Scrap Collector: $16M California recycling fraud bust, lessons from Flint's water crisis
Plus, accusations of "politically motivated" sanitation worker sickout, wasting disease in animal carcasses, and the triumphant return of Garbage Hill.
Welcome to Scrap Collector, Waste Dive's Friday round-up of insights and stories you may have missed during the week.
WANTED: CALIFORNIA RECYCLING FRAUDSTERS
First up: California is bringing law and order to the wild, wild West, one recycling fraud bust at a time. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline, in partnership with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, announced Monday the arrest of three individuals for allegedly defrauding California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.
The program, administered by CalRecycle, encourages recycling at privately-owned centers by offering a 5- to 10-cent return on eligible beverage containers — and the enterprising three, smelling a money-making opportunity, attempted to smuggle Arizona-sold beverage containers into California to be redeemed for their recycling value. Officials estimate they've scored approximately $16.1 million to date.
Sheriff— uh, Attorney General Becerra is taking a hard line against all recycling-related lawlessness. "California's recycling program is one of many publicly-funded programs used to incentivize better treatment of our environment and communities," said Becerra, polishing his spurs. "My office will continue to work with law enforcement agencies agencies across state lines to detect and stop criminal activity, and hold perpetrators accountable."
The arrests come after a five-month investigation led to the seizure of 27,860 pounds of beverage containers from California-bound semi-trucks at a Phoenix collection yard — a haul worth nearly $42,000 altogether. According to the complaint, the defendants operated their trucking company for the sole purpose of defrauding California’s recycling program over a three-year period.
IN OTHER NEWS
New study uncovers waste management lessons from Flint's water crisis — Purdue.edu
The ongoing Flint water crisis is a contemporary masterclass in broken infrastructure, bureaucratic incompetence, environmental injustice — and, according to new research from Purdue University, post-disaster waste management. While Flint should have been buried under the millions of water bottles used during the height of the crisis, the study — which involved interviews with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, City of Flint, Republic Services and Schupan Recycling — found that pick-up and drop-off sites established by community organizations and government agencies shielded the city from the worst of the waste.
Flint's example offers a compelling case for embedding waste management into emergency protocols: the city's response, while admirable, was reactive rather than planned. Having robust guidelines in place could buy valuable time for other aspects of emergency response — and in a disaster, even a few minutes could spell the difference between life and death. For researchers' recommendations on building out post-crisis waste management guidelines, check out the paper.
Louisiana city mayor accuses sanitation worker sickout of being "politically motivated" — Shreveport Times
Something smells fishy in Shreveport, LA — and according to Mayor Ollie Tyler, it's not just all the trash left sitting out in the sun. Fifteen sanitation workers called in sick on Monday and Tuesday, resulting in 10 to 12 trucks left idling — and suspicions that the pickup disruption is "politically motivated" to hurt Tyler's chances of reelection on Saturday against opponent Adrian Perkins. Tyler says that a disgruntled former city employee wearing a Perkins campaign shirt encouraged workers to skip out on work, insinuating the candidate had tapped him to become the city’s public works director — and that they'd soon work for him. According to Shreveport's chief administrative officer, the same individual also attempted to convince city streets and drainage employees to follow suit.
Perkins has denied involvement — and workers also insist that their absence isn't politically motivated. According to sanitation worker Chris Thomas, the sickout is what it appears to be on the surface: "We want to have better equipment to work with, we want to have a little bit more money, we['re] just looking for a better opportunity."
Wasting disease: the waste management challenge plaguing Wyoming officials — Casper Star-Tribune
The discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a dead buck mule deer has presented Jackson Hole wildlife managers with a tricky problem: how to dispose of similarly infected carcasses in Grand Teton National Park. CWD, unlike most other wildlife diseases, can persist in virtually any environment — soils, grasses, water — eventually destroying the brain and body of its hosts.
So, the decision made by unwitting park managers to send the deer's remains to the carcass dump — where it was likely consumed by scavengers — isn't ideal, to say the least. With the presence of CWD rendering usual disposal methods obsolete, park, refuge and county officials are working together on new solutions — including possibly incinerating all carcasses in Jackson Hole. The Teton County Board of County Commissioners will discuss further options at a workshop on Monday.
How the Grinch stole Garbage Hill (and may be giving it back again)! — CBC News
If you're lucky enough to live in Winnipeg, you're doubtless already obsessed with the short-lived but glorious Garbage Hill sign:
The sign, modeled after the slightly less famous Hollywood icon in Los Angeles, sprang up in Westview Park earlier this year as a nod to the park's origins as a landfill site. Naturally, it became an overnight social media sensation — before being stolen away the next day by Grinch-like city crews intent on tearing down joy (and anything erected without official approval).
But not so fast — Mayor Brian Bowman is telling residents to "stay tuned" for Garbage Hill's triumphant return! More specifically, he said it four times, which means he's probably about a quarter as excited as we are over at Waste Dive. "I think we need more fun in the city and I thought it was kind of a tongue-in-cheek fun thing to do," Bowman told CBC news on Tuesday. "So yeah, I'll just say stay tuned." There you go: a holiday miracle, possibly returning to a Winnipeg near you. Stay tuned!
New UN report: Countries must consider alternatives to plastic — United Nations Environment Programme
More than 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year — that's one truckload of plastic waste per minute at a cost of approximately $8 billion, if you need a more vivid illustration.
This horrifying insight comes to you via a groundbreaking plastic pollution report released yesterday by UN Environment and World Resources Institute. The study, which delves into a wide range of methods used to regulate single-use plastics and products containing microplastics, is full of similarly sobering stats: if, for instance, plastic production continues at its current rate, the plastic industry may account for 20% of the world’s total oil consumption by 2050.
UN General Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, for one, has had enough. Garcés has announced the launch of a new global call to action against plastic pollution in oceans: a campaign that will involve both international advocacy efforts and internal initiatives to reduce plastics use within the UN. "Having one planet means that we must do all it takes to safeguard future generations," said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of UN Environment, in response to the study's findings. Read it here — and, as you craft your new year's resolutions in the next few weeks, take a moment to consider what you can do for this gorgeous, anguished planet we live in.
SEEN & HEARD
A life-saving procedure removed an entire plastic bag from this turtle’s throat pic.twitter.com/c3F8c8lglb— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 5, 2018
People in Turkey and Indonesia are recycling plastic bottles in exchange for public transport pic.twitter.com/aj7WFCaGFh— TRT World (@trtworld) December 4, 2018
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