Tag: environment

Recycled Chewing Gum Turned Into Chewing Gum Bins

By Joseph Calamia | August 24, 2010 3:40 pm


Tired of gum-plastered streets, Anna Bullus decided to design and install chewing gum receptacles made, naturally, from recycled chewing gum. Her pink “Gumdrops” now appear in five UK locations and Six Flags Theme Park in New Jersey.

Though she won’t reveal the gum rubber’s exact contents, Bullus told The Guardian that eight months in a lab allowed her to perfect her technique, making gum first into a foam and then a used-gum pellet, before extracting a polymer modestly called BRGP (Bullus Recycled Gum Polymer). Perhaps it’s not surprising that you could turn gum into plastic, since the “nonnutritive masticatory substance” that gives gum its chewiness can include butyl rubber, used in inner tubes.

If her Gumdrops can keep gum off the streets, such bins might save British taxpayers an estimated £150 ($300) million per year–that’s what the government spends now on steam hoses, freezing machines, and corrosive chemical street cleanings. Plus Bullus says the Gumdrops, once full, can provide fodder for more Gumdrops and other plastic products. She told The Guardian:

“The amazing thing is you can use it for any plastic product…. I’d love to do some Wellington boots, for example. Gum boots, in fact.”

Related content:
Discoblog: Britain’s War On Chewing Gum Terror
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: A moment on your lips, forever in your intestine.
Discoblog: Can the Texas BoE walk and deny evolution at the same time? (when chewing gum meets evolution)
DISCOVER: Oh, Rubbish (archaeologists dig up some old trash, including gum)


Another Thing BP Can't Do Right: Photoshop

By Joseph Calamia | July 21, 2010 5:54 pm

Notice anything weird in this picture from a BP website of Gulf relief photos? We’ll give you a hint: Look at the the upper left. That’s right; there’s a control tower in the window of a flying helicopter.


As directed by the blog Gizmodo, take a closer look at the high-res version. A screen on the cockpit clearly indicates “Check Status / door open / parking brake / ramp open.” Meanwhile, the photo’s caption on the BP site reads: “View of the MC 252 site from the cockpit of a PHI S-92 helicopter 26 June 2010.” If not this relief helicopter, something sure is up.

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New Ink-Remover May Be Key to Recycling Office Paper

By Brett Israel | October 27, 2009 12:28 pm

copy-machine-webKindles, iPhones, laptops, and maybe an Apple Tablet make avoiding the printer a cinch. However, should someone actually need to read off dead trees, a new method to remove ink from white paper could make office paper far easier to reuse. All it takes is a solution of 60 percent dimethylsulphoxide and 40 percent chloroform and a little agitation to shake off the ink, and used paper will be almost as good as new, according to a new study.

From Physorg.com:

[Researchers] found that a combination of solvents can remove toner print from paper without harming the paper to make it reusable, although the resulting paper is not quite as white as new paper.

Physorg.com also has a an image of the comparisons between printing on paper treated with chemical solutions versus printing on a fresh sheet.

It’s hard to imaging any office keeping a wet lab and actually doing this, and sloshing through all that solvent can’t be very safe or economical. So here’s an alternative idea: Just stop printing altogether and read things digitally like everyone else.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Not Subtle, But It Works: Peepoo Bag Converts Human Waste Into Fertilizer
Discoblog: Newspapers May Be Dying, But Their Corpses Could Reduce Toxic Waste
Discoblog: Today’s Conservation Gimmick: Drink Your Shower Water!

Image: flickr / michaelkpate

MORE ABOUT: environment, innovation

Saving Seafood: Can We Grow Fish in Giant Robotic Cages?

By Boonsri Dickinson | August 21, 2009 11:08 am

fish.jpgWe recently covered a study in which every single fish tested from U.S. streams was tainted with mercury. But that may be the least of our worries: The demand for fish will increase by 40 percent in the next two decades. As the world population hits 9 billion by 2050, the continued depletion of biodiversity and poor environmental conditions of the ocean could end up wiping fish completely off our menus. Not surprisingly though, aquaculture is picking up, and now more than 50 percent of the fish that ends up in our bellies was raised in coastal fish farms.

Fish raised in farms near the coastline are exposed to more pollution than wild fish, and therefore grow to be less nutritious. Ideally, we’d like our fish to roam around freely in the sea before we eat them.

Enter MIT’s Offshore Aquaculture Engineering Center, which is building robotic cages so fish can be farmed in the ocean away from the coastal waters. The Aquapod cage has 8-foot long propellers, which are controlled and powered from a generator in an attached boat. The cage, which strikingly resembles the Apple Store on New York’s Fifth Avenue, is built with triangular panels that are coated in steel nets. National Geographic reports:

“The idea of a cage towing a buoy, with the buoy in radio contact with the shore, is quite feasible,” [director Cliff Goudey said]. “It’s a little futuristic for today’s industry, but we could have a sensor on the cage which gives its heading and a GPS system to report its effective speed over the ground.”

Another group at Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory has a more open idea for a “cage”: They allow their fish to swim freely, but train them to return to their cage at the sound of a dinner bell. Granted, fish are hardly terriers: The bell worked for black sea bass for about a week, but when a school of bluefish came to dine on the bass, they refused to return to their cage despite the researchers’ offer of free food.

Related Content:
80Beats: Are Fish Farms The Answer To World Hunger?
DISCOVER: Are You Poisoning Yourself With Fish?
DISCOVER: Fish Farming Threatens Wild Salmon

Image: flickr/ Swamps

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

Experts Baffled by Unidentified Black Goo Floating in Arctic Ocean

By Allison Bond | July 16, 2009 1:43 pm

gooThere’s a mysterious black goo floating off the Alaskan coast, and no one is quite sure what it is. A helicopter flying over the area spotted a strand of the dark stuff, which is easily visible on the bright white ice floating in the Arctic Ocean, and followed it for 15 miles.

Juneau Empire reports:

“[The goo is] certainly biological,” [Terry] Hasenauer [of the Coast Guard] said. “It’s definitely not an oil product of any kind. It has no characteristics of an oil, or a hazardous substance, for that matter…. It’s definitely, by the smell and the makeup of it, some sort of naturally occurring organic or otherwise marine organism.”

“It’s pitch black when it hits ice and it kind of discolors the ice and hangs off of it,” [an official with the North Slope Borough’s Planning and Community Services Department] said. He saw some jellyfish tangled up in the stuff, and someone turned in what was left of a dead goose – just bones and feathers – to the borough’s wildlife department.”

Anyone wanna go for a swim?

Related Content:
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Discoblog: The Incredible Shrinking Baby Keeps Shrinking, Baffles Doctors
Discoblog: Today’s Animal Mystery: Indian Mouse Problem Solved by…Rats

Image: Courtesy of the North Slope Borough Planning Department

Farmers "Steaking" a Claim in Mini-Cows for Jumbo Profits

By Allison Bond | May 26, 2009 4:22 pm

cowThe rocky economy has led some beef ranches to downsize not just their acreage, but the cows themselves. Minicows, which are shorter and more compact than more standard breeds, produce one-half to three-quarters of the meat of regular-sized cows, but consume less than half of the feed eaten by standard-sized bovines.

These cows aren’t genetically engineered—instead, they’re the offspring of a breed that was popular in the 1800s, before feed became cheap in the mid-twentieth century. Today, farmers once again want more beef for their bucks spent on feed, and so they’re increasingly investing in the minicows, which originally came to the U.S. from Europe.

These mini-mooers might also be more environmentally friendly than bigger bovines. Fans say they produce less methane, a gas linked to global warming. And because they eat less, they help keep grazing fields greener and healthier.

Anyone else craving sliders?

Related Content:
Discoblog: A Medicinal Soft Drink Made From Cow Urine
Discoblog: Name Your Cows to Get More Milk
Magazine: Fighting Cow Methane at the Source

Image: flickr/Thunderchild tm

Attention Poachers: That Deer Just Might Be a Robot

By Rachel Cernansky | May 7, 2009 10:44 am

deer.jpgRobots really seem to be catching on as a tool for environmental defense. Even if they’re animal decoys: robot animals that look—and act—just like the real things. Why would such a machine be useful? Well, for one, they’re great at trapping would-be poachers.

Wildlife officials are up against a hunting season where for every animal killed legally, there’s another one killed illegally. State officers hide out near the strategically-placed decoys, and when poachers approach, the officers act quickly, jumping from bushes and shouting things like, “Game and Fish Department! Cease fire! Put down your weapon!”

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Fire Water Gets Literal: Colorado Couple's Tap Water Erupts in Flames

By Rachel Cernansky | March 23, 2009 5:06 pm

faucet.jpgIf you live near enough natural gas, it seems, your water can become flammable. Or at least, that’s what has happened to a couple in Fort Lupton, Colorado whose home is less than half a mile from eight natural gas wells.

Jesse and Amee Ellsworth say that one of these wells (no one knows which) has been contaminating their well for six months now, and that they can light their water on fire. Testing done in the basement, bathroom, and near the well has shown explosive levels of the gas. But only recently, they say, did the companies decide to take any action—and only then at the urging of the state’s oil and gas commission.

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Charge by the Hour? Scottish Volunteers Build Mating Motel for Frogs

By Rachel Cernansky | March 23, 2009 12:18 pm

froghotel.jpgFrogs in Scotland are being told to get a room, and for the good of the species, earth-conscious volunteers are helping them. As part of the Action Earth campaign, volunteers have constructed what they describe as an underground beehive to provide a safe place for frogs to mate, since their usual mating location—near ponds or other bodies of water—leaves them vulnerable to predators like foxes and herons.

Guests at the frog hotel, an enclosed, two-tiered space made from wood and recycled materials, are first greeted with a complimentary snack in the compost cafe, where insects and bees abound. They are then led up a ramp into the “sleeping area,” where they can, er, socialize to their hearts’ content, safe from attack and left only in the company of other frogs—up to 20 of them at a time.

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Weird Science Roundup: Dinosaur Thieves, Eco-Friendly Surfing, and Atkins Genes

By Rachel Cernansky | March 20, 2009 2:10 pm

Yee-haw! It’s the blog roundup.• An undersea volcano that erupted for days near Tonga in the South Pacific led to a short-lived tsunami alert for surrounding areas.

• Surfing may become a more earth-friendly sport, with boards made from at least 50 percent renewable materials reducing the use of petroleum, traditionally the primary component in surfboards.

• By discovering the gene that helps convert carbohydrate into fat in the liver, researchers may have inched closer to developing a genetic equivalent of the Atkins diet.

• In good news for endangered species, conservationists have developed a way to use 3-D imaging to track tiger populations—and then, in bad news for an already-extinct species, a celebrated paleontologist who discovered the  world’s best-preserved dinosaur will now plead guilty for stealing dinosaur bones from federal land.


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