eco ramblings

a dialogue with an Eco Patriot

Archive for the ‘trash’ Category

Should We Be Proud of a 28% Recycling Rate?

Posted by Luke on November 1, 2010

The National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) just released their report of 2009 PET bottle recycling.  The report proclaims that the U.S. recycling rate for PET bottles has reached an all-time high of 28%.  In the days following the release of the report, there seems to be excitement in the industry about this so-called accomplishment.  Is this really something we should be proud of?

By being happy about only recycling 28% of water bottles, we are saying we are okay with throwing away the other 72%.  As a society, that’s pathetic.  Let’s see how this stat looks if we use other examples…

  • I’m proud that I ate 28% of my food and threw the other 72% into the garbage
  • I’m proud that I opened the windows 28% of the time and used the air conditioner the other 72%
  • I’m proud that I threw away 28% of the garbage I took camping with me and dispersed the other 72% as litter

Suddenly, 28% doesn’t look so good.

This isn’t meant to be a slam on recyclers.  Other than a few of the big players in the trash industry, most recyclers are low-profit businesses, so I can’t totally blame them for not helping to drive this number higher.  They make money from selling reclaimed materials, so I know they’d like to capture more recyclables.  The root issue falls on the shoulders of other parties, and here are some of the reasons:

  1. Consumers aren’t educated about how and what to recycle. I understand how it can be hard to figure out if odd-shaped containers are recyclable, but doesn’t everyone know that PET bottles (water bottles, soda bottles, etc.) are recyclable?
  2. Consumers don’t have access to recycling. Curbside programs are pretty ubiquitous.  Public-area recycling is shockingly still problematic.  It should be against the law to have a trash can without a recycle bin next to it (maybe when I run for President).
  3. Manufacturers aren’t demanding enough reclaimed materials from recyclers. The economics simply aren’t good enough to cause manufacturers to tip from using virgin resources to recycled.  It’s unfortunate.
  4. Legislation isn’t supportive enough. Tipping fees at landfills are cheaper in most states than recycling fees.  Until the government mandates higher tipping fees on landfills, waste haulers will never be incentivized to recycle vs landfill.  The UK has done it right by making this change through a tax.

Sure, 28% is better than last year and the year before, but let’s not be complacent.  There’s a long way to go.


Posted in bottles, Landiflls, litter, manufacturing, plastics, recycled products, recycling, RPET, trash | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Eco Entrepreneur of the Week

Posted by Luke on October 27, 2010

Here’s a hell of an invention… imagine having a small machine in your garage next to your garbage can that converts plastic to gasoline.  That’s right, instead of throwing all those plastic candy wrappers, bags, and odd-shaped containers into your trash can, put them into this contraption and watch it make fuel for your car.

The Blest Machine, made in Japan, costs approximately $9,500 and is only sold in Japan right now.  If this thing really works and they can prove the concept effectively, you’ve got to imagine that we’ll start seeing some of these machines being used by recyclers and even home owners in the coming decade.  Put me on the waiting list.




Posted in entrepreneur, innovation, plastics, recycling, trash | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Do People Litter?

Posted by Luke on June 10, 2010

Are people really that lazy?  Is it accidental?  Or do they just not care?  I’m always amazed when I see litter on the ground, especially when there’s a trash can nearby.

We’re all aware of the swelling size of the Pacific Garbage Patch.  Cleaning up litter on the ground is a lot easier than cleaning up litter in the ocean.  We can all rent boats and sail to “the patch” and troll for garbage.  That could take a while.  I definitely applaud groups who are doing exactly that though.

But the root problem of the Great Garbage Patch is that people litter.  I just can’t figure out why.  If we can stop people from littering, we’d prevent another “Patch” from forming.  Maybe I’m writing this post a little too late because an Atlantic Garbage Patch was just found in the Bermuda Triangle of all places.

One organization that is trying to address the root problem of people littering is California State Parks.  They recently held an event at Carlsbad State Beach (a popular location for professional surf tournaments) to educate people about the problems of littering and to clean up the beaches.  Jim Hayes, an Eco-Products employee who lives in Southern California, gave up his weekend to participate and I want to recognize Jim and the other 200+ volunteers for their efforts. They picked up hundreds of bags of litter.  Nice job.  You’ve set a great example.

Posted in event, litter, trash | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Earth Day Plan B

Posted by Luke on April 22, 2010

Since there was a torrential downpour last night in Boulder, the conditions weren’t conducive to Eco-Products’ original Earth Day plans.  Instead of weeding noxious plants, our Eco Patriots quickly mobilized an effort to clean up the local Boulder Creek, bike path, and along a highway.  It was very worthwhile and we came back with about a dozen large trash bags full of litter.  It’s actually pretty gratifying doing service work.

Picking up trash along the Boulder Creek
Eco Patriots picking up trash along a highway

Posted in Eco-Products, event, trash | Leave a Comment »

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 »

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