By. PTCA Board Secretary Sheldon Atovsky
Did you think that the pandemic, protests and an election were enough to deal with for one year? Well, there’s more…Recycling, Composting and Conservation of Water!
Park Tower, as a reflection of our society, is at important crossroads when it comes to recycling, composting and the conservation of water. Impacting us on immediate levels are new global limitations on what we are able to recycle.
The recycling market is flooded with too many products, the recycling industry has decreased its capacity, and the manufacturers of plastics have not taken enough responsibility to consider what to do with what they make. Ugh, something more to deal with but at least it’s one with an immediate solution. Read on to find out how to best succeed.
Food and other organic materials are best disposed of through composting, that is, actively separating organic waste from other waste and purposely processing it in a manner to turn it into nutrient-rich fertilizer relatively quickly and to reduce green-house gas emissions. … Hmm, this one doesn’t sound so hard to do either.
The City of Chicago has steadily increased water and sewer taxes since 2016 and our use of water has greatly increased as we’re staying home so much more during the pandemic. There is, of course, an environmental benefit, as well, to reduction in our use of water. Hmm, this will be the hardest one to solve … but … still … We Can Do This!
Park Tower held a Town Hall meeting on November 11th with a cheerful, clear and direct representative of Republic Services, Eileen McArdle (our contractor and their recycling specialist), for removal of trash and recycling. The topic of the meeting was recycling and there was a lot to learn. Especially important is that there are changes in what is recycled and what is not.
No longer can we pretend to rely on the markings on our packages to guide us to what we may and may not recycle. These markings were created mostly in the 1970s and 1980s and do not reflect what is possible in today’s recycling industry.
For example, most plastic clamshell containers (used for fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, grapes, salads, baked goods, and take-out food) although usually marked with the numbers 1 or 2, within the triangular-shaped chasing arrows, are no longer recyclable. They are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and no recycler in the world accepts them anymore.
So first – THE GOOD NEWS – There’s plenty that we contribute to be recycled that is recycled. Follow some simple rules for each of the following –
Second – THE BAD NEWS – Not everything that we’ve been recycling is recycled so put these things now in regular trash. Help recyclers by not mucking up the goods.
Topping that list are polystyrene clamshell containers and to-go cups. They are now just regular trash filling our land-fills and our oceans. No recycler in the world recycles them.
Don’t recycle food containers that are dirty. This is not new but simply a reminder. Throw the greasy pizza box and circular pizza pad away in regular trash. However, for example, if the pizza box is not greasy and not full of crumbs but the round cardboard pizza pad is greasy, then recycle the clean box and add to regular trash only the dirty round cardboard.
No plastic bags, like those provided by Jewel and Mariano’s to carry home groceries, may be added to our recycling for Republic Services. However, Jewel recycles these bags and others similar.
These plastic bags are made out of “film,” or thin flexible sheets of plastic.
The majority of plastic films are made from polyethylene resin and are readily recyclable if the material is clean and dry.. Look for instructions on wrappings for toilet paper, paper towels, newspapers, bread, dry cleaning, t-shirts and bags filled with sealed air for packing to see if they may be added to the recycling at Jewel.
Here are a few more items that are regular trash and not recyclable. –
We received a few other pearls of recycling/eco-advice at the Town Hall Meeting from Eileen. One of the more interesting suggestions was to use the font Century Gothic or Garamond for printing of documents. They use less ink!
To read more, see https://www.republicservices.com/ .
Composting is an aerobic method of decomposing organic solid wastes. The process involves decomposition of organic material into a humus-like material, known as compost, which is a good fertilizer for plants.
Composting is a little bit more of a challenge when living in a 50+ story building than when living in a private home. We don’t have the composting pile in our backyard on which we can easily toss our organic scraps after every meal and turn it over daily or twice a week to encourage even faster decomposition.
Instead, Park Tower has 3 green containers from BlockBins. The containers are placed by our blue dumpsters around the corner from the dock area of our building. Blockbins.com is a Chicago-based composting service. Rates start at $10 a month for compostable waste, which is treated at a facility here in Chicago and sold to landscapers and municipalities to create green spaces.
Some folks keep a “collection” container lined with a compostable liner (available at Mariano’s and online) in their freezers to collect the organic scraps. This reduces odor. Others keep a 3 to 5 gallon bucket lined with a compostable bag in their kitchens.
Once you’ve joined BlockBins online, you will receive the combination to the lock on the green containers outside. You’re then ready to dump your organic scraps into one of the green containers. That’s it! You’ve saved some landfill, helped create nourishment for some pretty flowers or some crops and have joined a community of people willing to do a little bit extra to save the Earth!
Here are a few composting tips from BlockBins –
Six of our neighbors have been using BlockBins. One of the newest in the group is Catherine Kestler. She kindly Zoomed me into her kitchen to talk about the experience.
Catherine saw a sign posted in the laundry room about composting quite a while ago and thought, “when I retire, I’ll have time.” Catherine retired and followed up on that note. Now she’s wondering why she waited because composting is so easy. Also, she’s since learned that organic waste that ends up in landfills doesn’t decompose as it’s all wrapped up.
Catherine has an easy set-up to collect her organic waste. She keeps a covered bowl on her countertop to toss things in as Step 1 in collecting the waste. Step 2 is emptying the contents of that bowl into a compostable bag that is kept in the freezer.
Catherine uses the 2.6 gallon bag purchased from Mariano’s. There are larger bags available and other sources for sure.
Some folks skip the bowl and the freezer and use a commercially produced bucket, lined with a compostable bag, for the purpose of collecting organic waste. That bag goes directly to the green bin.
The fullness of the freezer with edibles is the determining factor as to how full that compostable bag is allowed to get. Whether completely full or partially full, that bag goes down to the green BlockBins receptacles and is tossed in.
One result of separating organic waste from regular trash is that the regular trash is lighter and doesn’t smell. Catherine has also found BlockBins to be very responsive to her inquiries.
Catherine advises using a twist-em to keep the bag closed when it’s in the freezer but to take that twist-em off and to tie a knot when depositing the bag in the green bin. Twist-ems are not organic and not welcome in the bin.
Catherine wants everyone to know “that composting is so easy and rewarding. The impact is great and the more people who do it the greater the effect would be. The cost, at $10/month, is minimal.
Another user of BlockBins is Monique Fouant. Her set up for collecting organic waste in her kitchen is more down-to-earth and creative. Monique uses a large, metal popcorn tin double-lined. First a regular plastic bag goes in to protect the tin from moisture and thus rust. Then goes in the compostable bags. Monique notes that the seal isn’t tight between the lid and the can so there’s a moisture problem and the initial plastic bag helps with that. – Whatever makes you happy is the way to go!
Coffee Filters & Tea Bags
BPI Certified Compostable Plastics
Excess oils (>4oz)
Paper coffee cups
Bones from cooking
Soiled paper (Non-glossy, plastic-free)
The most recent edition of TowerTalk has an article on this company and how to participate. Check it out. – “BlockBins Composting Now Available at Park Tower – https://www.ptcondo.com/blockbins-composting-now-available-at-pt/ .
In 2016 the City of Chicago put in place a 30% increase, spread over 5 years, in the tax on the use of water and sewer. This was in addition to a 5% capped inflation increase on water and sewer which had already been built into the tax. This caused about a 1% increase in our assessments for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
Management, with the aid of the Board and of TowerTalk led a vigorous campaign, at the time and in successive years, to reduce our use of water. Reduction was sought through encouragement of our individual use of water and through systemic management of our water.
We were repeatedly advised to turn off the faucet or shower in between uses of water like when shaving or brushing our teeth, to soak vegetables and fruits in a bowl of water rather than run water over them as we wash them, to put dirty dishes directly into our dishwashers without first rinsing them off and even to let liquid body elimination mount in our toilets so that we don’t waste the amount of water flushed for each use.
One thing that you should continue to do is to lather your hands for twice the length of singing Happy Birthday and then begin to run the water to rinse your hands.
Management and Maintenance worked hard by upgrading a variety of component valves and mechanical equipment, quickly fixing dripping water in our units, and the free installation of eco-friendly toilets.
This multi-pronged approach to reduction of water use worked and has enabled our Association to keep control of that part of our budget … until the pandemic hit early this year. Since early this year our use of water has skyrocketed.
For example, for the two month period ending in December 2019, the amount of water used in our building was approximately 825,000 cubic feet for a cost of $68,733. Fast forward to the 2 month period ending August 2020, and our building used approximate 1,086,000 cubic feet of water, for a cost of $92,480. This following the annual increase by the City in June, and months of many more folks staying at home. Over 25% increase in water usage and about 30% increase in cost.
The costs of our water usage have added considerably to our present budget and to the budget proposed for the next fiscal year – the proposed budget for water and sewer in the 2021-2022 fiscal year is 18.65% higher than the one originally proposed for our current fiscal year.
Use of water is also an ecological issue. It is a finite resource. We need to use it efficiently and not waste it so that it is here for the future. We have seen changes in precipitation around the world – melting ice caps, decreased snowfall in our skiing centers, increasingly long droughts (California, the Sahara).
Our Association owners and our renters need to once again buckle down on our use of water to help our planet and to protect our wallets. Use it; don’t waste it.
In 2019 an article ran on our Association’s website with a particularly detailed list of how to economize on our use of water. You might enjoy another look – “Responsible Water Use” – https://www.ptcondo.com/responsible-water-use/ .
Recycling, composting and conservation of water, as you now are reminded, are all possible and achievable for us all. They are all a lot easier to deal with than the pandemic, protests and an election. In fact, if we all pitch in and do our part, the sense of pride of contribution and cooperation will make all of those tougher issues a lot easier to deal with. Let’s try – we’re all worth it!