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Soil Health Can Help Combat Climate Change

One knows that the issue of soil health has vaulted into the mainstream when an industrial agriculture giant like Cargill collaborates with the Soil Health Institute in an $850,000 effort to help farmers gauge the economic benefits of regenerative farming. For many farmers, adopting practices that promote soil health can require significant changes to traditional practices. Reducing tillage, reducing or eliminating chemical fertilizers, and planting cover crops all can present challenges to the agricultural status quo.

Why the urgency driving a call for a significant change in the way our food is produced? According to a recent article in The Guardian, “the world could run out of topsoil in about 60 years…Without topsoil, the earth’s ability to filter water,…

What Can We Do as Consumers About Climate Change?

This Guest Blog is provided by Terri Goldberg, Executive Director, Northeast Waste Management Officials' Association (NEWMOA)

For much of my life, shopping has been a form of recreation. I learned good shopping techniques from the best, my grandmother, who was a real pro. She shopped largely for value, quality, and the brands she liked. So that’s what I have usually done. But that’s changing.

I was recently involved with writing a new NERC and NEWMOA handout, “What Can We Do as Consumers About Climate Change?” This short write-up is intended for a general audience and focuses on the climate change impacts of the stuff we consume. From what NEWMOA and NERC staff could find online, there are no other short fact sheets on this topic targeted for consumers. For me, the most powerful statements in the fact sheet emphasize that, “for most products, the greatest contributions to… greenhouse gas emissions happen during production… 42 percent of all green gases are associated with the production,…

Recycling is Not Dead

This guest blog is provided by Michael Nork, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Recently, it seems there has been a flood of news stories about the recycling “crisis.” Municipalities are seeing rising costs due to contamination problems and market restrictions, causing some to make tough choices about whether or not to continue recycling. There’s no doubt about it, these are tough times for recycling. However, it isn’t the end of the world.

It’s true that the import restrictions imposed by China’s “National Sword” policy have caused a disruption in the recycling marketplace. However, some media reporting might lead one to believe that the US was shipping the vast majority of its recyclables overseas. In fact, in any given year over the past 20 years, only about 30-40 percent of US recyclables was exported, while the majority has been, and still is, handled by domestic markets.[1] Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that we need to increase our domestic processing capacity in the wake of China’s blockade on certain recyclable materials, most notably mixed paper and mixed plastics.

In…

Improving Residential Recycling Programs in the U.S.

This guest blog is courtesy of the Solus Group.

The recycling industry in the U.S. is in the midst of a dramatic overhaul. As the implications of China’s stringent contamination limits reverberate throughout the recycling ecosystem, residential recycling programs are particularly at risk.

That’s because it’s hard to control the waste stream of an entire neighborhood. Even the best-run recycling programs in the nation are likely to see considerable contamination in their recycling bins. Without careful sorting, there’s just no end market for corrupted recyclables anymore.

That market managed to grow even slimmer when, in March 2019, the government of India announced a ban on plastic scrap imports, set to take place at the end of August. (In 2018, 12 percent of U.S. plastic scrap exports went to India, a total of 294 million pounds.)

Here are a few ways the industry can reform residential recycling programs to produce…

Sixty Technologies to Help Solve Plastics Pollution

The dystopian stories are all over the news. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) “covers an estimated surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.” Microplastics have been found by scientists “ in the vast majority of marine samples” collected. Most recently, airborne microplastics have been found in great numbers in remote locations, far from any city. And because the manufacturing of virgin plastics requires fossil fuels, insufficient rates of plastics recycling contribute to the exacerbation of climate change.

Efforts are now being made to thwart some of the most prominent examples of plastics pollution. Throughout the world, municipalities and even entire countries have banned single-use plastic bags and plastic straws. But the reliance on plastic is so ubiquitous that such bans, while…

Spring Renewal

This guest blog is courtesy of the Fibre Box Association, Rachel Kenyon, Vice President.

Spring is a time of renewal. For many of us it’s a time to shake off the winter chill. The easiest way to do so, is to look out the window. All around us, nature is renewing itself which makes this the perfect time of year to talk about the renewability of trees, the corrugated industry’s raw material.

One of my favorite things about working in this industry is the continuous circularity of the raw materials that are used to make corrugated products. Different than other packaging materials that rely on fossil fuels as their raw material, corrugated packaging is made from a renewable resource.

It all begins with seedlings

In the US, 3.2 million seedlings are planted each day becoming 1.2 billion seedlings planted each year. These seedlings eventually become forests.  One-third…

Next evolution of R2 adapts to new and diverse sectors in the electronics reuse-recycling industry

This guest blog is provided by the Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI).

Industry sectors involved in the resale, reuse and recycling of used electronics have grown increasingly diverse and specialized since the R2 Standard for Responsible Recycling was first introduced in 2008.  Certification to the R2 Standard ushered in accountability and set the industry bar for safer and more sustainable ways to manage used and end-of life electronic products.   As the industry continues to evolve and mature, the R2 Standard is once again poised to lead the way in improving how the world reuses and recycles electronics with the next evolution of the R2 Standard – R2v3.

Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (SERI), the ANSI accredited standards developer and oversight body for the R2 Standard, recently released the proposed R2v3 Draft, which is available for review and download on the R2v3 page of the SERI website.  The proposed changes in R2v3 reflect a decade of experience gained from auditing and implementing the Standard and the overwhelming adoption of R2 across diverse…

Is Recycling a Waste?

Guest Blog Courtesy of the Massachusetts Recycle Smart Program

It seems like every day another negative recycling story hits the news. Here’s a recent sampling: 
As Costs Skyrocket, More U.S. Cities Stop Recycling (NY Times, 3/16/19);
Recycling is a Dumpster Fire. Literally (On Point Radio, 3/14/19).   
Is This the End of Recycling? (Atlantic Monthly, 3/4/19);
Help, We’re Drowning in Recycling (Wall Street Journal, 3/2/19);
U.S. Cities Have Nowhere to Put Recycling (CBS Evening News, 3/20/19);

It’s no wonder our neighbors, friends and family are asking “is my recycling just going to a landfill?”  or “should I even bother?”
 
China closing its doors to our mixed paper and unsorted plastics was a wake-up call.  Over the last ten years our recycling habits got sloppy. (Wishful recycling, anyone?) But China kept gobbling up everything we sent, sorted out the bad stuff, and made new packaging and products from the good stuff – until they said, “enough.”

There…

How did the waste and recycling industry do in 2018 with regard to facility fires?

This guest blog is courtesy of Ryan Fogelman, VP of Strategic Partnerships, Fire Rover, LLC

Each new year is a time of reflection to both learn from our successes and our failures. For the waste and recycling industry, 2018 was extremely eventful – and full of preventable failures. Being in the fire elimination business, I stay current on how the number and causes of fire incidents are impacted by industry and societal trends. Early in 2018, we focused on China’s ‘green sword’ policy and how to lower contamination in our commodity bales. While the industry was consumed by this issue, I noticed the pace of reported waste and recycling facility fires was continuing to rise. While the public’s attention shifted to wildfires in the summer of 2018, I was working to understand the connection between hot and dry environments and their impact on increased waste and recycling facility fires. As 2018 came to a close and more information about Chinese restrictions on metals became available, I recognized a dangerous trend (initially highlighted in my 2017 Annual Report) — more fires at scrap metal facilities across the US/Canada. 

As my third…

Now is the time to go all in on Recycling!

This guest blog is provided by the Carton Council.

The first quarter of 2019 is almost over and the recycling crisis continues to receive significant attention, including in the mainstream media.  Residents may question if recycling is still worth it at a time when we need them to recycle more and more carefully. In the meantime, those in the industry are hard at work determining new strategies to ensure every material that can be recycled gets its chance at a second life in a sustainable way.

For food and beverage cartons, there is good news. The packaging option that is used for products like milk, juice, cream, water, soup, broth, beans and wine, has seen carton recycling access expand to over 63 percent of the U.S. We know that residents want to recycle their cartons and believe they are recyclable. A survey released last year found that 79 percent of consumers report they always or occasionally recycle their food and beverage cartons.

The Carton Council is also working to ensure there are solid end markets available for sorting facilities to send their cartons Food and beverage cartons…

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