Tag Archives: recycling

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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Canada Just Opened the World’s First Waste-to-Biofuel Facility and Its A Game-Changer

In Edmonton, Alberta, an idea that could drastically change how we produce energy as well as how we dispose of our waste has finally come to fruition.

Edmonton’s new Waste Management Center converts household garbage into biofuels. The facility is expected to reduce the amount of trash in Edmonton’s landfills by 90% in the next two years, using all of that trash to create biofuels.

The new Edmonton Waste Management facility

Vincent Chornet is the CEO of Enerkem, the company who owns the new plant. He describes their raw materials as,

“a mixture of non-recyclable plastics, non-recyclable fibre, there’s wood, there’s even such things as shingles — that gets shredded down and that’s what we are fed with.”

That shredded non-recyclable waste is converted to gas, which is in turn converted into methanol. The process leaves behind about 10% of the waste, including metal, ceramics and glass which can’t be converted into methanol.

A diagram of the waste-to-biofuel process. Click to enlarge

Methanol has a number of uses. It’s often used in windshield wiper fluid because it won’t freeze in cold weather, but it can also be used as a basic chemical building block for other chemicals. A significant portion of the methanol will be purchased a local chemical company and some will end up in Canadian cars, as Alberta mandates at least 5% methanol in all gasoline.

At $75 per metric ton (~1.1 U.S. tons), the process is only slightly more expensive than transporting the waste to a landfill, and won’t require citizens to change anything about how they dispose of their garbage.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson

Edmonton’s mayor Don Iveson (who, by the way, looks like he’s still in high school) calls the new facility a “sexy” topic for the cities inhabitants. He also said,

“I think we are fiercely proud of what we’ve been doing here in this city. It’s one of the things that when people question the commitment of Edmontonians and Albertans to the environment, we point to this as global leadership and we’re very, very proud of it, and we should be.”

Read more from the Edmonton Journal here.

Happy Earth Day: Here’s A Few Graphics Illustrating the Current State of Affairs On Our Planet

Today, April 22, is Earth Day. The first Earth Day, celebrated in 1970, was organized by environmental activists in a number of major cities who were fed up with the high levels of pollution that existed in many cities during that time (there were more factories in the cities in 1970 than there are now).

Earth Day is now celebrated in over 192 countries, promoting activism in conservation and environmental protection. A lot of other things have changed since 1970, though. For one, the global population has nearly doubled. The graphic below shows the relationship between our population growth and our use of resources.

Courtesy of World Wildlife Federation (click to enlarge)
Courtesy of World Wildlife Federation (click to enlarge)

With manufacturing growing rapidly in countries like China and India in the past few decades, we have also been increasing the amount of carbon dioxide we’re emitting into the atmosphere.

This interactive graphic allows you to see total emissions and emissions per person in different countries, as well as how much these numbers changed between 1996 and 2006. Click the image to link to the interactive map.

Carbon emissions (courtesy of The Guardian)

One of the most simple but most effective ways to promote a healthy Earth is recycling. The United States is notoriously wasteful. Here’s Dave Tilford from the environmental activism group The Sierra Club:

 “With less than 5 percent of world population, the U.S. uses one-third of the world’s paper, a quarter of the world’s oil, 23 percent of the coal, 27 percent of the aluminum, and 19 percent of the copper.”

This graphic gives 10 quick facts about trash in America (click image to enlarge):

It’s not all gloom and doom however. The good thing is, we still have time to change the way we view our relationship with the Earth and adjust the way we live accordingly.

There’s lots of little things you can do to help this transition. The National Resources Defense Council put together this great graphic showing a few ways you can actively promote the health of the Earth in your everyday life (click image to enlarge):

Courtesy of the NRDC

Oh, and plant a tree if you can!! Happy Earth Day!

What Are Earthships and Why Do They Look So Cool?? (Picture Gallery)

According to earthship.com, earthships are,

the epitome of sustainable design and construction. No part of sustainable living has been ignored in this ingenious building.”

The term was popularized (and trademarked) by Mike Reynolds, an architect who is the leading pioneer in the field. Check out some pictures of some of the coolest earthships already in existence (click an image to enlarge):

Earthships are built using 6 fundamental design principles:

  1. All heating and cooling uses natural thermal or solar energy;
  2. Electricity is independently generated using solar or wind power, with excess stored in batteries for later;
  3. ALL water must be collected naturally (through rain, snow melt, etc.) and used 4 times;
  4. ALL water is recycled, with sewage water being treated on-site and reused as gray water for the flushing of toilets for example, and other used water (like from washing dishes and clothes) re-used for things like small-scale food production;
  5. All materials must either be naturally available locally or recycled (earth-filled tires, for example, are a popular material);
  6. Food is produced organically using recycled water with the goal of reducing or completely eliminating reliance on supermarkets

For more, check out earthship.com.