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Posts Tagged ‘recycle’

Photo: Cool Hunting.
Brooklyn bar owner Henry Rich, pictured in 2019 with co-owner Halley Chambers, says, “You start with the commitment to remove the trash. That creates quite a bit of clarity in terms of what we can and can’t, should and shouldn’t do.”

One of the challenges of blogging since the pandemic started has been trying to figure out if the stories I was saving are still relevant. For example, was the New York wine bar that was aiming to create zero waste in January 2020 even still in business and was there any point in reporting on its laudable goal?

Well, hooray! Google informs me that Rhodora is still in business, and I think you’ll appreciate the banner at the top of its home page that may be a reason it has remained in business. It reads, “Hello! Due to the rise in Delta variant Covid cases we are requiring proof of vaccination for guests dining indoors. Thank you for helping keep our doors open + our community safe!”

As Matthew Sedacca wrote in the New York Times in a time of innocence, New Year’s Day 2020, “Garbage is inevitable in the restaurant and bar business. Kitchen employees toss onion skins and meat fat into the wastebasket almost instinctively. Once-used plastic wrap and slips guarding the linens find their way into black bags for trash-day pickup. Plastic bags are ordered by the bundle and then often discarded after customers use them to take leftovers home.

“At the Brooklyn natural wine bar and restaurant Rhodora, however, taking out the trash works a little differently.

“The new eatery is one of a handful of establishments in various cities that have begun to operate under a zero-waste ethos, meaning they do not send any trash or food waste that enters their business to a landfill. There is not even a traditional trash can on the premises. …

“Such radical idealism comes with challenges, including finding producers and distributors who can accommodate requests like compostable packaging and figuring out how to recycle broken appliances. …

A recent report from ReFED, a nonprofit organization focused on food waste reduction, found that restaurants in the United States generate about 11.4 million tons of food waste annually, or $25.1 billion in costs. The Environmental Protection Agency has reported that food waste and packaging account for nearly 45 percent of the materials sent to landfills in the United States. …

“Mr. Rich and Halley Chambers, the deputy director of his Oberon restaurant group and co-owner of Rhodora, spent almost 10 months and $50,000 researching and transforming their Fort Greene space into a neighborhood joint that could operate without any trash pickup.

“Out went many of their regular vendors who wrapped deliveries in single-use plastic. In came tools to aid their waste-reduction efforts: a cardboard shredder to turn wine boxes into composting material, a dishwashing setup that converts salt into soap, beeswax wrap in lieu of plastic wrap.

“ ‘It’s not arcane secret knowledge,’ Mr. Rich said. ‘It’s just a couple things that are very specific, and you need to kind of re-engineer how you think about’ operating a restaurant or bar.

“Much of the planning time was spent searching for distributors and producers who could adhere to Rhodora’s mission. … A handful of companies were able to accommodate the unorthodox restrictions, including She Wolf Bakery and its sister butcher shop, Marlow & Daughters, which deliver reusable plastic bins full of fresh-baked breads and jars of pickled vegetables and eggs via Cargo Bike Collective riders. Another company, A Priori Distribution, switched to using compostable packaging and paper tape when dropping off aluminum tins of fish. …

“The paper menus, which feature a mini-essay on the restaurant’s green mission, are fed to the compost pile when they become outdated or tattered. Anything left on customers’ plates is dumped into collection bins in the kitchen, which are fed into the commercial-grade composter tucked inside hutches adjacent to the bar. (Rhodora does not serve meat, which is more difficult to compost, although its composter does process any fish that is left over.)

“Natural wine bottles and most other non-compostable containers are removed for recycling via Royal Waste Services, which the restaurant said also accepted broken glass. Corks are donated to ReCork, a recycling program that repurposes the material for shoe soles and yoga blocks.” More at the New York Times, here.

I wonder if not being able to compost meat is another reason to give it up. Our extended family composts, but there are always discussions (arguments?) about what to do with leftover meat before the trash man cometh. My husband and I double-bag ours and freeze it, but others think it’s gross to keep any garbage in the freezer.

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Photo: Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
The new Istanbul subway machines add credit to your subway cards while crushing, shredding, and sorting your recyclables.

Creating a more sustainable world doesn’t have to be painful for the individual or expensive for government. In Turkey, a city government wanted people to recycle more, and so it got the idea of rewarding subway riders who help out. Ceylan Yeginsu has the story at the New York Times.

“Istanbul [has] rolled out an alternative currency for commuters who need to top up their subway cards but are short of cash: recyclables.

“The city is installing ‘reverse vending machines’ at metro stations that allow passengers to add credit to their subway cards simply by inserting a plastic bottle or aluminum can into the machine. Once a value has been assigned to the recyclables, the machine will crush, shred and sort the material. …

“This is how the vending machines [work]: A 0.33-liter plastic bottle, for example, roughly equivalent to 11 ounces, would add 2 Turkish cents to a subway card, while a 0.5-liter bottle would add 3 cents and a 1.5-liter bottle would add 6 cents. (A subway journey costs 2.60 Turkish lira, about 40 United States cents; 100 Turkish cents, or kurus, make up 1 Turkish lira.) …

“Istanbul’s mayor, Mevlut Uysal, said the machines would track the number of bottles recycled by each passenger and reward those recycling the largest number of containers with free or discounted events such as theater tickets.

“Turkey is Europe’s third-largest producer of household and commercial waste, after Germany and France, and it is the worst in the region at recycling, according to a 2017 report by the consultancy group Expert Market, which is based in Britain. …

“Elif Cengiz, a manager for the waste management project, called Zero Waste, said … that the municipality had made waste management a priority in recent years because of rising concern over the damage that waste is causing to the environment.

“The country’s recycling drive has started to produce results, saving 30 million trees in 15 months since last June, Mustafa Ozturk, the under secretary for the Environment and Urban Planning Ministry, said, [adding] ‘The use of recycled material in production contributes to productivity and separate storage for paper waste also saves storage space and decreases waste collecting costs for local administrations.” More at the New York Times, here.

I’d love to see the perennially cash-strapped Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) try the reverse-vending idea instead of constantly raising fares.

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What to do about our throwaway culture? Well, Sweden has a proposal: tax breaks to encourage people to get things repaired.

Charlie Sorrel at fastcoexist.com explains that the idea involves “halving the tax paid on repairs and increasing taxes on unrepairable items. …

” ‘If we want to solve the problems of sustainability and the environment we have to work on consumption,’ Sweden’s finance and consumption minister Per Bolund told the Local. ‘One area we are really looking at is so-called “nudging.” That means, through various methods, making it easier for people to do the right thing.’ …

“The proposed legislation would cut regular tax on repairs of bikes, clothes, and shoes from 25% to 12%. Swedes would also be able to claim half the labor cost of appliance repairs (refrigerators, washing machines and other white goods) from their income tax. Together, these tax cuts are expected to cost the country around $54 million per year. This will be more than paid for by the estimated $233 million brought in by a new ‘chemical tax,’ which would tax the resources that go into making new goods and computers.

“In 2015, France passed a law requiring manufacturers to label products with information about how long spares will be available, and also requires free repair or replacement for the first two years of the product’s life. That’s another step forward, but it’s also cheaper for manufacturers to replace a broken cellphone than to repair it.

“Apple takes a third path—it swaps out your broken phone for a new one, often free of charge, and then breaks down your old unit, reusing its internals if possible, or recycling them.”

More here. Not sure how you benefit if you do the repair yourself. But knowing those Swedes, they’ll figure out something.

Photo: Geri Lavrov/Getty Images

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Christo is known for making impossible-seeming public art, and just recently, he made some again. Margaret Rhodes reported the story at Wired magazine.

“It takes serious engineering to let 640,000 people walk on water. Luckily, that’s exactly the kind of technical and creative challenge that Christo — the artist who wrapped the Reichstag and dotted Central Park with 7,503 orange panels of fabric—excels at. …

“The new project, the ‘Floating Piers,’ comprises two miles of marigold-yellow walkways gently bobbing on top of Lake Iseo, a small lake in northern Italy, connecting the waterside town of Sulzano with two small islands. …

“Making them work was tricky. Marinas often use temporary, floating piers; a common technique involves propping them atop styrofoam cubes. ‘We discovered very soon that this cube system was perfect for us,’ says Wolfgang Volz, Christo’s project manager. So in the fall of 2014, Christo’s team ran a secret simulation of the Floating Piers in Germany. But the styrofoam blocks were too small and too dense.

“So they built their own blocks—220,000 in total. They’re about 20 percent bigger than the ones marinas use, and more buoyant. A Bulgarian company supplied the materials, and Christo hired four different manufacturing companies to ensure they’d have enough.

“Once Christo had his blocks, he, Volz, and a few dozen workers started connecting the cubes into 50- by 330-foot sections. They attached the cubes with giant screws, right on the water, in a corralled section of Lake Iseo.

“One by one, workers pushed the white styrofoam rafts out into the lake and anchored them to 5.5-ton concrete slabs arranged on the lake floor in a configuration conceived by Christo. ‘Very tedious work,’ Volz says. ‘Every day the same.’

“It took four months, with workers doing shifts of two weeks on, two weeks off the job. ‘The same as an oil rig schedule,’ Volz says.’ ” More here.

Temporary, like most of Christo’s work, the walkway was scheduled to come down early this month and get recycled. But it lives on in photographs — and the memories of those who visited and got a chance to walk on water.

Photo: Wolfgang Volz
Christo’s project the “Floating Piers” comprised two miles of marigold-yellow walkways on Lake Iseo in northern Italy. Visitors walked the path without handrails.

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Here’s a creative way to address the urgent need for housing in this country: make a deal with Canada to take the houses it doesn’t want anymore.

Kirk Johnson has the story at the NY Times.

“In the San Juan Islands of northwest Washington State, where a severe shortage of affordable housing threatens the economy and the community, a small nonprofit group has found an unlikely way to help anchor families that are struggling to stay — by lifting up unloved houses in Canada, hoisting them onto barges and hauling them to where they are needed. …

“The structures had what builders call good bones, and the group, the San Juan Community HomeTrust, discovered that the cost of transporting them across the Haro Strait from Canada and restoring them here was comparable to the cost of building from scratch. …

“The number of people living in poverty in the county has risen about 17 percent since the end of the recession in 2009, according to census figures, even as the economic recovery in Washington and around the nation gained steam.

“ ‘It’s kind life or death to keep our working families here,’ said Peter Kilpatrick, the project manager in refitting the houses to be imported by the San Juan Community HomeTrust. When the rewiring, painting and structural repairs are finished in June, buyers who have already met income and residency requirements can take possession.

“Through a combination of donated land, government and foundation grants and local fund-raising, the homes will cost the buyers — a hospital worker, several teachers and a massage therapist among them — from $160,000 to $210,000. The median market price here was almost $500,000 at the end of last year.” More here.

Nothing like a little recycling ingenuity applied to a problem! In fact, I was just commenting to a blogger who’s teaching in El Salvador that the locals’ skill at repairing and reusing items is a great foundation for creative problem solving in general. (Please read Milford Street’s report from El Salvador, here.)

Photo: Nancy DeVaux
Houses from Canada were transported by barge to the San Juan Islands in Washington State, where affordable housing is badly needed.

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A website affiliated with Fast Company and called FastCo.Exist has some interesting information on sustainability.

Consider the article showing how Mexico City is promoting several public goods simultaneously. The city’s environmental agency recently launched Mercado de Trueque, a barter market where recyclable materials are exchanged for fresh food to support the city’s farmlands.

Michael Coren reports: ” ‘This innovative program is designed to show citizens directly and tangibly how what we call trash becomes raw materials. If solid waste is properly separated, it still has value,’ writes the Ministry of Environment (in Spanish). The market accepts glass, paper and cardboard, aluminum beverage cans, PET plastic bottles, and returns ‘green points’ redeemable for agricultural products grown in and around Mexico City, including lettuce, prickly pears, spinach, tomatoes, plants, and flowers.” More here.

Co.Exist also has an article by Ariel Schwartz on how you may track where the things you buy come from. For example, your canned tuna. Check it out.

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