By MJ Deschamps
With fast fashion and quick turnover key commercial ingredients of today’s garment and apparel industry, excess textile production is prompting the sector to gravitate towards more recycling and re-use of materials, to conserve energy, increase sustainability and lower raw material costs. (more…)
This is a guest post from Tom Szaky, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of TerraCycle, which provides free waste collection, and then turns that waste into sustainable products. View our previous post about TerraCycle here: https://mantrameds.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/terracycle-outsmart-waste/
Widely quoted estimates suggest that 90% of the ‘stuff’ we buy is discarded within 6 months of purchase. What’s worse is that 10% of this “stuff” ends up going to some type of waste-to-energy facility, while the remaining 90% of America’s waste ends up in a landfill.
With over 360 million Americans and counting producing on average about 4 pounds of waste a day, it is clear that our recycling systems need to be expanded to accept a wider range of materials, and fast. Worse yet, even commonly recyclable packaging formats such as PET and HDPE plastic bottles are only recycled at an estimated (and paltry) 25%.
Only 30% of people in the Southern region of the United States had curbside recycling collection in 2008. Eighty-four percent of people in the Northeast had curbside recycling. The South also has the most landfill facilities – 726, in contrast with 134 in the northeast. [EPA]
Fact courtesy of Busch Systems – like them on Facebook
Making recycling make sense
Variation in recycling programs, unclear labeling, and inaccurate recyclability claims make proper recycling a challenge. The How2Recycle Label was created to provide consistent and transparent on-package recycling information to consumers.
We created a special version of the label for plastic bags and films that are accepted primarily at retail stores with plastic bags. For more information, see plasticbagrecycling.org.
People who are interested in a career improving their community might be interested in a masters degree in human services from an online school.
We all know recycling is good for the environment, but many don’t realize the ways recycling can positively impact their own community. These days, there are more than just moral incentives for communities to establish recycling options and encourage participation.
Here are five ways the benefits of recycling can hit close to home:
1. Creates Green Jobs
Recycling has become a major industry that reaches far beyond your average curbside pickup program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by 2010 employment in green goods and services accounted for 3.1 million jobs in the United States. The green job potential grows exponentially the more communities invest in their own recycling efforts.
It’s easy to associate green jobs with what we see most often, such as curbside collection services, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot to do with recycling that goes on behind the scenes.
Once a recyclable material is collected, it usually requires processing to transform it into a valuable material that can be reused. From there, those refined materials get manufactured into new products made from recycled material.
None of these steps can take place without businesses and employees to collect, transport, process and manufacture recovered materials. When put in the context of the numerous types of materials collected, such as glass, plastics, paper and metal, it is easy to see how the potential for green jobs adds up.
Pepper – the Eco Friendly Dog
By Gia Machlin
This is Part I of a two-part post on how consumers can use Eco Labels to distinguish the green from the greenwash.
After years of making fun of dog owners in the city, I became one myself: a city dweller with a canine friend. Meet Pepper. Of course now I think having a dog in the city is the best thing since sliced bread, but I still feel somewhat ridiculous picking up after Pepper does her business on the sidewalk. Luckily we have those tidy little poop bags to help us out and keep the mess to a minimum. I realize that using an old newspaper is probably more eco friendly, and I may just switch to that, but as I was getting used to this dog walking concept, using the bags just seemed much less disgusting.
So I walked into the pet store and asked for biodegradable poop bags, and the clerk pointed me to some bags hanging in a display case. On the packaging, there was a picture of the earth with some recycling arrows around it and the words “earth friendly.” If I didn’t happen to be in the sustainability field, I might have taken this information at face value and bought the bags. But I didn’t recognize the symbol as representing a reputable eco-label and I looked further. Nowhere on the packaging did the product claim to be biodegradable, compostable, or made of renewable materials. In fact, the bags were, as far as I could tell, no different than any other plastic poop bag. But I’m sure the manufacturer fooled a few customers into believing their product was “greener” than the next. How is this possible?
It’s possible, because there is very little regulation around what companies can claim as “green,” “eco friendly,” or “earth friendly.” Not that there isn’t any regulation – in 1992 the Federal Trade Commission came out with the Guides for the Use of Environmental Marketing Claims also known as the “Green Guide“. This regulation has been updated several times, and in October 2010 the FTC proposed major updates to this section of the Federal Register (the proposed updates have yet to be finalized). So this is all good, and the FTC has started to enforce these rules, but the rules are new, and in some cases unclear, and the door is still open for all the “greenwashers” and their claims for now.
So, as a consumer, knowing that the door is still open for marketers to make all kinds of green claims, how do you know what’s green? Well the first thing to know is that nothing is truly “green.” Everything we buy has some kind of environmental footprint. A product’s footprint is calculated using many factors: the material used to make it, the energy used to manufacture it, the gasoline used to transport it, the electricity needed to operate it, and the waste created when ultimatelydisposing of it. But a product can be “greener” than another. (The most environmentally friendly option is not to buy anything new at all and reuse what’s already out there!) So how do we know what’s “greener?” Currently, we at EcoPlum believe the best option is to buy products that have are made of recycled materials, have been certified green by independent organizations or that have earned a reputable eco-label.
Now, how do you know which Eco-Label is reputable? That’s the topic of Part II of this post. But, for now, here is a list of eco-labels we have found be run by independent non-profit or government third parties that appear to have no vested interest in the products or companies they certify.
[Note: the EcoPlum Online Boutique carries only eco friendly products that have been certified green, have a third party eco-label, or are made of recycled/upcycled materials.]
Gia is the President and CEO of EcoPlum, Where it Pays to Buy Green®. EcoPlum is the green shopping rewards site with eco friendly products and green living ideas that makes it fun, easy and rewarding to go green. Under its loyalty program, buying green at EcoPlum online earns EcoChipz rewards points, good for coupons in its shop or donations to environmental causes.