Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Does the recycling symbol on your product mean that it is recyclable in your city? In a word - No!

Hello Everyone,

I frequently find myself defending the sanctity and delicacy of recycling programs. Almost every day I patiently answer questions as to why something can, or more often cannot, be recycled or composted. People frequently and emphatically say to me "Well there is a little recycling symbol on this product - so that means I can recycle it ... Right?!" Well in a word - No! Just because a manufacturer has decided to do a little "greenwash marketing" and put a recycling symbol on their product does not mean it is recyclable in your local 'hood. Granted the item might be recyclable somewhere in the world - but that somewhere may not be in your favorite recycling bin!

So here is the deal - a manufacturer wants you to feel good, and a little greener, about buying their product. They can, and will, put almost "anything" on their packaging that will serve them best! That "anything" will benefit them and their bottom line; and perhaps not you and most definitely NOT your area's recycling program. These inaccurately labeled products wind up at the recycling center and cost a lot of money to pull out of the recycling stream - this is called "contamination". A little bit of contamination can cause a huge headache at the recycling/composting facilities. Contamination undermines our programs and cost us more in the longrun by garbage and recycling collection fee increases.

One example is plastics - plastic wrappers, plastic containers, plastic everything - yuck! We eat out of it, we drink out of it and it's now contaminating our oceans (Google - The Great Pacific Garbage Patch for a real wake up call!) Almost all Plastics all have little recycling symbols on them and many mean nothing! In most of the Puget Sound area we now recycle by shape of the plastic containers - bottles, jugs, dairy tubs ...  but each city/county area takes something different! More confusion! The best advice I have to give you - is save the recycling instructions your city/county or recycling service provider sends you every year. Oops! You accidentally recycled your instructions (perhaps thinking it was junk mail ), there's a remedy for that too, waste free recycling instructions can be found online through your service provider or city/county solid waste division.

Oh and one more thing - let's work together to let manufactures know that we want them to quit sending us garbage! Learn all you can about a topic called Producer and/or Manufacturer's Responsibility. This is a concept where environmental and recycling industry experts work with Manufacturer's (well the ones that step up to the green plate anyway) so they will do a better job of choosing materials to manufacturer their products from that are really, truly recyclable! Check out the link below and/or sign up for the Northwest Product Stewardship Council Newsletter:
It is a great place to start! Thanks for recycling and reducing waste!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Join us for "Bag it" at Issaquah's Sustainability Film Series, Weds, Nov 2, 6-9pm

Hello Waste Free Folks,

You are invited to the City of Issaquah's free screening of "Bag it" at the Sustainability Film Series. This is our final film for 2011, and a great film for all ages!

With plastic use always on the increase in our world: touching our food and drinking water, blowing across the land, floating and sinking in our waterways - this film will educate, empower and enlighten all! Details below - I hope to see you there!

Thanks for doing your part to reduce waste!

ISSAQUAH (Oct 19, 2011): Continuing the City of Issaquah’s series of FREE film nights on Sustainability, the documentary ‘Bag It’ will be shown Wednesday evening, November 2, 2011.

‘Bag It’ follows “everyman” Jeb Berrier as he tries to make sense of our dependence on plastic bags. Although his quest starts out small, Jeb soon learns that the problem extends past landfills to oceans, rivers and ultimately human health.

The average American uses about 500 plastic bags each year, for about twelve minutes each. This single-use mentality has led to the formation of a floating island of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean more than twice the size of Texas.

The film explores these issues and identifies how our daily reliance on plastic threatens not only waterways and marine life, but human health, too. Two of the most common plastic additives are endocrine disruptors, which have been shown to link to cancer, diabetes, autism, attention deficit disorder, obesity and infertility.

After the movie, a panel of experts will lead an informative discussion on plastics and other related environmental topics. Refreshments, environmental experts, informational tables and door prizes will be available to attendees.

Event details:
• 6:30-9 p.m. Nov 2 (come early at 6 p.m. to speak with exhibitors)
• King County Library Service Center Community Room
• 960 Newport Way N.W., Issaquah (Not the downtown library.)

The free movie nights are presented by the City of Issaquah’s Resource Conservation Office (RCO) and funded through a grant from the King County Local Hazardous Waste Management Program. For more information, go to or call 425-837-3400.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"BAG IT" - Is Your Life Too Plastic? Fri, Sept 9, 6:30pm in Wallingford, Free film & panel discussion ..

Thanks to Marcia Rutan, passionate environmentalist extraordinaire from Seattle Public Utilities, for the free Meaningful Movies event info below. This film event looks great with an excellent lineup of local speakers conducting a panel discussion too. I have heard great things about this movie.

Honestly our society needs to wake up about plastics and how these petroleum based products are polluting and destroying the earth....and contaminating our bodies... Let's all learn together so we can all do our small part, to help repair the bigger picture. I hope to see you there! Details below.

Sustainably yours,
Kim Ducote

"BAG IT" - Is Your Life Too Plastic? This Fri, Sept 9, 6:30-9:30pm Film & panel discussion in Wallingford ...  An evening focused on positive solutions at a local level! ...AND A SELECTION OF SHORT FILMS STARTING AT 6:30!

Please join us following the film for a community conversation with our special guests:

• Michael O'Brien, Seattle City Councilmember

• Diana Crane, Director of Sustainability with PCC

• Trudy Bialic, Director of Public Affairs with PCC

• Jill Mcintyre Witt with Transition Whatcom

• Heather Trim with Zero Waste Seattle

• Dick Lilly with Seattle Public Utilities

• Leo Brodie with Transition Seattle

• Cathy Tuttle with Sustainable Wallingford

BAG IT (65 min, Suzan Beraza, 2010) is a film that examines our society's use and abuse of plastic. The film focuses on plastic as it relates to our society's "throw away" mentality, our culture of convenience, our over consumption of unnecessary, disposable products and packaging -- things that we use one time and then, without another thought, throw them away. Where is away? Away is over-flowing landfills, clogged rivers, islands of trash in our oceans, and even our very own toxic bodies. The main character in the film travels the globe on a fact-finding mission -- not realizing that after his simple resolution, plastic will never look the same way again.

Join our guests following the film for an evening focused how we can impact this issue at the local level!

Learn how you can get involved in the citywide/statewide movement to ban disposable plastic bags. For additional information, go to

Download the flyer Please help us get the word out. Thanks!

For more information on the Transition Movement, go to or For more information on Sustainable Wallingford and what’s happening locally, go to

(Event is FREE and open to the public! ...but Donations are kindly accepted).


Keystone Congregational Church

5019 Keystone Place North

Seattle, 98103 (in Wallingford)

(0.4 miles west of the I-5 NE 50th St. Exit - Metro Bus Routes 16, 26 & 44)

Directions can be found at

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hey HP and Canon – make it easier to recycle printers too!

Hi Waste Free Folks,

Below is a guest post from Suellen Mele, Zero Waste Washington’s Program Director. Zero Waste Washington advocates for the design and production of healthier, safer products that are continually recycled and reused.

Personally - I LOVE this organization and their new post-card project (which is free to you!). I am especially excited about adding printers after having gone through FOUR printers in the past year - OUCH! The first printer quit after almost 8 years of use (pretty good, but could be better!) However, each subsequent printer purchased broke after very minimal usage (ARGH - right in the middle of deadlines too!) Fortunately two of the printers were still on warranty, however, the most recent purchase (Dec 2010) still needs to be returned sometime this week (life is busy, eh?). Needing a "backup printer plan" for my business, I broke down and purchased the store's "extended warranty" ... I hope it is worth what I paid for it.

So in my "four printers in one year" opinion, Zero Waste Washington's latest campaign to add printers into the ever growing and expanding electronics market for take-back is imperative for the future of waste prevention and sustainability. Also (listen up producers) this is a great marketing and sales niche for responsible producers and manufacturers that really do care about their customers, our environment and above all doing "the right thing".

Check out the guest post below, send in a post-card and support businesses and non-profits working to reduce overall waste by asking manufacturers and producers to be more responsible.

Oh and feel free to send me interesting or important items for the blog, and let me know what you think about any blog post - anytime!

Best always, Kim

Have a computer or TV to recycle? There’s a free and convenient solution! Have a printer to recycle? It’s not so easy.

That’s why Zero Waste Washington is asking the two biggest printer manufacturers in the U.S. for free and convenient recycling programs for desktop printers. You can join us by sending postcards asking HP and Canon to step up and do more.
We’re asking for something called producer responsibility, and it’s already happening for computers and TVs here in Washington. Throughout the state, you can recycle your computers, monitors, and TVs through the E-Cycle Washington program. Zero Waste Washington fought hard for this manufacturer funded program and, as a result, over 39 million pounds of electronics were recycled last year. That’s about 2,200 units diverted from landfills and incinerators each and every day!
With this approach, manufacturers take responsibility for their products from “cradle to cradle,” including providing and paying for recycling programs. Residents, small business and schools can drop off their unwanted computers, monitors and TVs for free recycling at about 260 locations throughout Washington. The manufacturers have agreed to recycle responsibly, which helps keep our discarded computers and TVs – that contain mercury, lead and other toxic materials - from being sent to developing countries. It’s good for the economy, too. E-Cycle Washington has brought additional recyclers to the state and created close to 80 new jobs.

But printers aren’t collected as part of the E-Cycle Washington program. The 2006 state legislation that mandated the program didn’t include printers or other peripherals. While some manufacturers have voluntarily set up printer mail-back programs (often for a fee), that just isn’t very convenient for most of us.
Zero Waste Washington thinks printer manufacturers can do better! We are working to have producer responsibility for desktop printers in Washington. You can help us make it happen! Please ask HP and Canon to make it easier and more convenient for consumers in Washington to take back printers for recycling. You can click here to sign on and we’ll send postcards to HP and Canon on your behalf.

Here’s one final reason to support producer responsibility. When manufacturers pay to recycle the products they make, they have a financial incentive to design products that are less toxic, longer lasting, and more recyclable. And that means less waste and greener, safer stuff for all of us.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sign the Call for Producer Responsibility!

Less waste - whether it is recyclable, compostable or garbage is the real answer.

However, manufacturer's and producer's are making more packaging and more "wasteful stuff"everyday (think about the new, single-cup Keurig Coffee Machines, with all those tiny little plastic cups full of grinds heading to a landfill near you ....ARGH!) The answer? Producer Responsibility - read more below from a great organization - Zero Waste Washington:
Thanks to Suellen Mele & Eva Dale, Zero Waste Washington and for this great information.

Do you think products should be designed to be non-toxic, easier to reuse and recycle, and longer lasting?  Do you want manufacturers to be stewards of the products and packaging they make? Join a growing movement by adding your voice to Zero Waste Washington’s Call for Producer Responsibility. To sign on and read the full statement, visit:

Producer responsibility means that manufacturers step up to take responsibility from “cradle to cradle” for the products they make. E-Cycle Washington is a great example. That program is recycling huge quantities of toxic computers, monitors and TVs from residents, schools and small businesses – all paid for and provided by the producers who make the products.

By signing the Call for Producer Responsibility, you will help us let manufacturers know that residents want producer responsibility here in Washington.

Please sign on and be heard.
Thank you!
Suellen Mele and Eva Dale
Zero Waste Washington

P.S. While you’re on our website, take a look at our campaigns and how you can get involved. Zero Waste Washington has been involved with breakthrough recycling programs in Washington State for close to 30 years. We’re championing a responsible and comprehensive approach to “stuff,” and see producer responsibility as an important part of the equation.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"Save our Land, Save our Towns", free film event in Issaquah, Weds, March 30, 6-9pm

Hello Everyone!

Growing in popularity and back for our 3rd year, please join us for Issaquah's next sustainability film series event showing of: "Save our Land, Save our Towns" Wednesday, March 30, from 6-9pm at the King County Library Services Center (960 Newport Way NW, Issaquah).

"Save our Land, Save our Towns" is about saving our towns and countryside. The program follows the quest of small town newsman, Tom Hylton, to discover why America's towns have declined and what we can do to revive them. Hylton explores Depression-era policies that gave rise to sprawl, as well as talks to builders about laws that encourage sprawl.

After the film, a panel of experts, including representatives from The Cascade Land Conservancy, will lead a discussion about the film and the Issaquah Central Area Plan process.

Locally, The Cascade Land Conservancy has led efforts to conserve forests, farms, shorelines, parks and natural areas. Informational tables, as well as refreshments & door prizes, will be available to attendees.

Event details:
• 6 – 9 p.m. on Weds, March 30, 2011
         o The film starts at 6:30 p.m., but come early for snacks and to talk to exhibitors
• King County Library Services Center (960 Newport Way NW) in Issaquah

For more information, call the Issaquah Resource Conservation Office (RCO) at 425-837-3400, or call me a call at 206-551-4850.

Sustainably yours,
Kim Ducote

Friday, February 4, 2011

Closed Loop Scoop, Feb 2011 - WA Department of Ecology

Hi Waste Free Folks:
Here is the latest Closed Loop Scoop publication from the Washington State Department of Ecology. Topics include:

• Clark County Came Up With Innovative Solutions
• Only Rain Down the Drain
• Lewiston, ID Public Works Uses Glass Crusher
• Shingles in Paving Lead to Promising Results
• State′s Recycling Rate Holds Steady
• Solid Waste In Washington State 19th Annual Report Available
• Cash Awards Available for Sustainable School Projects

Thanks to Christine Haun, WA DOE for sending this publication along.

Happy Reducing through Waste Prevention,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Recyclable vs. Compostable = explaining coated and uncoated cardboard and paper

A facility manager recently asked me this question:
Can you please explain to me the difference between coated and uncoated cardboad and paper. I know you explained this to me during our meeting and it was a great simple explanation, but I can't seem to recall. Since we started our food collection program I've been getting a lot of questions from the tenants about how to identify the differences. Thanks.

Great question and one that is causing a lot of confusion these days!  I will start off with two simple tips, then explain them in detail:

1) Polycoated means plastic coated, polycoated items can often be recycled but never composted.
2) Waxed items can be composted, but never recycled.

Coated materials are typically poly-coated, poly means plastic, so essentially they are plastic coated materials that keep moisture in, or out, depending on the product. Think frozen food boxes, milk cartons, juice cartons and even cardboard boxes that need to keep the products inside of them dry. If these items were “paper only” without a coating they would leak, or allow moisture in as the case may be. Items like coffee cups and paper plates are often polycoated, to stop them from leaking onto our laps while driving or enjoying a picnic. Polycoated materials can frequently be recycled, but never composted, because the poly film doesn’t degrade, or disperse, in the composting process – and who wants poly (plastic) compost in their organic garden!

Items like the Chinet brand of paper plates are not polycoated, neither are the very thin, plain (not shiny) white paper plates. These items CAN be put into the compost bin – because they do not have a polycoat. Waxed items can be composted - Dixie cups and waxed paper are good examples. Wax is acceptable in the compost bin and breaks down in the system.

Further confusing most folks, waxed items can never be recycled because the wax comes off during the paper pulping process (pulping = think of a huge blender with paper and water swirling around at 100mph) and the wax adheres to the soon to be new paper/cardboard, making it impossible to print on these items.

When in doubt as to whether an item is polycoated or not, take a photo, or save the item, and ask your service provider to look at it and let you know for sure. Compost and/or Recycling service providers are very good at determining whether an item is polycoated, uncoated, waxed – or garbage!

Let me know if you have additional questions. I am always happy to help!