recycle

Old Gadgets Can Be Useful, Too

Reposted from USA GOV

By Felicia Chou

‘Tis the season to be gushing about the new electronic gadgets you’ve received for the holidays, and figure out what to do with your old ones. Sure, you could keep them in your closet or attic, waiting for the day VHS tapes are all the rage again, or when radio-sized phones are back in style. Maybe that old TV can be used as a giant paperweight. But there are plenty of better alternatives to put your unwanted electronics to use.

I’ve had this laptop since college and believe it or not, it still works. Well, besides the fact that the touchpad and keyboard aren’t working; and I have to keep it plugged in because the battery is pretty much dead. If, like me, you don’t want to part with your old computer just yet, see if you can upgrade the hardware or software to put it on par with your new gadgets. In my case, I would replace the battery and the keyboard, and plug in a new wireless mouse. Or, after clearing out your personal data, you can donate working electronics to those who need them.

The next best thing is to recycle your old gadgets, but before you start carting loads of electronics to your nearest electronics collection program or drop-off point, check if they’re working with a third-party certified recycler. You’re probably thinking, third-party what? Well, companies that recycle electronics can be certified by outside organizations (like R2 Solutions and eStewards) and regularly audited to make sure that your electronics will be managed safely. That way, you can rest assured that your old gadget is being recycled in a way that is protective of our health and the environment. Check out R2 Solutions and e-Stewards® for a list of certified recyclers.

So, why shouldn’t you just let your electronics sit at home and collect dust, or worse, get thrown away in the garbage?

Electronics are made of precious metals and materials, like gold, copper, and glass. If they’re thrown away, all that precious material that required a lot of energy to mine and manufacture will go to waste. When you recycle your electronics, those precious materials can be used in other products, such as electric cars or watches. You’ll also be preventing the pollution that would have been caused by having to mine and manufacture raw materials. In fact, recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to power over 3,000 US homes for a year.

So while you’re having a blast trying out all the new features on your shiny new gadgets, just remember to put your old ones to good use. I, for one, will be looking forward to the new battery and keyboard to keep my beloved laptop working for as long as I can.

About the author: Felicia Chou is a Program Analyst in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery at EPA. Find out more about what you can do to green your holiday season at http:// www.epa.gov/waste/wycd

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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My Town Helped Me To Recycle More

By Amy Miller

I thought I recycled everything possible. Papers here. Bottles there. Food waste in the yard. Yes, my trash was reduced to simply trash.
Then my town started a Pay-As-You-Throw program. Suddenly there was this system of measurement and it became like a game. Each Blue Bag counted.

And so I began peeling the plastic off window envelopes and separating wire from the plastic packaging around toys. I no longer tossed scrunched up paper in the trash because it didn’t lay flat. It’s really not the money though, since the bags cost only about $1.50 each. It’s the challenge.
National numbers are similar. Once a town starts PAYT programs, as they are known, people start recycling more.

For instance, Malden, Mass. saved $2.5 million annually and reduced solid waste by 50 percent, thanks to its pay-as-you-throw program. The town saves money in two ways – first it gets revenue from the bags. Second, less waste collection also means more money.

A program in Concord, N.H. is saving the city about $528,000 a year and increased recycling by 75 percent. Gloucester, Mass. reduced waste by 29 percent and is saving $300,000-500,000 a year.

More than 7,000 communities are cashing in on the PAYT perks, according to EPA. Some 300 communities helped by WasteZero, a company that helps municipalities implement PAYT, diverted on average 43 percent of their waste, with many communities coming close to 50 percent.
Of course this means we each pay only for how much waste we create. So in that way, if we pollute more, we pay more.

Mark Dancy at Zero Waste noted that if all residents shared the cost of electricity equally, the way we do waste hauling, many people would be much more wasteful with electricity.

A household that recycles typically only needs a 30-gallon bag and a half of garbage a week, according to Darcy.
If you want to know the hard fast facts of how much our trash pollutes, consider that materials, food, and packaging account for 42 percent of green house gas emissions. Just recycling your Sunday paper saves enough power to run your laptop for more than 3,000 hours. Recycling a milk jug every week saves enough power to run your TV for 189 hours.
The EPA has found food makes up the largest part of what goes to landfill – about a fifth. So we’ll talk more about composting another time.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Recycle, Wrap It

By Jeri Weiss

Here’s a quick quiz: 1. What happens to the packaged snacks second graders decide not to eat? 2. What do hotels do with the half rolls of toilet-paper and half bottles of shampoo you leave behind? 3. Where does uneaten food, including food still in wrappers, end up after a conference ends.

You guessed it: these items end up in the trash.

If you’re anything like me, this kind of waste makes you want to eat food when you’re already full and tote slimy shampoo bottles across the country when you leave a hotel. But a group called Rock and Wrap It Up! has come up with a better solution. And recently this group, along with the Boston Bruins and National Hockey League was recognized by EPA at the Boston Garden.

During the 2010-11 season, the Boston Bruins donated 3,796 meals to the Boston Rescue Mission, keeping about 2.5 tons of food from being thrown out)

In honor of America Recycles Day Nov. 15, EPA teamed up with the Bruins, the New Jersey Devils and the NHL to recognize the program in which the Bruins donate prepared but unused, safe edible food to the Boston Rescue Mission and help to feed needy people while also accomplishing an important environmental service. NHL teams across the country recycle more than 105 tons of food, giving out 163,000 meals in North America.
Food donation is so simple, it’s hard to imagine what took us so long. It has little or no program start-up cost, and provides needed food to hungry people.

Rock and Wrap it Up began at the Jones Beach Theater in New York, when the manager agreed to give away rather than throw away food left over by a band. The organization quickly grew to include theaters across the country, then schools, hotels and sports venues.

Since 1991, Rock and Wrap it Up has given more than 250 million pounds of food. Among the the hotel groups participating are the Langham and Lenox hotels in Boston.

Rock and Wrap It Up’s newest project is Hungerpedia.com, an online database of charitable organizations. Any anti-poverty organization that wants to be on the list can send information in through a straightforward online application and individuals can also get involved through the website.

The cliché is never more true than when it comes to food waste– your trash is truly someone else’s treasure.

Rock It and Wrap It Up (http://www.rockandwrapitup.org/)

About the author: Jeri Weiss works in EPA’s New England regional office, in Boston. She is one of the region’s experts on recycling and waste management issues.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Terminating Our Used Electronics

By Joshua Singer

Anyone who has seen “The Terminator” can appreciate the importance of recycling electronics.

In the original film, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a cyborg sent back in time to kill the mother of the leader of humanity in the war against robots. The sequel also features the ex-governator, but as a robot reprogrammed to save the teenaged savior-to-be. In both films, Arnold plays a lethal, flesh-covered machine uncannily well.

The movies provide an action-packed demonstration of why the phrase “end of life” is appropriately associated with safe electronics disposal (I won’t elaborate to avoid spoiling the plot). Rather than throwing away discarded computers, TVs or cell phones, valuable materials can be recycled from them and used to make new products, which helps to protect people and the environment.

You don’t need to see “The Terminator” to understand reasons for recycling electronics. Recycling reduces the amount of raw materials extracted from the earth, saves the energy needed to make new products and reduces landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions. Discarded electronics contain toxins that can leach into the environment if improperly managed. Illegal dumping, for example, can release lead and mercury.

As we grow more dependent on machines, this issue will grow in importance. Americans discarded approximately 2.4 million tons of TVs, computers, cell phones and other electronics in 2010, roughly 25 percent of which was recycled.

More “end-of-life” electronics should be recycled. And some products that people can’t or don’t want to use anymore are in good enough shape to be refurbished or resold. Electronics recycling is also required in some cases. For example, Illinois will ban additional electronics, such as TVs and computers, from landfill disposal beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

You may be able to unload old electronics at a thrift store (if they still work), a retailer or manufacturer that accepts them, local government drop-off site or a recycling facility. R2 and e-Stewards® third-party certification programs can help ensure recycling companies handle materials properly.

While not quite as dramatic as a war against robots, we need to combat problems resulting from greater use of electronics. Recycling more electronics is a battle we can win, with or without the Terminator.

About the author: Joshua Singer is a press officer in EPA’s Chicago Office.  He works on Superfund, land and chemical issues.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Re-energizing Communities through RE-Powering

By Katie Brown

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. Growing up in the 80’s, I learned a dance that went with those words. There will be no demonstrations, but think of the hustle: Do the recycle. Do-do-do…da…do-do-do-do.

The simple mantra has served as a guiding principle that has led me to some surprising ventures, including this latest jump into contaminated lands. The RE-Powering America’s Land program promotes the redevelopment of potentially contaminated sites with renewable energy. This is where reduce, reuse and recycle meet, and then some.

Reduce through Reuse: By repurposing contaminated land for clean energy production, we are able to preserve valuable open space. With the distributed vs. central generation debate in the background, I find inspiration in this straight-forward development approach. Put pollution-free, renewable generation capacity on damaged land. Make use of the good stuff: hike the woods, prairies, and deserts; farm the arable land; play in the parks.

Reuse to Recycle: Many contaminated sites are located in urban areas, generally in economically depressed neighborhoods. By installing renewable energy on this land, we are not only reusing the land but also creating an asset that will serve the community for decades to come.

Building on existing success stories, the RE-Powering America’s Land program is launching feasibility studies at 26 sites throughout the country. The sites have been selected based on proposals from community stakeholders, with backing from the utilities.

Partnering with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the RE-Power studies will provide a detailed assessment of the potential for renewable energy development at each site. The sites range from landfills to mines to former manufacturing plants. In the future, many will provide green power from solar, wind, biopower, or geothermal sources. This effort represents a shift in community thinking about contaminated land use and sustainability.

RE-Powering gives the communities the technical assistance to evaluate the potential for a site. From there, the communities will engage with developers and financiers to move forward with promising projects. It further empowers communities to set the course for redevelopment and energize their homes and businesses in a new way.

Reduce the need to convert open space for industrial needs. Reuse previously-developed land for a green-energy future. Recycle blight into community assets. Now that’s a dance I can do.

About the author: Katie Brown is the AAAS S&T fellow hosted in the Center for Program Analysis in the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response. Prior to her fellowship, Katie worked in the solar industry in product development and at NREL on device design and government-industry partnerships.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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How to Bag It!

By Joshua Brown

Millions of single-use bags are used in Boulder, Colorado each year. The Fairview Net Zero Environmental Club has a goal: reduce the use of single-use shopping bags in Boulder. We are working with the City Council to pass an ordinance to put a fee or a ban on single-use shopping bags.

While the City Council has the ultimate decision, more than two thousand Boulder citizens have signed petitions to reduce the consumption of single-use shopping bags in Boulder. Several months ago, we asked the City Council to have staff look into the issue. After that success, we went back to the City Council and requested that the issue be addressed in the city’s five year update of the Master Plan for Waste Reduction.

To increase our effectiveness, we formed alliances with New ERA Colorado, Boulder High Net Zero and Summit Net Zero. We speak about the issue at City Council meetings twice a month addressing different concerns and giving information on the negative impacts of paper and plastic single use bags. We have been told the issue will be addressed in the five year plan so now we are asking City Council to put the issue top of the 2012 agenda at the City Council retreat in January.

We are also raising awareness in the community. The Fairview Net Zero and Summit Net Zero Clubs, and New ERA had a booth and brought the issue to the well-attended Boulder Creekfest and collected petition signatures. We also have written letters to the editor of our local paper.

Our efforts have not gone unnoticed. An article in the local paper about us was picked up and published throughout the country and a Denver news station, 9News, did a story on our club’s efforts. We have gained more and more supporters. Keep an eye on Boulder and don’t be surprised if you see an ordinance with fee or ban on single-use bags go into effect in Boulder in 2012!

UPDATE: The City of Boulder included 10 pages in the Master Plan for Waste Reduction about putting bans or fees on plastic and paper bags! This was a direct result of the students’efforts. It should lead to an ordinance reducing the use of single use bags in the near future. What an outstanding accomplishment for these students!

About the author: Josh is a senior at Fairview High School. He is active in the Net Zero Environmental Club and is a link leader helping freshmen adjust to high school. Josh is also active in the local Jewish youth organization where he is vice president. He owns his own lawn service company. He plans to study Arts and Humanities in college.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Growing Up Poor Gives You A Special Sense of Community And Environmentalism

By Kristinn Vazquez

I have a confession to make. I’m cheap. Most people wouldn’t guess that about me. I do like to spend money on others. But, I’m cheap when it comes to resources at home and at work. I would argue most of us who grew up poor can relate. We’re environmentalists because we’re cost-conscious.

As the oldest of six, you wouldn’t think I received “hand-me-downs.” You haven’t met my family. I received the coolest clothes from an older cousin. When you’re poor, you realize the things you don’t need. You don’t actually need paper towels. You also don’t buy anything you could borrow. And, you rarely throw anything out. Someone might need it or have a creative use for it. Poor families have an incredible sense of community.

In our home now, all kinds of things become art supplies for the kids. Empty toilet paper rolls, bubble wrap, gift ribbons, plastic triangles from the center of pizzas, etc. (use your imagination)! Yogurt and butter containers become leftover containers. Plastic bags become pet waste bags. We’re constantly trading our kids’ clothes with friends. Here’s one we just learned: you can catch water in the shower and use that to water the plants. These are small ways to reuse and recycle materials, but they’re cost-saving measures for us, AND they’re good for the environment.

At the office, I help manage a program that considers bigger ways to recycle. We run the Responsible Appliance Disposal program that encourages utilities, retailers, and manufacturers to take your old refrigerators and window air conditioners, and responsibly dispose of the components that are harmful to the environment. If not properly handled, the refrigerant and foam contribute to ozone layer depletion and climate change. This month, RAD partner GE worked with Appliance Recycling Centers of America to open the first fully-automated appliance recycling facility in the U.S. Based in Philadelphia, the facility will not only serve more than a 12-state area, it has also created more than 50 new green jobs.

I’m proud to be helping the environment and the economy. On a personal note, if you’re upgrading to a new, more energy-efficient refrigerator, resist the urge to put the old refrigerator in your basement. This lowers the demand on the energy grid and perhaps more importantly when you’re cheap, lowers the demand on your own utility bills. I’d love to hear your ideas for creative recycling.

About the author: Kristinn Vazquez is the Deputy Director for the Stratospheric Protection Division. In her free time, she focuses on trying to see the world through her children’s eyes.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Purchasing Tires for My Old Faithful

By Denise Owens

Normally when I go to purchase tires for my vehicle it’s usually because they are worn. But in this case they were dry rotted. It’s an old little SUV that isn’t driven much.

So I started my search online for the best deals. After finding the best deal I made an appointment to have the tires installed. After arriving at the service center, the serviceman informed me that along with having my tires installed and balanced. I needed more work to my vehicle.

After spending my entire Saturday getting my old faithful truck serviced, I received my bill. I was ok with all the charges until I noticed a fee for tire disposal. So I asked the serviceman where do you dispose the old tires? He said “oh, we put them in the dumpster.” So I told him, I’d take them with me instead. He looked at me as if I was crazy.

I left the service center with all of my old tires. On my way home, I stopped at my area recycling center. At the recycling center, there is an area to dispose of tires. So I removed the tires from my truck and disposed of them in the proper area.

I feel so good knowing that I disposed of my own tires and saved money by disposing of them the correct way.

What do you do when you purchase new tires?

About the author: Denise Owens has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency for over 20 years

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

The View from Vermont

By Jeffrey Levy

Ah, Vermont. Where I go to get away from my job, but also where I’m reminded of why I do my job.

Every summer, we go to “camp,” the cabin on a Vermont lake built by my wife’s great-grandfather in 1913.  Think “rustic,” not “luxury.” The walls are plywood, the floors creak, there’s an abundance of spiders and usually a few mice, and it smells musty.  I try to convince my daughters that spiders help keep the mosquito population down, to mixed success. When I sit up late at night reading, or we stargaze, the world outside vanishes.  In other words, it’s heaven.

Camp is where we take stuff like furniture and appliances when we buy new things for home. The recliner chair where I’m sitting to write this is at least 50 years old. Some of the books on the shelves date to the 1930s. The cupboard is full of plates from when my mother-in-law grew up. People here were reusing long before we started talking about “reduce, reuse, recycle.”

Our water is another subject related to EPA’s mission. For the first 15 years I came up here, we couldn’t drink the water from the tap because it came out of the lake; we had to buy water. Now we have a well, but I worry about getting it tested regularly. There’s never been heavy industry here, so swimming has always been ok. But when I consider how many lakes and rivers were seen as places to dump toxic chemicals, I can see how most U.S. water bodies weren’t fit for swimming or fishing when EPA was founded in 1970.

One of the best things about camp is the clean air. We come in August, when DC is at its hottest and haziest. No code red days up here! When we hike up nearby mountains, and I’m sucking in lungfuls of air, I appreciate EPA’s efforts to make sure everyone has healthy air to breathe.

I don’t mean to say that I’m constantly thinking about EPA when I come to Vermont. But it’s good to be reminded so directly why EPA’s mission is so important.

Where do you go to get away from it all? Do you ever think about the environment when you do?

About the author: Jeffrey Levy joined EPA in 1993. Before becoming Director of Web Communications, he worked to protect the ozone layer and end acid rain.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action; and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog post.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Swishing…Or “How We Dressed Up Earth Day at EPA”

By Heather Barnhart

My father’s birthday is the beginning of May, and every year I struggle to think up the perfect – and new! – gift idea. Earth Day’s approach fills me with this same nagging need to come up with something innovative. We’re social creatures and our attitudes, opinions, and values on issues and situations develop into norms, which are behaviors evolved from the collective. The movement from opinion and value to norm is basis for developing an environmental ethic. And the wonderful thing about Earth Day is that it’s supposed to be fun – fun and celebratory, fun and SOCIAL.

How do I take something that happens every year and make it special and unique and maybe just a bit exciting? We decided to encourage employees to reuse/recycle by holding a swap, which we called a swish to be more posh like our friends across the pond.  Swishing is a fun, accessible, and free way to promote reuse because everyone has, needs, and buys THINGS. Our individual choices have environmental impacts and the amount, number and types of things we buy, reuse, and/or recycle impacts the environment. At the event employees could also learn about trash, waste disposal, and take a personal Ecological Footprint quiz to learn about their own impacts on the environment.

If you want to swish, it just takes planning and the dedication of some volunteers. Here in NYC, we take our status as one of the world’s fashion capitals seriously and focused on men’s and women’s accessories (along with our partners from the IRS and the FAA). Employees donated nearly 300 items towards the event and what wasn’t taken was donated to a local charity. Our fellow feds at U.S. Army Core of Engineers at Fort Hamilton extended their swishing to include household goods and electronics and also received more than 250 contributions from employees!

Even if you don’t swish, there are also some amazing resources in New York and New Jersey for reuse and recycling. Find out where you can donate, sell, and fix things in the NYC area at the NYC Exchange and where you can buy recycled in New Jersey on the NJ Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

Most of all remember that EARTH DAY IS EVERY DAY!

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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