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Trash to Cash…for Real?

It’s pretty astounding that the average American creates over one and a half tons of trash a year. Very overwhelming if you think about it. Spread that figure out over 300 or so million Americans and you get an inkling of the problem we’re facing—we’re making more trash as a nation than we know what to do with.

No doubt recycling is catching on and becoming a habit for many of us—I’m thankful for that—but there’s still a majority out there who don’t recycle…and that’s a problem. We have the huge challenge of encouraging people to see the necessity of recycling and then to make a commitment to do it.

One option may be just to pay them for their recyclables. Hey, don’t laugh yet…it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. If you look at the growing demand from worldwide burgeoning economies such as China and India, you’ll see that raw materials are more in demand than ever. Items such as plastics and aluminum are at their all time highs, which sets up a huge market need and big-time incentive for companies to pay cash for trash.


I know at my company, American Waste Control, we have a program now in place where we actually pay non-profits and groups per container for their recyclables. We call it our Trash to Cash Program and many schools and organizations in Tulsa are finding it a great way to earn money for their special projects.

trash to cash american waste, Turn your trash to cash using Mr. Murph at American Waste Control

 

The incentive is pretty worthwhile: Not only are they doing something incredible for the environment, they’re also helping raise funds to further their organization’s cause. We’re not at a point as a company where we can pay households for their recyclables, but I can see a time when that could become reality for us and other recycling haulers.

Going green could actually net some green. Pretty ironic given that a decade ago, recycling was considered a zero profit endeavor. Now, recyclers are finding a niche market, and bringing others along for the ride.

 

E-Waste Not Just a Landfill Issue

We all know about the good things that come with today’s technology advances. Mobile apps and computers, media and electronic gadgets galore. We love them all and can’t get enough.

The downside is the surplus of massed produced e-products that quickly become obsolete and then pile up in our landfills. One UN estimate puts the amount of e-waste produced globally each year at 50 million tons. Just think how much that figure will climb as more consumers enter the market and look to buy bigger and better things.

The truth is, we need to look seriously at ways we can deal with e-waste without simply—excuse the pun—dumping the burden on our ever-expanding landfills. Landfills are just part of an integrated solution as we look for ways to mitigate the effects of e-waste on the environment.


True, a sanitary and well-designed landfill can dramatically help reduce the effects of dangerous chemical substances. I’m the head of a waste management company in Tulsa that owns its own landfill, so I know the vital part landfills can play. There’s no question disposal of e-waste is absolutely safe as long as it can be properly contained and the toxicity significantly reduced. (For example, at American Waste Control we’ve installed the latest technology in liners, a leachate collection system, and an interceptor line around our landfill to protect soil and water).

But, the fact is, much of the problem can and should be effectively addressed even before e-waste reaches that endpoint. It clearly takes a synthesis of all sources including consumers, recyclers and manufacturers, if we’re to solve what is one of the most important waste disposal issues of this generation.

Thanks to the green movement that is really a global phenom, people are becoming increasingly aware of the problems of e-waste and the negative impact it can have on the environment. Not only are consumers beginning to consider how the product is manufactured, they’re looking at the energy it takes to make it, as well as the recyclability of each product before they buy. That’s a really encouraging trend as we move beyond just the disposal side of the equation and effectively utilize consumer purchasing power as well.

Companies within the computer and consumer electronics industries are also slowly beginning to do their part. Many are using greener production techniques, enhancing energy usage and putting a focus on recyclability and reuse of end of life electronics. Companies such as Dell and others even have special buy back programs for certain products to help extend their life and lessen the impact before they’re completely disposed of.

No doubt, the trends addressing e-waste are positive and show an encouraging awareness of the issue. However, we still have to remain diligent if we’re to overcome the growing and damaging effects that e-waste can have. The huge deluge of e-products on the market will only grow stronger as we move forward with ever evolving technologies.

Those of us who are committed to conservation must learn to work together in a global fashion if we’re to meet the challenges and stem the tide. It’s not just a landfill’s concern…it’s up to all of us to continue growing awareness about e-waste and boldly use every resource available to create solid solutions.

Photo credit- JohnJMatlock


About the Author


Tom Hill is the CEO of American Waste Control, Tulsa Recycle and Transfer and American Environmental Landfill along with a member of the Tulsa Master Recyclers Association.  Tom’s company recently opened a six million dollar expansion to their recycling facility called Mr. Murph. For the past year, he’s devised and led American Waste’s green recycling initiative, aimed at communicating ways in which Tulsa families and businesses can reduce their waste through recycling to better help the environment. He and his wife, Olivia, have two children and live in Tulsa, OK.


 

Upcycling: the Art of Re-imagining our Waste

Made from plastic that washed up on the shore.

Granted, it may have all started with Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” back in the 20’s, but today’s trash artists are upping the ante when it comes to artistic upcycling like never before.

Whereas Duchamp’s purpose was more for shock value by rendering a urinal as a work of art, upcycling involves repurposing the item itself as a medium to create a new kind of art form. It rings of an altruistic intention for objects left for the trash heap by changing them into something better and more transcendent than what they were originally.

Upcycling in the modern sense may seem completely novel, but in artistic terms, the thought of creating something from nothing has flourished for centuries. By rendering art out of common everyday trash, artists are revealing something truly beautiful from what we deem useless and functionally broken. Their efforts show a real paradigm shift when it comes to our views of the waste cycle process as well as a growing movement toward a zero waste mentality.


If you google you can see a plethora of creative compositions from upcyclers online: Computer parts turned into sculptures; album covers framed and wall mounted; pieces of old CDs fashioned into jewelry or yard ornaments; old lightbulbs made into suncatchers; vases from wine bottles. The concepts are unending as well as the availability of the medium.

Not only is the upcycling trend lending a growing street cred when it comes to environmental awareness, it’s making a profound statement of the mass consumerism that characterizes our society. The result is inspired art that is both reflective of our changing values as a culture and symbolic of our evolving attitude towards trash as we know it.

As the old adage goes—one man’s junk is truly another man’s treasure. Seems that truism has more validity today than at any time in recent memory.

Today’s upcycler isn’t just imitating life through art. He’s re-imagining it from the ordinary around us.

He’s not just out to shock our senses or even for pure self expression. He’s saying something important about the way we think about life in general—

Beauty, in all forms, is often found in the most mundane.

I think it’s time we opened our eyes and see how true that really is.

 

Photo credit- L. Marie


About the Author


Tom Hill is the CEO of American Waste Control, Tulsa Recycle and Transfer and American Environmental Landfill along with a member of the Tulsa Master Recyclers Association.  Tom’s company recently opened a six million dollar expansion to their recycling facility called Mr. Murph. For the past year, he’s devised and led American Waste’s green recycling initiative, aimed at communicating ways in which Tulsa families and businesses can reduce their waste through recycling to better help the environment. He and his wife, Olivia, have two children and live in Tulsa, OK.