Areas of Expertise

Trees as Gears

Our staff—with roots in disciplines as diverse as anthropology, regional planning, international relations, social systems studies, and public policy—has developed unmatched expertise in the environmental field.  Check out our depth of experience and see why our work is both sought-after, and in some cases nationally recognized.

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Automobile Policy

Oil Slick LargeThis topic could drive you crazy. Fortunately considerable attention is being paid to addressing waste issues through the lens of the automobile.

Setting aside for the moment the SUV-sized issues of fuel source and miles per gallon, you still have to address such questions as:

  • What materials are used to make our vehicles, and are they recyclable?
  • What are the environmental impacts of our cars during their long, useful lives (for example, where does all that tire tread and windshield washer fluid go?)
  • How do we manage our car's final demise, especially after you have harvested any useful metals and are left with auto-shred residue?

View projects in Automobile Policy

Batteries

Batteries Green Close-up

Long touted as a voluntary success story for product stewardship in the U.S., the issue of rechargeable battery recovery has room to mature before it is fully charged. And single-use batteries have yet to see comprehensive program or policy solutions.

Fortunately, local governments, battery producers, manufacturers of battery-using products and others continue their work on battery policy to recover resources, prevent environmental harm, and establish state-level legislation.

View projects in Batteries

Car Wash Outreach & Surface Water Management

Storm Drain Red Brick

If you don't want it on your car, why would you want it in your stream, or your salmon?

Perhaps one day the beloved community car wash fundraiser, and even home car-washing, will go the way of other auto-related phenomenon—like the buggy whip or hand-crank windows—but until then we need to be sure these activities are practiced in a way that ensures wash water toxins are appropriately diverted and treated.

View projects in Car Wash Outreach & Surface Water Management

Carpet

Carpet Rolls from Above

Carpet recovery is a wall-to-wall challenge. This single product alone represents over 1.2% of the national municipal solid waste tonnage.

While many tout the growing practice of converting recovered soda bottles into recycled-content carpet, that carpet is then itself not currently recoverable. Hardly a long-term, sustainable solution.

In fact, in 2010 only 4.5% of carpet was recycled nationwide, regardless of the resin from which it was originally manufactured.

View projects in Carpet

Commercial Recycling Outreach & Technical Assistance

People Globe CircumferenceMine your own business™. That's our advice to the hundreds of businesses Full Circle has visited. We will work with you to reduce your garbage costs, increase employee morale, boost recycling, strengthen recycling markets by buying-green, and reduce electricity and water bills.

Businesses are like small cities and should be treated systemically—and systematically—to develop an overall resource conservation plan. Let's start today.

View projects in Commercial Recycling Outreach & Technical Assistance

Electronics

Electronics Power ButtonThe zeitgeist says we each have a dozen electronic devices in our home. That's a per person estimate.

Beyond the gold and silver you might imagine in these toys and tools, you will also find beryllium, hexavalent chromium and brominated flame retardants. And that ignores the chemicals currently required to produce these products.

Meanwhile, nearly half the states have passed extended producer responsibility (EPR) laws requiring manufacturers to establish collection and recycling programs for their products. Perhaps they are onto something. Many of these companies are already taking their products back in Europe and Japan. And some are working to better design their products from a life-cycle perspective. What can we do to encourage even more action?

View projects in Electronics

Energy Conservation

Sun Energy ConservationEnvironmental protection goals and the omnipresent desire to save a buck rarely align as completely as they do in the practice of energy conservation. Reducing energy demand will in nearly every instance provide a return on investment in comparatively short order, whether achieved through conservation or technology substitution. Social equity and public health dividends are also often achieved in the form of cleaner air (when shifting away from fossil fuels) thus completing the triple bottom line.

View projects in Energy Conservation

Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

Globe in Shopping Cart

If you buy it, they will come—it could be the EPEAT program driving computer manufacturers to make major design changes or the National Parks revisiting their building materials. Purchasing power is a demonstrated driver in encouraging recycled-content and otherwise environmentally-preferable products.

View projects in Environmentally Preferable Purchasing

Foodwaste, Compost, Organics

Orange SliceA rose by any other name….. Regional and national policy have not yet settled upon nomenclature for the woody, leafy and often squishy components of our residential and commercial waste streams. But Full Circle is ready to help, whether with food waste collection from corporate cafeterias, landscape debris from an office park, leftover lunches from an elementary school or 8-yard dumpsters from multi-family apartments. Diverting this portion of our waste stream toward recovery keeps other recyclables clean, and avoids generation of potent greenhouse gases through organic decomposition in landfills.

View projects in Foodwaste, Compost, Organics

Green Schools

Person-BlackboardPay attention class: Each school is like a small city and school districts like a state.

There are heating and cooling systems, kitchens, students, faculty and staff, playground equipment, dry board markers, cleaning products, reams of paper, gymnasium lights, purchasing policies, garbage  contracts and recycling dumpsters.

Teachers are busy enough without adding recycling to their plates, and yet consistently school personnel have proven they are ready, willing and able to take on resource conservation and build it into the practices and policies of their schools and districts.

Teach your children well...feed them on your dreams.

– Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young

View projects in Green Schools

HHW & Used Oil Programs and Policies

Oil DrumsThe term Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) was coined by our own North-westerner, Dave Galvin. Sometimes simply naming something can help us get a handle on it. But while a rose by another name would smell sweet, waste—by any other name—would be as toxic.

The nickel-cadmium battery in your cordless drill, the mercury volatilizing into your lungs from the broken compact fluorescent bulb on your kitchen floor, and the carcinogens on your hands after your driveway oil change all remind us that the products in our daily lives can be less benign than we might hope.

Alternatives exist. Yet getting word out and securing behavior change can be more challenging than finding a safer product.

We look forward to working with you in engaging your public, your employees, your elected officials and your product's producer.

View projects in HHW & Used Oil Programs and Policies

Market & Economic Development

Pie Charts & Magnifying GlassIf real estate's triplet maxim is location, location, location, the past few years have seen recycling's axiomatic triad emerge as jobs, jobs, jobs.

Yet despite the Great Recession and heartbreaking unemployment, market development and economic activity in the context of resource conservation must go beyond the simple metric of employment.

Expanding use of recycled-content feedstock, increasing the purchase of environmentally-preferable goods, bringing local processing to town, expanding collection networks and ways to pay those collectors, and, yes, increasing job growth, all begin with the same things: relationships, trust, pragmatic quid pro quo, and sometimes with baseline legislation to level the playing field.

Full Circle has proven itself as an effective convener, facilitator, and participant in the often delicate and contentious process of market development. Creativity, humor, subject expertise, and close listening go a long way.

View projects in Market & Economic Development

Outreach and Education

Hands MandalaThe best laid schemes of mice and men do often go awry, and often due to weak communication.

  • What good is a well-conceived business recycling assistance program—with carefully selected targets, great incentives, and sufficient funding—if the field team can't engage the business?
  • How likely is a brilliant policy proposal to gain legislative traction if it can't be explained in clear terms that attract broad stakeholder support?

Speak clearly; listen closely; think hard. Let's work together to get craft, refine and spread your message.

View projects in Outreach and Education

Packaging

Bottles Green Bottom

Packaging: The final frontier. Or certainly an enormous frontier, comprising nearly one-third of all municipal solid waste in the United States.

Packaging—as a product in its own right—has been managed for recovery in Europe through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws for decades. A major finding from these programs is clear evidence that while economic activity has increased since the laws were implemented, packaging volumes have decreased. This ”decoupling” of growth from waste is the holy grail of triple-bottom line policies in which the economy, the environment and equity issues are in balance.

In the U.S. packaging has yet to be addressed through EPR, though rising concerns over marine debris are intensifying the spotlight on this waste stream. This growing attention may pry open new policies to address the diverse, ubiquitous, typically short-lived packaging products in which all our other products arrive.

View projects in Packaging

Paint Product Stewardship

Paint Color Wheel ReducedWhat is more exciting than watching paint dry? Watching paint product stewardship legislation gain a foothold across the United States. More than eight states now have industry-driven laws on the books requiring transportation, recycling and processing of collected paint.

Full Circle actively participated in the years of sector research, stakeholder dialogue and policy development that led to this programmatic success for collection of post-consumer paint. Specifically, David Stitzhal staffed the Northwest Product Stewardship Council’s Paint Subcommittee. In this capacity, Stitzhal was involved in research and model building regarding residual paint volumes and consumer behavior. He was also responsible for communicating with local government leadership to gather information about their paint programs, and for engaging their legislative support for paint product stewardship. Stitzhal also provides direct outreach, three times per year, to all paint retailers in the City of Bellevue to assist them in communicating with customers about how to manage leftover household paint.

Paint is a high-volume, hard-to-handle, recyclable material that does not lend itself to curbside collection. And oil-based paints are highly toxic, requiring management as household hazardous waste when discarded. Product stewardship solutions are proving effective when manufacturers are responsible for meeting specific performance goals such as providing convenient, accessible collection locations throughout the state.

View projects in Paint Product Stewardship

Pharmaceuticals

Pill Bottle Spilling White

Prescription drug overdoses have overtaken road accidents as the primary cause of death in cities across North America. Most abusers of medicines, including teens, get the drugs not from a dealer, but from a friend or relative, often without their knowledge.

Of all calls (between 2001 and 2008) made to U.S. poison control centers from emergency rooms about children who had accidentally ingested a drug, 544,000 were about children age 5 and younger. And 454,000 were due to a single medication. The visits resulted in 66 deaths. (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital).

Alongside abuse and poisonings, evidence of environmental harm is growing. Antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones have been detected in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Flushing drugs sends them through sewage treatment plants and into surface water. Landfilling drugs simply delays this process.

Full Circle’s is proud of our work with Take Back Your Meds and other programs, but we know it only begins to scratch the surface of this issue.

View projects in Pharmaceuticals

Product Stewardship

Puzzle Pieces HandsWhen Full Circle started in 1993, the term extended producer responsibility (EPR) had been coined just three years earlier by Thomas Lindhqvist in his report to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. Meanwhile back in the United States, expanding recycling was all the rage in State houses across the country—but it was typically at taxpayer expense.

In the ensuing two decades, EPR and the broader framework of product stewardship have expanded globally. Policy implementation is providing clear evidence of product stewardship’s ability to help achieve expanded materials recovery, create structures for equitable financing, and contribute toward improved design for the environment.

Though the idea of "polluter pays" emerged in the U.S. during the early 1970's environmental movement, the notion of businesses taking responsibility has been inexorably emerging in the United States for a century.

Baseline regulations governing occupational safety and health emerged from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, and U.S. industry went on to innovate and compete against each other in developing some of the safest workplaces in the industrialized world.

When the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Ohio in 1969, regulations were passed to level the playing field. Again industry competed to protect the environment while maintaining profits and a new industry of environmental protection technology was born. The realm of consumer-product safety put similar competitive demands on the auto industry with the publication of Ralph Nadar's Unsafe at Any Speed.

In each instance, formerly externalized costs—paid for by society at large or by individuals or by our ecosystem—were shifted to become part the expected cost of doing business, ultimately paid for through the producer-consumer relationship.

Why should products be treated any differently?

View projects in Product Stewardship