From dumpster to diesel: How a pilot project in Whitby is turning plastic waste into fuel

Backers claim project can convert 5 tonnes of waste into 4,000 litres of fuel per day


A pilot project in Whitby, Ont., turns non-recyclable plastics into usable fuel, rather than having the waste sit in a landfill. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

A pilot project in Whitby, Ont., is using technology to give plastic waste a second life by turning it into diesel fuel and gasoline.

The technology, dubbed the Phoenix, can convert single-use items like plastic bags and Styrofoam — items that would otherwise end up in landfill.

John O’Bireck, president of energy investment company Sparta Group, says he sees plastic “as a resource, not a scourge.”

He says the fuel produced by Phoenix is already being used in his company’s fleet of trucks that transport industrial waste.

“Five tonnes of plastic can be converted into about 4,000 litres. And 4,000 litres can drive our whole fleet of 10 vehicles back and forth every day running 16 hours a day.”

O’Bireck says Phoenix uses a process involving pyrolysis — using heat to bring about decomposition — to upcycle plastics that can’t go into the recycling stream.

John O’Bireck, of Sparta Group, says fuel produced by Phoenix is already being used in his company’s fleet of trucks that transport industrial waste. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

“If you take plastic as it stands, it’s going to go in the ground and it’s going to sit there for a thousand years. By adding this technology, we are converting it so that we give it one more chance to go back out.”

The process shreds the plastic into smaller pieces and feeds it into a “cooker.” O’Bireck claims it’s not being burned; the material is in an airtight vessel and being heated in the absence of oxygen.

“There’s actually two gases formed: condensable and non-condensable gas. We’re distilling it down to take it from its gas to a liquid.”

O’Bireck says the goal is to expand to municipalities and bigger companies. MORE

What did we hear at The Pact for a Green New Deal Town Halls?

Historic floods and wildfires. The MMIWG final report linking resource extraction and violence against Indigenous women, girls, and two-spirit people. Growing economic inequality. Our government’s failure to live up to the demands of the Truth and Reconciliation committee or to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This moment of systemic crisis calls for systemic change. That’s why over 100 groups have come together in 2019 to launch The Pact for a Green New Deal.

The Pact for a Green New Deal is a coalition calling for a far-reaching plan to cut emissions in half in 11 years, in line with Indigenous knowledge and climate science; create more than one million good jobs; and build inclusive communities in the process. Its bold, justice-based vision is galvanizing thousands of people by recognizing, and working to respond to, the multiple crises we face.

Since The Pact launched on May 6, 2019, organizations in the coalition have set off with the goal of listening to people from coast to coast to coast in the ambitious project of defining what a Green New Deal looks like for their community.

In less than a month, volunteers organized an astounding 150+ town halls, taking place in every single province and territory, to build alignment towards a set of shared principles for a Green New Deal. 

Of these 150+ events, about half were held in large communities (over 100,000 people), and half in small communities (under 30,000 people). The organizers we heard from hosted town halls ranging in size from four people, in Iqaluit, to over 300 in Edmonton. All in all, more than 7,000 people joined Green New Deal town halls in their communities — representing environmental groups, labour unions, faith groups, political parties, city councils, community and neighbourhood associations, Indigenous organizations, women’s organizations, the Fight for $15 and Fairness, student unions, local media, and more.

We worked with analysts to pull themes from the town hall conversations that took place: people gathering in grief, in rage, and in hope to share what they think the Green New Deal must include, and what it must put an end to. What follows is a summary of some of those themes; it is not a complete analysis or completed report. There is much work still to be done to bring in those who did not attend town halls, to allow time to hear from other groups, and to make sure voices marginalized by the status quo are made central in the process.

Red Lines and Green Lines 

Methodology

The town hall process was not about coming to complete consensus on specific policies or finding the perfect wording, but rather creating an opportunity for thousands of people to contribute their ideas for what a Green New Deal should look like, to identify commonalities, and to start developing specific proposals.

Participants were asked to discuss their red lines and green lines: the things that absolutely should not be in a Green New Deal for Canada, and the things that people, groups, communities and institutions want — and in some cases, need — to see in a Green New Deal in order to be on board.

Participants shared an incredible 8900 red lines and green lines. There were almost three times as many green lines as red lines, suggesting that participants are eager to focus on a hopeful and positive vision of the future. Some clear themes emerged from the responses, as outlined in the following sections.

Here’s some of what we heard.

Green Lines

The town hall responses were sorted into the following twelve Green Line categories: Economy and Government, Green Infrastructure, Nature, Agriculture, Social Justice, Democracy, Plastics, Climate Science, Decent Work, Indigenous Reconciliation, Climate Debt, and Rights. Of these categories, the ones that occurred most frequently were Economy and Government, Green Infrastructure, Social Justice, and Indigenous Sovereignty. It is clear that systemic change and radical shifts are needed to transform the systems and institutions that perpetuate inequality, racism, xenophobia, and ongoing colonial violence.

Indigenous Sovereignty

A Green New Deal must include the full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), and the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Participants highlighted the importance of Indigenous knowledge, and respecting Indigenous title and relationship to the land. Decolonization must go hand in hand with a Green New Deal.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Full recognition of Indigenous title and rights.
    • Fully implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
    • Fully implementing the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
    • Fully implementing the Calls for Justice in the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Economy and Government

Time and time again, we heard that transforming the economy is at the heart of solutions to environmental degradation and climate change. Town hall participants are ready for governments to lay the groundwork for this change in a wide range of ways — from carbon taxes, to subsidies for green initiatives, to public investment in renewable energy and infrastructure and fundamentally changing the priorities of the economic system itself.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Setting a legally binding climate target for Canada in line with the science of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
    • Creating millions of good, high-wage jobs through a green jobs plan, ensuring fossil fuel industry workers and directly affected community members are guaranteed good, dignified work with the training and support needed to succeed.
    • Increasing unionization and implementing workers’ rights, including at least a $15 minimum wage, pay equity, paid emergency leave, job security, protections for migrant workers, and the right to organize and unionize
    • Personal and public subsidies for greener technology, including affordable energy-efficient housing, and transportation.

Green Infrastructure

In talking about infrastructure for an equitable and sustainable society, participants named renewable energy and public housing as areas in need of urgent action.Specific recommendations included:

    • Making massive public investments in the infrastructure to build a 100% renewable energy economy – including power generation, energy efficiency, public transportation, public housing, food justice, ecological and localized agriculture, and clean manufacturing.
    • Ensuring sustainable, financially and physically accessible public transportation for everyone.
    • Prioritizing and incentivizing local renewable energy creation especially with public service buildings.

Social Justice

The climate crisis cannot be addressed in isolation. Participants made connections between environmental issues and struggles that have long been led by communities on the frontlines of racism and an extractive economy: migrants, Indigenous communities, rural towns and villages, poor and working-class people, and disabled people. Participants also noted the rising leadership of youth whose lives and futures are at stake; and who must be included at decision-making tables.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Promoting justice and equity by centering the communities marginalized by our current economy. This means addressing past and current harms to Indigenous peoples, Black communities, communities of colour, LGBTQ people, migrants, refugees, and undocumented people, rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, and youth.
    • Ensuring free accessible post-secondary education for all.
    • Full access to quality public services including healthcare, education, income security, housing, childcare, pharmacare, dental care, pensions, and more — for all.
    • Status for all: Permanent resident status and family unity for all migrants and refugees here, and landed status on arrival for those that arrive in the future. No detentions, no deportations.
    • Ensuring that Canada pays its fair share of the climate debt to countries in the Global South that have been impacted by practices and decisions in Canada, and ensuring that corporations based in Canada are not damaging the climate and environment elsewhere, contributing to conditions that force people to migrate (including wars, unjust mining, pollution, etc).

Red Lines

Town hall participants talked about putting a stop to the industries, institutions and practices that endanger our future and accelerate environmental destruction. Some of the Red Lines that came up discussed the fossil fuel industry, extraction and pollution, plastics, and a failing democracy.

Fossil Fuels 

Town hall participants were heavily in support of not only preventing the future growth of the fossil industry — through actions like halting the construction and expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure, and ending government subsidies — but phasing it out on a timeline in line with the demands of Indigenous knowledge and science.

Specific recommendations:

    •  A plan to fully phase out the fossil fuel industry and move to 100% renewable energy by 2040 (at the latest) must be developed and implemented (including a plan to fully support workers throughout this process).
    • Freezing the construction and/or approval of all new fossil fuel extraction and transportation projects — we cannot solve the problem if we make it worse at the same time.
    • Fossil fuel subsidies from the federal or provincial government should be immediately eliminated and redirected to support the transition to a clean economy.

Protecting Biodiversity and Nature

Participants emphasized the importance of ending water extraction, water pollution, and other activities that jeopardize the health and sustainability of the environment.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Enacting laws that grant personhood protections to our forests and bodies of water, and the creation of an environmental bill of rights.
    • Stopping the dumping of waste (civic or industrial) into bodies of water.
    • Ensuring greater protection for critical biodiversity and natural areas.
    • Collectively ensuring the right of all people to clean air, clean water, healthy food, and a safe environment built on connection and community.
    • Ensuring the protection of at least 30 percent of land and waters in Canada by 2030.

Plastics

Participants voiced support for stopping the production of single-use plastics, and advocated for the importance of ending our reliance on plastics as a society.

Specific recommendations included:

    • Developing alternatives to plastic bags, straws and other single-use plastic items to address the problem of plastic waste, while maintaining the necessary access that these items often provide.
    • Ending boil water advisories in Indigenous communities.
    • Legislating the curtailment of excessive packaging.

Democracy

Participants made systemic links between current environmental issues and the necessity of ending corporate lobbying and transforming the democratic systems and institutions that have helped to create the multiple crises we face. Participants noted they would like to see “no more first past the post elections.”

Specific recommendations included:

  • Honouring the promise of making Canada a Proportional Representation Democracy.

Next Steps:

The communities and organizations represented by people who attended town halls did reach beyond the “green bubble” that typically exists within mainstream environmental events and campaigns. That being said, there is much room for improvement in reaching out to the labour movement, social justice movements, Indigenous peoples, and those who are marginalized or who have been most impacted by the current and historical harms a Green New Deal must address.

Moving forward, consultation will continue and groups and organizations are encouraged to make submissions to this process. Many town halls have yet to be held, some groups are still preparing their own specific submissions; and so, the recommendations above should be taken as a living document that will continue to evolve and change as new voices enter the conversation.

Thank you for your words and participation. Let’s keep working to secure a Green New Deal for all.  SOURCE

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The Toxic Consequences of America’s Plastics Boom

Thanks to fracking, petrochemicals giants are poised to make the plastic pollution crisis much, much worse.

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A beach at sunset. the sky is streaked peach and mauve, the wind cool and briny. A long line of dump trucks idles at the edge of the waves, each full of plastic—bags and milk jugs and floss containers, hair clips, shrink wrap, fake ferns, toys, and spatulas. Every minute, one of the trucks lifts its bed and deposits a load of trash into the sea.

The dump trucks aren’t real, but the trash is. No one knows exactly how much plastic leaks into the oceans every year, but one dump truck per minute—8 million tons per year—is a midrange estimate. Plastic waste usually begins its journey on land, where only 9 percent of it is recycled. The rest is thrown away, burned, or buried, left to wash into streams and rivers or to blow out to sea. Once in the ocean, the plastic drifts or sinks. The sun and the waves break it down into tiny particles that resemble plankton. Birds and fish and other sea creatures eat it and begin to starve. One analysis predicts that by 2050, the plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish.

Some of the trash winds up in one of five current systems in the oceans known as gyres, where it forms a slowly circulating plastic soup. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of these zones, spanning an area twice the size of Texas between Hawaii and California, a merry-go-round of the remains of global consumption. Researchers have found small plastic shards and large objects in the gyre: hard hats and Game Boys and milk crates and enormous tangles of fishing nets, all swirling in a smog of microplastics. MORE

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Coca-Cola reveals how much plastic it uses
As Cities And Companies Ditch Plastic Straws, Demand For Paper Rises

 

Climate protests: Germany’s new green youth movement takes to the streets

Worried teenagers are taking to the streets to protest against climate change. They are more interested in environmental politics than ever before. Will protest also turn into more climate action?

Three teenagers smile and hold up signs towards the camera during a climate march in Bonn. The signs read, in English 'Time is running out!' and 'Wake up humans you're endangered too!'

This has become a common scene in many large cities — students eschewing lessons at school to protest for climate protection. They were inspired by Swedish student Greta Thunberg who doesn’t go to school on Fridays, instead opting to protest against climate inaction in front of the parliament in Stockholm — with her textbooks of course. She’s even started a new movement called “Fridays For Future.”

The message these young people hope to send to the older generation is increasingly clear: By not doing enough to help the environment, you are gambling away our future.

In fact, teenagers in Germany are more interested in politics than they have ever been before. The topic of environmental protection interests them the most, says youth researcher Klaus Hurrelmann from the Hertie School of Governance, who has spent years studying the changing values, attitudes and habits of Germany’s youth.

The interests of the younger generation extend to all areas that have to do with the environment, explains Hurrelmann. Whether its plastic pollution in our oceans, the death of insects due to the rise of industrial agriculture or just global warming. “These people intuitively feel that these are our natural, existential foundations and we do not want to see them in danger,” Hurrelmann told DW. MORE

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New generation of climate entrepreneurs: 10 young innovators tackling climate change

 

UK: Nearly 1m tonnes every year: supermarkets shamed for plastic packaging

Exclusive: Guardian investigation unwraps truth about supermarket plastics after big brands refuse to divulge packaging secrets

Peppers packaged in plastic t a branch of Asda in south London.
Peppers packaged in plastic at an Asda in south London. On average UK retailers pay £18 per tonne towards recycling compared to up to £133 per tonne in other European countries. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s leading supermarkets create more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year, according to an investigation by the Guardian which reveals how top chains keep details of their plastic footprint secret.

As concern over the scale of unnecessary plastic waste grows, the Guardian asked Britain’s eight leading supermarkets to explain how much plastic packaging they sell to consumers and whether they would commit to a plastic-free aisle in their stores.

The chains have to declare the amount of plastic they put on the market annually under an EU directive. But the information is kept secret, and Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Asda and Lidl all refused the Guardian’s request, with most saying the information was “commercially sensitive”.  MORE

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The plastic-free stores showing the big brands how to do it
Canada’s major grocery chains slow to tackle the mounting problem of plastic waste

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A whopping 91% of plastic isn’t recycled

Billions of tons of plastic have been made over the past decades, and much of it is becoming trash and litter, finds the first analysis of the issue.

MASS PRODUCTION OF plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated so rapidly that it has created 8.3 billion metric tons—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. If that seems like an incomprehensible quantity, it is. Even the scientists who set out to conduct the world’s first tally of how much plastic has been produced, discarded, burned or put in landfills, were horrified by the sheer size of the numbers.

“We are going to eliminate unnecessary single-use plastics throughout government operations. So, this includes straws, cutlery, packaging, cups, bottles but it also includes using our purchasing power to ensure that we lead change and we drive sustainable plastics innovation.” -Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna

“This kind of increase would ‘break’ any system that was not prepared for it, and this is why we have seen leakage from global waste systems into the oceans,” she says. Plastic takes more than 400 years to degrade, so most of it still exists in some form. Only 12 percent has been incinerated. MORE

MPs’ motion important step toward eliminating plastic pollution

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Anastasia Castro and Charlotte Brady of Glenlyon Norfolk School told Saanich council last week that humans worldwide use 2 million plastic bags per minute.

16-year-old Anastasia Castro and Kids for a Plastic-Free Canada responsible for NDP motion M-151 calling for real action to change the way we consume single-use plastics, for corporations to end their industrial use of plastic and for governments to regulate and legislate plastic use in our society. MORE