bins, you probably assume that recycling is helping your community and protecting the environment. But is it? Are you in fact wasting your time?

In 1996, I wrote a long article for The New York Times Magazine arguing that the recycling process as we carried it out was wasteful.…  Seguir leyendo »

Estrenar el año hablando de basura puede parecer fuera de tono. No obstante, me atrevo a hacerlo porque se trata de un tema de actualidad. Hace unos años, mencionar la basura en una tertulia social hubiera sido de mal gusto: era algo sucio, insano, olía mal, un tema repugnante. Eran tiempos en que bastaba dejar en el pasillo la bolsa con los desechos del día. El portero se encargaría de recogerla y los basureros municipales, esos ángeles de la noche, harían desaparecer todos los residuos sin decir ni mu. Sólo los conocíamos cuando se acercaba la Navidad y venían con una tarjeta a felicitarnos las Pascuas esperando el aguinaldo.…  Seguir leyendo »

Among those suffering from the global recession are millions of workers who are not even included in the official statistics: urban recyclers — the trash pickers, sorters, traders and reprocessors who extricate paper, cardboard and plastics from garbage heaps and prepare them for reuse. Their work is both unrecorded and largely unrecognized, even though in some parts of the world they handle as much as 20 percent of all waste.

The world’s 15 million informal recyclers clean up cities, prevent some trash from ending in landfills, and even reduce climate change by saving energy on waste disposal techniques like incineration.

They also recycle waste much more cheaply and efficiently than governments or corporations can, and in many cities in the developing world, they provide the only recycling services.…  Seguir leyendo »

By Libby Purves (THE TIMES, 27/12/06):

On the third day of Christmas, my true love sent to me . . . three bin-liners, two packing cases and the bubblewrap from the plastic Christmas tree.

Oh, yes. Rubbish. Admit it: you are surrounded by it. So am I. Wrapping paper and styrofoam and an extraordinary amount of cardboard and “expanded polystyrene loose fill” from this year’s internet shopping. And in all of us, a small voice behind the festive bonhomie: we cannot keep doing this.

Actually I left it all behind yesterday morning and made my way into the office, through streets lined with discarded toys chucked out the front of the house: last year’s gifts, no longer required.…  Seguir leyendo »