Thursday, April 30, 2015

Plastofuel™ for the future

This is interesting:  Since plastics and resin based materials require such a large amount of crude oil to be manufactured, it only makes sense that these products can then be turned around for a similar use as crude oil, energy production.  Where crude oil has made up a good amount of fuel for energy (along with coal, wind, solar, water, etc.), wouldn’t it be great if instead of plastics sitting in a land fill for eons, all these little bits can be used for a clean burning energy source? Well the folks over at Penn State University have developed ways to do this very thing.  PSU researcher James Garthe came up with the concept of Plastofuel back in 1994.  Essentially they have created a way to turn un-recycled plastics into a byproduct that can be used in what they call Eco-Clean burners to produce clean energy.  It produces lower emissions than fuel oil while still producing the same amount of energy.  The thermoplastic fuel source is cleaner in that it is burned at 2000˚F; this affectively eliminates harmful black smoke emissions often found when burning plastics at lower temperatures.  Although it has been put to the test and has proven to be an excellent source of energy, the costs for commercialization are still yet unconfirmed and there is plenty more developing to be done.  




Monday, April 27, 2015

Seven ways to recycle plastic you may not have thought of!

You may or may not have thought about different ways to recycle plastic bags or plastic products. Sure, you can do the traditional recycling and put your used plastic bags and other products into the blue generic cycling bins, or you do some of these different, creative ways to recycle to mix things up a little bit! It's always fun to try something new and different when it comes to recycling, not only can it be an interesting experiment, but it's equally good for the environment! Here are seven surprising and creative ways to dispose of plastic that everyone should try at least once!

 1. "Reverse" Vending Machines

PepsiCo Dream Machine is one machine that doesn't distribute soda or beverages of any kind. Instead, this machine will collect empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans! In return for recycling, the machine gives points that are redeemable at Greenopolis.com, one of Pepsi's online partners.  This site gives recyclers discounts and coupons for various retailers and can be found in grocery stores, gas stations, and parks. Currently most of the machines are concentrated in Southern California and North Carolina but are becoming a trend and expanding across the rest of America!

2. Re-Gift Card Kiosk

Best Buy is now providing a service for gift card users in order to encourage recycling across the country. Once you find yourself overwhelmed with used gift cards, you can take them to Best Buy and drop them off at their gift-card-recycling kiosks. Although gift cards don't seem like much, and throwing them in the trash may not seem like a huge deal, gift cards are made of one of the most toxic plastics, PVC, or polyvinyl chloride. The production of PVC releases cancer-causing elements into the atmosphere, and then builds up in our good supply. It is very important to start recycling this cards because currently, more than 75 million pounds of PVC from gift cards are entering our waste stream every year! This is a trend that needs to come to an end. 

3. Recycle on the Road

Road trips are a popular trend among Americans, always trying to get to new places and see new things seems to be everyone's favorite thing to do all throughout the year. We've all been in a situation where we stop at a gas station or rest stop, and ten miles later our cars are full of garbage. There a few options for environmentally conscientious travelers to dispose of this trash,  Speedway SuperAmerica started a recycling program, installing recycling bins at most of its gas stations around Kentucky. If you don't plan on being in the Kentucky area, you can always get rid of your trash in a Dream Machines (see point #1), or take them to a nearby highway rest stop, both of these options are very good resources. In some states, like California and Wisconsin,  new recycling programs are required at all state-operated rest areas! If all else fails, bring an extra garbage bag with you to hold your recyclables from the trip until you get home and dispose of them then! 

4. Return to Sender

If you find yourself with extra electronics on your hands, there are perfectly good alternatives you can access if you don't have a responsible e-waste recyclers in your area! Instead of just throwing away your used electronics, stop by your local post office. The U.S. Postal Service has teamed up with Clover Technologies Group  to create a recycling program that lets consumers freely recycle of inkjet cartridges, PDAs, BlackBerries, digital cameras, iPods, and MP3 players (all made with plastic). There are roughly 1,500 post offices in the United States that are now participating in the program. In addition to allowing free recycling, Post Offices are offering free envelopes and allowing users to mail in whatever item they choose to recycle, as ways as paying for postage!

5. Get Rewarded for Recycling

I found this to be one of the most interesting ways to recycle your recyclables. It's such a simple, yet rewarding idea on multiple levels. Recylebank gives your recycling bin a special ID tag, allowing it to be tracked. After being tracked, recyclers are rewarded points that can be used at Origins, CVS, and Whole Foods.

6. Keep Sporting Goods in Play

Being a big time sports fan and former athlete, I am always upset when I see old, used gear being thrown out when there are much better alternatives. You might be surprised to hear just how many different types of recycling programs there are used gear! For instance, if you need to get rid of old swim caps, you can send them to Ecoathlete, and they will turn your cap into a pair of flip-flops.  Another very good option is The Stearling Rope Company, that turns out rope into dog collars and Key chains. Additionally, Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe program grinds up old athletic shoes, collected through the mail or at Nike stores, and turns them into new sneakers or athletic surfaces such as running tracks. There is always the option of taking used gear to old sporting good stores like Play it Again Sports or Freecycle.

7. Precycle

The last creative way to recycle plastics is to precycle, or in other words, find new uses for stuff you’d normally toss out. There are all sorts of websites on the Internet that show creative ways to reuse everyday items, such as cartons and t-shirts, as well as various other household things. Lifehacker.com, Pinterest, and Familyfun.go.com all offer fun, creative DIY projects that allow people to get rid of and use stuff you'd typical want to throw out. As an alternative to throwing out your used stuff, get creative and make something completely new!

Regardless of your choice of recycling, make sure to recycle and not just throw out your used plastic. Not only will recycling give you that feeling of doing something good, which is always amazing, recycling prevents dangerous chemicals from getting into the atmosphere and building up. Whether you want to gain a reward for recycling and use Recyclback or get really crafty and precycle, just make sure you are recycling and doing your part for the environment. 


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fun little survey about plastic

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1pQevo4JsI_oeCawgGkGMpquDWnAbeocbjj-AQyDZBow/viewform?usp=send_form

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Bottle Debate; weighing the pro’s and con’s


         As our society is continuing to grow and advance, with the constant improvement come some side effects. It is now possible to buy containers for food, or water (even already filled) for a dollar in change. With the many conveniences of these containers, however, can come some drawbacks.

         Containers all have their own pros and cons, some downsides being health risks, but some plus sides being very low cost and durability. With an emphasis on water bottles, what is the best choice? I supposed that depends on the definition of "best", but here are some pros and cons for you to decide that yourself.

Glass Bottles; The good

1.    Glass containers are non-permeable and do not absorb color and odor from food or drinks.

2.   Glass is better for the environment, and can be used near indefinitely without changing its shape and durability. Glass can be recycled without losing its quality, so most glass bottle purchases are buying a product made from recycled glass.

3.    Glass lasts extremely long and doesn’t need to be replaced as often, and will save money over time.


While glass has many taste, environmental, health, and finance benefits, there are still negatives to consider. The major problems outlined ahead.

Glass Bottles; The bad

1. High danger of broken glass
2. Not all glass is recyclable
3. Glass bottles cannot be frozen with water in them.
4. May be initially more expensive (especially if repeatedly broken)



Now we come to the generic, most used plastic bottle. That may not be a good thing however. The benefits of plastic bottles are





Plastic Bottle; The good
1.      Cheapest to buy
2.      Variety of sizes, and can be frozen

Plastic Bottle; The bad
1.      Not safe for hot liquids or microwaves
2.      Most plastic still has BPA (bisphenol A) which causes heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure.

3.      Scientific studies show that the chemicals in plastic break down and leach into the food or drink they are storing, especially when heated, allowing chemicals to be consumed.

4.      Almost every time a plastic bottle or container is purchased, it is made using new plastic.


Among these first two of the most usual purchased water bottles, are some new party guests. These include both stainless steel and aluminum water bottles.

Stainless Steel Bottle; The good
1.      Durable, high-quality design
2.      No plastic toxins to worry about
3.      More sizes and colors becoming available
4.      Generally dishwasher safe

Stainless Steel Bottle; The bad
1.      May dent if dropped
2.      Possible metallic taste
3.      Heats up in summer temperatures
4.      A lot of these have aluminum inside or plastic caps, both, which contain BPA.
5.      Must be a "full" stainless steel bottle including interior. Also must be "food grade" or else it will not be.


Aluminum Bottles; The good
1.      Light-weight
2.      "Cool" looking

Aluminum Bottles; The bad
1.      Most aluminum water bottles are not BPA free. Bottles marked "BPA free" may contain the chemical. Recently however bottles were tested in Canada and a brand claiming to be BPA free contained the chemical. They may also have plastic linings inside which leaks into water.
2.      Easily dents
3.      Difficult to clean


With all the risks and benefits of the bottles choosing the one for your lifestyle can be difficult. I personally would choose a sturdy glass bottle with a silicone case to protect yourself from harm should it break. Second choice would be the Stainless Steele bottle should you find one that is 100% food grade steel interior.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Paper or .... Paper?

In Oct 2013 Portland Or, passed a city wide ban on the use of plastic bags. This was an effort to drastically reduce the amount of energy and product wasted on a mostly single use Item. This ban seemed to have caused quite a reaction within the city, although I don't think anyone would argue that plastic bags aren't a waste of materials, energy and production costs, it begs the question do we really know what goes into a typical plastic bag, and how much of an impact are we making by choosing not to use them? This provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the use and production of these items and why the city took such drastic measures to stop the wide use of them. 

Plastic bags come with a huge environmental impact, spanning from large energy consumption, limited life span, rapidly increasing landfill percentage, and an in ability to biodegrade naturally. This isn't news to anyone, however the single use mentality of these items seems to so ingrained in most people’s daily life that we tend to forget about these huge impacts that we are making everyday. Plastic bags can be used for so much more than the act of transporting groceries to ones house. A quick google search reveals plenty of ways to re use these bags. In a perfect world we would all make a conscious effort to reduce our use, and waste of plastic bags, however it is clear that we have yet to do so as a whole.


The city of Portland  took matters into there own hands after trying to place a ban on plastic bags for some time. Watching the success in other cities in America, the city council voted “5-0 to phase out plastic checkout bags at an estimated 5,000 restaurants and retailers, including food carts, farmers markets and corner stores”. (Slovic, Beth) This forces the people of Portland to choose paper bags or reusable bags when shopping. Lots of Portlanders have risen to the challenge and started only using reusable bags, to mitigate the waste of plastic as well as paper bags. The ban has greatly reduced the use and waste of plastic bags within Portland’s city limits. Hopefully with all the effort given into reducing the cities’ consumption of plastic bags shoppers will reflect on the impact they are having and start incorporating the reuse mentality to other items such as the paper bag they are given instead of the once plastic bag. 


Recycling made easy...For kids!

One of the largest groups of our population are children. While some may underestimate their resourcefulness, they have the ability to make a change for our environment's future.

Kids, you have a chance to make a difference by recycling plastics responsibly!

What is recycling? Recycling means taking old discarded materials and finding a way to make new products with them.

Where can I recycle? You can look online to find your nearest recycling center or contact your local city for recycling options. You can also find ways to recycle on your own, by reusing plastics in your home for crafts, storage, etc.

Some of the sites you can use for recycling ideas are: 

National Institute of Environmental Health Scienceshttp://kids.niehs.nih.gov/explore/reduce/

Everyone's actions make a difference. Start recycling plastics today! 
Here are a couple things YOU can do to get started:

1. If your city does not have a recycling program, write a letter to your local city leaders asking them to add a recycling program.
2. Talk to your neighbors about collecting old plastic containers and other materials that they may be regularly just throwing away. 

With spring and summer upon us, here are a couple ways to reuse plastics you have around the house.

 You can create planters for various plants: 

 Or create a bird feeder:
 You can also repurpose old plastics into new toys!

It is important to have a way to safely recycle old plastics and other materials. Talk to an adult for more ideas and work together to keep our environment free of excess plastic waste!


Plastics: Compostable, Biodegradable, and Degradable

     Apparently there are very distinct characteristics of these three terms: Compostable, Biodegradable, and Degradable.  First off, plastics can be made into any of these three categories which is wonderful news for the future of this planet (well that is if everybody decided to go the compostable route).  To be compostable, plastic must undergo strict regulations during its degradation.  It must: biodegrade (break down into: water, carbon dioxide, and biomass at the same rate as paper); disintegrate so that it is no longer distinguishable within the mass of broken down materials; and it cannot leave any toxic residue after the process of composting.  Oh yeah, and the most important part, it must be capable of future plant growth.  As for biodegradable plastics, they just need to be able to be broken down by microorganisms like bacteria in a natural setting.  With this type of plastic, though, there is not yet a requirement for how long it takes for the process for biodegrading to occur, so theoretically it could take many years to break down and still be called biodegradable.  And degradable simply means it will undergo some change in its chemical make-up overtime, but there is no regulation on how long it takes to break down or how much of a toxic foot print it leaves on the Earth. All of this information stated above can be found in the first link below.

     Making plastics compostable is a wonderful step in the right direction, but is creating compostable plastics really helping the environment?  When I first noticed compostable plastics at the hotel I work at, we were able to sort the utensils, cups, etc. into the compost bin.  However, it was only a few months later when the waste management company my work goes through told us to no longer throw those into the compost bin, but rather they will have to be placed in the trash.  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose?  Yes and no.  First of all compostable plastics will still go under biodegradation where it will break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass over time.  It will take longer than in these processing plants, but it will still occur.  The problem then is these items are being thrown into the trash where they will sit in a landfill and not be recycled as per their intended purpose; no beneficial plant production from its decomposition.  I also recently walked into a health-food grocery store where the cafeteria had three or four bins for sorted food waste.  There was a sign over the compost bin, however, that said to not place the utensils (compostable plastics) into the compost bin and rather to place them in the trash.  I feel that creating compostable plastics is a step in the right direction for sure, and the thinking is righteous, but how can we create a more efficient way to get rid of these items?  Why are they no longer allowed in with the other compostables?

     One huge problem lies in the misunderstandings of identification of compostable plastics by not only the home consumer, but by the larger companies that run facilities to break down and recycle these products.  A good step would be to make sure all products are easily recognizable so that the recyclers can place items where they need to go.  Compostable plastics are still in their infancy and there are kinks still yet needing to be worked out.  






Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Cleaning Plastic Recyclables

Have you ever wondered just how important it is to clean the plastics you put in your recycling? There have been times where I spent a good ten minutes rinsing and scraping all the peanut butter residue out of the container, and found myself wondering: Maybe using all of this hot water is hurting the environment more than me recycling this container is helping! Well, the research on the subject indicates that there is a point when it becomes hazardous to use too much water, but there’s also a point where if something is too dirty, it may not get recycled at all. Every city and state has their own unique regulations, but according to Portland’s recycling professionals down at Portland Metro, the cleaner it is, the easier it is to recycle, which makes them more productive workers and the enterprise a more profitable endeavor, which means more money and resources towards making the world a cleaner place.
Here are a couple of tips from another recycling professional, Your’s Truly. First off, why’s there so much residue left in the container? I had this pointed out to me the last time I was doing my peanut butter cleaning ritual. There shouldn’t be much of a need for cleaning out containers if you are utilizing the product for all the nourishment that it’s worth. Spatulas work wonders when it comes to getting down to that last drop. And for the containers with wider openings that have little nooks and crannies that the spatula can’t get to, I simply take a piece of bread and soak it up (hummus, artichoke dip, etc). Then all it takes is a quick rinse and into the recycling bin it goes! And for those worst case scenarios where nothing seems to work, drop a dab of soap in the container, add some water and let it soak overnight. The folks down at your local recycling plant will appreciate it!
Below is the website for Portland Metro’s recycling standards. For those of you not in the area, I would encourage you to find out more about your local recycling facilities. There’s a world of helpful information out there that is literally right at our fingertips. Thanks for reading and happy recycling!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Plastic Water Bottles- More Expensive than we Think

We see plastic water bottles everywhere. They're sold for dollars at supermarkets, in bulk at Costco, and even given out free at some events. They conveniently carry beverages for us and are easy to toss (or recycle!). At what price do we pay for such a cheap commodity?

An article on reusable water bottles says that bottled water can cost anywhere from 240 to 10,000 times more per gallon than the price of tap water. Even more intriguing is that if you look at the price per gallon of water, you will pay more for single-use bottles than for gasoline! See the link below for the article.

Plastic water bottles are not only more expensive than tap water, they can be more dangerous too.
The Federal Government strictly regulates the tap water we drink. Bottled water, on the other hand, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration with much less stringent rules, and only regulates 30-40% of bottled water sold across state lines.

By purchasing a reusable water bottle, you can save your hard-earned cash and protect your health. Having your own reusable water bottle can also be fun! Its a personal item that can be customized to your liking. I personally love Klean Kanteen water bottles. They're made with stainless steal and are incredibly durable. They are also a member of the 1% of the Planet, who pledge to contribute 1% of their annual sales to nonprofit organizations working to protect, preserve, and restore the natural environment. They can be purchased at www.kleankanteen.com.


The following article makes some great points about how a reusable water bottle can benefit you and the planet, and can be read at:
http://www.healthebay.org/blogs-news/reusable-water-bottles-triple-bonus


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Plastic Types and Classifications

http://www.qualitylogoproducts.com/lib/different-types-of-plastic.htm

After reading the above article on plastic types, it has become apparent that the issue of plastic causing destruction is not quite so simple. There are numerous types and variations, and each has its own unique characteristics.

1: Plastic labeled with this number can often take on the scent of what was stored inside of it, and is common to recycle. Some of your favorite household items may use this kind of plastic, such as a peanut butter jar or comb.

2: This type of plastic is considered to be very safe and very common. It may be used of soap bottles or even a water bottle, and can be recycled.

3: A plastic labeled with a 3 is often used for plumbing pipes and is not frequently recycled. It is considered very harmful if it is injected.

4: In some areas, this kind of plastic is recyclable. It is frequently used for products to store food such as a sandwich bag or plastic wrap, and is not known to release dangerous chemicals into the items inside of it.

5: This is a more durable kind of plastic, yeti so not as commonly accepted for recycling. It is commonly found in Tupperware or tools like ice scrapers that greatly vary in temperature.

6: It is highly innefient to recycle this kind of plastic. Items such as plastic cutlery and styrofoam are made using this plastic.

7: The plastic items that fall into this category differ greatly from the othe six types. They are difficult to recycle and make items such as baby bottles and large water bottles.

It is important to know the different types of plastic in order to consider the difficulty in how it is recycled. Each can be thought of when making simple purchases.