Meet "Big Trash"

Over the long run, keeping stuff like tree limbs and compostable waste out of landfills is good for cities. There's only so much space in a landfill and getting more land is extremely expensive. So why haven't more cities hopped on the curbside composting bandwagon, or at least banned yard waste from landfills? There's probably a lot of factors that go into those decisions, but one, apparently, is the influence of large, private companies that handle waste collection and see the diversion of re-usable waste as a detriment to their income. (Via Chris Tackett) Read the rest

HOWTO make a school computer lab for free with "broken" computers and free/open source software

Elizabeth on ifixit tells us the heartwarming story of Robert Litt, a teacher at ASCEND, "a small arts K-8 school in the Alameda County School District." Litt needed a computer lab. His school had no budget, So he called around to local businesses and individuals and collected all their "broken" computers (refusing anything made before 2002 or with less than 512MB of RAM) and installed Ubuntu GNU/Linux on them. What he got was a free, robust computer lab. Litt says ""Discarded computers are our most wasted educational resource," and that we are "starving in the midst of plenty."

Faced with inadequate educational technology, few teachers would take it upon themselves to create an entire computer lab with no funding. It’s a daunting task, no doubt. But, Robert argues, it’s within every teacher’s capabilities. He came into the project with absolutely no computer repair or tinkering background. “My background is being a 6th grade teacher,” he says. “I am self-taught 100%.” He used free resources available online and troubleshot as he went along.

Robert advocates open-source software even for schools that aren’t lacking technology. US government reports say the digital divide is shrinking, at least in schools—97% of teachers have at least a single computer in the classroom. Yet that’s not the whole story. “The digital divide is growing in a hidden statistic,” Robert says, “the actual teaching of technology in a meaningful way.” He shows students how to do math on spreadsheets, how to make simple websites, how to put together slide presentations, all on free software.

Read the rest

Diaper-box AT-AT

Here's Off-Beat Mama's photos show how you can build your own AT-AT out of empty diaper boxes. What a fantastically shitty idea!

I have a dozen nappies boxes sitting around, and recently decided (whether out of a fit of stay-at-home-mum induced anxiety or just total creativity) to make an AT-AT out of them. My son naturally destroyed it three days later, but once he did I was able to snap a few shots of how I set up the structure in the first place.

You could recycle those leftover diaper boxes… or you could make your own AT-AT out of them (via Neatorama)

(Photo: Kelly) Read the rest

HOWTO make Star Wars vehicles from 3.5" floppies

Instructables user Jetpack5 created a series of Star Wars space vehicles out of floppy-disk parts and office supplies. There's even a rubber-band-ball Death Star! Also in the set: a Millennium Falcon and a truly spiffy X-Wing fighter. This is a potentially productive way of using up the 5-billion-odd 3.5" floppies kicking around, slowly decaying. Better than my idea of a massive Beowulf cluster of 486s with four floppy drives each, rack-mounted and spanned to create a massively inefficient, room-sized virtual ZIP cartridge, which would be serviced by a dozen rollerbladed teenagers who would whisk around, swapping out corrupt disks.

Millennium Falcon and X-Wing from Floppy Disk (with Special Guest Appearance: Death Star) (via Neatorama) Read the rest

Dutch Masters portrait subjects clothed in foam packing sheets

Netherlands artist Suzanne Jongmans has created a series of portraits in the style of the Dutch Masters, creating the costumes out of soft packing foam sheets. She needs to team up with the artist who creates 15th century Flemish self-portraits using airplane toilet tissue and seat-covers. Together, they will rule the atemporal world.

Referring to both vulnerability and impermanence, I am investigating the texture and feel of both the present and past. Since 2007 I have been working on the series 'foam sculptures': caps and collars, inspired by 16th and 17th century paintings, made from materials currently used for packaging and insulation. This is also an inferior material which is often discarded after use. By using this material I make a reference to consumerism and the rapid circulation of materials. With these foam sculptures, but also an i-pod, a tattoo and a foot in plaster, we end up in the 21st century.

The portraits are a certain reference to Holbein, Clouet, Vermeer and Holland's Golden Age. It is no coincidence. In fact, in the 16th and 17th century, laid the foundations for photography. Call it the prehistory of photography. It appears that the artists have used photographic images, they could not yet capture. In fact, there was the phenomenon of photography so much earlier. This is an atavism of the Golden Age and the early days of the invention of photography.

I use the elements in the present as in the past, the objects in my work are used as symbols of values.

Read the rest

Building covered in old clothes

The Guardian's Deborah Orr is probably right that the Marks and Spencer "shwopping" initiative is "an ugly word for a dubious enterprise", but I am rather taken with this promotion for the program. M&S is encouraging shoppers to "shwop" -- swap their old clothes for discount vouchers when they buy new clothes at M&S, with the old clothes going to charity -- and to promote the affair, they covered this large Truman Brewery warehouse building off Brick Lane with used clothes, to great effect.

Shwop Read the rest

Prom dress made from cardboard

Maura, a Missouri high-school student, has a long history of making awesome prom-dresses (there was the goth one, the one made out of Doritos bags, and the one made of pull-tabs). This year, she topped her own impressive achievements with a beautiful dress made of cardboard. She's featured on the "Everything Dresses" site.

The top of the dress is middle part of corrugated cardboard that was peeled apart. If you have ever looked at a cardboard box it is 3 layers, an outer shell on each side with a wavy part in the middle. The wavy part is the top! Maura then spray painted the pieces and painted glitter on top. Everything is glued together with wood glue and hot glue. And no prom dress would be complete without a corset back! The bottom of the dress proved to be the challenge on this project as it was made of paper bags, and then spray painted, with a zipper in the back.

Cardboard Prom Dress Read the rest

For Passover fun in Israel, a safari of animals crafted from Coca-Cola trash

A monkey sculpture is pictured on a pick-up truck before it is placed in an exhibition at Hiriya recycling park, built on the site of a former garbage dump near Tel Aviv. The Coca-Cola Recycled Safari featuring animals made of recycled Coca Cola packages will be open to the public during the Passover holiday.

More images of other critter creations from the recycling project, below. (REUTERS/Nir Elia)

Read the rest

Turning artificial joints into scrap metal at the crematorium

Combine the spike in commodity metal prices with advances in geriatric medicine and the increased trend to cremation and what do you get? A thriving trade in artificial joint harvesting and recycling. A Dutch company called OrthoMetals recycles 250 tons of scrap from cremated bodies -- cofounder Ruud Verberne notes that it takes five hips to make one kilo of metal, which fetches €12 on the scrap market.

Clark Boyd and Rob Hugh-Jones from PRI write on the BBC:

The company works by collecting the metal implants for nothing, sorting them and then selling them - taking care to see that they are melted down, rather than reused.

After deducting costs, 70-75% of the proceeds are returned to the crematoria, for spending on charitable projects.

"In the UK for example," he says. "We ask for letters from charities that have received money from the organisation we work with in the UK and we see that the amount we transferred to them has been given to charity. This is a kind of controlling system that we have..."

...Mr Verberne has no metal implants himself, but he points out his business partner's wife, who is helping sort out bits of metal at the recycling plant. "She has two titanium hips", he says. "And she was once asked: "Isn't it strange that you know that one day your hips will run along this conveyor belt?'"

"She said, 'No, it's just a part of life. You're going to die, and I know that reusing metals is a very good thing, so it is no problem at all.'" She added "'My mother's hip was on here too!'"

Melting down hips and knees: The afterlife of implants Read the rest

Recycling in Antarctica

When I recycle, I have to separate out metal, plastic, chipboard, glass, plain paper, glossy paper, and newsprint. That sounds like a lot of separating, until you compare it to the recycling protocol at McMurdo Scientific Research Station, Antarctica.

There is nothing at McMurdo that wasn't flown or shipped there from far away. That costs a lot money. And, almost as importantly, it costs space. A crate of Ramen means less room for people, scientific instruments, etc. Nothing arrives in Antarctica without a purpose.

On the flip side of that coin: Everything that is brought to McMurdo must leave, in one way or another. There aren't any landfills in Antarctica. All the trash produced must be either burned, reused there, or flown back to civilization.

All of that means McMurdo has developed what is probably the most elaborate recycling program in the entire world. The trash matrix you see above is just half of the full list. You can see the other half after the jump — as well as a few extra recycling bins that turned up mysteriously one night.

Read the rest

Bookshelf made from books

Tom took a pile of books left over from a jumble sale and made a bookshelf out of them:

So many books are thrown away each year, and although recyclable, the emotional bond that is attached to books seem to make them more appropriate for re-use than recycling. The idea for a shelf made from books seems almost obvious, and the process from concept to completion was more of a refinement of function than of aesthetic intricacies. The shelf gained widespread media attention and was published in several magazines.

(via Bookshelf) Read the rest

Harvesting power-cells from dead laptop batteries for home electronics projects

Geekdad has a bunch of tips for using the round power-cells from a dead laptop battery. These cells, called "18650s," look like AA batteries, but have very different characteristics. Your laptop battery will contain lots of these (I have a mongo long-lived Thinkpad battery that I use while travelling with nine cells), and if any one of them dies, the whole laptop battery is rendered useless.

18650s are incredibly powerful and volatile, so be careful, because it's easy to blow 'em up or start a fire. That said, they're awful handy-dandy for providing a very long charge for very bright LED flashlights, or for powering your RC vehicles.

By the way, a good quality LED flashlight is incredibly bright. I tried to take some pictures and video to demonstrate just how bright, but you really have to see this with your own eyes, in person to appreciate it. And the LED is incredibly power-efficient, so it runs for a very, very long time on a single charge. It’s easy to see that the future of household lighting is not compact fluorescents, but LEDs...

In the video, I’m actually powering the Arduino as well as the motors, and I’m surprised it works. Motors tend to create a lot of electrical noise, and I’ve read about many other people who ran into trouble using a common power source for their Arduino and their motors. I presume I’d start seeing trouble if I was driving a heavier load than those little Lego motors.

18650 Things To Do With An Old Laptop Battery (via Red Ferret) Read the rest

Well-engineered pizza box keeps grease out of the cardboard for easier recycling

Scott from Scott's Pizza Tours is obsessed with pizza box engineering, and posts YouTube videos about the pizza boxes people send him from all over the world. In this installment, he explores a fantastic box from Eataly that is coated with a recyclable, reflective finish that keeps the food hot and prevents the grease from getting on the cardboard. Pizza boxes with grease on them can't be recycled (and they really screw up the recycling system if they slip through!), so this is a major breakthrough.

Scott Presents: The Greatest Pizza Box On Earth (via JWZ) Read the rest

Çurface: an industrial surface made from compressed coffee and melted coffee cups

We've been in the market for a new surface for our kitchen's eating area (a wide shelf that's set into a wide space knocked through into the sitting room serviced by four tall stools) for a year now. We've looked at tiles, synthetic stone, real stone, polymers, concrete, and lots of other stuff, but we knew we'd discovered our material when we happened on the Çurface exhibition at a coffee fair in east London. Çurface is the brainchild of two British makers who've figured out how to make a durable, beautiful, malleable material out of melted plastic coffee cups and compressed coffee-grounds.

Our Çurface cost £141 including delivery and installation -- that was the minimum price for a 1m x 2m sheet (bigger than we needed it, but Adam from Çurface was happy to cut it to size and finish the edges). We've had it for two months now, and at this point, I'm prepared to pronounce it delightful. It looks great: the solid material minimizes the occasional small scratch or scuff, and it cleans very easily with normal spray-cleaners (when he installed it, Adam explained that we could treat it as a polymer and use Turtle Wax or similar for a high gloss, or treat it as a compressed fiber and seal it with Danish Oil). The manufacturer makes lots of different shapes to order -- the demo we saw included lots of fancy curved chairs and such, all cast from a single piece. The manufacturer also advertises it as suitable for flooring, though I think it might be a little slippery. Read the rest

Creatures made from recycled tires

Sculptor Yong Ho Ji makes the most astounding sculptures -- animals, people, fanciful mutants -- out of recycled tires. This is great work.

Yong Ho Ji (via This is Colossal) Read the rest