Posts Tagged ‘Recycling’


August 31, 2016


I am a fan of the show Shark Tank. It is really cool when an entrepreneur with a dream is successful in getting funding, Many of the people making pitches have worked for years on making their passion come true. One man’s passion was …peat moss—more accurately, a much more environmentally friendly version of it. The founder of the company (PittMoss) had been working off and on for years to develop a product that has similar properties to peat moss, but made with a lot less environmental impact. This presenter was successful, and he received a $600,000 investment. This has now allowed the company (PittMoss) to build out some more manufacturing capacity.

In my years of gardening, I have occasionally used peat moss. I have generally only used it to reduce the pH of a particular section of garden. I actually need to use more compost than peat moss. Since I indeed use some peat moss, I found the Shark Tank presentation very interesting, The presenter noted that the harvesting of peat moss is very damaging to the environment, and that his process used recycled paper to make an essentially equivalent product.

The PittMoss method of using recycled paper more or less locally sounds a lot better than draining peat bogs in Canada. I like the idea of closing the loop by repurposing a recycled product over extracting more natural resources such as peat bogs and moss, especially from far away. PittMoss has apparently tested their product in some nurseries and greenhouses around Pittsburgh and seen good results for several years. They are now looking to expand distribution, making more sales and using more recycled paper, ultimately resulting in fewer Canadian bogs being drained. I hope they succeed.

(Election) Signs of the Times

November 9, 2011

The election has come and gone, but thousands of its remnants remain. These would be the political signs that covered Montgomery County, Pennsylvania during the campaign. I am not against the signs per se, especially since I had four of them on my lawn. Approximately 24 seconds after the election ended (give or take a few seconds) these signs morphed into lawn clutter. Many years ago I used to throw them out. A couple of years ago I started putting the metal frames into my township provided recycling can.

This year, the county’s Recycling Office, both political parties, several townships, ReCommunity Recycling, and Sullivan’s Scrap Metals have put together a new program to recycle these election signs–frames and all. There were an estimated 200,000 of these signs throughout the county, which would be a huge amount of landfill waste (if they actually got to the landfill). So if you live or work anywhere in Montgomery County, take the sustainable route to getting rid of those now worthless election signs—recycle them!

They want your signs!

All the Details:

Montgomery County Recycling Office,a,3,q,82083.asp

Can My Employer’s Office Building be Green?

September 27, 2011

I got an email at work this week noting that the company’s landlord (Brandywine Realty Trust) was implementing a new recycling system. Instead of changing everyone’s trash can liners daily, the trash can at my cube is now a recycle can—the trash goes to lined cans in the kitchen. The idea is to make it less easy to throw away trash and more easy to recycle, The system will be set up to encourage the sustainable option—in this case, recycling,

I became curious about what else a landlord like Brandywine could do on the sustainability front. Brandywine actually has a pretty impressive program. A couple of its elements include green cleaning products and beginning an integrated pest management system for the landscaping outside. Equally impressive from a corporate point of view are the goals for 2011—including a 70% recycling diversion goal (the source of the email I got), a 10% reduction in water consumption—35 million gallons, and bringing 33% of their portfolio into Energy Star compliance. These are all excellent goals—and measurable.

But Brandywine is not the only large commercial landlord in the Philadelphia area marketplace implementing green building initiatives. Another major landlord is Liberty Property Trust. I was actually lucky enough to be able to take a tour of one of their showcase properties—Center City Philadelphia’s Comcast Center. It is truly a spectacular building featuring a 100 foot high “lobby”. However, in order to save energy, only the bottom 20 feet is climate controlled—the other 80(%) are not. That is a lot of energy usage avoided.

The Comcast Center has several other notable features that make it a more sustainable building. The special windows block 60% of the sun’s heat while enabling 70% of the sun’s light to get through. The urinals are waterless (saving an estimated 1.2 million gallons of water). The irrigation system is based on the collection of storm water and re-using that water vs. turning on the taps. This water will be stored in old boiler tanks that were re-purposed and re-used (and saved from a landfill at the same time.).

There are numerous other major buildings in Philadelphia that have significant green elements. The expanded Convention Center, for example, has a “white-roof” which reflects the rays of the summer sun. It also has the energy efficient “Low-E” insulating glass. Both of these help reduce operating costs. In suburban Philadelphia., Centocor put a “solar grove” in their parking lot. This features 8 columns of 70 solar panels each. The panels will simultaneously save $35,000 on energy costs and generate $60,000 in revenue from solar power sold back into the electricity grid.

The more I look, the more examples I find of commercial property owners making their properties greener and more sustainable. It definitely seems the wave of the future—one that can’t come soon enough in my view. I am happy that my particular office building is implementing the new single stream recycling system. I am even happier that many other building operators have implemented larger scale projects to make their buildings green and cheaper to operate at the same time.

Recycling Definitions: Theory and Practice

February 16, 2009

A key part of sustainability is recycling—that is, reduce, reuse, recycle. So when I think about recycling, it seems pretty straightforward to me. A good working definition of recycling can be found on It says: “to treat or process (used or waste materials) so as to make suitable for reuse: recycling paper to save trees.” But sometimes, actual practice is more complicated than theoretical definitions.

Item 1. Post Consumer vs. Post Industrial. I recently researched environmentally friendly insulation. I found out that the major (fiberglass) insulation makers have some percentage of recycled glass in their batt insulation. Take 2 big names in the field: Owens Corning and Johns Manville. As of Nov. 2008, Owens Corning says that 40% of the glass in their fiberglass insulation is recycled. Johns Manville says that 25% of the glass in their product is recycled. So 40% beats 25% pretty easily, correct? Maybe.

But then I find out that the Johns Manville is 20% post consumer and 5% post industrial, while the Owens Corning is 10% post consumer and 30% post industrial. Post consumer really means it comes from from a end-user application (examples—office supplies or a soda bottle) and thereby avoids a landfill. Post industrial means the waste from one industrial process goes to another manufacturing process in a different industry. The post consumer sounds environmentally better to me. The LEED green building standards think so also, since they essentially award double credit for post consumer vs post industrial. So Johns Manville gets 20+20+5 = 45 points, Owens Corning gets 10+10+30 = 50 points. Who “recycles” more glass in their insulation? (Both of these products have been certified for recycled content for building products/insulation by Scientific Certification Systems at

Item 2. The Great Recycling Recession. A friend of mine has a print shop (Homer Printing) in the Philadelphia area. He used to be able to sell his recyclable paper for $40/ton. Then he got a letter from his recycling contact that the price had fallen from $40 to somewhere near zero, but they would still take it. He has since gotten a letter saying he now has to pay $30/ton to have the recyclable paper taken away. It could be worse—he could pay somewhere around $65/ton to ship it to a landfill. This is a powerful reminder that it is only possible to reduce, reuse, and recycle if someone else wants the product(s) you want to recycle.

But life isn’t all bad—the napkin I got from Dunkin Donuts this morning is made from 100% recycled fiber. I think that means that no trees were cut down to create the fiber for the paper in the napkin—but there might be more to this than meets the eye.

Website used in this post:
LEED standards—New Buildings version 2.2

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