Archive for the ‘Recycling Information’ Category

The Many Benefits of Foam Recycling

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Guest Blog Post:

The Many Benefits of Foam Recycling

Commonly referred to as Styrofoam, a trademark of Dow Chemical, foam #6 is also known as polystyrene foam, expanded polystyrene, EPS, and foam. Since its light weight helps reduce shipping costs and its excellent cushioning properties result in less breakage, foam #6 is widely used to protect electronics during shipping. Similarly, it is the material of choice for egg cartons, fast food take-out containers, foam plates, and foam cups because it is lightweight, insulates well (maintains temperature), and is inexpensive. Another benefit of this material is that it is recyclable.

In fact, foam #6 is a thermoplastic, so it is technically recyclable over and over again. So why isn’t it being accepted in many community recycling programs? There are several reasons. First, it is not a significant portion of the waste stream. All foam #6 represents less than one percent of all products generated, by weight, in municipal solid waste.[1] Second, waste diversion goals are typically measured by weight, so the lightweight of foam makes it unattractive (a truckload of loose foam only weighs ~1,000 lbs). Third, it takes more effort to collect a pound of foam than a pound of glass or cardboard.

So why should we recycle foam? First, foam has real value once it has been compacted. There are now many markets for foam and the price they pay often exceeds the price of cardboard and other popular recycling commodities.

Second, new technology has made recycling foam much more efficient than in the past. For example, there are now many options for special compactors, called densifiers, that will compact foam to as much as an 85:1 ratio. This enables 40,000 lbs of material to fit on a 48’ trailer. The equipment also requires less space than in the past and it is able to efficiently process mixed densities of foam at the same time.  Plus, it does all of this while minimizing the amount of labor foam recycling may have taken in the past.

And third, the conversion of foam into new products is a simple process that reduces the need to harvest crude oil from the earth and all of the energy associated with the process required to make virgin resin. The end result is that we realize a reduction in greenhouse gasses and lessen our dependence on foreign oil. Reclaimers simply place the compacted material into a grinder, which feeds an extruder. The extruder is similar to a Play-Doh machine in that the ground material goes into the machine, melts, and comes out the other end like spaghetti.  The spaghetti is then cooled and chopped into small pieces (pellets). Once it is in the form of pellets, it then can be used to make useful new products.

Because of these reasons, efforts continue to be made to expand the capabilities to recycle foam. There are companies, like Dart Container, working to make foam recycling more accessible to more people. They have even created positions within their business solely focused on generating new foam recycling programs across the country.

And much progress has been made. In 2007, only one city in California participated in a curbside recycling program. Fast-forward to today, and you’ll find curbside Styrofoam recycling centers in over 65 California communities – when the population of these communities is added together, it is more than 20 percent of the state!

More and more residents are gaining additional foam recycling options. For instance, there are a number of drop-off locations and collection and shipping programs for those who use large amounts of foam like quick service restaurants, and college campuses. Even school districts are getting involved by collecting students’ foam lunch trays for recycling.

All of these programs demonstrate a growing trend of recycling programs that has resulted in reductions in landfills and a more sustainable environment for all of us. We encourage everyone to get involved in recycling foam. To find out where foam can be recycled near you, or to see if your neighborhood participates in a foam recycling program, check, or to see if you’re living in, or near a community with a curbside recycling or foam drop-off program.

[1] Municipal Solid Waste in the United States 2008 Facts and Figures, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, November 2009

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Your CDs

Friday, February 5th, 2010

It is pretty rare these days to see a student walking on campus without one and maybe even rarer to see people working out at the gym without one. It is hard to believe that it was only nine short years ago that Apple launched their version. And yet today MP3 players have had such huge popularity that most people have given up on every other form of music data storage, including the ever popular compact disk.

Around 8.6 billion songs have been downloaded off of Apple’s iTunes store, which is roughly 86 million CDs. Most people download music simply for their own convenience, but the truth is they are actually doing the environment a huge favor. Plastic, metal, and ink containing petroleum are all used in producing a CD, not to mention lacquer that is used to protect the disk, the paper liner insert, and the plastic case it came in. Before being commissioned to make a CD though, each of these components went through different processes on their own in which energy was used and waste was created. So the next time you debate whether or not to run to the store to buy that new CD that was just released, just remember not only will you be saving time and gas, but also the environment.

So now it’s time to dust off all of those old CDs that you haven’t so much as looked at since you uploaded them to your computer to later put on your handy MP3 player. With these new technologies and the ever-changing music industry it’s no wonder millions of CDs end up in landfills and incinerators each year.

Here are some ways in which you can help prevent the pile of CDs from growing in our landfills:

If possible, recycle the plastic case that the CD came in- you know that it’s probably cracked or broken anyway. You can also store your CDs in a large organizer and recycle all of the cases they came in, broken or not. Make sure to check with your local waste management facility to see if they accept this type of plastic.

Go through your music library and choose CDs that you know are just taking up space on your shelves. Bring these CDs to a local media store that take them off of your hands for free, sometimes even for cash!

Get creative. There are endless ways in which you can take your old CDs and make them into new, interesting pieces. Try searching for these CD projects online and see what catches your eye. The easiest idea? Simply place a CD face down and stack a pillar candle on top of it. Not only does it look stylish while reflecting the light of the candle’s flame throughout the room but it also keeps mess to a minimum by catching the dripping wax.

Check out local places, such as your nearest library, to see if they have CDs you can rent. You get to listen to the music you want for free, it doesn’t take up much space in your life for too long, and it is constantly being reused.

And don’t forget, once that oh-so-convenient MP3 player’s battery has decided to call it quits or if you just need an upgrade you can always recycle the device too and reduce waste in our landfills!

Is the Apple iPad Green Enough?

Friday, January 29th, 2010

The way technology is evolving, today’s latest electronics are doing their best to become “green” products. Apple’s new iPad is a revolutionary piece of technology that is far more advanced than any other tablet PCs. With a starting price of only $499, this item is definitely going to be a must have for a lot of consumers. Still there is an underlying question that not too many people have asked. What effects will the new iPad have on the environment? Apple has stated that the iPad does have environmental features, but that doesn’t mean you are going to see Captain Planet walking around with one.

Truth be told the Apple iPad is about as green as a piece of technology like this can get. In Apple’s favor the iPad is an e-reader, allowing someone to store and read all of their once paper documents on the device. This will definitely reduce the amount of trees being cut down for the use of printing. The iPad also doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals: no arsenic, no mercury, no BFRs (brominated flame retardants), no PVC. When someone is ready to move on the entire device is highly recyclable. Apple also decided to go with a LCD-backlit display instead of OLED, which requires more energy. In addition the iPad has a 10 hour battery life, which means that it won’t need to be constantly plugged in for a recharge. With all these green features in mind, Apple’s iPad may seem like a state of the art environmental savior.

It is safe to say that the iPad is a green product compared to most of today’s electronics. However, lets look past all those nice green features for a moment. The production of any electronics like this has a huge environmental impact. Add that to the fact the iPad will be in high demand more and more rare metals are going to be used. Global supply chains are needed to ship the materials to the productions site and then again when they are ready to hit the market. The biggest problem is that the iPad is just an addition not a replacement. The iPad is designed to be a supplement to other devices. It doesn’t aim to replace full sized desktop or laptops and not too many people are going to replace their iPod with the 9 inch iPad. Even if in some instances the iPad does replace everyday electronics, where are those going to go? More than likely they end up in a landfill contributing to the e-waste problem. Plus who is to say that everyone is going to recycle their iPad once it reaches its end life. Sure it is highly recyclable, but with no stable e-waste recycling laws in place, iPads could become a direct source of e-waste.

Although it is green, the iPad represents another device to be owned. It begins with the metals used in production, to the energy consumed by manufacturing and shipping, to the burden of its disposal, is the iPad really doing planet earth a favor? It is easy to overlook all the hidden problems when Apple does add green specifications to the iPad. However, when looked at fully from the production to the end-life the iPad may just end up being a problematic device for the environment.

Recycling Electronics: The E-Waste Laws

Monday, January 18th, 2010

As thousands and thousand of electronics continue to be disposed in landfills, the e-waste dilemma is starting to garnish attention. Not just anyone’s attention neither, but that of state legislators. As of now, nineteen states have implemented some sort of electronics waste program. New York could become the twentieth state if they are able to defeat the Computer Electronic Association (CEA) and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

Oral hearings are scheduled to begin next week between the CEA/ITI and New York City in a court hearing concerning the city’ proposed recycling program. If the program passes, manufacturers will be forced to have more of a role in the recycling of their products. On the other side of things if the program is denied there is a fear that this could hurt existing programs and stall chances for future ones.

While keeping e-waste out of landfills is the main reason such programs are being put in place. There is still another issue that the proposed recycling program could solve. Forcing manufacturers to be responsible for their products at the end of their life cycle shifts the cost of recycling to the state and municipalities to the users and manufacturers of those products. This would cancel out the recycling fees for everyone and hold just the consumers and manufacturers responsible.

The bill was originally passed in 2008. It was suppose to begin collection from manufacturers in 2009 and with fines for residents beginning this year. In the bill there is a rule that deems the manufacturers are responsible for direct pick up of anything over 15 pounds. Manufacturers believe that this rule in the law is unconstitutional because it requires situational burdens and non-existing expenses. Many supporters of the bill believe that the CEA and ITI are interpreting the bill in the most burdensome view in order to help get their way.

Being the first law passed in the city that deals with e-waste, manufacturers are not ready for change. They don’t see the possibilities in increasing recycling efforts, job creation, and saving in expenses. All of this will be figured out in the coming months as the State defends it plan against the CEA and ITI. If the law is passed, New York City residents will be required to start recycling electronics starting July 1st.

The e-waste dilemma isn’t just going to go away. More and more programs are taking an initiative to help solve this ongoing issue. Recycling for Charities is just one example of programs that are set up to reduce e-waste pollution. Not only does Recycling for Charities keep e-waste out of landfills, but it gives back funding directly to charities. That is just on a non-profit level. If states continue to pursue e-waste legislation more and more programs and opportunities will develop to continue to help the cause.

Blueprints without All That Paper

Monday, December 21st, 2009

It may not be the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning, but lets take a second to think about the amount of paper that is being used everyday. OK, time is up. Hopefully you came to the same conclusion that I did and that is there is a lot of paper that is being used everyday. Obviously that is the case whether it is news papers, magazines, product packaging or even toilet paper. So what is the big deal? Well as I am sure all of you know paper comes from trees and with the overwhelming use of it, deforestation has become a growing concern for us and our environment. I know, I know, but we need paper it is a commodity for everyday life. Of course we need paper, but that doesn’t mean there are not any alternative sources which can help prevent deforestation.

I am willing to bet when we took that second to think about the amount of paper being used, that blue prints were not something that jumped out. Truth be told, blueprints account for an overwhelming use of paper. In fact 42,000 trees are killed each year just to print off blueprints. That is enough paper if laid end to end to form a road from Washington D.C. to New York.


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