Waste Management

After conducting a waste audit, the green team of Kane Street Synagogue built a waste sorting station in the synagogue social hall in Brooklyn, New York.

"The purpose of the mitzvah of Bal Tashchit (the prohibition of needlessly wasting) is to teach us to love that which is good and worthwhile and to cling to it, so that good becomes part of us and we avoid all that's evil and destructive. This is the way of the righteous and those who improve society[...]: They ensure that nothing, not even a grain of mustard, should be lost to the world; they regret any loss or destruction that they see; and if possible they will prevent any destruction they can." --Sefer Ha-Chinuch, a 12th-century catalog of the Torah's 613 Mitzvot (commandments), commenting on the prohibition against unnecessary waste.

The average American produces about 4 pounds of trash a day. This is a concerning rate. We could be reusing, reselling, donating, recycling, or composting much of this waste, but instead it sits in landfills.

An audit, or assessment of your waste and where it comes from, is a necessary first step in the process of waste diversion and reduction. Then - you will take the appropriate steps to reduce your footprint on the environment:

1. Reduce. We live in what many have called a "consumer society." This cultural tendency to buy and purchase and spend is really harmful to our environment, because it requires more and more materials for more and more packaging and energy to produce the packaging. This leads to a lot of waste. Reducing your consumption is one of the best ways to reduce your stream of waste. You can purchase bulk containers so that you repurchase less frequently, you can choose washable or reusable materials and ditch disposables, so that you don't have to repurchase, and you can utilize the digital world to use less paper.

2. Reuse. Reusing materials is an excellent and money-saving means of minimizing your organization's impact on the environment. Many supplies have hidden second lives and can be adapted for many different purposes. An easy example is saving your sukkah decorations to reuse each year, while a more inventive idea is saving plastic water bottles and creating a hanging garden. The possibilities are endless - all it takes is some creativity and frugality!

3. Recycle. Recycling should be an easy way to divert waste from the landfill. Unfortunately, many of us forget to recycle, or we don't go out of our way to dispose of our waste correctly. If we are mindful, much of our waste can either be recycled or composted rather than thrown into disuse in a landfill. This diversion from the landfill makes a large positive impact, since the production of new materials uses energy and contributes to climate change. Carefully consider locations for recycling bins and maintain a surveillance system to ensure your system is working and that materials are finding their correct home. It is important to educate your staff and the members of your organization about what can and can't be recycled, because the rules differ greatly from location to location.

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Paper, Plastic, and Metal Recycling

Post signage specifying what may be recycled, following best practices
1 points
Education
Organize a field trip to a landfill, compost, or recycling center
2 points
Education
Reuse paper
2 points
Action
More info
Lobby for at least one local school and/or business to recycle
3 points
Advocacy
Set up clearly labeled recycling bins in convenient areas
3 points
Action
Start a recycling task force
3 points
Action
More info
Host an event on Jewish teachings about waste (bal taschit)
3 points
Education
Recycle 100% of recyclable materials
4 points
Action
More info
Confirm recycling by staff
4 points
Action
More info

Non-Traditional Recycling Programs

Donate facilities waste to a site that will reuse or resell it
3 points
Action
More info
Provide opportunities for textile recycling
3 points
Action
More info
Advocate for better waste management
3 points
Advocacy
More info
Recycle, re-upholster, or re-purpose furniture or carpets
3 points
Action
More info
Provide opportunities for disposing of toxic waste
4 points
Advocacy
More info
Provide opportunities for e-waste recycling drop off
4 points
Action
More info
Start a recycling team to recycle 'non-recyclable' items
2 points
Action
More info
Create a clothing, book, or furniture swap event
2 points
Action
Recycle, reuse or donate soft plastic
3 points
Action
More info

Composting

Post clear signs explaining what can be composted
1 points
Education
Hold a class on composting food and yard waste
2 points
Education
Make compost bins available in kitchen/food preparation areas
2 points
Action
Make compost bins available in eating areas
2 points
Action
Advocate about composting
3 points
Advocacy
More info
Start a composting task force
3 points
Action
More info
Create a community composting program
4 points
Action
More info
Partner with municipal or private haulers to pick up compost
4 points
Action
Compost on site
5 points
Action
More info

Waste Reduction

Switch the majority of your mail to e-newsletters
3 points
Action
Communicate your waste reduction efforts
1 points
Education
More info
Set computers' default setting to double sided printing
1 points
Action
Educate about recycling and upcycling
2 points
Education
More info
Host an event about the importance of reducing, re-using, recycling
3 points
Education
Audit waste
3 points
Action
More info
Green your wast management policy
3 points
Advocacy
More info
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Related Resources

Example: Guidelines for Events

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SIMS Municipal Recycling

SIMS provides curbside recycling services in New York City and multiple types of recycling services around the world.