The Economic Benefit of Recycling

 

By: Mary Pat Baldauf 

RecycleMoreSC is a statewide campaign that promotes the economic and environmental benefits of recycling. It’s also a call to action challenging residents, businesses, organizations and local governments to do their part to recycle more. The campaign’s goal is to reach a 40 percent recycling rate by the year 2020.

Recycling is a good practice not only for the environment but also for the present and future economic climate of the state. A study released by the College of Charleston shows that recycling has a $13 million impact on the state’s economy. In addition, more than 50,000 direct and indirect jobs are associated with the recycling industry.

To reach the “40 by 2020” goal, it will take South Carolinians (like me and you) to recycle and to recycle correctly. The process has changed a lot, especially since curbside recycling began some 28 years ago. Even if you’ve been recycling forever, there are some things you need to know. Take a moment to review these three important links before you recycle again.

If you’re rushed for time, perhaps the most important link to review is Recycling’s Dirty Dozen.

Thanks for doing your part to help South Carolina’s economy and the environment through recycling.

Do you recycle? Why or why not? Does RecycleMoreSC motivate you to recycle and/or recycle more?  

Partnership Transforms Plastic Bags to Help Those in Need

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you’re like me, you start off with the best of intentions when it comes to using reusable shopping bags. You have a cute set conveniently tucked into your cargo area or trunk – my favorites are Queen of Green bags from Lilly Pulitzer. But if you’re like me, those great bags don’t always make it back into the car. Then, in a moment of eco-embarrassment, you end up using the plastic bags from the store, only to get home and find they seem to multiply tenfold in a matter of days.

Plastic bags may be “free” at the grocery store, but they have a huge cost for the environment. They:

  1. Litter our landscapes, clog waterways and jam expensive equipment at the recycling recovery facilities.
  2. Migrate to the ocean via local waterways, where some 100,000 marine animals ingest them and die each year.
  3. Waste energy and create greenhouse gas emissions during the manufacturing process.
  4. Jam expensive sorting machines at the recycling recovery and sorting facility.

What if you could use your plastic bags for good?  Thanks to Operation Bed Roll, you can. Operation Bed Roll is a local collaboration designed to keep non-recyclable materials out of our landfills, engage our citizens in a community-wide maker project and provide the chronically homeless with a better place to sleep. They transform thousands of plastic grocery bags into plastic yarn aka plarn to create crocheted sleeping mats that provide an insulated barrier for those whose circumstances result in sleeping on the ground.

Operation Bed Roll consists of ten partners: Sonoco Recycling, Environmental Education Association of SC (EEASC), United Way of the Midlands, Sustainable Midlands, City of Columbia, EdVenture Children’s Museum, Art Ecologie Group and countless community volunteers: schools, retirement communities, churches, artists, Scout troops and more.  They adopted the project from a similar one in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The average American uses 500-700 plastic grocery bags each year, and that’s about the same number it takes to create a bed roll. And while a recycled bag might not be your idea of luxury, they are lightweight, easy to carry, dry quickly and don’t attract bed bugs and provide insulation for those who sleep on the ground. (A bed roll has been found to keep users 10 to 20 degrees warmer than sleeping on the bare ground.)

I participate in Operation Bed Roll as a bag collector and plarn maker. I love the diversity of volunteers and partners involved as well as the simple sustainability of the project. It takes something that’s designed to be used for a mere 12 minutes and creates something practical and lasting for those less fortunate. And when the bed rolls wear out, they can be recycled with other plastic bags at grocery store plastic bag recycling containers.

Since beginning in January of this year, Operation Bed Roll volunteers have created over twenty “plarn” sleeping mats, saving approximately 15,000 plastic shopping bags from the landfill. Those mats are being distributed to the chronically homeless by United Way of the Midlands.

Operation Bed Roll’s goal is to produce another 80 mats between now and the fall, when the weather will get cooler again. You can help in many ways:

  1. Donating your plastic bags (used only, please; getting new ones defeats the purpose).
  2. Cutting plastic bags into strips.
  3. Linking strips together to create plarn.
  4. Donating plarn to knitters.
  5. Using your crocheting skills to create bed rolls.

For more information, visit OBR’s Facebook page or email the group at operationbedrollsc@gmail.com.

Easy Ways to Green Your Cleaning

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Earth Day is the perfect time to discuss green cleaning, the growing trend of using environmentally-friendly ingredients and/or packaging for your household cleaning.

Green cleaning

Why does green cleaning matter? Consider this:
• Some cleaning products contain ingredients that pose health hazards and/or harm to the environment.
• Cleaning products are frequently involved in home poisoning, many involving children under the age of five.
• According to the US EPA, levels of pollutants indoors can be two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors, and the number one culprit for indoor pollution is our use of cleaning products.

Contrary to popular belief, green cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. Here are some quick and easy tips that you can start implementing today.

1. Look for products in containers that are:
• Minimally packaged
• Recyclable in your curbside or drop-off recycling program
• Recycled content, preferably post-consumer
• Large (a gallon instead of four quarts)
• Refillable
• Pump sprays (not aerosols)

2. Purchase products that you reuse instead of throwing away:
• Buy rags or cloths instead of paper towels and wipes.
• Use a mop, not one-use wet floor wipes
• Select a feather or static duster instead of disposable dusters
• Use a traditional toilet brush, not clean once and flush scrubbers

3. Look for eco-friendly ingredients like grain alcohol (instead of toxic butyl cellosolve), plant oils (rather than petroleum) and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus (not triclosan).

4. Avoid toxic ingredients such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, antibacterials, ammonia, butyl cellosolve, butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl, chlorine bleach, d-limonene, diethanolamine and triethanolamine.

5. Be on the lookout for “greenwashing,” misleading claims regarding product eco-standards. There are no standards for words like nontoxic, eco-safe, environmentally friendly, natural and green. Read the labels and research products before purchasing them, and look for third-party certification. Also note that unless you compost them, biodegradable containers end up in the landfill, where very few things ever degrade.

6. Make your own cleaners with ingredients you already have in your cabinets. These cleaners are less expensive, safer and more environmentally friendly. One of the best sources I’ve found is Apartment Therapy’s 25 Green Cleaning Recipes for the Entire House.

Let me know what you think about green cleaning! Are you already using some of these tips around your home? If so, how do they work for you? If not, which one(s) are you willing to try? Do you have a tried and true recipe for green cleaning? Please share it!

“Going Green” is More Than a Slogan

By:  Elizabeth Webber Akre

I was in the 10th grade.  Yes, that would be approximately 1984.  I was giving an oral report in Mrs. Sutton’s science class about recycling.  I had done a lot of research.  I knew what I was talking about.  As I gave my report, I looked out over a sea of blank stares and open mouths.  No one knew what on Earth I was talking about.

Oh sure, we knew about taking your glass bottles back to the store so they could be reused. Remember the deposits you used to have to pay on them?  We were starting to hear about being able to recycle aluminum cans.  But at that time, the only place my sister and I could locate in Columbia to recycle was way over on Fontaine Road.  It was a pretty heavy-duty, industrial type recycling company, but they would take our measly trash bags of cans along with the truckloads of metals that were delivered there.  Curbside recycling wasn’t even a suggestion at this point.  And, the only thing I knew then about plastics was to avoid them. This was my closing line in my report to my dumbfounded classmates:  use cloth diapers so our grandchildren aren’t wading around in a sea of dirty Pampers that won’t break down.  Crickets and tumbleweeds.  But, I got an A.  Even being an amateur, thanks to my research, I did know what I was talking about.

Here we are almost 30 years later and thankfully, the concept of recycling and reusing is not only well-known, but has become main stream.  My kindergartener was chosen to make the announcement over the loudspeaker for the school’s “No Trash Lunch Week.”  The City of Columbia has added cardboard recycling to our curbside program.  Now, we need bigger bins.  Once upon a time, “plain paper” recycling was hard to come by; now even my church has a blue recycling bin in the vestibule for all the church bulletins after the service.

I want to share a website with you.  I discovered this site a year or so ago.  It’s called Recyclebank.  You earn points by watching (very short) videos about ways to recycle, reduce, reuse and generally “green up” your everyday world.  Just today, I learned that 90% of the imported cut flowers come from Latin America.  That means, rather than employing our own people to grow flowers and ferns in greenhouses, we are buying them from other countries who then have to load them up on planes and fly them around the world.  That’s just crazy.  I had no idea.  I also learned today that Dasani water bottles contain 30% plant-based material.  I’m not exactly sure how it works, but I think it’s cool.  As you learn these lessons, you accumulate points.  What’s that for, you ask?  You can then use them to get really good coupons (like $2 off Kashi!) or free offers, or make donations.  For instance, for 250 points, you can donate a tree through American Forests.  It’s a cool thing, indeed.  Click here to check it out.

Wasn’t it Kermit the Frog who sang “It isn’t easy being green?”  Well, it’s getting a lot easier these days, but we still have a long way to go.  Check out Recyclebank and see what you can do in your own home to help “Go Green.”

Give Recycling a Leg Up!

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

This post combines three of my favorite things: recycling, weight loss via healthy living and Lexington Medical Center!

Now that it’s finally cooler, I’ve been unpacking my winter clothes. Because everything is now too big, I’ve had to make several piles: consign, donate, and share. Everything fits in those three piles except for those tights and panty hose I packed away; I mean, does anyone really want to wear secondhand hose?

That’s why I was thrilled to find out, quite by accident via Twitter, that you can now recycle panty hose! That’s right! No Nonsense recently announced the first pantyhose recycling program – a step toward a greener planet and one that most women can easily take.

You can’t toss your old hose in the recycling bin or take them to the recycling center, but it’s really pretty easy. First download a mailing label. Then round up your pantyhose, nylon knee highs and tights and box them up. (Yes, they’ll accept all brands.) Take your box to the nearest shipping location and send it on its way. Your old hose will eventually be turned into new things like park benches, playground equipment, carpets, ropes and even toys. Read all about the program here.

What does this have to do with Lexington Medical Center (LMC)? When it comes to health care, LMC takes the lead in environmental sustainability and stewardship. Here are just a few of the things LMC does for the environment:

  • Reduces emissions by employing a bicycle safety patrol
  • Promotes good air quality by allowing telecommuting for transcriptionists and other employees
  • Improves indoor air quality by using green cleaning products
  • Reduces land-filling by recycling everything from cardboard to cooking oil

Let’s take our cue from LMC and do what we can to create a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Whether it’s recycling your pantyhose or making other good choices, it all adds up!