Topic: re-use resources

Earthworms at work

And speaking of compost, are you ready to try Vermicompost?

This shot is a handful of the good stuff, taken at Emersion Design.  They are turning coffee grounds and other selected food wastes into a valuable, rich, planting soil.  Just add worms and watch them eat away at your discards and leave you the gift of compost.  Enjoy this vermicompost Q&A with Nikki Marksberry at Emersion Design.

Why Vermicompost?
Emersion Design had a recycling program before we had office furniture, phones or computers. It is important to us to keep as much as possible out of Mt. Rumpke (during our recent office expansion, 99.27% of all construction waste/debris was diverted from the landfill). Emersion started a vermicompost for several reasons; 1. It’s portable and can easily be controlled indoors, 2. It’s inexpensive to start especially if you make your own 3. And because worms are cool!

How do you get started?
I heard an interview with The Worm Lady on NPR and was “hooked.” There are a number of websites about vermicomposting and Shawn Hesse – an architect in our office and the local USGBC Chapter President- had a book with step by step instructions how to make a worm bin. We took a big Rubbermaid container, drilled holes, added food scrap, newspaper, and worms. Viola!

Where is your bin?
We keep our bin in our break area under the table.

What do you put in it?
Anything that can biodegrade goes in our vermicompost. Coffee Grounds, apple cores, spoiled leftovers, and then we cover the food with bedding made of white paper or newspaper

Doesn’t it smell?
We have had no problems with odor or other bugs. As long as there is enough bedding on the food only the worms are happy and other critters stay away.

How long does it take to make compost?
The food is eaten by the worms within a couple of weeks (it takes less time if the food is spoiled and already growing mold or fungus). It takes three to five months before there is enough worm castings or soil to harvest.

What do you do with the compost?
For now the compost has gone to office plants and to my neighbor’s organic garden. It’s great fertilizer!

Half price compost bins

When my building began recycling, the trash we made was cut in half.  When I look at what is in my trash can right now, I see a combination of useless garbage and food waste.  What can be done to make use of food waste and keep it out of the landfill?  Compost!

Feed your garden and help reuse resources instead of sending them to the landfill by composting.

If you’re looking for a reason to start or expand your compost, look no further.  The Hamilton and Adams-Clermont County Solid Waste Districts are sponsoring a compost bin sale on Saturday, September 27th from 9am to 3pm at the following locations:

1) Anderson Township Farmer’s Market
7832 Five Mile
2) Colerain Township Community Center
4300 Springdale

The “Earth Machine” compost bin retails for $80 but will be available to residents of the participating counties for only $37!  Please bring cash or a check to take advantage of this incredible deal.

If  you need more guidance to get started, there will be composting experts on hand to help.

Can I recycle sticky notes, paper towels, or wrapping paper?

There is a lot of paper in our lives; way beyond office paper, junk mail, and magazines.  Here are a few more answers to help you get the right mixed paper into your recycling bin.

Question: Can sticky papers like post-it notes be recycled?
Answer: Yes

Question: Can restroom and kitchen paper towels that have been used to dry hands and counters be recycled?
Answer: No. There is bio residue and grease (similar to the case with pizza boxes) left behind that contaminates the paper so it cannot be recycled.

Question: Can I recycle shiny papers like receipts, movie tickets, and coupons?
Answer: Yes! These are all considered mixed paper and are indeed recyclable.  Even if you choose to shred your receipts, you can recycle the paper shreds.

Question: Can I recycle paperback books?
Answer: No.  Rumpke cannot accept these, but you can donate them to the public library or take them to a Half Price Books store for resale.

Question: Can wrapping paper be recycled if you get all the tape off?
Answer: Rumpke’s manufacturers will only allow a very small percentage of wrapping paper in a bale, and if there is too much it will not be accepted. At this time, Rumpke advises against adding wrapping paper to your recycling. However, back in the day, my grandma collected wrapping paper at holidays, trimmed the edges, ironed it on the lowest possible heat, and reused it. I hear it also makes great book covers for text books.

Thanks to Amanda Pratt of Rumpke for the facts!

Can I recycle dishes, mirrors, paper clips or hangers?

Some things that seem like they are recyclable are actually not accepted in Cincinnati.

Question: Are dishes, mirrors and window glasses accepted?
Answer: The single stream sorting technology employed to sort recyclables cannot sort these items. Also, the type of glass used to make these items is not useful to the manufacturers using the glass Rumpke Recycling processes.

Question: Can I recycle small metallic things like staples, paper clips, and wire hangers?
Answer: No. Staples still need to go in the garbage with your paper clips. Remember to reuse those paper clips as many times as you possibly can before trashing them. I always like to give my mutilated paperclips a final goodbye by sculpting them into mini-modern art. Wire hangers from the dry cleaner can be returned to your dry cleaner and reused. There are also many clever ideas to turn wire hangers into things to use around the house like funky book shelves.

When you can’t recycle, reuse!  Get creative and craft gifts for all your friends and family out of your used hangers and mirrors.  Save the good stuff for your next yard sale or give it away on Freecycle!

Can I recycle address labels, bubble envelopes, and boxes?

As we mentioned yesterday, most paper materials you recieve in the mail are recyclable.  Here are a few more questions about postal items and whether they can find a new life in your recycling bin.

Question: Can bubble envelopes for mailing be recycled?
Answer: No. The paper outside cannot be separated from the plastic bubble wrap inside and the mixture is contaminated.

Question: Can I recycle Tyvek-type mailing envelopes?
Answer: Yes.

Question: What about stickers or sheets of address labels?
Answer: No. Sticky labels cannot be recycled because there is too much adhesive involved.  When I recieve an excess of address labels in the mail from organizations, I cut off my address and give the sticker squares with pictures or designs on them to my nieces.

Question: When I recycle my cardboard and boxes, do I need to get all the labels off?
Answer: If you are recycling corrugated cardboard, you do not need to remove labels. They will disintegrate in the recycling process.

Thanks again to Amanda Pratt and Rumpke for the facts!

Need a bin?  Check out details on how to get a recycling bin.

Have a bin?  Keep filling those bins with boxes and your other recyclables, the Mayor is counting on us for his recycling challenge!

Can I recycle junk mail, catalogs, and phone books?

Most paper you deal with on a day to day basis is recyclable in Cincinnati.  Feel free to drop white paper, colored paper and newspaper in your bin.  But what about other papers?

Question: Can I recycle junk mail and envelopes with see through windows?
Answer: Yes! All junk mail can be recycled including envelopes with windows.

Question: Can I recycle catalogs and magazines?  What about the staples?
Answer: Yes!  All catalogs and magazines can be recycled, even with staples in the binding.

Question: Can I recycle a phone book?
Answer: Yes!  Drop these in your Rumpke bins and they will be recycled.

Thanks again to Amanda Pratt at Rumpke for the facts.

If you weren’t already including all these things in your curbside recycling bins and drop-off points, now you can!  Remember whenever possible, remove yourself from mailing lists and use the backside of your paper for notes and grocery lists.  Then, clean up the counter and fill your recycling container with paper, paper, paper!!!

Can I recycle a pizza box?

Have you ever wondered what you can and can’t recycle? Some things are obvious like bottles and cans, but there are a few grey areas that we all wonder about.

In the Greater Cincinnati area, Rumpke provides residential and commercial recycling services. We recently had the chance to speak with Amanda Pratt, corporate communication manager with Rumpke Consolidated Companies. With input from Amanda and tips from RumpkeRecycling.com, Live Green Cincinnati is able to shine some light on those local recycling grey areas.

Question: Can I recycle a pizza box?

Answer: No. Pizza boxes cannot be recycled because the grease contaminates the cardboard making it unusable in the manufacturing process. Unfortunately you need to direct your pizza boxes to the garbage can. Better yet, take the box out of the equation and eat in at a restaurant for your next pizza craving.

Stay tuned for more recycling tips over the next few days!

Will you revive a classic?

The easiest way to reduce waste and consumption of materials is to make what you already have last forever.  Give Back Cincinnati is taking that one step further with their latest event: Save the Emery.

The Emery Theater on Central Parkway and Walnut in Over The Rhine was an elegant theater built in 1911 which has not been in a good enough condition to use for over a decade.  Instead of razing the property to create a new building the plan was to convert the adjacent school building into housing and eventually restore the theater.

Your elbow grease can make the difference between a musty, dormant old room and a living classic theater.  Help keep this historic neighborhood in use.  Want to get involved?  Check out the details on the Give Back Cincinnati website.

Artful aluminum can reuse

A few weeks ago at Covington’s Maifest, we discovered a retired engineer who had turned recycling into an art form. Shao Lin and Sompit Xia at The Can Do Planes booth transformed used aluminum cans into model airplanes, cars, boats, animals, and so much more.


It’s a pretty incredible idea for material reuse. Making a toy or gift is a great way to reduce the consumption of always buying newly made products. Do you have a crafty reuse idea to share? If so, contact us!

Save money at the grocer with your own bags

The paper versus plastic debate can be superseded when you utilize a reusable bag. Using small “stuffable” tote bags like the ChicoBag and Envirosax (both available at Park+Vine) makes it easier - just stuff one in your purse, bike bag, backpack, briefcase, or glove compartment so you’ll have it when you need it.

I gave my mom two spring colored ChicoBags for mothers’ day in May. A week after, she called me to share a story of her first public ChicoBag experience. With the clever little carabiner that is attached to the ChicoBag, she could clip them to her purse so she’d have them at the ready. After work she made a stop at the drug store to get a few of the things on her shopping list. When she made it to the checkout line, she told the cashier that she didn’t need a bag and proceeded to baffle and amaze both the cashier and everyone in line by unclipping, unstuffing, and right-side-outing her reusable shopping bag like magic. After a stalled pause and an awkward silence she added, “my daughter tells me that I need to reduce my environmental footprint.” Interestingly enough, that stirred nods of understanding from the cashier and the other moms in the checkout line. So the experience was memorable, but not traumatic. Happily for me, she enjoys saving a bag and will continue to use it.

Similarly, I remembered to bring a sackful of reusable bags to the grocery this week. I expected the mixture of bags from my gift with a subscription to Martha Stewart magazine, a Star Wars convention, a small corner store in Montreal, and a few other random places to be received with confusion. Not so!

To my surprise, the cashier at Kroger not only knew to use my bags without asking, she also immediately credited 5 cents per bag to my bill. I saved 30 cents from my food purchase and six bags worth of trees or petroleum. Not bad for one visit.

It just goes to show that local stores are getting used to people bringing their own bag. Two years ago when I brought my own bag to a store, it felt a lot less comfortable to use them and in some instances caused a few stares. Now at some places like Findlay Market, you hardly see anyone accepting a disposable plastic shopping bag from a vendor. Change is happening because of us, keep up the good work!