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Sustainability

Category Archive: Waste

Recycle Your RECHARGABLE Batteries and Old Cell Phones

Do you have some no longer recharging rechargable batteries or did you replace a cell phone over the holiday break? If so, you have a simple on-campus option to recycle both of these. Our Environmental Health office has set up a number of recycling stations around campus to drop off these items for proper recycling. Just bring in your items, place them in the provided plastic bag, and deposit in the box. Simple!

Locations to find these specialized recycling boxes are:

  • Cofrin Library, 3rd floor
  • Operations Office (IS 1204)
  • HVAC Shop (IS 1067)
  • Grounds (PP 102)
  • Environmental Health office, CL 823

Starbucks Introduces $1 Reusable Cup to Cut Down on Waste

from CNN.com; posted Jan. 3, 2013

Starting Thursday (Jan. 3), Starbucks customers will have the option to save their planet – and their wallets – a dime at a time. The coffee giant is offering $1 plastic cups, which can be reused for drink purchases at a discount of ten cents.

Jim Hanna, the director of environmental affairs at Starbucks, told USA Today that while the company has sold reusable tumblers for some time and offered the ten cent discount, he expects that the modest price of its new one, available at company-owned stores in the U.S. and Canada, will encourage customers to take action more frequently. The new effort comes largely in response to consumer criticism over the volume of paper coffee cup waste – approximately 4 billion cups globally each year – generated by Starbucks.

The responsibility section of Starbucks’ website details the company’s effort to work with vendors and local authorities to get more of its paper cups recycled, and to host recurring “Cup Summits” collaborating on the issue with industry leaders from MIT, Tim Horton’s, Georgia-Pacific and Action Carting Environmental Services. By 2015, Starbucks plans to have front-of-store recycling in all its company-owned locations.

According to a 2011 report issued by Starbucks, that year, customers used personal tumblers more than 34  million times – nearly 2% of all beverages served in global company-owned stroes. While this represented a 55% incrase in personal tumbler use from 2008′s tally, Starbucks admitted to challenges in tracking cup use both in and away from their stores, and reduced the company’s goal of 25% reusable cups by 2015 to 5%.

The reusable cups are made in China, and have fill lines inside denoting “tall,” “grande,” and “venti”-sized drinks. The cups will be rinsed with boiling water by Starbucks employees before they’re refilled, reducing the risk of cross-contamination, but a least one more challenge remains: will customers actually remember to bring them into the store?

Remember…you get a much better deal when you bring a reusable mug to the Common Grounds on campus for a cup of joe – no measly dime, but 25% off the purchase price!

The True Cost of Clothing

Published on Greenbiz.com, Dec. 12, 2012; Author: Richard Mattison

“Past True Cost columns have relied on generic product data. This month, we provide a case study based on actual product data following the work PUMA has done to identify the environmental price tag of its products.

PUMA wanted to understand whether its efforts to develop more sustainable clothing products had in fact been making a positive difference after all environmental impacts across the full product lifecycle had been taken into account.

The PUMA Product Enviromental Profit and Loss (EP&L) analysis compares a pair of PUMA’s conventional Suede sneakers versus a pair of PUMA’s soon-to-be-launched biodegradable InCycle Basket sneakers.

The analysis takes account of the environmental impacts caused by greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, waste and air pollution, as well as the use of natural resources such as water and land along the entire value chain, from the generation of raw materials and production processes to the consumer phase where the product is used, washed, dried, ironed and ultimately discarded.

The results of this analysis confirm that PUMA’s focus in creating a sustainable footwear alternative was not in vain. The enviromental impacts of the conventional PUMA Suede sneaker amounted to €4.29 ($5.61) per pair, while those of the InCycle basket sneaker were only €2.95 ($3.86) – around a third less environmental damage across the product lifecycle.

How was this acheived?

Previous EP&L analysis of PUMA’s operations and supply chain identified that its environmental impacts were mainly concentrated in the raw material production and processing tiers of PUMA’s supply chain. This provided important focus areas for environmental optimization.

Greenhouse gases. Substituting the conventional PUMA Suede leather uppers for a combination organic cotton and linen led to significant GHG savings for the InCycle sneaker, as the GHGs associated with rearing cattle for leather production far exceed those related to cotton farming. Further GHG savings resulted from a switch to organic cotton which avoids the use of GHG-intensive synthetic fertilizers. And finally at the end-of-life, the InCycle Basket has the lowest GHG emissions because it is 100 percent compostable, whereas the traditional PUMA Suede is not currently recyclable and cannot be composted due to chemicals used in the production of the Suede. The PUMA Suede will ultimately end up in a landfill or incinerator.

All tallied, GHG emissions from the production, consumer use and end-of-life of the PUMA InCycle sneaker cause around 35 percent less environmental costs from GHG emissions than the conventional PUMA Suede.

Water. The InCycle sneaker outperformed the PUMA Suede with 21 percent less water consumption. This can be linked directly to leather, which requires more water during the tanning and processing phase than cotton. The PUMA InCycle sneaker does, however, have a higher water cost during the raw material phase since organic cotton farming is more intensive than cattle ranching.

Land Use. Choosing which country products and services are sourced from has a direct impact on land use valuation, since this relates to the types of ecosystems that are affected. The analysis found that the InCycle sneaker has a 20 percent reduced enviromental cost from land use because a far larger area of agricultural land is required for the production of leather, in particular related to cattle farming, than for the production of cotton.

Waste.  When analyzing waste generation throughout the product life-cycle, the InCycle sneaker creates approximately one third of what the PUMA Suede generates. The main savings are at the raw-material production and processing stages, where cotton generates far less waste than leather. Additionally, due to the compostable nature of the PUMA InCycle, there aren’t any environmental costs associated with waste at end-of-life.

Air Pollution. The PUMA InCycle sneaker has a 14 percent higher environmental cost related to air pollution than the PUMA Suede because the energy required to convert cotton into thread and weave it into fabric is higher than the energy necessary to process leather.

However, applying a financial value to these competing environmental costs quickly revealed that the negative air pollution impacts were easily offset by the much more significant savings in other areas.

Focusing on Waste

To clear the waste that 100,000 pairs of conventional sneakers cause during the production process and the consumer life, 31 waste disposal trucks are needed. Now consider this against the billions of sneakers made each year – around 21 billion pairs in 2011 alone – and you will begin to see the tip of the iceberg of what needs to change.”

To read more and understand the impact of true cost accounting, read the rest of the article here.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle for the Holidays

Tis’ the season for gift-giving, gift-receiving and, as a consequence, waste generation. Here’s some tips to consider that will put a greener-tinge to your holiday season.

  • Many thousands of paper and plast shopping bags end up in landfills every year. Reduce the number of bags thrown out by bringing reusable bags for holiday gift shopping. Tell store clerks you don’t need a bag for small or oversized purchases.
  • Wrap gifts in recycled or reused wrapping paper or funny papers. Or use a used brown grocery bag you/your kids decorate for the occassion. Also remember to save or recycle used wrapping paper.
  • Give a gift card. More than two-thirds of American consumers purchase at least one gift card as a holidy present for a loved one. They’re appreciated, they never expire, and they require no fancy gift-wrapping.
  • Say “Happy Holidays” over the phone or internet. An estiamted 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high. If every family reduced thier mailing list by just one card, the nationw ould save 50,000 cubic yards of paper. If you have Internet access, consider sending electronic holiday cards this year. Check the selection at commercial sites like hallmark.com, bluemountain.com, or 123christmascards.com.  You can also check charitable support groups like care2.com or conservation groups like The Nature Conservancy.
  • Repurpose old holiday cards – donate your old cards to a nursery or day care center for arts and crafts projects. Or, cut up cards to be used as gift tags, bookmarks, greeting cards, placemats, or decorations. Used cards, especially those with large pictures to cut out, can also be used as decorations. Just put a hole at the top of the card and knot a piece of string to lace through the hole to hang on next year’s Christmas tree, door handles, etc.
  • Recycle that tree. Nationwide, an estimated 15 million used Christmas trees end up in landfills. Remember to recycle trees locally or turn them into mulch for water conservation and weed control in the garden. Reuse branches to make colorful holiday wreaths and separate the pine needles from tree branches to create tree-scented sachet bags. Or, consider an artificial tree or a “living” tree that can be replanted in the yard.
  • Make room for new gadgets and toys. Outgrown toys, clothes and furniture may be donated to charitable groups like Goodwill Industries, The Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, or many local shelters and thrift stores.
  • Shopping for a new cell phone? Americans ten to upgrade their cell phones every 18 to 24 months, and the U.S. EPA estimates Americans discard 125 million old cell phones annually, creating 65,000 tons of waste. What’s more, the old phones contain hazardous materials- including mercury, cadmium, and arsenic – that cannot be accepted at landfills. Look up cell phone recycling on the Internet and you’ll get back both sites where you can sell your phone as well as organizations that gratefully accept your old cell phone donation.
  • Buy reusable batteries. About 40 percent of all battery sales occur during the holiday season. Consider purchasing rechargeable batteries instead as they can be used again and again. And don’t forget:  at the end of their life, rechargeable batteries need to be properly recycled and not discarded in the trash. Check out call2recycle.org for battery recycling locations in the area.  
  • Consider the durability of a product before you buy it as a gift. Cheaper, less durable items often wear out quickly, creating waste and costing you money.
  • When buying gifts, check product labels to determine an item’s recyclability and whether it is made from recycled materials. Buying recycled encourages manufacturers to make more recycled-content products available.
  • Turn off or unplug holiday lights during the day. Doing so will not only save energy, but will also help your lights last longer.
  • Recycle packing peanuts. Check with local postal shipping stores to see if they will accept foam peanuts for recycling. Call “The Peanut Hotline” at 800-828-2214 to find the nearest location, or check the Plastic Loose Fill Council website for a drop-off location near you.

Sources:  U.S. EPA and Cal Recycle

Garbage Glut: Each of Us Toss Out 7 Pounds of Trash a Day, Spending Billions to Manage It

Read the following excerpt published in The Wall Street Journal by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Edward Humes. Click HERE to read the entire article. Humes’ book, “Garbology” was recently published.

“Each week, we push our trash to the curb, and it seemingly disappears. But where does it all go: the spent cartons of milk, the computer keyboard fried by spilled coffee, those empty dog food cans?

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology decided to find out. In 2009, they began attaching transmitter chips to thousands of pieces of ordinary garbage. They tossed this “smart trash” into the bin, sat back and watched the tortuous, disturbing path that our garbage often takes: the meanderings of electronic waste as it headed for distant shores, of ratty old sneakers that ran the equivalent of a dozen marathons, of printer cartridges that transversed the continent not once but twice on the road to recycling.

This clever experiment threw a spotlight on the biggest, costliest, dirtiest secret about our garbage: our ignorance of how much we produce, what it contains and what happens to it once it leaves our hands.

Take the nation’s official trash tally – used alike by environmentalists, buisnesses and policy makers – which maintains that the average American tosses out 4.4 pounds of trash a day, with about a third getting recycled and the rest going to landfills. These numbers are found in the Environmental Protection Agency’s exhaustive annual compendium “Municipal Solid Waste in the United States” – America’s trash Bible – and are determined by an array of byzantine estimates and simulations, based on manufacturing data and the life expectancy of products.

But the EPA’s “materials flow analysis” dates back to the bad old days when there were 10 times the number of town dumps and many more illegal ones, with little actual weighing and regulation. Today the business model of the landfill and recycling business depends on precise measurement (and billing per ton), so we have much  more real-world data. Using these sources, the most recent survey conducted by Columbia University and the trade journal BioCycle found that Americans actually throw out much more than the EPA estimates, a whopping 7.1 pounds a day, and that less than a quarter of it gets recycled.

So how does America’s trash weigh in? Here are some key numbers from the emerging science of garbology: 

  • At 7.1 pounds of trash a day, each of us is on track to produce a staggering 102 tons of waste in an average lifetime.
  • Trash has become America’s leading export: mountains of waste paper, soiled cardboard, crushed beer cans and junked electronics. China’s No. 1 export to the U.S. is computers, according to the Journal of Commerce. The United States’ No. 1 export to China, by number of cargo containers, is scrap.
  • American communities on average spend more money on waste management than on fire protection, parks and recreation, libraries or schoolbooks, according to U.S. Census data on municipal budgets.

As these snapshots suggest, garbage costs are staggering. New York City alone spent $2.2 billion on sanitation in 2011. According to the city’s department of sanitation, more than $300 million of that was just for transporting its citizens’ trash by train and truck – 12,000 tons a day – to out-of-state landfills, some as far as 300 miles away. How much is 12,000 tons a day? That’s like throwing away 62 Boeing 747 jumbo jets daily, or driving 8,730 new Honda Civics into a landfill each morning.”

Read the rest of this WSJ article HERE.

 Some final facts on Our Annual Waste (from Garbology)

  • 19 billion pounds of polystyrene peanuts
  • 40 billion plastic knives, forks and spoons
  • 28 billion pounds of food
  • Enough steel to level and restore Manhattan
  • Enough plastic film to shrink-wrap Texas

Friday Factoids: Food Waste

  • How much food we throw out:  Vegetables are the most commonly wasted food in the average American home. Each home throws out $92 of fruits and vegetables a year.
  • Why we buy too much: It’s counterintuitive – People tend to overestimate what they need at the store when they are well-stocked at home, research shows.
  • What an average U.S. family of four spends on food each year that ends up in the garbage:  $500 to $2,000.
  • Fruit and juices make up 16% of trash in a home. (trash = avoidable waste)
  • Milk and yogurt make up 13% of trash.
  • Vegetables make up 25% of trash.
  • Grains make up 14% of trash.

Source:  “Leftovers: Tasty or Trash? With Food Prices High, There’s Guilt About Waste But Dread of the Reheated Dinner” by Sarah Nassauer, Wall Street Journal, Wednesday, March 21, 2012.