You probably do some form of recycling if you live in the U.S. You probably separate paper from plastic and glass and metal. You rinse the bottles and cans, and you might put food scraps in a container destined for a composting facility. As you sort everything into the right bins, you probably assume that recycling is helping your community and protecting the environment. But is it? Are you in fact wasting your time?
Sweden burns half its rubbish to generate energy.
People in Sweden generally waste as much as people in other countries, around 461 kilograms per person each year. But only one percent of that waste is ending up in landfills, thanks to the country’s innovative “recycling” program. (Video)
This YouTube video about the invention of a plastic-to-oil converting machine went viral and exceeded 3.7 million views. This shows that concern over “the plastic problem” is certainly not going away, despite encouraging bans on and decreases in the use of plastic shopping bags.
Millions of tons of waste from factories, building sites, and processing facilities are being turned into something besides landfill with a technology that has led researchers to fabricate bricks out of TVs, computers, paper waste, incinerator ash, rubble and other materials that were conventionally considered useless.
This week we’re talking about fungus two ways. One that can survive exclusively on polyurethane and another that can replace Styrofoam.
South Carolina tire dump so large it is visible from space.
The giant pile of hundreds of thousands of tires isn’t easy to spot from the ground, sitting in a rural South Carolina clearing accessible by only a circuitous dirt path that winds through thick patches of trees. No one knows how all those tires got there, or when. (Pics)
A lone child in the valley of garbage
Manshiet Nasser is a neighborhood located in Cairo, Egypt. People refer to it as the City of Garbage because trash from all over Cairo end up there. It is not a landfill. Rather, people who live there survive on sorting through garbage and selling whatever is useful. They claim that 80% of the waste is recycled and resold. (Amazing pics)
Corucon student housing project
You’ve probably heard of strawbale construction — but what about cardboard bale construction? We already know cardboard is pretty versatile and can be found anywhere from furniture, to ornaments, to mulch, to houses and earthquake resistant schools. But what can be done with non-recyclable waxed cardboard that usually ends up in some landfill? As a team of Auburn University students are showing in this experimental student housing project called Corucon, even the hard-to-recycle, waxed corrugated kind of cardboard can still be reclaimed and used instead as bales for building, much like strawbales. (Pics)
The majority of the public is aware of the necessity of recycling or better, reducing the waste that you generate in the first place. And now Call2Recycle is campaigning to remind the American pubic about recycling rechargeable batteries so that they too can be diverted from the landfill. In fact, they are calling for the American public to recycle 1 million pounds of rechargeable batteries between now and October 1.
Hemp tent and inner vent.
There is a enduring urban myth that Levi Strauss made his first jeans from hemp sail cloth, that he’d originally intended to sell as tent fabric to Californian Gold Rush prospectors. Although the company’s records were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, the official Levi Strauss history tends not to bear out this charming story.
But legends aside, hemp would’ve made a worthy tent fabric. It is strong, durable, resistant to UV light, with absorbent fibres that would swell when wet offering a tighter seal against moisture. All the reasons it was the sail material of choice back in its hey day.
Moving on to the modern day we find that a British company, Green Outdoor, is bringing the hemp tent back to life. (As well as tents of recycled polyester.)
Most recycled product is not what you might expect.
What Can We Learn From This Success?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), only about 1/3 of all waste in the U.S. is recycled or reused. 2/3 are going to landfills or incinerators. Scientific American wondered what product was the most recycled: “It’s not aluminum cans–only half are recycled. Or even office paper, at more than 70 percent. It’s the lead acid batteries from your car. More than 99 percent of such batteries wind up recycled, keeping toxic lead out of landfills and waterways.” That’s a good thing, because there’s an estimated “2.6 million metric tons of lead can be found in the batteries of vehicles on the road today”!
Slop buckets should be installed in offices
Already households are being forced to install “slop buckets” in kitchens so that unwanted food can be collected separately. Office workers should have access to a slop bucket near their desks to dispose of apple cores, tea bags and under food waste, according to Government plans to improve recycling by business.