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WASTE WATCHERS BLOG

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

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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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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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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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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5 Steps Businesses Can Take to Fight Climate Change

Businesses who make climate change a priority can prepare for what may come in the future and have a leg up on their competition who are not taking steps to address climate-related issues and risks. Read the post to learn more about the causes of climate change, how it impacts the planet, and what business can do about it.

 

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The Problem With Styrofoam and How Your Business Can Help

Businesses and consumers are becoming more aware of the negative impacts Styrofoam has on the environment and wondering how they can help mitigate the problem. To help you get started, this post covers everything you need to know about Styrofoam and the negative environmental impacts associated with it, as well as tips for reducing or eliminating it at your business.

  For decades, polystyrene has been one of the most commonly used plastics because it is lightweight, durable, and inexpensive.  As we single out food containers, disposable coffee cups, and foam coolers, we'll discuss their impact on the environment and the steps you and your business can take to reduce your usage.

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Opening Up About the Environmental Friendliness of Packaging Materials

Product packaging requires a significant amount of raw materials, and now more than ever, we need to prioritize using efficient and sustainable packaging materials. In this post, we take a deep dive into the packaging industry to determine the eco-friendliness of common packaging materials and what major brands are doing to minimize their environmental impact.

From food wrappers, to Amazon boxes, to drink bottles, to toothpaste tubes, most of us don't realize the extent to which product packaging is built into our everyday lives. Product packaging requires a significant amount of raw materials, and now more than ever, we need to prioritize using efficient and sustainable packaging materials. In this post, we take a deep dive into the packaging industry to determine the eco-friendliness of common packaging materials and what major brands are doing to minimize their environmental impact. Continue reading to learn more!

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