(9 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
Most of you who read my posts will agree that I prefer environmentally friendly industries, transport, and food. You also know that I grow quite a lot of my own food, and a guide will be published here, this coming Saturday, at 7:30 PM when I guest host What’s for Dinner.
However, I am not a fanatic. I understand that there are tradeoffs that are essential to maintaining our standard of living. One of them is the semi trailer and the truck that pulls it. Ten or twelve years ago, they were very polluting, but with the new standards for low soot and sulfur emissions, they are not bad these days.
Here are my random observations about heavy industry, transportation, and personal consumption that might open some eyes, and perhaps make a difference.
The first is to recycle. Here in this part of the Bluegrass, there is no mechanism for it, and I have put the pencil to the paper and found that it takes more gasoline to haul recyclables to a place that can utilize them. This is wrong, and every effort needs to be made to facilitate recycling. But this is much more difficult that most realize.
Let us take glass for an example.
There are thousands of kinds of glass, and the chemical composition can vary tremendously. For example, window glass is quite different from Pyrex, and brown bottle glass is quite different from either. Fortunately, all of those forms of glass can be remelted (with a relatively low fuel cost, and no raw material cost) and be spun into fiberglass insulation, that the insulation will last for decades, reducing the energy cost to heat and cool buildings for a long time. This is good. Essentially any glass is good for that recycling scheme.
Metal is also sort or easy. We use mostly steel (with a very thin tin coating, and them some polymer to seal it) or aluminum for food and beverage containers. Magnets can sort out the steel bits, and the aluminum falls into a different bin. Recycling aluminum is extremely efficient, using only less that 5% of the energy originally needed to smelt it in the first place. Iron is not quite so efficient, but my reckoning shows that recycled iron costs only about 15% of the energy to make new metal.
All of the metal making processes produce carbon dioxide, and the less of that can be made, the better. Using recycled material cuts the amount of that very closely with the reduction in energy, so it is a very good double whammy.
Plastic is more problematic, since there are so many kinds. Unless we find a way to separate them well, and find a way to depolymerize PETE, this will be a problem.
PETE bottles are generated by the billions, and we need to find a way to get this under control. Currently, most of them are just landfilled, and that is a waste of resources. I have recently learnt that new processes can not just recycle them, but disintergrate them into their monomers, and reconstruct them into new bottle. Currently, the best that we can do is turn them into carpets and cheap suits.
Well, this is my take on Earth Day. As soon as the rain goes away, I shall plant my garden, using a gasoline powered tiller, only once a year, and grow most of my own vegetables, and will use electricity to preserve many of them. It is not an all or none prosiption, just the best balance that we can find in each, unique circumstance.
Crossposted at Dailykos.com