S.A.F.E. Cities, Long Island, NY Could Solar Power Itself and More Each Year, Ocean Cleanup’s Solar-Powered Robots Clean Up Rivers,  Rwanda Criminalizes More Plastic

by | Apr 9, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

We learn about S.A.F.E. Cities, plus Long Island, NY Could Solar Power Itself and More Each Year. Ocean Cleanup’s Solar-Powered Robots Head Toward Cleaning Up Top Ten Plastic-Polluting Rivers, and Rwanda Criminalizes More Plastic Waste.





Hey, Grace, do you know what a SAFE City is? You reported on one recently, Petaluma, CA. Thanks to their city government, and Sonoma County’s, they successfully passed a climate emergency act placing a moratorium on the construction of any new gas stations within the Petaluma city limits. 

Stand.earth helped them craft that legislation using SAFE City principals. SAFE Cities is a program designed to assist citizens and politicians alike in moving their local municipality quickly and legislatively to phase out fossil fuel infrastructure and  to fast-track clean energy infrastructure. SAFE Cities is a movement of neighbors, local groups, and elected officials working to keep their communities SAFE from fossil fuels. 

Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics), grew SAFE Cities from one its earliest projects. Stand.earth was founded about two decades ago. It is an advocacy organization that brings people together to demand that corporations and governments put people and the environment first.

Its founders first advocacy effort was to lead a global effort to stop the logging of rare thousand-year-old forests on the coast of British Columbia. Indigenous communities had lived there since time immemorial and their lands were being logged at an alarming rate, putting their way of life and a global biogem at risk. 

The lesson they learned from that successful campaign to stop the logging of thousand-year old forests inform all their current projects. As their website declares, “Today, our campaigns challenge destructive corporate and governmental practices, demand accountability, and create solutions that protect the forests and the stable climate required to keep our planet – and us – thriving.”

There are currently 60 SAFE municipalities in North America in addition to Petaluma, CA, including Whatcom County, WA; South Portland, ME; Portland, OR; and Baltimore, MD.



According to a new study, Long Island, New York could produce more solar electricity than the region uses all year by developing solar capacity on “low-impact” sites such as parking lots, capped landfills and commercial building rooftops. It’s called the Long Island Solar Roadmap and it was commissioned by The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife and a consortium of stakeholders that include New York state power companies and representatives from local municipal governments.

To address the effects of stronger storms, flooding and extreme heat due to climate change, New York has adopted bold legislation requiring 70% of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. Due to its unique geographic position, Long Island enjoys the state’s highest solar resources. Developing even one-quarter of the island’s low-impact solar potential could help meet the state’s critical clean energy goals while delivering an estimated $10 billion in local economic benefits and an additional $5 billion in earnings for workers in the construction industry.

The roadmap finds that these solar installations can be deployed without negatively affecting the region’s natural areas, forests or prime farmlands. This is crucial because, according to a survey conducted in 2019 as part of the report, 92% of Long Islanders were in favor of solar development in their communities.

DEEPER DIVE:  Long Island Solar Road Map


Hey, Grace—Did you know that just 10 rivers around the world are responsible for around 90% of the plastic that flows into the ocean? 

I didn’t either. I found that out from a report commissioned by the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Germany. The point of this study was to help determine whether ocean plastic came from trash dumped in the ocean, or if it originated elsewhere, like from rivers and deltas that flow into our oceans. Two major takeaways came from this report. First—

The researchers calculated that the ten river systems with the highest plastic loads (eight of them are in Asia and two in Africa) – areas in which hundreds of millions of people live, in some cases – are responsible for around 90 percent of the global riverine* input of plastic into the sea. Second— staunching half the flow of plastic input from the catchment areas of these rivers would already be a major success.

Turns out I’m not the only one who reads these reports. Boyan Slat, the young Dutch man who in 2013 set out to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch using autonomous robots, does too. In 2019, his robots began to have great success. Now he’s turned his sights on catching the pollution before it reaches the sea—at the rivers.

His organization, Ocean Cleanup has deployed a series of solar-powered autonomous floating waste collectors at three rivers in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic. Says Slat, “If we focus on the worst rivers, we believe we can really have the fastest and most cost-effective way to close the tap and prevent more plastic from reaching the oceans in the first place.”

DEEPER DIVE: Plastic Rivers, The Ocean Cleanup, Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea, UFZ, Frontiers in Marine Life



Hey, Jeffrey, this story kinda relates to that story. Remember back in 2008 when the country of Rwanda instituted a ban on importation and use of single-use plastic bags?

Well they followed up last year with a new law prohibiting the manufacturing, importation, use and sale of single-use plastic items. Under this new law, people who manufacture, import or sell polythene bags and single-use plastic items are liable to dispossession of those items and an administrative fine between 300,000 Rwandan francs (about 330 U.S. dollars) and 10 million francs (about 11,000 U.S. dollars).

This latest law recognizes that plastic bags have contributed to flooding and reduced agricultural productivity by preventing rain water from reaching the soil; and that burning plastic contributes to air pollution. Additionally, it is a recognition that other types of plastic are equally harmful and is “intended to check the increasing habit of unnecessary consumption and disposal of single use plastic items which becomes a burden to the environment.”

This legislation is significant for two reasons: First, land-based waste entering the ocean is a huge problem in Africa, even from landlocked nations like Rwanda. Second, as a spokesperson for PlasticOceans.org said in a statement, “It seems impossible to live in a world without plastic, but to see a developing country implement and carry out such legislation is ground-breaking. It goes to show, anything can be possible if the political will really exists and true efforts are made.”

DEEPER DIVE: Xinhuanet, ELaw, PlasticOceans