Yale researchers have discovered a type of mushroom that can eat plastic. During an expedition to the jungles of Ecuador, Professor Scott Strobel and his team of researchers have found a new fungus that eats polyurethane (plastic). The fungi, called “Pestalotiopsis microspore”, is able to survive on eating plastic alone—while without the need for air or light. Students Jonathan Russell and Pria Anand have written in the journal ‘Applied and Environmental Microbiology’, that the enzyme the fungus uses to decompose plastic has been isolated. Scientists hope to use the extracted chemical to solve the plastic trash and help bioremediation projects. If successful, this could change the way we get rid of trash. (via Recently-Discovered ‘Magic Mushrooms’ Can Eat Plastic - DesignTAXI.com)
Interesting video looking at how plastics are recycled into clothing.
It … makes you realize that if we could do the impossible and get people to pre-separate their recycleables, we could probably save a lot of trouble down the line. For example, if all drinks bottles were separated from their caps, and further separated by color.
That’s a noble sentiment, but it’s asking too much of people. Every time I’ve visited the recycling center (less often now since our community has a curbside recycling program), I notice wrong or unrecyclable items in the bins and paper contaminated with food. Even at that, I think it’s better overall to encourage participation by making the process easier on the front end (that is, making it not much more difficult than simply throwing away trash) and then sorting out the collected items later. It should be easier to get people to remember the one message to not “recycle” contaminated paper than to teach them the complexities of sorting plastic. Plus, if each of us cleaned our plastic bottles at home, would it not waste more water and detergent than if it was done at a central facility?
It can be tough to part with old electronics that once cost big bucks, but a host of new trade-in services will help you guiltlessly de-clutter. Online services allow customers to sell used smartphones, laptops, cameras and even GPS systems, for cash. The services typically buy items still in demand.
We tested three online services and a walk-in service offered at most Best Buy stores. They were simple and quick to use, even after a shipping glitch on our part. The online services let consumers search for the product they’d like to sell on their websites and get a trade-in estimate, which may vary from week to week.
Life in Africa has many challenges: from disease to poverty and war. The continent also has a reputation for extreme difficulties that are fixable, but a lack of resources often prevents the problems from being solved.This is where resourcefulness comes into play: if you don’t have what you need make do with what you already have. A surplus of empty plastic bottles is something that not only affects Africa, but the entire planet. (Read More)
The Liter of Light project makes “light bulbs” out of plastic bottles. Each bottle can give as much light as a 60W incandescent bulb. Not only does this provide illumination without electricity, it reuses plastic bottles that otherwise would (probably) have gone to the landfill.
Patagonia always had a reputation for making durable, low-impact outdoor apparel, but the California label is taking its sustainable ethos one step further with the launch of Common Threads, an initiative that seeks to help consumers, well, consume less. Together with online-auction website eBay, Patagonia created a virtual swap meet on Wednesday for buying and selling used Patagonia gear—an unexpected retail model that’s a first for a major brand. The underlying message, one that underscore one of eBay’s core commandments, is clear: The greenest product is the one that already exists.
Ever been confused by recycling symbols? Evidently you’re not alone. And it seems that work is afoot to improve that “tiny, mysterious number printed inside the recycling logo.”
Some kinds of plastic are recyled almost everywhere; some, like Styrofoam, are rarely ever recycled. Plastics without a number, like utensils, can’t be recycled at all. It’s confusing.
To address that problem, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a project of the nonprofit group GreenBlue, is working to redesign recycling labels. The group’s current proposal features four labels: “widely recycled,” “limited recycling,” “not recycled,” and “store drop-off.”
Unlike the current system, this gives consumers clear, general guidelines, in words. For materials that can only be recycled in certain places, the “limited recycling” label can carry an additional note that might, for example, advice consumers to “check locally.” Here are the draft designs.
I feel a bit ambivalent about this. I was never confused by the numbers, but if the proposed new designs make it easier for people to understand how to recycle, then all the better. On the other hand, cramming so much text into a symbol that will surely be printed at minimal size will render them unreadable*, and the reversed text is probably going to cause some confusion itself.
* Instead of Helvetica**, maybe they should use Bell Gothic or Bell Centennial, which were designed to be readable even in the cramped layout of phone books.
Last fall, Lowe’s installed recycling centers in its 1,700+ U.S. stores, encouraging customers to deposit CFLs, rechargeable batteries, unwanted cell phones, and plastic shopping bags in them. (Related fact: “The EPA estimates that more than 500 million CFLs, approximately three of every four CFLs sold in the U.S. each year, are improperly discarded.”)
Now there’s this news, just in time for spring gardening: Green-living advocate Danny Seo reports (on his Daily Danny site) that Lowe’s now accepts plastic plant pots, trays, and tags for recycling:
Generally, curbside recycling programs are not able to accept plastic nursery plant containers such as plant pots, trays, and hanging baskets, so this program gives consumers a recycling option. No matter where consumers originally purchase the plant, they are encouraged to return the materials to Lowe’s garden center to be recycled.
When consumers return the pots and trays to the store, they are picked up by local annual vendors and sorted. The reusable material are sterilized and reintroduced to the production cycle. Material not deemed “reusable” will be crushed, banded and sent for recycling.
How far does your cell phone, printer cartridge or battery travel after you throw it out?
In 2009 MIT’s Senseable City Lab invited 500 people in Seattle, Washington, to tag their trash with smart tags in order to track where it traveled once it left their garbage bins. The researchers tracked 3,000 pieces of refuse from bagels to banana peels to shoes and cell phones over a two-month period as the items logged miles across the United States.
Carlo Ratti, director of the lab, presented this video of the project at the Technology Entertainment and Design conference.