How glass is recycled

I have been gone from this blog for a very, very long time, but I am back to show you this very awesome video. For a while now, I have been badly wanting to make a documentary of sorts about our recycling system. I thought of trying to work with my school-town’s waste management program, which seemed very helpful in the past when I made slideshow,  and follow their every move. From the time someone brought their trash to the curb to the recycling plants (Which depending on the type of recyclable, it could be taken by truck to places on the other side of the US. Yeah, the recycling system, I’ve learned, is very inefficient) and then I would follow the unrecycled trash to landfill. My dream is to someday make this journey a reality on film, but people are so touchy about their trash. Their ashamed and disgusted by it, so they hide. But the huge lengths we go to hide the trash also hides the problem and makes people so blind and unaware they need to do something to change their ways. All this, plus it’s even illegal to take pictures at a landfill, so I figured I should wait until I’m done with school with a clean plate and hopefully some more video experience before trying to tackle this project.

Now this little video is awesome to me because it shows part of the journey I wish document, but also because the market for recycled glass is microscopic. Most recycling programs don’t accept glass and if they do, it might still end up in the landfill, which sucks because glass NEVER EVER, not in a million years, decomposes. But I’m sure the market is small because it takes so much energy to melt down the glass, but this video gives me hope they can come up with an efficient system and it’s just plain cool.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/67692057″>Secrets From The Recycling Plant: How A Used Bottle Becomes A New Bottle</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user3572793″>Planet Money</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Landfills: How They Affect the Air

To catch up read: how they affect our land and water.

Air

Landfill is the cheapest way of disposing MSW, but all efforts to get rid of waste pollute the environment to some extent. In landfills the disadvantages are that gases and chemicals are released into the air we breathe. Experiments show that the gases and chemicals released from landfill sites are harmful to animals which common sense would tell us, it’s harmful for us too.

Early landfills were put in convenient locations on the least expensive land. The waste was ‘out of sight out of mind.’ People did not realize that as the waste rots and decomposes, it can release toxic chemicals.

Bacteria
However, there is another problem with landfills, whether lined or not. Bacteria in the soil, break down organic matter in the landfill, such as vegetable peelings. As they do so, they release methane gas. Methane is not a poison, but it has two drawbacks. Firstly, it is a greenhouse gas. It contributes to the greenhouse effect that is causing global warming. Secondly it is explosive. If it seeps from the landfill and finds its way into a building, it can build up unnoticed.

Methane Collection System

Bacteria in the landfill break down the trash in the absence of oxygen (anaerobic) because the landfill is airtight. A byproduct of this anaerobic breakdown is landfill gas, which contains approximately 50 percent methane and 50 percent carbon dioxide with small amounts of nitrogen and oxygen. This presents a hazard because the methane can explode and/or burn. So, the landfill gas must be removed. To do this, a series of pipes are embedded within the landfill to collect the gas.

More recently, it has been recognized that this landfill gas represents a usable energy source. The methane can be extracted from the gas and used as fuel. The extraction system is a split system, meaning that methane gas can go to the boilers and/or the methane flares that burn the gas. The reason for the split system is that the landfill will increase its gas production over time and exceed the capacity of the boilers at the chemical company. Therefore, the excess gas will have to be burned. It is not cost-effective to compress the excess gas to liquid and sell it.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed landfill gas as an environmentally friendly energy resource that reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, such as coal and oil. Landfill gas-to-energy projects are most successful when partnered with mature MSW landfills, as opposed to new landfills or C&D landfills.

There are three basic types of landfill gas-to-energy facilities:

Electric – Landfill gas is used as a fuel to generate electricity at small power plants at the landfill, or at a nearby industry, with the generated electricity delivered to a utility company.

Alternative fuel – Landfill gas is piped to an industrial or commercial facility, where it is used for heating in place of, or in combination with, fossil fuels such as oil, coal or natural gas.

Processed gas – Landfill gas is processed and cleaned to natural gas quality and delivered to transmission pipelines, to be used in normal applications for natural gas.

http://www.interstatewaste.com/index.php/press-room/education/learn-about-landfills/

Landfill gas is still a problem. The Greenhouse Effect is caused by so called ‘greenhouse gases’ in the atmosphere. These gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor have existed naturally for millions of years. The amount of these gases has gradually increased, causing the earth to get warmer.

http://www.dldesign.connectfree.co.uk/quarry2.html

Landfill are a lot nastier than I had previously thought. I can’t believe that people think all this work is easier than just recycling. Recycling may be harder in the short run, but it seems like something that will save us a lot of problems and time in the long run.

Success!

Man, I had such a productive day yesterday.

First, my mom and I took our recycling to the center. I’ve been collecting wine corks to make cork boards, but it takes quite a lot just to make a decent sized one and it’s hard to find them around here because not very many people drink wine here. I’ve been asking restaurants, but they only give me four or five a week. So when I saw that they were having a wine festival I knew I couldn’t give up that opportunity. I had called the guy, who was running the event last week to explain and ask him if I could come, but he didn’t remember me nor did he understand what I was asking for. I had expected this would happen, so I made sure to get their early before it got all chaotic and busy.  That was the next thing we did. We dropped off some containers so the different wineries could put their wine corks in them. Since I’m under 21 he had some other guy go with me around to the different tables. He explained everything for me which made my time there a lot less stressful (I’m terrible at explaining what I’m wanting. I don’t know why, but no one ever seems to get it.) I told them I would come get them later.

Then we went dumpster diving. We went to several places down town, mostly to see what was in them. I didn’t need anything, but I just like to know for future reference and just in case I find something that I know someone else could use. We saw a cabinet, a tire, a vintage suitcase, and what looked to be a cardboard thing that carpet gets rolled on and we kept that for the kids. We did our first round at the mall. We haven’t gone before because mall security is always driving around, but this time we braved it and just did it quickly. We mostly found boxes, but we did find a computer monitor. I’m not sure if it works or not, but I have a pretty exciting plan for it anyways.

After we ate lunch and went to Wal-Mart (my worst nightmare) we went dumpster diving again. It was an electrical supply store that was by another place we had to stop at, so it was just a random decision.  I’m not 100 percent sure what we found, actually I have no idea what it was, but it had all these wires sticking out and there was about 50 lone wires that were in the bottom. We’ve decided that anytime we find electronics or wires that we’re going to strip the copper from them and sell it. We were pretty excited by our find.

Later in the day I went back to get my corks. I got a pretty good bag full; not as much as I wanted, but more than I would have gotten in like half a year of just restaurants alone so I’m grateful for it.

We have five cats that spend the day time outside and then come into the garage at night. They’re pretty messy and piggly little things so when they eat inside we have place mats to keep them from tracking food everywhere. We have to get some new mats because the current ones were falling apart. My mom said, “What could we upcycle into some new place mats?”

I hadn’t even thought about trying to come up with something, but as soon as she said it, I knew exactly what we could use. You see, my dad works at a gym facility and a couple of weeks ago they had to replace one of the belt (I think it’s called a belt, but just that part you walk and run on) of the treadmill. He asked me if I wanted it and my first reaction was, yeah that could make an awesome yoga mat. Of course it was later that I realized how silly that was. It was way too rough and knowing myself I could get seriously hurt on that. It’s not padded either, so I discarded my ridiculous idea and it has been sitting out there ever since waiting for me to use it. So as soon as she said it I knew that’s what we should use.  My dad cut it with a box cutter and you can see the kitties eating below. Take my word for it, I thought they were adorable before, but they’re way cuter now that they’re eating on their upcycled place mats. The picture below is of Cheerio (orange and white) and Melody and Harmony. The other two were scared by the camera, but you can see the two front paws of Mr. T. (He wasn’t named after the official Mr. T. We only named him that because he had a white T marked on his face.) Mystique is the other one and yes she was named after the Mystique in x-men. She is all black and I knew the second she was born that she was either going to be a Mystique or a Wolverine. She was a girl, so a Mystique she became. It suits her. Someday I’ll tell you all about them and how I came to find each one. In my opinion they’re very entertaining and they’re always on my mind, so it’s taken a lot of discipline not to write about them every time.

The kitties eating on their new place mats

Melody and Harmony and a hint of Mr. T eating on their new place mats.

So anyways, pretty much that was my day yesterday. Once again I must say, I love dumpster diving. Whether I find things that are universally useful or just the things that have the potential to be, it pretty much makes the world my oyster and there is nothing more exciting than that.

Inform

I think it’s important to inform, but it seems people take their knowledge for granted.  I look at so many different organizations that are trying to accomplish various things and they seem so frustrated. They look down at people who don’t believe the same things that they do, but I think they never really considered that they might have actually missed a step. And that is just informing people. Granted, not everyone takes that knowledge and actually does something with it, but when my teacher started talking about what could happen to our world if we didn’t start taking action, out of the twenty people who were ‘listening’, at least one person that I know of took action and that was me. Obviously. If you talk to thousands of people, most will probably let your words go in one ear and out the other, but there could actually be a person, two, maybe even three people who are actually listening and motivated enough to do something with it.

In my blog, I try to make it mostly informative.  I try to make the practices that I suggest such as dumpster diving as easy as it could possibly be. I definitely have a lot more work to do, but my goal is break it down so that you have all the tools and all the extra work is taken out of it. For other things, I try to relay my experiences so that you can avoid doing the things that I did that made the process a little bit harder. I try to give you as much information as I can find so you can make an informed decision about the life that want to live.

Solutions, I believe, are equally important. It’s annoying that time after time people give you the problems…the countless problems of everything, but they never give you any solutions. How are you supposed to change something if you don’t know how. Wouldn’t you have already been doing the right thing if you already knew how? It seems to be true for almost every sermon I’ve ever heard. They always point out what is wrong with me, maybe even why I should fix it, but they never tell me how. It gets very frustrating to say the least.

Since becoming informed of what damage people as a whole were doing to the environment was so vital to my coming to realize that I needed to change, I realize that this is probably the case for a lot of people.  In college I’m taking a ‘listening’ class which is almost as dull as it sounds, but after my teacher woke me up from my apathetic slumber, I realized how much other things I had dismissed simply because I didn’t care enough about the topic that they were initially talking about to listen to the rest of whatever they were saying. I had thought I had heard it all before, and nothing had made any difference before so why would it now? I didn’t care about anything, so I missed so many things that are really important things to understand. After that, I really came to understand how important listening is. I think a few people are still missing it in the class. As dull as it and as much as I ‘think’ I know, I make myself listen because I could miss something important.

Since I have come to realize the vitality of informing people, I have started to take steps in doing just that. They’re small, but I have to start somewhere.

Every Friday, my listening class has what’s called ‘literature day’. Everyone gets up reads a piece of literature such as a quote, poem, short short story, etc.  I decided that I would take a day and read some mind blowing statistics that I had found. Some people I know were listening because they gave a verbal response, but I still don’t know whether any body was listening to the point they actually realize that action needs to be taken. I know that in the past when I’ve heard a speech where someone was calling a group to action, I consider it for as long as they’re talking about it and then I leave and I forget all about it. I wish I could figure out why I made that connection when I listened to my teacher. I think it was partly because he gave me a reason to. When I hear most people trying to convince to do something they never give a reason to. They just say, “you should do this” or “you should do that” without ever giving a reason why.  He said, “Environmentalists have predicted that if we don’t change our ways, in x (I don’t remember the exact number) amount of years, the air around us will be so toxic that we will have build huge plexi-glass domes that covers portions of the U.S. We’ll have to figure out how to create our own water, sunlight, air because we have poisoned our environment so much. The only way we’ll be able to travel is through plexi-glass tunnels.” He didn’t say it exactly like that, but I hope you get the point. Whether it’s true or whether it’s just some alarmist doesn’t really matter. The possibility that it could happen is so disgusting to me that I’ll do anything to try and make sure that I am not the reason that it happens.

The other day, I posted a vignette that I wrote for my creative writing class, but since it was too long, I had to shorten it to just my dumpster diving experience.  When we write a three chapter short story then I’ll be bringing back Dixie. My teacher was disappointed that I took Dixie out of the story, but I just couldn’t find a way to do it justice with such a short word allotment. My teacher loved the whole idea behind the story and she didn’t seem off put by the whole dumpster diving thing either. I was pretty excited about that.

My mom is pretty much my biggest fan and she’s taken the dumpster diving idea and run with it. She has a day care and every year she does a ‘Mom’s Night’, a party for the moms of all her kids. They do a craft, a spa type thing, food and all that. This year she did an upcycling theme. She made the same type of crafts that I’ve been posting, she made decorations out of junk mail and other assorted recyclables, and she did a game where she asked a bunch of questions about what the different facts about recycling. Who ever got the most facts right won the game and they got to pick one the crafts that she had made as a prize. My mom said that almost everyone received the idea really well and asked a lot of questions. She has one person in the group that is judgmental about pretty much everything, so you know.  She posted pictures of everything that she had created on her Facebook.  She got a lot of comments and people asking where she got things to make them and how she made them. It was pretty exciting.

So far this is what I’ve been doing to spread the word. It’s not much, but it’s a matter of getting courage. With the success of the mom’s night I’m seeing the possibility of a dumpster diving group coming together in this small town somewhere in the future.

Clothing Waste Endemic: Part 2

Don’t forget to check back and read my next post Clothing Solutions

Clothes. We need them. Even if nudists, eventually they’re going to want to leave their house and when that day comes they can either get arrested for indecent exposure or they can buy some clothes. What kind of clothes will they buy? Will they buy clothes that with each step of the clothing life cycle they generate potential environmental and occupational hazards or will they choose the road less traveled by making the better decision for the environment?

I guess for some it’s a tough decision. I usually wear t-shirts, jeans, and converses. I don’t pretend to understand what the big deal is about wearing nice clothes. When I have to work, I dress better, but I don’t want to and I don’t like to. Why other people do, I’ll never know.  Some people say it gives them confidence, some say they just like it, whatever the reason, there’s a responsible way to do it and there is an irresponsible way to do it. Most will choose to do it the impractical and therefore irresponsible because that’s what fashion is and by fashion I mean the trendy kind, the kind that lasts like five minutes before you throw out your closet to replace it with something that makes even less sense.

Both globalization and consumerism are the main reasons for our clothing overload. Globalization has made it possible to produce clothing at increasingly lower prices, prices so low that many consumers consider this clothing to be disposable. Some call it “fast fashion,” the clothing equivalent of fast food.

The fashion industry is constantly evolving. That creates a couple of problems for both environmentalists and anti-consumerists.

  1. It means that people are always throwing away clothes to make room for new ones. Most people don’t donate their clothes which means they’re just adding the waste in the landfills. According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of the municipal solid waste. But this figure is rapidly growing.
  2. As prices and quality of new clothing continue to decline, so too will the demand for used clothing diminish. This is because in the world of fast fashion, new clothing could be bought almost as inexpensively as used clothing. Which means that even if people donate their clothes, it won’t matter because why buy used clothes if you can new ones for the same price? Which means the clothes will just go in the landfill no matter what because there are no people to buy them.
  3. The knock offs of these fashion forward clothes are made from man-made fibers such as polyester. The manufacture of polyester and other synthetic fabrics is an energy-intensive process requiring large amounts of crude oil and releasing emissions including volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and acid gases such as hydrogen chloride, all of which can cause or aggravate respiratory disease. Volatile monomers, solvents, and other by-products of polyester production are emitted in the wastewater from polyester manufacturing plants.
  4. Cotton, one of the most popular and versatile fibers used in clothing manufacture, also has a significant environmental footprint. This crop accounts for a quarter of all the pesticides used in the United States, the largest exporter of cotton in the world, according to the USDA.
  5. Globalization, driven by improved technology and reduced trade barriers is rapidly increasing the connections between people around the world. There are new opportunities to address poverty but also increased awareness of human rights and environmental issues. Many developing countries are offering major manufacturers tax breaks, low cost land and labour to build factories in areas known as Export Processing Zones. This creates new employment opportunities and income for poor families and export income for the country but sometimes working conditions are exploitative.
  6. Much of the cotton produced in the United States is exported to China and other countries with low labor costs, where the material is milled, woven into fabrics, cut, and assembled according to the fashion industry’s specifications. China has emerged as the largest exporter of fast fashion, accounting for 30% of world apparel exports, according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics database.
  7. According to figures from the U.S. National Labor Committee, some Chinese workers make as little as 12–18 cents per hour working in poor conditions.

The Manufacturing provides a whole other set of problems.

  1.  Dyeing alone can account for most of the water used in producing a garment; unfixed dye then often washes out of garments, and can end up colouring the rivers, as treatment plants fail to remove them from the water. Dye fixatives – often heavy metals – also end up in sewers and then rivers.
  2. Cloth is often bleached using dioxin-producing chlorine compounds.
  1. And virtually all polycotton (especially bedlinen), plus all ‘easy care’, ‘crease resistant’, ‘permanent press’ cotton, are treated with toxic formaldehyde (also used for flameproofing nylon).

http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.115-a449

 

How Long Does It Take- Aluminum

Research says that aluminum cans could take approximately 200-500 years to decompose. When you consider that 28 percent of our waste is aluminum cans, we could see how easy it would be for trash to start piling up around us.

Not only does it cause harm to bury it, but it causes even more harm to make it.

1 ton of cans produce 5 tons of caustic waste. Each ton of aluminum cans requires 5 tons of bauxite ore to be strip-mined, crushed, washed, and refined into alumina before it is smelted, creating about 5 tons of caustic red mud residues which can seep into surface and groundwater.

While aluminum companies often cite tremendous savings from recycling aluminum, they fail to mention that at current wasting levels; about 23 billion kilowatt-hours are squandered globally each year through ‘replacement production.’ About 7 kWh are saved per pound (33 cans) recycled. Had the 50 billion trashed cans been recycled, the electricity saved could power 1.3 million American homes.  In total, the industry’s annual electricity consumption is almost 300 billion kilowatt-hours, or about 3% of the world’s total electricity consumption.

Every little that is recycled helps and here are a couple of statistics to prove it.

  • A used aluminum can is recycled and back on the grocery shelf as a new can, in as little as 60 days. That’s closed loop recycling at its finest!
  • Making new aluminum cans from used cans takes 95 percent less energy and 20 recycled cans can be made with the energy needed to produce one can using virgin ore.
  • Recycling one aluminum can saves enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for almost four hours or run your television for three hours.
  • Last year 54 billion cans were recycled saving energy equivalent to 15 million barrels of crude oil – America’s entire gas consumption for one day.
  • Tossing away an aluminum can wastes as much energy as pouring out half of that can’s volume of gasoline.

Plus, you can get paid to recycle them. That’s an incentive that no one can argue with. The benefits can go on and on.

http://earth911.com/news/2007/04/02/facts-about-aluminum-recycling/

http://www.container-recycling.org/facts/aluminum/dirty.htm

Plastic Spoon Flowers

So, this is first spoon project that I mentioned not too long ago. I tried this project again and it still didn’t turn out quite the way I wanted, but I think it’s because I’m using thicker spoons and not just because I’m completely incompetent. I still think it’s a good DIY, so I’m going to post it and when I get some different spoons then I’m going to post my results.

Things You Need:

Plastic Spoons

Pliers

Lighter

Candle

Want more ideas? Check out my DIY page.