Tag Archives: Earth Day

Protecting the Earth: Bureau of Land & Waste Management

By: Adah Gorton, Bureau of Land and Waste Management

 

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has specific programs that work to protect human health and the environment. From the extraction of natural resources to cleaning up accidents, the Bureau of Land and Waste Management (BLWM) focuses on the earth and the life cycle of material it generates. What does that mean to you? It means we keep the land you work, live and play on clean so you can be happy and healthy!

April 25 2019 Blog Photo

The Division of Mining and Solid Waste Management handles mining from beginning to end (including permitting and operating within legislation). It also oversees solid waste operations, including permitting and monitoring, planning, distribution of grants and regulation development as well as outreach and education on waste reduction and recycling. These are the folks who help your local solid waste operations function, teach schools and businesses how to recycle and maintain active mines.

Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) are used across the state to store gasoline and other fuels that we need daily but could pose a risk to the environment if not properly contained. The UST Management Division regulates USTs from the day they’re planned to the day they’re retired. This includes permitting as well as remediation efforts and oversight when leaks occur.

The Division of Waste Management issues permits and provides guidance for major projects that manage hazardous, radioactive and infectious waste. While some small-scale operations (e.g., a county household hazardous material collection site) are maintained by other entities, these folks take care of federal and state projects across the board, so you only have to worry about your household waste.

The Site Assessment, Remediation and Revitalization (SARR) Division manages the evaluation and restoration of sites where hazardous waste has polluted the environment. These sites include Brownfields, Superfund and State Voluntary Cleanup locations. SARR oversees cleanup work to be sure it is done according to state and federal standards. They ensure that when mistakes do happen, they’re cleaned up and the environment gets the attention it needs to get back to normal.

The Compliance and Enforcement Division tracks material-handling operations around the state, dealing with every other division contained in BLWM. This prevents the violation of environmental regulation and damage to the environment. The Enforcement area handles violations across the bureau, holding responsible parties accountable and making sure they fix their mistakes.

During Earth Month (April), BLWM focuses on outreach to help South Carolinians better care for their environment and encourages residents to contact us with any questions or requests. Just remember – from the creation of material to clean-up, BLWM protects the earth on Earth Day and every day!

 

No Butts on the Beach

By: Liz Hartje, Ocean & Coastal Resource Management

Did you know that cigarette litter is the most common type of marine debris found on South Carolina beaches? Cigarette butts are a toxic form of marine debris. Most cigarette filters are made of thin plastic fibers called cellulose acetate, a material that degrades very slowly. Plastics exposed to sunlight and waves break down into smaller and more numerous microplastics, which may never fully degrade in the marine environment. Birds, fish, and sea turtles may ingest cigarette butts or other plastic debris along the coast, which can lead to choking, poisoning, or blockage of the gut. Leaching of toxic materials from cigarette butts can also degrade water quality. Various metals, including lead and nickel, have been found to leach from smoked cigarettes within 24 hours, which may increase the risk of acute harm to local marine life. In a laboratory study, a concentration of one cigarette butt in one liter of water killed half of all fish exposed, within 96 hours!

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In 2015, DHEC OCRM conducted a Cigarette Litter Reduction Pilot Study on Folly Beach in Charleston County. The project was funded by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and included partners from the Surfrider Foundation and Folly Green. The goal of the project was to reduce cigarette litter on Folly Beach by educating residents and visitors about the negative effects cigarette litter can have on the marine environment. Foldable paper ashtrays and flyers printed with educational information were distributed, and new cigarette receptacles were installed at several beach walkovers on Folly Beach. Small-scale monitoring events were designed to look at the amount of cigarette litter on the beach before and after project implementation. Results of the monitoring efforts found fewer cigarette butts in the study area after project implementation, suggesting this pilot project may have influenced human behavior.

Last year, DHEC’s project was replicated in the Grand Strand by the Coastal Waccamaw Stormwater Education Consortium (CWSEC). CWSEC and its partners took a watershed-based approach to enhance public awareness and promote proper disposal of cigarette butt litter at beach and river accesses in Horry and Georgetown Counties. Similar to the Folly Beach study, the Grand Strand Cigarette Litter Reduction project focused on public education, installation of new cigarette receptacles, and cigarette litter monitoring. Results of the project can found on the project website.

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Breathe Better (B2) for Businesses

As the population and the number of businesses grow, so does the volume of vehicles on the road in a single day. This can be challenging for keeping the air in South Carolina clean and safe.

The good news is South Carolina does have clean air and is currently attaining all of the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone, particulate matter, carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide.  These standards were established to protect public health. Maintaining favorable air quality by keeping emissions at a minimum will help keep South Carolina within the air quality standards and protect public health.

Your business can be a leader in your community by implementing air pollution reduction strategies to maintain good air quality in South Carolina:

  • Register to be a Breathe Better (B2) business. You will receive anti-idling signs that can go in your loading areas and parking lots.
  • Sign up for the EPA Air Quality Flag Program and display the corresponding air quality desktop sign in your place of business.
  • Create and support a telecommuting policy for your employees so they can work from home one or more days a week to reduce the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Create and support an alternative work schedule. A flexible work schedule allows your employees to stagger their work schedule to avoid driving in peak rush hour traffic.
  • Encourage carpooling and vanpooling. Sharing your daily commute can reduce the number of vehicles on the road and save on gas.
  • Install a bike rack at your business and encourage employees to ride a bike or walk to work whenever possible. It’s good for the environment and your health.
  • Consider replacing and/or purchasing fleet vehicles with hybrid vehicles or electric vehicles.
  • Look for opportunities to reduce diesel emissions through reduction strategies and technologies. South Carolina Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) Grants are available for eligible applicants to help fund these types of projects.

This Earth Day, Let’s Tackle Food Waste Together

By: Bureau of Environmental Health Services

When people think about Earth Day, some of the things that come to mind are recycling, planting trees, and reducing pollution.  Consider food safety and the reduction of food waste in this conversation. With 40% of all food in the United States being wasted every year, it is easy to see that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.  These food habits lead to massive amounts of money wasted and environmental degradation – even though in South Carolina alone, 1 in 7 people, including 1 in 5 children, struggle with hunger according to Feeding America.  Fortunately, this is a challenge that can be addressed both individually and systemically.

You Can End Food Waste! It Starts at Home 

A couple of strategies for individual food waste management:

1).  Purchase only what you know you’re going to eat. When our refrigerators become overpacked, air is unable to properly circulate, and proper temperatures of less than 40 degrees Fahrenheit cannot be maintained. This results in food going bad and needing to be thrown out and energy being wasted through a constantly running refrigerator.  In case you need a good visual of the journey of bringing food to our tables, watch “The Extraordinary Life and Times of a Strawberry” put on by the Save the Food campaign and Ad Council.

2).  Regularly monitoring refrigerator temperature is an effective way to ensure your food isn’t going bad.

3).  Learn about date labels. Date labels, such as “best by” and “use by,” most often refer to quality. Even though a date label has been exceeded, a food product is not necessarily unsafe.

To find tips and tricks for storing and preparing your food visit:  https://savethefood.com/storage and https://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/index.html.

4).  Practice portion control and keep your leftovers.  By doing this, you can end up reducing your “waist” with both your body and food.  Whether you are eating out at a restaurant or have over prepared a meal at home, have a storage container on hand to have a tasty snack later in the day or week.

5).  Donate! Food banks and local food drives are always looking for more items. Since roughly 25% of all food and beverages purchased by families in the United States end up in the trash, there is an abundance of food being wasted that could be used to feed those in need. To learn more about where to donate food, you can visit: https://feedingthecarolinas.org/.

For additional tips on how to reduce your food waste at home, DHEC’s Guide for Reducing Food Waste at Home is an amazing resource!

Addressing the Systemic Causes of Food Waste

As a community, the most effective way to make sure food waste stops before it starts is to support local and national food waste reduction initiatives. There are no national regulations directing consistent food date labeling.  With 17% of restaurant meals going uneaten and 55% of leftovers not even being taken home, oversized portions are serious contributors to food waste and any comprehensive food waste program should take this into consideration. If your household or business is interested in addressing the issue of food waste, consider becoming a Don’t Waste Food SC Food Ambassador. DHEC has created a toolkit to get you started.

Do Your Part This Earth Day

Failure to manage food waste can lead to increased pollution.  Food waste ends up in landfills and food decomposition adds to the pollution generated at those sites.  Municipal solid waste landfills are the third largest source of methane emissions in the United States according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.  You can help decrease those emissions by turning wasted food into compost or donating it to local food banks, food rescue organizations, and other non-profits.  This Earth Day do your part to reduce your personal food waste and spread the word about this increasingly important issue. Not only will you help protect the Earth that all of us share, you will save some money while you do it! For more information on how you can help tackle the problem of food waste, you can visit Don’t Waste Food SC!

 

Pollution Prevention Week

Over the past few years, the third week of September has come to be known as Pollution Prevention (P2) Week. P2 Week (September 17-23) is a time for businesses, governments, and individuals to focus on preventing pollution, celebrating achievements, improving existing pollution prevention practices, and initiating new ones. You, too, can play a part in conserving our planet’s resources and moving us toward sustainability.

Here are some things you can do at HOME to help prevent pollution:

  • Conserve energy by turning off lights and electric appliances when not in use. Use energy-efficient light bulbs and buy Energy Star appliances.
  • Use environmentally-friendly cleaners and seal all containers to prevent harmful chemicals from evaporating into the environment.
  • Use electric-powered lawn equipment and bag yard clippings at the beginning of seed growing season to prevent them from being dispersed.
  • Reduce waste by reusing containers, composting food scraps, canceling unsolicited junk mail, and buying goods that use minimal packaging.

Here are some things you can do at WORK to help prevent pollution:

  • Form a Green Team. It is much easier to make your work place greener as a team.
  • Use your business’s intranet to educate employees on being green: Display a calendar with a focus on pollution prevention awareness events such as Earth Day, P2 Week, special recycle and paper shred days and bike-to-work day.
  • Promote recycling at work and make it easier to recycle by having an area where people can leave unwanted items that can be reused or repurposed.
  • When replacing office products (computers, faxes, etc.), choose ENERGY STAR-certified products.

Here are some things you can do at PLAY to help prevent pollution:

  • Use public transportation, walk, or ride a bike whenever possible to get to your destination.
  • Be car care aware; keeping your car in good condition can help reduce carbon emissions.
  • When on vacation, take your own toiletries and reuse towels to reduce energy usage and hot water consumption.
  • Use electronic tickets when traveling by saving or downloading the documents to your mobile devices.

For more information about Pollution Prevention week and how you can help prevent and reduce pollution, browse the South Carolina Smart Business Recycling Guide or go to https://www.epa.gov/p2.