Think about the End before Beginning


Headlines shouting about the landfilling of windmill blades and the “ungreen” nature of electric vehicle plants don’t help us present a unified step forward to those skeptical about the motives of the green industry.  Too often, we move too quickly, pushing well-intentioned subsidies and incentives toward products that ultimately are not recyclable.  Many great innovations of the last few decades have given us hope for a new green economy that will produce reshored manufacturing jobs. Public buy-in of these new technologies is essential for widespread adoption, and mandates, directives, and incentives can only do so much of the work.   

By planning to recycle a product while in the creation stage, we can ensure that renewable products are truly renewable.  For 30 years, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) Design for Recycling program has celebrated organizations that have innovated on product or packaging content at the point of creation to make the product fully recyclable.  The list of past winners includes innovation in printing cartridges, fully recyclable bottles, battery design, and something as detailed as thinking about disassembly for recycling when creating an item with interlocking parts instead of screws.  Just think about all the good we could do by fully researching the end of life before we created another product!

The solar, wind, and battery storage industries are developing innovations daily to improve our lives. There are development programs to make all these products truly green and recyclable.  In researching, I stumbled upon a very interesting blog from the Union of Concerned Scientists that highlights the need for innovation happening quickly in this industry.  Wind turbines seem to get much of the negative press when most of the turbine is recyclable, but the biggest, most noticeable part, the fiberglass blade, has been a challenge.  Simply cutting the fiberglass on site and making it easier for transportation was the first step in trying to push for the blades to enter a recycling process.  US Department of Energy and other governmental organizations are stepping in to fund innovative ways to create new product streams from this waste, but how much more effective could this be if the design process considered all of this from the start–we would be so much further ahead in our efforts to create new uses from old turbines.  And, wouldn’t we rather have these grants pushing at the forefront of innovation on the energy creation process than to be needed to help find unique ways to recycle?  One leading manufacturer, Vestas, is committing to innovating at the design phase in a very ambitious plan:

Let’s put sustainability at the forefront of all we do.  If we, as consumers, push, the companies creating our products will be incentivized to think about recycling as they create their products.  Let’s celebrate ISRI’s Design for Recycling program and encourage the green industry to be at the forefront of participation in programs like this because we need everyone to buy in on a green future.  The only way that will happen is if the green industry promotes a design for recycling initiative because anything less falls short of the “why” behind the industry.


Acceptable Materials

Appliances including:
  • Stoves
  • Microwaves
  • Washers and Dryers
  • Dishwashers
  • FOR A $10 FEE—Air Conditioners

End of Life Items Including:
  • Machinery (all fluids,pans and cylinders removed)
  • Farm Equipment
  • Farm Machinery
  • Lawnmowers
  • Cast Iron Patio Furniture
  • Cast Iron Outdoor Railing
  • Sheet Metal
  • Steel Wheels
  • Steel

Nonferrous Scrap:
  • Aluminum
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Aluminum Pots and Pans
  • Aluminum Siding/Gutters/Downspouts
  • Aluminum Patio Furniture
  • Aluminum Wheels
  • Aluminum Wire
  • Auto Batteries
  • Brass Fixtures/Lamps Decorative items
  • Cable, Fence and Wire
  • Christmas Lights
  • Copper
  • Copper and Brass Plumbing Pipes
  • Copper and Brass Plumbing Valves and Connectors
  • Copper Tubing
  • Copper Wire
  • Electric Motors
  • Insulated Wire
  • Radiators
  • Screen Doors/Windows (glass removed)
  • Stainless Steel

Prohibited Materials

  • Acetylene Cylinders
  • Asbestos or Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM)- applies to both fibrous and solid materials
  • Any Scrap Containing Refrigerants (CFC or HCFC) (Freezers, Refrigerators)  Air Conditioners are accepted for a $10 fee
  • Cathode Ray Tubes (CRT/tube-style computer monitors or televisions)
  • Closed Compressed Gas Cylinders – high pressure cylinders with valve intact
  • Combustible or Flammable Materials – fuels, paints, degreasers, unpunctured aerosol cans
  • Corrosive Materials – highly acidic or caustic materials (battery acid, caustic soda, etc.)
  • Explosive Materials, Munitions, Shell Casings – includes suspect military scrap
  • Free Flowing Liquids (including water)
  • Hazardous Waste – toxic or poisonous materials or wastes
  • Infectious Materials – blood-soaked or biohazard items
  • Liquids or Scrap Containing Free Flowing Liquids – fuels, antifreeze, oils, hydraulic fluid, paints
  • Mercury Containing Materials – mercury-containing thermostats, switches or fluorescent light bulbs
  • Non-Metallic Items – concrete, wood, asphalt, dirt, debris, tires (more than 5 per auto)
  • PCB-Containing Materials
  • Whole tanks uncut
  • Radioactive Scrap – anything exhibiting radiation levels above background
  • Scrap with Small Capacitors that contain 50 ppm of PCBs