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Ecycler and Upcycling

May 16th, 2011 No comments

We have talked about how artists use ecycler.com to find materials that they use to create works of art. This process of taking something that was waste and turning it into something new is called “upcycling”. According to Wikipedia, upcycling…

is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.

This is opposed to “downcycling” where an item is turned into something deemed lesser value than the original item. We won’t get into the debate about what defines better quality or less value, that’s another blog post entirely!

We’ve been checking out some of the interesting things that are being upcycled around the world as of late. Check out these interesting uses for materials that were headed for the scrap heap.

Recycled Inner Tubes and Seatbelt Buckles: The folks at Alchemy Goods make some great products from old inter-tubes. Laptop cases, wallets, purses and even the sexy “Night Out Wallet”. I really like the idea of being able to freshen up my man bag with a quick squirt of Armor All before a big date! Seatbelt buckle bottle opener is pure genius.

Placemats from Old Billboards and Movie Posters: If you’re like me a good placemat saves your table from getting all the drips and drops from my less than stellar eating habits. I like an easy to clean, wipe able placemat that can take some abuse and is interesting to look at. The folks at ReMakes are making some nifty placemats from old billboards and movie posters that fit the bill. Why use virgin plastic for an item that really doesn’t need to be made of new material? And the coolest thing is that these placemats have a QR code so you use that fancy smartphone at the table!

Recycled Oil Drums, Records and Washing Machines: You could say the folks at Lockengeloet have a fertile imagination. Or they are just a bit loco. How would you like a clothes storage dresser or lamp made from a washing machine? Or, an über cool oil drum storage unit to hide your crude oil? This is the true spirit of upcycling where an item that was previously headed for the recycling bin or your garage and turn it into  something cooler, better and downright sexy!

In the spirit of upcycling ecycler has recently launched some new recycling categories such as tennis balls, CD’s, keys and crayons. We’ve found folks that can turn these items into something better. So don’t forget the three R’s and the U.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Upcycle!

Categories: materials, recycle Tags: , ,

Making Plastic into Glass

April 18th, 2011 1 comment

Collectors come to ecycler not only to get recyclables to redeem for cash, but to turn refuse into art.

A Brooklyn-based artist whose glass pieces were featured in the New York Times inquired about collecting plastic bottles, especially Evian bottles, for her work. Her friends save their used plastic bottles for her so that she can repurpose them into beautiful vases and bowls, but she needs to collect items on a larger scale.

Ecycler has received queries from other artists seeking to fashion art out of recyclables, thus opening up a new user base we hadn’t even thought of when creating the site. Ecycler will be featuring an artist named Journi who recently acquired 100 bottles from ecycler’s Recycling Exchange in an upcoming blog posting.

Aluminum, bottles and newspapers (remember those papier-mâché projects from grade school?) are perfect for art projects. School kids and professional artists alike are possible consumers of ecycler.

It just goes to show that one man’s trash really is another’s treasure.

More on the Brooklyn Artist: Shari Mendelson

Thanks GreenWineBottles for use of their image
Categories: materials, recycle Tags: , ,

Alkaline Batteries – Just Throw them in the Garbage!

March 31st, 2011 30 comments

We used to think it was a shame to let any recyclable household item go into the waste bin, so we were surprised to learn that it’s not necessary to recycle alkaline batteries.

Batteries can be categorized as either single-use (primary cell) batteries or rechargeable (secondary cell) batteries. Each type requires special instructions to ensure it’s properly recycled (or discarded). The majority of consumer batteries for household use fall within these types:

  • Alkaline
  • Zinc-carbon
  • Button cell (lithium manganese or silver oxide)
  • Lithium (Li-ion)
  • Nickel-cadmium (NiCd)
  • Nickel metal hydride (NiMH)
  • Lead-based (automotive and non-automotive)

It turns out that some battery manufacturers, like Duracell and Energizer, have eliminated all of the added mercury from its alkaline batteries, so they can now be safely discarded along with normal household waste. The other components of the batteries — steel, zinc and manganese — don’t pose health or environmental risks in the solid waste stream, according to Duracell, and those metals are difficult to recover from batteries.

We learned this by reading a blog written by an environmentally minded person named Will Taft — willtaft.com — who did some research into the proper disposal of alkaline batteries. He even found this comment from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA):

“Alkaline batteries are not recyclable. They’ll just be thrown out in a landfill, or at the most a hazardous waste landfill.”

Rechargeable batteries are a different story, though — they can contain mercury, cadmium, lead, and lithium, and therefore should be recycled. Car batteries and other lead-based batteries should also be recycled.

Alkaline batteries have several advantages: they last for a long time, perform well at high and low temperatures and have a long storage life. They can be stored at room temperature for two years and retain 90 percent of their original capacities.

It’s important to handle them properly, however. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns that if potassium hydroxide, which is contained within the cells of alkaline batteries, leaks out, it can cause chemical burns on skin or in your eyes.

And, Duracell warns people never to dispose of alkaline batteries by fire, because they could explode. Duracell also says not to dispose of large amounts of alkaline batteries together. Used batteries are often not completely “dead,” and grouping them can bring these “live” batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.

Most sources say that more than 150,000 tons of single-use batteries are tossed into landfills each year. Send your alkaline batteries to ecycler HQ and we’ll take action to properly dispose of the batteries.

Buy rechargeable batteries!

 

 

Categories: materials, recycle Tags: ,

Electronic Waste – Reduce Reuse Recycle

February 23rd, 2011 1 comment

Millions of tons of electronic waste is generated every year in North America and the amount increases with every new gadget, computer and smartphone that hits the market. In our quest to improve our lives through technology we are creating electronic waste at an unprecedented rate. In response, we have seen more attention focused on methods to reduce, reuse and recycle electronic waste.

Reduce

In the pursuit for faster computers, more features on our smart phones and better picture quality, we are constantly replacing our electronics with newer and better performing models. But what if there was a way to get that improved performance, more features and better picture without increasing the amount of stuff we buy? Well, there already is a movement afoot to reduce the amount of computer hardware that needs to be purchased in order to stay on top of the tech race. The term is “cloud computing” and although it may sound like a weather forecasting computer it is actually a concept of sharing resources such as computer memory, processing power, and software over a network. For example you may need a fast computer to run software that you don’t currently own and perhaps will only need for a set amount of time. With cloud computing you would contract with a company that has the type of computer/software/memory you need and pay them a fee to access it on the Internet.

Why you may ask is this reducing the amount of electronic waste produced? Well instead of you having to purchase another computer and more memory you can use what you need, when you need it from the company providing the service. The company will have one very large computer that runs the software you and thousands of others are using. Essentially, their one computer replaces the thousands that would have needed to be purchased to complete the same task. Their one computer can be used more effectively because while you are sleeping someone in Europe can be using your portion of the big computer which likely wouldn’t be happening if it was sitting on your desk in low power sleep mode. An additional benefit is that the company providing the service is likely to be continuously upgrading and improving the software to retain and attract customers. This means that you aren’t going to get stuck with a piece of out-of-date software in a few years. And, if you’re a business you can add users by simply buying more access instead of having to buy more software and hardware to accommodate growth. Cloud computing is both lean and green.

Reuse

We know it’s easy to recycle cans and bottles but who wants your old computer that is far from high tech? The truth is that lots of people might want it including schools, low-income earners, and even those pesky computer geeks. While it may not suit your needs anymore there is such a wide spectrum of computer uses out there that your old clunker may be just the thing that Junior could use to practice his typing or learn basic programming. Sometimes the latest and greatest isn’t the best tool for the job especially if you are looking to do a little tinkering under the hood, which is what many computer hobby hackers do. They are looking for something that they can strip down, try some new tricks on or simply strip the good parts. Whatever the use, if you can find Junior or a hobbyist, your computer will extend its useful life before it meets a shredder in the next phase, which is recycling. If you’re having trouble finding a home for your electronic waste or have large volumes consider a waste consultant who can use their knowledge and experience to find a solution.

Recycle

OK, you’ve tried to donate your outdated electronic waste but it seems nobody wants your old clunker. Now it’s time to find a recycling facility that will take your old electronic device and safely recycle the materials contained within. But a word of caution on recycling of electronic waste because all may not be well. If you find someone that is willing to recycle your electronic, ask some questions like “Where does my computer go to be recycled?” or “Can you provide proof of recycling at an approved facility?” If the answer to the first question is another country such as China or India you may want to reconsider. Not that all recyclers in China and India are irresponsible but there is considerable evidence that much of the electronic waste sent to these countries is processed in ways that is extremely harmful to the both the environment and the workers that recycle the waste. You may think your old iPhone is being carefully disassembled for valuable materials when in fact it is being processed in an acid bath over an open fire, which is then dumped into a river. This brings me to my second rule of thumb, which is asking for proof of recycling at an approved facility. Ask the recycler where they send their materials. If they can’t or won’t tell you, it is a red flag. If they will tell you, do a quick Google search on the facility they provide and see what you find. Ideally you want to have your waste recycled locally by a government certified facility that is operating a safe and ethical recycling system. Most recyclers dealing with a certified electronic waste recycler will provide a record of recycling to certify that your electronic waste was recycled at an approved facility.

The solution to the ever-increasing electronic waste issue is to use computing resources more efficiently (Cloud Computing), reuse and extend the life of electronic waste (Schools and Hobbyists), and use a responsible recycler (Local and Accountable).

Cash for Cans, A Chicago Perspective

February 18th, 2011 1 comment

Did you know that it really does pay to recycle? The pop cans and old pipes laying around the house have value, and turning those items into cash is easy — if you know where to look.

The easiest items to cash in are those made from aluminum, such as beverage cans, foil and tins used for baking. Most buy-back centers in the area accept aluminum and pay an average of $0.50 per pound for it.

However, most places don’t list the prices they pay on their websites; you have to call for quotes. It pays to save up recyclables until you have a large amount to drop off. The more aluminum cans, for example, the more you’ll get for them.

A-1 Recycling, of Fox Lake, pays $0.55 per pound for aluminum cans, but for deposits of more than 25 pounds, they pay $0.57 per pound.

Many buy-back centers still don’t pay for plastic bottles and newspapers, but there are other household items people don’t typically set out in their recycling bins that can be redeemed for cash. Batteries and copper wire, for example, can be recycled for money. American Metals Company in Chicago pays $3 for car batteries while A-1 Recycling pays $2.25 for every pound of copper house wire.

For people who have batteries they wish to discard and just want to dispose of them properly but don’t care about making money from them, the city of Chicago has a battery collection program in which alkaline and rechargeable batteries — but not lead-acid car batteries — can be deposited at any Chicago Public Library or Walgreens Drug Store in the city.

When it comes to copper, different centers quote different prices, depending on the type of copper, be it wire or tubing, and whether it is soldered or not. Most places say they need to see the copper and won’t provide price quotes over the phone.

The easiest way to find drop-off centers in Chicago is to visit earth911.com, which requires people to input both their zip code and the type of recyclables they have in order to find the listing of buy-back centers. There is also a web page on the Chicago Recycling Coalition — http://www.chicagorecycling.org/sites.htm — which lists buy-back centers for all types of recyclables. The information isn’t obvious from the home page, but if you search for recyclables by type, you can find a link that lists the centers where the items can be taken. It also has an interactive map showing the locations of all of the city recycling centers.

Categories: ecycler, materials Tags:

Terbium! More Valuable than Silver?

February 7th, 2011 1 comment

Pssst…hey buddy, wanna buy some terbium? I got some going cheap for only $800,000 per ton.

Our desire for the latest electronic gadgets made from exotic materials such as terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium have made these relatively unknown substances a very hot commodity. So hot in fact that the Chinese government has called for a halt to shipments of these materials for export. How come? Because these so called “rare earth elements” are so rare that Chinese officials are worried that domestic demand will consume all current Chinese production in the near future. Why is this big news? Because China supplies 95% of the rare earth elements mostly from mines in Inner Mongolia. Without this supply expect prices to spike dramatically which will certainly affect the electronics industry as a whole.

Rare earth metals are used in everything from iPhone circuit boards to flat screen televisions. With increasing prices and rising demand one thing is certain, rare earth elements are about to get a lot more rare.

While this may spell higher prices for consumers it’s good news for those that recycle old electronics because those old circuit boards are about to get really valuable. Like any market when a resource become scarce people get more creative in the methods used to obtain the resource. And guess what, it’s a lot easier to find terbium in used electronics than heading to the mountains with a pick and a shovel.

This is good news for the environment and recyclers. In the past there wasn’t much demand for old electronics as a recyclable item, old and outdated electronics usually gathered dust in a garage until the owners finally got sick of looking at them and carted them off to the dump. With increasing prices for the rare earth metals that outdated electronics contain that old stereo or TV could become a hot item with recyclers. Using marketplaces like ecycler makes it easier to match up those who have electronics to recycle with those who recycle electronics. If you’re like most people you have at least one old piece of electronic equipment cluttering up your house or garage, try listing it on ecycler to save yourself the hassle of recycling/disposing of the item yourself?

A detailed look at the rare metal situation: The Telegraph

CD and DVD Recycling

February 3rd, 2011 1 comment

As with anything one recycles, it’s important to ask “Could someone else use this?

The ultimate solution is to donate the disc(s) to your library or a local school–reuse where possible. Of course, with your data discs, reuse isn’t possible. But, perhaps some sort of upcycle art project IS possible. A few options are listed here on make-stuff.com.

There are three main pieces to consider when recycling discs (CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays or HD DVDs): the Disc itself, Cover & Liner Notes and the Jewel Case. Some materials are more easily recycled than others, but all can be put to new use.

Discs

CDs (Compact Discs), DVDs (Digital Video Discs), et al. are made of similar materials and contain three main components: plastic, metals and ink. Discs are made mostly from polycarbonate, although a small amount of lacquer is also used as a protective coating. Aluminum in the primary metal in discs, but traces of gold, silver and nickel are also present. The dyes used in printing on the disc itself contain some petroleum products, but when it comes to recycling, only metal and plastic are processed.

Cover and Liner Notes

Generally, cover and liner notes are made from paper and are relatively easy to recycle.

Jewel Cases

While some CD and DVD cases are now made of paper or biodegradable products, most are still made with plastic #6, a cheap, but hard-to-recycle, material. Of the three components of CD and DVD packaging, jewel cases are generally the most difficult to recycle, but there are some options.

Some interesting CD/DVD Recycling Facts:

  • A CD/DVD is considered a class 7 recyclable plastic
  • To manufacture a pound of plastic (30 CDs per pound), it requires 300 cubic feet of natural gas, 2 cups of crude oil and 24 gallons of water
  • It is estimated that AOL alone has distributed more than 2 billion CDs. That is the natural gas equivalent of heating 200,000 homes for 1 year
  • It is estimated that it will take over 1 million years for a CD to completely decompose in a landfill

How the Process Works

The components are sorted at the collection center, separated into discs, paper and cases. All paper gets bailed and sent to a paper mill for recycling. As for cases in good condition, they are inspected, packed and sold to raise money for the facility. Any remaining damaged cases and ALL discs get sorted in bins, and packaged in a container destined to a plastic reclaiming center.

Some discs leave whole, some leave as regrind. Regrind is where the discs are ground and shredded into small pieces–this allows for more materials to be loaded into storage bins/bags. This is now considered a scrap plastic that gets melted at the reclaiming center. When melted, the discs are de-metalized separating the plastic and metal component in the disc. Once the discs are de-metalized, they are formed into a low-grade of raw plastic.

Discs and cases yield a different grade of plastic. This plastic is not of sufficient quality for the food or medical industry product use; however, it is fine for the automotive and building materials industries.

Read more…

Categories: materials, recycle Tags:

Saving Oysters and the Environment

January 24th, 2011 No comments

We, at ecycler, are always interested in learning about new things that can be recycled, but we had no idea that oyster shells could be reused until we came across an interesting article on TreeHugger.com.

The Oyster Recovery Partnership Shell Recycling Alliance collects oyster shells from restaurants and returns them to the Chesapeake Bay, where new oysters inhabit them.

According to National Geographic, “without some sort of base, be it shells, stones, or reef balls, similar to what are used to help restore coral reefs, the adult oysters sink into the muddy river bottom and die.”

Restoring oyster habitat is good for the environment. According to the Tree Hugger article, oysters serve as natural water filters and as natural coastal buffers that help protect shorelines.

The year-old Oyster Recovery Partnership Shell Recycling Alliance collects used shells from about 50 restaurants in the Maryland-Virgina-DC area. The group has already collected almost two million oyster shells.

We built ecycler.com with flexibility in mind–this gives us the ability to quickly add new materials and add them to specific regions (or the entire US and Canada). For example, we’ve recently added composting to one state–Pennsylvania–as an assessment of its viability.

If you have suggestions, or have a supply of oyster shells, please feel free to contact us.

Categories: materials, recycle Tags:

Ink and Toner Cartridge Recycling Guide

January 20th, 2011 No comments

Going Green, Saving Energy, Saving the Planet, Renewable energy and Recycling; these are words heard daily on the television, radio, Social Media and read in newspapers. When people think of recycling, the first thing that usually comes to mind is paper, aluminum cans and plastic bottles; using wind or water for energy.

Two common items used daily are Inkjet Cartridges and Laser Toner Cartridges–these are easily recycled, but often NOT recycled. Each year over 300 million Ink and Toner Cartridges are thrown away and end up in landfills, this amount is equal to the weight of about 67,600 SUV’s. That is an unacceptable number! But, it gets worse–the average Toner Cartridge takes approximately 500 years to decompose. And, it takes up to three quarts of oil to produce the average laser toner cartridge and 2.5 ounces to produce the average inkjet cartridge.

A few more facts to ponder:

  • On average, toner cartridges weigh an estimated 2.5 pounds and each new toner cartridge requires half a gallon of oil to make new plastic. One remanufactured cartridge keeps 2.5 pounds of metal and plastic out of the landfill and saves a half gallon of oil.
  • The average laser cartridge will add 2.75 pounds of plastic and metals to landfills.
  • Using recycled cartridges to make new cartridges (i.e., remanufactured cartridges) reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 89%.

If a concerted effort is made to recycle cartridges both at home and at the office, it would make a big difference for the environment.

It is as easy as searching Earth911.com for “Toner Cartridges” or “Inkjet Cartridges” and your ZIP code. Empty Ink and Toner Cartridges can be brought in person to many different office supply stores, sometimes in exchange for deposits on new cartridges. There are also quite a few online businesses that accept empty cartridges. They usually send to you a pre-paid mailer in which to send the empty cartridges back and upon inspection, some businesses will even give cash!

Whether recycling the cartridges online, sending them back to the manufacturer or returning them in-store, make sure the instructions for returns are followed precisely. This ensures each party properly benefits from the return.

What to look out for when sending in empty cartridges? Here are a few points:

  • Meet the minimum cartridge requirements
  • Some businesses only accept ink cartridges
  • Some businesses only accept OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) cartridges

Read more…

Yes! You Can Recycle Styrofoam!

December 26th, 2010 12 comments

Special guest post by RecycleScene.

Have you ever tried to recycle Styrofoam? It sure can be difficult–but, it’s not impossible. Styrofoam is also known as Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS). If it is landfilled, the material never breaks down. When it’s burned, it creates a toxic ash. With the holiday season especially, there’s an avalanche of it surrounding our gifts and arriving at our doorsteps. Polystyrene’s blessings are also a curse- its light weight and durability make it such a great packaging material, but currently in the USA, foam packaging is being recycled at a rate of only about 10-12% each year.

What is Styrofoam?

Styrofoam is only one name for polystyrene plastic, and is a Dow Chemical Co. trademarked form of polystyrene foam insulation. Polystyrene is made from styrene, a petroleum by-product. Styrene was first commercially produced during World War II in the production of synthetic rubber. Only about 5% of a foam package is polystyrene, the remainder is air. Part of what makes food containers, for example, so difficult to recycle is that they are generally contaminated and require cleaning before they can be processed. Unfortunately, this makes recycling less cost effective. For more information visit the Polystyrene Packaging Council.

Drop Off Styrofoam For Recycling Near You

Thankfully, Alliance of Foam Packaging Recyclers is a great resource for finding out where to drop off or mail your Styrofoam. Their collection system relies on EPS manufacturers to serve as recycling locations, allowing AFPR members reprocess up to 60% of the post consumer foam collected and incorporate it directly into new packaging. Expanded polystyrene has a National Mail-Back Program if drop-off sites are not available.

TIP: Make sure your Styrofoam is clean and free of any tape, labels, film or glued-on cardboard.

American Chemistry also provides a resource to search by zip code to find a company near you that will actually buy back protective polystyrene packaging from you. Click the button that says, “Less Than Truckload Quantity” to choose your state.

Packing Peanuts

The Plastic Loose Fill Council promotes reuse of polystyrene, or packing peanuts. The Loose Fill Council provides a very easy way for you to search for a place to drop off your polystyrene loose fill packaging. You simply search loosefillpackaging.com by zip code for a place that will reuse your packing peanuts.

The Council’s Peanut Hotline is a national, 24-hour consumer hotline and website directory service with referrals to the nearest locations that accept packing peanuts for reuse. Call the Peanut Hotline at: 1800-828-2214. Many local businesses gladly accept peanuts free of charge for reuse, so look into Postal Annex and Mail Boxes Etc. Try and give a little to the planet this season- don’t let your Styrofoam end up in a landfill!

Read more…