Recycling: Obstacles and Progress

High angle close-up of pieces of recyclable garbage on conveyor belt inside waste management facility.

Recycling: Obstacles and Progress (start time: 4:35): This week’s How On Earth focuses on the state of recycling and composting in Colorado and well beyond. A newly published report by Eco-Cycle and CoPIRG shows that Colorado ranks well below the national average, and below its own goals, on recycling and composting. But the report also highlights some recently passed legislation that could help dramatically improve the landscape, by holding producers responsible for the waste that their products generate. Host Susan Moran interviews Suzanne Jones, executive director of Eco-Cycle; and Anja Brandon, the U.S. plastics policy analyst at Ocean Conservancy, an environmental nonprofit organization.

Host, Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Shannon Young
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Headline Contributors: Beth Bennett, Shelley Schlender

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Recycling Lithium-ion Batteries

figure from Xu et al. 2020, Joule, vol. 4, p. 2609
Figure from Xu et al. 2020, Joule, vol. 4, p. 2609

Our lives have been changed by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries which are everywhere: in our cell phones, cars, toys, power tools and grid energy storage. Indeed, the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to the three scientists who invented and developed them.  As the world manufactures more and more Li-ion batteries, what are the challenges and opportunities for recycling them?  How can we prevent the batteries from ending up in landfills where the toxic metals inside can leak out?   In this episode, we talk with Dr. Zheng Chen, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego, and co-author on the paper “Efficient Direct Recycling of Lithium-Ion Battery Cathodes by Targeted Healing” published a few weeks ago in the journal Joule

Hosts: Jill Sjong, Joel Parker
Feature: Shelley Schlender
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Show Producer: Joel Parker
Engineer: Sam Fuqua

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Composting & Carbon Farming

Eco-Cycle truck dumping organic waste at a compost facility. Photo credit: Dan Matsch
Eco-Cycle truck dumping organic waste at a compost facility. Photo credit: Dan Matsch

Why Compost? (start time: 7:01) Many of us may feel a little less guilty letting fruits and vegetables go bad, because we figure that this waste, thanks to curbside compost pickup, will be turned into nutritious food for crops, lawns or grasslands down the road. And landfills will spew less methane, a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. The story of food waste and reuse is a complicated one. Our two guests are working on getting composting right — and ultimately on how to make our food-production and consumption systems more sustainable, starting here on the Front Range.  Dan Matsch directs the compost department for Eco-Cycle, the nonprofit recycler that works with cities along the Front Range. He also directs Eco-Cycle’s Center for Hard-to-Recycle Materials (CHaRM). Mark Easter is an ecologist at Colorado State University’s Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory.  Matsch and Easter discuss with host Susan Moran the journey of a rotten zucchini, how composting is tied to the emerging practice of carbon farming, and how we all do our part.

Calendar advisory: Join KGNU and Eco-Cycle on Thursday, January 31, at the Longmont Museum (6:30 to 8:00 P.M) for a special community conversation on plastic waste–challenges and solutions. The event will include representatives from Eco-Cycle, the Inland Ocean Coalition, and local business and sustainability leaders. For more info, go to this website.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Chip Grandits
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Chip Grandits
Executive Producer: Beth Bennett
Additional contributions: Beth Bennett

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