Corporate Sustainability Practices: Waste & Recycling

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When it comes to waste, everyone knows the 3-R mantra: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. But it’s tough to follow the 3 Rs when products, packaging and materials aren’t designed with end-of-life in mind.

GreenBiz Group and Waste Management recently conducted a joint research effort to identify current trends in waste reduction and recycling. The research was undertaken to identify insights into how waste and recycling decisions are made by sustainability executives, the metrics they are employing in their drive toward waste reduction, and the actions they plan to undertake in the future.

Southwest Airlines upcycles 80,000 leather seats into bags, shoes and balls

Read the full story in The Guardian.

What would you do if you found yourself with 80,000 leather aeroplane seat covers that you needed to dispose of? That’s the situation in which Southwest Airlines, America’s largest budget carrier, found itself recently, when it decided to replace all its leather seat coverings with others made from a durable lightweight material.

The change was aimed at reducing weight – 600 lbs per plane – and thus fuel. Reduced fuel consumption, of course, benefits the environment, but putting 80,000 leather coverings into the incinerator certainly doesn’t. It’s not just the fact that the leather coverings would be adding to the waste stream: preparing new leather for products from shoes to handbags consumes vast amounts of natural resources.

So Southwest joined the international upcycling trend. Partnering with upcycler Looptworks in Portland, Oregon, the airline will turn a portion of its leather seats into tote bags, duffle bags and backpacks that the airline will buy back to to use as gifts at events.

EU — Higher recycling targets to drive transition to a Circular Economy with new jobs and sustainable growth

Read the press release from the European Commission.

Today the Commission adopted proposals to turn Europe into a more circular economy and boost recycling in the Member States. Achieving the new waste targets would create 580 000 new jobs compared to today’s performance, while making Europe more competitive and reducing demand for costly scarce resources. The proposals also mean lower environmental impacts and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The plans ask Europeans to recycle 70 % of municipal waste and 80 % of packaging waste by 2030, and ban burying recyclable waste in landfill as of 2025. A target is also included for reducing marine litter along with food waste reduction objectives…

See also:

  • Questions and answers on the Commission Communication “Towards a Circular Economy” MEMO/14/450
  • Environment/industrial policy: Live and work in better buildings IP/14/764
  • Questions and answers on sustainable buildings MEMO/14/451
  • Employment: Commission outlines measures to maximise job opportunities in the green economy IP/14/765MEMO/14/446
  • Green Action Plan for SMEs: turning environmental challenges into business opportunities IP/14/766
  • Green Action Plan for SMEs: Combining a lasting recovery with a resource-efficient European economy MEMO/14/452

Further information:

The Recycling Rate—Blip or Trend?

Read the full post from Waste360 (Free registration required for article access).

When the EPA published its “Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2012” report at the end of February, it calculated that the recycling rate had dropped, albeit very modestly. This fact caused a bit of a stir and sparked some controversy that recycling may have peaked, or was at least stagnating, which has been simmering ever since.

While we do not profess to have a crystal ball on the future recycling rate, in this month’s issue of the Circular File, we take a look at some of the underlying cross currents beneath the headline number.

Battery groups introduce model recycling bill

Read the full story in Recycling Today.

The Corp. for Battery Recycling (CBR), the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), the Rechargeable Battery Association (PRBA) and Call2Recycle have unveiled what the four groups are calling a model bill for battery recycling.

The four groups say that for the first time battery interest groups have joined forces to take shared responsibility for the collection and recycling of all used primary, or single-use, batteries and rechargeable batteries. The model bill only covers consumer batteries.

The groups introduced the model bill at the Product Stewardship Institute’s National Batteries Stewardship Dialogue Meeting, June 11-12 in Hartford, Connecticut…

The model bill can be accessed at

Video: REEcycle: Renewing the Rarities that Drive Our Lives

Rare earth elements are some of the most expensive and essential ingredients for many clean ‪energy‬ products such as ‪wind‬ turbines, thin film ‪solar‬ cells and batteries for electric vehicles. The student startup, REEcycle, from the University of Houston swept this year’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, taking home all three awards for its innovative method of reclaiming rare earth elements from magnets in electronics. Watch REEcycle’s video below to learn how the ability to recycle rare earth elements is essential to keep up with the increasing demand for clean energy products:

To learn more about the winning team and the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition:

Public-Private Partnerships Help Increase Recycling

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

America, respected worldwide as an innovative and resourceful nation, is falling down on the job when it comes to recycling. Although its recycling rates have improved dramatically since Congress passed the Solid Waste Disposal Act in 1965, the US is way behind leading European countries that have gotten serious about recycling and turning waste into energy, notes BioCycle and the Earth Engineering Center of Columbia University in this infographic.