Beaverton, Oregon was recently selected as the 2008 Recyclers of the Year by the Association of Oregon Recyclers. My home and studio is in Beaverton and it makes me proud to reside in such an active community. When my family comes into town from the Midwest, they marvel that we can recycle curbside in the Northwest. They are even more astonished when I tell them they can throw paper, plastic containers, cardboard and cans into one container. I explain only the glass needs to be separated. At one point or another each of them has stood at the recycling container and said, “Really Angela, this can all go in here?” It always makes me smile.
In Indianapolis where I am originally from, recycling is a big commitment. To do your part, you have to take your items to a recycling center. There are separate locations for paper, plastic, and glass. In Indiana, even when you make the effort to go to several recycling centers miles away, a lot of recyclable pieces aren’t accepted for recycling. It is a lot of work to be a good citizen in Indianapolis, and tax dollars haven’t been used to implement recycling infrastructure. Dang Hoosier politicians.
This is, unfortunately, the case in many areas of the country. I just visited Arizona in August for the Society of Decorating Professionals annual conference at the Wild Horse Resort just south of Phoenix. We were on an Indian reservation and I couldn’t find a place to recycle my water bottles and paper! The hotel staff said there wasn’t recycling in the hotel, casino, restaurants or spa. I know this is strange, but I actually packed it in my luggage and recycled it when I got home to Oregon. I also wrote the hotel a comment card. I wonder if the person who read the card thinks I am “one of those environmental people from the Northwest”. I hope they took my message to heart.
If you travel, you know the problem all too well. Recycling is fairly simple and it isn’t readily accessible in most cities. I recommend next time you stay at a hotel or go to a conference that doesn’t offer recycling, you take a moment to write a letter or call their customer service. Public demand can change this.
Since this blog is about interior design, let’s talk about what is the largest single item in our landfills today? CARPET and PADDING.
We send 5.2 billion pounds of carpet to the landfill each year. That is an area greater than New York City. In 2002, various local, state, federal government agencies and carpet manufacturers established a 10 year goal to increase the amount of reused and recycled carpet. The goal is to divert 40% of carpet from landfills by 2012. Several carpet manufacturers have take-back or cradle-to-grave programs in which you pay for the recycling when you purchase the carpet. Some manufacturers are also recycling any kind of carpet regardless of its origin. Learn more about Carpet take-back programs.
Pictured Provided by The Carpet Place in Portland, Oregon
Providers of wholesale floor covering
The biggest problem is carpet isn’t as easy to recycle as paper and other curbside pick up items. Most of the recycling facilities for carpet are still on the east coast, and sending carpet across country to be recycled makes it more expensive than taking it to the local dump. This is the primary reason only 5% of the carpet is recycled today.
It really isn’t as expensive as you would think! Eastside Recycling located on SE Portland at 122nd Avenue and Raphael (1 block north of 122nd and Halsey) takes recycled carpet from most projects for around $60. For larger projects, they will also leave a drop box at the construction site for $250. They drop it off and they pick it up. There telephone number is 503-253-0867.
Shannon Quimby, an interior design peer of mine here in Portland, was the creative mind behind the Reuse Everything Experiment (Rex Project). She used the old carpet in the house she dismantled as a weed barrier in the yard. Her creative application was nothing short of brilliant! No transportation costs needed to haul this carpet to an east coast recycling facility, and she saved money on purchasing weed barrier. Best yet, the absorption of the carpet retains water longer in the soil cutting back on watering.
The Rebuilding Center is also a great recycling resource in Portland. With the help of donations (and purchases) in the Portland metropolitan community, the center diverts 8 tons of building materials from landfills each day. Enough items pass through the warehouse in one year to create almost 100 new, 1500 square foot homes. The center accepts donations of tubs, windows, lighting, cabinets, trim, doors and tile to name a few. They also offer deconstruction services that allow them to reuse and recycle up to 85% of a building’s materials. It also saves on removal costs. (Don’t ask me how it is possible to save money this way, but you can!) There is a great downloadable video showing deconstruction of a home
I hope these local resources and ideas inspire you to remodel and redecorate with the same responsibility as your handle your curbside recycling. If you’d like a referral of a green friendly contractor, I will point you in the right direction. Just ask.