Weekly Round-Up: Recycling – Opportunities to Improve

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.

Easy ways to “go green” at the office to celebrate Earth Day

Earth Day is coming up at the end of the month. You’re already trying to be as “green” as you can be at home, so now it’s time to make your workplace just as sustainable.  There are lots of simple changes you can make to raise awareness of environmental issues, create a sustainable workplace, and encourage your co-workers to make and participate in sustainable choices.

Here’s a few ways to make any office Earth Day-ready:

  1. Think Before You Print. Refrain from printing things that can easily be read or saved on the computer. And, if you decide to print, TreeZero encourages you to use our tree free multipurpose paper. We also suggest that you set up your printers to print two-sided, set your margins as wide and your font size as small as possible. Not only will you save paper, but you’ll think twice about what you’re sending out.recycle bins
  2. Recycle Everything You Can. Recycling is one of the easiest, least demanding and least expensive ways to go green. Strategically place recycling bins around the office to encourage people to properly dispose of paper, aluminum, plastic, glass and other items. As your office becomes more involved in the recycling, you can also set up separate bins for items such as batteries and ink cartridges.biking to work
  3. Commute Smarter. Walk or cycle to work if you can.  Take public transportation (tip: buy bulk passes to save money). As a bonus with either of these two options, you’ll get additional exercise on your way to and from work.  If you must drive, carpool or car share.  According to the EPA, ditching your car for two days per week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year.dog at work
  4. Conserve Water. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge instead of running the tap. Don’t pour left over water down the drain.  Use it to water the plants.  If you’re lucky enough to be able to bring your dog to the office, use left over water to fill the dog’s water bowl.green team 2
  5. Start a Green Team. Get your office to create a sustainability team. Gather team members from a cross-section of the company and work together to develop and maintain green practices for your company. Keep it fun and encourage company-wide participation rewarding creative ideas.  Your new Green Team can inspire, activate, and engage employees to create meaningful changes within your company.  Otherwise, what’s the use of these tips if no one is using them?

Let us know how you’ve made your office a more sustainable place to work. Share some of your favorite sustainable ideas.  We look forward to celebrating and supporting Earth Day 2017 with all of you!

Weekly Round-Up: Recycling, What Goes Around

Recycling is a series of activities by which material that has reached the end of its current use is processed into material utilized in the production of new products.

This week we’ll take a look at what’s happening within the world of recycling with a special focus on paper.

PAPER RECYCLING  –  Some Basic Facts

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, paper accounts for about half of all recyclables collected in the U.S., by weight. About forty-three million tons of paper and paperboard were recovered in 2013—a recycling rate of about 63 percent.

shredded office paper

Shredded Office Paper

The U.S. paper recovery rate increased by 1.4 percentage points in 2015 to a record-high 66.8 percent. The previous high point of 66.4 percent was recorded in 2011.

The paper recovery rate measured 33.5 percent back in 1990, which was the base year against which the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) began setting its recovery goals.

AF&PA member companies have set a goal to increase the U.S. paper recovery rate to more than 70 percent by 2020. The 2015 numbers point to clear progress towards meeting the goal.

An estimated 58.6 percent of printing-writing papers were recovered for recycling in 2015, which is up from 53.0 percent in 2013 and 57.7 percent in 2014. The actual tonnage of printing-writing papers recovered for recycling declined 3.3 percent in 2015 but domestic purchases of these papers (i.e., new supply) fell by a more substantial 4.9 percent, which caused the recovery rate to increase.

Where Recovered Paper GoesData for the year 2015 indicate that 33.4 percent of the paper and paperboard recovered in the U.S. went to produce container board (i.e., the material used for corrugated boxes) and 11.8 percent went to produce boxboard, which includes base stock for folding boxes and gypsum wallboard facings. Net exports of recovered paper to China and other nations accounted for 39.8 percent of the paper collected for recycling in the U.S in 2015.  There are also some domestic uses of recovered paper outside the paper industry, including as base materials for insulation and molded pulp products.

Interested in starting an office paper recycling program? Download the Workplace Recycling Guide to learn more about how you can involve your office.

RECYCLING IN GENERAL

Find Recycling Locations for Materials from A-Z – With over 350 materials and 100,000+ listings, Earth911.com maintains one of North America’s most extensive databases. To get started, enter in the material you are trying to recycle along with your zip code and click search.

Habitat for Humanity ReStores are nonprofit home improvement stores and donation centers that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public at a fraction of the retail price.  ReStores are independently owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations. Proceeds are used to help build strength, stability, self-reliance and shelter in local communities and around the world. Habitat ReStores divert hundreds of tons from landfills each year, accepting hard-to-dispose-of items including new and used furniture, appliances and surplus building materials. In many cases, pickup service is provided for large items.

ReStore Habitat for Humanity

ReStore Habitat for Humanity in Hall County, GA

How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public. It involves a coalition of forward thinking brands who want their packaging to be recycled and are empowering consumers through smart packaging labels. Each How2Recycle label is based on the best availability of recycling data available, as well as critical technical insights from Association of Plastic Recyclers, Recycled Paperboard Alliance, and other insightful industry experts.

RecycleYourPlastics.org is an easy to use resource on plastics recycling for recycling professionals. The site includes resources such as user-friendly tips and tools, best practices, ready access to experts and peers in the recycling world and more.  Funding for RecycleYourPlastics.org is provided by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council, representing leading makers of plastic resins.

Quick solutions to the most common recycling mistakesThe biggest contaminants are plastic bags, liquids, food, garden hoses, Christmas-tree lights, wire hangers, electronics, propane tanks, and auto parts.  Recycle plastic bags at grocery store locations that accept them.  If a bundle of recyclables reaches a 10% contamination rate, the manufacturer that purchases the recyclable materials can reject the load and charge back the cost to the sorting center.  When in doubt throw it out.

5 Simple & Practical Tips To Make Printing More Sustainable

Concern for our environment and sustainable practices have never been as important and popular than now.  As this awareness increases and stakeholders become increasingly sensitive to any and all efforts made to help our environment, more sustainable printing practices should be on the top of list.

5 Simple & Practical Tips To Make Printing More Sustainable

Here’s a list of five simple and practical printing tips that you can start implementing today at home or at your office to make your printing more sustainable.

Tip #1. Use tree free paper.  Using tree free paper is not only environmentally friendly and it’s usually as affordable as recycled tree-alternatives. (Did you know that using one pallet (40 boxes) of TreeZero  paper saves 24 trees?)

Tip #2. Print on both sides of the paper.  If you need to print, this is about as simple an environmentally friendly idea as you can get. Do it and you’ll halve your paper costs and cut down on your carbon footprint.

Select Two-Sided Printing

Select Two-Sided Printing

Tip #3. Maximize your margins. Many people default to standard margin settings out of convenience, but by expanding your margins you can significantly cut down on the number of pages printed, while still maintaining a professional look.

Tip #4. Use it again. You printed a test sheet and are about to toss it in the recycling bin, but there’s a whole side of blank paper just waiting to be used.  Pop your non-confidential documents back into the printer and use the other side of the page next time.

Recycling Bin

Use the back of paper from the recycle bin to make notes

Tip #5. Alternatives to Printing.  Ask yourself “Do I Need to Print?”  Challenge your printing habits.  You may still want to print some documents, but think about these alternatives:

  • Save, don’t print. Do you print because you worry you won’t find something online again? Transfer your paper organization skills to the computer.
  • Read on Screen. We want to find information online quickly. We tend to “scan” or “skim” as to read through online content.  If we see paragraphs with longer lines, we may tend to skip it.  This habit makes it difficult to read online but over time you can adjust your “skipping” habits and decrease your need to print.
  • Say No to Printing PowerPoint Presentations. Typically, PowerPoint presentations are filled with graphics and colored backgrounds and little text. Instead of printing, use the functions within PowerPoint to take notes or make comments. By writing the information down yourself you become more familiar with the material, can make digital edits others can easily use and be green all at the same time.
  • Use Scrap Paper and write it down.  Grab a sheet or two from the recycle bins near the printers. Use those to write your notes.