Hexbyte Glen Cove Improve recycling compliance by using this technique in public service announcements

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

A specific messaging strategy used in a public service announcement (PSA) video can effectively encourage New Yorkers who struggle with recycling compliance to properly separate their trash from recycling, according to the results of a University at Buffalo study.

The researchers designed the successful using the theory of planned (TPB), which predicts intention to act on three factors: the extent to which a behavior is seen as favorable; perceived social pressure to perform that behavior; and the perceived difficulty of the behavior.

Intent, however, doesn’t always translate into action. Even with the best intention, people sometimes fail to recycle properly because guidelines in New York State can vary from town to town. To achieve desirable impact, environmental campaigns need to consider what people currently know about recycling, researchers say.

“We found the PSA video to be particularly effective among audiences who have limited knowledge about recycling or those who do not yet engage in proper recycling,” says Zhuling Liu, a UB doctoral candidate who led the research published in the journal Environment, Development and Sustainability. “When thinking about approachable messaging, this strategy can be very useful.”

Recycling seems pretty easy: Put the trash in one bin and recyclables in another. But Americans aren’t doing it right. Many items land in the wrong bin.

The National Recycling Partnership estimates that non-recyclables contaminate nearly one-fifth of the material picked up curbside, a problem that can force processing centers to dispose of entire loads, even if most of the material is otherwise acceptable. A in China, which previously handled nearly half of the world’s recyclables, compounds that non-compliance. Starting in 2018, China’s National Sword policy banned the import of recyclable waste from many countries, including the United States.

Americans generally favor recycling, to the extent that they contribute to contamination by “wish-cycling,” according to Liu.

“This wishful recycling refers to the tendency to recycle everything one deems recyclable,” says Liu. “But more often than not, this behavior is increasing costs at recycling facilities that now require additional staff or expensive machinery to sort out contamination.”

These realities have limited the amount of material accepted in some municipalities, while threatening other unprofitable recycling programs with possible elimination.

“A variety of issues and the overall changes in the global market point to the need for a re-education effort about engaging in proper recycling,” says Janet Yang, Ph.D., a professor of communication in the UB College of Arts and Science, and co-author of the study. “Our findings suggest that we’ve found an effective tool for doing so.”

For their study, the researchers asked roughly 700 participants, all New York State residents, to complete an online survey related to recycling behavior. Half of that group watched a 60-second recycling PSA video, and the other half only filled out a questionnaire. Both groups answered questions related to their attitude toward recycling, their perceived social popularity of the behavior, and whether they find recycling to be an easy thing to do. Results indicate that the PSA video was particularly effective in increasing recycling intention among participants who did not feel confident about their own recycling behavior.

Because the sample was limited to New York State, the results are not generalizable across the nation. Still, the PSA video does appear to be a promising tool for increasing awareness and improving environmental engagement.

“This strategic communication messaging delivered through a video format may be particularly effective among individuals who perceive themselves to have limited ability to recycle properly,” says Liu. “That’s a good start.”

More information:
Zhuling Liu et al, Recycling as a planned behavior: the moderating role of perceived behavioral control, Environment, Development and Sustainability (2021). DOI: 10.1007/s10668-021-01894-z

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Is battery recycling environmentally friendly? thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Is battery recycling environmentally friendly?

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With new solution-based recycling processes, more raw materials can be recovered from batteries. In the picture, a red cobalt salt and a blue-green nickel salt have been obtained from a battery cell. Credit: Valeria Azovskaya/Aalto University

The EU will be home to 30 million electric cars by 2030 and the European Commission is preparing tough targets for recycling these and other batteries. Yet the impacts of battery recycling, especially for the sizeable lithium-ion batteries of the electric cars soon filling our streets, has been largely unstudied.

In a new study, researchers at Aalto University have investigated the environmental effects of a hydrometallurgical recycling process for electric car batteries. Using simulation-based life-cycle analysis, they considered energy and water consumption, as well as process emissions.

“Battery recycling processes are still developing, so their environmental footprints haven’t yet been studied in detail. To be beneficial, recycling must be proven to be more ecological than producing – we can’t just assume recycling is automatically better, even though we know mining the raw materials has large environmental impacts, like high energy and ,” says Mari Lundström, Assistant Professor at Aalto University.

Battery recycling often uses smelting, which typically loses lithium and other raw materials. Novel hydrometallurgical processes, which separate battery metals from waste by dissolution, enable the recovery of all metals but consume large amounts of energy and chemicals, and often produce contaminated wastewaters.

According to the results, the carbon footprint of the raw material obtained by the recycling process studied is 38% smaller than that of the virgin raw material. The difference is even greater if copper and aluminum recovered during mechanical pre-treatment are included. The results also point to problem areas.

“Life-cycle analysis identifies the areas where recycling can be improved. For example, we noticed that using as a neutralizing chemical significantly increases the environmental load of our process,” says Marja Rinne, a doctoral student at Aalto University.

This kind of analysis, which the researchers say has been rarely done for battery recycling, can also be done before new processes are taken into use. It is useful for determining how certain choices or process parameters affect the environmental impacts of a process, so it can be a beneficial decision-making tool for both industry and policymakers.

“Simulation-based can be used even at the design stage of recycling processes to assess the environmental impacts and find the best possible options,” says Lundström.

The potential benefits of finding the best recycling processes are substantial; the EU aims to recycle 70% of the mass battery waste by the end of the decade. It is also setting targets for specific metals used in batteries: 95% of cobalt, nickel and copper, and 70% of lithium must be recycled by 2030. It is estimated that the global lithium battery recycling market will be worth 19 billion by 2030.

According to Lundström, now is the time to develop alternative recycling methods, as the amount of waste will skyrocket with the rapid growth of .

“We will have a massive need for recycling, and we have to find the most viable and ecological processes. Research into technological innovations and their environmental impact go hand in hand,” she says.

In the study, the team also assessed the industrial scalability of the process and made recommendations on how to best modify the process accordingly.

More information:
Marja Rinne et al, Simulation-based life cycle assessment for hydrometallurgical recycling of mixed LIB and NiMH waste, Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2021.105586

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Plastic recycling results in rare metals being found in children's toys and food packaging thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Plastic recycling results in rare metals being found in children’s toys and food packaging

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Dr Andrew Turner. Credit: University of Plymouth

Some of the planet’s rarest metals—used in the manufacture of smartphones and other electrical equipment—are increasingly being found in everyday consumer plastics, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Plymouth and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tested a range of new and used products including children’s toys, office equipment and cosmetic containers.

Through a number of detailed assessments, they examined levels of rare earth elements (REEs) but also quantities of bromine and antimony, used as flame retardants in electrical equipment and a sign of the presence of recycled electronic .

The results showed one or more REEs were found in 24 of the 31 products tested, including items where unregulated recycling is prohibited such as single-use food packaging.

They were most commonly observed in samples containing bromine and antimony at levels insufficient to effect flame retardancy, but also found in plastics where those chemicals weren’t present.

Having also been found in beached marine plastics, the study’s authors have suggested there is evidence that REEs are ubiquitous and pervasive contaminants of both contemporary and historical consumer and environmental plastics.

The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, is the first to systematically investigate the full suite of REEs in a broad range of consumer plastics.

While they have previously been found in a variety of environments—including , soils and the atmosphere—the study demonstrates the wide REE contamination of the “plastisphere” that does not appear to be related to a single source or activity.

Dr. Andrew Turner, Associate Professor (Reader) in Environmental Sciences at the University of Plymouth and the study’s lead author, said: “Rare earth elements have a variety of critical applications in modern electronic equipment because of their magnetic, phosphorescent and electrochemical properties. However, they are not deliberately added to plastic to serve any function. So their presence is more likely the result of incidental contamination during the mechanical separation and processing of recoverable components.

“The health impacts arising from chronic exposure to small quantities of these metals are unknown. But they have been found in greater levels in food and tap water and certain medicines, meaning plastics are unlikely to represent a significant vector of exposure to the general population. However, they could signify the presence of other more widely known and better-studied chemical additives and residues that are a cause for concern.”

The research is the latest work by Dr. Turner examining the presence of toxic substances within everyday consumer products, marine litter and the wider environment.

In May 2018, he showed that hazardous chemicals such as bromine, antimony and lead are finding their way into food-contact items and other everyday products because manufacturers are using recycled electrical equipment as a source of black plastic.

His work was part of a successful application by the University to earn the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its pioneering research on microplastics pollution.

It also builds on previous work at the University, which saw scientists blend a smartphone to demonstrate quantities of rare or so-called ‘conflict’ elements in each product.

More information:
Andrew Turner et al, Rare earth elements in plastics, Science of The Total Environment (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145405

Plastic recycling results in rare metals being found in children’s toys and food packaging (2021, February 17)
retrieved 18 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-plastic-recycling-results-rare-metals.html

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