October 28, 2012

Recycling 6000 light bulbs

Click here to see how one creative artist used old incandescent bulbs.

It seemed very appropriate today to post this as we await the winds of Hurricane Sandy.

It has been a VERY dreary day here in Williamsburg, Virginia.

But New Jersey and New York City residents await a much more dire situation. Mother Nature must not celebrate Halloween.

What is a "Convenience Center"?

Signs and labels are not always enlightening or helpful.

For example, did you know that local "Convenience Center" signs designate drop-off recycling centers? Or that all three James City County Convenience Centers are now accepting almost all #1-7 plastic food containers, as well as cardboard and old appliances. As Dana Harvey would say in his famous Church Lady skits, "How convenient!"

So start rinsing out your plastic yogurt and sour cream containers and rigid takeout boxes and stack them under your sink until you will be near one of the three convenience centers.

Hours are very convenient:

Jolly Pond Road - 1204 Jolly Pond Rd. - 7 a.m. - 5 p.m., seven days a week. Other recyclables taken at Jolly Pond Road are kitchen grease, waste motor oil and antifreeze, tires*, propane tanks*, scrap metal (including appliances), and brush*. (*coupons required). When using this facility, residents are urged to allow ample time to unload vehicles prior to the 5 p.m. closing.

Tewning Road - 107 Tewning Rd. - Monday 8 a.m. - 12 p.m.; Tuesday - Saturday: 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Closed - Sunday. Waste motor oil, antifreeze, and kitchen grease accepted.

Toano Convenience Center - 185 Industrial Blvd. (Hankins Industrial Park) - 8 a.m. - 4 p.m., seven days a week. Other recyclables taken at the Toano Convenience Center are tires (coupons required), automobile batteries, motor oil, antifreeze, metal appliances, and kitchen grease.

The Convenience Centers are closed on the following holidays: Memorial Day, Labor Day, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. On Christmas Eve, all centers will close at noon.

Just last month I complained of no local markets for the many plastics that fill up our landfills. But Virginia Peninsulas Public Service Authority (VPPSA) found one in New York State. Tracy Hofmeyer, VPPSA Coordinator, says, "The three convenience centers will now accept most #1-7 food and household containers, but NOT plastic toys or chairs or ANY styrofoam--including styrofoam clamshell containers, coffee cups or coolers--even though they may have #6 on them. We also cannot accept plastic bags or rigid plastic plant pots."

So what to do with those used pots? Green kudos to Ken Matthews Garden Center in Yorktown, Anderson's Garden Showplace in Newport News and Hampton's Countryside Gardens who will recycle them. Ask your local garden stores to do the same.

Dominion power line debate continues in Virginia

Miss the Dominion power line hearing? You can submit written comments, either by regular mail or electronically, on the proposed high voltage power across the James River from Surry to James City County. Visit the State Corporation Commission website at www.scc.virginia.gov. Deadline is January 3, 2013

Many prefer an underwater power line like the one being constructed under the York River. But Dominion argues that option is much more expensive. Sure seems that running the line underwater would not be more costly than building 16 towers to hold the power lines above the river. Some of these towers are as high as the Statue of Liberty!

One way or the other, it's a sure thing that Dominion will pass on these costs to the consumer. If there's a surcharge, many would prefer that it underwrite renewable energy.

One interesting bit of info on the SCC handout from the meeting: "Federal law applies to the Commission's (SCC) consideration of lines of larger capacity proposed to be located in certain federally designated areas of Virginia, primarily north of Richmond." How does that apply to a high capacity line through James City County?

Genetically modified foods?

Heard of GMOs?  Some corn and soybean genes have been engineered for ethanol. Some to be insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant to survive Roundup. Sugar beets and cotton crops go that route too. So more pesticides and herbicides can now be used if farmers deem it necessary.

But did you know that "genetically modified organisms" (GMOs) or genetically engineered ingredients are in your kitchen now? GMO crops are so widespread that an estimated 70 percent of U.S. processed foods contain engineered genes. Seven out of ten bites? Yikes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved more than 80 genetically engineered crops and denied none.

The debate about the safety of GMO foods is ongoing. But do you want the right to know what you are eating?  More than 50 countries around the world require GMO labeling.

If there’s nothing wrong with GMOs, why not include them on food labels? That’s the thinking behind Proposition 37 on California’s ballot next week—requiring that foods with genetically engineered ingredients be labeled thus. Pesticide companies such as Monsanto and Dow and processed food companies are spending more than $35 million fighting this “Just Label It” initiative.

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have pledged to not stock their shelves with GMO foods. But how can any consumer be sure?

Worried?  That your fresh fruits and vegetables have been genetically modified? You can recognize GMO produce by those stickers the cashiers scan. A five digit number beginning with "8" means it is genetically modified. Five digit numbers beginning with "9" mean certified organic. Non-organic foods will only have  four digit codes.

October 19, 2012

Keystone Pipeline again in the news

Hmmm. TransCanada has temporarily shut down its existing 2100 mile Keystone pipeline after tests showed "possible safety issues." This is the pipeline that many folks don't think exists. But it already moves about 500,000 barrels of crude a day from Alberta, Canada, to facilities in Illinois and Oklahoma.

The possible safety issues were found on the part of the pipeline that extends between Missouri and Illinois. And this is why I worry when so many folks demand that this pipeline extension be approved quickly. Keystone Kops will be needed to verify the safety of said pipeline.

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October 2, 2012

Solar and wind energy coming to Virginia?

"Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy." But sunshine on big box store rooftops would make me even happier.

Dominion Power, under attack by greenies for including no wind power in their future plans, is seriously considering solar energy projects. And at an estimated cost of $111 million!

The Virginia State Corporation Commission (those folks who rule on power companies rates and increases) held a hearing recently on Dominion Power's hopes to build and operate up to 30 megawatts of solar-generated energy at 30-50 locations. They would lease space on commercial rooftops to make this happen. Not a bad idea if it really only costs each of us 20 cents per month.

Offshore wind projects, however, may be years away. The Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy is looking for proposals (by October 17) to survey the ocean bottom off Virginia Beach to see if it can hold up massive wind turbines. Offshore Denmark can do it. They generate almost 20 percent of their energy needs by thousands of wind turbines. Is Virginia that different? Time will tell.


Never heard of Freecycle?

Goodwill can re-sell your “gently used” clothes, toys, etc. Habitat for Humanity’s stores, cleverly called ReStore, also can find donated furniture and building materials a good home. And there is always the yard sale option.

But Freecycle was the answer to recycling my unused yarn and fabric, no longer needed teaching materials, lawnmower, old CDs, DVD tapes, corks, and a bunch of other stuff that might have ended up in the landfill. I responded to one of the emails received, agree to a convenient pickup date, and left the items in my driveway. Poof--they are gone later!

The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,070 groups with 9,145,303 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and thus keeping good stuff out of landfills.

Membership is free, and everything posted must be FREE, legal and appropriate for all ages. To view the items being given away or sought, you must be a member of the local group. To view the local group posts, visit the local Yahoo Group where they are located by clicking on the link below.

There are two Freecycle groups in Williamsburg, VA and one in Yorktown:

WilliamsburgVAFreecycle, a Freecycle Network group, has more than 1660 members who post "Wanted" or "Offer" on a variety of items that are free for the asking..

WilliamsburgRecyclist, another Yahoo group, has about 1000 members.

YorktownVAFreecycle also has one with almost 1000 members.

You can join more than one and really divert a lot of your "stuff" from the landfill.

Recycling Do's and Don't's

Kudos to all who put full recycling bins out for curbside pickup each week. We have two containers, usually filled to the brim with newspapers, magazines, junk mail, wine bottles, aluminum cans and #1 and #2 plastic bottles—with necks.

But it’s time for a refresher course because many folks include items for which local curbside programs (such as in Williamsburg and James City) have no market. In many curbside bins, I see plastic bags that clog up the sorting machinery, styrofoam egg cartons, greasy pizza boxes and plastic containers with #3 through #7 labels. This unnecessarily adds to our curbside recycling costs as they need to sort them out and truck them to the landfill.

Click here to see what TFC Recycling trucks want from YOU.

Important info — Colonial Williamsburg’s Recycling Center was meant only for residents, hotels and businesses within CW and they are doing an outstanding job. But they cannot handle recyclables from the general public, although I had been told so a while back and promoted this location. Please, NO MORE!

Mike Hornby, CW’s Director of Business Operations, says “Due to overwhelming response, our Recycling Center was inundated with more than our program was set up to handle. We ask the general public to understand that we cannot accept items that are not picked up curbside.”

Yikes— So what are we to do with all those #3–7 plastics in our area? The chasing arrows logos on almost all plastics do not guarantee that they are recyclable in your area, only that they are recyclable in SOME cities like Philadelphia.

Whole Foods’ “Gimme 5” program offers bins for rinsed out #5 yogurt and sour cream containers. You might stack them up under your sink for your next drive to Richmond.

Or save all your #3-7 stuff for your next trip to the City of Brotherly Love. We are lucky that our son lives there and will find our next visit quite amusing.