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NERC Blog

Reboot through Reuse

Recycling markets are down. Recycling rates are stagnant. And recycling as a whole has received some negative press over the last year. Clearly, materials management needs some fresh energy – and reliable revenue streams. Reuse may hold the key. The rapidly evolving reuse landscape is vast and exciting. We’ve long been accustomed to “traditional reuse” – shopping at thrift stores, for example, and refillable mugs for to-go coffee. But the sector now also includes concepts such as upcycling, building adaptation and the sharing economy. These trends can have significant impacts. By extending product life cycles, reuse conserves resources and lowers greenhouse gas emissions and pollution associated with new product manufacturing.

Weird (but Innovative) Recycling News

Mushrooms and fungi are fascinating things, and the edible ones are fabulously delicious! Many of us know the invaluable role that fungi have in decomposition. If we did not have fungi, we’d likely be buried in dead organic matter everywhere! These decomposers are found in terrestrial, marine and freshwater environments. Then there’s Mushroom® Packaging—fully compostable, made in America, versatile sustainable packaging. And, now these versatile mycelium are being used to recycle old buildings into new ones!

Food Lost on the Farm: Empirical Data and Good Ideas

Salvation Farms in Morrisville has produced the first empirical data on farm-level food loss in New England. Using a survey to collect data, it quantifies on-farm losses and investigates reasons for the losses. One finding shows that in Vermont 16 percent of vegetables and 15 percent of berries were considered lost but salvageable in 2015.In farming, there will always be some degree of loss and waste (or some degree of deficit). But, if more entities across the US do as Salvation Farms has done—gathering empirical data—more food-system and supply-chain interventions become possible.

A Case for Producer Responsibility

In the current system, manufacturers who profit from the sale of their wares have little incentive to make durable products or minimal, easily recycled packaging, or to incorporate recycled feedstock in their packaging. There is a bill in the Massachusetts House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, H447, An Act Reducing Packaging Waste in the Commonwealth, that assigns a fee to packaging sold in Massachusetts. The fee is based on the product’s recyclability, recycled content, and cost to manage at end of life. It provides an incentive for more lean and thoughtful packaging design, and to create domestic markets for our recyclables. The proceeds provide funding for improved recycling infrastructure development, municipal solid waste relief and public enlightenment.

Food, Culture, and Loss

The world suffered a great loss with the death of Anthony Bourdain earlier this month. Through his television shows, interviews, books, and public speaking engagements, Bourdain provided us with a taste of a wider world. Bourdain spoke of food waste as “an issue that goes fundamentally against my instincts as a longtime working cook and chef, where we were taught from the very beginning that one just does not and cannot and must not waste food." In 2017, he produced WASTED! The Story of Food Waste.

Who Killed Recycling?

The harm to recycling has been inflicted by recycling’s friends, not its enemies. Is recycling dying? No. But to successfully sustain recycling programs and to spring back from the current market mess, we need to become realistic about the problems facing recycling. We need to start setting goals based on real-world analysis, not subjective wishfulness. We need to create a business atmosphere that encourages the development of viable manufacturing facilities that can be substantial recycling markets. Recycling can succeed if we acknowledge its costs, set realistic goals and design our programs to accommodate human behavior. Why not start now?

Make an Impact on World Environment Day 2018

It’s World Environment Day—“a global celebration of nature, a day to reconnect with the places that matter most to you.” It’s a fantastic opportunity to get involved in a cause and do something in your local community to help make a positive impact on our environment. According to organizers, World Environment Day is the UN's “most important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.”

Student Art as Message

“Our creative projects communicate a vital and urgent environmental truth: We need to sustain the planet that sustains all our lives now and for our future generations.”

Zoos, Aquariums, and Eco-Friendly Waste Management Programs

NERC Supporting Member Solus Group blogs on composting and other sustainability measures being embraced by leading zoos in the United States.

The Dangers of “Wishcycling”

As the impacts of China’s new import policies to reduce trash in the recyclables begin to impact our collection programs, you may be seeing a lot more articles about the health of recycling, both locally and across the globe. In many cases, these articles are communicating the same basic information: • Recycling contamination – or the percentage of trash mixed with recyclables – has increased and it’s jeopardizing the global recycling industry • Going forward, China will not purchase recyclables if there is just a fraction of trash mixed with the items • As a result, we all must focus our efforts on recycling the right items the right way

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