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NERC Blog

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…

USDA’s School Lunch Choice Works!

As a part of its USDA funded Implementing Food Waste, Organics, and Manure Management in Rural Maryland Communities, NERC worked at Westernport Elementary School to implement a Cafeteria Waste Reduction Plan. With NERC’s assistance, the school adopted “waste free lunches,” “Offer versus Serve,” and a pilot food scrap composting program.

School lunch Choice or “Offer versus Serve (OVS)” is a program promoted by the US Department of Agriculture in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. The goals of OVS are to reduce food waste in the school meals programs while letting students decline foods they do not intend to eat. School cafeteria planners also find that the program

WRAP Campaigns Raise Awareness, Increase Recycling of Plastic Bags and Wraps

This guest blog is courtesy of the WRAP program, written by Shari Jackson, Director, Film Recycling, American Chemistry Council.

Far too many people are not aware that they can recycle a wide variety of used plastic bags, wraps, and other film packaging through widely established retail takeback programs.

WRAPwas created to change that.

WRAP stands for the Wrap Recycling Action Program, a partnership spearheaded by the Flexible Film Recycling Group of the American Chemistry Council in Washington, DC. WRAP brings together government, businesses, and recycling advocates to increase proper recycling of plastic bags and wraps… that is, collecting them at ≈ 18,000…

Keep Your Mitts Out of the Compost (Please)!

This guest blog is courtesy of Susan Thoman, Compost Manufacturing Alliance

Years before my illustrious composting career evolved, I worked as a restaurant prep cook. During high school and college, I diced and peeled carrots, scrunched freezing cold potato cubes together into thick, creamy egg dressing for potato salad, and spent every Saturday morning peeling 50-pound bags of onions (which is strangely correlated to a limited dating life in those days, as I smelled not of lavender and lilacs, but of a giant onion). In those days, the cooks wore reusable neoprene yellow gloves for mixing, then sprayed them down with scalding hot water, turned them inside out, and hung them to dry at night. Then, the next day, the gloves went on again, were used repeatedly, and were only tossed out when they got nicked with a knife or holes were worn through.

Fast forward to 2018. There is a disturbing number of single use disposable poly gloves migrating into compost collection containers from commercial kitchens. These thin plastic gloves are hard to see, and a…

Keeping the Trains on Track

This guest blog is courtesy of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

Railroad has long been a critical mode for transporting ferrous and nonferrous scrap metal throughout the United States, particularly for distances greater than 200 miles. Since many recycling facilities are served by only one major freight railroad, there are rarely alternative modes of transportation – which means scrap metal and other recycling companies are too often at the mercy of the rail companies. This means having to deal with suffering poor rail service and skyrocketing fees. And recently, things have only gotten worse.

Since major Class 1 freight railroads implemented “precision rail scheduling” at the beginning of 2019, scrap metal recycling companies have seen astronomical increases in shipping costs. Unreasonable rail practices under this new system also include: (1) reductions in available time for rail car loading, unloading and storage; (2) service inconsistencies which precipitate demurrage and storage charges and impact facility operations (e.g. bunched cars, or…

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