Gainesville Zero Waste News

Driving Toward a Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Sustainable Habits In Your Car

travel mug In our fast-paced world, cars have become integral to our daily lives, providing convenience and mobility. However, the environmental cost of this convenience might cause some people to pump the breaks. The good news is that with conscious efforts, it is possible to adopt a zero-waste mindset even while traveling in your car. Small actions add up, and collectively, we can positively impact our environment.

Here are some quick tips to minimize waste when on the go:

  1. Keep Your Reusable Essentials Handy – Invest in reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and snack containers to use in your car. By swapping disposable items for reusable alternatives, you’ll help to eliminate the mountain of disposable containers going to landfills.
  2. Say No to Single-Use Packaging – Stops at fast food drive-thrus and gas stations can produce a deluge of single-use packaging waste. Avoid this waste by carrying a reusable cutlery set, cloth napkins, and reusable straws in your car. Making even small changes will help to reduce the immense volume of single-use plastic waste.
  3. Recycling Stations for Car Trash – Keep a small bin or bag in your car to collect recyclables. When you return home or when the bag is full, empty your recyclables in your home collection bins. This simple step enables valuable materials to be used again.

Transitioning towards a zero-waste lifestyle, even in your car, requires a combination of mindful choices and minor adjustments to daily habits. By embracing reusable alternatives, promoting fuel efficiency, and making eco-conscious decisions, you can contribute to a greener planet one ride at a time.

Recent Articles

Unraveling the Confusion Around Recycling Plastics

various recyclable plastic bottles Don’t worry - it’s not just you. Pretty much everyone is a little unsure which plastic items are accepted for recycling and which are not. However, if you can follow the two rules below, recycling plastics will be a breeze.

  1. Ignore the recycling symbol on plastic items. These codes are basically meaningless when it comes to determining the recyclability of an item.
  2. Ask yourself – “Is this plastic item a Bottle, Jug, Jar, or Tub?” If Yes, it is accepted. If No, don’t put it in with your other recyclables.

Even with the best intentions, individuals unknowingly contaminate the recycling stream by placing unaccepted plastics in with otherwise good recyclables.

Plastic items not accepted for recycling includes: plastic bags, pens, stretch-wrap, cups, tubes, foam, utensils, plastic egg cartons, microwavable trays, plant pots, plastic mailing envelopes, bubble wrap, toys, plastic coat hangers, and clamshell containers (such as deli, berry and salad containers). These plastics are of a lower grade material or are often too difficult to process for recycling.

For a complete list of accepted recyclables, visit gainesvillefl.gov/WhatCanBeRecycled. To search the Zero Waste Wizard for information on where you might be able to recycle other materials, go to gainesvillefl.gov/WasteWizard.

The Beauty of Picking Up Roadside Litter

cartoon image of three kids cleaning up litter in a park There's a hidden gem waiting to be uncovered along the roadside - the beauty of picking up litter with your friends. While it may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of ways to socialize, the act of cleaning up our environment carries a unique charm that goes beyond the surface. Let's explore how picking up roadside litter can be a rewarding way to make friends and look after your community and your planet.

Here are four great reasons to get out there, strap on a safety vest, and make a difference this weekend:

  1. Show pride in your community by helping to beautify your community. No one likes the eyesore of litter, but your litter-free streets are sure to be a sight for sore eyes.
  2. Prevent our precious waterways from becoming polluted. Heavy rains, flash floods, winds, and time eventually carry our nasty litter to the very lakes, streams, and oceans we swim in.
  3. Protect wildlife that may mistake our litter for nesting material or, worse, ingest it thinking it is food. Let’s show some love for our wild animal friends and pick up our trash.
  4. Make our streets safe for children by removing hazardous items. A passerby or careless driver throwing trash out along our streets creates a dangerous environment for our kids.

To learn more about Keep Alachua County Beautiful and The Great American Cleanup, visit kacb.org. Contact the City of Gainesville for information on the Adopt-A-Street Litter Prevention Program. Check out gainesvillefl.gov/ZeroWaste for the latest goings on in local waste reduction.

Zero Waste Move-Out Plan for College Students (and the rest of us)

college students moving boxes up the stairs Moving out can be challenging mentally, physically, and emotionally. But, often overlooked during the hectic process of moving out is your environmental impact. Surveys have shown that nearly 80% of people admit to trashing something valuable during a move-out, and almost all people surveyed regretted not planning their move better to avoid waste.

Below are some easy tips for making mindful decisions to reduce waste while simplifying your transition to a new space.

  • Start downsizing 3 to 4 months before your move-out date. Hold back on bringing items stored elsewhere into your apartment or buying new items you’ll have to pack soon. This will reduce the number of items you'll have to deal with on moving day.
  • Sort items into three piles – Yes, No, and Maybe. Then turn your No pile into your donation pile, and sort through your Maybe pile again to whittle it down even more.
  • Offer up items for free to your neighbors on Facebook’s “Buy nothing - Gainesville, FL.” It beats having to move it.
  • Contact local donation centers to inquire about their specific guidelines for larger items, such as furniture. They may be able to pick it up from your place.
  • Declutter your space by recycling. Old papers, greeting cards, and unused boxes can all be recycled. While some items might be small, they can accumulate over time.
  • Shop small in your last few weeks before moving out. Don’t get stuck with a fridge full of wasted food you can’t transport. Unopened food can be donated. Old food can be composted.

With conscious planning and mindful decisions, you can make your move efficient, stress-free, and zero waste.

Reuse Outlet Shopping Is Practical & Environmentally Friendly

Gainesville is fortunate to have multiple reuse outlets where household items can be purchased at a fraction of the cost of new items. Buying reused goods, especially from local thrift stores, supports our local businesses and communities. A few of our most visited centers include Reuse Planet, The Repurpose Project, Habitat For Humanity ReStore, Haven Hospice Attic, Goodwill stores, and the Humane Society Thrift Store.

  • old table lamp Buying used goods is both a practical and environmentally friendly choice. Typically, reused items are more affordable than buying new. You can often find high-quality, well-maintained products at a fraction of the cost of their new counterparts, allowing you to stay within a tight budget. Also, buying reused significantly reduces the demand for new resources because every item reused means one less thing ending up in a landfill.
  • Most reused goods have already stood the test of time and proven their durability. Older items are often built with superior craftsmanship and higher-quality materials compared to some newer, mass-produced items. This can result in more durable and long-lasting items, ensuring better value for your money.
  • Reused goods might include unique or vintage pieces that bring character and individuality to your space. These items can add personality and a sense of history to your home. For the DIY enthusiast, you can personalize items by giving them new life with a fresh coat of paint, new hardware, or other modifications.

For a list of local reuse outlets where items can be purchased and donated, visit our Zero Waste Wizard.

5 Transformative Powers of Compost

While both compost and fertilizer serve the purpose of enhancing soil fertility, the added benefits of compost often overshadow those of conventional fertilizers. Benefits of using compost over fertilizer:

  1. Compost offers a diverse array of nutrients, minerals, and microorganisms to create a thriving ecosystem in your soil. This rich diversity allows for a gradual release of nutrients, ensuring a sustained and balanced nourishment for plants.
  2. Compost improves soil structure and moisture retention. This allows for better drainage in heavy soils and increased water retention in sandy soils.
  3. Compost is an environmentally friendly option over commercial fertilizers. When misused or in excess, fertilizers can contribute to water pollution and harm our ecosystems.
  4. Compost provides long-term sustainability. Composting encourages the recycling of organic waste materials such as kitchen scraps, yard trimmings, and leaves, diverting them from landfills.
  5. Using compost over commercial fertilizers is more cost-effective in the long run. Creating your own compost on-site or sourcing it locally can significantly reduce expenses associated with purchasing fertilizers regularly.

Embracing composting not only transforms gardens into thriving ecosystems but also contributes to a healthier planet.

To learn about the current fertilizer ban, please head to MyYardOurWater.org.

New ban on fertilizer information

For more compost info, bring your compost-curious self to gainesvillefl.gov/ZeroWaste.

Recycle Your Steel Cans & Empty Aerosol Cans

steel and aerosol cans Recycling steel is incredibly beneficial for our environment and pocketbooks. Utilizing recycled steel in producing goods instead of raw materials requires 74% less energy, resulting in 58% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Manufacturers pass on the cost savings they gain from using recycled steel to consumers through stabilized product prices.

Contribute to this effort by ensuring you recycle all your empty food and aerosol cans made of steel. Here are some quick tips to remember when recycling steel cans:

  • Drain all liquid from cans and clean out food residue. Your steel cans don’t have to be spotless, as paper labels and minor amounts of food residue will burn away when the cans get melted down.
  • Metal can lids can be placed right back into cans for recycling. Remove and discard plastic lids from aerosol cans.

Scrap metal items like pots, pans, or pipes are not accepted in your home recycle bins. However, for a list of local scrap metal recycling facilities where you can recycle scrap metal, visit gainesvillefl.gov/WasteWizard.

For a comprehensive list of accepted recyclable materials, visit gainesvillefl.gov/WhatCanBeRecycled.

Lighting the Way for Recycling Right

piece of yellow paper made to look like a light bulb Figuring out if something is recyclable or not can be confusing. Don’t worry, you're not alone. Thankfully, the City of Gainesville created a helpful online guide to remove all the guesswork. Now, you can become a beacon of recycling know-how and share this information with friends, family, and neighbors.

Read the guide and still didn’t find the answers you were looking for? Try the magic of the Zero Waste Wizard, where you can blaze a path of knowledge by searching all different types of materials to find out if they are recyclable and where to take them for repair, reuse, or repurposing.

Shinning with new confidence, take a turn at playing Ready, Set, Sort!. This is a free online interactive game that is fun for all ages. So after you’ve played, challenge your young ones, or even your not-so-young ones, and test all your newfound knowledge in a colorful and engaging game that will light up all parts of your brain.

For anything else that lights your fire, head over to gainesvillefl.gov/Recycle, and keep on lighting the path toward a cleaner tomorrow! 

The Magic of the Zero Waste Wizard

graphic of a wizard in gray cloke with a wand and laptop Don’t know what to do with all your extra empty potion jars, broken staffs, and dusty witches’ hats lying around? Simply, visit gainesvillefl.gov/WasteWizard and ask your friendly Zero Waste Wizard to concoct a spell of responsible waste disposal!

The Zero Waste Wizard is the most reliable, up-to-date means for getting locally focused information on recycling, disposal, and reuse. City staff is constantly hitting the books at the School of Wizardry to keep the Zero Waste Wizard current, using information supplied mainly by app users like you.

In addition to answering crucial questions like “Is this recyclable?” a peek into the crystal ball will tell you everything from where to repair items, donate household goods, or find local scrap metal professionals.

While we think the Waste Wizard possesses all the answers, this Sorcerer of Sorting is also humble, so if you ask a question that doesn’t yet have an answer, you can suggest the addition of new items to the database of zero waste knowledge.

When you want to vanquish the dreaded foes of waste, clutter, and junk, the Zero Waste Wizard will cast a spell of all-knowing and all-seeing, giving you the answers you seek. In a world of darkness and uncertainty – “What do I do with all this old stuff?!” – let gainesvillefl.gov/WasteWizard light the way forward!

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