Waste and Energy Presentation
The first waste product is organic food waste. This ends up in landfills, and there are a number of negative outcomes. Food waste releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Landfills are 20% of all methane emissions in the United States. Further, organic food waste is material that could be composted, but usually is not, representing a lost opportunity to create valuable compost for growing food. In addition, prior to making its way to the landfill, food waste is often stored in back alleys and in garbage cans, where it attracts rodents and other vermin (EPA, 2015).
Nuclear waste is a by-product of nuclear energy production. Nuclear waste comes in a number of categories, but it generally must be treated before it is deposited, and usually it must be turned to glass, stored in ceramics and then buried deep in the earth. Nuclear wastes have a long half-life, and are therefore a major threat, and the scientific study of how best to store nuclear waste remains ongoing. Finding suitable sites is an ongoing issue (Tollefson, 2015).
Slide 3: Coal is one fossil fuel, and it can affect the environmental significantly. Air quality is the biggest area where coal impacts, as well as climate change. Google an image of “Beijing pollution” and you’ll see what coal does to the environment. Forget what it does to the soil and the water, there is nothing quite as surreal as sitting on a park bench in China staring directly at the sun, for as long as you’d like. Coal ash is a major soil pollutant, and has low-level radioactivity. Water is also polluted by coal ash falling back to earth, and coal plants draw incredible amounts of fresh water, returning none (Greenpeace, 2014).
Slide 4: Fracking, which typically extracts natural gas, is perhaps even more destructive to the environment. Water pollution is a particularly devastating outcome of fracking. To extract the natural gas, fracking requires tremendous amount of fresh water, none of which is returned in good condition. Moreover, the evidence shows that there is significant water contamination from fracking, with dissolved solids, organic pollutants and radioactive materials all flowing back into the soil and water table (SourceWatch, 2015).
Slide 5: The disposability of each of these materials is variable. Food waste is relatively easy, because it is biodegradable. However, it would be ideal if the methane from the organic food waste could be managed more effective. Nuclear waste, however, is a lot more challenging. It has to be treated first. Some forms of waste have a half-life of a million years. Often, nuclear waste is vitrified (turned to glass) and then stored in ceramics, buried deep in mountains. This is still not a precise science, even today.
Slide 6: There seems like little way to rehabilitate lands polluted by fossil fuels. Whether it is coal ash, or water tables polluted by hydraulic fracturing, fossil fuels are incredibly destructive. Research on how to manage fossil fuel pollution is nascent and has yet to achieve any significant breakthroughs. Arguably, the best way to manage either coal or fracking waste is simply to reduce the output of this waste in the first place — nothing else really gets the job done.
Slide 7: Fossil fuels being hard on the environment, and clearly nuclear is not much better, this leaves solar energy and wind energy as naturally occurring forms of energy that we can tap into. These have the advantages of being 100% renewable and naturally occurring, though there are issues with things like storing the energy, and whatever energy is required to tap into these resources. As yet, they are not great for running mass transportation, though doubtless the technology in that respect is improving.
EPA.gov (2015). The food recovery hierarchy. Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/
Tollefson, J. (2015). U.S. government seeks sites for nuclear waste storage. Nature. Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.nature.com/news/us-government-seeks-sites-for-nuclear-waste-storage-1.17183
Greenpeace (2014). Coal impacts on water. Greenpeace. Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/climate-change/coal/Water-impacts/
SourceWatch (2015). Fracking and water pollution. SourchWatch.org. Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Fracking_and_water_pollution
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