Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Don't let a good thing turn bad.

We are thrilled that so many people want to do right by our planet and recycle. BUT... what happens when an attempt at doing the right thing goes all wrong?? More in your bin DOES NOT always equal more recycled. In fact, more of the wrong items in your bin can cause contamination of other good recyclable. Please, always recycle but do so with care!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Okay, okay, how can I help?

So, I'm not sure if you've been paying attention but if you have, you've heard (repeatedly), that the recycling markets and industry are in trouble. A number of factors have come into play to create the "perfect" storm. Despite the name there is little positive about it. We are all happy to receive some rain but when the waters keep rising many are found praying for the Sun and a nice long dry spell.

We know about the challenges so how do we help? As we've posted about previously there are a few factors that are outside of our hands as individuals or businesses. There are also a number of things that you can do to really make a positive impact in your recycling efforts. The single largest way to positively effect your recycling efforts is to follow bin & program instructions and keep out contaminants, contacting the program directors when needed to clarify those confusing recycling messages.

Let's say you are an avid recycler and you've done all that... you know exactly what should and should not go into your bins and you are the picture of recycling success (yay, you)... now what? What else can you do to help push recycling in the right direction? Well, thanks for asking.

1. Reduce single use (specifically with items that cannot be recycled).

Hello, my name is Tiffany and I am a paper towel addict. I've tried to stop, I've looked at alternatives, I've tried alternatives, and I have even gone as far as to leave the holder empty on purpose just to put a (temporary) end to my addiction. I don't know where my need to endlessly pull the paper towels off the roll comes from but it sure is handy and we have more then enough messes to keep the roll dwindling. Paper Towels are not recyclable ( I certainly would not want to be on a sorting line and touching whatever new, sticky mess my children have found to cover themselves in). Don't worry,  I feel the guilt. So, in an effort to start simple I've made some other changes ones that have really stuck.

Ziplock bags used to be another issue for me. They are so easy to use and they don't leave you hanging without a lid like most of the regular food storage containers do. They keep snacks fresh and if someone forgets to bring it home... no big deal (I would likely throw them anyway). We've busted this habit. We found reusable snack bags that work as well as ziplock but we have used them endlessly. They seal, they're easy to clean and they even have some cute prints. This choice has kept endless Ziplock bags out of the landfill from our family. (SCORE!)

K-Cups - hot topic issue amongst environmentally minded. So handy, less water waste but the amount of plastic generated from these small plastic cups is unreal (especially in areas that aren't able to recycle the K-cup plastics). A well kept secret is a brewing basket. You can purchase your own coffee and use a brewing basket to quickly and easily make a single serving from your machine. No waste of the coffee, the water or the plastic cup.

Sometimes we are willing to give a little for convenience and sometimes our environment pays the price. I promise, I will continue to look for paper towel alternatives and make a change with that too!

2. Buy with recycling/end of life in mind. Cat litter comes in two options the paper containers and the large plastic tubs. I know that my recycling collection center takes both, so it really makes no difference which one I select (other than convenience to me) . Some collections centers will not take the large plastic kitty litter tubs so I would keep that in mind when buying. Another instance of this is located at the dollar section in some very popular stores. You can purchase cheap, cute (bpa free) cups and drink, snack and sandwich containers. It seems like a great plan, but because they are so cheap they are also cheaply made and just don't hold up to the abuse inflicted by my children. We have found that after only a few uses they are in need to discard. Some containers fit into the standard recycling program but others are a mixture of plastics or aren't accepted. It's important to weigh the lifespan of the products and know where they will end up when we are finished with them.

3. Find a landfill alternative. After you have recycled all that is allowed curbside, and you've looked locally and dropped off grocery bags, batteries, and light bulbs at the local collection sites you've still found you have more garbage in your bin then you'd like ... what can you do?

     What about compost - on average a huge percentage of our garbage is food waste. Leftovers,            fruit and vegetable cuttings and scraps, coffee grinds, etc. These items do not need to go to the            landfill and can instead be composted to help fertilize your garden and grow bigger, happier                produce!

     Can it be reused? Sometimes when an item can no longer be used for it's original job it can find a      new one. Other times they item may not have use in your home but may be a welcomed (and              needed) addition to someone else's. Taking items that are no longer needed to a goodwill, yard            sale, or other like sale site helps to keep it out of the garbage, allows someone else to give it a
     second life and prevents them from going out and buying something new. The simple choice to
     reuse the item can be quite impactful.

4. Keep it simple. There are so many products created today and it is so tempting to see the newest widget and get sold on it; infomercials are puzzling and yet amazing things. I can be tempted by the seeming ease of the 15 product line, that will most certainly make my life easier. You could have a gamut of kitchen appliances all designed to help you eat healthy and quickly. Many times I've learned that I already have all the pots and pans I need and with the right techniques and a little thought my meals can be just as healthy, almost as quick, and much less wasteful. Sometimes a simple rag can also accomplish as much cleaning as the 3 different height and heat level mops. At times the next greatest product may be just that... great, other times it's just another thing to take up room in your closet and eventually find its way to the goodwill or worse... the landfill. The most difficult part is to learn to tell the difference, I think we're all still working on that.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Recyclers No Longer Accepting Glass???

"Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity - something few food and beverage packaging options can claim."

By the Glass Packaging Institute. 

Glass is an amazing material that can be recycled (and recycled, and recycled, and recycled....) glass can also be reused BUT... it currently poses many, many challenges to MRF's (material recovery facilities). Glass has been a problem for quite some time now but with the increase in single stream collection it's become an even larger hurdle. The good news is that it seems that the recycling of glass has increased but the bad news is that, at this point, in the form that it's often received in, it is not unilaterally able to be recycled. We need help and here's why: 
1. Glass is breakable. As glass is placed in bins, transported, dumped at drop center(s), and processed the whole bottle tends to become many, many pieces. The pieces get mixed with other bottles (of varying colors) and due to the mixture of colors they are no longer wanted for making "new" glass.
2. Glass is a very difficult contaminant (when broken). If paper or plastic have any moisture the small glass shards will adhere to it making production much more difficult at the end user.
3. Glass is tough! The highest amount of wear that our equipment experiences is because of continued contact with glass. Rubber and metal wear significantly due to the continual presence of glass and it's highly abrasive nature. 
4. Glass is heavy. When a recycler is accepting mixed recyclables a large percentage of the weight they receive are made up of glass (a product that when broken becomes quite difficult to re market and is thus quite costly).
5. In this "mixed" color, broken form there are very select markets available for this material. Most end users who are making new glass need color sorted (contaminant free) glass. Just like the glass that contaminants the plastic and paper, plastic and paper contaminant the broken glass. It would not be unlikely to see small bottle caps, shredded paper, small pieces of aluminum and other small items commingled with the glass. Solutions for this material have been located, tested, and approved (it works superbly in septic systems, sludge beds, drainage applications) but the production currently far exceeds the demand. We need more viable mixed glass markets or the idea of removing glass from the recycling stream may need to become a reality.
The Department of Environmental Production and other like agencies have funds that are working to assist market creation and stimulation for these types of items. We need to see more progress and urgency to get this matter resolved. Despite the recommendation of some agencies to landfill our growing "mountain" of material we just don't feel that this is the right environmental choice but if markets are demanding the material we could be forced (legally) to do so.  What are your thoughts??

Friday, November 25, 2016

Give More... Time.

Count your blessing, we all have so many. Family, friends, food in our bellies, and a roof over our head. Its so easy to focus on the goals we haven't yet achieved instead of being grateful for all we possess. As this "black friday" encourages us to buy and save we need to keep in mind the importance of our presence and how little the presents will eventually mean. For our hearts, our family, and our planet the gift of time together is the best gift we could ever give. #lessstuff #threers #presencevspresents #bepresent

Friday, July 15, 2016

No mixed feelings here.


This article in Waste Advantage Magazine discusses the idea of single bin collection (not to be confused with single stream collection). Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably they are vastly different (pay attention to context) and ask for clarification.

Single bins collection means that all materials that are leaving your home or business (garbage & recycling) will go in the same single bin. These mixed up, highly contaminated materials will go to what is known as a dirty MRF (Materials Recovery Facility) and the staff will be tasked with first sorting out food waste, dirty diapers, feminine products, coffee grinds, and lots of other highly unappealing items from the "recycling". After they've raked out whatever garbage they can they will attempt to salvage  "clean" recyclable items. Sorters will try to sort the paper, bottles, cans, & glass that remain so it might be clean enough to be reused.

It's been said that single bin collection is a great idea because:

1. It will increase recycling participation ... it's so easy anyone can do it.

2. It eliminates recycling "confusion".

3. It saves money on transportation & other program costs.

What do we say?

We say that single bin collection in an absolutely terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea! We heard the same type of claims made about single stream recycling. We were all told what a great impact it would have on recycling participation and program costs. We were told that it would be groundbreaking for the recycling industry. It was... unfortunately not in a positive way. As nearly every facility has transitioned to single stream recycling collection (demanded by the public) recyclers are struggling to efficiently sort highly contaminated products. End users are fighting their own struggle of how to effectively use material that although sorted still bares the battle scars of being all mixed up. Plastic processors combat removing tiny glass pieces, paper mills need to overcome small metal pieces, glass, and plastic.The intermingling of these materials can never quite be undone. These recycled raw materials have been less valuable and it happened at a time when fuel prices were low. The financial benefit of choosing recycled content ingredients for the manufacturing process was minimal (as it also became less consistent in quality).

Residential rates (the percentage of "recyclable material" that enters the facility which is contaminated and must leave as trash) has soared. Our own facility which maintained a residual rate of under 2.5% for all our years in operation (that's over 70 years) experienced a climb to over 6%.
Recyclers across the board are fighting to survive and residents, townships, businesses, and institutions across the board are feeling the trickle down effects. When it costs a recycling facility significantly more to sort and process the material there is only so much they can absorb before they are required to either pass the cost along or fail to be a successful business.  The troubling part is that the odds of turning back the clock and collecting material like we used to (paper with paper, commingle containers together) is nearly impossible once a community begins mixing it all together. The good news is that with a bit more effort on the end of the person placing the material in the bin we can salvage recycling and begin to again make a clean, desireable product. It'll take education and a little desire to make things better. So with all this being said,  you may be wondering why in the world did the industry decide that single stream recycling was a good idea?

Well, because some of the larger waste companies and others in industry had made some claims:

1. It will increase recycling participation ... it's so easy anyone can do it.

2. It eliminates recycling "confusion".

3. It saves money on transportation & other program costs.

Do you see the irony?