Team Clean, Inc.Team Clean, Inc.

Rethink Recycling

The dress is a knockout. A form-fitting scarlet sheath with a train that goes on for miles. The fact that it’s made from cereal boxes, recycled paint and parachute scraps almost seems beside the point.

Titled “Eco-Flamenco,” this dress was created by artist and environmental advocate Nancy Judd, who has been rethinking recycling. “It is in the challenge of transforming materials that are difficult to work with or that are seen as ugly, into something that is pretty, glamorous or interesting that makes me come alive,” she told reporters at an exhibition of her work in Ft. Collins.  And “Eco-Flamenco” carries her message in numerous ways. For example, the red ruffles on its train carry 5,000 eco-pledges written on the scraps before they were sewn onto the dress. (Many of Judd’s fashion pieces are referred to as “sculptures,” depending on whether they can be worn or not).

One of Judd’s more versatile materials is called “plarn”—plastic yarn, made from those flimsy plastic shopping bags that cannot be recycled. Plarn is very much a homegrown solution to the problem posed by these bags; anyone who can crochet, braid or knit can make plarn at home with a pair of scissors. Once you have enough, you’ll be crocheting sturdy, reusable tote bags, purses, doormats, and more in no time. Crafters across the country have embraced plarn as another way to rethink recycling, and the humble plastic yarn that would otherwise have been waste has inspired countless communities, websites and YouTube videos for the curious.

While some are rethinking how plastics can be reused or recycled as formal wear or pocketbooks, others are looking at recycling the stuff that came in those pesky (and unrecyclable) clamshell containers.  Yes, food.

In New York City, residents already had blue and green recycling bins for glass, metal, paper and plastic. Brown bins for organic waste began appearing on sidewalks last summer.  Food waste had been ending up in landfills, which was no longer tenable. Besides hogging the lion’s share of each landfill, organic waste was heavy and expensive to ship. It also released methane, a greenhouse gas, as it decomposed.  New York sanitation officials say that the goal is for every resident of the city to have a way to recycle food scraps, along with other trash organics, like yard and leaf waste. The organic waste will be composted and used as garden fertilizer, livestock feed, and as biogas that can be used as fuel.

These are just some of the positive results that have emerged from people and communities who rethink recycling.  After dinner tonight, take an extra few moments to contemplate your table scraps, and where they’ll be going after they leave your kitchen. Is there something better, more useful and less hazardous your organic waste could be doing?

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Founded in 1983, Team Clean, Inc. is a commercial janitorial services company in Philadelphia. Due mainly to the service focus and vision of its founder/president/CEO—Donna L. Allie, PhD.—the company enjoyed huge growth during its first two decades. By 1999, it was the fourth-largest woman-owned business in Philadelphia, and the Wharton Small Business Development Center identified it as one of the fastest-growing small businesses in that metropolitan area.

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