Tag: recycling

$10,000-Gizmo Lets You Turn Plastic Bags Back Into Petroleum

By Patrick Morgan | February 17, 2011 5:43 pm

You could be spared the guilt of forgetting your eco-friendly cloth shopping bag on the trip to the grocery: A Japanese inventor has created the first home recycling system that can convert all those extra plastic bags back into oil.

His name is Akinori Ito, and his invention is now for sale through Blest Corporation. According to the website, one model–the Desk-top Waste Plastic Oiling System–weighs a mere 110 pounds. But the best part is that this non-polluting conversion process is also highly efficient: two pounds of plastic can be converted into one quart of oil using a mere kilowatt-hour of energy (a cost of roughly 20 cents).

It works by capturing the vapors released by heated plastic, and then funneling them through a network of pipes and water chambers, which gradually cool the vapors until they coalesce back into crude oil–where the plastics originally came from.

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Unwanted Christmas Trees Find a Home–at the Bottom of a Lake

By Eliza Strickland | January 5, 2011 1:53 pm

Oh Christmas trees, oh Christmas trees, what should we do with your corpses?

Here’s an idea that seems to be working well: Use them as fish habitats. Surprisingly, the trees are prefect for the job, Pete Alexander told The New York Times:

“Christmas trees are perfect — just the right size and weight,” said Mr. Alexander, the fisheries program manager for the East Bay Regional Park District, which is based in Oakland, Calif. “And we get them free, because vendors want to get rid of them.”

After the holidays are over, the group gets leftover trees from vendors, ties a bunch of trees together, and sticks them at the bottom of a lake. The trees quickly grow algae and attract fish to the area–which also attracts fishermen. Every year the workers build a habitat in a new lake, and The New York Times reports that the structures last about five years:

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GM Recycles Oil-Soaked Booms From BP Spill Into Parts for Chevy Volt

By Jennifer Welsh | December 21, 2010 4:00 pm

oil-boomsThe Chevy Volt is taking aim at the green market. Not only did it nab the 2010 green car of the year award, but it’s also helping to clean up the mess that big oil company BP made in the Gulf of Mexico.

GM is recycling 10,000 pounds of oil-soaked booms from the gulf into parts for the Volt. Instead of sending the booms to landfills, their absorbent polypropylene (which bears plastic-recycling #5) filler will be cleaned and recycled, GM said in the press release:

“This was purely a matter of helping out,” said John Bradburn, manager of GM’s waste-reduction efforts. “If sent to a landfill, these materials would have taken hundreds of years to begin to break down, and we didn’t want to see the spill further impact the environment. We knew we could identify a beneficial reuse of this material given our experience.”

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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)


Channel Your Anger and Help Mother Earth—by Breaking Stuff

By Allison Bond | May 13, 2010 2:08 pm

bottlesIf the frustrations of daily life are getting to be too much for you, don’t keep your feelings bottled up–throw bottles! That’s the philosophy behind New York City developer David Belt’s newest project. “Glassphemy!” entails throwing used glass bottles in a 20-by-30-foot glass box in Brooklyn. Participants stand on one of two platforms in the box, hurling glass at the other end and watching it shatter, according to The New York Times:

“”The bottles smash fantastically, artfully designed lights flash, and no one is harmed. “Recycling’s so boring,” Mr. Belt said. “We tried to make it a little bit more exciting. He added, “People just want to smash things.””

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Circuit Board Chic: Motherboards Recycled Into Shoes & Underwear

By Smriti Rao | April 7, 2010 1:43 pm

Upgrading to a newer, sleeker computer is always fun, but it can leave some clutter around in the form of old hardware. If you can’t recycle the old junky parts, perhaps you’ll consider refashioning them into brand new shoes, sneakers, or even underwear–thus putting the chic in circuit boards. Here are some ideas on what you can do with old electronics parts.

Exhibit A:


Artist Steven Rodrig shows how to re-use circuit boards to create fancy heels that are guaranteed to put the skip back in your step. These decidedly uncomfortable-looking shoes will be a welcome addition to the closet of a woman who already owns uncomfortable stilettos. If she must teeter in pain, let her do it in style–circuit board style.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Got Too Many Plastic Bags? Recycle Them Into Nanotubes

By Brett Israel | December 14, 2009 12:15 pm

plastic-bag-waste-webAn Argonne National Laboratory scientist thinks he has developed a better way to recycle a ubiquitous scourge of the environment—the plastic bag.

the plastic bag

New Scientist reports:

Waste plastic from “throwaway” carrier bags can be readily converted into carbon nanotubes. The chemist who developed the technique has even used the nanotubes to make lithium-ion batteries.

This is called “upcycling” – converting a waste product into something more valuable. Finding ways to upcycle waste could encourage more recycling…

The process isn’t cheap, however. It involves an expensive catalyst in cobalt acetate, which is not easily recovered, to convert the high or low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE) into carbon nanotubes. But if the nanotubes are then used to make lithium-ion or lithium-air batteries, that might overcome this problem, since these batteries are already recycled at the end of their use to recover cobalt.

Getting the bags to a recycling facility in the first place may be a hurdle as well. As the picture above shows, asking the public to put forth any effort sometimes seems to be asking too much.

Related Content:
80beats: How to Make a Battery Out of Office Paper & Nanotubes
DISCOVER: The World’s Largest Garbage Dump: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Discoblog: Prison for Plastic? Indian City Initiates Harsh Penalties for Using Plastic Bags
Discoblog: It’s In the Bag! Teenager Wins Science Fair, Solves Massive Environmental Problem
DISCOVER: 9 Ways Carbon Nanotubes Just Might Rock the World

Image: flickr / Sam Felder

Recycled-Plastic Boat to Sail the Pacific; Somali Pirates Unimpressed

By Rachel Cernansky | March 11, 2009 4:15 pm

rothschild_plastiki.jpgThree sailors and a scientist are getting ready to sail 11,000 miles across the Pacific…on a boat made entirely of recycled plastic bottles.

Sounds like the opening of a bad joke, but the 60-foot catamaran is currently being constructed from more than 12,000 plastic bottles on a San Francisco pier. Each of the bottles has been pressurized with dry ice powder, which sublimates into carbon dioxide gas and makes the bottles rigid enough to withstand the endless seas.

The vessel, dubbed The Plastiki, will be launched in April and is expected to take more than 100 days to reach Sydney, stopping in Hawaii, Tuvalu, and Fiji along the way. The permanent crew members will be able to sleep in the watertight cabin made from recycled PET, and the passengers will rotate in throughout the voyage.

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Now You Can Trash Your Credit Guilt-Free, Thanks to Biodegradable Credit Cards

By Rachel Cernansky | February 23, 2009 5:40 pm

compost.jpgAs if there isn’t enough economic incentive to dispense with credit cards these days, a new card issued by Discover Financial Services [ed. note: no relation to DISCOVER, though they own Discover.com] now adds an environmental perk as well.

A new biodegradable credit card, released in December, will break down when exposed to microorganisms into carbon dioxide, water, and a mild salt. The New York Times reports that the card is made of biodegradable polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, and bears the same durability as a traditional plastic credit card. Yet it will decompose in a microorganism-filled environment, which the company says can be just about anywhere, including water, soil, a compost heap, or even a landfill, because the microbes operate anaerobically.

With 1.5 billion credit cards in use in the U.S. as of 2006, the ability to decompose will surely ease the burden on landfills, which have their fair share of other plastic to deal with. The trick behind the card is a secret that BIOPVC, the company that created it, will not give up, but they say no toxic PVC remains once the microbes break down the plastic. A Columbia University professor took a stab at how the process works, and said it can be activated by coating PVC with a material that attracts fungi, or alternatively one that attracts rather than repels water, which contains microbes that will then break down the PVC. Read More

Metaphorical Information Superhighway Recycled Into Literal Superhighway

By Rachel Cernansky | February 12, 2009 3:01 pm

ewaste.jpgUsed rubber tires and discarded glass have been recycled into asphalt for some time. Now, add old electronics to the creative, eco-friendly ingredient mix for the production of new road materials.

Researchers in China have developed a process to recycle electronic hardware into a material that makes high-performance paving material that is cheaper, longer lasting, and more environmentally friendly than conventional asphalt.”

Where most people see a global environmental crisis, the research team in China saw opportunity. Electronics are discarded by the millions of tons every year, and they contain toxic metals that make disposal difficult, hazardous, and controversial. The researchers report in a new study, however, that electronic circuit boards also contain glass fibers and plastic resins that would strengthen asphalt paving.

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