BEC #004 – City Recycling

This is an absolutely brilliant idea from Scott. I hope this idea inspires some discussion and then some action because it really deserves to be fleshed out.
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- Rebecca Clements


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This actually reminds me of a program they do in NYC called where they collect food from restaurants before they throw them out each night to be provided for the homeless. A simple and affective way to stem hunger in urban areas.

Yes, it’s a really great program. As far as I know, quite a lot of places around Australia do the same. I know the bakery I used to work in many years ago would provide all the leftover food for shelters or something similar. But I have no idea how wide-spread it is, and when you think about all the HUGE wastes of food that exist everywhere… so much more can be done.

Bebarce, I hope you consider participating in the discussion here:

I don’t think styrofoam would meet fire regulations and I don’t think cardboard could be used for load carrying beams. However, styrofoam can be, and actually is, mushed up to make pencils, from coffee cups, so they’re not made of wood, but it’s not exactly publicised. I think making recycling more apparent would encourage people to be more conscientious about it. I think it’s dead neat to have a pencil that used to be coffee cups.
The trouble with making it all local is that, for example, compressing coffee beans (grounds you mean) into “some kind of plastic”, again don’t know if this is possible, but it requires energy! Doing it large-scale will be more efficient (and use less energy) than doing it in lots of little “mini-factories”. Sorry to sound so massively negative. I don’t know actually.. if there was a massive fundamental shift in the way we do things, it would mean you would need trained people living in every “area” and that would cut down on transport and commuting pollution, so it might work out “greener”, or it might not?
Coffee grounds can be used as a fertilizer, but I think they’re quite acidic, so will make soil acidic, good for roses I think? But roses are not particularly edible.. and there’s always someone who will throw the wrong thing in the compost.
Local food banks, good idea.
Again, sorry to be negative :(

No, Sydney, it’s discussion – not negativity. Negativity is saying “This is ridiculous and it will never work” but the practicality of course does need to be talked about. That’s working through an idea and taking it further.

“This probably won’t work but how about if we twisted it and did this instead?”

I’ve written more about it here in the forums and I’d really love your input:

You make some good points about practical implementation of the ideas, but I just wanted to point out one thing–that basically, here in the States, styrofoam is very commonly used for insulation, not under roofs, but on the insides of masonry walls, which are then covered with gypsum board. They call the product “Styrostud” here. (I work in architecture, and thus am familiar with this.) I’ve often wished that the stuff–which we use very frequently–was made from recycled materials I’m pretty sure that nearly all of it is “new product,” which is ridiculous, considering how much styrofoam waste we generate here in product packaging, etc.

There’s another product which I’m currently using on a project which could also benefit from the recycled styrofoam idea–“insulated concrete forms” which are essentially foam blocks, into the cores of which concrete is poured. The foam blocks are a permanent part of the wall construction (covered with plaster on the exterior and gypsum board on the interior), and do double the insulation of the other product, helping to further reduce energy use. I would feel so much better about the product, if only it were made from recycled styrofoam!

I don’t know about fire regulations in other parts of the world, though, so don’t know about the potential usefulness of this idea elsewhere.

And another nicely done comic. Personally, I like the idea of recycling locally instead of carrying our garbage with big diesel-fueled trucks to some distant place BUT than again I know that every waste disposal or recycling is very cost intensive. If you know someone who speaks German or if you have a good translation tool at hand, I recommend you reading the “TA Abfall” or the “BImschV” (yes the capital letters are correct). It’s very hard to keep this economic niche profitable, which is why waste mostly is collected, or stored temporarily, at more central places to dispose of them properly.

Hi, I just thought I’d add a couple ideas, if I may. :)
I grew up on a farm. My mother was a person who saved everything, so I learned to reuse everything.
Many people these days either throw out or recycle bottles, cartons, and containers from drinks and foods they buy. My mother would save these and reuse them to store her own food, pack lunches in, or even for dishes. I remember when I went off to college, it was with a multitude of empty bottles and empty boxes, which I proceeded to use as my cups and dishes in my dormitory life. I never had to buy a set of dishes or anything. I’d even wash and reuse plastic silverware. Even if I went to a fast food place, where everyone gets plastic ‘disposable’ everything, I’d use my own. Why waste?

Now I’m living in Asia. I walk everywhere or ride a bike. Perhaps take the train. It helps me be less wasteful and more healthy. For one thing, when I shop for food, I buy only what I need to cook for the day and only what I can carry. No over-shopping on junk food! I also live in an area that makes people pay extra for garbage disposal, but recycling is free. So almost everything we can recycle is recycled, even food. I also carry my own bags.

The things I do are really small things, over all. I can’t save tea bags. I tried once, but its too humid, and they don’t save well. However, I try to make 3 brews of coffee in a row, and save the coffee in the refrigerator for later. I only keep the air on in whichever room I’m in, and we turn it off at night. I keep used paper with a blank side, and let my students write their homework practice on the blank side.

Another use for recycled things is a bit surprising… health! I once sprained my wrist, and my doctor gave me a wrist brace. Looking at the wrist brace, I was convinced I could make one. I took some tubing, lined it with bubble wrap and an old sock, laced it with a shoelace, and covered it all with an old plastic bag to make it water-proof. It was surprisingly comfortable and supported my wrist just fine. I showed my doctor, and he approved of it (unofficially). At school, it was a good discussion piece about things we can make from ‘garbage.’

Just some food for thought. :) Hope its okay to share with you! Keep it green!
(and remember to unplug appliances when not in use… they will keep using low levels of current otherwise!)

Amazinggg ideas.

The thing about keeping used paper reminded me of something…

My uncle is an architect, so he uses up a lot of paper. For my birthday last year, he took a bunch of those papers, stacked them up with the blank sides facing the same way, sliced them into even squares, and bound the whole thing into a sketchbook. It was an awesome gift!

A little late in responding, but not long ago I saw some giant bags of coffee grounds being given out as fertilizer in our local Starbucks. I was impressed.

When i was in Sweden for my summer break, they do have a system where you get money back for recycling things. Just also in Singapore, instead of paper travel cards you have plastic ones even if just for a day trip, when you return it in the machine you get a dollar back :) which is great when you payed $2 for it in the first place :)

Of course time and money are a big issue in all of this… restaurant owners are generally not willing to spend either on something unprofitable, especially since many restaurants are already intensive and time-consuming to run and not hugely profitable, so they feel they can’t go out of their way to do something that doesn’t benefit them directly. I imagine this is a common feeling in other industries as well. Governments can enforce recycling by adding to the cost of things and giving that money back for recycling, but that affects the poor disproportionately and I feel like real change needs to be self-motivated, not externally mandated. Somehow we need to make recycling profitable enough to compensate for the extra time and money spent separating, transporting, processing, etc. waste products. I think this is already the case in Japan, largely by necessity, and is being made the case forcibly in much of Europe, but at what may well prove to be an unsustainable cost (unless people really do like giving up their money and their freedom, which is dangerous at best). Grassroots efforts like CityHarvest, clothing drops, etc. are absolutely the way to go, but if you’re interested in making this idea work you have to participate actively, not just cast a vote and sit back down or avoid talking about it in public because you don’t want to annoy people.

Sadly food banks have become less commonplace in Australia now – all because a few people got food poisoning, and mostly because of their own neglect or lack of knowledge about how to keep food properly.
It’s a horrific waste, but I hear if you work at a bakery the employees are sometimes allowed to take home day-old products (on the condition that if you get sick it’s not their problem). We used to get plenty of day-old rolls and cake at an old club I used to go to, as it was vastly cheaper than buying new stuff and it tasted just as good.

I was horrified by the waste of a absolute bumper (and when I say bumper I mean ‘biggest in the history of the crop here’) crop of oranges in the Barossa some years ago – because apparently it’s cheaper to buy concentrate orange juice from Brazil that has to be shipped hundreds of kilometers just to reach the country, than to buy nice fresh oranges by the tonne that are only two or three hours away. They were eventually left to rot in the fields or were used as sheep fodder – but they could just as easily have been sold at roadside stalls (very common here, and you can get excellent produce) or given to a shelter to help keep people healthy. Extras could’ve been handed around to offices to promote healthy eating there as well. And the farmers would have still gotten a bit of a return for all their hard work.
The issue at the moment is the ruined pineapples from Queensland. They absorbed way too much water in the floods, so their flesh is translucent and they literally have no flavour. My dad suggested drying them and grinding them up into animal feed…not sure if they have much in the way of nutritional content now, but the only other solution seems to be fertiliser, seeing as they’re completely inedible and have to be harvested for new pineapples to grow.

As for plastics…they will have to all be recycled eventually. Oil *will* run out, and we will have nothing to make new plastic from. And plastic is vital to some areas (not all – we don’t really need plastic bags for our shopping when cloth bags are vastly superior and less likely to drop 3kg of cans onto your big toe halfway to the car) so it’s going to become a future issue. Nip it in the bud now, I say.

Cardboard can be turned into a million things – recycled paper, more cardboard, cat litter (debateable as to how good paper pellet litter is – I prefer to let my kitty use the backyard, but before I used recycled paper litter and it was ok) and a million other things. Recycled paper is perfect for letting kids draw on as it’s cheap and it doesn’t matter if they go through fifty tons of it.

Certainly giving people some sort of monetary incentment to recycle helps. Here in Aus we can recycle most cans and bottles for about $0.10 each – but when you paid $3.00 for that can of lemonade, it’s not much of a return. It used to be $0.20, but it was dropped because of the volume coming in – a silly idea, really.

What I would really like to see is better recycling of electronics. I have an old computer to be scrapped – and lots can be reclaimed from its parts, including gold, tin, copper and various metals. Its case is aluminium and perspex – both reclaimable. I have old CRT monitors that can be easily recycled, and two TVs. But there is nowhere to recycle them. So they will end up landfill. It feels like such a huge waste to me.

I also like the community gardens idea – but unfortunately caring for vegetables can be very hard, especially when you have bad soil. My city is mostly heavy clay, so I had to buy a huge amount of gypsum to mix in, and it took a total of about six months of waiting and three weeks of hard work to get my garden beds prepared. And there’s daily watering, covering/uncovering in summer with shadecloth, constant checking for pests and diseases, harvesting considerations…A great majority of people just won’t bother with that level of work. While many hands may make light work, it’s hard to get work done when nobody wants to do it. (Even if it is a huge boost – not only is there lots of vegetables to go around, people learn to eat better, and it can be very therapeutic after a bad day at work.)

TBH, I see so much around me that has more than the use we give it. Vegemite is a great example of ‘waste not, want not’ – it was originally made from spent brewer’s yeast, as a cheap way to get folate and other vitamins into kids during the Depression. I feel that it’s not just recycling to save the environment – it’s recycling to make the most of what resources we have.

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