At one of our zero waste presentations recently, someone brought up the point that many recycling trucks are driving around filled mostly with air: the air that’s trapped in all the tins and plastic bottles.
The image of a truck to driving around with a load of what amounts to mostly empty space is pretty powerful, and that simple comment hit home! I always rinse containers out, and I like to think I’m a superstar recycler, but I’ll admit that I don’t always flatten my cans.
It reminded me of this old Ridge Meadows Recycling campaign where they photographed community members from kids to local firefighters to the Mayor demonstrating how to “do the stomp”.
So here’s my new pledge: I’ll be taking an extra 30 seconds wash and squash the stompables in my recycling bin from now on. Hopefully with us all doing it, our recycling trucks will save one or two extra trips.
PS – I love the detailed stomping photos at the bottom of the image
Where the heck does our trash go? I mean, I know my garbage goes to the landfill in Delta or up to the recently expanded Cache Creek, but what about everything else? What about those glass jars and cardboard boxes? What about the occasional plastic container? Is my stuff ending up in the great pacific garbage patch?
Although I have been assured by the guy at the local depot that everything is sold to local buyers, who the heck knows where it goes after that? And with heartbreaking films about garbage pickers and exposés about third world electronics dismantling on the rise, it’s no wonder we are all questioning what’s at the end of the line for the contents of our precious blue boxes.
So the smart folks over at MIT did more than just wonder. They decided to track their recycling. (yes, I’m a couple years behind the 8 ball on this, but it’s still fascinating)
They put tracking sensors on a bunch of waste in Seattle and booted it out the door. The results are pretty interesting.
First off, they generated some super cool tracking maps (that could be classified as art unto themselves). But seriously, I’ve thought a lot about where disposable items come from and the resources used to get them into our hands, but it’s even more crazy to think of how far something as simple as a single coffee cup might travel after its 10 minutes of useful life. And just think of the greater implications of tagging loads of recycling; it would become immediately apparent who is shipping stuff illegally or dumping in the ocean. That’s serious stuff.
I wanted to post some of the maps here, but they have a reproduction clause on their website, so you’ll have to go to http://senseable.mit.edu/trashtrack/ to check it out.
Yesterday, I learned the hard way about the importance of bicycle maintenance.
Last time I bought bicycle brakes, I opted for the slightly more expensive (but more ecofriendly) cartridge model. Instead of replacing the whole composite brake pad, metal and all, you just slide out only the rubber bit and replace that.
Less waste. Makes sense.
Now, I had known for awhile that my back brakes were wearing down. I even went and bought some new cartridges. But did I actually install them? Of course not.
The thing with cartridge brakes is that they have a little metal pin that keeps the rubber bit in place (see photo), and if you let your brakes wear down too much, or don’t have them adjusted properly, the pin can, apparently, rub along the side of your wheel.
And if there is a piece of metal rubbing along your bike tire, you can pretty much bank on blowing out the sidewall and getting a flat.
I think you can guess what happened.
So because I was too lazy to spend 5 minutes putting in a new brake cartridge, I wasted a whole tire. I know I can recycle it, but what a frikin’ waste! (Not to mention the fact that I had to take the bus to work this morning.)
Moral of the story: a little work now means a lot less waste down the road.
To get you in the jolly old “garbage awareness” mood this Christmas, I’m sharing this video of Metro Vancouver’s garbage bag Christmas tree. It’s made from the same amount of garbage bags that the average person generates each year.
The looks on people’s faces as they walk by it are priceless.
I hope this video reminds us all to cut down of excessive packaging and over all “stuff” this holiday season. Click here for some ideas on how to do it.
I’ve had tons of people come up to me in the past year and tell me about how they only have to take their bin to the curb every few weeks, or how they started composting, or how it drives them crazy when their co-workers don’t recycle. It’s actually fascinating and uplifting all at once.
But I know that for every person like that, there’s another one who drags their overflowing wheelie cart to the curb every single week and that chances are it contains paper, aluminum, glass, and other valuable resources. Continue reading
photos credit: Travis Smith
So we’ve had a few days to settle down here after the finale of our Clean Bin Project Year. I know people are dying to know who won.
We had the official weigh in our backyard on Canada Day, exactly 356 days after the start of our project, and we managed to lure about 40 guests with free food and drinks.
We ranked each of the 3 roommates using three criteria: landfill garbage weight, landfill garbage volume, and consumerism (a scientific ranking of awesome to very bad depending on if you bought “stuff” during the year).