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Closing the loop: from your recycling bin back to you

Recycling is a continuous process, which is shown by the three arrows of the recycling symbol. By purchasing products made from recycled materials, you are “closing the loop.” Products made from recycled materials are called recycled-content products, and the availability, variety and quality of these products is improving.

How does a recycled-content product make it to the store? The cycle starts in your own home or business.

closing the loop illustrationFirst, you collect recyclables, such as newspapers, aluminum cans and plastic bottles, and place them at the curb or take them to your local drop-off center. From there, the materials are delivered to a recycling facility, where they are shredded, pelletized or otherwise prepared to be sold to a manufacturing company.

Some materials are made into new versions of the same products. For example, an old newspaper will be used in a new newspaper and an old glass bottle can become a new glass bottle. However, many recyclables become ingredients used to make different products. For example, glass bottles are also used in insulation and plastic bottles can be used in carpet, park benches and fleece clothing.

Finally, it all comes back to you when you decide to buy recycled-content products. This creates a demand for recyclable materials and sends a strong message to manufacturers that we do not want more trash in our landfills.


When looking for recycled-content products, keep in mind that many products contain a mix of recycled and new materials.  Even the type of recycled content can vary:

  • Post-consumer recycled content includes material that was used by consumers or businesses for its intended purpose and then diverted or recovered by recycling. These are the recyclables that you put in your bin.
  • Pre-consumer recycled content is material that is recycled before it reaches the consumer.  For example, a paper mill might recycle its scrap paper before it ever leaves the plant.

The Federal Trade Commission requires that labels on recycled products tell where the recycled material came from. When shopping, look for the chasing arrows on the products you buy and read the label to identify the recycled content. Look for the products with highest percent of post-consumer recycled content. And as always, learn more at!

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Q: What could weigh as much as 11 Great Pyramids of Giza in 2017?

VintageTech-elecRecyc-KB_026A: The estimated amount of e-waste generated worldwide that year.

The world will generate an estimated 71.1 million tons of used electrical and electronic products in 2017 — an increase of more than 30 percent over 2012 levels — according to a study published by the United Nations organization StEP (Solving the E-Waste Problem). Researchers evaluated the global magnitude of annual e-waste generation and presented the results on this interactive world map. The map uses 2012 data from 184 countries.

In 2012, the world generated almost 53.9 million tons of e-waste, an average of 43 pounds for each of the world’s 7 billion people. The U.S. generated the most waste with 10.4 tons (about 66 pounds per person) and China came in second, with 7.9 million tons (about 12 pounds per person). For those of you keeping track at home, this means the U.S. generates nearly 20 percent of the world’s e-waste.

companion study published in tandem with the StEP report provides a detailed analysis of the generation, collection and export of some used electronic products in the U.S. For example, in 2010, U.S. e-waste included nearly 258.2 million whole-unit computers, monitors, TVs and mobile phones totaling 1.6 million tons. The study found that a majority of materials collected were mobile phones, but that TVs and monitors made up more than half of the total weight. Of the e-waste generated, Americans recycled 66 percent of the total units, but only 56 percent of the total weight. This suggests that mobile phones are recycled more frequently than heavier items such as TVs and monitors.

In Kansas City we are fortunate to have numerous facilities that recycle e-waste. Find a convenient location by visiting

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Cycling and Recycling

The MARC Solid Waste Management District  administers an annual grant program that awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.

Photo of bicycles collected by Revolve at a local recycling extravaganza.

Since 2009, Revolve has contributed to the regional effort to make the Kansas City area a more bicycle-friendly community with its Earn-A-Bike and other programs.The shop has also contributed to local waste diversion efforts by partnering with local communities to collect old, unwanted or broken bicycles during municipal recycling events. When possible, bicycles are refurbished and given back to the community. Bicycles that can’t be refurbished are stripped for usable parts and the metal is recycled.

The district was pleased to provide grant funding to the Revolve bike recycling project in 2012 and 2013. Grant funds helped support a program administrator and a part-time bike mechanic. In 2012, 11 bike collection events diverted 828 bikes from landfill disposal, and in 2013 the organization diverted more than 700 bikes. That’s 17.6 tons of diverted bikes! Revolve has partnered with Lee’s Summit, Lake Lotawana, Gladstone, Parkville, Raytown and other communities for these collection events.

Revolve always needs more bicycles. Visit the organization’s website or Facebook page for more information about donating a bike or money, purchasing a used bike, the Earn-A-Bike program, and Revolve’s bicycle safety training programs.

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Initiatives to ban foam food containers

clamshellRemember the McDonald’s “clamshell?”

This icon disappeared 24 years ago, in 1990, which means that  an entire generation doesn’t remember that McDonald’s hamburgers once came in something other than a paper wrapper or box. A number of cities have taken steps to see that more restaurants and food vendors follow suit and stop using disposable expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam  food-service products — often mistakenly called Styrofoam® — such as takeout containers and coffee cups. These containers are favored by the food-service industry because they are lightweight and are good at keeping food warm or cool.

Unfortunately, EPS foam products are not good for the environment. Because the material is brittle and light it tends to break apart into smaller pieces that are easily dispersed by wind and water, contributing to litter. EPS foam is pervasive in the environment, and is difficult to recycle because it is generally soiled with oil, grease, condiments and leftovers. Many communities, including Kansas City, don’t have recycling programs for EPS foam food service products, which means it usually ends up in landfills.

New York City recently became the largest city to pave the way for an eventual ban on these containers. In December, the city’s lawmakers passed legislation to ban foam food-service products if a year-long study finds that the material can’t be recycled effectively. The ban will also include the sale of loose foam packing peanuts.

Berkeley, Calif., and Portland, Ore., were two of the first cities to successfully ban foam food-service products back in the late 1980s. Since that time, nearly 100 cities and towns have banned foam food-service products, 75 of which are in California. Some larger cities that have fully or partially implemented bans are San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle and St. Paul. Chicago and Washington, D.C., are currently considering bans. Many of these cities also require food vendors to use recyclable or compostable food service ware.

These initiatives have been met with opposition, primarily from foam manufacturers and restaurant owners who claim that alternatives are too expensive and that EPS foam containers account for only a small percentage of the total waste stream. Opponents of foam bans have been pushing for community-wide polystyrene recycling programs as an alternative.

There are no ordinances in the Kansas City area banning the use of EPS foam food-service products — but there are no local options for recycling, them either. So, what can you do?

  • Support local restaurants that use alternatives such as paper, molded fiber (think egg cartons) and plant-based, compostable food service products.
  • Take your own reusable container for restaurant leftovers and your own travel mug to coffee shops (some even offer a discount).
  • Avoid using plastic foam food or drink containers or other disposable products at home or for parties.


Photo by kimubert

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Major League Baseball scores big with recycling

Baseball fans have probably heard of the Gold Glove Award, given annually to the top fielder at each position in each league. Did you know that Major League Baseball (MLB) also gives an annual award for the top recycler in each division? The San Francisco Giants have taken the Green Glove Award for six years in a row. In 2013 the Giants kept more than 86 percent of the total waste generated at AT&T Park from going to the landfill.

The top teams in each division and league were also recognized, along with two wild card teams from each league. The teams recognized include:

American League National League
League Champion Seattle Mariners San Francisco Giants
East Division Champion Boston Red Sox Miami Marlins
Central Division Champion Minnesota Twins Pittsburgh Pirates
West Division Champion Seattle Mariners San Francisco Giants
Wild Card 1 Oakland Athletics San Diego Padres
Wild Card 2 Cleveland Indians Milwaukee Brewers

The award is based on self-reporting from each club. Major League Baseball started awarding teams in 2006 in alliance with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).


Even though the Kansas City Royals didn’t make the Green Glove list this year, they took significant sustainable steps during the 2012 All-Star game, as reported in NRDC’s Game Changer report. For example, the Royals partnered with Kansas City Power & Light to install 120 solar panels — the largest in-stadium solar array in any MLB facility. They reduced paper waste by creating an electronic media guide and using digital ticketing. And also in 2012, Kauffman Stadium improved the efficiency of the famous Kauffman fountains through a partnership with Grundfos, based in Olathe, Kan.

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Proud to recycle

proudtorecyclegraphicWhen the MARC Solid Waste Management District conducted a survey in 2012, we learned that 67 percent of area residents are recycling more. But how do we feel about it? The Environmental Industry Associations published survey data in November 2013 which suggests Americans are filled with pride when they fill their recycling bins.

Major findings of the online survey include:

  • An overwhelming majority of Americans feel a sense of pride when they recycle and a sense of guilt when they toss a recyclable item in the trash.
  • Americans are split on what they will do with a recyclable item if a recycling bin is not nearby. Nearly three out of five people say they will keep the item until they can recycle it, but just over half also admit they will throw an item away if they can’t find a bin.
  • Most Americans — 74 percent — will make an extra effort to recycle items outside of their homes. More than half report that they are successful in recycling at work, but fewer than one in four people are successful when traveling,  shopping or walking along city streets, or when dining out (see graphic at right).

You can find detailed survey results through the Environmental Industry Associations website, or view the complete survey methodology here (PDF).

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Sleepyhead Beds: Helping children in need and keeping mattresses out of landfills

sleepyhead beds vanThe MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program that awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.

Most of us will likely have a few mattresses throughout our lifetimes. What did you do with your last mattress after you bought a new one? Instead of throwing out an old mattress, you can do something good for kids in the Kansas City region and for the environment.

If your old mattress is still in reasonable shape, with no noticeable stains or structural problems, you can donate it to Sleepyhead Beds. Sleepyhead Beds is a local organization that takes gently used, unwanted mattresses and sanitizes and sterilizes them for redistribution to children in need. The organization also accepts donations of clean, gently used sheets, comforters and pillow cases.

In 2013, Sleepyhead Beds received a grant from the MARC Solid Waste Management District to purchase a truck and hire a driver to expand its program for collecting and redistributing beds and bedding. This helped Sleepyhead Beds redistribute more than 1,600 mattresses and 1,200 pounds of bedding. If you lined up those mattresses end to end, they would stretch over two miles!

Reusing mattresses also saves a lot of time and energy since recycling them can be very difficult. Plus, any mattress that ends up in a landfill takes up a lot of space. If the 1,600 mattresses redistributed by Sleepyhead Beds were all twin-sized they would take up 27,000 cubic feet, or enough space to cover a basketball court eight times. (That would make it much easier to dunk!)

To learn more or to arrange a donation, visit Sleepyhead Bed’s website.

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Highlighting 2013

The MARC Solid Waste Management District held its 2013 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 11, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Dr. Joseph Martinich, University of Missouri — St. Louis, spoke about the benefits of recycling on Missouri’s economy. The district also recognized several individuals and organizations that have made notable contributions to regional waste management and recycling efforts. The 2013 Special Recognition Award recipients were:

from left to right: Marleen Leonce, City of Kansas City, Mo. Kate Corwin – Green Works in Kansas City Kendall Welch - Alderman, Parkville Meredith Hauck – City of Riverside Tanya Cotton – Heritage Environmental Services Brian Alferman, PlanetReuse

Public Employee — Marleen Leonce, Kansas City, Missouri.
The Public Employee award recognizes a public employees who has shown dedication to the development and advancement of waste reduction and recycling through individual achievement and commitment.

Individual Supporter —  Brian Alferman.
The Individual Supporter award recognizes an individual who has made exceptional contributions and commitment to the district’s waste reduction and recycling efforts.

Green Event — Northland Recycling Extravaganza, cities of Parkville and Riverside.
The Green Event award recognizes a special event that promotes sustainable practices. Meredith Hauck with the City of Riverside and Kendall Welch, Parkville Alderman accepted this award.

Waste Industry — Heritage Environmental Services.
The Waste Industry award recognizes outstanding waste reduction and recycling efforts for a business in the waste industry. Tanya Cotton accepted this award.

Environmental Educator — Green Works in Kansas City.
The Environmental Educator award recognizes an individual or group for commitment to educating others about the need for and benefit of waste reduction and recycling. Kate Corwin accepted this award.

Please join us in congratulating our award recipients and their contributions to help the region achieve its goal of 80 percent waste diversion.

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A bright idea for Southeast Enterprises

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers an annual grant program that awards funds to local communities and organizations for waste reduction and recycling-related projects. From time to time, we publish updates about recent grant recipients.


Old strands of holiday lights may not work, but they’re far from worthless. For the second year, Southeast Enterprises will collect unusable or unwanted holiday lights for recycling. Last year, they exceeded their goal of recycling 24,000 pounds of holiday lights. This year’s goal is to exceed 34,000 pounds.

So, what happens to all of those lights? Once collected, Southeast’s employees prepare the lights for recycling by clipping and sorting each component of the light strands: wires, plugs, light receptacles and bulbs. The components are then sent to other organizations for recycling or energy recovery. Every part of the light string is recycled.

snowman trashcanThe program does more than help the environment — it provides jobs, too. To disassemble the lights Southeast Enterprises employs more than 160 Jackson County residents who are intellectually and developmentally disabled.

Collection containers will be placed at more than 165 participating schools, businesses, recycling centers and community organizations. View the map of drop-off locations to find one near you.  They will collect lights until Jan. 26, 2014.

The district is pleased to be part of this effort by providing grant support to Southeast’s 2012-13 and 2013-14 collection programs.

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Would you like a bag for that?

Blue_reusable_shopping_bag-webFor the record, I normally use cloth bags for my shopping trips. But while vacationing with family this summer, I stopped at a chain pharmacy in Boulder, Colo., to pick up a few forgotten essentials. I decided to ask for a plastic bag to round up the apple cores, banana peels and candy wrappers that had accumulated in the car since our last stop. I was stunned when the clerk informed me that a plastic bag to hold my purchases would cost me an extra dime.

Boulder implemented the bag fee in July. The city council adopted the fee back in November 2012, but the city put off implementation for a few months to allow time to develop an education campaign and for stores to prepare.

Boulder is not alone. My limited research shows that:

  • At least 150 cities and counties across the country have implemented either bag fees or outright bans on plastic bags; 85 of these are in California. San Francisco holds the distinction of being the first city in the nation to ban plastics bags with a 2007 ordinance. In 2012, Los Angeles became the largest city in the nation to approve a ban on plastic bags. A quick tally from a number of sources that track bag ban/fee ordinances indicates that about 50 more cities and counties across the nation are considering or drafting ordinances.
  • The movement to regulate plastic bags is not limited to cities and counties. Hawaii was the first state to ban plastic bags in all counties and a handful of states are considering some form of statewide bans or taxes — most recently Pennsylvania, which is considering a statewide 2-cent fee. Several states have plastic bag labeling, recycling or reuse programs.
  • There have even been a few attempts at the federal level. Most recently, on Earth Day 2013, U.S. Rep. James P. Moran of Virginia introduced a bill to create a national 5-cent tax on all disposable plastic or paper bags provided by stores to customers. Revenue generated from the fee would support the nation’s Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Getting back to my Boulder experience: I went ahead and paid for the bag. So, where did my dime go? Boulder retailers get to keep four cents to cover their costs of administering the program. The county recycling center gets less than a penny to cover the costs of retrieving plastic bags from recycling equipment. The city uses the rest of the money collected from the fee to pay for education and outreach about reusable bags and to cover the costs of free bags that it provides. I considered it a small price to pay.

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