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.

A prescription for proper disposal

Nearly 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug regularly, and more than half take two, according to the Mayo Clinic. That translates to a large amount of leftover pills and prescription bottles that eventually have to go somewhere. In the Kansas City area, there are many safe disposal options.

Lock ‘em up

When you’re putting household chemicals like wasp spray and weed killer in a locked cabinet out of the reach of children and pets, don’t forget to do the same with your prescription drugs. Medications are every bit as dangerous, and child safety caps can fail. Also, since many drugs like opioids are addictive, you don’t want them getting in the wrong hands.

The best way to dispose

The best way to dispose of most types of old, unused, unwanted, or expired medicines (both prescription and over the counter) is to drop them off at a drug takeback location or event as soon as possible. Many pharmacies and police stations offer a free public drop box, no questions asked. To find the nearest location, visit RecycleSpot.org and use “Prescriptions” as your search term.  

The next best way to dispose

If for some reason there are no drug takeback options available where you live, medications can be disposed in the trash. Follow these simple steps:

  1. Mix medicines (liquid or pills; do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unappealing substance such as dirt, cat litter, or used coffee grounds.
  2. Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.
  3. Throw the container in the trash.

Do not flush!

Never flush medicines down the toilet or put them down any drain in your house. Water treatment facilities cannot fully remove all medications from wastewater. Your medications can have a detrimental effect on the people, plants and animals that live downstream.

Be sharp about sharps

Medical sharps, such as needles, syringes, lancets and injection pens, are not recyclable. To protect sanitation workers or anyone who handles your trash, they should be put into a tightly closed, puncture-resistant container such as a detergent bottle. Or, you can search online for mail-back programs.

Donate empty prescription bottles

Most people think that prescription bottles should be recyclable since they’re plastic containers and often have the #5 resin code imprinted on the bottom. Unfortunately, they’re not recyclable in the Kansas City area because they are classified as “smalls” by the recycling industry. Smalls are any items 2” X 2” — about the size of a credit card — or smaller that do not make it through the automated recycling processes at material recovery facilities and thus end up in the trash. 

The following organizations accept prescription bottles for donation. Before donating them, make sure bottles are clean, and that all personal information has been removed. Always call before donating.

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.

IMG_5417-10
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.

On the road again? Don’t forget to recycle.

You may be a master recycler at home, but what about when you’re on the road? Summer vacations are just around the corner. Wherever your travels might take you, be sure to reduce, reuse and recycle along the way.  Here are some helpful tips:

  • Pack it in, recycle it out Many national parks offer recycling. So whether your camping or just driving the park loop, please help keep our national parks clean and green. Photo Caption: Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National parkCheck ahead — Planning for recycling on your road trip is just as important as remembering to pack your tooth brush and phone charger. Contact the places you’ll be staying (campground, motel, resort, etc.) to find out what recycling services they offer. Once you arrive, lodging staff should be able to direct you to a recycling location on- or off-site. Another great resource is iRecycle, an app developed by Earth911 to provide recycling information and locations for the USA, and parts of Mexico and Canada. Both EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com and the Green Hotel Association can help you find lodging that offers recycling.
  • Contain it — You’ll need a way to contain your recyclables and trash while you’re on the road. Bring a container (bag, bin, etc.) for each. If you’re staying someplace that doesn’t offer recycling, bring your own container to hold recyclables until you reach someplace that does.
  • Let it rot — If you compost at home, you can compost on the road, too. Take an airtight plastic container or two to store your compostables until you get back home.
  • Reduce packaging — Space is always at a premium when you’re on the road, so choose items with little or no packaging. Avoid items that are individually wrapped. If you end up with candy wrappers or chip bags, check with TerraCycle, a company that prides itself in recycling everything.
  • Leave only small “food prints” — Eating out on the road is expensive both in terms of your pocket book and energy and resources. Pre-purchase snacks, drinks and food, keep perishables in a cooler, and visit a local grocery store when you run low.
  • Go for unique souvenirs — Consider buying goods by local artists to support the local economy and buy fair trade items when available. If you’re buying gifts for others, use your old road map or a brochure as gift wrap.
  • Pack your reusable bags — Always pack a few reusable bags for souvenirs and those on-the-road grocery stops.
  • Just say no to “Would you like a box for that?” — Remember to take plastic food storage containers for your restaurant leftovers. They’re easier to pack in a cooler than flimsy takeout containers, and they keep food fresh longer.
  • Reduce, reuse, rehydrate — Take reusable mugs and bottles for all your road trip drinks.

For information on where you can take your recyclables once you get home, visit RecycleSpot.org, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

Make your Super Bowl recycling list

KSHB Super Bowl Recycling
Video by KSHB

The hosts of Kansas City Live went up against a fifth grader to find out what is recyclable at a Super Bowl party. Now, it’s your turn. Here’s a list of items that may show up at your party and where they can be recycled:

  • Plastic containers (tubs for dips, veggie/fruit and dessert trays) – Most plastic food and beverage containers are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. No Styrofoam food or beverage containers are recyclable.
  • Glass bottles and jars – Glass food and beverage containers are recyclable in the big, purple Ripple Glass bins located throughout the metro area. The metal lids are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. Large metal lids (like salsa jars) can go directly in the recycling bin, while small metal lids and bottle caps should be put in a tin can with the top crimped shut. This will keep them from falling through the sorting machinery.
  • Chip bags – Most chip bags are not recyclable because they are made from multiple types of plastic. For example, if it has a shiny foil interior it’s not recyclable. Bags that are definitely recyclable are the clear tortilla chip bags. These bags can be recycled at any big box store or grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling.
  • Disposable plates, cups and utensils – The plastic types are not recyclable due to food contamination and low value of plastic resin. Paper plates and cups can be composted in your backyard compost bin. A greener alternative is to use your regular dishware or durable plastic dishware that can be washed and used over and over again.
  • Paper napkins – Can be composted in your backyard compost bin. A greener alternative is to use cloth napkins.
  • Grocery sacks – Both plastic and paper are recyclable. Plastic bags can be recycled at any big box store and grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling. Paper bags are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. A greener alternative is to use reusable bags.
  • Cracker boxes – Made from paperboard, i.e., flat cardboard, these are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. The plastic bag inside can be recycled at any big box store and grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling.
  • Aluminum foil & trays – Aluminum foil products can be recycled at several recycling centers in the metro area.
  • Pizza boxes – The key is to tear it in half: the clean top goes in your recycling bin or to a recycling center, and the dirty bottom can go in your backyard compost bin.

For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.