Zero Waste Trends to Watch

Most people have heard about concepts such as single-stream recycling, but there’s another approach known as zero waste. People who support the concept of zero waste agree that, in a broader sense, it means reducing dependence on landfills and increasing reliance on material recovery facilities. But, after that, the definition varies primarily based on industries, manufacturers and even entire countries.

Even so, there are inspiring trends that show how people and companies are working hard to reduce the amount of waste produced, thereby getting ever closer to that desirable zero benchmark. Below are some of the major trends taking place across the world in the field of zero waste:

Circular-Economy

More Reusable Packaging

We live in a world where it’s possible to order almost anything online and have it quickly arrive on a doorstep — sometimes the same day a person placed the order. And, society loves the convenience, but the dependence on delivered products causes an increase in packaging materials.

It is often astounding how many packing peanuts, layers of bubble wrap and cardboard cartons come with the things we buy. And, the manufacturers and shipping companies consistently bring up how boxes get dropped or otherwise mishandled during transit, making the extraordinary amounts of protective packaging products necessary.

packaging-LCA

Packaging that adorns your product can have serious environmental impact.

On a positive note, a company called Limeloop makes a shipping envelope designed from recycled billboard wrapping people can reuse thousands of times. Another company called Returnity communicates with distributors to urge them to use the establishment’s boxes and envelopes, both of which people can rely on dozens of times instead of throwing them away after single uses.

If you are a business looking to adopt eco-friendly practices, you should read this article on green packaging methods.

Ceramic Mugs in British Coffee Shops

In some regions of the world, customers who visit coffee shops don’t get asked whether they’ll be drinking their coffee on site or taking it with them to go. However, many leading coffee shops in the United Kingdom find out that detail from customers who order drinks, then serve the beverages in non-disposable mugs to people who’ll enjoy their purchases on the spot.

Also, all 950 Starbucks locations in Great Britain recently began charging customers five cents for getting their drinks in disposable cups. Conversely, it rewards them by taking 25 cents off the costs of their orders when they bring reusable cups into the stores.

Creative Ways to Cut Down on Farm Waste

Manure (or fertilizer) is a reality on farms around the world. And, the commercially bought versions of it contribute to excessive waste and inflated costs. Some even harm future growth when farmers apply manure too heavily and negatively affect the soil’s balance.

But, besides avoiding commercially-sold manure and not applying it excessively if used, what else can people in the agriculture sector do to make farm waste more manageable? They can look for unique outlets that may want to buy it.

Agriculture_Waste_Biogas

One startup uses a detailed manure-refining process to extract the cellulose from cow dung. Business representatives then use the cellulose — a byproduct from the grass and corn cows eat — for a new kind of fabric.

What about using animal waste for energy? A forward-thinking farmer did that with his manure lagoons, making them produce biogas that powers homes.

These unusual solutions highlight unconventional use cases for animal droppings, such as poultry litter, that support zero-waste goals, provided farmers want to explore them.

An Uptick in Reusable Food Containers

People often pack their lunches in plastic containers before heading off to work, but when they get food delivered or pick it up from a provider to eat at home later, the associated containers usually fill up garbage cans after people chow down.

Some facilities are trying to change that. At The University of California Merced campus, a pilot program occurred where students who stopped by dining halls for meals to take away brought reusable containers with them. After people ate the food from them, they could return them to get washed and ready for future meals.

Moreover, a pizza restaurant in Wales provides an aluminum box for people to use again and again when taking their pies home. One of the problems with cardboard pizza containers is they can’t be recycled when contaminated with grease. However, people can buy the metal ones for a small, one-time fee.

Opt for reusable containers for food and beverages

Then, by using them, they get 50-cent discounts on their pizza. The restaurant also backs the boxes with a lifetime guarantee and will replace them for no charge if necessary due to breakage or damage. Also, because metal conducts heat, the material helps pizza stay hotter for longer than it would in cardboard boxes.

Innovations to Complement Commitment

Adhering to a zero waste lifestyle undoubtedly requires dedication and a willingness to look beyond old habits. However, for people who show those characteristics, numerous inventions and improvements make it easier to do away with the throw-away culture.

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

How to Manage Industrial Machinery Waste in an Efficient Way

Industrial waste management is a process that can be both challenging and complex, with difficulty increasing depending on the particular kind of waste and its cause. Sometimes, manufacturing companies experience issues with overproduction. Other times, their machinery fails, and unexpected defects can also occur.

While it’s essential that every manufacturing plant follows a set of practices that allow them to minimize waste, often, it’s simply unavoidable and an inseparable part of running operations. Luckily, whether it’s been created by CNC router machines or 3D printers, the waste can still be reduced.

How to Manage Industrial Machinery Waste

To dispose of it correctly, manufacturing plants need to develop and follow proper waste management strategies. These can include reducing the number of packaging materials used, organizing the warehouse, and lowering water usage to the necessary minimum.

By following such practices, manufacturers can reduce their environmental impact and emphasize eco-friendliness. Here’s a closer look at some of the most effective strategies.

Better Warehouse Organization

When it comes to manufacturing operations, especially those that deal with a lot of different raw materials, having a well-organized warehouse is key. Once your warehouse has been organized, you can be sure that your workers can make the most out of their time, and everyone will be able to locate the right tools, materials, or supplies quickly.

Regardless whether your company focuses on precision casting parts or CNC milling, to reduce waste, you should create a flowchart that shows exactly how all materials move from one stage to another and where they should be stored. The chart should also highlight possible bottlenecks and where the expenditure of more resources would be advantageous.

It’s also essential to remember the importance of marking your warehouse. Without the right marking, you can’t expect anyone to navigate such a huge structure. Even if they’ve been there at some point, they could’ve already faded or become outdated. This all may be extremely confusing, especially to new hires. Try to dedicate a part of your busy days to organizing the messy and mislabeled parts of your warehouse to minimize waste and increase productivity.

Volume Reduction

This term may sound quite foreign at first, especially to those who are new to the topic of managing industrial waste. It refers to quite a simple process of limiting the biological, chemical, mechanical, and thermal methods used by manufacturers to reduce the volume of waste materials. This allows them to compress them to a greater degree and put them in a form that’s the most suitable for later storage or disposal. The methods used can be divided into two main categories: source segregation and waste concentration.

Source segregation focuses on separating the solid waste that consists of different materials so that certain waste can be easier processed. For instance, when the plastics aren’t mixed with the metal waste, the latter can be processed separately with no effort, and the metal value can be recovered.

Waste concentration, on the other hand, helps increase the probability that there will be enough of certain material to recycle it into something else and reuse it later. When the small scraps of materials are collected over time to accumulate enough for recycling, the waste can be limited significantly. Both these methods require proper storage and sorting, but the benefits are worth the effort.

Recovering, Sorting, and Recycling

Just three words are all you need to keep in mind and turn into an active effort to improve the way your manufacturing plant is managing and minimizing its waste from industrial machinery.

First, it’s essential to emphasize the process of recovering as much waste as possible from both the onsite and offsite locations that are a part of a certain plant. Water can be recovered through filtration or reverse osmosis, and different scraps and particles of materials can be separated thanks to centrifugation. Apply the right methods where they’re needed and recover whatever is possible instead of letting them go to waste.

Then, you can also focus on sorting, which is the first step to proper recycling. When the waste is going into the right bins from the very beginning, it’s much easier to recycle in the next step. You can even choose someone who will be responsible for ensuring that the waste bins are monitored and used as intended by the workers.

Separated waste can then be recycled, be it paper, plastic, or metal. Recycling hazardous materials often requires chemical, thermal, biological, and physical methods, so it may be better to leave it for professionals or consider whether it will have any environmental benefits. When dealing with waste such as wood, rubber, or asphalt, industrial shredders can be used to reduce these materials to much smaller sizes and make them more manageable.

Using Proper Packaging

Creating an abundance of waste in the form of packaging materials is yet another issue that many manufacturing plants face and don’t deal with efficiently. Fortunately, a solution to such issues is quite straightforward and doesn’t require an enormous effort. In most cases, every company can find some ways to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging.

To begin with, plastic packaging can often be easily replaced with cardboard packaging. But the possibilities go far beyond just the plastic vs. cardboard issue. Depending on the kind of machinery your plant uses, you’re likely to be able to buy the materials in bulk and reduce the amount of necessary packaging this way. Your machinery will still have all the materials needed, but there won’t be as much waste created along the way.

In Conclusion

As you can see, there are always different ways to reduce the waste created by machinery used at manufacturing plants, as well as all the other operations required to keep the manufacturing processes going.

These methods outlined above may require some effort, but they can certainly be done and be immensely helpful in keeping the environment clean while also helping you keep your company afloat. It’s all about being efficient and organized and making the right decisions regarding getting rid of your waste.

That being said, try to ensure that your warehouse is well-organized, consider following steps that will allow you to reduce the volume of the waste, opt for recovering, sorting, and recycling whenever possible, and limit the amount of packaging used.

Pet Waste Management in the UK – Prospects and Challenges

Pet waste is a growing public health and environmental risk. According to a report commissioned by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, 13 million UK households (45%) keep pets of some kind. Cats and dogs are each kept by 8.5 million households (these numbers are not additive, as some will of course keep both).

pet-wastes

Can those of us who want both the joys of animal companionship and waste minimisation, find ways to cut down, or better manage, the huge amount of pet waste generated in the UK every year? With so many cats and dogs in the UK, pet waste must represent a significant mass of organic matter within the residual waste stream.

Does this waste represent a floater in the residual waste stream by necessity—due to inherently unpleasant and possibly dangerous characteristics of the waste—or is it only there out of convention and squeamishness?

I’ve written before about the relationship between waste management and squeamishness, and talking about faeces really brings the point home. There are some undoubtedly nasty pathogens present in pet faeces, notably the parasites Toxocariasis and Toxoplasmosis. But might these be safely killed off by the temperatures reached in anaerobic digestion (AD). If so, provided any litter and bags were made of organic matter, might pet waste be collected along with food waste?

I began by contacting a local authority waste officer, but was told that no one had asked this question before, and that I might be better off talking to AD plant operators. This I did, but most seemed similarly baffled by my query. However, one mentioned that AD digestate goes through a pasteurisation process, where it is heated to a temperature of 70oC for one hour, in order to make it safe for land application. I also attempted to contact some technical specialists in the field, but to no avail.

There are some theoretical indications that this pasteurisation should be sufficient. Hanna Mizgajska-Wiktor and Shoji Uga’s essay Exposure and Environmental Contamination states: “Anaerobic waste treatment kills Toxocara spp. eggs at temperatures in excess of 45oC”, well below the 70oC mentioned by my operator. The susceptibility of Toxoplasma to heat is less clear, although numerous internet sources suggest this can be killed in meat by cooking at 66oC. So far, then, I haven’t confirmed or falsified my initial inkling, and so the collection of pet waste in the municipal organic stream remains a theoretical possibility.

Motivated dog owners can already turn their pet’s waste into a resource within their own home. The website London Worms explains how you can turn your dog’s poo into rich and useful vermicompost, although it warns that the results will only be suitable for use on non-edible plants.

Foul Pay

Household pet droppings may still be largely fated for disposal, but even when binned this waste is at least moving through proper waste management channels. Unfortunately, not all pet poo is binned, and we have real data measuring public perceptions of the disamenity resulting from dog fouling. For most, the presence of this unwelcome waste in our streets, parks and footpaths is of much higher concern than its diversion from landfill. Therefore, it is necessary to make use of biodegradable dog poop bags to keep our environment clean.

A 2011 Defra-funded study on local residents’ willingness-to-pay — via an increase in council tax — for improvements across a range of environmental factors found that dog fouling was the third most important issue out of the presented range (with litter and fly-tipping taking first and second place). Surveys were conducted in inner-city, suburban and rural/semi-rural areas around London, Manchester and Coventry.

In order to move from the current level of dog fouling to the best possible scenario, it was found that inner-city residents would on average be willing to pay £8.87 per month, suburban residents £7.79 per month, and rural residents £2.72. Combining these figures with population statistics allows us to place a disamenity value on dog fouling. National statistics only allow for an urban-rural split, but based on a 2012 Defra rurality study which found that 18.9% of the population lives in rural areas, we can calculate that across England we would collectively be willing to pay £462m per year to achieve best case scenario improvements in dog fouling.

This somewhat crude calculation gives an indication of the perceived disamenity of dog fouling. Presenting the matter in terms such as these may allow economically minded policy makers a means of engaging with this important street scene issue and evaluating the costs and benefits of interventions.

Food for Thought

Let’s wash our hands of poo (with plenty of soap and warm water) and look to the other end of the pet waste problem. According to a report published by WRAP, the UK uses around 75,000 tonnes of primary packaging annually. This holds 1,263,000 tonnes of wet and dry cat and dog food, of which 9,000 uneaten tonnes are thrown away. Although this wasted food constitutes less than 1% of the total sold (if only we were as careful with food for human consumption) the estimated cost to the consumer is still £21m a year.

WRAP examined a number of designs intended to cut to down on the amounts of both pet food and packaging thrown away. A major problem with packaging design is the need to account for portion sizes, which vary from animal to animal and change depending on age and level of activity. Single serve packaging may actually lead to regular food wastage if the portion provided is too big for a particular pet; indeed, this is a problem I am experiencing with my own cat, whose appetite seems to fluctuate wildly. Re-sealable packaging that allows owners to dish out meals in accordance with the changing appetites of their pets is therefore preferable.

The material that packaging is made of is also significant: for example, relatively heavy tins are recyclable, whereas lightweight plasticised plastic foil packets are not. Pet food and its packaging can be pushed up the waste hierarchy by simply choosing a recyclable and resealable container which will allow them to adequately provide for the appetite of their pet. However, these issues are likely to be given less weight compared with health, convenience and cost in the minds of most householders. The onus has to be on manufacturers to develop packaging which is both low cost and easily recyclable. A recent development in this area for cat owners includes durable stainless steel litter boxes, which eliminates the need to purchase and replace plastic boxes.

Love pets, hate waste?

People love animals, but are rather less keen to engage with pets as an environmental issue. Leaving aside questions of whether it is sustainable for so many of us to have pets at all, there are clearly ways in which we can reduce their impact. The convenience of single serving pouches of pet food seems to win out over more recyclable and waste-avoiding alternatives, although pet owners might be willing to change their choices if presented with a better option.

While worrying about recovery options for cat poo might seem somewhat academic, it may be easier to tackle than dog fouling. It might even help to tackle the common psycho-social root of both issues. Cultural distaste perhaps lies behind the lack of information available on dealing with household pet waste, and the persistence of dog fouling as a street scene issue.

Things were very different in Victorian London when “pure finders” earned a living by seeking out doggie doo to supply the tanning trade. But for us this kind of waste is a disagreeable fact of life which we deal with as simply and with as little thought as possible. But as a nation of animal lovers, it’s our responsibility to engage with the waste management issues our pets present.

Note: The article is being republished with the kind permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original article can be viewed at this link

Waste Management in the Food Processing Industry

Food processing industry around the world is making serious efforts to minimize by-products, compost organic waste, recycle processing and packaging materials, and save energy and water. The three R’s of waste management – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – can help food manufacturers in reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill and reusing waste.

EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy

EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy is an excellent resource to follow for food processors and beverage producers as it provides the guidance to start a program that will provide the most benefits for the environment, society and the food manufacturer.

Notably, landfill is the least favored disposal option for waste generated in food and beverage producers worldwide. There are sustainable, effective and profitable waste management options including:

  • making animal feed,
  • composting to create nutrient-rich fertilizer,
  • anaerobic digestion to produce energy-rich biogas,
  • recycling/reusing waste for utilization by other industries,
  • feeding surplus food to needy people

Waste Management Options

Food manufacturers has a unique problem – excess product usually has a relatively short shelf life while most of the waste is organic in nature. Food waste created during the production process can be turned into animal feed and sold to goat farms, chicken farms etc. As far as WWTP sludge is concerned, top food manufacturers are recycling/reusing it through land application, anaerobic digestion and composting alternatives.

Organic waste at any food processing plant can be composted in a modern in-vessel composting and the resultant fertilizer can be used for in-house landscaping or sold as organic fertilizer as attractive prices.

Another plausible way of managing organic waste at the food manufacturing plant is to biologically degrade it in an anaerobic digester leading to the formation of energy-rich biogas and digestate. Biogas can be used as a heating fuel in the plant itself or converted into electricity by using a CHP unit while digestate can be used as a soil conditioner. Biogas can also be converted into biomethane or bio-CNG for its use as vehicle fuel.

Items such as cardboard, clean plastic, metal and paper are all commodities that can be sold to recyclers Lots of cardboard boxes are used by food manufacturers for supplies which can be broken down into flat pieces and sold to recyclers.

Cardboard boxes can also be reused to temporarily store chip packages before putting them into retail distribution boxes. Packaging can be separated in-house and recovered using “jet shredder” waste technologies which separate film, carton and foodstuffs, all of which can then be recycled separately.

Organizing a Zero Landfill Program

How do you develop a plan to create a zero landfill program or zero waste program in food and beverage producing company? The best way to begin is to start at a small-level and doing what you can. Perfect those programs and set goals each year to improve. Creation of a core team is an essential step in order to explore different ways to reduce waste, energy and utilities.

Measuring different waste streams and setting a benchmark is the initial step in the zero landfill program. Once the data has been collected, we should break these numbers down into categories, according to the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge and identify the potential opportunities.

For example, inorganic materials can be categorized based on their end lives (reuse, recycle or landfill).  The food and beverage industry should perform a waste sort exercise (or dumpster dive) to identify its key streams.

Nestlé USA – A Case Study

In April 2015, Nestlé USA announced all 23 of its facilities were landfill free. As part of its sustainability effort, Nestlé USA is continually looking for new ways to reuse, recycle and recover energy, such as composting, recycling, energy production and the provision of safe products for animal feed, when disposing of manufacturing by-products.

Employees also work to minimize by-products and engage in recycling programs and partnerships with credible waste vendors that dispose of manufacturing by-products in line with Nestlé’s environmental sustainability guidelines and standards. All Nestlé facilities employ ISO 14001-certified environmental management systems to minimize their environmental impact.

5 Benefits of Biodegradable Packaging for Businesses

Consumers want companies to reflect their values. They’re far more likely to purchase from a business with an identity, whether it manifests in charitable efforts or eco-friendly practices. As a greater number of people show interest in green living, biodegradable packaging presents an opportunity for growth.

That said, the virtues of biodegradable packaging extend beyond an improved public image. While business owners enjoy the superficial advantages of this transition, they often find it’s only a fraction of what the shift entails. Through switching to biodegradable plastics, they see considerable changes elsewhere.

bioplastics

In this article, we’ll detail five of those changes, exploring the subject to lend business owners a better understanding of biodegradable packaging within their operation. As we touch on the benefits, it’ll become clear that eco-friendly materials aren’t only better for the environment, but better for a company’s bottom line.

1. Free of Toxins & Allergens

Biodegradable packaging options are still somewhat limited, but most of the available materials are non-toxic and allergy-free. This is an essential consideration to consumers who care about the products they’re purchasing and the composition of their packaging. If either is potentially harmful, it hurts a business.

As often as businesses must send packages, forms, and other important information through the mail, packaging with the planet in mind and protecting your items is key. For example, your may need to send you important documents through the mail. Getting your mail in safe, low-waste packaging can protect your health from harmful chemicals, aid the planet, and provide their clients with all they need to know.

An informed consumer will almost invariably choose products packaged with bioplastic over traditional alternatives, aware of the implications of their purchase. Considering the negative health effects of phthalates — a common chemical in plastic packaging — business owners should be aware of the implications as well.

2. Require Fewer Resources

Biodegradable packaging has the potential to reduce water usage, solid waste, electricity and emissions. This is beneficial for the environment, of course, but it also lowers expenses associated with the packaging process. Over time, the accumulated savings prove well worth the cost of the transition.

If a company were to replace their standard packaging materials with bioplastic, they would enjoy weight savings on par with regular plastic. Research shows plastic packaging enables weight savings of over 78 percent compared to alternative materials, a notable statistic for business owners looking to convert.

3. Lower Production Costs

Most biodegradable materials follow the three basic R’s of sustainability.

  1. A business can reduce them, using fewer resources to create thinner and tougher materials which do the same job.
  2. A business can reuse them, taking advantage of materials with special coating which improves their durability.
  3. A business can recycle them, diverting refuse from landfills as they minimize the costs of new materials.

A business owner who invests in biodegradable packaging can cut costs by a significant margin, using fewer resources, reusing their inventory and purchasing inexpensive recycled materials. In doing so, they’ll see reduced packaging expenses over time, and more freely allocate their money elsewhere.

biodegradeable-packaging

Reusing packaging is proving to be not only environmentally friendly, but an excellent marketing advantage. From Pinterest to Instagram, users are finding a way to re-purpose packaging. Business owners who are vocal in encouraging their customers to prioritize environmentally friendly choices can earn more goodwill and local business as a result. ToolTally is a good example of a blog that focuses on helping DIYers reuse products, and is growing an organic following as a result.

4. Reduced Footprint

A business owner has financial goals they have to meet, but they have environmental goals as well. Every professional in an upper-management position has a responsibility to ensure their company meets high standards of environmental compliance, and biodegradable packaging can help — outside a legal context.

To reinforce an earlier point, 70 percent of consumers between the ages of 15 and 20 want to buy goods from companies committed to sustainability, and biodegradable plastics affect the appeal of businesses which would otherwise see less attention. To reduce emissions and increase interest, change is necessary.

5. Convenient Disposal

Recyclable, compostable and biodegradable packaging simplifies disposal for the consumer. It affords them more options in discarding these materials, and companies should always seek to make their products convenient, from start to finish. Biodegradable materials exemplify this mindset.

For example, consumers who prefer to compost their refuse won’t have to make exceptions for packaging. They can add biodegradable packaging to their compost in much the same way they would with any other compost-friendly material, contributing to the product’s value beyond its primary utility.

Looking Toward the Future

When reviewing the benefits listed above, business owners should feel confident in their decision to adopt biodegradable packaging. More than superficial benefits, they’ll enjoy reduced costs and carbon emissions while increasing consumer convenience and reducing plastic pollution. The advantages are clear.

Looking toward the future, it’s safe to speculate more companies will transition toward eco-friendly practices. With this in mind, taking action now is the best option, and though biodegradable packaging is a small step, it’s an important one.

11 Ways College Students Can Save Paper

Paper, in all of its forms, is one of the most useful and versatile products. It is also one of the most widely used item for college students. The bad news is that our use of paper has some pretty intense impacts on the environment. These include water and air pollution, deforestation, and the accumulation of paper waste in landfills.

The good news is that every individual can play a role in helping to eliminate the damage done by the use of and production of paper products. Now, this is the point where many readers will think of themselves, “I recycle. Isn’t that enough?”

The truth is, while recycling certainly helps, it doesn’t eliminate the problems our use of paper creates. In fact, the recycling process itself has an environmental cost.  Keep recycling for sure, but also consider ways in which you can reduce the amount of paper you use. Here are a few top ways college students can save paper:

1. Make your subscriptions digital

Whether your interests are in technology, fashion, current events, music or something else, magazines are full of useful information. The problem is that once you’re done with them, your choices are to recycle them, throw them out, or let them collect dust. None of these things are good for the environment.

Instead, convert your paper subscriptions to digital. Not only will you help the environment, you’ll save space as well. Even better, digital copies of magazines are searchable. This means you can find the articles you want with ease.

2. Donate old newspapers and magazines

If you do have hard copies of newspapers and magazines at home, don’t throw them out or recycle them. There may be places that are happy to take them off your hands. Your local community center, retirement homes, hospitals and homeless shelters are often in search of reading materials for their clients.

3. Use double-sided printing

There is no way to avoid printing altogether, but you may be able to reduce the paper you use when you do print. Whenever possible use double-sided printing. You can even print more than one page per side. Also, experiment line spacing and font size. With a few adjustments, you can significantly reduce the amount of paper you print over time. Encourage your friends, even your University and College, and your community to do the same.

4. Get your statements online

If you are still receiving your bank statements and billing notices via snail mail that’s a problem. Not only are you getting your paper bills and statements, chances are you’re receiving inserts, coupons, and other junk. Convert to paperless mode and eliminate all of this.

5. Use a blackboard or whiteboard

Shopping lists, reminders, and notes to your roommates represent just a few of the things you likely jot down and have scattered about your place. You aren’t alone. Those bits and pieces of paper add up. You can replace these by simply hanging up a whiteboard or blackboard in a convenient spot.

If somebody needs to jot something down, they can use that instead of wasting paper. If you need something a bit more portable, simply snap a picture with your phone.

6. Get a digital calendar

You also don’t need paper to stay on top of your schedule or to coordinate with friends and family members. Instead, choose a digital calendar that works for you. Then arrange to share calendars with those friends and family members. With most online calendars you can create to-do lists, set alarms, and send out reminders.

7. Give old newspapers to animal shelter

Your local animal shelter or rescue might be thrilled to get your old newspapers. They use these for bedding and as cage liners.  Newspapers can also be used to help insulate winter shelters for feral cat colonies.

8. Use washcloths and hand towels

There is no doubt that paper towels and napkins are useful. Many of us use them while we’re eating, to wipe up spills, for cleaning, even for covering food in the microwave. The problem is that once we’re done all of those paper products go directly into the trash. That’s wasteful and bad for the environment. Instead, invest in cloth alternatives.

Washcloths and hand towels are exceptionally cheap. Cloth diapers last forever and are amazing for cleaning. Even old worn-out clothing can be cut up and used as dust rags.

9. Take notes digitally

At this point, there should be little or no occasions where you need to take notes on paper. There are simply too many options for taking notes digitally, not to take advantage of this. Save paper by using an app, such as Evernote, to take and organize your notes. While applying for college admission, make use of admission essay by domyessay.

Use voice to text, or simply type up your notes in your favorite word processor. Not only will your digital notes save paper, you’ll be better able to create quality essays and research papers. If you need help to turn these notes into better papers, check out essay editing reviews. Save the planet, and improve your grades.

In some cases, you don’t need to take notes at all. See if your instructors save handouts and lecture notes online. Then, simply use these as reference materials.

10. Reduce paper use at the grocery store

Hopefully, you have ditched single-use plastic and paper bags for reusable ones. If not, this is a great place to start. However, that’s just the beginning. There are other ways to reduce paper use while you shop.

First, hit the bulk bins for your dried goods. Instead of using the plastic or paper bags provided, bring your own reusable containers. Next, pay attention to packaging as you shop. You’ll be amazed at the amount of paper and plastic that is wasted through extra packaging. Be a conscientious shopper, and buy products that use the least amount of paper material.

11. Praise brands that use less paper

While you shop, pay attention to which brands are responsible in their use of paper and which brands are not. Then, let your thoughts be known. If a brand is behaving responsibly in this area, contact them and let you know you appreciate it and will be buying their products.

If not, contact them with your concerns. Believe it or not, companies do care what you think, and if they hear from enough people they might change their behaviors.

Final thoughts 

Paper waste is a huge problem at colleges and universities. In fact, the issue can seem overwhelming. However, if every individual would change a few of their habits with regard to paper consumption, there would be a great impact. You can get started with these steps.

Plastic Wastes and Role of EPR

In just a few decades plastics have become omnipresent in our society. But, unfortunately, the consequences of their use last far beyond their useful lifetime. Everyone is aware of their overwhelming dispersion in our landscapes. The situation in the oceans is not better [1]. As a reaction, a few thoughts spring to my mind.

First of all, it is clear that the industry is assuming very little responsibility, and that Public Administrations are complicit with this. Extended Producer Pesponsibility (abbreviated as EPR) only affects –and only partially– those plastics used as light packaging, in vehicles, in tyres or as part of electric and electronic equipment, not any of the others. Also, recycling levels are not sufficiently high, as a result of poor separate collection systems and inefficient treatment facilities. As a consequence, society has to face not only the problems created by those materials which are not recycled, but also has to assume a high share of the costs of managing them as waste.

Secondly, it illustrates the importance of the quality of the materials that we aim to recycle, and thus the importance of separate waste collection; for all materials, but particularly for biowaste. Although most composting and anaerobic digestion facilities have the capacity to separate some of the impurities (of which around 40% can be plastics), this separation is far from perfect.

Two recent studies confirm that the quality of compost is influenced by the presence of impurities in biowaste [2] and that, in turn, the presence of impurities is influenced by several factors [3], among which particularly the type of separate collection scheme, door to door separate collection models being those presenting better results.

Thirdly, it makes clear the urgency to adopt measures that address the root of the problem. High quality separate collection and sound waste treatment are necessary, and allow enormous room for improvement, but they are end-of-pipe solutions. It is also important to promote greener consumption patterns through environmental awareness campaigns, but this is not enough either.

We have to address the problem where it is created. And this requires measures of higher impact, such as taxes on certain products (e.g. disposable ones) or on certain materials, compulsory consideration of eco-design criteria, generalisation of the extended producer responsibility or prohibition of certain plastics (e.g. oxo-degradable ones) or of certain uses (e.g. microplastic beads in cosmetics).

glitter-plastic-pollution

One can think that these measures are a bit too hard, but honestly, after wandering around beaches and mountains, and finding plastics absolutely everywhere, I am bit disappointed with the outcome of soft solutions.

On 16th January 2018 the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy was adopted [4]. A number of measures will need to be applied by the European Union (listed in Annex I of the Strategy), by Member States and by the industry (Annex II), but also by Regional Governments and Local Authorities. No doubt that implementing the Strategy will bring about significant advances, but only time will say if it is sufficient to address the huge challenge we face.

The European Union has also recently adopted the much-awaited Directive 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment [5], which introduces several bans and restrictions on different uses and materials. This is indeed a huge step, which needs to be followed by others, both in Europe, but also elsewhere, as this is truly a global challenge.

Note: An earlier version of this article was published in February 2018: https://mailchi.mp/db1fd794d528/sent-11-april-2018

References

[1] See for example: https://tinyurl.com/yxra3cod

[2] Campos Rodrigues, L., Puig Ventosa, I., López, M., Martínez, X. (2016) Anàlisi de la incidència dels impropis de la FORM sobre la qualitat del compost de les plantes de compostatge de Catalunya https://tinyurl.com/y37ncton

[3] Puig-Ventosa, I., Freire-González, J., Jofra-Sora, M. (2013) Determining factors for the presence of impurities in selectively collected biowaste, Waste Management and Research, 31: 510-517.

[4] The strategy and several accompanying documents can be found in this portal: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/plastic_waste.htm

[5] Directive 2019/904 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 June 2019 on the reduction of the impact of certain plastic products on the environment.

How to Manage COVID-19 Trash?

We might be living amid a pandemic, but that hasn’t slowed down global waste production. If anything, we’re producing more waste now than we were at the beginning of the year with the addition of disposable gloves, masks and other personal protective equipment. What changes do we need to make to manage COVID-19-related waste?

covid19-waste-management

Handling More Waste

Before the pandemic, most cities maintained recycling programs. Commercial waste generally outweighed residential waste, and there was plenty of space in the local landfills for the garbage we throw away. Now, it might not be long before cities are looking for new places to store their trash as landfills overflow. Residential waste production increased by anywhere from 20%-30% in the months since the pandemic started.

Much of this is due to the simple fact that people are spending more time at home. They’re getting takeout — which comes with a plethora of single-use plastics — and they’re ordering their necessities online, which means more packaging to throw away. Add to this the risk that the coronavirus may live on surfaces for days or weeks at a time, and COVID cleaning becomes more challenging by the day.

Managing the Risks

Despite fears of COVID-19 persisting on surfaces, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) believes waste workers are only at a moderate risk as a result of their occupation. Additionally, waste workers only merit a medium risk rating if they’re working directly with healthcare waste for patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19. This information hasn’t stopped cities and counties across the country from closing down or even entirely shuttering their local recycling programs, though.

medical-waste-management

 

Managing these risks also reduces any liability that the waste management company might encounter if someone in their employ gets sick from handling contaminated waste. Usually, liability complaints get restricted to chemicals and other hazardous wastes, but until we definitively understand how COVID-19 spreads, it extends to this situation as well.

Lighting a Fire

Some countries, where COVID trash is piling up with no signs of stopping, have begun considering alternative means to manage the waste. Spain, which only has three sanitary waste processing plants in the Catalonia region, has seen medical waste production increase by 300%-350% in the worst-impacted regions of the country since the beginning of the pandemic. Instead of trying to push those processing plants to their limits, Spanish officials are exploring other alternatives.

Incineration is becoming an option in hard-hit regions like Catalonia. While stabilization plants can only manage 50 tons of waste a day, the incinerators eliminated upwards of 700 tons of garbage between the start of the pandemic and mid-April. While incinerators aren’t generally employed for waste-to-energy initiatives anymore, burning the trash rather than letting it fester in a landfill may be one of the only ways to make the best of a bad situation.

Starting Now

Very few people alive today have ever lived through a global pandemic. For the most part, we’re making things up as we go. The shift from commercial to residential waste was expected as more people started staying home to slow the spread of the virus. While we might have anticipated it, we definitely weren’t prepared for it, and we may find that overflowing landfills are tomorrow’s problem.

covid19-trash

Starting now, we need to start looking at COVID-19 trash as a whole. That includes the problems it might create and the best ways to manage it without backpedaling and losing all the sustainability progress we’ve made over the last couple decades. COVID-19 will likely be a part of our lives for many months to come, so we’ll have to adapt if we want to survive and thrive.