What Happens When You Recycle the Wrong Things (Video)

contamination

Some recycling programs have over 25% contamination — meaning over a quarter of what we throw in our recycling carts doesn’t belong there.

Contamination is a big problem because:

  • It gets tangled up in machinery that was designed to handle different items, bringing the sorting process to a standstill.
  • It endangers the workers who have to climb into the machinery and fix it when it stops running.
  • It slows down the sorting process, which increases costs.
  • It means that the materials that come out of recycling facilities are less useful for making new products.

Watch this video to see what really happens when people toss things in their recycling that don’t belong:

You can help solve the problem of contamination! Check out our Quick Guide to What Goes in the Bins for an overview of what belongs in your recycling, and look up any other items you have questions about in our Recycling Guide.

How to Dispose of Lunchables

lunchables

Lunchables are easy to pack for kids when you’re short on time, but how do you dispose of the packaging when you’re done?

The cardboard sleeve goes in the recycling. The plastic wrap and plastic container go in the trash. They are not recyclable.

If you want to cut back on the waste, try making your own “Lunchables” at home. You’ll save money, too. Check out the Squawkfox homemade lunch experiment to learn more.

Top 10 Most Littered Items

litter

This year’s World Clean-Up Day will be held on September 21. Each year for the clean-up, volunteers from around the world pick up litter in their communities. In conjunction with the U.S. National Clean-Up Day and the International Coastal Clean-Up, millions of people from 150 countries unite through small local actions against illegal waste.

From streets to forests to beaches, litter is everywhere. It’s also expensive — Keep America Beautiful has estimated that litter costs local communities and businesses in the U.S. at least $11.5 billion each year in clean-up and prevention.

To make matters worse, litter often leaches pollutants into the environment, and it harms wildlife, as well. Litter is often carried by wind or rain into rivers and storm drains, where it pollutes our waterways. Recent research from the Netherlands indicates that over 550 marine species have been affected by plastic litter, either by becoming tangled in it or eating it.

Since this year’s clean-up is right around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the most commonly littered items. Here are the top 10 items picked up by Ocean Conservancy volunteers last year:

1. Cigarette Butts
2. Food Wrappers (Candy Wrappers, Energy Bar Wrappers)
3. Plastic Bottles
4. Plastic Bottle Caps
5. Plastic Grocery Bags
6. Other Plastic Bags
7. Straws
8. Plastic Takeout Containers
9. Plastic Lids
10. Foam Takeout Containers

To join this year’s World Clean-Up Day, find a clean-up group near you.

Healthy Soils Program: Grant Application Information for Ranchers

California rangeland

The Healthy Soils Program is an application-based program that funds projects that build resilient soils and improve rangeland condition.

There are two grant categories available:

  • The Incentives Program funds the implementation of practices on rangeland and pasture. Up to $75,000 max grant award.
  • The Demonstration Program funds practices and education to showcase practices to other ranchers (w and w/o research). Up to $250,000 max grant award.

The next round of funding opens for applications in fall 2019. Learn more about the Healthy Soils Program on the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s website.

How to Host a Clothing Swap (Video)

clothing

What if you could get a wardrobe refresh without ever hitting the mall or shopping online? It turns out you can.

Clothing swaps are a fun way to trade clothes with friends and family. You can declutter while hanging out with people you care about, and breathe some new life into your closet without spending any money. Check out this video from New Dream to find out how clothing swaps work and get some tips for hosting your own.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program Wants Your Ideas!

plastic underwater

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is looking ahead to the next five years and wants to know what you think!

In October 2015, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) released a five-year strategic plan to guide their efforts through 2020. The plan’s five overarching goals are coordination, emergency response and preparedness, removal, prevention, and research and assessment. As the NOAA enters into the final year of their current plan, they are reflecting on the goals they were able to accomplish and identifying their priorities moving forward.

You can access the NOAA’s current strategic plan on their website and comments will be accepted through this Friday, August 16, 2019. To provide comments via email, please send your thoughts to strategic.marinedebris@noaa.gov, and include your comments in the body of the email or as attachments. Comments may also be provided by mail to the following address:

NOAA Marine Debris Program
1305 East West Highway
SSMC4, Rm 10204
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Learn more about providing feedback on the Marine Debris Program here.

Green BBQ Cheat Sheet

BBQ

Planning a BBQ or picnic for the end of summer? Check out this cheat sheet for seven easy ways to green your event.

1. Put dirty items and liquids in the trash. Don’t put greasy items or anything containing liquids or food residue in the recycling. Help your guests by putting clear signs on your trash and recycling containers. For example, “Trash: Plates and Utensils” and “Recycling: Empty Bottles & Cans.”

2. Put clean glass bottles, aluminum cans, cardboard and containers made from plastics #1 and #2 in the recycling. At a party, beverage containers are the most common recyclable, and you can even redeem them for 5-10 cents each at a beverage container recycling center. Not sure if something is recyclable? Look it up in our Recycling Guide.

3. Put food waste in your green bin. If it can’t be saved for later, toss it in the compost. Meat, bones, dairy, fruits, veggies and grains can all go in the compost. Remember: Liquids, oils, grease and any non-food items are not allowed in the compost.

4. Share leftovers to prevent food waste. In your invitation, ask your guests to bring a food storage container so that they can bring home leftovers.

5. Plan your portions. Prevent food waste by tallying up how many guests you’re expecting, how long the event will be, and plan food portions accordingly. Here are some pointers:

  • Adults tend to eat one pound of food per meal, and children, half a pound.
  • If you’re serving only appetizers, folks will eat about 4-6 in their first hour, and 2-3 per hour after that.
  • If you’re serving a full meal, plan about 6-8 oz of meat per adult (a store-bought hamburger tends to run around 6 oz) in addition to side dishes.
  • A serving of pasta salad is about one cup per person. For baked beans, half a cup.
  • For light desserts like watermelon or cookies, plan two small servings per person, or 4 oz of a cake or pie.
  • For beverages, estimate two per person for the first hour, and one per hour after that.

6. Serve finger food. To cut down on plates, serve foods that don’t need them. A lot of classic summer fare is handheld, including hot dogs, sandwiches, skewers, corn on the cob, fresh vegetables and watermelon.

7. Skip disposables. Choose reusable plates, cups, utensils and napkins over disposable ones.

Toss That Old Garden Hose

garden hose

With summer finally here, many of us are realizing that our garden hoses are cracked, broken or leaky and need to be replaced. Although you might think garden hoses are recyclable because they’re made out of plastic, they actually need to be put in the garbage.

Garden hoses are one of the most dangerous items to accidentally toss in your recycling. Why? They are long, unruly and can wrap around sorting machinery. This not only damages the machinery, but it also endangers the workers who have to try to untangle them. Toss them in the trash, or, if you’re feeling creative, check out these ideas in the Recycling Guide for repurposing them.

When replacing your garden hose, opt for polyurethane (PU) or natural rubber hoses over PVC hoses. PU hoses can also withstand cold weather and high pressure better than PVC hoses do. Also, they are more eco-friendly because they do not contain chemicals that can leach into the environment.

How to Keep Your Old Clothes Out of the Landfill

clothing

If everyone in the U.S. kept their clothing and textiles out of the landfill for one year, it would save the equivalent of nearly 31 million metric tons of carbon emissions. That’s the same as taking all the cars in Los Angeles off the road for a year. So how can you do it? Here are your options:

Sell

Are your unwanted clothes still valuable? For-profit secondhand stores are a quick and easy way to cash in. There are also a host of websites and applications that will help you sell or swap your old threads with just a few clicks on your smartphone, including eBaythredUPswap.comPoshmark and Tradesy.

Donate

If you think your clothes may not be new enough to sell, donating locally is an easy way to give your wardrobe future use. Check whether an organization takes only gently used items or items in any condition—they can easily be a one stop shop for all your old clothes. You have two choices when it comes to donating garments:

Non-profit organizations raise money for charitable causes. Goodwill, for example, uses the revenue from sales of donated clothing to fund job training programs for seniors, veterans and people with disabilities. Another benefit of this option is that your donation may be tax deductible. Goodwill has a PDF guide to help you estimate the value of your donation. Other national charities that accept clothing donations include The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Vietnam Veterans of America and PlanetAid. If you want to know more about an organization before you donate, look it up on CharityWatch or Charity Navigator.

For-profit companies may or may not donate a portion of their profits. ThredUp will donate $5 to a charity of your choice when you donate old clothing to them. Some clothing retailers such as H&M, Levi Strauss & Co. and The North Face encourage customers to bring back old clothes from any brand to their retail locations, so they can be reused or recycled. There are also companies that use clothing collection bins, such as USAgain. These recycling companies have stirred up some controversy because consumers often assume their donations will benefit the needy. However, the clothing is often sold internationally, and only a small portion of sales, if any, fund charitable causes. Other for-profit clothing collectors include Savers, Community Recycling and American Textile Recycling Service.

Recycle — But Not at the Curb

Sometimes clothes get stained, ripped or just plain worn out, and they can’t be sold or donated. If your unwanted garments can’t be worn again, you can still keep them out of the landfill by recycling them. However, you can’t recycle them curbside. Why? They get tangled up in recycling machinery and damage it. But you can still recycle them. Here’s how:

Give clothes in poor condition to organizations that have direct relationships with textile recyclers. Some major clothing recyclers include Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Savers, Blue Jeans Go GreenAmerican Textile Recycling Service and USAgain. Many organizations that accept clothing for resale will also recycle clothes that are torn, stained or worn.

Remember to Reduce

Another way you can help keep clothes out of the landfill is to consider buying secondhand. Many times secondhand clothes are new and unworn. The more we reduce our consumption in the first place, the less material we’re responsible for recycling.

Reduce Your Junk Mail in 5 Minutes

junk mail

Junk mail may seem like just a nuisance cluttering up your mailbox, but all those catalogs and ads take a toll on the environment. More than 100 million trees are cut down each year to make all junk mail in the U.S., and junk mail’s annual carbon footprint is equal to the greenhouse gases released while heating 13 million homes during the winter, according to nonprofit ForestEthics. You may think you don’t have time to tackle that pile of credit card offers and coupons on the kitchen table, but here are two simple ways you can cut down on the bulk of your junk mail in just minutes.

Option 1: CatalogChoice

HOW IT WORKS
After you join this free website, simply search for the type of junk mail you’re looking to avoid: catalog, credit card offer, phone book or charity donation request. Pick a mailing option (no delivery, delivery two or four times a year, etc.), and CatalogChoice will send the request to the company for you. Your CatalogChoice dashboard lists the companies and organizations they have contacted and updates you when a company has confirmed your request – so you don’t have to keep track of all that information yourself.

WHO SHOULD USE IT
Anyone who wants to manage their junk mail through a website, doesn’t have a smartphone or wants to support a nonprofit junk-mail-reduction service.

Option 2: PaperKarma

HOW IT WORKS
Much like CatalogChoice, PaperKarma forwards a request to the companies sending you junk mail and monitors all your requests for you. But, while CatalogChoice only operates as a website, PaperKarma is a free app, available for Android, iOS and Windows smartphones. The process to submit a request is convenient and fast: Just snap a photo of your address on the piece of junk mail, and PaperKarma will take care of the rest.

WHO SHOULD USE IT
The smartphone addict, the super busy.With whichever service you choose, remember to be patient in your quest to reduce your junk mail: It may take a few months to start seeing results, since many mailing labels are printed ahead of time.