Don’t Trash Glass Program Comes to Chicago

Day 241 – We hear it all the time.

“Recycling is not working.”

“We can not solve or waste issue with recycling.”

Though, I do believe these statements are true, we also need recycling. Even if it’s not perfect. Cardboard, glass and aluminum are all great options to avoid plastic. However, in order for them to be reused they need to be rescued from the landfill and recycled.

More than 28 million glass bottles and jars end up in landfills each year.

A pilot program to help save as many glass bottles from entering the landfill is underway in Chicago. The Don’t Trash Glass Program (DTG) is an eight-week program which seeks to collect glass containers at Greater Chicago area bars and restaurants to be recycled into new bottles, fiberglass and more. 

The program is funded by the nonprofit Glass Recycling Foundation (GRF) based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in partnership with Legacy Marketing in Chicago and beer importer Constellation Brands of Victor, New York. The organizations and businesses involved in the program include glass hauler GlassKing, of Phoenix, waste hauler Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS) and glass recycler Strategic Materials, which is headquartered in Houston.” – Recycling Today

The hope is that with more education and information, restaurants and bars will understand the importance of recycling. The goal is to create a self-sustaining program that will be scalable in other parts of the country.  

Keeping highly recyclable materials out the landfill is our first step in the fight against waste. If we can not move forward in creating a circular economy with the materials we have, then we will run out places to bury it all

Tomorrow, building healthy and sustainable communities.

Maine is Holding Companies Accountable for Their Packaging Waste

Day 239 – Maine is the first state in the nation to hold big corporations and brands accountable for the plastic waste and packaging they have created. Maine has joined more than 40 jurisdictions around the world to require companies that create packaging waste help pay for the costs of recycling. The new Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) for Packaging law (LD 1541) will increase recycling rates, reduce packaging pollution, and save taxpayers money. 

For far too long all the responsibility for finding ways to recycle product packaging has been on the consumer. Finally, the responsibility will be on the manufacturers and companies that are producing the items. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a special type of waste management policy created to safely and responsibly dispose of difficult-to-recycle products and materials. EPR shifts the costs of dealing with difficult types of waste from town governments, to manufacturers and corporations, that have control over the safety and recyclability of the products they make and sell. 

Natural Resources of Council of Maine lists the problems that new EPR for Packaging law will target:

  1. Provides incentives for producers and big corporations to make less waste and more eco-friendly packaging.
  2. Takes the financial burden off taxpayers—so towns will no longer have to cut programs or raise taxes due to recycling costs.
  3. Creates a uniform list of materials collected in each participating municipal recycling program.  

There is no doubt that having this Extended Producer Responsibility for Packaging Law, will make a huge difference in the waste produced in Maine. We can only hope that the example set in Maine will be the playbook that all states throughout the country follow.

Tomorrow, a company upcycling materials into new products.

Recycle Your Electronics & Save the Great Apes

Day 235Eco-Cell collects and recycles electronics and those efforts help save the gorillas and chimpanzees in the Congo.

How you ask? I’ll let Eco-Cell explain.

Electronics are connected to apes via an ore called Coltan (columbite-tantalite\tantalum). Tantalum coats the capacitors inside gadgets which makes them energy efficient. This ore is found in great quantity in the Congo, home to the critically endangered gorilla and chimpanzee. These species are being killed by rebel bands mining Coltan. The U.N. has reported that in the past five years the eastern lowland gorilla population in the Congo has declined 90%. Recycling your cell phones with ECO-CELL helps save these animals by reducing the demand for Coltan and by providing funds for our partners like the Cincinnati ZooThe Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund Intl. and the Jane Goodall Institute who are actively engaged in protecting these species.

Eco-Cell collects the following:

  1. cell phones
  2. smartphones
  3. iPods
  4. iPads
  5. tablets
  6. Apple/Android watches
  7. bluetooth
  8. GPS
  9. MP3 players
  10. e-readers
  11. digital cameras
  12. handheld gaming systems & accessories

Eco-Cell would be a great partner for your organization or school’s next fundraiser. The process is very straightforward: collect as many electronic gadgets as possible and send them to ECO-CELL (Don’t worry they pay shipping). When the phones arrive at ECO-CELL, they determine their reuse\resale value. If they can be reused they resell them and pass as much money back to you as possible. If your gadgets are obsolete they recycle them properly and pay you their recycle value. After they process your shipment they follow it up with an itemized statement of your order and a check within 30-45 days.

You can also drop-off your electronics on your next trip to the zoo. Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo participate in the program. Check to see if your local zoo is part of the program.

Recycling e-waste, saving the great apes and raising funds for your organization, it’s the trifecta. You just can’t lose.

Tomorrow, bus stops to the rescue to help save the pollinators.

Recycling Facts

Day 232 – There are currently over 2,000 landfills in the United States. The reason we have so many landfills is due to the fact that we, Americans, throw a lot of stuff away. We are constantly tossing things in the trash without giving a second thought as to where it goes. If we just took a moment to ask, “Where is away?”, maybe we could start making changes in our behavior to minimize the amount of waste we produce.

Rubicon is the leading provider of cloud-based waste and recycling solutions for businesses, governments, and organizations worldwide. With more than 4.9 million service locations, Rubicon focuses on developing software solutions that bring new transparency to the waste and recycling industry—encouraging customers to make data-driven decisions that lead to more efficient and effective operations as well as more sustainable outcomes.

Rubicon put together a list of 50 Recycling and Landfill Facts That Will Make You Think Twice About Your Trash. I thought I would just share 20 of them in hopes it will get you thinking about trash and ways to start reducing your amount.

  1. Nine-tenths of all solid waste in the United States does not get recycled.
  2. Landfills are among the biggest contributors to soil pollution – roughly 80% of the items buried in landfills could be recycled.
  3. The U.S. recycling rate is around 34.5%. If we’re able to get the rate to 75%, the effect will be like removing 50 million passenger cars from U.S. roads.
  4.  9 out of 10 people said they would recycle if it were “easier”.
  5. The United States throws away $11.4 billion worth of recyclable containers and packaging every year.
  6. In the United States, we throw away 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour – about 42,000 per minute, or about 695 per second.
  7. The amount of plastic film and wrap produced annually could shrink-wrap the state of Texas.
  8. According to a study done by the University of Georgia, 18 billion pounds of plastic trash winds up in our oceans each year. To put that in perspective, it’s enough trash to cover every foot of coastline around the world with five full trash bags of plastic…compounding every year.
  9. Over 100,000 marine animals die every year from plastic entanglement and ingestion.
  10. Glass, like aluminum, is infinitely recyclable – without any loss in purity or quality.
  11. Glass container manufacturers hope to achieve 50 percent recycled content in the manufacture of new glass bottles. This achievement would save enough energy to power 21,978 homes for one year and while removing over 181 tons of waste from landfills monthly.
  12. In only three months, enough aluminum cans are thrown out in the United States to rebuild all of our commercial air fleets.
  13. You can make 20 new cans from recycled material using the same amount of energy that it takes to make 1 brand new can.
  14. While the United States celebrates the holidays, Americans produce an additional 5 million tons of waste (four million of the 5 million tons consisting of wrapping paper and shopping bags).
  15. The majority of the 4 million tons of junk mail that Americans receive annually ends up in landfills.
  16. On average, Americans use 650 pounds of paper a year. Each.
  17. Americans make nearly 400 billion photocopies a year, which comes out to 750,000 copies every minute.
  18. The average office worker in the United States goes through roughly 500 disposable cups annually.
  19.  2,000 pounds (or 1 ton) of recycled paper helps to save over 350 gallons of oil, 17 trees, and a large portion of landfill space
  20. Of the 62 million newspapers printed daily in the United States, 44 million will be thrown away (roughly 500,000 trees).

Until we begin to realize that even though our trash may leave our house, it is not leaving our town or city. It is just being transported to another location, where the pile will continue to grow and grow. When will we begin to realize that a change needs to happen? Maybe when that pile becomes so large that the trash finds its way back to your home.

Tomorrow, a use for mango skins you most likely had no idea was possible.

Nail Polish: Recycling Options & Sustainable Brands

Day 230 – Nail polish is another one of those things that I do not use, but have daughters that do. So, looking into what to do with half used bottles was on the to-do-list. I’m sure many think it’s alright to throw nail polish bottles in the trash. However, the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) considers nail polish to be a household hazardous waste (HHW) due to the toxic chemicals found in nail polish. So, throwing bottles in the trash or pouring unused polish down the drain is not an option.

Chicago residents can drop off nail polish at the Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility, located at 1150 N. North Branch Street. Check out their website for days and times of operation. You can also click HERE to see a full list of other household chemicals they accept. You can also read about what happens to items taken to the Household Chemicals and Computer Recycling Facility by clicking HERE.

For those outside of Chicago, you can enter your ZIP code into Earth911’s recycling search directory to find your nearby HHW facility.

If you’re looking to replace your nail polish with more eco-friendly brands check out the companies below.

Habit – Habit is a black-owned and female-founded vegan cosmetics brand based in the U.S. All of their nail polish is vegan and sustainably made in the US. Their luxurious nail polish bottles are sustainably packaged with a removable bamboo cap and all of the plastic components are made with recycled plastic materials.

Dazzle Dry – Dazzle Dry is based in the US and they continuously strive to adopt more sustainable and ethical practices. They currently uses eco-conscious materials like biodegradable packing peanuts. With every purchase made, a tree is planted in partnership with WeForest.

Base Coat – Base Coat is located in Denver, Colorado. All Base Coat products are formulated to be as clean as possible by cutting out toxins and using plant-based ingredients whenever they can. They also cut down on unnecessary packaging and use recycled, compostable materials to reduce their impact on the environment.

Elle – All of Elle Polish are Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free and vegan. Elle Polish also offers a recycling program where you can send in 5 empty elle polish bottles to be recycled and in return, you’ll get a special edition polish.

Jolie Vegan – Vegan and cruelty free nail polish made in the U.S. Jolie Vegan also gives back. With every purchase, they donate a portion of their sales to charitable organizations such as Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Rooted Woman – Rooted Woman is a black-owned business that offers cruelty-free, gluten free nail polish which is made in the U.S. Rooted Woman curates non-toxic and ethically sourced nail polish.

Tenoverten – A vegan and cruelty-free brand made in the U.S. Tenoverten contains horsetail leaf extract, essential oils, vitamin E and aloe to care for and protect nails. It can be found at Target.

So, if you happen to have environmentally unfriendly nail polish, be sure to dispose of it responsibly. And the next time you’re ready to pick up a new bottle, be sure to check out a more friendly option.

Tomorrow, the best and worst cars emitting carbon dioxide emissions.

Recycling Mattresses: Part 2

Day 228 – Back on Day 133, I wrote about Green Spring Recycling, a compnay that will take your old mattress and recycle it for free. The only catch, you have to drop it off to them at 13611 Thornton Road,  Blue Island, Illinois 60406. Today, I’m writing about an even better option for those in Chicago.

Ryan Drobel started a junk removal business during the pandemic. He found himself very busy and even started working for a nationwide mattress company that wanted him to do removal and recycling. Unfortunately, the company did not care where Mr. Drobel took the mattresses and even found the local landfill to be an adequate destination. This did not sit well with Mr. Drobel and he decided he wanted to find a better solution.

Mr. Drobel ended up doing some research and found out that much of the material found in a mattress can be reused and recycled. Mattress springs can be melted down and used as metal, and padding can be washed and used as padding under carpet. Some springs can actually be gutted, washed and reused for new mattresses, as well. 

Now, Ryan Drobel, only works with companies that are responsibly recycling the mattresses he picks up. He is also getting noticed. After his story appeared in Block Club Chicago and was interviewed by a WLS radio show, he has now partnered with 3rd Coast Mattress Recycling. They are North America’s Number one most legitimate mattress recycling company. They called him to be their partner and to offer his company the ability to take 100% of the beds he collects. They have also guaranteed that over 82% of materials will be reused.

Ryan Drobel came to Chicago to pursue a careers in sketch comedy or web development. He is know making a significant difference in this city and helping save the planet.

If you need a mattress hauled away or other large items, you can reach Mr. Drobel by text at 312-521-0935 for a quote. You can sleep soundly (on your new mattress), knowing that Ryan Drobel is making sure your old mattress is being recycled responsibly.

Tomorrow, back to school tips that are environmentally friendly.

World’s First Second-Hand Mall

Day 227 – Imagine a mall full of stores offering merchandise that is all second-hand. Aisles and shelves full of items given up by their original owners, but still in good condition and ready to be useful for someone else. The U.S. has stores, like Goodwill, that offer second-hand items for the fraction of their original cost. However, in Sweden, they have created an entire mall dedicated to keeping reusable items out of the landfill.

In Eskilstuna, Sweden, a one-of-kind shopping experience is happening at ReTuna. Not only are they selling second-hand merchandise, but also upcyled items, as well. Filled with 14 second-hand shops, a conference space, and an eco-friendly cafe, ReTuna is a shopping space, but also a place of education and inspiration. It houses a design school, where students learn how to incorporate recycled materials into their designs. There are also art installations (made from recycled materials) which fill the space between the boutiques and cafe. Shops in the mall offer fashion, children’s goods, technology and more.

What makes ReTuna different is that it’s located next to the local recycling center, where the goods to be repurposed are collected. The collection station, Returen, receives, sorts through and distributes the goods to the appropriate stores inside the mall according to the assortment description in every shop’s business plan. The shop then sorts through the goods again, and repairs and upcycles things, prices them and puts them up for sale.

In 2018, Retuna sold second-goods worth $1.3 million. If Sweden can do it, there is no reason why this business model couldn’t work everywhere. It’s not only good for business, but it’s good for the planet!

To watch a video about ReTuna, click HERE.

Tomorrow, recycling your mattress just got easier.

The Report on Chicago’s Waste

Day 222 – This past July, Chicago released a 64 page Waste Strategy report on existing waste conditions in the city. As I read through the document I made some notes that I found worth sharing.

  1. In 2020, the City of Chicago generated 4.13 million tons of materials. That includes waste from residents, institutional, commercial and industrial.
  2. Annually, approximately 40,000 to 44,000 tons of yard waste are generated from low density residential structures in Chicago, but very little has been collected through 311 pickup requests.
  3. High contamination rates strain recycling equipment and lessen the value of recycled commodities.
  4. From 2015 to 2020, there was an average of over 75,000 tons of materials collected each month; an average of 9 percent of which was diverted from landfills.
  5. Private companies and high-density residential buildings are not required to report their rates for garbage collection service.
  6. While some service areas show relatively consistent performance over time, there is a general trend of declining performance across all areas (relating to recycling).
  7. CPS manages waste and recycling services for 642 schools.
  8. Increased material diversion through reuse and recycling has potential to create more jobs than would be created through disposal.
  9. The Illinois Commodity/Waste Generation and Characterization Study Update published in 2015 calculated the market value of recyclable materials, including subcategories of paper, plastic, glass, and metal, that were ending up in landfills. The study found that the value of these materials was more than $360 million.
  10. The study found that slightly over a quarter of material placed in Blue Cart bins is unrecyclable contamination, including recyclable materials in plastic bags.
  11. Making cans from recycled aluminum requires 95 percent less energy and generates 90 percent less green house gas emissions than virgin stock.
  12. In 2004, there were eight active landfills in the region, and as of 2020, there are only four. These four landfills had an average life expectancy of 12.4 years as of January 2020. There are no active landfills in Chicago or Cook County.
  13. In addition to landfills in Illinois, Chicago’s waste is disposed across state lines in Indiana. In 2019, over 2.6 million tons of waste generated in Cook County (including the city of Chicago) were sent to six landfill locations in Indiana.
  14. On average, each Chicago resident generates a little over 3 pounds of waste per day at home, or a little under 3,000 pounds of waste per year for each Chicago household.
  15. COMMUNITY EDUCATION PROGRAMS MATTER

Here’s a list of things the city offers that you might not know about.

  1. Since 2014, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), in partnership with Seven Generations Ahead and Lakeshore Recycling Systems, has been expanding a commercial composting pilot program to reduce organic waste, improve purchasing, and provide waste diversion education to CPS students, faculty, and staff. The program has expanded to 14 CPS schools and (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic conditions) resulted in over 2,500 pounds of materials diverted from landfills every day.
  2. Yard waste collection is available to Chicago residents through the 311-request program.
  3. Composting is available through commercial composting companies, Illinois Food Scrap Coalition and Zero Waste Chicago.
  4. In 2020, the Chicago Department of Public Health and Department of Streets and Sanitation introduced a pilot program offering rotating e-waste drop off service at district sanitation offices.
  5. The Chicago Department of Public Health (in partnership with the Chicago Police Department) provides for pharmaceutical disposal at police stations across the city. In addition, there are secure drop off sites located at hospital centers, select pharmacies, and at water reclamation plants managed by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD).
  6. Foam packaging and food service containers are not accepted in Blue Cart bins or City drop off locations. Dart Container Corporation offers free drop off collection at 7575 S. Kostner Avenue for all polystyrene foam except for packing peanuts, which can often be reused for shipping.
  7. Shredded paper is not accepted in Blue Cart bins because it clings to and contaminates other items and does not respond to recycling equipment like whole paper. The City, Aldermen, and other organizations sponsor events for personal document shredding and collection (or collection of pre-shredded paper) for residents.
  8. Flexible plastic film, including plastic bags and common packing materials, can become tangled and damage recycling equipment, and is not accepted in Blue Cart bins. Recyclables placed in Blue Carts should also not be bagged. This material can be recycled if collected separately, and several Chicago grocery stores and businesses host collection sites for plastic film. A list of participating businesses by zip code can be found at PlasticFilmRecycling.org
  9. Chicago Public Libraries have hosted innovative Repair Cafes and other programs to better manage Chicago’s materials.

Here’s some ideas of how the city wants to reduce our waste.

  1. Reframe Chicago’s materials as resources, instead of waste.
  2. Identify opportunities to include goal setting, metrics, and data sharing to demonstrate progress and increase transparency.
  3. Equip consumers with the education and tolls needed to drive innovation in evolving waste systems.
  4. Increase transparency in the process and build trust among Chicago’s residents more efficiently.
  5. Shift the cultural norms towards circularity and away from traditional disposal models.
  6. Maintaining clear and consistent messaging around recycling contamination.
  7. Developing a directory of participating retail take-back options for e-waste and household hazardous waste in Chicago.
  8. Establishing a revenue-sharing partnership with a textile recycling company for collection of clothes, shoes, and other textiles otherwise ending up in landfills.

Chicago has a long way to go when it comes to sustainability. However, I do believe we have the potential to become better and even become a leader on the ways a large city addresses waste, reuse, recycling, and building a circular economy. It won’t be easy and it will take residents, commercial business, industrial corporations and institutions to help improve our current conditions.

Tomorrow, sustainable school bag options.

Sustainable School Supplies

Day 221 – When I was a kid I loved going out and getting new school supplies. Fresh box of crayons, the crispness of a brand new notebook, it all made me excited for a new school year. Fast forward a few decades and now I have come to realize how the whole process is a real pain. I can’t say there is anything that gets me excited about school supplies these days, that’s until I started looking for eco-friendly alternatives to the usual back to school items. I can’t say it’s an easy process, but in the end finding items that are good for the planet is quite rewarding.

The most eco-friendly thing you can do when preparing for the new school year is to take stock of what materials you have from the previous year. More times than not, you will find numerous things that can be reused. After taking inventory of previously used supplies, I ended up with 34 folders, 16 notebooks, 4 graph paper notebooks and 2 composition notebooks. This is just from one household with 4 kids. Imagine what could be rescued from a school at the end of the year.

For this post I took a few items from the supply list given by my kids’ elementary school. I knew I was going to have to go rogue after looking at the list. A few of the name brands they listed have no sustainable options. So, they were not going to be an option for me.

On the left is the requested item and on the right is the eco-friendly alternative I found. I will warn you, when it comes to wanting to do good for the planet, it usually comes with a price. That price is reflected in the cost of the items. Sadly, it’s not in everyone’s budget to go with the more environmentally friendly option. If it’s in your budget, I highly suggest you consider a few of these alternatives.

  1. Kleenex brand tissueCaboo Tree Free Bamboo Facial Tissue – Tree-Free facial tissue wipes made from sustainably grown Bamboo & Sugarcane, both are fast growing grasses giving you a natural, sustainable , and eco friendly alternative to traditional tree-based facial tissues.
  2. Bounty paper towelsEcoFirst Recycled Paper Towel – Produced from 100% recycled paper, whitened without chlorine bleaching, and free of any dyes, inks or fragrances
  3. White copy paperPrintworks 100% Recycled Multipurpose Paper – 100 percent post-consumer recycled printer paper, made in the USA from recycled food and beverage containers and other paper-based printed materials.
  4. College ruled notebook paperEcology Recycled Filler Paper – Ecology Recycled Filler Paper contains 100 percent total recycled content with 40 percent post-consumer fiber. Plus, 40 percent of the power used to produce this paper is from hydro power. Made in the USA.
  5. Hand sanitizerPipette Hand Sanitizer – Eliminate 99.99% of many harmful germs and bacteria to keep all hands healthy and germ free; Now EWG Verified to ensure the highest standard if safety.
  6. Clorox wipesClorox Compostable Wipes – EPA Safer Choice certified Clorox compostable cleaning wipes are durable and made from plant based fibers that are compostable in municipal composting facilities.
  7. PencilsRecycled Newspaper Pencils – Made from 100% recycled papers. Reusable box made of recycled paper too! Tree free, eco-friendly and biodegradable.
  8. PensBic Ecolutions – Made with 74% recycled plastic or Pilot B2P Bottle-2-pen – Made of recycled plastic bottles.
  9. HighlightersDry Highlighter Pencils – Plastic free highlighters
  10. Post-it-notesPost-it Greener Notes – Made with water-based adhesive and 100% recycled paper.
  11. Colored pencilsRecycled Newspapers Plantable Color Pencils – These Pencils Are Made From 100% Recycled Newspapers. After Finish Using It Follow the Steps GIven Back Side of Case and See New Life Growing
  12. Composition notebookRoaring Spring Environotes Recycled Composition Book – Wide ruled book containing 80 sheets has cover as well as back with 100% recycled content. It comprises of 30% recycled along with extra 30% post consumer waste. Made in the USA.
  13. FoldersOxford Earthwise Recycled Folders – Twin Pocket Folder are made from 100 percent post consumer fiber and 100 percent recycled fiber
  14. Glue stickElmer’s Natural Glue Stick – Made from plants with over 88% natural ingredients and container made with 25% post-industrial recycled plastic.

With the start of a new school year, finding new ways to help the planet is very important.

Tomorrow, Chicago’s waste report.

Recycling Cooking Oil

Day 220 – My family enjoys french fries. For the longest time we would bake them in the oven. However, once we were introduced to fries cooked in a fryer, we definitely preferred them over the oven baked. Large bottles of cooking oil were purchased and used numerous times. However, once the cooking oil was no longer good to fry with, we were not sure how to dispose of it. Capping it and tossing it in the garbage did not seem like a good solution. Last year, I looked into the Loyola University School of Environmental Sustainability’s cooking oil recycling program. I was disappointed to find out that the program was on pause due to the pandemic.

Well, I’m happy to say that Loyola Biodiesel Program is back in business.

The Biodiesel Program accepts donations of used cooking oil. If you have recently deep-fried a turkey, or have a jar of expired oil…we’ll take it! All vegetable oil (including peanut oil) donated to Loyola will be turned into clean-burning, renewable fuel: biodiesel. We do NOT accept solid fats, petroleum oil products, bacon grease, or pan drippings.” – LBP

Loyola’s student-run enterprise is the first and only school operation licensed to sell biodiesel in the United States, and is a certified green business with the Illinois Green Business Association.

To donate your oil please drop-off your oil in sealed containers at the School of Environmental Sustainability:

6349 N. Kenmore Ave. Chicago, IL 60660

Look for the Oil Donation sign on the left-hand side as you enter the lobby. If the door is locked, please leave your oil in a sealed container outside the door and off to the side so it does not block the door. Thank you!

To find the closest oil recycling near you, click HERE.

Even though we have a place to recycle our oil, we are strongly considering purchasing an air fryer. Not needing to purchase all that oil in plastic bottles would be a nice thing to avoid. Not to mention, I can only imagine having less fried food in our diet would be more healthy.

Tomorrow, keeping the planet in mind while gathering up those back to school supplies.