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Getting Your City to Recycle

Want to start a recycling program in your city? These tips will help you get started and encourage your city to recycle.

How to start a recycling program, getting your city to recycle

While many cities in Oklahoma have recycling programs, there are still many that don’t. So what can you do if your city doesn’t have a recycling program? It’s not something that will happen overnight but there are things you can do to encourage your city to recycle.

Getting Your City to Recycle

  • Talk to city officials and ask questions like, have you looked into having a recycling program? What would be your concerns about offering a recycling program?
  • Talk to people in your city to find out if others are interested in recycling. You can even set up a free survey on Google Docs or many other sites and share it on sites like Facebook, to find out what the interest levels are.
  • Consider starting a recycling coalition. Recycling coalitions like Ada Recycling Coalition have played big roles in getting recycling programs started. A few years ago the coalition in Ada helped convince the city to start a curbside recycling program which is still going strong.
  • Talk to nearby towns, that are about the same size, that currently have recycling programs. You can try and find out how their program got started and if they have any tips.
  • If your city contracts out your trash, see if you can talk to the trash company to find out if they offer a recycling program.
  • Ask to speak at a city council meeting about recycling and your desire to have a recycling program in your town.
  • Check out the Oklahoma Recycling Association, they have a lot of great information on recycling.
  • Most importantly, don’t give up and get others involved.

If you choose to take on this project it can be a lot of work but if you are able to make it happen you will have a lasting impact on your city and even the world.

Have a tip for how to start a recycling program? Post in the comments below.

We would also love to hear from you if you helped get your city to start a recycling program or are working on doing so, send us an email at gogreenokla@gmail.com

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Getting Your Office to Recycle

I Got My Boss on Board With Recycling, and So Can You.

How to start an office recycling program, get your boss to recycle, green business

A few years ago, I was working a job in the retail industry at a company I really liked. The work was reasonably fun, my coworkers were nice and I had a decent parking spot. But there was one thing I had a problem with. We didn’t recycle.


At home, I was all about living green, and I always have been. I meticulously sort my recycling, try not to waste anything and do my best to buy products made from recycled goods.

At work, there was plenty of paper used to process and keep records as well as bits of plastic and cardboard that could easily be recycled. My company, though, did not have a recycling program set up.

So, I decided to take it upon myself to get my boss on board with recycling. Today, I present you with the lessons I learned from that undertaking, so that you, too, can get your company to be a little greener.

Appeal to Human Goodness

Your boss has probably heard about the benefits of recycling, but something has prevented it from hitting home. It’s up to you to get through to them.

In order to do that, focus on the issues relevant to your business. Throwing away a lot of paper? Talk to your boss about deforestation. Tossing out your fluorescent light bulbs? Bring to his or her attention that when those bulbs break, they can release toxins into the oceans that end up in fish, including the ones we eat.

Appeal to Their Business Side

If talking about the environmental benefits of recycling doesn’t convince your boss, try appealing to their business sense – something that’s getting easier to do as more people get on board with going green.

People today are willing to pay more for greener products, so explain to your boss how recycling could actually help your sales if you let people know about your new green initiative. Also, take a look at what your competitors are doing. Chances are at least a few of them are marketing themselves as green in some way, so show your boss where your company could be missing out.

Take the Lead

Although your boss may want to recycle after you explain the environmental and business benefits, he or she still might not do so because it seems more difficult than it really is.

Make starting the initiative easier for your boss by providing them with information about starting a recycling program and explaining how easy it is. You could even outline a plan and present it to your boss. The less it work it is for them, the more likely they are to go through with it.

If your boss is still reluctant, you could offer to take charge of the recycling program. It’s not likely that they will shoot down the idea if it doesn’t require any extra work for other employees. At that point, all upper management has to do is greenlight your recycling initiative.

Recycling is one of the main tenets of going green. While it’s fairly common today, some companies still aren’t on board. If that’s the case at your company, you may be able to do something to change it. Explain to your boss the environmental and economic benefits of recycling, the risks of not recycling and, if all else fails, offer to take charge of the program yourself.

I finally convinced my boss that our company should recycle and got my program started. It became one of the accomplishments at that job that I was most proud of, because I knew it could really make a difference. Now, I challenge you — go out and do the same!



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Plastics 101: The Recycling Process

plasticrecyclingWe look at the bottom of our plastics in search for a code number 1 through 7. This code, as previously explained in last month’s post, identifies the type of plastic resin. It also facilitates the recycling process as the type of resin an item is made of limits the products it can recycled into. For a printable list of resin codes, click here.

How are plastic resins recycled?  There are five basis steps to the Recycling Process (sometimes referred to as down-cycling):

  1. Sorting – After plastic is collected by the recycling company, it is sorted by resin type.
  2. Washing – Plastic items are cleaned of all adhesives and labels. You can help make this job easier and cheaper for recycling companies by doing the bulk of this process yourself.
  3. Shredding – Plastic is shredded by large machines and made into small pellets.
  4. Identification and Classification – So far, the plastic has been identified by the eye alone. Now, the small pellets are chemically tested to ensure accurate classification.
  5. Extruding – Finally, the plastic is melted and extruded into clean, properly identified pellets. (note, often the plastic resin is still not 100 percent pure)

The plastic is then sold or used to fill orders to manufacturers who create the new plastic product. Here is a list of the seven types of commonly used plastics and what they are frequently recycled into.


1. Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET)
First developed in 1957, the more commonly known name for this type of plastic is polyester. You can find PETE in the following items:

  • Nylon and polyester clothes
  • Bed sheets
  • Cosmetics
  • Household cleaners
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Water and Condiment bottles
  • Jelly and Peanut Butter Jars

PROS: Not known to leach chemicals, unless it contains BPA
CONS: Some studies have found that antimony is leached from water bottles made from PETE after prolonged use in heat; BPA has been linked to breast and uterine cancer

Commonly Recycled Into: Tote Bags, Furniture, Carpet, Paneling, Fiber, and Polar Fleece

2. High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
Along with PETE, it is the most commonly used and versatile of plastics. HDPE resists UV rays, can tolerate high temperatures, and is dishwasher safe. It is found in a variety of items:

  • Landry detergent bottles
  • Milk jugs
  • Folding Chairs and tables

PROS: Not known to leach chemicals, no known health concerns.

Commonly Recycled Into: Pens, Recycling Containers, Picnic Tables, Lumber, Benches, Fencing, Detergent Bottles, Crates, Garden Products, Office Products, Automobile Parts[i]

3. Polyvinyl chloride (V or PVC)
PVC might be the most difficult plastic to recycle, next to 7. It is incredibly durable and resists impurities, but it is also the most chemically dangerous. PVC can be found in the following items:

  • Shower Curtains
  • Cling wrap
  • Clothing
  • Inflatable structures
  • Waterbeds
  • Pool toys
  • Car interiors
  • Vinyl flooring

CONS: Known to leach chemicals, SHOULD BE AVOIDED[ii]; Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Paneling, Flooring, Speed Bumps, Decks, and Roadway Gutters

4. Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
This type of plastic was created in 1954. Polypropylene is excellent at withstanding heat. Research is mixed regarding the safety of polypropylene. Regardless, it is used in much of our plastic food packaging:

  • Bread and frozen food bags
  • Packaging material
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Squeezable bottles

PROS: Not known to leach chemicals
CONS: Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Compost Bins, Paneling, Trash Cans and Liner, Floor Tiles, Shipping Envelopes

5. Polypropylene (PP)
A very strong plastic with a high melting point, it is a likely candidate for reusable food containers such as:

  • Yogurt and margarine containers
  • Plastic cups
  • Baby Bottles
  • Kitchenware, microwavable plastic containers and lids2

PROS: Recycling becoming more common; dangerous during production process, but not known to leach any chemicals after the fact. Dishwasher safe
CONS: Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Brooms, Auto Battery Cases, Bins, Pallets, Signal Lights, Ice Scrapers, and Bicycle Racks, Flower pots

6. Polystyrene (PS)
This plastic can be converted into either foam, made 97 percent of air, or a tougher, yet brittle substance like that used for CD cases. Here are some of the items PS is found in:

  • Foam Insulation
  • Disposable cutlery
  • CD and DVD cases
  • Egg Cartons
  • Foam Cups & To-Go Foam from restaurants

CONS: According to the Foundation for Achievements in Science and Education fact sheet, long term exposure to small quantities of styrene can cause neurotoxic (fatigue, nervousness, difficulty sleeping), hematological (low platelet and hemoglobin values), cytogenetic (chromosomal and lymphatic abnormalities), and carcinogenic effects. Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).[1]; Not as widely recycled as 1 or 2

Commonly Recycled Into: Egg Cartons, Vents, Foam packing, Insulation

7. Other
Any plastic that doesn’t fall under a 1 through 6 ends up with a 7. Bio plastics are also given the label 7. Other items include:

  • Microwave Ovens
  • Eating Utensils
  • Baby Bottles
  • 3 and 5 Gallon reusable bottles
  • CD and DVD cases
  • Electrical Wring

CONS: Made  with biphenyl-A (commonly known as BPA) that can leach into your food – a chemical that simulates the action of estrogen; rare recycling availability.

Commonly Recycled Into: Plastic Lumber and Custom Made Items

Although all plastics should be avoided whenever possible, we can conclude that there are some plastics safer to use than others – 2, 4, and 5 – as they have not been known to leach chemicals after production.[iii][iv][v].


NOTES:

1 For more information visit Baby Green Thumb.
2  Saying something is microwavable only means that it will not change the shape or melt during the process, it does not imply that it is safe or that toxics will not be released. /small>

 


SOURCES:

[i] Bear Board. (2014). What is HDPE?
[ii] T Jones (2010). Danger! It’s PVC, Plastic Number 3. GreenDepot: Blog
[iii]Amanda Wills. (2009). The Ultimate Plastic Breakdown. Earth 911.
[iv] Brian Clark Howard. What Do Recycling Symbols on Plastics Mean? Good Housekeeping.
[v] Jeffery M. Smith. (2012). 3 Plastics to Avoid. Esquire./small>

Photo Credit: Michal Ma?as

Plastics 101: Making Plastic and Introduction to the Plastic Code

recycleWe live in the Age of Plastics.[i] The quantity of plastic items in your home would likely surprise you.  A form of the Greek word, plastikos, plastic means “to mold, form.” Today, the word plastic is commonly used to refer to a singular type of synthetic substance that possesses the qualities, of well, plastic.  However, plastic should be thought of as a family of substances, each consisting of a variety of polymers[ii], (Greek for “many parts)[iii].

In general, the majority of mass produced plastics are made from hydrocarbons extracted from the cracking process when refining oil and natural gas. These hydrocarbons, through various chemical processes, become monomers (Greek for “one part”)[iv]which combine to form polymers. These monomers can be linked in different combinations to create diverse plastic resins. Visit this link for a complete list of resins.  Resins are typically produced in the shape of pellets. Often these resin producing chemical processes are patented and secretly held by companies.[v]  Therefore, we don’t know exactly what types of chemicals have been used in the plastic making.[vi]

Plastic resins can generally be classified into one of two categories: thermosets or thermoplastics. Thermosets are plastics that, once melted, retain their shape and cannot be remelted and reshaped. In other words, they cannot be recycled. They can only be reused as a different shape or as filler. On the other hand, thermoplastics can be reshaped through processes involving reheating and cooling repeatedly. It’s easier to recycle them into something else.


Recycling plastics became more common in the eighties. Since it is impossible to tell what type of plastic you are holding simply by looking at it, pressure was placed on the plastic industry to establish a common classification and identification system. In 1988, the Society of Plastics Industry developed the SPI resin identification coding system to facilitate the plastic recycling process. You will notice a wide variety of different materials listed underneath each plastic resin classification – giving testimony to the volume of different types of plastic polymers

For a printable chart of all 7 identification codes click here.  Next month, my last article on plastic will focus on explaining the SPI code in more detail and recycling process itself.

For more detailed information about the plastic making process – visit one of these references:

Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D. How Plastics Work – How Stuff Works
PlasticsEurope – How Plastic is Made
Wise Geek – What is the Plastic Manufacturing Process?

 


[i] Susan Freinkel. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011.

[ii] Please note that not all polymers are plastic. For example, proteins are starches are also made of polymers.

[iii] Susan Freinkel. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011.

[iv] Susan Freinkel. Plastic: A Toxic Love Story. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011.

[v] Werner Boote. Plastic Planet. A Documentary

[vi] Werner Boote. Plastic Planet. A Documentary

 

Petition for Curbside Recycling in Guthrie

recyclingA Guthrie citizen, Destini Payne is asking the city of Guthrie to implement curbside recycling. Payne started a petition, which currently has 35 signatures, to help show the city of Guthrie that their residents want curbside recycling.

The petition talks about how citizens of Guthrie aren’t happy with their current recycling options. Currently Guthrie offers recycling at a drop-off center. They accept paper, cardboard, aluminum, steel, and motor oil.

“The city can and should do more about the situation and make recycling more conveinient and free for their residents.”


The EPA estimates 75 percent of solid waste is recyclable. Oklahoma’s recycling rates are some of the lowest in the U.S. with only around 14 percent of Oklahomans recycling. Curbside recycling can help improve recycling rates by making recycling easier for residents.

Many in Guthrie also want to see more options for what they can recycle. Plastic is one type of recycling citizens would like to see available. Glass is another item that people like to be able to recycle. Glass has some issues with curbside recycling but is doable in some cases. Citizens are also asking that those outside the city limits are included in the curbside recycling.

If you would like to see curbside recycling in Guthrie be sure to sign the petition and also contact your council member and let them know.

Do you recycle? If not, what would help encourage you to start? Share in the comments below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.  

Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by Dano

Plastics 101: A Series on Plastic Recycling Part 1: The Life of a Plastic Bag

plastic bagI have frequently wondered what happens to the plastics placed in Oklahoma’s recycle bins. Is it actually being recycled? What happens if a plastic bag is placed with plastic #3? What does plastic #3 really mean anyway? These questions pushed me to understand more about plastic recycling.  My research into plastics is too lengthy for a single blog post; therefore, I have partitioned the story into three sections. Part one focuses on the life cycle of a plastic bag.

As Americans, we throw away approximately 100 billion plastic bags annually and less than 5 percent of all plastic bags used are recycled. Yep – less than 5 percent. It is estimated that 1 trillion bags are used each year around the world, which equates to approximately 1 million bags every minute.  46,000 pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans and 3.5 million tons of plastic were disposed of in 2008.

Plastic bags were first introduced into stores in 1977. A product of crude oil, natural gas, and other molecules[i], plastics bags were lauded for being cheap to manufacture and purchase, as well as convenient for carrying groceries. However, anything made from petroleum products brings with it the problem of disposal. Plastic bags are not biodegradable.

Four things can happen to used plastic bags:

  1. They can fill and contaminate a landfill.
  2. They might be recycled here in America.
  3. They could be exported to an overseas recycling market.
  4. They might be reused by the consumer.

The can fill and contaminate a landfill
This happens when plastic bags simply end up in the trash. It takes 1,000 years for a plastic bag to decompose, but it never completely biodegrades. Instead, sunlight breaks down the plastic into small contaminating bits that weasel their way into soil and marine life.

They might be recycled here in America
Based on the petroleum and other complex molecules plastic bags are made of, they are coded as a mix of plastic #4 and plastic #2[ii]. However, placing plastic bags inside your cities’ recycle bin will cause the recycling machines to clog and malfunction. Therefore, plastic bags are only accepted at certain locations. You can enter your zip code at the plasticfilmrecycling.org for locations near you.

Notice that this website refers to plastic film. Yes, plastic bags often fall into a larger category called plastic film. Usually locations that accept plastic bags (call ahead to inquire first) will also accept the following plastic items you were never quite sure what to do with:

  • Bread bags
  • The thin packaging around napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue paper, and diaper wrap
  • Case wrap (like the plastic film around water bottles)
  • Produce bags
  • Newspaper bags
  • Air pillows
  • The thin plastic dry cleaning bags around your clothes
  • Cereal box liners
  • Sealable food storage bags (no food inside!)
  • Shipping envelopes

According to Wal-Mart, once the plastic bag recycle bins are full, they are picked up by an outside recycling company and transported to regional recycling centers. I have contacted Wal-Mart for more information and will provide you with an update when I hear back from them.  Target and Lowes are also popular retailers that offer plastic bag and film recycling.

So what are these plastic bags and films recycled into? One type of product is composite wood which can be used to make outdoor decks, window and door frames.  Other possible items your plastic bags might turn into include: garden products, crates, pipe, and new film packaging.

According to multiple sources, it is challenging to recycle plastics. First, it is costly to collect and sort through plastics. It costs $4,000 dollars just to recycle one ton of plastic. The recycled product can then be turned around and sold for just $32.00, according to the Clean Air Council.   Recycling plastics also releases many greenhouse gas emissions, harming the environment. Recycling plastics can also be difficult because after all, it is an economic market. If there are buyers for recycled plastics, then the plastics will likely be recycled, if there are no buyers for the product……then the plastic might end up in a landfill anyway.

Exported to an overseas recycling market
A lot of our plastic bags are shipped to China for recycling and reuse. However, as explained at myplasticfreelife.com, entire communities might be hurt by emissions from the recycling process there.

Reused by the consumer
Many consumers find ways to reuse plastic bags at home. For example, some may use them as trash can liners and others to pick up their dog’s poop. You could also bring them with you to the store for reuse. For those of you with a crafty side, visit this website for cool ways to reuse your bags.

Tips for Reduction of Plastic Bag Use:
1)      Get reusable bags
2)      When you purchase only 1 or 2 items at the store, decline the bag. You can carry those items out in your hand.
3)      Go to stores that don’t use plastic bags

 


[i] Approximately 12 million barrels of oil are used annually to make plastic bags. (Americans consume 18 million barrels of oil per day)

[ii] I’ll explain more about what plastic numbers actually mean in my next two posts

Photo Credit- EdinburghGreens

Choctaw Nation Expands Their Recycling Program

_DSC_0565The Choctaw Nation opened a recycling center in Durant the end of 2010 and have continued to lead the way in the state, with their recycling efforts.

The recycling center accepts paper, cardboard, plastics #1, 2, and 5, aluminum, tin/steel cans, printer cartridges, e-waste, and even Styrofoam. The Choctaw Nation also operates several drop-off locations around the state and in Denison, Texas.

This year the Choctaw Nation has expanded their efforts even more with a new endeavor called Choctaw Project IMPACT. The project focuses on recycling in the northeast portion of the Choctaw Nation.


The project has allowed for a new recycling center, similar to the one in Durant. The center is located in Poteau. It opened earlier this month and is going strong. The center is open to all residents and businesses in the community.

The Choctaw Nation hopes to have special collection events for things like e-waste.  And they want to engage the community by working with Girl/Boy Scouts, senior citizens, youth groups and more, to help spread awareness for why recycling is important.

IMPACT is funded by a grate issued to Choctaw Recycling by Administration for Native Americans (ANA), Social and Economic Development Strategies (SEDS).

“Through the grant we expect to reach around 120,000 people,” stated Director of Project Management Tracy Horst. This recycling program is aimed at providing education and collection activities to divert recyclable waste from landfills or being dumped through our communities. These types of efforts will “definitely make a positive impact on community health and well-being,” continued Horst.- read more

The Choctaw Nation is providing Oklahomans not only with amazing recycling opportunities that will help keep useful materials out of our growing landfills, but they are also providing jobs to Oklahomans. Their efforts are proof of what recycling can do for the state, both environmentally and economically.

If you would like to learn more about the Choctaw Nation’s recycling programs be sure to visit their website and the Choctaw Nation Going Green Facebook page.

Photo Credits: The Choctaw Nation

 

10 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Recycle

recycle

Many cities in Oklahoma offer recycling for many products but there are some items that you likely can’t recycling with your city. Thankfully many businesses are starting to offer some great recycling programs for harder to recycle items. Here is a list of ten of those items and where you can recycle them.

  1. CFLs– CFLs have mercury and should never go in the trash, thankfully you can recycle them at Home Depot. If there isn’t a Home Depot near you, contact your city to find out how you can recycle them.
  2. Cosmetic Containers- Origins recycles cosmetic jars, bottles, and tubes. They will recycle any brand.
  3. E-Waste- Gazelle has a great e-waste recycling and sell back program. You can also take e-waste to Best Buy. And be sure to check with your city, they may also provide recycling. The city of Ada is one city offering free e-waste recycling.
  4. Styrofoam– This is one type of recycling that is normally very hard to find but thanks to the Choctaw Nation, many Oklahomans now have some place to saving dispose this item, without taking up valuable landfill space. There are many drop-offs around the state, contact the Choctaw Nation for more information.
  5. Brita Filters- Whole Foods accepts Brita Filters for recycling through the Gimme 5 recycling program.
  6. #5 Plastic- #5 plastic is also accepted through the Gimme 5 program at Whole Foods.
  7. Gift Cards- Best Buy accepts gift cards for recycling.
  8. Plastic Bags– Many grocery stores offer plastic bag recycling, check with your local stores to see if they do.
  9. Plastic Bottle CapsAveda recycles plastic bottle caps that can’t normally be recycled. They have a great guide to show you what you can take there and what can’t be accepted.
  10. Inkjet Cartridges- Best Buy and Staples will recycle inkjet cartridges.

Do you know of more places to recycle hard to recycle items? Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


 

Recycling Your Old iPhone

Getting a new iPhone? Did you know just trashing it is bad for the environment? Be sure to reuse it, sell it, or recycle it. Here is some info on making your switch to a new iPhone greener.

Recycling iPhone E-Wastes the Practical Way

Browse more data visualization.

 


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.