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Ecycler and Upcycling

May 16th, 2011 No comments

We have talked about how artists use ecycler.com to find materials that they use to create works of art. This process of taking something that was waste and turning it into something new is called “upcycling”. According to Wikipedia, upcycling…

is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.

This is opposed to “downcycling” where an item is turned into something deemed lesser value than the original item. We won’t get into the debate about what defines better quality or less value, that’s another blog post entirely!

We’ve been checking out some of the interesting things that are being upcycled around the world as of late. Check out these interesting uses for materials that were headed for the scrap heap.

Recycled Inner Tubes and Seatbelt Buckles: The folks at Alchemy Goods make some great products from old inter-tubes. Laptop cases, wallets, purses and even the sexy “Night Out Wallet”. I really like the idea of being able to freshen up my man bag with a quick squirt of Armor All before a big date! Seatbelt buckle bottle opener is pure genius.

Placemats from Old Billboards and Movie Posters: If you’re like me a good placemat saves your table from getting all the drips and drops from my less than stellar eating habits. I like an easy to clean, wipe able placemat that can take some abuse and is interesting to look at. The folks at ReMakes are making some nifty placemats from old billboards and movie posters that fit the bill. Why use virgin plastic for an item that really doesn’t need to be made of new material? And the coolest thing is that these placemats have a QR code so you use that fancy smartphone at the table!

Recycled Oil Drums, Records and Washing Machines: You could say the folks at Lockengeloet have a fertile imagination. Or they are just a bit loco. How would you like a clothes storage dresser or lamp made from a washing machine? Or, an über cool oil drum storage unit to hide your crude oil? This is the true spirit of upcycling where an item that was previously headed for the recycling bin or your garage and turn it into  something cooler, better and downright sexy!

In the spirit of upcycling ecycler has recently launched some new recycling categories such as tennis balls, CD’s, keys and crayons. We’ve found folks that can turn these items into something better. So don’t forget the three R’s and the U.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Upcycle!

Categories: materials, recycle Tags: , ,

Electronic Waste – Reduce Reuse Recycle

February 23rd, 2011 1 comment

Millions of tons of electronic waste is generated every year in North America and the amount increases with every new gadget, computer and smartphone that hits the market. In our quest to improve our lives through technology we are creating electronic waste at an unprecedented rate. In response, we have seen more attention focused on methods to reduce, reuse and recycle electronic waste.

Reduce

In the pursuit for faster computers, more features on our smart phones and better picture quality, we are constantly replacing our electronics with newer and better performing models. But what if there was a way to get that improved performance, more features and better picture without increasing the amount of stuff we buy? Well, there already is a movement afoot to reduce the amount of computer hardware that needs to be purchased in order to stay on top of the tech race. The term is “cloud computing” and although it may sound like a weather forecasting computer it is actually a concept of sharing resources such as computer memory, processing power, and software over a network. For example you may need a fast computer to run software that you don’t currently own and perhaps will only need for a set amount of time. With cloud computing you would contract with a company that has the type of computer/software/memory you need and pay them a fee to access it on the Internet.

Why you may ask is this reducing the amount of electronic waste produced? Well instead of you having to purchase another computer and more memory you can use what you need, when you need it from the company providing the service. The company will have one very large computer that runs the software you and thousands of others are using. Essentially, their one computer replaces the thousands that would have needed to be purchased to complete the same task. Their one computer can be used more effectively because while you are sleeping someone in Europe can be using your portion of the big computer which likely wouldn’t be happening if it was sitting on your desk in low power sleep mode. An additional benefit is that the company providing the service is likely to be continuously upgrading and improving the software to retain and attract customers. This means that you aren’t going to get stuck with a piece of out-of-date software in a few years. And, if you’re a business you can add users by simply buying more access instead of having to buy more software and hardware to accommodate growth. Cloud computing is both lean and green.

Reuse

We know it’s easy to recycle cans and bottles but who wants your old computer that is far from high tech? The truth is that lots of people might want it including schools, low-income earners, and even those pesky computer geeks. While it may not suit your needs anymore there is such a wide spectrum of computer uses out there that your old clunker may be just the thing that Junior could use to practice his typing or learn basic programming. Sometimes the latest and greatest isn’t the best tool for the job especially if you are looking to do a little tinkering under the hood, which is what many computer hobby hackers do. They are looking for something that they can strip down, try some new tricks on or simply strip the good parts. Whatever the use, if you can find Junior or a hobbyist, your computer will extend its useful life before it meets a shredder in the next phase, which is recycling. If you’re having trouble finding a home for your electronic waste or have large volumes consider a waste consultant who can use their knowledge and experience to find a solution.

Recycle

OK, you’ve tried to donate your outdated electronic waste but it seems nobody wants your old clunker. Now it’s time to find a recycling facility that will take your old electronic device and safely recycle the materials contained within. But a word of caution on recycling of electronic waste because all may not be well. If you find someone that is willing to recycle your electronic, ask some questions like “Where does my computer go to be recycled?” or “Can you provide proof of recycling at an approved facility?” If the answer to the first question is another country such as China or India you may want to reconsider. Not that all recyclers in China and India are irresponsible but there is considerable evidence that much of the electronic waste sent to these countries is processed in ways that is extremely harmful to the both the environment and the workers that recycle the waste. You may think your old iPhone is being carefully disassembled for valuable materials when in fact it is being processed in an acid bath over an open fire, which is then dumped into a river. This brings me to my second rule of thumb, which is asking for proof of recycling at an approved facility. Ask the recycler where they send their materials. If they can’t or won’t tell you, it is a red flag. If they will tell you, do a quick Google search on the facility they provide and see what you find. Ideally you want to have your waste recycled locally by a government certified facility that is operating a safe and ethical recycling system. Most recyclers dealing with a certified electronic waste recycler will provide a record of recycling to certify that your electronic waste was recycled at an approved facility.

The solution to the ever-increasing electronic waste issue is to use computing resources more efficiently (Cloud Computing), reuse and extend the life of electronic waste (Schools and Hobbyists), and use a responsible recycler (Local and Accountable).

Terbium! More Valuable than Silver?

February 7th, 2011 1 comment

Pssst…hey buddy, wanna buy some terbium? I got some going cheap for only $800,000 per ton.

Our desire for the latest electronic gadgets made from exotic materials such as terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium have made these relatively unknown substances a very hot commodity. So hot in fact that the Chinese government has called for a halt to shipments of these materials for export. How come? Because these so called “rare earth elements” are so rare that Chinese officials are worried that domestic demand will consume all current Chinese production in the near future. Why is this big news? Because China supplies 95% of the rare earth elements mostly from mines in Inner Mongolia. Without this supply expect prices to spike dramatically which will certainly affect the electronics industry as a whole.

Rare earth metals are used in everything from iPhone circuit boards to flat screen televisions. With increasing prices and rising demand one thing is certain, rare earth elements are about to get a lot more rare.

While this may spell higher prices for consumers it’s good news for those that recycle old electronics because those old circuit boards are about to get really valuable. Like any market when a resource become scarce people get more creative in the methods used to obtain the resource. And guess what, it’s a lot easier to find terbium in used electronics than heading to the mountains with a pick and a shovel.

This is good news for the environment and recyclers. In the past there wasn’t much demand for old electronics as a recyclable item, old and outdated electronics usually gathered dust in a garage until the owners finally got sick of looking at them and carted them off to the dump. With increasing prices for the rare earth metals that outdated electronics contain that old stereo or TV could become a hot item with recyclers. Using marketplaces like ecycler makes it easier to match up those who have electronics to recycle with those who recycle electronics. If you’re like most people you have at least one old piece of electronic equipment cluttering up your house or garage, try listing it on ecycler to save yourself the hassle of recycling/disposing of the item yourself?

A detailed look at the rare metal situation: The Telegraph