Tag Archives: waste reduction

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.


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.


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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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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How much trash do you send to the landfill?

trashThe answer depends on who you ask and how you define “trash.” There are two main sources for nationwide solid waste management data in the United States:

The two sources use different methodologies and as a result provide different answers to the question. The EPA determines the size of the waste stream using manufacturing production data, estimates of product imports and exports and estimated product life. Estimates for the generation of food and yard waste are based on sampling studies. EPA has used this methodology consistently for over 40 years, which allows for analyses of long-term trends. EPA defines “municipal solid waste” — or trash, as most of us call it — as everyday items such as product packaging, grass clippings, furniture, clothing, bottles, cans, food scraps, newspapers, appliances, consumer electronics and batteries. These items come from homes, institutions such as schools and hospitals, and commercial sources such as restaurants and small businesses. EPA’s definition does not include municipal wastewater treatment sludge, industrial process waste, automobile bodies, combustion ash or construction and demolition debris. The editors of BioCycle Magazine began a national survey in 1989 using state-gathered data from disposal, recycling and composting facilities. While this methodology uses actual tonnages, it should be noted that states do not define municipal solid waste consistently. For example, states often include non-hazardous solid wastes — such as construction and demolition debris and industrial waste — in their data, unlike the EPA. So, what is the answer to the original question? How much trash DO you send to the landfill?

  • EPA estimates that the average American produced 4.38 pounds of trash per day in 2012. About a third of that was recycled and the remaining 2.87 pounds were burned or sent to a landfill.
  • The latest BioCycle national survey, conducted by Columbia University, estimates that each person generated 6.84 pounds of trash per day in 2011. Again, approximately a third of that was recycled or composted and the remaining 4.86 pounds were burned or sent to a landfill.

Stay tuned for a post that will look closer to home and assess regional data to better answer this question.

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EPA releases new solid waste and recycling numbers

Since 1960, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has collected and reported data on the generation and disposal of waste in the United States. The EPA recently released figures for 2011, revealing long-term trends on what we are recycling and throwing away.

Long-term trends
What do these long-term trends show? In 1960, we generated 88 million tons of waste and recycled 6 percent of it (5.6 million tons). In 2011, we generated about 250 million tons of waste and recycled and composted about 87 million tons of it, for a recycling rate of 35 percent. But while we are recycling more, we are also generating more than we did in 1960.Line Graph showing amounts of waste Generated, Recycled, and Discarded- each in pounds per person. From 1960 - 2011.
How much of this increased generation can be attributed to population growth? If you take population into account, we find that individuals are recycling more and throwing away less than they did in 1960. Solid waste generation peaked in the year 2000.

Recycling in 2011
What are we best at recycling? Almost 84 percent of the 87 million tons we recycled was made up of paper and paperboard, yard trimmings and metals.

The EPA report also includes a breakdown of 2011 recycling rates of various products:

  • Auto batteries were recycled the most frequently, at 96.2 percent
  • Newspapers and mechanical paper made up 72.5 percent
  • Steel cans, 70.6 percent
  • Yard trimmings, 57.3 percent
  • Aluminum cans, 54.5 percent
  • Tires, 44.6 percent
  • Glass containers, 34.2 percent
  • PET bottles and jars, 29.2 percent
  • HDPE bottles, 21.0 percent

Pie Chart depicting the percentages of different materials that make up municipal Solid Waste RecoveryThe EPA estimates that our recycling reduced more than 183 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions (equal to the greenhouse gas emissions from 34 million passenger vehicles) and saved more than 1.1 quadrillion Btu of energy (enough to power 10 million U.S. households for a year).

Discards in 2011
What are we still throwing away? Food waste represents more than 21 percent of our discards (see an earlier blog about reducing your foodprint). After food, plastics weigh in at nearly 18 percent and paper and paperboard still makes up 15 percent.Pie Chart depicting the percentages of different materials that make up total discarded municipal Solid Waste

Learn more
Learn more about what we throw away nationally (fact sheet, full report and infographic) and what you can do to make a difference locally.

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Little Green Steps to waste less!

lgskcpt_FTR-320x180This is one of a series of posts for readers interested in the MARC Solid Waste Management District’s grant program.

In 2011, Kansas City Public Television (KCPT) received grant funding to develop the “Little Green Steps” campaign. The key message of the campaign is to demonstrate how just a few simple actions can help keep waste out of landfills.

The campaign consists of five 30-second vignettes using children to demonstrate how to take positive action through simple, daily choices: Play it Again, Bring Your Own, Get in the Loop, Pack Smart and Sort it Out. In addition to the video campaign, KCPT also developed a companion website where kids can create and submit their own waste reduction videos, learn more about waste reduction, and play waste reduction games.

The project earned KCPT a Mid-America EMMY in 2012 for Public Service Announcements. Visit Little Green Steps to watch the videos, play games and learn easy ways to reduce waste.


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Recycling survey finds increased participation and increased support

67percentBinnyIf you build it, they will come. If you make it easy they will recycle.

A recent survey shows that 67 percent of area residents are recycling more compared to five years ago, in large part because it has become easier as curbside recycling is now widely available. Familiarity and satisfaction with recycling services are increasing as well.  With this increased awareness, the region is also seeing increased support for expanding and improving waste reduction and recycling services.

Between October 2012 and January 2013, the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) Solid Waste Management District conducted a recycling survey of residents in the nine-county Kansas City metro area. The survey results will help the district evaluate current recycling activities and awareness, determine what recycling services residents would like to see in the future, and determine focus areas for expanded services and outreach priorities.  The district also compared results with 2005 and 2008 survey data to determine how citizens’ values, behavior and awareness levels have changed.

The survey results also show an increase in support for overall improvements to solid waste management. Some key findings:

  • The top services that residents would like to see offered or expanded include materials accepted curbside, household hazardous waste collection, glass container recycling services, and computers/electronics recycling services.
  • 58 percent of area residents are “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to recycle their food waste curbside.
  • There is a significant increase in support for area local governments to implement mandatory recycling for residents, businesses and institutions.
  • More than 90 percent of area residents feel local government should have a leadership or supportive role in educating residents about and developing policies on waste reduction and recycling.
  • 60 percent of area residents are “very willing” or “somewhat willing” to pay for their trash services based on the amount of trash they set out for disposal, i.e., adopting a pay-as-you-throw system of solid waste collection.

The full survey is available online.

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Two Decades of Support for Local Waste Reduction and Recycling

Grant types awarded since 1993

Grant types awarded since 1993

One of the most important things the MARC Solid Waste Management District’s does is to provide financial support to projects in our region that reduce the 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. Since the grant program started in 1993, the District has awarded more than $7 million in local grants to support 261 projects carried out by public, private and nonprofit organizations. The wide range of activities we support generally falls into five complementary areas: waste reduction, recycling, composting, education and market development.

  • Waste reduction addresses the challenges of finding new uses for materials before they become “waste.” These funds often go to organizations that accept contributions of used and salvaged materials. Examples of these grantees include Habitat Restore, the Surplus Exchange and Revolve Community Bike Shop.
  • Funds awarded for recycling and composting aim to develop and grow the regional collection and processing infrastructure. District resources have been used to create drop-off recycling centers in communities; develop municipal yard waste collection sites; purchase equipment such as tub grinders and balers for processing collected material; and purchase vehicles for organizations to collect and transport recyclables.
  • The grants issued for education help build awareness of the benefits of waste reduction and recycling, and inform people about opportunities to reduce waste. A variety of formal and informal programs have been developed to educate residents, businesses, schools and local governments.
  • Market development fosters businesses that manufacture and market recycled-content products and strengthens consumer demand for those products. Market development can include, for example, expanding the processing and remanufacturing capacity of recycling businesses to handle the increasing volume of collected recyclables.

We are very proud of 2013′s group of grant recipients and excited about their projects. I hope you will take a few minutes to learn more about the District grant program. The District could not accomplish its waste diversion goals without our grantees. In future posts I’ll highlight some of their individual accomplishments.

Here is a list of our 2013 grant projects:

  • Atlas Glass: $30,240 to purchase a trailer for loading glass picked up at curbside, and educational materials promoting curbside service.
  • Sleepyhead Beds: $30,252 for transportation costs associated with picking up mattresses otherwise headed for the landfill, and dropping them off for children who do not have beds.
  • City of Platte City: $33,765 toward a new truck for curbside recycling with carts.
  • Southeast Enterprises: $30,000 to support transportation costs associated with a regional holiday light recycling program.
  • Cass County Sustainability Committee: $16,800 to promote Cass County’s drop-off recycling program, located in multiple municipalities.
  • Park University: $11,700 to support a project coordinator, service fees and educational efforts for the university’s new food waste composting program.
  • Nelson Atkins Museum of Art: $14,819 for recycling containers at the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden and environs.
  • The Rehabilitation Institute: $55,145 for a donations coordinator, a half-time driver for pick up and a fork lift to support the second year of a successful book recycling project.
  • Missouri Organic Recycling: $44,785 to support coordinator salary, outreach materials, truck lease and bags to support recycling and composting at 8-12 local public events.
  • JobOne: $11,782 to support the expansion of JobOne’s drop-off recycling program in Grandview. Funds will support costs for a forklift and outreach material.
  • St. Teresas Academy: $4,000 to purchase six outdoor recycling containers for collecting plastic bottles and cans at the school’s new outdoor track, also used by community members.
  • Truman Heritage Habitat: $22,880 salary for a driver for pick-up of material for the new Habitat ReStore.
  • Bridging The Gap: $36,760 to support marketing for the new Midwest Materials Exchange program, an on-line market place for by-product materials.
  • Jerusalem Farm: $11,646 for a residential food-waste composting program in Pendelton Heights, a KC neighborhood in the Northeast.
  • Revolve: $18,300 salary for a bicycle mechanic to ensure bikes collected are moving out and either reused or recycled. Funds also cover some outreach costs and tools.
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MARC Solid Waste Management District — Planning the future of your trash

Did you know that your Missouri city is part of a Solid Waste Management District (SWMD)? The Mid-America Regional Council’s SWMD was formed in 1990 when Cass, Clay, Jackson and Platte counties in Missouri decided to work together to increase resource recovery, decrease the volume of waste going to landfills, and encourage regional planning for solid waste management. Ray County joined the district in 1995. The district now serves five counties and more than 80 cities in Missouri.

Our Mission

The MARC Solid Waste Management District administers a solid waste grant program for waste reduction, reuse and recycling projects. Many cities and counties, nonprofit organizations, businesses and schools have used this grant program. The district also supports the collection and disposal of household hazardous waste through contracts with two permanent collection facilities and a number of mobile collection events. A number of public education initiatives aimed at reducing the amount of waste the region sends to area landfills have been developed by the district. (Have you seen Eco Elvis get “All Shook Up” over recycling?) The district also manages the RecycleSpot.org website and a recycling hotline that provide residents information on recycling opportunities in the region.

Learn more about the SWMD, how it was formed, how it’s funded and governed on our website.


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