Tag Archives: waste of the week

Waste of the Week #22: Vancouver Recycling Station

vancouver recycling stationfood scraps signage

I’ve never seen cans quite like these… pretty funny!

Based on their disposal at the time, they seemed pretty effective.

I love the food scraps can… it made me realize that labeling a compost receptacle in a public place as “food scraps” must be the best way.

When you see the word “Organics” or “Compost”, that means you have to know what that means in order to do as requested.

Isn’t compost poop?  Organic food?  I don’t have time for this; I’m just throwing everything in this can.

With “food scraps”, you simply know what that means.  Further, with so many disposable plastic-lined paper products ruining compost everywhere, this might help keep them out of the stream.

The trash can having a lid vs the other two sporting openings seems like a cool way to discourage trash, until someone has actual trash in their hand and they’re too grossed out to touch the lid.

All in all, this setup is awesome and it really nails it in terms of simplicity, color coding, differing cutouts, proper labeling and huge pictures.

What do you think?

Waste of the Week #17: PDX Recycling Efforts

Oregon Convention Center Waste Station

The above waste station was at the Oregon Convention Center.

It seems like they’re a bit more stringent (realistic) with their designations.

“Food Only” is a good one… this is where it’s at these days- composting facilities taking other than just food and yard waste are running into trouble left and right due to hidden plastic contamination (amongst other things).

I think the picture is funny for the “All Other Items” (much more polite than LANDFILL)… take that cardboard coffee sleeve off of that cup first!  That’s valuable carbon right there… as is most of that cup… there’s gotta be a way to get plastics phased out of paper products.

Why?  Because there’s certified 100% compostable paper products for all single use items, and every freaking one of them lasts as long as needed for the individual to use them effectively.

PDX Airport Recycling CanThe can pictured above is from the PDX Airport… I can’t help but sneak photos in airports.

This is the first time I’m seeing “NO CUPS” on a recycling can, but I get it.

Notice the other thing missing?  No mention of glass.

Glass, the only inert material, is being phased out of view these days.

Now is more important than ever to start picking items one at a time and finding plastic-free alternatives.

Not sure where to start?

Check out Plastic Free by Beth Terry… can’t recommend it highly enough for this.

Waste of the Week #18: Cork Recycling

Cork recycling!  So it looks like you can give your corks to Terracycle and they’ll turn them into cork boards to sell.

You could hold onto yours (natural, synthetic, whatever) until you have enough to make a cork board, which surprisingly doesn’t take that many to do if you glue them all in the long way.

The survival nuts burn cork to make face camoflauge (I haven’t tried it), so I guess there’s always that option too…can’t say I don’t have a bag of them in the basement ready for whatever. 🙂

It’s weird… the more I learn about recycling, the less I tend to trust it.  Hopefully the corks get to where they need to go, and chances are good they do…but I can’t help but look sideways at grocery stores collecting plastic bags, wondering if they actually get recycled.  Cork recycling definitely seems more straight forward than hinging a material’s recycling chances based on market value.

Anyway, I guess all I’m saying is that when it comes to recycling, if you can do something yourself, do it yourself.

Waste of the Week #17: Panama Problems

It’s been over a month now since I returned from Panama/Bocas Del Toro, and I still don’t know what to say about it.

It was such a beautiful place, and it was hard not to focus on the trash aspect since it was in your face most places.

It sucked taking a boat to uninhabited islands and seeing all kinds of plastics washed up on the shores.  It clearly wasn’t taken there and left behind, it was dropped off by the ocean.

Broken plastic chairs, pieces of styrofoam products, plastic bottles.  It seems like no matter where you go, these items will follow you.  What would a world look like without plastics?

I had learned that Bocas del Toro had just recently started a recycling program, and up to that point had nothing in place.  On top of that, going to the local restaurants and convenience stores indicated that they were living the single use life.

It really put a different perspective on things, since the string of islands had such a small population and you could essentially pinpoint exactly what establishments the litter was coming from: red plastic bags were everywhere, and one store on the island was using them.  I got really pissed when I saw a 2 liter bottle purchase get placed in a bag…I thought this was just Amurrican behavior, but I was wrong.

I started to think that the locals haven’t really thought much about litter, but maybe I’m just imagining that.  The travel hostels that I stayed at all seemed to have composting efforts in place (keep in mind I was trying to support “eco friendly” hostels), but none of them were as comprehensive as they could be.  That being said, The Firefly did a damn good job.

Many common uncertainties were brought up, such as: “Doesn’t the bleach in the paper mean I can’t compost it?” or “The pile is full of bugs and smells really bad, I don’t know what to do.”  Really simple stuff to overcome, but for some reason the world’s oldest natural process isn’t quite at the forefront like it should be.

The paper thing kills me, because napkins, paper towels, tissue and receipts are all perfect for composting and make up quite a bit of waste.  Especially in a place where it’s hard to find sufficient “brown materials” necessary for composting, the answer was right there in their own purchases.

It was reassuring to be able to help assess compost piles and try to teach some tips and tricks to get them psyched on composting…even on my vacation, I’m at work. 🙂

It was a fine line to tread, though.  I can’t always tell when I’m overstepping my boundaries by trying to honestly help someone out and improve their situation, and not come off like a pompous wanker.

Minimize your plastic consumption.  Non-plastic products existed for most everything at one point, so bring them back.  Straws, cups, packaging, you name it.  Paper and cardboard aren’t perfect by any means, but at least they break down and give the gift of compost when re-purposed correctly…this is especially important if recycling isn’t available for such materials.

I’ve lost my confidence in plastics being dealt with reliably…check out the book Plastic Free and see how you can be inspired by it.

Waste of the Week #15

It seems like every time I walk around in Northern Liberties, there’s a waste-related oddity that catches my eye.  I’d walk around there more often, but it sucks there.  I think it’s just because it reminds me of downtown West Chester, which was by far the worst place I’ve ever lived in my life.

Then again, I have to thank West Chester too. If it wasn’t for its godawful lameness, I wouldn’t have spent so much time studying trash and might have wasted my time partying like nearly everyone else instead.

I guess now it’s a good time to plug West Chester University’s Environmental Health program… loved it.  Dr. Sheehan, Dr. Shorten: thank you.

Anyway, this appears to be a normal waste receptacle… one side for trash (which doesn’t encompass much these days, does it?), the other for recycling.  Did the City get wire mesh cans that are split in half now?  Let’s take a look:

Doesn’t look that way, does it?  Let’s see here… we ask the disposer to segregate their materials into either hole, but it goes into the same can anyway.  This is a great example of how to make the public uncertain of what happens to their waste.  “I don’t recycle anymore, it all gets trashed anyway.  What’s the point?  Waste of time.”

If you are employed in the field of waste handling, you know that this is pure hell.  Nothing is worse than developing a recycling program, only to have your coworkers hear the great things your department is doing and then see evidence pointing to the contrary, falsely or not.  In other words, teach others about what goes on internally behind the scenes…most people won’t care, but those who listen will appreciate it and reinforce the mission.

The situation above makes people feel powerless and indifferent…all zero people that opened the lid and looked in, that is.  I know I tend to feel that way from time to time.  If 100 people disposed of their plastic bottles into a can labeled recycling, and then whoever services the can trashes it, they just deceived 100 people.

However, if the contents of this can are sent to a material recovery facility, hopefully the material will stand a shot and get separated and sold back to manufacturers.

This can clearly suffers from the Big Belly dilemma, as I like to call it (I need to register that phrase on Urban Dictionary or something).  If you know what Big Belly compactors in action look like, then you know what I mean already.

There’s a cutout for the “Recyclables”, but no hole on the “Dechets/Trash” side.  No one (myself included) wants to grab the Big Belly handle to put waste in the trash compactor, but they’ll gladly put it into the open hole on the Recycling side.  Same applies here.

Any guesses where the waste is going that’s placed in this can?