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Looking forward from World Water Day 2019

Access to clean water is a basic human right, yet millions of people around the world are still walking miles to collect from their nearest water source, sharing unprotected wells with livestock, and paying five to 10 times more for water than their higher-income counterparts. Humans being 65 percent water, we can do so much better.


March 22 is World Water Day, a global initiative started by the United Nations to recognize the importance of water conservation and improving access to freshwater around the globe. World Water Day might be one day out of the year, but taking the time to reflect on the delicacy of our limited natural resources and the impact we have on the ecosystems around us have the chance to make long-lasting impacts that we can carry forward.


One of the most powerful ways you can do you part to conserve water is by reducing your consumption of resources and choosing products committed to enabling activities that have less impact on our water sources.


Go chemical-free


Many household cleaners today are laden with chemicals that contaminate our water sources once they go down the drain and leach toxic substances into the ground if landfilled. These chemicals not only come back to us (and our communities) in our tap water, but directly expose us to toxicity and hormone disruptors with use.


Opt for more natural products that do the job and have low impacts. Baking soda, for example, has been used to clean floors and surfaces and launder clothing for generations. A true all-in-one product to have on hand, combine with white vinegar to clean everything in your home, even the toilets and sinks that flow into local water systems.


Conserve resources by recycling


Waste in all its forms is water intensive, because it takes a significant amount of water and energy to mine and produce new, virgin raw material. The feedstocks for plastics or metal alloys must be first sourced from the earth, which has a finite reserve of resources. To us, waste is simply a misplaced resource, so a simple way to conserve water is to recycle your products and packaging correctly.


Going back to choosing products that enable you to reduce waste and offset negative impacts, Church & Dwight’s trusted ARM & HAMMER™ baking soda brand goes double duty to save water by teaming up with TerraCycle to offer nationwide access to a free recycling program for its plastic pouches. Consumers sign up for the program for free and download a pre-paid shipping label to send their pouches to us for processing.


Use less water in daily activities


Find ways to use less water in the day-to-day activities that require it. Leaving on the faucet while brushing one’s teeth and long showers are big water drains, as is caring for laundry. Today’s high-efficiency washers can use 15 to 30 gallons (56.8 to 113.6 L) of water to wash the same amount of clothes as older washers (29 to 45 gallons per load). That’s a lot of water!  So, many brands are concentrating formulas into a detergent, stain remover, and brightener-in-one.


Not only do pods or capsules typically take up less space than the volume of liquid or powdered formulas, they eliminate the need for measuring. This is of particular significance for laundry care, as its overuse wastes product, the water and energy required to wash it out,and the years of wearable life for clothes and fabrics, which have a water footprint to produce.


Brands that offer access to water conservation and waste reduction through positive consumption of their product provide shoppers easy and affordable ways to do better for the world’s water systems. You, the consumer, have the power to vote for the present and future you’d like to see with the purchases you make everyday.


This World Water Day, recognize your influence in the world as a steward for more sustainable brands, better legislation and more infrastructure as you keep the planet and its water sources top of mind. Making informed, thoughtful choices about the businesses you support is key working towards a future where everyone has enough to go around.

Durability and reusability are at the heart of circular packaging

Plastic in and of itself isn’t to blame for the world’s waste problem. Rather, it's the way we use it. Companies send products and packaging into the world that are designed to be disposable — used just once, then thrown away — and consumers demand the convenience, accessibility and price points of single-use plastic items. Everyday examples include consumer product packaging or consumables, such as food and beverage and household goods, and disposable and single-use products, such as cleaning pads, coffee capsules and eating utensils. E-commerce is made possible with plastic, and manufacturing logistics and operations have come to depend on it. Inexpensively made, disposable plastic offers consumers the ability to purchase, use and toss, instead of repair or reuse, and at a lower cost than their durable counterparts. As a result, people own more things than ever before and easily can replace them, allowing consumers to buy again and again and again.

One (use) and done

Disposability is favored over durability in the global economy because it drives consumption. Many disposable items are lightweighted (made with less material or out of plastic instead of metal or glass), supporting mass production and increasing profits for manufacturers. The trade-off is that most examples of lightweighted and disposable items are considered unrecyclable in most consumer programs. Every step away from durable, reusable materials towards plastics and multi-compositional pouches and films effectively has cut recyclability in half. Producer efforts to instate reclamation systems and collection schemes to supplement and invest in recycling have not been developed at a comparable rate.  
Disposability is favored over durability in the global economy because it drives consumption.
Even the ubiquitous water bottle, thrown away in the United States at a rate of 60 million plastic water bottles every day,  often ends up in the garbage despite being considered recyclable.   Thus, single-use items are at best captured by well-managed disposal systems of landfilling and incineration. The rest of it ends up as litter, polluting communities where people live and contaminating the natural world. This systematic tracking of human-made material — material that cannot be absorbed by nature — on a one-way path to disposal is where plastic becomes problematic.

Who pays the cost for disposable plastics?

The linear, take-make-dispose economic model has delivered profits, created jobs and met consumers’ desire for accessible, innovative and convenient products. But it is not sustainable. Developing economies with a lack of waste management are most deeply awash in trash. That we might see more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 is old news in light of the recent United Nations report that says we only have 12 years to steer ourselves away from climate catastrophe. It is today’s consumers, not producers of these disposable items, who bear the brunt of this waste. Making their way into marine environments, plastics never fully degrade, leaching chemicals, releasing greenhouse gases and breaking down into microplastics, which are mistaken by animals for food and thus penetrate the human food chain and water supplies.

Material of value

But again, plastic isn’t the bogeyman. While its single-use, disposable configurations lend value to businesses externalizing the environmental, social and financial costs, it has infused immense value to industry as a whole — an enabler for the packaging, construction, transportation, health care and electronics sectors. The idea that plastic, or any material for that matter, is disposable is what is causing problems. Plastic was once considered an expensive material and used to produce high-value items. Prior to World War II, products were repaired and consumables refilled in durable containers through service models such as the milkman. By the time the war ended, a matured plastics industry was freed up to create a culture of consumerism and feed a new disposable economy.  
Plastic can be made for reuse and can exist in a circular economy, as can glass, treated paper, lab-grown leather and 3D-printed produce.
Waste and disposability has been around only a bit more than 70 years. Is the world ready to go back to reusable packaging? Consumers are used to the convenience and cost of disposable, single-use packages.   Bulk and refilling stations that use reusable plastic, stainless steel and glass containers either provided by the retailer or the consumer do exist today, and they work best when consumers are incentivized to use them with discounts and promotions. But business must be on board for such systems to work. Bottle bills and container deposit schemes provide evidence that reusable, returnable packaging configurations work to change the perception that resources are disposable. Today the 10 U.S. states with bottle bills boast a 70 percent average recycling rate, compared with an overall rate of 35 percent. The challenge is that bottle bills not only are not growing but declining due to pressure from industry.

The role of business: moving the needle

Moving away from disposability and towards durability is the key to reducing waste and designing a more sustainable economy. Industry holds this key. It is the role of business to be a reflection of the needs and desires of consumers, who want access to the quality products and services they trust and, while they are at it, want to do the right thing. Companies that understand this and are able to make it easy for consumers tap into an increasingly conscious consumer base and are poised to grow and profit by doing the opposite of their counterparts stuck in the linear economy. This shift is already taking place. The biggest consumer product companies in the world have taken the initiative to lead us into a circular economy by working with TerraCycle to develop the global, first-of-its-kind shopping system called Loop. Through this service, consumers can shop for iconic and trusted brands such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, PepsiCo, the Clorox Company, The Body Shop, Preserve and more — redesigned to be smarter and waste-free. This model features durable, elegant packages owned by the brand, not the consumer, that deliver the world’s favorite products without sacrificing the convenience and affordability that make disposable products desirable, with the added value of delivery and refilling services. The aim is to make products even easier to buy and use, harkening back to the circular systems worked for us for millennia. Through Loop, consumers responsibly can consume products in specially designed durable, reusable or fully recyclable packaging made from materials such as alloys, glass and engineered plastics — plastics researched and developed to be life-resistant, beautiful and far from disposable — saving energy, resources and diverting pollution with every use. Changing perspectives around the value of our finite resources and the impact waste has on the planet can start with plastic. Plastic is valuable and worth capturing for recycling. It is useful and malleable enough to design for durability and certainly worth conserving. Plastic can be made for reuse and can exist in a circular economy, as can glass, treated paper, lab-grown leather and 3D-printed produce. Everything on this planet has value, even the human-made stuff. Consumers vote with their wallets every day for the future they want, and it’s up to companies and brands to spearhead the change they can buy into.

Tom Szaky pens new book on eliminating waste in a circular economy

Tom Szaky, CEO of Trenton-based TerraCycle, is so determined to eliminate global waste in an inevitable circular economy, that he wrote a book about it. The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular Paperback will be released on February 5, 2019. The book paints a future of a circular economy that relies on responsible reuse and recycling to propel the world towards eradicating over consumption and waste. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 35 percent of the 240 million metric tons of waste generated in the United States alone gets recycled. This extraordinary collection shows how manufacturers can move from a one-way take-make-waste economy that is burying the world in waste to a circular, make-use-recycle economy. TerraCycle is working towards Eliminating the Idea of Waste by making the non-recyclable, recyclable. They do this by offering a range of free programs that are funded by conscientious consumer brands and manufacturers, as well as purchasable programs that are funded by eco-conscious consumers to bring circular re-purposing solutions to almost all forms of waste.  
The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular Paperback by Tom Szaky will be released on February 5, 2019

Waste360 Announces 2019 40 Under 40 Awards Winners

Waste360 is thrilled to announce the winners of its fourth annual 40 Under 40 awards program, which honors the next generation of leaders who are shaping the future of the waste and recycling industry. "The future is bright! The 2019 class of Waste360 40 Under 40 awards winners is filled with today's brightest young innovators, thinkers and doers in the waste and recycling industry,” says Waste360 Vice President Mark Hickey. “Their diverse body of work has changed processes, policies and moved our industry forward. Take a look for yourself, and we look forward to celebrating them at WasteExpo in Las Vegas, May 6-9."
The Waste360 40 Under 40 awards program recognizes inspiring and innovative professionals under the age of 40 whose work in waste, recycling and organics has made a significant contribution to the industry. The winners are involved in every part of the waste and recycling industry, including haulers, municipalities, composters, recycling professionals, policymakers and product suppliers. The 2019 40 Under 40 award winners:
  • Josh Bartlome, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Southern Idaho Solid Waste
  • Kelly Bray, Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist, ReCollect Systems
  • Meghan R. Butler, Director, Corporate Development, Recology Inc.
  • Chris Cochran, Executive Director, ReFED
  • Daniel M. Dodd, Chief Technology Officer, Sierra Energy
  • Melissa Filiaggi, Manager, Recycling, Maryland Environmental Service
  • Mark Grillo, Chief Operating Officer, Medical Waste Management, Inc.
  • Rob Hallenbeck, Manager Corporate Venturing, Technology Scouting, Waste Management
  • Caitlin Hitt, Senior Director of National Accounts, RiverRoad Waste Solutions, Inc./Rubicon Global
  • John F. Howard III, Crew Supervisor, Dekalb County Sanitation
  • Sheri Hummel, Area Safety Director, Waste Management, Northern California-Nevada
  • Aaron Johnson, Area Vice President, Eastern Canada, Waste Management
  • Kristin Kinder, Director of Research and Waste Stream Sustainability, Wastequip
  • Jason Knowles, Director, Vendor Relations, Enevo
  • Christopher Lockwood, Divisional Vice President, Waste Pro USA
  • Ricardo Lopez, Materials Recovery Facility Manager, GreenWaste Recovery
  • Naomi Lue, Zero Waste Supervisor, Castro Valley Sanitary District
  • Zach Martin, Vice President of Sales, North America, Big Truck Rental
  • Nathan Mayer, Director of Land Management Services, Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County
  • Doug McDonald, Eastern Region Controller, Waste Connections
  • Amanda Mejia, Government Affairs Manager, Athens Services
  • Jeff Meyers, Chief Operating Officer, The Recycling Partnership
  • Jennifer Wells Milner, State Recycling Coordinator, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality
  • James R. Mitchener, Marketing Manager, Waste Industries
  • Daniel Moran, Senior Director Operations, Healthcare, Covanta Environmental Solutions
  • Madelyn Morgan, Planner III, City of Austin, Austin Resource Recovery
  • Jake Pack Jr., District Manager, WCA Waste Corporation
  • Tania Ragland, Recycling Representative, Specialist in Food Recovery and Organics Diversion Programs, Republic Services
  • Katie Raverty-Evans, Government Affairs Representative, Best Way Disposal
  • Henry Retamal, Operations President, Wastequip
  • Rebecca Rodriguez, Solid Waste Engineering Manager, Lee County Public Utilities
  • Andrew Rumpke, East Area President, Rumpke Waste & Recycling
  • Michelle A. Salas, President, Lady Green Miami Recycling Co.
  • Meredith Sorensen, Strategic Communications Advisor, Harvest Energy Holdings, LLC
  • Mike Stoeckigt, District Manager, State of Wisconsin, Advanced Disposal Services
  • Tom Szaky, President and Chief Executive Officer, TerraCycle
  • Travis Timmerman, National Accounts Manager, Mack Trucks, Inc.
  • Srividhya Viswanathan, Senior Project Manager and Vice President, SCS Engineers
  • Patrick Winters, Sales Manager, Winters Bros. Waste Systems
  • Catherine (Kate) Wolff, President, CJD E-Cycling
Additionally, Dr. Matanya Benasher Horowitz, chief executive officer of AMP Robotics Corporation, has won the first Waste360 Innovator Award, which was created to recognize innovators and forward thinkers who often use technology to better the industry. Horowitz has used technology to help haulers, landfill operators and materials recovery facility operators reach their diversion and recovery goals. A panel of expert judges from Waste360 evaluated the nominations and consulted with an external advisor to select the finalists and winners.
The winners will be honored during an awards ceremony at WasteExpo, North America's largest solid waste, recycling and organics industry event, May 6-9, in Las Vegas. View past classes of Waste360 40 Under 40 awards winners:  

We need to bin disposable items for good. Here are 5 ways to do it

 Single-use products and packaging are convenient and affordable - and causing a growing waste crisis. Scientists have been alarmed to discover plastic pieces in locations far removed from human populations, such as the Arctic and on remote islands. Earlier this year an entire plastic bag, completely intact, was found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, the ocean’s deepest point; a chilling example of plastic’s pervasiveness throughout the natural environment.
Manufacturers send products and packaging into the world that are not captured by even the most well-managed disposal systems of landfilling and incineration (let alone recycling), and these end up as litter. Making their way into marine environments, they never fully degrade, leeching chemicals, releasing greenhouse gases and breaking down into microplastics, which are mistaken by animals for food and thus penetrate the human food chain and water supplies.
It is today’s consumers, not producers, who currently bear the brunt of this waste. Developing economies are even more deeply awash in trash. That we might see more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 is old news in light of the recent UN report that says we only have 12 years to steer ourselves away from climate catastrophe.
Plastic in and of itself isn’t the problem. Rather, it’s the fact that plastic items are actually designed to be disposable — used once, then thrown away. Every step away from durable, reusable materials such as glass and metal towards plastics and multi-compositional pouches and films - in other words, making packaging lighter and less expensive - effectively cuts the packaging’s recyclability in half.
Image: TerraCycle
This linear, take-make-dispose economic model has delivered profits, created jobs and met consumers’ desire for accessible, innovative and convenient products, all while bringing down costs for producers. But this is not sustainable.
Globalization offers hope for a change in the future of production and consumption by supporting economic growth through the transformative power of collaboration. But to move away from a disposable culture and towards a circular economy - one that favours reducing the amount of raw materials used in manufacturing, reusing materials and recovering resources - influencers must begin to integrate rather than stay in their current silos.
Companies looking to effect change and end society’s dependence on disposability must demonstrate clear benefits to consumers, businesses, governments and the environment. This will be a challenge at first. But changemakers can develop their own initiatives and deploy them across industries to future-proof against our growing waste problem.
Invest in recycling
Recycling is a reaction to the systemic issue of single-use items, overconsumption and disposability. But comprehensive recycling systems and manufacturer take-back programmes are essential to not only change how we value single-use items, but in recovering materials for new production and diverting them from landfill and litter.
Manufacturers who engage in voluntary producer responsibility through take-back programmes for consumers and pre-consumer operations can demonstrate value for their stakeholders. Supporting the market for secondary materials then incentivises governments and municipalities to better enforce recycling with more resources.
Stop producing, using and buying single-use items without reclamation systems
This one is simple, but tough. As consumers, this means watching out for plastic cutlery, toting reusable mugs to replace coffee cups, reducing online shopping (or only buying from companies that use reusable e-commerce packaging, such as RePack), and shopping for used goods. We can only buy what is available to us, so while it remains the responsibility of consumers to demand a move away from disposability, manufacturers, brands and governments must create new models for consumption.
Retailers such as restaurants and commodity stores must favour reusable goods, and the manufacturers who produce them must find new ways to deliver the value benefits of things such as disposable razors, diapers and feminine care while transferring to durable equivalents, so that consumers are willing to make the switch. This sort of value creation requires these markets supporting one another through collaboration.
Redesigning how products are made, distributed and owned to create value for manufacturers and consumers will help the shift towards a new way of thinking about product design and ownership.
Focus on product and packaging redesign as a growth strategy
Design for recyclability in the current infrastructure, and for reusability today and beyond. With the increasing popularity of premium foods and beverages packaged in glass and durable plastics, we see that consumers are willing to pay more for a product presented in high-quality packaging. A move towards more easily recycled packaging and, better yet, packaging that is reused over and over, is already underway.
Creating a durable or reusable container uses more energy and resources than creating a disposable (or single-use) container. However, over time the reusable container has a lower environmental and economic cost as it does not need to be remanufactured for every use; instead it only needs to be transported and cleaned, which levy much lower environmental and economic costs.
Innovate for the future of consumption by looking to the past
For most of the 20th century, distributors of consumable and perishable goods provided reusable containers that customers could empty and then leave on their doorsteps - such as glass milk bottles, for example. These containers flowed through a system in which the producer was responsible for them and owned them as an asset. This is in contrast to the present day, where consumers and governments are responsible for products and packaging upon possession, paying for their disposal through taxes.
In the service-based models of yore, producers offered not just delivery, but cleaning, storing and transporting their containers, which were durable and reusable. We already invite producers to our doorsteps through e-commerce delivery and subscription service models. What if consumables and durable goods came with the added value of cleaning and repair services?
Build a circular economy movement focused on abundance and prosperity
Replacing the single-use, one-way model requires a very clear demonstration of value that is comparable or exceeds that of disposable products and packaging, which are convenient, inexpensive and easy to use. Most of the innovation here lies in ensuring that reusable packaging concepts are easy to understand and accessible to those on average incomes.
Conservation and austerity are not concepts that businesses, NGOs, advocacy groups, academics and individuals take to with much effect. The movement away from disposability towards a circular economy needs to be irresistible, not just the ‘right thing to do’. Consumers and stakeholders will reward businesses that do this effectively.

Innovator Spotlight

Tom Szaky is leading a recycling revolution. In a world that favors disposables and throwing things away, Szaky is asking consumers to consider where “away” is (often in the ocean, based on the growing size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). His company, TerraCycle, is working to eliminate waste through recycling the non-recyclables of the world like dirty diapers and empty toothpaste tubes.

Sparkfund: Describe TerraCycle’s business. Tom Szaky: TerraCycle’s mission is to eliminate the idea of waste. There are multiple ways to accomplish that, including recycling hard-to-recycle items and diagnostic waste (like dirty diapers) and moving away from disposables in favor of durable supply chains. What makes something non-recyclable is cost. It costs more to collect and process certain items than the results are worth. But recycling is profitable, so while there are technical issues to solve, the main innovation is solving the financial gap. TerraCycle finds stakeholders that care more about certain waste streams and works with them to finance recycling. For example, Colgate might care more about recycling toothpaste tubes than the average company. Why is recycling important? We’re in a waste crisis: 25% of the world’s garbage ends up in the ocean and only 2% of waste is recycled. Recycling rates are decreasing, and meanwhile, everything is covered in disposable packaging. It’s a big issue, but there are not a lot of meaningful solutions. What's a best practice that a small organization could implement tomorrow? Buy products that do not become waste. You can make it easy for yourself by buying the right things, like mugs instead of disposable coffee cups. Then, for the waste you have left, support your local recycling efforts or think of working with a company like TerraCycle. What’s one accomplishment at your job you’re most proud of? A lot. It changes every day. Today, I’d say I’m most proud of our impact reducing ocean plastic. What’s one professional lesson you’ve learned the hard way? Early in our history, I was worried about what information we should tell employees. I didn’t want to burden them with the issues of the company. But that can make everything feel like a secret, which is a culture we don’t want at TerraCycle, so we went the other way and tried to be as transparent as possible. Now we have a hyper-transparent culture and there’s been a huge benefit. Every team member gets the same reports I do. I wish I would have learned that lesson sooner, but the best lessons are always learned the hard way. What’s your morning routine? I get to work at 5 or 6 a.m. and crank on my to-do list. I start very early so I can be done by 6 p.m. and head home to spend time with my two young kids. I try to avoid staying late and keep my computer off over the weekend. What helps you focus when you’re stuck? What gets me unstuck is taking a step back. I try to contemplate why the problem exists to begin with rather than accepting the problem as a fact. What’s one small thing you do every day to be sustainable? I wear the same pair of jeans for a whole year. You have to wear a pair of jeans every day for them to get a hole in the legs, so I do one pair a year. That doesn’t mean I only have one pair of jeans in my closet, because I have the other pairs with holes in them, but those are for the weekends.

A commitment to #recycleeverything is a pledge to reduce waste

Public recycling may not have caught up, but almost everything is technically recyclable. An easy solution for our most common waste items, even in an uncertain recycling system, is TerraCycle’s free recycling programs. Sponsored by brands committed to making typically unrecyclable items (such as chip bags, contact lenses, even cigarette butts) nationally recyclable, these programs allow any individual, school, business or community group to reduce landfill waste and earn points for charity.

79) Tackling our waste crisis while accepting people are inherently selfish with TerraCycle's Tom Szaky

Instead of getting people to go against their will and desires to sacrifice things for sustainability, what if we just acknowledge that most of us are selfish, and learn to play into that? How did we even get to our global waste crisis today, and what do we need to do to address this issue on a national and global level? Tom Szaky is the founder and CEO of TerraCycle, an innovative company that’s becoming a global leader in recycling waste that’s traditionally difficult to recycle, shares his wisdom with us today. Let’s dive in.

6 Ways Schools Can Strive for Zero Waste

Recycle, recycle, recycle — Recycling is one of the easiest things a school can do to go zero waste; place bins for in common spaces to increase access. TerraCycle has teamed up with PepsiCo Recycling to help teachers and administrators encourage collection of cans and bottles. Separately, TerraCycle offers programs for common school items that are not typically recycled, such as pens, pencils and art supplies.