Archive | Recycle

China and Recycling in Fairfax County

A successful recycling program is a constant balancing act of supply and demand. It depends not only on input—people choosing to recycle and recycling appropriately— but also on output, a market for the recycled materials.

Ironically, China’s move to go green, a proposal to improve its air quality problem by stopping the import of a number of foreign recycled materials by the end of 2017 (some types of glass, metal, plastic, paper and textiles), may have a huge impact on the U.S.’s efforts to go green with recycling.

For a long time, China has been remanufacturing scrap from the U.S. into everyday objects that the U.S. then imports. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc. (ISRI), one-third of all the scrap recycled in the United States (including $1.9 billion in scrap paper and $495 million in scrap plastics) is prepared for shipment to the export market, with China as the recycling industry’s largest customer by far. ISRI points out that not only will the U.S. be losing a large market for recyclables when the ban goes through, but that many of the over 155,000 U.S. jobs supported directly by the export of recyclables could be threatened.

While other overseas markets are picking up, the Association of Plastic Recyclers asserts that domestic markets may be poised to pick up the slack. “U.S. plastic reclaimers have the capacity to handle additional tonnage if China bans recycled plastic imports, as expected, at some point this year.” But ACR also goes on to emphasize the need for more robust sorting systems—a combination of ensuring proper recycling efforts and additional mechanical and optical equipment at the Materials Recovery Facilities.

It is precisely the contaminants in the scrap that has led China to propose the ban. As they say in their statement to the World Trade Organization: “[W]e found that large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials. This polluted China’s environment seriously. To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted. [Objectives:] Protection of human health or safety; Protection of animal or plant life or health; Protection of the environment.

 

While our single-stream recycling program in Fairfax County offers an easy way for us to recycle since we can mix all recyclable materials except plastic bags together, it can contribute to greater contamination of the recyclables since it relies on sorting at the Materials Recovery Facilities. As individuals, we do not have control of the recycling end markets, but we can improve the recycling input.

To ensure minimal contamination, we need to be sure that we are recycling correctly: only putting accepted items in the bins (see http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpwes/recycling/minimum.htm for a list of recyclable items) and cleaning items prior to recycling to avoid food or chemical contamination.  Even better, of course, would be to reduce our usage of single-use plastics, paper, and metals! We can do our part to keep supply and demand of recyclables in balance.

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Spotlight on Eco-Friendly Business: THE INSIDE SCOOP

The Inside Scoop               

Owner: Daniel Azar

Opened for business: 2/14/2014

The Inside Scoop, a local food truck selling organic homemade ice cream and treats, made some eco-friendly changes after participating in Clean Fairfax’s SpringFest, an annual celebration of Earth Day that encourages sustainable practices.

According to owner Daniel Azar, “SpringFest’s requirements prompted me to look for alternatives that I used for that event.  After that, it stuck, and I started phasing out as much plasticware as possible.” Daniel also noted, “There is a growing concern over how much non-compostable waste we are producing.  All you have to do is google ‘landfills’ and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of garbage that will never break down.  There needs to be more laws in place (such as California’s required recycling), but also grassroots efforts to help raise awareness and make changes, without needing to wait for a federal mandate, because it’s just the right thing to do.”

Daniel found that depending on the item, it was either the same price as plastic or a little higher, but went on to say that the slight increase in cost should be a trivial concern to businesses, small and large, because “our environment, our ecosystem, is worthless if we can’t live in it.”

His recommendation to other businesses is to “not let the bottom line be more important than the overall health of both ourselves and all of our neighbors: Fourlegged, bipedal, winged or otherwise.”

EXAMPLES OF ECO-FRIENDLY PRACTICES USED AT THE INSIDE SCOOP:

Avoidance of single-use plastics (straws, packaging, utensils, dishes, containers, bags) 

Phasing out of plastic dishes and spoons for paper and wooden ones.

Energy conservation 

Turn off and unplug any appliance not currently in use.

Recycling

Recycle at every opportunity!

Local sources

Dairy, heavy cream, and several ingredients & toppings are

locally sourced from farmers markets right here in Fairfax County and from our nation’s

Dairy State: Pennsylvania.

Organics

Dairy, agave & heavy cream are Organic.

Fair-trade 

The coffee in Espresso Chip ice cream is Fair Trade.

Composting

Wooden taster spoons, teaspoons & paper cups are all compostable.

Waste Prevention (e.g. donations of unsold product to needy)

Donated to 3 different homeless & needy shelters in the D.C Area.

Support this eco-friendly business and enjoy some yummy ice cream and treats:

http://www.theinsidescoopcreamery.com/

 

 

Why plastic bag bans or taxes haven’t happened in Fairfax County

As I distribute reusable produce and tote bags at the Fairfax County Farmers Markets during National Farmers Market Week, I often get asked about why Fairfax County has not banned plastic bags or taxed their use like many other jurisdictions around the world.

  • The first problem is that many people are not aware of the extent of the problem caused by plastic bags. In addition to being left as litter, because they are lightweight, plastic bags often fly out of trash cans and trucks, and also escape out of landfills. And, according to most estimates, in part because they are recycled separately from other plastics, only 1% of them ever make it to a recycling center.

According to the Worldwatch Institute, every year, Americans reportedly throw away 100 billion plastic grocery bags. One out of every ten items picked up in an International Coastal Cleanup in 2009 was a plastic bag.

Locally, Clean Fairfax’s monitoring of two 100 foot stream segments as part of our Clean Streams Initiative showed alarming results: Our Quander Brook monitoring site, which receives stormwater runoff from a Walmart shopping center, had 136 plastic bags just six weeks after the site had been completely cleaned. On Little Hunting Creek, runoff from a high density residential area of apartments left 92 plastic bags three months after that site’s cleanup. 

 

And plastic bags kill wildlife:  Entrapment, ingestion, and leaching as these bags photodegrade wreaks havoc on plant and animal life, particularly as bags float from our streams into the ocean.

  • Another problem with trying to get legislation to stem the tide of plastic bag pollution is that in VA there is the Dillon Rule which does not allow a local jurisdiction to create a ban or tax. While plastic bag legislation has been raised at the Virginia Statehouse, it has not passed. Strong business lobbies oppose it, and many legislators don’t want to ruffle constituent feathers with a perceived inconvenience.

So, it is up to individuals to make the eco-friendly choice by bringing reusable bags to every shopping experience—and to let their state representatives know that they want legislation that will help keep plastic bags out of our streams and oceans.

Attainable Sustainable: Eco-Watch not Eco-Witch

Going into Fairfax County streams to monitor and cleanup the horrific litter problem. Seeing the headlines about the long-range environmental impact of climate change. Watching webinars on the devastating effects of marine debris on wildlife. It’s enough to turn me into an eco-witch, i.e. one who constantly finds fault with individuals and businesses who are not maintaining high environmental sustainability standards in their daily practice—and governmental policy decisions that undermine our environmental quality.

 

It is important to stay vigilant to unsustainable practices, “eco-watch,” but avoid only harping about the problems as an “eco-witch.” It is time to take action. Most people— and businesses— are willing to follow sustainable practices if they 1) are easy to follow, i.e. don’t require a lot of extra work and, 2) don’t cost extra money.

So how might public outreach that is “attainable sustainable” play out?

Be a model of sustainable practices and provide the means for others to follow these.  Your simple actions can serve as a positive “eco-watch” for others: make a point of refusing straws, plastic bags, and single-use water bottles; bring reusable containers to take home leftovers at restaurants; choose fair trade, organic, and locally sourced products (e.g. Farmers Markets); and purchase energy-efficient cars and appliances. In addition to publicly modeling eco-friendly products and practices, actions such as providing friends and family with reusable bags and water bottles and buying them fair-trade gifts help spread the sustainability movement.

On a larger scale, contact restaurants that still use Styrofoam or plastic clamshells for take-out—neither of which are recyclable in Fairfax County—about using more sustainable packaging. Stay on top of environmental legislation (consider subscribing to Daily Action Alerts) and contact your local, state, and national legislators about supporting legislation that helps, not hurts, the environment.

And support organizations like Clean Fairfax that are working to inculcate more eco-friendly practices.

Don’t just complain as an “eco-witch.” Eco-watch and take action.

Prime-time for Farmers Markets: Lots of Fresh Produce and Special Events

July and August are definitely the best months to get to the Farmers Markets in this area. According to the Virginia Harvest Calendar http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/pdf/producechart.pdf published by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services this is when most of the produce is being harvested, so you will find great abundance and variety at the Farmers Markets. Also, August 2-12 there will be special events to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. (see July 26 Facebook post @CleanFairfax)

Go eco-friendly:Bring plenty of reusable tote bags, reusable produce bags, and reusable containers. Clean Fairfax is encouraging Fairfax County residents to join the #plasticfreeproduce movement. Also, consider composting the remains of your fruits and vegetables.

Why support the Farmers Markets?

1. Freshness:

Fruits and vegetables are guaranteed fresh since they are local. You can talk directly to the farmer to find out about the produce you are purchasing.

  1. Protect the Environment:

Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate. All this shipping uses large amounts of natural resources (especially fossil fuels), contributes to pollution, and creates trash with extra packaging. Conventional agriculture also uses many more resources than sustainable agriculture and pollutes water, land, and air with toxic agricultural by-products. Food at the farmers market is transported shorter distances and is generally grown using methods that minimize the impact on the earth.  (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

  1. Support Family Farmers:

Family farmers need your support, now that large agribusiness dominates food production in the U.S. Small family farms have a hard time competing in the food marketplace. Buying directly from farmers gives them a better return for their produce and gives them a fighting chance in today’s globalized economy.  (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)

  1. Promote Humane Treatment of AnimalsAt the farmers market, you can find meats, cheeses, and eggs from animals that have been raised hormone- and antibiotic-free. Also, they are often openly grazed and cage free rather than forced into cramped feedlots and cages.
  2. Connect with Your Community

Farmers Markets offer a communal gathering place for neighbors.

National Farmers Market Week with cooking demonstrations, games, kids’ activities, raffles for gift baskets and more is running from Wednesday, August 2 to Saturday, August 12, 2017 at the Fairfax County Farmers Markets. Watch the promotional video (https://goo.gl/MHQGte) for additional information.

For directions and vendors at each market visit

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/farmersmarkets or call Community Horticulture at 703-642-0128.

Plastic-Free Farmers Markets

This summer Clean Fairfax is working with area farmers markets to encourage a move towards going plastic-free. We will be at area markets distributing reusable tote bags and mesh produce bags to replace plastic bags. Farmers market attendees often already own tote bags, so we are especially promoting the use of smaller mesh bags. These can also be purchased at Whole Foods or online. For example, Bag Again has mesh produce bags made from recycled plastic bottles:  http://www.bagagain.com/home.html

Right now, even when going to the farmers market, many people are forgetting their reusable totes at home or in the car, and most people are using small plastic bags for produce purchases. I personally observed 126 plastic bags in a two hour time period at one area farmers market!

Although a plastic bag can be reused—and most environmentally-minded people do say they use them at least once again—consider the life cycle of a plastic bag: From petroleum use in the production to the energy use necessary to recycle these bags—that is, assuming people bother to take them to the grocery store—plastic bags waste resources.

Source:  https://greenerideal.com/life-cycle-of-plastic-bag-large/

Plastic bags are also a huge source of litter in our streams. I have participated in numerous Fairfax County stream cleanups this spring and have found as many as 161 plastic bags in one 100 foot long stretch of stream. Since they are not part of the curbside recycling program in Fairfax County, many plastic bags are NOT getting recycled back at the grocery store and end up in the waste stream or as litter. On the other hand, I have never seen a reusable bag (or reusable bottle for that matter!) littering a stream.

And plastic free farmers markets can be done. Farmers markets on the West Coast went that direction years ago, and countries around the world are taking the lead on complete plastic bag bans or plastic bag taxes.

In Fairfax County we have no legal restrictions or taxes on our plastic bag use. It is up to each of us to voluntarily make the environmentally friendly switch to reusables. Please remember to take your tote bags AND mesh produce bags to the farmers market and grocery store this summer!

Holey Driveways!

According to the Chesapeake Bay Program, increased development across the Potomac Watershed has made stormwater runoff the fastest growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay. The non-permeable asphalt that covers our roads and parking lots coupled with the roofs of densely packed buildings in Fairfax County, force rain water and any litter or chemicals into stormwater drains which have outfalls into our streams. The faster flow of water caused by the impervious surfaces also is a major source of erosion.

Here are some suggestions from Recycle Works for individual homeowners to try to reduce the polluted run-off that ends up in our streams and the erosion that this water flow causes:

Replace solid driveways with porous alternatives.  Replace solid concrete and asphalt driveways, with pavers, cobblestones, brick and turf stone, all of which will slow down the flow of water and allow it to settle into the ground. Another alternative is using impervious paths for the car tires with green plant material in between. Solid concrete can also be broken-up with decorative and functional paver inlays.

Porous paving or pervious pavement.  Pervious pavement is a cement-based concrete product that has a porous structure allowing rainwater to pass directly through the pavement and into the soil at the rate of 8 to 12 gallons per minute, per square foot. This is achieved without compromising the strength, durability, or integrity of the concrete structure itself.

Use dry laid patios and walk ways instead of wet laid. Wet laid patios are set in concrete, which does not allow for any stormwater to be absorbed in that area. In contrast, dry laid patios are set in stone dust, which slows the velocity of sheet flow and allows for some absorption of storm water in that area. An additional benefit for regions that receive freezing temperatures is that dry laid patios will not crack like wet laid surfaces.

Interrupt walkways.  Small planting beds and creeping groundcovers, such as thyme, can be incorporated into the edges of walkways and patios. These planted areas will help to slow storm water flow and create a more aesthetic space.

Rain Barrels.  Placing rain barrels at the end of downspouts enables collection of run-off water impermeable roofs that can then be used for watering gardens. Note: Due to possible leaching from roof shingles, rain barrel water is not recommended for vegetable gardens.

Decking materials.  Treated wood, commonly used for decking, can be replaced with several alternatives. The first, and best alternative, is salvaged lumber. Salvaged lumber has been harvested from previously existing sites and is in good condition. Salvaged lumber can be attained in bulk from salvage shops.

A second alternative to using treated wood is lumber certificated sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The Council utilizes region-specific forest-management standards to judge if a particular forest operations is in conformance with FSC standards. A certificate is issued, enabling the landowner to bring product to market as “certified wood,” and to use the FSC trademark logo. This process is at the landowner’s request.

A third option is plastic wood or products such as TREX, which is made from reclaimed plastics and woodwaste. Advantages of plastic wood include thatit will not rot, does not need to be sealed, is resistant to moisture, bacteria growth and graffiti, and cleans up with soap and water. Guide to Plastic Lumber.

Vegetated steps.  Utilize groundcovers and moss as the landing surface cover onsteps that are located in low-traveled areas. A solid riser will still be needed to retain the integrity of the step.

Recycled concrete.  Use concrete from demolished walkways and driveways to build retaining walls and patios.

Green retaining walls.  Build small out-pockets and planters on the sides of retaining walls. Planting these planters with visually interesting material and vines will also help to absorb water and reduce run-off.

 

 

Community Groups Fight the “Battle of the Bottle” by Kris Unger, Friends of Accotink Creek

The NOVA Trash Action Work Force’s (TAWF) first Day of Action on May 8, 2017 was a success! We protested at the headquarters of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), calling out their opposition to litter reduction initiatives. The IBWA opposes bottle deposit bills, bans on sale of water in disposable bottles in national parks, and other initiatives to reduce trash in our streams. We had at least 30 people, and people brought a lot of creative energy and enthusiasm to the protest. The day started cold and early, but we persisted, setting up our display of bags of plastic water bottles retrieved during stream cleanups at two parking spots across from the building. We had a great mix of signs and messages, from sharpies, cardboard and glitter fish to posters by graphic designers!

More pictures here: https://hku60.smugmug.com/FACC/FACC-TAWF-IBWA-050817

Also, https://www.facebook.com/pg/novatawf/photos/

Friends of Accotink Creek’s Philip Latasa deserves special recognition for his creative contributions, from puppets made of water bottles to an aerial campaign, sending (tethered) balloons up to IBWA’s offices with the message “IBWA, your plastic doesn’t go away!” Friends of Little Hunting Creek formed a strong leadership core throughout the campaign, and Eleanor Quigley took up the flag and led us on our march around the building. Friends of Lake Accotink Park’s Meghan Walker managed planning and coordination like a pro! Clean Fairfax‘s Wendy Cohen​ and Toni Genberg,  and volunteer Sue Freilich, handed out 200 reusable water bottles and flyers at the adjacent King Street Metro, catching the morning rush.

We were especially grateful to have two local Virginia politicians join us:

Delegate Paul Krizek (44th District) took up the flag and led us for awhile – he’s been a strong leader on trash reduction initiatives and a great supporter. Later Tilly Blanding, candida
te delegate for District 42 marched with us, and led us in song she made up on the spot: “Power to the People / Not this Plastic./ We’re out here marching, / ‘Cause things are getting drastic!”

​ – Watch the video!

​Representatives from l​ocal environmental groups including Friends of Dyke Marsh

​ (Glenda Booth)​ Friends of Huntley Meadows (Cathy Ledec)​, the Sierra Club (Great Falls Group)

​ (Norbert Pink)​, and the Alice Ferguson Foundation also joined us – We’re stronger together!

This was our first Action, and we’re very pleased with how it turned out. We’re glad that we invested a lot of time in planning and coordinating this event, because that resulted in a strong team with good diversity – everyone brought different skills and interests to the table, and we worked to find ways that we could collaborate and support each other.

We don’t know what our next step will be, but given today’s success, we know there will be one!

Special thanks to our partners and co-sponsors, who helped with planning, outreach​, advice and support!

Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment

​Clean Water Action​

Friends of Accotink Creek

Friends of Dyke MarshFACC-TAWF-IBWA-050817 – hku60

Friends of Huntley Meadows

Friends of Lake Accotink Park

Friends of Little Hunting Creek

Sierra Club (Great Falls Group)

TRASH DAY OF ACTION: Battle of the Bottle

 

Pohick Creek. Difficult Run. Little Hunting Creek.

Yep, these are some of our streams here in Fairfax County. Notice the prevalence of plastic bottles!

If you think this is a problem, come join the Trash Action Work Force (TAWF), a coalition of citizen groups, in a peaceful demonstration on Monday, May 8, from 7 a.m. – 10 a.m. in front of the International Bottled Water Association at 1700 Diagonal Road in Alexandria. Clean Fairfax will be distributing free REUSABLE water bottles at the King Street Metro Station.

The action intends to draw attention to the significant role of disposable plastic water bottles in the scourge of litter in the streams and waterways of Northern Virginia. Despite years of volunteer cleanups, this litter keeps coming back. This litter is not only ugly, but also impacts wildlife.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvE0FZHe6ls

The International Bottled Water Association, the location of our rally, has lobbied heavily to overturn legislation that allows national parks to ban disposable water bottles. About twenty parks have this ban in place and there is evidence that there has been a reduction in litter issues. Congress is preparing to approve a bill to support the International Bottled Water Association’s plan to put disposable water bottles back in the parks. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/congress/article148174439.html

TAWF membership includes Friends of Accotink Creek, Dyke Marsh, Huntley Meadows, Lake Accotink Park, Little Hunting Creek, Arlingtonians for a Clean Environment, Clean Water Action, and Sierra Club (Great Falls and Mount Vernon Groups)  More at https://www.facebook.com/novatawf/

Thank you to Elaine Sevy, concerned Fairfax County resident and active member of Friends of Accotink Creek,  for providing the following fact sheet:

Why Make the Switch to Reusable Water Bottles?

Billions of disposable water bottles become litter.  Last year, Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only about 23 percent.  The average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled approximately 38 of those bottles (Source: banthebottle.net).  Tragically, the bottles that aren’t recycled end up in streams, rivers and the ocean, or in landfills.

Disposable plastic bottles can take 450 years to decompose.  In the article “Why You Should Never Drink Bottled Water Again” by Nathaniel Berman, a major concern is raised that plastic water bottles “…can take up to 450 years to decompose, further releasing contaminants into the soil, water and air.”  (ECOwatch.com)

Is Tap Water Safe to Drink? Tap water and bottled water are generally comparable in terms of safety,” said Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., with the Mayo Clinic. “So the choice of tap or bottled is mostly a matter of personal preference.” (www.mayoclinic.org). More than 90 percent of U.S. water systems meet all regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency. (Excerpt from a today.com article titled “How to Flush Your Bottled Water Habit.”)

Is Bottled Water Just Tap Water in Disguise?   Twenty-four percent of bottled water sold in the United States is either Pepsi’s Aquafina (13 percent of the market) or Coke’s Dasani (11 percent of the market). Both brands are bottled, purified municipal water.” (Source:  banthebottle.net)

Good quality reusable bottles are affordable and available.  As of April 2017, analysts at thewirecutter.com have conducted more than three years of research into all types of reusable bottles including steel, insulated, plastic, glass and collapsible.  Many of these products are dishwasher safe, making them easy to clean and sanitize.  Click on the link for their suggestions and where to find them, http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-water-bottle/.

Electrolytes can be added to water in your reusable bottle.  Gatorade and other brands of electrolytes are available in single-use packets and multiple serving canisters for use in reusable bottles.  These products are available through Amazon and other retailers.  All-natural electrolyte packets and canisters also are available through Amazon and at local merchants such as Whole Foods.

Filtering Your Own Tap Water Saves a Bundle.  How much bottled water will $80 buy?  “In single servings it’s about 11 gallons,” calculates Emily Wurth, director of water policy at Food & Water Watch.  “So even if you’re a moderate water drinker who downs just one 16-ounce bottle a day, you’ll spend about $80 for just a 3 months’ supply, or 11 gallons worth, of bottled water.  That same $80 will get you at least a year’s worth of filtered tap water.” ((Excerpt from a today.com article titled “How to Flush Your Bottled Water Habit.”)

An average water pitcher filters 240 gallons of water a year for about 19 cents a day.  With so many filter brands (Brita, PUR, ZeroWater, etc.) and types (pitcher, faucet attachment, under the sink, etc.) to choose from, a good place to start your research is choosykitchen.com, “Water Filter Reviews” by Kelly Burgess, March 2017.