Tag Archives | upcycle

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

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5 Easy Steps to Recycling

 

There is a great blog that I have been reading lately called Reduce Footprints. Each week, there is a new challenge.  This week’s challenge is to share your recycling knowledge and/or tips.  In response to that challenge, here goes….. 

 
 
We all know the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle chant.  And guess what?  It is in that order for a reason.  The BEST option – reduce. Don’t use it in the first place if you will eventually need to get rid of it – regardless of whether that is trash or recycle bin.  This can be easier said than done and does require a lot more effort and change.  So I say, start with the easier one – recycle – for now.  In time you will get there.  You can’t do it all at once.  Don’t try. You are more likely to fail. 


I have many posts on what is recyclable and how to recycle it for the Westford MA area.  I have decided to consolidate all of that information into this post, with the added benefit of how to figure this out for your area. Recycling varies widely from state to state, town to town, sometimes even within the town!  It can be very confusing and can change.  The thing to remember is to keep taking a peek at the rules – usually things that were NOT recyclable will become recyclable in some manner.  You also need to find out what is available to you.  Most likely, you have a convenient option available to you for common items like paper, plastics and metals (cans). Then there are other items that, with a little effort, can be recycled or reused as well.
 

Step One:  Educate Yourself

 
Find out what form of recycling is available to you.   Do you have curbside recycling, a transfer station or do you use a private hauler?
 
If you don’t know, do a quick internet search on “your town/city state recycling”.  For example, if I type the following into a search engine “ westford ma recycling”, the first thing that pops up is our town’s recycling website with tons of information.
 

Once you have this information, take time to read and understand what can and can’t be recycled.  Keep this handy.  You will refer to it often.  Take a look at Westford Recycling Dos and Don’ts  and Common Misconceptions about Westford Recycling. Each give some basics about curbside recycling in Westford MA.  They will alert you to things to look for in your recycling program.  Do you need to sort?  Can you recycle a pizza box?

 
If you have trash and recycling services provided by your city or town, there will be tons of information on recycling.  A little known fact – municipalities pay big bucks for trash and recycling services.  Recycling services are cheaper so they will do whatever it takes to educate and encourage their citizens to recycle instead of throw in the trash.  This includes composting in some areas.  Our town offers a backyard composter for a fraction of the retail price.
 
 
 

Step Two: Analyze Your Trash

 
This goes along with Step one.  Concentrate on everything you get rid of for a week or so – really look at each item and figure out if it is recyclable in your area. If you have questions, ask.   I like this method since it focuses you and makes it very applicable to what you use. 
 
Once you know where things go, it will become second nature and you won’t need to think about it.
 

Step Three: Make it Easy

 
If something is easy and convenient, more likely you and your family with stick with it.  If you need to sort items, do multiple bins make sense for you.  Do you have space in your kitchen for separate bins?  Where is the best place to put the recycle bin?
 
Put bins all over the house to catch recyclables.  I converted the office trash can to a recycle bin since 99% of what I get rid of in that room is paper.  I also have another bin on the second floor to catch toilet paper tubes and plastic bottles.
 

Step Four:  Get your family involved  

 
Teach them – especially the kids.  They will nag your spouse or grandma for you!  Kids catch on so quickly.  It will become second nature to them in no time.  I have seen this is our schools and with my own children.
 

Step Five:  Expand Your list of Recyclables

Once you have the easy stuff down pat, add to it!  There are other items that can be recycled or reused with a little extra effort.  If you have a local recycling department, they can be a great resource.  
 
Here are a few I have found.  Again, internet searches and a few follow up emails or calls can do wonders!  Quite a few of these things are recycled by national chains or organizations, find the location closest to you.
 
 
  1. Clothing – So many charities would be happy to have your gently worn clothing.  
  2. Wine corks – All Whole Foods locations collect natural wine corks.
  3. Eye glasses – The Lions Club has collection boxes in many locations, or ask a local eye glass shop or eye doctor.
  4. Energy Bars, Chip Bags – local TerraCycle organizations.  This one may be a little harder to find.  Try the TerraCycle Facebook page.
  5. Athletic Shoes – If your running shoes are worn out, take them to a Nike Store to be re purposed into play surfaces.  I think it would be awesome if Gyms had collections for their members – any takers out there?
  6. Plastic bags – Most grocery stores collect plastic store bags, sometimes more.
  7. Cosmetic tubes or jars – Origins and TerraCycle collect old cosmetic packaging.
  8. Brita Filters – All Whole Foods locations collect Brita Filters and all #5 plastics for a company called Preserve.
  9. Bicycles – Bikes Not Bombs is a non-profit that collects bicycles all over the country.
  10. Ink and toner Cartridges – Staples
  11. Rechargeable batteries – Best Buy
  12. CDs, Cables, wires – Best buy
 
Take it easy. Start small and take steps when you are ready.  If you try to do everything at once you will fail.
 
Happy Recycling!

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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!

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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.”

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