Sweden Imports Trash, Heats Nation

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The U.S. produces over 220 million tons of waste each year—55 percent of which ends up in landfills, 33 percent gets recycled and 12.5 percent is incinerated. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 65 percent of the waste generated by the U.S. in 2006 came from residences and 35 percent came from commercial and institutional sites. How can the U.S. implement an effective waste management system?

Sweden has an innovative waste management system in which the energy created by burnable waste is used to provide heat and electricity for the entire country. The heat produced by waste plants has become a substitute for fossil fuel.

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By Silvia Gutierrez, GMC Editor

Beyond Pretty Lights

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“Chemical compounds probably aren’t what come to mind when you think about fireworks. What comes to mind when you see fireworks? Do you think of the loud noises they make? Or do you think about the stench they leave behind following the grand finale of the display? While fireworks have become a huge tradition on the 4th of July, the chemicals that are used to make them have been found highly detrimental to the environment.

Bright flashes of colors such as red, white, blue, yellow, green, and violet light up the sky— results of the combustion of flash powder oxidizer potassium perchlorate and various nitrates. Strontium nitrate is responsible for red fireworks, barium nitrate for green, and copper chloride for blue.”

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By Kimberly Dallmann, GMC Writer

Managing Our Carbon Footprint: The Bright Side of Carbon Dioxide

We hear it all the time—we need to reduce our carbon footprint. There are companies such as Liquid Light that have discovered innovative ways to reduce the negative effects of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide, said to be the leading cause of climate change, is the biggest byproduct produced by mass transportation and manufacturing plants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that carbon dioxide is responsible for 76 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Liquid Light proposed groundbreaking technology that recycles carbon dioxide into other chemicals that can be used in everyday products. Emily Cole, cofounder and chief science officer of Liquid Light, believes recycling carbon dioxide is necessary in order to change the way we reduce our carbon footprint.

“We take carbon dioxide from its source [like power plants or factories], add water and electricity to it, and create liquid fuels and chemicals such as ethylene glycol and glycolic acid,” said Cole.

Liquid Light’s efforts could greatly help reduce GHG emissions, as well as reduce the cost of producing the materials used to make products like plastic bottles. According to the website, Ban the Bottle, 17 million barrels of oil are needed each year for the production of plastic bottles, which doesn’t include fuel for the transportation involved in the process. The end products of recycled carbon dioxide could replace the petroleum used in not only the production of plastic bottles, but also during the making of asphalt, cleaning products, aspirin and synthetic rubber.

When it comes to reducing our carbon footprint and recycling, many people believe that it is just a way to divert waste and feel better about the act without it actually making an impact. This couldn’t be more wrong. Recycling will not have a true impact if we do not change the way we live and consume. If we continue to use petroleum instead of alternative chemicals, our carbon footprint will continue to depress greatly. In order to sustain a reasonable use of our resources, we need to make sure that we are extracting said sources at a lower or equal-to value. Thanks to companies such as Liquid Light, we might be able to expedite the process of leveling the rate at which we use resources that are harmful to our environment.

By Kimberly Dallmann, GMC Writer

Get Smart: Recycle Your Smartphone.

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Each time there is a new iPhone or Android on the market, what do you do with your old phone? Do you let it sit in a drawer? Do you pass it down to someone? Does it end up in the trash? If you’re not a fan of collecting old stuff, or you don’t know someone in need of a new phone or you’d rather keep it out of the trash, try out an ecoATM! By inputing some information and handing over your old device, you can get reimbursed! It is the best way to make money off of an old phone. Consider it a reward for recycling! Visit ecoATM’s website and enter your zip code to find a machine near you!