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Making Sense of the Massachusetts Bottle Bill

MAking Sense of the MA Bottle Bill | TheGreenngOfWestford.com

 

This November, Massachusetts voters are being asked whether or not they want to expand our current “Bottle Bill” to cover more types of bottles and cans.

You’d think that I would be all for the bottle bill.  In theory, I am.  More recycling, great!  But I had a lot of trouble with this one.   I have been thinking and talking to so many people about this.  A big issue was  separating facts from opinions and spin, on both sides of this issue.  I tried really hard to find independent data to verify various claims on both sides of the argument.  But I’ll admit, it was tough.  Below are my findings.  I tried to be objective, but some claims just didn’t make sense to me.  And I called them out.  But you decide.

Proposed Law

Let’s look at the actual wording of the original bill.  I refuse to believe any TV ad, articles or other paraphrases.

Please don’t crucify me if I oversimplified things here and there.  I’m trying to describe the law as accurately as possible without over complicating and confusing people. 

  • Expands the types of bottles/cans covered by the existing 5 cent deposit law. It will expand the current deposit system to cover other non carbonated non-alcoholic beverages in liquid form.  “excludes beverages that are primarily derived from dairy products, infant formula, united states food and drug administration-approved medicines,”.  Contains such things as water, juice, and tea.
  • The amount of this deposit (currently 5 cents) would be evaluated every 5 years and adjusted based on the consumer price index.
  • Increase the minimum handling fee that grocery stores and redemption centers are paid for returning the bottles/cans to the bottler/distributor. This is something I didn’t know about before.  Stores/redemption centers are paid by makers/distributors of the beverages for handling the returns.  Depending on who is accepting the returned bottle, the fee varies currently.  This law would make all handling fees 3.5 cents per bottle.  This is an increase from 2.25 cents for distributors.  It is an increase from 1 cent for bottlers.  So for example, Coke currently pays Stop ‘n Shop 1 cent per bottle to handle taking back a coke bottle/can.  This fee will increase to 3.5 cents.
  • The handling fee is assessed every 5 years by the secretary of the executive office of energy and environmental affairs and adjusted based on the consumer price index.
  • NEW: Establishes a Clean Environment Fund where abandoned deposits go. “Amounts deposited in said fund shall be used, subject to appropriation, for programs including but not limited to projects supporting the proper management of solid waste, water resource protection, parkland, urban forestry, air quality and climate protection.”  The way this is worded, the funds could be used for other purposes.
  • NEW: Small dealers can apply for an exemption so that they are not required to accept empty containers. 

 

The Claims

It really annoys me that in the official “Massachusetts Information For Voters 2014 Ballot Questions” brochure put out by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the for and against sections are written by proponents and opponents of the ballot question. Of course, each group spins it for their own gain.  You won’t hear anything negative in the FORs nor positive in the AGAINST.  I just want the truth, without the spin, and let me decide.  I don’t mind a few – hey that means this will/could happen, but let me decide with ALL the facts not just the ones that support your argument.

Here is my attempt to “fact check” the claims made by each side.  I tried to remain objective here as much as possible, but in the end I, of course, ended up with an opinion about these “facts”.  I have shared those with you, but please I urge you to make up your own mind. Maybe you don’t agree with me.  That’s fine.

FOR

Before I get into their claims, who is FOR this bill:  environmental groups like MassPIRG, Sierra Club, various local Climate action networks; League of Women Voters; health organizations like Leukemia and Lymphoma society and HealthLink; Government officials like representatives, senators and mayors. 

How much have they spent to educate voters:  $750,000

  • The Bottle bill works – 80% of beer and soda containers are redeemed/recycled. Only 23% of non-deposit containers are recycled.  I had a hard time figuring out if this was true or not.  What I looked at was a 2010 waste characterization study.  What is a waste characterication study?  MassDEP personnel literally sift through and sort trash to see what’s in there.  According to this study,  0% deposit aluminum cans were found in the trash.  0.5% of the total trash was plastic beverage bottles.  This doesn’t exactly prove that the recycling rates stated are correct, but it does tell me the aluminum cans, the ones that have a deposit currently, are NOT ending up in the trash.  And the plastic bottles, ones without the deposit, are.

My Conclusion: TRUE

  • Save municipalities up to $7 million. I looked at the study that came to this conclusion.  The most significant savings was estimated to come from reduce collection costs due to reduced items to collect.  This is the cost of the trucks driving around collecting trash/recycling.  The trucks still have to drive every street, ever week.  I just can’t believe that little bit of extra room in a truck will reduce the number of trucks thus reducing the cost.  However, if people return water bottles and the like instead of throwing them in the trash or on the ground, that will save cities and towns on “tipping fees”.  The cost of trash is 2 fold – one cost for trucks picking up the trash and a second cost, per ton, to dispose of the trash (tipping fee). It will also save a bit of labor picking up the litter.

My CONCLUSION: TRUE, but overstated

  • Less litter.   Someone will pick up those bottles and return them for the deposit. So this is probably true.

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE

  • Curbside recycling doesn’t help these situations because people drink these away from the home.  This doesn’t really fly with me. OK, maybe you are more likely to drink a bottle of water than a soda on a soccer field, or out for the day, but why aren’t there recycling bins out and about like there are all the trash cans these bottles are ending up in?  Or why aren’t people taking them home to recycle?  This point says to me, we need more public recycling bins, not necessarily an expanded bottle bill.

MY CONCLUSION: LAME

  • Restores the Clean Environment fund. This was in the original bill in 1981.  In 2003, Gov. Mitt Romney dissolved this and many other ear-marked items and sent them to the general fund. This is a fact.  What isn’t made completely clear is that only a portion of the unclaimed deposits go to the fund.  Not sure what that is.  And it seems like it’s still subject to appropriation.  So we have to watch this one and make sure funds don’t get taken away like they did in 2003.

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE, but must be watched

  • Increased Responsibility.  Like so many other items that are short lived, there is a cost associated with the waste generated from these bottles.  Cities/Towns and residents are bearing most of the cost in higher trash/recycling fees.  Some believe that the producer of such items, should share in the cost a bit.  Producers will have to pay the dealer/distributor a higher handling fee for bringing the bottle back to them.  Currently, bottlers (The Coco-cola’s ) are paying distributors and dealers (Market Baskets’) 1 cent per bottle returned to them.  This would increase to 3.5 cents and cover a lot more bottles.  Is it less expensive to toss your bottles into your recycling bin at home, probably.  But cheaper for who?  Is increasing bottle deposits the best way to increase responsibility?  Maybe not.

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE 

 

AGAINST

Who is Against this bill:  Beverage Distributors and Bottlers: Beer Distributors of MA, Berkshire Brewing Co., Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England; Liquor stores, Grocery Stores: Big Y, Market Basket; Waste Disposal Companies

How much have the spent to educate voters:  $8 million

  • 90% of households have access to curbside and community recycling.   The original statement was that 90% had access to curbside recycling.  The FOR side called this out as untrue, so the AGAINST side clarified by saying they meant curbside and community access (a drop off location).  I started out combing through MassDEP data to figure out what percentage of households actually did have access to recycling.  Then I stopped.   This is the way I view it.  If your city/town does not provide any sort of trash and recycling service to you, what do you do with it?  You have to do something with your waste, right?  Some will hire a company to come pick it up at the curb. Some will bring it to a transfer station or dump.  In MA, there is a thing called a waste banNo person can toss anything that is commonly recyclable into the trash.  No person can bring said material to a landfill or incinerator.  So, even if your town/city does not provide any trash/recycling services you are still responsible for it, correct?  And since no one can toss recyclables into the trash or transport them, it is your and your trash/recycling person’s responsibility to make sure these items are are recycled.  So maybe the opponents fudged the truth on the recycling stat a bit.  But I’d argue that 100% have access to and are responsible for recycling already.  

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE, but it doesn’t matter

MY CONCLUSION: LAME

  • Waste taxpayer dollars on expanding an uneconomical 30 year old system. There are no details here.  I’m not sure where this figure comes from.  I can’t figure out what taxpayer dollars would be going toward.  The administration of the law perhaps?  From what I can tell, the government doesn’t get too involved in the process except that stores are responsible for reporting how much money they collected in deposits and how much they paid out to the alcoholic beverage commission monthly. ???

MY CONCLUSION: INCONCLUSIVE

  • Raise your nickel deposit and additional fees every five years – without your vote. Yes the 5 cent deposit can be raised every five years based on the Consumer Price Index.  This is a percentage based on how much prices on goods and services have changed over the five years.   Also remember, that the “additional fees” mentioned here, are fees the bottlers are paying, not you.  Sure, they will threaten to raise the prices and pass this on to the consumer.  Studies have been done to show that the price of  a beverage in bottle bill vs non bottle bill states is the same.

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE

  • The Recycling Rate will only increase less than 1%.   To evaluate this, you need to look closely and know a few recycling definitions.  When someone refers to the “recycling rate”, they are referring to the overall rate at which all material being discarded is recycled.  For example, if I discard 10 lbs worth of stuff and 7 lbs goes into my trash barrel and the other 3 lbs go into my recycle bin, I have a recycling rate of 30% (3/10 lbs).  According to my look at the waste characterization study, plastic bottles made up 0.5% of the waste.  So, as long as you are clear on what this means.  It’s probably pretty close.  Just be sure you realize that it is not disputing the 80% recycle rate claimed by proponents. 

MY CONCLUSION: TRUE, but make sure you understand what is being said

  •  More than $30 million of unclaimed nickels go to the state’s general fund not to environmental programs.  Under the current law, this is true.  The ballot question aims to change that.  As I said above, though, this will need to be watched.  However, the way this claim is worded, it makes people think that the money is still going to be going directly to the general fund, which, strictly speaking, it’s not.  A NO vote will continue to send the money to the general fund with no hopes of funding environmental issues.

MY CONCLUSION: LAME

 

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

Ever wonder what happens to the bottles/cans you return?  They are sold by the bottlers to scrap metal/plastic/glass dealers to be recycled.  Yes, SOLD, as in the bottlers are making money from the materials just like your curbside recycler does.  Actually they are making more than many of the curbside recyclers.  Since these bottles/cans are separated when they are returned, they are of a higher quality than single-stream recycables.  They command a higher price.  How much?  I don’t know.  But they are recouping some of the money they are spending on handling fees, maybe more.  

Why are the bottlers, distributors, and grocery stores lobbying so hard to get you to vote no?  In addition to the $8 million they’ve spent on this, they have spent who knows how much more money over the years to keep this bill from getting on the ballot or being passed by the legislature. Ask yourself why?  

Curbside recyclers are against this bill because it will take revenue out of their stream – less plastic bottles for them to sell.  So apparently there are enough of these bottles ending up in recycling bins to affect the recyclers.  I’m not sure what to make of this.  I see so many plastic bottles in the trash that I can’t imagine that the 20% or so that are recycled make that big of an impact.  But maybe 20% of a HUGE number is still a huge number and recyclers would rather see money being spent on encouraging people to recycle the 80% into their revenue stream.

The opposition urges us “Let’s stop throwing money at an inefficient system and invest in modern recycling technology”.  Sounds great!  Sign me up! Are they offering up the money to do this?  I agree that maybe the bottle bill system is redundant, but it works. Normal recycling without incentives (or penalties perhaps) just doesn’t get the job done as well. 

Yes it is a pain in the neck to lug these bottles back to the store/redemption center rather than throw them in your recycling bin.  But think about this, most of these items are not good for your health or are a waste of money.  Stop buying them and avoid the returns and cost all together.  If you feel you must buy bottled water, buy the larger sizes and fill your own bottle.  They are less expensive, no deposits and can still be recycled.

 Yes recycling is available to most residents now where it wasn’t when the bill was first introduced.  However, in all those 25+ years, people still aren’t taking advantage of this recycling- for one reason or another.  Unfortunately, it seems as though unless you hit people in their wallets, they don’t pay attention.  I don’t like that, but I see it more and more as reality.  Ask your friends who live in communities where they pay for bags/barrels of trash (Pay as You Throw, PAYT, systems).  Have they taken the time and  figured out how to reduce their trash to save some money?

 

Ultimately, I just wish everyone would be more reasonable and realistic.  Instead of fighting about this, can’t we all agree that 1) bottles create litter 2) they aren’t being recycled at a high rate  and 3) let’s ALL do something about it.  Heck, take an ever broader view and look at all waste.  Design the ideal system – easy, efficient, cost effective – and EVERYONE do their part.  Producers, consumers, stores, recyclers, government, EVERYONE!

 

But for now, I still need to decide how I will vote on Question 2…….

 

Resources:

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleXV/Chapter94/Section321

http://massbottlebill.org/files/Impacts%20of%20EBB%20on%20Municipal%20Recycling.pdf

http://www.yeson2ma.org

http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/dep/recycle/solid/wcshaver.pdf 

http://bottlebillfacts.com/wp/

http://plymouth.wickedlocal.com/article/20141009/News/141007312/?Start=1

http://comprehensiverecyclingworks.com/facts/

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/massdep/recycle/reduce/bottle-and-can-recycling.html

4

Earth Month 2014

April 22 is Earth Day.  More recently, people are celebrating the whole month long!  There is so much to do and say that a single day is really tough. Plus a month long celebration gives people a chance to really get into it.  April is usually very spring-like, the weather is warming up, spring cleaning starts to happen, gardening, tons of things that really speak to Earth Day.  But this year –   There is still snow on the ground in many parts of Massachusetts!  This will be a tough one!

So this year, I’ve joined my Green Sisterhood in a month long celebration to encourage me, and you.

Here’s what’s up for this month:

 

Instagram Challenge April 1 -April 5

Earth Month Blog Party #earthdaygs

Each day, upload an example of the theme for that day.  So for tomorrow on April 1, upload a picture of you refusing something –  a bag you don’t need at the grocery store, Not buying something, whatever, get creative!

If you are not on instagram, feel free to upload on another social media channel and let us know!  Be sure to use #earthdaygs and the themed hashtag for that day  so we can all see what awesome things you do for the 5 R’s.

 

Twitter Chat  -Thursday April 3 9pm EST

I’ll admit I’ve never participated in a twitter chat.  Have you?   I’m excited to try it out since I hear you get loads of great information and it’s fun!    There are also prizes to be won.  Who doesn’t love winning a prize for answering a question?   You have to follow @Greensisterhood and me @GreeningWestford on Twitter and use#earthdaygs so you can enter to win prizes. 

Earth Day Twitter Chat - April 3 9pm EST  #earthdaygs

 

Green Sisterhood Blog Party All Month Long

There is nothing like a good old fashioned blog party to get things going! Come back here every Friday for a new post.  And remember to check out the other Green Sisters’ posts.  These ladies are THE sources for all green info!

Earth Month Blog Party #earthdaygs

Here are the bloggers participating:

Almost All The Truth
ecokaren
Green 4 U
Green Talk
The Greening Of Westford
Jen and Joey goes Green
The Soft Landing
Eco-Novice: Going Green Gradually

 

Are you ready? Leave me your Instagram and Twitter handles in the comments so I can follow you.

1

Why Are The Bees Dying?

Why are the bees dying?

 

Remember the film “Bee Movie”?  Remember when the bees went on strike and everything started to die?  Until I saw that movie, I had never really thought about that.  But it’s true!  If bees aren’t there to pollinate, many fruits, veggies, and flowers that rely on pollination… won’t produce their fruit.  Think almonds, blueberries, kiwi, and cocoa!  Yes chocolate!!  And that is the tip of the proverbial iceberg folks.

As far back as 2007, when Bee movie was released, colony collapse disorder (CCD) has been discussed.  Bees are disappearing and/or dying for unknown reasons.  Last winter 1/3 of all the bees in the US were lost.  

“Honeybees originally imported from Europe are used to pollinate $14.6 billion worth of fruits, nuts and other U.S. crops annually. Bees also have disappeared from hives in Brazil and across Europe.”

That is a LOT of pollinating!!!

Why is this happening?

That is the $64,000 question.   Some thoughts include:

 

What’s Next?

The bottom line for me – bees are disappearing, PERIOD!   If this continues, our food supply is in danger.  

This is definitely a topic I want to pay closer attention to.  To raise awareness I am joining with others in the Get The Buzz On Bees and Make Your Backyard Count Blog Fest.  Take a look at it for loads more information.

A new report from Friends of the Earth suggests that many garden products and plants sold at major retailers containing neonicotinoid insecticides are a major contributing factor to this issue.  For more information and ways you can help, click here.

Are you concerned about the bees?

5

Out Of The Box School Fundraisers

Back to School!  We are at the mid-point of the summer.  Back to school sales are upon us.  We’ve even started searching for back to school supplies.

Many schools are hurting for funding and are looking at ways to creatively raise some cash.  It is a necessary evil.  Boy, I really don’t care for most of the traditional school fundraisers.  The items are almost always overpriced because there is a middle-man taking their cut.  The products can be sub-par as far as quality in some cases.  Most people feel obligated to buy something.  Wouldn’t it be better to go a different way?

As part of a Back to School Blog Carnival hosted by Retro Housewife Goes Green, I’ve put together a few options that won’t cost family members an arm and a leg and actually do some good besides raising the profits of the company selling the junk  merchandise.

 

Out of the Box School Fundraisers {thegreeningofwestford.com}

Terracycle 

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I started a TerraCycle program called Upcycle It! a little over 3 years ago.  TerraCycle collects otherwise un-recyclable items, keeping them out of the waste stream,  and turns them into new products.  They accept over 40 different items such as chip bags, granola wrappers, writing instruments, cell phones and much more.  

As if that wasn’t cool enough, for each item sent to TerraCycle, money is donated to your school or non-profit.  Most items are 2 cents.  Doesn’t sound like much does it?  But it’s pretty much free money.  Think about all the granola bar wrappers coming into schools each day.  All you have to do is get those wrappers into a box, slap a pre-paid shipping label on it and voila – money!  Since starting Upcycle It!, we have raised almost $9,000.  Yup, 2 cents at a time folks!

 

ShoeBox Recycling

Got shoes that you’ve outgrown?  What school aged child doesn’t!  Collect those paired, reusable shoes, ShoeBox Recycling will pay you $0.50 per pair.  Our school district’s elementary and middle school Parent Teacher Organizations (PTO) started this program last school year.   The Elementary schools alone made almost $3000.  The President of the PTO said it was so easy!  She was very smart and placed boxes at our local library, a couple of shoe stores in town and the senior center in addition to the elementary schools.

The shoes are “distributed for resale and reuse in [their] original form, at various local marketplaces around the world.”  ShoeBox Recycling provides the boxes and FedEx will deliver them, free of charge.  Your school will receive a monthly check with your earnings.

 

Natick BoxTextile recycling

Did you know that you can donate clothing that may be ripped or stained?  Yes, you can!  And your school could benefit.  There are many companies that collect old clothing or fabric of any kind (including old stuffed animals, curtains, towels and more) and pay those who house their collection bins. 

One such company in my area, Bay State Textiles, pays schools $100 per ton.  Bay State Textiles works with your school and provides education materials to help spread the word.   They are currently working with several towns in the area.  One, Beverly, MA, collected over 11,000 pounds in the month of June alone.  The school made $586!  

 

All of these programs take minimal effort, reduce items going into the waste stream, and don’t cost parents or relatives a dime.  Win-win-win.  The environment benefits too – WIN!

 For more great back to school posts, be sure to check out the blog carnival.

Know of any other out of the box fundraisers?

 

This post has been shared at Fabulously Frugal Thursdays, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Thank Goodness It’s Monday

6

The Milk Industry Wants to do What??? {Know The Facts}

What the Milk Industry really wants



Have you heard the latest craziness?   In 2009, the Milk industry petitioned the FDA to allow the use of artificial sweeteners in milk without additional labeling on the front of the package.  Labels such as “reduced calorie” or “reduced sugar” are required now when artificial sweeteners are added to dairy products as an extra notice to consumers.  

FDA is now asking for comments on this petition and articles are flying around the internet.  The problem is that quite a few articles are incorrect or unclear on what the petition is actually asking.  Many are claiming that the milk industry wants to add artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) without including that ingredient in the ingredient list.  This is not true.   Other articles are claiming that the industry is asking to be allowed to add artificial sweeteners to milk.  They already can!  What they are actually asking for is to remove the additional front of the package labeling.

I did quite a bit of reading of the actual petition and this is my interpretation and that of the Huffington Post and Snopes.

Straight from the petition:

The IDFA (International Dairy Foods Association ) and NMPF (National Milk Producers Federation) jointly submitted a citizen petition (Ref. 1) on March 16, 2009, requesting that FDA amend the standard of identity in part 131 (21 CFR part 131) for milk (§ 131.110). Specifically, the petition requests that FDA amend § 131.110(c)(2) to allow the use of “any safe and suitable” sweetener in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients used in milk.”
What does this mean?  They want to redefine the word “milk” to include “any safe and suitable” sweetener – i.e. artificial sweeteners, also known in biz as “non-nutritive sweeteners”.  Nutritive sweeteners such as sugar and high fructose corn syrup are already part of the definition.  This does NOT mean that they don’t need to be listed in the ingredient list.  Just that by definition, milk can contain these items and still be called just plain old “milk” without any qualifiers on the label – the front of the label.  So why bother you might ask, well…..

The petition goes on to say:

“The petition acknowledges that the use of non-nutritive sweeteners in optional characterizing flavoring ingredients in milk is allowed under the existing regulatory scheme, with certain additional requirements. …  Therefore, while the milk standard of identity in § 131.110 only provides for the use of “nutritive sweetener” in an optional characterizing flavor, milk may contain a characterizing flavor that is sweetened with a non-nutritive sweetener if the food’s label bears a nutrient content claim (e.g., “reduced calorie”) and the non-nutritive sweetener is used to add sweetness to the product so that it is not inferior in its sweetness property compared to its standardized counterpart. 

Artificial sweeteners can already be added to milk, as long as there is additional labeling on the packaging.  We usually see something like “reduced sugar” or certain ingredients have an asterisk with a note such as “*Ingredients not in regular milk”.  I recently found this on a yogurt container with Sucralose.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize at the time that sucralose is code for Equal.

So what is their reasoning for this.  Again from the petition:   “However, IDFA and NMPF argue that nutrient content claims such as “reduced calorie” are not attractive to children, and maintain that consumers can more easily identify the overall nutritional value of milk products that are flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners if the labels do not include such claims. Further, the petitioners assert that consumers do not recognize milk—including flavored milk—as necessarily containing sugar. Accordingly, the petitioners state that milk flavored with non-nutritive sweeteners should be labeled as milk without further claims so that consumers can “more easily identify its overall nutritional value.”

OK, so let me get this straight.  I, as a consumer, don’t recognize that milk should contain sugar. Right, plain milk shouldn’t.  Flavored milk however?  Unless it’s broccoli flavored milk, I’m pretty sure there is a sweetener of some kind in there.  But let’s keep going…. if I see “reduced sugar” on a bottle of chocolate milk I might get confused and think this isn’t milk?????  So they are doing me a favor.  And the piece d ’resistance” children are not attracted to a product that is labeled “reduced sugar”.

Personally, I think this is another marketing tactic and I do not agree with it.  Yes, the ingredients will still be listed but it is getting more and more difficult to decode ingredient lists.  I have added comments to this effect on the FDA petition.   

Comment period on the petition ends May 21, 2013.  Here is good read on the subject.

Misleading articles and the damage they do

With a little reading of the actual petition I could tell there was something not right about the initial articles I was reading.  Writers:  Do your due diligence!  You are hurting the environmental movement by jumping to conclusions and getting people riled up about something that is not true.  Many articles refer to petitions asking to stop the FDA from “adding aspartame to milk” or to require it in the ingredient list.  These petitions are asking the wrong thing.  Many people are submitting comments to the FDA on the wrong issue!  The FDA will be dismissing these comments as not relevant.  I hope these article are corrected and the petitions amended.  

What are your thoughts on this change?   Were you confused about the petition?

This post was shared at Green Sisterhood

2

Ditch The Plastic Bags


The little plastic grocery bag.  It has become quite the hot topic.  Plastic bag bans and fees are popping up around the world.  Just last week, Brookline, MA became the second Massachusetts town to ban plastic bags.  The first in Massachusetts was Nantucket in 1990!  But what is the big deal with plastic bags?  Why are they so bad?  

I wrote about The Problems with Plastics in Greene Westford column in May 2011.  Here are the reasons stated in that article.

BIG PICTURE REASONS 

Plastic never goes away!  Yes these bags can be recycled (at grocery stores NOT curbside).  However, this is only possible a few times. Each time plastics are recycled, they are degraded.  Eventually, recycling is no longer possible and they must get thrown away.  In a landfill, it can take up to 1,000 years to decompose.  Even then, plastics actually photo degrade which releases toxins into the soil, air, and water.  Ironic that plastics are long lasting, yet they are mostly used for disposable items like water bottles and ziptop baggies

Recycling Rates are very low.  Many people don’t know or take the time to recycle the bags so the recycling rate is very low.  Numbers varied, but it is less than 5%.

Plastic pollutes the oceans.  Lots of plastic makes it way to the oceans (heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch?).  In the oceans, plastic bags can strangle animals or they mistake plastic bits for food.  Not such a healthy meal for them.  Or us!  Guess who is eating those fish?  

Plastic contains toxic chemicals.  Plastics contain 2 chemicals that are of particular interest – bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.  These chemicals can leach into foods where they are then ingested.  Both of these chemicals mimic estrogen and can disrupt our own hormones.   Effects of exposure to these hormone disruptors include immune dysfunction, metabolic disorders (diabetes) and reproductive problems. Infants and small children are most vulnerable to BPA.   

Plastics are made from oil.  The same oil that is used to produce gasoline.  Oil, as we know, is not going to last indefinitely.  It is estimated that 10% of the world’s oil supply is used for creating plastics. 

So those are the big picture reasons.  Let’s make this a little more personal.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME

Plastic bags are a pain to deal with  Reusable bags are so much easier to carry.  You can sling them on your shoulder and they don’t dig into your fingers cutting off the circulation.

Save Money.   Many stores give discounts – Target, Whole Foods, and Stop and Shop give you 5 cents per bag. Roche Brothers give 5 cents for their bags to Children’s Hospital.   Make sure to ask at Target, they often forget.

Oh I can hear it now.  “Yes but those reusable bags are full of bacteria!  And what if my meat leaks in them.”  Um, you wash your clothes right?  You wash your counter after meat juice leaks all over the place, right?  WASH THE BAGS!


I was recently told about this Plastic Bag Ban Map.  It shows what is going on worldwide with plastic bag bans and fee programs.


               

I had a lot of fun looking around.  A few things struck me:

  • Notice that MANY island nations and those bordering the ocean have instituted some sort of reduction measures.  They see the destruction first hand.
  • Many countries, The. Entire. Country, has a bag ban in place: Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, Taiwan, and China are among them.
  • The red pins represent the failures.  I was saddened to see that most of the red pins are in the US.


There are opportunities here.  Opportunities = Jobs, Money, Growth.  Washington DC instituted a bag fee.  All of the money collected would go toward cleaning up the Anacostia river. Plastic bags made up 21% of the trash is this river and 40% in its tributaries.   Guess what happened?  People brought their own bags and the fee generated only half the revenue expected!

If you live in Massachusetts, you might be forced to consider this switch soon.   State Rep. Lori Ehrlich will be co-sponsoring a bill to ban the bags in Massachusetts.  She will bring this bill to session this January.

I hope this gains momentum.  I am afraid that an outright ban will most likely fail in Massachusetts.  As I looked around at articles online about Brookline’s ban, I kept seeing comments to the tune of “I don’t want big government telling me what to do.”  “I reuse my bags!”  Not that people want more fees in “Taxachusetts”, but I think it might be less of a sting to people.  Well, maybe a different sting.

Do You Use Reusable Bags?

This post is shared at Small Footprints Friday

12

Give the Gift of Warmth

Where to donate winter coats

Winter in New England means snow ball fights, sledding, making snow men and snow angels.  You can’t possibly do that without a good winter coat!  And winter is here!

A few weeks ago, I had my kids try on all their coats, mittens, hats and boots.  Now I have a pile of perfectly good winter gear that doesn’t fit anyone.  What to do with it?

Well, I could of course donate them where I donate the rest of our clothing.  But there are so many organizations that specifically collect winter gear that I’d like to make sure these items get there and get into the hands of people who need them.  NOW!  It’s cold in Massachusetts and you NEED a winter coat, hats, mittens, ….

There are many organizations that collect winter coats. 

One Warm Coat

One Warm Coat collects coats, jackets, hats, mittens, sweaters, sweatshirts and any other outwear to keep someone warm.  They have collection sites across the country including Burlington Coat Factory and The Container Store locations.  Check here for a donation site close to you.

Coats For Kids

Massachusetts based Coats for Kids is sponsored by local Anton’s Cleaners.  This is the 18th year Anton’s has run this coat drive, collecting over 744,000 coats in the first 17 years.  All coats are cleaned, by Anton’s, free of charge, and donated to those in need.  The coat drives from Oct through January 12, 2013.  You can bring your gently used coats to any Aton’s Cleaners, Jordan’s Furniture, or many schools throughout Massachusetts.  Local schools who participate receive rewards for their donations.

Local Schools, Churches, Scout Troops

Many schools and other community organizations have coat drives.  I know my children’s school usually does a coat and/or hat drive most years.

Local Charities

I always knew that The Wish Project in Lowell, MA took all sorts of in season clothing, but only recently realized that a local food pantry – Loaves and Fishes in Devens,MA – also takes seasonal clothing, including coats.

Just remember that someone will need to wear this coat, so they need to be in good, working condition and clean.  If your coats are past their prime, they can still be recycled.

Have Any Winter Gear to Donate?

2

Beaches, Butts and Straws

litter on beaches

Last weekend brought beautiful weather to Massachusetts.  It was warm with just a hint of fall peeking through.   I love these days!  Best of all, I was able to spend Sunday afternoon with my daughter and her Girl Scout troop on a beautiful beach in Gloucester, MA called Wingaersheek.  I had never been here before.  It is so picturesque and the sand is as fine and soft as powder.  It even has the stereotypical New England light house in the distance!

Now, remember, I was there with girl scouts.  We weren’t there to just have fun.  We were there, along with about 50 other girl scouts, to clean up the beach.  Honestly, we all thought “Really, they picked this beach for us to clean up?  I don’t see anything.”


But we started looking.  And we found trash.  The 2 most found items:  cigarette butts and straws!  It was amazing how many we found. 

litter found on beach cigarette buttsI recently learned that cigarette butts take anywhere from 18 months to 10 years to break down.  The filter is actually a form of plastic called cellulose acetate.  It is very slow to break down and contains tar – a toxin. Yet another source for ground and water pollution. It is estimated that trillions of cigarette butts litter the world each year. Cigarettelitter.org estimates they are the most littered item worldwide!  During the Coastal Cleanup Day in 2000, 230,000 cigarette butts were found on California beaches.  TerraCycle is attempting to upcycle cigarette butts in Canada.  The cigarette butts will be turned into plastic pallets for industrial use.
After cleaning up the beach I can totally see how cigarette butts can be the most littered item.  They were everywhere.  They are so small I’m guessing smokers don’t think it’s such a big deal.  But boy does it add up!

Straws and the waste they generate have been a topic for many environmentalists.  Milo Cress started the Be Straw Free Campaignat age 9 to reduce the 500 million straws used each day.  Do you really need a straw?  Think about it.  At a restaurant, you could probably do without one.  Refusing a single straw may not seem like you are making a big dent in the 500 million, but you might just prompt a conversation with someone else and get them to refuse a straw next time.  Just like that old shampoo commercial, “And they’ll tell 2 friends, and so on and so on and so on….” 

Now there are times when I really like a straw.  Did you know there are reusable straws?  We have stainless steel straws, others are madeof glass and are available online.  Beth Terry, author of Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You CanToo, carries one in her purse to use when in restaurants.  By the way, I totally recommend reading Beth’s book.  Lots of great information and plenty of do-able actions.


If you live in Westford, the Highway Department in conjunction with the Litter League Green Team has cleanup kits you can borrow to clean up areas of Westford.

0

Where Did My Facebook Posts Go?

Maybe you have heard the talk about Facebook’s “promote” feature for fan pages.  Page administrators (like me) are not happy about it.  A while ago, we (page admins) started seeing statistics on our posts – how many of our fans saw the post.  Kinda cool right?  Well, maybe not.  It’s not an indication of who read your post, but an indication of how many news feeds Facebook bothered to post your update on!  The average is less than 30%.  


After Facebook went public in early June, a “Promote” button appeared as a page post option.  What is this?  It’s a way for Facebook to make money from pages – you can opt to PAY to have YOUR EXISTING FANS SEE YOUR POSTS.  YES, that’s right.  You already liked a page, but guess what, you may not be seeing all of the posts.


There are few things about this that are particularly lousy:

  1. Unless you have at least 400 fans, you don’t get the option to promote.
  2. The prices for promotion (for reaching fans that have already said they want to see your content) is ridiculous.  I have heard that it costs $5 to reach 1000 fans.  That is per post per 1000 fans.
  3. Once again large corporations with deep pockets will be flooding the market, drowning out the non-profits and grass roots organizations.  
OK, enough venting….

How To Fight Back

If there are pages you want to continue to see, 
  • Like, share, and comment on their posts.  This interaction will tell Facebook you enjoy this content and increase the likelihood of you seeing the posts.
  • Make sure the “Show in news feed” button is checked – find this by hovering over the “like” button on the page itself.  You can also get to it from a post in your news feed – hover on the name of the page, a box will appear, move your mouse to hover over the “liked” button.  It should appear.
  • You can also create a “list” of pages.  It’s still not clear if this gets you all the posts from those pages, but it’s a start.  Actually I really like this list option.  “Lists” let you separate FB pages onto different news feeds.  I have created a few lists for different types of pages I follow – one for news, one for green info…..  I have WAY too many pages liked and my news feed was a mess!

I’m trying a few things on my end too.  We’ll see how it goes!

0

You CAN Donate Ripped And Stained Clothing



 
Summer is coming.  Are you switching out your winter for summer clothes?  What do you do with clothes you will no longer wear or that don’t fit? 
 
There are MANY bins around that will accept old clothing.  Salvation Army, Goodwill, New England Clothes Recycling, plus various charities such as The Wish Project.
 
If your clothes are in good condition, donate them to a charity like The Wish Project .  These charities give clothing straight to people who need it.  They must be in wearable condition – no stains or rips.
 
So what do you do with items that are torn, broken in some way or stained beyond help?  DONATE THEM to Salvation Army, Goodwill or the (cream colored) NE Clothing Recycling bins around town.  These organizations work with members of the textile industry to recycle everything possible.  Members of the nonprofit trade association SMART (Secondary Materials And Recycling Textiles) include companies that work with used clothing, wiping materials (rags) and the fiber industry.
 
SMART members purchase excess textiles from charities and other collectors of clothing.  They then sort and grade the clothing based on condition.
 
 
  • 45% is generally exported to lesser developed countries where demand is high.  We were told by a member of SMART that many people in foreign countries will purchase this clothing, fix it, then resell it to make a living.
  • 30% become wiping and polishing cloths unused in commercial areas.
  • 20% is reprocessed into fibers for furniture stuffing, upholstery, insulation, yarn etc.
  • 5% is unusable and gets, truly, thrown out.
The EPA estimates that the average person throws away 70 lbs of clothing annually.  My guess is that most of that comes from children!  They outgrow items very quickly or are tough on them causing stains or rips.
 
The generic term textiles is used to mean any clothing, fabric, sheets, towels, etc.  According to EPA, textiles made up 5.2% of the waste steam in 2010.  Of this waste, only 15% is recycled in some way.  That means there is a lot of room for improvement.  The other 85%, making up over 11 million tons of clothing, could be recycled.  It may not seem like much given that it is a small percentage of the total waste.  But think about the jobs it creates along the way, the money charities can raise, and the energy that is saved because new items aren’t being made.  And it’s easy!
 
We want the public to know all clothing andhousehold textiles such as tablecloths, sheets, shoes, belts, and stuffed animals can be recycled.  As long as the items are clean, even if they are stained or damaged, there is a recycling use for the material,” says Larry Groipen, SMART President and President of ERC Wiping Products (Lynn, MA).  
 
MassDEP  didn’t know these statistics until recently. Last fall then began working with SMART to get the word out that ALL textiles can be recycled in some way.
As long as they are dry, clean and free from mildew or hazardous materials like oil or paint.
 
Where do you recycle clothes?
 
Photo on top used under Creative Commons license by Alvimann/Flickr

This post was shared at Green Sisterhood

5

Happy 2nd Birthday Upcycle It!

 

Today marks 2 years since the Upcycle It! program started in Westford.  It has been quite a success!
   
As of today, the totals are:

279, 562 pieces
2,759 lbs of trash kept out of the waste stream
$5,656.46 raised
 
I was recently informed that Upcycle It! is one of TerraCycle’s MVC’s – Most Valuable Collectors.
 
Over these 2 years, I have learned quite a bit sorting through the upcycle.  So, on this 2nd birthday, I’d like to share with you some random thoughts and a few things I have learned along the way.

 
Upcycle It! Top Ten Lessons Learned
 
10.  No matter how much you squeeze a juice pouch, there is still some juice left.
 
9.  Box Tops are now on Chex Mix bags.
 

8.  You can learn a lot by going through someone’s trash.

 
7. An elementary school does NOT go through as much glue as you might think.
 
6. It takes less than 2 weeks for juice pouches to really stink!
 
5. After sorting trash for a while, you can tell what kind of packaging something is just by the color and feel.
 
4. If you want good shipping boxes, stalk the chip and cereal vendors at the grocery stores.
 
3. If you sort upcycle stuff, ironically YOUR trash is very large because of the mistake items.
 
2. The number of candy wrappers upcycled increases from Halloween through Valentines, but so do toothbrushes and toothpaste.
 
1. People love to upcycle!
 
 
Do You Upcycle?
 
*Top photo used under Creative Commons from Landhere/Flickr

6

Bill McKibben: Inspiration through Depression?

Male, Maldives 350.org 10/10/10 day of action (Photo Credit: Mohamed Rasheed Ahmed/Creative Commons)
 
I had the pleasure of hearing Bill McKibben speak last Sunday.  McKibben is the author of several books on climate change and founder of 350.org.   He was introduced as a “prophet” but described himself as a “professional bummer-outter of people”  He was right!  I definitely appreciated his honestly and the fact that he didn’t sugar coat the information, but, boy, I left a little depressed.  
 
He started by presenting the following facts:
 
  • We have raised the Earth’s temperature by 1 degree, trapping more energy
  • Oceans have absorbed enough carbon to make them 30% more acidic.  Acidic waters are not friendly to some of its inhabitants.
  • Warm air holds more water.  The air is 4% wetter now.  This sets us up for more droughts and more flooding.  Making food production more difficult
We have seen some strange weather over the last few years.  I don’t remember seasons being so different one year to the next when I was growing up.  In New England, it snowed in the winter, roughly the same amount.  In the summer it was warm, not 100 degrees.  Now, you just don’t know what the weather will bring.  Last winter, we had so much snow we didn’t know where to put it.  This year, school was cancelled Oct 31 – Nov 3 for a freak snow storm, then nothing to really speak of for the rest of winter.  Then we had the week of 70 – 80 degree weather a couple of weeks ago – in MARCH! 
 
“I know everyone enjoyed the heck out of the fine weather last week and I did too.  But I felt weird about enjoying it.” McKibben said.  The temperatures weren’t just off the charts.  “They were off the wall that the charts were tacked to”, he said.
 
“Here’s the scary part,” he cautioned, “we are only at the beginning.”  A one degree change now can turn into a 4 to 5 degree change by the end of the century.  We cannot cope on a planet like that.
 
McKibben believes that we cannot stop climate change, but we might have time to stop it from getting any worse. 
 
Technology is not the problem he told us.  That is the easy part.  Our problem is political.  Do we have the will to do what is needed fast enough?  McKibben explained that we need to figure out how to confront the fossil fuel industry.  They are screaming loudly in our governments ears, using lobbyist to get their way.   We can’t out spend them.  We need another type of currency, “passion, spirit, and creativity.”  With the delay of the Keystone XL Pipeline, big oil may have lost that fight.  But they are not backing down.
 
 
One thing he said really struck me.  He said that many people believe environmentalists are the radicals.  He explained, “They (fossil fuel industry) are radical.  They are willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere to make money.”
 
 
In the last few minutes of his speech, I could feel a knot forming in the pit of my stomach. Images of my children flashed in my mind.  What kind of world will they be raising their children in?  He showed several pictures of 350.org’s first day of action during the lecture.  The one shown at the top of this post stood out and was held on the screen for quite a while.    These little girls’ faces brought tears to my eyes.  Places that have been hardest hit by climate change did not cause it.
 
Now that I have calmed down, I am more energized to change things!
 
 
On May 5, 350.org is planning another day of action called “Connect the Dots.”    To connect the dots between climate change and extreme weather. 
 
Will you be a part of this?  
 
 

2

Upcycle It! in the Top 100

Anastasia and Ashley (WA Environmental Club Students) after sorting Upcycle It! 

I have been getting TONS of email lately from TerraCycle.  All good!  I wanted to share the success with all of you.

About 2 weeks ago, I started getting emails with the title:

“Congratulations from TerraCycle–you’re a top 100 Brigade member!”

I get so many emails, that at first I put it aside and figured I look more closely later.  Then 2 more came, from different people at TerraCycle.  Honestly, at first I thought “Do you people talk to each other? I already got this email.”  Sorry TerraCycle.  When I looked closer, it turned out that they were for different brigades (collection items)!  We are in the Top 100 for
Chip Bags –  our total is 53,799,  more than around 9,500 other collection sites
Candy Wrappers – our total is 15,411, more than around 15,000 others
Oral Care – our total is 4,739
Writing instruments – 11,311, more than around 1,250 other locations
These totals are as of today.  We are always sending more shipments and the totals climb every couple of weeks.
In the midst of all this, we hit $5000 in late February.  Somewhere in here TerraCycle asked to feature our program in their blog.  And we were!
As of today, our totals are:
250,736 pieces
2,559 lbs of trash kept out of the waste stream
$5088.36 raised

Our next grant was also announced.  If you are a student, teacher or otherwise associated with one of the Westford Schools and would like to do an environmental project, apply!  There is up to $1500 available in this cycle.  Get an application here.
Keep this grant in mind.  It will be available twice a year around November and March.  Check here and the Westford Farmers Market for details.

2

Bill McKibben To Speak In Weston, MA

Bill McKibben (Photo Credit Nancie Battaglia)
“Probably the country’s most important environmentalist”  
That is how the Boston Globe described Bill McKibben.  On March 25, The Congregational Church of Weston is bringing Bill McKibben to Weston High School. 

The author, educator and environmentalist has written several books on climate change.  His first book in 1989, The End Of Nature, is said to be the first book written for the general population on climate change. In addition to books, Bill is a frequent contributor to several magazines.  Among them, The New York Times, Harper’s, Rolling Stone and Grist Magazine.

Bill is an activist as well.  He is a founder of the grassroots organization 350.org which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009.  350.org is named for the safe level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (350 parts per million). Currently, the earth is at 393.65 parts per million.  

Currently, he resides with his wife and daughter in Vermont.  However, Bill grew up not far from here in Lexington, MA.

Come here him speak.  I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing him speak yet, but a friend of mine has said he is very motivating.
March 25, 3pm 
Weston High School 
 444 Wellesley St, Weston, MA

Admission is FREE

0

Clean Up Westford, One Hour at a Time

Now that the snow has finally melted, have you noticed something?  I have… all the trash along our streets!

Carmen Chiungos, long-time Westford resident, also noticed.  And she wasn’t going to take it lying down.  She created the Westford Litter League Green Team.  Each Saturday morning a different area of town is cleaned up by volunteers.  Who are these volunteers you ask?  They are me, you, and anyone else in Westford who doesn’t like seeing the trash.



I went the first week at Forge Pond. We picked up about 6 bags of trash. 

Every Saturday from 8am to 9am, just bring a trash bag and some hand protection.  


Come join us:


April 30 – The American Legion on Dunstable Rd

May 7 – Power Rd and Vine Brook Rd

May 14 – Bridge St. and Graniteville Rd

May 28 – Rt. 27 and Vose Hill Rd


If you can’t make it, clean up around your own street. 

2

Upcycle It! Turning Trash into Cash

Sustainable Westford’s Upcycle It! program is taking trash to new heights and Westford schools are cashing in.

Upcycle It! collects non-recyclables such as chip bags, granola bar wrappers, cookie wrappers and more to keep them out of the waste stream. These items are sent to a company called TerraCycle. These items are then upcycled into new products.

TerraCycle collects 36 different ‘brigade’ items (types of waste) including chip bags, energy bar wrappers, candy wrappers, coffee bags, dried out pens and yogurt containers and upcycles them into eco-friendly products. The awesome thing is that all of the items are non-recyclable or hard to recycle. Now you are thinking, “Wow, that’s cool. But how do they get this stuff. Are they going through landfills?” Lucky for them, no. Any group or individual can sign up to collect and send items to TerraCycle. The shipping is free and 2 cents per item is donated to the school or charity of your choice. TerraCycle then takes the trash and makes backpacks, tote bags, and flower pots just to name a few of their 243 products. Sustainable Westford donates this money back to the Westford Public Schools.

I had wanted to start a TerraCycle program for a few years. Finally last winter, I signed up, joined a few brigades and started asking friends and others in town to collect these items with me. In April, I approached Gloria Gilbert, Westford Farmers Market founder, with the idea of putting a collection bucket at the market to make it more convenient. Little did I know, the group had recently expanded their mission to bring more “green” programs to the community, calling themselves Sustainable Westford. That conversation was the beginning of Upcycle It! Through the spring and summer, Upcycle It! spread through the town. Each week at the Farmers Market the Upcycle It! tent collected bags and bags of items. This past fall, collections began at most of the Westford schools – the 60+ buckets decorated by Westford Farmers Market volunteers are shown above. Students save items in the cafeterias and classrooms, and many others drop off items at the library, Roudenbush and Starbucks.

Since the program began in May, $1010.42 has been raised, over 50,000 pieces of trash totalling almost 590 lbs have been saved from the waste stream.

What to Collect

To participate, you simply need to save the items we collect and drop them off at one of the many convenient locations throughout Westford. Although TerraCycle collects 36 items, Upcycle It! only accepts the following:

  1. Drink Pouches: ANY brand of drink pouch (no juice boxes) and its straw (no juice) – place in separate bag
  2. Elmer’s Glue: Glue bottle, glue stick or glue pen
  3. Energy Bars Wrappers: ANY brand of energy, granola, cereal or protein bar wrappers
  4. Chip Bags: ANY chip/snack bag (any size)
  5. Cookie Wrappers: ANY brand of cookie wrappers (no plastic trays)
  6. Candy Wrappers: ANY brand of candy wrappers or bag (any size)
  7. Colgate Oral Care: ANY brand toothbrush, plastic toothpaste tubes, and packaging (no cardboard)
  8. Coffee Bags: ANY brand of coffee bag As of July 2011, coffee bags are no longer accepted
  9. Writing Instruments: ANY kind of pen, mechanical pencil or marker (no wooden pencils)

We can only accept wrappers and packaging that once held one of these items. So it matters more what was in the bag or wrapper than the type of material it is made out of. Think this way – if you can buy it in the “Chip” aisle of the grocery store, it’s considered a chip bag. So popcorn, pretzels, tortilla chips, etc… are all chips. Same logic can be applied to Candy, Cookies, and Energy Bars. The other brigades are little more self explanatory.

Quiz for you: Using the information above, would a ramen noodle package or a package that contained croutons be accepted?

Answer – No. Neither of these items are considered a chip, candy, cookie, or any of the brigade categories. Other common misconceptions are Crystal Light packages, frozen food bags and nuts. TerraCycle has corporate sponsors who pay 2 cents per item and for shipping. So, for example, Mars sponsors the Candy Wrappers. Mars is willing to pay for ANY brand of candy wrapper since that is their industry, but they won’t pay for a frozen food bag or cheese wrapper.

We appreciate your support in making this program so strong. Our volunteers must sort through all of the items by hand separating them into the categories we collect. Familiarizing yourself with the do’s and don’t really helps. And yes, that’s me in the picture sorting in my garage!

Drop Off Locations
Sustainable Westford has drop off locations at the following:

Westford Farmers Market
Westford Starbucks
J.V. Fletcher Library
Roudenbush Community Center – Main St.
Nabnasset, Abbot, and Miller Elementary – for parents only

If you are participating in Upcycle It! currently, THANK YOU! It is so satifying seeing something so near to my heart succeed. The overwhelming support from Westford residents, students, parents, Girl Scout troops, teachers, and businesses has been amazing. Let’s keep it going!

1

TerraCycle’s Drink Pouch Brigade hits $1 Million

A million dollars can go a long way in cash-strapped schools and nonprofits. And, when all that’s required is to save items from landfills, it almost sounds too good to be true. True it is. Schools and nonprofits across the country have now earned $1 million through the TerraCycle Drink Pouch Brigade™ program.

At 2 cents a piece that equates to 50 million drink pouches collected over the past 2years. Enough waste to cover the Grand Canyon 9 times. Enough waste to cover 2,000 football fields. Enough waste to weigh as much as 20 full school buses! That’s a lot of juice!

The Capri Sun beverage brand was one of the earliest supporters of TerraCycle, a company that collects would-be trash and turns it into useful items. In participating groups, each used drink pouch collected and sent to TerraCycle earns two cents.

Westford has fully embraced Sustainable Westford’s TerraCycle program – Upcycle It! . Many parents, students and teachers see this as a great way to teach the importance of taking care of our environment while raising money for schools and charities. What kid doens’t like collecting things and seeing how big the nubmers can get. Along the way, they adopt recycling and eco-friendly ideas. It just becomes a part of how they live – not an extra effort. To date, Upcycle It! has contributed 2,325 drink pouches, with another box waiting to be counted. That may not seem like a lot, but consider that Upcycle It! started just this past May.

TerraCycle “upcycles” collected drink pouches into affordable, eco-friendly products, ranging from backpacks to building materials.

“Our goal is for people to look at waste in a whole new way, and through its sponsorship of the Pouch Brigade program, Capri Sun has helped us to expand the numbers of those who are doing so,” said Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle. “The $1 million that Capri Sun has helped us give out is a powerful sign of the enthusiasm that communities across the country have for the goals of this program.”

0

Give Jeans a Chance

Have some jeans in your closet that you don’t wear? You know the ones. You think you’ll fit into them again, or maybe the style will come back…. Clean out your closet and do something good. Volcum and the National Coalition for the Homeless are teaming up again in a program called “Give Jeans a Chance”. Jeans are collected at local Volcum retailers and given to the homeless via local homeless shelters. Last year, the program donated over 5,000 pairs of jeans to 50 homeless shelters nationwide. This year, the athletic apparel brand is back with 200 more participating stores. Their hope is to collect over 10,000 pairs. The program started August 1 and runs through the end of September.

Bring your old jeans in wearable condition to the Westford Farmers Market through August 10. If you miss us there, you can bring them to Eastern Boarder at 254 DWH in Nashua. For more information on the program, click here.

0

I want more trash!

OK I admit it. I LOVE trash! I love seeing that Upcycle It! barrel filled to the brim at the Farmers Market. It certainly shows Westford’s support and commitment to sustainability.Many of us are parents. Seems like the “green bug” bites a little harder when you look at those tiny faces. TerraCycle has a few new Brigades ideal for parents. Which would you like to see us join?

1) The AVEENO Beauty Brigade – ANY brand and ANY type of personal care beauty tubes. Examples include lotion, sun tan lotion, face wash tubes, body wash tubes. A tube is a container that is crimped at one end and has an opening at the other.

2) The SCOTT Brigade – the outer plastic from ANY brand of paper towel, napkin, toilet paper or similar paper products – no paper wrappings

3) The HUGGIES Brigade – the outer plastic on ANY brand of diaper/personal product packaging; excluding boxes and bins (from baby wipes). Examples would be the overall outer plastic package wrapping on diapers, depends, pull ups, pads, etc. Does not include the clear plastic wrapping inside a box of diapers.

4) The Home Storage Brigade – This brigade includes ANY size storage bags (freezer, storage, regular, sandwich) and containers. We would need to remove any crumbs and pieces of food, but stuck on ingredients (i.e. peanut butter) are acceptable.

5) The Neosporin Tube Brigade – Any size Neosporin brand antibiotic and ointment tubes

6) The Sprout Brigade – Sprout baby food pouches; excluding glass baby jars.

As you know, through these brigades we are raising 2 cents for each item for the Westford Public Schools. As of today, we have raised $188.50, all in 3 months! And we are not alone. To date, over 1.8 million units of waste have been diverted from the waste stream. Plus Terracycle and it’s sponsors paid over $800,000 to over 50,000 schools or non-profits. If you want to see what else Terracycle collects click here.

To get you started, here are links to coupons for some of these new brigades:

Huggies Little Swimmers:
Scott Paper Towels
Aveeno Baby Products
Colgate Toothpaste: 

Which ones should we add? Leave a comment with your vote!

0

Pieces of Trash Saved: 5832, Dollars Raised: $116.64, Life Lesson Made Easy: Priceless

We’ve all heard the phrase “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”, right? Well, how about “Upcycle”? A company in Trenton, NJ called Terracycle is taking trash to new heights – upcycling!

Terracycle collects 27 different ‘brigade’ items including chip bags, energy bar wrappers, candy wrappers, coffee bags, dried out pens, and yogurt containers and upcycles them into eco-friendly products. The awesome thing is that all of the items they collect are non-recyclable – there are no curbside recycling programs for them – or hard to recycle – only certain municipalities provide the capability to recycle things like yogurt containers which are typically made from #5 plastic. Now you are thinking, “Wow, that’s cool. But how do they get the stuff. Are they going through landfills?” Luckily for them, no. Any group or individual can sign up to collect and send items to TerraCycle. The shipping is free and 2 cents per item is donated to the school or charity of your choice. Terracycle then takes the ‘trash’ and makes backpacks, tote bags, and flower pots just to name a few of their 166 products.

Schools and non-profits across the US, Canada and the UK are signed up. As of this writing, Terracycle has over 10 million people collecting trash and has given over $1 million to their non-profits.
And the numbers keep growing. Since I joined TerraCycle in March of this year, I have seen their facebook fan page grow from a little over 2000 fans in March to close to 9000. The numbers increase daily! They have opened 2 new brigades in that timeframe as well – Starbucks Coffee Bag and the Home Storage Brigade (in conjunction with Ziploc).

I started my collection brigade on March 20, 2010. I started just as one person. I sent out an email to friends and family asking if they wanted to help me. I started getting such positive feedback so I kept going. I spoke to my daughters’ girl scout troops. The girls loved the idea and soon, several were sending bags of trash into school for my children to bring home to me. Moms would hand me bags before our meetings. I wanted to expand my collections and make it easier for people to get the items to me, rather than tracking me down around town. We are fortunate to have a farmers market during the summer and fall. I emailed the founder asking if I could have a collection bin there. Well, she loved the idea! Turns out that this group had recently expanded their mission calling themselves Sustainable Westford. Their mission is to bring “green” programs to the community. Now, I am running our Upcycle It! program through them and have gotten so much support and press. People are talking about it all over town. It’s so exciting!

If your school or charity is looking for a fundraising idea or you just want to do more green, join Terracycle. It’s easy. I love the feeling I get out of NOT putting so many things into the trash. I also love that my children are learning these lessons young. They don’t see trash anymore. Separating where things go when we are done with them is just part of what they do. They don’t think about it. That’s where the real benefit is!

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