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Waste Reduction Strategies

One of the benefits of competing in the Pittsburgh Green Workplace Challenge is the informative workshops that are offered to participants.  The workshops are focused on helping participants learn new sustainable solutions, network with like-minded people, and connect with those who can help implement the solutions.

A couple of weeks ago, Sara Thompson, Pashek’s Sustainability Coordinator, attended a workshop on Waste Reduction Strategies.  Waste reduction is important because Americans produce 250 million tons of trash in a year, but only recycle or compost 34 % or 85 million tons.  This means that 164.8million tons are discarded in landfills or incinerated.  Considering that these numbers do not even include industrial, hazardous, or construction waste, imagine how much waste we could actually be diverting from landfills and incinerators.  Click here for more waste and recycling stats for 2010 form the EPA.
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Carla Castagnero, President of Agrecycle, explained how her company recycles and reuses natural materials to enhance soils and foster plant growth using composting techniques.  Did you know that about 60% of what we throw away is organic and can be composted?  Agrecycle picks up organic materials, such as paper products, cardboard, and food scraps from offices, restaurants, cafeterias, and grocery stores and turns it into compost using 100% natural methods.  Their compost products are used as soil amendments for everything from growing edible and ornamental plants to preventing drought and soil erosion and even remediating brownfield sites.
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Kurt Duska of EngineeredPlastics Inc. described how his company recycles one million pounds of mostly pre-consumer plastic products a month into new plastic products.  Kurt mentioned that every one ton of plastic recycled diverts 16.3 barrels of oil.  That means that Engineered Plastics is diverting 8,150 barrels of oil every month.
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According to Ned Eldridge of eLoop, electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream in the world.  The pace of new technologies is outpacing the sustainable and ethical disposal of old technologies.  eLoop recycles anything with a cord on it in addition to wireless electrics from calculators to cell phones.
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The PennsylvaniaResources Council (PRC) works as a state and national leader in waste reduction and recycling as well as litter and visual blight prevention, watershed awareness, and composting.  Kyle Winkler, an Environmental Program Coordinator for the PRC, talked about the Zero Waste Pittsburgh program or ZIP.   ZIP was created as a one stop shop for recycling and waste minimization resources and assistance for businesses, institutions, and special events.  Your company, organization, or even special event can become ZIP Certified.  To learn more, check out www.zerowastepgh.org.

We want to also give a shout out to Breen Masciotra, the director of PittsburghCenter for Creative Reuse, who attended the workshop as a participant.  The PCCR promotes resource conservation, creativity, and community engagement through material reuse.  PCCR provides creative reuse programs and their store is a great low-cost resource for teachers, artists, and others seeking unique materials for their creative projects.

Pashek Associates will look to see if Agrecycle can help us recycle our organic wastes, will look into ethically recycling our spent electronic equipment with companies like eLoop, will consider Global Links as another potential resource for donating our used office furniture, and is currently looking into ZIP Certification with the PRC.  In addition, we will now think twice about throwing away product samples since the PCCR accepts donations of architectural and design samples.  We will keep you posted on our progress towards becoming a more sustainable business.

Click here for more information on upcoming workshops or the Green Workplace Challenge.

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