EREF Blog

5 Reasons to Knuckle Down on Your Recycling in 2021

5 reasons to knuckle down on your recycling

 

Do you want to save the world? You don’t have to be an Avenger to make a difference. When you recycle, and recycle right, you help make the world a cleaner, greener place. Below we outline 5 reasons to knuckle down so you can start improving your recycling in 2021.

Contamination costs money (and even other recyclables).

Although you might feel good tossing something into the recycling bin, that good feeling could be short-lived if your discard doesn’t belong there. When you place something in the bin that shouldn’t be there, you create contamination. What does this mean? Often, contamination can lead to increased recycling facility downtime, equipment damage and low-quality or rejected bales. All these consequences of contamination cost operators time and money – a cost passed down to you.

Recycling incorrectly can lead to worker injury.

When incorrect items enter a materials recovery facility (MRF; i.e. a recycling facility), they can create unsafe conditions for workers. Think about the plastic film bags you get at the grocery store. While you may wish that those could be recycled, when they go through the sorter they become tangled, leading to a halt in operations and requiring workers to climb onto equipment to untangle the bags. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, MRF worker injuries and illnesses occur at a rate of 3.6 per 100 full-time employees.

Certain items can cause fires in facilities and collection vehicles.

When your batteries die or your laptop finally gives out, where do you put them? Although a number of products are recyclable, they don’t belong in your recycling bin. In part, this is due to the dangerous conditions they create in a collection vehicle or at a facility. For example, research demonstrates that batteries can cause fires at recycling facilities. In fact, preliminary results from an EREF research survey indicate that 68% of respondents have experienced at least one fire at their facility in the past year.

Forgoing recycling can contribute to greenhouse gases.

The latest data from the EPA indicates that gross U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,677 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – a 2.9% increase from the previous year. However, participation in curbside recycling can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 38% compared to landfilling with energy recovery.

Recycling availability is not an invitation to be wasteful.

A study by Catlin and Wang, 2012, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, evaluated waste generation when a recycling bin was available. In an office setting, researchers found that the availability of recycling bin resulted in an 82% increase in paper usage. Before grabbing a handful of paper, remember that not all materials can be recycled forever. Each time paper goes through the recycling process, it loses quality and integrity. In fact, paper can only be recycled 5 – 7 times.

There is good news! Now that you know the 5 reasons to knuckle down on your recycling, you can take the steps to start improving your recycling in 2021. Take a moment to educate yourself. Your state and county waste management websites are great resources for more information. See what items belong in your recycling bin and where to recycle items, such as batteries.

New EREF Named Scholarship Honors Tom J. Fatjo Jr.

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation’s (EREF) Scholarship Program has provided financial support to over 80 students since its inception in 1998. A number of the scholarships offered were established in memory of those who have played a vital role in the waste industry. This year, donations from companies and individuals from the waste industry have funded a named scholarship honoring Tom J. Fatjo Jr., who passed away earlier this year. The first Tom J. Fatjo Jr. scholar will be named in 2020.

Click here for more information (PDF)

Definition Dilemma: A Look at the Varying Recycling Definitions

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Of the 49 states that have recycling definitions, EREF identified 18 DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS! States use these when creating their waste reduction goals and measuring to see if they met their goals.

Check out this infographic on the differences in state recycling definitions!

Recycle Right: Are you Falling for these Recycling Myths?

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When you hear phrases like “think green” or “environmental stewardship,” recycling is likely one of the first things that comes to mind. With all of the pseudo-science and myths out there, you might be confused on how to recycle and even the definition of recycling.

Check out this infographic in which EREF addresses common misconceptions associated with recycling!

EREF Moves in New Strategic Direction, Expanding into the Sustainable Materials Management Space

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) has held a long history of funding innovative research that the industry needs to move forward and adapt to changes in policy and management. The Foundation will be taking this to the next level in the coming months, stepping further into the sustainable materials management space.

Click here for more information (PDF)

Analysis of State Recycling Definitions

In an effort to document the various ways recycling may be defined, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) identified and analyzed recycling definitions used by state agencies. Definitions for “recycle”, “recycling”, and/or similar terms were identified through a search of state codes. Definitions were identified for 49 of 50 states: a definition could not be found for North Dakota.

This article discusses the various ways states define recycling.

Click here for more information (PDF).

EREF Awards Six Master’s and Doctoral Scholarships for 2019

The Board of Directors of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) are pleased to announce the award of six scholarships to Master’s and Doctoral students across North America pursuing education in solid waste management.

Click here for more information (PDF)

Celebrating 25 Years of EREF

In 2019, EREF celebrates 25 years of funding and disseminating crucial solid waste data and educational initiatives to benefit the waste industry.

The videos below provide an inside look into the creation of EREF, how the Foundation has progressed over the last 25 years and the impact on the industry and individuals’ lives.

Advancing the Industry for 25 Years: How EREF Accomplishes Its Mission

Reflecting on the Creation of EREF

Benefiting from EREF: The Impact on the Industry and Lives

Environmental Research & Education Foundation Celebrates 25 Years of Sustainable Solid Waste Research and Education

This year, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is celebrating 25 years as a resource for solid waste research and education.

For 25 years, EREF’s mission has remained the same: to advance research and education initiatives for sustainable solid waste management practices to benefit the waste industry and communities it serves.

Click here for more information (PDF)

Improving Worker Safety: Understanding Needlesticks at Material Recovery Facilities

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) collaborated to quantify the number of needlesticks that occur at Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) with the goal to improve worker safety. This infographic outlines some key findings from this report.

To download your free copy of the Household Needles in Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) report, click here.

View the infographic (PDF)