Putting our planet first is at the forefront of Earthadelic’s mission.
Recently, we have been exploring ways to become better friends with our planet and help out our community. Recycling is an essential aspect of all businesses and industries, but especially ours. Home construction, remodeling, and demolition services are responsible for 25-30% of America’s municipal solid waste.
At the end of October, Earthadelic launched a company-wide recycling initiative that we take very seriously. In preparation for starting the program, a group of us visited the WestRock facility, which handles all of the recyclables collected in Knox County. What we discovered was completely eye-opening!
WestRock is an international company that creates sustainable packaging out of recycled materials. They acquire the materials they use for creating their various products through our everyday recycling of paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum.
When our team visited the Knoxville facility, we were blown away by the technology and innovation contained within the plant. We discovered that 92% of the recycling collected and taken to the WestRock facility is fully recycled. Only 8% is considered garbage and taken to the landfill. That is huge! It is reassuring to know that your recycling is actually getting recycled. We went into the tour with a lot of skepticism from years of hearing rumors about how recycling just getting thrown into the landfill, along with the concept of “wish-cycling,” which is when someone throws something that is not recyclable into the recycling bin, the whole thing is contaminated and gets thrown into the landfill. We were relieved to find out that none of these rumors were true!
One of the most profound discoveries we made during our visit to WestRock is how harmful it is to put recycling in plastic bags and attempting to recycle hoses, cords, or string lights. These items clog up the system causing downtime at the sorting facility and requiring the workers to untangle anything that has gotten stuck, which is time-consuming and dangerous. The WestRock facility has a crew that focuses on pulling out plastic bags and anything non-recyclable off the conveyor belt. That is a lot of time and energy that could be spent more productively elsewhere. On that note, it is also better if you do not sort your recycling unless it is being taken to a recycling center that requires it to be sorted.
Also, the technology at WestRock is incredible! Some sorting machines even use military technology that can detect specific items and push them with a puff of air into another collection area. There is also a large reverse magnet that helps sort the aluminum by shooting it into a whole other section of the facility. It is quite the dance to watch! WestRock is truly an impressive and well-oiled machine sorting the recyclables right here in Knox County. You can watch an awesome video showing the process on WestRock’s website at this link.
Here are the things we are doing at Earthadelic to up our recycling game:
- Educating everyone who works for Earthadelic and the community about what can be recycled and how to recycle it.
- Clearly labeled bins are in every office and common area
- Scheduled curbside pick up
- Holding each other accountable and “policing” the landfill bins to make sure nothing recyclable is getting thrown away
- Using refillable water bottles
- Limiting printing, and when we do print, we make sure it is double-sided
- Reusing scrap paper
- Supplying biodegradable coffee cups
- Open door policy for any questions about recycling
These are just a few things we are doing during Phase One. Next, we are implementing a wider-scale program in the field to recycle materials and debris.
Here are a few Tips and Tricks for you to consider while recycling:
- Don’t recycle anything smaller than a credit card (these small items can get stuck in processing machines)
- Don’t recycle any plastic that can be easily manipulated (trash bags, grocery bags, etc.)
- Put your recyclables directly into the recycling bin or in another recyclable container like a cardboard box
- Put shredded paper into a paper bag
- Everything should be empty, clean, and dry (ex: food containers, soda, cans, etc.)
- What not to recycle: batteries, electronics, food, food-contaminated items, foam, single-use utensils, paper plates, napkins, paper towels, plastic sandwich bags, plastic wrap or grocery bags, clothing, or shoes
More Interesting Facts about Recycling:
- According to the EPA, “the national recycling goal is to increase national recycling rate to 50 percent by 2030.” We are already on a strong path, but we still need to step it up. “The recycling rate has increased from less than seven percent in 1960 to the current rate of 32 percent.”
- 50% of households in Knoxville voluntarily participate in their curbside recycling program.
- Westrock uses the materials they recycle to feed into a plethora of companies, including their own, to make new products like cardboard drink carriers.
- 1 new can takes the same amount of energy to make as 20 cans made from recycled material.
- Recycling 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to illuminate a 60W light bulb for 97.8 hours.
- 75% of trash that Americans throw away is recyclable.
- Every year there is enough plastic thrown away to circle the entire planet 4 times.
- Every year Americans throw away enough office paper to build a 12-foot-high wall from Seattle to New York. (2,850 miles)