Green Recycling Products Blog

USGBC, Dodge Data Release Green Building Trends Report

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.—USGBC announced the results of the Dodge Data & AnalyticsWorld Green Building Trends 2016 SmartMarket Report, to which USGBC is a contributing partner. The new report, conducted in nearly 70 countries, demonstrates that global green building continues to double every three years. The report also finds emerging economies like Brazil, India, Saudi Arabia and South Africa will be engines of green growth, with development varying from twofold to sixfold over current green building levels.

“International demand for green building, due in great part to the LEED green building program’s global popularity, has grown steadily over the years,” said Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and Founding Chair, USGBC. “Countries are looking for tools that support stable and sustainable economic growth. International business leaders and policymakers recognize that a commitment to transforming the built environment is crucial to addressing major environmental challenges.”

Increasing consumer demand has pushed the world’s green building market to a trillion-dollar industry, a surge that has led to a corresponding increase in the scope and size of the green building materials market, which is expected to reach $234 billion by 2019.

The SmartMarket report also revealed that expansion will continue in developed countries such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom. Across all regions, many survey respondents forecast that more than 60 percent of their projects will be green by 2018.

Seven Percent Increase in Asset Value

Economic forces were cited as the most important drivers for many of the countries surveyed. The report found that green buildings offer significant operational cost savings compared with conventional buildings. To this effect, respondents expect a 14 percent savings in operational costs over five-year savings for new green buildings and 13 percent savings in operational costs over five years for green retrofit and renovation projects. Building owners also report that green buildings—whether new or renovated—command a 7 percent increase in asset value over conventional buildings.

Today, there are nearly 75,000 commercial projects participating in LEED across the globe, with 1.85 million square feet of building space becoming LEED certified every day.

“The growth of LEED reflects its global adaptability as the world’s most widely used and recognized system guiding the design, construction, operations and maintenance of green buildings,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, COO, USGBC. “LEED is a critical tool in creating structures that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; create healthier indoor environments for workers, students and community members; and lower utility bills for building owners through reduced energy and water use.”

Click here to access the report.

**Green Lodging News - 3/1/2016

Interactive exhibit connects kids to recycling

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A waste management district in South Carolina hopes an innovative education approach will reduce contamination and boost recycling participation.

The Greater Greenville Sanitation District (GGSD) is currently putting the finishing touches on WasteLAB, a mobile education unit hauled by a truck. It incorporates games and other interactive features to teach students about recycling.

The idea was to replace a staff member standing in front of a classroom holding a recycling bin with interactive activities and touch-screen displays. Teachers were saying old methods weren't moving the needle, said Chuck LaGrange, public information and sustainability officer at GGSD.

"We want to catch up with the way they're learning and the ways they like to get information," LaGrange said. "That was kind of a paradigm shift for the way we wanted to start looking at our education model as a whole."

During its first year, the WasteLAB trailer will visit elementary schools, focusing on teaching fifth-grade students. It will also visit community events to get the word out about recycling and composting.

Construction on the trailer is expected to be complete this week. All told, it cost an estimated $100,000, LaGrange said.

The WasteLab's introduction comes as the GGSD, which has more than 55,000 residential and commercial customers, introduces 96-gallon carts starting in July. For households, ongoing recycling costs will be included in their utilities bill after they pay a one-time $25 fee. GGSD's current single-stream curbside collections utilize 18-gallon bins. About 9,000 households currently participate in the opt-in recycling program.

Officials will track how successful the WasteLAB is at prompting students to persuade their parents to sign up for recycling service after it visits different schools.

In the future, GGSD hopes to scale up WasteLab into apps or add more WasteLAB trailers to create a new regional or state model for recycling outreach, LaGrange said.

"We hope that it's the start of something really big," he said.

*By Jared Paben, Resource Recycling - March 1, 2016

Recycling Is Under Fire. Here’s Why We Shouldn’t Abandon It

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, March 10, 2016

Even though the economics are tough today, that doesn’t mean we should stop recycling, argues Meg Morris.

Recycling is under fire.

As commodity prices plummet, opponents are indicting recycling as too impractical and costly. The debate came to a head late last year when The New York Times posed the ultimate question: Is recycling worth it?

Its answer: probably not. But most of us working in the waste, recycling, public policy, environmental and health fields would respond with a full-throated, "Yes, it is."

Recycling -- hand in hand with other advanced waste management practices -- plays a vital role in shutting down the true enemy of the environment: landfills.

The primary argument against recycling is an economic one: the costs don’t justify the benefits. In down commodity markets, this line of reasoning goes, the cost of recovering materials (and energy) is higher than the cost to produce and use virgin materials.

Most of us in the waste and recycling community would agree that recycling should stand on its own. And it’s true that recycling may not always pencil out by itself. However, this math overlooks the enormous impact of externalities such as carbon and methane emissions, damage to public health and loss of resources. Even at today’s recycling rates, the avoided greenhouse gas emissions alone represent $8 billion to $12 billion a year in avoided future costs associated with climate change.

There are many reasons, however, to continue recycling in down markets when sluggish global growth drives down raw material prices.

First, the materials have intrinsic value, which will increase when the market recovers. Because the success or failure of recycling programs hinge on human awareness, behavior and habit, it’s counterproductive to start and stop recycling programs too frequently, leading to wasted resources.

Second, experience shows that when we stop innovating during difficult times, we fall behind, impeding progress when the good times return. Like commodities, waste generation cycles often mirror that of the global economy; the upside is that down cycles force us to find ways to increase productivity, brainstorm new business models, and drive down costs to stay competitive.

It’s time to think of recycling and zero-landfill programs as critical components of a broader strategy for end-of-life materials and important weapons in the fight against climate change, water contamination and various other environmental and social challenges.

This approach begins with the “reduce and reuse” mantra, where reducing demand for new products and materials reduces carbon emissions, pollution and waste associated with production, transportation and disposal. Recycling is the next leg of the journey, and serves to recover value from goods already made while avoiding the use of virgin materials.

For waste that can’t be effectively recycled, we move to an oft-maligned strategy that is widely successful around the world: responsibly burning waste to generate electricity.

Recovering energy from non-recycled waste offers myriad benefits -- from the obvious reduction of unappealing landfills, to offsetting a ton of carbon for each ton of waste burned, to generating enough electricity to power a million homes in just the U.S. each year. Most people don’t realize waste-to-energy plants generate more energy than many major solar and wind projects.

Working together, and following countries like Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, all with exemplary recycling rates augmented with energy recovery, we could save over 260 million tons of CO2 annually -- equivalent to closing over 60 coal-fired power plants. We could save the energy equivalent of 14 percent of our imported oil, all while generating 350,000 new permanent jobs and $130 billion in direct economic activity.

By contrast, landfills are among the most harmful environmental hazards we face today. Landfills are the third-largest source of methane, which is over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period, and emit over 170 other air pollutants, including over 40 hazardous air pollutants, four known carcinogens, and 13 probable carcinogens. Recycling can help mitigate those emissions.

And while recycling opponents talk about how difficult it is to recycle, the industry has continued to find innovative ways to make it easier. By making recycling part of our everyday experience, our time and effort shapes a new mindset focused on strengthening the community.

In just the last few decades, a new recycling mindset has transformed human habits around waste disposal. Technology and a more comprehensive recycling strategy have sparked new green industries, bringing jobs, improved energy security, and protected communities, as well as generating impressive value for citizens.

**Original by Meg Morris - February 29, 2016 – posted on

Waste Reduction, Recycle Rates & Yard Trimmings

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The words “highlights” and “waste reduction” seem like an odd combination. After all, waste - that stuff you throw away in trash cans instead of recycle bins or compost heaps – is easy to ignore. “Out of sight, out of mind” -  right? How could there be “highlights” about waste?

Luckily, the U.S. EPA’s annual Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) report – with its spiffy new title of “Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures” – is chock full of useful facts showing both how big our waste problem is and how you can help address it. It’s not rocket science.

Waste reduction review

While you might think of trash as something “yucky” that magically goes “away,” it’s worth your attention.  Why? Because trash that you throw away ultimately ends up in landfills. And landfills produce great gobs of methane – a greenhouse gas that is far more potent than the carbon dioxide that you hear so much about. Indeed, according to the EPA, “ methane is more efficient at trapping radiation than CO2. Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is more than 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.” That’s geek-speak for a small amount of methane gas creates a LOT of warming.

How big is our waste problem?

Americans threw away 254 million tons of trash. That’s about 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day. Of that 254 million tons, about 87 million were recycled or reused.

According to the report, in of 2013, Americans threw away 254 million tons of trash. That’s about 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day. Of that 254 million tons, about 87 million were recycled or reused. That’s a recovery rate of about 34%. Not bad, but there’s a huge opportunity for improvement. In Europe, average recycle rates clock in around 39%, but there are standouts like Germany at 62% and Sweden at 49%.

In the U.S., by NOT sending that 87 million tons of waste to the landfill, we prevented the release of approximately 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the air in 2013—equivalent to taking over 39 million cars off the road for a year. From a greenhouse gas perspective, that’s a huge win for all of us.

Most landfills are strategically located away from population centers. After all, no prospective home owner ever asks for “the landfill view.” So again we suffer from the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” syndrome. But it’s important that you know that landfills accounted for approximately 18.0 percent of total U.S. methane (CH4) emissions in 2013, the third largest contributor of any methane source in the United States.

And THAT makes waste reduction worth your time and attention. There are a host of simple steps you can take to wrangle your waste from 4 pounds per person per day to something much less. In order to do that, it helps to know what’s IN your waste.

Focus your waste reduction on food, yard trimmings and paper

According to the EPA’s report, of the 167 million tons of waste that went to landfills in 2013, the 3 biggest components were:

  • Food – about 15%
  • Yard trimmings – about 14%
  • Paper and paperboard – about 27%

So reducing any or all of these will reduce what you send to the landfill. And the truth is that reducing any of these doesn’t just mean fewer greenhouse gases and less global warming – which can seem awfully abstract some days. It also means immediately saving money by lowering your bills.

But how, you ask? Let’s take them in turn.

Toss your food scraps into an at-home compost bin to produce wonderful, rich humus that you can use to improve your soil.

Reducing food waste

  • Buy what you need and no more – don’t let fresh food go bad. Some grocers package food in quantities bigger than what you need. Ask them to break the package for you. Or find grocers that let you buy just what you need.
  • Eat leftovers – plan them into your week and enjoy an easy, pre-made meal when you get home.
  • Choose recipes that use up “extras” – soups, salads, stews, and omelets are just a few examples of foods where you can mix and match ingredients. These recipes can take fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, meats and all kinds of beans. Exercise your creativity to combine a wealth of flavors!
  • Learn to compost at home. This was the EPA’s number one suggestion for reducing food waste. Whether you have a backyard or just a kitchen counter, there’s a spot you can toss your food scraps to produce wonderful, rich humus that you can use to improve your soil.

Reducing yard trimmings

Yard trimmings range from grass clippings to fallen leaves to twigs and branches. If your waste hauler actually removes these, chances are they are being taken to a composting site, turned into fertilizer, and sold back to you in your local garden store! Instead, put yard trimmings to use yourself:

  • Leave lawn clippings on the lawn. It helps to fertilize the lawn, and reduces the amount of synthetic fertilizer you have to buy.
  • Use your raked leaves for compost. Compost needs “brown” materials like dead leaves, twigs and branches in order to break down successfully.
  • Turn yard waste into mulch. Grass trimmings, shredded leaves and even smaller twigs and branches can be spread at the bases of trees or worked into planting beds. Mulch suppresses weeds and conserves water around your plants.

Reducing paper waste

While about 66% of paper gets recycled, a lot of it doesn’t. The part that doesn’t tends to be junk mail (all those catalogs you get!) and cardboard packaging from places like Amazon.

  • Recycle paper. If you don’t have a recycle bin or basket for paper, get one. Newspapers, notepads, printer paper, school supplies, food packaging and much more can be picked up regularly. If you live in an area without regular recycling pickup, look for retailers (like Target) who offer paper recycling bins where you can drop off paper you collect.
  • Contact CatalogChoice to turn off paper catalogs you don’t want. Recycle those you do want.
  • Pay your bills online and turn off paper bills and statements. You’ll have less paper to throw away, and you can view your finances online any time.
  • Recycle cardboard carefully. Not everyone wants to cut down cardboard boxes to size or sort the greasy pizza boxes from the clean, dry ones. But cardboard is biodegradable, so if you’re willing to invest the effort, go for it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to waste reduction. Skim the report itself or the EPA’s website for many more practical ideas. Pick one or more ideas and DO them. Before you know it you may find your waste reduction efforts have lowered your bills, reduced clutter around your house, or made your yard the envy of the neighborhood. And that’s worth highlighting!

**Original by Alison Leuders

Organizing Against a NYC Plastic-Bag Law

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, March 03, 2016

One of the big environmental pushes in recent years in NYC and nationwide has been to get rid of the single use plastic bags handed out for free in supermarkets. In NYC, employees are often mad if you ask them not to double bag it.

Unfortunately, Mayor de Blasio for more than a year has stalled on saying how he wants to deal with plastic bags, given the opposition time to launch their counterattack.

The plastic bag industry and their supporters have increasingly used poor people as their last line of defense – we can't impose a fee on plastic bags because it would be crushing on poor people. When the poor aren't being blamed for all of our society's problem – such as budget deficits, crime, litter – they are being used as the poster child to block needed reforms.

The cynic in me wonders whether any of the critics have found themselves the recipients of financial donations from the plastic container industry. This is a common practice by companies such as Coke, who historically has funded organizations such as the NAACP who campaign against environmental proposals such as the bottle bill. In a recent article in Salon, Dr. Thomas Farley, former NYC Health Commissioner, outlined similar campaign efforts by Coke and Pepsi against Bloomberg's proposed soda tax.

New Yorkers use 5.2 billion carryout bags per year, the most of which are not recycled Plastic bags account for over 1,700 tons of residential garbage per week in NYC. New York City pays an estimated $10 million to transport 100,000 tons of plastic bags to landfills in other states each year.

After reviewing the various legal challenges to getting rid of plastic bags, NYC advocates and council members decided to propose legislation for a 10 cents per bag fee rather than an outright ban. The fee would be kept by the stores who sold the bags, not the city (so therefor not legally a tax, which would require state legislative approval). The fee would encourage shoppers to bring their own reusable bags. Other cities that have enacted a fee have found it very effective in reducing the number of single use plastic bags.

I worked for three decades running a statewide anti-hunger program. When we asked our guests what the solution was to poverty, they said living wage jobs, better education, and more affordable housing. Plastic bags don't belong in that conversation. In the City Council, the plastic bag law was written by Councilmember Brad Lander, a former anti-poverty advocate when he led the 5th Avenue Community. After talking to groups such as the Food Bank and the Coalition against Hunger, he included an exemption for people who made purchases either with SNAP (food stamps) or WIC. Thus most purchases by low-income New Yorkers would be exempt.

The argument is that poor people, unlike other New Yorkers, would not be able to change their shopping habits and therefor would often get stuck paying the 10 cents fee (despite most of their purchases being exempted). This is a rather patronizing attitude.

In Barbara Kingsolver's novel Flight Behavior, about climate change and monarch butterflies, the working class heroine can't grasp why the do-good activist wants local residents to sign a pledge to adopt more "sustainable shopping" habits. Her point is that low-income people already shop that way – buying second hand clothes for instance – because they can't afford to do otherwise.

Poor New Yorkers would adapt far more quickly to a 10 cents fee on plastic bag than wealthier city residents. Low-income New Yorkers for instance are far more likely to bring their own shopping cart to the store since they can't afford a car or taxi; adding a few reusable bags would not be a major change. They also don't throw the redeemable cans and bottles into the garbage; instead, many try to survive by picking up the deposit containers discarded by their wealthier neighbors.

People carried food items around for thousands of years in cloth bags and other containers before the plastic bag was invented 50 years ago. The plastic bag is just one answer from the petrochemical industry to the question as to what else in the world can be made out of plastic. With climate change bringing an end to the era of fossil fuels, it is time to send the plastic bag the way of the dinosaurs.

**Orginal by Mark Dunlea | February 1, 2016,

Las Vegas on Track to Rely Exclusively On Renewable Energy

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The city of Las Vegas and NV Energy announced a new partnership in December, 2015 that has potential to take the city to a new level of environmental sustainability by becoming a leader in renewable energy. Upon approval of a filing to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada and ratification by the Las Vegas City Council, this partnership will dedicate to city operations a portion of energy produced by a local solar facility that is currently in development. The energy dedicated from this solar facility, coupled with the power the city receives from NV Energy that already satisfies Nevada’s renewable portfolio standard, will allow the city of Las Vegas’ retail load to be served 100 percent by renewable energy.

In partnership with NV Energy, every streetlight, city park, community center, fire station, service yard and public building owned by the city will be 100 percent powered by renewable energy.

“This partnership is going to be a sustainability game changer for our city,” said Las Vegas Mayor, Carolyn G. Goodman. “One thing people are surprised by is how environmentally conscious Las Vegas is when all they know appears to be less than sustainable. However, we are proud to join other community and business leaders who are all leaders in conservation. If the approvals happen we will become the first city of our size in the nation to achieve 100 percent renewable energy for city operations.

Boulder City Plant to Help City Reach Goal

The solar facility that will be initially supporting the city’s 100 percent renewable energy goal is the 100-megawatt (AC) Boulder Solar power plant currently under development in the Eldorado Valley of Boulder City, Nev.

“We are proud to partner with the city of Las Vegas to help them meet their sustainability goals while developing Nevada’s renewable energy resources,” said Paul Caudill, NV Energy President and CEO. “Mayor Goodman and the city join other major customers like MGM Resorts, Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming, Caesars Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, and Switch in the drive toward a green energy future. Importantly, new solar projects are also exceptionally competitive, and will not impact customer rates.”

Switch, the developer of SUPERNAP data centers, is the revolutionary technology solutions company led by inventor and solutionist Rob Roy. As founder and CEO he holds 218 patents and patents pending that have produced an essential and future-forward transformation in data center architecture, engineering, technology and operations. Both Switch and the city of Las Vegas are partnering with NV Energy.

“Having the city of Las Vegas join Switch in becoming the first two entities in southern Nevada to become 100 percent renewably powered sends a powerful statement to the rest of the world,” said Adam Kramer, Executive Vice President of Strategy for Switch. “Whether businesses are looking for a place to relocate, host a convention or place their data, Las Vegas’ commitment to sustainability makes those decisions much easier.”

Go to Las Vegas’ website.