Blogs

Join NCRA at the New Living Expo, San Mateo, 4/27 and 28!

Registration is FREE for volunteers and attendees if you register by Wednesday, 4/24.

The New Living Expo is a revolutionary event focusing on the alternative movers and shakers of our time. It features a myriad of speakers, workshops, classes, panels and special events, all designed to excite, enlighten and motivate.

Panel: Today’s Recycling Challenges and How You Can Make a Difference!

The SF Bay Area leads the nation in recycling and waste diversion innovation. Yet a San Francisco Estuary Institute study found our Bay has some of the highest concentrations of plastic pollution of any major U.S. body of water. Where’s the disconnect? What can we do to shift individuals and businesses into better consumption habits? How are recycling programs addressing the impact of China’s recent limits on recyclables? Why is Zero Waste the answer?

 

 

RU 2019 – Reality Checks and Inspiration

By Jessica Heiges, Master’s Candidate in Environmental Sustainability, UC Berkeley

Yes, there is so much to be done. But instead of framing the state of the matters in defeatist terms, NCRA’s Recycling Update was filled with education, reality checks and most importantly, inspiration. This came from those both on the stage and in the audience. RU, uniquely, not only highlighted some of the recycling collaborations already in place but provided a setting to foster new collaborations. This is important because it is increasingly obvious that no one individual or  ganization or   policy can fix this systems-wide problem. Instead, it is through innovative, multidisciplinary solutions that will chip away at the antiquated practices that have put us in today’s global recycling crisis. It is invigorating and reassuring to see such solutions already in play in Northern California. Yes, there is so much to be done and yes, we are collectively making enormous progress.

One exciting example of innovative, multidisciplinary solutions is the new Single Use Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance in the City of Berkeley. The seemingly unlikely partnership of the City Council, the local recycling provider and various non-profits coalesced on the audacious plan to reduce foodware waste generation. It clearly is already a success in that this first-of-its-kind legislation was unanimously approved by the City Council in January 2018. Much of that is likely attributed to the interdisciplinary approach to drafting the legislation, which as Sophie Hahn and Martin Bourque noted in their RU presentation, included involving all potential stakeholders over many years. That is essential, but an uncommon practice and no easy feat. That groundwork will unquestionably set up the ordinance’s phased implementation process for long-term success. As both a resident of Berkeley and a graduate student of waste management at UC Berkeley, I look forward to seeing this systems-based solution cause a meaningful impact.

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Recycling Update 2019! – Program & Speaker Presentations

Our annual event was brilliant, thanks to our fantastic and generous sponsors, our innovative and bold speakers, and our passionate and motivated attendees!

The amount of content of the event can be overwhelming, so we have offered the speaker presentations here for you in pdf format to reference and keep handy for your own planning purposes. There are several that are still getting uploaded; if you need one sooner, please contact Juliana and I can assist.

Over the next couple of months, we will upload the speaker videos to our NCRA YouTube Channel, so please, stay tuned!

Gina Lee

Patrick Hayes

Joshua Perez-Cramer

Teresa Montgomery

Steven Sherman

Roland Geyer

Jennifer Arbuckle

Martin Bourque

Julie Muir

Nate Stein

Peter Schulze-Allen

Maricelle Cardenas and Jeanne Nader

Kristin DiLallo Sherrill

Doug Kobold

Susan Robinson

Brennan Madden

Jerame Renteria – forthcoming

Jen Jackson

Molly Morse

Timothy Bouldry

Rodrigo Sabatini

Kourtnii Brown

Rob Hilton

Ron Kasper and Roxanne Murray

Lisa Duba – forthcoming

Robin Martin

Lush Offers “Naked” Beauty Products to Reduce Product Packaging

By Liz Bortolotto, NCRA Communications Committee, 3/6/19
What’s the best way to reduce packaging waste? By getting rid of the package completely, of course! Ethical beauty brand, Lush, is doing just that. Thirty-five percent of their products are totally unpackaged, or as they like to say, naked.

Lush is a privately-owned, British-based international company that makes brightly colored, fragrant creams, soaps, shampoos, shower gels, lotions, moisturizers, scrubs, masks and other cosmetics for the face, hair, and body. Lush is known for their “naked” solid shampoo bars, conditioners, henna hair colors, and massage bars. They also make a product called “Toothy Tabs” which are solid toothpaste tablets. These products save millions of plastic bottles from being produced, transported and disposed of every year. By providing customers with unpackaged options, they hope to increase awareness surrounding the overuse of disposable packaging and challenge other retailers to reduce their packaging too.

Additionally, several years ago they stopped offering traditional gift wrapping in favor of reusable fabric “knot-wraps”. These are either made from a material created from recycled plastic bottles, or from organic cotton. Rather than being thrown away after opening, they can be reused again and again for gift wrapping, decorating or as an accessory. Looking for a good packing solution, they originally used popcorn.  However, they wound up replacing popcorn with packing peanuts made from starch and water that use less energy to produce than popcorn and are completely compostable.

Lush marks its trademark black tub products with stickers of the actual creators of the product being sold, a unique trademark placed on their recyclable polypropylene plastic black pots. The company also offers customers a way to recycle used black pots by bringing empty ones back to the store for a free Fresh Face Mask for every five pots returned.

Founders Mark Constantine, an herbal trichologist, and Elizabeth Weir who had an interest in beauty therapy, originally formed a company named Constantine & Weir in the early 1980s.  Some of their products were sold in the Body Shop. They branched from suppliers to the Body Shop to an online business that became “Lush” in 1995. Lush is now sold in 50 countries with over 900 shops. Lush North American has gone from a single shop in Vancouver to nearly 240 shops across Canada and the U.S.

Lush promotes several other causes which are reflected in their business practices.  They support regenerative agriculture projects in places like Uganda, Peru, Guatemala and Arizona.  They try to source all their ingredients ethically paying attention to the labor practices of the areas they source product and encouraging sustainable practices.

Lush has been publically against animal testing for decades. For a long time, their efforts were focused on their own internal policies to avoid animal testing.  However, in 2012 they decided to create the Lush Prize.  Awarded annually, the £250,000 Lush Prize focuses on safety testing for consumer products and complements projects that address alternatives to animal testing for medicines. They award prizes across five areas:  Science, Training, Lobbying, Public Awareness and Young Researchers. This prize is a way for Lush to join a global conversation about animal testing and give passionate researchers and activists the opportunity to showcase and continue their work.

You can read more about Lush products, solutions, and stories on their website at www.lushusa.com

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Oregon Composters Push Back Against Compostable Packaging

By Steve Sherman, Steven Sherman Consulting, 03/12/19
Oregon compost facility operators are pushing back on the large and growing stream of challenging materials being sent to their facilities. Their joint statement, “A Message From Composters Serving Oregon: Why We Don’t Want Compostable Packaging and Serviceware”, emphasizes that such items “compromise our composting programs and limit many of the environmental benefits of successful composting.”

The statement lists nine reasons why they do not want “compostable” packaging and food serviceware delivered to their facilities:

      1. It does not always compost
      2. It introduces contamination
      3. It hurts re-sale quality
      4. The composters cannot sell to organic farmers
      5. It may impact human and environmental health
      6. It increases compost operators’ costs and makes our jobs harder
      7. Just because something can be composted does not mean that is necessarily better for the environment
      8. In some cases, the benefits of recycling surpass those of composting
      9. Good intentions are not being realized

The compost facility operators’ main point is: “We need to focus on recycling food and yard trimmings into high-quality compost products. Compostable packaging does not help us to achieve this goal.”

Signatories to this statement include some of Oregon’s leading compost facility operators, including independent, regional companies such as Rexius Compost and Organics, Dirt Hugger, Lane Forest Products, and Deschutes Compost Facility, as well as large, integrated companies such as Recology (Organics Oregon) and Republic Services (Pacific Region Compost).

It is not a National Sword policy in the making. Still, clearly there is growing tension, at least in Oregon – land of the first container deposit legislation in the country and consistently one of nation’s most eco-friendly states – over what to do with potentially compostable materials not yard trimmings or food scraps.

We can use this statement from Oregon to remind ourselves that composting is not a magic solution. Instead, the term “composting” represents a suite of technologies that operates within a generally thin-margin industry that must make saleable products of reasonable quality and consistency in order to survive.

In California, several processors are being challenged by borderline materials like plastic-lined milk cartons, other food-soiled paper, and whatever you want to call those plastics that we send to compost facilities in the hope that it will all work out well. “This material is a Trojan horse that brings in even more problematic material,” according to Jack Hoeck, VP Environmental Services Rexius Compost and Organics. “In Eugene, we’re going back to a ‘food only’ program for businesses,” he said.

We in Northern California may or may not be facing the same situation as Oregon. Then again, as SB1383 ramps up, as lower quality feedstocks make up a larger fraction of what is sent to compost facilities, who knows?

Feedstock quality counts. A business model that focuses on “pulling” in higher-quality feedstocks to produce valuable products for markets generally stands a reasonable chance of succeeding over the long run. Less certain of long-term success, however, is the more capital-intensive business model for organics processing that responds primarily to the “push” from well-meaning legislation and from municipalities’ need to get rid of stuff of questionability quality and utility.

Again, Northern California’s composting industry dynamics may differ from Oregon’s, but we should remain mindful about the importance of delivering higher-quality feedstocks to compost facilities that want them.

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