Joe Brock, Valerie Volcovici and John Geddie, REUTERS
In early 2018, residents of Boise, Idaho were told by city officials that a breakthrough technology could transform their hard-to-recycle plastic waste into low-polluting fuel. The program, backed by Dow Inc, one of the world’s biggest plastics producers, was hailed locally as a greener alternative to burying it in the county landfill.
A few months later, residents of Boise and its suburbs began stuffing their yogurt containers, cereal-box liners and other plastic waste into special orange garbage bags, which were then trucked more than 300 miles (483 kilometers) away, across the state line to Salt Lake City, Utah.
The destination was a company called Renewlogy. The startup marketed itself as an “advanced recycling” company capable of handling hard-to-recycle plastics such as plastic bags or takeout containers – stuff most traditional recyclers won’t touch. Renewlogy’s technology, company founder Priyanka Bakaya told local media at the time, would heat plastic in a special oxygen-starved chamber, transforming the trash into diesel fuel.
Within a year, however, that effort ground to a halt. The project’s failure, detailed for the first time by Reuters, shows the enormous obstacles confronting advanced recycling, a set of reprocessing technologies that the plastics industry is touting as an environmental savior – and sees as key to its own continued growth amid mounting global pressure to curb the use of plastic.
Read more at https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/environment-plastic-oil-recycling/
Joe Garofoli, SFGATE
Petaluma Mayor Teresa Barrett knew exactly what was going on when a coalition of multinational oil companies spent roughly $78,000 to support her opponents in her last re-election campaign.
That kind of cash stood out in a city where there is a $200-per-person cap on campaign donations.
Why would an oil-funded political action committee care about who held a part-time job that pays $40 a month? They went after Barrett because she represents Sonoma County as one of the 24 locally elected representatives who also serve on the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “It was very clear that they didn’t want me on the air district board,” she said.
Barrett won re-election anyway in that 2018 race and remains on the air board, where another bruising political battle is being waged. And local officials who typically fly below the radar are being targeted again because they serve on a regional board that is far more powerful — and potentially influential to the rest of the country.
The fight is between forces who are usually united under the Democratic Party umbrella: It’s labor unions — siding with the oil companies who provide their jobs — against environmentalists and racial justice advocates.
Their standoff affects the air breathed by the 7 million Bay Area residents whom the air district is charged with protecting. But it is a complicated battle. And this disagreement in California previews the challenges facing America as it transitions away from fossil fuel — something both Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Biden have promised to do.
The proximate issue is a proposal coming before the air board on Wednesday. The proposed change would require refineries to install technology that greatly reduces the particulate matter they emit. It is a technology that, environmentalists point out, is already widely in use, including even in oil-friendly states like Texas.
If the board made those changes, it would not only reduce the number of particulates, according to the air district, but could literally save lives. The district has calculated that exposure to particulate matter from the Chevron refinery in Richmond increases mortality in the region by up to 10 deaths per year and up to six deaths per year from the PBF Martinez refinery.
Read more at https://www.sfchronicle.com/politics/article/Cleaner-air-and-racial-justice-versus-jobs-The-16211535.php?cmpid=gsa-sfgate-result