Goal For The Green

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Archive for the ‘Recycling’ Category

Benefits of the Recycling Industry

Jun-11-2014 By Barbara Zak
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In an age of environmental pollution, people feel the individual responsibility to somehow make a positive impact. Recycling is a great habit that can be very effective at improving the environment when there is a collective effort involved. Every household should recycle paper and plastic regularly. These materials are usually picked up by municipalities that also offer trash pickup.

 

U.S. Navy color chart. Ferrous and non-ferrous...

U.S. Navy color chart. Ferrous and non-ferrous metals – NARA – 535409 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, electronics should not be thrown away into garbage containers or recycling bins that contain plastic or aluminum. Consumer electronic products should ideally be recycled at local facilities that handle hazardous wastes. Batteries fall into the category of dangerous materials that should be disposed carefully. The acid inside some battery packs can be very harmful when allowed to leak out. Additionally, batteries also contain explosive hazards that could ignite fires. Small alkaline batteries and other types such as lithium ion should all be thrown away at municipal recycling centers.

There are plenty of other reasons for properly recycling electronics. For example, some equipment may emit signals that are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Such signals might interfere with a local telecommunication infrastructure. Antenna and other transmitters that send out electromagnetic waves should be properly disassembled and then recycled.

Metal recycling is another key issue in the modern fight for environmental conservation. All types of scrap metals can be easily sold to recycling companies that accept ferrous and non ferrous materials. Iron and some other metals are easily sorted by using large electromagnets. After all, iron is the most magnetic metal element on earth. Recycling companies easily sort ferrous and non ferrous metals with powerful magnets. After the sorting process, it is time to melt down metal alloys into their raw elements. Thermodynamic processes are applied in order to cast metallic elements into different shapes such as bars. These pieces could then be sold back to the industrial market for manufacturing. Sims metal redwood city and other businesses are examples of enterprises that offer jobs in the recycling industries of North America.

Vehicles and other large machines can be completely recycled. Such a practice is much better than storing loads of broken vehicles in junk yards or auto salvage lots. The average car or truck contains a significant amount of metals that could be recycled and put back into the market. It may be more profitable to sell certain used auto parts to recycling companies rather than to drivers seeking replacement parts.

 

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A Nation Choking On Styrofoam

Mar-21-2014 By Barbara Zak
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by Zeke Iddon

Styrofoam: The Pollutant People Forget About

It’s no surprise that our industrialized world has a problem with waste, but the scope of the issue can be mind-boggling to conceive. The U.S. alone is responsible for generating 200 billion tons of garbage every year, and an overwhelming amount of that is non-biodegradable waste that lingers in landfills or escapes into the world’s oceans. Plastic products are a major culprit, with Styrofoam leading the pack.

polystyrene pollination

An amazing 25 billion Styrofoam cups are thrown away each year in the U.S.; once you add in egg crates, packaging peanuts, take-out containers, meat trays and other products, the number of Styrofoam products in landfills climbs even more.

What exactly is Styrofoam?

Most people are familiar with Styrofoam, the most common brand name for polystyrene foam. This lightweight foam is made from long chains of hydrocarbons. These are obtained through the polymerization of petroleum, which converts the fossil fuel into foam. The end result is a lightweight product with a low melting point but excellent insulating qualities, which is why it’s so popular in food packaging.

Aside from the polystyrene products that are thrown away by consumers, the production of polystyrene generates a substantial amount of waste as well. Altogether, the process creates 57 different chemicals, including liquids and gases, and many of these byproducts can cause health concerns among those in direct contact with them.

The Polystyrene Menace

Aside from the chemical waste created by manufacturing Styrofoam, the greatest problem with polystyrene is that it lasts essentially forever. In 500 years, the discarded cups and take-out containers thrown out today will still be sitting in landfills, essentially unchanged. This is because the polymerized styrene is resistant to photolysis, or the natural breaking down of a substance subjected to protons from a light source. In other words, while some objects degrade in the sun, petroleum-based plastics and foams do not.

polystyrene pollination

Polystyrene is especially problematic because it’s lightweight. This increases its chances of blowing away from landfills or trash cans and finding its way into rivers, lakes and oceans. Once in the water, the polystyrene does indeed break down. In the process, it releases chemicals like bisphenol A into the water.

The Styrofoam itself also poses a threat to the environment. Marine wildlife often mistake plastic products for food, leading them to choke on bits of Styrofoam or die of starvation after obstructing their digestive tracts.

Taking Control of Waste

The risks of polystyrene production and disposal are becoming well-known, and many solutions have been offered to deal with the problem:

- An ingenious process perfected by the minds behind Poly2Petrol.com allows petroleum-based plastics, including polystyrene, to be broken down and converted back into oil. This oil can then be burned as fuel, reducing the overall demand for newly drilled oil while cutting down the amount of plastic waste. The project is still in its early stages, but as it catches on, this has the potentially to dramatically reduce the amount of petroleum waste entering the ecosystem.

- Some polystyrene products can be recycled. Recycling polystyrene is resource-intensive, however, and many community recycling initiatives are not equipped to handle these products. Only hard polystyrene, such as the kind used for packaging inserts, can be recycled. Any polystyrene that has been used to hold food cannot be recycled.

- Some polystyrene products can be reused. One example is packaging peanuts, which can generally be returned to a shipping company for additional uses. This is an imperfect solution as it can be inconvenient for the consumer, and it still does not solve the issue of food packaging and other polystyrene products, but it does offer slight relief to the overall problem.

- As more people become aware of the problems
caused by plastic waste, they’re demanding alternative packaging. This is great news for both landfills and the limited oil reserves throughout the world. New technologies are developing biodegradable food packaging, and more people are opting to buy in bulk or reduce waste by using reusable items instead of disposable ones.

Ultimately, the solution to the plastic waste problem will be a multi-pronged approach combining recycling, fresh technology and public awareness. Only by educating people on the dangers of Styrofoam and similar products can we hope to achieve relief from the choking presence of non-biodegradable waste in our landfills and oceans.

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A few generations ago, your grandmother had a wooden spoon that she used forever. You, on the other hand, use a cheap metal or plastic spoon that you probably will toss within a year. Modern society is filled with disposable items with a short shelf life. With so much waste surrounding us, it seems impossible to be green and repurpose used items. It’s easy, however, to be environmentally conscious. Recycle, upcycle and repair everyday things and transform them into something useful, again, with the following suggestions:

Clothing

Photo by normanack via Flickr

When you and your children attend camps, conferences and special events, you probably bring home a T-shirt. You can take it to a charity shop when you are done wearing it, but chances are high that no one will buy it and it will end up in the landfill anyway. Instead, gather all those shirts and make yourself a charming quilt that will keep you warm for years and contain memorable stories.

Plumbing

Photo by Cayusa via Flickr

Even though it’s one of the scariest home repair jobs for the amateur to tackle, most plumbing can be easily done on your own. A leaky faucet can be fixed with a few tools and a couple of Apple Rubber o rings, while a toilet can be unclogged by detaching the toilet from the floor and grabbing the offending clog from the S-bend. If you have never tried your hand at these kinds of jobs but are interested in saving cash on plumbing bills, check out an instructional video on a site like YouTube. Best of all, when you fix the problem on your own without making a plumber drive out to your house, you save fossil fuels.

Memories

Photo by nashworld via Flickr

After a loved one has passed, the ecological thing to do is donate his or her clothes. But sometimes it’s too hard to let go. You don’t have to with a memory bear, which is made from articles of clothing, uniforms, fur coats, blankets or other items from a loved one. For example, Carrie Bears will make a 20-inch stuffed bear out of your loved one’s personal belongings or you can download a template and make your own, which is a heartwarming way to hold onto and upcycle the memories of a special person.

Home Decor

Photo by SOCIALisBETTER via Flickr

Home decorating is not an inexpensive hobby but when you introduce upcycling as part of it, it becomes greener and more affordable. Most home decorations go out of style and end up in the landfill after a few years so you may as well make your decorations with objects that are headed that direction. There are countless books to get your ideas flowing. Upcycling Celebrations by Danny Seo focuses on holiday decorations and Upcycle That is a fabulous blog with detailed instructions on all kinds of green projects, ranging from decorative egg carton flower lights to cork planters and crate coffee tables.

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