There’s cash in your trash! Recycling in the 21st Century


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Picture of a Caterpillar 826C landfill compact...

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Do you realize there is some serious cash in your trash?  Before you go digging into last night’s leftovers and this morning’s coffee grinds, take a closer look at the much bigger picture.

Futurists say that we’ll be employing Landfill Divers soon…divers that go into landfills and sift through years of trash, to find and retrieve recyclables.  Why?  Because recyclable materials are not garbage, they don’t belong in a landfill.  Because the laws will dictate that we recycle just about everything.  And, because there will be a viable market for all types of materials.

Does this give us license to add to the landfills?  No, but it does give us a snapshot of just how valuable our trash can be, now and in the future.

Renee Goodnight, Community Outreach Coordinator for Kannapolis, explained it well when she said, “Throwing recyclable materials into the landfill is like digging a whole and putting money in it!  Recyclable materials are valuable resources and we must start thinking about recyclables differently from our common garbage”.

Locator Map of Cabarrus County, North Carolina...

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Starting next month, 2 neighboring small towns, Kannapolis, NC and Concord, NC are both moving into the 21st century of recycling with new, improved curbside pick up programs.  Both cities will start accepting commingled materials, so there is no sorting involved.  They accept all recyclable items, meaning everything that there is a market for is picked up and reused by somebody, for some purpose.  You can mix your glass, plastic #1-#7’s, paper and even empty aerosol cans together.

The cities estimate that 50% of our currently generated waste will now be recycled!  That is a large step in the right direction, especially considering that one of these towns had NO curbside recycling program in place at all.  People here and all over the globe are going from never recycling to this advanced curbside program, ours comes complete with 96-gallon rolling cartons.  I’m sure you know people who never recycle…because of the inconvenience of sorting and bagging and taking them to their local facility, and who can blame them?  It’s a task not many are willing to add to their busy “TO DO” list.  With the 21st Century recycling programs, automated trucks and manufactured sorting, half of our daily waste will be diverted from the landfill – hallelujah!  That is serious progress in one large step and should give us all hope for the future of our garbage.

There are many other programs across the world, and the industry is evolving rapidly.  Here is another article from The Brink Tank on “Cash in your Trash” that speaks to the same issue, a goldmine of garbage…and an investment in our future!


Do you have to pay to recycle?

Many folks ask, “Why don’t they PAY US to take our recyclables?”  It’s a fair question, and the answer is found within the confines of franchise agreements, contract negotiations and landfill access.  Some recovery facilities pay for the materials, while others pay nothing.  Sonoco will be paying Concord and Kannapolis for their materials, helping to fund the programs.  Up to now, however, our recycling facility in Mecklenburg County would take your recyclables but did not provide any compensation for them.

Check out their website, Sonoco Recycling is a world leader in recycling, collecting 3.5 million tons of paper, plastic, metal and other materials annually. Their history started in the 1920’s and they currently operate more than 40 recycling facilities.

In Kannapolis, where there are no landfills, residents will pay $3.20 per month for the convenience of curbside services.  The City of Kannapolis pays tipping fees on top of the state taxes to dump all solid waste.  Therefore, the more you recycle in your new bin, the less landfill waste is generated and the more money the city saves at the dump.

One of Dryden, Ontario's Landfill's. This one ...

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All of our recycling efforts go right to the bottom line, so try to fully participate in your local program, regardless of how far it’s come.   It is estimated by the City of Kannapolis that if only 20% of it’s residents participate, it will result in $130,000 less landfill dumping fees.  Kannapolis has a population of less than 50,000 so imagine the possibilites…and do the math.  It’s easy to see that recycling by all of us really does add up to serious cash flow!

We should all be inspired to recycle, as often as we can and as much as we can!  Not only does recycling help our local government budgets, but it also creates jobs for our local, state and regional, even national market.  Now that we’ve arrived full force into the 21st Century, let’s take advantage of the technology at hand.  You can be proud to watch the cash from your trash add up all year.

Celebrate Earth Day 2011


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"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...

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Today, April 22nd we celebrate Earth Day, an international holiday event.  This year marks the 31st year, as Earth Day was started in 1970.  Events are being held all over the world that promote awareness of the planet’s biggest needs, and to help show our appreciation for our natural environment and it’s resources.

Earth Day 2011 is themed A BILLION ACTS OF GREEN: Help save the planet, one act at a time, declare your act of green.  A billion sure seems like a lot…but it’s really about a billion people, doing their part with small steps.  We all have a stake in the earth, we all have the shared responsibility of caring for it.

The Earth Day Network invites you to declare an act of green on their Facebook page. To date, over 100 million simple Acts of Green have been declared: I will plant an herb garden, recycle all my electronics (responsibly), stop drinking and eating out of plastic, hang more laundry out to dry, shop weekly at the farmer’s market for fresh and local produce, etc. — the list of simple steps we can each take is abundant…easy…and affordable!

Get outside on Earth Day: All 394 U.S. National Parks have free admission now through Sunday April 24th. (NOTE: Many of our National Parks never charge an entrance fee but the 100+ that do will let you visit for free this week).

In our celebration of Earth Day this year, Melinda Anderson and I are attending the Greening Up The Mountains festival in Sylva, N.C., Saturday April 23rd, from 10:00am – 4:00pm.

We will be on hand to autograph our book, which is on SALE for only $5.00 on CD, look for us and learn how to Think Outside The Bin:  Discard your common household items…Help your neighbor, help your earth.

Vendors at the festival will include local artisans, community organizations, children’s activities, environmental education groups, Catch the Spirit of Appalachia’s youth talent contest and food vendors.

This year’s festival has three main focuses: environmental sustainability,importance of a strong local economy, and revival of native and heritage crafts and traditions. Stop by and see us in the Chartreuse Booth, C4.

Happy Earth Day…today and everyday!!

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Easy ways to save money, go green, help the planet


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There is a myth that “going green” costs more, when in fact it can be just the opposite.Hand holding a fan of dollars

Here are my “Great Eight”, 8 simple and easy ways you can save money, save resources and help the planet be healthier:

1.  Save 25% of your copier ink or toner simply by downloading the free “Eco-Font”. When you make the font super large, you can see why, there are holes in each letter but at a small scale you can’t tell. Genius!  Download it today at


2.  Aerators. Those little tiny screens on your water faucets. You can replace them with (cheap) low flow aerators; you won’t be able to tell the difference, but you’ll save hundreds of gallons each year. Saves you money and saves the water supply too. Just take yours off and visit a home improvement store to replace them. Small step, but big savings!

Aerators for faucets

3.  Use less (or no!) paper towels and napkins: buy reusable paper(less) towels, they work like a sponge and take the place of your paper towels for many jobs. Throw them in dishwasher to clean and disinfect. Each towel lasts longer than 15 rolls of paper towels.  That adds up to a lot of savings!  Also, instead of paper napkins, use linen napkins.  They feel nice, your family will feel pampered…and they can often be used for 2-3 meals before washing. Inhabitat reports that we could save enough trees to cover Alaska if 1 in 4 Americans quit using paper towels, read more here.

Skoy Paperless Towels

4.  The average elementary student throws away their weight in plastic bags and food packaging each year if they take their lunch. Save the cost of sandwich and snack baggies by using better choices…stainless steel containers or reusable sandwich bags.  If you insist on using plastic, at least verify that it is BPA-free plastic and never microwave it.  But please remember plastic comes from oil, and when we one day hopefully reduce our dependency on oil, now there’s some real savings!!

5.  The term “Phanom Energy” reminds me a Scooby Doo episode. But it brings up an easy way to save money, just unplug small appliances when you are done using them, like hair dryers, coffee pots, toasters, razors. Not only will you save electricity (even when they are off, a plugged-in appliance uses ‘phantom’ power), it will make the appliance last longer. Double savings, just pull the plug every day!  According to, phantom energy could be “haunting” your house:

6.  Take a large rock or brick, or use a 1-liter empty plastic bottle full of water, and put it in the toilet tank after you flush it and before the water fills back up the tank.  The brick or bottle simply consumes space in the tank, so it saves the equivalent volume of water with every flush.  No more cash down the toilet…

7.  Put an insulation blanket around your water heater, it’s an easy and inexpensive way to reduce energy and save money, paying for itself in just a few months.  The insulation will reduce the amount of heat lost through the tank’s walls by 25-45 percent.

8.  Baby proof!  Just add childsafe plugs to all your wall outlets along outer walls, it is a cheap and easy insulator and also helps when the babes come to visit!

Plastic bags are an unnecessary evil


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Bag ladies have reused bags for centuries, and they have the right idea:  Reduce your use of plastic and Reuse the existing bags you have handy…over and over and over.

If you NEED bags, you can check with a bag lady…or, better yet, check out my website at for fashionable, strong and affordable grocery bags and perky produce bags, too!Reusable Shopping Bags by EnvBags

Why do we need to worry with reusable bags?

In the United States we use enough plastic shopping bags annually to consume about 12 million barrels of oil for their production.  To further the problem, less than 4% of these plastic bags are recycled!  They pollute our country and leave toxins on land and on sea…and they are an UNNECESSARY EVIL!

Good news is on the horizon…take a look at what’s happening around the globe!

When Washington, D.C. implemented a 5 cent tax on plastic bags in early 2010, a massive shift in habits happened immediately.  They dropped in the first month from 22 million to only 3 million plastic bags used.  Read more…Plastic Bags in DC

In Texas, some teenagers who are determined to eliminate plastic bags in their small town rounded up 5,000 cloth bags to hand out to local residents for free, in hopes of “bagging” the plastic in Coppell, Texas…and eventually around the globe!  Read more…

Ireland starting charging 15 cents a bag in 2002…China joined in 2008…Italy banned the bags last month, joining Mexico City.  Other US cities have followed suit, including Brownsville, Texas, Edmonds, Washington and Westport, Connecticut.  Read more from Do Your Part on other cities joining in the ban…

LA River with plastic garbage



From, they cut right to the problem:  Plastic Pollutes!

•     Plastic fragments contaminate even the most remote locations on earth. Plastics leach toxic chemicals, which are now being found in human tissue.  Over 80% of the pollution in the ocean is plastic.

•    Plastic pollution harms people, animals, and the environment. Plastic never biodegrades, it just breaks down (eventually) into smaller particles.  Wildlife eat these small pieces and voila’ ~ it’s now entered into our food chain.  As if our food wasn’t contaminated enough by the U.S. manufacturing methods, let’s add some plastic toxins to the stomach stew!

•    Consumption of throwaway plastics, such as bottles, containers, bags, and packaging, has spiraled out of control.   We are a society who wants convenience.  Convenience comes at a high price.  Were the old fashioned ways really too much work?

•    Recycling is not a sustainable solution. Most of our plastic waste is landfilled, downcycled or exported to other countries.  We need to discover new ways to design plastic without toxins…recover plastics without tremendous energy use…and find disposal techniques that make sense and can be sustainable.

•    Plastic pollution is the visible symbol of our global crisis of over-consumption. Once we all begin embracing a culture of sustainability, we can save money, time, toxins…and save the planet at the same time!  Baby steps are where you start.  Change takes time, but only after the wheels start turning…

•    Our health, our children, and the survival of future generations depend on us. Save our Shores has volunteers cleaning up beaches and rivers…take a look at the typical plastic trash they pick up in the image above.  We should be ashamed, just as our children will be if we don’t make changes now.

Ed Begley, Jr. thanked us for Think Outside The Bin!


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Ed Begley, Jr. (compliments of flickr)Ed Begley, Jr is a Hollywood Actor, but more importantly a 30-year Environmental veteran and activist.  He has written a book, “Living with Ed” and had his own TV show on Planet Green cable network.  He is an inspiration in many ways, he even powers his toaster with an exercise bike!

We are honored to have had Ed Begley, Jr. look at our book and respond to us by email…after confirming it just wasn’t his assistant, he agreed to let us use his quote!

Here is what Ed Begley, Jr. had to say about Think Outside The Bin:

“This is a fantastic resource! It’s important to regularly purge yourself of all the excess “stuff” that we all accumulate, but where does it all go? Thank you for giving us all some guidance with these important matters.”

Check out his website at and tell him Tracy and Melinda sent you!!Tracy Himes and Melinda Anderson at Shem Creek, SC

January is Get Organized month~Think Outside the Bin!


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January is Get Organized Month, so you probably need help figuring out what to do with all your items you’re ready to part with…

You can get our new Electronic Recycling Guide, Think Outside The Bin, absolutely FREE with your blog subscription, just in time for Get Organized Month!

Think Outside the Bin offers tons of resources to help you get organized in every room of the house, from trophies and cages, to shoes and clothing, even eyeglasses and dentures.  When you clear the clutter and “Socially Recycle” your unwanted items, your home gets organized and big-hearted organizations get much needed items to support their cause.

Offer Expires January 31st, 2011 so sign up now!  It’s easy –


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