The Problem With Disposable Chopsticks

11.17.2016

0800

The world’s fast growing appetite for Asian food has a lot to do with both population growth and economic development on the continent. Demand has soared in China, where GDP per capita has increased more than ten fold since 2000, and also in Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia. The long-standing myth that disposable chopsticks are produced with scrap wood products just isn’t true. In fact, an estimated 25+ million mature tree (each usually over 20 years old) are logged each year just to make chopsticks that are used once and then thrown away. The statistics behind disposable chopsticks are surprising:

  • In China, about 57 billion pairs of wooden disposable chopsticks are made each year. They’re made from cottonwood, birch, spruce and bamboo.
  • Half of these disposables are used within China itself. Of the other half, 77 percent are exported to Japan, and South Korea.
  • With China’s 1.3 billion people, in one year, they go through roughly 45 billion pairs of the throwaway utensils; that averages out to nearly 130 million pairs of chopsticks a day. (The export market accounts for 18 billion pairs annually.
  • Globally, about 1.4 billion people throw away 80 billion pairs of disposable chopsticks each year
  • In the U.S., Americans threw out 31 million tons of plastic — including plastic utensils — in 2010, making up 12.4 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 8 percent of that plastic waste was recovered from recycling.

The impact of so many discarded chopsticks is of course unsustainable. With China now the world’s largest importer of wood, governmental organizations are aware that the nation cannot sustain the level of deforestation needed to manufacture so many throwaway products. In 2006 China imposed a 5% tax on disposable chopsticks, a move which resulted in a drop in manufacturing.

Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours. Think here of a forest larger than Tiananmen Square — or 100 American football fields — being sacrificed every day. That works out to roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year.

The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group noted that only 4,000 chopsticks can be created from a 20-year-old tree, 2 million of which were being cut down each year to produce them.

Then there are the restaurants. The alternative to wooden disposables is sterilizing the tableware (plastic, metal or durable wood chopsticks) after each use. But the cost differential is significant: Disposables run about a penny apiece, while sterilization ranges from 15 to 70 cents. Restaurants, especially the low-end ones, worry about passing the costs on to customers. And the worry would seem to be warranted: Consumer advocacy groups from 21 Chinese cities published an open letter in March arguing that the costs of sterilization should not be passed on to consumers as the food safety law obligates restaurants to provide free, clean and safe tableware.

Here’s the kicker:

Disposable chopsticks are made by boiling them in toxic chemicals. Disposable chopsticks tend to be consistent in color. The exact same color. This is due to the manufacturing process. Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative on the wood. It’s used to create a consistent color and texture throughout the products.

In 2005, a Chinese consumer council warned that sulfur dioxide from throwaway chopsticks was connected with an increase in asthma and respiratory problems. Sulfur dioxide is a toxic gas and source of air pollution. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide can be used in the wine making process, sometimes even in preserving dried fruits. Technically, you’re not consuming your wood chopsticks, so it doesn’t count?

The most environmentally friendly option is to stick with metal chopsticks — Korea’s preference in utensils — but they can be quite weighty and slippery to use for beginners. You can also buy a set of formal chopsticks with a carrying case, and use those.

Out of all the animal protein options available, I tend to favor fish. My friends and family are also big sushi fans. Whenever we go out we tend to chose sushi diners to indulge ourselves with. (Good thing is that sushi fills us up quickly.) Almost every sushi restaurant I’ve ever been to, uses disposable wooden chopsticks. I always felt bad for using these chopsticks because I know that all of these chopsticks will end up in the landfill. For this reason, I added a pair of chopsticks to my travel utensil bag. It is a bit odd to pull it out during dinner at times, but then again, making waves is always odd in the beginning. Maybe I’ll just invest in a set of metal chopsticks instead. Also…. don’t eat your chopsticks.

The Simple Route To Less Trash

11.01.2016

0800

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The route to the zero waste lifestyle is quite simple. As you can see from the illustration above, this route can have nine stops along the way. Even with nine stops, some of these steps can be combined with one another being as the actions follow one another quite closely. The beginning of the journey is a little difficult because you’re still unprepared to get rid of your wasteful items and you haven’t bought items to replace the functional use. To prepare for this, I do suggest you examine what you ABSOLUTELY NEED in your daily routines and then find/purchase products that will compensate easily. Here is a simple outline of how you can get started:

  1. Simplify:
    Edit your belongings. Understand your true wants and needs. This can be in a list form or simply going through each day and examining each routine you go through.
  2. Refuse:
    Refuse single-use disposable items. That’s anything you use once and then dispose of it. This can easily be done because all you really have to do is say no.
  3. Bring your own:
    Have durables to keep single-use plastics away. Items like a reusable bag, straw, tumbler and water bottle. Always bring these items items wherever you go. I’ve been stuck a few times in situations where I did not pack all of my utensils (reusable cup, fork, spoon and metal straw) because I didn’t think I’d run into situations where I would need them.
  4. Whole Foods:
    Become resourceful with food by learning to make easy & quick meals from unprocessed and unpackaged foods. I like to make simple meals from whole produce combined with food I buy from the bulk bins. I don’t like spending a lot of time cooking, so my grocery list is pretty repetitive and simple.
  5. Compost:
    Separate your food waste! From backyard to warm composting, don’t let your food scraps go to the landfill! Composting is a great way to divert your foods waste and also create better soil for your garden.
  6. Buy Better & Repair:
    Buy less, buy better. Seek multifunctional, repairable, and lasting products.If you can learn one or two stitches with a needle and thread, you’d be surprised how much longer you can extend the life of your possessions.
  7. Recycle well:
    Recycling is good, but it’s not the solution. Reduce the amount you recycle by reducing  the amount you consume. This is a really good rule because although “recycling” seems like a solution, there’s still energy and resources being put into the recycling plants and not all “recyclable items” are 100% recyclable. Some items cannot be broken down and others have to be picked apart in order to extract the recyclable materials, which means the rest of the materials that made up the item will subsequently go to the landfill. The best solution here is to simply not rely on recycling alone.
  8. Use your voice:
    Kindly use your voice to express how you want products designed and recovered. Give companies businesses and manufacturers incentive to make the change! If you speak up, companies will listen. It may not feel like it or seem like it, but as a consumer, you have the choice to make each time you purchase any item. You’re voice speaks through your actions and that’s pretty loud.
  9. Support the community:
    Get to know your community. Shop local or start a community garden. You can walk, bike, bus, as a means of transportation too. I tend to shop at local stores because I don’t want to purchase items that are simple cookie cutter products. At times, yes, I will need a cookie cutter item such as a power strip or power cord, but majority of the time I don’t. Local businesses do need our support and voice to continue to let them thrive and flourish. Create a change- be the change.

Understanding Recycling Light Bulbs

 

10.20.2016

0800

cfl-recycling-process

Recycling Light Bulbs Link

Trying to understand how light bulbs are recycled takes a little more research on my part. I honestly have never known how recycling centers go about recycling light bulbs. Due to the many different materials that make up light bulbs, I could only guess that the process was tedious. So here is an overall step by step process of the recycling process:

  1. Lamps are sent to the recycling facility
    1. Upon arrival at the recycling facility, lamps are removed from their containers and fed into specialized machine for recycling lamps. The entire process is fully automatic and incorporated in a container in which the air is brought to subpressure, thereby preventing mercury from being released into the environment.
  2. By-product separation
    1. With the aid of a sophisticated patented air transportation system, the phosphor powder is separated in different steps from the glass and metal by-products.
  3. Glass and aluminum stored
    1. Clean glass and aluminum end-caps are separated and stored for re-use.
  4. Mercury is isolated
    1. The mercury bearing powder is collected in distiller barrels beneath the cyclone and the self-cleansing dust filters
  5. Mercury is extracted
    1. The powder is then retorted to drive out the mercury.
  6. Elements are ready for re-use
    1. At the end of the process the glass, metal end-caps, powder, and mercury can all be re-used.
  7. Recycling certificate is issued
    1. Once the materials have been fully processed by the recycling facility, an official Certificate of Recycling will be produced and emailed to you for record keeping.

This is an overall general process of light bulb recycling. As much as you can- please, please recycle these products carefully and appropriately. There are a lot of different materials that go into the production process of producing lamps that can harm the environment and the toxic materials will always come full circle back to us.

Understanding Recycling Glass

10.13.2016

0800

glassreyc

Glass Recycling Process Link

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:

  1. The consumer throws glass into a recycle bin.
  2. Glass is taken from the bin and taken to a glass treatment plant.
  3. The glass is sorted by colour and washed to remove any impurities.
  4. 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.
  5. The glass is then sent back to the shops ready to be used again.
  6. 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.

Understanding Recycling Electronics

 

10.11.2016

0800

ewaste-recycling-process

Electronic Waste Link

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.

  1. Electronics are Difficult To Recycle
    1. 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?
  2. Electronics are not designed for recycling
    1. Materials used and physical designs make recycling challenging. While companies claim to offer “green electronics,” we are a far way from truly green products.
    2. 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.
    3. 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..
    4. 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
  3. Electronics contain many toxic materials
    1. 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.
  4. Discarded Electronics Are Managed Badly = Most e-waste still goes in the landfill
    1. 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.
  5. Most Recyclers Don’t Recycle, They Export
    1. 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.
    2. 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..
  6. Global e-Waste Dumping
    1. 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.
    2. Simply stated, we are solving our e-waste problem by exporting it to poor countries around the globe.

Primitive Processing Contaminates Workers, Residents

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:

  1. Bashing open cathode ray tubes with hammers, exposing the toxic phosphor dust inside.
  2. Cooking circuit boards in woks over open fires to melt the lead solder, breathing in toxic lead fumes.
  3. Burning wires in open piles to melt away the plastics (to get at the copper inside).
  4. Burning the plastic casings, creating dioxins and furans – some of the most poisonous fumes you can breathe.
  5. Throwing the unwanted (but very hazardous) leaded glass into former irrigation ditches
  6. Dumping pure acids and dissolved heavy metals directly into their rivers.
  7. 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.

Understanding Recycling Aluminum Cans

Recycling

10.07.2016

0800

can-recycling-cycle

Aluminum Can Recycling Link

Aluminum seems to be one of the more common materials in the United States in which the public is reminded to recycle consistently. It’s a great material that can be reused and can create a closed loop system if recycled properly.The infographic above shows the lifecycle of an aluminum can from beginning to end.

In a nutshell the process of recycling an aluminum can goes as follows:

  1. The consumer throws aluminium cans and foil into a recycle bin.
  2. The aluminium is then collected and taken to a treatment plant.
  3. In the treatment plant the aluminium is sorted and cleaned ready for reprocessing.
  4. It then goes through a re-melt process and turns into molten aluminium, this removes the coatings and inks that may be present on the aluminium.
  5. The aluminium is then made into large blocks called ingots. Each ingot contains about 1.6 million drinks cans.
  6. The ingots are sent to mills where they are rolled out, this gives the aluminium greater flexibility and strength.
  7. This is then made into aluminium products such as cans, chocolate wrapping and ready meal packaging.
  8. In as little as 6 weeks, the recycled aluminium products are then sent back to the shops ready to be used again.

Some Facts About Aluminum Recycling:

  • It saves 95% of the energy compared to making aluminium from its raw materials (known as primary production).
  • It saves 95% of the greenhouse gas emissions compared to the primary, or smelting, process.
  • It saves raw materials. It reduces the space needed for landfill – where waste is buried in holes in the ground.

If you are a consumer of aluminum cans in your day to day life, please recycle the can or save it to recycle later if there aren’t any recycling locations nearby. It makes a great difference in how we continually use our resources from nature.

Understanding Recycling Batteries

 

10.06.2016

0800

recyclingprocess

Recycling Car Batteries Link

rmc-recycling

Processing Alkaline Batteries Link

electronic-recycling

Recycling Lithium Batteries Link

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.

  1. 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”.
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Sulfuric Acid- Old battery acid can be handled in two ways:
      1. 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.
      2. 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.
  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

Understanding Recycling Plastics

 

09.26.2016

0800

2016-06-29 18.07.48

Know Your Plastics

The Plastic Recycling Process

The plastic recycling process begins with sorting the various items by their resin content. The chart above shows the seven different plastic recycling symbols marked on the bottoms of plastic containers. The recycling mill sorts the used plastics by these symbols and may perform an additional sort based on the color of the plastic.

Once sorted, the plastics are chopped up into small pieces and chunks. These pieces are then cleaned to further remove debris like paper labels, residue from what was inside the plastic, dirt, dust, and other small contaminants.

Once cleaned, certain plastic pieces are melted down and compressed into tiny pellets called nurdles. Once in this state, the recycled plastic pellets are now ready to reuse and fashion into new and completely different products, as recycled plastic is hardly ever used to create the same or identical plastic item of its former self.

Does Recycling Plastics Work?

In a nutshell: yes and no. The plastic recycling process is fraught with flaws. Some of the dyes used in creating the plastic can be contaminated and cause an entire batch of potential recycling material to be scrapped. Additionally, there are still a large percentage of people who refuse to recycle, thus the actual numbers of plastics being returned for reuse is roughly 10% of what is purchased as new by consumers.

Another issue at stake is the fact that producing recycled plastic does not reduce the need for virgin plastic. However, plastic recycling can and does reduce the consumption of other natural resources like timber, due to its use in making composite lumber and many other products.

The 5-Step Process for Plastic Recycling

1. Collection – The recycling facilities gather available recyclable plastic material in their area, such as from roadside collections, special recycling bins, or even directly from industries. In this way, both post-consumer and post-industrial plastic items are collected.
2. Manual sorting – All plastic items that are collected are then sorted according to the various plastic types indicated by the plastic recycling symbols and codes on them. Unwanted non-plastic materials found in the piles are promptly taken out.
3. Chipping – After sorting, the sorted plastic products are prepared for melting by being cut into small pieces. The plastic items are fed into a machine which has sets of blades that slice through the material and break the plastic into tiny bits.
4. Washing – At this step in the process of recycling plastic, all residue of products originally contained in the plastic items and various other ‘contaminants’ (e.g. paper labels, dirt) are removed. A particular wash solution consisting of an alkaline, cationic detergent and water are used to effectively get rid of all the contaminants on the plastic material, making sure that all the plastic bits are clean and ready for the final step.
During washing, the wash tank agitator serves as an abrasive, stripping the adhesive off any labels and shredding any paper mixed in with the plastics. The alkaline, cationic detergent (which is similar to the formulas used in shampoos and fabric softeners) is used because plastic materials have a positive surface charge, and only positively-charged chemical compounds (which in this case are cationic detergents) can properly clean them, and effectively remove dirt and grease from the positively charged plastic surfaces.

5. Pelleting – The cleaned and chipped pieces of plastic are then melted down and put through a machine called an ‘extruder’ in this stage of the recycling plastic process. The extruder shapes the melted plastic into thin noodle-like tubes. The plastic tubes are then cut into small pellets by a set of rotating knives. The pellets are then ready to be reused and remade into new items.

What About the Bag?

Plastic bags go through the same five-step process as other plastic products. They too are sorted into their various plastic types, washed and rinsed. However, in the case of plastic bags, they are chopped rather than chipped. The chopped shreds of plastic bags are then melted down during the pelleting stage.
What’s Next?

The plastic pellets derived from the recycling plastic process are usually sold by the recycling company to other businesses which would then mold the plastic pellets into an assortment of plastic products for various uses. Some products use a combination of recycled plastic pellets and virgin plastic ones.

Composting

07.13.2016

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I have a compost at home and I love adding to it. It’s a great way of how I get rid of my food scraps without adding it to the landfill. Currently I use the Lifetime 65 gallon tumbler, which is large enough to add multiple layers of dry leaves and moist food scraps. The design allows me to rotate the pile so I won’t have to run the pile using a hand tool.

Composting is the process of breaking down or decomposing organic materials for use as an excellent soil amendment. Beneficial bacteria and fungi do their part to return this waste into a form usable once again by plants. These microbes need air, water, food, and heat to thrive. Keeping the microbes “happy” will speed up the process.

There are a few benefits of composting such as:

  • Saves landfill space, as well as, time and gas transporting yard waste.
  • Improves the soil’s ability to retain moisture, reducing watering costs.
  • Provides needed humus and nutrients for healthy plants.

With the Lifetime Compost Tumbler, it:

  1. Hides the messy appearance of a compost pile, and takes less space.
  2. Easily rotates saving time and effort of turning a pile.
  3. Reduces smell by enclosing composting material and providing adequate air supply to maintain desired aerobic microbiological activity.
  4. Helps to maintain proper moisture by shedding rain and shielding compost from drying winds.

First I  chose a location on level grass or dirt where drainage won’t affect pavement and a location where it will be convenient to access for loading. This location also has direct sunlight will help heat up the compost, and then I started adding to create my compost pile. I added:

  1. KITCHEN SCRAPS: like fruit and vegetable peelings, cores, eggshells, and coffee grounds.
  2. LAWN CLIPPINGS: can be returned directly to the lawn with a mulching blade or composted as desired, especially if the grass clippings are too long to be left on the lawn.
  3. LEAVES: can be mowed to reduce their size which will speed up decomposition and increase the amount which will fit in the composter.
  4. WOOD: such as branches must be chipped or shredded in pieces smaller than 1 inch. Saw dust must be resin free i.e. no particle board.
  5. PLANTS: discarded from the garden, straw and hay.
  6. MANURES: from herbivores e.g. cows, rabbits, or chickens. Excessive amounts will also increase the salt content of the compost.

But I don’t add:

  1. Meat, bones, greases, dairy products, or bread which attract pests.
  2. Anything treated with pesticides or herbicides.
  3. Black Walnut leaves which inhibit plant growth.
  4. Oak leaves and pine needles which decompose slowly.
  5. Diseased plants or weeds with seeds.
  6. Pet or human waste.
  7. Plastic, foil, etc.

Usually the compost is done when it becomes dark brown and has an earthy smell. I then add the compost directly to ornamental plants as mulch or work into soil. The composter can easily be dragged after dumping to make room for another pile. I usually dump the compost directly onto the soil underneath it and then move it around accordingly. I hope more people will consider composting as a means to get rid of your foods scraps as opposed to dumping them in the trash. Check with your local trash collection agency or recycling center, some have donation stations or pick up services for compost and/or foods scraps . Some areas will also pay you for your compost as well.