Particulate Matter Pollution

PM sensor
The PM sensor (hidden in a grey pipe) mounted next to my Diamond x30n VHF/UHF antenna. A bit ugly, but we are on the 4th floor, so it doesn’t really matter and the windows are closed all day long.

There may be worse places on earth when it comes to Particulate Matter (PM) Pollution, but I happen to live next to a busy road with daily traffic jams and, as a consequence of that, have a dusty room that I need to clean almost every day. I also read about expats in countries like China or India who are complaining about the air quality in those places and who meticulously invest in good air filters for each room in their appartments. Good air filters are expensive! Hence, clean air seems to be be a commodity that also comes with a commercial value among other attributes. We take it for granted but complain when it isn’t available. And another issue with clean air is that you often don’t see the pollution – only the results. Polluted air reminds me of radioactivity or unhygienic surfaces: you don’t see it, hence can’t estimate the potential danger. That’s why a sensor to measure the Particulate Matter Pollution yourself is an approach to this open question. Continue reading “Particulate Matter Pollution”

Kweli Sukari ya Tana ni Tamu?

In reference to this story on the ongoing Tana River delta issue in Kenya (shared by Afromusing on FB earlier today), let me pls also forward you to this website & this excellent series of video clips on this pressing issue. The following video clip is part no. 3 out of 14 where Paul Matiku (Director of Nature Kenya) tells us something about the consequences of the proposed plantations in the Tana Delta:

Is Tana’s Sugar Really Sweet? – part 3 (Video by Adrian Seymour on Vimeo).

“Kweli Sukari ya Tana ni Tamu?” – Is Tana’s Sugar Really Sweet? – I guess we already know the answer to this rhetorical question…

World Environment Day @ work

So today is World Environment Day and I had actually planed not to cover this special day as I am dealing with environmental issues almost every day and would actually have to blog on it every day then. Just similar to what World Water Day means to me (not much as a *special occasion* from my very own pov, that is).

However, as I went for lunch with my colleagues today, we found the following flyer(s?) on our tables and I instantly thought: hey, i’ve gotta blog this. ..

.So, here you go:

And? What’s the message?

  • Locally grown carrots produce less carbon dioxide emissions than avocados that were imported via airplanes.
  • Argentinian beef steak has a (calculated) carbon emission of 6,79kg/kg if transported via ship.
  • Energy saving / compact fluorescent lamps of 11W save an equivalent of 469kg of carbon emissions when compared to conventional bulbs @60W and a life expectancy of 15.000h.
  • Take your bike to work and contribute to a better environment
    (which would be ~ 12 km one way for me).
  • …and: calculate your own carbon footprint – which takes into account ALL data. Average carbon emission of Joe User in Germany (according to this site!) is around 10t/a, and I was just below it with ~ 8t/a. Still, lots of room for improvements. My colleague had ~ 25t/a! What’s yours?

Lesson learned: everything is interconnected, interwoven to a huge network of reasons and causes. Eating expensive and imported avocados from Kenya that cost at least 1,- EUR each and come at the size of an egg (sic!) are much more problematic than local food.
It prolly produces even more carbon emissions than the printing and distribution of such flyers to a staff / target group that is already sensitized for the world’s burning issues (health, water, sanitation, energy, transport, urbanisation, HIV, Malaria, war, greed, etc. etc.). …

No, seriously, World Environment Day is here to remind all of us that environmental protection starts with our own environmental awareness and that we can not just sit back and wait for some Messiah to come and give us a working solution. Rethink your actual behaviour and identify the potential.
(And this, although I am a strong defender of the Braungart/McDonough theory, e.g. how nice it would be to have a 2nd – green – industrial revolution where the reduction of *bad behaviour* isn’t a solution (= consuming less is still harmful), but instead identifying and using materials whose biological and technical nutrients remain in an loop. Ecosan is one of such approaches….but that’s another story :-).

the deposit system

We had an interested reader over @ writing in the other day, who’s based in Juba, Sudan, and was inquiring about low cost, low tech, low maintenance recycling concepts for *plastic* bottles (PET). At best, I am afraid, we could only tell him about recycling companies already active in East Africa (especially Kenya) and direct him to the CD3WD, compiled by Alex Weir.

Now, when I moved back to Germany last year, some readers asked me to blog about what this place is all about. While I think a generalization isn’t possible, some interesting details or even local *peculiarities* may become visible while reading between the lines – or just by going shopping. In fact, I’ve just come home from the weekly food-organizing-tour at our local supermarket here and was reminded of this special PET-deposit system I’d like to tell you about. Call it bridge blogging, if you will:

From what I’ve read on Wikipedia, some Scandinavian countries are said to have started this deposit system in the first place, with Germany introducing it during the early 1980s as well. What I am talking about is a “container deposit legislation”, or Einwegpfand as we call it in German.

DPG Verpackungsbeispiel
aluminium cans, glass and PET bottles – did you know that these alu cans consist of two different aluminium qualities? recycling them downcycles them to the lower quality….

Here in Germany, this was only valid for glass bottles and special high-density plastic bottles that could be cleaned and reused. Then in 2003, they changed this legalisation to apply to a much bigger range of bottles. Even simple (= thin) PET bottles and – most importantly – cans made of aluminium are now subject to a deposit. So while shopping for my favourite beer brand aka the cheapest available beer in Germany (0,29 EUR / 0,5l :-), I do pay an extra charge of 0,25 EUR which I am then refunded while returning the empty bottle/can using this machine:

A reverse vending machine, made by the Norwegian company TOMRA. Such machines are installed in most supermarkets in Germany these days… (more)

The interesting part about this system is that most Germans are in fact good at collecting and sorting *waste* and then returning the containers to any supermarket. And while some ppl still claim the lack of decent data on this, the system obviously works. It’s also lots of fun putting these empty bottles in the slot where they are then analyzed (a barcode scanner checks for the UPC code), sorted (alu & plastics) and imediately crushed and compacted.

According to McDonough/Braungart, there’s “no such thing as waste” in an ideal world, but these systems just help to preserve the environment a bit and provide raw material for further recycling – but not upcycling! Still, better than nothing.

Now let’s hope that someone at NEMA will come up with a proposal to introduce a deposit on batteries in Kenya. 2 bob on each battery sold could maybe be enough incentive to make ppl fetch their old batteries from the taka taka pile on their shamba and return them. There may not be a 100% closing-the-loop concept on batteries or other nasty products so far, but it would at least help preserving the environment. All it takes is the right political framerwork, any maybe also some initial funding for the clean-up phase for older batteries that were sold without a deposit. A low charge as a deposit may be better than the long-term environmental damage these batteries create.

I believe that if you can’t change people and their behaviour, give them the right products and/or a financial incentive to contribute to this process. Same applies to public toilets btw but that’s another story.

Why? Because it took this legalisation for people to return their plastic bottles and aluminium bottles which in the past were only collected, burnt and deposited on a landfill. Many customers of course were upset at this extra work, but then – due to their assiduous German nature :-) – just accepted it and turned it into a success.