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Thinking outside the (blue) box to make money from waste

Posted March 27, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
It gets the idea across powerfully, and it gets you banned from advertising in a local publication!

People realize we can’t just keep on throwing things away; some embrace it as a value, others simply have to deal with diminishing free public garbage removal and diversion programs that are either mandatory, or the only way to avoid high bag-tag or dumping fees.

The blue/grey box programs are pretty well known by now; we understand metal cans are sold for scrap, bottle glass gets crushed and re-used somehow, paper and cardboard get recycled back into new paper.

But other forms of recycling are more complex. How do they work? One thing we discard at an increasing rate, although not quite as much as weekly trash, is e-waste (or e-scrap): all the electrical devices we get rid of as we upgrade, or as they break down. They are toxic in landfill or incineration, but don’t go in the blue box. So what to do with them?

Well, this Saturday morning (March 29) you can bring them to the Earth Hour Super-Drive, hosted by Barrie’s Green Party on behalf of Off the Rack Free Clothing and the Barrie Food Bank. Along with donations of food items or used clothing, bring in your e-scrap and we’ll weigh it and pay you cash! The Super-Drive runs from 10 AM to noon in the parking lot behind 110 Dunlop St. W., off Toronto Street.

What do we do with your e-waste? It goes to Barrie’s own GreenGo Recycling, the first company in Canada to pay the public for e-scrap founded by Recychologist Rudy Westerneng, a specialized broker for members of the public who want to recycle beyond the blue box. GreenGo collects scrap from the public, pays for it, then separates it by category before shipping it to a wide variety of end-of-line processors across North America.

If you’ve ever heard Rudy singing in local radio spots, you’ll know that at “GreenGo Recycling they recycle everything”. Even better, they’ll pay you for most of it. Rates start low for steel, most e-scrap, batteries, and appliances, but metals like zinc, aluminum, stainless steel, brass, and copper command a premium, as do some electronics like PC towers, laptops, and cell phones, because these contain small but significant amounts of precious metals or rare earths.

Another item worth a bit more is low-grade motors, because of their copper content. Think power drills, kitchen blenders, even electric toothbrushes.

Rudy even pays for TVs (flat screen or tube), broken electric toys, lamps, vacuum cleaners, old fax machines or scanners or printers, cables, your mouse & keyboard, whatever had a plug or batteries or a chip or contains metal, even if it’s largely plastic.

Some of these are valuable on the commodity market; others (like old televisions) are reimbursed from the stewardship fee you pay whenever you buy new electronics in Ontario. Think of it like a bottle deposit: pay when you get the new stuff, bring back your old stuff to get it back.

As a participant in Ontario’s Orange Drop program, Rudy will also take your leftover or unused paint, and even has a rack where you can pick some up for free! He also buys unwanted clothing (clean & dry) for ten cents a pound, which either gets shipped to poorer nations for wearing or is ripped down to recover fibre, plastic, and metal.

So whether you come to our Super-Drive this Saturday morning or visit Rudy’s GreenGo operation on John Street, there is no excuse for just throwing things away, or leaving them to gather dust in the basement, attic, garage or shed. Recycle it!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as “Get rid of your e-waste this weekend in Barrie, maybe earn some cash
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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Charged up about battery recycling for Earth Hour

Posted March 13, 2014 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins
Don’t throw me away!
As Earth Hour approaches, preparations for the Barrie Green Party’s fifth annual Earth Hour Super-Drive heat up. Once again, this event combines clothing & food donation drives for Barrie’s Free Clothing Centre and Food Bank with an opportunity for you to bring your old electronics or other e-waste in and get cash back for it. Yes, anything with a battery, plug, or chip can be recycled (through our partner GreenGo) instead of going to landfill, and you get paid by the pound for your trouble. As usual, it’s the Saturday morning of Earth Hour (March 29th 10 am to noon), in the parking lot off Toronto Street behind 110 Dunlop St. W.
Earth Hour aims to make us mindful of our energy use’s ecological footprint. Even as we unplug, more and more of our world runs on battery power, and those batteries become a real problem once used up and discarded. If you visit websites of major battery companies like Duracell or Energizer, they will tell you batteries can’t be recycled and you should throw them out with your garbage. Yet Barrie’s own waste calendar urges you not to do that, and even more importantly, batteries can indeed be recycled, right here in Ontario!
Raw Materials Company (RMC) in Port Colborne has actually been recycling alkaline batteries since 1989, using their own mechanical process that separates the batteries into components, some of which (zinc, manganese, potassium) are “upcycled” as agricultural fertilizer and some of which (steel and other metals) are recycled back into the metal supply stream, with the remainder (cardboard and plastic) being used to generate process energy to reduce carbon footprint.

And the connection is even more local than that – recently I spoke with executives at RMC’s local partner LEI Electronics Inc, headquartered right in here in Barrie, who have proudly pioneered and patented the Eco Alkalinestmbattery brand. Although it’s still best to recycle them, these batteries are completely free of toxins like cadmium, lead, or mercury (not even trace amounts) so are harmless if they end up in landfill. And that’s important, because apparently only about 2% of batteries currently make it into the recycling process.

As partner & VP Lionel Lalonde explained, LEI’s passion for the environment goes much deeper. Their non-toxic battery line is certified as carbon-neutral, and they use 80% recycled material in all of their packaging. They have done everything they can to go the extra step and make a sustainable battery product, from factory to shelf to disposal, while keeping their prices in line with the market and their battery quality equal to the leading brands, those efforts earning them LEED certification.

Sadly, the two leading brands have almost a strangle-hold on retail shelves, so if you want these green batteries, you’ll need to order them online for now. But Eco Alkalinestm have seen much greater success at the institutional level, being used by governments, colleges & universities, theme parks, the Canadian Forces.

Unfortunately, there is a chance that Ontario’s battery recycling might be captured by a project of the major suppliers, resulting in our batteries going to a smelter in the US instead of the cleaner and more thorough process invented right here. It’s all up to Waste Diversion Ontario, our provincially-mandated stewardship organization, so be sure to let your elected officials know that you want batteries fully mechanically recycled in Ontario instead of shipped to the US to be burned and melted into slag.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
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It ain’t preachy being Green

Posted October 3, 2013 by Erich Jacoby-Hawkins

What does it mean to be Green? To me, it’s about a blend of freedom and responsibility. People should be free to choose, but must also take responsibility for their choices. This is particularly true about environmental issues; driving a gas-guzzler or chilling a large house on a hot summer day are choices you can make, but you should pay the real full price for it, not be subsidized by others or harm nature for free.

I don’t believe that’s a “preachy” approach. To preach is to tell other individuals what they must or must not do, and that’s not something I’m interested in. Instead, I’m happy to provide information about things they might like to try, if they want to reduce their ecological footprint and live lightly on the Earth. Usually, tips come from my own experience, as I stridently avoid “do as I say, not as I do”. In my political role, I support policies that enable people to make those choices, or remove barriers that prevent them. I do ask that our society as a whole make some different choices, but that’s my right and responsibility as a citizen participant, and I’ll happily participate in those better choices.

I don’t tell people they shouldn’t drive a car; how could I, I drive one myself sometimes! I also walk to many errands, bike to others, and am no stranger to Barrie Transit. (And I appreciate the new routes, which made taking the bus more convenient for my family and me). We manage without a car commute; we all walk to work or school or work from home. But we aren’t car-free, either. Instead, our family of four relies on a 10-year-old fuel-efficientNorth American-made compact instead of a big SUV, and we combine errands whenever possible.

Food is a major interest for me, but unlike some environmentalists, I don’t demand everyone become vegetarian or vegan, although I applaud them if they do. My own family instead follows a flexitarianhundred mile” approach, including sustainable meat from local organic farms on top of huge amounts of locally-produced vegetables & fruits in season, plus the produce of our own garden. With the myriad ways to eat more healthy and sustainable, far be it from me to tell anyone else how much of anything they should or shouldn’t eat. Instead, I share discoveries we make and celebrate successes of others on the path to sustainability.

Another personal interest is urban planning. I believe Barrie needs to be more flexible on building height and density, to allow more infill development and a greater mix of housing choices. Does that mean I think everyone should live in apartment buildings? Of course not; I don’t! Our family chose a modest house with plenty of space for that garden I mentioned, in walking and biking distance of many amenities. Yet Barrie’s housing mix needs more affordable higher-density units, and I’m an enthusiastic supporter of that kind of development choice, including in my own neighbourhood.

For me, it ain’t preachy being Green; it’s an ambition for us all to try and live more lightly and responsibly, each in our own way.

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title “Being green means living much more responsibly
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

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