Even Wind Energy has Waste

Day 167 – When we think of renewable energy sources, we usually think of clean, waste free options. Sadly, even sustainable energy sources can create waste. According to a study by University of Cambridge (2017), turbine blades are set to account for 43 million tons of waste by 2050. Most blades end up in landfills, because they are hard to recycle.

Thankfully, wind turbine maker Vestas, unveiled new technology which it says enables wind turbine blades to be fully recycled, avoiding the dumping of old blades. Using the new technology the glass or carbon fiber is separated from the resin and then chemicals further separate the resin into base materials, that are “similar to virgin materials” that can then be used for construction of new blades. 

The project aims to develop the technology for industrial scale production within three years and also sees potential for the technology to be used for airplane and car components.

If we are to fully embrace a world where renewable energy sources are common place, we need to start finding ways to recycle all the materials involved in harnessing these sources of energy. Sending turbine blades and solar panels to the landfill will not help our situation.

Tomorrow, checking to see if your alderperson is doing his/her part in protecting the environment.

Eyewear: Options for donating and recycling

Day 157 – About 60% of the world’s population needs some kind of corrective lenses. That ends up being a lot of eyeglasses and contacts being worn and eventually tossed. Thankfully, there are places to donate your eyewear and recycle your contacts.

Eyeglasses

The organization you donate to will inspect the glasses, determine the prescription, and clean the eyewear so it can be used again. Your old glasses will then get matched to someone who needs them — around the world or in your neighborhood.

  1. Lions Club International – They operate a network of collection boxes and Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers, where volunteers process donated glasses for distribution through medical missions around the world.
  2. New Eyes – A United Way agency, buys new glasses for people in need in the United States. It also accepts, processes and distributes gently used donated eyeglasses to people overseas. New Eyes accepts used prescription glasses, reading glasses, sunglasses, safety glasses and children’s glasses in good to excellent condition.
  3. OneSight -An independent nonprofit that has helped more than 9 million people in 46 countries. They set up permanent vision centers and hold charitable clinics around the world. While OneSight dispenses only new eyewear to patients, they accept donations of used eyewear and send it to Lions Clubs International in support of their recycling programs.
  4. Eyes of Hope – Vision insurer VSP Global provides access to no-cost eye care and eyewear for more than 2 million people around the world. They accept donations of new and gently used eyewear.

Contacts

You can recycle your contacts and their packaging through TerraCycle’s Free Recycling Program. Just type in your zip code and you will be given a list of participating eye care facilities that will take your used contact lenses and packaging.

You can drop off your old eyeglasses and used contacts at the Northcenter Neighborhood Association’s Recycle Popup. Eyeglasses will be donated to the Lions Club and contacts will be recycled through TerraCycle. Our next popup will be on Saturday, June 19th.

So, on this National Eyewear Day, consider passing on those old eyeglasses to someone in need and give them the gift of good eyesight.

Tomorrow, keeping our food safe, locally and globally.

Bicycle Donation and Recycling

Day 155 – I remember getting my first bicycle. I had just made my First Communion and a new bicycle was my big gift. Up until then I was riding my sisters’ old bikes or ones that we had acquired from various family and friends. It was an amazing feeling to have my very own bicycle.

Sadly, there are many children that don’t experience the joy of receiving a new bicycle. They don’t even get the chance to own any kind of bicycle, new or old. Today’s post lists some options for those looking to part with bicycles that have been outgrown or replaced with an upgrade. These bicycles have the potential to bring a great deal of happiness to children and adults, alike.

These are mainly options that can be found in Chicago. However, a simple Google search for bicycle donations in your town or city, can put you on the right track.

  1. Working Bikes – To donate, visit their warehouse/shop at 2434 S. Western Ave. any time during store hours. If the warehouse is too far for you to travel, you may bring your donation to one of their drop-off locations.
  2. The Recyclery – You can email donatebikes@therecyclery.org to schedule a pick-up. You can also drop off bikes directly to the Collection Points listed HERE. They take bicycles in all conditions.
  3. Play It Again Sports – Play It Again Sports will be happy to take your bicycle and they will pay you.

The 47th Ward is collecting bicycles until June 25th. You can drop off bicycles at 4243 N. Lincoln Ave. They are partnering with non-profit bike shops across the city to provide bikes to young Chicagoans who are in need of a workable bike.

Since, many organizations will take bicycles in any condition there is little to no need to recycle bicycles. However, if you have a bicycle that can absolutely not be donated, many scrap metal companies will be happy to take your bicycle.

Tossing your old bicycle is never an option. There is someone out there more than happy to take that bicycle and give it a new life.

Tomorrow, commemorating World Environment Day.

Plastic Toys: It’s not all fun and games

Day 152 – One of my least favorite toys that I had to assemble for my children was a kitchen. A rather large, plastic kitchen. All the pieces were attached and had to be separated before they could be reassembled to resemble a kitchen set. I did it all by myself on a Christmas Eve and it was absolutely the worst. However, the kids loved it! And when it’s all said and done, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Well, I sure drank the KoolAid on that misconception. Most of us don’t give much thought about the cheap, plastic toys we purchase for our children or young people in our lives. Our main concern is usually their happiness. So, we spend our money on toys that will most likely not even last a year and will end up in the trash.

About 90% of today’s toys are made from plastic. Sadly, most of the plastic is not recyclable. Think about the plastic toys you played with as a kid. Those same toys are still sitting in a landfill somewhere and will be there for centuries to come.

So, what are our options when looking to purchase toys?

Find toys made from other materials, like wood, cotton, metal or natural rubber

Companies like Big Future Toys and Begin Again Toys are finding other ways to produce fun and entertaining toys without the use of plastic.

Find toys made from recycled material

Companies like Green Toys and Luke’s Toy Factory are using recycled material to create their toys.

Find toys with take back programs

Numerous toy manufacturers are taking back their toys. If you have toys that have reached the end of their life, from any of the following companies, you can ship them, at no cost, to be recycled. Be sure to check out the list of accepted toys for each program.

Hasbro

V-Tech

Leap Frog

SpinMaster

Matel

Lego

*The Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycle Popup collects all the toys listed here. The next popup is June 19th.

Find alternatives to toys

Another great option to avoid plastic toys, is to give the gift of an experience. Maybe it’s a trip to the bowling alley, or the arcade. A movie with all the popcorn and candy you can eat, a hike in a beautiful wooded area, or a day at the waterpark, would all make awesome gifts.

So, the next time you are faced with the challenge of finding that perfect gift consider avoiding the cheap plastic toys. There are so many great alternatives out there. You just need to look.

Tomorrow, a company that has found a purpose for the plastic from discarded children toys.

GotSneakers: Recycling shoes and raising funds

Day 151 – On Day 62, I gave a list of options to donate or recycle your shoes. Well today, I have another option for you. This one can bring you a little extra cash.

“At GotSneakers, we’re making it socially and financially rewarding to contribute to a circular economy with our FREE sneaker recycling programs for individual sellers and organizations of all types and sizes. When you join our sneaker recycling community, you will be making a global impact AND you will earn money for every pair of sneakers you contribute.” – GotSneakers

If your an individual seller, hosting a fundraiser, or part of a retail program, GotSneakers can fit your needs. Signup is easy and FREE. Just let GotSneakers know how many bags you need and if you need more they will send more. Once your bags arrive, fill them up with your sneakers (only sneakers), seal the bags and drop them off at either UPS or FedEx. Your prepaid postage will specify as to which service you will need to use.

All sneakers collected are recirculated to people who want quality, reusable footwear at affordable prices or repurposed into new surfaces such as playgrounds and tracks. Each pair will be professionally evaluated by GotSneakers’ trained staff, to determine the quality, style, and brand of each pair of footwear. You can check out the compensation chart HERE.

The Northcenter Neighborhood Association Monthly Recycle Popup, will be collecting sneakers, starting on June 19th. We will be using GotSneakers and hopefully raise a few dollars to put toward our recycling efforts.

Tomorrow, the problem with plastic toys.

Never Go Anywhere Without Your Towel

Day 145“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon…” – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Today is Towel Day! I wasn’t sure what that exactly meant. So, I read up on the holiday that has been celebrated for 19 years. Fans of Douglas Adams (English author, screenwriter, essayist, humorist, satirist and dramatist) created the day to honor the beloved author after his untimely death due to a heart attack at the age of 49.

In his book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (which I have heard of, but have never read), Douglas writes about towels being the most helpful item for an interstellar traveler. So, it made perfect sense to me that I would use today’s post to talk about all the great ways to reuse or repurpose your old towels.

  1. The most obvious reuse option is to turn old towels into cleaning rags.
  2. You could sew numerous towels together to create a large blanket for outdoor use.
  3. Old towels may not be great for drying things, but they are still good for washing things, like the dishes.
  4. Turn them into baby bibs.
  5. Call or email your local animal shelter and see if they could use towels.
  6. Change out your Swiffer pads with pieces from your old towels. Once you’re done cleaning the house, pop them in the washer to be used again. You can’t do that with Swiffer.
  7. Turn your old towels into a knee pad. Whether, you make one for each knee or a large one for both knees, having a little extra cushion while gardening or cleaning, is helpful for the knees.
  8. Use old towels to cut down the cold draft seeping underneath the doors.
  9. Old towels can keep your fragile belongings safe. Whether your moving to a new home or just looking to store a few things away. Towels will help cushion the move.
  10. When the life of the towel has come to the end, the Chicago Textile Recycling Center will take it.

So, don’t go anywhere without your towel. Not only will it help you on an interstellar trip, but they have so many great uses.

Tomorrow, green refrigerator options.

The Impact of Sending Back Those Online Purchases

Day 136 – I have had my share of trips to Kohls to send back Amazon purchases. A majority of those trips come around the holidays, but they can also occur throughout the year. More times than not, I am not alone in line. There are plenty of other people waiting their turn to send back their items, as well.

I was at Kohls last week, returning baseball pants purchased from Amazon because they were the wrong size. I didn’t think to purchase different sizes of the same pants, so I could send back the pair that didn’t fit. I have learned that this is a common practice among online shoppers and retailers love it. The process is called bracketing. It’s when you “buy now and choose later”. Most of us are aware that returning unwanted items will result in more carbon emissions into the environment as a result of transporting those items. However, what most people don’t know is that there is an even bigger environmental impact.

“In the U.S., return shipping creates over 15 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually – more than the emissions from 3 million cars. But most people assume that returned goods are simply resold, the same way that items discarded in a dressing room or left in a shopping cart are reshelved for sale in a store. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. Five billion pounds of returned goods end up in U.S. landfills each year. Less than half of returned goods are resold at full price. Sometimes it’s cheaper to throw away merchandise than to repackage, re-inventory, store it, resell it, and ship it out again.” – Earth911

We can only hope that the U.S. will follow in the footsteps of France and ban companies from throwing away many kinds of unsold goods. In France, they now have to reuse, redistribute or recycle unsold products. However, we can not wait for the U.S. to make these changes. As consumers, we need to start taking some of the responsibility for this problem. When we’re making purchases, whether online or in-person, we need to make sure that we have done our homework on the product and are confident that we are purchasing the product we plan to keep. It is only through our responsible shopping practices that we will be able to help decrease the waste ending up in our landfill due to bracketing.

Tomorrow, a place to recycle your snack bags.

Electronics: Many donation and recycling options

Day 132 – The first personal computer was officially announced in 1957 and cost $55,000. Today, that dollar amount would be equivalent to $460,000. So, it’s crazy to think how inexpensive computers have become. They are so inexpensive that they have become disposable. Apple considers a computer over five years old to be “vintage”. Sadly, with as quickly as technology is advancing, it’s probably more like two to three years before your electronic device is outdated. So, what do we do with all that technology, when something new and better comes along?

For the electronics that are still working, there are places that will use them.

  1. Free Geek – FreeGeek Chicago is a not-for-profit community organization that recycles used computers and parts to provide functional computers, education, internet access and job skills training to those who want them.
  2. The Assistive Technology Exchange Network (ATEN) – ATEN refurbishes and recycles donated computers and distributes them to individuals with disabilities.

There are many other organizations that take usable electronics. Please let me know if you have a favorite organization and I’ll be sure to add them to the list.

Electronics that may or may not work

  1. Best Buy
  2. Chicago Electronic Recycling Program
  3. Ecocell

Once, again there are countless companies and municipalities that will take and recycle your unusable electronics. Some charge a fee, while others do not. The ones I listed here are free of charge.

Many companies have their own take back programs and trade in programs. Apple allows you to trade in old devices for credit toward new devices. Hewlett-Packard also has a recycling program. Check to see if the company that made your device has a take back program, as well.

So, the trash can is never an option when it comes to your outdated and broken electronics. There is always someone willing to take it off your hands.

Tomorrow, recycling options for mattresses.

Shower Curtains: Recycle or Trash

Day 131 – My shower curtain is fabric, but I needed something to keep the water inside the tub, during showers. I bought the cheapest liner possible. It was a few bucks and made from a plastic/vinyl combination. After about 6 months or so, it would become rather gross and I would throw it away and buy a new one. A few years ago, I realized that if I spent a little more on a nice liner, I could easily clean it. By tossing it in the washing machine, I was able to use it over and over.

Besides the washable polyester shower curtain liner that I started to use, there are other earth friendly options.

  1. 100% cotton or hemp curtain – Once these curtains lived out their lives they could be cut up and placed in your compost.
  2. Shower door – This is not an option for everyone, but having a shower door would take away the need for a curtain.

If you decide to switch out your shower curtain for a more eco-friendly option, then you’re faced with the question, “What do I do with my old plastic shower curtain?”

Earth911 came up with a list of ideas:

  • Dropcloth for interior painting
  • Table cover for messy DIY or craft projects
  • Protect your car seats under kids’ booster seats
  • Line your vehicle’s trunk
  • Liner under the cat’s litter box
  • Liner for inside the cabinet under kitchen sink
  • When camping, use it to protect firewood from rain, as a waterproof tablecloth, a tent tarp, or to divide food in the cooler.

Remember, that your plastic shower curtain can not be recycled curbside. Unless, you’re willing to pay for a bathroom zero waste box from TerraCycle , your other option is to repurpose it or throw it in the trash. Hopefully, you find a new purpose for your old shower curtain and your new curtain is plastic free.

Tomorrow, so many options to recycle your old electronics.

No One Wants Your Broken Stuff

Day 128 – Many people try to avoid throwing things away. They don’t want to add to the endless piles of trash that end up in the landfill. Unfortunately, the next option (for some) is to donate those items. They get boxed up and dropped off at the nearest donation center. Unfortunately, no one wants your broken stuff and all those “donations” end up exactly where you were hoping they would not, in the landfill.

In a recent NPR article, a Goodwill store spokesperson in New Hampshire was interviewed. She oversees 30 Goodwill stores in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. Their trash bill adds up to around $1 million a year with about $13 million pounds of waste. This is just one organization, in only three states. Multiply those numbers by thousands of organizations across the country and you have an astronomical amount of waste. Waste that no one cares about or gives a second thought about, because it’s believed it has all gone to a “good cause.”

“A lampshade, which is stained and disgusting and literally falling apart. There’s a small table missing a leg, cracked purple food-storage containers and a used sponge. They’re just a representative sample of the useless stuff dropped off the day before.” – Heather Steeves (Goodwill spokesperson)

Goodwill and other organizations will try to recycle what they can, but when people are donating, what can only be described as trash, then it becomes very difficult.

On Day 72, I shared a list of over 90 items that Best Buy will take and recycle. The City of Chicago has a Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility that accepts numerous items. Click HERE for the complete list of accepted items. I have shared how to recycle clothes and shoes that are not fit for donation. Sometimes a simple Google search can send you in the right direction when looking for a recycler, because your items are not worth donating.

I saw first hand, when volunteering at Cradles to Crayons, the amount of donated waste. The kids and I were put in the toy section. A majority of the donated toys were not considered acceptable. Games with missing pieces, deflated balls, nonworking electronic toys, dolls and action figures missing limbs, random happy meal toys, were just some of the discarded toys. I ended up coming home with two large boxes of toys that were going to end up in the trash. This was just a two hour shift. I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of toys thrown out on a daily basis. I have purchased a Zero Waste Box from TerraCycle to recycle the unwanted toys. TerraCycle has partnered with Hasbro, V-Tech, Leap Frog, Spin Master and L.O.L. Surprise to recycle their toys. You can always drop any of these toys at the monthly Northcenter Neighborhood Association Recycling Popup.

Heather from Goodwill suggests, “The key question to ask before dropping something off is: If you needed it, would you buy it in this condition?”

Tomorrow, supporting fair trade.