The Benefits of Recycling as an Energy Conservation Measure

Recycling is an effective energy conservation measure that translates into avoided emissions alongside other environmental and economic benefits. It saves energy by decreasing or eliminating energy use during extraction, transportation, and processing of raw materials into finished products.

How Recycling Saves Energy

Manufacturing is a labor, waste, and energy-intensive process that is never-ending due to the increasing demand for consumer products. Manufacturing products from scratch requires raw materials to be extracted, transported, and refined. However, when recycling, you are using already refined materials that need less energy to be transformed into usable products.

Recycling also saves time, money, natural resources, conserves the environment, and shrinks landfills. Hence, the more we recycle, the more we save and gain. Because of these benefits, it is essential to sign up for a residential recycling collection service to have your recyclable trash going to the right place.

recycling-in-offices

The amount of energy saved through recycling generally depends on the material being reprocessed. Let’s take a look at the energy savings of four of the most commonly recycled materials.

1. Aluminum

Aluminum manufacturing requires huge amounts of heat and electricity. Despite constant efforts to reduce energy consumption, manufacturing aluminum still costs three times more than the theoretical minimum energy requirement.

Recycling aluminum cans and scrapes requires 6 percent of the energy needed to manufacture aluminum from bauxite ore. Repurposing aluminum saves the energy that would have been used to extract, transport, crush, and combine bauxite with caustic soda. Additionally, extracting aluminum from bauxite requires the ore to be purified and smelted.

Thus, the aluminum recycling process is fast, efficient, and achieves up to 94 percent energy savings. Even better, you can recycle aluminum infinite times without degrading, increasing energy saving in the long run. Besides, introducing new alloys and improved product design along the product chain results in more energy and environmental savings.

2. Glass

Glassmaking is an energy-intensive process that involves melting sand and other minerals at extremely high temperatures. Reprocessing glass still needs lots of energy to melt the glass and make a new product. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says reprocessing glass results in 30% energy savings. Glass, like aluminum, does not degrade when it is recycled.

Thus, tossing glass in recycling bins will help preserve natural resources, like sand and soda ash, and reduce the energy costs involved with transporting these heavy materials. It also allows glass manufacturers to cut on energy input to their furnaces. The cumulative energy costs decrease by 2 to 3 percent for every 10 percent of broken glass used in the production process.

Moreover, the durability of glass allows for recycling without reprocessing. This means that you can save 100% energy by cleaning and reusing glass around your home and eliminate the need for an energy-intensive manufacturing process.

3. Paper

An average American household throws away 13,000 pieces of paper every year. These translate into almost 1 billion trees worth of paper being thrown away yearly in the U.S. You can recycle all or most of this paper and contribute to 40% energy savings. Recycled paper can be used to make a variety of new paper products.

paper-recycling

However, this is limited by its appearance, which is not as white or smooth as new paper. Fortunately, biodegradable inks and erasable paper promise improved paper recycling efficiency. You could also reduce your paper usage or reuse paper around your home whenever possible to conserve energy and save trees.

4. Plastic

Many plastic products are single-use commodities that are only in use for a few minutes. However, these require hundreds of years to biodegrade. Sadly, approximately 4 percent of America’s total energy consumption goes to producing plastic products.

Recycling plastic requires only about 10% of the energy needed to manufacture one pound of plastic from virgin sources. The recovery process has short-term energy-saving benefits because plastics degrade every time they are recycled.

plastic waste

However, many manufactures have ways of repurposing low-grade plastics to use in less demanding applications, such as carpeting, park benches, auto parts, and insulation.

Other Materials to Recycle Around Your Home

You can recycle many other materials around your home, and you can determine their energy savings using the iWARM tool created by the EPA. Some of these materials include

You can also contribute to energy conservation by purchasing recycled household products. Some of the most common include

  • Egg cartons
  • Newspapers
  • Comic books
  • Trash bags
  • Paper towels
  • Glass containers
  • Car bumpers

Bottom Line

Reduce, reuse, recycle is a lifestyle that leads us to a greener planet. Following these guidelines for a greener planet will also save you some coins because most recycled products cost significantly less than products produced using virgin material. Keep in mind that 75 percent of all waste can be recycled, and doing this will save the planet loads of energy.

Solid Waste Management in Nigeria

Solid waste management is the most pressing environmental challenge faced by urban and rural areas of Nigeria. Nigeria, with population exceeding 170 million, is one of the largest producers of solid waste in Africa. Despite a host of policies and regulations, solid waste management in the country is assuming alarming proportions with each passing day.

waste-nigeria

Nigeria generates more than 32 million tons of solid waste annually, out of which only 20-30% is collected. Reckless disposal of MSW has led to blockage of sewers and drainage networks, and choking of water bodies. Most of the wastes is generated by households and in some cases, by local industries, artisans and traders which litters the immediate surroundings.

Improper collection and disposal of municipal wastes is leading to an environmental catastrophe as the country currently lack adequate budgetary provisions for the implementation of integrated waste management programmes across the States.

According to the United Nations Habitat Watch, African city populations will more than triple over the next 40 years. African cities are already inundated with slums; a phenomenon that could triple urban populations and spell disaster, unless urgent actions are initiated. Out of the 36 states and a federal capital in the country, only a few have shown a considerable level of resolve to take proactive steps in fighting this scourge, while the rest have merely paid lip services to issues of waste management indicating a huge lack of interest to develop the waste sector.

Scenario in Lagos

Lagos State, the commercial hub of Nigeria, is the second fastest growing city in Africa and seventh in the world.  The latest reports estimate its population to be more than 21 million making it the largest city in entire Africa.  With per capita waste generation of 0.5 kg per day, the city generates more than 10,000 tons of urban waste every day.

Despite being a model for other states in the country, municipal waste management is a big challenge for the Lagos State Waste Management Agency (LAWMA) to manage alone, hence the need to engage the services of private waste firms and other franchisee to reduce the burden of waste collection and disposal. One fundamental issue is the delayed collection of household solid waste.  In some cases, the wastes are not collected until after a week or two, consequently, the waste bin overflows and litters the surroundings.

Improper garbage disposal and lack of reliable transport infrastructure means that collected wastes are soon dispersed to other localities. Another unwelcome practice is to overload collection trucks with 5-6 tons of waste to reduce the number of trips; this has necessitated calls by environmental activist to prevail on the relevant legislature to conform to the modern waste transportation standard.

Situation in Oyo

Away from Lagos State, Oyo is another ancient town in Nigeria with an estimated population of six million people. Here, solid waste is regulated by the Oyo State Solid Waste Management Authority (OYOWMA). Unlike Lagos State, Oyo State does not have a proper waste management scheme that cuts across the nooks and crannies of the state, apart from Ibadan, the capital city, people from other towns like Ogbomoso and Iseyin resort to waste burning. In case the waste generators feels that the amount being charged by the waste franchisee is beyond their means, they dump the waste along flood paths thus compounding the waste predicament.

Burning of municipal wastes is a common practice in Nigeria

Burning of municipal wastes is a common practice in Nigeria

Kano and Rivers State with its fair share of population also suffers similar fate in controlling and managing solid waste. Generally speaking, population increase in Nigeria has led to an unprecedented growth in its economy but with a devastating effect on the environment as more wastes are generated due to the need for housing, manufacturing industries and a boost in trade volume.

Future Perspectives

The government at the federal level as a matter of urgency needs to revive its regulatory framework that will be attractive for private sectors to invest in waste collection, recycling and reusing.  The environmental health officer’s registration council of Nigeria would do well to intensify more effort to monitor and enforce sanitation laws as well as regulate the activities of the franchisees on good sustainable practices.

Taking the advocacy further on waste management, to avoid littering the environment, some manufacturing companies (e.g. chemical and paint industry) have introduced a recall process that will reward individuals who returns empty/used plastic containers. This cash incentive has been proven over time to validate the waste to wealth program embarked upon by the manufacturing companies. It is also expected that the government will build more composting and recycling plants in addition to the ones in Ekiti and Kano State to ensure good sustainable waste management.

Waste management situation in Nigeria currently requires concerted effort to sensitize the general public on the need for proper disposal of solid waste. Also, the officials should be well trained on professionalism, service delivery and ensure that other states within the country have access to quality waste managers who are within reach and can assist on the best approach to managing their waste before collection.

Why Do We Need Solid Waste Management?

Some countries have achieved considerable success in solid waste management. But the rest of the world is grappling to deal with its wastes. In these places, improper management of solid waste continues to impact public health of entire communities and cities; pollute local water, air and land resources; contribute to climate change and ocean plastic pollution; hinder climate change adaptation; and accelerate depletion of forests and mines.

Garbage_Bangalore

Compared to solid waste management, we can consider that the world has achieved significant success in providing other basic necessities like food, drinking water, energy and economic opportunities. Managing solid wastes properly can help improve the above services further.

Composting of organic waste can help nurture crops and result in a better agricultural yield. Reducing landfilling and building sanitary landfills will reduce ground and surface water pollution which can help provide cleaner drinking water. Energy recovery from non-recyclable wastes can satiate significant portion of a city’s energy requirement.

Inclusive waste management where informal waste recyclers are involved can provide an enormous economic opportunity to the marginalized urban poor. Additionally, a good solid waste management plan with cost recovery mechanisms can free tax payers money for other issues. In the case of India, sustainable solid waste management in 2011 would have provided

  • 9.6 million tons of compost that could have resulted in a better agricultural yield
  • energy equivalent to 58 million barrels of oil from non-recyclable wastes
  • 6.7 million tons of secondary raw materials to industries in the form of recyclable materials and livelihood to the urban poor

Solid waste management until now has only been a social responsibility of the corporate world or one of the services to be provided by the municipality and a non-priority for national governments. However, in Mumbai, the improperly managed wastes generate 22,000 tons of toxic pollutants like particulate matter, carbon monoxide, nitrous and sulfur oxides in addition to 10,000 grams of carcinogenic dioxins and furans every year. These numbers are only for the city of Mumbai. This is the case in cities all across the developing world. There are numerous examples where groundwater is polluted by heavy metals and organic contaminants due to solid waste landfills.

Solid waste management expenditure of above $ 1 billion per year competes with education, poverty, security and other sustainable initiatives in New York City. Fossil fuels for above 500,000 truck trips covering hundreds of miles are required to transport NYC’s waste to landfills outside the city and state. Similarly, New Delhi spends more than half of its entire municipal budget on solid waste management, while it is desperate for investments and maintenance of roads, buildings, and other infrastructure.

Solid waste management is not just a corporate social responsibility or a non-priority service anymore. Improper waste management is a public health and environmental crisis, economic loss, operational inefficiency and political and public awareness failure. Integrated solid waste management can be a nation building exercise for healthier and wealthier communities. Therefore, it needs global attention to arrive at solutions which span across such a wide range of issues.

Importance of Waste-to-Energy in Solid Waste Management

Waste-to-energy has been evolving over the years and there are many new developments in this technology, moving in mainly one direction – to be able to applied to smaller size waste streams. Not only is it a strategy that has real importance for the current public policy, it is a strategy that will definitely present itself to additional areas.

waste-management-energy

More than 50% of waste that is burnt in waste-to-energy facilities is already part of the short carbon cycle. In which case, it has an organic derivative and it doesn’t add to climate change, to begin with. The long form carbon that is burned, things like plastics that have come out of the ground in the form of oil do add to climate change. But, they have already been used once. They have already been extracted once and what we are doing is taking the energy out of them after that physical use, capturing some of that (energy), thereby offsetting more carbon from natural gas or oil or coal. So, the net effect is a reduction in carbon emissions.

Waste-to-energy and recycling are complementary depending on the results of analyses of the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics, which are absolutely valid. One can decide in specific situations whether WTE or whether some type of recycling technology would be more appropriate. It is not an either/or option.

WTE_Plant_Belgium

Waste-to-Energy is now widely accepted as a part of sustainable waste management strategy.

In Austria, it was possible to have an absolute ban on landfilling wastes exceeding 5% organic carbon. This is written in law since 1996. There were some exceptions for some period of time, but landfills of organic wastes are just banned, not just in Austria but also in other cultures similar to Austria – like Switzerland, Sweden and Germany.

Note: This excerpt is being published with the permission of our collaborative partner Be Waste Wise. The original excerpt and its video recording can be found at this link

Effective Ways to Minimize Waste on Construction Sites

For some people, the whole thing of “going green” is a trend, but in the world of construction, “going green” is definitely no trend… In fact, it’s a sustainable building practice that’s here to stay. As more cities adopt greener building regulations for new construction, contractors and construction companies alike are going to face the challenge of keeping up with these sustainable building practices.

One of the biggest areas in construction that greener changes need to happen in is construction waste. They say, “waste not, want not,”… well, in the world of construction, “when you waste less, you spend less.” Sustainable building practices, in the form of minimizing waste, means you’re not only building better, energy-efficient buildings but you’re also saving time and money on all your construction projects.

It’s just amazing to look at how the industry has changed over the years. True enough, certain things haven’t changed like state and industry-specific certifications and licenses… If you live in Oregon, you would still need to meet the Oregon continuing education requirements. But as far as sustainable practices, it’s amazing how more and more people are becoming conscious about reducing their carbon footprint to make the environment a better place… Back in the early 1940s to the 1960s, people could have cared less about their environmental impact.

construction-waste

 

 

But we are indeed in different times, and the construction industry is doing its part to implement green practices, including reducing construction waste. Here’s how construction companies and contractors are doing their part.

Effective Ways to Minimize Your Construction Waste

1. Avoid Creating Waste in the First Place

To truly manage your construction waste effectively, you should avoid creating it in the first place. Taking steps like taking exact measurements to ensure you have enough materials to build without any unnecessary leftovers is going to help tremendously. Conducting regular inventory checks will prevent you from overordering materials that you already have.

Additionally, properly training your team and educating them on the importance of construction waste management will help them to implement greener practices within their own job responsibilities.

2. Store Your Materials Properly

With construction sites, you’re not always going to be able to haul your materials in and out of a proper storage area; sometimes your materials have to set out on the site. But that also doesn’t mean your materials have to be ruined. You have to first and foremost, secure your site to minimize damage and even theft.

construction-wastes

For example, you can store lumber on blocking and make sure to cover it up to prevent any damages. You want to do the same with brick and other masonry. The main thing is that your materials are a huge investment and you need to do all you can to protect your investment.

According to the National Equipment Register, states that have a large economy percentage in agriculture and construction industries are the biggest targets for thieves, and the most common pieces of equipment to steal include valuable pieces that are easy to move, like tractors, mowers, and other tools. Heavier pieces like bulldozers and backhoes aren’t so common because they’re too difficult to move.

3. Add Organization to Your Construction Site

Construction sites seem like they can be a bit chaotic, which they can, but they don’t have to be by simply adding a little organization to your site. Consider separating your recyclable and salvageable materials together in an area to reduce confusion; this just puts everyone on the same page. When your site is organized and your team knows where everything is, it will cause you to spend less money on unnecessary materials, re-doing work, and sorting in the middle of a project.

4. Recycle and Re-Use Your Salvageable Materials

On all of your construction sites, make it a point to recycle materials like paper, plastic, metal, and glass… wood too. In that same token, also make sure that if there’s a way to reduce any costs in construction projects, re-using your salvaged materials is the way to do it. The purpose is to reuse these materials so that they don’t end up in a landfill somewhere… You can’t always avoid waste on all projects but landfills are one of the worst ways to handle your construction site waste.

Waste Management Challenges in Developing Nations

Waste is the result of collective failure from public, legislative rules, lack of funds and technical support. Public awareness and proper knowledge of waste management and end use of different types of waste, health effects, environmental problems and economic issues that are related to waste management is very important for successful execution of any waste management related practices. Everyone needs to get better knowledge, proper understanding of waste management issues and their practices to curb it. Basic training needs to be initiated from governments in this regard, which can be very effective. Poor knowledge can make the best planned technique questionable.

The increasing cost of waste disposal is a cause of major concern in developing nations

In developing countries, participation level of most citizens in waste management is very low, with residents in urban areas are not actively involved in the process of waste management. Even though it’s low, but very beneficial for future prospect and for more meaningful involvement of majority of public in waste management practices.

People should be educated about sorting out waste based on their type e.g. recyclable waste, hazardous waste, green waste etc. Majority of people across the world are not aware of waste as recycling material, amazingly most of them think plastic is recyclable waste. Involving people who are unaware of waste management practice is extremely difficult.

In developing countries, practices of waste management are usually carried by poor, for their survival. It has been estimated that 2% of population in Asia, Latin America and Africa are dependent on waste for their livelihood. Family organized, or individual manual scavengers are often involved with waste management practices with very limited supportive network and facilities with increased risk of health effects. Also, this practice prevents their children from further education.

iraq-wastes

Despite the bad consequences, it should be kept in mind that this practice keeps them employed and provide livelihood in countries with high unemployed population. But measure need to be taken to provide their better lifestyles, social behaviour towards people involved in waste management practices, provide them with facilities to reduce their health-related risk and increase their working efficiency.

In developing countries, where government support for waste management is scarce, people need to come strongly against their local municipal office or government if they see things are not changing and stacks of waste are piling up. They should protest to protect their environment, health and keep living secure and healthy for their children.

How to Make Your House More Eco-Friendly?

Most people want to do what they can to help the environment. After all, this planet is our home, and it doesn’t benefit us if we’re destroying it. That being said, it can be incredibly hard to live an eco-friendly life. It often requires time, money, and resources that the average person doesn’t have. Luckily, there are a few ways that you can live a more eco-friendly life that don’t require any major changes or sacrifices. These are changes that most people can easily make. And, as with most things, change tends to start at home. That’s why, in this post, we’ll be discussing four ways that you can make your house more eco-friendly.

1. Support eco-friendly services

We all make use of services when it comes to our house. We constantly call people in to fix things, or to clean things. So, why not rather support a company that isn’t harming the earth?

office-cleaning

Other than doing some research and making the switch, this will require minimal effort from your side but can make a big difference when it comes to the environment. For example, next time you need your carpets cleaned, why not try an earth-friendly carpet cleaning system?

2. Recycle

It’s a well-known fact that recycling is one of the most common topics that are brought up when it comes to living a more eco-friendly life. And yet, many people don’t recycle. That’s because many of them don’t know what recycling entails.

We’re not saying you need to make homemade paper out of your old scraps of paper (although you absolutely can, if the idea interests you) but simply separating your recyclable items from the non-recyclable items will make it much better for recycling companies to do their jobs. If you need more information, click here for a list of what can be recycled.

3. Make use of alternative energy sources

Every single day, nearly every person on this planet uses some form of electricity, and a lot of it negatively impacts the world. That’s why more and more people are being encouraged to make the switch to alternative or renewable energy sources. Wind energy is a popular choice, but it’s not suitable for all regions.

solar-energy-diy

Solar panels, on the other hand, can be utilized by most households. While solar energy used to be a rare luxury that few could afford, the increase in demand means that it’s now more affordable than ever.

4. Make your own compost

Compost is great for various reasons. It’s good for the environment, it means that you waste less product, and it’s great for your garden. So, with all that in mind, we can’t think of a single reason not to make your own compost!

compost_strategies

Many people shy away from composting because they find the idea of it unappealing, but the truth is that it can be a very rewarding thing. The least you can do is to try composting – if it’s not for you, you can be eco-friendly in other ways!

Management of Construction Wastes

A wide variety of wastes are generated during construction projects which may be classified into four categories – excavated wastes, demolition wastes, construction wastes and mixed wastes. Construction wastes are also known Construction and Demolition (C&D) wastes. Excavated materials is made up of soil, sand, gravel, rock, asphalt, etc. while demolition wastes is comprised by  concrete, metal, roofing sheets, asbestos, brick, briquette, stone gypsum, wood material. Waste materials generated from construction activities are concrete, dry wall, plastics, ceramics tiles, metals, paper, cardboards, plastics, glass etc. In addition, mixed wastes, such as trash and organic wastes, are also produced in construction projects. A great way to get rid of all the construction waste is to hire a company that handles everything for you. For instance, if you need a south Philadelphia roll-off dumpster, you will find many options, make sure to select a reliable company that can offer you an excellent service and advises you along the way.

construction-wastes

 

Almost 90 percent of construction wastes are inert or non-hazardous, and can be reused, reclaimed and recycled and reused. The non-recyclable, non-hazardous and hazardous waste materials constitute the remaining 10 percent. The non-inert materials include trees, green vegetation, trash and other organic materials while and the hazardous construction waste materials include contaminated soil, left over paints, solvent, aerosol cans, asbestos, paint thinners, striping paint, contaminated empty containers.

Sustainable management of construction wastes uses number of strategies and is based on the typical waste hierarchy: Avoid/ eliminate, reduce, reuse, recycle, treat and dispose.

Avoidance / Source Reduction

Avoidance or source reduction is considered as the best strategy for waste management and is the most economic way to reduce waste and minimise the environmental impacts of construction wastes. This can be done by avoiding use of hazardous materials such as asbestos-containing materials or chromated copper arsenate treated timber or through green purchasing of materials. This includes purchasing of non-toxic materials, pre-cut timbers and ordering materials of desired dimensions.

Reuse

Although source reduction and elimination are preferred options in the waste management hierarchy, it is always not possible to do so. In this case consider reuse, donation and salvage options to companies or people who need those. Reuse option lengthens the life of a material. Reuse strategy can be used in two ways.

Building Reuse – It includes reusing materials from existing buildings and maintaining certain percentages of building structural and non-structural elements  such as interior walls, doors floor covering and ceilings.

Material Reuse – This is one of the most effective strategies for minimising environmental impacts which can be done by salvaging, refurbishing and reusing materials within the same building or in another building.

Many of the exterior and interior materials can be recovered from existing buildings and reused in new ones. Such materials will include steel, walls, floor coverings, concrete, beams and posts, door frames, cabinetry and furniture, brick, and decorative items. Reuse of materials and products will help to reduce the demand for virgin materials and reduce wastes.

Recycle

There is very good potential to recycle many elements of construction waste. Recycling involves collecting, reprocessing and/ or recovering certain waste materials to make new materials or products. Often roll-off containers are used to transport the waste. Rubble can be crushed and reused in construction projects.

Waste wood can also be recovered and recycled. Many construction waste materials that are still usable can be donated to non-profit organizations. This keeps the material out of the landfill and supports a good cause.

Treat and Dispose

This option should be considered after all other options are exhausted. The disposal of construction materials should be carried out in appropriate manner through an approved contractor. For examples, certain components of construction waste such as plasterboard are hazardous once landfilled. Plasterboard is broken down in landfill conditions releasing hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas.

Zero Waste Trends in the United States

Most people don’t see what happens to their trash. They throw it in a black plastic bag, toss the bag into a dumpster and the trash man collects it once a week and makes it disappear. Magic, right?

Wrong.

Most of our trash ends up in a landfill where it is buried and mixed in with decades-worth of junk. Certain items will break down over time while others are essentially just stored there, in a graveyard of forgotten items and a mountain of garbage.

In the year since China banned the import of other countries’ plastic recyclables, the global recycling industry has been in flux, resulting in plastics ending up in landfills, incinerators and littering the environment. This is causing countries and citizens across the globe to reexamine their recycling systems and highlights the need for zero waste practices.

Zero waste is the concept of eliminating the amount of trash thrown away by only purchasing reusable items. That’s a significant shift from the 4.4 pounds of trash that the average American tosses every day. But certain trends are helping make the idea of zero waste a reality in the United States. Let us have a look:

Replace Single-Use Packaging With Reusable Materials

Way too many plastic items that we use every day are meant to be used only once. And the amount of packaging that goes into shipping one box, that will simply get tossed in the garbage after the parcel is unwrapped, is astounding. In fact, 40 percent of plastic produced is packaging, which is thrown away after it arrives at your doorstep.

Plastic bag and straw bans are on the rise across the globe. Consumers are becoming more conscious of how their use of these items contributes to the trash crisis. Recent data shows that customers are more likely to buy products from brands that promote sustainable business practices.

biodegradeable-packaging

Reduce Energy Waste By Choosing Renewable Options

Many industries are opting to reduce energy waste by pursuing renewable energy sources. U.S. manufacturers account for 30 percent of the nation’s energy consumption, which means manufacturers must take the lead in reducing fossil fuel consumption and energy waste.

The U.S. is the leader in energy waste. Americans spend $350 billion on energy costs each year, yet three-quarters of that energy goes to waste. One way to reduce the burden on our power grid — and our wallets — from all that lost energy is by switching to renewable energy sources.

Air compressors are vital to the upkeep of a successful farm, and many producers in the agricultural sector are also reducing waste by switching to high-powered air compressors that, when properly maintained, can reduce energy usage and cut costs.

Eliminate Food Waste

About 94 percent of food waste ends up in landfills, which contribute to methane gas emissions. Reducing food waste not only helps the environment, but it also decreases the amount you have to spend at the grocery store. It also helps to conserve energy, as less power is needed to grow and produce food if less is wasted.

Individual consumers can help eliminate food waste by freezing leftovers to preserve them and composting uneaten food, as opposed to tossing in the trash.

Restaurants can use these tactics and others to cut down on food waste, such as donating leftovers and properly training staff to get on board with waste reduction. They can also hire auditors to help them identify ways to reduce waste and streamline business practices.

Never Too Late to Make a Change

Though the statistics may seem disheartening, the reality is that it’s never too late to make a change in your individual or business habits to help cut down on waste and work toward the goal of accomplishing zero waste. Following these trends and implementing others is just one way to do your part to eliminate waste and protect the environment.

Plastic Wastes and its Management

Plastic seems all pervasive and unavoidable. Since the 1960s our use of plastic has increased dramatically, and subsequently, the portion of our garbage that is made up of plastic has also increased from 1% of the total municipal solid waste stream (household garbage) to approximately 13% (US Environmental Protection Agency).

Plastic products range from things like containers and packaging (soft drink bottles, lids, shampoo bottles) to durable goods (think appliances, furniture and cars) and non-durable goods including things from a plastic party tray to medical devices. Sometimes marked with a number and a chasing arrow, there is an illusion that all plastics are recyclable, and therefore recycled. But there are a number of problems with this assumption.

plastic-wastes

While use and consumption of plastic is increasingly high, doubts about viable options for reuse, recycling and disposal are also on the rise. Complications such as the increasing number of additives used alter the strength, texture, flexibility, colour, resistance to microbes, and other characteristics of plastics, make plastics less recyclable. Additionally, there is very little market value in some plastics, leading municipalities to landfill or incinerate plastics as waste. Based on figures from the EPA (2011 data) only 8% of plastic materials are recovered through recycling.

Another major concern about plastics in the waste stream is their longevity and whether or not they are truly biodegrade. It is estimated that most plastics would take 500-1000 years to break down into organic components. Because of this longevity and the low rate of recycling, much of our plastic waste ends up in landfills or as litter. Some of this plastic waste makes its way via rivers and wind to the ocean. Garbage barges, and the trans-continental transport of recyclable materials also lead to an increasing amount of plastics in our oceans and waterways.

Plastic waste directly and indirectly affects living organisms throughout the ecosystem, including an increasingly high impact on marine life at a macro and micro scale. According to United Nations, almost 80% of marine debris is plastic. Policy enforcement remains weak, global manufacture of plastics continues to increase, and the quantity of plastic debris in the oceans, as well as on land, is likely to increase.

With limited sustainable recovery of plastics, there is a growing global movement to reduce the generation of plastic. Certain types of plastic may be ’safer‘ for the environment than others, however, there are troubling issues associated with all of them, leading to the conclusion that action is needed to remove plastic waste, and stricter controls are required to limit new sources of plastic pollution.

biodegradable-plastics

Efforts such as light weighting of packaging and shifts to compostable plastics are options. Many people use eco-friendly bags for the sake of green living. Policies limiting the use of plastics such as bottle bills and bag bans are other ways to decrease the production and consumption of plastics.

Mining the debris fields in our oceans and turning plastic waste into usable materials, from socks made of fishing line to fuel made from a variety of plastic debris, is one way to mitigate the current situation. You can do your part by using renewable cotton bags.

Note: This excerpt is being published with the permission of our collaborative partner Be Waste Wise. The original excerpt and its video recording can be found at this link