Thursday, November 29, 2018

Lessons from our Recycling Queen - UPDATED March 2022

NOTE:  Recycling Rules change often. If you are unsure, please, check Recycle Coach

Click on What Goes Where, type in item and click on the blues search button

Here's how this blog and Sustainable Tucson's Zero Waste Committee got started: 

After the city's inaccurately named "Recycling 101" event turned out to be more of a budget meeting than a presentation on how to recycle, Sustainable Tucson hosted our own program, "Recycling and Beyond."

On our invitation,  Sherri Ludlam, Environmental Scientist in the Department of Environmental and General Services came to our program and gave us a deep dive into the rules of recycling.  Her.topic was "old and new challenges to Tucson's recycling program." One of the new challenges was that China wouldn't be accepting all of our dirty recycling anymore because of the contamination. Contamination is all the trash that doesn't belong in recycling - including plastic bags that jam up the machines. That same contamination is costing the company contracted to do our recycling truck loads of money. Our bad. Tucsonans put everything from dirty diapers to dead cats to Saguaros in our recycling cans. Sherri reminded us that there are actual people who sort through all that yucky trash. So don't throw in anything that you wouldn't want to find in the recycling can.

Present at both meetings was a bold young woman, Sharia Des Jardins, who gamely explained why you can't recycle freezer boxes. (See reason below). Besides doling out much needed explanations for the new recycling rules, Sharia was there to ensure that conversation covered more than just the profit margin for the recycling company. And Sustainable Tucson had it covered. After an enlightening presentation on the 6 R's  (Refuse Reduce Reuse Repair Recycle Rot) by Zero Waste Maven Alex Kosmider, we had a lively discussion that led to forming a "Zero Plastic Waste" working team.  We are already doing research to repeal the Arizona law prohibiting towns from banning plastic bags. Here is a video of our first meeting.

Since then, Sustainable Tucson's Zero Waste team produced a video called, "No, That Isn't Recyclable" and advocated against single-use plastic bags at the State Legislature. There are exciting new projects happening under committee lead Kevin Greene - including a new Repair Cafe! Find out more and how you can get involved here:

Possible Zero plastics team project? 

 Of course it is still important to safeguard Tucson's recycling program by following the new rules. Toward that end,  I asked Sharia to clarify the recycling rules. I like to think of Sharia as our own "Recycling Queen." 

Queen Sharia Des Jardins shares her own version of "Recycling 101"

I am the first to admit that the info put out by the city is confusing. They say that we can recycle plastic, cardboard, and paper. They show us pretty pictures on a nice blue background but there is much that they actually don’t say that would be helpful. The only way in which we will be able to fulfill our part in the aspects of proper recycling is to fully understand what is and isn’t good. And by that I don’t mean what is and isn’t good for their bottom line. I mean for the planet and for our future.

So, to begin with here are the basics:

Yes – plastics, bottles and containers with numbers 1-2.  Any bottles such as gallon milk jugs, water, soda, etc. should be lightly rinsed – preferably air dried, and the cap put back on before tossing in the bin. This goes for things such as laundry soap bottles too. Please don’t crush them either. 

Yes – aluminum cans from foods– rinse, leave labels on. Also, if you can don’t fully remove the lids. When using a can opener try to open it most of way but not fully so that the lid is still attached. The small, loose metal lids get lost at the sorting facility. 

Yes – soda cans – rinse, air dry. Please don’t crush it makes it harder for them to be sorted as they become smaller. 

Yes- paper – office paper, mailers, brochures, etc. They ask if it is small that you don’t recycle it. It just slips through the rollers at the sorting center. You can always put small slips in an envelope. Just don’t over stuff it or they will pull it off the line wondering what might be in it. No envelopes with plastic bubble on the inside. 

Yes- periodicals, phone books, etc. They are easy to sort and if they haven’t been ripped apart, they should be easy to recycle.

Yes – newspapers, paper bags – Most paper items are recyclable provided they don't contain grease, food residue or a wax coating. Things like glue, tape, staples and envelope windows are ok, but be sure to remove plastic wrappers.

Yes – corrugated cardboard – any of those Amazon or shipping boxes. Don’t worry about the tape unless it covers more than 50% of the box. Just remember to break them down and no need to cut them up in pieces. The bigger the better to fit through the machinery at the sorting facility. 
Yes – paperboard, molded fiberboard - cereal boxes, processed food boxes, egg cartons (not Styrofoam), etc. Again, break them down if you can. 

Yes – ½ gallon milk containers coated in wax, Gable top cartons like the ones used for milk, cream and juice are accepted for recycling. Cartons must be empty and rinsed clean. Can be flattened to conserve space. Plastic caps are ok.

Yes - containers from broth, soups, drink boxes that are foil lined. 
NOT IN BLUE BINS: Glass – bottles, jars, etc. Lightly rinsed and air dried, no lids. (Save water by putting a little water in the bottle and shaking it..) But now you need to bring them to grass drop off spots located around town. 

Ridged plastics such as buckets, storage containers,  landrey baskets, igloo coolers, and chairs are picked up at bulky trash day. (We hope they sort through them and recycle them.) 

No – frozen food boxes! What! They accept waxy milk cartons, but not freezer boxes?! That’s right folks, you thought they were just a box but no, they are paperboard mixed with plastic so that when they are exposed to temperature fluctuations and wetness the boxes won’t collapse. 
No – greasy pizza boxes –  Anything that has come into contact with food or grease is a no go. Worst contamination you can do. If the lid is clean, you can rip it off and recycle it. 

Greasy pizza box - NO! 

No –  dirty bakery boxes, takeout boxes – these have also come into contact with food and grease. If there is a single spot on it it is contaminated. Please put these in the trash not the recycling bin. 

No – loose shredded paper. Do not place shredded paper loose in your recycling container. Place it securely inside a cardboard box, paper bag or clear plastic bag.

Local businesses or organizations accept paper for reuse or recycling. Visit the Tucson Clean & Beautiful Recycling Directory for more information.

Shredded paper in a see through bag so waste management workers can identify it.

No – plastic lids for containers such as yogurt and sour cream. Those lids are actually made of lower grade plastics than the containers themselves. They are also small and less likely to stay on through transport than tops that screw on. Once loose they will fall through the rollers at the sorting facility or gunk them up and cause shutdowns. 

No – plastic films that that are security covers - such as the lift off ones on yogurt containers. Those aren’t even recyclable at the shops. 

No – Styrofoam in recycling cans. The city has no way to recycle this. 

No – compostable containers. These may be from lettuce or other produce/foods. These are not made of plastics that are recyclable. They are made to break down in the landfill or your compost pit, but actually don't break down there either. They take a special composting practice.  

Compostable plastics aren't the same as traditional plastics. They require specialized composting facilities not available to most municipalities. Please place these materials in the trash.

No – plastic bags – absolutely not! They are the bane of recycling centers across the nation. If you must take them from the grocery stores, please return them to a participating store that will recycle them for you. They go to a completely different type of facility to be processed. 

Remember these guys...

What to take to your local grocery stores that accept recycling:  Plastic bags, deflated air pillows from shipping, Tyvek packaging, plastic shipping envelopes, etc. If the plastic had foods in it or has become dirty or sticky, please at least rinse and dry if not clean before recycling. You can contaminate a whole bin while the shop waits for it to be full enough to send off for processing. 

No – trash – this includes anything you know for sure won’t ever have another use. Things like used diapers, kitty litter, doggy doo, broken stuff. Furniture, strollers, etc. 

Please remember that when you put things in your recycling bin that aren’t recyclable someone has to pull those things out. If you wouldn’t want to touch them, please don’t make them do it either. Consider compassionate recycling!

Guest blogger Sharia Des Jardins

Sharia has been doing eco/green coaching professionally for the last 3 years. She managed an eco-friendly home and kitchen store in Portland for many years. While running the T-Rex Museum in Tucson - sustainability, ecology and recycling were part of every group tour for the 6 years she was there. She made sure that every staff member ended their tours with the inevitability of human extinction if we continue in the manner of which we are accustomed to treating the planet. She has been educating friends and family for the last 20 years about what they can do. Sharia also works part time at Jen’s Organic Home and Baby here in Tucson since her return to the city in April 2018 after over a decade of living in the Pacific Northwest.

Check our Sustainable Tucson's music video, No! (That Isn't Recyclable) here.  Consider sharing to increase your positive impact!

Download the city's Recycle Coach on your phone here. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Sustainable Tucson's holiday party: "Celebrate Our Sustainable Future."

You are invited to Sustainable Tucson's holiday party.

Tuesday, December. 11, 6-8:30 p.m. (Doors open at 5:30 p.m.)
St Mark's Presbyterian Church, 3809 E 3rd St. Geneva Room
(Parking on 3rd St. and 2nd St. 2nd St. lot is closer to the Geneva Rm.)

Share the bounty of the season at our holiday potluck. Non-alcoholic drinks provided by Sustainable Tucson. Save a dinosaur; bring your own flatware and glasses.

If you read the recent IPCC study on climate change, you might not think there is much to celebrate this holiday season. The idea that climate change is progressing faster than first predicted can be quite a jolt, even if you’re already working to fight it. But it could also be an opportunity to come together as a community to envision and create a better, more sustainable and resilient Tucson!
At this year's holiday party, Sustainable Tucson will be celebrating the possibilities by creating a festival atmosphere with street fair activities:
Design Your Dream Neighborhood: Create a walk-able, inviting neighborhood from a typical Tucson neighborhood map using blocks that represent elements of complete streets. (Model built by Changemaker High School students.)
Creating Our Future: Draw the ways we can create a sustainable future for Tucson by 2038 on panels we will join together into a paper quilt.
Community Tree: Add leaves with your ideas about what we can do as a community to make Tucson Sustainable by 2038.
Time Capsule: Place your note to the future in our time capsule to be opened in a year: What are your hopes for Tucson or what will you make happen in Tucson in the coming year?
"Tales of Future" storytelling stage: Local Comedian Jeremy Segal will host impromptu stories about pursuing your vision for a sustainable future and other fun environmental stories.

Come celebrate with us!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Strengthened by the Storm

It has been a turbulent year. Since President Trump was elected, it has been a constant battle against the relentless storm that is the Trump Administration. The constant assaults on our land and water.
Being bombarded with bill after bill repealing or dismantling our hard fought for environmental protections. 

My one respite from that storm was getting out in the morning light and seeing our beloved moringas finally flourishing. By the end of August the largest one was blooming and bearing fruit.  The long awaited pods were 8 inches long and nearly ready to be cooked into a yummy Filipino stew.  

But then the storm (remnants of Hurricane Rosa) hit our little food forest.

One night we came home to this.

With heavy hearts, we tried to salvage what we could of the pods and leaves. 

 Sadly, the pods were still too thin to eat or save for seeds.  

I did manage to save most of the leaves...

That was little consolation.

 But our moringas had lessons to teach. 

Our fallen moringa came back, as moringas do

Reminding me to hang loose...

While the lazy, unpruned moringa droops and strains from its own weight 

threatening to tip over if a carpenter bee lands on a misplaced flower. 

The moringa that was savaged by the storm 

is stronger and fuller for its struggle.

Pruned back by the micro burst

the edible leaves are now greener than ever and in easy reach

as they were meant to be.

The forces of nature accomplished what we couldn't.

Watching our durable moringa grow strong gives me hope. 

A sign that our country could be strengthened

by our struggle with the storm.