Skip to Content

[X] CLOSEMENU

NERC Blog

Think Globally, Act Locally

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released “The Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.” The findings of the latest IPCC assessment are ominous—that the world has only 12 years to keep global temperatures below 1.5°C and avoid catastrophic environmental breakdown. Disposing of biodegradable materials, including paper products, food scraps and yard trimmings, in a landfill results in anaerobic decomposition of these organic materials, which creates methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas which is 72 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year period. We can act locally to make a difference by stepping up our recycling efforts to keep clean, recyclable paper out of the landfill and by composting food scraps and soiled paper.

Materials Management and Rural America, Part 2

Across America, some rural and small communities are flourishing, just as some urban areas are growing and thriving, while other communities, rural and urban, are on the decline. Effective strategic planning, dedication on the part of local stakeholders, and a focus on resident education and involvement can help make waste diversion successful in rural and small town communities. Beyond the potential economic benefits, materials management can help to build communities, bring citizens together, promote public participation, and help to spur a sense of community pride.

Materials Management and Rural America, Part 1

Some rural areas are in decline; but some have economies in transition, and some rural areas are even prospering. The same can be said, in fact, of urban and metro areas of all sizes. Largely through funding by the US Department of Agriculture, Rural Utilities Service, NERC has conducted many projects working in rural and small towns throughout much of NERC’s 11-member state region. Some of NERC’s work takes place in communities that are thriving, and some of it is in communities that have definitely seen better days. The support for waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and food scrap/organics management varies widely from community to community. Some are resistant to new undertakings, while others embrace them. Convincing town leaders can often be difficult, but in communities with more active citizens, the success of project implementation happens more often than not. Whether urban, rural, or somewhere in between, all communities have a role in shaping America’s future. Accepting the worth and vitality of each community, and working to enhance and enrich all communities, can only benefit our entire nation.

Community Composting Keeps Growing!

Community composting offers a range of opportunities for organics management. It provides a valuable soil amendment for community gardens, teaches valuable job training skills, and helps train residents, schools, and businesses in the value of turning food scraps and other organics into compost. Examples of successful community compost operations abound, including: GrowNYC Food Scrap Collection, Roots Composting, ECO City Farms, and several community garden food scrap composting sites in Vermont.

New Study Quantifies Needlestick Injury Rates for Material Recovery Facility Workers

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2016 data, MRF injuries (including non-needlestick related) occur at a rate of 6 per 100 workers, suggesting 45 percent of MRF injuries could be attributed to needlesticks. Fifty-three percent of MRFs in the study noted having simply observed needles daily or a few times per week. Over half of the facilities observed them mixed with plastics.

Banning Straws and Bags Won’t Solve our Plastic Problem

More than 8 million tons of plastic waste wind up in the ocean every year. Many cities, states and businesses have banned or taxed single-use plastic bags. But is this a good thing? Not if that’s all we do. We need a wider array of smart public policies, a recycling infrastructure that’s right-sized for the problem, better recycling technology and new business models. Banning single-use plastic bags and straws without significant further action is putting a finger on a spigot at a time when we need to suppress the tidal wave.

Recycling’s True Worth

The real value of recycling will never be adequately measured until our economic metrics include the value of lost resources and the impacts of our waste and pollution on the planet. While the focus on markets and what we should do about them is certainly important, we all need to truly remember and embrace the true worth of recycling in reducing our ecological footprint. Our growing rates of consumerism, lack of recycling, the rising number of consumer goods that cannot be repaired or recycled, and built-in obsolescence must become focal points of our discussions as well.

A Solution To The Blue Wrap Waste Problem

• Once blue wrap has been used in hospitals for sterilization, it is usually landfilled despite being a clean and useful fabric • Blue wrap is a plastic fabric that is exactly the same as the material used for reusable shopping bags • Billions of reusable shopping bags made from extracted resources are shipped across the world and imported to the U.S. • We could be creating jobs, decreasing our waste, and fighting climate change by making bags domestically out of this blue wrap waste product instead of importing. • The Recycling industry is being strained by extraction of cheap natural gas in the U.S. and China no longer accepting recyclables, this is increasing the need for repurposing. In the United States we dispose of 200 million lbs of plastic #5 that is perfectly clean and reusable, while simultaneously importing around 100 million lbs of the same exact material, mostly from East Asia.

The Circle of Life: How the Carbon Cycle Powers our Ecosystem

Kids learn about natural circles in school like the water cycle. The big idea there is rain falls, then evaporates back into the air, before coming down again as rain somewhere else.Despite this simple training in circles, most of us think in lines. In a linear world, we fail to see the connection between precipitation and evaporation, or soil health and the quality of our food. In agriculture, line-based thinking has led to problems. For decades, farmers have believed using chemical fertilizers increases their output of plants. Like a line, they believe one always leads to the other, failing to consider impacts on the rest of the ecosystem. The eventual result is a breakdown of natural cycles on their farms. By understanding natural cycles, farmers can adapt and work with those cycles to see their land thrive for generations to come.

Keep Calm and Recycle On: The Sky Isn’t Falling

Recycling is a dynamic process forced to change as products evolve and markets fluctuate. Recycling is in the news and not in a good way. Newspapers and television news shows are full of stories about its apparent death. If they are right, then recycling is doomed in this country. The good news is they are wrong. Yes, municipal recycling programs are facing serious problems. Clearly this latest crisis will not be resolved overnight. Instead of panicking, however, we should take a deep breath and calm down. Recyclables are just another raw material whose prices fluctuate. The light is clearly shining at the end of this tunnel. It’s a long tunnel, and the train is moving slowly, but I see no reason to panic.

Page: