Archive | October, 2013

Recycling is an economic development tool

Niel_ChasingArrowsI_Neil1on1s028_crop_webRecycling is not just good for the environment. Recyclables have value. Recycling creates jobs. The process of turning collected recyclables into new products creates a chain of economic activity that can result in business expansion, increased tax revenue and other economic growth.

The “U.S. Recycling Economic Information (REI) Study” was commissioned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in partnership with numerous states to determine the economic benefits of recycling to the national economy. This was a groundbreaking study that established an important benchmark for the economic impact of recycling and reuse.

The study was completed in 2001. At that time, the recycling and reuse industry included more than 56,000 establishments nationwide. Together, these businesses employed 1.1 million people, generated an annual payroll of $37 billion and grossed $236 billion in annual sales. The REI Study also documented the “indirect” impact of recycling on support industries, such as accounting firms and office supply companies. It found that the reuse and recycling industry indirectly supported 1.4 million jobs that have a payroll of $52 billion and produce $173 billion in receipts.

A similar Missouri study was conducted by the Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority (EIERA). The “Missouri Recycling Economic Information Study (MOREIS)” found that in 2005, Missouri-based recycling programs provided more than 80,000 direct and indirect jobs with an annual payroll of more than $1.7 billion.

Over the past year, the MARC Solid Waste Management District has hosted a speaker series titled “Chasing Arrows, Growing Business: How Recycling Creates Jobs and Economic Opportunities.” The first speaker, Dr. Neil Seldman of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, provided the foundation for the series by explaining how recycling stimulates economic development through job creation. According to Dr. Seldman, “On a per-ton basis, sorting and processing recyclables alone sustain 10 times more jobs than landfilling or incineration.” He also led a workshop for local communities to learn how they can attract “end-users” of recyclable materials interested in relocating to cities and counties that generate the recyclables they seek.

The second speaker, Terry McDonald of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Ore., provided a look at how the nonprofit sector can implement recycling-based businesses to fund programs and services. The organization’s 10 recycling enterprises divert more than 17 million pounds and generate more than $24 million in revenue annually. This revenue funds a comprehensive local housing program that includes 1,000 subsidized rental units, emergency services for nearly 50,000 adults a year, and job training and placement assistance for 1,000 people a year.

The third speaker, Dr. Dan Knapp from Urban Ore, located in Berkeley, Calif., has turned the concept of reuse into a multimillion-dollar business. His store diverts material from landfilling in several ways: a salvaging operation at the local transfer station; a drop-off program; and a trade program that collects materials from select locations. Urban Ore has become successful by being cost-competitive with disposal options.

The final speaker, scheduled for December, is Dr. Joseph Martinich from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. Dr. Martinich, the primary researcher for the MOREIS study, will provide additional insights to the economic impact of recycling in Missouri. His presentation will take place as part of the District’s Annual Meeting, Dec. 11, 2013, at Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Register by contacting Lisa McDaniel, at lmcdaniel@marc.org.

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Keep the air clean for Halloween!

man installs insulation
Spooky sounds, scary costumes and eerie shadows… Halloween is nearly here! Try a few of these environmentally friendly ideas to chase away air pollution.

Decorating:

  • Jack-o’-lanterns are classic holiday décor. Buy one from a local pumpkin patch if you can, and toast the seeds for a healthy and delicious snack. If carving pumpkins year after year is more chore than fun, buy a ceramic one that you can reuse next year.
  • String up LED or solar-powered lights. Lots of people like to set the mood with orange and green lights. Consider LED lights, which last longer and use a fraction of the energy that traditional lights use. Using less energy is good for your wallet and it helps reduce local air pollution.

Costumes:

  • The makeup makes the monster. Lots of people choose to make their own costume with second hand clothing and skillful application of makeup and hair dye. Eco-friendly makeup lets you rest easy when you see it all going down the drain. And don’t underestimate simple techniques, like a handful of baby powder for a junior Albert Einstein.
  • Choose a kid-friendly carryall. When it comes to hauling all those treats home, reusable canvas bags win over plastic or paper for safety and environmental reasons. Buy your own blank bags and decorate them with non-toxic paint — they’re sure to be an annual highlight.

Trick-or-Treating!

  • Walk from house to house. Don’t creep from house to house in a vehicle, wasting gas and rumpling your costume. Select a safe neighborhood and plan a walking route. You’ll burn calories and ensure that the kids get a chance to burn off any sugar!
  • Keep your kids visible with battery-free flashlights. There are a number of options, from rechargeable LED flashlights to emergency flashlights that operate using kinetic energy. Stay visible and don’t trip over the sidewalk crack in the dark.
  • Trunk-or-Treating? Be sure to turn off your car engine! Exhaust contains powerful pollutants that can affect your child’s health.
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Do you reduce and reuse?

Reduce Reuse RecycleReduce, reuse, recycle: the “Three Rs.” We hear this phrase all the time — and most of us understand the recycling part — but how many of us really understand “reduce” and “reuse” and what we can do to incorporate these principles into our daily lives?

First of all, what do these words mean? To “reduce” means producing less trash in the first place. “Reusing” means finding a new way to use something instead of throwing it in the trash can. When done together, reducing and reusing avoid the creation of trash and the need to recycle or send it to a landfill.

Let’s look at actions we can each take to reduce our waste:

Do I really need to purchase this item? 

  • Use products you already have. Keep things clean and organized so you can easily find what you need.
  • Maintain and repair. Items that are well maintained don’t have to be repaired or replaced as often. Try to repair something before you replace it.
  • Buy well-made products. Durable products have a longer lifespan and are more likely to be repairable.
  • Share, borrow or rent. Save money and reduce waste by sharing, borrowing or renting items you use infrequently.
  • Shop used. Shopping for used items is sustainable and economical. Try looking around at garage sales, thrift stores and Craigslist.

Can I reuse this item?

  • Reuse everyday items. Get in the habit of reusing everyday items such as plastic grocery sacks, coffee cans and old t-shirts.
  • Use durable bags. Whether shopping for groceries, clothes, toys or tools use reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic bags.
  • Use refillable mugs and water bottles. At work, at home or on-the-go, use a refillable container.
  • Use Tupperware as take out boxes. These can replace disposable paper, plastic and Styrofoam boxes.

When I am through with an item, what are my options?

  • Donate. Donate items to friends or thrift stores.
  • Reuse at work. Make sure your office has a system for reusing, donating or selling surplus supplies and property.

Can I avoid all of this packaging?

  • Choose less or no packaging. When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least or no packaging.  Products that contain less packaging include large or economy-sized items, concentrated products and bulk items.
  • Choose recyclable packaging. If you can’t avoid the packaging, select the product with packaging that can be put into your curbside recycling bin or accepted at your local drop-off facility.

For more information, visit RecycleSpot.org, Greater Kansas City’s one-stop website for waste reduction, reuse and recycling information.

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October is Energy Awareness Month

light-switch-webThe U.S. Department of Energy designates October of each year as National Energy Awareness Month to help us remember that the energy we tend to take for granted when we flip a switch comes from somewhere — generated from coal, natural gas, nuclear and renewable technologies.

What can you do to mark the occasion? No, you don’t need to make National Energy Awareness hats (although that might be fun), but you can be mindful of how you use energy.

October is a good time to think about how to conserve heat in your home, as you ready your furnace for the winter and wonder how much you’ll pay for heat this year. Visit Beyondthebulb.org for DIY tips on energy conservation as well as a list of professional contractors who can help you winterize your home.

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