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Super Bowl LII Tackles Sustainable Design

By Marlene Cimons

Early one December morning in 2010, the inflatable roof on the Minnesota Vikings' old stadium in Minneapolis ruptured and collapsed under the weight of 17 inches of wet snow. No one was hurt, but the incident was a wake-up call for the Vikings' front office. The team needed a new facility that could withstand the rigors of a Minnesota winter.

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Brian Wanamaker / Flickr

Two Major Food Companies Announce War on Packaging Waste

More and more businesses are stepping up to reduce consumer waste. Iceland Foods, a major UK supermarket chain specializing in frozen food, announced on Tuesday that it will eliminate plastic packaging from its own brand of products by the end of 2023.

In a separate announcement on Tuesday, McDonald's said it will add recycling to its more than 36,000 locations around the world by 2025 and pledges that all packaging on customer products will come from "renewable, recycled or certified sources" by that same year.

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Recycling Must Be Included in the Infrastructure Bill

By Keefe Harrison

As Congress and the Trump administration contemplate a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure, the question of how to utilize those dollars looms large. If the focus is just asphalt and concrete, it will miss the heart of American manufacturing. At the top of manufacturers' needs is access to good, consistent, high-quality feedstocks to make into new products. Let's help meet that need with some of the best possible domestic sources of raw materials: the paper, plastics, glass, metals and packaging discarded by U.S. homes and businesses. That means including funding for improved recycling in the infrastructure bill as a way to ensure long-term reliable supply created right here at home.

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Electronic Waste Study Finds $65 Billion in Raw Materials Discarded in Just One Year

The amount of electronic waste around the world grew to a record 45 million tons in 2016, according to a United Nations-backed study released on Wednesday.

To put that in perspective, the weight of last year's e-waste was equivalent to about 4,500 Eiffel Towers, according to the study by the UN university, the International Telecommunication Union and the International Solid Waste Association. The amount of e-waste—defined as anything with a plug or a battery—rose by eight percent since 2014, the time of the last assessment.

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4 Billion Starbucks To-Go Cups Thrown Away Each Year ... Will Recyclable Cup Reduce This Waste?

Starbucks goes through 4 billion to-go cups annually but most of them end up in the landfill. Why? Even though these cups are mostly made of paper, these single-use items are almost never recycled or composted because they are lined with plastic.

Ninety-nine percent of paper cups in the UK do not get recycled. Flickr

Now, in somewhat of a no-brainer, the world's largest coffee chain is testing recyclable coffee cups in UK stores, the Guardian reported.

Frugalpac, the England-based company behind the cups, explains on its website that its product is made of 100 percent recycled, chemical-free paper and lined with a plastic film that can easily be removed by standard recycling facilities. These cups, which can be recycled up to seven times, can be placed in any newspaper or cardboard recycling bin. The company says the cups look and feel the same as the standard varieties.

"We are very interested in finding out more about the Frugalpac cup and we will be testing it to see if it meets our standards for safety and quality, with a view to trialling its recyclability," a Starbucks spokesman said, according to the Guardian. No word yet on when, or if, they will be implemented stateside.

According to the Guardian, Martin Myerscough, the inventor of the Frugalpac cup, wants to help curb the 2.5 billion cups used in the UK each year of which only one in 400 are recycled.

The dismal coffee cup recycling rate led to calls for a ban or tax on disposable coffee cups in March. While the two initiatives ultimately failed, campaigners are still taking action on these environmental pesks.

British chef and environmental activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will feature Frugalpac in his next War on Waste documentary on the BBC. In the documentary, Fearnley-Whittingstall explores why Britain's largest coffee chains—Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero—almost never recycle their mountains of discarded cups. One reason, he discovered, is that most people do not realize these cups do not get recycled or do not even recognize the problem.

Another reason, as Starbucks said in a 2014 statement, is that despite years of efforts, implementing a successful recycling program at its 24,000 stores around the world is harder than one might think:

Recycling seems like a simple, straightforward initiative but it's actually quite challenging. Our customers' ability to recycle our cups, whether at home, at work, in public spaces or in our stores, is dependent upon multiple factors, including local government policies and access to recycling markets such as paper mills and plastic processors.

Some communities readily recycle our paper and plastic cups, but with operations in 70 countries, Starbucks faces a patchwork of recycling infrastructure and market conditions. Additionally, in many of our stores landlords control the waste collection and decide whether or not they want to provide recycling. These challenges require recycling programs be customized to each store and market and may limit our ability to offer recycling in some stores.

Not only are there municipal barriers to successful recycling in many cities, but it takes significant changes in behavior to get it right. A few non-recyclable items in a recycle bin can render the entire bag unrecyclable to the hauler. For recycling to be successful, local municipalities, landlords, customers, baristas, and even adjacent businesses all have to work together to keep recyclable materials out of the landfill and non-recyclable materials out of recycling bins.

As coffee companies like Starbucks figure out how to slash their enormous coffee cup footprint, there's an easy thing you can do to help—bring your own mug.

10 Ways to Use Less Plastic Every Day

Plastic waste has become a pandemic—on land as well as in the world's oceans. What can just one person do about such a global problem? Take these simple steps, courtesy of World Ocean Observatory

1. Avoid buying items packaged in plastic. Look for produce and other items that aren’t over-packaged. Buy food in glass jars rather than plastic ones, and detergents in boxes rather than bottles. Not only are you reducing the plastic you use, you’re sending a powerful message to the makers of those products that you don’t like plastic packaging.

Using cloth shopping bags is one simple way to lessen your use of plastics. Photo credit:
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2. Use cloth shopping bags. Plastic bags are an eyesore and are dangerous to wildlife. Keep reusable bags somewhere handy—in your car or your bike or by the front door—so you don’t forget them when you go to the market, grocery store or mall.

3. Skip bottled water. Carry a reusable canteen. Plastic bottles are one of the top five most common types of litter found on beaches. Since bottled water is much more expensive than tap water, you’ll also save money doing this, and avoid the possible hazards of plastic toxins leaching into your beverage.

4. Upcycle. Think of new uses for old items rather than discarding them or buying new ones. 

5. Bring a reusable mug when you order coffee. Stow it on your desk, in your purse, car or bag so you have it on hand when you order or refill your drink.

6. Say "No straw, please." Straws are one of the top 10 items found on beaches. In most cases, drinking out of a straw is simply unnecessary. If you do need a straw, you can get a reusable stainless steel or glass one.

7. Wear clothing made from natural (not synthetic) materials. Wearing and washing clothes causes fibers to flake off, and polyester clothing is made of plastic. Tiny particles of microplastic found in oceans around the world have been traced to such synthetic fabrics.

8. Avoid disposable tableware, or use the compostable kind. Try using washable and reusable cups, plates or utensils. When using compostable tableware, be aware they will not biodegrade in a landfill and must be disposed of in appropriate composting conditions.

9. Don't just discard electronics. Aim to repair or upgrade your devices instead of buying new ones. Sell gadgets and computer parts, or find a facility where you can turn them in for recycling.

10. Bring your own container for takeout and leftovers. When ordering takeout or bringing home leftovers, ask if you can get the food in your own reusable container.

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America Recycles Day Challenges You to Reduce Your Daily Trash

The average American produces 4.4 pounds of trash every day. And just 35 percent of it is recycled.

Keep America Beautiful (KAB) hopes to increase the percentage of waste being recycled through its annual America Recycles Day, which is Friday. The observance is aimed at promoting recycling awareness, commitment and action.

Photo credit:
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Last year, more than 2,000 events were held across the U.S. and more than 2.1 million people worked to educate and encourage their communities to recycle. More than 3.7 million pounds of recyclables were collected—the greenhouse gas equivalent of taking 280 cars off the road permanently.

Today, KAB will conduct a “Get Caught Recycling” event on the National Mall and in downtown Washington, D.C. Volunteers will ask people using the recycling bins placed around those areas to take the I Recycle pledge.

Another America Recycles Day event takes place in Philadelphia on Friday. A one-day recycling event will be held at 11 a.m. in Rittenhouse Square, one of Philadelphia's most trafficked parks, by Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, Recyclebank and the Philadelphia Streets Department. Educational and interactive stations will be set up throughout the square to demonstrate how to recycle in Philadelphia, why recycling is so critical, and what recycled objects are turned into. David Perri, the city streets department commissioner, will officially declare America Recycles Day in Philadelphia at the event kickoff.

Some events, such as this one in Cleveland, already have been held in conjunction with America Recycles Day. 

“Through our education programs and collection events taking place in communities across the country, Keep America Beautiful, its affiliate network and partners are raising awareness about what is recyclable and what material can become when recycled and given a new life,” Brenda Pulley, KAB senior vice president, recycling, said in a media release.

Want to show your support? Take the I Recycle pledge at americarecyclesday.org and specify what you pledge to recycle more. Ten people who make a pledge will win a park bench made from recycled content. Last year, more than 94,000 people pledged.

Organizers plan a America Recycles Day Thunderclap, in which they will post a synchronized message of support on the Facebook or Twitter accounts of supporters at the exact same time on America Recycles Day.

Visit IWantToBeRecycled.org to find your nearest recycling center, learn about what materials can be recycled and how they can be used.

America Recycles Day Puts Spotlight on Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

What happens to the stuff we throw away?

About 53 percent of it goes into landfills, according to the U.S. EPA. About 12 percent is combusted for energy. About 35 percent is recycled.

Aluminum cans are collected at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's America Recycles Day. Proceeds from the aluminum cans collected will benefit the international slow loris conservation organization, The Little Fireface Project. Photo credit: Mark Horning

Keep America Beautiful wants to make that percentage of recycled waste higher. So it launched America Recycles Day, a day dedicated to promoting and celebrating recycling through thousands of grassroots events held across the nation.

Want to hold an event? America Recycles Day provides toolkits and guides for would-be organizers. Want to participate in an event? Find one near you.

One such event is in Cleveland, where the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will give visitors who bring in select recyclables a free admission with the purchase of a regular admission from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9.

Eligible materials include aluminum cans, cell phones and rechargeable phone batteries, newspaper, catalogs, junk mail, magazines, ink jet and toner print cartridges, cooking and dining supplies and utensils, and pairs of shoes (no single shoes, rubber flip flops, ice skates, roller skates, slippers, ski boots or completely ruined or broken footwear will be accepted).

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo will offer free document shredding from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (limit three bags or boxes), an area of exhibitors who promote different aspects of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” conservation games and crafts.

Proceeds from the aluminum cans collected will benefit The Little Fireface Project, an international conservation organization focused on the slow loris.

The video below is part of The Recycling Campaign, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful and the Ad Council. 

 

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