Is There a Time When Recycling is Not Worth the Time, Effort and Money?

Featured post by Richard Johnson

What are the true costs of recycling and how does the extended producer liability initiative help?

You have probably heard how important recycling is for you, your family, and the planet. You might get annoyed hearing it over and over, but that thought is not exactly without merit because there are a few problems related to recycling that you may not know about.

Who takes care of recyclables?

You take your recycling materials to where it is accepted but what happens afterwards? The truth is small communities, townships, and municipalities become responsible for recycling all that waste.

And, you might think that this is great since everyone is chipping in to help the planet. This might be true, but the problem is it might be putting unnecessary financial stress on your community and this country as a whole.

Of course, no one is suggesting that recycling should be a forgotten project unless you want cities inundated with trash. But a new system needs to be put in place because governments are spending around 1.5 billion dollars to recycle all the waste. Some cities that are getting the bottom end of the stick include Columbia, South Carolina and Florence, Alabama though there are more regions deeply affected.

Wasn’t recycling supposed to pay for itself?

Most people remember these three words: recycle, reduce, reuse. Chances are you saw them on a shirt, poster, or spoken about by some character on Saturday morning cartoons. Everyone was supposed to recycle to make this whole idea work in a positive way. But there are a few problems, like lazy recyclers.

Lazy recyclers are people who simply are not recycling. Only 35 percent of people are recycling, but the rest are absent from the green party doing who knows what with their recyclables. The city becomes responsible for recycling all that trash afterwards.

It would work out better for a city if all these recyclables were actually worth money but therein lies another problem. Many of the items that you are supposed to recycle are not worth much. Take, glass, which is only worth negative 300 dollars a ton. And, worse of all, there are not many companies actually purchasing the material, even though it is easy to melt down and reuse. It is costing the community much more to pick up and attempt to sell the material.

This does not mean there are no profitable materials, like metal. One example is aluminum, which takes a company more to make than simply reuse. In fact, recycling aluminum saves a company around 90 to 95 percent on energy. Apparently, money talks way louder than the environmental impact some companies could be averting by investing in recycling. But most of the materials trashed are plastic, cardboard, and paper.

In short, recycling is not paying for itself, and it is partly the fault of the community, as well as companies who are just not committed to the green cause.

What can be done?

One expert proposes the idea of truly implementing more recycling bins for people to use. But they need to better enforce the law because separating all those recyclables is simply not cost-effective. Perhaps the US can do things like separate organic materials versus materials that are not recyclable once the people really take recycling seriously.

The organic material can be buried while the other non-recyclable material is kept away to ensure that decomposition of organic material occurs naturally and without interference of excess methane. Excess methane production is what happens in landfills, which does not allow organic materials to deteriorate as they should. The separation of landfills is a model adopted from Europe.

Another initiative that is being pushed forward is to make companies a little more responsible. The initiative is called Extended Producer Liability, or EPR, which is basically asking manufacturers to pick up their own trash. Okay, that is not what the initiative actually says; the words are less combative. But the idea is to have manufacturers who make all those cans, cardboard boxes, and what not help pick up the bill. The initiative will encourage companies to start investing in recycling campaigns that might help improve participation. What about deposits on every type of packaging similar to bottles and aluminum cans? This model has worked wonders in states that have implemented this law. Make the recyclable materials worth more in the initial step. People by nature act differently to items with value as opposed to garbage.

Recycling needs to take place on the industrial level as well. Many industries and business models produce waste such as dry cleaning, construction, furniture and textiles manufacturing all produce large volumes of waste. Waste from coal-fired power plants is another huge and toxic problem. One option may be to look at these materials as by-products rather than waste.Take for example the steel industry. Millions of tons of materials were once moved from mills into landfills, taking up valuable space and resources. These days the steel industry deals with “by-products”, keeping these streams clean and separated so they can be sold and reused in other industries. Materials such as slags, Mill Scale, dusts and powders all have other uses if the time is taken to properly place them. Scraps from the furnaces find their way back to other melting operations to be used in new products. It seems putting a monetary value on so called waste materials of any type may be the best option to keep our recycling industries and habits moving forward.


Richard Johnson runs MineralRecycling.com, a website property of Saucon Resources for posting current and upcoming projects as well a materials available for sale. 

5 Tips for a More Energy Efficient Home

Making your home more energy efficient just makes sense

Energy efficiency is all the rage these days. Stable energy prices are likely a thing of the past. In times of economic uncertainty, fluctuating utility bills are an ever greater burden. Not only are people concerned about their bills, but they’re also concerned about their carbon footprint and ensuring that Mother Earth, as we’ve known her for the past 10,000+ years, is around for future generations. If you want to make your home more energy efficient, here are five tips you should follow.

Replace old appliances

Old appliances are one of the biggest sources of energy in the home. From the refrigerator and stove to the washer and dryer, they seem to make the meter spin round and round. New energy efficient units can make a big impact on the electric bill. Look for the Energy Star logo. With the average household spending over $2,000 a year in utilities, replacing these old units can save up to 30 percent. Who couldn’t use an extra $600 per year?

Switch light bulbs to CFL’s

Compared to a regular light bulb, a CFL will last for an amazing 10,000 hours. The cost to run this bulb is just 8¢ per kilowatt hour, which equates to a cost of $10.4 for the life of the bulb. These bulbs are 75 percent more energy efficient than the standard bulbs. They cost a bit more upfront, but they save you in the long run. The cost per kilowatt hour for a regular bulb is 15¢.

Service or replace HVAC units

If you’re tired of paying for costly repairs, it may be time to replace the HVAC unit. If a unit is beyond 10-15 years of age, it’s well beyond its life expectancy. Perhaps your unit isn’t that old. Just having the unit serviced and cleaned, as well as adding a new filter can make a huge difference. These units are the biggest source of energy consumed in the home. You can save almost $100 a year just from a maintenance session.

Replace Old Drafty Doors

Did you know that your windows and doors can be a big cost of energy? If you have an older home, you may need to replace it with one that fits better and keeps out all those drafts. Air leaks can cause the furnace to run longer, which only raises your bills and makes your carbon footprint bigger. Those new doors can pay for themselves in savings. There are a number of beautiful options that can improve the look and function of your home. One great example is Fas Windows and Doors.

Replace The Hot Water Heater

The hot water heater takes a great deal of energy to keep that water at a constant temperature. Simply turning down the dial a bit can make a dramatic impact on your utility bills. However, if you are in the market for a new heater, why not try a tankless system? These are often called hot-water-on-demand because they only heat what is being used. The system will more than pay for itself in just a few years.

These are just a few ways to make your home more efficient. Simple steps like these can help you save on your utility bills, as well as improve the look of your home.

Green Home Remodeling: Making Your Home More Sustainable

By Bob Gorman

Steps to a more sustainable home

Your home is your greatest opportunity to make an eco-friendly impact on the world. From your appliances to your roof, you can make your home more sustainable and create a more eco-friendly footprint as you live a greener lifestyle. Every little bit matters!

Start with a professional energy audit

Even with all the blog posts in the world, you won’t be able to create an accurate assessment of your energy footprint without a little bit of outside help. Have a professional energy auditor go through your home and assess how much energy you’re using and where you can most effectively make positive changes.

Look closer at your roof

The goal of your roof is to keep the outside in its place: that is, not in the middle of your living room. It protects you from excessive sun, keeps rainwater out of your house, and helps keep you warm in winter. Your roof, however, can be so much more than that. When you’re thinking green, you have a wide variety of options for putting your roof to the best possible use. You can change its color to make sure it reflects the sun and keeps your house cool, install solar panels to convert the sun to energy that will power your home, or literally “green up” your roof and use it as an extended yard or other living space when you turn it into a garden. Your roof is one of the biggest spaces in your home and therefore one of the most important when it comes to going green.

Choose your materials carefully

Use a local source for as many of your building materials as possible. You can have the most eco-friendly home imaginable and negate a chunk of that benefit simply by needing to ship the bulk of your materials across the country. Also, look for renovation options that allow you to use recycled or repurposed materials instead of new ones. You can create reclaimed wood floors, use recycled glass tiles, or look for ways to incorporate existing items into your decor: whatever works for you!

Make your insulation a priority

Your heating and cooling efforts will require a great deal of the energy allotted for your home. While you can cut down on some of these expenses by installing a fireplace for heat and using fans and natural airflow to keep your home cool, it’s also important to ensure that your heating and cooling efforts aren’t going straight out your doors and windows–literally! Check for cracks and crevices, make sure that your windows aren’t letting out excessive energy, and look for ways to reduce your energy needs. A well-insulated home will require less effort to keep warm during the winter and cool during the summer.

Install a programmable thermostat

When you’re asleep, your home can be cooler than during the daytime hours, when you need to crank up the heat in order to be comfortable as you go about your day. Likewise, when you’re out of the house, you don’t have to maintain as much temperature control. Chances are, however, that you aren’t going to remember to make those changes yourself. Installing a programmable thermostat will help ensure that your home is always at the ideal temperature without requiring a lot of effort on your part.

Try a tankless water heater

If you’ve ever had the experience of running out of hot water halfway through your shower, a tankless water heater probably already sounds appealing. In addition, a tankless water heater only heats the water that’s actually being used, rather than keeping a tank full of water ready at all times. Over time, this can produce a substantial savings on your energy bill and significantly lower your energy usage. As an added bonus, tankless water heaters often last longer than the bulkier models in most homes.

When you decide to start a green remodeling project, there are plenty of aspects to consider. Depending on your budget, you can make a significant impact on the earth from the comfort of your own home. Working with a smaller budget? It’s okay to start small! When it comes to saving the earth, every little bit helps.

Image credit: neo-planete via Google images

EarthTalk: The Postal Service Reduces Its Carbon Footprint

EarthTalk® is a weekly environmental column made available to our readers from the editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

US Postal Service makes strides in greening its operation and reducing its carbon footprintDear EarthTalk: What’s the latest with the U.S. Postal Service trying to reduce its environmental footprint? Starting delivery of some mail on Sundays doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction.  — Kerry Rawlings, Albany, NY

As recent TV ads have been telling us, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has recently started delivering some mail on Sunday in what most chalk up to an effort to stay one step ahead of United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fedex). But while Sunday delivery may be convenient for consumers, environmental leaders worry that adding an extra day causes an unnecessary waste of fuel and carbon emissions. Though this service has been implemented too recently for any concrete statistics on its increase of greenhouse gas emissions, the USPS has several other initiatives already in process that can, at the very least, perhaps help to offset the environmental impact of this new increase.

Recycling, one of the familiar poster-children of the green movement, has become a true priority at the USPS in recent years. In 2012, USPS saved over 250,000 tons of paper, cans and plastic waste. In the lobbies of local post offices are over 22,000 recycling bins for those looking to dispose of any paper products. These same offices also offer eco-friendly envelopes, boxes made from recycled materials, and stamps that make use of a biodegradable adhesive.

Another important environmental initiative of USPS is its Return for Good program which facilitates recycling of stuff besides paper. Under the program, USPS collects expired prescription drugs, small electronics, empty ink cartridges and even fluorescent lamps. This program recovered approximately 172,000 pounds of unused pharmaceuticals in 2012. Recyclers can save themselves a trip to the post office to turn in recycled items by scheduling a pickup from the trucks already driving nearby 6-7 days/week. USPS even offers cash back on some newer electronics devices.

There are also efforts to reduce the impact of the large fleet of postal delivery trucks. According to the article, “Greener Delivery?” in the Harvard Gazette, the USPS has begun the process of replacing 180,000 of its trucks with more eco-friendly alternatives. The recognizable boxy mail trucks seem to be a thing of the past, as a January proposal suggested several design alterations to enhance efficiency and reduce emissions from the current rate of 9 miles per gallon. In addition to changes to the traditional truck, there are already around 42,000 alternative-fuel vehicles in the USPS fleet, most of them using ethanol as a fuel source. There are also electric, natural gas and bio-diesel trucks.

Of course, another way USPS is trying to reduce its environmental impact is to cut out consumers trips—and the emissions entailed—to the post office. Consumers can now print out pre-paid labels to simply attach to packages. By scheduling a pickup from your home, the mailman who passes every day will pick up your package and begin the delivery process.

Two other important programs can help reduce consumers’ environmental footprint. If you are going out of town, go to USPS.com and put your mail on hold until you return, eliminating unnecessary deliveries to your house. And alerting USPS when you move will also stop extraneous deliveries to your old abode.

While USPS may never be able to be as green as the beast that is killing it, e-mail, at least it is making strides in the right direction, even if you do get packages on Sundays.

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EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine.

Eco News Roundup: Green Energy Tips; Tiny Houses; Green Space; Eco Apps

Eco News Roundup for June 26: Resources from around the world to help live a more eco-friendly lifestyle

This week features tips for adopting green energy in your home. How about the new trend toward “tiny houses” and living off-grid? Learn how physical and mental health improves with access to green spaces. Finally, we look at 13 apps you can use to help you lower your carbon footprint. Enjoy and please leave any suggestion for next week’s roundup in the comments section. Enjoy!

Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 TipsTips for Green Energy

Over the past few years, many residential energy consumers from all over the globe have been considering taking a more eco-friendly approach to their home electricity consumption. Taking a truly green approach to energy consumption means taking the time to shop for a plan that uses renewable resources and by making changes to your everyday lifestyle in an effort to incorporate more eco-friendly practices.

Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 Tips3 Tiny Houses That Let You Live Green—and off the Grid

The tiny-house fad appears to be here to stay, fetishized in a stream of articles and fueled by a fascination with living a less materialistic lifestyle. Companies like Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, Sprout, and Wheelhaus are more than happy to make this downsizing dream a reality, offering a myriad of micro-models that provide fodder for get-away-from-it-all fantasies.

 

Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 TipsPeople don’t just need social housing, they need green spaces close by

It’s the time of year when we’re exhorted by Sunday supplements to enjoy al fresco living, the restorative benefits of the great outdoors. But what if you can’t? Access to green space – for leisure, for exercise, for social contact – is one of the many things that marks out the haves and have-nots in society. The amount and quality of public green space is disproportionately weighted in favour of the wealthy. The last meaningful research on the subject, the 2010 report Urban Green Nation, by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, provided clear evidence that people living in more disadvantaged areas or from more marginalised communities had fewer good quality parks and gardens near to where they live and used them less often than people living in more affluent areas.  Click here to view original web page at www.google.com

Go Green by Switching to a Green Energy Plan and by Following These 10 Tips13 Green Apps For Environmentalists Who Want To Track Their Carbon Footprint

Remembering to live green can go further than setting a reminder to put out the recycling, buying organic, and saving all your peelings for compost. Apps for environmentalists, it turns out, are actually a new frontier for green lifestyle, both for sustainable crusaders with all their local organic food stalls memorized, and those of us who’ve just woken up to the whole living-green thing. In case revamping your life to get a bit more eco-friendly seems overwhelming and difficult, no worries: there’s an app for that. And, luckily, it’s probably served without any sanctimony.