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NERC Blog

It’s Time to Get Toxic Chemicals Out Of Dry Cleaning

Today’s Guest Blog is by Steve Whittaker and Ashley Pedersen with the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, Washington. The article was originally posted in Environmental Health News on December 13, 2018.

Perchloroethylene, a probable human carcinogen, remains the most frequently-used solvent for dry cleaning. It's time to help the industry change—and our county is doing just that.

When perchloroethylene (PERC) was introduced to the dry cleaning industry in the 1930s, it must have seemed like a miracle solvent.

It cleans clothes well and – most importantly – it is nonflammable. This is in contrast to the previous solvents, like Stoddard solvent, gasoline, turpentine, and even benzene. Because the use of these flammable solvents resulted in catastrophic fires and explosions, government regulations forced dry cleaners to move out of highly populated areas. With the advent of PERC, dry cleaners could move back to population centers, where the customers were.

The dry cleaning industry provided a unique…

The Municipal Measurement Program has Launched

We're very excited to announce the official launch of the Municipal Measurement Program (MMP)! The goal of the MMP is to harmonize the measurement of material management programs and to provide municipalities with decision-making tools that can improve recycling program performance.

What is the MMP?

The Municipal Measurement Program is a free Program Assessment and Planning Tool that delivers insights and actionable recommendations to municipal waste management agencies. By completing the program assessment surveys, municipalities can generate a range of performance, benchmarking, and recommendation reports.

Why is the MMP so important?

Municipalities face a variety of challenges when it comes to reducing the amount of waste their communities produce. Program managers rarely have enough time or money to properly measure the progress they are making toward achieving their diversion goals. Tracking…

Recycling PSA: Tangled Up!

A new silent film-style public service ad from Baltimore County, Maryland demonstrates why many jurisdictions do not accept items such as plastic bags and clothing for recycling.

Produced in-house by Bureau of Solid Waste Management employees, “Tangled Up!” shows how operations are halted daily at the County’s MRF because of residents putting “tanglers” in their recycling bins. The fun, 90-second video can be viewed online at Facebook, YouTube and the County’s website.

What are Tanglers?

As most of you know, tanglers are materials such as plastic bags and textiles that get caught in the MRF equipment and must be cut out by hand, one by one, for operations to resume. At the end of each day, Baltimore County uses 10 temporary employees to cut tanglers from between a few thousand…

This Holiday Season: Be Battery Safety Smart

Batteries power our world and provide many everyday conveniences. The freedom to go unplugged comes with the responsibility to safely manage batteries once they reach their end-of-life. While recycling batteries is a year-round activity, it’s especially important during the holidays as many consumers are purchasing new battery powered products and may be left wondering what to do with their old batteries.

Don’t Forget Cardboard! Optimizing Recycling this Season & Year Round

The arrival of short days and cold weather means the holidays are rapidly approaching. Along with that comes presents from friends and loved ones. While we naturally think of the gifts themselves as precious, the boxes they come in also are valuable, for both their contributions to the economy and how they help us be environmentally responsible during this festive season.  In Massachusetts alone, more than 13,000 people work in the Commonwealth’s 2,000 recycling businesses, and individual contributions to recycling are critical to support those jobs and businesses.

Containerboard, the material used to make the cardboard boxes that online purchases arrive in, is widely recycled.  And, in fact, in many states cardboard recycling is mandated.  In 2017, 36 percent of all paper recovered for recycling was used to make the very cardboard boxes used to ship all of those holiday gifts. The recovery rate for cardboard boxes themselves is also consistently high, reaching almost 90 percent in 2017.[i].

New York has maintained one of the most successful recycling programs in the nation for close to three decades. Waste360 ranked New York the…

World Bank Warns of Massive Increase in Global Waste

A report by the international financial institution projects that the amount of waste generated globally will increase by 70 percent over the next 30 years, to 3.4 billion tons annually.

Future of MRFs: New contract terms, more tech, ongoing stress

Speakers at the Northeast Recycling Council's recent fall conference hashed out a variety of ideas on how recyclers can survive what some described as an untenable model.

The Plastic Waste Crisis Is An Opportunity For The U.S. To Get Serious About Recycling At Home

A global plastic waste crisis is building, with major implications for health and the environment. Under its so-called “National Sword” policy, China has sharply reduced imports of foreign scrap materials. As a result, piles of plastic waste are building up in ports and recycling facilities across the United States. The European Union is developing a circular economy platform that contains a multi-part strategy to increase plastics recycling and control waste. The United States is unlikely to adopt such sweeping policies at the national level. But for cities and states, especially those where support for environmental protection is strong, it could be a more attainable vision.

A Soil Microbe saved my Life

The Natural Product Repository at NCI is home to more than 230,000 substances derived from plants, animals and microbes found around the world. Scientists there are developing new methods of understanding the complex chemistry of natural compounds and conserving the samples they have. By mapping the genomes of bacteria and plants, they are gaining information they can use to synthesize new compounds with medicinal potential. Even as we rely on nature for fundamental medicines, we’re losing its diversity, and we’re losing it fast. Deforestation and climate change are driving species to extinction 1,000 times faster than you’d expect if no humans lived on Earth. Protecting the diversity of life on earth is not just important for saving the wild places and animals we love. It’s essential for saving ourselves and the health of our loved ones. Editor’s note: The article has little to do with materials management, but offers a fascinating look at the importance of nature in our lives and the vital need to protect it.

Why being an Advocate for Recycled Content is a Sustainability Win

Efforts such as lightweighting, moving to plant-based plastics and using renewable energy sources have helped companies get closer to their carbon footprint goals, but betting on recycled content has the potential to be just as powerful. In addition to ensuring the recycling system works well, using recycled content can help companies close the loop, by putting recycled materials back into packaging, starting the cycle once again, while at the same time lowering carbon footprints.