Tag Archives: plastic

Beijing’s Simple Yet Effective Idea to Get People to Recycle (Video)

China has become notorious in recent years for its high levels of air pollution. This, however, is only one of many issues facing China as the country’s middle class continues to grow.

Beijing, China’s capital city, is home to around 20 million people. As a result, the city produces a lot of trash.

On a number of occasions, academics have attempted to estimate just how much trash Beijing produces. They have all failed, due in large part to the fact that the massive trash collection industry in China is extremely unorganized.

So back in 2012, the government of Beijing came up with an innovative solution to their trash problem: reverse vending machines that reward people who recycle with credits that can be applied to phone cards or public transit costs.

A woman uses one of the new kiosks in a Beijing subway station (Courtesy of CCTV)

The machines are equipped with scanners that can identify what type of bottle you are recycling to determine its value. More valuable bottles get you more credit.

Beijing has contracted Incom, the company building the kiosks, to build 100 of the machines across the city (Incom thinks the number will eventually be in the thousands).

34 kiosks have been built so far. Check out the video below to see one of the machines in action and hear how local people are responding to them:

(h/t Pangea Today, The Guardian)

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This 19-Year Old Has A Plan To Clean Up Half of The Pacific Garbage Patch In 10 Years (Video)

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, off the western coast of the United States, lies the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

It’s tough to say exactly how widespread the island of plastic is; estimates range from 270,000 square miles (slightly larger than Texas), up to 15,000,000 square miles (twice the size of the United States).

An estimation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Click to enlarge

Its real size is probably somewhere in the middle, but even at the lowest estimates, the island is massive and only continues to grow every day.

Enter Boyan Slat, a 19-year-old entrepreneur and conservationist from the Netherlands. Boyan has come up with a simple yet ingenious way to clean up half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years, using the ocean’s currents to his advantage. Check out the video below to learn more about it.

Slat claims that half of the garbage patch will be equal to 70 million kilograms of plastic- that’s more than 77,000 tons.

These plastics could be used in a number of ways- we recently reported on the world’s first waste-to-biofuel facility, which converts even non-recyclable plastics into methanol, a useful building block for chemicals and a component of many gasoline blends today.

Slat first publicized his idea at a TEDx conference in his home town of Delft in the Netherlands. You can watch it below to learn more about the details of his plan.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only one of five trash patches around the world. These patches form in gyres, which are basically massive vortexes that form as a result of ocean currents and prevailing winds.

All the floating trash that ends up in our waterways will eventually end up in one of these gyres.

The five gyres. Click to enlarge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The five gyres. Click to enlarge (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

If Boyan’s idea proves successful, we could use it worldwide to battle these ever-growing trash islands, while simultaneously turning this trash back into biofuels.

Boyan was recently named one of Intel’s 20 Most Promising Young Entrepreneurs Worldwide. Check out the homepage of his company The Ocean Clean Up.

If you’re curious, here’s a great graphic that shows how long it takes for various pieces of garbage to decompose in the ocean. Click the image to see the full size version.