Sunday, January 31, 2010

Construction and demolition recycling

If you're doing home remodeling or any big home-improvement project, you throw out a lot, right? So maybe you need a dumpster. But you don't want all that going into a landfill, right?

Check out Atomic Recycling. From their website:

"Construction waste doesn’t belong in the environment. That’s why recycling is such a top priority for Atomic. In fact, no other waste company in the Twin Cities can recycle more types or tons of debris than Atomic Recycling. So whether you’re a top construction company or a homeowner with a small remodeling project, there’s only one green choice: Atomic Recycling."

They separate out all recyclable materials, about 63 percent of each load. I found this list of what they do and don't recycle, including pictures, interesting.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Go, Aveda!!

From Saturday's Star Tribune on Aveda's very successful plastic bottle cap recycling program.

Local company’s twist on recycling
While cities say, “No, you can’t” recycle plastic caps, people nationwide say, “Yes, we can,” and Aveda Corp. leads the way.

By Karen Youso

Every day, thousands of plastic bottle caps arrive at Aveda Corp. in Blaine.
The caps of many colors come in sacks, boxes and bags. They arrive by mail, auto and hand; from churches, schools, businesses and households. They come from as near as down the road, and as far away as Honolulu. Stacks of discarded packages with return labels from Illinois, New York, North Carolina litter warehouse bins.
Donors get nothing in return for making the trek or paying the postage to Blaine, except the good feeling that comes with recycling, said Aveda spokesman Evan Miller.
The bottle caps — from water, soft drinks, shampoo, it doesn’t matter — are turned into new caps for Aveda’s hair-care products. And the process can be repeated indefinitely, Miller said. They won’t be thrown away. Indeed, just last week, about 30,000 pounds of caps left Aveda to be recycled.
By most measures, Aveda’s four-year-old cap recycling program is a ringing success. But while Aveda is saying, “Yes, we’ll take your caps for recycling,” many municipalities, such as Minneapolis and St. Paul, are saying, “No. Caps can’t be recycled; throw them away.”
Clearly, people want to recycle caps, and they will go to some lengths to do it, so why can’t it be easier? Why can’t it be a part of curbside plastic pickup?
It’s not feasible, industry and civic recycling experts say.
“The recycling facilities were designed on the bottle,” explained Dianna Kennedy with Eureka Recycling, St. Paul’s recycling hauler. Bottles are made of No. 1 plastic resin, but the caps use No. 5. They are different kinds of plastic, with different melting points.
End markets like clean material — all the same kind of plastic. To be successfully recycled, caps would have to be separated by the consumer, or separated in the sorting and kept separate through shipping and processing.
Even if that were accomplished, finding a market for them is difficult. Recycled bottles are used by manufacturers to make lots of items: insulation, clothing, carpet, even new bottles. But they can’t use caps. That plastic doesn’t work for them, said Susan Young, Minneapolis’ director of solid waste and recycling. Caps have to be sent to a different manufacturer, and “we don’t have a steady, reliable market for plastic caps,” she said.
Aveda has created its own end market for recycling. Minneapolis considered creating a special curbside pickup program to work with Aveda, but the numbers were massive. Aveda would be overwhelmed, and “we do not want to become a recycler,” Miller said. Aveda is an international cosmetic and hair care company, a division of Estee Lauder Companies.
Some haulers collect bottles with the caps at curbside and recycle their caps. Anita Sellers, a spokeswoman for Waste Management’s Recycle America, a recycling hauler in many Twin Cities suburbs, said that the company recycles caps if they’re attached to the bottle. Bottles with caps are pulled off the sorting line and sent to a variety of processors.
But Young is skeptical. Picking them up and having them actually end up being recycled isn’t the same thing, she said. Caps in a shipment of bottles are considered “residual” or garbage. They’re sorted out by the processor and then thrown away.
As good as it looks, Aveda’s program is far from perfect. The plastic caps collected in Minnesota are trucked to a sorting and grinding operation in Alabama. The resulting shredded plastic is shipped back to Wisconsin to be made into plastic caps that are then sent to Blaine.
It’s closed-loop recycling, the best kind — but it’s a loop that includes lots of shipping, which is not so good. There’s a lot of pollution generated in all the travel.
But the system in place is not the end Aveda is looking for. Beyond keeping plastic caps out of landfills and waterways, the company wants to show municipalities and recycling companies it can be done, and to pressure them to start recycling caps.
Local recyclers respond that the real pressure needs to be on the manufacturers.
“For communities to figure out how to recycle every kind of plastic is nearly impossible and it puts the responsibility, and the expense, on taxpayers,” Kennedy said.
The only real solution, she said, is one that engages manufacturers in designing their products and packaging to fit into community systems, not the other way around.
Karen Youso • 612-673-4407

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Are 'foil' yogurt and applesauce lids recyclable?

Maybe it's only me who wondered this, but have you noticed the foil lids on yogurt and those little applesauce containers seem to be not just aluminum foil but also a layer of plastic that the company uses to write its name and other info on? Are these foil lids recyclable, or not because they're not pure aluminum? I asked Stonyfield, and here's their reply:

"To answer your question regarding whether the foil lids are recyclable, it depends on the type of recycling services available in your community. The foil seal is made from a layer of aluminum foil, coated with plastic. If your community recycles only aluminum cans and no aluminum foil, it is unlikely that they will accept the seal for recycling. The best way to find out is to ask your recycler. If they do not accept them you may send your clean cups and lids to the following for recycling:"

Preserve Gimme 5
823 NYS Rte 13
Cortland, NY 13045

More details:

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Why crush those bottles?

Plastic bottles are very light, as you know, but they're bulky. So when a recycling truck picks up plastic bottles that aren't crushed, the truck has to make more trips back to the recycling facility, thus wasting more gasoline and putting more exhaust particles into the air. So crushing plastic bottles and aluminum cans is a great way to reduce waste.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Restaurants that compost

A friend was raving about his dinner at Brasa the other night, which reminded me that I wanted to write about restaurants that are participating in Eureka Recycling's Make Dirt Not Waste program. Restaurants partner with Eureka Recycling to collect all their food scraps and soiled paper to be collectd to make compost. From their website:

Eureka Recycling is working with Twin Cities restaurants to turn their food waste into nutrient-rich compost. Participating restaurants reduce their trash volume by up to 80% and sometimes more. Removing food from the waste stream significantly reduces global warming impacts.

Makes a lot of sense, huh? They're trying to sign up more restaurants. Here's a list of who's already participating:

• Barbette
• Birchwood Cafe
• Anchor Fish & Chips
• Bryant Lake Bowl
• Fireroast Mountain Cafe
• Brasa Premium Rotisserie
• Common Roots Cafe
• Kings
• Chowgirls Killer Catering
• Ecopolitan
• May Day Cafe
• Eastside Food Coop
• Whole Foods Market (Lake Calhoun)
• Seward Co-op
• Ginger Hop
• Red Stag Supper Club
• Gluek’s Bar & Restaurant
• Sen Yai Sen Lek
• Mill City Farmers Market

And as an added bonus, many of the above spots use local ingredients.

If you don't see your favorite eatery on here, encourage them to sign up!

Update: More have signed up
Gigi's Cafe
Bedlam Theatre
Linden Hills Co-op
Matchbox Coffee Shop
Sojourner Farms (they make food and treats for pets)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

TerraCycle helps you recycle the unrecyclable

I've told you about the many things we Twin Citians can recycle and where. But I haven't yet mentioned TerraCycle, which upcycles things like

Doritos and Lays foil-y chip bags
CapriSun drink pouches
Skittles, Snickers and M&M wrappers
Oreo and Chips Ahoy wrappers
plastic wine corks
Aveeno and Neosporin tubes
and a whole bunch of other items

making them into backpacks, pencil cases, messenger bags, trash bins, flower pots and lots of bottles for lawn and gardening liquids. Here's the complete list. And you can buy the products online or in major retails stores like Target, Walmart and Home Depot.

Anyway, one of the best aspects of this program is that they give MONEY to your favorite charity for recycling! At 2 to 3 cents apiece, that adds up. And who eats and drinks a lot of the stuff TerraCycle collects? KIDS. And what kid institution is constantly needing money? SCHOOLS. I'm surprised every school in America hasn't signed up for TerraCycle's programs. They even pay shipping! All you parents out there in the Twin Cities, are your schools signed up? Seems like a fantastic fundraiser to me. Help the environment and help your school at the same time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Loading up the car with #1 and #6 plastics to take to the Coon Rapids Recycling Center

And on a different day, with Styrofoam

Look at all the stuff they accept!

An enormous Dumpster of #1 plastics!

#5 plastics

Bin for #6 plastics

Styrofoam blocks destined for recycling at HOM Furniture

FDA has second thoughts on the safety of BPA in plastics

In Friday's New York Times

Thursday, January 14, 2010

B.Y.O. doggie bag

When you go out to eat, you often have leftovers, right? And those leftovers usually go home with you in a container, either plastic or Styrofoam, which you then have to recycle or throw away. What I do is carry a bag containing a few empty containers of different sizes in the trunk of my car. Then if we eat somewhere, I bring the bag in with me. At the end of the meal, out come the containers, and leftovers get packed up without using new to-go containers.

Likewise you can bring your own mug when getting coffee, even your own plate, bowl or utensils if you're not eating at a sit-down place. Here's a list and video by Sustainable Dave Chameides, who's got an awesome blog, 365daysoftrash.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Our home energy audit

Last week we had our home energy audit through the Center for Energy and Environment, and I'd really been looking forward to it because I wanted to find out why our house feels so cold.

We crank the heat to keep the place feeling warm, which we knew was wasting energy. Did we need new windows? We got our attic insulated last March but didn't feel a noticeable difference.

So Dan, Dan, Tom and Alex came by and went through each room with us, talking about ways to save energy, and a blower door test was done to see how airtight our house was. Turns out our place is pretty darn tight, except for the front door, the mail slot and the back door. Lots of cold air pouring in through those spots, so we need to get weatherstripping kits. Our windows are fine, they just need reconditioning. So, not only will we be saving money, using our existing windows is way more environmentally friendly, obviously! Avoiding waste makes me so happy!

The program is currently available for residents of Audubon, Field Regina Northrop, Fulton, Hawthorne, Kingfield, Logan Park and Longfellow neighborhoods in Minneapolis, so if you're in one of those 'hoods, take advantage of this great learning experience. You go to a short workshop and then your audit is done for only $20. They track your gas and electricity usage for one year prior to and one year after your audit, replace your incandescent bulbs with CFLs, put gap-sealing foam pads around your light switches, install faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads and lots of other helpful things.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Those tiny but wasteful lights

I only recently learned that any electronic device or appliance with an itty-bitty light that's always on is constantly using electricity. On our dishwasher, at the end of a cycle, a little green light comes on above the word CLEAN, and even when you open the door the light stays on. This light has been sucking juice for YEARS at our house!

Same goes for TVs, DVD players, stereos and computers with a standby mode, cellphone chargers always left plugged in, gadgets with a digital clock or timer. Look around your house and see if you can unplug any or hit "cancel" like I now know to do on our dishwasher.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The "bottom" line

I think Trader Joe's is a really good deal for post-consumer-content toilet paper and paper towels. A 6-pack of jumbo toilet paper rolls is $3.99, and it's 80% post-consumer content, 100% overall recycled. Their facial tissue could use some work, though, with only 10% post-consumer content. There are five stores in MN.

Greenpeace has a very helpful guide to buying recycled tissue products. Why is post-consumer (as opposed to pre-consumer or pre-industrial) recycled content important? Because that's all the mixed paper that you and I recycle, and using post-consumer recycled content creates a market for all that mixed paper. If anyone knows differently, please let me know.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

So great it deserves a separate post

Yogurt containers, cottage cheese containers, take-out containers, margarine tubs. They're all #5s, or polypropylene plastic. And not only can you drop them off for recycling at Eastside Food Co-op and the Coon Rapids Recycling Center, but Whole Foods in St. Paul and Minneapolis has a bin for #5s near the front entrance.

Besides the convenience of Whole Foods being open more hours, you know where your #5s are going: To Recycline to be made into new Preserve products through their Preserve Gimme 5 program! This company out of Waltham, Mass., gets big kudos from me. Not only do they take #5s and make them into toothbrush handles, plates, cups, chopping boards, food-storage containers, colanders, measuring cups and a whole bunch of other products, if for some reason the product's not working for you (or you need to change your toothbrush), you send it to them and they recycle it AGAIN into plastic lumber. Talk about working to end the cycle of waste!

So check them out.
Some of their products are sold at Target, Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville and Whole Foods.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How and where to recycle harder-to-recycle items

Here's a list of harder-to-recycle items that most cities won't pick up at your home. If you know of any that I've left out, please let me know or post a comment! It's thanks to other greenies out there that I found out some of these things.

And I'd like to offer my praise in advance to the Coon Rapids Recycling Center and recycling coordinator Colleen Sinclair. Her efforts are an example for us all!

Batteries (rechargeable), CDs/DVDs, PDAs and many other household electronics, most for free, at Best Buy stores.

Bicycles: Express Bike Shop and Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles

Brita filters: Take them to Preserve Gimme 5 bins at Whole Foods stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Full details:

Carpet: Bro-Tex Carpet Recycling

Cassette and video tapes, CDs, DVDs and their cases, vinyl records and other forms of 'electronic media': Hennepin County's Recycling Drop-off Centers in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park

Electronic media and computer components are also recyclable through out of Sammamish, Wa. It's a company doing really good, ethical things. Greendisk is your source for recycling all forms of 'technotrash.' Check out their website for details.

CD and DVD cases: Give them away via craigslist or

Cell phones: Best Buy and many other businesses

Charger cord: recyclable where cell phones are accepted.

Christmas lights and extension cords:
The Recycling Association of Minnesota’s Recycle Your Holidays seasonal program. The program offers numerous collection sites throughout the Twin Cities, including at Hennepin County drop-off facilities and Snyder’s Drug Stores. Strings of lights are disassembled by PPL Industries, and parts such as the copper wires and light bulbs are recycled.

Year-round at the Coon Rapids Recycling Center, Coon Rapids

Compact fluorescent light bulb: recyclable at Ikea (free), Home Depot (free), Menards (free), county hazardous waste sites and most hardware stores. Do not throw in the trash because they contain mercury.

Concrete (also yard waste, gravel, rock, stone, etc.): Recyclable for a fee at the Gertens Regional Eco-Services facility

corks, natural (not synthetic): Take them to Whole Foods in Minneapolis or St. Paul and drop them in the Cork ReHarvest boxes.

Extension cords:
Hennepin County Recycling Center and Transfer Station, Brooklyn Park
Recycled for their scrap-metal value

Fabric scraps/rags, clean: Wipers Recycling makes them into wiping rags or granular absorbents. They have drop-off locations in Maplewood and St. Paul Park.
USAgain has drop boxes metrowide.

Fluorescent tube light: county household hazardous waste collection sites.

Hangers, wire: Many dry cleaners, including Martinizing and Prestige Cleaners, will take these back for reuse

Hardcover books: The Coon Rapids Recycling Center accepts them.

Mattresses: Coon Rapids Recycling Center, first Saturday of every month (except holiday weekends). $15 fee.

Hennepin County Recycling Center and Transfer Station, Brooklyn Park
$15 fee. If the mattress isn't clean and dry, it will be disposed of as garbage.

Milk cartons, juice boxes, tofu boxes, broth boxes: Now recyclable curbside in most metro-area cities! They are 70 to 85 percent high-quality paper, which is separated from the plastic coating in a pulping process.

Motor oil bottles: Take them to the Coon Rapids Recycling Center. NO LONGER ACCEPTED

Notebooks and other paper with wire spiral binding: Recycled by Eureka Recycling, no need to remove the metal spiral.

Packing peanuts: take to any UPS store for reuse

Plastic bags: recyclable through the It's In The Bag program. Many more kinds are recyclable than just grocery and newspaper bags. Here's the list:

[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 frozen food 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
Plastic bags with strings
Plastic soil or mulch bags
Plastic zipper bags with rigid plastic closing mechanism
Plastic bubble wrap

recyclable at most Twin Cities grocery stores including Cub, Lunds, Jerry's, Twin Cities Natural
Food Co-ops and many county recycling centers. If your plastics aren't clean, dry and free of food, they'll get thrown out as garbage, so make sure your stuff is clean. What works well with bags of crumbly stuff like bread, chips, cereal or crackers, or wet stuff like frozen vegetables, is to turn the bag inside out and shake it over your garbage can, or completely open up the bag along its seams. Let it air-dry if it's wet.

Plastic bottle caps: recyclable at Aveda stores. They make the caps into new caps.
The program accepts caps that are rigid polypropylene plastic, sometimes noted with a 5 in the 'chasing arrows' (resin code) symbol. This includes caps that twist on with a threaded neck such as caps on shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), pharmaceutical lids, laundry detergents and some jar lids such as peanut butter.

Excluded from collection are non-rigid lids such as yogurt lids, tub lids (margarine, cottage cheese), screw-on lids that are not rigid, metal lids and plastic pumps or sprayers.
Also note: If you leave caps on plastic bottles, they WILL get recycled. But you must leave the cap on the bottle -- don't remove the cap and throw it by itself in your recycling bin. Then it's too small and will fall through the screens at the recycling facility.

Plastic containers #5 only: Take them to Whole Foods in Minneapolis or St. Paul and put them in the Preserve Gimme 5 bins. They get made into new products like toothbrush handles, tableware, mixing bowls and razors.

Plastic containers #1-7: Now recyclable curbside in most metro-area cities, including Minneapolis!

Plastic garden pots: recyclable at garden centers metrowide.

Rags, clean: Eureka Recycling
USAgain has drop boxes metrowide. Label your bags with something like "clean linens for recycling."

Scrap metal: Everything from nails to box springs. (There are many other places that take scrap metal, too; some even give you money!)
Coon Rapids Recycling Center, Coon Rapids

Shoes that are so old or torn they can't be worn: recycle at REI stores in Bloomington and Maple Grove. They get shredded and made into oil spill clean-up kits.

Styrofoam blocks, cups, plates, trays, containers: Coon Rapids Recycling Center, in partnership with HOM Furniture.

Thermostats: Free for households. These contain mercury, so don't throw them away. J.R.'s Advanced Recyclers in Inver Grove Heights.

Tires: Hennepin County Recycling Drop-Off Centers, Brooklyn Park and Bloomington.
Coon Rapids Recycling Center, Coon Rapids. First Saturday of each month, except holiday weekends. Fees vary.

Tyvek envelopes, banners, signs: They're made of HDPE, #2 plastic. Send them back to Tyvek for recycling.

Best Buy recycles an extensive list of electronics. Consult their website for details.
TerraCycle recycles:
chip bags, drink pouches, yogurt cups, candy wrappers, cookie wrappers, Flavia fresh packs, granola/energy bar wrappers, Bear Naked packaging, Kashi packages, cell phones, personal care/beauty tubes, plastic-tape dispensers and cores, gum packages, writing instruments, Elmer's brand glue sticks and bottles, antibiotic ointment tubes, coffee bags, lunch kit packaging, toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, plastic toothbrush packaging, baby-food pouches, tubs and lids from butter, margarine or cream cheese, and Ziploc bags and containers. For full details, visit TerraCycle's website.