From Garbage to Guitars: An interview with El Cerrito Creative ReUse Artist Residency Awardee Steve Zwetsch

Finding new life in unwanted goods

Carrying two guitars in hand (made of upcycled cigar boxes), a small amp, a collection of guitar slides, while wearing a brimmed hat with an assortment of handmade jewelry, Steve Zwetsch puts style in sustainability.

Originally from the East Coast, Steve is now rooted in the Bay Area where in August 2022, was awarded the El Cerrito Creative Reuse (ECCRU) Artist Residency for his collaborative project, Cigar Box Nation, where he creates playable Guitars made from repurposed, upcycled, and found objects.

Further than just creating these guitars, Steve connects with local artists to have them contribute to the process. It is here where you see the amazing intersections of his work, from oil paintings, collage, photography, spray painting, and so much more. All these collaborations and interdisciplinary mediums go into each guitar.

“It’s really magical to find something that’s really cool to add onto an instrument. It’s just a matter of opening up your eyes, looking around and seeing what can be repurposed into something else”.

Seve Zwetsch 

An artform historically established using recycled items

From bed pans, crutches, pool ball racks, and highway signs, each guitar is a unique, creative work of art that has a history and shows the relationship between consumers and the well-used items they no longer need. Steve’s work not only gives new life to these products, but shows us that art, music, and creativity can come from all places, even the dump!

Steve explains that a majority of his influence comes from the music of the rural south, where individuals who could not afford manufactured instruments would create amazing songs and music on instruments made with materials much cruder than the ones Steve is working with.

“In some cases it was a coffee can with a stick running through it and a couple of strings on it. Or they would even hammer a couple of nails to the side of the house and then put a string or a wire through it and bang it with a knife or a bottleneck, and this is how they played music.”

-Steve Zwetsch

An artistic advocate to one of human civilizations longest struggles

The messaging and hope from Steve’s work is one that calls out to reconsider what is waste, and recontextualizes what can be used in new and different ways to keep things out of the landfill. Whether it’s upcycling, swapping, donating, or trading, we can all work together to find new uses in old items.

“We need to move away from being such a throwaway society. We only have so much space and we are running out quickly. And you can have a lot of fun making upcycled things.”

-Steve Zwetsch 

To learn more about Steve Zwetsch, his work, and Cigar Box Kitchen, you can visit his website or his Instagram page @CigarBoxKitchen. You can also find his Channel 7 News Segment, Art of imperfection here.

Steve’s work will be held at the El Cerrito City Hall Gallery Space until December of 2023.


View the playable upcycled guitars in action, CLICK HERE, or select the video below:



Photos and video courtesy of Webster Ngoc Nguyen of RecycleMore.

Food Waste for Compost, Trash, or Garbage Disposal: Which Is Greener?

Composting at home is the most eco-friendly way to get rid of food scraps. Using an at home composting method such as a backyard composter or worm bin saves the natural resources usage required to transport and process the food scraps collected in municipal programs and allows for the householder to benefit from the compost created. This is the preferred option for food scrap disposal. But if you simply don’t have the space or time to maintain a household backyard compost bin, you may be wondering what the next best way is — the trash can or your kitchen sink’s garbage disposal, or something else? While it is convenient to put your food scraps down the sink or toss them in the trash; here are some alternatives that can help you be the best advocate for the environment and possible impacts for these options.

Food Scraps in the Trash – It Goes to the Landfill

Your food that is placed in the trash gets picked up by the garbage collection trucks, and it gets taken to the landfills. Once at the landfill, it starts to decompose and rot, and then releases methane gas. Landfills by law capture methane, and either burn it off or clean it to sell back to the energy grid, however some methane escapes. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas which is harmful to human and animal health and the environment.

Food Scraps in the Sink – It Goes into the Waterways

It can be easy to wash your leftovers from dinner down the drain through an in-sink garbage disposal, however it takes a considerable amount of water (approximately one gallon per person per day)  and energy to filter out food waste when it reaches a water treatment facility. Clean water is valuable, and the process wastes a lot of our precious resources. Once these food scraps are separated, they are generally transported to the same place as they would in the garbage: the landfill.

Food Scraps in the Food Scrap Pail/Organics Bin and Collected at Curbside

A simple option (and second best to composting at home) is to have a food scrap collection pail right in your kitchen to conveniently collect the scraps and then place the contents into the larger green/organics cart provided by your garbage collection company for curbside pickup. You may use any type of container that will fit in your preferred space to make it easy for you to collect your food scraps and empty the contents into the green cart outside. RecycleMore offers small Food Scrap Collection Pails (at no cost) to residents of West Contra Costa County. To learn more about this program and see where you can obtain a Food Scrap Collection Pail, CLICK HERE.

The contents of the green/organics bin are collected on regularly scheduled curbside collection days and brought to the compost facility, where these foods scraps are turned into compost. Once the compost is ready, free compost is available to residents of West Contra Costa County. To learn more about this program and see when and where you can obtain the compost, CLICK HERE.

Having a kitchen food scrap pail is a great alternative to throwing away your scraps into the trash or drain, as it allows you to separate your waste effectively and intentionally.

What Else Can You Do? Reduce Your Food Waste

There’s something you can do in addition to choosing how to discard unwanted food: minimizing the amount of food waste you create in the first place can result in huge positive impacts on your planet and wallet! If you find yourself scraping a lot of food off plates, serve smaller portions. Consider making a meal plan each week to help you buy only the food you need and use it before it spoils. Freeze leftovers and aging produce so they won’t go to waste and challenge yourself to use them creatively, into new recipes. Regrow roots or veggies allow for produce to be reused.

These are just some resourceful ways to cut your food waste down. Here are 10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste, from RecycleMore, CLICK HERE.


To learn more about what to do with food waste, the curbside collection organics programs, as well as composting at home ideas, CLICK HERE

10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste


With SB 1383 (that took effect on January 1, 2022) and the cost of food increasing (approximately 5.9 percent in 2023), food waste has become a topic of concern. Most people don’t realize how much food they throw away every day — from uneaten leftovers to spoiled produce to parts of fruits and vegetables that could be eaten or repurposed. The average family of four spends $1,500 each year on food that ends up uneaten. Here are some impactful ways to reduce food waste at home. By adopting at least one or two of these solutions, they can become a habit, making it easier to use more food waste reducing strategies in the future.

  1. Create a Weekly Meal Plan

Before heading to the grocery store, make a meal plan of the recipes that you would like to make for that week. Think of how you can extend the meal you plan on cooking and expanding to the next night or two.

  1. Check Your Pantry/Freezer

Check what you have in your pantry, refrigerator, and freezer before you head out to the grocery store. See what you can use as an alternative ingredient instead of buying something new. Use up those items first.

  1. Create a Shopping List

Before going to the store, make a list of the items that you are going to shop for and stick to it. Going to the grocery store unprepared can result in you buying the same thing that you already have at home.

  1. Shop the Weekly Grocery Ads

Consider looking through what is on sale for the week at your designated grocery store and shop for those items. Sign up for club offers and look for coupons. This will help you not overspend.

  1. Get Creative with Leftovers/Designate Leftovers Night

With leftovers, you don’t have to start from scratch, and it will make it an easy meal. Not only can it save a night off cooking but can be more economical. Or designate a theme night to clean out what is in the fridge and invite your friends over.

  1. Serve Smaller Portions

If you feel that you are cooking a lot and it is not being consumed or used, consider not making as much food as you normally do. Make your portions smaller. By serving smaller portions, it can help reduce food waste, but it can also help your health and waistline, if that is a concern.

  1. Use Food Scraps for Soups, Stocks, and Jams, as well as Re-grow Them

Many ends or not so pretty fruits and veggies can be used for soup stock or cooked down a yummy jam. Think about extending the life of the food scrap and creating something else with it. You can even save roots and veggies and regrow them.

  1. Keep Organized

Keep your refrigerator and your pantry organized, so you can easily find out what you have and what you can use. It might make sense to label items with dates clearly marked, so you identify what needs to be used first. A suggestion is to put those items in front or on top.

  1. Freeze Items

If you cannot use items in a timely matter, consider utilizing your freezer. Freeze items and label them clearly with the contents and date, so you know what it is.

  1. Store Items Properly

Make sure you know how to store items properly to extend the life of your food item. Certain locations and bins in the refrigerator, or airtight containers, can offer a longer shelf life. Determine what can be left on the counter/pantry, what goes into the refrigerator, and what should go in the freezer.


Consider Composting

When you do have food waste, consider at home composting. Learn more about backyard composting, CLICK HERE.

As an alternate solution, you can always place your items in the green/organics bin for your weekly curbside garbage collection.

Food scrap pails are also available to residents of West Contra Costa County for your kitchen for convenient sorting of food scraps for composting or to place contents into the green/organics bin. For more information, CLICK HERE.


Empower Yourself

Take control. Take action. Preventing food from going to waste is one of the easiest and most powerful actions you can take to save money and lower your climate change footprint, by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and conserving natural resources. (Source:





Disturbing Geology Findings Shows Plastic Rock Formations

Rocks Made of Melted Plastic Waste Found on Remote Island. “Plastic rocks” found on Trindade Island in the State of Espirito Santo is seen at the laboratory of the Federal University of Parana, in Curitiba, State of Parana, Brazil. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer


Recent studies discover the latest evidence that plastic pollution is a global problem.

In September 2022, Marine Pollution Bulletin released an article, “Plastic debris forms: Rock analogues emerging from marine pollution” about plastistones (rocks fused with melted plastic) discovered on the remote volcanic Trindade Island, off the coast of Brazil. Trindade Island is an important conservation spot for the endangered green sea turtle. The Brazilian Navy maintains a base on the island to protect the turtles, and are the only human inhabitants.

Plastistones are described as an analogue to igneous rock (rocks formed by the cooling of magma) that are made from plastic waste. These plastic rocks are found along the beach and form as plastic debris washed ashore breaks down and mixes with the island’s volcanic rock.

Plastistones, Plastiglomerates, and Pyroplastics?

This occurrence of plastistones is one of many sightings of “plastic geology” that have occurred in recent years. USA Today’s article, ‘‘Terrifying’ plastic rock finding: Pollution is embedded in this Brazilian island’s geology’ reports of plastiglomerates, an amalgamation of “rock, sand, and debris fused together by melted plastic” having been reported in Hawaii as early as 2014, as well as pyroplastics, pebble like rocks formed out of burnt plastics on the coast of England in 2019.

In September 2022, lead author of the Marine Pollution Bulletin, Fernanda Avelar Santos, named this new occurrence of plastic waste merging with the ecosystem as a possible contaminant and hazard to any living organism. She contributes a considerable amount of the plastics found in plastistones to waste coming from fishing nets. “The (nets) are dragged by the marine currents and accumulate on the beach. When the temperature rises, this plastic melts and becomes embedded with the beach’s natural material.”

“This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology,” Santos

The Deepest Depths

Linking Santos’ findings to The Guardian’s 2017 article, “‘Extraordinary’ levels of pollutants found in 10 kilometers (about 6.21 miles) deep Mariana trench,’” where one of the most remote and untouched places on our planet has been discovered to be contaminated by human waste and toxic chemicals; we can see that the waste created by humans have considerable impacts to the larger world around us.

A container of a tin from a food product rests at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep in the Mariana Trench. Photograph: Noaa Office of Ocean Exploration.


An expedition conducted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2022 also found various manmade items on the slopes leading to the Sirena Deep, part of the Mariana Trench, and the nearby Enigma Seamount. They included tin containers, beer bottles and several plastics bags.

A Unified Effort

While it may feel as if we are entrenched in a hopeless battle against environmental injustice, it is essential that we are aware and critical of why reducing single use purchases, proper recycling and waste management are necessary to protect our planet and its inhabitants.

Whether it is reducing your usage of waste producing products like single use plastics, recycling your items properly, or advocating for institutional accountability and legislature, the work of undoing the impacts of human waste takes a global effort.


Hazardous Materials in Home Posed a Risk to City of San Pablo Residents, How Can You Help Prevent Future Incidents?


Richmond, CA., August 18, 2023 — A recent incident on August 2, 2023, posed a hazardous material (HAZMAT) incident to the City of San Pablo community and residents. Excessive amounts of lab type chemicals were found in a resident’s home in San Pablo, that was being cleaned out by a relative. The amounts and types of laboratory chemicals initiated a hazardous materials incident that involved several county and state agencies.

Due to the amount of the potentially dangerous materials that were found at this location, residents in the 3-block area were given a mandatory evacuation order between Giant Road, Miner Avenue, 11th Street, and Palmer Avenue, in San Pablo, soon after a Shelter in Place order was given.

The agencies involved did an outstanding job at keeping the residents safe, preventing injuries, and identifying the chemicals (many of which were unlabeled), removing the materials from the residence safely, and disposing of the items properly.

Residents use common household chemicals for cleaning, maintaining yards, and vehicles.  When no longer needed these products must be disposed of properly. RecycleMore would like to remind the residents of San Pablo and all of West Contra Costa County about the no-cost Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) programs available to help people safely and legally dispose of common household hazardous items. Industrial and lab strength chemicals do not belong in the home and should be disposed of by contacting hazardous waste contractors and not delivered to the HHW facility. Even household chemicals can be dangerous.


Take stock of cleaners, pesticides, paints, batteries, oils, and fuel stored in garages, sheds and under sinks and bring any old, excess, and unwanted HHW to the HHW facilities in West Contra Costa County (Proof of West County residency is required):

West Contra Costa HHW Facility

101 Pittsburg Avenue, Richmond, CA 94801

9am-4pm Wednesday – Saturday


El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Center

7501 Schmidt Lane, El Cerrito, CA 94530

9am-4pm Tuesdays Only (For HHW acceptance. Businesses are not accepted.)


If you are a small business owner in West Contra Costa County, you may be eligible to drop off hazardous waste for a fee, as part of the Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) Program. For more information, access the RecycleMore website.

“RecycleMore is proud of the Hazardous Waste Programs available to residents and businesses. RecycleMore would not be able to offer these programs without the assistance of the contractor, Republic Services, says Peter Holtzclaw, Executive Director of RecycleMore.

If you have chemicals that are NOT common household products or large quantities, DO NOT attempt to deliver these chemicals to HHW facilities, you may need to hire a hazardous waste contractor to properly dispose of the material. If you believe there is a safety hazard, please contact your local emergency response agency to assess the situation.


ABOUT RECYCLEMORE: RecycleMore is a local government joint powers authority created by the cities of El Cerrito, Hercules, Pinole, Richmond, San Pablo and unincorporated Contra Costa County. RecycleMore is also known as the West Contra Costa Integrated Waste Management Authority (WCCIWMA).

Within the jurisdiction, RecycleMore provides waste processing management for the franchised waste stream which includes the landfill, recyclables, composting, and Household Hazardous Waste (HHW).

RecycleMore is also charged with implementing and making sure the region is in compliance with California State Laws such as AB 939, AB 1826, and SB 1383, which mandate a reduction in the amount of waste materials going to landfill.


Related Links


Website/HHW Facilities:



RecycleMore Distributes Used Oil Recycling Containers and Filter Drainers at the 2023 Car Show in Pinole

The annual Pinole Classic Car Show was held at Fernandez Park on Sunday, June 25, 2023 from 7am-3pm. The day kicked off with a pancake breakfast at the Pinole Senior Center. After breakfast, many people came out to stroll and view the hundreds of cars on display and visit the vendor booths.

RecycleMore was one of the vendor booths that distributed over 100 Used Oil Drainer Containers and Duo Capacity Oil Filter Drainers. Reusable tote bags and jar openers made of recycled tires were distributed at the booth as well. Mr. Funnelhead made an appearance and took selfies with anyone interested. In addition, 200 Mr. Funnelhead’s Oil Buster Activity Coloring Book’s were passed out to children of all ages, including adults. These items were distributed at no charge to the public and funded by RecycleMore and CalRecycle.

This was a great opportunity for RecycleMore to engage with the public and talk about how to properly dispose of used oil at California Certified Collection Centers, including information on the permanent Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) Facility located at 101 Pittsburg Ave in Richmond, which residents may also dispose of used oil year-round.

Residents in the RecycleMore jurisdiction may request a free Used Oil Recycling Kit that includes a special unbreakable plastic container with a secure screw-on top and leak proof filter bag, by contacting the following:

  • Republic Services Customers (Hercules, Pinole, El Sobrante, Richmond, San Pablo and unincorporated communities of Bayview, Montalvin Manor, North Richmond, and Tara Hills), call (510) 262-7100.
  • El Cerrito Residents, call the El Cerrito Recycling + Environmental Resource Center at (510) 215-4350.

To learn more about how to properly dispose of used oil, please visit this section on the RecycleMore website:

Event Recap: Earth Day 2023 Activities in North Richmond

On Saturday, April 22, 2023, RecycleMore staff, Reka Abraham, Lisa Borreani and Webster Nguyen, joined The Richmond Community Housing Developing Corporation (CHDC), Urban Tilth, and The Watershed Project for an Earth Day Wild Cat Creek Cleanup and school path painting project. The event was well attended with over 100 volunteers assisting with the various service projects, which started and ended at Lucky A’s Baseball field and also included celebration activities.

The creek clean-up began with a recognition of the former indigenous stewards of the land and a safety training.


Wild Cat Creek runs right along Verde Elementary School. The creek had accumulations of illegal dumping and litter that had flowed downstream. The volunteers cleared the trash from many of these areas, preventing it from making its way to the San Francisco Bay.


Student volunteers from Verde Elementary School cleaned and painted the sidewalk to beautify and promote safe routes to school.


RecycleMore had a booth and collaborated with The Watershed Project team members with fun activities for the children and families in attendance.


At the end of the Earth Day events, all of the partners were presented with certificates from District 1 Supervisor John Gioia and Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez for their Earth Day efforts.

Thank you to Kalu Dennis and team from the CHDC for organizing this great event!

See you next Earth Day!




3 Ways to Reduce Household Hazardous Products in Your Home

With spring cleaning on everyone’s minds, it is important to consider the products you use in your home! RecycleMore offers three tips you need to reduce the hazardous products in your homes, and the hazardous waste in our environment. Not only will your family, friends, and loved ones benefit from removing hazardous products in your home, but our communities and environment will benefit from the shift towards a more environmentally friendly future.


1. Consider the Alternatives

While the function of a household cleaner is to clean, sanitize, and help clean your home, that does not mean that these products are all safe for your home or environment. Using resources like the ThinkDirtyApp, you can scan products, learn about their ingredients, and find cleaner alternatives. Additionally, looking into household cleaning recipes can be a fun, sustainable, and an affordable approach to cleaning with products that you know are safe for you and those around you. For example, vinegar, soap, baking soda, and water are all items that are generally found in the home that serve as key ingredients in homemade cleaning recipes. Products like a metal drain snake to unclog drains can be a much safer and environmentally friendly alternative to drain cleaners, if possible.


2. Buy What You Need

It can be overwhelming to look for the right cleaning agent for the job; especially when there are aisles and aisles of products for every part of your home. Ultimately, this can leave you with multiple hazardous cleaners in your home. You can avoid this with all-purpose cleaners that can do multiple jobs without adding numerous cleaners in your cabinets. With the consideration of creating homemade all-purpose cleaners, you can create a safer, more affordable alternative to the multiple cleaners tucked under your kitchen or bathroom sink.

If you must buy more than one, consider the use and how much you might need to be able to get the job completed.


3. Check the Label

As mentioned earlier, while cleaning products clean your home, the ingredients in these products may have harmful impacts to your loved ones and the environment we live in. Read the label and educate yourself on the ingredients and be sure to follow the usage instructions.




Consider these tips to make more mindful decisions in regards to what you bring into your home and ultimately help reduce the number of household hazardous cleaning products in your residence.

If you do have household hazardous waste, please do not put them in your garbage (it is illegal). If you are a resident of West Contra Costa County, bring your unwanted items to the Hazardous Waste Collection Facilities in Richmond and El Cerrito. To learn more and how to properly dispose of these items, click here for more information.



Sustainable Lifestyles Choices to Celebrate Earth Month and Earth Day

Each day we make choices that impact the earth: the transportation we choose, how we manage energy around our home, where we put our empty soda cans.

We also affect the environment every time we take out our wallets to make a purchase.

Responsible consuming is the practice of buying environmentally friendly and socially just goods and services, and avoiding those that aren’t.

Reducing your own carbon footprint is a good enough reason to spend wisely. But advocates of responsible consuming point to an even greater benefit: influencing manufacturers, distributors and shop owners to deliver safer, better products.

Whether you are irked by excessive plastic packaging or toilet paper made from old growth forest trees, know that by making thoughtful and educated purchases, you can make a difference. Every time you make a purchase, you are casting a vote with your wallet.


Here are some tips for making responsible consuming a regular habit in your household:

  • Get educated. A great primer to responsible consumption, including numerous articles on the subject, can be found at Sustainable Communities.
  • Reduce single-use plastic consumptionSay “no” to single-use plastic utensils/straws and bring your own bag to the store. Invest in a reusable water bottle.
  • Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” If yes, first review what reuse options are available before buying new.
  • Buy green whenever possible. Many online retailers, such as Eco-Products sell goods made from recyclable and/or sustainably produced materials. Green America’s National Green Pages features hundreds of business listings. Reduce the need to purchase new clothes, see what you can reuse, and consider to thrift shop to buy second-hand.
  • How you use your product is just as important as what you buy. Recycle your post-consumer recycled paper, turn out your energy-efficient lights when you aren’t home, and bike to work even if there is a Prius sitting in your driveway.
  • Join a campaign to change how a product is made if you are dissatisfied with how a manufacturer is producing it. For example, the California Product Stewardship Council helped students at Sun Valley Elementary School in San Rafael, CA, with an online petition on asking Crayola to start a take-back program for plastic markers. Not only was the campaign successful, but it also inspired other companies to start similar take-back programs. Phone calls and emails to manufacturers and lawmakers can be effective, too.

Hope these ideas will help you think sustainably for this Earth Day and help make lifestyle choices for more years to come.


Here is a link to activities and events around Earth Day in Contra Costa for 2023:

Contra Costa Earth Day Events 2023

Why We Can’t Recycle Our Way Out of Plastic Pollution and What We Can Do About It

Plastic Pollution has become one of the more pressing environmental issues, as rapidly increasing production of disposable plastics product overwhelms the world’s ability to properly collect discarded plastics.   SOURCE: National Geographic


What is Plastic Pollution?

Plastic Pollution is the accumulation of synthetic plastic products to the point that it creates problems for the health of wildlife and their habitats as well for human populations.


A Whopping 91 Percent of Plastic Isn’t Recycled”

                            – Source: National Geographic


Plastic is proving dangerous to our planet, health, and wildlife, and is a rapidly growing segment of municipal solid waste (MSW). While plastics are found in all major MSW categories, the containers and packaging category had the most plastic tonnage at over 14.5 million tons in 2018, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  In 2018, landfills received 27 million tons of plastic. This was 18.5 percent of all MSW landfilled.

SOURCE: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)


We Can’t Recycle Our Way Out of Plastic Pollution

Help end plastic pollution. Learn more from a presentation and discussion during a RecycleMore Board Meeting on September 8, 2022 with Martin Bourque, Executive Director at the Ecology Center, on the topic of “We Can’t Recycle Our Way Out of Plastic Pollution”.

This presentation is an educational process of learning about the plastics food chains and highlighting of what is truly happening in recycling and bringing matters to light. The Ecology Center has been keeping an eye on and tracking of where plastics goes and what happens to it.

Plastic packaging has taken over the recycling process. Not everything is recyclable. There are only two types of plastics* that can be actively sorted and recycled.

*CalRecycle recently did a Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling Report. From this study, it was determined, what types of plastic were recyclable and not recyclable.

Only two types of plastics were identified as recyclable with a total of 15 items:

#1 – PET Plastics used for beverage containers such as water bottles.

#2 – HDPE Plastics used for containers such as milk, juice, laundry detergent and cleaners, etc. 


Where does the plastic go?

Martin shows the path of a shipment of mixed, low-grade, non-bottle, plastic container bales from the San Francisco Bay area to Guangdong Province, China, informal sector area for plastic processing. This was eventually brought to a recycling facility, which was an auction yard. Materials were auctioned off bale by bale and put on pickup trucks which were brought to smaller facilities and backyards of people where family businesses were then to sort the items. Because of the environmental degradation to such an extent of air and water pollution, these facilities were closed by the government.Processing then quickly moved to other countries like Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, with no infrastructure to manage the materials properly.

These plastics are like sponges for toxins that can get into the soil of agriculture fields because of the informal nature of facilities with materials not contained and managed properly. This becomes organic pollutants, and now into the food systems, cause extreme health impacts and issues. And, when the rain pours, a lot of the materials get washed into the rivers which ends up in the oceans and causes more problems.


Markets for plastics?

Finding markets for exporting plastic waste is very challenging. If there are any markets, they are very limited and most likely are not regulated. This is a problem and will continue to cause harm to our planet, our health, and wildlife. The plastic industry is saying all the plastics is recyclable and to collect it all. Unfortunately, the burden is put on waste management agencies, waste haulers, and municipalities.

Mexico has become largely a market to take plastics, however, they most likely are making cement from these materials. When plastic (and other materials) are burned at unregulated cement kilns to make cement and cheap energy, it undercuts recycling efforts and worsens air quality and is like “moving the landfill from the ground to the sky”.  Most of the fuels used in the cement manufacturing process, emit planet-warming gases. This is a direct link, in addition of methane being produced, to climate change.


What to do with all the plastic?

The cost to bring plastic materials to the recycling centers, sort, and dispose of it can be expensive. Therefore, a decision needs to be made to only collect the items that are truly recyclable and marketable. This will also save on processing costs. Consumers need to be more educated on what is recyclable and what is not recyclable. For the plastic items that are not recyclable, they should go to the landfills rather then dumped and burned in other markets and nations.



Martin Bourque is the Executive Director at the Ecology Center in Berkeley, California. Martin has led Ecology Center since 2000 and has leveraged local direct community service program to have state and national impact.  Under Martin’s leadership, he has led the Ecology Center to become a high impact engine for change with grassroots effort. The Ecology Center is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the health and the environmental impacts of urban residents. Their mission is to inspire and build sustainable, healthy, and just future for the East Bay area and beyond.

Martin can be reached at [email protected].



1) Video Presentation:  Video – Length 1:04:15.16 seconds



2) PPT Presentation



3) Other Articles

Recycling plastic is practically impossible, and the problem is getting worse (From NPR)

We never got good at recycling plastic. Some states are trying a new approach (From NPR)