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Posts Tagged ‘landfill’

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Photo: The Guardian
North America’s first pay-what-you-can grocer is located in Toronto and aims to keep overstocked but perfectly good food from going to a landfill.

I love stories about efforts to get surplus fresh food into the hands of people who might be going hungry otherwise. And keeping food out of landfills at the same time means killing two birds with one stone. But true confession: I am wasteful. I use the yummy inner parts of celery and lettuce first, and when I get around to the outer parts, they don’t look worth saving. Do I put on my thinking cap and make these leftovers into soup or something? I do not. Sometimes I compost them. I’d be interested in your ideas.

In Canada, a grocery store may have the best solution yet for food that is still good to eat but overstocked.

As Ashifa Kassam writes at the Guardian, “In a bright, airy Toronto market, the shelves are laden with everything from organic produce to pre-made meals and pet food. What shoppers won’t find, however, is price tags. In what is believed to be a North American first, everything in this grocery store is pay-what-you-can.

“The new store aims to tackle food insecurity and wastage by pitting the two issues against each other, said Jagger Gordon, the Toronto chef who launched the venture earlier this month.

“Every provision is donated by a network of partners across the region, and many of them – from blemished or misshapen produce to staples that are nearing their expiry date – would have otherwise ended up in landfills. …

“The store, which also includes a pay-what-you-can bakery and cafe, is the latest initiative to emerge from his non-profit firm, Feed It Forward. The roots of the organisation trace back to 2014, borne out of Gordon’s frustration at the C$31bn (£17.6bn) worth of food that ends up in Canadian landfills and compost sites each year while one in eight Toronto households struggles to put food on the table. …

“Prices are entirely up to the customer. ‘If you can afford to pay more, go right ahead,’ said Gordon. ‘If you can’t pay for what you have, then don’t.

“ ‘What I have noticed is people look into the baskets, try to calculate what it is and then say, “is this acceptable?” And I just say, “are you kidding me? Whatever you can give is fine, but if you are unable to make a donation, we won’t let anyone go hungry.” ‘ …

“Any profits are poured back into the store, covering costs such as rent and the transport of provisions. More than 600 volunteers help to staff the store and Gordon supplements its income with fundraising events, donations and revenue from his catering business. …

“As the store nears its closing time, Gordon surveys its largely empty shelves. ‘I’m a little disappointed that I have food left. … We’re going to the streets and hand it all out. We won’t stop until our food is gone.’ …

“Many have welcomed the initiative, but others question the sustainability of its business model. Gordon is quick to brush aside such concerns, pointing to pay-what-you-can initiatives that have been successful in Europe and noting that his soup bar managed to pay for itself.”

More at the Guardian, here.

 

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Large quantities of clothes that are damaged in textile manufacturing end up in landfills. To organizations like Renewal Workshop, that seems like a waste. So they are stepping up to the plate, with real benefits to the planet.

“As discarded clothing piles up in landfills around the country,” writes the Huffington Post, “a handful of companies are trying to save some of those garments and give them new life.

“The Renewal Workshop is one of these. It takes shirts, jackets and other items damaged during manufacturing, then repairs and resells them for 30 to 50 percent off the original price, co-founder Nicole Bassett told The Huffington Post. Its goal is to prevent imperfect items, which traditional retailers can’t sell in stores, from being tossed in the trash. …

“Companies fighting clothing waste have their work cut out for them. The average American throws out 70 pounds of clothing or household textiles a year. Only 15 percent of that is recycled, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency. The other 85 percent ― around 13 million tons of textiles in 2013 ― ends up in landfills, where it decomposes alongside other solid wastes, releases greenhouse gasses and contributes to global warming.

“The Renewal Workshop is attempting to combat waste in the textile industry by ‘closing the loop,’ or trying to ensure new clothes are made from recycled or used garments. … It creates every single one of its products out of existing garments.

“The company partners with apparel companies like prAna, Ibex and Toad & Co, which are all outdoor clothing brands selected specifically for their commitment to sustainability, Bassett told HuffPost.

“The Renewal Workshop takes those brands’ damaged or returned clothes ― items with broken zippers, seam tears or missing buttons ― and then repairs, cleans and resells them at a discount.

“Apparel partners provide damaged items at no cost to The Renewal Workshop, and pay a partnership fee. When a customer buys a repaired garment, the partner business that provided it gets a portion of the sales, and the customer receives an item with the original company’s brand label and a Renewal Workshop label on it.” Read more here.

And ordinary folks can always help by giving old clothes to organizations that distribute nice ones to new users.

Photo: GaijinPot

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Ingenuity can make a business out of almost anything. That’s what you may conclude after reading how a small Maine company is making something useful from lobster shells.

Tom Bell has the story at the Associated Press: “A startup company in Maine is developing a children’s bandage coated with a substance extracted from crushed lobster shells that would promote blood-clotting and is resistant to bacterial infection.

“The company, Lobster Tough LLC, shipped Maine lobster shells to a processor in Iceland for testing, and so far, the results are promising, said Thor Sigfusson, an Icelandic investor in the company. …

“ ‘My dream will be to use the massive amounts of lobster shells that are being thrown into dumpsters,’ he said. …

“The lobster shells must be dehydrated to remove weight and lower shipping costs. Lobster Tough this winter is shipping a portable dehydration machine from Iceland to Maine. The company eventually plans to build a $2 million dehydration plant somewhere on the Maine coast, said Patrick Arnold, an investor who lives in South Portland. …

“The bandages would be the first commercial product developed through the New England Ocean Cluster, a new business incubator in Portland.”

More here.

Photo: Tasty Island

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In her comment at my post about artists returning a discarded museum to life, KerryCan wondered if all the old, weird museum collections ended up at the dump. All is not lost if they did, as dumps seem to attract amateur archaeologists with a nose for uncovering treasures.

Eve Kahn wrote recently in the NY Times about collectors who look for terra cotta shards in the Staten Island landfill and poke around promising demolition sites.

“This summer, true shard collectors [led] me into the weedier parts of the Northeast, where slag heaps and demolition debris survive from the long vanished factories that once thrived.

“These particular experts are interested in manufacturers of windowpanes and architectural ornament. They write books and lead tours, but they also pack their homes and workplaces with excavated artifacts from what seems to be a limitless supply. Anyone can follow in their trail and gain an understanding of American ingenuity as well as accumulate booty for gardens and windowsills or even more ambitious art projects.

“You must stay off private property, of course, but I also recommend that you avoid the comical errors that I made on my early expeditions. … I was so bedazzled by glass that I was about to sit down with shards in my front pockets.”

More on Kahn’s scavenging adventures, here. You might also like the blog “Tiles in New York,” here.

Photo: Agaton Strom for The New York Times
Tina Kaasman-Dunn searching for terra cotta shards on Staten Island.

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At the radio show Living on Earth, Steve Curwood recently interviewed Gary Cook of Greenpeace about an effort to get tech companies to be greener.

CURWOOD: “Back in 2012, you criticized Apple for using carbon-intensive energy from coal plants to power its servers. …

COOK: “Just after we spoke, they made a commitment to be 100 percent renewably powered, and as the end of last year, they even made that goal. So, it’s been quite a big shift.

CURWOOD: “100 percent renewable energy. How’s that possible?

COOK: “It requires some effort. Apple has done a lot in North Carolina where they have their largest data center in terms of deploying two different solar farms and an onsite fuel cell that’s powered with biogas energy, so it’s all renewable. They have several other data centers. … In Oregon they’re using wind; in Nevada they’re using solar.

“So they’ve actually shown a commitment from the top, been very aggressive, probably the most aggressive of any of the brands to make sure as they grow, they’re using clean energy.

CURWOOD: “Biogas. Where are they getting that from?’

COOK:” Currently, they’re getting that from landfill and some other renewable sources. The landfill is methane capture in the southeast, and they’re having that piped to where their data center is in North Carolina.”

The radio interview covers several other efforts tech companies are making. It’s a good thing, too, when you consider, as Living on Earth points out, “If the Internet were a country, it would be the sixth largest consumer of electricity in the world.” More here.

Photo: George Nikitin, Greenpeace
The Greenpeace Airship A.E. Bates flies over Facebook headquarters with a banners reading “Building a Greener Internet” and “Who’s The Next To Go Green?” Apple, Facebook and Google have committed to powering their data centers with renewable energy.

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I just got a great lead from Erik. It seems that Sweden has run out of garbage for running its waste-to-energy program. Fortunately, Norway has garbage it can spare. (I wonder if Erik’s buddy Svein knows that.)

Check out Matt Hickman at Mother Nature Network:

“Sweden, birthplace of the Smörgåsbord, Eric Northman, and the world’s preferred solar-powered purveyor of flat-pack home furnishings, is in a bit of a pickle: the squeaky clean Scandinavian nation of more than 9.5 million has run out of garbage. The landfills have been tapped dry; the rubbish reserves depleted. And although this may seem like a positive — even enviable — predicament for a country to be facing, Sweden has been forced to import trash from neighboring countries, namely Norway. Yep, Sweden is so trash-strapped that officials are shipping it in — 80,000 tons of refuse annually, to be exact — from elsewhere.

“You see, Swedes are big on recycling. So big in fact that only 4 percent of all waste generated in the country is landfilled.

“Good for them! However, the population’s remarkably pertinacious recycling habits are also a bit of a problem given that the country relies on waste to heat and to provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes through a longstanding waste-to-energy incineration program. So with citizens simply not generating enough burnable waste to power the incinerators, the country has been forced to look elsewhere for fuel. Says Catarina Ostlund, a senior advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency: ‘We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration.

“Public Radio International has the whole story (hat tip to Ariel Schwartz at Co.Exist), a story that may seem implausible in a country like garbage-bloated America where overflowing landfills are anything but scarce.” Read more.

Photograph: Smath/Flickr

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I got an intriguing tip from a WordPress blog, The Yoga Hub, about Yale students who found a microbe that eats plastic. The discovery spells hope for breaking down plastics in landfills.

Bruce Fellman writes in the Yale Alumni Magazine, “A group of student bioprospectors from Yale has struck environmental gold in the jungles of Ecuador. The students, through the annual Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory course taught by molecular biochemistry professor Scott Strobel, have discovered a fungus with a powerful appetite for polyurethane. That common plastic often winds up buried in landfills, where it can remain, largely unaltered, for generations.

“In the September issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Jonathan Russell ’11 and his colleagues describe how they isolated, from plants collected during the class’s two-week spring trips, a fungus they identified as Pestalotiopsis microspora—and then discovered its unique polyurethane-digesting talents.” More here.

Sounds promising, but I can’t help worrying about the possible unintended consequences of introducing a microbe to places where it is not native. Maybe cutting back on plastics is still the way to go.

Photograph: Yale University

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