Know the Facts

Recycling Right: What Not to Put in the Blue Bin

August 31st, 2010 | Posted in Know the Facts | | No Comments »

by Ilana Nevins, Eco Coalition Editor

Recycling is often regarded as the greener alternative to throwing things in the trash, however; unless done correctly it can do much more harm than help. Paper and plastic items are some of the most commonly recycled items, but a few guidelines are necessary to recycle them right. Below are a few of the most important everyday items that should avoid the recycling bin.

Although paper is generally a recycle-ready item, in certain states it is advised against recycling it. Paper retains its value in its fiber length. Therefore, when it is shredded its ability to be recycled diminishes. Those who often shred paper are advised to either rip paper a few times by hand or find a nearby recycling center that will accept shredded paper when bagged separately. Also, brightly colored paper can destroy a whole batch of recycled paper. However, lighter tones can often be recycled effectively and should be considered first when opting for a colorful display.

Not only in the office, but in the kitchen too, paper and recycling do not always mix well. Paper coffee cups are generally banned from recycling because of their plastic coating to prevent leakage. A better alternative is to use reusable cups or find a coffee shop that supplies cups with plant-based coating, which can then be composted. Pizza boxes, while by themselves are perfectly suitable to be recycled, are often tinted with pizza grease- incompatible with the blue bins. Additionally, paper napkins, plates, and towels must be trashed when soiled with food. Although it may appear the right thing to do to toss a slightly used napkin in the recycle, it has the potential to ruin the whole batch of recycled materials.

Plastics are also surrounded by numerous misconceptions regarding recycling. Although most plastics are stamped by the friendly triangle of arrows, this does not mean that it is recyclable. The number within the triangle dictates where a plastic should be thrown away; often #1 and 2 can be recycled but it varies accordingly to each recycling center. Plastic bags are a difficult group-rather than being recycled (they pose too many problems when mixed with the machinery) or trashed (they take up an obscene amount of landfill space and create detrimental effects on surrounding environments), the best solution is to reuse or avoid them. Plastic bottles are commonly recycled, however; remembering to remove the cap is important. Because the caps are composed of different materials than the bottles, they can cause a whole batch of recycled bottles to be rendered obsolete.

These items present a short, simplified list of the complex world of recycling. While placing something in the recycling bin can often be accompanied with feelings of being an environmentally- friendly citizen, being conscientious of what you put where is what matters most. If done consciously and correctly recycling can save precious natural resources and can help create a sustainable future.

Computer Wasteland

August 16th, 2010 | Posted in E-Waste, Know the Facts, Recycling | | No Comments »

by Ilana Nevins, Eco Coalition Editor

This year almost 205.5 million computers were disposed. Of the disposed computers, 157.3 are trashed, and 48.2 million are recycled- only 18% recycling rate. In California, over 6,000 computers are discarded every day. Its time we more consciously consider the impact of this waste.

Not only do these computers use up valuable landfill space, they contain enormous amounts of toxins including Cadium, mercury, lead, and chromium. These hazardous materials can be found in Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) and Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) screens. These chemicals can have long-term effects on the brain, liver, kidney, reproductive organs and may cause cancer. Other externalities of computer e-waste are felt by workers and communities who are impacted by the unsafe recycling systems and growing landfills in developing countries. Besides the e-waste hazards from a computer and its disposal, the mere production of a computer consumes enormous amounts of energy and natural resources.

Approximately 81% of a computer’s total energy is used in its manufacturing while only 19% is consumed throughout its lifetime. The production of a computer uses 530 lbs of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water. Each desktop computer requires at least 10 times its weight in fossil fuels, compared to a refrigerator or car, which only needs 1 to 2 times its weight in fossil fuels. Consumer consciousness is essential to keep e-waste to a minimum- deciding whether or not a new computer is necessary can have a drastic impact.

However, recycling computers can significantly decrease the impact of our e-waste. Simply recycling aluminum may save up to 90% of the energy used to mine for new aluminum. Most computer manufacturers now have a computer takeback program in which they offer free recycling to consumers wishing to dispose of their computers. Manufacturers such as HP are taking actions to become greener, such as selling a special-edition desktop PC that consumes 45% less power than other PCs.

Computers are not only increasingly essential applications in our life, but they also have potential to drastically impact our lives unless we remain conscious of the possible effects of them-both before they reach the store and after they hit the trash can.

Toxic Trash of the Past

July 12th, 2010 | Posted in E-Waste, Know the Facts | | No Comments »

by Ilana Nevins, Eco Coalition Editor
Can our newest, most convenient electronics lead us toward a future of toxic trash? As technology continues to play a larger role in our world, and electronics continue to be disposed, our planet simply cannot keep up. E-waste, or electronics that are broken, discarded or unused, includes cell phones, televisions, batteries, refrigerators, stereos, and computers. Although these items are essential parts of our daily life, we often do not consider what happens to them once we throw them in the trash.

Currently, e-waste is increasing at a rate double that of any other waste, and there are no signs of it slowing down. Only 15-20% of our annual e-waste is recycled, while the rest fills our landfills and incinerators. Much of our e-waste is shipped to developing countries. Often these countries have extremely weak regulation of the disposal of e-waste and disregard for the hazardous effects. E-waste is discarded in landfills where the toxins travel into nearby water supplies and atmosphere, harming surrounding communities. Also, e-waste undergoes incineration, which releases the toxins into the air through burning it, often causing bioaccumulation of toxins in wildlife, especially fish.

A frightening amount of toxins are found in even the simplest of our electronics. Cathode ray tubes (CRTs) contain lead, which disrupts the nervous system, and are found in T.V. and computer monitors and circuit boards. The neurotoxin Mercury is found in flat screens. Cadium, a carcinogen, is common in batteries and circuit boards and is extremely toxic to the bones and kidneys. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), found in connectors, cables and plastic cables, has detrimental effects on humans immune and reproductive systems. Unfortunately, disposal of these hazardous items is not heavily regulated, and the health effects are already impacting many lives.

However, alternative disposal methods may help decrease the effects of e-waste on humans and our planet. Many companies now have take-back programs in which they discard consumers’ used or broken products for free. These companies often reuse and recycle the disposed appliances. Recycling e-waste helps to conserve our resources and reduce our energy usage by reusing metals, plastics, circuit boards, etc. Individuals can donate their used electronics to thrift shops such as Goodwill or to a local recycling center. To find a place to donate your e-waste, visit With growing consciousness regarding materials and accessibility to alternative disposals, the hazardous effects of e-waste can become trash of the past.

Is Paperless the Answer?

June 21st, 2010 | Posted in Know the Facts, Recycling | | No Comments »

by Ilana Nevins, Eco Coalition Editor

To read or not to read? While that may have been the question for some, it has increasingly become a question of how to read- namely, paper books or e-readers? Read more …

Paper Recycling 101

May 24th, 2010 | Posted in Know the Facts, Recycling | | No Comments »

by C.K. Hickey, Eco Coalition Editor

We were taught in elementary school how all paper is recyclable, but not every paper product is created equal. Read more …

Air Pollution: It’s Not Just Bad for Your Lungs

May 5th, 2010 | Posted in Air Pollution, Know the Facts | | No Comments »

by C.K. Hickey, Eco Coalition Editor

Asthma and other respiratory problems are bad enough, but poor air quality potentially harms more than just your lungs. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), air pollution has toxic effects that injure the heart and blood vessels too.
Read more …

Don’t Trash Your old CDs, Recycle Them

April 29th, 2010 | Posted in E-Waste, Know the Facts | | No Comments »

Contributed by Eco Coalition and

Each year, billions of CDs (and DVDs) are manufactured, while millions of these discs are thrown in the trash. These disks end up in landfills and incinerators causing unnecessary damage to our environment, wasted energy and the loss of valuable resources. Read more …

Clean Country Air?

April 27th, 2010 | Posted in Air Pollution, Know the Facts | | No Comments »

by C.K. Hickey, Eco Coalition Editor

Anyone who’s ever visited the San Joaquin Valley in central California knows that “clean country air” can be a misnomer. Read more …

Why Conserve?

April 22nd, 2010 | Posted in Know the Facts, Water Conservation | | No Comments »

by C.K. Hickey, Eco Coalition Editor

From low-flow showerheads to solar hot water heating panels, water conservation efforts are more active now than ever before. Read more …

Ten Ways for Companies to Save Energy

April 22nd, 2010 | Posted in Energy Efficiency, Know the Facts | | No Comments »

by Chris Suri, Eco Coalition Senior Editor

There was a time when making decisions about saving energy only had to do with the bottom line. Those days are gone, and the decision-making process for the responsible business owner now involves integrating sustainable principles and practices into their daily operations. Read more …

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