By Laurel Nelson, contributing writer with Salon Today
Frustrated with lack of flexibility in their schedules and a desire to make more money, many stylists leave traditional salon settings and turn to a career as an independent contractor, both as a solution to their challenges in the salon and as a stepping stone to becoming an owner.
But is the grass always greener? And is the experience in a booth rental or salon suite-setting enough to launch a career as an owner? Bebea Hanna is a stylist who has worked in both the traditional salon environment and as an independent contractor. Here, she shares her experience.
Q: WHAT MADE YOU LEAVE THE TRADITIONAL SALON ENVIRONMENT TO BE INDEPENDENT?
“After having two different salon experiences that weren’t successful for various reasons, I wanted to be in control of my own environment, creativity and inventory. I thought it would be a stepping stone to see if I wanted to own a salon on a larger scale, and to see if I liked a salon dependent on just me owning the business.
In the past, I had experienced problems like bounced checks from owners, so I thought by becoming independent, I would be able to control everything—the hours I worked, the products I carried, etc. It was a trial run of owning a mini-salon.”
Q: WHAT ARE THE PROS TO BEING AN INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR?
“The freedom and flexibility to have my own schedule, and creatively to go whatever direction I wanted. I also saw it as a financial gain because I wasn’t giving up the huge percentage of money that I was in the salon. But later, I started to understand why I had to give up that part of my income.
Responsibilities like stocking retail, doing laundry, handling my accounting and being my own front desk started preventing me from being creatively free. At one point, I thought about not selling retail to take something off my plate, but retail is the direct link of loyalty between the stylist and client. I realized I was deteriorating in my ability to be a stylist, which is what I do really well.”
Q: WHY DID YOU GO BACK TO A TRADITIONAL SALON?
“I started becoming really unprofessional in ways I wouldn’t have expected of myself. I would move appointments around for my own convenience because I had gaps in my day, without consideration of the client. At first, because the relationship is so personal, the client is understanding. And if I was sick, I’d have to call six different people to reschedule.
I also started being late, and had a horrible schedule. I’d work Sundays to take off Saturdays, but end up working seven days a week.
At that point I had minimum retail because I was tired of dealing with it and sales tax. And I really wanted a structured schedule so I could come to work and focus on my actual job—servicing my clients and educating them on how to take care of their home needs. I was ready to let someone more business-minded deal with scheduling and retail, and I wanted a consistent paycheck.
I was getting surges of money—$10k one month and $3k the next—but with the same monthly expenses. I would turn everything I did into a write-off, but I was really just cheating myself by not paying taxes the way I should.
Slowly, the perks stopped outweighing the advantages. In the beginning, I did everything possible to get clients in my chair. But I was getting burnt out and stopped taking client calls. Then I’d forget to return the call and finally got to the point I didn’t want to do hair at all. I wasn’t getting new clients, either, because I wasn’t pushing for referrals. I was in this frame of mind that I could do less work for more money because I was getting 100 percent of the profit. But if I had run it like a real business, and paid my taxes correctly, I wouldn’t have made any money.
Another big reason for burnout was I stopped going to classes because I was on my own to pay for education. And when I did go, I didn’t know anyone—it would be groups of stylists from salons, and then I’d be on my own. It took a toll on my skills artistically.
I also missed working next to other stylists and seeing their work. And when I did see someone else’s work, I didn’t know how they did it or what product they used. I wanted to be a part of a team where together we’re great. I didn’t want to stay in a room for years and do the same little razor cut.
When I went back to a traditional commission salon, I chose one affiliated with a professional manufacturer so I could get the support of education.”
Q: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER A STYLIST CONSIDERING BECOMING INDEPENDENT?
“Think about why you’re in the industry and what you need. Are you getting what you need out of it artistically? Are you keeping yourself inspired? Is the communication you have with just your clients enough? Are you ok with being isolated in a room by yourself?
The ones making money are free-flowing with it, which is easy to do for a couple years, but not forever. Is it worth the integrity of your work? Are you giving the best you can? When you do an amazing haircut in the salon and people watch it, that feels good. When nobody sees it, what are the odds you are going to just give a simple trim? Your peers know the difference between a good and great haircut, and being in the salon puts you on stage with your co-workers. Most stylists want recognition and to watch other people. It’s not a natural environment to be isolated. It’s hard—while a client’s color is processing, you can’t just get your lunch out and eat, or leave them in a little room by themselves.
I’m now more appreciative of the traditional salon environment and the fact that retail shelves are stocked with products available to support my work. I know why I’m giving the salon commission now—electricity, water, clean towels, maintenance, a fully-stocked color bar.
These tools allow me to do my job freely, and I’m no longer resentful of my phone ringing on a Sunday, so I’m more professional with my clients.
I realized owning a salon was not what I wanted. I wanted to do good hair, be inspired, teach and be taught—I couldn’t do that in a room by myself.”Leave a reply
Want to hold on to — or recapture — your youth? These simple steps promise maximum vitality.
Experts on aging agree — there are positive steps you can take to make your “golden years” healthier and more enjoyable. And, they might just add as much as a decade or more to your life… So read on, and act now!
Phase Out Destructive Habits
The single best thing you can do for your health and longevity is quit smoking. Smoking has been indicted for a laundry list of ills from heart disease to lung disorders, all of which can foil your longevity plans.
Drink only in moderation. Alcohol infuses every cell, damaging genes and inflaming your liver. A glass of wine a day for women and maybe two for men, but no more, may be mildly beneficial.
Get your Zzzz’s. Your body needs down time to repair cells and rest your heart. And your mind needs dreaming to stay sane.
Find a doctor who specializes in geriatrics or anti-aging. Barbara M. Morris, RPh, author of Boomers Can Really Put Old on Hold, recommends an anti-aging doctor. But according to Marc R. Blackman, MD, chief of the laboratory of clinical investigation of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (part of the National Institutes of Health), a geriatrician would be more mainstream and recommend fewer unproven treatments. “Anti-aging is like saying anti-puberty or anti-pregnancy. This is a natural process,” he says. Whatever his or her style, your new doctor may recommend yearly assessment of various biomarkers, including lipids, DHEA, estrogen, cortisol, thyroid, lung function, and micronutrient assays.
Cut saturated fat, up omega-3 fats. It’s gospel by now: eat less or no red meat; lose the cake and ice cream; consume more complex carbs, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; and get plenty of fatty fish. The healthy fats in salmon, mackerel, and sardines help keep oxygen free-radical molecules from damaging your cells.
Consider moderating your total food intake. Studies in rats show that a 30% calorie restriction means longer life (no, it doesn’t just seem longer!). Blackman also cites studies in rhesus monkeys showing a gain in years from a reduction in food. Obviously, losing excess pounds means less strain on your system.
Be careful when tweaking your hormones. Morris swears by controversial human growth hormone — for her. Blackman is no fan. “There have been big studies to determine the relationship between decreases in human growth hormone and thinner bones, more body fat, and mood swings. Giving growth hormone can build muscle, but it has not been shown that the muscle is any stronger.” HGH has also been associated with water retention, carpal tunnel syndrome, high blood pressure, and blood-sugar fluctuations. “[HGH science] is not at a point where any responsible provider could recommend it,” Blackman says. And what about the other substance — a steroid called DHEA — often recommended for aging? “Dramatically less evidence than HGH!” exclaims Blackman. As for estrogen and progesterone replacement, it’s been in all the papers. The combo therapy may increase, rather than cut, the risk of cancer and heart disease. Many natural alternatives to these substances exist — your own situation should dictate your decision, but always consult your doctor.
Supplement, supplement, supplement. Most of us suffer from “overconsumption malnutrition” — too much of the wrong things, Morris says. She takes a fistful of vitamins and minerals each morning. Even the cautious American Medical Association recently endorsed taking a daily multivitamin. In addition to the effective antioxidant vitamin C, Morris says CoQ10, vitamin E, alpha lipoic acid (another antioxidant), and perhaps some of those “mental acuity” mixtures in the health-food store should be in your medicine cabinet. Again, your doctor can help you fashion routine.
Reprogram your vision of old age. A study at Yale recently showed that those with a positive view of growing older lived seven years longer than those who griped about it. Morris works with young people and “they forget things all the time and never refer to ‘having to a junior moment.'”
Kick guilt out of your life! Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Living Your Best Life, says: “Be future-minded. Guilt and regrets are part of the past. Evolving and changing is how we stay young.”
Don’t be afraid to make a big change. Fortgang says it’s never too late to move, join the Peace Corps, change careers, get married, or get a divorce. “Don’t say you’re too old,” she says. “Sometimes [earlier] decisions need to be changed.” She and Morris also say plastic surgery can be life-enhancing if you do it to look and feel better, not to change your life overnight.
Morris also half-jokingly advises that people never retire. “Retirement is a contagious, debilitating disease.” Take some time off for a vacation and smell the roses, she advises. But don’t get so intoxicated by the roses that you don’t come back and do something useful. “Those roses could turn into daisies,” she says, “as in pushing up daisies.”
This article was originally found here: https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/features/promote-the-aging-process#2Leave a reply
The Perfect Haircut For Your Face Shape
Looking for something different to spice up your look? How about a new haircut? Trying a new haircut can be a little stressful but once you figure out what will look good with your face shape, you will be sure to find a new look that will compliment all your best features.
Discover Your Face Shape
The biggest key to flattering your face shape is to find a hairstyle that will give your face the illusion of appearing more oval. Tho start, you need to consider what your current face shape is. The best way to determine what face shape you have is to simply look in the mirror at different angles and see if your face appears to be longer, rounder, squared, or heart-shaped. The rule of thumb? If you really can’t determine which face shape you have, chances are you have a more oval face shape and you look good in most hairstyles! Focusing on a specific haircut for your face is essential when you have very dramatic facial features.
Explore New Styles
If you are ready to dive into a new style or want to try out a new take on your old style, consider adding pops of color, a little bit of extra curl, or even explore new products to give your hair some extra shine. According to House Method, there are plenty of eco-friendly products for your hair and your home.
Choose a Haircut That Compliments Your Shape
Now for the haircuts that work best with different face shapes. To start, if you have a heart-shaped face, you want to draw attention to your eyes and cheekbones. This works best with styles that include bangs or cuts that have more volumes on the side. If you have a long face, try and stick with shorter hairstyles. Keep in mind that the longer your hair is, the longer your face will look. If you have a round face, you want to try and add length to your face and the best way to do that is to explore longer hairstyles. Try and shy away from shorter cuts, as they will make your face appear more rounded. For square faces, try exploring styles that incorporate a lot of curls and texture to play down strong jaws.
Do Whatever Makes You Happy
Keep in mind that hairstyles that work for some faces may not work best for yours and vice versa. These tips are merely guidelines to help you explore new looks if there is a specific style you are dying to try out, go for it!
This article written and contributed to our blog by Delilah FarrellLeave a reply
Suites and suite franchises are promising a whole lot that they can’t deliver.
Suites are twisting a lot of facts and data with one intent … to get leases signed.
Suites use the terms “Revenue,” “Profit” and “Income” to say the same thing. These terms are NOT the same thing. Suites say, “You can keep 100% of the profit,” but they never define “profit.” Profit is what’s left after all expenses are paid. For an independent suite tenant, that’s called “Net Income.” The suites never explain that profit can be negative and that a suite tenant can keep all of that negative profit.
Suites blur the term “Income.” Are they talking “Gross Revenue” or “Net Income”? A claim that “income” went up 40% to 60% is easy to make when that “Income” really means “Gross Revenue” from service and retail sales – not net personal income.
One suite franchise spotlights one hairstylist that said he wasn’t looking to be self-employed, but when his salon owner presented him with a 150-mile radius non-compete, it left him no option. REALLY? A 150-mile non-compete for a stylist is a ridiculous statement. 15-mile? Yes. 150-mile radius? No. It would never hold up in court. It’s another bashing of a very common practice at employee-based salons.
Another suite franchise spotlights a stylist that went right from cosmetology school into a suite. She says, “Last year I made just over $100,000.” My rent is about $12,000 a year.” Wow! Sounds like a no brainer. But, “I made just over $100,000” means Gross Revenue … not Net Income. Factor in all of the other costs of doing business and self-employment taxes … and that $100,000 looks more like Net Income of $30,000 to $40,000 after taxes. Without a following, or one hell of a gift for networking and social media, making a living in a suite is a tough and lonely career path.
The suite companies and franchises are doing everything they can to roll out the red carpet to secure tenants. From custom-designed suite decor, business software and apps … to months of free rent so tenants can take a “vacation” … suites are going after established salons’ employees.
For an independent service provider, signing a multi-year lease is risky when the entire business depends on one pair of hands.
For suite owners and franchises … those multi-year leases are only as good as the ability to pay by the people that sign them. Leasing to a half-booked stylist with little to no business experience is seriously risky.
A prediction on Suites
Many predict that the suites’ promises of gold and “build your own business – not someone else’s” is going to peak and then recede. The signs are already there. Suite stylists are going to see working for a salon as the best career and income security move.
Here’s our challenge to todays Salon/Spa Owners … It’s time to rethink everything about your business. The days of building a salon/spa one column at a time are over. Today, you must grow a company … and a unique brand.
Employee-based salons/spas must become everything booth rental and suites are not. Team service must replace “I/me/mine” service. Career paths must be real and deliverable … not “some day promises.” True employee benefits like paid vacations, paid holidays, company paid advanced education, team bonus plans and more, must fill the benefit void that has existed too long.
Salon/spa compensation must evolve beyond commission, sliding scales, service charges and product-cost deductions … all of which feed independent booth rental and suite thinking and behavior.
It’s time to play a very different and more sophisticated game than the traditional salon/spa model. It’s definitely time to play a better game than the suites are playing. It’s time.
At My Hair Trip, The #1 rated organic salon in Denver we too have had our share of stylists who have had their appointment books filled by us only to try to take our clients and leave to rent suites on their own because of all of these promises the suite industry has made to them. Luckily, because of our world class service and genuine care for our clients typically not many choose to leave and it is unfortunate for the stylists who do leave. We root for our stylists while they are members of our team and we continue to root for them if they leave.Leave a reply
***We assume you already know the definition of fast fashion, but for those of you who don’t, fast fashion is a term to describe the speed at which fashion designs move from design concept to fashion product available for purchase. It is usually characterized by high volume, low margin, fast-paced, cheap and disposable items ***
14 Fashion Waste and Sustainability Facts
Fact 1: The apparel and footwear industries account for a combined estimate of 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and fashion is the third highest-polluting industry in the world.
Fact 2: A 2016 McKinsey report revealed that three-fifths of all clothing items will end up in an incinerator or landfill within a year after being produced.
Fact 3: If we keep this up, by 2050 the fashion industry could use more than 26 percent of the “carbon budget”associated with a 2o C pathway (a long-term goal to limit global warming to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels).
Fact 4: We don’t really wear our clothes. Worldwide, clothing utilization (how often we put something on) hasdecreased by 36 percent compared to 15 years ago.
Fact 5: It’s estimated that less than 1 percent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into something more. That’s about a loss of 100 billion USD worth of materials every year.
Fact 6: By 2030, it’s expected that fashion waste will increase to a 148 million ton problem.
Fact 7: According to the Global Fashion Agenda, 26 percent of business owners surveyed believe that “low consumer willingness to pay a premium for sustainable products” was the greatest barrier for them to become more sustainable.
Fact 8: …But consumer attitudes for ethical fashion are increasingly favorable. Sixty percent of millennials say they want to shop more “sustainably.”
Fact 9: Many brands are moving to more sustainable production methods. As of May 2018, 12.5 percent of the global fashion market has pledged to make changes by 2020.
Fact 10: The clothing brand Patagonia was the first to make polyester fleece out of plastic bottles.
Fact 11: Cotton, a popular material in clothing, requires high levels of water and pesticides, which cause issues in developing countries.
Fact 12: About 2,000 different chemicals are used in textile processing — yet only 16 are approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Fact 13: According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, the fashion industry produces 20 percent of global wastewater.
Fact 14: Only 15 percent of consumers recycle their used clothing.
What You Can Do To Reduce Fashion Waste
Host a Clothing Swap: Get your neighbors, coworkers, and friends to bring over clothes they’re no longer interested in wearing and do a “swap.” This helps extends the lifecycle of the clothing (and it’s fun).
Shop Smart: When you do go shopping, start at consignment and thrift stores before buying new. Find ethical and sustainable brands to support new wardrobes.
Tailor to Your Style: Focus less on what’s trending or what’s on discount. Take the time to figure out your own personal style and find clothes you’ll love to wear again and again.
Rent, Reuse, Recycle: More and more brands are moving to clothing subscriptions so you can rent new clothes rather than purchase. This allows you to change up your style without adding to the landfill.
Quality over Quantity: Downsize your wardrobe, and be sure to donate or sell the items you no longer need! Having a minimalist closet can help you focus on buying less and choosing well-made and longer-lasting clothes.!
Working conditions, wages and child labour
29. 4% of what Australians spend on clothing goes to the wages of workers in garment factories across the globe.(Oxfam 2017)
30. Over 50% of workers within the fashion industry are not paid the minimum wage in countries like India and the Philippines. (Global Fashion Agenda 2017)
31. In Pakistan’s garment sector, 87% of women are paid less than the minimum wage. (Global Fashion Agenda 2017)
32. In Australia, some garment outworkers earn as little as $7 an hour and, in some cases, as little as $4 well which is below the minimum wage of $17.49 per hour. (Choice 2014)
42. It takes about 2,720 litres of water to produce just one cotton shirt – a number equivalent to what an average person drinks over three years. (EJF)
43. It takes about 10,000 litres of water to produce enough cotton for a pair of jeans. (WRAP 2011)
44. The volume of water consumed by the global fashion industry is 79 billion cubic meters equivalent to 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools. (Global Fashion Agenda 2017)
45. Researchers anticipate the industry’s water consumption will increase by 50% by 2030 as cotton producers are located in countries suffering water stress, such as China and India. (Global Fashion Agenda 2017)
46. It takes about 170,000 litres of water to grow a kilogram of wool. (Julian Cribb ‘The Coming Famine‘ 2010)
47. Each year 1.3 trillion gallons of water is used for fabric dyeing alone. (World Resources Institute 2017).
Clean, Green, Cute: Why sustainable fashion is the future
by MacKenna Strange, Resident Creator
It’s time to get real about where our clothes come from.
The fashion industry is the third highest-polluting industry in the world and the second largest consumer of water.
20% of global industrial water pollution comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles. In China alone, the textile industry pumps out 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year.
2,000 different chemicals, including formaldehyde, chlorine, lead, and mercury are used in textile processing. Of these, over 1,600 are used in dyeing processes, but only 16 are actually EPA-approved.
The photos below depict rivers and other bodies of water polluted by these harmful chemicals in China, India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Ecuador, Brazil, and Russia. This project intends to juxtapose the bright colors in fashion with the horrifying colors of pollution, which come as a direct result of the textile industry. It’s time to start seeing the environmental and social impacts of our fashion choices. Research before you shop. Think about your fashion choices. Complicity is out of style.
Banned in Europe, Safe in the U.S.
“Who determines whether chemicals are safe — and why do different governments come up with such different answers?
June 9, 2014 — In the United States, children can drink fruit juice beverages made with Red Dye No. 40 and eat macaroni and cheese colored with Yellow Dye No. 5 and No. 6. Yet in the U.K., these artificial colorings have been taken off the market due to health concerns, while in the rest of Europe, products that contain them must carry labels warning of the dyes’ potential adverse effect on children’s attention and behavior.
Atrazine, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says is estimated to be the most heavily used herbicide in the U.S., was banned in Europe in 2003 due to concerns about its ubiquity as a water pollutant. Also widely used by U.S. farmers are several neonicotinoid pesticides that the European Commission says pose “high acute risks” to bees and has placed under a two-year moratorium. These pesticides — with which about 90 percent of the corn planted in the U.S. is treated — have been identified in numerous scientific studies as toxic to bees and are considered likely contributors to the alarming global decline of these essential pollinators.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration places no restrictions on the use of formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing ingredients in cosmetics or personal care products. Yet formaldehyde-releasing agents are banned from these products in Japan and Sweden while their levels — and that of formaldehyde — are limited elsewhere in Europe. In the U.S., Minnesota has banned in-state sales of children’s personal care products that contain the chemical.
Use of lead-based interior paints was banned in France, Belgium and Austria in 1909. Much of Europe followed suit before 1940. It took the U.S. until 1978 to make this move, even though health experts had, for decades, recognized the potentially acute — even deadly — and irreversible hazards of lead exposure.
These are but a few examples of chemical products allowed to be used in the U.S. in ways other countries have decided present unacceptable risks of harm to the environment or human health. How did this happen? Are American products less safe than others? Are Americans more at risk of exposure to hazardous chemicals than, say, Europeans?“The policy approach in the U.S. and Europe is dramatically different.” — Stacy Malkan
Not surprisingly, the answers are complex and the bottom line, far from clear-cut. One thing that is evident, however, is that “the policy approach in the U.S. and Europe is dramatically different,” says Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
An Ounce of Precaution
A key element of the European Union’s chemicals management and environmental protection policies — and one that clearly distinguishes the EU’s approach from that of the U.S. federal government — is what’s called the precautionary principle.
This principle, in the words of the European Commission, “aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative” decision-making. In other words, it says that when there is substantial, credible evidence of danger to human or environmental health, protective action should be taken despite continuing scientific uncertainty.
In contrast, the U.S. federal government’s approach to chemicals management sets a very high bar for the proof of harm that must be demonstrated before regulatory action is taken.
This is true of the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act, the federal law that regulates chemicals used commercially in the U.S. The European law regulating chemicals in commerce, known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), requires manufacturers to submit a full set of toxicity data to the European Chemical Agency before a chemical can be approved for use. U.S. federal law requires such information to be submitted for new chemicals, but leaves a huge gap in terms of what’s known about the environmental and health effects for chemicals already in use. Chemicals used in cosmetics or as food additives or pesticides are covered by other U.S. laws — but these laws, too, have high burdens for proof of harm and, like TSCA, do not incorporate a precautionary approach.
Same Study, Different Conclusions
What does this mean in practice? In the case of Red Dye No. 40, Yellow Dye No. 5 and Yellow Dye No. 6, it means that after considering the same evidence — a 2007 double-blind study by U.K. researchers that found that eating artificially colored food appeared to increase children’s hyperactivity — European and U.S. authorities reached different conclusions. In the U.K., the study persuaded authorities to bar use of these dyes as food additives. The EU chose to require warning labels on products that contain them — greatly reducing their use, according to Lisa Lefferts, senior scientist with the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. In the U.S., the study prompted the CSPI to petition the Food and Drug Administration for a ban on a number of food colorings. But in its review of these dyes, presented in 2011, the FDA found the study inconclusive because it looked at effects of a mixture of additives rather than individual colorings — and so these colors remain in use.
While FDA approval is required for food additives, the agency relies on studies performed by the companies seeking approval of chemicals they manufacture or want to use in making determinations about food additive safety, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Maricel Maffini and NRDC senior attorney Tom Neltner note in their April 2014 report, Generally Recognized as Secret. “No other developed country that we know of has a similar system in which companies can decide the safety of chemicals put directly into food,” says Maffini. The standing law that covers these substances — the 1958 Food Additives Amendment to the 1938 Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — “makes requiring testing [of chemicals] more cumbersome than under TSCA,” says Neltner.
The two point to a number of food additives allowed in the U.S. that other countries have deemed unsafe. Reliance on voluntary measures is a hallmark of the U.S. approach to chemical regulation.Among these are “dough conditioners,” additives to enhance flour’s strength or elasticity. The International Agency for Research on Cancer considers one such chemical, potassium bromate, a possible carcinogen. This has led the EU, Canada, China, Brazil and other countries to ban its use. Although the FDA limits the amount of these compounds that can be added to flour and has urged bakers to voluntarily discontinue their use, it has not banned them. Earlier this year, the sandwich chain Subway made headlines by announcing it would discontinue using the dough conditioner azodicarbonamide, which is approved by the FDA but whose breakdown products have raised health concerns.
Do-It-Yourself Decision Making
Reliance on voluntary measures is a hallmark of the U.S. approach to chemical regulation. In many cases, when it comes to eliminating toxic chemicals from U.S. consumer products, manufacturers’ and retailers’ own policies — often driven by consumer demand or by regulations outside the U.S. or at the state and local level — are moving faster than U.S. federal policy. On June 3, the California-based health-care company Kaiser Permanente announced that all its new furniture purchases — worth $30 million annually — would be free of chemical flame retardants. The same day, Panera Bread announced that the food served in its 1,800 bakery-cafés would be free of artificial additives by the end of 2016. Any number of large manufacturing companies and retailers — Nike, Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Apple and HP to name but a few — have policies barring chemicals from their products that U.S. federal law does not restrict.
This is also true of a number of cosmetic ingredients — for example, chemicals used in nail polish. After the EU banned a plasticizer called dibutyl phthalate from nail polish due to concerns over potential endocrine-disrupting and other adverse health effects in 2004, many global brands changed their ingredients. So while the FDA has not issued a regulation on its use, DBP is now found in fewer nail cosmetics sold in the U.S. In fact, the FDA actually bars only a specific handful of ingredients from cosmetics due to their toxicity.
Industry performs copious testing, but current law does not require that cosmetic ingredients be free of certain adverse health effects before they go on the market.
“Cosmetics regulations are more robust in the EU than here,” says Environmental Defense Fund health program director Sarah Vogel. U.S. regulators largely rely on industry information, she says. Industry performs copious testing, but current law does not require that cosmetic ingredients be free of certain adverse health effects before they go on the market. (FDA regulations, for example, do not specifically prohibit the use of carcinogens, mutagens or endocrine-disrupting chemicals.) So, even though the personal care products and cosmetics products industry has extensive voluntary ingredient safety guidelines — and obvious incentives to meet them — they are not legal requirements.
Warnings, Advisories and Voluntary Phase-outs
Also worth noting is that U.S. laws regulating chemical use in food and cosmetics were first developed to protect American consumers from being sold “adulterated,” mislabeled or otherwise dishonestly marketed products — rather than with an eye on toxicity (though the two goals often coincide). The law continues to work along those lines. For example, when certain hairstyling products were found to contain formaldehyde or formaldehyde-releasing agents at levels causing health problems for salon workers, the FDA issued a warning saying that the products should be labeled (either on the product container or company website) with an appropriate caveat about the products’ potential health hazards. As a result, despite ample scientific evidence about adverse respiratory health effects of formaldehyde exposure and that formaldehyde is a skin irritant and potential occupational carcinogen, these hairstyling products continue to be sold in the U.S.
The process for restricting chemical use under TSCA can also take years; in fact, only a handful of chemicals have ever been barred under TSCA.For the FDA to restrict a product or chemical ingredient from cosmetics or personal care products involves a typically long and drawn-out process. What it does more often is to issue advisories — as it has recently for the antibacterial ingredient triclosan, which is used in many soaps. In the meantime, based on growing scientific evidence of problematic health and environmental impacts — and indications that triclosan may not make hand-washing more effective — a number of manufacturers, among them Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble, decided to eliminate the ingredient from their products. This spring, Minnesota became the first state to legally restrict its use.
The process for restricting chemical use under TSCA can also take years; in fact, only a handful of chemicals have ever been barred under TSCA. Instead, the Environmental Protection Agency, which administers TSCA, often works with companies on voluntary phase-out programs — which also take years to complete — as it has with the flame retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs.
Meanwhile, U.S. companies manufacturing products that range from electronics to office products, sports gear, automobile parts and trendy clothing have been following the emerging science — along with international regulations, local policy and consumer demand — and developing policies and products that eliminate use of chemicals with well-documented hazards. While these voluntary efforts are resulting in products that contain fewer chemicals of concern, they do have limitations. One is transparency: Companies don’t always fully disclose such policy details. Another is that such policies don’t cover all products on the market, leaving many consumers — often those buying at lower prices — without comparable protection.
“It’s something in our psyche,” says John Warner, president of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry, of the American predilection for deferring to marketplace rather than government solutions.
Options and Solutions
Consumer demand and concern, often from mothers worried about the implications of certain chemicals for children’s health, has effectively pushed certain products — such as baby bottles made with bisphenol A — off the market. Such action is harder to effect with pesticides, but public outcry has been instrumental in moving the U.S. away from use of DDT and other such chemicals. Currently, public awareness of neonicotinoids’ adverse effects on bees has been raised dramatically by pollinator health advocacy campaigns. Actually shifting the agricultural market away from these products is a more difficult proposition. While the EU has promulgated policy using the precautionary principle and called a temporary halt to some of these pesticides’ use, the EPA is slowly continuing its review of these products — while at the same time approving new pesticides also toxic to bees.
When it comes to determining chemical safety of a consumer product, Warner sees fundamental flaws in the current approach.What such an approach does not include is any guarantee of safer alternatives. Neither TSCA nor FDA regulations include such provisions. Many recently passed U.S. state chemical regulations, including California’s Safer Consumer Products program, have been written to address this concern, with language specifying that replacements for restricted chemicals be without adverse environmental health effects. That U.S. federal policies do not require as much pre-market information about chemical used in consumer products as does the EU system, adds to the difficulty of choosing safer alternatives.
When it comes to determining chemical safety of a consumer product, Warner sees fundamental flaws in the current approach. Restriction of hazardous chemicals in the U.S., EU and elsewhere — and in most corporate policies — is based on lists of chemicals of concern. By focusing on these lists, explains Warner, we fail to consider those chemicals not listed, a process that leads to what’s often referred to as regrettable substitutions. Instead, Warner advocates testing whole finished products and scoring them for health effects. Does a product exhibit carcinogenicity? Is it a neurotoxicant? Does it produce birth defects or adverse hormonal effects? Answering these questions would yield safer products more efficiently and effectively than our current system, says Warner, and would yield data that could be used objectively.
The global marketplace is playing a big role in turning one jurisdiction’s more stringent standards into industry standards because it’s often too costly to make different versions of the same product for different markets.Screening methods that incorporate a comparable approach to rating chemicals’ toxicity by health endpoint, such as the non-governmental organization Clean Production Action’s GreenScreen, are now being used by many companies to assess individual chemicals. Warner argues that looking at whole finished products through this lens would help flag problematic chemicals not previously singled out for scrutiny, whether they are long-used existing compounds or brand new materials such as those he and other green chemists are now formulating.
So what’s the bottom line? Again, it’s complicated. When it comes to manufactured products such as computers and cosmetics, the global marketplace is playing a big role in turning one jurisdiction’s more stringent standards into industry standards because it’s often too costly to make different versions of the same product for different markets. Similarly, individual U.S. state policies restricting chemicals not regulated comparably at the federal level have motivated companies to respond with new formulations that end up being sold nationwide. At the same time, built into the U.S. chemical regulatory system is a large deference to industry. Central to current U.S. policy are cost-benefit analyses with very high bars for proof of harm rather than a proof of safety for entry onto the market. Voluntary measures have moved many unsafe chemical products off store shelves and out of use, but our requirements for proof of harm and the American historical political aversion to precaution mean we often wait far longer than other countries to act.
Shifting policy, particularly in a way such as Warner advocates, is perhaps an even slower proposition. But as Stacy Malkan points out, consumer demand for safe products isn’t going away any time soon.”Leave a reply
“New Lancet report demonstrates why diet and food production must radically change to improve health and avoid potentially catastrophic damage to the planet
With more than 3 billion people malnourished and food production driving climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, a transformation of the global food system is urgently needed.
Findings from the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets From Sustainable Food Systems provides the first scientific targets for a healthy diet from a sustainable food production system that operates within planetary boundaries for food. The report promotes diets consisting of a variety of plant-based foods, with low amounts of animal-based foods, refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars, and with unsaturated rather than saturated fats.
The work behind the report is the result of a collaboration between 37 experts from 16 countries with expertise in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, food systems, economics and political governance. Stockholm Resilience Centre was the scientific coordinator of the report.
Getting it seriously wrong
Human diets inextricably link health and environmental sustainability, and have the potential to nurture both. However, current diets are pushing the Earth beyond its planetary boundaries, while causing ill health. This puts both people and the planet at risk. Providing healthy diets from sustainable food systems is an immediate challenge as the population continues to grow – projected to reach 10 billion people by 2050 – and get wealthier (with the expectation of higher consumption of animal-based foods).
To meet this challenge, dietary changes must be combined with improved food production and reduced food waste. The authors stress that unprecedented global collaboration and commitment will be needed, alongside immediate changes such as refocussing agriculture to produce varied nutrient-rich crops, and increased governance of land and ocean use.
The food we eat and how we produce it determines the health of people and the planet, and we are currently getting this seriously wrong
Tim Lang, commission co-author, City, University of London, UK
Scientific targets for a healthy diet
Despite increased food production contributing to improved life expectancy and reductions in hunger, infant and child mortality rates, and global poverty over the past 50 years, these benefits are now being offset by global shifts towards unhealthy diets high in calories, sugar, refined starches and animal-based foods and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and fish.
The authors argue that the lack of scientific targets for a healthy diet have hindered efforts to transform the food system. Based on the best available evidence, the commission proposes a dietary pattern that meets nutritional requirements, promotes health, and allows the world to stay within planetary boundaries.
Compared with current diets, global adoption of the new recommendations by 2050 will require global consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar to decrease by more than 50%, while consumption of nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes must increase more than two-fold. Global targets will need to be applied locally – for example, countries in North America eat almost 6.5 times the recommended amount of red meat, while countries in South Asia eat only half the recommended amount. All countries are eating more starchy vegetables (potatoes and cassava) than recommended with intakes ranging from between 1.5 times above the recommendation in South Asia and by 7.5 times in sub-Saharan Africa.
“To be healthy, diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars. The food group intake ranges that we suggest allow flexibility to accommodate various food types, agricultural systems, cultural traditions, and individual dietary preferences – including numerous omnivore, vegetarian, and vegan diets,” says co-lead commissioner Walter Willett from Harvard University.
The authors estimate that widespread adoption of such a diet would improve intakes of most nutrients. They also modelled the potential effects of global adoption of the diet on deaths from diet-related diseases. Three models each showed major health benefits, suggesting that adopting the new diet globally could avert between 10.9-11.6 million premature deaths per year – reducing adult deaths by between 19-23.6%.
Since the mid-1950s, the pace and scale of environmental change has grown exponentially. Food production is the largest source of environmental degradation. To be sustainable, food production must occur within food-related planetary boundaries for climate change, biodiversity loss, land and water use, as well as for nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. However, production must also be sustainably intensified to meet the global population’s growing food demands.
”The shift towards sustainable food production will require decarbonising agricultural production by eliminating the use of fossil fuels and turn land use into a net carbon sink. In addition, we need to safeguard existing biodiversity, have no net expansion of cropland, and develop drastic improvements in fertiliser and water use efficiencies,” says commission co-author Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
The authors estimate the minimum, unavoidable emissions of greenhouse gases if we are to provide healthy food for 10 billion people by 2050. They conclude that non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions of methane and nitrous oxide will remain between 4.7-5.4 gigatonnes in 2050, with current emissions already at an estimated 5.2 gigatonnes in 2010. This suggests that the decarbonisation of the world energy system must progress faster than anticipated, to accommodate the need to healthily feed humans without further damaging the planet.
Phosphorus use must also be reduced (from 17.9 to between 6-16 teragrams), as must biodiversity loss (from 100 to between 1-80 extinctions per million species each year).
Based on their estimates, current levels of nitrogen, land and water use may be within the projected 2050 boundary (from 131.8 teragrams in 2010 to between 65-140 in 2050, from 12.6 M km2 in 2010 vs 11-15 M km2 in 2050, and from 1.8 M km3 in 2010 vs 1-4 M km3, respectively) but will require continued efforts to sustain this level. The boundary estimates are subject to uncertainty, and will require continuous update and refinement.
Using these boundary targets, the authors modelled various scenarios to develop a sustainable food system and deliver healthy diets by 2050. To stay within planetary boundaries, a combination of major dietary change, improved food production through enhanced agriculture and technology changes, and reduced food waste during production and at the point of consumption will be needed, and no single measure is enough to stay within all of the limits.
There is no silver bullet for combatting harmful food production practices, but by defining and quantifying a safe operating space for food systems, diets can be identified that will nurture human health and support environmental sustainability
Johan Rockström, co-lead commissioner, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
Five strategies for change
The commission proposes five strategies to adjust what people eat and how it is produced:
1. Encourage people to choose healthier diets by improving availability and accessibility to healthy food. As this may increase costs to consumers, social protection for vulnerable groups may be required to avoid continued poor nutrition in low-income groups
2. Refocus agriculture from producing high volumes of crops to producing varied nutrient-rich ones. Global agriculture policies should incentivise producers to grow nutritious, plant-based foods, develop programmes that support diverse production systems, and increase research funding for ways to increase nutrition and sustainability
3. Sustainably intensify agriculture while taking into account local conditions to help apply appropriate agricultural practices and generate sustainable, high quality crops
4. Preserve natural ecosystems and ensure continued food supplies. This could be achieved through protecting intact natural areas on land (potentially through incentives), prohibiting land clearing, restoring degraded land, removing harmful fishing subsidies, and closing at least 10% of marine areas to fishing (including the high seas to create fish banks). “In fact, improved capture fisheries governance and reduced aquaculture footprints will be key in determining whether we succeed in maintaining seafood as a component of a healthy diet in the future”, says Beatrice Crona, report co-author, centre researcher and executive director of the GEDB programme at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
5. Half food waste. The majority of food waste occurs in low- and middle-income countries during food production due to poor harvest planning, lack of access to markets preventing produce from being sold, and lack of infrastructure to store and process foods. Improved investment in technology and education for farmers is needed. But food waste is also an issue in high-income countries, where it is primarily caused by consumers. This can be resolved through campaigns to improve shopping habits, help understand ‘best before’ and ‘use by’ dates, and improve food storage, preparation, portion sizes and use of leftovers.
Richard Horton, editor-in-chief at The Lancet, concludes:
“The transformation that the commission calls for is not superficial or simple, and requires a focus on complex systems, incentives, and regulations, with communities and governments at multiple levels having a part to play in redefining how we eat. Our connection with nature holds the answer, and if we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance of the planet’s resources will be restored.””
This informative article was found at: stockholmresilience.org/research/research-news/2019-01-17-the-planetary-health-diet.htmlLeave a reply
Green catalysts with Earth-abundant metals accelerate production of bio-based plastic
How crystalline structure can affect the performance of MnO2 catalysts
Date:January 7, 2019
Tokyo Institute of Technology
Scientists have developed and analyzed a novel catalyst for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, which is crucial for generating new raw materials that replace the classic non-renewable ones used for making many plastics.
Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have developed and analyzed a novel catalyst for the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural, which is crucial for generating new raw materials that replace the classic non-renewable ones used for making many plastics.
It should be no surprise to most readers that finding an alternative to non-renewable natural resources is a key topic in current research. Some of the raw materials required for manufacturing many of today’s plastics involve non-renewable fossil resources, coal, and natural gas, and a lot of effort has been devoted to finding sustainable alternatives. 2,5-Furandicarboxylic acid (FDCA) is an attractive raw material that can be used to create polyethylene furanoate, which is a bio-polyester with many applications.
One way of making FDCA is through the oxidation of 5-hydroxymethyl furfural (HMF), a compound that can be synthesized from cellulose. However, the necessary oxidation reactions require the presence of a catalyst, which helps in the intermediate steps of the reaction so that the final product can be achieved.
Many of the catalysts studied for use in the oxidation of HMF involve precious metals; this is clearly a drawback because these metals are not widely available. Other researchers have found out that manganese oxides combined with certain metals (such as iron and copper) can be used as catalysts. Although this is a step in the right direction, an even greater finding has been reported by a team of scientists from Tokyo Tech: manganese dioxide (MnO2) can be used by itself as an effective catalyst if the crystals made with it have the appropriate structure.
The team, which includes Associate Professor Keigo Kamata and Professor Michikazu Hara, worked to determine which MnO2 crystal structure would have the best catalytic activity for making FDCA and why. They inferred through computational analyses and the available theory that the structure of the crystals was crucial because of the steps involved in the oxidation of HMF. First, MnO2 transfers a certain amount of oxygen atoms to the substrate (HMF or other by-products) and becomes MnO2-δ. Then, because the reaction is carried out under an oxygen atmosphere, MnO2-δ quickly oxidizes and becomes MnO2 again. The energy required for this process is related to the energy required for the formation of oxygen vacancies, which varies greatly with the crystal structure. In fact, the team calculated that active oxygen sites had a lower (and thus better) vacancy formation energy.
To verify this, they synthesized various types of MnO2 crystals and then compared their performance through numerous analyses. Of these crystals, β-MnO2 was the most promising because of its active planar oxygen sites. Not only was its vacancy formation energy lower than that of other structures, but the material itself was proven to be very stable even after being used for oxidation reactions on HMF.
The team did not stop there, though, as they proposed a new synthesis method to yield highly pure β-MnO2 with a large surface area in order to improve the FDCA yield and accelerate the oxidation process even further. “The synthesis of high-surface-area β-MnO2 is a promising strategy for the highly efficient oxidation of HMF with MnO2 catalysts,” states Kamata.
With the methodological approach taken by the team, the future development of MnO2 catalysts has been kick-started. “Further functionalization of β-MnO2 will open up a new avenue for the development of highly efficient catalysts for the oxidation of various biomass-derived compounds,” concludes Hara. Researches such as this one ensure that renewable raw materials will be available to humankind to avoid all types of shortage crises.
Materials provided by Tokyo Institute of Technology. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Eri Hayashi, Yui Yamaguchi, Keigo Kamata, Naoki Tsunoda, Yu Kumagai, Fumiyasu Oba, Michikazu Hara. Effect of MnO2 Crystal Structure on Aerobic Oxidation of 5-Hydroxymethylfurfural to 2,5-Furandicarboxylic Acid. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2019; DOI: 10.1021/jacs.8b09917
Tokyo Institute of Technology. “Green catalysts with Earth-abundant metals accelerate production of bio-based plastic: How crystalline structure can affect the performance of MnO2 catalysts.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2019.
According to FAO estimates, by 2025 nearly 2 billion people may not have enough drinking water to satisfy their daily needs. One of the possible solutions to this problem is desalination, namely treating seawater to make it drinkable. However, removing salt from seawater requires 10 to 1000 times more energy than traditional methods of freshwater supply, namely pumping water from rivers or wells.
Motivated by this problem, a team of engineers from the Department of Energy of Politecnico di Torino has devised a new prototype to desalinate seawater in a sustainable and low-cost way, using solar energy more efficiently. Compared to previous solutions, the developed technology is in fact able to double the amount of water produced at given solar energy, and it may be subject to further efficiency improvement in the near future. The group of young researchers who recently published these results in the journal Nature Sustainability is composed of Eliodoro Chiavazzo, Matteo Morciano, Francesca Viglino, Matteo Fasano and Pietro Asinari (Multi-Scale Modeling Lab).
The working principle of the proposed technology is very simple: “Inspired by plants, which transport water from roots to leaves by capillarity and transpiration, our floating device is able to collect seawater using a low-cost porous material, thus avoiding the use of expensive and cumbersome pumps. The collected seawater is then heated up by solar energy, which sustains the separation of salt from the evaporating water. This process can be facilitated by membranes inserted between contaminated and drinking water to avoid their mixing, similarly to some plants able to survive in marine environments (for example the mangroves),” explain Matteo Fasano and Matteo Morciano.
While conventional ‘active’ desalination technologies need costly mechanical or electrical components (such as pumps and/or control systems) and require specialized technicians for installation and maintenance, the desalination approach proposed by the team at Politecnico di Torino is based on spontaneous processes occurring without the aid of ancillary machinery and can, therefore, be referred to as ‘passive’ technology. All this makes the device inherently inexpensive and simple to install and repair. The latter features are particularly attractive in coastal regions that are suffering from a chronic shortage of drinking water and are not yet reached by centralized infrastructures and investments.
Up to now, a well-known disadvantage of ‘passive’ technologies for desalination has been the low energy efficiency as compared to ‘active’ ones. Researchers at Politecnico di Torino have faced this obstacle with creativity: “While previous studies focused on how to maximize the solar energy absorption, we have shifted the attention to a more efficient management of the absorbed solar thermal energy. In this way, we have been able to reach record values of productivity up to 20 litres per day of drinking water per square meter exposed to the Sun. The reason behind the performance increase is the ‘recycling’ of solar heat in several cascade evaporation processes, in line with the philosophy of ‘doing more, with less’. Technologies based on this process are typically called ‘multi-effect’, and here we provide the first evidence that this strategy can be very effective for ‘passive’ desalination technologies as well.”
After developing the prototype for more than two years and testing it directly in the Ligurian sea (Varazze, Italy), the Politecnico’s engineers claim that this technology could have an impact in isolated coastal locations with little drinking water but abundant solar energy, especially in developing countries. Furthermore, the technology is particularly suitable for providing safe and low-cost drinking water in emergency conditions, for example in areas hit by floods or tsunamis and left isolated for days or weeks from electricity grid and aqueduct. A further application envisioned for this technology are floating gardens for food production, an interesting option especially in overpopulated areas. The researchers, who continue to work on this issue within the Clean Water Center at Politecnico di Torino, are now looking for possible industrial partners to make the prototype more durable, scalable and versatile. For example, engineered versions of the device could be employed in coastal areas where over-exploitation of groundwater causes the intrusion of saline water into freshwater aquifers (a particularly serious problem in some areas of Southern Italy), or could treat waters polluted by industrial or mining plants.
Materials provided by Politecnico di Torino. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Eliodoro Chiavazzo, Matteo Morciano, Francesca Viglino, Matteo Fasano, Pietro Asinari. Passive solar high-yield seawater desalination by modular and low-cost distillation. Nature Sustainability, 2018; 1 (12): 763 DOI: 10.1038/s41893-018-0186-x
Cite This Page:
Politecnico di Torino. “Seawater turns into freshwater through solar energy: A new low-cost technology.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 January 2019.
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Recycling In Colorado Just Got Harder Thanks To New Restrictions From China – (A Better Title Would Be “Wishcylcing”)
As a state, Colorado hasn’t been the greatest recycler. New restrictions imposed by China on contamination levels, mixed paper and plastics aren’t making things any easier.
China used to be the leading re-manufacturer of recyclable material, and took in over half of America’s recycling. These new restrictions are not something the industry can easily rebound from. West Coast states that heavily rely on exporting their recyclables to China have even resorted to landfilling their materials. Colorado isn’t at that level yet, but the ripples of China’s decision are being felt around the state.
Alpine Waste & Recycling is responsible for collecting the recyclables for the entire city of Denver. Brent Hildebrand, Alpine’s vice president of recycling, said they were shipping about 40 percent of their materials to foreign markets — the bulk going to China. So the new restrictions presented some challenges for Alpine.
“We had to add some more labor to the system to help sort better and get some of the contaminants out of the stream,” Hildebrand said. “But then on top of that we had to slow down the system so the people could see the materials a little easier.”
The new limit on recycling contaminants set by China is no more than 0.5 percent.
Since January, Alpine has increased its workforce by 15 percent to keep up with the 0.5 percent contamination limit. Hildebrand said they’re still sending as much recycling as they can to China, but they’ve had to find new buyers in other countries to supplement.
Brent Hildebrand, Vice President of Recycling for Alpine Waste and Recycling, June 19, 2018.
Xandra McMahon/CPR News
China is cracking down partly because American material recovery facilities have gotten a little lax about how much contamination goes into the recycling, said Wolf Kray with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. For example, anytime a stray red Solo cup ended up in a bale of mixed paper, the materials were contaminated.
“Because the markets have been so high and there’s been such a demand from China,” Kray said. “We haven’t done the best job necessarily as far as limiting the waste that’s gone into the recycling stream.”
And that “we” includes not just the processing facilities but also anyone who might not be recycling in the most diligent way. Colorado has a problem with what the industry likes to call “wishcycling.” Since there’s no set standard, Kray said it can be tricky to know what each program does and does not accept. “It varies even in the metro area,” he said.
Things We Shouldn’t Be Tossing In Our Purple Bins… But Probably Are*
Crinkly Plastic Cups (Red Solo Cups)
Food Take Out Containers
Plastic Film Wrap (Saran Wrap)
Scrap Metal (Broken Utensils, Old Cookie Sheets)
Plastic Grocery Bags
*Recyclables vary by collector statewide. Be sure to check with your local operator for acceptable items.
“There’s a lot of wishful recycling that goes on where people assume that if it’s got the recycling arrows on it that means it’s automatically a recyclable material and that’s certainly not the case,” Kray pointed out.
Even if the recognizable arrows are there, it doesn’t mean a facility can process or re-sell it. Some things recyclers get are not as questionable. At the Boulder County Recycling Center, conservation manager Darla Arians pointed out every time a shocking object came down the conveyor belt where workers were sorting.
“You can see that huge piece of metal he just pulled out!” she exclaimed. “That would destroy our OCC screen — our cardboard screen — which is the first piece of equipment that the material hits. If that had gone past him, the facility would have to shut down.”
Another way Alpine and other haulers across the state are handling these changes? They’re shipping material to Boulder County. Boulder has become a popular spot thanks to a new plastic sorting machine and the facility’s reliance on American buyers. They’ve been able to save more money than other recyclers around the state, putting Boulder in a position where they can help other haulers.
“Our inbound tonnage has gone up around 1,500 to 2,000 tons per month from other MRFs and haulers in the region because our gate fees are lower here than they are elsewhere,” she said.
In a millisecond, Boulder’s plastic sorting machine is able to tell the difference between a milk jug and a shampoo bottle using infrared detection. It then uses its 100-horse power air jet to shoot the material into the right container. The machine sorts more efficiently than any person, and Arians said a few are considering “this type of equipment, and with the new restrictions from China, they pretty much have to in order to keep up.”
Boulder County’s Conservation Manager Darla Arians inside the county’s recycling center, June 22, 2018.
Xandra McMahon/CPR News
Ninety-eight percent of Boulder’s material goes to American buyers for remanufacturing. Even with Boulder taking other counties’ materials, many are still scrambling to find new markets for a lot of it.
“You have essentially this big buildup of all the recyclables that are still getting collected and stored at recycling centers that need to go somewhere,” CDPHE’s Wolf Kray said. “So, because there’s more generation, essentially it’s devaluing the prices so that’s tough for the recyclers who aren’t making as much money on the actual end products when they sell them.”
Market values for recycled paper, plastics, aluminum, etc. have plummeted since restrictions went into place. That affects all recyclers, even ones like Boulder County that export very little because they sell most of their material stateside.
“If we get to the point where we’re getting a zero dollar or we were gonna be charged for a particular type of material, then we will hold on to it for 30 days and see what sort of pricing we can get in the next month,” Arians said.
For Kray, the solution lies in developing and bolstering domestic markets for recyclables. To that end, CDPHE offers grants to organizations to help develop recycling infrastructure in the state. In 2017, the program handed out 22 grants that went as high as $400,000. An Iowa company called Rewall that buys waste and turns it into building material is expanding to Colorado with the help of the grant program.
Another solution Kray mentioned has to do with the three R’s everyone learned in elementary school — reduce, reuse and recycle. Kray said there should be more emphasis on the first two and less reliance on the third.
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