colorful plastic shopping bags on wooden background

Bring back your bags — and more!

Most plastic bags and wraps are made with materials that are recyclable. Unfortunately this doesn’t mean they can go in your curbside recycling bin. Why? Most facilities that manage curbside-collected recyclables use machines to separate rigid materials like cans, bottles or paper products. Due to their size and shape, plastic bags and wraps end up clogging the machinery. Employees must remove the plastic by hand, which is a time-consuming and potentially dangerous task.

So what can you do with them? They can still be recycled, they just require a different system. Many retail  and grocery stores offer free drop-off locations for  bags and films to be properly recycled. All you need to do is make sure the bags and wraps are clean and dry, and that you have removed any non-plastic items such as receipts and labels.

Let’s recap some of the “DOs” and “DON’Ts.”

Please DO recycle:

  • Grocery and retail bags. (Not in your curbside bin, but at a retail or grocery store with a collection bin. Don’t forget to remove the receipts!)
  • Newspaper, bread, produce and dry cleaning bags.
  • The outer wrapping from bulk beverages, napkins, paper towels, bathroom tissue and diapers.
  • Cereal and cracker box liners. (Unless they tear like paper.)
  • Bubble wrap and air pillows. (Pop the bubbles and deflate the pillows.)
  • Resealable storage bags. (Make sure they are clean, dry and don’t have any food residue.)
  • Poly mailers or plastic shipping envelopes. (Remove the shipping labels first.)
  • Document mailing/shipping envelopes such as FedEx Paks or Tyvek® envelopes. (Remove the shipping labels first).

Please DON’T recycle:

  • Plastic bags that tear like paper. (Recyclable bags have some stretch to them.)
  • Cellophane. (The plastic that makes a “crinkly” sound.)
  • Frozen food and pre-washed salad bags.
  • Food or cling wrap.
  • Candy wrappers. (You can recycle the bag that the candy came in.)
  • Snack bags, such as pretzels and potato chip bags.
  • Coffee pouches or other resealable food pouches, such as shredded cheese or trail mix.
  • Pet food bags.
  • Zippered packaging for bedding and garments.
  • Biodegradable or compostable bags.

If you come across a bag or film that is not listed above, a simple test will determine whether it is accepted for recycling or not. If you give the bag or wrap a slight tug and it stretches, it is likely recyclable. If it rips or tears similar to paper, it is likely not. When in doubt, don’t include bags or films you are unsure of — toss them into the trash.

Plastic bags and wraps can be recycled into many useful products, such as low-maintenance fencing and decking, building and construction materials and of course, new bags.

So remember, take your bags and wraps back on your next trip to the store!

For more information about plastic bag recycling, visit PlasticFilmRecycling.org.

Reducing waste through creative reuse

It’s a craft store — a design center — a make-and-take space. It’s a treasure. It’s ScrapsKC! Welcome to Kansas City’s newest and only creative reuse center.

You are probably familiar with the concept of reduce, reuse and recycle. Following that order, reuse is the second-highest and best use of materials — better than recycling. After experiencing ScrapsKC, you may become hooked on the reuse concept.

ScrapsKC, an SWMD 2017 grantee, is located in an older brick building in the west bottoms of Kansas City. Climb the wooden steps inside, labeled with words such as “crafts” and “birthday parties”, and enter the store — you will be greeted by an array of things any child, artist or teacher could dream of. ScrapsKC is a well-organized shop filled with a multitude of colorful craft items, art supplies, paper, fabrics and useful materials, all available at a dramatically reduced cost. A walk around the store and your creative powers will start to explode!

ScrapsKCcollage: photos of interior of retail space.

All of the material in the store is donated and was otherwise destined for the landfill. Businesses, manufacturers, schools and community members donate items that are useful to artists, teachers, makers, scouts, Do-It-Yourselfers and other creative people. In just one year, ScrapsKC has diverted over 25 tons of materials from the landfill.

In addition to the retail store, ScrapsKC features a “Make & Take” space, a Design Center, space for field trips and birthday parties, and plenty of volunteer opportunities.

ScrapsKC also provides opportunities for the homeless to volunteer in the retail store. In exchange for their work, homeless volunteers receive a homemade meal and survival items to help them get through another day. ScrapsKC hopes to grow its resources and support network to employ these homeless volunteers as paid workers.

A visit to ScrapsKC is a win-win: for your pocketbook and for the environment.

The store is located at 3269 Roanoke Road, Kansas City, MO 64111. Learn more at: www.scrapskc.org.

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:

  • P.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 (Greater Kansas City).

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.