Microplastics: What Are They and What Can We Do About Them?

Microplastics - I like to think they’re the buzzword of the year. Which would probably be grossly inaccurate, but I do think recognition of this problem is picking up steam after several damning studies have been released.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste

What studies, you ask?

the problem with plastic:

There’s a lot to process up there. Plastic has currently found its way through the food chain. Without any long term studies, we really don’t know what this is doing to our bodies.

Plastic is a known endocrine disruptor, often masquerading as estrogen in the body, which interferes with our hormones/bodies communication system.

Synthetic estrogens are known to cause problems like obesity, cancer, and infertility. You can read more in this study.

Beyond plastic’s hormone interfering properties, another study was released where plastic acts as a sponge for bacteria.

“Some laboratory studies have found that microplastics can interfere with feeding, digestion, and reproduction in several aquatic species.

“While microplastics may physically harm organisms, there’s also concern that they could leach chemicals such as plasticizers, UV stabilizers, flame retardants, and colorants. In addition to what’s in them, microplastics have also been found to attract pesticides and other toxic chemicals in water.

“Mason says her team has found environmental contaminants that are known carcinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in higher concentrations in plastic particles relative to the water.” Read More

Check out this blog post on the problem with plastic.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste

what’s a microplastic?

A microplastic is an extremely small piece of plastic on average 3mm-5mm. Some plastics are born microplastics and others become microplastics.

See, plastic doesn’t ever go away. Plastic won’t biodegrade. It won’t turn back into soil. Instead, over time, it becomes brittle and it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces until it’s so small it’s a microplastic or nanoplastic.

But, some plastic starts out already small like glitter and microbeads. Some of the other prevalent forms of microplastics are tires and microfibers from clothing.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste


Yep, glitter is plastic. Glitter face masks, sunscreens, festival makeup looks…. this is all plastic. When you go to wash all of that glitter off of your body, it goes straight down the drain and into the water ways. Because, glitter is so small, it can’t be filtered out making it’s way out to the ocean.


First, ask yourself if you really need to use glitter? I’m not sure I’ve every been in a situation, where I just HAD to use glitter. But, they do make biodegradable glitter which is made from cellulose so it breaks down very quickly once you was it off. This one donates portions of the sales to Greenpeace International.


Microbeads have mostly been ban. In large part, it would be pretty difficult to find products with microbeads in them now, but they were a major contributor to microplastics in the ocean.

I was surprised to learn the first state to ban microbeads was Illinois back in 2014. In 2017 a ban passed at the federal level adding the US to a long list of countries that have banned the bead. Read More


Opt for microbead free products which should be very easy, since most products aren’t manufactured with them anymore.


Now, this one absolutely shocked me. I was attending the Sustainability Forum at the Phoenix Open when Dr. Leyla Acaroglu an industrial designer and sociologist dropped this piece of knowledge that tires are the number one source of microplastic pollution in the ocean.

According the the Guardian, “68,000 tonnes of microplastics from tyre tread abrasion are generated in the UK every year, with between 7,000 and 19,000 tonnes entering surface waters.”

Our tires go bald due to the friction of driving. As they go bald, they lose tiny bits of tires which are left on the roadways which eventually make their way to the storm drains which lead out to the sea.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste


This one is so tough. Driving less is the best solution. But, even if you’re taking public busses or biking there’s still a problem with tires shedding microplastic pieces. It’s probably time for the tire to get a makeover… which it has. Michelin has just introduced a biodegradeable and 3-D printed tire that would last forever. Let’s hope this becomes a reality!


Lastly, microfibers which are shed into the water ways every time we wash our synthetic clothing like polyester, acrylic, and fleece.

It’s becoming more and more popular to create clothing out of recycled plastic water bottles which results in microfiber pollution in the waterways.

A study by Plymouth University found that a single load of clothes could release up to 700,000 microplastic particles.


This is a multi-pronged solution.

1) Wash Less: When it comes to washing your clothes try to stretch washes. Just because you’ve worn something once doesn’t make it dirty. If my clothes don’t smell, then I wear them… until they do smell. And, only then do I put them in the washing machine.

2) Air it out: A great way to extend the life of your clothes is let them air out. After I’ve worn a shirt, I like to turn it inside out and spray it with this mixture, and hang it up in the open air like on the door frame of the closet

I don’t shove the piece back into my closet, I give it room to breath so air can circulate all around it.

3) Opt for Natural Fibers: When I’m shopping, I try to buy clothing made from natural fibers. It can be really hard since spandex is in almost everything, but I’m looking for at least 90% natural fibers when I check the tags on clothing.

For me, I just can’t stand synthetics on my skin. I’ve found that polyester and acrylic fabrics, which are plastic, aren’t breathable. They’re not able to regulate body temperature well.

These types of fabrics don’t keep you very warm in the winter and they can’t keep you cool in the summer. They make you sweat more and ultimately have to do more laundry - my LEAST favorite thing.

When you’re shopping look for natural fibers. Here’s a list of non-plastic fibers. Most of these fabrics have pros and cons. If you’re interested in a whole blog post about each of the fabrics I can do that, but for the sake of not making this a novel, I’m just going to list them.

I’m sure I’m missing a few, so please let me know in the comments section.

  • Cotton

  • Wool

  • Silk

  • Hemp

  • Linen

  • Rayon

  • Viscose

  • Bamboo

  • Lyocell (Tencel)

  • Modal

  • Cupro

4) Take Preventative Measures:

I do not have a 100% plastic-free wardrobe. Especially when it comes to undies and workout gear. Check out this post to learn more about sustainable and ethical work out clothing. I speak a bit about the polyester conundrum when it comes to work out clothing.

In this case, I try to take preventative measures by using something to catch the microfibers. There are several different options like the guppyfriend or a microfiber ball.

Microplastics: what are they and what can we do about them from www.goingzerowaste.com #microplastics #plastic #zerowaste


I recently sourced questions from my Instagram stories on microplastics and I’m going to do my best to answer them and give you some solutions on ways that you can help reduce your contribution to microplastics.

what about shoes made from recycled plastic water bottles?

I definitely don’t have as much of a problem with items that aren’t going to be put through the washing machine over and over again. I personally don’t love the idea of wearing plastic shoes though. I’m not sayihng I’d never wear a pair.

But, I’d be afraid they’d make your feet sweat and stink. Did you know poly actually makes sweat stink more? You can read about it here.

can you tell just by looking at a fabric if it’s poly or going to cause microplastic pollution?

Not normally, it can be really tricky, so I just to be safe always check the label. Acrylic and fleece jackets are two of the worst offenders so those are the two items I’d avoid at all costs.

what natural fibers do you go for and what are your fav stores to get them from?

If I’m buying secondhand, I don’t particularly care what the fabric is as long as it’s on the list above. If I’m shopping first hand, I opt for tencel (a zero waste fabric!), modal, silk, and ethical wool. I also look for non-toxic dyes. Amour Vert is one of my favorite shops (big surprise, right?) because I feel really confident about whatever I buy there being non-toxic and sustainable.

I will work on a full blog post all about this though.

What should I do with old clothes that I’ve stopped wearing because they aren’t made of natural fibers?

There’s not much you can do with them. They’re not very valuable, and it’s not really possible to turn them into other products at this time. But, that could be changing. A company in Hong Kong just found a way to infinitely recycle polyester so we’ll see!

What about undergarments?

I wrote a whole blog post about ethical and sustainable underwear brands for you to check out.

Swim suit alternatives?

This falls in the same category as workout gear. It’s pretty much unavoidable, but typically we don’t put swimsuits through rough spincycles in our washing machines.

I haven’t found any data on hand washing vs. washing machines, but I believe the crux of the problem lies with the washing machine. While I’m sure microfibers shed from hand washing, I don’t think it would be as extreme as it is with hand washing.

Organic cotton vs. conventional?

If I’m buying first hand, I always try to opt for organic cotton. You can read more in this post: All Your Questions About Eco-Friendly Cotton Answered

I hope this article has provided a little bit of insight about microplastics, microfibers, and ways that you can tackle the problem.

Of course, I can’t let you go without saying you should contact your representative about this issue! Send them an email, fax, or give them a call. This is a super hard subject to tackle. Is it possible that we see polyester, acrylic, or fleece banned from the market place? What about non-biodegradable glitter? Maybe all washers should come with microplastic filters on the machines?

I’m not entirely sure, what solutions could help prevent the problem even more, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to let your representative know that it’s a subject you feel passionate about.

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event

This past weekend I went to the Waste Management Phoenix Open a zero waste event for 700,000 people AKA the largest zero waste event in the world. And, when you read 700,000 people it might not seem like that many… but when you’re there… with 700,000 people, you realize that’s A LOT of people.

700,000 people is larger than the population of many states including Vermont, Wyoming, Alaska, North & South Dakota, Delaware, Rhode Island, Montana, Maine, New Hampshire, and Hawaii.

Now, imagine trying to divert 100% of everything from landfills…. if it sounds pretty difficult, you’d be correct.

This post was sponsored by the Waste Management Phoenix Open all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. For more information, please see my disclosure policy.

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

1. get dirty:

Education is a huge aspect of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. There’s lots of signage, a zero waste station, a sustainability forum, and every bin is labeled with what goes inside to encourage and educate consumers.

But, even with what goes in each bin written on the boxes, I watched countless people put their compostable plates in the recycling bin and their aluminum bottles in the compost. When you add a little bit of alcohol, relying on people to sort things properly can get dicey.

So, how do you keep an event like this zero waste? Well, Waste Management hand sorts EVERYTHING. Yep, they rip through every compost and recycling bag to make sure that everything is sorted properly.

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

2. work with your vendors:

Even though Waste Management doesn’t have complete control over the event and what is served, they work with their contracted vendors to make sure their packaging is certified compostable, recyclable, or reusable.

Beyond just educating their vendors, they also try to educate their patrons. And, shout out to Dutch Bros with their refillable and reusable coffee cups!

Waste Management inspects all the booths in the morning to make sure their packaging is certified compostable or recyclable. If the booth doesn’t have the right materials, they will shut the booth down until they are compliant.

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

3. take away the trash cans:

As a patron everything you receive will either be recyclable or compostable so the only two bins placed out at the tournament are for recycling and compost.

There are NO trash bins available to the public for the entire event.

There are some trash bins in the back of house due to laws around food preparation. The caterers have to use things like plastic wrap, gloves, hair nets, etc, but all of that is diverted from landfill and sent to a waste to energy plant.

Total, for the event, they have five waste streams.

  1. compost

  2. recycling

  3. waste to energy

  4. wine bottles

  5. donation

This is the breakdown from 2018, 56% of the waste is recycled, 26% is composted, 9% is donated, and 9% is sent to a waste-to-energy plant.

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

4. get creative with reuse:

This year, Waste Management implemented a new waste stream specifically for wine bottles. They partnered with a local artist to make drinking glasses out of the wine bottles from the event.

I think it’s a great reuse of this material and everyone seemed so happy with how they turned out. They also kept emphasizing how its so much better to reuse than recycle, and that’s the kind of thing this girl LOVES to hear!

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

5. know what happens to the waste:

Now, what I think is the most impressive out of all of this, is the fact they have found domestic markets for all of these items.

They aren’t just shipping this stuff off somewhere and hoping for the best. They have found, toured, and insured that what is being recycled is TRULY being recycled.

6. be water positive:

Beyond just being a zero waste event, Waste Management makes sure the Phoenix Open is Net Neutral which means the event is water positive, carbon neutral, and zero waste.

Waste Mangement and the Thunderbirds, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping children and families in Arizona, have helped to restore 200,000,000 gallons of fresh water to eco-systems in need across Arizona.

They also collect all of the water from booths and hospitality centers and recycle it for use in their port-a-lets.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, how can a golf course be water positive? And, I get it Phoenix, AZ is a desert.

Having a golf course there sounds incredibly water intensive, but after doing research on the course, the golf course has been supplied with reclaimed and recycled water since the 90s. Check out this post to read more about Golf and Sustainability.

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

7. use renewable energy:

Every year, the Waste Management Phoenix Open reports it’s carbon footprint. To reach their goal of making it a totally carbon neutral event, all of the electricity is procured from APS which is 100% renewable, and it powers the generators, golf car fleet, beverage booths, you name it - it’s powered with clean energy!

8. buy offsets:

Since they use renewable energy, the only greenhouse gas emissions that remain are from transport. Whether that’s players, vendors, volunteers, glass bottles headed to the local artist, compost, recycling, Waste Management buys offsets for all of it.

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

9. consider location:

I personally love to see golf courses act as reserves for nature. The TPC Scottsdale, where the Waste Management Phoenix Open is held, redirects 80% of yard waste which is used as part of a pest management program that significantly reduces the need for pesticides. This aids their wildlife habitat preservation program that supports numerous indigenous species like blue heron, bobcats, coyotes, fish, groundhogs, hawks, ospreys, quail, rabbits, snakes, and turtles.

And, just because I think it’s extra cheeky, the TPC Scottsdale is built on an old dump. Yep, it’s a landfill turned golf course/nature preserve. I think that’s pretty cool!

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

10. get certified:

I’m sure this all sounds great, but wouldn’t it be nice if there were a third party to certify all of it?

Well, there’s not one, not two, but THREE! I mean this is really just the extra mile - or - er - the 19th hole.

The Waste Management Phoenix Open is UL certified and has been since 2013. They’re also GEO certified and have received the Evergreen Inspire status with the Council for Responsible Sport. Making them the first PGA Tour tournament to obtain both certifications and the largest event ever to earn this level of recognition.

Council for Responsible Sport:

The Council for Responsible Sport participated in the “Dialogue on Sport and Climate Action,” in 2017. Out of that meeting came the Sports for Climate Action Initiative announced by the United Nations.

The Council helps to identify critical principles for action that will serve as a framework for sporting organizations to help address climate change. So far, 101 sporting events and organizations have earned format certificates in recognition of their climate action leadership.

These are the five principles of the Sports for Climate Action Initiative from their website:

  1. Undertake systematic efforts to promote greater environmental responsibility

  2. Reduce overall climate impact

  3. Educate about climate action

  4. Promote sustainable and responsible consumption

  5. Advocate for climate action through communication

Learn More

Evergreen Inspire Status:

The Council for Responsible Sport has four different levels of certifications. Baseline Certified Events achieve 45% of total best practices, Silver Events achieve 60%, Gold Events 75%, and then Evergreen events which have achieved 90% or more!

Out of 101, there are only 13 events that have achieved Evergreen Status and the Waste Management Phoenix open holds two of those spots!

Learn More

GEO Certified:

Now, not only is the TPC Scottsdale GEO Certified so is the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The GEO Foundation is a non-profit organization. From their website, “Inspiring golf to fully embrace sustainability and promoting a shared understanding of issues and solutions, working with and through industry associations and businesses.

“Connecting the efforts and knowledge of the global golf community and recognizing people who are a part of golf’s sustainability movement.

“GEO provides three programmes and also administers golf’s sustainability assurance, GEO Certified® - the symbol of great golf environments worldwide, available for golf facility operations, for Developments, and for Renovations.”

Read More

UL Certified:

This certification is not for the faint of heart, and Waste Management has been certified for five years. Receiving UL certification involves tracking and weighing every. Single. Thing. FOR 700,000 PEOPLE.

Everything that is taken off of the course must be weighed and measured for accurate reporting on landfill diversion. From their website, “ UL can validate a company’s efforts and provide credibility to those efforts with the industry’s first standard – UL 2799 – designed to measure and validate zero waste and waste diversion claims.

The UL waste diversion validation program focuses on monitoring and measuring material flows that are not part of an organization’s final product. UL offers four landfill waste diversion claim validations to recognize companies that handle waste in environmentally responsible and innovative ways—from energy production via incineration to reuse, recycling and composting.

Materials that are not diverted are considered disposed and go to the landfill or incineration without energy recovery.

UL requires at least 90% diversion through methods other than waste to energy to achieve Zero Waste.”

Read More

10 Tips for Throwing a Large Zero Waste Event from www.goingzerowaste.com #zerowaste #events #partyplanning

practical application:

If you’re throwing a large event, here are some key takeaways.

  1. Make sure to educate your patrons. Have signs and clearly labels bins with what goes in each one.

  2. Work with your vendors, if and try to push them towards more sustainable offerings.

  3. Find creative partners for reuse. If you’re going to have a lot of leftover flower arrangements why not donate them to a hospital or nursing home.

  4. Make sure you’re prepared to handle the waste in the back of house with proper sorting.

  5. Buy offsets!

Don’t forget to check out my notes on the Sustainability Forum. I heard so many amazing speakers and even got to speak for a bit on The Side Bar!

And, don’t forget to check out Alden’s post for even more tips on creating large zero waste events!

8 Key Takeaways from the Waste Management Phoenix Open Sustainability Forum

This year I got to head to the Waste Management Phoenix Open. I was invited to tour the grounds and see how the largest zero waste event on the planet operates.

Waste Management diverts 100% of their waste from landfill for this 700,000 person event. To see how that’s even possible be sure to check out my blog post full of tips for throwing a large zero waste event!

One of the core principles of this event isn’t just to divert waste from landfills its also to EDUCATE. As part of the tournament, there’s signage, even an excellent zero waste station made from upcycled shipping containers where you can learn, play games, and cool off in the shade provided by the umbrellas.

 But, there’s also a Sustainability Forum. Honestly, I don’t know if I was more excited to head to the Forum or the Behind the Scenes Tour to see how Waste Management pulls it off.

8 key takeaways from the waste management phoenix open sustainability forum from www.goingzerowaste.com

This post was sponsored by Waste Management but all thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information please see my disclosure policy.

Now, before I go any further, I have to mention my fantastic partner in crime Alden Wicker from Eco Cult. This gal is badass. She writes articles that I could only dream of writing. She’s a professional journalist and it 100% shows in her work. If you’re looking for some serious deep dives, especially in the sustainable fashion sphere, you have got to check her out.

We’ve been online friends for about a year and a half but getting to share a suite and geek out over everything sustainable at the tournament was just a blast! As Anne of Green Gables would say, “Bosom Buddies 4 Lyfe.”  

8 key takeaways from the waste management phoenix open sustainability forum from www.goingzerowaste.com

Thursday morning we woke up early to head to the Sustainability Forum where we were greeted with my favorite sight in the whole world. A whole bunch of mugs and stainless steel tankards full of tea.

Hello, plastic-free dreamboat.

 And, if you can indulge me on a bit of a whim, all of the signage was made out of Falcon Board. Now, that may not mean a lot to you, but to a gal who worked in a print shop that specialized in sustainable conference signage - it means something.

Falcon is one of the ONLY rigid materials with longevity that uses recycled content and is recyclable. Now, longevity is important because Waste Management uses over 50,000 sq. ft. of signage year after year.

I know this might seem small and inconsequential, but I’m sure we all know - the devil is in the details. The people organizing this event, the sustainability team, etc. they are thinking about everything down to the tiny signs that advertise the tea and coffee. 

Now, that I had my tea, it was time to head into the forum and of course, snag a front row seat.

I’m going to share with you some of the most significant takeaways from the event, but you can catch also watch the rebroadcast of the live stream.

1. Jim Fish the CEO of Waste Management:  

Jim spoke a bit about Waste Management’s history with the Phoenix Open. This was their 7th year pulling off the biggest zero waste event in the world, and they just signed on for another 10! 

I think Jim did a great job of putting things into perspective. In sustainability, I feel that we can get very wrapped up in how far we have to go without looking back over how far we’ve come. There’s this belief that if we celebrate progress, it somehow means that we’re satisfied with where we are.

That seems pretty silly to me. Let’s celebrate our progress and continue to push forward. In 1980, 10% of products worldwide were recycled. Today we're up to 35%. This is a great achievement, but as Jim said, let’s focus on getting to 60%.

Did you know Waste Management owns the biggest fleet of heavy trucks in North America? They have 18,000, and they’re shifting all of them from diesel to natural gas.

And, I hear you, “Natural gas!? That’s not eco-friendly!” But, what if I told you’re they’re tapping and extracting the natural gas from their landfills.

Landfills produce 16% of methane emissions in the US, so instead of letting that happen, they’re reclaiming it. I think that’s pretty cool and they’ll have 60% of their fleet converted by the end of 2019.

This one change will reduce their emissions by 80%.

They’re also working on expanding composting programs, investing in new technologies, and dedicated to opening up domestic plants, so we don’t have to rely on China for our recycling.

2. Valerie Craig the Deputy to the Chief Scientist & Vice President of Impact Initiatives for National Geographic:

Valerie started out with a lot of facts that most of y'all already know.

  • 40% of plastic is used only once

  • 9 million tons of plastic hitting the ocean

  • Since the plastic boom in the ’50s 8 million metric tons of plastic has been created and in the last 15 years half was produced

  • Packaging materials make up a bulk of the plastic produced accounting for more than 50% of the waste

Now, this is where I think things get interesting. Valerie talked about the emissions of plastic vs. other materials.

For instance, lightweight films and bags are easier to transport, and the weight difference between glass and plastic creates a stark contrast in carbon emissions.

It’s just not as simple as going back to using glass or going back to the way things used to be. She stressed that we need to be material mindful and that when looking for solutions we need to work through the value chain all the way back to design.

We need to make sure that companies are taking responsibility for the whole lifecycle of their product.

The most exciting recommendation, I thought, was to get all companies on board to decide on a limited number of packaging options. So, instead of having all different types of granola bar wrappers, there’d only be one type.

Then, it’d be much easier to find solutions and markets for these items.

She also talked about how quickly awareness to the problem has grown. In just 12-18 months 1.1 billion views across social media on the awakening of plastic! I found this to be super encouraging and hope to see it trending more and more.

8 key takeaways from the waste management phoenix open sustainability forum from www.goingzerowaste.com

3. Panel One | Problems with Plastic:

This panel included Jason Hale Communications and Recycling Coordinator for Systemiq, Steve Sikra Materials and Technology Manager for P&G, Nicholas Mallos Director of Trash Free Seas from the Ocean Conservancy and Valeria Craig the Deputy to the Chief Scientist & Vice President of Impact Initiatives for National Geographic and moderated by David Pogue.

This panel was SO exciting. I definitely recommend listening because it will make you question a lot of the beliefs you hold dear about “bad” big business.

I had a mini existential crisis after listening to the panel and literally wrote, “Is anything truly good or bad?” in my notes.

Steve from P&G kicked things off talking about why and how they’re trying to move to more sustainable products.

Jason talked about Systemiq which helps run a recycling plant in Indonesia and helps to manage waste to prevent it from winding up in the ocean. He spoke of how typical waste management in the region involves either burning, burying, or putting it in the river. They know this isn’t the best option, but they don’t have any other choices. He’s working on trying to solve it.

Nicholas talked about cleanups and intervention points, and how to deploy technology in coastal eco-systems and rivers where plastic is the most saturated. Taking plastic out of the ocean should be the last thing we’re thinking about, we need to figure out how do we stop the materials from getting to the ocean in the first place and how do we move upstream and how we address the broader sustainable development issues that surround plastic waste in society.

Natalie spoke a little more about the facts and figures found in the National Geographic Planet or Plastic issue.

They also spoke about gateway plastics, convenience items, waste management in Indonesia, LOOP, how facilities and technologies for managing waste will change depending on location and area and how we need to work with what they have, talked about systems for recycling fishing nets, and more.

4. Mick Ebeling from Not Impossible:

This was a really inspiring talk. You might have seen the viral video last year about the 3-D printed prosthetic arm that can be made for several hundred dollars. This talk didn’t really cover sustainability, so I didn’t take many notes.

5. Dr. Leyla Acaroglu an industrial designer and sociologist:

Dr. Leyla spoke a lot about the role of design with an emphasis on the circular economy. She also talked about our disconnect from the system.

As humans, we tend to forget that we rely on nature. We can’t operate above nature, we’re part of nature.

Waste, trash, it’s all a poor design. So let’s design out the problem from the beginning. Nature is regenerative and we should be looking to work with nature instead of against it. I’ve outlined a few more of my key takeaways below.

  • changing social norms and overcome convenience culture

  • we designed our self in we can design ourselves out

  • repair, remanufacture, resell

  • utilizing sharing platforms as a resource

8 key takeaways from the waste management phoenix open sustainability forum from www.goingzerowaste.com


During the lunch break, I popped up in The Sidebar which you can see in the video below and had a delicious meal with a real plate and even a cloth napkin! Woot-woot!

8 key takeaways from the waste management phoenix open sustainability forum from www.goingzerowaste.com

6. Brent Bell Vice President of Recycling:

I cannot recommend this talk highly enough. It’s pretty short but it’s all about how we can be better recyclers, the problems recycling institutions are facing, and how Waste Management is finding solutions.

He was very optimistic about the future of recycling despite the recycling ban in China. Waste Management has done a great job of developing new domestic markets and have even implemented gamification on the bins.

In one of the videos, you’ll see they’ll put a paper tag on the bin. If you’re doing an excellent job of recycling, they’ll put a smiley face on your bin! If you do poorly, they’ll put a frowny face and more information to help you recycle better.

He also talked about Wish-cycling which is the leading cause of contamination. You’d be surprised some of the things people try to recycle.

  • 80,000 lbs of 5,000 Bowling balls.. a year!?

  • Recycling cart as a wishing well

  • 90,000 propane tanks - which explode and endanger workers!

  • 28,000 batteries a month

All of this results in more than 140,000 hours where the machines are shut down and have to be cleaned instead of sorting and recycling. Watch the talk to hear more about their education programs and new technologies being developed.

7. Andrew Winston co-author of Green to Gold, the best-selling book that shows what works -- and what doesn't -- when companies go green:

 If you want to feel hopeful about the future. If you want to question a lot of your previously held beliefs of big business in society, watch this talk. I’m going to hit some of the top bullet points because he spoke fast and shared A LOT.

  • Paris Climate Accord, even though the US stepped out. Mayors, Governors, even mega-corporations stepped up to say they were still in. With more than 70 cities pledging to be carbon-free by 2050

  • Soon, it will be more expensive to maintain an existing coal mine and nuclear plant than it is to build NEW solar and wind

  • 70% of the energy created now is renewable

  • Fossil fuels are over, now it’s about how fast we turn over the grid

  • Sustainability is NOT PHILANTHROPY

  • Generational shifts of the consumer and Millenials are demanding transparency

  • Now the definition of a good product is one that works and is responsibility sourced, and sustainable delivered

  • Companies feel the need to stand for something

8 key takeaways from the waste management phoenix open sustainability forum from www.goingzerowaste.com

8. Future of Cities a Panel:

On the panel was Robert Kunzing the Senior Environment Editor for National Geographic Magazine, Clarence Anthony Executive Director of the National League of Cities, Dr. Leyla Acarogula an industrial designer and sociologist, Andrew Winston advisor and author, and moderated by David Pogue.

This panel talked about urban design and where we see cities heading. Currently, 50% of the population lives in a metropolitan area, and by 2050  it will grow to 70% of the population.

Last year, I attended Urban-X a conference and incubator all about remaining city life and tackling these problems. How can we evolve our cities to be sustainable, desirable, equitable, and accommodate our ever-growing population?

The panel talked about bringing nature back into our cities. We’ve managed to create a lot of concrete and buildings and wiped out some of the earth’s natural defense mechanisms like mangroves, green spaces, oysters, etc.

They also talked about climate proofing our cities. Be sure to check out the video to hear more about their fantastic ideas.

8 key takeaways from the waste management phoenix open sustainability forum from www.goingzerowaste.com

I hope you enjoyed this recap and a sneak peek into the conference. I hope you walked away with more knowledge and more questions. Let’s keep asking, let’s keep learning, and let’s keep trying to develop a more sustainable world.

Check out the next post to see how Waste Management pulls of this zero waste event for 700,000 people!