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kottke.org posts about recycling

A week without plastic

posted by Tim Carmody   Mar 02, 2018

a week of plastic.jpg

The Guardian asked four writers to try to minimize their use of plastic and keep a diary of how much they used over a week. To no one’s surprise, it’s difficult to avoid plastic altogether, but I suspect anyone would be stunned at just how much of it there is.

Before going to bed I wash my face with micellar water (which comes in a plastic bottle), use an interdental tooth brush (plastic), and take out my monthly contacts (plastic). I’ve barely done anything today, but the pile in the corner of the kitchen is getting bigger. On day two, the plastic onslaught continues; now I’m looking for it, I see it everywhere. Thanks to a cold, I go through multiple plastic-wrapped packets of tissues. A pizza delivery arrives with unnecessary plastic cutlery and a plastic-wrapped chocolate bar. I get my (acrylic) nails done, receive some clothes from Asos which come in plastic packaging, as does the ink for my printer…

Five days in and I’m amazed to realise how much I have accrued, from the Amazon delivery which arrives wrapped in bubbles and film, to the balloons we blow up for my flatmate’s birthday (latex, not plastic, but very much single use). The morning after her party, the flat is full of plastic cups, straws and bottles; soon thrown away in several plastic bin bags. I need some help; I speak to Andrew Pankhurst, a consumer campaigns manager from Zero Waste Scotland. He takes a look at my diary and has a few tips, from sharing printer cartridges with flatmates to putting a recycling bin in the bathroom. Could I possibly remove plastic from my everyday life?

This reminds me of something materials scientist Deb Chachra told me once: that as petroleum gets harder and harder for us to find economically, we might start to worry less about peak gasoline than we do about peak plastic.

How recycled glass bottles are made

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2013

Until fairly recently, recycled glass was not made into new glass bottles. But now recycling plants can use optical sorting to separate out colored glass from clear glass so the latter can be used to make new bottles. Here’s how the process works.

Don’t miss the glass gobs shooting down into the molding machine at around 2:13.

NYC now recycles all rigid plastics

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2013

NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced yesterday that all rigid plastics are now included in the city’s recycling program. It’s about damn time.

“Starting today, if it’s a rigid plastic — any rigid plastic — recycle it,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “There is no more worrying about confusing numbers on the bottom of the container. This means that 50,000 tons of plastics that we were sending to landfills every year will now be recycled and it will save taxpayers almost $600,000 in export costs each year.”

“Today’s announcement represents the largest expansion of our City’s recycling efforts in 25 years,” said Deputy Mayor Holloway. “We were able to take this step because of the major commitment we made to recycling as part of the City’s Solid Waste Management Plan in 2006 — and this commitment continues today and will result in cost savings and 50,000 tons of plastics that we were sending to landfills every year now being recycled.”

It looks like the online guidelines have been updated so you can go look at the specific dos and donts. Also mentioned in the press release is the expansion of the pickup of compostable material:

The City will also expand the organics recycling pilot under way in public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan to residents in the Westerleigh neighborhood of Staten Island next month, to other neighborhoods this fall and to all City schools over the next two years. The food waste composting pilot cut the amount of garbage participating schools sent to landfills by up to 38 percent.

I can’t wait until they offer curb-side compost pickup for everyone. (via @eqx1979)

Trash bin zero

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 25, 2013

Bea Johnson wants to limit the waste produced in her household. And she seems to be doing a pretty good job of it. Last year, her family produced just one quart of trash. I generate more than that in navel lint alone.

1. Shop in bulk and bring cloth bags, mesh bags, glass jars and bottles to the store. They can hold different types of foods — such as grains, fruit, meat and olive oil. Bring totes, too, to carry all of your groceries home in.

2. Many beauty and bath products, including liquid soap and lotions, can also be purchased without packaging and some can be homemade. In Johnson’s case, she makes her own tooth powder (instead of toothpaste) and bronzer; the recipes are included in her book.

3. When it comes to housekeeping, again, Johnson goes the homemade route. She uses a vinegar mixture in lieu of a range of other cleaning products.

Johnson’s got a blog and a book as well.

Steel

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 21, 2008

Steel is one of the most easily and extensively recycled materials on earth:

There are two ways to make steel: one is to create virgin steel from iron ore and coke, and the other is to melt down used steel and recycle it. Recycled steel is just as strong as virgin steel. Unlike paper and plastic, steel can be melted down and recast indefinitely; it has no structural memory. Making recycled steel, in electric-arc furnaces, or E.A.F.s, requires less capital investment than making virgin steel, which is manufactured in huge integrated mills; it also saves energy, and is easier on the environment, because not so much ore has to be mined. The only disadvantage of recycling is that it can be hard to know exactly what’s in your raw material — the steelamker must rely on the scrap dealer’s ability to separate out other metals, particularly copper, which can weaken the steel. In 2006, two out of every three tons of steel made in the U.S. came from recycled steel.

That’s from John Seabrook’s recent article on the scrap metal industry for The New Yorker (not online).

Steel production began far earlier than is commonly known…around 1400 BC in East Africa. Steel was also produced in China, India, Spain/Portugal, and other places before 1000 AD. The Bessemer Process was the first inexpensive industrial process for mass-producing high quality steel; that was in the 1850s.

In 1901, J.P. Morgan founded US Steel, which at one point made 67 percent of all steel produced in the US and was part of the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1901 to 1991. US Steel was once the largest corporation in the world, a title now held by (depending on how you define “largest”) Wal-Mart, a company that sells fewer and fewer things made of steel, or PetroChina with its $1 trillion market cap. It’s too bad oil can’t be effectively recycled after use; it’s a stretch to think of elevating our atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels for the purpose of warming some parts of the world as recycling.

Instead of giving out wasteful schwag bags

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 05, 2007

Instead of giving out wasteful schwag bags and tshirts that no one wears, the Interesting 2007 conference is asking participants to provide their own used tshirts (they’ll screenprint the logo on it) and will be using plain old plastic bags with the conference logo screenprinted on them. What a great twist on recycling. (via bbj)