Kroger begins testing driver-less grocery deliveries

Staff & Wire Reports

FILE- This June 15, 2017, file photo shows bagged purchases from the Kroger grocery store in Flowood, Miss. Kroger Co. has chosen a Phoenix suburb as the launching pad for delivering groceries to doorsteps using driverless cars.
The U.S. grocer will begin the testing phase of the self-driving service Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, at a Fry’s supermarket in Scottsdale.  (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

FILE- This June 15, 2017, file photo shows bagged purchases from the Kroger grocery store in Flowood, Miss. Kroger Co. has chosen a Phoenix suburb as the launching pad for delivering groceries to doorsteps using driverless cars. The U.S. grocer will begin the testing phase of the self-driving service Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, at a Fry’s supermarket in Scottsdale. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Thursday, August 16

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Kroger will begin testing grocery deliveries using driverless cars outside of Phoenix.

The biggest U.S. grocery chain said the project will begin Thursday in Scottsdale at a Fry’s supermarket, which is owned by Kroger.

Shoppers can order groceries online or via a mobile app for same-day or next-day delivery to their home.

A fleet of driverless Toyota Prius cars will be used for the deliveries.

Kroger Co., based in Cincinnati, is partnering with Nuro, a Silicon Valley startup founded by two engineers who worked on autonomous vehicles at Google.

That Google project is called Waymo, which started its own pilot program last month at Walmart stores in Phoenix.

Waymo is also testing self-driving cars as a way to help commuters get to their closest public transit stop in Phoenix.

Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation announces Prime Partner Banks

Prime Partner Banks improve access to justice in Ohio

COLUMBUS (August 15, 2018) — The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation has announced its 2018 Prime Partners, financial institutions committed to improving access to justice for Ohioans struggling to meet ends meet.

Prime Partners offer premium interest rates on Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts (IOLTA) and Interest on Trust Accounts (IOTA) — required accounts for most attorneys and title agents — to generate additional dollars for Ohio’s legal aids.

2018 Prime Partners are:

· Congressional Bank

· Heartland Bank

· KeyBank

· Metamora State Bank

· Peoples Bank

Many Ohioans cannot afford the legal help they need when facing life-changing situations, such as domestic violence or the wrongful denial of benefits for veterans. Civil legal aid provides access to legal help for Ohioans to protect their livelihoods, their health, and their families. In 2017, legal aid helped 115,958 Ohioans achieve justice.

“Peoples Bank is dedicated to supporting our local communities, and being a Prime Partner fits right in with our goals,” said Ryan Kirkham, general counsel. “We know that too often, ordinary people must face court without legal help because they are unable to afford hiring an attorney. Participating in the Prime Partner program underscores our commitment to justice for all.”

While civil legal aid has long enjoyed broad bipartisan support, lower interest rates following the Great Recession have resulted in less money to support access to justice. Prime Partners are crucial allies in increasing IOLTA/IOTA dollars.

“Prime Partners go above and beyond to support legal aid and access to justice in Ohio,” said Angie Lloyd, executive director of OLAF. “When attorneys and title agents bank with a Prime Partner, it increases fairness and access to justice for all Ohioans.”

The Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation improves fairness and access to justice for all Ohioans. Established in 1994, the Foundation funds Ohio’s legal aids through the IOLTA/IOTA program, a civil filing fee surcharge, and donations. Legal aid helps families, children, veterans, seniors, and other Ohioans struggling to make ends meet get back on their feet and on the road to self-sufficiency. Through the Foundation’s work, Ohioans have access to legal help, advice, and representation, which ensures fairness for all in the justice system.

The Conversation

Bio-based plastics can reduce waste, but only if we invest in both making and getting rid of them

August 16, 2018

Danny Ducat

Assistant Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Michigan State University

Disclosure statement

Danny Ducat receives funding from the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy.


Michigan State University provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.

With news that companies like Starbucks, Hyatt and Marriott have agreed to ban plastic straws, it’s a fitting time to consider the role of plastic in our daily lives. Plastics are an often overlooked modern wonder – cheap and multipurpose substances that can be fashioned into myriad products.

Drinking straws are just the literal tip of humanity’s plastic addiction. In 2016 global plastic resin production reached nearly 335 million metric tons. By some estimates, it could grow to approximately 650 million metric tons by 2020, roughly 100 times the weight of the Pyramid of Giza.

Our lab is one of a number of research teams looking for potential solutions to society’s plastic problems. We study a tiny photosynthetic bacteria, which we are using as a production platform to convert light and carbon dioxide into renewable compounds, including bioplastic alternatives. Bio-based plastics are a promising option for reducing plastic waste, but scaling them up will require substantial investments, both in making them and in special facilities for disposing of them.

Long-lived waste

Much of the world’s plastic output is manufactured into single-use objects, such as drinking straws. Indeed, food packaging and food-related objects, such as cups, carryout containers, shrink wrap and plastic bags, account for a large proportion of all plastics made.

Less than 10 percent of all waste plastic is recycled worldwide. Most plastic food packaging cannot be easily recycled if it has any food remnants stuck to it, because these residues can interfere with various stages of processing. As a result, many recycling plants will not accept food packaging.

What about other plastic waste? About 12 percent is incinerated, but nearly 80 percent ends up in landfills or the environment. In the ocean, currents aggregate plastic trash in large floating “islands” of garbage.

Whether they are buried or floating at sea, plastics can take hundreds of years to break down. In the process they can wash up on shore, creating litter and tourism headaches. Furthermore, large plastic objects, and even the microparticles they can wear down into, are harmful to a variety of wildlife, including seabirds, marine life and corals.

Plastic from plants

A wide variety of bio-based plastics made from renewable biological compounds have been under study for many years. Today, many can serve as drop-in replacements for the fossil-fuel based plastics that most of us are familiar with, such as polystyrene and polyethylene.

Most bioplastics are currently made by taking sugars derived from plants, such as corn and sugarcane, and using microorganisms to convert them into raw materials that can be eventually formed into plastic resin. But there is a trade-off between making bioplastics biodegradable on the one hand and still durable enough for their purpose on the other. A straw and cup that disintegrate halfway through your road trip are not much use at all.

Many of the most promising bioplastics in production and in development can be rapidly degraded under controlled conditions, such as those in a large-scale composting facility. Here, bioplastics may be intermingled with other organics and mixed regularly to ensure that there is adequate aeration to promote rapid decomposition. One such facility that is particularly engaged in testing and improving the degradation of bioplastics is Cedar Grove, operated out of Washington state. The end result is a rich compost that is suitable for fertilizing gardens and crops.

However, even bio-based plastics will still languish for decades or centuries if they are thrown in the trash and buried in landfills. Below the surface layer of a landfill, the conditions are often dry, cool and lacking in oxygen. All of these factors discourage the growth of microbes that can accelerate the breakdown of bioplastics. By contrast, compostable plastics are largely degraded within three months inside industrial compost facilities, where conditions are managed to promote aeration and temperatures are often substantially higher because of all of the microbial activity.

Similarly, it is unlikely that any developed materials will be biodegradeable under all environmental conditions. For example, they may not break down in the Arctic or at the bottom of the ocean. Conditions in such environments, such as low temperatures and oxygen levels and high pressure, can inhibit the growth of organisms that act to break the bonds within plastic polymers, leading to much slower rates of breakdown.

This means that any breakthroughs in materials science need to be coupled with sustainable methods for bioplastic production and a well-oiled system to direct bioplastic goods into composting facilities.

Using microbes to make bioplastics

Making plastic from plant sources is certainly more sustainable than fossil fuel-based approaches, but it requires land and fresh water to grow and process the feedstock materials. Our research lab is looking for ways to train photosynthetic microbes (cyanobacteria) that can naturally harness the sun to make these same bioplastic compounds.

In this process, these microbes perform the same role as plants, using sunlight and carbon dioxide to create sugars that can be converted to bioplastics. In fact, cyanobacteria are more efficient solar converters and don’t require soil or fresh water, so this approach could reduce competition for land and resources.

While it’s easy to malign the lowly plastic straw, it’s hard to come up with substitutes that are as cheap, lightweight and durable and are environmentally benign. I believe progress is possible, but only if scientists can collectively come up with bioplastic alternatives and social policies support the composting infrastructure to dispose of them suitably.

Opinion: Trump’s Aluminum Tariffs Are Taxes on the Craft Beer Industry

By Michael McGrady

One of the best things about life is coming home from work, cracking open a finely crafted beer and enjoying the rush of flavor. It’s nothing like a good beer that revitalizes the soul. The tranquility invited by the flavorful burst of a fruity sour or a crisp pilsner maybe threatened, though. Due to President Trump’s trade war among the world’s largest economies and his justification that America’s aluminum industry is in a state of disrepair due to so-called globalist forces, the craft beer industry is on the fritz.

Per the order of the administration’s Section 302 aluminum and steel tariffs, the manufacturing costs for American craft brewers are due to increase. The nature of trade tariffs, as theorized by several economists, relate to regressive market and income tax regimes. According to an analysis by American Enterprise Institute scholar and economist Mark J. Perry, Trump’s tariffs serve as a textbook example of a regressive border tax.

Additionally, with a citation in Perry’s analysis, economists Jason Furman, Katheryn Russ and Jay Shambaugh conclude the same findings. “It appears tariffs are imposed in a regressive manner — in part because expenditures on traded goods are a higher share of income and non-housing consumption,” Furman, Russ and Shambaugh concluded in a column published by the Centre for Economic Policy Research in 2017.

Applying these findings, tariffs add additional costs to consumer goods. Using the craft beer industry as an example, the consumers of this growing economic segment will pay more due to the levy on aluminum imports.

Aluminum cans serve as a cheaper means for brewers to distribute their products compared to traditional glass bottling. Given that the tariffs have been in effect for several months, the 10 percent levy on aluminum imports has already been felt by brewers all over the country.

In consequence, the orders of the administration create an environment that kills bottom lines. Due to the increase in costs, brewers will have to pass on higher prices to consumers.

“The aluminum tariff is a tax on beer and will have severe consequences for brewers, distributors, bartenders and many others,” says economist John Dunham in a column published by the Beer Institute. “Most importantly, consumers who choose to drink beer will be people who ultimately bear the cost of this tax.”

The 10 percent increase in aluminum tariffs, from Dunham’s projections, indicate that the collective multi-billion-dollar economic generator will be forced to pay $347.7 million in increased costs. Some 20,000 people also could be at risk of losing their jobs. Smaller craft brewers could even shutter as such taxation destructs bottom lines.

Potential layoffs and increases in industry unemployment are the least of the problems. About 5.7 percent of overall manufacturers’ cost of beer distribution derive from aluminum canning and purchases. As a result, brewers will see “other costs rise due to higher prices for beverage cans,” Dunham projects. These costs would hit warehousing operations, distribution and shipping, insurance, administration, payroll, among others.

Beer Institute numbers also estimate there are thousands of breweries currently operating in the United States, employing more than 2.2 million people. The effects of tariffs are occurring in the real world. Both breweries and aluminum providers have announced cost increases, rising prices, shrinking workforces and long-term cost concerns.

The tariffs on imported aluminum “could end up walloping the bottom lines of craft brewers, who will probably pass along any extra costs to consumers,” columnist Tom Acitelli wrote recently in the Washington Post. Even as craft beer’s billion-dollar boom continues, long-term concerns have proliferated.

The tariffs serve as examples of self-destructive trade policy. But, the Trump administration remains adamant about auto-tariff policies, limited coordination with European partners, and a China-U.S. trade war.


Michael McGrady, a political consultant, is the executive director of McGrady Policy Research. He wrote this for

The Conversation

Scientists are developing greener plastics – the bigger challenge is moving them from lab to market

August 15, 2018

Richard Gross

Professor of Chemistry, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Disclosure statement

Richard Gross has received funding from the National Science Foundation. He founded a company called SyntheZyme that developed biobased polymers and natural surfactants; the company is no longer active.

Synthetic plastics have made many aspect of modern life cheaper, safer and more convenient. However, we have failed to figure out how to get rid of them after we use them.

Unlike other forms of trash, such as food and paper, most synthetic plastics cannot be easily degraded by live microorganisms or through chemical processes. As a result, a growing plastic waste crisis threatens the health of our planet. It is embodied by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a massive zone of floating plastic trash, three times the size of France, stretching between California and Hawaii. Scientists have estimated that if current trends continue, the mass of plastics in the ocean will equal the mass of fish by 2050. Making plastics from petroleum also increases carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, contributing to climate change.

Much of my work has been dedicated to finding sustainable ways to make and break down plastics. My lab and others are making progress on both fronts. But these new alternatives have to compete with synthetic plastics that have established infrastructures and optimized processes. Without supportive government policies, innovative plastic alternatives will have trouble crossing the so-called “valley of death” from the lab to the market.

From wood and silk to nylon and plexiglass

All plastics consist of polymers – large molecules that contain many small units, or monomers, joined together to form long chains, much like strings of beads. The chemical structure of the beads and the bonds that join them together determine polymers’ properties. Some polymers form materials that are hard and tough, like glass and epoxies. Others, such as rubber, can bend and stretch.

For centuries humans have made products out of polymers from natural sources, such as silk, cotton, wood and wool. After use, these natural plastics are easily degraded by microorganisms.

Synthetic polymers derived from oil were developed starting in the 1930s, when new material innovations were desperately needed to support Allied troops in World War II. For example, nylon, invented in 1935, replaced silk in parachutes and other gear. And poly(methyl methacrylate), known as Plexiglas, substituted for glass in aircraft windows. At that time, there was little consideration of whether or how these materials would be reused.

Modern synthetic plastics can be grouped into two main families: Thermoplastics, which soften on heating and then harden again on cooling, and thermosets, which never soften once they have been molded. Some of the most common high-volume synthetic polymers include polyethylene, used to make film wraps and plastic bags; polypropylene, used to form reusable containers and packaging; and polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, used in clothes, carpets and clear plastic beverage bottles.

Recycling challenges

Today only about 10 percent of discarded plastic in the United States is recycled. Processors need an input stream of non-contaminated or pure plastic, but waste plastic often contains impurities, such as residual food.

Batches of disposed plastic products also may include multiple resin types, and often are not consistent in color, shape, transparency, weight, density or size. This makes it hard for recycling facilities to sort them by type.

Melting down and reforming mixed plastic wastes creates recycled materials that are inferior in performance to virgin material. For this reason, many people refer to plastic recycling as “downcycling.”

As most consumers know, many plastic goods are stamped with a code that indicates the type of resin they are made from, numbered one through seven, inside a triangle formed by three arrows. These codes were developed in the 1980s by the Society of the Plastics Industry, and are intended to indicate whether and how to recycle those products.

However, these logos are highly misleading, since they suggest that all of these goods can be recycled an infinite number of times. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, recycling rates in 2015 ranged from a high of 31 percent for PET (SPI code 1) to 10 percent for high-density polyethylene (SPI code 2) and a few percent at best for other groups.

In my view, single-use plastics should eventually be required to be biodegradable. To make this work, households should have biowaste bins to collect food, paper and biodegradable polymer waste for composting. Germany has such a system in place, and San Francisco composts organic wastes from homes and businesses.

Designing greener polymers

Since modern plastics have many types and uses, multiple strategies are needed to replace them or make them more sustainable. One goal is making polymers from bio-based carbon sources instead of oil. The most readily implementable option is converting carbon from plant cell walls (lignocellulosics) into monomers.

As an example, my lab has developed a yeast catalyst that takes plant-derived oils and converts them to a polyester that has properties similar to polyethylene. But unlike a petroleum-based plastic, it can be fully degraded by microorganisms in composting systems.

It also is imperative to develop new cost-effective routes for decomposing plastics into high-value chemicals that can be reused. This could mean using biological as well as chemical catalysts. One intriguing example is a gut bacterium from mealworms that can digest polystyrene, converting it to carbon dioxide.

Other scientists are developing high-performance vitrimers – a type of thermoset plastic in which the bonds that cross-link chains can form and break, depending on built-in conditions such as temperature or pH. These vitrimers can be used to make hard, molded products that can be converted to flowable materials at the end of their lifetimes so they can be reformed into new products.

It took years of research, development and marketing to optimize synthetic plastics. New green polymers, such as polylactic acid, are just starting to enter the market, mainly in compost bags, food containers, cups and disposable tableware. Manufacturers need support while they work to reduce costs and improve performance. It also is crucial to link academic and industrial efforts, so that new discoveries can be commercialized more quickly.

Today the European Union and Canada provides much more government support for discovery and development of bio-based and sustainable plastics than the United States. That must change if America wants to compete in the sustainable polymer revolution.

FILE- This June 15, 2017, file photo shows bagged purchases from the Kroger grocery store in Flowood, Miss. Kroger Co. has chosen a Phoenix suburb as the launching pad for delivering groceries to doorsteps using driverless cars.
The U.S. grocer will begin the testing phase of the self-driving service Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, at a Fry’s supermarket in Scottsdale. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File) This June 15, 2017, file photo shows bagged purchases from the Kroger grocery store in Flowood, Miss. Kroger Co. has chosen a Phoenix suburb as the launching pad for delivering groceries to doorsteps using driverless cars.
The U.S. grocer will begin the testing phase of the self-driving service Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018, at a Fry’s supermarket in Scottsdale. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Staff & Wire Reports