Better to repair than replace

Ever had a household item break only to be told “it would be cheaper to replace it than fix it”? It’s become a mantra of our twenty-first century consumer culture. Unfortunately, it’s an MO that runs completely counter to waste reduction. The amount of energy and resources consumed and pollution created to replace an item far outweighs that of repairing it. So why has it become nearly impossible to get something fixed, and what are some ways to change that?

You have the right to repair

The “right to repair” is the right to fix a device yourself or have someone other than the manufacturer do the work for you. The concept got started within the automotive industry back in 2012 when Massachusetts passed the country’s first Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act. The act required automobile manufacturers to provide the necessary documents and information to allow anyone to repair their vehicles.

Inspired by this, The Repair Association was founded in 2013 to transfer this concept to electronics. Many electronics manufacturers had instituted systems whereby the only means to repair a device or obtain repair parts would be through one of their authorized vendors or original equipment manufacturers (OEM).

The practice of requiring consumers to go to the manufacturer for repairs has generally been criticized as anti-competitive.

Repair has its day and café

International Repair Day is organized by the Open Repair Alliance, an international group including Fixit Clinic (United States), The Repair Cafe Foundation (Netherlands), The Restart Project (UK), iFixit, and Anstiftung Foundation (Germany). This day highlights the value of repair and promotes global community efforts to fix the stuff we own.

A repair café is a meeting organized by and for local residents where people repair household items. The objectives are to reduce waste, maintain repair skills and to strengthen community. Repair cafés are held at a fixed location where tools, materials and volunteers are available to help. The Repair Café Foundation supports local groups around the world in setting up their own repair cafés.

Green Works in Kansas City hosted a Repair Cafe & Open House this past October in Midtown Kansas City, Mo. This event focused on bicycle, clothing, jewelry, furniture, lamp and tool repair.

Who fixes what in Kansas City?

There are local repair options for many types of items. A few high-demand categories include electronics, clothing, shoes and furniture. When searching online for a local repair service, be as specific as possible: furniture repair Kansas City, shoe repair Overland Park, etc.

Repair it yourself

In recent years, the do-it-yourself (DIY) movement has gone viral. Repairing something yourself can save money and increase skills and knowledge which you can then pass on to others. It starts by simply going online and typing: do it yourself (item name here) repair.

For more information on other ways to reduce waste, visit Beyond Recycling: Reduce and Reuse.

Shipping materials are prime for recycling

We know you’re primed for Amazon Prime Day. But once you’ve received the items you’ve ordered, what are you going to do with all the shipping materials? Reuse and recycle them, of course!

Keep some around

Used boxes and shipping materials can come in handy when you have a gift to wrap or something to store or ship. Set aside a tote, cabinet or shelf to store used shipping materials. It will save you time and money.

Boxed in? Boxes out!

All cardboard shipping boxes are 100-percent recyclable. They can be recycled in your curbside recycling bin or at your local drop-off recycling center. Be sure to break them down before recycling to save space.

Films a-plenty

Most plastic film shipping materials can be recycled along with your plastic shopping bags at grocery stores and big box stores. These include air pillows, bubble wrap, plastic envelopes (including bubble-wrap lined and Tyvek™), and the film and foam wrap from new household items such as appliances and furniture. Always remove address labels from envelopes before recycling. And since you also need to pop bubble wrap and air pillows before recycling, give them to the kids for a few moments of loud fun.

What about Styrofoam™?

If you purchase furniture or appliances, you’re bound to get Styrofoam™ (a.k.a. EPS: expanded polystyrene) shipping materials at some point. The only place in the Kansas City region that recycles EPS molds, blocks, and coolers is ACH Foam Technologies, 1400 N. 3rd St., Kansas City, KS, (913) 321-4114. EPS must be clean: no dirt, debris, tape, tape residue, labels, glue, marker, or discoloration. Please note: no other type of polystyrene is recyclable in the metro area, including packing peanuts and food and beverage containers (cups, takeout containers, egg cartons, meat trays, etc.).

UFO (unidentified foam objects)

Last year, Amazon started shipping items in these new brown paper envelopes. The envelopes state that they are recyclable. However, customers were skeptical when they found that the cushioning was a white, crumbly, foam-like substance. Amazon confirmed that during the recycling process, this cushioning material (a type of expanded adhesive) is separated from the recyclable paper fibers. So these envelopes can be recycled in your curbside recycling bin or with cardboard at your local drop-off recycling center.

Yes, there’s a “no list”

Two types of shipping materials that cannot be recycled are paper envelopes lined with bubble wrap and PE-LD (low-density polyethylene). Often mistaken for polystyrene, PE-LD is different in the following ways: it’s squeezable, it bends but does not break, and it’s labeled with a #4 plastic resin code (polystyrene is #6). Reuse options include shipping, storage and crafting.

To find out where to recycle your shipping materials, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Embrace secondhand couture

Spring has sprung, so it’s time to swap out your wardrobe. But what to do with the old clothes you no longer want? In the Kansas City area, you have numerous options for donating, selling and recycling clothes you’re ready to let go of. Plus, there are many opportunities for acquiring good quality secondhand clothes for pennies on the dollar or free.  

Donation

Clothing can be donated to charities, select retailers, thrift stores and clothing donation bins throughout the metro area. Many larger thrift operations also offer pick-up services. And don’t forget friends, family and co-workers who might appreciate the hand-me-downs. If you want to donate your clothes to a charity, always contact the organization first to find out donation requirements. Be sure to follow these pointers to help ensure that your unwanted clothing has the best chance at a good, second life:

  • Make sure clothes are clean.
  • Empty pockets.
  • Remove lint, pet hair and other detritus.
  • Make small repairs: replace buttons, remove pilling, etc.
  • Neatly fold and stack in a bag before donating.

For more information, visit The Four-Point Plan for Properly Donating Old Clothes.

Give us your tired, stained, faded and torn

What about clothes that are in bad shape or hopelessly out of style? Go ahead and donate them, too. Major thrift operations contract with textile reclamation companies that accept clothing that is damaged or that won’t sell in stores. Wearable clothing is sold in different countries throughout the world where it’s in demand. Unwearable clothing is recycled into everything from wiping cloths to new fabrics.

Clothes for cash

Need a little extra cash this spring? There are many resale and consignment shops that will pay for good quality contemporary or vintage clothing. A consignment store sells your items for you. When sold, the store pays you a percentage of the selling price in cash or store credit. Resale stores buy your items upfront and pay either cash or store credit.

There are also resale websites for consumers to buy and sell secondhand clothing online. Examples include thredUP and Poshmark.

Before you head out to a store or sign up online, always verify the types of items accepted and how they must be prepared.

Can you tell who’s wearing secondhand?
Neither can anyone else.

Rags to retail

Next time you’re out shopping, consider taking your unwanted clothes and shoes to one of these retailers in the Kansas City area:

  • American Eagle – Recycles all brands of clothing and shoes.
  • Eileen Fisher – Recycles Eileen Fisher clothing only.
  • H&M – Recycles all brands of clothing and textiles.
  • Levi’s – Recycles all brands of clothing and shoes.
  • Madewell – Recycles all brands of jeans.
  • Nike – Recycles all brands of athletic shoes.
  • The North Face – Recycles all brands of clothing and shoes.
  • Patagonia – Recycles Patagonia clothing only.

To find the nearest location, visit RecycleSpot.org’s Service Provider Search and type in the name of the retailer. 

Swap ‘em out

Participate in a clothing swap to exchange your closet clean-outs for clothing you will wear. You can create a local group on Meetup, or set up one of your own among friends. To find out how, visit Oprah.com

Put the brakes on fast fashion

Fast fashion is defined as an approach to the design, creation and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers. Unfortunately, this results in harmful impacts to the environment, people and our pocketbook. Buying and wearing only secondhand clothing is one way to slow down fast fashion. Elizabeth L. Cline, a New York-based author, journalist and expert on consumer culture, fast fashion, sustainability and labor rights, can help you take your next steps to put the brakes on fast fashion.

For more information on donating or finding secondhand clothing, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Does your TV have an end-of-life plan?

As televisions continue to get bigger, better and significantly cheaper, people are replacing them more often. This means there are a lot of used TVs out there that should be donated or recycled.

Lead, mercury, and PVCs, oh my!

TV-ChasingArrows

Whether you’re talking about an old console TV from the 1970s or a modern flat screen, televisions contain many hazardous substances including lead, mercury, brominated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride. Properly recycling televisions prevents these heavy metals and hazardous materials from ending up in a landfill, harming our environment and endangering public health. Recycling also means that valuable materials such as metals, plastics and glass are extracted and used for new products.

Proper disposal

There are two options for properly disposing of televisions: donation and recycling. Donation is a great option for flat screen TVs that are fairly new and in good working condition. Many charities and thrift stores accept them. Always call first — some do not accept them at all (Goodwill for instance), and those that do have strict criteria.

You can recycle old and non-working televisions of all types and sizes at Best Buy and Midwest Recycling Center.

If you require pick up, your options are more limited. You can call a junk removal service, just be sure and ask if TVs are among the items they recycle and donate. You can also contact your trash hauler to see if they offer bulky-item pickup services that include TVs. Unfortunately, these usually just end up going to the landfill.

Always a fee

Whether you choose pickup or drop-off services, there is always a fee to recycle your television. Fees are charged because of the extra processing TVs require. If you want to ensure your television gets properly recycled, don’t give it to any individual or entity that states they will recycle it for free.

Certification matters

We recommend using recycling companies that are R2 and/or e-Stewards certified. R2 and e-Stewards are accredited, independent, third-party-audited certification programs that represent the highest standard for responsible electronics recycling and reuse. These certification programs are based on best practices in environmental health and worker safety, data security and all applicable laws.

To find out where you can properly dispose of your old TV, visit RecycleSpot.org.

Contamination can’t be recycled

Recyclable materials falling loose into a curbside binContamination is the term used by the recycling industry to describe anything in a recycling bin that shouldn’t be there. Contamination decreases the value of recyclables, increases processing costs, can be dangerous for workers and can cause your recyclables to be sent to the landfill. The average contamination rate among communities and businesses is currently about 25 percent. That means that roughly one in four items placed in a recycling bin is not actually recyclable.

So how can you fight contamination? Prepare recyclable items correctly, and don’t recycle unacceptable items.

Proper prep

Give a quick rinse to all cans and plastic containers and keep items loose in your recycling bin — not in bags, not in boxes. Plastic bags aren’t recyclable curbside. Plus, anything in a bag is assumed to be trash and goes straight to the landfill. Recyclables can get stuck inside boxes and may not get properly sorted and processed.

Never in the bin

The following items should never go in your curbside recycling bin:

plastic film bag

Plastic bags and film — Recycling processing facilities are not set up to process plastic film, whether it be shopping bags, product overwrap, air pillows or bubble wrap. It gets caught in the sorting machinery or disposed of on the sorting line. Instead, recycle plastic bags and film at your local grocery or big box store.

A great way to reduce single-use plastic bags is to use durable, reusable bags.

Photo of group of fast food containers: take out box, hamburger box, french fry container, Chinese take out container and fast food drink cup.Food & liquids — Food and liquids can ruin an entire load of recyclables and send them straight to the landfill.

Though made primarily of paper, coffee and soda cups, paper plates, frozen food containers, takeout boxes, and fast food containers cannot be recycled for two reasons. The first is because they’re all coated with a thin layer of plastic, not wax as is commonly believed. The second is they are heavily contaminated by food and beverages.

Pizza boxes can be iffy — you can recycle the clean part (usually the top), and compost or dispose of the greasy part (usually the bottom). The only parts of disposable cups that are recyclable are the plastic lids and cardboard coffee cup sleeves.

Paint can with brush resting on top

A great way to reduce single-use food containers is to go durable.

Hazardous waste — This includes medical waste such as sharps, and prescription drugs, personal hygiene items such as diapers and toilet paper, and household hazardous waste (HHW). HHW is any item with Danger, Warning or Caution on the label including paint, automotive fluids, lawn and garden chemicals, cleaners, and many beauty products.

diaper-400px

Properly dispose of sharps and prescription drugs. HHW can be properly disposed through your local HHW program. Everything else should go in the trash. And toilet paper? Only in the toilet!

For the most complete list of items that should and shouldn’t go in your curbside recycling bin, download the Recycle More, Recycle Better flier.

Man using Boomerang bag at market Boomerang bag with produce inside shopping basket

Boomerang Bags: Reducing single-use plastic one bag at a time

By Cheryl Birkey, Boomerang Bags KC

I had a realization in early 2017 ― I wanted to work toward solving social issues I cared deeply about. At the top of the list ― reducing the overuse of single-use plastic, namely plastic shopping bags.

I know other places throughout the U.S. have successfully banned plastic bags, so I looked into what it would take to ban plastic bags here in Missouri. Unfortunately, I found out that Missouri has a ban on banning plastic bags. Plus, stores are even prohibited from charging money for plastic bags.

This information shocked me. I had to figure out a Plan B.

People making bagsThen, a friend sent me information about Boomerang Bags. Boomerang Bags started in Australia as a program that provides cloth bags to shoppers who have forgotten their shopping bags. It’s a free (yes, free!) cloth bag that you borrow. And when you return to shop again, you return your Boomerang Bag for someone else to borrow and use your own reusable bag to shop. It’s a movement that is spreading all over the world and I thought it would be a great fit here in Kansas City.

Once I decided to bring Boomerang Bags to Kansas City, I needed to find a place to launch the initiative. My initial plan was to focus on a grocery store. I talked to Cosentino’s in Brookside, a store that cares about product quality, organic produce and the community ― in other words, a great fit for Boomerang Bags! When I approached them about featuring Boomerang Bags in their store, I found out that that store uses 3,000 plastic bags per day! I’m not afraid to dream big, but I’m also realistic, and I knew there was no way I could produce that many bags or combat that sort of waste as I launched Boomerang Bags.

Instead, I began thinking on a much smaller scale and the perfect place hit me ― my beloved Brookside Farmers’ Market!

It was March 2017, and the outdoor location of the Brookside Farmers Market wasn’t open for the season, so I could focus on making inventory. The Boomerang Bags website provided a template for the bag, and I made a single bag from some unused fabric I had on hand. Once I was confident in my construction abilities, I asked for help and my friends pitched in without hesitation.

We met up for a few social sewing events before opening day of the market. We gathered at Keystone Church in Waldo one Sunday, then again in my friend’s garage. I also had people over in my living room. We worked in groups and individually when we could. I also had people reach out to me through social media to donate fabric, as well as cut, sew and assemble bags. I met with strangers in my house and sewed with them or picked up trash bags full of fabric from friends of friends that I met on Facebook. The initial support was awesome and validated that I was on the right path.

Woman Holding lots of Boomerang bagsJust a few weeks later, on April 15, 2017, I launched Boomerang Bags at the Brookside Farmers’ Market for the first day of the season with 100 bags. I came back week after week with more bags each time. By the close of the 2017 season, I had distributed 625 free cloth bags to the patrons of the Brookside Farmers’ Market, so they could take home their organic tomatoes and farm fresh eggs, plastic-free.

As winter approached, I continued cutting and sewing and cutting some more to prepare for the 2018 season and expansion. This year, I added the Downtown Lee’s Summit Farmers Market as a Boomerang Bag venue while continuing to make bags available at the Brookside Farmers’ Market. I attended both markets at the beginning of April and continue to visit each market nearly every Saturday, handing out Boomerang Bags to patrons in need. My goal is simple ― replace just one single plastic bag with a single Boomerang Bag.

Now, I can’t provide 3,000 Boomerang Bags to any one establishment, but I can change people’s behaviors one interaction at a time by engaging in conversations about single-use plastic that expands beyond plastic bags to plastic to-go containers, plastic straws, plastic cutlery, etc. And that’s exactly what I do each Saturday at the markets.

What makes this project especially appealing to me is that it not only helps reduce plastic bag use, but also gives me an opportunity to repurpose unwanted items. The bags are made of materials that might otherwise sit around and collect dust ― fabric purchased for a project and never used, for example, or used bed sheets and tablecloths.

So far in the 2018 season, we’ve constructed and distributed 555 Boomerang Bags to the patrons of the Brookside Farmers’ Market, the Downtown Lee’s Summit Farmers Market and beyond. This brings the grand total to 1,110 Boomerang Bags distributed in Kansas City in just over a year. And we have even more bags in various stages of production. With each fabric donation and each person who donates time, this becomes a community endeavor of love and support for Boomerang Bags and the environment.

As much as I love Boomerang Bags, I don’t want to do this forever. My long-term goal is to become obsolete (yes, really!) I want this project to end because people finally begin to remember their reusable bags when they go to the market, the grocery store, anywhere and everywhere, or that those places become plastic-free, or that legislation finally passes, which bans the ban on banning plastic bags. There’s still plenty of work to do, but with every bag we make and share, we get a step closer to the ultimate goal of reducing ― and, eventually eliminating ― single-use plastic.

To stay up-to-date and learn ways to help Boomerang Bags, find me at Facebook.com/Boomerangbagskc.

Boomerang Bags KC was a 2018 MARC SWMD mini-grant recipient.

Cheryl Birkey is an ACE-certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with more than 10 years’ experience. She discovered her love of fitness during a step aerobics class at the University of Missouri Rec Center (go Tigers!) and has been learning, teaching and sharing ever since. She’s also the founder of Boomerang Bags KC, which creates and distributes reusable bags to help reduce plastic bag use. When she’s not at a gym or working on Boomerang Bags, you can likely find Cheryl spending time in her garden or with her beloved dachshund, Peanut.

Congratulations to our 2018 SWMD grantees!

One of the most important things the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) does is provide financial support to organizations on the Missouri side of our region for projects that reduce the amount of material we send to landfills. The district receives funding every year from the fees collected from the landfills and transfer stations in Missouri. Half of that amount is used to fund local waste reduction, reuse and recycling projects through a grant program. So far this year, we have awarded more than $403,812 to 11 grantees.

The 2018 grant projects so far include:

Avenue of Life:  $32,500 to support the fifth year of a regional mattress recycling program.

Avila University:  $8,790 to purchase recycling containers and create signage for a campus-wide recycling program.

Bridging The Gap:  $84,674 to provide one-on-one consultations and assistance to businesses interested in starting new or expanding existing recycling and composting programs.

Franciscan Mission Warehouse: $30,400 to support staffing and purchase equipment to increase collection and distribution of used medical equipment.

Kansas City Zoo:  $24,991 to purchase recycling containers and create signage to support recycling at the zoo.

Meredith Used Car Sales & Recycling:  $14,925 to purchase of five, 30-yard containers for the collection of scrap metal in Cass County.

Missouri Recycling Association:  $30,000 to support costs for the annual recycling conference scheduled for September in Kansas City.

Platte City:  $5,686 to create educational materials and provide staffing to decrease the presence of non-recyclable material placed in curbside bins.

ScrapsKC:  $37,325 to support a staff position to increase material donations and to create an inventory database system for the creative reuse store.

Sleepyhead Beds:  $83,451 to purchase a truck and fund staff positions to increase the collection and distribution of mattresses.

Urban Lumber:  $51,070 to purchase a drying kiln and shelving for reclaiming urban trees for reuse.

We are very proud of our 2018 group of grant recipients and excited about their projects. The district could not accomplish its waste diversion goals without our grantees! Visit the Solid Waste Management District’s website to learn more about the grant program.