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Articles from 2015 In March


Reading in the Digital Age

How are you reading this column? Are you reading it on a screen or did you print it out so that you could savor it in a more leisurely fashion? Reading and the printed page have evolved tremendously over the last 10 years. In 2002, newsprint production peaked. The U.S. Post Office was merrily moving along, delivering ever-increasing amounts of paper mail. Magazine circulation was thriving. The e-book was nothing more than a dream.

Today, newspaper circulation has plummeted, the Post Office delivers less mail each year and magazines go out of business or are replaced by online editions. Printed paper production is down by almost 19 million tons since 2002. For years my columns in Recycling Times and then Waste Age and now Waste 360 were only available in print editions. Now they are only available online. If you want a hard copy of this column, you have to supply the paper.

I have long thought we were moving to a less paper society. Technology changes and so do the materials we use. Yet our use of printed paper continued to increase in the late 90’s in spite of my confident predictions that it was going the way of vellum. And then when use of printed paper started to decline, that decline was more rapid than expected—propelled by the loss of classified ads and other advertising and by continued improvements in electronic media.

Recycling has taken a hit. MRFs were designed to process paper as their primary feedstock. Now, the proportion of paper in a MRF is down dramatically while both glass and plastic have increased their share of a MRF’s feedstock. As a result, MRFs are processing material that is both heavier (glass) and lighter (plastic) than they were designed to manage. Worse, tonnages and revenues are down.

At the same time, paper is showing life in the most unlikely places. College students, for instance, prefer printed books to e-books. In spite of the high price of their paper texts, they like the ease of making notes in the text and then finding those notes or facts they need to revisit. For all the advantages of e-books, they are lousy at those functions.

In addition, while the evidence is inconclusive, experiments seem to show that we comprehend and remember better what we read in print than on screens. To add insult to injury, the artificial light of electronic screens sends the wrong signals to our brains, making it harder to sleep after that last glance at our smart phones.

I like paper. I like printed books and newspapers. I like the way they feel, their portability and their ability to engage me without relying on a battery for power. But I am no Luddite. I also like e-books. As I have grown older and my eyesight has become a little less sharp than it used to be, I appreciate the ability to change the type size and select an easier-to-read font on an e-book. Electronic media also allows me to download new studies and only print out the pages I really need to ponder. As a result, I find room for both print and electronic media in my library.

Centuries ago, when paper began to replace vellum, did the scholars of the day bemoan the loss of beauty and the feel of sheepskin or did they embrace the new technology? I suppose that many did. But it doesn’t matter. Paper triumphed. I don’t believe it will go the way of vellum, but, to my regret, it will continue to diminish. 

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the National Waste & Recycling Association.

Need to Know

Cambridge, Mass., Is the Largest East Coast City to Ban Single-Use, Plastic Checkout Bags

Cambridge became the largest city on the East Coast to ban single-use, plastic checkout bags Monday night.

The city council passed the so-called Bring Your Own Bag Ordinance by an 8-1 vote, concluding an effort that was started nearly a decade ago. The BYOB legislation also makes Cambridge the first city in the state to require retailers tp charge a fee for paper bags.

Continue reading at BostInno

Need to Know

Orlando Unveils New 'Clean' Garbage Trucks

While it may not be the first word that comes to mind when describing a vehicle built to haul trash, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer on Tuesday unveiled five "clean" garbage trucks.

The trucks, which run on compressed natural gas, are the newest additions to the city's "green fleet" of hybrid and gasoline-alternative vehicles, part of an effort to reduce emissions and limit fuel consumption.

Continue reading at the Orlando Sentinel

Need to Know

Exide Faces $2.45M in Texas Penalties

Exide Technologies faces more than $2.45 million in penalties over violations at its now-closed plant in Frisco.

The penalties are part of a proposal that will be considered at the April 15 meeting of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The six violations issued in 2013 relate to Exide’s handling and storage of hazardous waste at its site along Fifth Street.

Continue reading at The Dallas Morning News

Special Report: Safety

Need to Know

With 'Single-Stream' Recycling, Convenience Comes At A Cost

In many municipalities around the country, the days of sorting your recyclables for curbside pickup are long gone, replaced by a system called "single stream" recycling. But what happens after all those bits of plastic, paper, glass and metal get put in the bin?

Because it's often collected by the same workers who pick up the garbage, it's easy to wonder if the recyclables make their way to the dump, too. But single-stream recycling ends up at a place called a materials recovery facility.

An MRF is part warehouse, part industrial plant; a single facility can process hundreds of tons every day, using workers and high-tech machines.

Continue reading at NPR.org

Need to Know

Family of Man Killed by Garbage Truck Awarded Nearly $14.5M

A jury has awarded more than $14 million in damages to the family of a 49-year-old southwest Michigan man killed in an accident involving a garbage truck.

The Kalamazoo County Circuit Court jury decided Friday that Republic Services, City Star Services Inc. and William Ormerod III will pay nearly $14.5 million to the estate of Lary Blahnik.

Continue reading at the Detroit Free Press

Need to Know

Novelis Launches Line of 100 Percent Recycled Aluminum Products

You may not have heard of Novelis, but the chances are high you have touched its products, perhaps multiple times on a daily basis. With over US$11 billion in revenues, the company has made its mark everywhere from aluminum cans, foil and electronics to the automobile sector.

Last week, the company announced a new product line of high-recycled content for food containers.

Continue reading at Triple Pundit

Need to Know

Texas Issues Draft Permit for Expansion of Camelot Landfill

State environmental officials have made a decision that could pave the way to quadrupling the height of a Farmers Branch landfill that has been hotly contested by Lewisville and Carrollton.

The preliminary action won’t stop both cities from continuing their long-standing fight against the expansion of Camelot Landfill.

The “draft permit” issued late last week by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality does not approve the expansion request but means the application is technically complete, opening a 30-day public comment period, said Andrea Morrow, a TCEQ spokeswoman.

Continue reading at the Dallas Morning News