Without a thought, we grab a handful of paper towels to dry our hands in a public restroom or to clean up a spill in the kitchen and then we toss them in the trash. But what is the environmental cost? A lot of energy and resources go into making paper towels: harvesting the wood, processing it, bleaching it, packaging it, and transporting it — all just to reach the store! However, there is a great way to counter this resource and energy-intensive process: just say no.
In the restroom
In the old days, people used to carry cloth handkerchiefs. Today these make great paper towel substitutes. You can purchase handkerchiefs at most department stores, and a good one can last for many years. Keep one in your pocket or purse and use it when wet hands arise. If you’re worried about the dampness affecting other items, you can keep the handkerchief in a Ziploc bag between uses, or lay it out to dry on a desk. Wash handkerchiefs with the rest of your laundry.
In the kitchen
All bath towels must be retired at some point, so why not give those frayed and faded towels a second life in your kitchen? Store them in a kitchen cabinet or drawer, ready to be used the next time Junior spills his milk. Just like the hankies, these towels can go in with your laundry and serve many years as a greener, quicker picker-upper.
If all else fails, compost!
If you do end up using paper towels, they can be disposed of in your compost bin instead of the trash. Find information on composting at home on the MARC website.
For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.
Every holiday season we hear the same question: is it better for the environment to buy a real tree or an artificial tree? Currently, of all the American households displaying trees, 80 percent are artificial trees and 20 percent are real.
A recent study — sponsored by the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) and conducted by third-party international research firm PE International — showed that purchasing either a real or artificial tree has a negligible impact on the environment. However, the study found that length of ownership, disposal method and “tree miles” can make a difference on which tree is environmentally preferable.
ACTA encourages consumers to consider five helpful tips when deciding which tree to buy this year:
If you buy a real tree, buy from a local farm if possible.
Consider “tree miles” — How far the tree had to travel to get to the store or farm, and how far you had to travel to get it.
Consider purchasing an artificial tree to minimize your environmental impacts if you have purchased more than nine live trees in the last nine years.
If you own an artificial tree, plan to use it for at least six to nine years. If you replace an artificial tree, donate the old one instead of disposing it.
Properly dispose of your natural holiday tree. Find local disposal services at RecycleSpot.org!
Missouri bans the disposal of real holiday trees and greenery, just like it does other yard waste materials, and Kansas discourages the practice. Area communities, businesses and organizations offer a number of ways to recycle those trees instead of trashing them. These services divert materials from landfills while creating resources that can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, trees can be shredded into mulch that is used for trail surfaces, erosion control and landscaping, or left whole to create fish habitats in area lakes.
To ensure a pure recycling stream and protect workers and machinery, it’s very important to remove lights, decorations, plastic bags, stands, metal frames, nails and wire from trees and greenery before recycling them.
For more information on where to donate your artificial tree or recycle your real tree and greenery, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.
Mattresses damage landfill equipment and do not easily compress, taking up about 23 cubic feet of space each. Fortunately, mattresses are 100 percent recyclable. They are made of foam, polyester, cotton, metal, wood and shoddy (reclaimed wool fabric), all of which can be re-manufactured into other products.
When you recycle or donate your mattress you can support organizations that do more than keep mattresses out of landfills. Avenue of Life helps low-income individuals and families break the cycle of poverty by providing jobs to those with barriers to employment, and Sleepyhead Beds provides clean, recycled beds and bedding to children in need. These organizations have partnered with each other to make sure all mattresses they receive are donated back to families or recycled. Avenue of Life collects all mattresses recycled at Courtney Ridge Landfill, Excelsior Springs Recycling Center and Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park.
Many of us have replaced our standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. But what do you do with the old bulbs when they burn out? Properly disposing or recycling light bulbs can increase your safety, save energy and help the environment.
The hazardous component of fluorescent light bulbs is the small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. Keep yourself and sanitation workers safe by following proper cleanup procedures.
Incandescent, halogen and LED bulbs
Unfortunately, there are no options to recycle incandescent, halogen and LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs in the Kansas City metro. Since these types of bulbs do not contain any hazardous materials they can be thrown away in your regular trash. For safety’s sake, place burned out bulbs back in their original packaging or in a plastic bag before throwing them away.
We use hundreds of types of plastics in our daily lives, so how do we know which ones are recyclable and which ones are not? Most recycling programs include plastic, but are vague, confusing or inconsistent about which types are accepted. So we play the guessing game and end up trashing plastic items that could be recycled, and recycling others that should be trashed. The following information should help clear it all up for you.
Recycle These: The following list has the types of plastics that you can recycle in the metro area. Most plastics used in the products you buy are numbered one through seven. Look for the number in the resin code that appears in the chasing arrow symbol, usually on the bottom of the container.
Don’t Recycle These: Following are the types of plastics you cannot currently recycle in the Kansas City metro area. Most can go in the trash, but be sure to properly dispose of hazardous household products.
Proper Plastics Prep Proper preparation of materials can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful recycling. Here are some tips:
Call — Always call your hauler or recycling center first to confirm the types of plastics they accept.
Empty — Make sure containers are completely empty.
Rinse — Give containers a quick rinse to remove residue.
Don’t forget caps and lids — Plastic caps and lids are recyclable, too. Crush plastic bottles, put the cap back on and recycle. Or, fill a plastic tub with caps and lids, put on the lid and recycle. Both methods keep caps and lids from falling through the sorting machinery and getting thrown out at the material recovery facility.