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WASTE WATCHERS BLOG

Helping businesses improve their waste diversion & recycling efforts, one post at a time!

How to Improve Recycling & Sustainability in Schools

A full-scale return to schools is a unique opportunity to create a "new normal" with sustainability at the forefront. And as educators from pre-K to university return to a world of misprints and chaos in the cafeteria, the ability to recycle more materials and curb waste is a curriculum worth exploring.

  Even with personal laptops, Zoom classrooms, and term papers submitted through the cloud, the world of in-person academia won’t break free from collages on construction paper, extracurricular fliers, and securely stapled course syllabuses anytime soon. After the unprecedented school years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a return to primary, secondary, and higher education will signal the resumption of routine consumption on campuses around the country—a cycle known to yield mountains of food waste, paper, cardboard, and plastic during a typical seven-hour school day. Yet, a full-scale return to schools is a unique opportunity to create a "new normal" with sustainability at the forefront. And as educators from pre-K to university return to a world of misprints, basketball hoop waste bins, and chaos in the cafeteria, the ability to recycle more materials and curb waste is a curriculum worth exploring.

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Why Does Hot Weather Make Waste Management More Difficult?

From pests and smells to fires and service delays, the biggest problems for routine waste and recycling service pop up during periods of hot weather.

  Summer is the time to splurge on vacation days, long lunches, and company picnics for many businesses, but there’s no fun in the sun for commercial waste and recycling services. While the postal service might curse the falling of rain, snow, or sleet, the biggest problems for routine waste collection and disposal pop up during the heat. Now, with the historic heat waves of the US and Canada increasing and intensifying, the table is set for unprecedented challenges in waste management. While foul odors, pests, and overflowing trash plague the business side, hot weather wreaks even more havoc on the industry. Dealing with service delays, mechanical failure, and landfills primed like powder kegs, hot weather can turn the process into a real dumpster fire—for everyone involved. However, a little preparation and precaution can make all the difference during the sweltering season, and these are the things your business should know (and prepare for) to beat the heat.

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ABC's of Waste Management: Understanding Terminology and Acronyms

Few industries love slang, acronyms, and abbreviations as much as the waste & recycling industry. Unfortunately, waste haulers and service partners don’t always keep you in the know. Fortunately, RoadRunner has a simplified glossary.

  Few industries love slang, acronyms, and abbreviations as much as the waste & recycling industry. Unfortunately, waste haulers and service partners don’t always pass along the Rosetta Stone to decipher the meaning. From MRFs and APIs to “wishcycling” and “single-stream”, the language used in contracts, invoices, and everyday communication can be downright overwhelming (and sometimes lead to mismatched expectations for your business and its hauler). Fortunately, RoadRunner is in the know and has compiled a glossary of the most foreign and unfamiliar terms for those outside of waste management.

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Why U.S. Cities Are Ending Single-Stream Recycling

For nearly 30 years, Americans have been honeymooning with a recycling system that seems too good to be true. Now, cities are waking up the realities of single-stream and taking action to change how they recycle.

  For nearly 30 years, Americans have been honeymooning with a recycling system that seems too good to be true.  Devised and widely adopted in the 1990s, “single-stream recycling” overhauled the underperforming process, taking our national recycling rate from 10.1% in 1985 to 25.7% in 1995 to nearly 32% in 2005. The convenience and simplicity of single-stream recycling was an easy sell for consumers and commercial businesses alike—whereas all recycling materials could be collected in the same receptacle (we’ve referred to it as “the magic bin”). However, it was the lucrative commodities market (the buyers of post-consumer material) that made single-stream irresistible for cities, municipalities, and the haulers that serve them. So, in 2021, why would any city, municipality, or business elect to do anything differently? Because if you can see past single-stream’s golden façade, you’ll discover that the system stopped working years ago. Now, as U.S. cities grapple with overstuffed warehouses, landfills at capacity, and a mountain of bills where there was once revenue, places like San Francisco, Seattle, and more have added back material streams—and accompanying them, recycling rates that outshine anything achieved by single-stream. As a growing contingent explores a different future, we delve into how single-stream made its mark, why it failed, and the cities finding success in dual-stream, multi-stream, and clean-stream systems.

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Plastic Free July: 4 Tips to Get Started

Plastic Free July is a challenge born out of a simple idea: small changes can have a big impact in addressing plastic pollution. As RoadRunner marks its third year of participation, we saw an opportunity to share our tips, advice, and own industry knowledge on how to make this plastic-free challenge a success for your business.

This post was originally published in July 2020 by Shelby Bell and has been updated. When synthetic plastic was invented in the early 1900s, it was seen as a once-in-a-century innovation that would change society as people knew it. Today, it has become an ecological and societal problem we’ll be dealing with for centuries to come. Plastic is everywhere. According to a 2017 study, researchers estimated the world had created 8.3 billion metric tons of virgin plastic to date. Additionally, over half of all plastics were produced in the past two decades, with some estimates suggesting production could double from today’s figures (currently around 368 million metric tons/year) by 2050. Developed for practical purposes like electrical insulation and car parts, its creators couldn’t have envisioned how ingrained with everyday life plastics would become, nor could they imagine a future where consumers would throw away their life’s work after a single use. Single-use and “disposable” plastics—such as thin plastic film for packaging, lightweight water bottles, and durable plastic bags—account for roughly 50% of all modern production. Designed with convenience in mind, there’s often no second thought as to what comes next for the products. That’s why, globally, less than 9% of all plastics are recycled. Looking deeper, despite being plastic’s most easily recyclable polymers, the rate for PET and HDPE (famously used for bottles and bags) barely scratches 15% (by the most favorable estimates). So, where does it go instead? 79% of the world’s plastic now resides in landfills or the natural environment—a crisis many experts suggest is completely out of control. Plastic Free July, a global movement created by Plastic Free Foundation, encourages us to take control back in how we use (or don’t use) single-use plastic. And it’s time for everyone to join in! Breaking your reliance on plastic will be a challenge, so consider the following tips, advice, and activities, a playbook for the habit-breaking, sustainable month to come.

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What is Extended Producer Responsibility?

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is finding acceptance. Read why some companies are embracing this principle, why others aren't, and how your company might apply this concept to its business practices to garner results.

This post was originally published by Shelby Bell in 2020 and has been updated. America has a bit of a problem. In 2020, the EPA set its first-ever National Recycling Goal, aiming to achieve a 50% overall (all-material) recycling rate by 2030. The issue, however, is that since 2005, our progress in that arena has been stagnant. The U.S. has never topped a 35% national recycling rate, and rampant “wishcycling”—the process of adding an item to your recycling bin without knowing if it’s actually recyclable—has led to overall contamination rates soaring over 25%. It’s a problem as complex as, say, your standard juice box. Juice boxes are constructed with three to six layers of paper, plastic, and aluminum, plus a plastic straw wrapped in plastic film affixed to the side with a glob of glue. They are very hard to recycle. As is the nature of big problems in the United States, there has been more than one opinion on how best to tackle tricky recycling challenges (like juice boxes) within the country’s inefficient recycling system. And one of the most hotly debated topics revolves around determining who’s really responsible for making it work. In 2021, with sustainability and environmentalism at the forefront of both consumer and business conversations, there’s a growing movement that believes businesses should be held accountable for their products through product stewardship, a concept known as extended producer responsibility (commonly shortened to “EPR”). Through corporate governance, regulation, and the influence of the consumer, EPR may have a major impact on how both businesses and the waste industry operate for decades to come. But it’s no magic pill, and knowing the concept’s pros and cons is essential for sustainable decisions to come.

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10 Environmental & Sustainability Initiatives to Know This Year

In this post, we’re covering some of the year's most impactful environmental, recycling, and sustainability initiatives in the business world.

 

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The History and Future of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

In 1997, racing boat captain Charles Moore made an unfortunate discovery in one of the most remote parts of the world. Returning from a trans-Pacific race, he and his crew were met by an undulating trash heap, with plastic junk bobbing in the ocean for as far as the eye could see. He called it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and this swirling unnatural disaster looming off the coast of California may be a greater threat than any hurricane of our time.

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Understanding The Food Waste Problem & How Your Business Can Help

It's estimated that 30–40% of our food supply is wasted or lost each year, impacting everything from food security and the environment to businesses and our economy. Luckily, businesses large and small can implement food waste reduction strategies and help make a positive impact!

This post was originally published March 2020 and has been updated.

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Find out what items cause recyclable contamination issues
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Learn about common waste invoice charges and how to avoid them
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A step-by-step guide to conducting your own waste audit
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