Tag Archives: trash

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)


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.

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!

Awe-Inspiring Shadow Art (Slideshow)

Modern sculptors Tim Noble and Sue Webster use everyday debris, from soda cans and scrap metal to cigarette cartons and stepladders, to create amazingly realistic images of people. Click an image to enlarge. (The image at the top of this post is called “DIRTY WHITE TRASH (WITH GULLS)”, from 1998; materials: 6 months’ worth of artists’ trash, 2 taxidermy seagulls)

Texas-Sized Island of Debris Headed for the West Coast

The tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 dragged more than 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific as it receded from the island- around 70% was thought to have sunk pretty immediately around the Japanese coast. The other 30% (more than a million tons) continues to float eastward towards the California coast. This map shows the total distribution of debris as well as the giant island of densely packed debris mentioned in this article.

(click link below for full story)

Texas-Sized Island of Debris Headed for the West Coast