Posts Tagged ‘Trash’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on DC Ecowomen help collect 6,365 pounds of trash

By Meagan Knowlton

It only takes five second to produce a plastic spoon. It takes 500 years for that spoon to break down.

That disparity is one of the many reasons we all need to take action to reduce the impact of our waste on the environment. One way to do that is to clean up trash already littering our natural spaces.

I recently attended the International Coastal Cleanup day hosted by the Ocean Conservancy (OC) at Kingman Island here in D.C. – a man-made island in the Anacostia River filled with early fall greenery and chirping insects.

I met up with two other women working in environmental jobs here in D.C. After enjoying catching up and finding delicious cold brew, we heard from several speakers from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and OC, as well as the ambassador from the European Union, who talked about how important it is to keep our oceans and waterways healthy and trash-free.

The crowd of volunteers ready to scour Kingman Island for trash.

A beautiful day for cleaning up trash along the Anacostia River.

After the welcoming speeches, we got to work but first we had to find a good spot to find trash. The popular areas of the island were already very clean– the Living Classrooms Foundation, which manages the island, does a great job keeping the trails free of trash. However, when we passed below overpasses and bridges, we found cigarette butts, bottle caps, food wrappers, and beverage bottles, which, according to NOAA, commonly end up in our oceans.

Volunteers pick up trash below a bridge on Kingman Island.

Finding trash treasure troves required digging into the marshy areas of Kingman Island. Once we crawled under cattails and other tall vegetation, we found great piles of trash — most of it plastic, particularly plastic bottles of all kinds, and sports balls. The three of us ended up with two soccer balls, one basketball, one tennis ball, and one football. For all the times you lost a ball as a kid and wondered where it went, we found your answer: It went downhill until it reached your local waterway.

We aren’t afraid to get a little muddy in the name of cleaning up our waterways!

At the end of the day, OC tallied up our total results and announced that 1,153 volunteers had collected 6,365 pounds of trash. We were proud that we beat last year’s haul of 5,000 pounds of trash!

Learn more about ocean trash, current efforts to solve the crisis, and what you can do to help here.

Meagan Knowlton manages sustainability programs at Optoro, a technology company that helps retail be more sustainable by eliminating waste from returns. Prior to Optoro, Meagan was a corporate sustainability manager in the Coca-Cola bottling system. She holds a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Tulane University. In her free time, Meagan can be found baking pie, escaping to the mountains, or exploring yoga studios in D.C.



posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Dig In and Know Your Trash: Hazardous or Not?

By Stephanie Tsao

We all produce household waste. Beyond the banana peels and plastic wrappers, some common household items need special treatment. If not disposed of properly, certain light bulbs, batteries and unused electronics can be hazardous to the environment and to public health if thrown in with your regular trash.

That is why everyone should take steps to learn what is hazardous.

This post focuses on two common household waste items: compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and rechargeable batteries.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs)

CFLHave you heard of those swirly bulbs called CFLs? A similar product are energy-saving LED blubs (more formally known as light-emitting diodes), which are becoming more common in cities and buildings as they strive for energy efficiency.

CFLs are hazardous wastes because they contain a small amount of mercury in their curly tubes. If the bulb is broken in a garbage truck or in your house, you can expose other members of your residence, pets and the environment to mercury vapors.

To properly dispose of a broken CFL, the EPA recommends opening a window and airing out the room where the bulb broke for five to 10 minutes. The shards from the bulb should be double-bagged using Ziploc bags. The EPA provides further detailed instructions for disposal on their website.

For unbroken bulbs, keep them in an old coffee can or sturdy container and check your county website to find  hazardous waste disposal sites. Or, you can drop them off at certain local hardware stores such as Home Depot, which offers a CFL recycling program.


Rechargeable batteries

LithiumBatteryRechargeable and lithium batteries commonly used in cell phones and computers are another common household hazardous waste.

Your standard alkaline AAA and AA, batteries are considered universal wastes under federal waste regulations and can go in your regular trash. Rechargeable, lithium-ion batteries that are used in mobile phones, cameras, and other electronics cannot go in the trashcan.

Where you can dispose of household hazardous waste

Washington, DC and surrounding counties offer a drop-off locations for hazardous materials.

  • Within Washington DC, the drop-off location for household hazardous wastes is at the Fort Totten transfer station, located at 900 John F. McCormack Drive, NE. It is open on most Saturdays from 8am-3pm.
  • Arlington County, Virginia collects CFLs at certain libraries and rechargeable batteries at certain fire stations, which are listed on their website.
  • Another option is to visit Mom’s Organic Market, which has locations in northeast DC, Maryland and northern Virginia. The market offers a recycling program that accepts a mix of hazardous items such as light bulbs and electronic wastes, but also takes non-hazardous items like old shoes and eye glasses.
  • You can search Call2Recycle to find areas near you that offer drop-off locations for batteries and old cell phones.

Hazardous wastes are tough to dispose of because of the risks that they pose. Some people may opt for the easy way out: throwing the item in the trash. I recommend learning to identify your hazardous wastes. There are many others, such as aerosol cans and expired medicine.

Know your trash! Know what is hazardous and find out if there are local disposal options. That little bit can prevent a pet or the environment from being exposed to mercury and chemicals.

Further resources:

Stephanie Tsao is a journalist and freelances in her free time. Outside of writing, Stephanie enjoys hiking, biking and exploring the outdoors. Her views are her own and do not reflect that of her employer.