Earth Day Neighborhood Trash Pickup

The Seeds of Green team hosted a neighborhood trash pickup on Earth Day, April 22, 2010. Eight people volunteered their lunch hour to roam the streets of Scott’s Addition, collecting trash ranging from the expected (cans and bottles) to the unexpected (a big pile of broken ceramic figurines and ashtrays), to the unmentionable (don’t ask!). Ten bags of trash were collected, totaling approximately 200 pounds of unsightly litter removed from the streets (believe it – that stuff was heavy!). Thanks again to all of our volunteers!

Organic Insecticide Products

Need a way to control insect pests in your garden or on your plants? One organic insecticide product that I’ve found effective is “Safer” Brand Insect Killing Soap, manufactured by Woodstream Corp. ( It’s available locally at Southern States (Lowe’s has a similar product called “Garden Safe” Insecticidal Soap).

Recycling’s Dirty Dozen

Here are the Top 12 Mistakes people make when it comes to curbside single-stream recycling (list courtesy of Boulder, Colorado’s Ecocycle Times).

  1. Plastic Bags: Plastic bags are far and away the WORST contaminant in the recycling bin. They are not recyclable through the curbside program. Plastic bag markets require that these materials be clean, dry and empty. Once they go in a commingled bin, they definitely do not meet the first two criteria. Mountains of wet, soiled plastic bags are pulled out by hand each week and sent to the landfill. Please keep bags out of your curbside bin and recycle them at participating grocery stores like Ukrops and Walmart. Better yet, purchase some reusable grocery bags. Here’s a great video from a recycling facility in Boulder, Colorado to illustrate the fact.  (If you’re having trouble viewing the video, here’s the link:
  1. Materials Bagged in Plastic Bags: The only thing worse than plastic bags are materials tied inside them. Workers need to slow the conveyor belts, rip the bags open toget recyclables out and then add the bag to the plastic pile bound for the landfill. These inefficiencies are very costly to the program.
  2. Non-Recyclable Plastics: CVWMA accepts narrow-necked plastic bottles labeled with a number 1 or number 2 ONLY. This includes many soda and water bottles, milk and juice jugs, and household cleaner bottles. Plastics with other numbers or 1 and 2 plastics that are not bottles (like margarine tubs and other food containers) are not recyclable in this program. They are from the same family of plastics, but the two forms have been slightly modified to achieve different properties for strength, fluidity, crack resistance, etc. Even when the plastic number is the same, the manufacturing processes to create those qualities make the two containers incompatible. Including these incompatible materials in recycle bin contaminates the rest of the batch causing it to be disposed in the landfill.
  3. Plastic Lids and Caps: Plastic caps are NOT recyclable and are a significant contaminant, both on and off the bottle. Tossed in separate from the bottle, they are not pulled out by the processing screens and contaminate both the glass and the plastic materials.
  4. Caps and Lids Left on the Containers: Left on the bottle, caps and lids of all kinds are frequently keeping liquid inside the container (see hit list item #6). Please remove and recycle separately metal caps and lids. Please THROW AWAY plastic lids!
  5. Liquids: Liquids trapped in containers with the lids on creates a mess at the recycling center when these materials are baled. It’s difficult to compress the sealed containers and the liquid explodes all over the floor, creating a stickystew with a stench. Please help avoid this mess and pour your liquids out before tossing the container in the bin, and please do a quick rinse of all containers to remove soda pop and other sticky leftovers.
  6. Ceramics and Non-Recyclable Glass: Glass that isn’t a bottle or jar should not go inthe bin! Ceramic, china plates or cups, dishes, mirrors, laboratory glassware, light bulbs, Pyrex, porcelain and window glass have a different melting point and chemical composition from container glass and ruin new glass containers. If our market sees just one contaminant like these on the top of a load of glass, the entire load willlikely be rejected.
  7. Diapers and Other Bio-Hazardous Waste: Diapers and other sanitary items are not recyclable, and, of course, neither are the biohazards that come with them.
  8. Shredded Paper: Shredded paper is too small to sort — the pieces literally fall throughthe cracks of the sorting machines and end up all over the floor of the facility, or worse, in with the glass. Recyclers are encouraged to avoid shredding except when absolutely necessary, and to compost shredded materials when and if you have access to curbside composting.
  9. Hazardous Waste: Take your hazardous materials to an appropriate CVWMA facility.
  10. Scrap Metal: Scrap metal items of all sizes cannot go in the curbside bin because they can damage sorting equipment.
  11. Frozen Food Boxes: Paperboard boxes that were designed for freezer foods have a coat of a plastic polymer sprayed on them to protect against freezer burn. That same coating prevents the box from breaking up in the recycling process. These materials are not recyclable or compostable.

Make your holiday season a green one

Wrapping paper isn’t accepted by most recycling facilities (including CVWMA) because it contaminates the recycling process. “But why?”, you ask. It’s because wrapping paper is not accepted by some recycled paper mills. There are a number of reasons for this. Wrapping paper is often dyed, laminated and/or contains non-paper additives such as gold and silver colored shapes, glitter, plastics, etc which cannot be recycled. Some wrapping paper is very thin and contains few good quality fibres for recycling. A lot of wrapping paper has sticky tape attached to it which makes it very difficult to recycle.

Instead of using wrapping paper this year, try something different. Create some great looks and reuse items found around your house.

  • Bows
  • Bags
  • Fabrics
  • Newspaper comics
  • Magazines
  • Decorative boxes
  • These scrap items can be used to make that gift even more special. Some of these items can also be reused year after year.

    Make sure you recycle all of those cardboard boxes that the toys and other presents come in. The plastic bags that most toys and electronics come in can also be recycled at facilities that recycle plastic grocery bags.

    And if you get a new computer, cell phone, digital camera, or other electronics, don’t just throw out the old ones. Bring your old electronics to a company like Best Buy, who has a great e-cycling program.

    Recycling Plastic Bags

    Plastic bags are everywhere. Although often quoted as consuming oil resources, most plastic bags are actually made from natural gas. The bad news is most plastic bags are not recycled. Part of the reason is because many local recycling agencies do not accept plastic bags. They are lightweight, fly out of the backs of recycling trucks, and become litter. They also jam up the recycling machines and cause expensive repairs. The good news is that most plastic bags are recyclable. Stores such as Ukrops, Walmart, Food Lion, Kroger and Whole Foods all accept plastic bags for recycling.

    Although the United States Environmental Protection Agency stated in 2000 that only 1% of plastic bags were recycled, significant attention resulted in a 700% growth in the recycling industry as new capacity led to a 7% rate.

    When most people think of plastic bags, the first thing they think of are plastic grocery bags. But did you know that many other types of plastic bags can be recycled along with your plastic grocery bags as well? All of the following can be recycled right along with your plastic grocery bags.

    • newspaper bags

    • dry cleaning bags

    • bread bags

    • produce bags

    • toilet paper, napkin, and paper towel wraps

    • furniture wrap

    • electronic wrap

    • plastic retail bags (hard plastic and string handles removed)

    • grocery bag

    • zip lock bags (remove hard components)

    • plastic cereal box liners (if it tears like paper do not include)

    • Tyvek (no glue, labels, other material)

    • diaper wrap (packaging)

    • plastic shipping envelopes (no bubble wrap/remove labels)

    • case wrap (e.g., snacks, water bottles)

    • All clean, dry bags labeled #2 or #4.

    There are some types of plastic bags that should NOT be included. The following are considered contaminants and could jeopardize recycling programs:

    NO food or cling wrap

    NO prepackaged food bags including frozen food bags (e.g., prewashed salad bags)

    NO film that has been painted or has excessive glue

    NO other bags or films

    NO bio-based or compostable plastic bags

    So when going to the grocery store, it’s preferred that you use reusable grocery bags. But a certain amount of plastic bags is unavoidable. So let’s make sure to recycle all we can.

    Waste Free Lunches

    The following article was sent in from Dave Burnett who is a project manager in Moseley Architects’ Charlotte office. The article is about efforts being made to green the cafeteria at New Town Elementary School.

    What is a Waste Free Lunch Day? Waste Free Lunch Day is an initiative to teach the students the importance of limiting their contribution to landfill by reducing the amount of trash produced during a lunch sitting. This goal is achieved by the students bringing their lunch to school in only reusable containers eg.

    • Lunch box instead of paper bag

    • Reusable plastic sandwich box instead of baggie

    • Reusable drink container instead of juice box

    • Crackers/cookies/chips in a reusable plastic box rather than an individual packet

    • Regular silverware instead of disposable plastic

    • Cloth napkin rather than paper

    There will be bins available for the kids to recycle plastic and paper items and to compost all organic leftovers. At the end of the lunch session, the number of trash bags produced will be compared to an average day and the total reduction extrapolated into the possible savings over a 180 day school year. If this experiment is successful, the goal is to make this a monthly event to reinforce the impact that a change in habits can produce.

    Each day, our cafeteria produces an average of 27 large trash bags filled with largely unnecessary waste.   Plastic bags, paper bags, drink bottles and containers, wrappers and packages, plastic silverware and juice boxes, unopened food and leftovers.  Hundreds of individually packaged items become trash each day.  Our cafeteria currently generates 4,860 bags of trash per year, which equates to 5.2 bags per child per year.

    This year, we decided to make a difference!

    A small change to our lunch packing habits can make a big difference to the annual landfill contribution made our school.

    After a preliminary audit, we were amazed to find how much food was being thrown away untouched.  Kids were throwing out unopened packs of chips, cookies, yogurts, cheese, milk cartons and even silverware – items which could be either returned home for use another day or some even donated to a local shelter or food bank.

    Our cafeteria currently “loses” up to 200 forks a month – silverware just thrown into the trash rather than being returned to the counter for washing.  This is a perfectly preventable $50 a month expense and unnecessary contribution to landfill.

    We set out with two goals; to reduce the amount of trash that we produce and to teach the kids how and why along the way.

    Our first Waste Free Lunch day was on October 21st 2009.  We advertised our date using our school website, the kid’s agendas and the ConnectEd system.  We set out photos and examples of how to pack a “Waste Free Lunch” around the school.  We showed the kids how to use only reusable containers for their drink, sandwiches, snacks etc, how to bring a fabric napkin and to use reusable silverware instead of disposable.

    The response from our New Town families and staff was FANTASTIC !  It was very exciting to see how many children had their lunches packed entirely in reusable containers – enabling them to create no waste at all for the day.

    We composted leftovers, recycled plastic, donated unused food to a local women’s shelter and showed the kids where to put their forks.  Our final trash count? 10 bags.  17 less bags of trash produced than an average day and a 63% saving!  Imagine, 3,060 less bags every school year. Now that really would be making a difference!

    Our next Waste Free Lunch Day is November 18th.

    Our new goal: To make every day a Waste Free Day.

    Reusable Grocery Bag Tips

    I switched to using reusable grocery bags several months ago.  When I talk to friends and family about using these bags, a number of people have stated that they frequently forget to bring their reusable grocery bags into the store with them. Here are some tips to help you remember.

    1. Keep your bags in your car. Don’t store them in the trunk because you’ll forget that they’re there. Storing them in the back seat pocket is a better option because you’ll be more likely to see them. Keeping a bag slid in between the passenger seat and the center console is another option.
    2. Most of us write a list of what we need before going to the grocery store. Write “REMEMBER BAGS” at the top of your grocery list each week. Use a pad of paper like in the picture and write this down on every page so you won’t forget.
    3. Hang a bag on the door knob to your garage or someplace near by. It will serve as a constant visual reminder to bring your bags with you. If you don’t want to hang a grocery bag, create a door tag (similar to a Do Not Disturb Tag) and hang that on the door knob.
    4. Hang a bag in your pantry. Most people check out their pantry when writing up their grocery list.
    5. Enlist your children’s help in helping you remember to bring your bags.

    Many local stores have programs to encourage you to use reusable grocery bags. Stores like Ukrops and Target offer a 5 cent credit for each reusable bag you use in the store.