Renewing Sustaining Member
NERC's mission is to advance an environmentally sustainable economy by promoting source and toxicity reduction, recycling, and the purchasing of environmentally preferable products and services.
State and Advisory Member Updates, as well articles of General Interest and guest blogs are provided as submissions to NERC and may not reflect the policy or position of the Northeast Recycling Council, Inc.
NERC is an equal opportunity provider and employer.
We are delighted to welcome Good Point Recycling as a renewing Sustaining Member.
A hallmark of NERC is the strength of multi-stakeholder involvement and problem solving. This is a direct result of the active participation and support of NERC's Advisory Members. NERC has more than 50 Advisory Members. To see a complete listing and the benefits of membership, visit the NERC Advisory Membership web page.
The broad spectrum of interests represented by NERC's Advisory Members and Board Members and their willingness to participate significantly contribute to the unique and important role that NERC plays in recycling in the region.
Most of the time when we think of surplus and unwanted textiles, we immediately think of textile resale by non-profit organizations. There is a whole other industry sector that handles a significant amount of unwanted textiles and is less visible — the textile recycling industry. NERC will feature both industry sectors as options for managing textiles at its Spring Workshop on April 2, Storrs, Connecticut.
The Workshop will include an in-depth look at both industry sectors — who the leading businesses and non-profits are, how they manage the textiles they deal with, and their end-markets. In addition, the Workshop will include the key components for developing and managing textile reuse and recycling programs.
The Workshop agenda and registration will be posted on the NERC website by mid-January. Workshop sponsorships and exhibit space are available.
For more information on the Workshop, contact Mary Ann Remolador, NERC's Aassistant Director.
Capture Value. Exchange Reusable Items. Save Money. Reduce Waste. This is the byline for the new Reuse Marketplace. The Marketplace website is a free regional network for businesses, institutions, governments, and organizations to find, sell, trade, or give away reusable and surplus items that would otherwise be disposed as trash.
The online materials exchange includes more than 30 categories of items; making it a great marketplace for exchanging items. Registered members are able to post items they no longer need, as well as items they might want. Anyone can browse the posted items.
The Reuse Marketplace replaces the individual states' Materials Exchanges in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. It also includes the states of Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, making it a true regional resource. There is also the opportunity for more states to join the Marketplace.
The Northeast Recycling Council, Inc. (NERC) is proud to be the administrator for the Marketplace and the opportunity to promote reuse across state borders. NERC is responsible for reviewing the site membership requests and all listings prior to them being posted. The Reuse Marketplace website was designed by iWasteNot Systems.
The Reuse Marketplace is supported by the following state agencies and private businesses:
For more information, contact Lynn Rubinstein, NERC's Executive Director.
NERC has had a Product Stewardship Policy Statement since 2003. The discussion around what is now commonly known as extended producer/product responsibility has changed significantly in the interim and the NERC Board determined it was time to review the Policy Statement.
As a result, the Board has voted to adopt a new policy position entitled Product Stewardship & Extended Producer Responsibility Policy Statement. It replaces the 2003 Policy Statement.
For more information, contact Lynn Rubinstein, NERC's Executive Director.
NERC's Blog is currently housed on Google's "Blogger." Google decided, without our knowledge, to eliminate the ability for individuals to receive or "follow" Blogs via email. Google is promoting its "Google+" as an alternative. However, not many people are signed up for Google+ and it apparently is not working as expected. Instead, if you would like to receive the Blog when it is posted, send Athena Lee Bradley an email and she'll be sure you receive it when it is posted, via email.
Articles are posted each Tuesday and an occasional shorter blog on Thursday.
In the meantime, here's a Blog article worth repeating about how NERC got its start. It was written by Shelley Dresser, NERC's founder and first Executive Director.
"It is hard to imagine that NERC is 25 years old. NERC was conceived at the Solid Waste Conference at the Penta Hotel in New York, during a conversation I had with Bernard Melewski, Counsel, NYS Commission on Solid Waste. As a garbage barge floated around NYC on a 112 day expedition, attempting to find a home for trash it was carrying, it became clear that a solution oriented approach to solid waste management was necessary. With Maurice Hinchey, a legislator from New York and the chairman of the Council of State Governments environment committee, I had all the support I needed to begin this endeavor.
NERC's name went through several iterations, from "Solid Waste Advisory Team" to "Recycling Advisory Team" to the "Northeast Recycling Council." It was difficult to find the right acronym. The early chairs of NERC were Victor Bell (from Rhode Island), Mary Shield (from New Jersey), Janice Edwards (from New York), and Will Ferretti (from New York). The focus of NERC was to develop demand and markets for recycled material.
Initial projects included work with the states on developing a procurement preference for recycled material. Additionally, we held a large procurement conference and study. NERC worked with Newspaper and Yellow Page publishers and manufacturers to reach a voluntarily agreement to include recycle content in their paper. We also worked with the Direct Marketing Association to find a way that people could limit the amount of "junk mail" they received, and to increase the recyclability and amount of recycle content in the mail. We were particularly concerned with plastic windowed envelopes.
We conducted several studies at the time, including a collaborative project with John Ruston, from the Environmental Defense Fund entitled Developing and Stimulating Markets for Secondary Materials, an office waste paper study, and a survey of solid waste programs in the states. We wrote a sample recycling law defining recyclable, reusable, and recycled content as a model for states. NERC studied options for used tires due to the frustration of slow-burning tire fires.
I was fortunate to establish a productive and long-term relationship with EPA, first working with Ron Jennings and then Cynthia Green. When NERC was first organized, only New Jersey and Rhode Island had mandatory curbside recycling programs. NERC served as a catalyst to increasing recycling in the Northeast as we sought to develop markets.
NERC is physically based in Vermont because I moved NERC from the Eastern Regional Conference of the Council of State Governments office in NYC with the blessing of the Director, Alan Sokolow, to my home in East Dover, Vermont in 1989. In essence, I telecommuted. NERC is one year older than my eldest child. NERC moved to Brattleboro in 1991, as it became clear that we needed more staff and an office. By 1992, four years after NERC's conception, we had a half-a-million-dollar budget and growing numbers of staff including Connie Salter, Michael Alexander, and Susan Olmstead.
It is wonderful to see the progress states and businesses have made to make recycling a reality. It is organizations like NERC that remind us how much more there is to do. I applaud all that you have done and look forward to continued progress in recycling and waste reduction."
All the best,
Shelley Dresser (NERC's founder and first Executive Director)
Shelly still lives in Brattleboro and is currently a science teacher and the Sustainability Coordinator at Eaglebrook School.
To submit a guest blog article or for more information about the NERC blog, contact Athena Lee Bradley, NERC Projects Manager.
One of the most popular documents on the NERC website is its comprehensive listing of Materials Exchanges in the Northeast. This document has been newly updated and includes the just launched Reuse Marketplace. For more information, contact Lynn Rubinstein, NERC Executive Director.
There is obvious interest in recycling C&D materials in Puerto Rico. This message was clear from the attendees of the C&D reuse and recycling trainings conducted by NERC in San Juan and Ponce in October. Training participants included contractors, engineers, architects, local and federal government, and San Juan, Puerto Rico green building trade associations. The trainings were presented by WasteCap Resource Solutions with conversations with attendees on methods for diverting the most material from new construction and renovation jobsites.
In addition to the training, NERC was instrumental in planning a meeting with building trade associations and government to discuss the impact (financial and time) of contractor permitting requirements and streamlining those processes.
The trainings were made possible with funding through the Environmental Finance Center, Syracuse University.
For more information, contact Mary Ann Remolador, NERC's Assistant Director.
Effective marketing can influence whether a company survives in today's economy or not. This is true in any business, including composting. Compost operations must compete with other compost operations, as well as gardening supply centers and retail stores selling multiple brands of compost, peat moss, and fertilizers.
To expand and support compost markets in the Northeast, NERC was awarded a grant from the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program. Resources developed by NERC for the project, as well as presentations from seven compost marketing workshops, are posted on NERC's website.
NERC is also providing technical assistance to farm compost operations. NERC developed operation-specific marketing plans and provides ongoing advice to compost operators. Recently, site visits were made to three farm compost operations in New York State.
Cobblestone Valley is a diversified organic farm certified by NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC, located in the heart of New York State in the small town of Preble. The backbone of the farm is dairy production and products, with all other enterprises connected to and synergistic with milk production. The farm also produces certified organic pastured poultry, which includes broilers and turkey, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, pick-your-own strawberries, and compost.
Manure from the farm's dairy barn is combined with straw, sawdust, old hay, old silage, and animal bedding to make compost. The compost ingredients are assembled into a windrow, with adequate pile turning and maintenance to ensure proper composting.
Cobblestone Valley compost is primarily sold in bulk through direct farm sales. The compost is marketed through the farm's CSA (community supported agriculture) and its website.
The Devine Gardens 75 acre farm was purchased in November 2009. The barn and some pasture land on the farm are leased by a farmer for raising 30 head of cattle, as well as pigs.
Devine Gardens specializes in vermicomposting — "worm composting." Manure and bedding from the livestock operation is first composted in bays using an aerated static pile system where air is forced through the pile. The material is kept in the pile for three-to-five days at temperatures of at least 131°F. The material is then transferred to large wooden bins housing the worms. The worms eat the partially composted manure/bedding and leave behind castings rich in soil nutrients. These castings and composted manure/bedding are harvested and cured for sale.
The resulting vermicompost product is sold through several retail centers and the Central New York Regional Market (Syracuse), as well as through the Devine Garden's website. The operation will also be marketing a premium compost product this spring.
Fern Hill Compost started as the manure management system for Fern Hill Farm, a business that breeds Thoroughbred horses for the race track. The horse operation had generated a large accumulation of manure which, not being the primary focus of the farm, simply decomposed in a pile. Due to concern with the environmental impact of uncontrolled decomposition, the farm operators constructed a composting facility in the summer of 2009.
The process used by Fern Hill Compost is also aerated static pile composting with periodic re-mixing. This is a managed process that takes months to complete, but the benefits can be seen in the quality of the finished product.
Fern Hill Compost is sold in both bag and bulk through numerous retail outlets, the Central New York Regional Market (Syracuse), and through the Fern Hill website.
For more information about NERC's Compost Marketing Project contact Athena Lee Bradley.
The State Electronics Challenge reached a major milestone in early November when the 100th Partner joined and expressed its commitment to electronics stewardship in state, regional and local government! Current partners come from 36 states and collectively employ 146,000 people.
Please join us in welcoming our newest Partner Central Vermont Solid Waste Management District located in Montpelier, Vermont.
Our next milestone — and goal for 2013 — is to have at least one Partner from all 50 U.S. states! Upcoming introductory webinars in January, February, and March will describe the program and the opportunities it offers to state, regional, and local governments, schools colleges, and universities.
Standing out as leaders in environmental responsibility, Panasonic and the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) have renewed their sponsorship of the State Electronics Challenge. It is through the commitment and support of such organizations that the Challenge is able to be a national program that decreases the environmental footprint of office equipment, while saving energy, decreasing the toxicity of products and the waste stream, and promoting responsible recycling.
Please join us is thanking Panasonic and CEA for their support and vision. For more information about the State Electronics Challenge, join us for a free introductory webinar in 2013.
The State Electronics Challenge is a free program that offers local, regional, and state officials, schools, colleges, and universities with the information and resources necessary to ensure energy conservation, responsible recycling, and more through the purchase, use, and disposal of office equipment.
Partners are any entity in the public sector, other than the federal government, that sign up and elect to be sure that office equipment is recycled responsibly, and, when possible, that new equipment is "green" and all equipment used in ways to save energy and paper. There are 100 Partners in 36 states currently participating. For a list of current Partners, see the website.
Free introductory webinars are being offered in January, February, and March 2013. Please consider joining us. To register use the following links:
How does the program work?
The SEC focuses on three phases of the office equipment lifecycle by:
Partners can reap many rewards.
To support Partner efforts, the State Electronics Challenge provides:
For more information, contact Patricia Dillon, Program Manager.
Support for the State Electronics Challenge is made possible through the sponsorship of Samsung Electronics, Panasonic, Sims Recycling Solutions, the ISRI R2/RIOS program, and the Consumer Electronics Association.
A recent study of Recycling and Jobs in Massachusetts, A Study of Current and Future Workforce Needs, found that recycling employers are expected to add over 1,200 jobs in the next two years; far outpacing the anticipated growth of the overall economy. It also found, however, that employers in both the public and private sectors had problems finding qualified workers with the needed technical and communication skills, professional work ethic, licensing, and more.
The study, funded by SkillWorks, with support from Massachusetts DEP, E.L. Harvey and Sons, and Costello Dismantling, as well as MassRecycle and the Environmental Business Council of New England, included a survey, as well as interviews with employers and employees and other research. A professional survey firm conducted the survey to both public and private employers who collect, process, manufacture new products from recyclable materials, compost, reuse, remanufacture, repair, broker, etc.
SkillWorks has now funded the creation of a Recycling Jobs Task Force to address some of the findings in the report. NERC will be participating in the Task Force, which includes recycling employers and workforce developers. The task force is being led by Amy Perlmutter, Amy Perlmutter Associates. The first meeting of the Task Force will be in early December and will continue, at least, into the spring of 2013.
For more information, contact Lynn Rubinstein, NERC's Executive Director.
At a recent America Recycles Day Celebration hosted by the Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) Advisory Board in western Massachusetts, Lynn Rubinstein, NERC Executive Director, was the keynote speaker. Her presentation — The Massachusetts Economy, Reuse & Recycling: Should they be in the Same Sentence? — included information about the number of jobs in the reuse and recycling industries in Massachusetts as well as the possibilities for economic growth associated with reuse and recycling companies in the state. She also identified reuse and recycling position in the green economy and how public-private partnerships can affect change.
For more information, or for a copy of the presentation, contact Lynn Rubinstein.
The next universal recycling milestone is just around the corner — Jan. 1, 2013. That's the date when waste haulers will provide single stream recycling collection services to multi-family residential customers.
The last remaining milestone will be Jan. 1, 2014, when commercial businesses will also participate in the program. With this final step, Delaware will join the recovery revolution sweeping the nation with a fully-implemented universal recycling program. Providing recycling service to every resident and business in Delaware is the final step of the collaborative process that culminated in Delaware's comprehensive universal recycling legislation and successful program.
Earlier this year, DNREC funded just under $325,000 to assist recycling programs, with a priority on multi-family household recycling. Recycling grants were awarded in the spring of 2012 to assist the following: Rehoboth Beach, City of Newark, Burns & McBride, Harjoco, Lutheran Senior Services Inc., Econo-Haul, Wilmington Housing Authority and the Delaware Restaurant Association. Some of the grants also helped fill implementation gaps for local waste haulers and residential recycling programs. Single family homes with trash service are currently receiving recycling service, as are most restaurants and bars. Single stream recycling, which allows all recyclables to be tossed together into one container for pickup, has made recycling easier than ever before. The recycling tag line — Delaware Recycles — It's second nature — has come true. It really is second nature for most families!
The new Blue River Resources materials recovery facility is now in operation to handle the increased volume, and ReCommunity's state-of- the-art recycling facility will be opening in 2013. This will help keep the majority of Delaware's recycling business and the associated jobs in-state.
For more information on recycling in Delaware, please visit:http://portal.delaware.gov/recycling/ or check the new recycling guide now available at: portal.delaware.gov/recycling/downloads/recyclebookMarch21_2012.pdf
Delaware's Scrap Tire Management Program reached new heights last April at the Delaware State Fairgrounds. Approximately 7,600 scrap tires were collected and piled into 21 roll-off containers, making it by far DNREC's most successful recycling event to date.
That's a whole lot of rubber not hitting the road anymore! Or, nearly 100 tons of worn-out tires that could have ended up in a mosquito- infested heap in a neighborhood, or taking up valuable space in state landfills.
The April 21 event provided Delaware residents with an opportunity to recycle scrap tires free of charge, thereby helping to reduce the environmental and health hazards associated with piles of scrap tires in our communities. The program was funded by a fee of $2 per tire on the sale of new tires in the state. The fee is diverted to the Scrap Tire Management Fund, a matching fund and program that was created to clean up scrap tire piles statewide.
Old or used tires can be shredded or turned into crumbs to be reused as additives for play- ground and road asphalt. Pulverized tire chips can become rubber flooring for equestrian and canine training centers. The shredded rubber can also be burned at high temperatures for energy sources with reduced air pollution.
Delaware residents may bring in up to 10 passenger vehicle or light truck tires for recycling at each scrap tire drop-off day. Since the state's first drop-off day in 2008, the nine events staged by DNREC have yielded approximately 300 tons of tires for recycling.
Delaware produces over 750,000 scrap tires a year. Delaware's Scrap Tire Management Program was created to eliminate large, unsightly scrap tire piles that can contribute to dangerous fires producing toxic smoke and oily liquid runoff. The runoff can pollute Delaware's surface water and groundwater resources. In addition, tire piles
For more information on the program and future scrap tire drop-off events, please visit DNREC's website: http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/whs/awm/Info/Pages/ScrapTire.aspx
Both articles excerpted from articles originally published in the DNREC Office of Environmental Protection's Environmental Protection Mattersnewsletter.
MassDEP has issued final rules amending its solid waste and wastewater regulations, a move designed to tap the hidden energy value of food and other organic materials, and use more of that waste for renewable energy production and composting.
More than one million tons of food waste and other organic material are disposed of every year by food processors, large institutions and residential sources in Massachusetts. Approximately 100,000 tons of organics are recycled or composted each year, but the state has set a goal of diverting an additional 350,000 tons per year by 2020.
"Organics comprise about 25 percent of the solid waste we dispose of each year, and those materials take up valuable space in our landfills and incinerators and create greenhouse gases," said Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). "When we merely discard organics, we are wasting a great opportunity to capture the economic and environmental benefits from recycling and converting this material into clean renewable energy and valuable fertilizers."
The amended rules remove barriers to the development of certain types of recycling, composting and other cutting-edge green technologies in the Commonwealth, such as anaerobic digestion (AD), a technology that turns organic materials into a biogas that can be used for heat and electricity generation. The final rules simplify the process for obtaining a state permit for constructing these types of facilities, and for adding organic material to AD units at wastewater treatment plants. The rules also implement environmental performance standards to ensure that these facilities do not compromise public health or the environment, or cause nuisances.
The final rules will also encourage generators to separate organics from their waste stream and to recycle, compost or convert this material to energy, which will help to build a system to collect the organic materials from the generators, and encourage the construction or expansion of composting or anaerobic digestion facilities.
"Massachusetts has made huge advances in wind and solar power since Governor Patrick took office - with both technologies going from just over three megawatts each in 2007 to 174 megawatts of solar and 61 megawatts of wind power across the state today. Meanwhile, our pace-setting energy efficiency efforts have won us the number one ranking nationally from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy two years in a row," Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia said. "The largely untapped potential of anaerobic digestion is an opportunity to build on this success, and these new regulations will ensure a significant role for AD in our portfolio of clean energy technologies."
The increased diversion of organic materials from the waste stream will help the Commonwealth reach its goal of reducing all solid waste that is disposed of by two million tons per year by 2020. It will also increase the energy generation at AD units at wastewater treatment plants with the addition of organics, and save money for cities and towns on trash disposal and energy costs.
These rules build upon incentives that the legislature provided last summer, when it enacted an energy bill that gives electricity generated through anaerobic digestion the same financial incentives as wind and solar power, such as the ability to sell excess power back at favorable rates.
The new rules also complement other efforts to promote this technology, such as identifying suitable sites for AD on state land to allow state facilities to beneficially reuse food wastes at on-site digesters and receive energy back, and assisting the private sector and local governments with the development of the infrastructure for collecting organics from generators. In addition, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), a publically-funded agency dedicated to promoting clean energy technologies, funds feasibility studies and grants for AD projects across the state.
"Anaerobic digestion takes clean energy to the next level - not only does it create reliable and consistent clean energy, but it also reduces waste and creates valuable products," said MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton McDevitt. "Clean energy generation comes in many forms and these regulations will help anaerobic digestion facilities become an increasing part of our clean energy mix here in Massachusetts."
MassDEP is also working to add organic materials from large generators and institutions to the list of materials banned from disposal at landfills and incinerators by 2014, a move that would ensure a steady stream of organic materials for those who invest capital in building anaerobic digestion facilities.
Currently, there are six AD facilities now in use at wastewater treatment plants in Massachusetts. There are also a few AD units used by commercial food processors. Under the new rules, those facilities could add organics to these existing digesters to boost the biogas generation and increase the energy produced, and save money on energy costs to operate the plants.
Other facilities such as dairies, breweries, juice producers and other food manufacturing operations create a high-quality organics material stream and could take advantage of the new rules by constructing new AD facilities or by adding their materials to a wastewater treatment plant or other AD unit accepting organics. There are currently two farm-based AD units in operation: Jordan Dairy in Rutland, which digests manure generated on-site, combined with organics generated off-site; and Pine Island Farm in Sheffield, which primarily manages manure with a small quantity of dairy processing waste.
There are also 221 compost sites registered with MassDEP, 23 of which are currently approved to take in some food wastes. In addition, approximately 70 agricultural composting sites are registered with the Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR).
MassDEP is working with DOER, MassCEC and DAR to provide assistance to a number of project proponents looking to divert organics to anaerobic digestion at publicly and privately owned sites across the Commonwealth. For more information on available financial and technical assistance for AD projects, go to: http://www.mass.gov/dep/energy/cerpanaerobicdigestion.htm
The final rules became effective at the end of November. The rules have been published on the MassDEP web site, and the rules and a response-to-comments document can be found here: http://www.mass.gov/dep/recycle/laws/regulati.htm#organics
The Association of Postconsumer Plastics Recyclers (APR) has announced the availability of new online resources created to help grocery chains recycle more of the plastic containers they use and empty onsite. The program is aimed at recycling the more than 350 million pounds of plastic containers that are discarded annually by grocery stores across the United States.
"Plastic containers represent a valuable resource for recyclers and a potential revenue stream for the grocers who collect and recycle them," said Steve Alexander, president and CEO of APR.
Used plastic containers are primarily generated in a store's bakery, deli, seafood and pharmacy departments. Because many stores already have programs that recycle cardboard and plastic film, expanding those programs to also include plastic containers is a natural fit.
"Many grocery chains have excellent recycling programs already in place. Our new program makes it easy for grocers to generate additional value and strengthen their sustainability efforts by recycling more of the plastics they use every day," Alexander said.
The "Recycle Grocery Rigid Plastics" program has been piloted at Hannaford Supermarkets, a subsidiary of Delhaize America, and the Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, a subsidiary of Ahold USA, both of which have been very pleased with the outcome. As a result, they are exploring implementation of full-scale programs to collect plastic containers at all of their locations.
"Recycling plastic containers clearly plays a role in our zero waste strategy," said Christine Gallagher, manager of corporate responsibility for Ahold USA. "Throwing away recyclables is like throwing away money. Waste diversion programs like this can generate cost savings by reducing trash volume. Our stores end up paying less to have their trash removed because there is less to throw away."
"Hannaford has a long tradition of stewardship. Recycling rigid plastic containers is an important part of Hannaford's efforts to move toward zero waste and to reduce our carbon footprint," said George Parmenter, manager of sustainability for Hannaford Supermarkets. "This work hits that sustainability sweet spot, where what's good for business meets what's good for the planet."
APR's new tools — which include a how-to guide, technical service assistance, an educational video series, a list of companies that purchase recovered plastics, worksheets to evaluate potential cost savings and revenue, and customizable training materials — are accessible online at www.recyclegroceryplastics.org and available at no cost (see p. 25 of the guide for a quick list of key resources).
Free technical assistance may be provided to qualifying companies. A form to request technical assistance may be downloaded here at www.recyclegroceryplastics.org.
This "Recycle Grocery Rigid Plastics" program was funded in part with a grant provided by the Plastics Division of the American Chemistry Council.
Program videos may be accessed with the links below:
The Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR) is the national trade association representing companies who acquire, reprocess and sell the output of more than 90 percent of the postconsumer plastic processing capacity in North America. Founded in 1992, its membership includes independent recycling companies of all sizes, processing numerous resins. www.plasticsrecycling.org
The holidays and the end of the year present great opportunities to think about reuse. It is surprising how many reuse options we have available. Reusing an item, without changing or reprocessing it, represents the most conventional form of reuse, when items are simply sorted and reused for the same purpose. By donating, exchanging, or buying clothing, books, electronics, CDs, and other items you save time, money, energy, and resources.
Items can also be "refurbished," such as when furniture is repaired and resold. Electronics may get a second-life by being "remanufactured," with new or repaired parts. Tires can be "retreaded." Milk bottles can be cleaned and "refilled." Old building materials can be cleaned and readied for reuse.
Sometimes it makes sense to "repurpose" an item in order to increase its value or refine its original function. Antique lamps are frequently given a new life by updating the electrical hardware. Materials disassembled from an old barn may become a floor or furniture. An artist might make a beautiful and functional chandelier out of old industrial piping. Often items which are difficult to recycle, such as old vinyl billboards, can also be repurposed into innovative functions. Repurposing an item still saves significant resources (compared with recycling or landfilling) and frequently makes economic sense.
Businesses can benefit from end-of-the-year inventory reductions and donations of unused materials or equipment. Many nonprofit organizations facilitate the donation of textile scraps, usable paper, and a wide range of items for arts and crafts projects. Working computers and electronic devices can be donated to a host of nonprofit organizations. Construction companies can benefit by giving away building materials, leftover inventories of hardware, and other items they no longer need or use.
Consumers can also benefit from donating usable goods that are no longer of value to them. There are many organizations that accept clothing, accessories, toys, small electronic items, and other items and make them available to others that need them. Sporting goods, eye glasses, and medical devices (such as crutches, wheel chairs, etc.) are also in demand. Consumers can save money by shopping for fun, vintage gifts such as clothing, jewelry boxes, and games. Repurposed gifts can even be created from used building materials or repurposing a vintage chair or table. The NERC listing of materials exchanges includes many links to possible outlets for medical devices, and more.
The New York Recycling Markets Database includes more than 450 reuse business or nonprofit listings for businesses and residents. To encourage material recovery, reuse and recycling service providers are listed on the Recycling Markets Database. There is no cost to be listed or to use the database.
Another resource is the Reuse Marketplace. This free, online service is designed to facilitate the reuse of surplus and unwanted items. It is open to businesses, institutions, and nonprofit organizations. The list of items ranges from bricks to burlap bags. For more information contact Athena Lee Bradley, NERC's Projects Manager.
Household waste in the United States typically increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day — that amounts to an additional one million extra tons! Striving for zero waste not only helps reduce trash, but can help to reduce holiday "shopping stress," and benefit local economies.
Creative gift giving
Does your dad really need that purple sweater that you were thinking of buying him? Perhaps, instead, consider a llama or goat purchased in his name for a family in need. Or, maybe tickets to his favorite sporting event or movie house. A gift of local services — from spa to car detailing — makes people happy, reduces waste, and supports the local economy. A home-cooked gourmet meal or "gift certificates" for home repairs or dog walking are practical creative ideas. Usable gifts, donations, and practical ideas without the need for packaging, can help all of us approach a zero waste holiday.
Gifts of "experiences" are different and exciting. A fun idea for kids is a subscription to a "monthly surprise family activity." This gift can be made practical to fit any family budget, provides for family together time, and fosters new explorations as a family.
Shopping at local reuse centers or thrift stores can offer surprising offerings, including attractive vintage clothing, jewelry boxes, vases, lunch boxes, games, and more. Reuse results in less waste, less resource and energy use, and supports local businesses. Reused items can often be repurposed to look like new. Creative clothing, jewelry, and other items can be repurposed from a host of used items.
Homemade gifts are not just limited to knitting or baking (although these are great ideas!). Dried herbs, homemade bath scrubs, lotions, and more make pleasant gifts. Bulk items (such as treats, soaps, detergents, etc.) in refillable jars are also zero waste options. Reusable baskets or containers of local cheeses and other locally purchased items are another thoughtful idea.
Be sure to let extended family members and friends know about your efforts in creative gift giving. Passing along tangible gift ideas can help, especially when it comes to presents for children. Music lessons, gift certificates to local events, school and sporting needs, etc. are just a few thoughts.
Edible tree decorations
Making popcorn strings and balls for decorating the holiday tree provides loads of family fun. Candies, ginger bread cookies, and more can adorn the tree. These tree "decorations" become an edible gift for the family to share and enjoy.
Decorating paper grocery sacks with rubber stamps is a fun activity. There are lots of reusable, practical gift wrapping ideas, such as dish cloths, scarfs, refillable tins, and baskets. Old calendars and magazine pictures make good gift wrapping paper and creative cards as well.
Giving a holiday party?
Consider emailing invitations, using Facebook, or Evite. Try to plan meals for the appropriate number of people. Need extra dishes? Ask a friend to lend them instead of switching to disposables. Party companies will rent dishes as well. Cloth napkins are washable, affordable, and add a nice touch.
Food waste is ubiquitous around our nation — and it also increases dramatically during the holiday season. Advanced preparation for meal leftovers can not only reduce waste, but also send guests home with goodies they will appreciate. Plan ahead and start saving those yogurt and butter containers for leftover storage. Encourage holiday guests to bring containers with them for taking home leftovers.
A compost bin makes a great holiday gift and composting is a wonderful New Year's resolution!
Donating toys and clothes
The holidays also afford us an opportunity to remember the needs of those that are less fortunate than us. Consider involving the family in donating usable, unwanted food, clothing, toys, household items, and other items to local charities.
There are multitudes of opportunities for reuse. Local charities are available for donations of clothing, furniture, and other household items. Building reuse centers will accept usable building materials, tools, and hardware; many will also accept appliances. Also take a look at the Recycling Markets Database and Materials Exchanges in the Northeast for donating everything from crayons and electronics to wheel chairs and eye glasses.
Best holiday wishes from the NERC staff!