MSW Source Reduction, Recycling, and Composting

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Please take a minute to read the following from Mary Gutierrez with the West Florida Regional Planning Council. Her message contains some valuable tips on how we can all reduce our environmental impact.

Source reduction: Altering the design, manufacture, or use of products and materials to reduce the amount and toxicity of what gets thrown away. Between 1960 and 2008 the amount of waste each person creates has almost doubled from 2.7 to 4.5 pounds per day. The most effective way to stop this trend is by preventing waste in the first place.

Waste prevention, also know as "source reduction," is the practice of designing, manufacturing, purchasing, or using materials (such as products and packaging) in ways that reduce the amount or toxicity of trash created. Reusing items is another way to stop waste at the source because it delays or avoids that item's entry in the waste collection and disposal system.

Source reduction, including reuse, can help reduce waste disposal and handling costs, because it avoids the costs of recycling, municipal composting, landfilling, and combustion. Source reduction also conserves resources and reduces pollution, including greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. More specifically, Source Reduction refers to any change in the design, manufacture, purchase, or use of materials or products (including packaging) to reduce their amount or toxicity before they become municipal solid waste. Source reduction also refers to the reuse of products or materials.

Source Reduction and Reuse Facts
More than 55 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) were source reduced in the United States in 2000, the latest year for which these figures are available. Containers and packaging represented approximately 28 percent of the materials source reduced in 2000, in addition to nondurable goods (e.g., newspapers, clothing) at 17 percent, durable goods (e.g., appliances, furniture, tires) at 10 percent, and other MSW (e.g., yard trimmings, food scraps) at 45 percent.

There are more than 6,000 reuse centers around the country, ranging from specialized programs for building materials or unneeded materials in schools to local programs such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, according to the Reuse Development Organization. Between two and five percent of the waste stream is potentially reusable according to local studies in Berkeley, California, and Leverett, Massachusetts.

Since 1977, the weight of 2-liter plastic soft drink bottles has been reduced from 68 grams each to 51 grams. That means that 250 million pounds of plastic per year has been kept out of the waste stream.

Benefits of Reduction
Saves natural resources. Waste is not just created when consumers throw items away. Throughout the life cycle of a product from extraction of raw materials to transportation to processing and manufacturing facilities to manufacture and use waste is generated. Reusing items or making them with less material decreases waste dramatically. Ultimately, less materials will need to be recycled or sent to landfills or waste combustion facilities.
Reduces toxicity of waste. Selecting nonhazardous or less hazardous items is another important component of source reduction. Using less hazardous alternatives for certain items (e.g., cleaning products and pesticides), sharing products that contain hazardous chemicals instead of throwing out leftovers, reading label directions carefully, and using the smallest amount necessary are ways to reduce waste toxicity.

Reduces costs. The benefits of preventing waste go beyond reducing reliance on other forms of waste disposal. Preventing waste also can mean economic savings for communities, businesses, schools, and individual consumers.

Communities. More than 7,000 communities have instituted "pay-as-you-throw" programs where citizens pay for each can or bag of trash they set out for disposal rather than through the tax base or a flat fee. When these households reduce waste at the source, they dispose of less trash and pay lower trash bills.

Businesses. Industry also has an economic incentive to practice source reduction. When businesses manufacture their products with less packaging, they are buying less raw material. A decrease in manufacturing costs can mean a larger profit margin, with savings that can be passed on to the consumer.

Consumers. Consumers also can share in the economic benefits of source reduction. Buying products in bulk, with less packaging, or that are reusable (not single-use) frequently means a cost savings. What is good for the environment can be good for the pocketbook as well.

Recycling: Sorting, collecting, and processing materials to manufacture and sell them as new products. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources. Collecting used bottles, cans, and newspapers and taking them to the curb or to a collection facility is just the first in a series of steps that generates a host of financial, environmental, and social returns. Some of these benefits accrue locally as well as globally.

Benefits of Recycling

  • Recycling protects and expands U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases U.S. competitiveness.
  • Recycling reduces the need for landfilling and incineration.
  • Recycling prevents pollution caused by the manufacturing of products from virgin materials. Recycling saves energy.
  • Recycling decreases emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change.
  • Recycling conserves natural resources such as timber, water, and minerals.
  • Recycling helps sustain the environment for future generations.

Steps to Recycling a Product
Recycling includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, manufacturing raw materials into new products, and purchasing recycled products. Collecting and processing secondary materials, manufacturing recycled-content products, and then buying recycled products creates a circle or loop that ensures the overall success and value of recycling.

Step 1. Collection and Processing Collecting recyclables varies from community to community, but there are four primary methods: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs.

Regardless of the method used to collect the recyclables, the next leg of their journey is usually the same. Recyclables are sent to a materials recovery facility to be sorted and prepared into marketable commodities for manufacturing. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with the market.

Step 2. Manufacturing Once cleaned and separated, the recyclables are ready to undergo the second part of the recycling loop. More and more of today's products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels; aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles. Recycled materials also are used in innovative applications such as recovered glass in roadway asphalt (glassphalt) or recovered plastic in carpeting, park benches, and pedestrian bridges.

Step 3. Purchasing Recycled ProductsPurchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By "buying recycled," governments, as well as businesses and individual consumers, each play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand more environmentally sound products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high-quality recycled products. Learn more about recycling terminology and to find tips on identifying recycled products.

Composting: Decomposing organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, with microorganisms (mainly bacteria and fungi) to produce compost. Compost is organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants.

1 comments:

Canada Guy said...

Excellent points. Reduction (and reuse) are at least an order of magnitude more effective than recycling. You reduce waste and energy use throughout the entire chain of production this way.

More points here:

http://www.selfdestructivebastards.com/2009/09/recycling-is-self-destructive.html

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