Archive | Recycling & Waste

Old Electronics Seen as Major Environmental Threat

BUFFALO, N.Y., Sept. 14 (UPI) — U.S. landfills are filling up with unwanted old electronic items and posing an increasing environmental threat, experts say.

Experts said the used televisions, music players and other electronics sitting in landfills can result in heavy metals leaking into soil and ground water, The Buffalo (N.Y.) News said Monday.

“It’s a huge problem. It’s literally poisoning communities,” said Barbara Kyle, national coordinator for the non-profit Electronics TakeBack Coalition.

Jim Simon, the University at Buffalo Green Office’s associate environmental educator, blamed the rising number of unwanted electronic items on regular advancements in technology that make such products outdated.

“In an age when there’s a new iPhone or television every other week, it seems, people are hemorrhaging their old electronics,” Simon said.

The Buffalo News said some advocates support increased recycling of electronic items by consumers while some states imposing limits on the disposal of such items.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Electronics, Landfills, Office, Other, People, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Science, Space, & Technology, Television0 Comments

Illinois County Celebrates 100 Million Pounds of Electronics Recycled

One of the more difficult types of products to recycle are electronics. With their complicated parts and various chemicals and pressurized contents within, consumers struggle to make sure they’re recycling electronics in the right place. From microwave ovens and televisions to computer parts and printers though, the need continues to grow.

Reports from Suburban Chicago News and The Planfield Sun have more on one Illinois County’s milestone ahievement with electronics recycling:

Will County officials are celebrating passing an important milestone — having collected more than 1 million pounds in electronic recycling in just a little more than two years.

“In July 2008, we opened our first four permanent recycling sites in Bolingbrook, Channahon Township, Troy Township and a joint effort between Washington Township and Beecher,” said Will County Executive Larry Walsh. “Today we have 10 sites open and are scheduled to open an 11th at the Monee Reservoir on Friday, Sept. 4. At the last two sites, in Lockport and Mokena, residents had been bringing in electronics before we had the official opening.”

To get an idea of what 1 million pounds of electronics means, if the grand total was represented by only one type of item, it would equal 23,700 microwave ovens, 13,650 televisions or 63,350 printers, said Marta Keane, recycling program specialist for the Will County Land Use Department’s Waste Services Division.

In the first six months of permanent electronic recycling sites, there were 3,862 participants. That number grew to 7,795 in the next six months. In the first seven months of this year the number had grown to 12,468, meaning an estimated 25,125 people have used the sites.

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As of July 31, the county had spent $137,000 or about 14 cents per pound to recycle its collected electronics. Keane explained the funding comes from the county’s Prairie View Landfill, managed by Waste Management. The cost of recycling has fallen in the past 25 months, as well.

Congratulations to those in Will County, Illinois! Great work!

Posted in Chemicals, Electronics, Recycling, Recycling & Waste0 Comments

Glass is Half Empty for Bottled Water Industry

Chalk it up to being environmentally minded, or perhaps just price conscious. Either way – the bottled water industries are suffering right now, and our environment has at least a small reason to rejoice.

The problem with bottled water is well known… The lack of recycling participation leads our landfills to become filled with discarded plastic bottles of water, which have nowhere to go for hundreds of years. While some communities try to crack down on those who refuse (or “forget”) to participate in recycling programs – the efforts have little impact on the larger issues at hand.

While bottled water will continue to be a problem for the environment, companies that produce water here in America are feeling a pinch.

The Washington Post has more on the matter in their article Bottled Water Boom Appears Tapped Out:

The recession has finally answered the question that centuries of philosophers could not: The glass is half-empty.

That’s because sales of bottled water have fallen for the first time in at least five years, assailed by wrathful environmentalists and budget-conscious consumers, who have discovered that tap water is practically free. Even Nestle, the country’s largest seller of bottled water, is beginning to feel a bit parched. On Wednesday, it reported that profits for the first half of the year dropped 2.7 percent, its first decline in six years.

The biggest loser? Water.

“It’s an obvious way to cut back,” said Joan Holleran, director of research for market research firm Mintel. “People might still be buying bottled water, but you can bet that they’re refilling those bottles.”

The news delighted environmentalists, who have long berated the industry for wasting natural resources and stuffing landfills with plastic bottles. “I thought we’d never be able to impact sales of bottled water, and all of a sudden it’s really gained momentum,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “I think we’re making real progress.”
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Not so long ago, bottled water was bubbling. It climbed up the ranks of America’s favorite beverages in recent years, beating out juice to become the third most popular in 2008, according to Mintel. (Soda is the drink of choice by far, followed by milk.) Sales of bottled water swelled 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages. About 70 percent of consumers say they drink bottled water.

But the economic downturn is stemming the tide. Nestle sells a variety of brands, such as Poland Spring, Deer Park, S. Pellegrino and Perrier. It was the only sector in Nestle’s food and beverage group to post a decline in global sales during the first half of the year, down 2.9 percent because of weakness in the United States and Western Europe. Coca-Cola has also blamed softening demand for weaker U.S. sales of its bottled waters.

According to consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corp., Americans drank 8.7 billion gallons of bottled water last year, compared with 8.8 billion in 2007 — the first decline this decade. Per capita consumption dropped from 29 gallons to 28.5. Jeff Cioletti, editor in chief of trade publication Beverage World, said he doesn’t believe bottled water will return to galloping growth for a long while.

“There were sort of a lot of headwinds,” he said.

Those forces include not only the economic downturn, which is whacking at sales of everything from cars to clothes, but also the massive campaign by environmentalists to get consumers to turn on the tap.

Posted in Landfills, Recycling, Recycling & Waste1 Comment

Plastic Recycling Guide

When it comes to recycling plastic, we all know that it’s a generally good idea, right? No one wants water bottles and extravagent packaging filling up our landfills for thousands of years… but how much about plastics and recycling do you really know?

Our guide contains the following sections…

Accessibility of Plastic Recycling

How are Plastics Recycled?
    –   -Separating Plastics by Type
    –   -Cleaning & Disinfecting Plastic Containers
    –   -Grinding up Plastic Flakes
    –   -Melting Plastics Down & Reducing Them to Elements
    –   -The Born Again Plastics

Why Are Plastics Numbered for Recycling?
    –   -#1 – PETE, or “Polyethylene Terephthalate” Plastics
    –   -#2 – HDPE, or “High Density Polyethylene” Plastics
    –   -#3 – PVC, V – or “Vinyl” Plastics
    –   -#4 – LDPE, or “Low Density Polyethylene” Plastics
    –   -#5 – PP, or “Polypropylene” Plastics
    –   -#6 – PS, or “Polystyrene” Plastics
    –   -#7 – Other Plastics

Plastic Recycling Facts

Need More Information?

Plastic Recycling Guide

Accessibility of Plastic Recycling

Little more than a decade ago, curbside recycling was not widely available to Americans. While urban areas and watershed communities were more likely to have organized programs, plastic recycling was still very new to the public.

Today, more than 80% of Americans have access to plastic recycling programs. Do not think that curbside bin pickup is your only option, either. Many markets have bottle recycling machines, and in some states, you can get paid to recycle bottlesin the form of refunding your deposit.

According to recent reports, there are more than 1,500 businesses in the Unites States that are operating in the plastic recycling industry. That number continues to rise and has nearly tripled in recent years. Since these companies are so prevalent, many are willing to pick up your recyclable plastics to help defray their costs further down the line.

If you lack curbside recycling programs, search online (the EPA’s web site is a great resource) and write community leaders urging them to get their act together.

How are Plastics Recycled?

Most common household plastics we use on a regular basis are whisked off to recycling centers where they undergo a fairly straightforward process. While the ways in which various types of plastics may differ from one center to another, most follow this format:

  • Separating Plastics by Type
  • Cleaning & Disinfecting Plastic Containers
  • Grinding up Plastic Flakes
  • Melting Plastics Down & Reducing Them to Elements
  • The Born Again Plastics

1.) Separating Plastics by Type
it all starts with separating the plastic containers according to the resins that they’re made of… We’ll have more on these resins a bit later in the article. Most of this sorting is done mechanically in today’s larger recycling plants.

2.) Cleaning & Disinfecting Plastic Containers
Once separated, plastic containers must be disinfected and thoroughly cleaned. Ever seen what happens when tomato sauce sits in a plastic container too long? The surface of the plastics actually begin to absorb the sauce, causing discoloring and a nasty film.

This is a great example of how bacteria and contaminants can stick to plastic containers – and speaks to the necessity of having them thoroughly cleaned.

3.) Grinding up Plastic Flakes
Since the plastics are now in all shapes and sizes, there needs to be some degree of consistency. This is why recycling plants now chop up and grind plastic containers into very small pieces.

These pieces can now be further cleaned if needed, and ultimately end up getting ready for a very hot transformation…

4.) Melting Plastics Down & Reducing Them to Elements
A large furnace now awaits our plastic materials, and it’s only goal is to get them so hot – that they’re melted into a liquid consistency for seperation. Immediately after they reach this near boiling point, machines begin separating the materials down to the element level and storing them for later use.

5.) The Born Again Plastics
Finally, the plastics we once relied on have become ready to re-enter our lives in the form of new packaging or products. With so many technological advancements in the recycling industries, it’s not uncommon to see your old water bottle re-emerge as a soda bottle, a plastic piece of lawn furniture or even fibers in the very clothes you wear.

Why Are Plastics Numbered for Recycling?

The vast majority of plastic products now feature a number inside of an arrowed triangle. Here is an example of what these codes look like:

Plastic Recycling Resin Codes

Familiar, right? These are called plastic resin codes.

These resin codes are critically important to the recycling process though – which is why it’s so important for recycling centers to properly sort out their materials before beginning the process.

These are the common plastic resin codes we encounter daily:

  • #1 – PETE, or “Polyethylene Terephthalate” Plastics
  • #2 – HDPE, or “High Density Polyethylene” Plastics
  • #3 – PVC, V – or “Vinyl” Plastics
  • #4 – LDPE, or “Low Density Polyethylene” Plastics
  • #5 – PP, or “Polypropylene” Plastics
  • #6 – PS, or “Polystyrene” Plastics
  • #7 – Other Plastics

#1 – PETE, or “polyethylene terephthalate”
PETE is the most common resin code you’re likely to see. It’s used in soda and water bottles and a number of common containers like microwavable cooking trays.

When recycled, these products are normally used for threaded plastic applications like fleece, carrying bags and backpacks, and carpeting. In some cases they may be recycled into other containers, but that’s less common.

#2 – HDPE, or “high density polyethylene”
HDPE is similar to PETE, but found in more rugged containers like those used for detergents, shampoo bottles, quarts of oil and some heavier trash bags.

Because of their rigidity, recycled HDPE can be used in new bottling applications, high density plastic pipes and more recently, synthetic lumber materials.

#3 – PVC, V – or “vinyl”
PVC can be found in the form of piping, the insulation on wires, and some rugged materials like vinyl siding, replacement windows and even medical equipment.

Sadly, PVC is one of the more difficult materials to recycle. While most curbside pickup programs will haul these plastics away for you, many still end up being discarded. Those that are recycled tend to be used in newer plastic lumber facilities.

The dangers in recycling PVC are because the plastic contains a large amount of chlorine. When recycled or remanufactured, it can lead to the release of hihgly dangerous toxins.

#4 – LDPE, or “low density polyethylene”
Durable but flexible, LDPE is used for these applications and many others like plastic shopping bags ,frozen food containers and packages and even in some clothing.

Like vinyl though, recycling LDPE may be difficult. Again, most pickup services will take these plastics away for you now – but in the past that wasn’t the case. For future applications, LDPE can be used in new trash bins, plastic lumber materials and plastic bins used for storage.

#5 – PP, or “polypropylene”
Every time you use a squeezable ketchup bottle, you’re likely using a polypropylene container. Polypropylenes are often used for yogurt containers, maple syrup bottles, condiments, bottle caps and medicine bottles. Since polypropylene has a high melting point, it is often used for containing materials that may be too hot for other forms of plastics.

Commonly recycled, these materials often transform into very durable materials like cafeteria trays, light casing, brushes, lawn maintenance equipment (like rakes and brooms) and bins.

#6 – PS, or “polystyrene”
This is where the vast majority of disposable plates, cups, trays and containers come into play. Often, they’re referred to as “foam plates” because of their light, but rigid form. Styrofoam, a trademarked term, refers to a form of polystyrene.

Often recycled, these materials can be used to later create more foam packaging products and insulation materials.

#7 – Other Plastics
Most #7 plastics aren’t recycled, although they are quite common in our lives. DVDs, ipod and phone cases, store signs, and even plexiglass and bulletproof materials can all be constructed using type 7 plastics.

When accepted for recycling, these materials are usually limited to futures as plastic lumber material or for other, specialty applications.

Plastic Recycling Facts

Available on the EPA’s web site, here are some facts about plastics you should be aware of…

  • In 2007, the United States generated almost 14 million tons of plastics in the MSW stream as containers and packaging, almost 7 million tons as non-durable goods, and about 10 million tons as durable goods.
  • The total amount of plastics in MSW—almost 31 million tons—represented 12.1 percent of total MSW generation in 2007.
  • The amount of plastics generation in MSW has increased from less than 1 percent in 1960 to 12.1 percent in 2007.
  • Plastics are a rapidly growing segment of the MSW stream. The largest category of plastics are found in containers and packaging (e.g., soft drink bottles, lids, shampoo bottles), but they also are found in durable (e.g., appliances, furniture) and non-durable goods (e.g., diapers, trash bags, cups and utensils, medical devices).
  • Plastics also are found in automobiles, but recycling of these materials is counted separately from the MSW recycling rate.

Need More Information?

If you’d like more information on plastics, please see the American Chemistry Council and the Society of the Plastics Industry web sites. You can also comment on this resource below to encourage a healthy social discussion on the various topics surrounding plastics and recycling.

Posted in Landfills, Other, Packaging, Recycling, Recycling & Waste7 Comments

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Of The Pacific To Be Studied By Marine Scientist

A team of 30 University of California research scientist will set sail from Scripps Institution of Oceanography this Sunday to the Northwest Pacific ocean to study the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The garbage patch is an accumulated mass of mainly small, plastic debris trapped by the North Pacific Gyre that spans across hundred of miles of the Pacific ocean.

The debris ends up concentrated by circular, clockwise ocean currents within an oblong-shaped “convergence zone” hundreds of miles (km) across from end to end near the Hawaiian Islands, about midway between Japan and the West Coast of the United States.

The research team will studying the amount of debris that has been collected, how it is distributed by the North Pacific Gyre, and how it affects the marine life. The marine life the scientist will mainly concentrate on are microorganisms, such as plankton, birds and various types of fish.

Little is know about the scope of impact the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has on ocean and it’s inhabitants and how what affect it does have on lower, food chain organisms. The garbage patch shifts thousands of miles seasonally, which makes studying this suspended field of plastic debris extremely hard.

For more information and futher reading on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, please click through to the full article.

Posted in Birds, Fish, Microorganisms, Recycling & Waste0 Comments

Grass Roots Recycling: Minimal Effort, Major Impact

Recycling and proper waste disposal are paramount in a cleaner, safer environment. It effects everyone daily no matter what walk of life they are or where they may live at. Not enough people in our world currently participate in recycling their own waste, which takes little effort and yields an immense impact on our environment.

New York is a city that can make a global statement if everyone participated in recycling. The problem the city faces is education in recycling and methods of disposing waste properly.

In New York, the incentive may be greatest of all. Only 17 percent of the city’s household waste makes it into recycling bins, and New York has the largest public housing system in the country, with 2,600 buildings, 174,000 apartments and more than 400,000 residents in five boroughs.

To help curb this problem many recycling activist are starting grass roots movements to help combat the city wide problem of recycling waste. Gloria Allen has done just this by forming informational seminars in public housing buildings to help educated it’s occupants on the minimal effort needed to make a major impact on the city’s waste.

For more information on city wide recycling and New York based grass roots movements please read the full article.

Posted in Buildings, Education, Effects Of Air Pollution, People, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Waste Disposal0 Comments

Ocean Conservancy Picks Up Seven Million Pounds of Coastal Trash

Citing the Ocean Conservancy’s 23rd clean up day, over 400,000 volunteers came together and collected over 7 million pounds of trash a long 17,000 miles of coastal land all over the world. This shows how great of an impact people can have in one day of cleaning up coastal areas all over the world and it also sites how careless people can be when littering and polluting their environments.

Some of the trash collected included:

  • 26,585 car tires
  • 937,000 bottle caps
  • 942,000 food containers
  • 1.4 million plastic bags
  • 3.2 million cigarette butts

Volunteers collected about 11.4 million items overall, which weighed a total of 6.8 million pounds. They snagged more than 1.3 million cigarette butts in the U.S. alone, about 19,500 fishing nets in the United Kingdom and more than 11,000 diapers in the Philippines.

The Ocean Conservancy’s mission is to eliminate litter and raise awareness about properly disposing of wastes and recycling. Participating in proper waste disposal not only helps the environment, but it also creates safer habitats for it’s indigenous wild life.

Click here to read the full article.

Posted in People, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Waste Disposal0 Comments

Make Money By Recycling Electronic Waste

As the use of technology increase a new kind waste also increase; electronic waste. Computers, cell phones, mp3 players, and even DVDs are all considered electronic waste. The problem with recycling electronic waste is how to do so properly with out causing more waste in both domestic and foreign landfills.

A new method of recycling electronic waste is by giving it to specialty companies that will exchange money for the waste. These companies will collect different types of waste, inspect, and either re-certify the product for sale in secondary markets or properly dispose of the item. This saves the consumer time and puts money back in their pockets for handling their electronic waste correctly.

YouRenew.com is a company that specializes in recycling electronic waste and frequently promote their services outside of Apple, Inc.’s flag ship store in New York City. Founders Bob Casey and Rich Littlehale believe that they can help curb e-waste by offering incentives and ease of disposal services to consumers looking to get rid of their unused electronics.

Visit the following link for more information on electronic waste recycling and YouRenew’s services.

Posted in Electronic Waste, Electronics, Landfills, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Science, Space, & Technology, Services1 Comment

Polyurethane Factory Produces Almost Zero Waste

Located in Lafayette, Indiana, Perry Foam Products is a major player in the molded foam technology industry, who up until about three years ago did zero recycling. Warehouse Manager, Marvin Hills, set out on a mission to change all of that, but faced a challenging problem of finding vendors who would take large amounts of polyurethane and recycle it.

According to the Center for the Polyurethanes Industry of the American Chemistry Council, polyurethanes account for approximately 5 percent of all plastic waste.

Eventually Marvin Hill was able to locate an Ohio based recycling center that would take their polyurethane waste and recycle it in to a foam bonding agent that is used in carpeting and other and production of tire covers.

Once the biggest challenge of recycling polyurethane was taken care of, the company moved on to more common recyclables and now recycles 90 percent of their waste resulting in a costs savings nearing $70,000 a year.

To read more about Marvin Hill and how he is managing to recycle the last 10 percent of company waste please click here for the full article.

Posted in Other, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Television Screens Recycled In To Medicine

Scientist at the University of York have made recent discovers that could take discarded televisions screens and recycle them in to new medicine. The key chemical compound found in these screens is known as polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is usually incinerated along with the TV screens in landfills.

New methods in recovering PVA from these screens helps transform the compound in to a form that is usable in medical dressings, pill coating, and even tissue scaffolds.

With 2.5 billion liquid crystal displays already reaching the end of their life, and LCD televisions proving hugely popular with consumers, that is a huge amount of potential waste to manage.

To read more about the microwave based technologies that have been developed to extract PVA from television screens, please read the full article.

Posted in Landfills, Recycling & Waste0 Comments

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