Relevant references and citations — with detailed annotations — provided to TED by Leyla Acaroglu.
US Environmental Protection Agency, "Methane Emissions From Landfills," 2013
According to the EPA, "municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the United States, accounting for approximately 17.5 percent of these emissions in 2011."
Shelly K. Schwartz, "As Waistlines Grow, So Do Refrigerator Sizes," CNBC, 2012
Fridges are growing larger by a cubic foot every decade. In 2014, refrigerators averaged 22.5 cubic feet, up from 19.6 cubic feet in 1980, according to the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, "Food wastage footprint: Impacts on natural resources," United Nations, 2013
A recent FAO study has shown that around one-third of the food we produce is not consumed. A significant share of total energy inputs are embedded in these losses. In low-GDP countries, most food losses occur during harvest and storage. In high-GDP countries, food waste occurs mainly during the retail, preparation, cooking and consumption stages of the food supply chain. Even if just a quarter of the food currently lost or wasted globally could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people in the world.
Kevin D. Hall et al., "The Progressive Increase of Food Waste in America and Its Environmental Impact," PLoS ONE 4(11): e7940, November 25, 2009
Americans throw away up to 40 percent of their food every year. That's $165 billion worth of produce and meats.
"Soggy Lettuce Report: Are We a Nation of Wasters?," Prudential, 2004
A 2004 survey published by Prudential (not, as I stated, by the UK Government) put the humble lettuce as the UK's number one waste item, with 61 percent of households throwing away a soggy one each week. Britons waste up to £80 billion a year on food that goes off, clothes that are never worn and club memberships that go unused, a survey has indicated.
Catherine Clabby, "Does Peak Phosphorus Loom?," American Scientist, July-August 2010
"These days, phosphorus is more likely to come out of a sack, as a key ingredient in processed fertilizers containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Mined as phosphate-bearing rock in a handful of countries with supplies of decreasing quantity and quality, phosphorus is often shipped great distances before reaching farm fields." Scientists say that we are now almost at peak phosphorus.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, "At a Glance: The Role of Energy in Food Security and Climate," United Nations, 2011
This paper states that "globally, the agri-food chain consumes 30 percent of the world’s available energy with more than 70 percent consumed beyond the farm gate. The agri-food chain produces about 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. More than one-third of the food we produce is lost or wasted, and with it about 38 percent of the energy consumed in the agri-food chain."
It continues: "Primary food production and the food supply chain, including landfill gas produced from food wastes, contribute approximately 22 percent of total annual greenhouse gas emissions. An additional 15 percent of greenhouse emissions results from land use changes, particularly changes linked to deforestation brought about by the expansion of agricultural land." See more detail here.
"The rise of the machines: A review of energy using products in the home," Energy Saving Trust, June 2006
97 percent of British homes have an electric kettle consuming approximately 4.22 terawatt hours of electrical energy per year, which is 27% of total household cooking energy use. 7.74 million kettles were sold in the UK during 2006. In 2014, the UK Tea Council estimated that approximately 165 million cups of tea are drunk every day in the UK.
"Habits of a Lifetime," Energy Saving Trust, 2006
67 percent of people in Europe admit to overfilling their kettle each time they use it. The Scots are apparently the worst, with 85 percent admitting to this habit.
"Saving Water in the Kitchen," Energy Saving Trust, 2014
Here I state that "one day of extra energy use from boiling kettles is enough to light all of the streetlights in England for a night." Actually, the Energy Saving Trust concluded that if everyone in the UK boiled only the water they needed each time they use the kettle for one year, it would save enough electricity to power their street lights for two months. Subsequent articles have come up with different figures based on EST's report but that's the most accurate so far!
"Britain peak power demand," Britain from Above, BBC, 2010
Footage of Simon from Britain from Above.
"Mobile Phone Access Reaches Three Quarters of the Planet's Population," The World Bank, July 17, 2012
According to the World Bank, 75 percent of the world’s population has a mobile phone. The ITU World Telecommunication/ICT Indicators database estimates that there are 6 billion mobile phone subscriptions in the world.
"Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013–2018," Cisco, February 5, 2014
ICF International, "Electronics Waste Management in the United States Through 2009," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery, May 2011
According to projections by the US Environmental Protection Agency, in 2010 there were 152 million mobile devices that were "ready for end-of-life management (i.e. disposal or collection for recycling)" — see table 10 on page 26. Of these, only 17.4 million mobile devices were collected for recycling.
"Fast facts about MobileMuster," Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, December 2012
Correction: Leyla Acaroglu stated in her talk that in Australia there are 22 million phones unused in people's drawers. In fact, according to MobileMuster, "it's estimated there are over 23 million unwanted mobiles in homes around Australia."
Miho Yoshikawa, "Urban Miners Look for Precious Metals in Cell Phones," Reuters, April 27, 2008
"A tonne of ore from a gold mine produces just 5 grams (0.18 ounce) of gold on average, whereas a tonne of discarded mobile phones can yield 150 grams (5.3 ounce) or more, according to a study by Yokohama Metal Co Ltd, another recycling firm."
Brett Robinson, "E-waste: An assessment of global production and environmental impacts," Science of the Total Environment, 2009
"E-waste comprises discarded electronic appliances, of which computers and mobile telephones are disproportionately abundant because of their short lifespan. The current global production of e-waste is estimated to be 20–25 million tonnes per year, with most e-waste being produced in Europe, the United States and Australasia."
In December 2006, it was estimated by the United Nations Environment Programme, "Some 20 to 50 million metric tonnes of e-waste — which includes lead, cadmium, mercury and other hazardous substances — are generated worldwide every year as a result of the growing demand for computers, mobile phones, TVs, radios and other consumer electronics."
Ben Thomas, "Minimising Impact: How legislation and sustainable design can reduce the environmental cost of a mobile phone," Bournemouth University Publications, 2004
The paper concludes from the LCA results that the greatest impact of EEE over its life cycle is from the energy consumed during the use phase, and that this is the main difference between the environmental impact of newer and older handsets. It also notes that while material substitution for environmental gain is beneficial, increasing energy efficiency has a far greater effect on the overall impact of the handset.
Karli Verghese et al., "Environmental impacts of shopping bags," The Sustainable Packaging Alliance Limited, April 30, 2009
In this 2009 study which measured the environmental impact of several common kinds of bags, the following was reported:
"1. Generally, the reusable bags (PET and PP) have lower environmental impacts than all of the single use bags.
2. The benefits of a reusable bag are highly sensitive to the number of times each bag is used during its life. For example, if a reusable PP ‘green bag’ is only used 52 times (weekly for a year) instead of the assumed 104 times (weekly for 2 years) then its impact on global warming is higher than the impact of each of the single-use bags except the paper bag. The implication for retailers is that consumers should be encouraged to reuse existing bags rather than continuously buying new bags.
3. The PP reusable bag has a lower impact than the PET reusable bag for all of the impact categories except two (solid waste and fossil fuels), assuming that both types of bags are durable enough to be reused at least 104 times.
4. The ‘best’ or ‘environmentally preferred’ single use bag varies depending on the environmental impact category being considered.
5. Overall the single use paper bag has the highest environmental impact as a result of pulp and paper production and the weight of material required per bag. The single use paper bag has the highest impact, or equal highest impact, for all categories except eutrophication. For most impact categories this result does not change if the bag is reused again (i.e. used for 2 shopping trips) but its relative ranking on solid waste does improve significantly, from the equal highest impact (along with recycled HDPE and the PP reusable bag), to the second lowest impact."
A 2011 study by the Environment Agency in the UK reported the following:
"The reuse of conventional HDPE and other lightweight carrier bags for shopping and/or as bin-liners can substantially improve their environmental performance. Reusing lightweight carrier bags as bin liners produces greater benefits than recycling bags due to the benefits of avoiding the production of the bin liners they replace."
"The reuse of HDPE carrier bags as bin liners reduces environmental impacts by between 13 per cent and 33 per cent."
"Paper Making and Recycling," US Environmental Protection Agency, November 14, 2012
"Recovered fiber can be used to produce new paper products made entirely of recovered fiber (i.e. 100 percent recycled content) or from a blend of recovered and virgin fiber. Fiber cannot, however, be recycled endlessly. It is generally accepted that a fiber can be used five to seven times before it becomes too short (as a result of repulping and other handling) to be useable in new paper products."