Foam: to recycle or not to recycle, that is the question

styrofoam-do-don't-recycleWhat floats, insulates, and is 98 percent air? It’s expanded polystyrene (EPS), often mistakenly called Styrofoam™ (Styrofoam is a trademarked brand owned and manufactured by The Dow Chemical Company). But what kind — if any — can be recycled in the Kansas City metro area?

It’s labeled “6”, so it’s recyclable — right?

EPS is a #6 plastic, but only molds, blocks, coolers and packing peanuts can be recycled. Drop them off at Kansas City Community Recycling Centers and ACH Foam Technologies. In order to be recycled, EPS must be white and clean. EPS packing peanuts can also be recycled at Post Net and select locations of The UPS Store.

Any type of EPS that has had contact with food or beverages – meat trays, coffee cups, egg cartons, takeout containers, disposable plates – cannot be recycled in the metro area. Instead, purchase and use containers that are durable or recyclable.

EPS Packing Block

EPS Packing Block

EPS Packing Molds

EPS Packing Molds

 

 

 

 

 

Packing Peanuts

Don’t be fooled by look-alikes

Corn starch-based packing peanuts are not accepted for recycling in the Kansas City metro area. How can you tell? If it dissolves in water, it’s corn starch. These can also be reused or composted.

LDPE #4

PE-LE #4Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) packing foam is often mistaken for EPS. You can tell if it’s LDPE if it is:

  • Labeled PE-LD or LDPE with the number 4
  • styrofoam-6Squeezable
  • Bends but does not break

How is EPS recycled?

A common way to recycle EPS is through a process called densification: creating dense material from lighter material. Densification is achieved through extreme pressure, applied by hydraulic or electric rams. The air cells in the plastic foam are collapsed, resulting in a great reduction in volume. This process can make EPS foam 50 to 90 times denser. The output is usually formed into continuous, squared “logs”, which can be easily cut or broken into convenient lengths for storage or shipment.

What products are made from recycled EPS?
There are many products made from recycled EPS, including:

  • packing material
  • insulation products
  • park benches
  • door and window frames
  • crown molding
  • picture frames
  • safety helmets
  • flower pots
  • seedling containers

For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

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Where there’s fire, there’s smoke

…and sometimes poor air quality.

Cold temperatures often lead to nights snuggled up in piles of blankets with a good book by the fireplace. But the wood-burning fire that’s keeping you cozy might be harmful to our air. How you build your fire and what you burn can have a significant impact on air quality and health. Wood smoke contains ozone-forming gases and fine particles — also called PM2.5 — which can harm the lungs, blood vessels and heart. Reduce the amount of smoke your fire produces to help improve our air quality. Keep the following tips in mind to build a cleaner fire that produces less smoke:

What to burn:

  • Burn only dry, seasoned wood. Wet or green logs create excessive smoke and waste fuel. Listen for a hollow sound when you strike two logs together as an indication of proper seasoning.
  • Hardwoods burn hotter. Soft woods like pine and cedar catch easily and make good kindling, but hardwoods burn longer, hotter and with less smoke once the fire is burning.
  • Never burn household garbage, cardboard, painted or treated wood, or any wood that contains glue, such as plywood or particle board. These items release toxic chemicals when burned, and if you’re using a wood stove they can damage it.

How to build:

  • Start a small fire with dry kindling, and then add a few pieces of wood. Be sure there is space between the pieces of wood and give the fire plenty of air until it’s roaring.
  • Try building a “top-down” fire to maximize heating performance and reduce smoke. It also reduces the amount of work needed to keep the fire going.

Be safe!

  • Wood-burning stoves or appliances should operate without producing smoke. If you see or smell smoke, there is a problem with your appliance. Check EPA’s Burn Wise program for more tips to keep you safe and while you stay warm.
  • And always make sure you have working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors in your home!
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Congratulations to our 2015 SWMD grantees!

One of the most important things the MARC Solid Waste Management District (SWMD) does is provide financial support to organizations in 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 state’s landfills and transfer stations. Half of that amount is used to fund local waste reduction, reuse and recycling projects through a grant program.

We are very proud of our 2015 group of grant recipients and excited about their projects. The district could not accomplish its waste diversion goals without our grantees!

The 2015 grant projects are:

  • Avenue of Life: $203,492 to support the second year of a regional mattress recycling program.
  • Bridging The Gap: $79,740 to provide one-on-one consultations and assistance to businesses interested in starting new or expanding existing recycling programs.
  • City of Kearney: $5,700 to purchase a container to collect electronics at the Kearney Drop-off Recycling Center.
  • Kansas City Design Center: $30,000 to design a comprehensive, appealing and convenient recycling system for downtown Kansas City.
  • Meredith Car Sales & Recycling: $19,916 to purchase a trailer and hold at least 10 electronic recycling collection events in Cass County.
  • Missouri Organic: $4,000 to purchase carts and establish a paper towel composting program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City campus.
  • Missouri Recycling Association: $12,000 to support costs for a keynote speaker and AV equipment at the annual recycling conference scheduled for September in Kansas City.
  • Project Central: $47,044 to work with five schools to set up recycling and/or composting programs.
  • Southeast Enterprises: $12,000 to support transportation costs associated with a regional holiday light recycling program.
  • Sleepyhead Beds: $7,000 for staffing to conduct six mattress collection events and six presentations in the region north of the Missouri River. Sleepyhead Beds holds these events to collect quality used mattresses which are sanitized and provided to children in need.
  • The Rehabilitation Institute: $80,000 to collect and divert durable medical equipment from the waste stream. Equipment is then either repaired and made available for reuse, or recycled.
  • Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity ReStore: $49,434 to provide a truck and staffing at the Lee’s Summit Resource Recovery Park to capture reusable materials before they enter the landfill.

Visit the Solid Waste Management District’s website to learn more about the grant program.

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Make your Super Bowl recycling list

Video by KSHB

Video by KSHB

The hosts of Kansas City Live went up against a fifth grader to find out what is recyclable at a Super Bowl party. Now, it’s your turn. Here’s a list of items that may show up at your party and where they can be recycled:

  • Plastic containers (tubs for dips, veggie/fruit and dessert trays) – Most plastic food and beverage containers are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. No Styrofoam food or beverage containers are recyclable.
  • Glass bottles and jars – Glass food and beverage containers are recyclable in the big, purple Ripple Glass bins located throughout the metro area. The metal lids are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. Large metal lids (like salsa jars) can go directly in the recycling bin, while small metal lids and bottle caps should be put in a tin can with the top crimped shut. This will keep them from falling through the sorting machinery.
  • Chip bags – Most chip bags are not recyclable because they are made from multiple types of plastic. For example, if it has a shiny foil interior it’s not recyclable. Bags that are definitely recyclable are the clear tortilla chip bags. These bags can be recycled at any big box store or grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling.
  • Disposable plates, cups and utensils – The plastic types are not recyclable due to food contamination and low value of plastic resin. Paper plates and cups can be composted in your backyard compost bin. A greener alternative is to use your regular dishware or durable plastic dishware that can be washed and used over and over again.
  • Paper napkins – Can be composted in your backyard compost bin. A greener alternative is to use cloth napkins.
  • Grocery sacks – Both plastic and paper are recyclable. Plastic bags can be recycled at any big box store and grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling. Paper bags are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. A greener alternative is to use reusable bags.
  • Cracker boxes – Made from paperboard, i.e., flat cardboard, these are recyclable curbside and at recycling centers. The plastic bag inside can be recycled at any big box store and grocery store that has a bin for plastic bag recycling.
  • Aluminum foil & trays – Aluminum foil products can be recycled at several recycling centers in the metro area.
  • Pizza boxes – The key is to tear it in half: the clean top goes in your recycling bin or to a recycling center, and the dirty bottom can go in your backyard compost bin.

For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

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Paper towels absorb more than spills

Without a thought, we grab a handful of paper towels to dry our hands in a public restroom or to clean up a spill in the kitchen and then we toss them in the trash. But what is the environmental cost? A lot of energy and resources go into making paper towels: harvesting the wood, processing it, bleaching it, packaging it, and transporting it — all just to reach the store! However, there is a great way to counter this resource and energy-intensive process: just say no.

papertowels-credit-SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget

In the restroom

In the old days, people used to carry cloth handkerchiefs. Today these make great paper towel substitutes. You can purchase handkerchiefs at most department stores, and a good one can last for many years. Keep one in your pocket or purse and use it when wet hands arise. If you’re worried about the dampness affecting other items, you can keep the handkerchief in a Ziploc bag between uses, or lay it out to dry on a desk. Wash handkerchiefs with the rest of your laundry.

In the kitchen

All bath towels must be retired at some point, so why not give those frayed and faded towels a second life in your kitchen? Store them in a kitchen cabinet or drawer, ready to be used the next time Junior spills his milk. Just like the hankies, these towels can go in with your laundry and serve many years as a greener, quicker picker-upper.

If all else fails, compost!

If you do end up using paper towels, they can be disposed of in your compost bin instead of the trash. Find information on composting at home on the MARC website.

For more information on waste reduction and recycling, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

 

photo credit: SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget via photopin cc
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Put on a sweater!

…and seven more winter actions that help our air quality

By Doug Norsby, Air Quality Planner III

Even though it seems to have taken longer this year, cold weather is moving in and evenings at home are a bit more brisk. It can be tempting to bump the thermostat up a few degrees, but doing so increases energy use, costs money and adds more emissions to our air. Before turning the dial, consider these ideas to make sure your home is winter-ready.

  • Drafty doors can benefit from a few easy fixes. Always close a door tightly — even between short trips to-and-from the car to the house. For especially drafty doors, buy or construct your own draft stopper to prevent that toe-chilling air flow.
  • Lower the thermostat overnight while everyone is sleeping. For periods of more than eight hours, each degree of difference can save 1 percent on your heating bill.

And of course, make your mother proud by putting on a sweater and some cozy socks when you’re feeling chilled. Drink a warm beverage or snuggle up with your favorite pet. You can stay toasty warm without touching that thermostat.

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Creating Connections 2014

IMG_9333_crop-color-corrected-caption

The MARC Solid Waste Management District held its 2014 Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, Dec. 17, at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center. Amy Bond, CBRE, spoke about sustainability and recycling programs at the Sprint Campus as well as at Sprint’s nationwide real estate operations. The district also recognized several individuals and organizations that have made notable contributions to regional waste management and recycling efforts. The 2014 Special Recognition Award recipients were:

Individual Supporter — Angie Gehlert, Missouri Recycling Association

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

Public Employee — Chris Bussen, Lee’s Summit

The Public Employee award recognizes a public employee who has shown dedication to the development and advancement of waste reduction and recycling through individual achievement and commitment.

Green Event — Waddell & Reed Kansas City Marathon

The Green Event award recognizes a special event that promotes sustainable practices. Stephanie Lankford with the Kansas City Sports Commission accepted this award.

Waste Industry — The Urban Lumber Company

The Waste Industry award recognizes outstanding waste reduction and recycling efforts for a business in the waste industry. Tim O’Neill accepted this award.

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Real vs. artificial holiday trees: which is the greener choice?

By Matt Riggs, Solid Waste Management District outreach coordinator

christmas-tree-227014_1280Every holiday season we hear the same question: is it better for the environment to buy a real tree or an artificial tree? Currently, of all the American households displaying trees, 80 percent are artificial trees and 20 percent are real.

A recent study — sponsored by the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA) and conducted by third-party international research firm PE International — showed that purchasing either a real or artificial tree has a negligible impact on the environment. However, the study found that length of ownership, disposal method and “tree miles” can make a difference on which tree is environmentally preferable.

ACTA encourages consumers to consider five helpful tips when deciding which tree to buy this year:

  • If you buy a real tree, buy from a local farm if possible.
  • Consider “tree miles” — How far the tree had to travel to get to the store or farm, and how far you had to travel to get it.
  • Consider purchasing an artificial tree to minimize your environmental impacts if you have purchased more than nine live trees in the last nine years.
  • If you own an artificial tree, plan to use it for at least six to nine years.  If you replace an artificial tree, donate the old one instead of disposing it.
  • Properly dispose of your natural holiday tree. Find local disposal services at RecycleSpot.org!

Missouri bans the disposal of real holiday trees and greenery, just like it does other yard waste materials, and Kansas discourages the practice. Area communities, businesses and organizations offer a number of ways to recycle those trees instead of trashing them. These services divert materials from landfills while creating resources that can be used for a variety of purposes. For example, trees can be shredded into mulch that is used for trail surfaces, erosion control and landscaping, or left whole to create fish habitats in area lakes.

To ensure a pure recycling stream and protect workers and machinery, it’s very important to remove lights, decorations, plastic bags, stands, metal frames, nails and wire from trees and greenery before recycling them.

For more information on where to donate your artificial tree or recycle your real tree and greenery, visit RecycleSpot.org or call (816) 474-4326.

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Another quiet ozone season thanks to cool mid-summer temperatures

Ozone Season 2014

By Doug Norsby, Air Quality Planner III

Again this year, a wet spring followed by mild summer weather provided a welcome relief from the high ozone levels seen during 2011 and 2012. The 2014 ozone season began with normal temperatures and rainfall in April and May, followed by above-average rainfall in early June and below-average temperatures in July, resulting in a relatively good ozone season. MARC issued 46 yellow SkyCasts and two orange Ozone Alerts for the Kansas City region’s air quality maintenance area. The low number of yellow and orange SkyCasts was almost identical to last year’s numbers.

The SkyCast is issued daily during ozone season (April 1–Oct. 31) and corresponds with the Air Quality Index (AQI), a public information tool that associates colors and health messages with ranges of air pollutant concentrations. This season, only two days exceeded the standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect public health.

At the conclusion of the 2014 season, ozone monitor readings appear to show that the Kansas City region is no longer violating the ozone standard for the first time since 2010. However, federal law requires EPA to periodically review air quality standards to ensure that they provide adequate health and environmental protection, and to update those standards as necessary. EPA is currently in the process of reviewing the ozone standard and is expected to propose a new standard in December. If it is tightened, it is likely that the recent lower readings will still fall in the range that is considered to be unhealthy.

The region continues to employ voluntary strategies to reduce ozone-forming and greenhouse gas emissions, and our participation in the EPA’s Ozone Advance program and implementation of our award-winning Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP) both leverage local community actions to reduce potential federally mandated and state-imposed regulations.

For more information, contact the MARC Air Quality program.

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Don’t waste the holidays

When you’re making your holiday to-do list, be sure to add reduce, reuse and recycle! There are many great ways to practice the three Rs — from Halloween to New Year’s Eve.

Decorating

  • Shop thrift stores or online for pre-owned décor you want; donate or sell what you don’t.
  • Take good care of your decorations so that they will last many years.
  • Make handmade decorations that are re-useable, recyclable or compostable.

BinnyDance-02-01Cards and Invitations

  • Purchase cards made from recycled content.
  • Make handmade, recyclable cards.
  • Send electronic invitations and cards.
  • Donate used cards.

Costumes

  • Make your own costume from secondhand clothes or items you already have around the house.
  • Skip the chemical-laden face paint (which can be disposed of safely through your local HHW program). Instead, make your own safe, planet-friendly makeup.

Gifts

  • Shop at thrift stores or online to find a unique used gift.
  • Give an experience! Try gift cards for food and entertainment, tickets to a show, or memberships to a museum or zoo.
  • Make a donation in someone’s name.

Gift Wrap

  • Use recyclable wrapping such as old posters, maps, paper grocery bags or the funny papers.
  • Wrap with attractive cloth, fabric ribbons or a reusable bag.
  • Use last year’s boxes, tissue paper, bows and ribbons.

Gatherings

  • Use durable tableware: dishes, cups, utensils, napkins, tablecloths, etc.
  • Recycle cans and bottles.
  • Compost food waste.

binnyLightsClean Up

  • Compost your pumpkins, gourds and poinsettias. You can also keep poinsettias as houseplants (they’ll bloom year after year).
  •  “Treecycle” your holiday tree, wreaths and garland (natural only).
  • Recycle your old or broken holiday lights.
  • Recycle packaging and cards.
  • Save boxes, tissue paper, bows and ribbons for next year.
  • Donate gently used items to charities or thrift stores.

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

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