RoadRunner RoadRunner

WASTE WATCHERS BLOG

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

What Are Eco-Friendly Plastics and How Are They Recycled?

Recognizing the environmental detriment of petroleum-based plastics, companies are switching over to "eco-friendly" plastics. But with new materials come new rules for recycling—and your business will need to learn them fast.

  Our society’s relationship with plastic is complicated. Over 100 years, the man-made, petroleum-based polymer has gone from miracle material to environmental villain. The status quo for decades, a recent shifting in consumer preference, advancement in materials sciences, and legislation protecting the Earth have given rise to a world of “eco-friendly” plastics. From packaging to the products themselves, bio-based, biodegradable, and recycled materials are finding purchase. While considered an exciting and positive development by most, the recycling process for these products isn’t as simple as “green means go.” With new, sustainable materials come new rules for recycling—and you’ll need to learn them fast. 

read more

5 Steps Businesses Can Take to Fight Climate Change

After a revelatory IPCC report, climate change is once again in the public spotlight. We examine how its potential impacts affect both the planet and business world, providing tips for taking action.

This post was originally published by Shelby Bell in June 2020 and has been updated. With each new sunrise, the prospect of work brings another day, another dollar. And for many, the honest work we do day in and day out may be rooted in tradition—operating with practices as old as the organization itself. But everything that works for us, be it ho-hum or windfall, has come into question now that the Earth has stopped acting like it’s business as usual. Debated for its existence, severity, and real impacts, climate change has been thrust into the spotlight once again with a new message for businesses: innovate... or else. As the thermostat rises, clock ticks, and whatever other metaphors are used in sensational headlines about a societal SOS, many business owners are lining up to ask “what can I do about climate change?”  The answer is not as easy as flicking a switch. In fact, it might be like rewiring the entire breaker box. But, as you’ll see, the decisions we must make are no longer a line in the sand. In today’s heated world, the most sustainable choices will become the most profitable. Note: if you already know about climate change, you can jump right to our 5 sustainable steps to fight it!

read more

Why is Recycling “Styrofoam” an Environmental Problem?

Whether you know it as "Styrofoam" or polystyrene, we know it as an incredibly challenging recycling problem. We explore the what the plastic material is used for, how it affects the environment, and what your business can do to reduce and recycle it.

This post was originally published in April 2020 by Shelby Bell and has been updated. “Styrofoam.” “Polystyrene.” “EPS.” No matter what you call it, it’s likely we’re all talking about the same plastic material. It forms the cups we keep next to the office coffee pot, braces our new printers in the box, and arrives in clamshell form whenever we order takeout or when our eyes are bigger than our stomachs.  Among its virtues, it’s lightweight, durable, and inexpensive. For years, “Styrofoam” has melted into whatever form we desired and has been perpetuated by countless use cases throughout the consumer economy. But its single-use nature presents a dark side: It will crumble and scatter in the wind; it will take up an inordinate amount of space in landfill; and it will still be there long after your great-grandchildren have great-great-grandchildren. That’s because there are very few recyclers that can process it, and the majority of haulers will instruct you to trash it. While reduction efforts and state mandates promote changes, if you realize how far polystyrene has expanded into our society, then you’ll understand it’s no easy problem to shrink.

read more

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.

read more

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.

read more

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...

read more

The Growing Waste & Recycling Problems from PPE, Masks, and COVID-19

In this blog post, we dive more into the increased plastic pollution problem as a result of the pandemic, additional areas of impact, and how humanity can recognize and take necessary steps to alleviate the PPE problem before it’s too late.

**This article was originally published October 2020 and has been updated. More than 12 months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, we’re still dependent on those disposable blue “paper” masks. The world uses 129 billion per month, 3 million a minute, or 50,000 every second depending on how you frame it. But what most of the world hasn’t pictured is the convergence of pandemics—because the masks we’ve relied on to dampen transmission aren’t just paper. They’re polypropylene too, the same plastic used for drinking straws and ketchup bottles. As the world grapples with a glut of plastics in its soil, drinking water, and even the tip of Mt. Everest, we’re faced with a new mountain of a problem: trillions of discarded masks with virtually no solution to recycle them. While no one could have predicted a pandemic or its many byproducts, without collective action and innovative thinking, we’ll be fighting personal protective equipment (PPE) long after the novel coronavirus is gone.

read more

How to Read Plastic Recycling Symbols

Have you ever wondered what the numbered recycling symbol on a plastic product stands for? Most people assume it means "recyclable", but that is not always the case. Understanding the plastic recycling symbols will help your business recycle smarter! Check our our post to learn how, and share our infographic with your colleagues who may be interested in learning more about this.

  **This post was originally published September 2019 and has been updated for accuracy. Calling a water bottle, a grocery bag, and your phone case all “plastic” is like naming a wolf, coyote, and your pet yellow lab all “dog.” Plastic is a family of materials, each with different qualities, uses, and avenues to recycle.  To alleviate our collective confusion, in 1988, the Society of the Plastics Industry implemented the Resin Identification Coding system—a designated number that manufacturers could stamp on their product (usually molded on the bottom) to indicate what type of plastic it was. Their hope was to raise our dismal national recycling rates for plastic from less than 1% (1980). Unfortunately, this system relied on a knowledge that American businesses and consumers didn’t have. Counting from one to seven was something we learned in grade school; attributing them to plastics was not. The symbols have no meaning to us—telling polyethylene apart from polypropylene doesn't matter if you don't know which your waste service will accept and recycle. That’s where we can help. Even if you never learn their names, their chemical makeup, or the recycled products they can return as again and again, knowing the numbers is the easiest way to become a better recycler. So, print and hang this infographic in your office kitchen or above the bin, and read on as we demystify the seven plastic recycling symbols.

read more

The Plastic Bag Conundrum: A Brief History and Where We Are Now

Dive into the post below to learn more about the history of the plastic bag, measures that are being taken to help eliminate this type of waste, how COVID-19 has impacted plastic bag usage, and tips for saving plastic bags.

 

read more

TOOLS & GUIDES - NEW!

New call-to-action
Learn how our custom recycling system can work for your business
GET GUIDE
New call-to-action
Find out what items cause recyclable contamination issues
GET GUIDE
New call-to-action
Learn about common waste invoice charges and how to avoid them
GET GUIDE
New call-to-action
A step-by-step guide to conducting your own waste audit
GET GUIDE

GET THE SCOOP ON WASTE & RECYCLING

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTER TO GET UPDATES SENT STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX.