Recycling in Space

July 31st, 2012 No comments

Orbital space junk surrounding earth.

Recycling isn’t just something people do on planet Earth. Satellites orbiting the Earth are about to be recycled by the Department of Defense.

Old or broken satellites that have been floating in space are going to be repaired and put back into use rather than being replaced by new ones. Here’s how it will work, according to the Boston Globe: Miniature “satlets,” equipped with electronics, software, and propulsion, will ride along on commercial flights into space where a servicing spacecraft will then pick them up satlets and stow them approached an old antenna. The robotic arms of the spacecraft will then be used to attach a satlet and transform a piece of space junk into a working satellite.
“There are a good number of retired spacecraft that are perfectly functioning, but either ran out of fuel or got taken over by [newer] technology,” Seamus Tuohy, director of space systems at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, told the Boston Globe. “Getting a rather large antenna up in orbit is a rather costly thing, so when they’re up there you want to utilize them to their fullest.”
The Defense Department estimates that 140 commercial satellites with salvageable antennas or other equipment sit in a so-called “graveyard orbit” and could be repurposed if the right technology were available.
More than 20 companies and government laboratories are working on the project, which has $44.5 million in funding through fiscal year 2013. If the project is successful, the agency estimates it could provide a way to get satellites into space at a tenth of the cost, with hopes of doing a demonstration in which they turn a defunct satellite into a “new” one in 2015, the Globe reports.
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Ready, aim, recycle!

July 11th, 2012 No comments

A group of gun-rights activists recycled their old weapons in exchange for gift cards under a program that Chicago police created to get guns off the streets.
Members of Guns Save Life took advantage of the program last weekend by trading in 60 guns for more than $6,200 worth of gift cards. The move was criticized because most of the guns were old and useless and weren’t being used to commit crimes, but rather were rusting in the members’ homes. Still, most of the weapons qualified for the program.
The group admitted it was taking advantage of the program but said the gift cards would be used to buy ammo and weapons for a program that educates kids about firearm safety.

Unfortunately, we don’t know if the metal was recycled properly, or simply dumped into a landfill.

The city of Chicago collected 5,500 weapons and handed out a $100 gift card per firearm and a $10 gift card for a BB gun or replica.

The Chicago PD was not amused.

“There’s a ripple effect following every shooting incident that we all feel. We host the gun turn-in event on an annual basis to encourage residents to turn in their guns so that we take firearms off our streets, and it’s unfortunate that this group is abusing a program intended to increase the safety of our communities,” a police spokeswoman told the Chicago Tribune.

But, we all know the truth that gun control simply removes guns from the hands of law abiding citizens and does NOTHING to stave off abuses by criminals.

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From One Bottom to Another

June 15th, 2012 No comments
Most people know that all  manner of household items can be recycled and reused, but who knew that the diapers covering your baby’s bottom can be turned into furniture that you could sit on?
Several towns in Scotland are piloting a program by which disposable diapers are being collected to be turned into garden furniture, roof tiles and railway sleepers.
Authorities in the pilot areas will send diapers to a big treatment facility where the waste will be heated up to 125 degrees to sterilize and clean it. Then, the plastics and celluloids in the diapers will be converted into useable products such as park benches, road signage, railway sleepers and decking.
People in the pilot cities will set out their “nappies,” as the Scots call them, at the curb to be picked up. If, after 6 months, the program is deemed successful, it will be rolled out across Scotland.
A company in Canada and the UK that processes the diapers into useful products  is Knowaste (see photo above of their roof tiles).
Disposable diapers are a huge contributor to landfill waste all over the developed world, so other countries should keep a close eye on Scotland’s program for recycling them.
According to some estimates, 3.5 tons of disposable diapers are sent to U.S. landfills each year.
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City of San Diego Offers Free Tax File Recycling

May 18th, 2012 No comments

In the charitable spirit of tax season and spring cleaning, the City of San Diego’s Environmental Services Department has again offered to help local residents recycle their old tax files free of charge.  This marks the Environmental Services Department’s 10th Annual Tax File Recycling event, which has been opened since April 11, 2012 and will not close until April 20th.  The location is the Miramar Recycling Center at 5165 Convoy Street, where residents can drop old tax files off to be shredded and safely secured before being recycled.

Each resident is permitted to bring one “Banker’s Box” worth of paperwork, which is approximately a 10-inch high, 15-inch wide, and 25-inch deep box of tax documentation, which should be plenty for any fine American Tax-payer.

The Director of the Environmental Services Department, Chris Gonaver has said that, “recyclable paper continues to be a large percentage of all waste buried in the Miramar Landfill.  The City now accepts bagged, shredded paper through our curbside recycling program.  For those residents without curbside collection, or home paper shredders, this confidential recycling service ensures that all San Diego residents have a safe alternative for recycling their tax files.”

As the event comes just about five months after the city announced that san diego recycling rates were up to their highest ever at 68% which is a two-percent markup from the previous year’s number.  Hopefully, this latest tax recycling offer will help in at least a small way to push that ever-increasing percentage a little higher.

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The Earth Under Your Feet – Happy Earth Day!

April 22nd, 2012 No comments

Shoe companies are wising up to the fact that shoe manufacturing is decidely un-green. Some of them are making athletic shoes made from recycled materials or lighter-weight materials that reduce waste.

New Balance has made a shoe called newSKY made almost entirely out of fabric from post-consumer plastic bottles. Other than foam, small rubber components on the outsole and some water-based glue, the only material is the recycled fabric.

Usually materials like plastic and leather provide shape and structure for shoes, according to New Balance’s web site, but in the case of newSKY shoes, the heel was reinforced with strategic stitching along the back seam and a thicker weight of fabric. “When we doubled-up the material you don’t need any reinforcement because the material is doing it itself,” one designer said on the web site.

Nike is also trying to make its running shoes more sustainable, with a new manufacturing process that weaves synthetic yarn together with a knitting machine. The line of shoes, called Flyknit, consists of fewer pieces than other shoes. The amount of material wasted making each pair weighs only as much as a sheet of paper, producing 66 percent less waste than its Air Pegasus+ 28 brand, the company says.

For people who don’t want to buy new shoes, another way to be green is to repair what you already have. You can take your worn out shoes to the local cobbler or, if you own a pair of Cole-Haan shoes, that company will repair them for you. The company has a restoration program in which people can send in their worn pairs (for a fee) and have the soles, heels, tassles, stitching and hardware replaced. Allen Edmonds offers a similar “recrafting” service for worn dress shoes, ranging from simple heel replacement to complete restoration.

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Making Cardboard Green

April 21st, 2012 No comments

Let’s face it, we all have to ship stuff from time to time, regardless of how un-green it can seem. Aunt Martha will be disappointed if you don’t send her a birthday gift, and what about all that old stuff you can sell on ebay so that someone else can re-use it? People who feel guilty about the carbon they’re expending by shipping stuff can rest assured now: UPS is trying to make its business more sustainable.

For example, UPS calculates the carbon footprint of all of its routes and has determined that more right-hand turns are more sustainable. By doing so, the company has saved 10 million gallons of gasoline since 2004 and last year reduced the amount of fuel consumed per package by 3.3 percent. They also buy carbon offsets to fund conservation projects for customers that request carbon-neutral shipments. They use something called “cube optimization” to ensure that packages are no larger than they need to be. And they use environmentally-friendly packaging materials, such as corrugated cardboard, which is both easy to recycle and also comprised of recycled materials.

Speaking of cardboard… there’s a 9 year old boy in East L.A. who has turned cardboard boxes from his dad’s auto parts store into arcade games. Caine Monroy cut and taped up old boxes and converted them into games using other re-purposed items like an old basketball hoop, with the idea of charging kids money to play. He created a claw game — that arcade game classic in which you try to retrieve a stuffed animal with a claw — using a hook and string. He also created a soccer game using old army men toys as goalies. And as prizes, he set aside his old Hotwheels cars. Talk about re-use!

Unfortunately for Caine, he didn’t have any customers for awhile. But when a documentary film maker came upon his cardboard arcade and decided to make a short film about the young entrepreneur, things changed. The film maker created a facebook page and a flash mob ensued. His project generated so much news coverage, it even made the front page of Reddit. Check out to see the film about this young recycler.

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Boulder House Treads Lightly

April 11th, 2012 No comments

It’s one thing to leave a small footprint by shunning the McMansions of the 90s and early 2000s by occupying a smaller dwelling. But one Boulder couple took the small-house trend to the extreme.

Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller built a 125-square-foot home.

Not only is the size environmentally friendly, the couple built it using reclaimed windows, beetle-kill lumber, solar power and a composting toilet that contains peat moss and saw dust.

“You’d be surprised how well it works and how much it doesn’t smell,” Mr. Smith told Denver’s ABC 7 News.

So what can you fit in a space that 19-feet long, wall-to-wall? A sitting area, a kitchen, a bathroom and a sleeping loft that can accommodate a queen-size mattress.

The Boulder couple is part of a growing movement of small-home dwellers. The web site

features the tiny homes of other environmentally-conscious people like a man who built a 400-square-foot cabin for less than $2,000. Roof-top solar panels and a small wind turbine provide all the electricity, including the water pump, lights and computer. A propane tank that provides back-up energy for the furnace and stove saves money. His water comes from a well he drilled himself, while rainwater that he collects provides water for gardening. He raises chickens, rabbits and tends fruit trees. He has no house payments or utility bills.

A documentary called “Tiny: A Story About Living Small“, scheduled for release this spring, will feature the Boulder couple’s home and others like it.

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More of an Incentive to Recycle their Beverage Containers in California

March 24th, 2012 No comments

Consumers in California are getting more of an incentive to recycle their beverage containers. The state has said it will raise the rates paid to people who turn in their used soda cans and water bottles.

The redemption rates will increase by 3¢ for plastic bottles and 3¢ for aluminum cans. The rate per container remains the same at 5¢ for containers under 24 ounces and 10¢ for containers 24 ounces and above.

RePLANET, a company that operates recycling centers in California, said previous reimbursement rates were insufficient to support its collection program, forcing it to temporarily deactivate its automated recycling machines last summer. Following complaints from customers, rePLANET reactivated the machines and the state of California began to recalculate the rates, according to Recycling Today

Now it makes more economic sense for customers to line up outside recycling centers to cash in their items. Often in California, lines are long and people have to wait a long time to redeem their recyclables.

“Recycling beverage containers makes more sense than ever before,” Matt Millhiser, rePLANET marketing director, told the magazine. “The state’s new redemption rates, combined with our innovations in automated technology, make recycling more financially rewarding and convenient than any time in California history.”

Effective March 1, 2012, the CRV refund price per pound are:
  • Aluminum Cans – $1.57
  • Glass Bottles – 10.5¢
  • No. 1 PET Plastic Bottles – $1
  • No. 2 HDPE Plastic Bottles – 57¢
  • No. 3 PVC Plastic Bottles – $1.33
  • No. 4 LDPE Plastic Bottles -$1.87
  • No. 5 PP Plastic Bottles – 45¢
  • No. 6 PS Plastic Bottles – $5.62
  • No. 7 Others Plastic Bottles – 33¢
  • Bimetal – 30¢
 More information is available at
Thanks for Gem City Images for the use of their image
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Here Comes Earth Hour 2012

March 9th, 2012 No comments

Earth Hour: 8:30pm, Saturday, 31 March 2012.

In under five years, Earth Hour has become the largest campaign in history for the planet. It has grown from one city, one country to over 135 countries and territories in 2011. Earth Hour — By The People, For The Planet.

Download the iCalendar reminder for Earth Hour 2012…

Switch off your lights for Earth Hour at 8:30pm, Saturday 31 March 2012 and celebrate your commitment to the planet with the people of the world!

History of Earth Hour

WWF started Earth Hour in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses turned their lights off for one hour to take a stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, CN Tower in Toronto, Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

In 2011, Earth Hour saw hundreds of millions of people across 135 countries switch off for an hour. But it also marked the start of something new –going Beyond the Hour to commit to lasting action on sustainability.

Visit for more ideas!

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Phoenix Faces Challenges Initiating Recycling Program for Multifamily Residences

March 1st, 2012 No comments

Phoenix, Arizona, named after the mythological firebird forever reborn from the ashes of its former self, is currently implementing a pilot recycling program for city-owned multifamily housing in low income neighborhoods. But there are particular challenges involved, mainly spreading awareness to residents regarding what goes into which receptacle, and inciting them to take advantage of such accessible means to recycle. In addition, city officials plan to overcome these obstacles by handing off awareness responsibilities to city property managers, a strategy that may lead to interesting outcomes.

The incentives for Phoenix to enact sustainability programs throughout city-owned property is clear. They need to reduce management costs over time and one way to do so is to make multifamily residences more sustainable. The pilot program being implemented at two city-owned apartment complexes, Park Lee Apartments and Sunnyslope Manor, hopes to prove this is possible, after which it will be extended to all low-income housing units under Phoenix ownership. If shown effective on such a grand scale, the program will be further expanded to cover all multifamily city residences to help curb waste management costs.

The problem is that property managers paid by the city are basically doing their bosses bidding by creating ways to inform residents as to the existence of recycling bins and the ways in which the waste is separated into them. Private-sector property managers aren’t going to be so pressured to go out of their way to inform and enforce a recycling program throughout low-income housing. In addition, initiating such a program among working-class, unemployed, and often unsettled droves of individuals raises its own set of challenges.

Such housing units in the northwest corridor between Phoenix and Scottsdale see all walks of life, from stay-at-home moms to transients to those who need just a little help getting back to being productive members of society. This diversity further complicates matters for those behind the program and managers tasked with making their property more sustainable. Schedules are odd, struggling families are resistant to change, and the residents themselves move in and out so much that it’s hard to ingrain any sort of habit change on a mass scale.

We know from experience a recycling program is successful based on these three factors:

  • Convenience
  • Education
  • Economics

Informing people about how to identify, separate and properly dispose of their recycling in and of itself takes little more than leaving fliers door to door and emailing a recycling FAQ. But things get harder when it comes to dishing out the responsibilities to property managers without offering incentives, and reaching out to individuals who are either too busy trying to get by to care or aren’t even bothered enough to throw their garbage in a trash can. Will Phoenix succeed in instituting a city-wide recycling program for multifamily residences? That depends on how badly they want to live up to their city’s namesake.

We can offer our Lessons Learned: Recycle Bin Setup

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