Recycling Rare …

Recycling Rare Earth Metals: What Does China Know That We Don’t?

Posted by June Stoyer

What Are They & Why Do They Matter?

Rare earth metals are actually not rare in and of themselves but tend to be present with other compounds in very small quantities. Rare earth metals are used for a myriad of reasons including electronics, fuel cells, fiber optics, magnets, CRT’s and LCD’s, as well as their extensive use in green technology.

Most new plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will use lithium-ion batteries (above) rather than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in most hybrid electric vehicles.
(photo credit: /

Here is a more detailed list. (source:

  • Rechargeable batteries (in camcorders), cell phones, PDAs, laptop
  • Computers and other portable devices.
  • Wind turbines, drinking water filters, petrochemical catalysts,
  • Polishing powders, hydrogen storage, fluorescent lighting, flat panels,
  • Color televisions, glass, ceramics and automotive catalysts.
  • Fiberoptics, dental and surgical lasers, MRI systems, as medical
  • Contrast agents, in medical isotopes and in positron emission
  • Tomography scintillation detectors.
  • Magnetic refrigeration
  • Rechargeable batteries used in hybrid vehicles
  • Permanent magnets
  • Military application

China Raises Rare-Earth Export Quota

According to an article in the Wall St. Journal, by James T. Areddy and Chuin-Wei Yap

“China’s government eased its restrictions on rare-earth exports for the first time since 2005 in an apparent nod to a trade fight over Beijing’s tight global grip on production of the strategically important minerals.

But industry executives said the move will do little to shake China’s dominance of a market crucial to industries as diverse as oil refining, electric vehicles and ballistic missiles.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday that it will permit 2.7% more volume of rare earth—30,996 metric tons—to leave the country this year than it did in 2011. The increase follows a number of tighter limits imposed …”

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

Americans continue to toss out materials that utilize rare earth metals. China profits from our waste by recycling them. They are refurbishes, repurposed and sold right back to the American market at a huge profit. At what point will Americans recognize the potential in this waste?

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

According to a research by Dr. Peter Dent from Electron Energy Corp., The total world market size for rare-earth magnetic materials was:

  • $9.1 billion in 2007 and is projected to grow to
  • $12 billion in 2011 and to
  • $21 billion by 2020

Role Compostable Packaging Plays in Food Waste Systems

When Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport included a groundbreaking provision in their new concessionaire contract requiring food vendors to use compostable packaging, the catalyst was set in motion for a major shift in foodservice packaging. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Statement, gives an overview of the contract provision at the world’s largest airport.  The foodservice industry is at the cusp of a new era in packaging where compostable and|or recyclable products are the norm.

To ensure integrity within the new packaging era, the BPI Compostible Packaging Certification program and Seattle-based composter Cedar Grove set strict standards to ensure compostable packaging  breaks down within the ASTM D6400 Standard in traditional windrow or covered-aerated-static pile systems. Yet many municipalities and companies are exploring other technologies for handling food waste.These systems range from in-vessel composting to on-site digesters to anaerobic digesters. Industry experts are addressing how compostable products work in these food waste systems.

With strong European success, anaerobic digestion for commercial and residential food waste is gaining momentum in the U.S.The technology has solid  U.S. traction at municipal water treatment facilities and on-farm, yet is a frontier for food waste.

Predominately enclosed in a facility, anaerobic digestion systems tend to make the permitting process easier where citizens are concerned about smells generated at traditional composting operations. A challenge is if the state regulations do not contain anaerobic digestion provisions, leaving regulators perplexed as to the permitting process.

anaerobic digestion facility
picture from CleanTech solutions site

In layman’s terms, anaerobic digesters decompose organic material in a closed anaerobic (without air) environment where the methane gas produced is captured for energy use.  Each system has its own “recipe,” including food waste, yard trimmings, FOG (fats, oils & grease from kitchen operations) and other organic material.  After the energy is extracted from the organic material, digestate remains as the system by-product.  With further “curing” the digestate is often used as a soil amendment.

Traditional windrow composting uses an aerobic (with air) system where the piles are turned, thus not producing methane gas.  The energy component inherent within food waste remains within the compost, providing nutrients for the soil’s microbial community.
With the pending shift in foodservice disposable items to compostable products coupled with zero waste programs, the food waste feedstock may soon include a significant portion of man-made products.  What is the impact of these compostable products on the sensitive anaerobic digester recipes?  Will the products contribute to the energy produced in the system?  Are the products a contaminant?  Will the products hinder the system’s energy production? Are the products benign, flowing through the system without impact?  If so, is there reduced energy produced due to the recipe change?

At the October 15 -17 Biopolymers Symposium in San Antonio, TX, the half-day Anaerobic Digestion Forum on Monday, October 15 will answer the above questions along with providing a wealth of information on the role bioplymers (compostable plastics) play in the process.

With stellar speakers from the public, private and consulting sectors, the forum is staged for informative presentations and lively dialogue.  According to the Forum Co-Chair Debra Darby of Darby Marketing,  “There is an increasing interest in anaerobic digestion as a growing part of urban or municipal integrated waste management. The key is to involve commercial stakeholders and educate the public about organics diversion programs as both a sustainability effort and an economic driver,”

As a Biopolymers Symposium speaker, Elemental Impact founder and Sustainable Food Courts Initiative director Holly Elmore is excited to attend the forum.  A supporter of the Atlanta Airport’s compostable packaging provision and proponent of zero waste programs, Ei will explore the implications of compostable packaging on the various food waste technologies.

The Anaerobic Digestion Forum is an excellent venue to meet the industry experts, learn from powerful presentations and ask pertinent questions to those with answers.

Trying To Tame The (Real) Deadliest Fishing Jobs

Trying To Tame The (Real) Deadliest Fishing Jobs by Curt Nickisch

On the fishing-boat piers of New England, nearly everyone knows a fisherman who was lost at sea.

Boat captain Joe Neves remembers when a crew member got knocked overboard. “We heard him screaming ‘Help me!’ ” Neves says, grimacing. “But you know, on the water at night, your head is like a little coconut.” They didn’t find him.

Mike Gallagher discovered a friend who was entangled in still-running hydraulics. “I knew right away he was dead,” he says.

And Fred Mattera was fishing 125 miles off the coast of Cape Cod when the 21-year-old son of a close friend succumbed to poisonous fumes in a nearby boat. “That was a brutal week in this port,” he says.

The Deadliest Catch

The Bureau of Labor Statistics ranks commercial fishing as the deadliest job in the United States. And despite the popular notion from reality TV’s Deadliest Catch, which features Alaskan crab fishermen, the most dangerous American fishery is in the Northeast.

From 2000 to 2009, workers in the Northeast’s multi-species groundfish fishery (which includes fish such as cod and haddock) were 37 times more likely to die on the job as a police officer.

A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health report shows that 70 percent of those deaths and those in the second-deadliest fishery, Atlantic scallops, followed disasters such as a vessel catching fire, capsizing or sinking. Most of the rest came from onboard injuries or falling overboard — often caused by heavy overhead equipment.

Not one of those who fell overboard and drowned was wearing a life jacket.

An investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, NPR News and WBUR in Boston found that despite earning the odious ranking as America’s deadliest job, commercial fishing in the Northeast operates in a cultural tradition and regulatory environment that thwarts promising safety measures.

Out To Sea, Out Of Mind

Despite the strikingly high fatality rate in the fishing industry, pushes for reform have taken decades to come to fruition. In 1988, Congress required fishing boats to carry life boats, personal flotation devices and other safety equipment.

Yet while the Coast Guard mandates seaworthiness inspections of passenger ferries and other commercial vessels, fishing boats are not inspected.

“We’ve … requested authority to do inspections on vessels,” says Jack Kemerer, chief of the fishing vessels division of the Coast Guard. Congress did not include that power in the U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2010.

“So I can’t answer why or why not,” Kemerer says. “But, you know, it’s not that we haven’t asked for it in the past.”

The Last Of The Ocean Cowboys

Most fishermen don’t want to be supervised. Some are fatalistic about their life on the seas. New England fishermen used to buy steel-toed boots, believing that if they fell into the frigid Atlantic, it was better to drown faster. Others espouse a rugged individualism and see themselves as the last cowboys on the ocean.

At Chatham Harbor on Cape Cod, Bill Amaru runs one of the last cod-fishing boats from a harbor that used to be so prolific, fish markets labeled cod Chathams. Now, strict federal rules limit how much he can catch. Many other cod fishermen have gone out of business. Amaru doesn’t like the idea of the feds inspecting his boat.

“If there’s a resentment to these kinds of rules,” Amaru says as he moors his boat in the harbor, “it’s based on the overall huge number of regulations that have come down on our industry in the last decade — so much federal ‘nanny state,’ kind of telling us how to operate — when I think I have a pretty good understanding of what I need to do to keep safe.”

Still, the 2010 law requires boat owners like Amaru to prove that their safety equipment is up to date. Coast Guard checks have forced many fishermen to throw out old and disintegrating life rafts, and replace the expired batteries from their emergency signal beacons.

But just because a boat has updated safety gear doesn’t mean the crew knows how to use it.

‘We Will Make This A Safer Industry’

When Fred Mattera raced his boat to help fishermen overcome by poisonous fumes in a nearby boat in 2001, he didn’t know exactly what to do to help them. The radio was no help, either.

“What I heard there was this hodgepodge [of] try this, try that,” Mattera remembers. “And nobody knew for certain.”

When 21-year-old Steven Follett, the son of a close friend, died, Mattera was frustrated. Some people in port called him a hero for trying. “Being a hero is … someone survives,” he says, shaking his head.

Mattera told his friend he would make good come from the loss of life. “I just said, I promise you, we need to change the culture. We will make this a safer industry.”

The incident turned Mattera into a safety evangelist. Earlier this month, he helped the crews of two boats organize a disaster training and man-overboard exercise.

‘Get Your Panic Out Now!’

In one exercise, crew members clumsily put on bright orange-red survival suits. Insulated, watertight and buoyant, the suits cover each fisherman from head to toe; only their faces are exposed. They step off the boat into the calm dockside water. But even in these conditions, wearing what some guys call a “Gumby suit” feels claustrophobic to some, and they thrash around until they get their bearings.

“Get your panic out now!” Fred Matter shouts from the deck. The crew members are practicing abandoning ship in the case of a fire or capsizing. The immersion suits are designed to keep them alive and afloat in the icy Atlantic until someone can rescue them.

Mattera coaches them to link up with each other back-to-back and paddle together over to a life raft and climb in.

When it’s all over, the crew looks winded.

“There’s a ‘Holy crap!’ issue to it,” boat captain Norbert Stamps says of the training. “You jump in, you kind of realize that this isn’t fun and games. This is real serious stuff. And you gotta practice, and you gotta know what to expect.”

Crew member Mike Gallagher says fishermen-organized trainings are becoming more common. “To be honest with you,” he says, “the safety thing hasn’t really been paid much attention to until the past several years. Really, it’s been overlooked.”

Learning From Alaska

Alaskan waters had been viewed as the most hazardous place for commercial fishing — that is, until a closer focus on safety reduced the number of fatalities in those fisheries.

“I believe that fishermen want to be safe,” says National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health epidemiologist Jennifer Lincoln, who’s based in Alaska. “They just want things to be practical. They want the solutions to really address the hazards that exist.”

In Alaska, fishermen, state regulators and the Coast Guard have worked together to make fishing less deadly:

  • Bering Sea crabbing boats now transport fewer crab pots when they head out to sea. In turn, that weight limit prevented capsizing. Fatalities fell by 60 percent.
  • Because capsizing often occurred in deaths of Alaska’s salmon fishermen, skiff operators are now allowed the option of leaving immersion suits off their small boats, as long as they wear a life preserver at all times.
  • Pilot projects with life preservers designed for their working conditions encouraged scallop boats to require crew members to wear them.

That kind of safety progress is what Fred Mattera and others want to replicate in the Northeast, the home of today’s deadliest catch. Since that deadly accident in 2001, Mattera has trained hundreds of fishermen at Point Judith in Narragansett, R.I. But he’s not done.

“I’m just a fisherman,” Mattera says. “That’s what I loved, and that’s what I did for a long time. I promised a family we’d make a difference. [As long as] I’m still breathing, that’s what we’re going to strive to do.”

Mattera hopes that someday, the deadliest job in America will only be as dangerous as it has to be, and not one bit more.

Our stories about dangers in the commercial fishing industry were jointly reported by the Center for Public Integrity, WBUR in Boston and NPR News. The stories are part of CPI’s Hard Labor series on workplace safety.

Philadelphia woman faces $600-a-day fine for feeding needy neighborhood kids


A Pennsylvania woman who offers free lunch every day to low-income children in her neighborhood faces a $600-a-day fine next summer if she continues because she did not clear the food giveaway with township officials.

Angela Prattis donates her time to distribute the meals — supplied by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — and adheres to strict paperwork, like filling out weekly reports and being visited bi-weekly from a state worker, reports.

“Angela saw it as a way to contribute to the community in a positive way,” Anne Ayella, a member of the archdiocese, said. “There was nothing in it for her.”

Prattis laughed and said, “I don’t make a dime.”

Prattis lived in the township for three years. She reportedly distributes the meals to the 60 or so children at a gazebo on her property during the summer months, when children are home from school.

The Delaware County Times reports that another resident alerted the council about the distribution a few weeks ago. The council investigated and ruled that the practice is not permitted without a variance, the paper reported.

“You have houses here, the roofs are falling in, and they could be focused on a lot of more serious issues than me feeding children,” she said.

Chester Township, which has a per capita income of $19,000 a year, says Prattis lives in a residential zone, hence handing out food to children is not allowed. The township says she needs to go before a zoning board to ask for a variance, which would cost her up to $1,000 in administrative fees.

“I don’t think it’s my responsibility to go to her to say, ‘why don’t you come to talk to me to see if there’s something that we can do to help your program,’” William Pisarek, the Chester Township business manager, said.

Prattis told The Delaware County Times that she is not going to stop feeding the children in the area.

Russian punk band found guilty of hooliganism, sentenced to two years

Russian punk band found guilty of hooliganism, sentenced to two years

By Dylan Stableford,

Click on the photo to see Pussy Riot slide show (Pussy Riot/Live Journal)

Three members of Pussy Riot — a Russian punk band and feminist collective that mocked Russian president Vladamir Putin during a “punk prayer” in a Moscow cathedral–have been found guilty of  hooliganism and sentenced to two years in jail

Judge Marina Syrova announced the verdict from a district court in central Moscow, about two miles from the Christ the Saviour Cathedral where the guerrilla group performed its “flash” stunt.

The band members–Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Maria Alyokhina, 24, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30–were arrested on March 3, several weeks after the performance, and charged with “hooliganism.” They’ve been in jail ever since.

Their trial drew enormous international interest, sparking catcalls from international free-speech advocates and spawning dozens of protests. Some of those were reported on Twitter during the verdict and sentencing, involving an impromptu musical concert and some protests in public areas in Moscow and London.

Madonna, Bjork, Paul McCartney and Courtney Love were among a long list of musicians to come out in support of Pussy Riot, calling on the Russian government to set the band members free. Last week in Berlin, more than 400 people joined a protest led by electro-singer Peaches.

“In one of the most extravagant displays,” the Associated Press said, “Reykjavik Mayor Jon Gnarr rode through the streets of the Icelandic capital in a Gay Pride parade … dressed like a band member–wearing a bright pink dress and matching balaclava–while lip-synching to one of Pussy Riot’s songs.”

What started as “a punk-infused political prank,” London’s Independent said, “has rapidly snowballed into one of the most notorious court cases in post-Soviet Russian history.”

Five members of the group, which formed in 2011, were arrested in January after a video of a Putin-baiting performance in Moscow’s Red Square circulated online. They were detained for several hours by police, fined and released, NPR said.

But the 10-member Pussy Riot, inspired by the American “riot grrrl” movement and bands like Bikini Kill, vowed more protest performances.

Pussy Riot’s stunt at Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral, a Russian Orthodox church, was a response, they said, to Patriarch Kirill’s public support of Putin in the build-up to Russia’s presidential election. Putin won a third term as president in March.

“Holy Mother, send Putin packing!” the group sang.

The Guardian called the trial, which began on July 30, “worse than Soviet era.”

“By the end of the first week of Pussy Riot’s trial,” the Guardian’s Miriam Elder wrote last week, “everyone in the shabby Moscow courthouse was tired. Guards, armed with submachine guns, grabbed journalists and threw them out of the room at will. The judge, perched in front of a shabby Russian flag, refused to look at the defense. And the police dog–a 100 [pound] black Rottweiler–no longer sat in the corner she had occupied since the start of Russia’s trial of the year, but barked and foamed at the mouth as if she were in search of blood.”

Lawyers for the women complained during the trial that the trio were being starved and tortured in prison. Two threatened to go on a hunger strike after they were initially jailed.

“Their treatment has caused deep disquiet among many Russians, who feel the women are–to coin a phrase from the 1967 trial of members of the Rolling Stones–butterflies being broken on a wheel,” the BBC’s Daniel Sandford wrote.

Syrova was subjected to unspecified threats during the trial, Russian authorities announced on Thursday–assigning bodyguards to protect her before and after she announced the verdict.

Several Russian pop stars, though, questioned the outpouring of support for Pussy Riot.

“What is so great about Pussy Riot that all these international stars support them?” Russian singer Valeria wrote on her website, according to Reuters. “They must be saying this because someone ordered them to.”

“Art and politics are inseparable for us,” the band said in an interview with the online newspaper in February. “We try to make political art. Performances and their rehearsals are our job. Life in Pussy Riot takes a lot of time.”

Sustainable Farming Can Feed the World?

Sustainable Farming Can Feed the World?

On Tuesday, Olivier de Schutter, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the Right to Food, presented a report entitled “Agro-ecology and the Right to Food.” (Agro-ecology, he said in a telephone interview last Friday, has “lots” in common with both “sustainable” and “organic.”) Chief among de Schutter’s recommendations is this: “Agriculture should be fundamentally redirected towards modes of production that are more environmentally sustainable and socially just.”


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U.S. says Hezbollah is helping Syrian regime

U.S. says Hezbollah is helping Syrian regime

The announcements were timed to precede Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s meetings on Saturday with Syrian opposition leaders in Turkey. Clinton also plans to pledge an additional $5.5 million in U.S. humanitarian aid for Syrian refugees.

A look at the Syrian uprising one year later. Thousands of Syrians have died and President Bashar al-Assad remains in power, despite numerous calls by the international community for him to step down. Move could provoke a backlash from the military.