eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for March, 2010

When I Run for Office

Posted by Luke on March 31, 2010

The first piece of legislation I’d write is a law that makes it illegal to have a trash can without a recycling can right next to it.

I recently had a bottle of water in an airport that led to a multiple day journey to recycle it.  After gulping down the H2O, I threw away the cap (I recently learned that bottles with caps left on them contaminate the recycling stream), but there wasn’t a recycling bin next to the garbage.  As I stood there looking across the terminal and down the hall trying to find a bin,  someone breezed by me and threw his empty soda bottle in the trash as if he was going to miss his plane.

I came to find out that the guy with the soda bottle definitely would have missed his plane had he looked for a recycling bin.  I couldn’t find one anywhere.  I walked through the terminal, went by the food court, took a train to the baggage claim, and still couldn’t find a place to recycle.  I brought the bottle with me to my hotel, but then I remembered that hotels don’t have recycling bins in their rooms.  I ended up staring at my new friend, the empty water bottle, in my room for two days as I looked for a home for it.

This all could have been solved if it were illegal to have a trash can without a recycling can directly next to it, sort of like in the above picture.  Logistically, and maybe naively, I don’t think it’d be very difficult for businesses to execute since recycling trucks go to most places anyway.  And the business would likely save money in the long run through reduced trash bills.

I’m not sure I could base my whole political platform on this legislation, but I would definitely support a politician who could move it forward.


Posted in bottles, recycling, trash | 2 Comments »

Get in My Belly

Posted by Luke on March 24, 2010

I was walking down the street in Philly on Wednesday and came across a really innovate product called the Big Belly Solar Compactor.  It’s a solar powered trash can that compacts garbage thereby reducing hauling requirements and space.  Essentially, whenever you deposit trash, it compacts it.  The City of Philadelphia will save $13 million over 10 years by deploying 500 of these machines in replacement of 700 normal trash containers. 

Posted in innovation, trash | 1 Comment »

Misquote Averted

Posted by Luke on March 24, 2010

I spoke to the author of the article “What Not to Put in the Bin” that I spoke about yesterday.  I guess the comment I posted and my complaining paid off, maybe a little too much so.  Instead of fixing my (mis)quote, I was cut from the article completely.  Maybe it’s better that way.  Either way, I appreciate Marisa and resolving the issue.  There are a lot of writers who probably wouldn’t do that. 

What can and can’t be recycled is a very tricky subject since it varies by location and by recovery facility.  Good job Marisa on capturing the commonalities in your article.

Posted in recycling | Leave a Comment »


Posted by Luke on March 23, 2010

Unfortunately, I was misquoted in an article on today called “What Not to Put in the Bin.”  The writer, Marisa, is a very nice woman.  Unfortunately, the article makes me out to say that PLA (bioplastic) is bad.  In reading the posts on this blog, you surely can tell that I don’t feel that way.  Here is the response I posted on the to set the record straight:

Thanks for addressing this topic. However, unfortunately, I was misquoted in the article. I apologize if I wasn’t clear when we spoke. Products made from PLA don’t contaminate the recycling stream today because PLA isn’t made into bottles. Bottles are the only plastic product that the majority (98+%) of recycling facilities accept because of the shape. So, whether a cup or plate is made from PLA or PET is irrelevant because all cups and plates are sorted out of recycling facilities because of their shapes and sent to landfills or sold to China. Unfortunately, the article makes PLA out to be the evil material which it actually isn’t. If PLA were widely made into bottles, then recyclers wouldn’t like PLA. However, that’s not the case today, so it really doesn’t cause contamination. Feel free to contact me at if you have any questions.

Posted in cups, recycling | Leave a Comment »

A Couple Great Articles on Why People Don’t Recycle

Posted by Luke on March 18, 2010

Here are two interesting articles looking at the real issues of why people don’t recycle.

Why People Don’t Recycle – Offers real-life examples of 5 different demographics of people and what prevents them from recycling

We Are All Greenwashers – Talks about the 1-7 plastics coding system and how it is confusing for consumers

Posted in plastics, recycling | Leave a Comment »

Welcome to 30. Now What?

Posted by Luke on March 17, 2010

I celebrated my 30th birthday on Monday.  In some sick way, I was actually looking forward to turning 30.  As I blew out the candles on my cake, my wife frantically paced around the kitchen having a mild panic attack knowing that me turning 30 meant she was only 3 months away from forever departing with her 20’s (her birthday is in June).  But I felt different.  Being a 20-something year old COO, I always knew I was smart enough for the job.  However, I sort of felt like a 20-year old trying to get into a bar with a fake ID.  I felt like I needed to be a certain age to validate what I was doing.  I’ve come to find out that the bar I’ve been trying to get into was an 18-and-over bar and the false sense of validity I felt like I needed had nothing to do with my age.

I’m in a typical ‘good-ole-boys’ industry where the longer you’re in it, the more respect you feel you deserve and typically get.  I meet people who proudly tell me they’ve been selling foodservice packaging longer than I’ve been alive.  Impressive, I think.  I have a deep sense of respect for people who have incredible knowledge and have experienced a lot.  There’s no question about that.  However, it’s not a person’s age that dictates the respect I give.  It’s the scope of his knowledge, the nature of his experience, and how he carries himself.

Not having as many scars from working in the same field for decades, I am still naive enough to think I can drive major industry change.  I’m naive enough to think I can out-innovate and out-maneuver those who have grown accustomed to operating in a routine fashion for years.  Until my naivety expires, which I hope never happens, I’m going to keep trying to do that.

What’s great about the era we live in is that anyone can do anything at any age.  PGA Tour youngan Zach Johnson hadn’t won a PGA tournament before he won the 2007 Masters, the most prestigious tournament in golf.  In fact, he wasn’t even the top player on the Drake golf team when he was in college, a school not known for golf.  As in Zach’s case, experience definitely would have helped, but it’s not a defining attribute of his capabilities.  The same holds true for young professionals, or industry veterans for that matter.

So until I become one of the ‘good ole boys,’ my hypothesis for my next decade is that what matters as much as a person’s age and experience is the ability for a person to learn quickly, adapt to changes, carry himself with a humble confidence, and have resources who can help point to the right answers.  I’ll let you know how my hypothesis proves out.

Posted in management | 1 Comment »

Praise to Bus Riders

Posted by Luke on March 14, 2010

If I wasn’t a cheapskate already, last night I took my wife on a date… and I took her on the bus.  Actually, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to spend money on gas, and sadly it wasn’t just out of pure Eco Patriotism.  It also wasn’t because we needed a DD although that was a nice perk.  It was for parking reasons – we didn’t want to battle to find a spot in downtown Boulder.

That experience gave me a new admiration for those who consistently ride buses.  It’s not easy coordinating multiple route schedules.  And it takes planning and patience to not get upset when your bus is 10 minutes late or when someone sits beside you who forgot to wear deodorant (fortunately, Brie smelled great).  Not to mention that taking the bus requires longer than just hopping in your car and going to where you need to get to.

A few years ago, Eco-Products started an Alternative Transportation Incentive Program to encourage bus riding and other alternative forms of transportation.  Any employee who takes the bus, rides his/her bike, walks, runs, carpools, or drives a 40+ mpg car to work 60% of the time gets $100 per month added to his/her paycheck.  We started this program when we were a very small company because we believed it was the right thing to do.  We wanted to compensate those individuals who made the extra effort, and it was in line with our mission of sustainability.  $1200 a year is a nice incentive and employee benefit.

Here’s what an Eco Patriot says about combining biking and bus riding on his way to the office.  He even does this on cold, snowy days – impressive!

“From my house, I ride my bike to the downtown Denver bus station, then bus to Boulder, then bike to work from Table Mesa. It adds some time to my commute to and from, but keeps low miles on my car, keeps a car off the road, and gives me about 30 minutes on the bus to do whatever.”

Posted in compostable products | Leave a Comment »

Sustainability in Foodservice How to Guide

Posted by Luke on March 14, 2010

I came across this “How to guide” for making a foodservice operation more sustainable.  It talks high-level about the various things that can be done to green an operation.  It doesn’t get very detailed, but, nonetheless, it’s a resource for those just starting the journey.

Posted in compostable products | Leave a Comment »

The Mascots of Colorado Sports Teams

Posted by Luke on March 8, 2010

Here’s a pretty clever and creative video about what Colorado sports venues like the Pepsi Center and Folsom Field are doing to promote recycling.

Posted in event, recycling | Leave a Comment »

Highlights from the 2010 Plastics Recycling Conference

Posted by Luke on March 4, 2010

Here are some of the key take-aways from the conference held in Austin this past week:

  • The public’s lack of affection for plastic will likely continue to get worse if products can’t be recycled.  Recycling is the easiest thing consumers can do to feel like they are making a difference.  Municipalities, recyclers, and manufacturers need to make recycling easier for consumers.
  • Single-stream recycling has a slight impact on contamination rates, but single stream is essential for making recycling easy for consumers and for increasing the recycling rate.  Most MRFs are switching to single-stream.
  • Recyclers will need to find ways to recycle the current unrecyclable.  This could occur through the following: (1) better recycling technology, (2) investment in recycling, (3) government advocacy and legislation, (4) consumer education, and (5) a continued market demand for recycled materials.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) will likely continue to grow; this will make packaging manufacturers more responsible for the end life of their products
  • Contamination and quality of reclaimed materials (i.e. bottles) is becoming a bigger and bigger problem.  Recyclers are paying more money for lower quality reclaimed materials.  That makes it harder for them to sell recycled resins at competitive prices.
  • There is a growing problem of manufacturers mislabeling plastic products as #1 when they actually aren’t.  Since I’m actively involved in the compostable products industry, this was interesting for me to learn about considering the composting industry struggles with mislabeled products as well.
  • Recycling non-bottle rigid plastic containers is an issue we MUST overcome.  The issue isn’t that there isn’t a demand for those materials after they are reclaimed.  In general, manufacturers want to use recycled resins and there is pent up demand for them.  The issue is getting non-bottle rigid plastics through the reclaimation system.  This can be done through the ways listed in bullet #3 above.
  • Since China buys so much of our reclaimed materials, and the quality they demand is lower than what US recyclers demand, there isn’t as much incentive for US-based collectors to maintain high-quality standards because they can easily ship the stuff overseas.  Overall, this impacts the entire recycling value chain and market.
  • Change is looming for the #1-7 recycling codes.  The ASTM is working on it, but they also have to get all of the states to adopt the new codes (when finalized) into their statutes.  This will hopefully help with the #7 “Other” issue as well as classifying bioplastics properly.

Posted in China, event, Landiflls, recycled products, recycling, RPET | Leave a Comment »

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