A Clunker’s Fate Once It’s Cashed In

  • Cars stacked up and waiting to be shredded at United Iron and Metal in Baltimore, MD. (Photo by Tamara Keith)

The federal Cash for Clunkers
program kicked off this weekend,
and dealerships were pushing it
hard to sell new cars. The program
was created by Congress last month
to give a boost to the struggling
auto industry while helping the
environment. The idea is to get
older polluting cars off the road
for good and replace them with
new more-efficient ones. Tamara Keith has this report
on what will happen to all the
clunkers:

Transcript

The federal Cash for Clunkers program kicked off this weekend, and dealerships
were pushing it hard to sell new cars. The program was created by Congress last
month to give a boost to the struggling auto industry while helping the environment.
The idea is to get older polluting cars off the road for good and replace them with
new more-efficient ones. Tamara Keith has this report on what will happen to all the
clunkers:

Car dealers suddenly have a whole bunch of cars on their lots they have absolutely
no use for. The clunkers cannot be re-sold. That would defeat the whole green goal
of the program.

So all those old trucks and sagging sedans, they’re headed to places like M and M
Auto Parts in Stafford, Virginia. Most of us would call it a junk yard. But don’t tell
that to owner Rick Morrow.

“Long before green was popular, this kind of operation, even though a lot of people
said, ‘Oh junk yard.’ But they were actually recycling cars. They were making use of
what the component was built for in the first place.”

His company’s logo prominently features a large green recycling symbol.

“This is the dismantling area where after the cars come are inventoried and then take
them apart.”

Morrow’s business is all about re-use. A fender, or a tail light, or maybe an alternator
from this car will live to see another day in a car that needs a replacement part.

You’d think Morrow would be totally excited about Cash for Clunkers. But he’s not.
Because the one component from the clunkers that absolutely cannot be re-sold is
the engine – pretty much the most valuable thing in the car.

“If we do a few dozen cars and it looks like it’s costing us more money than it’s worth,
we’ll say, ‘sorry.’”

From an environmental perspective, it absolutely makes sense to prevent those
engines from ever polluting again. But, from a business perspective it’s a real
problem for the nation’s auto recyclers.

“It will make it extremely hard to make money on a car.”

Scotty Davis is the vice president of All Foreign Auto Parts in Fredericksburg
Virginia. He says it costs him $1800 in labor to take apart a car.

“It’s going to cost me money to do this. It’s one of these things. I have to bring the
car in. I have to get rid of the tires. I have to get rid of all the fluids, the freon,
process it – just to crush the vehicle.”

Davis specializes in newer foreign vehicles. Parts from a clunker won’t help stock
his shelves. But he feels like he has to take the cars to stay in the good graces of
the auto dealers he sells parts to.

“And I’ll be very honest with you. A couple of them I do a lot of business with, I said,
‘I will take your cars.’ And they said, ‘what are you going to do with them?’ I’m going
to crush ‘em. I mean they’re not of any value.”

(sound of a shredder yard)

Once all the usable parts are removed, and the toxic chemicals cleaned out, most
cars will end up at a scrap yard like United Iron and Metal in Baltimore.

“Right now you can see the tail end of a car coming on the conveyor belt down into
the shredder.”

“A tremendous amount of friction is going on as these hammers are pulverizing that
car into small pieces.”

Bruce Savage is with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries – a trade group. It
only takes 15 seconds, and when the shredder is done with a car, it isn’t even
recognizable.

“That big pile over there is the end result. It’s just a big pile of metal pieces.”

Savage says the metal is then sold. Whether scrap recyclers will cash in on Cash
for Clunkers all depends on the commodities prices for metal in the coming months.

“What was an old car can become a new car or can become a dishwasher or siding
for a home. It depends on the materials. But everything is being reused,
reprocessed and renewed.”

So maybe a 1989 suburban can be reborn as a 2010 Ford Focus Hybrid.

For The Environment Report, I’m Tamara Keith.

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Dealerships Prepare for Clunkers

  • ‘Cash for clunkers’ became popular before all the rules were final. For the past few weeks there’s been a growing backlog of orders at dealerships. (Photo by Samara Freemark)

Today is the first official day of the cash for clunkers program. The government program offers you up to $4500 to trade in your gas guzzling car for a more fuel efficient new car. Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Today is the first official day of the cash for clunkers program. The government program offers you up to $4500 to trade in your gas guzzling car for a more fuel efficient new car. Lester Graham reports:

The goal is to clean up the environment and give sagging new car sales a boost.

‘Cash for clunkers’ became popular before all the rules were final. For the past few weeks there’s been a growing backlog of orders at dealerships.

At Varsity Ford in Ann Arbor, Michigan, people have been seeing if their clunkers qualify, and picking out a new car that they’ll finally be able to drive off the lot today.

Matt Stanford sells cars there. He says as far as he’s concerned, ‘cash for clunkers’ is already a success.

“We’re going to sell new cars. We’re going to get cars that don’t really need to be on the road off the road.”

The National Autobmobile Dealers Association says some dealerships have been holding off until they learned more about the rules of ‘cash for clunkers’ which were just cleared up last Friday.

The clunkers will be scrapped. The cash ends when the one-billion dollars in government money runs out.

For The Environment Report, I’m Lester Graham.

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San Francisco Makes Composting Mandatory

  • San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom signs mandatory composting into law (Photo courtesy of the Press Office of Mayor Newsom)

San Francisco already leads the
nation in recycling. Now, that
city has the first mandatory
composting law in the country.
Emily Wilson reports that’s got
some people worried about “garbage
cops”:

Transcript

San Francisco already leads the
nation in recycling. Now, that
city has the first mandatory
composting law in the country.
Emily Wilson reports that’s got
some people worried about “garbage
cops”:

Putting recyclables into the blue bin is second nature for people in San Francisco.

But this new law now means also putting coffee grounds and eggshells into a green bin.

There are some people who are concerned about Big Brother looking through their garbage. And then there’s the $100 fine.

Mark Westlund at the Department of the Environment says ‘no worries.’ Not much is going to change.

“Well, we get a lot of calls from people who are worried about garbage cops and that frankly is not going to happen. For years now we’ve been looking in peoples recycling to make sure they’re doing it correctly and if not, they get a tag and if they continue misusing it, they get a letter and a follow up call and then a visit.”

So there are warnings before the fine.

Cities across the country will be watching San Francisco’s mandatory composting law to see how it goes.

For The Environment Report, I’m Emily Wilson.

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Cashing in on Restaurant Food Scraps

  • These loafs of bread were left in a park for wildlife to eat (not recommended by biologists). Most table scraps end up in a landfill. But a program in some cities is using table scraps from restaurants to make rich compost. = -2>(Photo by Lester Graham)

As you sit down to a holiday dinner this season…
here’s something wild to think about…some of the produce on
your plate, or even the wine in your glass may have been
produced using food scraps from restaurants. How? The
leftovers are collected and turned into compost, a natural
fertilizer that’s increasingly popular among wine grape
growers and organic farmers. Tamara Keith
reports:

Transcript

As you sit down to a holiday dinner this season… here’s something wild to think about:
some of the produce on your plate, or even the wine in your glass may have been
produced using food scraps from restaurants. How? The leftovers are collected and
turned into compost, a natural fertilizer that’s increasingly popular among wine grape
growers and organic farmers. Tamara Keith reports:


The food goes from plates in upscale restaurants, to green waste bins picked up by a
recycling company. The leftovers are then trucked out a compost facility.


(sound of the big machines)


Here, at Jepson Prairie Organics, the waste is transformed from discernable food
items,
to dark lush humus. Greg Pryor is general manager of the facility in Northern
California.


“If you look closer it’s you’ll find fish, shellfish, there’s a leek right there,
and onion.”


Yard clippings and a little cardboard are mixed in for balance. It’s all ground up,
and
stuffed in large black bags, 200 feet long and 10 feet wide.


“Really about a week into the bag it starts to break down and it really loses its
identity.”


After 30 days, the compost is removed from the bags, and continues to break down for
another month or so. As bacteria go to work on the food scraps and clippings, they
generate heat, so even on a hot day steam rises up from the rows of compost. Pryor
started in the trash business almost 15 years ago and he says it has come a long way.


“All of this used to go into a landfill and it just wasn’t right. And to me
personally that’s
the biggest benefit is that it’s putting materials back to a beneficial re-use,
there’s just
nothing better.”


The end product is marketed as “four course compost” to vineyards and organic
vegetable farms.


(Mexican music coming from a truck)


Just a few miles away at Eatwell Farm, workers are snipping and tying off bunches of
organic arugula. That peppery green was grown in soil bolstered by four-course
compost. Farmer Nigel Walker says he applies a heavy coat of compost after every
harvest, sometimes as much as three times a year.


“And we just always do that. I don’t even have to. Roberto’s our tractor driver.
I don’t
even say ‘put compost on, Roberto.’ He just knows. We put compost on and then we
cultivate it in.”


In the past, Walker has used compost made from animal manure. It works fine, he says,
but he likes the idea this fertilizer comes from restaurants.


“It’s a great compost, we need a compost and we likes where it comes from, it’s pretty
simple.”


This time of year, the makers of four-course compost make a lot of deliveries to
California wine country, home to some of the nation’s premier wines. Linda Hale is
the
field supervisor for Madrone Vineyard Management in Sonoma County. She and her
employees look after 400 acres of wine grapes for wineries like Ravenswood, Sabastiani
and BR Cohn.


Hale says they use compost between the rows, to prepare the land for winter.


“Right after you harvest, you come in, you prep the ground, you put your compost in,
seed it and let the vines go to sleep for the winter. And that’s just your good night
medicine.”


Hale says the compost improves the vigor of the vines. Healthy soil, makes for
healthy
plants, and healthy plants she says are better able to fend off pests and disease.
And
Hale says, it prices out the same as synthetic liquid fertilizers – the current
industry
standard.


Plus, winemaker Tom Montgomery at the BR Cohn Winery says it’s kind of fun to think
about what might have gone into the compost.


“There’s probably a little filet in there, some veggie dishes, aso bucco…” (laughs)


Montgomery calls it fertilizer with pizzazz.


“I think it makes a difference to us. I’m not so sure that it makes a difference to
the
wine.”


Other cities, even other countries are starting to pick up on the food-to-field
idea. Soon a
group from Toronto will be touring the compost facilities to see if they can
replicate the
program in their city.


For the Environment Report, I’m Tamara Keith.

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Defense Department Re-Opens Cold War Barrel Mystery

  • The Department of Defense is working on cleaning up barrels dumped into Lake Superior. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of the Interior)

The Department of Defense will re-open the case of 14-hundred mystery barrels secretly dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War. The barrels were dumped in an area where the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians have territorial rights. The DOD now has an agreement with the Red Cliff Tribe to investigate the weapons dump site. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson has this report:

Transcript

The Department of Defense will re-open the case of 1400 mystery barrels secretly dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War. The barrels were dumped in an area where the Red Cliff Band of Chippewa Indians have territorial rights. The DoD now has an agreement with the Red Cliff Tribe to investigate the weapons dump site. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mike Simonson has this report:


Documents show barrels of weapons scraps manufactured by Honeywell from 1958 to 1962 were secretly dumped by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers a few miles east of the Duluth-Superior harbor.


Red Cliff Environmental Consultant Dave Anderson believes there is an imminent danger to Duluth’s water supply. The barrels are rusting away 100 to 300 feet deep near the city’s water intake. He says he’s found evidence of PCB’s and unidentified ash.


“Right now we know that there is more to these barrels than what has been disclosed in the past. That the barrels are not just scrap steel grenade parts. There are other wastes that are hazardous that are contained in the barrels and we now know that the barrels are leaking some of those substances.”


The DoD has awarded the Red Cliff Tribe a 105-thousand dollar grant to assess and further investigate this 20 mile square site and report the findings in October for possible clean-up.


For the GLRC, I’m Mike Simonson.

Cultivating the Humanure Revolution

  • Source: The Humanure Handbook. Jenkins Publishing, PO Box 607, Grove City, PA 16127 www.jenkinspublishing.com

Books can be powerful. Sometimes they can even change your life. As part of our ongoing series on individual choices that impact the environment— “Your Choice; Your Planet”—the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Curtis Gilbert brings us the story of one book that changed his mother’s life… a book that so profoundly affected her that she felt compelled to share its teachings with strangers. It wasn’t the Bible or the Koran… or “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” And the part of his mother’s life that it changed is one so exceedingly private that most people don’t even like to talk about it. He’ll explain:

Transcript

Books can be powerful. Sometimes they can even change your life. As part of our ongoing
series on individual choices that impact the environment — “Your Choice; Your Planet” —
the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Curtis Gilbert brings us the story of one book that
changed his mother’s life…a book that so profoundly affected her that she felt compelled
to share its teachings with strangers. It wasn’t the Bible or the Koran… or “Chicken Soup
for the Soul.” And the part of his mother’s life that it changed is one so exceedingly private
that most people don’t even like to talk about it. He’ll explain:


There’s a sound — something familiar to everyone who lives in a Western, industrialized
country — but it’s a sound you’ll almost never hear at my mother’s house.


(sound of toilet flushing)


Five years ago, my mom turned off the to water to her toilet. She put a house plant on top
of the seat and opposite it built a five-gallon bucket in a box that took over all the duties
of its porcelain counterpart.


“Well I had seen ‘The Humanure Handbook’ in the FEDCO Seed catalog — and it just sort of
intrigued me. And I decided one year that I would read it since I was curious about it year after
year. And I read it and then I began to feel really bad every time I flushed the toilet.”


That’s because every time my mom flushed the toilet she was rendering undrinkable several
gallons of otherwise perfectly good water. And what’s more, she was whisking away valuable
nutrients that she could have just as easily returned to the earth.


That’s right… Humanure is a contraction consisting of two words: human and manure.


Here’s how it works: You use the humanure bucket in pretty much the same way you’d use a flush
toilet. Everything’s the same, except that instead of flushing when you’re done, there’s another
bucket right beside the humanure bucket and it’s filled with sawdust. You use a little cup to
scoop up some sawdust and then you just dump the sawdust in the humanure bucket when you’re
finished using it. That’s it. And the crazy thing, the thing that always surprises people when
I tell them about my mother’s humanure project is that it doesn’t smell bad.


“Anytime anything’s stinky in the humanure, you just cover it with sawdust and it doesn’t stink
anymore, except of course what is already in the air, which is like any toilet.”


Once a day my mom takes the bucket brimming with sawdust and humanure and dumps it into her
massive compost pile. There, it mingles with her kitchen scraps, weeds from the garden, and
just about every other bit of organic matter she can find… and in two years time the humanure
cooks down into dark, rich, fertile soil.


For the first couple of years, my mom was content just to operate her own humanure compost
heap and let her garden reap the benefits — but the more she did it the more of a true believer
she became. Strict adherence to the faith wasn’t enough for her anymore. She had to become a
missionary. She bought a case of Humanure Handbooks and set up a booth at an organic gardening
festival called Wild Gathering.


“And I think I sold one at that Wild Gathering. And then after that I was giving them away right
and left to my sisters and nieces and friends and whoever! And I used them all up and then this
last year I decided that not only was I going to get another box of Humanure Handbooks, I was
going to collect humanure at Wild Gathering!”


My mom knew she’d a lot of buckets for the project, so went door to door at the businesses
in town. She didn’t say what she needed them for, and luckily they didn’t ask. She collected eight
buckets full in all — not quite the payload she was hoping for. Attendance at Wild Gathering was
pretty low that year, due to rain, but relatively speaking, sales of the Humanure Handbook were
way up.


“I sold more at this last Wild Gathering. I think I sold five or six. And I gave one away for
Christmas this year to Natasha, who had been having plumbing problems. And I started my spiel and
she was really quite interested. And, I think we may have a convert there before long.”


Conversion. The ultimate goal of any evangelist. My mom admits that she doesn’t know of anyone
she’s actually brought into the fold — but she likes to think she’s planting seeds. Just
introducing people to the idea that there’s a alternative to flush toilets, she says, is a huge
step forward.


“This is really a shocking idea to a lot of people and a lot of people who come to the house will
not use it. I have to make the water toilet available to them.”


My grandmother won’t use it. Neither will my mom’s friend, Rochelle. And then there’s my
girlfriend, Kelsey. Last summer the two of us spent several days at my mom’s house in Maine
before taking a road trip back to where we live in Minnesota. After quietly weighing the
ramifications of sawdust versus water toilets, Kelsey finally decided to brave the humanure…
well, sort of.


Curtis: “So you used it for some things, but you’ve told me before that there were some things
that you couldn’t bring yourself to do.”


(laughing)


Kelsey: “No, I couldn’t. I did not have a bowel movement during our entire visit to your
house, over the course of four days.”


I’d like to think that Kelsey’s physical inability to make full use of the sawdust toilet
was an anomaly, that most people would have no problem going to the bathroom at my mom’s house
in Maine… But I doubt that’s the case. And that’s not the only reason I’m a little skeptical about
my mom’s vision of a world humanure revolution.


Curtis: “It occurs to me, and I’m about 100 pages into the book at this point, that this is
all well and good for people living in rural areas, but I live in a city. Where am I going to
put a compost heap?”


Mom: “You know, there could be chutes in buildings. There would have to be temporary storage.
Trucks would come in and take it out. Great huge compost piles would be built and it would work
down very… I think that where there’s a will, there’s a way.”


I’ll admit it; I’m still skeptical. I mean I believe in humanure, sure. But I also haven’t
put a house plant on top of the toilet in my big city apartment…and I probably never will.
Call me a summer soldier in the humanure revolution if you will, but when I go home to my
Mom’s next Christmas, I’ll be flushing with sawdust and I’ll be proud.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Curtis Gilbert.

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