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Friday, November 14, 2014

Check out ReCreate

We were honored to be included in this article. 
Eight Inspired Recycling Projects that was on the Rainforest alliance Frog Blog and the Guardian. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Make Less Trash This School Year

New pens, new pencils, new folders, new backpacks, new clothes... the list goes on and on.  While the beginning of school is a time when people tend to buy a bunch of new things, it is also a great time to outfit your kids and yourself for lunch time.  It makes sense to buy good quality items to use over and over all year.   Items like a good reusable water bottle (instead of a case of water), a thermos, and sturdy food containers (instead of zip-lock bags and individually wrapped food items)  can really make a difference in the amount of trash you make on a day to day basis.

According to the wastefreelunches.org   the average kid produces 67 pounds of waste from their lunch each year.   At a midsized elementary school - that translates to 15-20 tons of garbage each year.  

How to Pack a Zero Waste Lunch
  • Make a sandwich or pack leftovers into a reusable container
  • Send a reusable fork / spoon
  • Include a cloth napkin
  • Pack a reusable water bottle
  • Transport it all in a reusable lunch box
Zero waste lunch practices have saved us money at our house, because instead of individually wrapped snacks or items like "Uncrustables", we pack our meals from bulk purchases.  We recouped the price of our containers after the first few months.   I do make sure everything is labeled in case a container gets left on the playground, and my kids have one set of reusable containers - which really cuts down on them misplacing things.

I hope you take the challenge and strive to pack zero-waste lunches this year!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July

Before you toss those bottle caps....

Credit:  http://midwestern-darling.tumblr.com/image/35541563855

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Baltimores Water Wheel - Cleaning the Waterways

I was inspired to see a story of a waterway becoming cleaner, so I would like to share this story with you.  In Baltimore, there is a Waterfront Partnership Initiative that is tasked with a "cleaner, greener future for our neighborhoods, streams and harbor"  called Healthy Harbor

They have developed a water current and solar powered Water Wheel to clean up their harbor:

Water Wheel

Graphic credit:  Healthy Harbor

Harnessing the power of nature to help keep the Baltimore Harbor clean

The Inner Harbor Water Wheel uses a combination of old and new technology to harness the power of water and sunlight to pick up litter and debris flowing down the Jones Falls River. 
The current of the river provides power to turn the water wheel, which lifts trash and debris from the water and deposits it in a dumpster barge.  A solar panel array provides additional power to keep the machine running even when there is not enough water current.  When the dumpster is full, it is towed away by boat and a new dumpster is put in place.

Where does the trash come from?

Trash comes from people who throw litter on the ground instead of putting it in a trashcan or recycling bin.  When it rains, water carries litter off streets and into storm drains, which flow unfiltered into neighborhood streams.  These streams carry litter into the Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.
The Jones Falls begins as a stream in Baltimore County and is fed by other streams until it becomes a small river in Baltimore City.  Although much of the river is hidden beneath the Jones Falls Expressway, the Jones Falls Watershed is much larger than the river.  A watershed is an area of land that all drains to the same body of water.

They have a lofty goal of wanting to put their Water Wheel out of business - by having people be more responsible about their waste, and to make their waterway fishable and swimmable by  2020.

You can learn more about the water wheel in this NPR report. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

What is "Plastiglomerate"? Not the Legacy We Want to Leave

A new material called plastiglomerate has been discovered on Hawaii's Kamilo Beach. The rock is the result of melted plastic trash on beaches mixing with sediment, basaltic lava fragments and organic debris, such as shells. Shown here, a type of plastiglomerate called clastic, found on Kamilo Beach.
Credit: Patricia Corcoran.
According to the EPA:
Plastics play an important role in almost every aspect of our lives. Plastics are used to manufacture everyday products such as beverage containers, toys, and furniture. The widespread use of plastics demands proper end of life management. Plastics make up almost 13 percent of the municipal solid waste stream, a dramatic increase from 1960, when plastics were less than one percent of the waste stream. The largest amount of plastics is found in containers and packaging (e.g., soft drink bottles, lids, shampoo bottles), but they also are found in durable (e.g., appliances, furniture) and non-durable goods (e.g., diapers, trash bags, cups and utensils, medical devices). The recycling rate for different types of plastic varies greatly, resulting in an overall plastics recycling rate of only 9 percent, or 2.8 million tons in 2012. However, the recycling rate for some plastic products is much higher, for example in 2012, 28 percent of HDPE bottles and 31 percent of PET bottles and jars were recycled.

Just the Facts

  • 32 million tons of plastic waste were generated in 2012, representing 12.7 percent of total MSW.
  • In 2012, the United States generated almost 14 million tons of plastics as containers and packaging, about 11 million tons as durable goods such as appliances, and almost 7 million tons as non-durable goods, such as plates and cups.
  • Only 9 percent of the total plastic waste generated in 2012 was recovered for recycling.
  • In 2012, the category of plastics which includes bags, sacks, and wraps was recycled at about 12 percent.
  • Plastics also are found in automobiles, but recycling of these materials is counted separately from the MSW recycling rate.

How Plastics Are Made

Plastics can be divided in to two major categories: thermosets and thermoplastics. A thermoset solidifies or “sets” irreversibly when heated. They are useful for their durability and strength, and are therefore used primarily in automobiles and construction applications. Other uses are adhesives, inks, and coatings.
A thermoplastic softens when exposed to heat and returns to original condition at room temperature. Thermoplastics can easily be shaped and molded into products such as milk jugs, floor coverings, credit cards, and carpet fibers.

So what is  Plastiglomerate? Plastiglomerate is the first type of rock formation influenced by humankind.  It is the fusing of man made plastic to rocks.   So far, it has only been found on Kamilo Beach,  a remote Hawaiian island known for its accumulation of plastic garbage, due to the currents of the ocean.  It is likely in existence elsewhere.

According to LiveScience:
Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem affecting every waterway, sea and ocean in the world, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. First produced in the 1950s, plastic doesn't break down easily and is estimated to persist in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years. Plastic debris is also lightweight, allowing it to avoid being buried and becoming a part of the permanent geological record.
How can we help this not happen?
  • Consider and re-evaluate your use of plastic - especially single use plastic. 
  • Make sure your garbage makes it into a secure garbage can, so it doesn't end up in an waterway.  
"One day in the future, people can look at this material and use it as a marker horizon to see that in around 2010, humans were polluting the planet with plastic," Corcoran said. "But that's not a legacy we really want."