Handling

Waste

in a Non

Wasteful

Way

Recycling

Composting Kitchen Waste

Donating

Disposing of Batteries and

Electronics

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

WASTE

HANDLING

The United States is a leader in many areas, not all of them enviable. For instance, we generate the largest amount of waste per capita of any country in the world. According

to the EPA and the OECD, a typical individual produces an average of 4.5 pounds of trash every day totalling more than 658 million tons of solid waste per year (as of 2010). Even recreationalists enjoying the great outdoors are waste offenders. The U.S. Coast Guard estimates that approximately 14 billion pounds of pure trash are dumped into the ocean annually. Unnecessary waste in the landfills and oceans include many items that could be recycled, like cardboard boxes, cans, glass, leather, lawn trimmings, and tires, just to name a few.

Developing the recycling habit, while critical, is very simple to do. That’s why it’s amazing that Americans still produce such an incredible amount of waste. Handling waste materials correctly means taking the time to sort trash as it’s created, and reusing items in the home when possible. Rather than simply throwing materials and products away, we must think in terms of reducing, reusing, recycling, or donating.

Learning to recycle is an exciting and fascinating journey. Most people are shocked, but happily surprised, to see their trash output cut by half or more almost immediately. When packaging goes into recycle bins, compostable materials go into the garden, and items no longer being used are donated to a recycling center or charity, the remaining amount of trash is much lower. Also the amount of waste going to landfills is significantly reduced.

Handling waste correctly requires blending buying practices with disposal practices. Purchasing used products or products with minimal packaging means there is naturally less trash from the outset. This section lists many ways of dealing with waste in an eco-friendly manner.

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Recycling

What is it?

Many of the products we use every day can be recycled. Recycling breaks products down into raw materials that can be used to create new products. Metal, glass, paper, plastics, electronics, cardboard, wood, and even batteries can all be recycled in most areas. Programs exist for recycling building materials, such as drywall, carpet, and acoustical tile. Most cities have curbside recycling pickup, and some grocery stores have recycling dumpsters available for public use.

Why do it?

Pros:

Reduces waste that goes to landfills

Reduces the need to harvest new raw materials for manufacturing

Making products from recycled materials is less energy- intensive than making them from virgin materials

Cons:

Some areas may require sorting of materials

Some areas do not recycle certain materials

Maintenance:

The easiest way to recycle is to keep a separate recycle bin next to the trash can in a common area of the home, such as the kitchen. Most curbside recycling programs do not require sorting, so simply separate recyclables from other waste as you dispose of them.

Timeline:

If the community has curbside recycling, there is no additional time added to the schedule. Otherwise allot 1 hour per week to take recyclables to an appropriate facility.

Steps:

1.Check your city or town’s website to see if curbside recycling is available, and what materials are accepted.

2.Purchase a recycling bin for the home and educate family members on what to recycle.

3.Find out the location of facilities for recycling batteries, electronics, and fluorescent bulbs.

Cost Estimator:

Curbside recycling pickup may be included in your city service fees. A home recycling bin can cost anywhere from $30-$200, depending how fancy it is.

Quick Tips:

✓✓One of the least-collected recyclable prod- ucts is plastic grocery bags. Many grocery stores have bins out front where shoppers can return these bags for recycling.

✓✓Batteries and electronics can be recycled, but they need to be separated from the trash. Many office supply stores collect batteries, cell phones, and other electronics, as well as printer cartridges; some even offer discounts to companies that return printer cartridges for recycling.

✓✓CFL and other fluorescent light bulbs should not be tossed into recycle bins (or regular trash cans, for that matter), as they contain mercu- ry, a neurotoxin. Instead, they should be sent to facilities that can handle hazardous waste. In the US, Home Depot offers such recycling, and in Canada, IKEA stores offer CFL recycling.

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Project Rating Box

Difficulty:

Cost:

Maintenance:

Home Value:

N/A

Savings:

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Composting

Kitchen

Waste

What is it?

All foods contain carbon and nitrogen and will break down into these elements over time. Instead of sending food scraps to a landfill, where they will contribute to the production of methane as they break down, you can compost them to create a rich, nutritious soil supplement. Composting is essentially collecting organic waste and allowing nature to take its course in a protected environment. “Organic” here simply means carbon-based, not necessarily organically produced foods. Vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, yard waste, and other scraps can all be composted, but avoid salt, sugar, and other preservatives found in cooked or processed foods.

Why do it?

Pros:

Reduces waste sent to landfills

Creates fertilizer for planters or gardens

Teaches children about natural processes

Cons:

Requires yard space

May attract pests if not properly sealed

Maintenance:

For the best results, compost will need to be turned regularly, about every other day and once every two weeks (once a month is sufficient during the winter). This introduces oxygen to the center of the pile, allowing microorganisms to flourish. The pile will also need to be protected from rain by covering it with a tarp or permanent container.

Timeline:

The rate at which organic waste will break down depends on the climate, the setup of the pile, how often it is turned, and what

type of waste is used. In warmer months, expect the compost to develop in 6-8 weeks. Setting up a composting area varies in time. You can purchase plastic bins that snap together in 15 minutes, or build your own custom setup over a weekend.

Steps:

1.Identify a place for composting. Ideally, this area will be sunny, as warmer compost develops faster. The compost site should be out of the way, accessible, and close to planting areas.

2.Select a composter. A simple setup involves two side-by-side stalls made from wood or cinderblock that alternate addition and development. Plastic composters, some of which can be turned on an axis, are available at home improvement stores. Even an outdoor trashcan will suffice.

3.Educate your family on what should and should not be composted. For instance, anything that contains preservatives should not be composted.

4.Build the compost pile with both “green” and “brown” waste. Green waste includes kitchen scraps or grass clippings. Brown waste includes fallen leaves, twigs, and other “dry”yard waste. In the spring and summer, try to maintain a 50/50 ratio of brown to green. In colder months, the compost will benefit from a higher proportion of brown waste.

5.Add to the pile and turn regularly.

Cost Estimator:

Composting doesn’t cost anything once the pile is started. A commercially produced composter ranges from $75-$300, and building one requires about $50-$100 in supplies..

Quick Tips:

✓✓A sealed plastic composter works best for repelling pests, but there should be some air holes so the compost can “breathe.”

✓✓Compost develops at high temperatures, so dark-colored plastic containers will help speed up the process.

✓✓The hotter the pile, the better.

✓✓Also, while compost should be protected from rain, ensure it’s always a little moist.

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Project Rating Box

Difficulty:

Cost:

Maintenance:

Home Value:

Savings:

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Donate

Items in

Good

Condition

What is it?

After spring cleaning or remodeling, there will likely be furniture, appliances, clothing, and other unnecessary items. Rather than sending these to a landfill, donate the items in good condition to non-profit organizations, or resell them for a little extra cash. Donating items to non- profit organizations often allows for a tax deduction. Some organizations pick up donations, saving time and effort.

Why do it?

Environmental Qualities:

Reduces waste sent to landfills

Keeps potentially harmful components of appliances out of the environment

Reduces the need for new products to be manufactured

Pros:

You can earn extra cash from selling items or receive a tax deduction from donating

Provides for those in need

Cons:

May require more effort than simply throwing things out

Maintenance:

Designate a special container or area for items to be sold or donated. Empty when full. .

Timeline:

Depending on whether you choose to sell or donate, it can take an afternoon to sort and deliver items for donation, or a week or more to sell items.

Steps:

1.Determine what items are expendable and can be donated, such as clothing, appliances, furniture, and other household items. Habitat for Humanity also accepts donations of some construction materials, so see what qualifies at www. habitatforhumanity.org.

2.Decide to sell or donate items. Donation is often quicker to drop off or arrange for pickup. Selling items takes more time and effort, but provides a greater financial return. Hosting a yard sale is an option if there are quite a few items to get rid of, or consider websites such as Craigslist for individual items.

3.Make a list of donations and their condition for tax records. A non-profit should provide you with a donation receipt.

4.Set a price for items and be prepared to negotiate.

Cost Estimator:

$0.

Quick Tips:

✓✓When selling items, research to find the fair market value before setting a price.

✓✓Be sure to list any special or unique features to garner the most interest.

✓✓If posting to a website, provide good quality pictures of the items.

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Project Rating Box

Difficulty:

Cost:

Maintenance:

Home Value:

N/A

Savings:

Disposing of

Electronics,

Lamps, and

Batteries

What is it?

As our society relies more heavily on electronic devices, we have to rethink our waste management practices. Simply dumping phones, computers, batteries, etc. into a landfill won’t help anyone. Not only does it waste recoverable materials, it adds preventable pollution to the atmosphere. Although in our fast-paced world it may seem easier to just buy a new “toy” instead of fixing or recycling the old one, if every person does this, we’ll end up with millions— perhaps billions—of devices cluttering the earth, never decomposing. Do we want our world to look like the one in WALL-E?

The EPA defines waste items and regulates their disposal. In many cases, the materials of these items can be recovered and used again. Cell phones have valuable copper, silver, gold, and palladium in them, as well as plastics. On the other hand, computers contain toxic levels of cadmium, mercury, lead, beryllium, and arsenic. Batteries also have harmful levels of lead, and light bulbs (lamps) contain mercury. However, the glass and metal in light bulbs can be recycled.

Why do it?

Pros:

Often less expensive to upgrade an existing device than to buy a new one

Allows you to contribute to environmental welfare

Recycling electronics allows valuable materials to be recovered and reused

Reducing electronic waste also reduces air and water pollution

Cons:

Requires more effort to upgrade, donate, or recycle a device than to buy a new one

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Maintenance:

Depends on how many devices you have or will use during a lifetime. Daily maintenance is not required, but you will probably have to dispose of batteries every few weeks or months and computers or phones every few years.

Timeline:

This is not something you’ll have to do every day.

Steps: For each category, try searching Earth911.com to find a local recycling center.

Cell Phones

1. Reset the phone to its original “factory” condition.

2.Remove or erase the SIM or SD card.

3.Remove all apps.

4.Double-check to make sure no personal information remains.

5.Donate your phone to charity or recycle your phone through your mobile device manufacturer, wireless service provider, or a local collector. Do your research to find recycling programs.

Computers

1.Wipe the hard drive clean using a service such as Darik’s Boot and Nuke (DBAN). DBAN is free and offers several options. Or you can remove the hard drive and physically destroy it (wear protective gear!).

2.Recycle or donate your computer. You can also sell it on eBay or install a simple operating system to give it to a family member.

3.If you have a laptop, you can donate the whole computer or recycle parts.

Lamps (Mercury-Containing Light Bulbs)

1.Find a recycling center near you. For instance, Home Depot and IKEA take back compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) at no cost. Smaller stores like Ace, TrueValue, and Orchard Supply also accept CFLs.

2.Gather up all unusable mercury-containing light bulbs in your home. Yes, even fluorescent bulbs.

3.Take the bulbs to an appropriate recycling center. Batteries

Go to http://www.call2recycle.org/ to find a battery-recycling location near you.

1.Dispose of any used alkaline batteries in the trash can, but don’t throw away a large group at one time or these partially dead batteries could pose a danger.

2.Recycle any used rechargeable, lithium, lithium ion, and zinc air batteries. Rechargeable batteries include those from cameras, cell phones, and laptops.

3.Take any lead-containing car batteries to an auto retailer or service center.

Cameras

1.If you need to dispose of an old film camera, check with art departments at schools and universities to see if you can donate it. Also try thrift stores and camera stores.

2.Another option is to sell your camera online.

3.If you have a used digital camera that still functions, you can donate, recycle, sell, trade, or return it.

Cost Estimator:

Only costs if you upgrade your device or mail in your device to the manufacturer. Otherwise, it’s free except for the gas required to transport items to a recycling facility.

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS

Quick Tips:

✓✓Make sure your recycling center has the eStewards label so you know the equipment (containing toxic elements) will not be dumped, causing pollution.

✓✓Unless the collector intends to use components from the device, you must donate a working, complete device.

✓✓Recycling/donation services vary by area.

✓✓Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to buy the latest and greatest thing. Get the most out of every device before discarding it. However, if your devices aren’t “green” or if you absolutely need to buy new equipment, consider these qualities:

✓✓Contains no toxic constituents ✓✓Made of recycled materials ✓✓Carries ENERGY STAR label

✓✓Can be easily upgraded or disassembled ✓✓Uses minimal packaging

✓✓Offers leasing or takeback options

✓✓Meets performance criteria (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT)

Project Rating Box

Difficulty:

Cost:

Maintenance:

Home Value:

N/A

Savings:

GBRIonline.org/ROOTS