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Monthlong trash collector strike puts South African city on alert for rats

Authorities in South Africa’s biggest city have asked residents to be on the alert for rats, which are thriving because of a four-week strike by garbage collectors pressing for a salary increase.

Thousands of garbage collectors in Johannesburg have been on strike since March 9. Some downtown streets resemble a dumping site, with pedestrians stepping over piles of refuse. Motorists battled for alternative routes as some roads became impassable.

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The African News Agency on Monday quoted a provincial health official as saying residents should organize their own garbage collection to stop rats from breeding.

The city has introduced a round-the-clock “hotline” telephone number for residents who need cleaning tools, gloves and waste disposal bags.

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Source: foxnews


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No More Deonar Fires, These Mumbai Teens Invent Device to Convert Dry Waste into Electricity!

Four bright young minds in Thane, Mumbai, have come up with an idea to use dry waste to generate electricity. Instead of dumping dry waste into a garbage bin and filling up landfills, this novel idea makes use of domestic waste that every household in India produces, and turns it into a sustainable form of energy. And it can prevent mishaps like the Deonar dumping ground fires, too.

Aged between 10 and 13, the girls have devised an instrument with two parts that converts dry waste into electricity.

The bottom part of the instrument burns dry waste. The heat generated from this is used to move the turbines attached in the top-most part of the furnace. These turbines help in creating electricity.

The girls, Pooja Ramdas, Nikita Dhamapurkar, Jovila D’souza and Sharanya Bhamble spent two weeks figuring out the minute details, researching and experimenting. They were inspired by the working of a pressure cooker.

Sharanya Bhamble explains the eco-friendly process: it starts off with segregating dry and wet waste. While the dry waste is burnt in the furnace, the wet waste is used for composting.

“The toxic fumes produced in the process (of burning dry waste) are filtered, making it pure and released in the environment,” she said. “Meanwhile, we put seawater in the top part of the two-part-furnace, which turns into steam when the waste is burning. This steam is then released on a set of turbines which rotate and produce electricity in the process.”

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To test the device, the girls used a cycle pump to create air pressure. This generated enough electricity to light up the bulbs that were fixed to the device.

In Mumbai, about two-thirds of its solid waste that is dumped into landfills is illegal and beyond the capacity of the landfill.

Repeated dumping, with no waste segregation, caused the massive Deonar fires in the months of January and February this year. Smoke from these fires covered the areas surrounding the dumping ground, forcing schools and colleges to shut, and people to fall ill.

Most of the waste that ends up in landfills are actually biodegradable or fit to be converted into energy. With waste segregation and municipal body support, sustainable waste management isn’t difficult.

While on a macro-level, the municipal solid waste-to-energy process requires installation of biogas plants, on an individual level, devices such as the one invented by the students can help reduce the negative impact on the environment.

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Source: thebetterindia


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Cleaning up the E-Waste Recycling Industry

By Julie Ann Aelbrecht, student in financial journalism, City University-London and Aarhus University

Upon opening a shipment of computers it had received through the International Children’s Fund (ICF), a Ghanaian school discovered the equipment sent was 15 years old. Most of the computers needed replacement parts, parts that weren’t available anymore. In the end, the school managed to get only a single computer working again.

While the ICF had good intentions, a fake charity had handed it a container of what was meant to be workable secondhand material that was actually closer to its end of life–that is, effectively waste. That unfortunate Ghanaian school is only one victim in a long chain of corruption, theft and organized crime that stretches from Brussels to Cape Town.

This is the global trade in electronic waste, or e-waste. It is estimated to be worth over $19 billion and leaves a trail of criminality behind it. The flow of discarded electronics follows a route where European countries turn a blind eye to theft and major companies bend and break recycling rules to get electronics to developing markets, where the waste disappears into dangerous ad hoc dumps. There, the waste is often dealt with by illegal recyclers in ways that are catastrophic to the environment and human health.

But while e-waste is a dirty business, some are trying to clean it up, mostly by bringing these informal recyclers slowly into the regulated recycling industry.

The starting point for the trail of dirty recycling is Europe. According to the European Union, an estimated quarter of a million tons of electronic waste gets shipped out to developing nations every year. Since 1992, the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal has made all international shipping of such waste illegal. The EU produces approximately 10 million tons of electrical and electronical equipment a year. Officially, it recovers 3.5 million.

“Say you get tired of a computer. Maybe you’ll leave it in the street, maybe you take it to the collection point or to a charity, maybe it makes it to the plant, maybe it is taken to the harbor. There’s a lot of different points in the recycling chain, and every single one is leaking like hell,” says Cosima Dannoritzer, director of “The E-waste Tragedy,” a documentary that sheds light on what happens with discarded European electronics.

European law requires the inclusion of a recycling fee in the price of electronics. So when your computer breaks down, it should find its way into the recycling system and be processed because you’ve already paid for that. In reality, though, up to 75 percent of electronics disappear along the way.

The problem is not limited to any particular region of Europe. “In Spain, young people steal e-waste because they’re unemployed,” says Dannoritzer. “In the U.K., the privatization of the sector has made prices too low to properly recycle, so plants start to do double bookkeeping,” she adds. “There’s a large secondhand market in Germany, but the line between secondhand and broken is really blurry.” Every country seems to have its own particular problem, but the result is almost always the same.

At one collection point in Spain, the employees go for lunch at 2:30 pm. At 2:31, people crawl through holes made in the fence to steal dumped parts. Dannoritzer’s film contains several scenes like this one, illustrating one of the many leaking points in the e-waste chain. “During that lunch break, three individuals came in, one of them dressed up in a little fluorescent jacket, so he could rummage around unnoticed. Another was a teenager with a shopping trolley,” the director says.

The recycling fee for a refrigerator in Spain is typically 20 euros (U.S. $22) and is paid by the consumer. Dannoritzer says one particular group–some working in the collecting points, others driving the trucks or working at the recycling plants–stole half a million fridges and extracted the precious metals to sell before dumping the rest. At 20 euros per fridge, that is a 10 million euro (U.S. 11 million) loss for the authorities–and profit for the thieves–even leaving aside the toxic pollution risk posed by the cannibalized fridges.

This stolen waste then goes to storage facilities, which aren’t too hard to spot, according to Dannoritzer. “To recycle well is expensive, so when you see a large facility or a hall, or a pile of rubbish under the elements without machinery, they’re usually not properly recycling them. That’s a storage facility to fill up containers.”

A recent EU report called waste management one of the industrial sectors most prone to corruption. Every year, 250,000 tons of e-waste don’t reach their intended destination due to a lack of funding, the activities of criminal gangs, and companies and officials choosing to look the other way along the recycling trail. Instead, the waste is stolen, stripped and sold to be put on containers.

These containers are then shipped to developing countries, where their contents are often dealt with under illegal, dangerous circumstances. One of the main destinations for European e-waste is Africa.

“Under the guise of giving poorer countries access to IT, a lot of junk gets into Africa,” says Mathias Schluep, head of Sustainable Recycling Industries (SRI). “The motivation is not bad, but the business model doesn’t leave room to test every single computer in every single container. On the other side of the equation, when the ship arrives in China or Ghana, people know that not all of it will work. That is how business works.”

Schluep’s organization works in Ghana, Egypt and Peru, where rates for formal recycling are around 20 percent, which means that the rest of it happens in what are, at best, semi-illegal circumstances. SRI’s projects aim to formalize a lot of these small-scale, informal operations.

Sampson Atiemo, local project coordinator for SRI in Ghana, explains how the organization tries to pull these illegal recyclers into the formal industry. “There are people in the informal sector who are ready to do things the right way. We’ll identify them and bring them up,” he says.

Atiemo estimates that 80 percent of the Ghanaian e-waste sector is controlled by the informal sector, overshadowing formal recycling practices, but he believes SRI can change this. “Once we identify the illegal recyclers, we look at their technology, their challenges and what support they need. We train them, send them to the STEP e-waste academy, change the way they do things,” he says. SRI trains the illegal recyclers in methods meeting regulatory standards, getting them out of illegal practices. In doing so, it hopes to bring an end to practices like burning waste in open air.

Schluep believes that along with the waste, the criminality gets imported. “Africa is not corrupt because of the culture. It’s because the Europeans brought it over there with their business. It’s not an African thing or an Asian thing or a Latin thing. It’s us, and it’s embarrassing.”

Besides specific initiatives like SRI, in some countries the waste industry itself is attempting to bring illegal recyclers into the formal sector, hoping to reform them. In South Africa, collection and treatment of e-waste is not yet part of the legal framework. The Southern African E-waste Alliance (SAEWA), a nationwide syndicate representing e-waste recyclers, is developing a blueprint to get the recycling industry involved in the issue.

“Because the entry-level requirements are so high, South Africa has only a handful of fully legally compliant recyclers for e-waste, so most of the processing is done illegally,” SAEWA head Susanne Karcher explains.

SAEWA started out working only with the legally compliant companies, but after realizing that this left out the vast majority of the industry, it decided to begin trying to include informal and illegal recyclers as affiliates.

“You need the big shark in every ocean, but you also need the bottom-feeders, the little fish that can go under the stone,” says Karcher. “I believe we have to capitalize on that instead of squashing those people, but involve them into the economy.”

In any case, she says, large legal recyclers are already making use of the small informal collectors. South Africa generates 360,000 tons of e-waste every year, and only 10 percent makes it to formal recyclers. “As far as the destination of the rest, your guess is as good as mine, but we know that 30 to 40 percent of the business of the big recyclers is people that directly sell to them with their trolleys from the street. They’re buying from the informal sector.”

As it is, there are perverse incentives for recycling the informal way. “You get paid less when you come to a recycler with a complete unit than if you come with a printed wire board or a copper bit. So people rather smash the computer outside of the quarters and bring in the bits that pay. But a lot of material is lost this way,” Karcher explains. Because the international demand for the precious materials contained in certain parts of the e-waste is so high, the low-value parts of it, like the plastic, are unwanted by the big recycling companies, which therefore pay less for whole pieces containing them.

By working with the informal providers, SAEWA believes it can limit loss, reduce informal activities to collection only (discouraging the often dangerous efforts at recycling itself) and better represent those working in the industry. “We want to be the voice of the industry, which includes the formal and the informal sector. We cannot pretend they don’t exist. They know they are illegal, but they want to better themselves, and that’s good enough for us,” Karcher says.

With e-waste recycling an ever larger industry, it seems there is little alternative but to take those involved in its shadowy side into account. Dannoritzer tells another story from Spain. At a public city council’s collection point, they kept the e-waste container right next to the fence, far away from the others and far away from the cameras. Just outside, a large truck belonging to a scrap dealer was parked. “People’s awareness is key,” she says. “Where we see rubbish, they see treasure.”

Source: huffingtonpost


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City combats dumping

A man has been caught red-handed during an operation focused on illegal dumping in Philippi and Mitchell’s Plain.

Mayor Patricia de Lille and members of the City of Cape Town’s task teams visited a few illegal dumping hotspots.

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“I was shocked to see the vast amount of illegal dumping and the complete disregard for the law as well as the health of the public and the environment,” De Lille says. “During our inspections, our teams found a man illegally dumping building rubble at one of the illegal dumping hotspots in Philippi.”

The man was issued with a written notice to appear in court with an admission of guilt fine for R5000.

Staff from City enforcement agencies, including solid waste management and law enforcement, regularly monitor illegal dumping hotspots. Since the beginning of the year they have issued fines totalling about R1m.

“Earlier this morning, these enforcement teams also found illegally dumped medical waste at two sites in Philippi and Beacon Valley. The waste included expired tablets, old medicine bottles and expired baby food. As part of our efforts to improve service delivery and create a safe environment for residents, the City is committed to stamping out illegal dumping,” De Lille says.

She adds that dumping not only places a burden on the City’s finances and resources, but can also pose a threat to public health.

“In April 2013, three-year-old Jordan Lewis died after playing near illegally dumped chemical waste in Delft. To combat this problem, the City spends more than R350m annually to clear waste from open spaces, sewerage systems and toilets – money that could be much better spent on new services and infrastructure. For example, the City could have built 2065 houses or provided electricity for 31 627 homes,” says De Lille.

The City is amending its bylaws to enable the impounding and forfeiture of cars used in dumping.

“This measure is used internationally and has proven to be very effective in deterring illegal dumping. Although illegal dumping occurs across the city, there are certain hotspots where the problem is more prevalent,” she says. These areas include Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga, Philippi and Epping Industria.

“Today we saw how, despite our monitoring and regular operations, perpetrators continue to show little regard for the law, or for public and environmental health. We have therefore shifted our focus from being reactive, to taking a more proactive approach. We simply cannot keep spending money on a problem that is 100% avoidable,” De Lille states.

In March the City announced that cash rewards of up to R1000 would be offered for information that leads to a positive outcome against criminal activity, including illegal dumping.

“There is no reason for residents to dump waste illegally. The City has 25 waste drop-off sites around the metro for the proper disposal of waste,” says De Lille.

Source: news24


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City combats dumping

A man has been caught red-handed during an operation focused on illegal dumping in Philippi and Mitchell’s Plain.

Mayor Patricia de Lille and members of the City of Cape Town’s task teams visited a few illegal dumping hotspots.

“I was shocked to see the vast amount of illegal dumping and the complete disregard for the law as well as the health of the public and the environment,” De Lille says. “During our inspections, our teams found a man illegally dumping building rubble at one of the illegal dumping hotspots in Philippi.”

The man was issued with a written notice to appear in court with an admission of guilt fine for R5000.

Staff from City enforcement agencies, including solid waste management and law enforcement, regularly monitor illegal dumping hotspots. Since the beginning of the

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year they have issued fines totalling about R1m.

“Earlier this morning, these enforcement teams also found illegally dumped medical waste at two sites in Philippi and Beacon Valley. The waste included expired tablets, old medicine bottles and expired baby food. As part of our efforts to improve service delivery and create a safe environment for residents, the City is committed to stamping out illegal dumping,” De Lille says.

She adds that dumping not only places a burden on the City’s finances and resources, but can also pose a threat to public health.

“In April 2013, three-year-old Jordan Lewis died after playing near illegally dumped chemical waste in Delft. To combat this problem, the City spends more than R350m annually to clear waste from open spaces, sewerage systems and toilets – money that could be much better spent on new services and infrastructure. For example, the City could have built 2065 houses or provided electricity for 31 627 homes,” says De Lille.

The City is amending its bylaws to enable the impounding and forfeiture of cars used in dumping.

“This measure is used internationally and has proven to be very effective in deterring illegal dumping. Although illegal dumping occurs across the city, there are certain hotspots where the problem is more prevalent,” she says. These areas include Mitchell’s Plain, Nyanga, Philippi and Epping Industria.

“Today we saw how, despite our monitoring and regular operations, perpetrators continue to show little regard for the law, or for public and environmental health. We have therefore shifted our focus from being reactive, to taking a more proactive approach. We simply cannot keep spending money on a problem that is 100% avoidable,” De Lille states.

In March the City announced that cash rewards of up to R1000 would be offered for information that leads to a positive outcome against criminal activity, including illegal dumping.

“There is no reason for residents to dump waste illegally. The City has 25 waste drop-off sites around the metro for the proper disposal of waste,” says De Lille.

Source: News 24


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