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Posts from the ‘Recycling & Waste’ Category

See what SLCgreen Accomplished in 2019

You can download the full 2019 Year in Review here.

Happy New Year!

It’s 2020 already and we can hardly believe it! Salt Lake City finished out 2019 strong alongside 19 communities that opted into the Community Renewable Energy Act’s pathway to achieve net-100% renewable energy.

But that’s not all SLCgreen got up to in 2019. It was a busy year, and as a community, we have taken major strides in accomplishing our goals. See our full 2019 Year in Review here and read below for a few of the major highlights.

Thanks to all our partners in City government, other government agencies, non-profit associations, neighborhood groups, business partners, and community councils, we are continuing to make SLC more sustainable and resilient.

You can take a look at the 2017 and 2018 reports to see what we’ve been working on over the last few years. Before we set our sights on 2020, here are a few highlights from 2019!

The Salt Lake City and County Building is visible from the roof for the Leonardo Museum, which has several solar panels installed.

Air Quality, Climate Change & Energy

  • After a three-year collaboration with Park City, Summit County, Rocky Mountain Power, and the state legislature, we successfully saw passage of House Bill 411 the “Community Renewable Energy Act” in the 2019 legislative session. The law establishes a legal pathway for communities with 100% clean energy goals to achieve them in collaboration with Rocky Mountain Power.
  • Helped plan and participated in the historic United Nations Civil Society Conference “Building Inclusive and Sustainable Communities.” See the content of our presentations and related videos here.
  • Expanded public EV charging infrastructure, increasing the total number of city-owned EV charging ports to 38, plus 16 at the airport.
  • With Utah Clean Energy, launched “Empower SLC,” a neighborhood energy efficiency program targeting the 84116 and 84104 neighborhoods to improve energy efficiency and conservation measures that reduce pollution and lower utility costs. As of September, over 450 households have been engaged, resulting in an estimated savings of 335,353 kWh per year!
  • Supported Utah Climate Week 2019, collaborating with 35 organizations to highlight climate action.
  • Developed an energy after-school curriculum for youth groups and created a new partnership with YouthCity on programming for the Fall 2019 programs. This resulted in the adoption of “energy” as the central theme of their Science Fair.
  • Hosted the Elevate Buildings awards luncheon, recognizing first-year reporting commercial buildings with ENERGY STAR scores 75 and above and Mayoral recognition of exceptional performers.
  • Received a Blue Sky Legacy Award from Rocky Mountain Power for over 15 years of partnership in the program.
  • Ranked in the top 10 states around the country for solar energy production increase, according to the Energy Information Administration.
  • Bid farewell to Tyler Poulson and welcomed Christopher Thomas as our incoming Senior Energy and Climate Program Manager.

Food & Equity

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Your Waste & Recycling Questions

Salt Lake City’s waste & recycling survey closed earlier this month. We are grateful for all of the feedback– we received nearly 6,200 responses, which is a record!

Now our team is busily combing through over 12,000 of your comments. We plan to compile these into a feedback summary in the new year. Stay tuned!

Bales of aluminum at a recent visit to the local recycling facility that processes SLC’s residential recycling.
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Waste & Recycling Tips

In the meantime, we’ve been reading a lot of questions about Salt Lake City’s waste & recycling services. So we thought this would be a good opportunity to share some answers, links, and helpful resources:

What’s recycled in SLC? 

SLC is dedicated to keeping recycling and compost available. Residents can recycle clean and dry plastic containers, cardboard and paperboard, aluminum cans, and paper in the blue curbside containers.

Go even further with waste diversion when you use the brown compost can for yard trimmings AND kitchen scraps. This includes veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and paper filters, tea bags (no staples or string), and eggshells.

Does recycling even matter?

Yes! It absolutely makes a difference. For example, in June 2019, Salt Lake City residents recycled 585 tons of cans, bottles, paper, and cardboard. To put this in perspective, this saved the equivalent of 5,732 mature trees, 2,238 cubic yards of landfill airspace, enough water to meet the daily needs of 41,625 people, and enough electricity to fulfill the annual needs of 175 homes! All this recycling helped us avoid 2,027 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which makes for cleaner air too.

Multiply those numbers by 12 and you have the average impact of Salt Lake City’s curbside recycling program over the year. You are making a difference–thank you!

Recycling matters— this topic was the inspiration behind our newest truck wraps.


New recycling facility coming to Salt Lake City this spring

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Can Fashion be Sustainable?

On this blog and in general sustainability circles, we often talk about the environmental and health impacts of plastics, vehicle emissions, buildings, air travel– even the food we eat.

But today we want to take a deep dive into something we haven’t discussed very much. It’s a sector which is lesser-known, but hugely impactful in terms of waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions. We’re talking about clothing and textiles.

Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw away 25% more trash than during the rest of the year?!

As the Black Friday flurry and holiday gift-buying season approaches, it’s a good time to be mindful of this impact and how we can take charge of minimizing our environmental footprints.

It may come as a surprise, but the fashion industry is a significant contributor to our landfills, as well as to 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, almost as much as the entire European Union!! The clothes industry also creates plastic pollution, threatens public health and the environment through intense chemical pollution, and takes up an enormous amount of landfill space.

Clothes are definitely a necessity and are also a fun way to express one’s creativity. But today, we want to emphasize the impact of the textile industry and why we need to think more carefully about the clothing purchases we make.

Laying Out the Issue

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the environmental impacts of clothes production include:

  1. High reliance on nonrenewable resources
  2. High use of hazardous chemicals
  3. High land use (competing with agriculture)
  4. High greenhouse gas emissions (1 ton of textiles generates 17 tons of CO2)
  5. Textile production requires 93 billion cubic meters of water annually (4% of the global freshwater withdrawal)
  6. Microplastic pollution into the ocean
  7. Poor working conditions for garment workers (slavery and child labor included)

These impacts are increasing due to the rise of fast fashion.

Global Material Flows for Clothing in 2015 (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015)
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November’s Ghoulish Garbage: A Curbside Guide

As we know, there can be some scary finds in the Salt Lake City curbside recycling bins! There are also many tricks! (Both of these links are to recent Instagram stories done by our Recycling Education team. Pretty interesting, right?)

So now that Halloween is over, don’t give our waste management teams a fright! Here’s a quick guide to where your Halloween waste should go.

Help stop monstrous non-recyclable things from ending up in your recycling bin!

Compost: Your Jack-O’-Lantern’s Final Resting Place

If you’re an extra resourceful pumpkin carver, you may have decided to roast up your pumpkin seeds for a delicious Halloween snack! In fact, there are many fun ways to put your pumpkin’s guts to use.

But once you’ve used up your pumpkin and the jack-o’-lantern’s smile is fading, you have an important choice to make: where does the pumpkin go?

The combination of yard waste like leaves and sticks and kitchen scraps including eggshells and coffee grounds makes nutrient-rich dirt that promotes plant and soil health. Indeed, about 30% of what’s thrown away as garbage in the United States — including your perfect pumpkin — could be composted.

So instead of letting the great pumpkin take up space in the landfill (where it releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas), put your pumpkin into the compost bin!

(Remember to only put pumpkins without paint, wax, glitter or other non-organic decorations in the brown bin).

Image of a cute wrinkly pumpkin ready to compost!

Garbage vs. Recycling?

Unless a helpful witch or wizard was able to transform all those candy wrappers into clean cardboard or aluminum, or if you send materials to a recycling program like TerraCycle, candy wrappers should always be put into the garbage can.

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Salt Lake City Reaffirms Items Accepted in City’s Curbside Recycling Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 1, 2019

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Salt Lake City Reaffirms Items Accepted in City’s Curbside Recycling Program

With recent news that some Wasatch Front cities and towns are changing what is accepted in recycling bins, Salt Lake City reiterates that these changes do not affect our residents.

Draper, Midvale, Murray, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan recently announced that they are no longer accepting paper in residential bins, including “paper bags, paper, newspaper, magazines, junk mail, and cereal boxes,” according to Midvale City’s website

Salt Lake City continues to accept all clean paper products—except shredded paper.

Additionally, the Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District (WFWRD), which serves over a dozen other cities in Salt Lake County is not changing the materials accepted in their cans. In total there are 14 municipalities in Salt Lake County that are not changing: Salt Lake City and the 13 cities in the Wasatch Front Waste and Recycling District, according to Pam Roberts, Executive Director of WFWRD.

In addition to paper, Salt Lake City accepts plastic containers, metal cans, and cardboard for recycling. Items should be clean and free from food residue, oils, or liquids.

“We have not made any new restrictions on what is accepted for recycling in Salt Lake City’s curbside program since early 2018,” said Lance Allen, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling Division Director. “At that time, when China’s National Sword policy went into effect, we only restricted plastic bags and films, Styrofoam, and shredded paper. We also reiterated that recyclables should be clean. Residents should continue to recycle paper, plastic containers, cardboard, and cans as they normally would, and take pride in the beneficial impact they’re having on the environment.”

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Your Yard Waste Container: Get the Dirt on Compost

by Salt Lake Valley Landfill Compost Marketer & Recycling Specialist, Zak Breckenridge

It’s variably called the “yard waste bin,” the “brown can,” or the “compost container.”

Whatever name you give it, all Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling customers have the familiar brown can and use it to dispose of leaves, yard trimmings, small branches, grass, weeds, and other green waste.

It can also take your fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, and tea bags.

Salt Lake City’s compost container . . . aka “yard waste bin” aka “brown can.”

Today we’re taking a deep dive into the brown can. We’re (figuratively, not literally) getting down and dirty not only with what should and shouldn’t go in your bin, but also what happens to all of that “green waste” at its destination?

Welcome to the world of compost and why we’re so proud to have a commercial compost facility here in the Salt Lake Valley, which services Salt Lake City and many Salt Lake County curbside programs.

What exactly is Compost?

We all know that putting carrot tops and tomato stems in the compost is somehow better than putting them in the trash, but how do your food scraps and yard waste become a useful and valuable natural product that’s also better for the environment and better for our community?

Fresh compost
A BIG pile of Salt Lake Valley’s Certified Compost
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Truck Wraps Deliver Words of Wisdom, Inspire Recycling

Every year, Salt Lake City’s low-emission waste collection trucks get a new look. In years past, the vehicles highlighted downsizing your garbage cans, the beauty of recycling, and the goal to ditch disposables. This year, the truck wraps deliver words of wisdom to inspire more thoughtful consumption and better recycling habits.

Truck wrap with Annie Leonard quote: There is no such thing as away. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere.

Taking a Cue from Annie Leonard, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Robert Swan

One side of this year’s truck wraps display useful mantras encouraging SLC residents to recycle. The other side features quotes from three prominent environmental activists:

Annie Leonard is the founder of The Story of Stuff Project, which advocates for reducing our consumption and being more thoughtful about where our stuff goes. As her truck wrap quote says: there’s no such thing as away.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is an environmental activist and former senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. He currently serves as president of the grassroots Waterkeeper Alliance. His quote succinctly emphasizes the impact of sustainable living on our country’s well being.

Echoing Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s sentiment, Robert Swan’s quote is a call to action for every individual to take steps towards protecting the environment. Robert Swan is a climate activist and the first person to walk to the North and South pole. His organization, 2041, works to educate the public about the impact of climate change on the environment, especially at the poles.

By quoting these leaders, the truck wraps pinpoint the importance of community action geared towards protecting the environment and building sustainable communities.

One of the easiest ways to follow in the footsteps of these activists is to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Truck wrap with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. quote: The most patriotic thing you can do is to take care of the environment and try to live sustainably.

Is Recycling Still Worth It?

Presented on the flip sides of the trucks are statistics about SLC’s waste management habits. In particular, they emphasize the importance of proper waste diversion in the form of recycling and composting.

Does that surprise you? With recycling changing as markets adjusted to new rules from China on contamination, there has been question as to whether recycling is even “worth it” any more.

We’re here to tell you it is and that’s a key point we wanted to emphasize with the new truck wrap designs. Let’s take a moment to dig in to that detail:

The recycling import ban that came from China in 2018 has complex causes and also underscores that recycling is a commodity market that has always experienced ups and downs.

But there is good news amid the shake-up. In particular, it’s forcing U.S. recycling processors and consumers to get back to basics: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle . . . Properly.

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