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WASTE WATCHERS BLOG

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

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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Why Are Recycled Aluminum Cans So Valuable?

Despite being the most abundant metal on the planet, demand has never ceased. Airplanes, cars, construction materials, or beverage containers—the market for aluminum is strong, especially the recycled variety. And the process is both economically important and relatively easy.

  Though the fine print on the back puts its worth at 5¢ (or 10¢ in Oregon and Michigan), an aluminum can is the most valuable item you throw in your recycling bin. Going back 150 years ago, aluminum was considered more precious than gold—but even today, it hasn’t lost its luster. Despite being the most abundant metal on the planet (aluminum ore makes up 8% of the Earth’s crust), demand has never ceased. Airplanes, cars, construction materials, or beverage containers—the market for aluminum is strong, especially the recycled variety. Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic-related shortages hamper the industry, the simple act of recycling our soda, beer, seltzer, and soup cans becomes paramount. The good news is that it’s relatively easy.

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7 Ways to Safely Manage and Recycle E-Waste

Less than a fifth of global e-waste is recycled, leading to higher waste bills, increased energy costs, dwindling natural resources, and concerning effects on the environment. We discuss better ways to manage and recycle your business's e-waste.

This post, first published in August 2020 by Shelby Bell, has been updated. In over 50 years, we’ve moved from 1.44-megabyte floppy disks to 532-gigabyte flash drives smaller than your thumb. The computers that took the United States to the surface of the moon in 1969 are now trivialized by the technology we carry in our pockets—a modern iPhone has 100,000 times the processing power as Apollo 11’s onboard system. Yet, printing from the cloud and the capability to make a Zoom call from practically anywhere on the planet didn’t happen overnight. As technological innovation goes, there are countless iterations that allow us to progress from point A to point B. And the modern business takes advantage of just about all of them.  While we heedlessly move on to faster connections, smaller devices, and the electronics of the future, many of the iterations of the past half-century are still around—underground, overseas, and in the atmosphere.  It’s called e-waste, and our appetites for new tech make it the fastest-growing waste stream (even outpacing plastic) in America today.

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Why is Glass Recycling Going Away?

Glass is an ideal recyclable for both manufacturers and consumers. But the U.S. recycling system has made a material that’s incredibly easy to recycle substantially more difficult.

  Over 3,000 years before plastic usurped our soda pop, olive oil, and peanut butter containers, glass was as valuable as the items it held. Fast-forwarding to modern day, glass is no longer a marvel, yet it’s worth is not lost on us. Even as commercial glass has been largely relegated to beer, wine, and liquor bottles, American consumers have shown a thirst for its sustainability through recycling. Why, then, are glass recycling programs being discontinued across the country? The answer is both economic and process-related, and as we’ll cover below, the U.S. recycling system has made a material that’s incredibly easy to recycle substantially more difficult.

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The Facts: Office Workers & Their Waste Generation

From 10,000 sheets of office paper to 500 disposable coffee cups, the average office worker generates a substantial amount of waste every year. Considering the majority of our days are spent in the office, it’s very important to focus on recycling there! Read on to find out how much waste the average office worker generates.

This article was originally published June 2019 and has been updated. The concept of working a 9-to-5 office job often evokes memories of spending more waking hours at your place of business than in your own home. Inevitably, in being more active at work, the average American office worker generated a substantial amount of waste—from 10,000 sheets of office paper to 500 “disposable” coffee cups. When the COVID-19 pandemic sent many workers home, all of our wasteful behaviors followed us to the kitchen, couch, and bedroom. But now, as the economy reopens and companies like Google and Goldman Sachs act as bellwethers leading the nation back to their second homes, the time has arrived to reset how offices think about waste and recycling. With sustainability, efficiency, and employee well-being top of mind, we discuss five materials responsible for the disproportionate waste generation in the office setting, as well as ongoing considerations for a zero-waste future. Let's dive deeper into just how much waste is created in the office...

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Taking Action: 5 Ways to Recycle More this Earth Day

Being aware of Earth Day is easy—it’s taking the next step that requires boldness, and for many, knowing where to take that first step is the hardest part. Well, with pollution, emissions, and preserving natural resources in mind, why not take action with recycling?

  Each year in April, we celebrate Earth Day, a united call for the creativity, innovation, ambition, and bravery needed to protect the planet we call home. It’s the largest secular observance around the globe, with more than a billion Earthlings from 193 countries lending their voices for a better world and a sustainable future. All too often, however, those pledging their awareness of the looming environmental crises treat this day with antique shop etiquette: look but don’t touch. Consider this: Earth Day began in 1970—accruing 50+ years of awareness to date—yet, we’re only now beginning to address some of the biggest challenges to ever face humankind.  From here on out, our actions must speak much louder than words.

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These Items Don’t Belong In Your Recycling

While MRFs seem powerful and reliable, in reality, the American recycling system is incredibly fragile. And for a country that collectively throws away 804,090 tons per day without full knowledge of what is and what isn’t recyclable, we constantly break it.

  The standard compactor truck (aka “garbage truck”) will crush anything at approximately 2,750 psi—enough pressure to pulverize a pickup truck—while its mechanical arms can lift up to 1,000 lbs. Those compactor trucks then deliver our waste and recyclables to materials recovery facilities (MRFs), the centerpiece of the American recycling system. The largest MRFs can process up to 700 tons of material per day or more, with recyclables whizzing past at nearly 20 mph. While all of these specs would make you believe in its strength and reliability, in reality, the American recycling system is incredibly fragile. And for a country that collectively throws away 804,090 tons per day without full knowledge of what is and what isn’t recyclable, we constantly break it. While we’ve recently covered the types of valuable recyclables we tend to throw in the trash during spring cleaning, the COVID-19 pandemic, and beyond, this is a case of the opposite. Through contamination and the act of “wishcycling”, we’re tossing nonrecyclable items known for their troublemaking into our recycling bins. Plastic bags, leather belts, and more—we’ll cover the often-recycled (yet nonrecyclable) items that break the system, endanger its workers, and spike your business’s waste bill.

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TOOLS & GUIDES - NEW!

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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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