Archive for waste

Payload from North Korea Test Rocket Lands in Pacific Ocean; My Plea for International Environmental Regulation for Pollution Prevention and Green Commerce

So, the Pacific Ocean is becoming more and more like a landfill every day.

We’ve heard all week about North Korea’s plans to launch a test rocket. Today, they did. Obama looks pissed and says they should be punished. “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.”

And… that’s why the U.S. hasn’t ratified pretty much any treaty the U.N. drafts up.

This including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which entered into force in 1994, partly to arrange for states’ rights to natural resources and responsibilities for pollution prevention. Two countries among the group that signed on but did not ratify the convention: the United States and North Korea (along such fellow countries as landlocked Niger and Chad). 

I’m sure Obama’s interest in rules and enforcement relates primarily to getting the UN Security Council to punish North Korea for its nose-thumbing at international peace and security. But I have to wonder if the U.S.’s economic decline is going to increase U.S. interest in international treaties – not just for security, but for environmental rules, too. I think the purpose of this is two-fold: first, providing increased coordination in regulation of pollution prevention and environmental protection for concerns that necessarily travel across borders (water, pollution, air). Second, the facilitation of economic activities with some standardization to promote exports would solve problems for organic farmers, ranchers, and beekeepers and promote international product safety and stewardship.

So far, we’ve ignored the 1979 Moon Treaty (declaring the Moon to be the “common heritage of mankind”) with our national security policy of exploiting the Moon’s resources (to be fair, The Agreement Governing the Activities of States on the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies had just upwards of 3 signatories). A lot of little tokens with the Russian emblem are now littered all over the surface of the Moon. We’ve shot lead-filled bullets all over the Gulf. We’ve blown giant potholes in Afghanistan. In pursuit of an enemy, nobody stops to think about the havoc wreaked on the planet (and maybe rightly so – a country’s job is, after all, primarily to protect the citizens in its custody – it’s easier to look at short-term military protection than long-term environmental protection). 

And this is why I think a little international environmental rule making could be a very good thing. I know not to hold my breath for environmental enforcement, but a little rule making a-la-the-U.S.-Constitutional-Commerce-Clause could go a long way. With China testing Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo for carcinogens, water becoming a world commodity, and climate change crossing borders, coordinated treatment of international commerce and pollution could prevent a lot of expensive, deadly mistakes and abuses – not to mention confusion created by multitudes of commercial standards.

Just as the world needs to unite to prevent genocide effectively, environmental protection is a truly international concern that will need coordination and basic agreement.

In other absurd news about international dumping, the March 2009 issue of Harpers details archaeologists’ quest to find Star Wars sets littered across the world (and finds that some have turned into chicken coops in Tunisia).  Read more about the article from Above the Convenience Store.


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Mailing List

One benefit of moving a lot is that bulk mail rarely follows you.

However! Occasionally a wily organization will track me down. For instance: a nonprofit I flirted with volunteering for in Santa Rosa, California recently asked me to attend a fundraiser – a thousand miles from where I currently live in Minnesota.

unwanted direct mail

unwanted direct mail

Not only is this annoying, but it wastes paper and postage. To maximize my life efficiency, in both resources and time, I found an e-mail address online and sent the following letter:

Dear [Organization]:

Please remove me from your mailing list. I have moved to Minnesota, and as to support your organization I want to save you the paper and postage it takes to mail me materials that I will not use.

I recently received your [fundraiser name] invitation at:


Please remove my address. Thanks very much!

I realize how difficult it is for organizations, especially now, to find ways to make money. I see it as my job to tell organizations how I want them to market to me – and how I don’t want them to market to me. I want to send a strong message that direct mail is not an effective strategy for me.

End rant. In other news, Ed Kohler at The Deets has done a great job chronicling issues, trials, and tribulations of citizens opting out of receiving copies of Yellow Pages. And/or pestering YP until they do something about it.

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Gifts that Won’t be Wasted

If you are buying Christmas presents this season, and looking for something the recipient won’t have to throw away someday, check out Intelligent Giving.

image from

It includes a link to the Good Gift Shop, where you can purchase a brain cell for 15 pounds (~$30). From the site: “Everyone feels the need for extra greymatter. Bring out the genius in friends and family. Give help to all edgy examinees. 15 not only gives the gift of a sponsored brain cell, but also to fund development of treatments for diseases like Alzheimers, Parkinsons, meningitis and cancer.”

It also includes links to more serious sites rating charities using rigorous rubrics. Check it out! It’s like Consumer Reports for charities.

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In Weird News…

Check out this article about trash-art from the Wall Street Journal.

image from the Wall Street Journal

This used to be a turkey sternum. Now it is art!

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Hazardous Waste

Image from

I got really annoyed this morning seeing a discarded bottle of antifreeze in a parking ramp. I’m not going to bust out the crying Indian line – even though I have more American Indian in my blood than Iron Eyes Cody (for the record, a Sicilian) – but antifreeze is super nasty stuff. It used to smell sweeter, and kids would drink it and die. It is toxic, making it hazardous waste.

Many household items are hazardous waste, and it is an important part of being a “green” consumer to understand what is hazardous and what is non-hazardous. The EPA started setting down rules in 1974 in the RCRA legislation (depending on what level of government you work in, you might pronounce that “rick-ra” or “wreck-ra”) – the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act – defining what is hazardous waste requiring special handling and disposal. It’s sort of surprising how many common items are hazardous:

– batteries
– automotive fluids, including oil and antifreeze
– bleach
– paint
– dran-o

There is a rhyme or reason to this: anything flammable, corrosive, or toxic/carcinogenic is hazardous. Governments split it up into “listed” or “characteristic” hazardous waste, but “listed” wastes are mostly things that industries will have to worry about – solvents, etc.

Apart from being a Grammy-winning hit song by Britney Spears, a “toxic” label is one clue that a product is hazardous. If it can poison you, you don’t want your garbage person dealing with it. Take it to your local county household hazardous waste disposal site.

If a product is corrosive or flammable (like paint or oil), it is also considered hazardous. Again. Don’t throw it in the trash. Take it to your local county household hazardous waste disposal site.

Find out more from the EPA about how to avoid harmful substances.

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Recycle That!

So San Jose’s GreenTeam handles recycling for many of the city’s residences. On Friday, the recycling center found something it couldn’t recycle.

Five pounds, or several thousand dollars worth, of marijuana.

Does that qualify as compost? Yard waste?

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Santa Rosa Recycles Plastic Bags

Thanks to our hauler North Bay Corporation, we Santa Rosans will now be able to recycle plastic bags in our regular old blue bins.

We toss ’em all in one bag (the “bag bag”) and then they are taken away to be recycled!

Read about it in the PD.

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