ReThink Holiday Waste
The Burbank Recycle Center and Landfill see a huge increase in discarded material during the holidayseason. Recycling is great, but prevention is even better. This year, try creating less waste with these
festive holiday tips.
Hosting a party?
• Email invitations and holiday greetings. Holiday cards rarely contain recycled paper and increasingly include difficult to recycle materials, such as glitter and batteries.
• Encourage carpooling.
• Rent or borrow – don’t buy – holiday furnishings, or repurpose what you already have.
• Switch to efficient LED lights. They last longer and create less waste.
• Opt for reusables:
• Wash dishes instead of disposing. Real dishes feel more elegant — your guests will appreciate it! Borrow place settings from friends and family when needed.
• If you don’t have enough cloth napkins, make more by cutting up an old, holiday-themed tablecloth.
• Reusable not an option? Uncoated paper plates compost easily in home compost bin.
• Use smaller plates to discourage food waste — guests are less likely to take more than they will eat.
• Clearly mark recycling bins and place them by every trash can. Use signs so guests know what is recyclable.
• Avoid burning candles unless they are eco-friendly or use essential oils.
• Set out pitchers of water and glasses instead of bottled water. Afterwards, use leftover water for plants or pet bowls.
• Provide a way for guests to initial and reuse their cups throughout the party.
• Buy food with less packaging and use food trimmings for soup stock or table decorations.
• Share leftovers. Divide unserved food into containers and send it home with guests. Ask guests
to bring their own take-home containers to fill after the meal.
Gift ideas with less waste
• Give experiences, such as theater tickets, a zoo membership, guitar lessons, cooking classes, or a kayak tour of the Los Angeles River.
• Consider personal coupons for doing the dishes, walking the dog, a home cooked meal, babysitting, or hugs and kisses.
• Avoid plastic gift cards, which are made from PVC plastic and not recyclable. A digital gift card can be printed or delivered via email or app.
• For those who have everything, donate something in their name: plant a tree or gift a farm animal to a family that needs food and income.
ReThinking Gift Cards
Gift cards are everywhere—filling holiday stockings, on kiosks at the grocery store, and cluttering your wallet. We have all purchased gift cards because they seem more personal than cash, leave the choice open to the recipient, evade disappointment, and eliminate time-consuming returns. In fact, in 2015, the National Retail Federation found that gift cards topped gift lists for the ninth year in a row.
Unfortunately, gift cards aren’t recyclable. According to Earth911, more than 75 million pounds of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), the plastic used to make the cards, end up in landfills nationwide each year.
Rethink gift cards this year and consider giving digital, or e-gift, cards instead. Digital gift cards can be printed and presented just as you would a plastic gift card or delivered via email or app. Printed gift cards are simple to recycle, and those delivered online create no paper waste at all. Some companies offer a biodegradable pulp card, but, then again, cash is a welcome gift that is “reused” over and over!
Foam for the Holidays
Chances are, many gifts under the tree will be nestled in polystyrene foam packaging. In Burbank, expanded polystyrene (often referred to as EPS or Styrofoam™) is not allowed in your curbside recycling carts or accepted at the Burbank Recycle Center.
Why is that? In spite of all the recyclability claims, foam packaging was engineered for cheap disposability, not recycling. With municipal curbside recycling, packer trucks break foam into small, statically-charged pieces that scatter, sticking to carts, falling onto streets, and blowing into storm drains. The foam blocks that survive in the packer trucks can be broken as the truck unloads and large front loaders push tons of materials into piles or, later, when spinning screens knock it around. Ultimately much of the EPS that is wrongly tossed into curbside recycling carts ends up mixed with other materials where it is a contaminant. And what about those EPS holiday party plates, clamshells, cups, or bowls? Sadly, these too are rarely ever recycled because of food contamination. When you can’t avoid EPS, put it in your black bin.
Remember, Burbank has never accepted EPS in curbside recycling containers. Do your holiday best to give gifts and serve meals without using expanded polystyrene foam. “Loose fill” packing peanuts are also common this time of year. While most recycling drop-off programs don’t accept
them, some local shipping stores will reuse them. To find a store that accepts packing peanuts, visit EPSpackaging.org and click on “Find an EPS Recycling Location.”
Adopt: Don’t Shop
Thinking about adding a new “furever” member to your family this holiday? Rather than a “surprise,” the Burbank Animal Shelter suggests engaging the whole family in choosing the “purrfect” pet. Choosing an animal companion is an important decision and should be done in person to make the best match. However, if you can’t resist the urge to put something under the tree, give your loved one a “pet starter kit,” complete with bed, supplies, and a card promising a “pet of your choosing” at the Burbank Animal Shelter or a local rescue. Then make it a fun family affair as you all select your new family member together!
ReThink Business Waste: Recycling Is Handy
With consumers buying environmentally friendly products and California commercial recycling mandates, businesses need to become more sustainable to meet the new challenges.
One local business saw the opportunity and decided to jump in. Alan Arzoian, owner of Handy Market on Magnolia Boulevard, has long been a leader in business stewardship. Earlier in the year, when he learned of AB 1826, which requires businesses to divert organics (food, soiled paper, wood, and yard clippings) from the trash, he immediately began to design his waste reduction and organics recycling program.
We reached out to Alan for tips, best practices, and lessons learned on his journey as an early adopter of organics diversion methods.
What kind of sustainability and recycling measures have you undertaken in both your grocery and catering business?
Our overall business has been working on reducing our waste through recycling and reselling our cardboard for years. We have really taken advantage of free tools and resources from the City of Burbank Public Works, such as bin service and consulting to help guide us. We also have asked our wholesalers and vendors about pickup programs for their products. Those services are, for the most part, free. We are also going to start a film wrap (shrink wrap, plastic bags, etc.) pickup.
Since AB 1826 was enacted, what changes did you have to make in order to adhere to the organics recycling law?
We jumped on this because we are a business with clean trimmings and a small volume of materials. After I spoke with the City of Burbank Recycle Center staff and they gave me some guidance, I contacted my waste hauler to check on their services and what organics container they recommended. We have a small facility but were able to designate room in the parking lot for the separate bin. This allowed us to eliminate a trash bin in the process.
We have two divisions – grocery and catering – so there are a few different approaches. We use two barrels in the produce section. The green cart gets filled up more quickly now so we switched to a smaller black (trash) cart.
Grocery generally is a clean business, so produce and other food products are easy stuff to divert if you have knowledge, a plan, and creativity. For instance, we set aside roughly 100 pounds of unsaleable greens and catering prep waste every day and make it available for customers to use for animals. A local rabbit rescue loves this bounty!
We are also looking into options for food donation to a local charity, getting away from foam, and adding compostable to-go ware.
What have been your challenges?
As with any new program, there are adjustments, but the biggest one is space allocation for the bins. You make it happen with some creative rearranging, but you gain space by losing or reducing your trash bin. We also struggled when the organics bin was leaking because it wasn’t the right kind. Plus, our hauler didn’t initially have adequate routes to get it picked up more regularly. There was also confusion on what the service entailed and my rate, so it is important to ask your hauler a lot of questions.
What has been surprising?
How easy it is! It’s one more thing that is just part of an evolving business. Fortunately for me, I have good people and once they are shown what to do, it becomes part of our procedures. It’s not perfect and we are still learning, but it feels good to not have this material go to Burbank’s landfill.
What advice do you have for other businesses as they make the transition to the new world of organic diversion?
You are throwing out the trash anyway, so it’s not that much more effort to put it in another bin. Some businesses may have different challenges, but it helps to learn from those who are already doing it. There are some new expenses, but we have saved 20% or more on trash pickup service and eliminated an entire 5 cubic yard bin. It is really important to talk to your hauler and make sure you are getting the service you need. They are there to help you move the needle on diverting this stuff.
And remember, the citizens of Burbank are interested in these kinds of actions. We can all do a little more, and it is very doable.