The Reign of Recycling

Read the full opinion piece in the New York Times.

If you live in the United States, you probably do some form of recycling. It’s likely that you separate paper from plastic and glass and metal. You rinse the bottles and cans, and you might put food scraps in a container destined for a composting facility. As you sort everything into the right bins, you probably assume that recycling is helping your community and protecting the environment. But is it? Are you in fact wasting your time?

In 1996, I wrote a long article for The New York Times Magazine arguing that the recycling process as we carried it out was wasteful. I presented plenty of evidence that recycling was costly and ineffectual, but its defenders said that it was unfair to rush to judgment. Noting that the modern recycling movement had really just begun just a few years earlier, they predicted it would flourish as the industry matured and the public learned how to recycle properly.

So, what’s happened since then? While it’s true that the recycling message has reached more people than ever, when it comes to the bottom line, both economically and environmentally, not much has changed at all.

More in C-U answering call of ‘duty’

Read the full story in the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette.

Scott Willenbrock’s two-story brick home in Champaign looks like any other. Built in 1929, it used to be drafty, racking up big energy bills. It would leak heat in the winter and cool air in the summer.

“I thought it was a lost cause,” said the University of Illinois physics professor.

But after doing some research, he discovered it wasn’t. He weatherized the home, sealing cracks and adding insulation. He put in LED lightbulbs and replaced appliances, installing a heat-pump dryer that dehumidifies clothes. He added geothermal heating and cooling, using the ground’s natural 55-degree temperature to regulate his home’s air. He added solar panels, providing enough energy for his entire home and one or two of his electric cars, depending on the year.

But the easiest thing he did was recycle.

A Look at One Woman’s Effort to Create a National Clearinghouse for Local Recycling Rules

Read the full story at Waste360.

It wasn’t until Tracy Bugh started researching recycling guidelines in Los Angeles to create a PSA that she learned she should be tossing her Starbucks cup in the trash, not the blue bin. She also learned that same holder for designer Joe is compostable in Santa Monica and recyclable in West Hollywood.

Three neighboring California cities and three different waste streams for the same single-use product…

Bugh doubled down with her savings and expertise in simplifying concepts for the general public to bootstrap Recycle by City, a website that she hopes to build into a national clearinghouse for local recycling information.

How the circular economy is taking off in the US

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Laptops made of plastic from old laptops. Aluminium car body parts made from old cars. Chemicals leased out, recovered, and leased again. These are just a few examples of how the circular economy, once seen as a Scandinavian speciality, is starting to spin in the United States.

The Latest Thing in Green: FIT students test environmentally friendly ways to reuse textiles

Read the full story in the Wall Street Journal.

Mention the Fashion Institute of Technology, and green innovation isn’t the first thing that springs to mind. But two FIT students are undertaking a project that they hope will make the fashion industry’s use of textiles more environmentally friendly.

While the recycling of plastic, aluminum and paper is now commonplace, the recycling of organic fabric is rare, because no one has come up with an easy, environmentally friendly way to do it.

But Lydia Baird and Willa Tsokanis hope to change that. Students in FIT’s textile development and marketing program, they found themselves asking why the school routinely tossed out reams of muslin, a cheap strain of cotton used throughout the industry to test designs, once students were finished with it. While biodegradable, it takes longer to break down when mixed with other landfill refuse.

From $0 to $9M In Two Years: Dukies Change Face of E-Waste Recycling

Read the full post at ExitEvent.

As co-founders of Smart Metals Recycling just outside Charlotte, former Duke students Shelly Li and Arun Karottu are tackling e-waste head on.