Yes We Can! 2017

The MARC Solid Waste Management District held its 2017 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Jason Morado from ETC Institute spoke about the results of the district’s recent residential recycling survey. The survey explored resident’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviors with regard to recycling. The survey also examines changes since the last survey in 2012.

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From left, Joan Leavens for Shawnee Mission School District; Rob Fort, KC Water;  Patti Rine and Mike Scruby for American Legion Post #61;  John Blessing for Waste Management.

The district also recognized several individuals and organizations that have made notable contributions to regional waste management and recycling efforts. See photos from the event on Flickr » The 2017 Special Recognition Award recipients include:

Public Employee — Rob Fort, City of Kansas City, Missouri Department of Water Services

The Public Employee award recognizes a public employee who has shown dedication to the development and advancement of waste reduction and recycling through individual achievement and commitment.

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TESA awardee P.J. Born with Joan Leavens (right) and Matt Riggs (left).

Outstanding Program — Shawnee Mission School District & Board of Education

The Outstanding Program award recognizes an innovative or outstanding waste reduction or recycling program. Joan Leavens, Sustainability and Community Engagement Coordinator, accepted this award.

Waste Industry — Waste Management of Kansas, Inc.

The Waste Industry award recognizes outstanding waste reduction and recycling efforts for a business in the waste industry. John Blessing, Public Sector Manager, accepted this award.

Every Little Bit Counts — The American Legion Post #61

The “Every Little Bit Counts” award recognizes that small actions are meaningful. Mike Scruby accepted the award.

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TESA awardee Muriel Desbleds-Wilson with Kate Delehunt (right) and Matt Riggs (left).

Teaching Environmental Stewardship Award

The Kansas City Environmental Education Network also recognized two teachers who provide outstanding environmental education in the Kansas City metro:

  • J. Born, Shawnee Mission South High School
  • Muriel Desbleds-Wilson, Académie Lafayette

Learn more about their accomplishments »

Image of full curbside recycling bin on a curb, with Recycle More Recycle Better logo. Text reads: "recycle more, recycle better".

To bin, or not to bin? Now, there’s no question!

At times, you may find yourself confused about what you can and cannot put in your curbside recycling bin. Why? It’s possible that the information you’ve been given is outdated, hearsay, or just flat wrong. The Recycle More, Recycle Better guide solves this problem by listing the most up-to-date information on what can and can’t go in your curbside recycling bin.

Recycle More, Recycle Better flier. Pictures materials that can be recycled curbside or drop-off, and materials that can be recycled through other means, and that cannot be recycled in our area.The guide uses photos of common products for quick, easy reference. The top half of the poster illustrates recyclable materials that you can toss in your curbside recycling bin. The bottom half shows materials that should NOT go in your bin, and offers alternative ways to recycle many of those products. There’s also a section on properly preparing your recyclables.

The buck stops at the MRFs

We collaborated with the Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) to develop this guide. MRFs are the facilities where all your recyclables are taken to be sorted, baled and shipped off to be made into new products. The buck stops at the MRFs because they have the final say in what is and is not acceptable in all Kansas City metro area curbside and drop-off recycling programs.

That’s recyclable?

While the flier lists items most people know are recyclable such as cans, paper and plastic bottles, it also identifies some recyclable items that may surprise you:

  • Aerosol cans — Wasp spray, whipped cream, spray paint, or sunscreen— if it’s a metal spray can, it can be recycled. However, it must be empty and no longer make a “hiss” sound when the trigger is depressed.
  • Aluminum foil and pans — As long as they’re rinsed off, they’re recyclable. Scrunch foil into a ball shape to prevent it from accidentally mixing in with paper.
  • Paper cartons — Milk, soup, broth, juice boxes and wine cartons are all recyclable, even if they have a plastic lid. Rinse carton and put lid back on before recycling.
  • Planting pots and trays — As long as they’re rinsed off, they’re recyclable.

That’s not recyclable?

Unfortunately a lot of what you thought could go in your bin, should not. When items that can’t be recycled are mixed in with recyclable items, the result is what the recycling industry calls “contamination.” Some non-recyclables can contaminate an entire truckload of materials by lowering their value, if not negating it entirely. Less contamination means less waste sent to the landfill, and it can also mean less downtime for sorting equipment that can easily be broken by materials it was not meant to handle.

Here are the top offenders that should not go in your curbside bin:

  • Plastic bags and film — They clog up equipment and cause shutdowns at the recycling facility. These can be recycled at your local grocery or “big box” store. For a complete list of plastics that can and cannot be recycled in the metro area, including bags and film, visit our Plastics Recycling page.
  • Paper food containers and tableware — Whether its paper plates and cups (including paper coffee cups), or fast food, takeout and frozen food containers, they should not go in the bin. All of these items have a thin plastic coating that can’t be separated from the cardboard. This coating makes them neither recyclable nor compostable. For more information about paper food containers and tableware, check out our blog post on the subject.
  • Styrofoam — No type of Styrofoam product should go in your curbside bin. Foam has very low economic value. It also has a tendency to disintegrate into smaller pieces during transport that cling to other recyclables.
  • Pizza boxes — The clean top is recyclable. The greasy, food-covered bottom is not. However, you can compost the bottom if you have a compost bin.
  • “Tanglers” — This is an industry term for long, stringy items such as VHS tapes, shower curtains, extension cords, and garden hoses. Like plastic bags and film, tanglers clog up equipment and cause shutdowns at the recycling facility.

Over the next year, the MARC Solid Waste Management District, will be promoting this flier to area haulers, cities, and homeowners associations. In the meantime, download it and share with your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors who live in the Kansas City metro area. It is available for download in both 11 x 17 and 8.5 x 11 sizes.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

 

 

Recycling Jewelry to Benefit Kansas City Hospice House

by Kathleen Corbin, Top Drawer

Buying used from a resale boutique is a great way to live a more sustainable lifestyle and help a local charity at the same time.

Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care operates a quality, up-scale boutique that sells jewelry, clothing and home décor. All of the proceeds from store sales support Kansas City Hospice and The Hospice House. Our store, Top Drawer, is located at 9433 Mission Road, Leawood, KS 66206.

We started a jewelry recycling program a couple of years ago. You can donate all your old jewelry to Top Drawer, even if it is not in tip-top shape. We resell all of the pieces that are in good condition, repair the broken ones, and take apart the rest, saving the components to make new jewelry. Nothing in our program is wasted. Broken brooches can become new pendants or collage necklaces, and beads can be reused in new necklaces or bracelets.

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A new piece of jewelry that was made from broken earrings, broken brooches and miscellaneous beads that came off of broken necklaces.

Here is a link to our You Tube Video, which explains a lot about our jewelry project. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBM7MWLfSxw

We would love to have your jewelry, gently-worn clothing, shoes and home accessories! Your donations assist Kansas City Hospice in providing expert care, peace of mind, comfort, guidance and hope to the people of our community.

Melting myths about “wax-coated” food containers

If you’re like most recyclers, “wax-coated” paper food containers are a source of confusion for you. They’re obviously made of paper which you know is recyclable, but you’ve gotten mixed messages about their recyclability. Well, here’s the straight scoop: only one type is recyclable, and none are coated in wax.

The wax has waned

Most paper food containers that appear to be coated in wax are actually coated with polyethylene (PE) plastic. These containers are either made of fibers held together by a PE compound, or the container itself is lined with PE. The PE serves as a moisture and gas barrier. As a moisture barrier, it prevents transmission of liquids through the paper container. As a gas barrier, it prevents the absorption of gases in the air like oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can impact the freshness and quality of food products.

Types of containers

The most common types of PE-coated paper food containers you’re likely to come across are shown below. Cartons are the only type that are recyclable in your curbside bin or at your recycling center in the Kansas City metro area.

Image of group of five food products in cartons: Half-gallon of non-dairy drink, individual portion of soup in carton, small carton of egg nog, small protien drink in carton, quart-sized carton of broth.Cartons – These include milk, juice, soup, broth, and wine cartons, and drink boxes. These are 100 percent recyclable.

image of disposable paper coffee cup.Hot drinking cups – These are the disposable coffee cups used by all coffee shops. The only recyclable components are the plastic lids and cardboard sleeves.

Image of fast-food meal: fries in container, burger in box, and disposable, soft drink container.Fast food cups and containers – These are the containers in your average fast-food meal: soda cup, French fry holder, and sandwich box. (Only the plastic lid is recyclable. Straws are not.)

Image of stack of plastic-coated, paper platesTableware (plates, cups and bowls) – This is the classic disposable tableware often used at picnics and special events.

Image of two different types of restaurant-style, to-go/take-out boxes.Take-out containers – These can be anything from the Chinese takeout container to the takeout box used by your favorite restaurant.

Image of a group of frozen food containers: frozen, microwavable entree, frozen vegetable in freezer-safe box, pint-sized ice cream container, half-gallon ice cream container.Frozen food containers – This covers everything from frozen entrees to ice cream tubs.

Why aren’t they recyclable?

Paper that is going to be recycled is shipped to a paper mill where it is mixed with water in a giant blender called a hydropulper. The hydropulper processes the paper into a slurry suitable for making recycled paper products. If the paper has a PE coating, it is impossible to recycle in the standard pulp process because the container will not break apart and blend in with the slurry during recycling.

So, the burning question you may be asking: why are PE-coated cartons recyclable, but all the others aren’t? Cartons have a different fiber composition, and the PE-coating type decomposes enough to break apart during the pulping process.

Convenience vs. durability

So what can you do to reduce the amount of PE-coated paper products in your home? It comes down to opting for durability over convenience:

  • Coffee cups – Take a reusable mug with you to the coffee shop. Coffee shops usually give you a discount since you’re not using one of their cups.
  • Fast food containers – Avoid fast food for this reason, and for your health.
  • Tableware – Use durable tableware at your picnics and special events. This includes plates, bowls, cups, napkins, silverware, serving dishes and tablecloths.
  • Take-out containers – Take a plastic food storage container to the restaurant and box up your leftovers yourself.
  • Frozen food containers – Fresh food has little of the packaging waste associated with frozen food.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

green cleaning sponge on top of pair of orange cleaning gloves

Rid your home of dangerous chemicals

icons of bug spray, motor oil, 9-volt battery and paintThe can of bug spray on the shelf… the toilet cleaner and drain opener in the cabinet… the old gas, lawn chemicals and paint stored in the garage… these products are all considered hazardous because the chemicals they contain pose a threat to human health and the environment.

Hazardous waste generated at your home is called Household Hazardous Waste (HHW). HHW is any flammable, toxic, corrosive or reactive product labeled “Danger”, “Warning”, or “Caution”, and none of these should be tossed into the regular trash.

Even when used as directed, many household chemicals can endanger health and safety and pose risks to children, pets, communities, wildlife and the environment.

Fortunately, there are convenient ways to safely dispose of your HHW. And for many of these products, there are safe alternatives that are readily available, easy to use, and often cheaper than their more dangerous counterparts.

Safe disposal

Missouri residents who live in Cass, Clay, Platte, Jackson and Ray counties, have access to proper HHW disposal through the Regional Household Hazardous Waste Program. Residents who live in participating communities can dispose of HHW for no cost at one of two HHW facilities or numerous HHW collection events. Missouri residents who don’t live in participating communities can dispose of HHW for a fee at Summit Waste Systems in Lee’s Summit, Missouri.

Kansas residents who live in Johnson, Leavenworth, Miami, or Wyandotte counties can take their HHW to the HHW facility in their county for free.

Please note that these services are for residents only. Any hazardous waste not generated by a resident is classified as business hazardous waste by the states of Kansas and Missouri. This includes businesses, industry, manufacturing, rental property owners, nonprofits, governments, schools, churches, etc. It is illegal for these entities to take their hazardous waste to a residential collection facility or collection event. For more information, visit Business Hazardous Waste.

icons of baking soda, ecofriendly spray bottle, lemon wedge and spray bottleSafe alternatives

There are many safe alternatives to household chemicals. Baking soda, or Borax (a naturally occurring mineral) work well as mild, abrasive cleaners as alternatives to chlorine or silica-based scouring products. White vinegar is an all-purpose cleaner. It can be used on hard surfaces or glass as an alternative to ammonia-based cleaners and other corrosive products. Lemons are highly acidic, which makes them a strong cleaning agent. Plus, they provide a refreshing and clean scent.

For more information, including a list of recipes, visit Safe Alternatives.

Paints

Conventional paints contain several toxic chemicals: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), fungicides, biocides, and chemical pigments. When purchasing paint look for low VOC, low biocides and natural pigments.

Calculate the amount of paint you need for a project before buying to reduce the chance of running out before finishing the job, or having paint left over.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Image of female blowing a dandelion gone to seed, with blowing seeds morphing into recycling symbols/chasing arrows. Photo by Robert Couse-Baker, CC 2.0.

When NOT to recycle

Have you ever put something in the recycling bin that you’re not sure about?

  • If you don’t know if it’s recyclable, but hope it is…
  • If it has a recycling symbol or label on it, so you assume it must be okay…
  • If you’re pretty sure it’s not recyclable, but hope that somewhere down the line someone will be able to recycle it…

…You might be a wishful recycler! You may have the best of intentions, but improper recycling can hurt more than it helps. Take time to learn what CAN be recycled in your area.

If it has a symbol, is it always recyclable?

In a word, no. Just because something has a recycling symbol on it, or says “recycle,” “recyclable,” or “recycled content” does not mean you can definitely recycle it in our metro area.

ChasingArrowQuestionMarkArtboard 1_RSblog-350pxThe numbers you see inside the recycling symbol on plastic bottles are resin codes developed by the plastics industry to help them properly sort plastics for recycling. In the Kansas City metro area, for example, milk jugs (#2) and yogurt containers (#5) are recyclable. However, Styrofoam takeout boxes (#6) and antifreeze bottles (#2) are not. Contact your hauler to find out which types of plastic can be thrown in the bin.

Some items that say they’re “recyclable” may be in other parts of the country, but it might not be true in our area if there is no local end market for reuse, too little value in the material, or both.

“Made from recycled content” doesn’t always mean an item can be recycled again. For example, you may find a ballpoint pen that says it’s “made from recycled bottles.” That’s great— buying recycled is essential to closing the recycling loop — but it doesn’t mean you can recycle the pen.

The unintended consequences of wishful recycling

When you put an item in your recycling bin that isn’t accepted by your curbside program or drop-off facility, you’re merely relocating your trash: now someone at the recycling facility will have to throw that item away. You may also inadvertently contaminate other recyclables in the bin, which can lower their value or negate it entirely.

How? Let’s say you throw a glass pickle jar in your curbside recycling bin, even though your program does not accept glass. As the glass gets crushed in the recycling truck, glass shards and dust contaminate all the other recyclables they touch, lowering their value. Or, let’s say you throw a half-full can of paint thinner in the bin because it comes in a metal can, and your program accepts metal cans. Once that can is crushed in the recycling truck, the paint thinner could contaminate enough of the recyclables that the whole load has to go to the landfill.

What’s the solution?

So, what can you do to avoid “wishful recycling”? Only put items in your recycling bin that your program accepts. To find this information:

  • Contact your hauler or check the label attached to the top of your recycling bin.
  • For plastics, check out our Plastics Recycling page which clearly explains the type of plastics that are and are not recyclable in the Kansas City metro area.
  • Give us a call: (816) 474-8326.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Reuse and recycle your unwanted toys

It’s that time of year when new toys move in and old toys move out. Ensure that the old toys get a second life by reusing and recycling them instead of throwing them away.

Donate

Photo of bathroom sink counter with soap dispenser, plastic shark toy, and toothbrush holder made from Legos.Donating old toys is the easiest option. As long as toys are clean and in good working condition, you can donate them to thrift stores and local charities. Most large thrift stores offer pick up services. You can also drop your toys off at the nearest donation box (only toys that will easily fit in the box’s door).

Three organizations that accept toys for donation and work with local kids and families in need are Operation Breakthrough, Scraps KC and The Giving Brick.

Host a toy swap

Avoid the after-the-holiday blahs by hosting a toy swap. It is a great way to clean out the closet, help the environment, and help stave off you and your kids’ cabin fever.

Recycle electronic toys

Whether it’s a broken video game, remote control car or a Nerf Blaster, it’s all recyclable. Midwest Recycling Center and The Surplus Exchange both recycle all toys that run on batteries or a power cord. If you have a video game junkie in your home, you can recycle old gaming devices at Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot / Office Max.

Repurpose

Who knew toys can be made into a wreath, a toothbrush holder or bookends? Search “How to repurpose toys” on the internet, and you’ll find countless cool things to make from unwanted toys.

For more information on reuse and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.