The Waste World is Full of Contradictions
There is an experience common to all who create waste (in other words, everyone) that can jostle even the most cynical hearts: you go to the familiar blue bin to drop something in. Maybe it’s something you’ve been recycling for years, or maybe it’s a product you never buy that was left behind for you to deal with. If you’ve never encountered it before, perhaps you look to the bottom for the reassuring and ubiquitous symbol for Recycling: the triangular circle of arrows. Hooray! You exclaim! This product is Recyclable! You are doing your part! Right?
Unfortunately, the reality is that the recycling symbol is just the tip of the iceberg of confusing and misleading eco-friendly marketing. There is so much to say about what the recycling symbol means (usually it’s just telling you what kind of plastic you’ve got, not whether it’s recyclable), and the ever-changing regulations and markets that affect changes in What Actually Is Recyclable from city to city and county to county. It seems a dire time for our recycling industries, and subsequently, our overflowing landfills.
Originally I set out to tackle those waste problems through diverting the trash of a specific and prolific waste generator: the festival scene. Large events, often attended by our most privileged members of society, produce an incredible amount of trash and because of the temporary nature of event work, even the recyclables often head to the landfill due to contamination and lack of sorting. After a few years of diverting event waste another area where waste is produced and goes unmanaged is the realm of business.
When I initially starting talking to Alyssa, owner and founder of Fillaree, a Durham-based environmental soap and cleaning supply maker, she talked about the frustration of not being able to sustain a waste sorting set-up as a business owner. Many business owners echo this frustration. In order to divert the majority of your waste, you have to be prepared to haul materials to an almost infinite-seeming number of manufacturers, artists, businesses, and facilities. Waste diversion that goes beyond (and is far more successful than) regular curbside recycling requires knowledge, creativity, time, and patience. It’s the time that most business owners lack, and where Gather Green can help.
Gather Green’s First Waste Recovery Station
Since its installation on January 7, 2019, Gather Green has made monthly pick ups and diverted thousands of pounds of trash from the landfill. We accomplished this by seeking creative solutions rather than accepting an item’s fate. By rebranding trash, Gather Green no longer accepts an item’s inevitability as landfill-bound nor do we accept that recycling is the Grand Solution we once believed it to be.
By forgoing the typical trash/recycling dichotomy Gather Green has discovered a more nuanced approach to waste. The categories of recovered waste are by solution:
|Creative Reuse||Claymakers, 3D Printer Ink, Jewelry bags||Plastic film, hard plastic molds|
|B2B||Outgoing to other business for second life||Bubble wrap|
|Singular Material Recycling||Take back directly to recycling facility or manufacturer||Plastic Film recycling at the grocery store, taking lightbulbs, water filters, batteries back to company|
|Compost||Lasagna gardening, commercial composting||Food waste, coconut oil, cardboard|
|Secondhand Donations||Bull City Shares, passed to personal household||Cast iron skillet, clothing|
Thanks to Fillaree’s dedication to the environment, these materials were rescued from the waste stream, and went on to benefit other members of the community. In fact, in 2019 Fillaree diverted over 3,500 lbs this way! All the more reason to support such a eco-conscious business. By producing less trash than most individuals do in a year, and hiring Gather Green to divert the waste they did produce, Fillaree ended the year with only 8 lbs of trash. Way to go Fillaree!
And that’s not all Fillaree is doing for the environment! Fillaree makes soaps that are refillable, which prevent plastic bottles from entering the market entirely! And in 2020, they are launching a new Condensed Soap Line that will cut down on emissions and packaging. The Kickstarted for the new soap line starts on January 23, 2020, so head over to their page and sign up for their newsletter to stay in the loop!
As for the first ever Gather Green Waste Recovery Station? We are ready for another year of starving landfills, creating solutions, and recovering waste!