Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tag hanging

You may remember that in April I wrote about hanging tags on garbage and organics carts in the Linden Hills neighborhood to try to increase participation and thank those who are already participating. Well, I did that again a few weeks ago, this time as part of a pilot program in parts of the Seward/Hiawatha/Longfellow/Phillips neighborhoods. But THIS time, it was December, and the temperature was 7 degrees. We started at 6:30 a.m. I gained a new appreciation for the crews that pick up our trash and organics every day out in the elements starting at the crack of dawn when it's most cold. And I'm sure all our snow this month has made their job a lot more difficult.

Still dark out when we started. We had to start this time of day because we were following the trash and organics trucks, attaching our hangers only after the carts had been emptied.

You can see why they need super-bright lights at this time of day.

Trash carts got an "It's so easy to be green" hanger.

The crews leave a tag if they find non-organics in the cart, or if something else needs tweaking.

Participants got a "You're making a difference" tag.

If the carts are full, Rose and Lloyd hook the carts onto the truck to be tipped, otherwise they just reach into the cart and grab the bag or two in there. (Check out the contrast between how Rose is dressed in this picture with how she was dressed in April)

Tools of the trade: Cart hangers and a stapler, so the hangers don't blow away or fall off. The stapling was a good idea because a lot of the hangers we put on carts in Linden Hills blew away or fell into the garbage trucks.

It's early in the pilot, but this organics load shows encouraging participation.

A tag for excess garbage hung by the city crews, paired with the hanger to join the organics program that I hung.

We saw many garbage carts overflowing with trash. I hope those eligible for the pilot take advantage of the free program because it would make a huge difference. Want to read more about the organics pilots and the city of Minneapolis' efforts? Click here and here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Recycle your rags

Most people know you can donate used clothing and other goods, but what about the pair of jeans torn beyond repair or the threadbare sweatshirt full of holes? There are two companies in the Twin Cities that recycle rags. Wipers Recycling makes them into what they call wiping rags, which they sell in 10- and 25-lb boxes, or granular absorbents. They have drop-off locations in Maplewood and St. Paul Park.

There's also USAgain (Use Again), a national company with a location in Roseville, which processes clothes and rags from almost 1,000 collection bins.

All rags must be clean and dry.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recycle your holiday lights

From Linden Hills Power & Light:

So you finally untangled that clump of holiday lights, plugged them in and ta-da...nothing!

Don't get mad, get even! Replace those frustrating suckers with nice new, energy-efficient LEDs, and kick the old ones to the curb of 43rd and Upton at Bayers Hardware (Minneapolis), where a nice recycling bin stands ready and waiting for them.

Every part including the glass and copper will be recycled. By one estimate, recycling copper takes about 10 percent of the energy it takes to extract it. It's very energy intensive to create new copper, so this is a big deal. According to estimates by the Clean Energy Resource Teams, recycling 50,000 pounds of lights in Minnesota would save about 530,000 kilowatt hours, or about 960,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. That's assuming 20,000 pounds of lights are replaced by LEDs and that homeowners with lights use them for about six hours a day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Last year Minnesota recycled 100,000 pounds and this year's goal is 200,000 pounds.

For locations all over the state for recycling your lights, click here.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Amazon recycled paint

Amazon recycled paint, made in Fridley, MN! From its website:

Amazon uses leftover latex paint to manufacture recycled content paint that is comparable in quality to virgin paint sold by national manufacturers. Amazon Select® recycled content paint is available in 12 pre-mixed colors, is environmentally preferable to virgin paints, and carries both the Green Seal and Master Painters Institute stamp of approval.
Any leftover paint we can’t use is manufactured into an alternative raw material used in the manufacture of cement. Using these processes, Amazon is able to beneficially recycle virtually 100% of the leftover paint received.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Foam trays recycled! In North Carolina!

I recycled my polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) trays in North Carolina. I know it sounds insane, but it's not as crazy as it sounds! Here's why: We were going from Asheboro, N.C., to Greensboro, N.C., which took us right through Randleman, N.C., which is where one of the Dart Container polystyrene drop-off facilities is. So I packed as many trays (uniform shape) into my suitcase and backpack as I could. And recycled them in N.C.! Now if only I could recycle the 13 other bags of cups, plates, trays and clamshells (those take-out containers that open and shut like a clam shell) in our garage...

This place was not easy to find, so this sight was sweet.

My mom gets the honor of recycling the foam trays!

The bins were full, so it's not just me making the trek to recycle.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Green Gifts Fair is Saturday

Kick off your holiday shopping with the Green Gifts Fair on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Midtown Global Market. From the website:

Do It Green! Minnesota offers our annual Green Gifts Fair right before Thanksgiving. The event is meant to introduce green gift options and low impact ideas to celebrate the holidays from Thanksgiving to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Winter Solstice, New Year's and everything in between! Come begin your holiday celebrations with us on November 20th!

SHOP 70+ local retailers and artists for green, recycled, fair trade and organic gifts. Visit the full list of vendors by clicking the link above in Quick Links.
LEARN about green holiday decorating, wrapping, food & party ideas, and homemade gifts.
EAT lunch or dinner at many of the restaurants at the market and sample low carbon holiday foods with local chef demos.
CELEBRATE the new 2011 Do It Green! Magazine focusing on the last few decades of the environmental movement in MN (great gift idea!).
ATTEND the eco fashion show, low carbon food cook off, or listen to local musicians on our main stage.
REDUCE bring your own cloth shopping bags, reusable coffee mug for $1 coffee at Mapps Coffee & Tea in the market, and silverware and cloth napkins to reduce waste if you eat in the market (they only serve styrofoam and plastic!).
RECYCLE your holiday lights at the fair. For every holiday light string recycled receive one raffle ticket to win $50 in Green Gifts Fair bucks.
COME CAR-LESS Come by bike, bus, walking or carpool and get a gift! Download a Metro Transit Go Green Pass to travel for FREE. Or there is free parking for up to three hours in the parking ramp off of 10th St.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A tour of the HERC

I got to tour the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) this week, and it was fascinating. The amount of trash was staggering, but I'm glad it wasn't going to a landfill and that it was generating energy to heat downtown buildings and put some electricity onto the grid.

This diagram that we went over beforehand was very helpful because then we knew what we were going to be looking at. Click here for a virtual tour.

Trucks are constantly coming and going, dumping their loads of trash.

The grapple (I call it The Claw) picks up the trash and tosses it like a salad as the operator works to get the right mix of wet and dry for a good burn. Are you seeing this massive amount of trash?!!

The grapple drops giant clawfuls of trash into two big hoppers on the upper right. Trash slowly drops down the chutes into the two burners, which run 24 hours a day 365 days a year (except a few times a year for maintenance).

It looks like something out of a sci-fi flick, doesn't it?

Look at the size of it.

Sometimes a big hunk of metal like an appliance will get through, and when the operator spots it, he plucks it out of the trash pile.

The plant's processes are constantly monitored with sensors, and deep in the bowels of the facility, Covanta operators go through their paces, using all of their senses (except taste!) to gauge whether things are working right. They can also tell by how the flames look whether things are burning well or not. This was just after our big snow storm Saturday, and as one guy put it, "snow doesn't burn well."

I was mesmerized by the fire.

The control room operator works 12-hour shifts in front of a bank of computer screens, monitoring everything in the building and constantly tweaking the flow of air and steam, rate of combustion, the speed of the trash in the furnace. The HERC produces steam, which drives a turbine to produce electricity. To read more about the process, click here.

Here's what you see from the outside.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dunn Bros sweetens the deal

I found out today that Dunn Bros Coffee will soon start giving customers a 25-cent discount on their beverages if they bring a reusable mug. The program starts Jan. 1, 2011. It's a significant savings, and I hope it's just the push some people need to start bringing their own mugs. I think it helps to have several, and to keep at least one clean one in your car all the time, ready for that spur-of-the-moment caffeine stop.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Plastic bag recycling (you can recycle many more types than you think)

Plastic bag recycling seems to be one area in particular of plastics recycling where a lot of people don't realize what types of bags and packaging are recyclable. Besides newspaper and grocery bags, you can recycle cereal and cracker bags, frozen-food bags, zipper-locking bags (cut the zipper part off because it's a different type of plastic). The key is that the bags must be dry and clean. (I think that's why they put frozen-food bags in the 'no' category when they used to be in the 'yes' category -- people were probably putting their wet frozen food bags with bits of onion ring still clinging to the insides into the recycling bin.) Here's a complete list, from the It's In The Bag program:

[Note: All material must be clean and dry]
Plastic grocery bags
Plastic retail bags (remove string ties & rigid plastic handles)
Plastic dry-cleaning bags
Plastic cereal bags (must be dry with ALL food residue removed)
Plastic bread bags (must be dry with ALL rood residue removed)
Plastic produce bags (must be dry with ALL food residue removed)
Plastic wrap from paper products (paper towels, etc.)
Plastic salt bags (remove rigid plastic handles)
Plastic zipper bags (remove top closing mechanism)
Plastic stretch/shrink wrap
6-pack holder rings

Plastic bags with food residue
Frozen food bags
Plastic bags with strings
Plastic soil or mulch bags
Plastic zipper bags with rigid plastic closing mechanism
Plastic bubble wrap
Plastic food containers
Plastic bottles

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Spousal support

Mr. Trashbasher, carrying a bag of organics home from a party so that I could manage my bag of plastics.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The packaging of public school lunches

Concerned Mom Tracy asked me to come to Windom Spanish Dual Immersion School this week because even though the school is already collecting organics for composting, she wanted to know about recycling options for all the packaging that food comes in.
Unfortunately I didn't have a lot of suggestions. Some of the wrappers can be sent to TerraCycle for recycling, and the #5 plastics can be brought to Whole Foods to be recycled by Preserve, but most of the plastic wrap and packaging is true trash.

Fruit comes in plastic cups, tortilla chips are packaged in plastic, fork/knife/spoon/napkin are packaged, burrito comes wrapped in plastic, cheese sticks are wrapped in plastic, salad comes in a plastic container with plastic wrap over it, salsa comes in a plastic cup.

Green bins are for organics, red for trash and small buckets are for liquid.

Bilingual signs

Their organics-recycling coordinator put these stickers on the paper-towel dispensers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

At my old job, my legacy lives on

A few of my most dedicated friends are keeping the volunteer-run recycling programs going at my former place of employment. The 'helpful hint' sign was put up after I left.

My friend put some attitude into this sign.

Finally after years and years of asking, they've got printers printing by default on both sides of a piece of paper! Eureka!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin roundup

I sent an email out to our neighborhood, asking for people's leftover jack-o-lanterns and fall gourds for our backyard compost pile.

(Don't you think the one pumpkin with the x's for eyes looks like he's being forcefed the pumpkin on top of him?)

Cut up 9 pumpkins. I could hear the squirrels overhead, holding a press conference about the new buffet in town. And while I was cutting, a little mole burrowing through the leaves visited me. Wish I'd gotten a picture.

Then the lovely Shannon and her charming brood showed up with 15 more!

Hey look, my SunChips bag is disintegrating. Pretty cool considering our pile doesn't get very hot.