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Fighting Cigarette Litter in Newport News

Posted on July 16, 2015 by | Comments Off

CigButtLitter-Pic2Did you know that for the last 27 years, cigarette litter has been the number one item picked up during Clean the Bay Day and the International Coastal Cleanup? Sadly, most smokers believe that cigarette butts and cigar tips are biodegradable. They are not. The problem is not only that cigarette litter is unsightly. It can als0 cause fires in mulch material, clog storm drains and endanger marine animals. Studies have shown that eighteen percent of litter dropped on streets ends up in waterways.

The Newport News Resource Recovery Team and Community Maintenance/Beautification Team have been partnering with Keep America Beautiful for over four years to promote awareness about cigarette litter and engage community partners in cigarette litter prevention projects. This year, Newport News joined Hampton Roads District Planning Commission and the regional team to combine resources and share expertise.

You can look at nearly any intersection in Hampton Roads and see evidence of cigarette litter. It costs every city and county in the region a great deal of time, effort and money to clear storm drains that are clogged with litter. That litter can cause flooding and other problems within the community. In all of our projects, we have engaged property owners, residents businesses and our citizens in outreach and awareness and provided pocket ashtrays, permanent ash receptacles to be placed in strategic locations and auto-friendly cup holder ashtrays for smokers on-the-go. Our goal is to provide options to smokers so they will no longer use our streets and sidewalks to dispose of their cigarettes.

NN Go Green Auto CareThis year’s project in Newport News will be along the section of Warwick Boulevard that crosses Main Street. Go Green Auto Care, located at 10500 Warwick Boulevard in Newport News, is one distribution and outreach partner along with other area businesses and the good neighbors at First United Methodist Church and St Andrews Episcopal Church.

How can you help? You can make a difference by:

  • Carrying a portable ashtray when smoking outside. We have both pocket ashtrays and a limited number of car cup holder ashtrays available at our business partners and at our Recovery Operations Center located at 530 Atkinson Way in Newport News.
  • Use an ash receptacle to dispose of cigarette butts. These are normally located near transition points where people must stop smoking before they proceed.
  • Do not throw your cigarette butts out of car windows.

Together we can make a difference.

This blog submitted by Daniel Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator for the City of Newport News.

Posted in: Cigarette Litter, Don't litter!

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How Will New Water Heater Efficiency Standards Affect the Planet and You?

Posted on July 14, 2015 by | Comments Off

 New water heaters promise big energy bill savings, as well as big benefits for the planet

Tap Water DripAfter heating and cooling, the average American household expends most of its energy on heating water. The good news is that new Department of Energy efficiency standards went into effect for water heaters in April of this year. This means that if you’re in the market for a new water heater, you could cut down your energy use by up to 47%.

This change will help consumers save about $63 billion in energy bills and eliminate about 172.5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the next 30 years. According to the DOE, this is equivalent to removing 33.8 million cars from the roads for an entire year.

How can you benefit from this change? Well, if your water heater is nearing the end of its life (average lifecycle varies, but somewhere between 10 and 20 years can be assumed), be sure to purchase a new one that is compliant with these new standards. Manufacturers are allowed to continue selling non-compliant models until the stock is depleted, so you can still buy the previous generation. However, as of April 2015, only compliant models can be manufactured.

What Are The Guidelines?

Boiled down to the simplest measure, these new guidelines require electric water heaters with a capacity of 55 gallons or less to have an energy factor (EF) of 0.95 (previously it was 0.9), and large tanks, with a capacity of 56 gallons or more, to have an EF of 2.0 (previously 0.86). The EF is a metric that compares the energy conversion efficiency of residential appliances. EF is used in rating dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, as well as water heaters. The higher the EF, the more efficient the unit.

Water Heater Tables


How Will This Impact Me?

This leap in energy efficiency will impact homeowners in two ways. The new requirements have resulted in water heater manufacturers essentially redesigning their products to achieve the new EF. Smaller water heaters will see a slight increase of 4% efficiency, mainly through improving insulation. But it’s the larger tanks where the biggest energy savings will come. To meet the new standards, manufacturers are incorporating heat pump or gas condensing technology, both of which use self-produced energy to help heat the water. Heat pump water heaters reduce an electric water heater’s consumption by about 50%, whereas gas condensers reduce the already-more-efficient gas water heater’s consumption by 25%. This can save an average household almost $300 per year on its electricity bills, or $100 year off the gas bill.

What’s the Catch?

This redesign means that water heaters are getting bigger, so if you are buying a new one you may find that you’ll need to downsize the capacity of your tank to fit in the current space, or re-design the space. If a major redesign becomes a factor, you might want to consider switching to a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters, otherwise known as on-demand heaters, heat water instantly and therefore have no need for a large tank of water. This means they have a much smaller footprint than a tank model, and can even be installed outside in some climates. Most tankless heaters already meet energy efficiency guidelines. Whole-home tankless water heaters use less energy than tank heaters because they only heat water when it’s needed, not constantly, as with a tank heater. Traditionally, tankless models have been more expensive than tank water heaters, but because energy efficiency improvements are driving up the prices of tank water heaters, tankless models are beginning to compete on price.

Conserve Water, Conserve Energy

Whichever water heater you choose, remember that you should be looking to conserve water as well. Start taking shorter showers or use the on-off method (turn the water off when shampooing, then back on again). Also, install low-flow showerheads and inexpensive aerators in all your faucets to cut down on the amount of water you use for everyday tasks such as washing dishes and brushing your teeth. If we all take these small steps, combined with the increase in energy efficiency of an improved water heater, we can collectively make a very big reduction in our energy and water needs.

 Guest blog submitted by Jennifer Tuohy who writes about new energy efficiency developments in the home for The Home Depot.

Posted in: Going Green, Smart Water Use: Indoor

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Contamination In Residential Recycling

Posted on July 10, 2015 by | Comments Off

shutterstock_58032022_WEBSingle stream or “co-mingled” recycling is largely available throughout most of Hampton Roads. While this has been a wonderful convenience to our residents and has reduced the use of landfill space, it is running into some challenges. World markets (particularly in China) have seen a downturn in commodity prices; oil prices worldwide have declined decreasing the value of plastics; newsprint is not in demand as it once was; and finally, there is the contamination factor. Contamination (when non-recyclable items are mixed in with recyclable items) is something we all can help to reduce and prevent.

According to studies of residential recycling done in Newport News, we’ve found that contamination of single stream recycling can comprise between 6 and 30%.

Most of the contamination is completely preventable. Some of the most common contaminants include: plastic grocery bags, polystyrene (Styrofoam), rigid plastics (toys, car parts), dog leashes, garden hoses, clothing, diapers (infant, child and adult), food-soiled paper/cardboard, egg cartons and wax coated cardboard. While some of these items may be recyclable in other programs (i.e. plastic bags can be taken to grocery stores) or in other parts of the country, they are not accepted in curbside recycling programs here in Hampton Roads.

Contamination causes a great deal of problems for Material Recovery Facilities and processors locally and nationwide. Locally, misplaced materials can cause equipment to jam and possible injury to personnel. Typically, plastic grocery bags can shut down a facility for up to two hours per day while the plastic bags are cut out of the gears and moving parts of the machinery. Foreign materials also significantly devalue recycled material. This causes a major cost to the processors.

What can you do? “Recycle Right” by knowing what goes into your residential container, download the “Recycling Made Super Easy” poster and share it with neighbors and friends. Participate in a recycling audit or organize your own and see how a representative sample of curbside recycling really looks.

For more information on recycling audits in Newport News, contact the Newport News Resource Recovery Center at 757-886-7612.

This blog post was contributed by Dan Baxter, Business Recycling Coordinator with the City of Newport News.

Posted in: plastic bags, Reduce reuse and recycle

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Myth-Busting Cigarette Litter with Keep Norfolk Beautiful

Posted on July 9, 2015 by | Comments Off

Cigarette Litter Keep Norfolk Beautiful is pleased to be a part of this regional effort to educate the public on smoking product litter. We have known for a long time that cigarette butts are the number one littered item and the most costly to remove due to their small size. The hope of this educational campaign is to dispel the most egregious myths about this particular type of litter.

Myth 1- Filters are biodegradable. This means to break down by a living organism. Filters are plastic so they simply degrade and the plastic breaks into even smaller pieces. In water, these small pieces are mistaken for food by small creatures which in turn get eaten by bigger creatures including you and me!

Myth 2 – “My one cigarette butt is no big deal” – In Virginia 20% of the population smokes. At just one small site in downtown Norfolk volunteers counted 631 butts and cigar tips. Multiply that by all the stop lights and areas outside restaurants all over Hampton Roads and you get more than one.

Norfolk PreScan

During Keep Norfolk Beautiful day in April, these awesome volunteers did a scan of the targeted campaign area at Civic Plaza.

The good news is that smokers respond well to added receptacles- a key strategy for reducing this type of litter. Most don’t know that butts harm waterways and after learning the facts carry pocket or car ashtray.

During the summer Norfolk’s campaign will focus on Civic Plaza which includes City Hall, a Light Rail stop and the new court building. Fact sheets, new receptacles and both pocket and car ashtrays will be distributed free of charge. Picking this location will reach a diverse group of citizens and City leaders who can spread the word about keeping Norfolk beautiful. To learn more visit

This blog contributed by Lisa Renee Jennings, Public Service Coordinator for Keep Norfolk Beautiful.

Posted in: Cigarette Litter, Don't litter!

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US Court of Appeals Affirms TMDL Watershed Approach

Posted on July 7, 2015 by | Comments Off

stormwater runoff, stormwater pollution preventionA three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued its ruling in American Farm Bureau Federation v. U.S. EPA on Monday, July 06, 2015.  As expected, the Third Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court’s September 13, 2013 decision and again upheld EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load (“TMDL”) for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  This appeal had been brought by the American Farm Bureau Federation, other agricultural trade associations, and the National Association of Home Builders representing nonpoint source (“NPS”) interests in altering the Clean Water Act (“CWA”) TMDL Program.  The ruling affirming the District Court once again (1) preserves the TMDL “watershed approach” under which non-point sources of pollution share responsibility with point sources for contributing to required clean water efforts under the CWA’s TMDL Program; and (2) protects the point source nutrient allocations at risk in the event of the loss of this watershed approach and of adequate NPS participation.   

Chris Pomeroy of AquaLaw contributed to this article.

Posted in: Total Maximum Daily Load, Waterways

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