March 19, 2008 | General


BioCycle March 2008, Vol. 49, No. 3, p. 6

Recyclemania Starts Off Its Eighth Year With A Bang
Four hundred colleges and universities are participating in RecycleMania this year, almost double the 201 schools that participated in 2007. Participating from 46 states (and the District of Columbia) are more than 4.3 million students and 800,000 faculty and staff. Institutions range from smaller two-year community colleges to larger state universities. From January 27 to April 5, 2008 (a 10-week period), the schools will compete in various categories by measuring recycling and waste prevention efforts. There are two divisions in the competition: the first with the entire school participating, and the second with just a subsection of the school.
Categories within these divisions include Capita Classic (total of recyclables collected per capita) and Waste Minimization (least generation of overall solid waste per capita). Recognition is given to schools for collecting the most paper, beverage containers, cardboard, food waste and the greatest overall amount of recyclables. RecycleMania awards a Grand Champion from the two divisions, decided by the greatest overall percentage recycled from their solid waste stream. Results are updated each week on the website. Check it all out at:
Call For Case Studies On Sustainable Sites
The Sustainable Sites Initiative is an interdisciplinary partnership between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the United States Botanic Garden and other stakeholder organizations. It seeks to develop standards for landscape sustainability, supplementing existing green building and landscape guidelines and becoming a stand-alone tool for site sustainability. The Sustainable Sites Initiative is currently looking for case study submissions that document the success or failure of sustainable land development and management practices. For more information, visit
EPA 2006 MSW Report
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released “Facts and Figures for 2006,” reporting its findings on municipal solid waste generation, recycling and disposal in the U.S. According to the latest report, Americans generated about 251 million tons of municipal solid waste in 2006. Of that total, almost 33.9 percent was paper, 12.9 percent was yard trimmings, 12.4 percent was food scraps and 11.7 percent was plastics. Wood, rubber/leather/textiles, metals and glass comprised the other 29.1 percent of MSW generated. The USEPA does not include industrial, hazardous or construction waste in its MSW data. It estimated that residential waste (including multifamily buildings) was 55 to 65 percent of total MSW generation. Waste from schools and commercial locations, such as hospitals and businesses, amounted to 35 to 45 percent. The individual waste generation rate is 4.6 lbs/person/day.
The greatest percentage of MSW generated is still disposed – 55 percent. The EPA report estimates that 32.5 percent is recovered via recycling and composting, and 12.5 percent is combusted with energy recovery. In 2006, paper and paperboard recovery increased to over 50 percent (44 million tons); metals were recycled at a rate of just over 36 percent, and 62 percent of yard trimmings were recovered. Of the 31.3 million tons of food scraps generated, only 2.2 percent were recovered. The 82 million tons recycled and composted provides an annual benefit of 49.7 million metric tons of carbon equivalent emissions reduced, comparable to removing 39.4 million passenger cars from the road annually. The full report can be downloaded at epaoswer/non-hw/ muncpl/msw99.htm.
Editor’s Note: The 2008 State of Garbage In America Survey and Report is expected to be released in early summer 2008. BioCycle and Columbia University’s Earth Engineering Center are compiling and analyzing data submitted by states at this time.
Japan Reports Waste Volume Down, Rooftop Gardens On Buildings Up
The mid-September, 2007 issue of Japan for Sustainability reported that an April survey by the Japanese Ministry of the Environment on nonindustrial waste disposal showed a decrease of 1.2 percent during the last year. Based on a survey of 1,844 local municipalities and 644 associations, the total 52.7 million tons reported showed a decrease from 53.4 million tons.
The Tosei Corporation – a Japanese real estate developer dealing with condominiums and houses as well as commercial facilities – in June, 2006 announced a new policy to install rooftop gardens using green panel-type units. As of March, 2007, the company installed gardens on 25 of its buildings.
Natural Organic Matter In Water
The February 2008 issue of Water 21 defines natural organic matter (NOM) as the complex matrix of organic material present in natural waters. This significantly affects many aspects of water treatment, including performance of oxidation, coagulation and biological stability. The organic matter from biomass growing in waterbodies is classified as internal NOM. This source of organic material is caused by excretion and decay of organisms including bacteria, algae and vascular plants. External organic matter enters the water stream from the watershed, originating from soils during runoff.
To date, it has not been possible to identify all the organic molecules in water. The difficulty results from the great complexity of the organic matrix, and the very low concentrations at which these compounds are found. Surrogate parameters such as total organic carbon (TOC) or dissolved organic carbon (DOC) provide an indication of the total organic matter concentration.
Cows Generate Milk And Electricity … And Turn The Lights On
“We’re trying to find out if we can benefit the environment by diverting some manure that is being applied to fields,” says Saqib Mukhtar, Texas A&M University professor and a member of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE). As described in Resource (November 2007), a grant is funding the assembly and testing of a portable energy generation unit that includes a thermophilic digester and fluidized bed gasifier system. “Our idea is to generate methane gas and then use that energy to dry the separated solids from the manure,” adds Mukhtar. The dried, separated solids can be gasified to generate energy to produce electricity for a farmer’s home, barn or irrigation pump. For more details, contact Mukhtar via e-mail at:
Making Flowers More Ecofriendly
According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food and beverages had $17 billion in sales in 2006. Flowers were reported to bring in $19 million in organic sales … but that may soon be changing. Most flowers (79 percent) are imported from countries with mild climates like Colombia and Ecuador. But only a small minority of flower farms have adopted environmentally friendly methods like banning toxic chemicals for pest control, reports The New York Times. Major eco-groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council have added flowers to their agenda. Flowers labeled “USDA Organic” – government certification that no toxic or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers were used – are difficult to find beyond farmers’ markets. Still, the most environmentally conscious flower buyers are upset by buying flowers flown and trucked over long distances, no matter how organic.
Bulky Waste Generation, Recycling Feasibility
To help achieve its 70 percent waste diversion from landfill goal by 2010, the City of Toronto, Ontario’s Solid Waste Management Services evaluated expansion of durable goods collection and development of reuse centers for reuse, disassembly and recycling for the goods collected. Recovery and reuse and/or recycling of durable goods is expected to divert 44,000 metric tons of single family and multifamily waste per year. Bulky items are a subset of durable goods. The City studied single family bulky item generation, set out and participation rates; feasibility of collecting bulky items through “soft handling,” i.e., noncompacting trucks; composition of bulky items and proportions that are potentially reusable or recyclable; and feasibility of disassembling and recycling items made from multiple materials that are not suitable for reuse. A representative sample of single family collection routes was selected for the study.
Primary conclusions of the study are as follows: The percentage, by weight, of bulky items potentially suitable for reuse is minor (8 percent) and is limited by the material stream composition and the constraints of charities offering reuse programs; A portion (10 percent) of durable goods/bulky items set out at curbside could be diverted to existing programs for electronics, computers and scrap metals; A large portion of the bulky item waste stream consists of low quality wood waste (11 percent treated, 19 percent composite), for which the most promising diversion opportunity is biomass energy. In terms of disassembly, the study found that mattresses, box springs and nonpadded chairs could be disassembled to recycle clean wood and metal; sofa beds could be disassembled to recover metal frames.
Green Perspective On Tire Recycling
“We had to decide whether to take a defensive posture on the environment or a leading role,” says a manager for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “What we found is that if you take environmental sustainability and make it a policy, it is a profitable way of doing business.” With more than 6,700 stores and clubs in 14 countries and a truck fleet of nearly 7,000 tractors and more than 43,000 trailers, the company has plenty of areas where it could conserve.
By improving gas mileage in its truck fleet by 1 mpg, Wal-Mart saved $52 million annually, explains Scrap Tire News. It also developed a closed-loop system of recycling tires from its own tire centers and those of the competition’s as raw materials for products the company will use and sell in its clubs and stores.
The firm is aggressively pursuing rubber mulch as part of its tire recycling program. To demonstrate the value of rubber mulch, it is working with store planning groups to install the mulch at as many stores as possible. It is also using crumb rubber in applications that include rubber mats and molded products, along with lawn and garden rubberized asphalt.

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