Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why Recycle?

Curbside recycling is
simple and convenient
Recently, I presented at a series of recycling classes put on by the City and County. Part of the class requires the participants to include a recycling article in their neighborhood newsletter. I thought this one did a good job of capturing a lot of the reasons for recycling that we discussed at the beginning of the class. Enjoy!

So What’s the Big Deal About Recycling?

A lot of us in Hough {Neighborhood} are good and diligent recyclers, toting our big blue carts and glass bins to the curb every collection day.  Most of the time we don’t think about doing it because we know it’s the right thing to do.  During my recent attendance at the Recyclingest Neighborhood Workshop, I was asked the question, “Why do you recycle?”  “For my child’s future,” I replied, but after I answered I was wondering where the concrete evidence was to prove I was doing the right thing.  Luckily, our trainer for the day, Terra, had the answers and they were pretty impressive.

Many of the products found in
the landfill could have
been recycled, if
separated properly.
First, let’s talk conservation since that’s often the moral grounds for recycling.  According to the British Metals Recycling Association, we save approx. 60% in energy costs when we recycle steel and a whopping 95% when recycling aluminum.  When you think about the process it makes sense.  Instead of mining iron or bauxite ore then refining it to get the virgin base metal, we’re simply melting down material that’s already been processed and reforming it.  Recycling most paper products saves approximately 40% and glass 30% in energy costs.  For those a generation older than myself or those from other countries, you may recall sending bottles back to the bottling company to sanitize and reuse.  Guess how much that saved in energy costs compared to making new glass bottles: Over 300%!  Glass bottles can be reused an industry average of 12 times before they are recycled.  

Glass is accepted in
most recycling programs.
So there’s a lot of energy to be conserved by recycling, what about the other major pitfall for our future generations, the environment?  How much does recycling really help us here?  When we can’t eliminate the need for paper completely, recycling it will reduce air pollution by 74% and water pollution by 50% compared to making it from virgin material.  Steel mills using recycled scrap instead of new iron reduce air pollution, water, pollution, and mining wastes by 70%.  Recycling glass and other metals also has substantial environmental benefits in the reductions of pollutants. 

Not enough of a reason you say?  You wanna get down to recyclable brass tacks?  Well here’s where you can put your money where your mouth is.  In Clark County, residents who’ve reduced the size of trash containers from 96 gallons to 64 gallons (because they are recycling so much more in the big blue carts) save an average of nearly $200 per year. (Figure calculated by Waste Connections Waste Reduction Specialist.)  Businesses with robust recycling programs are saving money as well by reducing their trash container sizes and, in some cases, are even creating revenue from their recyclable material.  And the recycling and reuse industry is big.  How big?  Roughly the same size as the US auto manufacturing industry!  And talk about job creation, for each 10,000 tons per year of trash, 1 job is created in the waste industry.  However for each 10,000 tons per year recycled material produced these many jobs are created:  Composting – 4, materials recovery – 10, recycling-based manufacturing – 25, plastics – 93, and computer reuse – 296!
All of these reasons are substantial in their own to start recycling today and I encourage folks to take it a step further.  Organize with your neighbors to combine trips to the West Van Materials Recovery Center when you need to get rid of Household Hazardous Wastes or other recyclables that they don’t collect curbside.  Offer to take your neighbor’s collection of plastic bags to the store next time you’re planning a trip.  There are so many ways we can create a more sustainable community and recycling is a key element.  I’m doing it for my child’s future, why are you?

Article reprinted with permission from Brian Boothe

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do you create recycled art or fashion?

If you live in the Vancouver/Portland metro area and create recycled or reused fashions, accessories or other goods, here are some opportunities you should know about:

Do you create fun recycled goods,
like this lightbulb bud vase?

-- The Earth Day celebration at the Marshall Center is getting bigger and better with each passing year. There are still a few vendor spots left this year. Email 

-- For Earth Day, The Stream Team of Clark Public Utilities will be holding a fashion show and are looking for fun fashion and accessory items to show off. Email 

-- In June, the theme for First Friday in Camas is Recycled Arts/Go Green. They are looking for vendors. Email  

--Perhaps one of the most well-known (and certainly one of the biggest!) events to show and sell your wares is the annual Recycled Arts Festival put on by Clark County Department of Environmental Services. This event is all full for 2011, but there is a waiting list. 

--In November, Vancouver Green Drinks is going to repeat their wildly successful Check 'Em Off, Green event. We are looking for creators of recycled/reused goods and also for local businesses to be part of our "local experiences" booth Email
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