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Waste reduction does more than reusing or recycling

By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

reduce-2We’re all familiar with recycle and reuse, but how many of us reduce the amount of waste we create? The Waste Management Hierarchy says that source reduction — or not creating waste in the first place — is preferred over recycling or reusing. Items we recycle at the curb and reuse from the thrift store are important, but are only a drop in the bucket compared to the impact that reducing waste can have.

The production of any item uses energy and resources and generates waste and pollution. Reducing what you buy means less need for resources and energy to create new products, less waste going to the landfill and less pollution released into the environment.

What You Can Do

You can take a number of actions to reduce waste:

  • Don’t purchase products you already have. Keep your belongings clean and organized so you can easily find what you need.
  • Donate unwanted items to friends, family, neighbors, charities and thrift stores.
  • Repair things that are broken instead of replacing them.
  • Maintain homes, buildings, vehicles, equipment, clothing, appliances, etc. Well-maintained items don’t have to be repaired or replaced as often.
  • Buy well-made, durable products. They have a longer lifespan and are more likely repairable.
  • Reuse at work. Find out if your business or organization has a system for reusing, donating or selling surplus supplies and property. If not, suggest it.
  • Share, borrow and rent items you use infrequently. It saves money and resources.
  • When choosing between two similar products, select the one with the least amount of packaging or — better yet — no packaging at all.
  • Choose large or economy-sized items, which often use less packaging per unit of product. However, be sure you can use it all or have friends and family who can share it with you.
  • Choose concentrated products. They often require less packaging and less energy to transport to the store.
  • Use safe alternatives. Many hazardous products have a low- or no-hazard counterpart.
  • Use durable bags instead of paper or plastic bags when shopping for groceries, clothes, toys or tools.
  • Use refillable mugs and water bottles. These days, they come in all shapes and sizes!
  • Use Tupperware for take-out. These can replace disposable paper, plastic and Styrofoam boxes.
  • Be sustainable and save money by shopping for used items. Places to shop include:
    • Garage and estate sales
    • Thrift stores, consignment shops, antique malls or pawn shops
    • Habitat For Humanity ReStores
    • Classified ads
    • eBay or Craigslist
    • Auctions
  • Reuse everyday items. Some common examples include:
    • Plastic grocery sacks as trash bags or thrift store donation bags
    • Dairy tubs as cheap Tupperware
    • Coffee cans as storage containers for hardware
    • Old t-shirts as shop or cleaning rags
    • Popsicle sticks, paper towel rolls, egg cartons, etc. as art project supplies

For more information, visit or call 816-474-8326.

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Mattress Recycling Comes to Kansas City

By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

Do you have a mattress that you no longer want or use? You now have options to recycle that old mattress in the Kansas City area.

The following organizations and businesses offer mattress and box spring recycling services:

Mattresses damage landfill equipment and do not easily compress, taking up about 23 cubic feet of space each. Fortunately, mattresses are 100 percent recyclable. They are made of foam, polyester, cotton, metal, wood and shoddy (reclaimed wool fabric), all of which can be re-manufactured into other products.

When you recycle or donate your mattress you can support organizations that do more than keep mattresses out of landfills. Avenue of Life helps low-income individuals and families break the cycle of poverty by providing jobs to those with barriers to employment, and Sleepyhead Beds provides clean, recycled beds and bedding to children in need. These organizations have partnered with each other to make sure all mattresses they receive are donated back to families or recycled. Avenue of Life collects all mattresses recycled at Courtney Ridge Landfill, Excelsior Springs Recycling Center and Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park.

For more information, visit or call 816-474-8326.


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A geo-what system?

The new IKEA in Merriam, Kansas, has shoppers and budding interior designers excited, but they aren’t the only ones. Green energy aficionados are happy to see a geothermal HVAC system helping to heat and cool the expansive store. But what is a geothermal HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system, and what’s the big deal?

What is a Geothermal HVAC system?

Unlike ordinary heating and cooling systems, geothermal HVAC systems transfer heat to and from the earth using a loop of buried pipes filled with fluid instead of burning fossil fuels to generate heat. Outdoor temperatures fluctuate with the changing seasons, but underground temperatures don’t change as dramatically thanks to the insulating properties of the earth. Four to six feet below ground, temperatures remain relatively constant.

How does a Geothermal HVAC work?

popular mechanincs geothermal hvac heat exchange

A geothermal cooling and heating system has four main components: a heat exchange pump unit with compressor, a loop of underground pipes, heat-exchange fluid, and air-delivery ductwork.

In the summer, the system passes cool water from the underground pipes across a heat-exchanger before passing it back through the system where it can be re-cooled by the earth. In the winter, the lukewarm water pumped from the underground pipes runs past the heat exchanger and is then compressed, warming it to an even higher temperature, before a fan system distributes the warmth throughout the building.

Why is a Geothermal HVAC a great idea?

  • Most geothermal heat pump systems are very energy efficient. Typically, electric power is used only to operate the system’s fan, compressor and pump. For every unit of energy used to power the system, three to five units of equivalent energy are supplied as heat. The system works just as effectively in warming and cooling and can be engineered to require no additional backup heat source.
  • It’s low-maintenance. A geothermal system may cost more up front when compared to a more traditional HVAC system, but it requires less ongoing maintenance. Underground pipes — the most expensive part of installation — can last for generations, and the heat-exchange equipment typically lasts decades since it is protected indoors.
  • Installation can be flexible. Depending on the site, the underground pipes may be buried vertically, meaning little above-ground surface is needed. If desired, a small backup system can be added for extremely hot or cold days so that the underground pipe system is right-sized for average temperatures.
  • It’ll keep going and going. New guidelines and techniques have eliminated the issue of thermal retention in the ground which means heat can be exchanged with it indefinitely. Plus, modern underground pipe systems don’t consume extra water.

So if you shop at the new IKEA store, take a moment to enjoy the air temperature and appreciate the energy-efficient comfort you’re experiencing. And next time you’re looking for an HVAC upgrade at home, consider a geothermal system of your own.

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Support your team and our air

idle-free school zone

Football season is here, and with it comes tailgating! If you plan to join the crowd at Arrowhead to watch a game, it’s important to remember how your participation can impact air quality. Here are some tips for celebrating in an air-friendly way.

  • Your grill affects more than your burger. A typical charcoal grill is good for burgers, but not so good for our air. Help out by using a charcoal chimney to light the coals instead of lighter fluid. This produces fewer harmful fumes. You could also consider using a propane or natural gas grill. Each creates less air pollution than charcoal.
  • Be car-conscious. We know that you know it’s best to carpool to the game. Be sure to look up the best route before you go for quick entry and exit. Less time spent in the car means fewer emissions and more time for tailgating. Arrowhead has made some changes this year to help traffic flow smoother, which limits idling. Check Arrowhead’s website for more information.
  • Avoid foam food containers (which is often mistakenly called Styrofoam). The lifecycle of polystyrene — used to make foam food containers — has many impacts on air quality, from manufacturing to disposal. It’s bad enough for the environment that some communities have banned the product altogether, and you usually can’t recycle it after it has been used to hold food. Look for alternative packaging when you buy food or utensils — materials made from recycled paper, recycled plastics or biopolymers (plastics made from plants). By purchasing alternative containers, you use your dollars to send a message to manufacturers that it is important to be air- and eco-friendly.

Go Chiefs!

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When the lights go out: how to recycle and dispose properly

bulb-87565_1920By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

Many of us have replaced our standard incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent or LED light bulbs. But what do you do with the old bulbs when they burn out? Properly disposing or recycling light bulbs can increase your safety, save energy and help the environment.

Fluorescent bulbs

Both fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent (“squiggly”) bulbs are hazardous and require special handling. Both types can be recycled through local household hazardous waste programs and at Batteries Plus. Compact fluorescent lights can also be recycled at Home Depot, Lowe’s or other hardware stores. Always call stores first to make sure they participate in recycling programs.

What if bulbs are broken?

The hazardous component of fluorescent light bulbs is the small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing. When a fluorescent bulb breaks, some of this mercury is released as mercury vapor. Keep yourself and sanitation workers safe by following proper cleanup procedures.

Incandescent, halogen and LED bulbs

Unfortunately, there are no options to recycle incandescent, halogen and LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs in the Kansas City metro. Since these types of bulbs do not contain any hazardous materials they can be thrown away in your regular trash. For safety’s sake, place burned out bulbs back in their original packaging or in a plastic bag before throwing them away.

For more information, visit or call (816) 474-8326.

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Making sense out of plastic recycling

By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

We use hundreds of types of plastics in our daily lives, so how do we know which ones are recyclable and which ones are not? Most recycling programs include plastic, but are vague, confusing or inconsistent about which types are accepted. So we play the guessing game and end up trashing plastic items that could be recycled, and recycling others that should be trashed. The following information should help clear it all up for you.

Recycle These:
The following list has the types of plastics that you can recycle in the metro area. Most plastics used in the products you buy are numbered  one through seven. Look for the number in the resin code that appears in the chasing arrow symbol, usually on the bottom of the container.

Plastics Recycling Table 2

Visit the Habitat ReStore and Vintage Tech Recyclers websites to learn more.

Don’t Recycle These:
Following are the types of plastics you cannot currently recycle in the Kansas City metro area. Most can go in the trash, but be sure to properly dispose of hazardous household products.

Plastics Recycling Table Don't
Proper Plastics Prep
Proper preparation of materials can mean the difference between successful and unsuccessful recycling. Here are some tips:

  • Call — Always call your hauler or recycling center first to confirm the types of plastics they accept.
  • Empty — Make sure containers are completely empty.
  • Rinse — Give containers a quick rinse to remove residue.
  • Don’t forget caps and lids — Plastic caps and lids are recyclable, too. Crush plastic bottles, put the cap back on and recycle. Or, fill a plastic tub with caps and lids, put on the lid and recycle. Both methods keep caps and lids from falling through the sorting machinery and getting thrown out at the material recovery facility.

For more information, visit or call 816-474-8326.

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Stay sharp about glass recycling

shard-8292_1280_webBy Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

Even if glass is not collected in your standard curbside recycling program, there are many options for recycling and reusing all types of glass in the metro area.

Food and Beverage Containers
Recycle brown, clear, green and blue food and beverage containers in the large, purple Ripple Glass bins located throughout the metro area. If you prefer curbside pickup, both Atlas Glass and KC Curbside Glass provide service throughout the metro area to both residents and businesses for a monthly fee.

Donate undamaged dishware, vases, decorative glassware and mirrors to thrift stores. Antique glassware can be sold at antique stores and online.

Sheet Glass

Donate mirrors, glass shelving and various types of glass windows to Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Glass panes or unframed glass can only be accepted if it is new and in its original packaging. For more information on acceptable materials, check ReStore’s donation criteria list.

Fluorescent light bulbs
Fluorescent tubes and compact bulbs (the squiggly ones) have mercury in them, which requires special handling. Both can be recycled through local household hazardous waste programs. Compact fluorescent bulbs can also be recycled at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Broken glass
With the exception of food and beverage containers, if the glass you want to get rid of is broken, it is not recyclable. Call your trash hauler for pickup of large pieces of broken glass — such as windows, table tops, mirrors, etc. — and verify preparation requirements. A fee may apply. All small, broken glass items and burnt out light bulbs (excluding fluorescent bulbs mentioned above) can be disposed of in the trash. Keep the safety of your sanitation workers in mind and prepare items properly for disposal.

For more information, visit or call 816-474-8326.

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Two new websites help you take care of our air

To wrap up Air Quality Awareness Week, the MARC Air Quality program is excited to share its new online educational website, The site is designed for people of all ages who want to learn more about Kansas City’s air quality. Let Quinton, the Air Quality bird, be your guide as you:

  • Read our new children’s book, Wingin’ It: Quinton’s Clean Air-Venture (for children ages 3-103).
  • Play the AirQuiz game to test your knowledge of all things AirQ. Categories include alternative transportation, driving habits and ozone facts.
  • Download coloring pages and word games — some can be tricky!
  • Explore an interactive bike map of the Kansas City region.
  • Watch air quality videos.

The newly redesigned has a friendlier user interface and additional commute options. Now in addition to finding carpool matches, users can:

  • Search for commute partners who bike or walk a similar route.
  • Find or advertise a ride for a one-way regional trip.
  • Calculate financial and environmental savings.

What’s more, those who carpool, vanpool, bike or use Johnson County Transit to get to work on a regular basis are eligible for the Guaranteed Ride Home program, which eliminates the barrier of worrying how to get home in cases of illness, accident or emergency.

And, as always, you can visit to learn more about the region’s air quality and how you can help take care of our air.

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Region’s first Women’s Bike Summit scheduled for May 10

Women's Bike Summit May 10Happy Bike Month!

BikeWalkKC will host the KC Women’s Bike Summit in May as a forum to encourage more girls and women to bike and celebrate current female bicycling enthusiasts.

Bike commuting is more popular than ever — increasing 42 percent in the Kansas City area last year. Now, BikeWalkKC wants to focus on increasing the numbers of female cyclists. The summit is a venue for women of all ages and backgrounds to discuss relevant issues and provide hands-on opportunities for improving confidence.

Join BikeWalkKC for a day of workshops, discussions and
break-out sessions that focus on the female cyclist.

Register to attend the KC Women’s Bike Summit.


Kauffman Foundation
4801 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64108


May 10, 2014
8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A registration fee is not required, but BikeWalkKC suggests donations of $25 per person.

Complimentary childcare will be available.

Contact Sarah Shipley at with any questions.


For more information about transportation issues in the Kansas City region, visit our sister blog, Transportation Matters.

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Trees are worth celebrating!

iTreeWhatDoTreesDoThis year, the national celebration of Arbor Day is today, April 25 and we think that’s a great reason to tout the benefits of trees. In fact, MARC has an entire webpage dedicated to just that! (Kansas also celebrates today, and Missouri celebrated Arbor Day on April 4.)

The benefits of trees span several aspects of helping our environment, including improving air quality and stormwater management, conserving energy, and removing and storing carbon. An increase in tree cover by just 10 percent would remove 1 million additional tons of air pollution per year.

What do trees do for you? Leave a comment, or connect with us on social media to let us know!

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