Waste Not, Want Not

first published in the Santa Monica Mirror – April 17 – 23, 2008

With recycling proving to be an annual steady increase over the past 40 years, since the inception of waste management programs, people seem to still be perplexed as to what they can and cannot recycle. Perhaps, this confusion could be linked to the fact that every city and municipality contains its own sets of rules and regulations as to what is accepted. In prevention, most people rather not place items in question.

In a recent tour through our facilities, here in Santa Monica, I was able to dispel many misconceptions that usually linger around the issue of recycling. The reality is we don’t realize all that we can recycle! The fact is, that the more we divert from our waste stream, the less is carted off to our local landfill, and the less energy and fossil fuels are used – ultimately, creating a positive chain of effects for everyone!

It is estimated that Americans generate 4.6 lbs. of garbage a day or more than 1600 lbs. a year – a number that can be drastically reduced implementing the right information to redirect our trash.

In 2006 we, as a nation, produced 251 million tons of municipal solid waste – of which most of it could have been diverted. Currently we are only recycling 32.5% of our trash. This leaves us with a grand opportunity to think twice about what we toss in the garbage, because, it can probably be recycled. Beyond the obvious reasons to recycle, it also generates income to local and national economies employing more than 1 million people nationwide.

So what did I find out in our 46,000 sq. ft facility tour? That you can walk in with trash, and walk out with cash! Many people don’t realize what a lucrative business recycling is – economically, environmentally and logistically. Imagine, recycling one aluminum can, saves enough energy to generate your computer or television for 3 hours!

Some of the many items accepted at this facility, that may raise confusion are: envelops with clear windows, junk mail, magazines/catalogs, aseptic packages (drink boxes or ‘bricks’), all types of plastics #1 – #7 (including food wrappers), empty lipstick tubes, HDPE, any kind of glass (including window panes), bottle caps (plastic and beer, plastic that houses pet food and litter, plastic enclosure that closes bread or muffins, empty nail polish bottles, paper and plastic bags, and metals (which are removed during the glass processing).

To prevent contamination and a reduction in recyclables, empty and rinse all containers removing any food or liquid. Contamination cannot exceed 2%, and moisture will affect the efficiency of this process – which is down to a science! Once we drop our recyclables, everything from our single stream blue bins gets taken to our facility (known as a transfer station). At which point all the contents on the truck get dumped in a pile and then placed on a hopper (a conveyer belt) where everything is separated mechanically and manually – taking out everything but paper. This paper, considered a super mix paper, is then carted to be shipped off to paper mills for reuse. All the items that were taken off the hopper then get separated accordingly, pressed, and shipped to various vendors for another lifecycle.

Some of the many uses that are being discovered for recycled plastic bottles are t-shirts and even carpeting! As you support products that are made from recycled content or post-consumer products you contribute significantly to a larger cause. These items usually use less packaging and fewer toxic materials.

Items prohibited at our recycling center are: e-waste, (which must be disposed of properly – information below), green waste, ceramics, Styrofoam, combination products (i.e. make-up cases w/mirrors), packing peanuts (various locations will accept it for re-use), non specific plastic, non-plastic materials, and dirt.

More over, the facility will accept drop offs of: used motor oil, cd’s, VHS tapes, scrap metal, copper, miscellaneous metals (ferrous and nonferrous metals including aluminum, iron, steel and other metals in goods like appliances).

This is aside from ‘toxic’ materials that are collected at the Hazardous Waste site around the corner from the recycling center. The site is dedicated to Santa Monica residents (proof is required) for materials that should be disposed of properly because of their dangerous make up that could leach to our waterways if combined with municipal waste.

Did you know that throwing away batteries is actually illegal? The good news is that disposable battery collection locations have expanded throughout the city – you will find them everywhere, just look for them!

Santa Monica Community Recycling Center
2411 Delaware Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404

8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Saturday

Santa Monica Refuse Transfer Station
2401 Delaware Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90404

6:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Monday – Saturday

Santa Monica: Household Hazardous Waste
2500 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica
Santa Monica, Ca 90404
(310) 458-8255

7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday – Thursday
Alternate Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* For after hours/weekends leave a message to set an appointment

© Copyright and Property of Astrid Design Studio 2008


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