Monday, January 4, 2016

Acid Rain

Don’t suppose you saw William Shughart's dopey opine "Recycling is a charade". He claims Waste Management dumps bottles and cans they collect into landfill. Why, then, do they hurry to collect recyclables and leave garbage to fester? They make money off them! A bigger issue is land, no place to put garbage residents make. If you have to keep buying more property that costs millions and worrying about groundwater contamination, line on nickels spent on recycling becomes moot. At core of their complaint, conservatives begrudge steady minimum wage jobs for pickers. Nowadays, lone drivers also run hoists that shake refuse into trucks, so no tax chiseling picker hangs perilously off back of vehicle anymore. You might figure this doubles number of trips, but even that’s untrue. Fuller trucks must frequently make distant treks, so targeting trash keeps gas guzzlers in neighborhoods longer, thereby cutting fuel use, which, you can be sure, they’ve ground to a logistical nub. Hating that, Big Oil has deep pockets to pay for junk science appearing in such disguised and dishonest articles.

All solids you bury eventually emit toxins into air and water supplies. Alternatives to burying include burning (toxic and wasteful), dumping in ocean (already killing reefs), or gasifying (could supply methane). Sometimes residents don’t sort correctly, which messes up process and results in consignment of a few loads to landfill. But recycled bottles and cans don't figure in those; separating waste doesn't cost more and has potential. Many states have enacted Zero Waste Programs. Leaves, wood, and yard clippings are already composted and spread on state lands to increase oxygen yielding foliage, though they could be combined with food/human waste to produce methane. Many electrical plants are being built or have already been converted to burn natural gas, the least toxic carbon based fuel. Though it can be directly reused once sterilized, glass is mostly ground up to improve asphalt and concrete used in road construction. Recovering aluminum from cans and jar covers saves tremendously over extracting from bauxite or smelting alumina. Plastics can be tricky, as sorting them for granulation remains labor intensive; since much consists of food wrappings that can’t be recycled because of bacteria, best to minimize their use whenever possible.

All processes involved with human inhabitation of planet involve a release of carbon dioxide and/or monoxide. Animals leak methane to atmosphere. Automobiles, household practices, and industrial operations release nitrogen and sulphur oxides, as well as volatile organic compounds such as benzene, methylene chloride, or perchloroethylene which undisputedly cause cancer. Another bad effect of burning coal and petroleum is acid rain, that is, precipitation (fog, rain, snow) whose pH is so low it poisons soil, stunts plant growth, and upsets ecosystems. Amphibians and fish in eastern lakes die because of stack emissions from midwestern steel plants. Almost as bad is how critics of sustainable practices rain acid comments against as if they were exempt from pollution's detrimental effects and not purely delusional. In the face of such insanity, can you blame protesters for going gaga or grabbing headlines?

It’s hard to estimate how much pollution bicycle makers and users cause. Components and frames are made of aluminum, steel and titanium. Lesser amounts of fabric, graphite, plastic and rubber are also used, but nearly all can be recycled. These materials collectively represent 200 times less by weight than an average SUV (0.5%). Twice as many bikes as cars doesn’t come close to automakers' expended energy in assembly. Food is the fuel that powers bikes. While food production and shipping both use fuel, motorists and non-motorists alike also eat, so you can’t hold that against bicyclists. Seven times more people walk than bike. Motility is a basic human necessity; bicycling is 4 times more efficient than walking, which probably balances negatives and clears slate. How dare critics target cyclists when huge parking lots defoliate with noxious pavement? If you're so worried about revenues being wasted, why not question the totally unsustainable $1 trillion spent every decade on nation's highways?

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