Posts filed under ‘recycling’

Overdue post about that trip to Portugal

AveiroBack when my camera still worked.

Well, seems like that sign I put up on my last post was more than accurate… I didn’t mean to. I really did mean to write about my adventures that very day but then I never got around to do it.

In the meantime, I packed up all my shit and moved, my boyfriend left and now I’m more or less settled in my new place. This time I will not get sidetracked. I will tell you all about my moving and my new place on one of my next posts.

Anyways, I’m gonna spare you all of the “ahhh we went here” and “ooh we went there” and all that “it was so nice” crap and cheesy pictures of us in front of this and that and get right down to the environmental stuff. So lets get on with it shall we, in a neatly organized fashion.

It rocked:

The metro network.It is only a few years old, but its really really good. Most of the times, it is more convenient than driving because its faster and parking is a pain. My boyfriend arrived a couple of days after me and I decided to try the metro service to pick him up. I was pretty impressed, it was really fast, VERY close to the terminal and no parking (which, at airports, is quite a rip off). The bus network is very good as well, but its not as easy to figure out, and the schedules are less predictable.

The recycling. Recycling is slowly making its way into mainstream culture. Now you have recycling bins in most public places like the airport and metro stations, and it looks like people actually use them. The recycling infrastructure is quite good. I missed the composting bin that I was used to here in Holland, but I think they are working on that too, they already started collection biodegradable waste from large producers. My mom is a very thorough recycler. I got her into it when I was still a pre-teen. I am very proud of her in this matter.

The market. Whereas most of supermarket food in Portugal is imported, the food at the market, where I demonstratively bought vegetables, was very local, most likely organic and dirt cheap. Now I just need to convince ClosetMom to shop there more often.

ClosetFriends. I was very impressed that ClosetFriends have the habit of picking up old batteries, if they see them laying around in the street and depositing them in the appropriate recycling bin. Bravo, ClosetFriends. Something I can learn from you. (insert suggestion for Vanessa here)

It sucked:

ClosetMom refuses to use the metro. Her work involves a lot of driving around the city, including during rush hour. She could totally use the metro at least for some trips, if it wasn’t so much trouble to figure out where the stops are *roll eyes*.

Smog. ClosetMom picked me up from the airport (see above). The first thing I noticed on the drive home, was how smoggy Porto looked. I didn’t remember it being like that last year. The horizon looked yellow, and I’m not exaggerating. Coincidence or not, I got a sore throat about a week later, that quickly developed into a cold. Yes, it could have been just a cold, but I think it was pollution related cold.

Plastic Bags. Man, this country has a plastic bag problem! Even if you buy just one tiny little thing, they stuff it in a bag before you have time to open your mouth. I have to say, unlike in the Netherlands, getting away without a useless bag took considerably more effort. But at some point, I got very good at announcing “No bag, please” as soon as I hand them my purchase.

The receipt holder fad. Now this was annoying. Since last time I was in Portugal, apparel shops developed this new fad. Now instead of just handing you your receipt, now they put it in a nice little cardboard receipt-holder thingy. WTF?? This time, I didn’t manage to develop a defense against this one because I was too perplexed to react, but next time I’ll be prepared. Bastards…

My camera may or may not be broken. It died on me in the middle a shot. I still have hope that it could have been the batteries (even though there was no indication that they were getting low), so now I am dreading the moment of truth, when I change the batteries and realize that I have to do something about the matter. In the mean time, I have no camera, and have already recurred to borrowing from strangers once. (Before, I was using ClosetBoyfriend’s digital to take all those fabulous pictures of my groceries). Now I’m thinking of buying a crappy second hand one to tie things over.

Greatest Accomplishments:

Refusing mom’s well meaning ride offers and getting around quite easily by metro, bus (1x) and walking. Managed to keep use of car to a minimum. Used the metro to go to the beach (thanks, global warming), the airport and city center bunch of times. In almost 2 weeks, used the car 5 times, including 2 trips to the airport and one ride from friends.

Addressed ClosetMom’s bottled water habit. She claims tap water is bad for the kidneys (bullshit) and it tastes bad (tasted just fine to me). Explained how bottled water has less quality and how plastic gives you cancer. Refused to drink bottled water thus proving there is nothing wrong with tap water. Before she used a plastic cup to drink from the water cooler in the office. Now keeps a cup there and explains to co-workers how plastic gives you cancer. They don’t believe her, saying “they wouldn’t deliberately give us all cancer”. So naive…

Got 2 ClosetFriends more interested in vegetarian food, and even got them to try some meatless cooking by themselves. Score. ClosetMom is more resistant to the idea, but I’ll get to her too… eventually.

Resolution of the washing machine ordeal.This one requires a little more background explanation. When I got to Portugal, I was informed that our washing machine was broken and that a new washing machine was scheduled to be delivered the next day. I, of course, was shocked that ClosetMom, despite being broke, ordered a +-500E washing machine, without even trying to fix the old one (age 7, and a very good brand, so technically, its still middle aged in washing machine years). I explained how the washing machine must be a cheap fix, and that ClosetMom was too quick to cough up 500 euros she didn’t have. However, it was already too late. However, it just so happened that ClosetMom was buying the display model and that the delivery guys were dumbasses. Because it was the display model and they were too lazy to pack it up, they were delivering it without any packaging, and then tried to fit it through the building door. Sure enough, when my mom saw her brand new washing machine all banged up around the sides, she knows nothing more than to say “well then, you can take your ~@?$^%*# washing machine and stuff it (…)”. And so, I had ClosetMom call the official repair service and for 50 bucks the thing was good as new. If that ain’t Karma, I don’t know what is. Now, whether this was a good or bad outcome in terms of greenness I don’t know. I really don’t know what they will do with that banged up washing machine. Maybe they’ll fix it. Maybe they’ll sell it. Maybe they’ll just recycle it. All I know is that ClosetMom wasn’t having a banged up washing machine. And I don’t think I would either.

For next time:

Get ClosetMom and ClosetFriends to Bring Their Own Bags when they go shopping. This time I didn’t have time to go shopping with ClosetMom, so the plastic bags issue didn’t “come up”. I’ll get them all next time. MauAUauahahAAHahAHA!!

Get everyone DivaCups for their B’days. I already started psychologically preparing ClosetMom, showing her my Diva, telling her how great it is… I think I’ll get her one for Xmas now. MauAUauahahAAHahAHA!!

Lessons Learned:

  • You must know your enemy and be prepared to strike back. It’s the surprise attacks that screw us over.
  • When trying to get someone to change their ways, people always respond better when you put things in terms of “What’s in it for me”, like “save money” or “NOT get cancer”. I found that “its better for the environment” crap gets you nowhere, so I don’t even go there.
  • It’s not that people are trying to harm the environment, its just that sometimes they don’t know any better. Most of the time, they just don’t know there is a better way. Like ” you don’t HAVE to take bags every time just because they try to give you one”.

And so, even though I didn’t offset my trip (partly because I’m broke, partly because I still haven’t made up my mind on offsetting), I would say that the overall impact of my trip goes a long way towards canceling out the plane rides. Or at least I prefer to think so.

 

 

Advertisements

October 8, 2007 at 1:55 pm 5 comments

Shameless plug

Just to let you know that the recycling guide  I wrote back in May got reposted on Celsias today. There are a few improvements and adaptations, including a new title. Stop by if you feel like revisiting it. If you liked this article and/or you are in a giving mood, give it a little boost on digg, reddit and stumble upon.

September 3, 2007 at 5:16 pm 2 comments

Recycling – I told you so!

recycled newsRemember how I said recycling greasy and dirty paper and plastic was worse than not recycling at all? Apparently, I am not the only one. This week, letsrecycle.com, a website that specializes in waste and recycling news of the UK, published a story that confirms it. Chase Plastics, a British recycling company, has called councils to stop collecting plastic film from households.

(Plastic film is a technical term that applies not only to plastic film wrap but all kinds of thin, soft plastics, like pretty much every kind of wrapper there is, from the toilet paper package to plastic bags)

According to Jessica Baker, representing the company, “kerbside collections should be restricted to plastic bottles only”.

“This would reduce the contamination of other materials, such as paper and aluminium, caused by food residues stuck to cling film and plastic trays. It would also make sorting plastics easier and solve problems at materials recycling facilities, where film “gums” the machinery. While councils appear to be in favor of dropping film, the difficulty lies in convincing a public which is calling for all materials to be recycled. The problem is getting the message across that it’s just as important to leave certain things out as it is to put them in. Plastic is inert in landfill, it’s material which decomposes that is causing problems”

So there you have it. I told you so. *Does a little goofy ‘I told you so’ dance*

Photo recycled from Flawka, on Flickr.

August 3, 2007 at 1:19 pm 3 comments

Tip: Minimal Packaging Please

mail

So I just discovered The Worsted Witch blog, and digging through the archives found this really great suggestion I just had to share here. If you shop online but are frustrated by all the unnecessary bubble wrap and evil Styrofoam peanuts they stuff with your package and almost certain flood of catalogs and junk mail to follow, here is what to do. When placing your online order, you can leave a note saying something like this:

 

“Please use minimal and recycled packaging. Kindly do not include any catalogs, inserts, fliers, shrink-wrap, bubble wrap, packing confetti, plastic “pillows,” or Styrofoam peanuts. (You can use crumpled up newspaper if padding is necessary.) Please do not include me in any mailing lists or exchange lists you may have. Thank you! “

Thank you to The Worsted Witch for the original wording. I only wish I had used this when I was ordering my Diva Cup and my Reusable Bags stuff. Duh. But now I know better.

No guarantees they will actually listen to you, but there is always hope. And there is also a better chance that they will eventually respond to popular demand of eco-friendlier packaging.

If you still end up with foam peanuts lying around, Treehugger for example has suggested that they can be brought back to packaging stores. If there is a mailing service in your area, you could also take them the packing boxes, as well as the peanuts and bubble wrap. And if you are crafty, you can always use the peanuts to make a bean bag. Although I imagine that would be quite a stash of peanuts you would need 😉

Photo by Miskan on Flickr.

July 23, 2007 at 10:00 am 16 comments

More recycling

recycling

A couple of days ago, Emily was worrying about whether the fact that her municipality collects all the recyclables in one bag means they are just landfilling them. As it turns out, that is quite a current and relevant question. The answer is, no, fortunately, they are indeed recycling it.

Just yesterday, Treehugger had a great post about a new recycling technology that optically separates materials like different types of plastic and paper. That means that they now can sort the recyclables automatically, where traditionally people were required.

I highly recommend reading the original article in the Economist. It is quite informative, for those of you who are still curious about recycling ‘magic’.

Anyway, the point is, with the new automated sorting, many recycling programs are switching from several recycling bins to a single bin. The main advantage of the switch is that the recycling rate tends to be much higher with a single bin. As an example, San Francisco, who switched to single bin a few years ago, now has a recycling rate of 69%. I don’t know if you realize, but 69% is huge! By comparison, the American average is 32%.

Also according to the Economist, the recycling rate here in the Netherlands stands at 60%. Not bad if you consider they don’t collect plastic from households. I do, however, think that there is plastic being collected and recycled from businesses and other large producers. I mean, there is a European Directive that makes it mandatory for them to recycle a certain amount of plastic.

So, my friends, if some time in the future your municipality asks you to put all your recyclables in one bag, worry not! It’s a good thing!

Oh and sorry, Treehugger, for ripping off the image from your post. It’s just so pretty and informative… I hope you can forgive me. I do it out of reverence to you.

June 12, 2007 at 2:16 pm 4 comments

Your friendly neighbourhood Closet Environmentalist

(I can’t believe I managed to spell that properly, but spellcheck says I did)

Hi there folks. Please excuse me if you are expecting a serious post, but as it happens, writing that monster-post on recycling left me kind of drained out. This post is going to serve 2 purposes:

  1. tooting my own horn 😀

  2. answering Lori’s questions about that recycling post (scroll down if you really can’t wait!)

No, sadly, the Carnival of the Green is not being hosted here. For that, you will have to wait until March 3rd 2008. But, my recycling post is being featured on the Carnival, this week being hosted on Groxie, and has made an appearance on a few other  blogs.

Here are the big news. I finally decided to, literally, put my money where my mouth is, and get my very own domain name. From now on, www.closetenvironmentalist.com is up and running!  And I even made sure to register it at Dreamhost, who proclaims to be green on the account of buying Renewable Energy Credits and Carbon Credits. Better than most, I say.

So now I have two options, and as I mentioned in my last post, that is a problem. Should I have my new domain as the blog’s address, or stick to the old one? I am hesitating because if I change, I will loose my precious technocrati number (22 and growing!) and pretty much start from scratch. That would mean that I have to work a lot more to write some more awesome posts to get my old rating back 😀 Then of course, I will have to ask you folks who link to me to update your blogroll with the new address. So considering all the facts, what should I do? Comment, comment, help me out! (I was even trying to make a little poll, Crunchy Chicken style, but turns out WordPress will not let me 😦

And now, for our little Q & A:

Q: What happens to, say, milk and soda containers that have the twist-off lids that, when twisted off, leave a little ring around the container? Do they get tossed? Should we remove the rings? (I do, a lot of the time.)

A: Well, I never do actually, I admit it. That is considered a ‘residual contaminant’, which is acceptable to some extent. So, no, they don;’t get tossed. It is better that you remove it, yes, because the quality of the material is better if the plastic is more ‘pure’. BUT. Most plastic is downcycled, which means for example, when you recycle soda bottles they are turned into garden pots or fleece stuff. So it really is up to you. If you feel like ripping them off, rip away!

Q: What about plastic containers that have a plastic label shrink-wrapped around them? Are we supposed to be removing that label as well? (Again, I have been, just to be safe.)

A: Ok, I’m not quite sure what shrink wrapped is. You mean, like the label of a coke bottle? If it comes of easily then it doesn’t hurt to take it off. But I don’t think leaving the label on is basis for rejection.

Q: Do you think it would be more worthwhile to buy peanut butter in glass jars, so that more of them would be recycled? (I fall into the category of “have been wasting my dish soap cleaning peanut butter jars”.)

A: Yes, definitely. You don’t even have to clean it as well. Just rinse it off. It doesn’t matter if glass is still greasy, because the high temperatures take care of it.

Q: What about broken window (or picture frame) glass? I’ve heard this can’t be put in either? True?

A: True. Broken window glass is a big no-no.

Q: What about the plastic bags from cereal boxes? Or the bags with the “ziploc” type zipper that you can get with everything from pet foods to organic sugar?

A: Cereal plastic bags, and other UPOs (Unidentifyable Plastic Objects) –  depends if your local recycling takes all kinds of plastics or just #1 and #2. If it’s the former, then you can, if it’s the latter, then you can only put in plastics that are identified as such. In this case, they will discard all other kinds anyway. Ziploc bags – are made of nice plastic #1 PET. Yes you can recycle them. But why don’t you reuse them first, to store veggies or herbs or what have you? 😉 If they are clean, you can reuse them. If you can’t reuse them because they are greasy then you can’t recycle them either.

Satisfied?

By the way, while I was digging for answers to these questions, I found this little game. Are you aware? Check it out.

June 4, 2007 at 8:30 pm 4 comments

Recycling Guide – hardcore treehugger style

Recycle

Ok, so in case you haven’t read my first post, and don’t know this about me, I am an environmental engineer (well, sort of). I would be an environmental engineer by now if I hadn’t came to Wageningen to get a Masters degree, or if the Portuguese were like normal people and didn’t have 5 year degrees unlike the rest of the world… but never mind, I digress. Anyway, I’ve had my share of Waste Management throughout all this. I’m not claiming to be an expert, I didn’t read ‘Garbage Land’ but I do know about trash (in fact I have an unhealthy obsession with trash, even my thesis is about trash).

So anyway, I thought it was about time that I shared my bottomless pit of trash knowledge with the world, and maybe inform some peeps on all those things “they” don’t tell you. If you are still reading this far and think that recycling your cans and bottles is a big sacrifice, read no further. This post will only confuse and demotivate you. But if you want to recycle EVERYTHING you possibly can, this post is for you.

Now, here is what you must know about how recycling systems work: 1) there is a LOT that they don’t tell you. The reason is, they don’t want to confuse you and demotivate you from recycling. It’s for your own good, really 2) recycling materials, most of the times, are sorted by cranky, busy and underpaid employees (think Ten Worst Jobs in America). If something is not up to standard, it is rejected. No one is going to wash the plastic cup you didn’t wash. Best case, they will just reject the peanut butter jar. Worst case- they will assume the whole lot is contaminated and landfill it all.

Of course, recycling depends very much the place you live, so my first recommendation is to check with your local recycling system and see what they do and don’t recycle. There is no point in separating all your plastic if it’s not accepted.

The Most Important Rule is:

Do NOT recycle anything that is greasy or dirty

This will most likely result in a whole batch of perfectly good recyclables getting send to landfill because recycling collectors will assume the whole container is contaminated. This WILL happen, for example, if they see a food-soaked item in a cardboard recycling bin [1], like a pizza box. No one is going to go through a container and separate the ‘clean’ from the ‘dirty’. And if it doesn’t get rejected right away, it will force a recycling worker to go handle rotting food on the sorting table by HAND.

And here are the general rules for each material:

Glass and metal:

  • Remove the caps.
  • You don’t need to wash these because they are processed at high temperatures, so contamination doesn’t affect the recycling [3]. (Some places recommend a quick rinse to prevent odours, but personally I don’t think it’s necessary)
  • Glass bottles from olive oil, for example, are ok too, as well as sardine cans and things like that.
  • Only glass bottles and jars can be recycled.
  • You can’t recycle light bulbs (not CFL), ceramics, Pyrex, kitchen glassware like glasses and plates, white skin cream jars. These types of glass have different melting temperatures than regular glass and form solid inclusions in the final product [4].

Paper:

  • You don’t have to remove staples, plastic windows, spirals from notebooks. These get strained out when the paper is turned to pulp [1]
  • Remove tape if you can, because it tends to gum up the machines, but it’s ok if there is some left. [1]
  • No dirty or greasy paper (very important!!). This means no napkins or tissues (even if they are only slightly dirty :D)
  • Do NOT recycle pizza boxes!!! Even IF the pizza box IS clean, they will still assume it’s dirty and toss it just the same, and possibly the whole container as well! Treehuggers, enviro-freaks, you don’t want to risk that, do you?
  • Waxed, composit or laminated paper is generally not allowed, like milk cartons, fast food wraps, drink boxes. Note: Some places accept drink cartons, but I wouldn’t recycle it if it means getting milk all over clean paper and ruining it for recycling. I cannot emphasize enough that if that happens everything will get tossed!
  • Thermal paper cannot be recycled – this means fax paper, but I also think it means supermarket receipts, which are increasingly printed on it are not recyclable also. “Just say no”… or toss it yourself. [2],[3]
  • Flatten cardboard boxes – again, if they are not flattened, they can be rejected [1].

Plastic:

  • #1 and #2 are the best to recycle, as long as it’s clean
  • #3, 4, 5 and 6 can be recyclable, even though it’s expensive and/or complicated, so avoid buying these if possible.
  • #7 has virtually no recycling potential [3] so avoid this one like the plague. And of course, don’t bother recycling it.
  • Always remove the bottle caps and toss them. They are a different plastic than the bottle and most of the times are not marked.
  • Don’t even bother washing plastic if it’s been in contact with grease. You are wasting water on something that will be rejected anyway. Let me explain, even if you do get that peanut butter jar sparkling clean, because everyone else doesn’t, they will assume it’s greasy and toss it.
  • If it’s been in contact with non-grease liquids or food, give it a little rinse. But a little bit of soda residue is fine.

 

And finally, last words of wisdom:

  • “When in doubt, throw it out”. [2] I think a common mistake is ‘when in doubt, recycle’, which often leads to more harm then good.

  • Don’t bother recycling small pieces of paper and plastic. Normally, grading is one of the first stages in recycling plants, all the small bits and pieces are sifted out and trashed.

Are you still with me, brave reader? I hope I didn’t overwhelm you too much… Don’t hesitate to speak up if you have any questions, doubts or comments!

Sources:

[1] Harvard University Recycling FAQs

[2] The World’s Shortest Comprehensive Recycling Guide

[3] The Consummer Recycling Guide: Commonly Recycled Materials

[4]Tchobanoglous “Integrated Solid Waste Maanagement – Engineering Principles and Management Issues”

Photo Courtesy of Kingdesmond1337 on Flickr.

 Edit: I am actually now in the process of reading Garbage Land. So far it confirms everything I’ve said. 

May 29, 2007 at 3:29 pm 50 comments

Older Posts


Archives

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Proudly achieved

  • 120,696 eye rolls since March 2007