After the biggest commercial holiday has gone, families everywhere are preparing to return to business as usual. This holiday time doesn’t come without a cost though, and the main sufferer tends to be the environment.
Regardless of your post-holiday plans, consider all of the extra items used for this one purpose and then discarded. We plow through wrapping paper, food, batteries, and more every holiday season, but rather than discarding these items, here are tips for repurposing and recycling your holiday waste!
Think twice before grabbing that trash can, and pull out the recycling bin instead. Over 100,000 square yards of wrapping paper are used at Christmastime each year, so send it to the recycling bin instead of the landfill.
Believe it or not, you can reuse your old wrapping paper in more ways than one. Next time you wrap those clothes boxes, wrap the top and bottom pieces individually, so you can use the pre-wrapped boxes year after year. Also, if you have the forethought to unwrap your gifts more deliberately, you can fold or roll up the used wrapping paper and use it the following year.
It’s hard to eat the same meal every day, but the holidays tend to leave plenty of excess food for leftovers. Consider repurposing the ham for a fresh meal. You can make sandwiches, gooey grilled cheese, stews, and more with leftover holiday food. If you keep your served food separated, consider donating the extras to food pantries, or send the scraps to a local Food-to-Animal program, where the table scraps can benefit a local farm.
What will you do with the decaying tree in your living room? Most people throw it out with the garbage, or let it decompose in the woods, but what if you could compost it, or turn it to mulch? Many cities now offer paid and free recycling services, and turn your Christmas tree into nutrient-dense compost or biodegradable mulch. Contact your local waste management company to find out what government or private companies in your area will recycle your Christmas tree!
Now that you’ve got brand-new clothes, what to do with your old clothes? Rather than letting old clothes accumulate in your closet or attic, send them off to be recycled or donated. There are many organizations that accept donated clothes only to sell them to third-world countries at a profit, so several people prefer to recycle them. Contact the manufacturer first; some companies, such as Patagonia, will take their old clothes back and recycle them for use in their own factories. You can also look for clothes recycling programs such as Wearable Collections, and Looptworks, which offer no-cost solutions for recycling clothing. These methods either strip and repurpose abandoned materials, or distribute used clothing around the world, and raise money for charitable organizations.
After opening that brand-new computer or iPhone, what to do with the old misfits? With new models of old favorites popping up every year, Christmas has become a time to upgrade to the latest and greatest technology. Don’t throw those old electronics away. You can recycle most cell phone and electronics at stores such as Best Buy, donate them to charitable thrift shops such as Goodwill, or find recycling programs in your area that tear apart old electronics and repurpose the individual components.
Batteries contain a number of heavy metals and toxic chemicals, and the dumping of lead-acid and alkaline batteries results in water pollution and soil contamination. From old cell phone and camera batteries, to your standard Duracell AA’s, around 97% of materials in batteries can be harvested and repurposed. Rather than throwing your batteries in the garbage, set them aside and recycle them appropriately. Most cities offer battery recycling programs, and you can often find bins at your local library or civic center that accept old batteries. Don’t add to the destruction of the environment this holiday season when you’ve got alternative recycling programs available!
The Engineers for a Sustainable World Educational Outreach Group from the University at Buffalo recently visited Springville Elementary School to teach the first grade classes about recycling and composting. We expected the kids to know about recycling, but maybe not exactly what items could be recycled. Therefore, our goal was to show them what could be turned into something new (recycled), what was trash, and what could be composted. Since composting is a relatively new way to help the environment, we were prepared to explain the whole process to the students before showing them what could be composted.
It turns out that the classrooms only recycled paper, so teaching the kids about what other things could be recycled, like clothes and batteries, seemed to be quite beneficial. We were able to help them make the connection between what was able to be thrown in the blue recycle box and what could be recycled in other ways. There is a reason for all three arrows of the recycle symbol: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
We were actually very surprised to learn that every class had a student that could tell us everything about composting. In fact, one little girl’s family composted regularly! I know that I was not taught anything about the process growing up, so the fact that six and seven year olds could explain it to us was very exciting.
By the end of the lesson, the kids were all able to help us sort our items into recycle, compost, and trash categories, and did so very enthusiastically. This experience is proof that we are effectively teaching young minds about how important keeping the earth healthy is. It seems that our world is in good hands, no matter how small those hands are right now.
A new generation of medical testing can help avoid invasive testing traditionally needed to find disease. New tests could detect cancer, liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes, asthma, and tuberculosis.
“Our blood goes through the lungs. Anything in the blood that is potentially volatile at body temperature, we can detect it in the breath. The limitation in the past has been because we didn’t have the technology to be able to measure these things in breath because they’re present in very small quantities,” said Dr. Raed Dweik, Director of the Pulmonary Vascular Program at the Cleveland Clinic.
Read all about it here
The latest textile technology is emerging and quite exciting. Sweden reveals the world’s first garment made entirely from recycled cotton. The end game is to advance technology to the point of adding nutrients to clothes so if they are composted, they would benefit the soil.
With the world population growing rapidly and the competition to stay fashionable, apparel consumption has almost doubled since 2010.
Traditional garment recycling methods transform used garments into other materials such as carpet padding and filler, but the end life of those secondary materials end up in landfills anyway.
Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology has developed a way of recreating cotton, which not only accounts for roughly a third of the world’s textile consumption but is also in danger of becoming a scarce resource. The technology allows for recycling of all materials that contain cellulose.
According to Teijin, a recycled polyester process reduces CO2 emissions by 77% compared to polyester made from petroleum. The process also reduces the consumption of petroleum, the raw material from which polyester is made.
“The dyes are a problem, which is why we need innovation in dyes,” Lewis Perkins, senior vice president of the San Francisco-based Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute says. “But in the future we could even add valuable nutrients to clothes, which would benefit the soil when we compost them.”
Now that’s what I call full-circle recycle processes!