Replas’s Weblog

Re-use or Recycle , Save Energy, Protect The Environment

Green Journal: Recycling with Kids

It seems like most preschool kids, including my own, are fascinated with trash. The awe on their faces (when the garbage or recycling trucks come by) is really quite humorous. On more than one occasion, I’ve heard kids boast about their future sanitation worker ambitions and a GARBAGE MAN (with super hero punctuation) costume is actually in the plans for the neighborhood Halloween parade.

My daughter and I have running conversations about reusing and recycling, after I realized that she loves to indiscriminately “throw things in the trash”. Every time I work in the kitchen, she tries to identify whether an item should go into the recycling box, green/compostable can or the trash. And then she gets to put these items in the appropriate pile/container until we can take them outside. Along with her standard shapes, she proudly told her teachers during “Shapes Week” about the recycling triangle that she learned at home.

Now that school is back in session, the steady wave of art projects and work samples has returned as well. I used to secretly sort through her projects and put all but a few in the recycling bin. However, given her currently interest, I gave my daughter her own recycling bin, for which she is solely responsible. She can decide which projects to keep or hang on her wall and which goes into recycling; I put great emphasis that the recycled artwork is not less important but will make materials for new artwork. She is really excited about her new box – which gave me great relief from worries about potentially marginalizing her creations. In fact, when she put a pair of outgrown pants in her box, we started a bag for old clothes and toys as well.

This action cost me no money and only a few minutes to find a cardboard box to hold papers in. Plus, I now know that even at age 4, she has begun to internalize the values we are teaching her. That is something you can’t put a price on.

CindyC at Organicpicks


October 9, 2007 Posted by | Recycling with Kids | Leave a comment

Green Journal: Seal, Mail & Recycle Cell Phones

I admit I am slightly techno-phonic even though I grew up in the heart of Silicon Valley – something about learning new buttons, interfaces, and shortcuts just makes me a bit uncomfortable. However, unable to stand my husband’s constant nagging to get plugged in, I finally traded in my clunky, old cell phone for a new model. I’m still getting used to the new buttons and getting my emails delivered real time but I digress. The point of my green journal this week is not to talk about my sleek, new phone but what to do with the old, clunky ones. During my upgrade process, I realized that we actually had three other retired cell phones sitting in our “to-be-recycled” bin (a.k.a. dusty corner of the study) – the oldest phone was SIX years old, older than my daughter!

The EPA predicts roughly 130 MILLION cell phones are retired every year with numbers rising with each passing year; some phones land in dusty corners or closets and unfortunately others into the trash. Improper disposal of personal electronics like computers, cell phones and even household batteries is hazardous to the environment and your personal health. Cell phones contain a variety of toxic chemicals that can leak into soil and water when improperly disposed in landfills or released into the air when incinerated. These chemicals (including lead, cadmium, nickel, zinc, arsenic) plus brominated flame retardants (BFRs) have been linked to health issues like cancer, reproductive and neurologic disorders. So knowing these issues, why did I have stockpile of old cell phones? Because I was aware of the hazards but just didn’t know of convenient or forget-proof ways to properly recycle those phones.

Luckily, as I have found out, recycling cell phones has gotten a whole lot easier in the last few years.
–First of all, many electronic and cell phone stores (most major wireless stores, Radio Shack, Best Buy, Staples and Wal-mart to name a few) have recycle drop-off bins, which is most convenient when you are ready to trade on the spot or remember to drop them off.
–Large wireless companies (like my local Verizon store) actually have free, prepaid mailing packages that you can take home and mail back to their recycling centers. I noticed that Best Buy also has a similar program. If you need to keep your old phone to transfer data (yes, the old fashion way), this is a great option and is what I used to clear out my old phone stash.
–And what if you forget to pick up or can’t find these prepaid mailing envelops? No worries. Check out Recycle For California where you can print out a prepaid label, stick it on envelop big enough for your phone, put it in your mailbox and reduce environmental contamination risks. Note that they do have list of phones that they take by mail, otherwise, they offer recycling drop-off locations. You can also mail any of your old phones (or PDAs) to CollectiveGood (a non-profit) through their Recycle My Cell Phone Campaign. You need to provide your own envelop and postage but the value of your phone and mailing expenses are deductible on your taxes.
–Other organizations like TerraPass will recycle your phone (and PDAs) and give you a free Terra Pass (carbon neutral offset certificate) to reward your initiative. All phones collected are recycled (and never resold).
–If you also have other, larger personal electronics like monitors or TVs or accumulated large quantities, you can contact recycling organizations like Green Citizen which accepts drop offs or offer in-home pickups (for a fee). It’s convenient, guarantees that equipment will be recycled and Organicpicks users give Green Citizen high marks.

You can also contact your local recycling center to find drop-off locations. Just don’t forget to drop them off!

So for my green action tally this week:

Time consumed to implement this action: About 2 minutes to put all my phones in the large envelop and place it in my mailbox
Extra Upfront Cost: Nothing since the mailing envelop was free.
Resources spared: 3 less phones and batteries to end up in the landfill

Like I said in the beginning, just Seal, Mail and Recycle (Your Cell Phone). Can’t be easier than that!

CindyC at Organicpicks

October 9, 2007 Posted by | Recycle Cell Phones | Leave a comment

Recycling plastic and glass – why it makes a difference by David McEvoy

With a little understanding of the issues involved, we can re-use or recycle most of the masses amount of waste we produce from plastic and glass and at the same time we can reduce costs, save energy, protect the environment and even create new jobs. Although waste awareness is on the increase, recycling rates are on the low side and many people are still unaware of just why recycling is so important.

Recycling Plastic Waste

According to Recoup (the UK’s leading authority on plastics waste management), every household uses approximately 373 plastic bottles a year of which 29 are recycled and yet recycling just one of these plastic bottles can save enough energy to light a 60 watt bulb for up to 6 hours. So why are we not recycling more plastic?

One of the main issues regarding the recycling of plastic is lack of opportunity to recycle. This is partly because plastic can be contaminated with other materials and the cost of processing this can outweigh the cost of producing more plastic so compared to other materials like glass and paper, there are fewer places to recycle plastic. However, plastic is lightweight and highly versatile and one way round this is to re-use plastic within the home.

There are many different types of plastic but most plastics fall into one of the following main types:

* PET (Polyethylene terphthalate) – Fizzy drinks bottles and trays for convenience foods to put straight into the oven * HDPE (High density polyethylene) – Milk bottles and washing up liquid bottles * PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) – Cling film, juice and water bottles, shampoo bottles * LDPE (Low density polyethylene) – Plastic bags * PP (Polypropylene) – Margarine tubs and microwavable meal containers * PS (Polystyrene) – Egg cartons, plastic cutlery and cups, yoghurt pots, meat and fish foam trays

Plastics are largely used for packaging and because they have a relatively short life span (they tend to be thrown away as soon as their contents are used), they represent a major waste problem. They are also generally non-degradable which means they can take a long time to decompose and break down. Landfill sites require more and more space due to the amount of plastic being disposed of and this is an area of concern, particularly as around 80% of plastic is disposed of in landfill sites with less than 10% currently being recycled (Environment Agency Report 2001).

Solutions are constantly being sought and although more and more supermarket chains and retailers are now issuing biodegradable plastic bags, this in itself can be a problem as many people might think that it is ok to just throw them away as they will eventually break down, which is not always the case. Some of these biodegradable bags rely on sunlight to break them down so if they are thrown away as part of household rubbish and end up in a landfill site, they will not degrade because there is no light.

What you can do to help…

* Re-use plastic bags as much as possible – don’t throw them away * Buy products with very little packaging * Try to re-use plastic pots and tubs within the home, for example to store small items like buttons and screws and for germinating seeds or donate them to playgroups and schools for arts and crafts * Buy refillable products as much as possible * When purchasing fruit and vegetables at the supermarket, don’t put them into plastic bags – it isn’t necessary * Find out what plastic re-cycling facilities there are in your own area and use them, encourage your family and friends to do the same * Try to buy products made from plastic that has been recycled

Recycling Glass Waste

Glass is an inert substance and so is not directly harmful to the environment but it is not degradable either so if sent to a landfill site it will stay there indefinitely which is a real shame because glass is such an easy and very useful material which can be recycled over and over again without any loss to quality.

Recycling glass is easy for the consumer, particularly as the number of bottle banks and roadside collections of glass are increasing. By far the most common use for glass within the home is in the form of bottles and jars and this makes up around 80% of recycled glass.

When recycling your glass containers, bottle banks often require the glass to be separated according to colour, which in itself can be a barrier to recycling as the consumer has to put in a little more effort, but there are reasons for this. As you can imagine, it would be a mammoth not to mention expensive task to separate every bit of coloured from clear broken glass before processing so there are few facilities that can currently do this, which is why it is so important to separate them beforehand.

One of the issues with recycling glass in the UK is that the UK produces a large amount of clear glass and yet the amount of clear “cullet” produced (cullet is basically a collection of broken glass) is low in comparison to the amount of green cullet. One reason for this is that a lot of green bottles (wine for example) are imported leading to a surplus of green cullet and at the same time a lot of clear glass is exported in the form of spirits. Another is that a lot of people are still not recycling clear glass containers other than bottles and this reduces the amount of clear glass cullet available. However, on a positive note, mixed coloured glass waste can be used for the building of roads and in the construction industry so it is important to recycle ALL glass containers.

Contaminants like metal rings, paper labels, plastic etc. must be identified and removed from the glass before the glass can be turned into new containers and much of this is done using equipment like metal detectors, vacuums, crushers and also by plain old manual inspection.

What you can do to help…

* Re use bottles and jars within the home * Where possible, return jars and bottles (milk bottles for example) * Before recycling glass rinse out all bottles and jars and remove any tops and metal rings etc. as these can damage the furnaces used to recycle the glass * Recycle all glass containers not just drinks bottles, this can include jars, medicine bottles, glass food containers and so on * Make sure when placing glass into a bottle bank that you put the right colour in the right bank

Making a difference

Surveys have shown that if recycling was made easier, more people would be willing to recycle. The fact is, it doesn’t take a lot of effort or time to recycle or re-use an item, only a little initiative, and yet it is one way we can be sure of making a real difference to the environment and the world in which we live.

For more information about waste removal and skip hire please come and visit our site

October 8, 2007 Posted by | Recycling plastic | Leave a comment