Below are several articles highlighting opportunities to improve recycling and businesses that are stepping up their game in use of recovered materials to make new products.

What you’re doing wrong when it comes to recycling – Waste Management officials say the Seattle area is considered a national leader with a recycling rate greater than 50 percent. However, that leaves room for a lot of opportunities. “We do a pretty good job but yet, nearly half of what we’re throwing away could be recycled,” says Michelle Metzler, Waste Management’s manager of recycling education programs. “So even though we’re doing better than most of the rest of the country, we still have a lot of opportunities.recycle right

The Recycling Partnership assesses its impactIn its recently released 2016 annual report, titled “How do You Create Impact3,” The Recycling Partnership, the organization has:

  • assisted more than 250 local communities and improved recycling for 19 million households;
  • increased greenhouse gas savings from 43,000 metric tons two years ago to 164,200 metric tons;
  • grown the cumulative tonnage of recyclables recovered from 15,100 tons two years ago to 57,500 tons today;
  • placed nearly 400,000 curbside recycling carts during the last three years; and
  • saved 382 million gallons of water and 2 trillion BTU of energy annually.

The Recycling Partnership has announced its third annual request for proposals to help local governments make the switch to cart-based recycling collection. The national nonprofit will be giving out funds on a rolling process throughout the year. Any county, municipality, solid waste district/authority or tribe with at least 10,000 residents is eligible to apply. For programs with weekly collections, carts must be at least 60 gallons, and at least 90 gallons for biweekly. recycling binAll carts must include embedded RFID tags as well.  The Partnership is offering $7 per household for cart purchases and $1 per household for education. Additional technical assistance and educational materials are worth an estimated $139,000. For Info visit Recycling Partnership.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition and the Recycling Partnership have started a new initiative that will build a roadmap for a stronger American recycling industry.  ASTRX is a systems-level project to increase recycling by strengthening each element of the materials supply chain to create reliable and valuable manufacturing feedstock. For packaging to be recycled successfully, we must consider how it flows through each of the five elements of recycling: end markets, reprocessing, sortation, collection, and consumer engagement. To increase recovery, ASTRX will examine each element of the recycling system, identify barriers to recovering more high quality materials, and develop solutions that support each element and thus help the recycling system as a whole.

P&G and Microsoft Demonstrate How to Move Beyond Recycling – In an article Gina-Marie Chesseman reports Procter and Gamble (P&G) set a goal to send zero manufacturing waste to landfill by 2020. So far, 56 percent of its global production sites send zero manufacturing waste to local landfills. The company works toward its 2020 goal by looking at waste through a new lens. As it states on its website: “The key is to not see anything as trash, but material with potential use.” “We made a strategic decision in the late 1980s to ensure our packaging could be recovered, recycled and reused in our new packages,” Virginie Helias, global VP of sustainability for P&G, told TriplePundit. “We solicited help from multiple partners, built new supply chains and, most importantly, committed to using post-consumer recycled plastic in our bottles.”

P&G recently partnered with TerraCycle and SUEZ to produce a shampoo bottle made from up to 25 percent recycled beach plastic. The bottle of Head and Shoulders shampoo will debut this summer in French retailer Carrefour. And the rollout will eventually represent the world’s largest production of recyclable bottles made with post-consumer recycled beach plastic.

“Microsoft started nine years ago using compostable products and went to fully compostable dining ware in July 2008,” Mohan Reddy Guttapalem, Microsoft senior facilities manager, told TriplePundit. Microsoft’s Redmond campus achieved gold-level zero waste certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council.

The company managed to divert at least 90 percent of its food, office and construction waste from landfills. And employee-driven reuse, recycling and composting programs helped the company reach its milestone. Microsoft also likes to conduct complete audits frequently, including periodically auditing waste streams and an annual audit of its waste-hauling vendor, Guttapalem said. The company then tailors its “outreach programs to the employees based on the results.”

Target offers car seat recycling program. Target is encouraging parents not to throw away car seats after they have been outgrown by their children. The retail store chain is offering a car seat recycling program beginning April 17, according to Parents magazine. Target, in partnership with recycling company TerraCycle, will accept car seats through April 30. toddler in car seatParents should bring that obsolete car seat to the store, drop it in a bin located either in the baby section or near the front. Then, locate a Target associate to receive a coupon for 20 percent off any car seat through May 31. Shoppers can buy the car seats in-store or online at Target.com. The recycled car seats will be converted into new products.

Why OEMs are bringing more recycled plastic into devices. According to HP’s latest sustainability report, the company incorporates e-plastics from used ink and toner cartridges back into new cartridges. It also uses other post-consumer plastic sources, including beverage containers. The report also noted that it used 6,200 metric tons of post-consumer plastic in PCs and displays in 2015, although it didn’t indicate whether the recycled content came from recovered e-plastics or other sources. HP isn’t alone in incorporating recycled resin in its devices. Dell has for years incorporated post-consumer e-plastics in its products. During the 2016 fiscal year, Dell used 3.4 million pounds of post-consumer e-plastics in its products, up about 55 percent from the year before.

SUBTITLE C: REGIONAL MEGA-FACILITIES ARE THE FUTURE OF COMMERCIAL COMPOSTING. Ultimately, the rates (costs to residents and businesses) associated with manufacturing compost from organic waste will always be higher than landfilling, even with economy of scale. Commercial composting is a manufacturing process that can take up to 120 days or more. The sheer time difference between landfilling and composting a ton of organic material is enough to multiply the cost of managing it exponentially. Also, compost manufacturing is different from most manufacturing because the cost of making the product exceeds the value of the product in the marketplace.  This is because compost competes with chemical fertilizers even though it shouldn’t since the benefit of fertilizers is mostly short term production gains, whereas compost provides soil health first, creating a healthy microbiome for long term production gains.

Whatever the solution is to the question of how we responsibly and economically manage our waste, we are bound to be more successful and innovative if we think backwards before we think forwards.  What were the lessons learned from RCRA and the consolidation of the landfill industry?  How can we implement and fund organic waste recycling programs using the lessons learned from curbside recycling?  I’ll end with a great quote by author Ronald Wright “Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.”

Dozens dead after dump site landslide in Sri Lankan capital.  At least 29 casualties have been confirmed after a landfill landslide in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, and some estimates say that up to 100 people may still be missing, as reported by NBC News and other media outlets. More than 1,000 emergency workers have been brought in to the crisis area, though a military spokesperson told Reuters it is unlikely they will find any survivors. The incident occurred on April 15 during Sri Lanka’s new year celebrations and damaged an estimated 145 homes. Geological investigators believe that the landslide was caused by a methane explosion, as reported by The New York Times. Residents in the Meethotamulla area had been calling for the closure of this 300-foot-high site for multiple years. The Sri Lankan government has announced that the site will now be closed, as reported by BBC News.

Last year, the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) released a report that linked 750 deaths to dumpsites in less than a year and outlined strategies for beginning to close the world’s 50 most egregious examples. ISWA is turning its attention the Estrutural landfill in Brazil’s capital first — one of multiple challenging sites in the country— and the urgency of this need has been recently demonstrated in other countries as well. At least 113 people were killed by a landfill landslide in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last month.

As outlined by ISWA, closing these dumpsites will also help countries work toward achieving the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals. If allowed to continue in their current states, these sites could comprise 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. Out of the 50 largest ones, 38 are also in coastal areas and are sources of the ongoing marine pollution crisis that has drawn attention from Sri Lanka and many other countries.

Jeff Foote

Jeff Foote is Executive Vice President, Sustainability at TreeZero. He’s also an investor. He has helped hundreds of organizations, both large and small, successfully incorporate sustainability strategies into core business functions. Jeff has traveled to all seven continents working to protect and preserve the environment. Jeff’s mission is to help organizations and individuals use fewer resources to sell more, more profitably.