TerraCycle offers a range of free programs that are funded by conscientious companies, as well as recycling solutions available for purchase for almost every form of waste.
TerraCycle offers free recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers around the world to help you collect and recycle your hard-to-recycle waste. Simply choose the programs you’d like to join; start collecting in your home, school, or office; download free shipping labels; and send us your waste to be recycled. You can even earn rewards for your school or favorite non-profit!
TerraCycle reuses, upcycles, and recycles waste instead of incinerating or land filling it. This moves waste from a linear system to a circular one, allowing it to keep cycling in our economy.
You can collect points, by collecting trash for your specific program and then redeeming your points. You can redeem your points by either receiving a cash value, or you can donate the points to charity. There’s a list of charities that team up with TerraCycle, in which you can choose to donate your points to.
I always donate my points, since I think this program is a great way for charities and companies to get involved with creating less waste, and I really don’t value the cash redemption as much.
Some of the charity organizations I was looking at to donate my points were:
100 points = Help safeguard 1 acre of rain forest for 1 year in the Northwest Gaia Amazon.
300 points = Have a tree planted in an American forest through Arbor Day Foundation
300 points = You can provide one year’s supply of clean drinking water to a person who otherwise would lack access to this most essential element.
625 points = You can help the D’Addario Music Foundation give one child a free music lesson.
2500 points = You can help the D’addario Music Foundation provide a child with 4 music lessons for a week. Kids who study music are 5x more likely to stay in school, graduate on time and apply to college.
100 points = For every 100 points, TerraCycle will send $1 to the American Red Cross to provide aid to those affected by natural disasters.
For this round, I decided to split my points between a couple of different charities. I decided to redeem my points with:
Providing one year’s supply of clean drinking water to a person who otherwise would lack access to this most essential element
If you want to participate in the TerraCycle programs, check them out at https://www.terracycle.com/en-US/select-country to see which programs you can join. The participating companies change often, so check back with the website to see updates. There are a lot of programs to choose from and supporting the partnership between TerraCycle and the participating companies creates more awareness to how much trash we produce, and how companies take responsibility for the trash they pass onto us consumers.
Zero Waste Week is here! This year we have more participants and the event is hoping to reach a larger audience. Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.
This is my third year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful and proud to be a part of this movement. There are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them atZero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About. Use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek to show us your progress!
This year, the theme is Climate Change, and our decisions that effect climate change.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases always have been present in the atmosphere, keeping the earth hospitable to life by trapping heat. Yet, since the industrial revolution, emissions of these gases from human activity have accumulated steadily, trapping more heat and exacerbating the natural greenhouse effect.
As a result, global average temperatures have risen both on land and in the oceans, with observable impacts already occurring that foretell increasingly severe changes in the future. Polar ice is melting. Glaciers around the globe are in retreat. Storms are increasing in intensity. Ecosystems around the world already are reacting, as plant and animal species struggle to adapt to a shifting climate, and new climate-related threats emerge.
September 2, 2019, DAY 1:
This year’s topic is climate change.
An overwhelming body of scientific evidence paints a clear picture: climate change is happening, it is caused in large part by human activity, and it will have many serious and potentially damaging effects in the decades ahead. Scientists have confirmed that the earth is warming, and that greenhouse gas emissions from cars, power plants and other man made sources are the primary cause.
September 3, 2019, DAY 2
Reducing food waste and food packaging in the kitchen.
An estimated one third of all food produced in the world, goes to waste; that’s equivalent to 1.3 billion tons of food. This loss of food could be for a number of reasons, such as the fact that the foods never leave their farms, get lost or spoiled during transportation or are simply thrown away. When we waste food, we waste all of the energy and water used to used to produce the foods as well. Here are a few blog posts on my methods to deal with food waste and how purchase my food.
Choosing slow fashion has been a hot topic in the past few years. The textile industry. is one of the most polluting industries, producing 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent ( CO2e ) per year, which is more emissions than international flights and maritime shipping. Over 60% of textiles are used in the clothing industry and a large proportions of clothing manufacturing occurs in China and India, countries which rely on coal-fueled power plants, increasing the footprint of each garment. It has been stated that around 5% of total global emissions come from the fashion industry.
Fast fashion is produced on shorter time frames with new designs appearing every few weeks to satisfy demand for the latest trends, but with this comes increased consumption and more waste. It has been estimated that there are 20 new garments manufactured per person each year and we are buying 60% more than we were in 2000.
By choosing to shop at thrift shops, or swapping with friends and neighbors, helps reduce the amount of newly manufactured clothing brought into the home, and it helps reduce the amount of clothing that ends up in the landfill.
Below are a few blog posts related to fast fashion, and how I deal with that issue. I love every piece of my wardrobe and I try to repair my clothes as often as I can, to lengthen the life of my garments. I buy new clothes very seldom, because thrift shops offer so much more variety to chose form.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term “Volatile Organic Compounds” as the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners.
Ammonia is a multipurpose household cleaner that is found in many cleaning products that do everything from degreasing to sanitizing and removing allergens.
Household cleaning seems to be a sensitive subject for many. There are a variety of sanitary concerns and medical concerns. As for me, I use a vinegar and water mix, baking soda and a bristle brush to clean.
You can read more about my approach to household cleaning in the links below.
Zero Waste is for life, not just a week! Plastic pollution, trash pollution, water and soil pollution is an ongoing battle. A zero waste lifestyle does require an awareness of oneself and decisions. There are parameters that some of us deal with, and that others don’t, such as medical conditions, personal health and financial constraints.
The proliferation of single-use plastic around the world is accelerating climate change. Plastic production is expanding worldwide, fueled in part by the fracking boom in the US. Plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions at every stage of its life cycle, from its production to its refining and the way it is managed as a waste product
By reducing your plastic waste, plastic purchases, and opting for more environmentally friendly alternatives, can help alleviate the amount of plastic waste you produce. Also, by choosing slow fashion, and more sustainable garment materials, will also help lengthen the life of your wardrobe pieces and not contribute to the fast fashion industry. Additionally, using non-toxic alternative household cleaners, will also help your indoor air quality. Using non- toxic chemicals also will help keep Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia out of the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways.
If you want to read about my moments and lessons throughout my zero waste journey, you can check out the links to my previous blog posts below.
I hope you will want to take the pledge and reduce the amount of trash you consume, and reduce your carbon footprint. If you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got Started.
September 2- September 6, is #ZeroWasteWeek – Sign up here! goo.gl/oqHvRk. Isn’t it time to ReThink Waste? We think so! Join @myzerowaste for this year’s #ZeroWasteWeek goo.gl/oqHvRk. Come participate with all of us!
At the end of the week’s festivities, it’s time to take all you’ve learned during the week and start/continue your own plastic free and climate change journey. There are a lot of Pinterest boards, Facebook Groups and forums that offer tips to start a zero waste lifestyle or tips for different experiences with the zero waste lifestyle. You can check out my own social media boards and follow me, or you can follow the Zero waste Week community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
I definitely have plastics in the bathroom. I did try to transition to glass bottles for my bathroom products, but the glass was too slippery and didn’t seem efficient. When it comes to products are used in the bathroom, I do have a set amount of items that I can refill. However, there are items that do come in plastic packaging and plastic bottles, that end up being recycled or go into the landfill.
I have bottles that I refill for my Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap, my body lotion, and my conditioner. I use bar soaps a lot, so I buy bar soaps that either don’t have packaging at all, or come in recyclable paper packaging.
For the items that do come in plastic packaging, that includes my sunblock, my face moisturizer as well as dental floss.
My bathroom isn’t completely zero waste. I do use plastic containers and refill them as needed. And for specialty items, they come in plastic containers. I wish sunblock didn’t come in plastic containers, but so far, mine do. I think it’s entirely possible to have zero waste bathroom though; mine just isn’t. When it comes to my conditioner, I will transfer some of it into a larger stainless steel water bottle, and add water to dilute the formula. I’ve noticed that my hair responds better when my hair doesn’t have residue left over from the conditioner. For my other items that come in plastic containers such as dental floss, face moisturizer, I haven’t found a good alternative is for my skin yet. I’ll keep looking though, I think the battle is always on going when it comes to striving for a zero waste lifestyle.
My trash doesn’t fit in a jar anymore. When I started my zero waste journey, my trash did fit in a 16 ounce mason jar. However, int he past few years, I needed to purchase items that had extra packaging in which would not fit in my nice little jar anymore.
A lot of the time, when we shop at bulk bins in grocery stores, although we don’t bring home trash into our homes, products do get shipped to grocery stores in packaging. We as consumers don’t see it, but it doesn’t mean that the packaging doesn’t exist. Now, I’m not saying that every company is wasteful, but truth be told that is how our products are packaged from the manufacturer and then transferred to the distribution companies.
Trash pollution, plastic pollution is hidden in plain sight. We as consumers, do have the choice to not bring trash into our homes, and that’s a privilege. But packaging does exist, it’s not always compostable, and it may not even be sustainable. We as consumers can still vote with our dollar, and we still need to remind manufacturing companies that our trash pollution is at the highest quantity right now. I do think the tide is turning, but with The daily production of trash in the speed at which it is produced, we’re going out to tackle a very, very large problem and that’s with magnified with an unimaginable speed.
I live in the Bay Area, and bulk food items and products are readily available here. There are plenty of other states and areas, which bulk food is not available. If you can fit your trash into a small jar and continue to do so, I think that’s amazing and admirable. If your trash can’t fit into a jar, just keep in mind, the trash you’re producing and keep putting effort towards living a more zero waste lifestyle. I think using the glass jar as a standard is a bit unreasonable, because not all of us are lucky enough to live and afford certain amenities where we are located.
So my trash doesn’t fit in a jar this year, maybe next year it will be less. If not, I’ll keep trying to continue to strive to live a zero waste life.
When it comes to recycling CDs and DVDs, the information was never really clear as to where to recycle these type of materials. I did some research and found out that there is The CD Recycling Center of America, who provides that exact service.
Each year, billions of CDs and DVDs are manufactured, while millions of these discs end up in landfills and incinerators. If you use, sell, promote, distribute, or manufacture compact discs, it is your responsibility to promote how to recycle them. Compacts Discs, when recycled properly, will stop unnecessary pollution, conserve natural resources, and help slow global warming. Spread the word to help us save the world we all live in.
For those companies that require a certificate of destruction, that service is available as well.
The CD Recycling Center of America collects old CDs, DVDs and cases and securely deconstructs the items. CDs and DVDs contain different metals and materials that should be separated safely. They contain materials such as:
Aluminum-the most abundant metal element in the Earth’s crust. Bauxite ore is the main source of aluminum and is extracted from the Earth.
Polycarbonate-a type of plastic, which is made from crude oil and natural gas extracted from the Earth.
Lacquer-made of acrylic, another type of plastic.
Gold-a metal that is mined from the Earth.
Dyes-chemicals made in a laboratory, partially from petroleum products that come from the Earth.
Other materials such as water, glass, silver, and nickel.
There are different programs offered to different types of business and institutions, so the parameters of how they will receive your recycling material will differ. All you have to do, is scroll down to your category and pick the program that fits your needs. They have programs for:
Individuals / households
Radio & Television
Since I’m recycling as a household, I checked the “Programs” tab, and scrolled down to the “Individuals / households” section, to read my requirements.
They do ask that the broken disc cases be kept separated from the other cases. I separated my shipment into four categories, and labeled them as needed:
Zero Waste Week is almost here! This year we have more participants and the event is hoping to reach a larger audience. Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.
This is my second year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful and proud to be a part of this movement. There are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them atZero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About. Use the hashtag #ZeroWasteWeek to show us your progress!
Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2018, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic
September 3, 2018, DAY 1
We will be discussing the difference between ‘necessary’ and unnecessary plastics. The amount of plastic polluting the ocean is astounding. By 2050,plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum. Herare a few past blog posts which explain how and why I became very conscientious about my purchases.
Auditing our daily personal care routine! Plastic containers in the bathroom are nothing new. However, because we use bathroom items so frequently, the amount of plastic containers we go through can be unnerving when you look at the statistics. As the zero waste movement has caught on, more stores are offering bulk bathroom items and refill stations. If you want to read about some of my zero waste bathroom blog posts, check them out below.
Plastics in the kitchen and food packaging seem to be a huge problem for those starting out on their zero waste journey. To make your kitchen zero waste, can be quite challenging. Creating a zero waste kitchen took time and trial and error in my own experience. To read more about the challenges I faced, check out the blog posts below.
Household cleaning seems to be a sensitive subject for many. There are a variety of sanitary concerns and medical concerns. As for me, I use a vinegar and water mix, baking soda and a bristle brush to clean. You can read more about my method in the link below.
Zero Waste is for life, not just a week! Plastic pollution, trash pollution, water and soil pollution is an ongoing battle. A zero waste lifestyle does require an awareness of oneself and decisions. There are parameters that some of us deal with, and that others don’t, such as medical conditions, personal health and financial constraints. As long as the effort and awareness of product consumption is considered on a day to day basis, reducing trash is inevitable. If you want to read about my moments and lessons throughout my zero waste journey, you can check out the links to my previous blog posts below.
I hope you will want to take the pledge and reduce the amount of trash you consume, and if you want to read about my journey and how I got started, you can read that here in, How I Got Started. At the end of the week’s festivities, it’s time to take all you’ve learned during the week and start/continue your own plastic free journey. There are a lot of Pinterest boards, Facebook Groups and forums that offer tips to start a zero waste lifestyle or tips for different experiences with the zero waste lifestyle. You can check out my own social media boards and follow me, or you can follow the Zero waste Week community on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
I’ve talked about what I don’t buy, but I thought I’d tell you about what I do buy in relation to my daily bathroom routine. When I go grocery shopping, there are items I do keep an eye out for. These items are the items I will use on a daily basis and keep stock of at home. So here it is…
What I stock up on:
Eyeliner (used often)
Mascara (used often)
Eye Shadow (used often)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Not used often:
Liquid Foundation (Vegan Makeup)
Matte Bronzer (Vegan Makeup)
Lipstick (Vegan Makeup)
Angled Blush Brush
There are other investments that I bought a while back, which did produce some form of trash, but they were only a one time investment.
One time investments:
Set of Dental picks
Set of stainless steel ear pick tools
Morning: Before Workout Routine: In the morning I will wash my face with soap and brush my teeth with baking soda. I’ll then apply sunscreen before heading out, because skin cancer is real and the exposure to the sun’s rays can be very dangerous, so I take precautions.
Morning: After Workout Routine: After working out, I’ll wash my face again and apply some dry shampoo (combination of equal parts cornstarch and Hershey’s Cocoa, here is the link to my blog post about DIY Dry Shampoo). I’ll then apply my makeup, and depending on the occasion, it might be more or less. My makeup is cruelty free and not tested on animals, but it does come in packaging that is not recyclable. The good part about my makeup routine is that I don’t use excessive amounts of it so I don’t use up my makeup quickly.
When I do decide to get more dressed up, my makeup packaging includes all of the following packaging below. All of my makeup will come with the makeup container as well as the makeup packaging as well.
Evening Routine: My evening routine mimics my morning routine, where I will floss my teeth, brush my teeth, wash my face with soap, and then apply my evening cream.
Non-Daily Use Items: There are a few “one time purchase” items that I did invest in, which did produce some form of trash that was not recyclable. However, these were one time purchases and they’ve lasted a very long time. These items include my deodorant crystal, pumice stone, dental pick set and my set of stainless steel ear pick tools. (The Visine is rarely used and I doubt I’ll ever purchase it again.)
For the Bathroom: Products I use to clean my bathroom or need to stock up on, include Apple Cider Vinegar, paper wrapped toilet paper and essential oils. The essential oils does get used, but not often. I always buy toilet paper wrapped in paper so that I don’t produce any extra plastic trash.
Living a zero waste lifestyle can never truly be completely zero waste. Trash will be produced at one point or another; whether it’s in the beginning of the production line or at the very end where the consumer is left with it. When you purchase products in bulk, a lot of the packaging is left for the distributor to deal with.
This post was a transparent view of the reality of my own bathroom trash. Even though I do still produce a bit of trash, I have significantly reduced the amount of my bathroom trash since I began this zero waste journey. Still, to this day, I know I can reduce it even more, but that means I have to give up using certain products or try to find alternative products.
Rachelle Strauss is the creator and director behind Zero Waste Week, an annual awareness campaign since 2008. It takes place in the first full week in September each year, and promotes awareness in producing rash and the disposal of trash. Zero Waste Week encourages the public to be more aware of how much trash they produce as well has encouraging people and businesses to live and work more sustainable and reduce their carbon footprint. She has been featured in The Guardian, National Geographic and The Sun for her efforts in promoting awareness for a more sustainable future.
This is my first year participating in Zero Waste Week as an ambassador. I’m so grateful to be a part of this movement. But there are many others who are and have been a part of this movement long before I came along, you can meet them at Zero Waste Week Ambassadors. You can also read all about this week and get involved at Zero Waste Week- About.
Each day has a theme of Zero Waste which focuses on different aspects of creating less waste. For Zero Waste Week 2017, I listed the topic for each day and I linked some of my blog posts that pertain to each topic:
Monday: Make it mend it Monday – Repairing / learning new skills to extend product life. Look for #makeitmendmonday and you’ll find other resources and tips on repairing clothes and fabric products.
Tuesday: Trashless Tuesday – Challenging participants to a Zero Waste day to see how little they can accumulate for landfill (considering asking people to carry their rubbish around in a see through bag for the day too!) Look for #trashlesstuesday on other social media sites to see how others utilize their trash.
Friday: Food waste Friday – How to utilize all your food scraps so there’s less waste produced. Look for #foodwastefriday on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to find other ways to utilize food waste from making compost to creating your own homemade vegetable broth.
I actually did this experiment back on August 27, 2016, but I finally decided to upload it now. I had other topics that I felt were scheduled before this post. (If you look through my Instagram account, you’ll see the date of when this image was taken and posted)
Although the craze of sustainable products has made their way around the internet, it is important to always examine your products closely and investigate the companies you invest your money in. There is plenty of companies that practice greenwashing and may not think that their consumers would investigate, but I encourage you to.
Greenwashing is a form of spin in which green Public Relations or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.
Not all claims of products being 100% natural or biodegradable are true. Take for instance my biodegradable toothbrush. I pulled it apart and found metal flakes that held the bristles in place. I also held a lighter to the bristles to see what would happen and they melted as opposed to burning.
Not all companies are bad. Not all claims are false, but check out the companies that you trust your health and your family’s health with. It is a risky game at times and blind trust has to be executed in certain situations.
The internet is big and vast and a lot of people review products. Take a look at what they say and hopefully it’ll guide you in a direction you are comfortable with.
This has been a public service announcement. Ha! yea right.
Of all the materials that we are continually reminded of as consumers to recycle, glass has to be within the top three on that list; the other being paper and aluminum. I have to admit that I prefer glass and aluminum over paper though. Paper cannot be washed clean of oils and for paper that has oil soaked into it, it can’t be recycled along with clean paper. The simple reason for that is because paper is usually heated and washed which will release the oils into the batch of paper being recycled and therefore contaminate the other clean paper. It will however, compost nicely.
But I digress. If I absolutely must buy a product, I will search for it first in a non-packaged form, then I will look for the product packaged in glass or aluminum. If I look for paper packaged products, it has to be paper packaging that is clean of food oils. I tend to buy very few products that have packaging in the first place, but this is my criteria.
So I thought I would run through a simple and basic run down of the life cycle of a glass container, so here it goes:
The consumer throws glass into a recycle bin.
Glass is taken from the bin and taken to a glass treatment plant.
The glass is sorted by colour and washed to remove any impurities.
The glass is then crushed and melted, then moulded into new products such as bottles and jars. Or it may be used for alternative purposes such as brick manufacture or decorative uses.
The glass is then sent back to the shops ready to be used again.
Glass does not degrade through the recycling process, so it can be recycled again and again.
Some Fact About Recycling Glass:
Glass is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity.
Glass is made from readily-available domestic materials, such as sand, soda ash, limestone and “cullet,” the industry term for furnace-ready recycled glass.
The only material used in greater volumes than cullet is sand. These materials are mixed, or “batched,” heated to a temperature of 2600 to 2800 degrees Fahrenheit and molded into the desired shape.
Recycled glass can be substituted for up to 95% of raw materials.
Manufacturers benefit from recycling in several ways: Recycled glass reduces emissions and consumption of raw materials, extends the life of plant equipment, such as furnaces, and saves energy.
Recycled glass containers are always needed because glass manufacturers require high-quality recycled container glass to meet market demands for new glass containers.
Recycled glass is always part of the recipe for glass, and the more that is used, the greater the decrease in energy used in the furnace. This makes using recycled glass profitable in the long run, lowering costs for glass container manufacturers—and benefiting the environment.
Glass containers for food and beverages are 100% recyclable, but not with other types of glass. Other kinds of glass, like windows, ovenware, Pyrex, crystal, etc. are manufactured through a different process. If these materials are introduced into the glass container manufacturing process, they can cause production problems and defective containers.
Color sorting makes a difference, too. Glass manufacturers are limited in the amount of mixed color-cullet (called “3 mix”) they can use to manufacture new containers. Separating recycled container glass by color allows the industry to ensure that new bottles match the color standards required by glass container customers.
Some recycled glass containers are not able to be used in the manufacture of new glass bottles and jars or to make fiberglass. This may be because there is too much contamination or the recycled glass pieces are too small to meet manufacturing specifications. Or, it may be that there is not a nearby market for bottle-to-bottle recycling. This recovered glass is then used for non-container glass products. These “secondary” uses for recycled container glass can include tile, filtration, sand blasting, concrete pavements and parking lots.
The recycling approach that the industry favors is any recycling program that results in contaminant-free recycled glass. This helps ensure that these materials are recycled into new glass containers. While curbside collection of glass recyclables can generate high participation and large amounts of recyclables, drop-off and commercial collection programs tend to yield higher quality recovered container glass.
I do think that if you need to consume products that are packed, please consider the type of packaging that it comes in. It may cost a little more to buy the glass jar of mustard instead of the plastic bottle, but our oceans are riddled with plastic trash that gets lost through the transportation process or even dumped carelessly. Eventually, it will get back to us and then there will have to be a whole new strategy for us to figure out how to not consume plastic from the animals that accidentally consume it first. It is a nightmare loop, but we can either take preventative measures or create ways to try to exit it.
The electronics recycling process has always left me wondering if all of our electronics gets recycled properly. There are so many bits and parts to electronics, it’s hard to believe that there would be no trash leftover to end up in the landfill. In recent years, with documentaries revealing where our old electronic end up, it’s a bit discouraging for me to invest in any new electronics. Although it’s an uncomfortable reality, I prefer to be informed more than leave my understanding in the hands of the media or brush it off. I like to find out truths no matter how painful it can be. This knowledge also helps me shape the decisions in my life so that I can make more informed decisions for my home and family in the future. I thought I would post some information and facts about electronic waste for anyone who might want to know the ugly truth.
Electronics are Difficult To Recycle
Recycling electronics isn’t like recycling cardboard. These products are not easy to recycle. Proper and safe recycling often costs more money than the materials are worth. Why?
Electronics are not designed for recycling
Materials used and physical designs make recycling challenging. While companies claim to offer “green electronics,” we are a far way from truly green products.
Many electronic products are designed for the dump. They have short-life spans, or become obsolete quickly. They are often expensive to repair, and sometimes it’s difficult to find parts. Many consumer-grade electronics products are cheaper to replace than to fix even if you can find someone to fix it. Because they are designed using many hazardous compounds, recycling these products involves processing toxic material streams, which is never 100% safe.
Some of the problematic toxic materials that must be removed before recycling are lead in cathode ray tube (CRT) TV monitors and mercury lamps in LCD screens, as well as PVC, flame retardants, and other toxic additives in plastic components..
Before electronics companies can make the claim that they are green and sustainable, they must shift away from producing “disposable” products designed with a limited lifespan (planned obsolescence) and towards products that are designed to last. Instead of purchasing products with high failure rates and the need for frequent replacement, we should be able to choose long-living, upgradeable goods that have long warranties and can be efficiently repaired and recycled
Electronics contain many toxic materials
Monitors and televisions made with tubes (not flat panels) have between 4 and 8 pounds of lead in them. Most of the flat panel monitors and TV’s being recycled now contain less lead, but more mercury, from their mercury lamps. About 40% of the heavy metals, including lead, mercury and cadmium, in landfills come from electronic equipment discards.
Discarded Electronics Are Managed Badly = Most e-waste still goes in the landfill
The EPA estimates that in 2011, the US generated nearly 3.4 million TONS of e-waste. But only about 25% of that was collected for recycling. The other 75% went to landfills and incinerators, despite the fact that hazardous chemicals in them can leach out of landfills into groundwater and streams, or that burning the plastics in electronics can emit dioxin.
Most Recyclers Don’t Recycle, They Export
And what about the 25% that is supposedly recycled? Most recycling firms take the low road, exporting instead of recycling. A large amount of e-waste that is collected for recycling is shipped overseas for dismantling under horrific conditions, poisoning the people, land, air, and water in China, other Asian nations and to Ghana and Nigeria in western Africa.
When we drop off our old computers at an e-waste collection event, or have a recycler come and get them from our offices, we want to believe that the recycler is going to do the right thing: to reuse them if possible, and handle them in ways that are safe for workers and the environment. Electronics contain many toxic chemicals, and so a responsible recycler is one that is making sure that he – and the other vendors he may sell parts or materials to – is managing all aspects of the business as safely as possible..
Global e-Waste Dumping
The problem is that many electronics recyclers don’t actually recycle the electronics they collect from us. They can make more money by selling old electronic products to exporting waste traders than by processing it here in the U.S. Traders send it to developing countries where workers earn extremely low wages (often a few dollars per day) and where health and safety and environmental laws, enforcement, infrastructure and citizens’ rights are very weak.
Simply stated, we are solving our e-waste problem by exporting it to poor countries around the globe.
In these countries, the e-waste ends up in backyard recycling operations, often literally behind peoples’ homes. One example is Guiyu, China, an area where a lot of our e-waste goes. They use crude and unsafe methods of taking apart our old computers and TVs to get to and remove the metals, which they can sell, causing great harm in the process. These dangerous practices include:
Bashing open cathode ray tubes with hammers, exposing the toxic phosphor dust inside.
Cooking circuit boards in woks over open fires to melt the lead solder, breathing in toxic lead fumes.
Burning wires in open piles to melt away the plastics (to get at the copper inside).
Burning the plastic casings, creating dioxins and furans – some of the most poisonous fumes you can breathe.
Throwing the unwanted (but very hazardous) leaded glass into former irrigation ditches
Dumping pure acids and dissolved heavy metals directly into their rivers.
These horrific working conditions plus weak labor standards in China and many of the other developing countries where e-waste is sent, mean that women and children are often directly exposed to lead and other hazardous materials.
How much e-waste do we export each year?
There have been no rigorous studies of exactly how much e-waste we export to developing nations. Industry experts estimate that of the e-waste that recyclers collect, roughly 50-80 % of that ends up getting exported to developing nations. That would mean that we export enough e-waste each year to fill 5126 shipping containers (40 ft x 8.5 ft). If you stacked them up, they’d reach 8 miles high – higher than Mt Everest, or commercial flights.
I question the honesty of how items are recycled (especially electronics) and to be more informed is always better. The next series of posts I’m going to post up with cover a small section of the majority of materials that are deemed recyclable. Although the concept of recycling seems like a savior process for all items- it really isn’t. There are uncomfortable truths that the public is not informed about. I hope these next posts will be helpful for those who are seeking more information.
In a nutshell, batteries vary in how they are recycled. Batteries range from lead acid based to alkaline, lithium ion, nickel, zinc and even mercury batteries. Here is an overall information haul about the variety of them but I also included links to some recycling processes under the infographics above. I always hear mixed reviews as to what actually happens to batteries when we recycle them and this is why I thought I should post some information. I tend to use more alkaline and lithium batteries in my day to day life, so those infographics apply more to me. Hopefully this will bring some more information to you as you come into contact with your day to day electronics that use batteries.
Lead Acid– The battery is broken apart in a hammer mill, a machine that hammers the battery into pieces. The broken battery pieces are then placed into a vat, where the lead and heavy materials fall to the bottom and the plastic floats. At this point, the polypropylene pieces are scooped away and the liquids are drawn off, leaving the lead and heavy metals. Each of the materials goes into a different recycling “stream”.
Plastic- Polypropylene pieces are washed, blown dry and sent to a plastic recycler where the pieces are melted together into an almost liquid state. The molten plastic is put through an extruder that produces small plastic pellets of a uniform size. The pellets are put back into manufacturing battery cases and the process begins again.
Lead- Lead grids, lead oxide and other lead parts are cleaned and heated within smelting furnaces. The molten melted lead is then poured into ingot molds. After a few minutes, the impurities float to the top of the still molten lead in the ingot molds. These impurities are scraped away and the ingots are left to cool. When the ingots are cool, they’re removed from the molds and sent to battery manufacturers, where they’re re-melted and used in the production of new batteries.
Sulfuric Acid- Old battery acid can be handled in two ways:
The acid is neutralized with an industrial compound similar to household baking soda. Neutralization turns the acid into water. The water is then treated, cleaned, tested in a wastewater treatment plant to be sure it meets clean water standards.
The acid is processed and converted to sodium sulfate, an odorless white powder that’s used in laundry detergent, glass and textile manufacturing.Lead acid batteries are closed-loop recycled, meaning each part the the old batteries is recycled into a new battery. It is estimated that 98% of all lead acid batteries are recycled.
Alkaline batteries– Alkaline batteries such as (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) are recycled in a specialized “room temperature,” mechanical separation process where the battery components are separated into three end products. These items are a zinc and manganese concentrate, steel, and paper, plastic and brass fractions. All of these products are put back into the market place for reuse in new products to offset the cost of the recycling process. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Lithium Ion– Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Nickel-Cadmium- Prior to the recycling process, plastics are separated from the metal components. The metals are then recycled via a high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) process during which all of the high temperature metals contained within the battery feedstock (i.e. nickel, iron, manganese, and chromium) report to the molten-metal bath within the furnace, amalgamate, then solidify during the casting operation. The low-melt metals (i.e. zinc and cadmium) separate during the melting. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Nickel Metal Hydride– Prior to the recycling process, the plastics are removed from the cell portion. The cells go through a drying process to remove moisture (potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte and H2O) from the cells. The drying process heats the cells in a time and temperature controlled manner via a proprietary and proven formula. Once these cells are dried they become a valuable feedstock for the stainless steel and or alloy manufacturing industries. The metals and plastic are then returned to be reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Lithium Batteries– The contents of the batteries are exposed using a shredder or a high-speed hammer depending on battery size. The contents are then submerged in caustic (basic not acidic) water. This caustic solution neutralizes the electrolytes, and ferrous and non-ferrous metals are recovered. The clean scrap metal is then sold to metal recyclers to offset the cost of recycling these batteries. The solution is then filtered. The carbon is recovered and pressed into moist sheets of carbon cake. Some of the carbon is recycled with cobalt. The lithium in the solution (lithium hydroxide) is converted to lithium carbonate, a fine white powder. What results is technical grade lithium carbonate, which is used to make lithium ingot metal and foil for batteries. It also provides lithium metal for resale and for the manufacture of sulfur dioxide batteries.
Mercury Batteries– The batteries and heavy metals are recovered through a controlled-temperature process. It’s important to note: the percentage of mercuric oxide batteries is decreasing since the passage of the Mercury-Containing Rechargeable Battery Management Act (The Battery Act) of 1996. This act prohibits, or otherwise conditions, the sale of certain types of mercury-containing batteries (i.e., alkaline manganese, zinc carbon, button cell mercuric-oxide and other mercuric-oxide batteries) in the United States.
Zinc-Carbon– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Zinc-Air– Zinc-carbon (AAA, AA, C, D, 9V, etc.) and zinc-air batteries are recycled in the same way as alkaline batteries or by using high temperature metal reclamation (HTMR) method to melt the metals. These metals are then reused in new products. These batteries are 100% recycled.
Trying to create zero trash for my cat is almost impossible. I’ve tried, but due to some medical conditions, it’s virtually impossible. I have a male cat and he was neutered when he was younger. Unfortunately, male cats who are neutered, are more prone to urinary tract infections and therefore, require special diet food that has a low sodium content. Also, in order for him to not develop another urinary tract infection, he needed fresh water constantly. We bought him a small drinking fountain which he helped himself to. These two requirements produced empty tin cans of cat UTI management food as well as charcoal filters.
As he aged, he developed Diabetes and requires insulin shots twice a day. This required insulin medication as well as insulin needles. He’s a large cat, but he’s always been a large cat so weight gain was his genetic default. Lucky for us, he’s always been an indoor and outdoor cat, so he always used the backyard as his giant toilet. But with him being an indoor and outdoor cat, he required flea medication. I’ve been asked “Why don’t you just make him an indoor cat? It would cut back on the flea medication trash that you produce.” But forcing an animal to stay inside when we clearly have outdoor roaming space for him seemed unnatural to me. I wanted him to roam free and go play outside when we weren’t home. So the diabetes and flea medication produced tin cans of glucose management food, insulin needles, insulin medication and the flea applicators.
Over the years, he also got into a few fights with other cats or raccoons that roamed the neighborhood. For those special occasions, he required medication and sometimes even surgery which produced trash as well. I usually return the pill bottles and jars to the veterinarian so they can dispose of it. I’m lucky that I live in an area that allows free medical waste dumping, and even if I didn’t, I know my veterinarian will collect the medical waste from his patients for a small fee.
As for toys, he never loved to play with a lot of toys. In fact, he really only likes his catnip pillow, shoelaces and metal chain necklaces . I had a catnip plant that I grew for him awhile back and once in awhile, I would dry the catnip leaves and compost the old catnip. I would then refill his pillow with new dry catnip. Unfortunately he liked it so much that he would lay on it and eventually crushed the life out of it. That too went into the compost bin. I’m lucky that he’s easily entertained. He also never wanted his own bed, he always just adopted any place in the house to sleep.
Urinary Tract Infection Medical History = Prescription Diet c/d canned food & Filtered water with charcoal filters
Diabetes II Medical History= Glucose Management m/d canned food, insulin needles, insulin medication
Indoor & Outdoor cat = Advantage Flea Medication BUT no litter box
Entertainment = Catnip pillow, but I refill the catnip pillow with fresh catnip. He just likes to play with shoelaces and metal chain necklaces.
So the recyclable items that I do produce are the tin cans of UTI food and diabetic food. His insulin medication, insulin needles and other medications are also recycleable, but considered medical waste recycling. The charcoal filters and advantage flea medication are the items that do end up in the landfill. I actually have a separate jar of trash that comes from owning a cat. He also no longer uses the water fountain that used the charcoal filters, he requests fresh water from the faucet when he’s thirsty with a drawn out meow.
Trying to own a pet and not produce trash from them is quite difficult. I know this much, to take on a pet is a great amount of responsibility and it is not a simple responsibility to ignore. I am not a veterinarian and I do not know what nutrients he needs and the sufficient amount of each nutrient and vitamin, therefore I do not attempt to make cat food on my own. He has very few toys, only wants his catnip pillow, which I will stuff with fresh catnip and compost the old catnip.
I started this journey almost five years ago, so I’ve compiled a nice amount of Advantage Flea Medication applicators for cats as well as charcoal filters. He stopped using the water fountain about three years ago, so he hasn’t produced anymore trash from that. He probably won’t last through the end of this year, but it’s amazing to see how much owning a pet can add to your trash collection. Once you lay it all out and calculate the amount of trash that’s produced, it’s an eye opening realization of what you’re contributing to the landfill.
There are times when producing trash is inevitable. Living a zero waste life and the steps leading up to an efficient zero waste lifestyle will produce at least some trash. One way or another, it’s not necessarily a crushing result. If you can find a way to get an efficient zero waste lifestyle routine without producing trash, then that’s great, but for those who are attempting it, and may get frustrated with the goal of ‘no trash’ in mind and yet that is the result; don’t be too hard on yourself.
When I started this journey, there were a lot of blog posts talking about how those people and households were living efficient zero waste lifestyles, but no one talked about the journey and mistakes it took to get there. I even wrote a blog post about what to do first if you want to start this lifestyle, Seven Tips To Begin A Zero Waste Life. I made mistakes as I started this journey as well. My mistakes included testing out products that were recommended, which I discovered to be inefficient, as well as starting out using one product and finding new, package-free versions of the product later on. I still haven’t found solutions for certain products such as my hair ties and am still on the hunt for certain ingredients in bulk to make certain condiments.
The whole point of this journey is to find that happy medium where you can live that efficient zero waste lifestyle and that you’re content with it. Moving forward and making progress is always good. Even if you don’t make great strides everyday. The desire is to at least take positive and productive steps towards this lifestyle. There will be critics, there will be naysayers, but progress is key. Keep growing and evolving as you venture further along this zero waste journey.
When I go out to eat, I will bring along a 3-tier Tiffin Carrier or a 2-tier Tiffin Carrier, depending on the type of restaurant I’m going to. If the dishes at the restaurant tend to contain large portions or give a variety in the meal, I’ll take the larger carrier. If the restaurant serves very simple and small dishes, or if I know that there will be a small amount to take home, due to habits, then I’ll bring along the smaller carrier. These carriers are very useful for separating different flavors of foods when desired and it also helps if you’re bringing home leftovers from different people, that way, no one gets their dishes mixed up and there’s no need for separate boxes.
When I first started using the tiffin carrier, I would hide it in my large shoulder bag, and at the end of the meal, I’d basically bust it out. There was a level of awkwardness to this action, but my family understood my intentions. It’s not necessary to use a box JUST for transport from the restaurant to home. I think that’s a waste, because you don’t need that extra box in the first place. You can always move the food from the carrier tray, onto tupperware and heat up later to eat. That extra disposable box from the restaurant to our home is only use for transportation. Granted, you may find a use for the disposable box later, but overall, trash is still being produced and manufactured for this simple step.
I do have two small separate sauce containers that came with the tiffin carriers, but I rarely use them. They’re also made of metal and the lid doesn’t have a tight seal, but I don’t really “bring home sauces”. I usually just pour whatever sauce from my meal right onto the food I’m bringing home. It’s one extra piece of the carrier set that I’d rather use for containing spices or other items at home.
I think these tiffin carriers are a great way of transporting leftover dishes anywhere. You can even pack lunches or small sets of meals in these if you wanted to. You can technically use these carriers for just about everything that involves a lot of smaller pieces. I actually use one as my sewing kit, which I’ll give you the link to right here, My Sewing Kit.
You may feel awkward in the beginning when using these, I certainly did. But it’s all for a good cause and you won’t produce that extra piece of trash (which can’t be recycled due to the oils and food particles stuck to it). You’ll save one less item to throw away which will end up in the landfill.