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Steps Toward Zero Waste for Contractors and Builders

In previous blog articles we offered some C&D Recycling Insights. NERC's new Moving towards Zero Waste & Cost Savings – A Roadmap for Builders & Contractors for Construction & Demolition Projects takes it a step further to offer a roadmap toward "zero waste."

Zero waste is a path that can lead to savings and profit. Zero waste does not actually mean "zero waste," as some think. Instead it is a goal and en route to that goal, great change and value can be achieved. And, contractors can realize cost reductions by following this path. Zero waste in construction and remodeling projects focuses on looking for opportunities:

  • Generating less waste by using materials more efficiently – saves money;
  • Reusing materials on site, or selling or donating them to someone else for reuse – cost containment, potential revenues or tax benefits; and
  • Recycling whenever possible – might save you money and could even…

Landfill Harmonic

This video has been making the rounds. It is a clip from Landfill Harmonic, an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where the musicians play instruments made out of trash. I decided to repost it as it seems like an appropriate message for the holidays—it's very inspiring!

Cateura, Paraguay is a town largely built on top of a landfill. Like many poor communities built on or next to garbage dumps, recyclers rummage through the trash for sellable goods. According to the Landfill Harmonic website, Cateura's children are frequently at risk of getting involved with drugs and gangs.

Nicolas, a recycler who lives by the garbage dump started making…

Holiday Toy Swap Event

Looking for a great holiday reuse event?

Try a "toy exchange."

I had the privilege of participating in a recent toy exchange event sponsored by the Northampton Department of Public Works ReUse Committee. This was the second annual Toy Exchange for this community of 28,540, located in Western Massachusetts.

According the DPW's Waste Management Supervisor, Karen Bouquillon, "Participants reaped all of the benefits of reuse—like saving money, natural resources, and energy, while providing free toys for local families. As an added bonus, it was a great opportunity to de-clutter before the holidays!"

The event was extremely well organized. Volunteers from the City's Reuse Committee received donations of used toys and sporting equipment on Friday, December 7 from 5pm-8pm…

Reducing our Global Holiday Footprint

All those catalogs: According to Catalog Choice, U.S. households receive over 83 billion pieces of advertising mail each year. The organization estimates that, 46% is never read and 38% is not recycled.

While we all like to look at the nice pictures of items in catalogues, the Internet affords us an equally pleasing view of most catalogues. Ordering items online is certainly faster and easier than ordering through catalogues. Catalogue Choice offers an easy "opt out" online answer to many of the most popular catalogues. It may take some persistence on our part to eliminate catalogue mailings as retailers like us to receive their catalogues, but even a small reduction in catalogue production can have a huge impact…

Memories of NERC’s Past

Jan Ameen, the Executive Director of the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District had these thoughts on her first encounter with NERC—early in her career in the waste management field.

The Mug

"I recently read Shelley Dresser's article and it brought back lots of memories from my early days in the field. I graduated from Antioch in May 1990 and landed a job as the Vermont State Offices Recycling Coordinator in September of that year. My job was to set up recycling collections in state buildings in Waterbury, Montpelier (including the State House), correctional facilities, judicial buildings, state parks, and regional state offices.

In 1991, I participated in NERC's Office Wastepaper Study conducted by Jaakko Poyry. Mary from Jaakko Poyry showed up in Waterbury and together we sorted…

Reuse Marketplace Now Open for Business

The Reuse Marketplace is a free regional network to find, sell, trade, or give away reusable and surplus items that would otherwise be disposed as trash. Businesses, institutions, governments, and non-profit organizations in the states of CT, DE, MA, NJ, NY, RI, and VT can become members by creating free accounts and posting listings for available items. Members may also post detailed wanted listings, specifying the type(s) of items they need. While anyone can browse and access the posted items, only members can post items to offer. Actual exchange transactions are carried out directly between interested parties.

As a regional materials exchange, the Reuse Marketplace replaces individual state materials exchanges and allows for material flow across state borders. The Marketplace includes more than 30 categories of items ranging from agricultural to textiles, as well as more than 60…

Holiday Thoughts on Food and Waste

The Food Facts

Who doesn't enjoy a good holiday meal with family and friends? However, food abundance during the Thanksgiving to New Year holidays contributes to the general large increase in waste generation during this period. This season of giving and reflection presents an opportunity to take a look at our food waste and what each of us can do.

It is estimated that in the United States about 27 percent of all the food we produce for domestic sale and consumption is wasted.[1] This figure, more than 34 million tons of food, amounts to some 14 percent of the total municipal solid waste stream. According to the EPA, food waste now represents the single largest component of MSW reaching landfills and incinerators.[2]

American households toss out roughly 1.28 pounds of food each day. That amounts to more than 467 pounds per year,[3] or about 25 percent of the food we bring into our houses. All this wasted food adds up to approximately $2,200…

Global Trade and Recycling

The following article, by Robin Ingenthron, was originally posted on the Good Points Idea Blog.

There are those who think that global trade in recycling is a waste disposal campaign that exploits countries with poor labor and environmental standards. There are those who think that free and fair trade generally leads to better outcomes than government efforts to intervene between market supply and demand forces.

The latter argument is usually bolstered if the government restriction begins with half a recipe for success. Regulating the secondary market and ignoring the primary market is a textbook case of sloppy regulation.

The global production of metals and petroleum and timber is the elephant in the room which no one (else) is talking about. Mining residue and waste is considered domestic generation by Basel Convention; recycling residue and waste is considered a trans-boundary movement. This was an unfair playing field to begin with, but now advocates are trying to gut Annex IX, B1110, to add even repair and refurbishing to the list…

Manufacturing with Recycled Materials

Ever wonder what happens to your recyclables? Many people don't realize the size and extent of the recycling marketplace. Some materials get shipped to other parts of the country or overseas to be processed further or incorporated into new products. However, much of what we divert for recycling in the Northeast stays right here in the Northeast. The New York Recycling Markets Database includes more than 230 facilities that use recovered materials to make products.

Recycling is indeed integral to our regional economy. Here are just a few examples:

Washington Mills Electro Minerals, Inc. in Niagara Falls, New York uses more than 24,000 pounds of recycled aluminum oxide each year to make new aluminum oxide products.

IceStone in Brooklyn, New York manufactures durable surfaces…

Disaster Preparedness and Clean-up

Due to the inevitability of Hurricane Sandy coming our way, it seems appropriate to keep this blog entry short and remind folks about NERC's document — "After the Disaster: A Guide for Residents and Small Businesses About Managing Debris Waste" — available for free download from the NERC website.

The document has pre-disaster tips for everything from brush clearing to toxic materials storage. The document also includes a wide range of clean-up information, including tips on drying out money, photos, appliances, and how to deal with mold.

Be safe!