Water without plastic — a choice we can make

Photo by tanvi sharma on Unsplash

Plastic bottles are insidiously convenient. They’re easy to pack, relatively lightweight and inexpensive.

Every year, over 481 billion plastic bottles are purchased across the globe. In the US., we buy one million of them every day. Yet 91 percent of the world’s water bottles don’t get recycled, ending up in landfills, oceans or waterways.

The effects of this scourge are grim. Scientists recently reported finding microplastics in human blood and lung tissue. And marine and wildlife die from ingesting plastic, mistaking it for food.

69 billion single-use plastic water bottles are consumed annually in the US, But there’s an innovative alternative that’s convenient, lightweight and recyclable. To find out more click here.

An Innovative Solution to Plastic Bag Recycling

Across the globe, we use 5 trillion plastic bags per year. According to the EPA, the U.S. uses 730,000 tons of plastic bags, sacks and wraps annually – and less than one percent of these get recycled. Few US recycling centers or curbside recyclers accept them because bags gum up and contaminate their sorting machines. An environmental scourge, few plastic bags make it to landfills. Most get blown by the wind or end up in our oceans, smothering and killing marine life, birds and other wildlife.

Boston-based entrepreneur David New believes he has the solution.

News’s sleek-looking, innovative Obaggo is the world’s first and only in-home plastic bag and packaging film recycling appliance. It compresses up to 25 plastic bags and/or packaging film at a time, creating disks that are the perfect shape and size for recycling.

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A waste problem in plain sight finds a simple recycling solution

Photo courtesy of Dean Moriarty from Pixabay 

If I had to pick, I’d say that my top 2 favorite foods are really good Chinese and Japanese. And, over the years, I’ve become fairly proficient in using chopsticks to enjoy them with. I’ve even been known to quietly swipe a couple of extra one pairs from restaurants so that I can have some at home to use with my leftovers.

But as an environmental journalist, I sheepishly admit I never gave any thought to what happens to the millions of chopsticks used by thousands of restaurants across the country. It’s one of those in plain sight “small” issues that seem insignificant. Even considering the slim figure the humble chopstick presents, imagine the HUGE mountain they would make if they were all gathered together and stacked. The sight would be daunting.

LOOK: This Modular Shelving System Is Made Entirely Of Chopsticks |  Metro.Style
Felix Böck, innovator and CEO of ChopValue

One man stumbled on the idea to make used chopsticks recyclable – and this seemingly ridiculous idea is gaining traction.

Felix Böck, then a PhD student at Canada’s University of British Columbia, Canada, had been venting his frustration over the scant interest in his proposal to use waste wood from demolition and construction sites. Chopsticks in hand, Thalia Otamendi, the woman who is now his fiancée, looked at him and said: ‘Felix, maybe you just have to start with something small,’” said Böck. “And maybe it’s the chopstick.”

From that one statement, a uniquely innovative idea and recycling business was born. Böck sketched out plans for ChopValue, a start-up aimed at giving a new, useful second life to chopsticks. Soon enough, recycling bins were being dropped off at restaurants across Vancouver, methods of cleaning the simple utensils were developed and a process was developed to transform the chopsticks – most of which are made from bamboo – into sleek household items that range from tablet stands to tabletops.

Now, four years later, more than 32 thousand chopsticks have been successfully recycled and repurposed – diverting them from ending up in landfills and creating 40 new jobs.

ChopValue has expanded its North American presence and its process, which uses heat, steam and pressure to transform the chopsticks into wooden tiles. It’s now also being used in Calgary, Montreal and Los Angeles. And the company is dedicated to leading by an example of sustainability in its business practices.

There’s more to the story, which you can find here. But there’s also an important message here. Innovation can come by looking at simple, everyday objects and thinking about them a different way. And one person’s idea can transform something that others consider a wasted product into something new and useful again.

Something to ponder, yes?

Solar recycling – a looming problem with a European solution

The price of solar panels continues to drop – down 86 percent since 2009! That means having solar is more affordable than ever and with solar leasing options growing and now California mandating all new construction must include solar, its use is set to explode.

But as I’ve noted before, every solution presents new problems which must be addressed. Solar panels have been rated for a 25-year lifespan. Although they will continue to function after that – many solar panels installed in the 1980’s still function close to their original levels – ultimately they will lose efficiency and at some point need to be replaced. The looming issue here is what to do with those solar panels?

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National Park Service rescinds ban on plastic water bottles – a bad and dangerous policy for wildlife

Plastic pollution – such as shown here in the Grand Canyon prior to the plastic water ban – will likely now become a common scene again.

In what is clearly bowing to pressure from both our infamous, uh, illustrious national leader and lobbying (as with beaucoup dollars thrown at them or the federal agency that oversees it) by plastic bottle manufacturers, the National Park Service has announced it’s lifting the 6-year ban on the sale of plastic water bottles within national parks.

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San Francisco’s recycling center gets a upgrade in time for the holidays

Recology logoSan Francisco is known for many things, the Golden Gate Bridge among them. But its San Francisco’s recycling efforts that have brought this amazing city into the national spotlight.

In 2002, the City by the Bay passed legislation that set a goal of  diverting 75 percent of its waste from landfills by 2010 and achieving “zero waste” by 2020. And so began its composting and food waste collection program.

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November 15th is America Recycles Day

RecyclingFor a large percentage of Americans, recycling is fast becoming a way of life.

More households are participating in home recycling and businesses are slowly making the shift as well. Even so, there are still communities – including the one I recently moved to – that still don’t have curbside recycling.

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States with the most Producer Responsibility laws

Extended Producer Responsibliity graphic

If you’re not familiar with the phrase Extended Producer Responsibility, it’s time to learn.

EPR is the larger picture of what’s necessary and what’s possible going well beyond recycling. It requires manufacturers to be accountable for the products they produce – its complete life cycle from beginning to its final and responsible disposal. It’s a way to dramatically reduce what goes into our landfills and increase the amount of waste that gets recycled and/or reused.

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Smaller countries like Costa Rica are leading the way to carbon neutrality

Wind turbines on the coastline

Are larger countries in the world at a disadvantage when it comes to embracing renewable energy? In the United States, for example, the monied oil lobby has made itself clear it will do whatever it can to put stumbling blocks in the way of renewable energy being fully adopted nationally.

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Corporations learning the real value of materials recycling

Reduce-Reuse-RecycleLarge corporations are beginning to get that recycling – the 2nd of the “3 R’s” – can really pay back. With the launch of the new National Materials Marketplace, more than 20 companies with U.S.-based operations are avoiding waste by turning it into raw materials for other companies’ use.

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