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One large, smooth-cayenne pineapple purchased in a Kansas City grocery store weighs approximately 5 pounds and is roughly 16 inches long and 8 inches wide. Its mother plant was grown in the humid Hawaiian climate for roughly 18 months before producing its first fruit, and has put out new fruit approximately every 14 months.
To get to Kansas City, the pineapple was loaded into a freight container that measures 8 feet wide, by 8.5 feet tall, by 20 feet long. That means that just over 2,300 pineapples could fit into one freight container, making the freight container weigh approximately 11,500 pounds, or just under 6 tons. The freight container was then loaded onto the Mahi Mahi container ship using machinery manufactured in South Korea over 4,500 miles away, with parts made in southern China 1,300 miles from South Korea, with resources mined in Central Africa 5,500 miles from southern China. Built in 1983, the Mahi Mahi has a capacity of 30,825 deadweight tons. One deadweight ton is equivalent to 2240 tons. That means the single pineapple accounts for about 1/13,809,600th of the Mahi Mahi’s total cargo, fully loaded.
The Mahi Mahi consumes over 53 gallons of fuel per mile**. The distance between Honolulu’s shipping harbor and that of Los Angeles, California is nearly 2,562 miles, a trip that takes 1 week. That means that in one run from Honolulu to Los Angeles, the cargo ship consumes approximately 136,850 gallons of fuel. Being 1/13,809,600th of the total cargo, the one pineapple is then responsible for burning roughly 1/13,809,600th of the fuel consumed in the cargo ship’s run. So the one pineapple so far is responsible for the consumption of roughly 0.01 gallons, or 2.56 tablespoons, of fuel.
The fuel used in container shipping, the left over dregs in the petroleum refining process, called bunker fuel, contains up to 5,000 times more sulfur than diesel fuel does. Though ocean shipping is only responsible for 2-3 percent of the world’s fossil-fuel consumption, it produces 14 percent of the world’s nitrogen oxides and 16 percent of the world’s sulfur emissions; accounting for the semi-permanent clouds that hover above shipping routes. Worldwide shipping is expected to triple by 2020 due to global trade agreements, and there still exists little to no emission regulations for container shipping.
After arriving in Los Angeles, the container of pineapples was offloaded at the shipping docks and resorted in a fruit broker’s facility, then reloaded into an 8 x 8.5 x 53 foot container. That container was then loaded onto a semi-tractor trailer that carries a maximum weight of 40,000 pounds by US law. Being completely filled with fruit, it would weigh closer to 34,000 pounds. A semi-tractor trailer fully loaded gets approximately 5.5-7 miles per gallon and is exempt from most federal or state laws concerning fuel efficiency. Assuming that the semi-tractor trailer carrying the pineapple gets 7 miles per gallon of diesel fuel, and the road distance between Los Angeles and Kansas City is just over 1,600 miles, the journey would consume about 229 gallons of diesel fuel. Being that the 1 pineapple is approximately 1/6,800th of the total cargo, then 1/6,800th of the fuel consumed for that one pineapple is roughly .03 gallons of fuel, or 7.68 tablespoons.
Therefore, the consumption of that pineapple purchased in that Kansas City grocery store is responsible for the consumption of at least 10.24 tablespoons of refined petroleum products. After peeling and coring a 5 pound pineapple, it weighs closer to 3.5 pounds. Three and one half pounds of pineapple can produce approximately 40 tablespoons of juice. Therefore, every four cups of pineapple juice is responsible for the consumption of at least 1 cup of refined petroleum products.
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There are currently over 1.2 billion cellular phones in use worldwide. That means that there are just about 5 people per cell phone on the planet. They are currently discarded at a rate of about 125 million per year. Cell phones contain approximately 40% metals, metals that come from South and North America, Australia, Asia, Europe, and Africa. One cell phone battery contains about 2 ounces of coltan, a metal used to make portable electronic devices like laptop computers, cameras, MP3 players and cell phones more compact. Approximately 80% of the world’s proven coltan reserves are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Second Congo War officially started in 1998 and ended in 2003. The Rwandan Army funded the war with as estimated $250 million in profits from the export of roughly 2.7 million pounds of coltan in less than 16 months. In 1998, international prices soared from $60 per kilogram (2.2 pounds) to $200. The majority of the coltan deposits were located in eastern Congo far from any potential Congolese military protection; and they were therefore easily conquered and the mines confiscated by the Rwandan Army who paid as little as $10 dollars per kilo in slave-like working conditions. The Second Congo War resulted in at least 3.3 million deaths. Therefore, the war is responsible for over 1 death for every pound of coltan exported during that time. With 2 ounces of coltan per cell phone battery, it would take less than 7 cell phone batteries to account for 1 death in the Second Congo War. I personally own 4 cell phone batteries, one laptop computer, a digital camera, a digital camcorder and a brand new shiny MP3 player.
** Statistics for container shipping fuel efficiency is very secretive. The Arafura container ship that runs between Australia, Japan and Korea has a capacity of 23,009 deadweight tons, or 51,540,160 pounds. Green Plus, a company producing an additive meant to increase the efficiency of cargo shipping, ran tests on the Arafura and found it to consume close to 53 gallons of fuel per mile. The Arafura has a carrying capacity roughly 25% smaller than the Mahi Mahi, meaning that the Mahi Mahi likely consumes more fuel per mile than the Arafura. However, being that the Arafura is the only ship with fuel consumption statistics, it will stand to represent the Mahi Mahi at a consumption rate of 53 gallons of fuel per mile.
Arafura Container Ship (1986-2002). Board of Trade Acquaintances. November, 2006.
What Does it Cost to Dispose of a Cell Phone? Berkeley Energy Office. November, 2006.
Hawaii Service Schedule. Matson Shipping. November, 2006.
U.S. Flag Oceangoing Fleet. U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration. November, 2006.
Arafura Container Ship Fuel Economy Tests. Green Plus. November, 2006.
How Far is it? Indo.com. November, 2006.
EPA to Regulate Air Pollution from Big Ocean Vessels, San Diego Earth Times. November, 2006.
Ship it, Ship it Good, Grist Environmental News and Commentary. November, 2006.
Policy Discussion – Heavy-Duty Truck Fuel Economy, National Commission on Energy Policy. November, 2006.
The Life Cycle of a Cell Phone, Environmental Protection Agency. November, 2006.
Coltan, Gorillas, and Cell-phones, Cellular-News. November, 2006.
War, Murder, Rape… All for Your Cell Phone, AlterNet. November, 2006.
And thanks to Wikipedia for its information on coltan, Second Congo War, semi-tractor trailer, and cargo ship.