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The Challenge of Markets - the supply of recyclables is larger than demand

This guest blog is provided by Michael Alexander, Recycle Away Systems & Solutions.

Markets, markets, markets," the recycling buzzword for the 1990s, has become all too familiar to those responsible for moving materials through the recycling process. Why are markets so vital to the success of recycling? How do they behave under the current recycling fervor? What forces lie behind their development?

Traditionally, a market is created when the available supply of a product is matched by a corresponding demand. Usually, supply and demand follow each other closely, as markets evolve over time. In the rush to recycle, however, the demand for recyclable material has not always kept pace with burgeoning supplies. While state and local governments have proved effective in implementing programs to recover materials, they have had less success in finding markets for them.

Several factors contribute to this problem. The lag time between the availability of large quantities…

EPA Releases Findings From Crumb Rubber Study

This guest blog is courtesy of Scrap Tire News.

Long-awaited research study differentiates between what is present in the recycled tire crumb from what people may actually be exposed to from recycled tire crumb.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Synthetic Turf Field Recycled Tire Crumb Rubber Characterization Research Final Report: Part 1 -Tire Crumb Rubber Characterization, July 25, 2019.

The report is part of the Federal Research Action Plan (FRAP) on Recycled Tire Crumb Used on Playing Fields and Playgrounds, a multi-agency effort that includes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ASTDR), and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)performing research that seeks to improve the understanding of potential health effects of recreational exposures to recycled tires. The EPA and CDC are studying the chemical characteristics of recycled tire materials and the exposures on athletic fields. The CPSC…

Food companies should know what’s in the packaging. Here’s why

This guest blog is provided by the Environmental Defense Fund,

EDF & Business blogs, written by Tom Neltner and Michelle Mauthe Harvey

Recently, we recommended a series of steps that companies can take to address EDF’s top-ten list of chemicals of concern in the food supply, including setting new packaging specifications, verifying compliance, and tracking progress. Perhaps surprisingly, one action you haven’t seen us recommend – until now – is one of the key tenets of EDF’s Five Pillars of Safer Food Leadership: supply chain transparency, in this case into chemical additives to both raw material and…

Is This The Sipping Point?

This guest blog is by Nina Goodrich, Director of The Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) & Executive Director of GreenBlue.

Single use plastics have become the focal point for our frustration with plastic waste. Doug Woodring from the Ocean Recovery Alliance wrote in a recent article, “Switching to alternatives might not save the world but the use of single-use plastics sends a distinct message to customers that the brand and its management is not on top of an issue of growing global importance.” Straws are emblematic of our single-use addiction because they are rarely necessary and tossed in a matter of minutes. Recent moves by Starbucks, McDonald’s and others to eliminate straws provides momentum to address the single use challenge. I believe we should embrace this momentum and leverage it to tackle the larger problem of developing system-based solutions for design and recovery of all packaging material types. It’s important that we not get distracted by single substrate solutions. All…

Bioplastics and Biodegradability

This guest blog is courtesy of Debra Darby, Darby Marketing.

Recently several colleagues interested in organics recycling have asked me about the use of the terminology “biodegradable” and “compostable”, and what these terms mean.  Several types of products have come out that further complicate people’s understanding including bags and food service ware items made from bioplastics and other compostable materials.  I will provide some definitions and a glossary of terms for you to gain a general understanding.

What are Bioplastics? 
Bioplastics are a large family of materials that can be used to make a wide variety of consumer products. A bioplastic is a plastic that can be biodegradable, has biobased content, or both. Bioplastics is a term which encompasses two categories:

  1. Bioplastic made from renewable resources. Here the origin of the raw materials used to make bioplastics, typically from biomass including industrial sugars and starch, is considered biobased.

  2. Bioplastic that is biodegradable and compostable…

Don’t Throw Away Used Textiles…No Matter How Nasty They Are!

This guest blog is provided by WasteZero.

Every year in the US, we generate more than 258 million tons of municipal solid waste.  Just over 16 million tons of that—or about 6%—are textile items.  The vast majority of those items can be recycled.  Sadly, they aren’t.  Nearly 85% of textile waste ends up being tossed in the trash bin.  Only 15% are recycled.

These textiles include more than clothes.  They include towels, rags, bed sheets, carpets, rugs, curtains, and a host of other items.  While most people realize that wearable used clothes can be donated to a local Goodwill, Salvation Army, or some other local charity, many aren’t aware that even used underwear, old rags, and torn up carpets can be donated and recycled.

When a charity or a for-profit textile collection business (such as Simple Recycling) receives a pile of textiles, the first thing they do is go through the items and grade them, separating the good stuff from…

Waste-Handling Injuries: What We Can Learn from OSHA Injury Reports

This guest blog is courtesy of the Solus Group.

There’s good news and bad news for safety advocates in the waste-handling industry.

First, the good news. Fatalities for refuse and recycling collectors declined to a rate of 34.1 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers in 2016. This halted a troubling rise that began in 2012 and peaked at a rate of 38.8 injuries per 100,000 workers in 2015.

Nonfatal injury and illness rates for solid waste collectors also dipped slightly around that time, from 5.2 injuries per 100 workers in 2016 to 5.1 in 2017. Analysts credit this trend as the result of aggressive safety programs surrounding waste-collectors, driven by the job’s standing as the fifth-most dangerous occupation in…

Your Bottle Means Jobs

This guest blog is courtesy of Chantal Fryer, Director, Recycling Market Development, South Carolina Department of Commerce.

From where I sit at the SC Department of Commerce Recycling Market Development program, I help promote the message that recyclers may be familiar with, but the public is not, i.e. “Recycling doesn’t just help the environment, it helps the economy!” In my capacity, I serve as volunteer staff to the Carolinas Plastics Recycling Council (CPRC), a public/private initiative whose goal is to increase plastics recycling in North and South Carolina.  The issue is demand for recycled bottles exceeds the supply here in the Southeast. Recycled bottle material collected for recycling in our states is only enough bottle supply for the recyclers to run their manufacturing processes for 2 days. SC is a major player in the recycled PET fiber industry with processing and end-use manufacturers such as PolyQuest, US Fibers, Sun Fiber, Palmetto Synthetics, E-Z Products, Southeast Grinding and Samuel Strapping. North…

So, Should We Recycle? YES WE SHOULD!

Authored by Lynn Rubinstein, Executive Director of the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC) and Steve Alexander, President of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR)

Most people in the recycling community know that recycling is alive and well in the United States.  Although there are current adjustments due to the actions of China, there are markets for recycled plastics. Domestic markets for materials may have shifted from historical buyer relationships to new potential customers. China’s actions have also presented accelerated opportunities for recycling education and program improvements.  This is not just a cup half full motivated by denial – it is a matter of facts.

Many of the mass media pieces that we have seen or heard – and this now includes NPR’s Planet Money podcast (episode 926) – have featured the proverbial Chicken Little crying that the sky is falling.  Yes, bad news is always so much more engaging than good news, and yes, if one major media outlet presents claims that the public is wasting its time recycling, that recycling is in…

From Bin to Market: Fixing the Recycling System

In the aftermath of China closing its doors to most Western recyclables, the issue of contamination has found its way from international markets to the humble curbside bin. Efforts to reduce contamination at its source have been launched by several entities. NERC Advisory Member The Recycling Partnership deploys funding it receives from major brands to conduct audits in communities throughout the United States, identifying contamination in curbside bins and educating stakeholders in reducing contaminants.

NERC State Member Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has launched Recycle Smart, an initiative including the Smart Recycling Guide, which clarifies, via pictures and simple text, what can and…

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