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Posts from the ‘Recycling & Waste’ Category

Check out the SLC Sustainability 2021 Year in Review!

Happy New Year!

How is it already mid-January already?! We’ve been busy here the last two weeks on projects for the new year which we’re excited to share with you.

Before that, we’re taking some time to reflect on 2021 and all of the work we accomplished with your support. It’s also an important time to take stock; learn from the experiences we had in 2021; and continue to improve our programs, services, and operations.

Every January, we release a Year in Review with our high-level accomplishments as well as priorities for the year ahead. Below are a few highlights. Make sure to check out the full document for more!

Read the full 2021 Year in Review here.

Saying Goodbye to Team Members and Welcoming New Ones

In 2021, SLCgreen certainly felt the impacts of the “Great Resignation.” We said goodbye to Food & Equity Manager Supreet Gill and welcomed Brian Emerson. In the spring, we parted with the founding director of our Sustainability program, Vicki Bennett, who led our team for 20 years and is also recognized around the country as a leader on these issues.

With Vicki’s retirement, Debbie Lyons stepped up to be Sustainability Director and Sophia Nicholas moved from Communications Manager to the Deputy Director role. We also toasted Shannon Williams, Special Projects Assistant, who moved on to an exciting new role in a new state; while welcoming Bimini Horstmann who hails from Boston (with a stop over at Davidson College) and has a passion for rock climbing and environmental science. And, for the first time, we have a dedicated air quality manager position, filled by Catherine Wyffels who joined our team in the summer. She has brought a wealth of insight and expertise to our department. (See blog).

It didn’t stop there! We gave Gregg Evans, our Financial Manager, to the Public Lands Department (luckily he didn’t go far) but were thrilled to welcome Angie Nielsen to our team in the critical accounting role for our department. Finally, December closed out with Max Barnewitz– the “voice” behind the SLCgreenblog and so many of our outreach functions– moving on to an exciting position with Art Access.

We are proud of how our staff, both seasoned and new, integrated into a cohesive and energetic team tackling a variety of projects this past year.

At the beginning of 2021, the deep connections between equity, resiliency, and climate action were clearer than ever due to 2020’s challenges. It set an important focus for our work last year:

Air Quality, Energy Efficiency, & Electrification

Even with more people than ever working from home in 2021, wildfire and inversion seasons still occur. We developed many new programs and engaged with the public to address these issues from an equitable as well as a scientific lens. Additionally, SLCgreen continued strong efforts to move city departments towards electrification and improve energy efficiency. Some notable achievements in the air quality, energy efficiency, and electrification realms include:

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Going Green for the Holidays!

We can hardly believe it, but the holidays are here! This is a great time of year to support Salt Lake City’s efforts to build a more sustainable and resilient community.

Climate action is on all our minds following COP26, which brought world leaders together to create a pathway towards climate action. While the work internationally must be done, everyone has a part to play and small, locally driven climate action can add up to make change. So as you gear up for the holidays, we have some helpful reminders for ways you can be more sustainable!

A holiday greeting graphic shows the Salt Lake City and county building at center with the words Happy Holidays written over the top. Colorful fall leaves and shapes adorn the sides and the SLCgreen logo is at bottom.
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October 14th is International E-Waste Day!

Electronic Waste (also known as e-waste) is one of the fastest growing waste streams. It may come as a surprise, but it is estimated that in 2021, 57.4 million tons of e-waste will be produced worldwide. Unfortunately, only 17.4% of that waste, which can contain harmful as well as rare materials, is expected to be properly recycled. Statistics like this are why the WEEE Forum, an international group dedicated to developing best practices for managing waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), created International E-Waste Day.

Join SLCgreen in commemorating International E-Waste Day on October 14, 2021 by learning more about e-waste and how to properly recycle these materials.

International E-Waste Day October 14, 2021. Graphic shows a photo of a yellow bin filled with e-waste that is superimposed with a teal transparent filter. A small pink, yellow, and blue graphic shows different broken electronics next to the banner text. The SLCgreen logo is in the lower left corner.

What is E-Waste?

E-waste includes any electronic items– from cell phones to televisions– that have reached the end of their functional lives. A broken cell phone or smartwatch might feel like junk, but it is full of many precious materials such as gold, silver, copper, and lithium, that can be refurbished or recycled! Moreover, if not properly handled, electronic components can be hazardous. Electronic components often contain heavy metals including lead, mercury, cadmium, and beryllium; PVC plastic; and other harmful chemicals.

Managing e-waste can be dangerous when not taken to the proper facility. Besides making your data an easy target if old phones or computers wind up in the wrong place, e-waste can also pose a threat to the health of waste management workers. By taking care to properly dispose of your e-waste, you can protect yourself and others while also putting valuable resources to good use!

What to do with E-Waste in Salt Lake City?

Navigating all the options for proper household waste management can be tricky. Luckily, if you live in Salt Lake City, there are many ways to recycle your e-waste:

  • Call 2 Haul: Salt Lake City residents can schedule a bulky waste pick up once a year through the Call 2 Haul program. Call 2 Haul will pick up bulky items that don’t fit or belong in your weekly curbside containers including e-waste, and make sure that the materials are properly handled and correctly diverted.
  • Salt Lake Valley Landfill Household Hazardous Waste Drop Off: The Salt Lake Valley Landfill accepts hazardous waste materials including e-waste, paint, oil, gasoline, antifreeze, batteries, propane, fluorescents, and chemicals in the Household Hazardous Waste drop off.
  • Specialty Recycling Services: Some businesses and specialty recyclers are able to accept e-waste for recycling and disposal. Check out our Specialty Recycling Services page for more resources for materials that don’t belong in your recycling or trash.

Whether you’re clearing out old tech, or just upgrading your phone, take the time to dispose of your e-waste safely. Remembering to recycle e-waste will help protect the environment from harmful chemicals and can save valuable resources for reuse!

In honor of International E-Waste Day, share this information with your networks to spread the word about what to do with electronic waste!

Salt Lake City Joins the U.S. Plastics Pact

by SLCgreen outreach coordinator Stephan Sveshnikov

As part of SLCgreen’s goal to reach zero waste by 2040, Salt Lake City signed on to a new initiative, the U.S. Plastics Pact. The Plastics Pact affirms SLCgreen’s commitment to a circular economy for plastics, which envisions that all the plastics used by our community will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, so that they stay in the economy and out of the environment.

What is the U.S. Plastics Pact?

The U.S. Plastics Pact brings together government entities, businesses, nonprofits, research institutions, and other stakeholders in a common vision of a circular economy for plastics (check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Initiative for more information!). Having a diverse group of organizations sign the pact ensures that the problem of plastics can be tackled at every level where issues arise, collectively.

This vision aims to ensure that plastics never become waste by eliminating the plastics we don’t need, innovating to ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and circulating all the plastic items we use to keep them in the economy and out of the environment.

By joining the U.S. Plastics Pact, activators agree to deliver the following four targets:

  • Target 1: Define a list of packaging that is to be designated as problematic or unnecessary by 2021 and take measures to eliminate them by 2025
  • Target 2: 100% of plastic packaging will be reusable, recyclable, or compostable by 2025
  • Target 3: Undertake ambitious actions to effectively recycle or compost 50% of plastic packaging by 2025
  • Target 4: By 2025, the average recycled content or responsibly sourced bio-based content in plastic packaging will be 30%

While these seem like lofty goals, before now, there has not been a convening organization in which large corporations, municipalities, waste processors, and partners come together to tackle the problem. We’re particularly hopeful because some significant global packaging and consumer companies are participating.

Photo of SLCgreen Waste & Recycling truck, with a banner that reads "SLC recycles or compots 40% of our waste. Let's do more."

Salt Lake City’s Zero Waste Resolution

Signing the pact is part of Salt Lake City’s Zero Waste Resolution, in which the city adopted “Zero Waste as a guiding principle for all city operations and for outreach and actions within the community” and set the ambitious goal of eliminating waste by 2040. The Climate Positive 2040 plan, which followed the resolution, provided a roadmap to reaching zero waste. The City’s goal is to reach 50% diversion rate in the next several years, with a 70% diversion goal by 2025.

What are we doing to get there?

Salt Lake already has a number of innovative programs in addition to our curbside recycling program to ensure we meet our ambitious goals.

If going zero waste is one of your long-term goals, Utah Recycling Alliance offers resources including pop-up CHaRM events, and fix-it clinics. And although Plastic Free July has already passed this year, you can apply the same plastic free tips to implement the circular economy on a smaller scale in your own household.

Check out the full guide to what you can recycle in Salt Lake City’s curbside program here (don’t forget, you can recycle plastic bags and films and many grocery stores) and remember, reducing and reusing are the first two steps to zero waste, before you even start recycling! As the last step on that chain, containers you put into your SLC bins are recycled in North America and turned into new plastic products, keeping them in use.

Salt Lake City Announces Enhancements to Call 2 Haul Bulk Waste Collection Program

Call 2 Haul Bulk Waste Collection green and teal logo.

Aug. 3, 2021

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Salt Lake City Announces Enhancements to Call 2 Haul Bulk Waste Collection Program

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City today announced several key enhancements to its bulk waste program Call 2 Haul.  

Effective immediately, the new enhancements include:

  • The addition of a second pick up annually for green waste only. Residents will be able to schedule two collections per year—one for bulky items such as old furniture and appliances, and one for yard waste up to 24 inches in diameter. 
  • In addition to large branches, brush and bushes will now be accepted. These should be cut to five feet in length or less. Residents may also continue to request extra brown compost containers for temporary placement at no extra charge.
  • Neighborhood group scheduling. Up to 20 households can now schedule a neighborhood cleanup event for either bulky items or green waste. 

“We’re excited to provide greater convenience and enhanced service to our residents with these changes to Call 2 Haul,” Mayor Mendenhall said. “We heard from our residents who wanted an option to organize collection events with their neighbors. We also heard that they wanted easier ways to dispose of green waste. These changes will help meet those needs, while maintaining our commitment to waste diversion and protecting neighborhoods from dumping.”  

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SLC Budget Prioritizes Maintaining High Standard of Service, Providing Equitable and Sustainable Opportunities

Salt Lake City Mayor Mendenhall’s new 2021-2022 city budget emphasizes financial stability for Salt Lake City, as well as “opportunities for an abundant, transformational, equitable future for all the city’s communities.”

The $350 million budget allocates funds to numerous initiatives and programs that will help Salt Lake City implement recommendations from the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing as well as expanding support for affordable housing. Salt Lake City will continue to prioritize building a sustainable and resilient city for all residents.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents have had unprecedented access to local government, connecting with departments more than ever. As SLCgreen moves into the new fiscal year, which begins July 1, we aim to build from this access, inviting more of our community into the decision making process, and working with the community towards greater sustainability and resiliency for all.

The newly approved budget allows Salt Lake City to continue to invest in critical public services, renewable energy projects, air quality, food access, climate equity, and more, which are described below.

Waste and Recycling Rate Increase

The adopted budget contains a rate increase on garbage containers. As you may recall, the Sustainability Department undertook a large public engagement process in late 2019/early 2020 to evaluate residents’ satisfaction with our waste & recycling services, and to seek feedback on how they’d like to see future rate increases occur.

While we do not take lightly the fact that rate increases impact everyone– and some more than others– we want you to know that we have worked hard for years cutting costs and streamlining our operations to forestall the need for a rate increase. However, it has been nearly seven years since we last raised rates. In that time, the cost of doing business has increased– impacting everything from purchasing and maintaining our refuse vehicles, to disposing of garbage at the landfill, to keeping up with the cost of living. For a couple of years, there were also fees associated with processing the City’s recyclables. (So far in 2021, we have begun to make money again on recycling which is great news. We are committed to maintaining a robust program through the ups and downs of the recycling commodity market).

You can visit this page to learn more about the rate increases, the survey, and what to expect. As always, if you have questions or comments, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at slcgreen@slcgov.com

Projects on Energy, Food, Air Quality & More

In our policy division, we are moving forward with some impactful and important projects. Here’s a closer look at some of what’s in store for the Sustainability Department’s Energy & Environment Division:

  • Advancing Salt Lake City’s Community Renewable Energy Goals

The Community Renewable Energy Program (C-REP), empowered by the Community Renewable Energy Act, H.B. 411, will help Salt Lake City reach its goal of community-wide net-100% renewable electricity. In 2022, Salt Lake City will work with other participating communities to bring Salt Lake City closer to its goal of 100% renewable electricity for the whole community. Learn more on the Utah100 Communities’ website.

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Salt Lake City Thanks Frontline Waste & Recycling Staff in Celebration of Waste & Recycling Workers Week

June 15, 2021

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Salt Lake City Thanks Frontline Waste & Recycling Staff in Celebration of Waste & Recycling Workers Week

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City is thanking its frontline waste & recycling staff this week in honor of Waste & Recycling Workers Week which occurs annually the week of June 17.

Salt Lake City employs 55 men and women who are responsible for collecting the refuse from 42,000 homes and businesses every week. Their essential work is critical to residents’ health and safety, making Salt Lake City a cleaner, more resilient community every day. Every year, Salt Lake City crews empty between 4.7 to 4.8 million curbside bins. This year, Waste & Recycling collected an average of 3,630 tons of trash per month, 1,454 tons of compost per month, and 775 tons of recycling per month.

“Our City maintains its world-class beauty and high standard of cleanliness in large part due to the tireless daily efforts of the people who work in our Waste and Recycling Division,” said Mayor Mendenhall. “They are on the front line but work behind-the-scenes. We often don’t think twice when the trash, recycling, and yard waste seamlessly disappear from our curbs. So this week I encourage all residents to join me in thanking these public servants for their critical work. A simple wave as the truck rolls by really makes their days.”

Residents who wish to send a message may also call and leave a voicemail on the customer service line at 801-535-6999 or by sharing a message with @slcgreen on social media.

In addition to the operational staff, Salt Lake City’s Waste and Recycling Division includes an Education Team that works directly with residents, helping make sure recyclables and compostable materials end up in the right bins. In 2020, the Education Team checked 551,592 waste carts throughout the City, helping reduce contamination and empowering residents to know how to recycle correctly.

The Waste & Recycling customer service team also provides daily assistance to community members, which was even more critical throughout 2020 due to the “inland hurricane” and resulting debris cleanup, as well as general increased waste disposal needs as more Salt Lakers stayed home.

“Our crews have worked courageously and tirelessly throughout the entire pandemic and natural disasters to keep each other safe and deliver uninterrupted service to our residents,” said Chris Bell, Waste and Recycling Division Director. “I couldn’t be more proud of their resolve and ability to maintain our high service standards.”

On top of curbside collection, Salt Lake City Waste & Recycling provides resident support and education, the bulky waste collection program Call 2 Haul, special event waste and recycling permitting, and overseeing of the business recycling ordinance and construction and demolition recycling ordinance.

This year, the Call 2 Haul program collected an average of 168 tons of trash and 14 tons of recycling per month. In addition to their normal collection program, Call 2 Haul also assisted with Salt Lake City’s lawn mower exchange, picking up hundreds of gas-powered lawn mowers from residents who switched to electric mowers.

For More Information:

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How to Safely Dispose of Old Batteries

Batteries, whether alkaline or lithium, give us the power we need (literally) to keep everything from smoke detectors to our cell phones going. But when it comes time to throw away used batteries, it’s not always clear what to do.

All batteries consist of a combination of chemicals often including mercury, lead, cadmium, nickel and silver, all of which must be properly managed to prevent harm to individuals and the environment. While all batteries require careful disposal, lithium batteries can be particularly hazardous. When exposed to high pressure or high temperatures, that materials in a lithium battery degrade, allowing combustible chemicals to interact and ultimately causing fires.

Photo of bucket of batteries of different varieties waiting appropriate disposal.
Batteries aren’t all alike, and they require proper disposal.

It is uncommon for lithium batteries to pose a threat in our homes. However, if lithium batteries wind up in the recycling bin, they endanger the recycling crews, trucks, and recycling facilities. Compaction of a battery, especially in warmer times of year, could start a fire inside the truck.

Additionally, they pose a threat to crews collecting and sorting materials at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF).

Not only can lithium batteries burn skin, they can start larger fires within trucks, MRFs and other facilities.

In fact, batteries cause hundreds of fires a year at recycling facilities around the country.

How to Properly Dispose of Batteries

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Keep Recycling: Corrugated Cardboard

Getting packages delivered at home was already a growing trend before 2020. When the pandemic began, home deliveries surged, as did the demand for one particular resource: cardboard.

With both individuals and companies stocking up on necessary household goods, cardboard demand skyrocketed. While recycling has always been a crucial element of carboard production, it is more important than ever to keep up with the demand and save trees!

In the past year, the amount of cardboard recycled through Salt Lake City’s residential collection program has grown by 8%!

Put another way, of the 780 tons of material that Salt Lake City collects per month, 273 tons is corrugated cardboard.

Breaking Down the Facts about Corrugated Cardboard:

Corrugated cardboard is a lightweight and sturdy way to ship products. Corrugated boxes became popular in the early 1900s, and we’ve been using them ever since. Because corrugated carboard is so readily recyclable, corrugated boxes have become the largest recycled paper and paperboard product in the U.S..

Over 90% of American products are packaged with corrugated cardboard. But making sure to properly recycle it is the tricky part! Keep these details in mind when you’re recycling this excellent resource:

Graphic reminding folks to break down cardboard boxes before recycling them. White text on a green banner says Please break down your boxes. Questions? Call (801) 535-6999. There is a photo of broken down boxes and a green arrow pointing at a blue recycling bin.
  • Is It Clean? If you’re recycling a cardboard box that was used for food packaging (i.e. a pizza box), remember that food grease contaminates the material. If you can, salvage as much of the box as possible and recycle the clean pieces.
  • Is It Empty? When you’re sorting out your cardboard boxes, be sure to check to make sure you’ve emptied it of any plastic bags, packing peanuts, or Styrofoam pieces. The same rule applies for any plastic wrapping.
  • Is It Flat? Before you throw that box in the blue bin, please flatten it to make sure that it is easily picked up and hauled away by our Waste & Recycling teams.

Properly sorting out corrugated cardboard helps our Waste & Recycling team recover this important and sustainable resource!

For more information about recycling in Salt Lake City, visit the SLCgreen website.

Check out this video to see how cardboard and other recyclables are processed in Salt Lake City’s new materials recovery facility (MRF):

Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day is celebrating its 51st anniversary on April 22! Salt Lake City residents can celebrate with activities and events this weekend and throughout the month of April.

As you plan your Earth Day fun, remember that Earth Day doesn’t have to be limited to April 22. We all can reduce our impact every day.

This year we thought it’d be fun to imagine taking advantage of many of Salt Lake City’s programs to help lead a more sustainable life. Come along for the ride. . . perhaps you’ll discover something new . . .

In the Yard

From planting a water-wise landscape to using an electric lawn mower rather than a gas-powered one, your very own front yard is a great place to improve your household’s environmental footprint!

You can also make your garden healthier for the whole community – pets and pollinators included. You may have seen the little green Pesticide Free hexagonal signs in your neighborhood. Salt Lake City residents are taking steps to grow beautiful gardens without toxic chemicals. Going pesticide free can help you keep your family and neighbors healthy, and your yard safe for pollinators– we still have plenty of signs, so take the pledge and request yours today! We’ll deliver it to your home for free.

Photo of green pesticide free sign in front of a garden of blooming red, white, and yellow flowers.

Waste and Recycling

Recycling and composting every day helps us make the most of our resources. Taking the extra step to recycle materials like aluminum, cardboard, paper, and plastic containers is an excellent way to reach your zero waste goals. Have questions? Watch Ashley on our Education Team walking you through what to put in your recycling and compost containers.

You can also sign up for a smaller garbage can to save money.

And don’t forget about glass! If you have not yet signed up for curbside glass recycling, you can do so here— or take your glass to a drop-off location near you.

Have an item you’re not sure what to do with? Check out our specialty recycling page to see if it can be recycled through a special program.

At Home

Using low-flow shower heads saves energy and water. Switching to LED light bulbs can reduce up to 500 pounds of CO2 annually, while using cold water for washing your clothes saves 1,270 pounds annually! Find more energy saving tips on SLCgreen’s Household Energy Action Tips.

Although going 100% vegan is a great way to help shrink your carbon footprint, limiting animal products a few times a week is also impactful.

Reducing food waste is also an often-overlooked way to reduce potent methane emissions and help others.

For example you can volunteer with the local non-profit Waste Less Solutions to share your excess garden produce with those who need extra food. You can also volunteer with them to deliver meals that would otherwise go to waste to service agencies.

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