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Waste Not, Want Not - Waste Management Tips with Bridging the Gap

Waste Not, Want Not - Waste Management Tips with Bridging the Gap

Bridging the Gap is a Member of Nonprofit Connect. BTG works to make the Kansas City region sustainable by connecting the environment, economy and community. Learn more about Bridging the Gap.

There is so much about modern society that happens behind the scenes. All of the internal gears and pulleys of local governance and industry that make modern society what it is, much of it happening without us noticing. Traffic lights, parks management and maintenance, water filtration, shipping, HVAC systems, and on and on.
There is one major subsection of these processes that deserves some serious consideration: our waste management practices. Whether at home or at work, there is so much waste to contend with: cardboard and foam from packaging, leftovers from that luncheon you hosted on Monday, the plastic water bottles you bought because the water fountains were shut down due to the pandemic. Not to mention the reems and reems of paper used for flyers, meeting agendas, notetaking endeavors, scrapbooking (is that still a thing?) and on and on.
What do you do with all this waste? Recycling is great, but maybe you heard a rumor that not all of the stuff is actually being recycled. There’s something called composting but, like, what even is that? Reduce, reuse, recycle is a thing, right?
Waste is complicated. The culmination of several generations technological advancement and market changes have resulted in a patchwork of different rules and processes that vary greatly from city to city, state to state, and material to material. But, fear not, for there are resources out there to demystify these processes and declutter our work and home lives.
Today, I’ll be sharing a few tips, tricks, and lifehacks, but first, let’s dispel some myths about waste management:
Myth #1
All the work I am putting into recycling and these materials aren’t being recycled anyway.
This is a big one. It’s unclear where exactly it started, but the bottom line is this: the majority of things being sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) that are recyclable ARE being recycled. The top exception to this is contaminated materials. Contamination is the BIGGEST reason why a material or batch of materials is not being recycled. This contamination can come when non-recyclables are put in recycling bins (more on this later), or when liquids, oils, or food residues saturate recyclables. Contamination is not a good thing.
Myth #2
If it has a recycling symbol on it, it must be recyclable.
The “chasing arrows” logo has become synonymous with recyclability. But there are thousands of products imprinted with the arrows, and not all of them are recyclable. It all depends on local markets and the durability of the product in question. Check with your municipality to be sure which are accepted in your area of the metro.
Myth #3
Organic materials will break down in a landfill.
Americans waste a whole lot of food. Up to 40% of all food produced, by some estimates. Organics materials like food scraps, paper, and coffee grounds require an aerobic (with oxygen) environment to breakdown properly. Landfills are anaerobic (sans oxygen). In these environments, the gases that would normally work to break down organics instead produce methane, a greenhouse gas roughly 20x worse for the environment than CO2. Consider composting from cool, local companies like KC Can Compost, Missouri Organic, Food Cycle KC, or Compost Collective KC. They turn your organic waste into usable, nutrient-rich soil additives.
Now, let’s demystify some of the peskiest parts of recycling process.
Not all plastics are created equal, and not all of them are recyclable in most areas. Plastics are an end product of petroleum. The oil is manipulated in various ways, resulting in a multitude of different types, all of which are labeled with a number 1-7 that delineates the type of plastic they are made from. Check your labels before tossing that plastic in the recycling bin. In general, though, we would do well to remember that reduce, reuse, recycle is, and always has been, a hierarchy. We should reduce our plastic use first and foremost, and thus avoid the need to recycle it in the first place. Bring your own bags to the store, and shop in the bulk bins when possible. Check out more plastic reduction tips.
Avoid Wishcycling
Wishcycling, sometimes called aspiration recycling, is an industry term for when we put something in a recycling bin that we aren’t sure is recyclable, but we are hoping is, so we toss it in the bin. This creates massive problems downstream at the Materials Recovery Facility. These wishcycled items muck up the machinery, contaminate batches of otherwise recyclable materials, and generally wreak havoc.
Materials Recovery Facilities
Okay, so where is it all going? By and large to a Materials Recovery Facility. These MRFs sort all that recyclable material using a system of conveyor belts, magnets, and hand sorting and send the individual materials on to companies that use that recovered material as a supplement to virgin materials. Again, the important thing here is reduction in contamination, such as plastic bags, straws, and other thin, flexible plastics, as well as food and drink residue.
Now onto some tools and tips you can use.
Recycle Spot
Clear communication is key to recycling responsibly. Luckily, Kanas City has a great resource available to help you make the right decisions on what goes in your bins. makes it easy. Just type in the item you are curious about, add your zip code, and voila! Instant clarity. Recyclespot is operated by the Mid-America Regional Council’s Solid Waste Management District. Remember: Check before you chuck!
Recycling More At Work is a service also supported by the MARC SWMD. It contains knowledge and tips for establishing a long-lasting waste management system at your place of business.
Recycling Drop Off Centers
There are three drop off centers operated in the metro.
  • Deramus – 4707 Deramus Ave. KCMO 64127
  • South – 5200 E. Red Bridge Rd., KCMO 64137
  • North – Pleasant Valley Park, 5601 NE Pleasant Valley Rd.
These centers all accept cardboard, paper board, paper, aluminum, tin, scrap metal, glass, and plastics #1 through #7. The Red Bridge location accepts various other materials. Here is a complete list.
Business Recycling Program with Bridging the Gap
Bridging the Gap, an environmentally focused nonprofit in KCMO, offers a way for businesses, non-profits, schools, and multi-family housing units to reduce their waste streams and create lasting waste management practices through our Business Recycling Program. We offer waste audits, consultations, and implementation strategies, as well as technical assistance and best practices to help your business conserve resources and improve your waste footprint. These services are offered free of charge for businesses in Missouri through a generous grant from the MARC SWMD. Learn more at our website here, or by emailing Eric Hemphill.
Learn More:
KC Climate Action Plan
MARC Residential Solid Waste Management Survey
B Corps Certification

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