Reuse and recycle your unwanted toys

Photo of bathroom sink counter with soap dispenser, plastic shark toy, and toothbrush holder made from Legos.It’s that time of year when new toys move in and old toys move out. Ensure that the old toys get a second life by reusing and recycling them instead of throwing them away.

Donate

Donating old toys is the easiest option. As long as toys are clean and in good working condition, you can donate them to thrift stores and local charities. Most large thrift stores offer pick up services. You can also drop your toys off at the nearest donation box (only toys that will easily fit in the box’s door).

Three organizations that accept toys for donation and work with local kids and families in need are Operation Breakthrough, Scraps KC and The Giving Brick.

Host a toy swap

Avoid the after-the-holiday blahs by hosting a toy swap. It is a great way to clean out the closet, help the environment, and help stave off you and your kids’ cabin fever.

Recycle electronic toys

Whether it’s a broken video game, remote control car or a Nerf Blaster, it’s all recyclable. Midwest Recycling Center and The Surplus Exchange both recycle all toys that run on batteries or a power cord. If you have a video game junkie in your home, you can recycle old gaming devices at Best Buy, Staples and Office Depot / Office Max.

Repurpose

Who knew toys can be made into a wreath, a toothbrush holder or bookends? Search “How to repurpose toys” on the internet, and you’ll find countless cool things to make from unwanted toys.

For more information on reuse and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org.

 

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Congratulations to our 2017 SWMD grantees!

photos of books, recycling receptacle and food waste/kitchen scrapsOne of the most important things the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) does is provide financial support to organizations on the Missouri side of our region for projects that reduce the amount of material we send to landfills. The district receives funding every year from the fees collected from the landfills and transfer stations in Missouri. Half of that amount is used to fund local waste reduction, reuse and recycling projects through a grant program. So far this year, we have awarded more than $407,146 to 11 grantees.

The 2017 grant projects so far include:

  • Avenue of Life:  $59,428 to support the fourth year of a regional mattress recycling program.
  • Bridging The Gap: $81,187 to provide one-on-one consultations and assistance to businesses interested in starting new or expanding existing recycling and composting programs.
  • City of Grandview:  $23,625 to purchase a recycling trailer for events and staffing for management and education.
  • Composting and Organics Association of Missouri: $8,202 to conduct a regional composting workshop.
  • Folk Alliance: $3,608 to support staffing, signage, and recycling and composting bags for the annual conference at the Westin Hotel in Kansas City.
  • Independence Avenue Community Improvement District:  $17,500 to purchase recycling containers and bags and provide recycling education on Independence Avenue in Kansas City.
  • Kansas City Chiefs: $21,981 to purchase dual containers to collect compostables and recyclables from fans.
  • Mid-America Regional Council:  $48,267 for Recycle More advertising and outreach.
  • Project Central: $120,708 to support the third year of consultations for school composting and/or recycling programs.
  • Scraps KC: $10,881 to provide support for a newly opened creative reuse store.
  • The Rehabilitation Institute:  $11,759 to support the sale of used books online.

We are very proud of our 2017 group of grant recipients and excited about their projects. The district could not accomplish its waste diversion goals without our grantees! Visit the Solid Waste Management District’s website to learn more about the grant program.

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Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park Grand Opening in Pleasant Hill, Missouri

On a chilly afternoon in December, a large crowd of supporters and enthusiasts gathered in downtown Pleasant Hill, Missouri, to witness Governor Jeremiah (Jay) Nixon cut the ribbon to dedicate the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park — the former Rock Island Railroad bed converted to a 47.5 mile crushed-rock trail — that connects to the famed Katy Trail at Windsor, Missouri and continues across the state to St Louis.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and trail supporters cut ribbon at dedication of Rock Island Spur

The Rock Island trailhead is located at 308 W. Commercial street adjacent to the Cass County fairgrounds. The city of Pleasant Hill has been positioning itself to be a ‘trail town’ in preparation for this marked progress.

“The opening of the Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park is a historic moment in our community,” said Mayor Chris J. Hicks. “Our residents and businesses have waited for many years to see this day. We are ecstatic to be the western anchor to the newest state park and cannot wait to welcome trail riders to our hometown. On this monumental day, we also look to future developments of the Rock Island Trail corridor by our many partners.”

RockIslandPark-dedicatn0438-crowd

To complement the Rock Island trail, Pleasant Hill has constructed the MoPAC trail — stretching from the state trailhead northwest to Pleasant Hill City Lake. City leaders and partners have supported the Rock Island trail’s development for years, and recently new businesses have opened in anticipation of trail-related tourism.

Plans are underway to extend the path from Pleasant Hill  all the way to the Truman Sports Complex in Jackson County by 2018. Once complete, the county’s leg is expected to tie in to the heart of the MetroGreen™ Regional Greenway system’s more than 350 completed miles, making it possible to ride or walk from Kansas City to St. Louis.

View our Rock Island Spur grand opening Flickr album »

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When autumn leaves start to fall

colorful leaf on a lawnRight about now your yard is likely filling up with leaves. But instead of raking, blowing, and bagging them, you can put these leaves to good use and help protect the environment: just mulch them with your lawn mower. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water and protects waterways from runoff pollution.

Some tips:

  • Mulch when leaves are dry or only slightly wet.
  • Set the mower blade to its highest setting.
  • Remove the bag that collects clippings.
  • With heavy leaf cover, you may need to make more than one pass. Make the second pass at right angles, perpendicular to the first.
  • Reduce leaf clutter to dime-size pieces.
  • You’re done when about half an inch of grass can be seen through mulched leaf layer.
    • If you’re done and can’t see any grass whatsoever, reattach the bag and go over the grass one last time to pick up some of the leaves. Place bagged leaves in your garden beds or compost pile.
  • Consider mulching on a weekly basis during the height of the season to prevent a challenging amount of leaves from accumulating.

You can mulch leaves with any type of lawn mower. If you prefer a mulching blade, they can be purchased at most hardware and home improvement stores.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can bring your leaves to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer residents opportunities to obtain mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services. Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city has this service (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers; contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

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Cities Map, Manage and Maintain Urban Trees

Fall trees with crosswalk signalAs financially constrained cities struggle to grow and manage their urban tree canopy, dedicated nonprofits, institutions and volunteers have joined forces to help U.S. cities map and maintain their street trees. These organizations often champion urban forestry mapping projects, helping municipalities select diversified species of trees and identify new planting needs. In turn, many open-source mapping services have emerged, providing a low- to no-cost platform for mapping street trees and quantifying the significant ecological services they provide.

An accurate inventory helps cities manage their trees and prioritize maintenance needs. Successful endeavors to map street trees are underway in cities across the country. New York City’s TreesCount!, an effort to map every tree in the city, counted and collected data for 650,000 trees with the help of more than 2,000 volunteers. In San Francisco, a collaboration between the city and a local nonprofit led to the launch of Urban Forest Map, an effort to count street trees and assess their canopy with an eco-benefit tool, providing a one-stop shop for tree data. In the nation’s capital, Casey Trees aims to preserve Washington D.C.’s street trees through mapping, field work and aerial imagery. Many of these mapping initiatives are large-scale, citizen science projects that rely on community members to contribute tree data using apps on their mobile devices.

Tree mapping data is used to estimate the environmental and economic benefits street trees provide. Mapping software tools like OpenTreeMap quantify services in terms of dollars in a user-friendly format. Improved air quality through carbon sequestration, improved water quality through natural stormwater management, and heat island reduction are a few ecosystem services trees provide. In addition to these services, well-maintained street trees boost local economies by increasing property values and creating safe, vibrant public spaces. Tree maps can be used as environmental education tools and to help build communities around urban forests. Investing in tree inventory data is a great way for cities to adapt to changing climates and improve many public health issues.

Here in Kansas City, where tree cover is around 18 percent, mapping has not been completed for individual trees. However, the iTree Eco Model, used to advance understanding of forest resources, assessed economic value the region’s trees provide. The total value of ecosystem services trees provide is a staggering $93.4 billion in the Greater Kansas City region.  Data from iTree can help the metro area better care for our thriving urban forest and maintain it for the future. Results from the study can be found in MARC’s Tree Data Summary.

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Birds Love Native Trees

Illustration: birds flying around tree with fall colorsNative trees — species that are native to a particular geographic area — help protect water quality through their deep, well-adapted root systems that naturally increase the ability of soil to absorb, treat and retain water. These trees are also essential for supporting our region’s diverse bird populations. Native trees produce more insect prey for birds than non-natives ― and 96 percent  of birds raise their young on insects. They are crucial to preserving habitats, and can support 35 times more insect-eating birds than non-natives. Ever-increasing population density in cities makes it more important to consider the impacts of the built environment on wildlife habitats. To promote avian biodiversity, urban areas must be suitable for both humans and wildlife.


Trees that birds love:

The following native trees attract both birds and beneficial insects in our region. Images and information used with permission from the GrowNative! program.

Downy Hawthorn, Crataegus mollis
Roughleaf Dogwood, Cornus asperifolia
Wild Plum - Prunus Americana
Sassafras, Sassafras albidum
Shingle Oak Quercus imbricaria

Because local insects did not evolve with non-native trees and plants, many lack the ability to overcome a non-native tree’s natural defenses and must feed elsewhere. Caterpillars, a fundamental food source for breeding birds, are one of the most specialized groups — over 90 percent of butterfly and moth larvae feed exclusively on certain plants. Currently, more than 80 percent of suburban areas are landscaped with Asian flora, leaving a food-barren environment for birds looking to find nourishment. When non-native trees replace native species, entire food webs can be disturbed by loss of adapted insects, wiping out sustenance for birds.

A study conducted through Smithsonian’s Neighborhood Nestwatch program found birds are more likely to build nests in yards dominated by native trees, and will fly farther to find grub if nest locations are not ideal. Although humans may find non-natives exotic and alluring choices for their landscapes, such choices can decrease birds’ survival and fitness, as many lack nutrient-dense seeds and fruit and may lure birds toward predators. Research by ecologist Amanda Rodewald found that chickadees nesting in invasive honeysuckle reared 20 percent fewer young due to increased predation during the breeding season. Non-native trees can be destructive to bird populations by disrupting natural selection.

Help protect habitats that allow birds to flourish by landscaping your yard with native trees. Birds, insects and many other species will thank you!

Visit the MARC Water Quality native plants page for more about native trees, including some that display fall color. »

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KC escapes sunny, hot weekend without an Ozone Alert

This weekend — despite the heat and sunlight — we didn’t exceed the ozone standard. Today we have a guest post from our meteorology consulting team at Weather or Not, who provide the SkyCast during the ozone season, to explain why.

Sunshine, heat and southerly winds are typical triggers for high concentrations of ground level ozone. So why is it that Kansas Citians basked in the sunshine, felt the heat and southerly winds but didn’t see an Ozone Alert this weekend (June 11 and 12)?

Factors such as cloud cover, lower traffic on the weekends, rain potential and upwind pollution all played their part.

Cloud cover played a pivotal role in limiting local production of ozone. Sun is a key ingredient in the formation ozone, so when puffy cumulus clouds begin to build, ozone production either stalls or decreases. The hour of each day that the puffy cumulus clouds were building was the exact same hour that ozone monitors peaked. Since the EPA ozone standard is based on a running eight-hour average, the “fair weather” clouds helped to keep ozone levels from climbing too high.

Sunday’s scattered showers and thunderstorms also helped decrease ozone values. Thickly clouded, rainy afternoons are an environment that can stunt ozone production and keep levels within clean air limits.

Weekend traffic helped. Fewer cars on the road helped to minimize local ozone production Saturday and Sunday. During the weekdays, we have two peak travel periods (morning and evening) that can increase dirty air. On the weekend we don’t have rush hour traffic, which limits pollution levels that could lead to increased ozone production.

We got a little help from our friends. Our upwind pollution potential for the weekend originated from Dallas, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Their ozone levels stayed at high green to low yellow values (Air Quality Index (AQI) values in the upper 40s to low 50s). Often when their levels are high for a few days, southerly winds will transport those high ozone concentrations into the Kansas City area. That didn’t happen this weekend.

While close monitoring of the Ozone Alert potential was necessary this weekend, Mother Nature did her part to keep ozone in check in Kansas City.

And you helped, too, if you limited driving and other emission-producing activities.

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On the road again? Don’t forget to recycle.

You may be a master recycler at home, but what about when you’re on the road? Summer vacations are just around the corner. Wherever your travels might take you, be sure to reduce, reuse and recycle along the way.  Here are some helpful tips:

Pack it in, recycle it out Many national parks offer recycling. So whether your camping or just driving the park loop, please help keep our national parks clean and green. Photo Caption: Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone National park

  • Check ahead — Planning for recycling on your road trip is just as important as remembering to pack your tooth brush and phone charger. Contact the places you’ll be staying (campground, motel, resort, etc.) to find out what recycling services they offer. Once you arrive, lodging staff should be able to direct you to a recycling location on- or off-site. Another great resource is iRecycle, an app developed by Earth911 to provide recycling information and locations for the USA, and parts of Mexico and Canada. Both EnvironmentallyFriendlyHotels.com and the Green Hotel Association can help you find lodging that offers recycling.
  • Contain it — You’ll need a way to contain your recyclables and trash while you’re on the road. Bring a container (bag, bin, etc.) for each. If you’re staying someplace that doesn’t offer recycling, bring your own container to hold recyclables until you reach someplace that does.
  • Let it rot — If you compost at home, you can compost on the road, too. Take an airtight plastic container or two to store your compostables until you get back home.
  • Reduce packaging — Space is always at a premium when you’re on the road, so choose items with little or no packaging. Avoid items that are individually wrapped. If you end up with candy wrappers or chip bags, check with TerraCycle, a company that prides itself in recycling everything.
  • Leave only small “food prints” — Eating out on the road is expensive both in terms of your pocket book and energy and resources. Pre-purchase snacks, drinks and food, keep perishables in a cooler, and visit a local grocery store when you run low.
  • Go for unique souvenirs — Consider buying goods by local artists to support the local economy and buy fair trade items when available. If you’re buying gifts for others, use your old road map or a brochure as gift wrap.
  • Pack your reusable bags — Always pack a few reusable bags for souvenirs and those on-the-road grocery stops.
  • Just say no to “Would you like a box for that?” — Remember to take plastic food storage containers for your restaurant leftovers. They’re easier to pack in a cooler than flimsy takeout containers, and they keep food fresh longer.
  • Reduce, reuse, rehydrate — Take reusable mugs and bottles for all your road trip drinks.

For information on where you can take your recyclables once you get home, visit RecycleSpot.org, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

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Spring Into Recycling

Gardener looking at base of plastic plant pot for recycling symbolSpring has sprung, which probably means you’re itching to get outdoors to clean and landscape your yard. This year, make it extra clean and green by recycling.

Mulch it over

Instead of bagging your grass clippings and leaves, mulch them instead. Mulching provides a natural lawn fertilizer, helps prevent weed growth, conserves water, and protects waterways from stormwater-runoff pollution.

If mulching isn’t an option, you can take your lawn and garden waste to a community collection center. Some yard waste drop-off facilities also offer mulch or compost at low cost. Search RecycleSpot to find a center near you.

A number of communities also offer curbside yard waste collection in addition to regular trash and recycling services.

Get composting Spring is a great time to install a compost bin in your backyard. In addition to making a great natural fertilizer, composting is a great way to reduce the 20-30 percent of your household trash that is made up of food waste and lawn and garden waste.

Search by community in RecycleSpot to see if your city is one of them (and call to verify). If you don’t have municipal leaf and brush curbside collection, there are private companies that also manage lawn refuse. RecycleSpot includes a list of many providers — contact them to find out about costs and procedures.

They lurk in your garage

Dangerous lawn and garden chemicals put the health and safety of your family and the environment at risk. Safely dispose of hazardous chemicals through a household hazardous waste program. These programs also take paint, automotive fluids, cleaners, bug sprays, batteries, fluorescent light tubes, compact fluorescent bulbs and other household products labeled danger, warning, or caution.

Pots and trays and bags, oh my!

When you’re done landscaping, recycle your plastic planting pots, trays and landscaping product bags (packaging for mulch, topsoil and other soil amendments). After a quick rinse, pots and trays can be recycled in your curbside bin or be taken to area recycling centers. After a thorough rinse (i.e., they’re 100-percent clean and dry) landscaping product bags can be recycled with plastic bags at your local grocery or “big box” store.

For more information on recycling, visit RecycleSpot, Kansas City metro area’s one-stop spot for recycling, reuse and waste reduction information.

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Grant calls for Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) now open

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Division of State Parks, recently announced that grant rounds for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) are now open.  LWCF grants are available to cities, counties and school districts to be used for outdoor recreation projects.  RTP grants fund trail-related projects and are available to local and state governments, school districts, for-profit and non-profit organizations, and businesses.  The deadline to submit applications for both programs is April 22, 2016. For more information about either of these programs, to download the grant applications, and to register for a grant application workshop, visit https://mostateparks.com/page/55065/outdoor-recreation-grants.

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