…that’s where Sustainable Dave’s 365 Days of Trash trash will end up when he’s done collecting, sorting and blogging a year of his own solid waste.
Archive for December, 2008
Oh no. The economic meltdown may kill trashosaurus, the one-ton star of Stratford, Connecticut’s Garbage Museum. In fact, the whole museum may tank. Currently, the educational institution runs on funding from a regional recycling consortium. But in these tough financial times, a half dozen local towns have pulled out of the consortium to send their recycling elsewhere and thus funding for the museum has been slashed.
No word on what this means for the Trash Museum in Hartford. Here’s to hoping trashosaurus finds alternate funding/an adoptive home. And here’s to the Constitution state. Kudos, Connecticut for having—for the moment at least—not one but two museums dedicated to trash.
P.S. Trashosaurus weighs one ton to represent the amount of trash created by the average American. This cracks me up. Photo via the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority.
Tips for a trash-free season from around the garblogosphere:
- For your convenience, Constructables has compiled holiday-themed how-tos for DIY gifts as well as a complete collection of homemade wrapping ideas;
- Threadbanger lists fun ornament projects;
- Oxfam suggests a number of “unwrapped” gifts in the form of animal sponsorship and the like;
- Curbly finds some festive uses for plastic bottles; and
- Riverwired provides links to waste free holiday cards (I guess those snippets I’ve been reading about how Facebook killed the holiday card aren’t true).
Candle holder photo via Curbly via Apartment Therapy
I’ve had Malawi on the brain this week. To be honest, it’s partially guilt because I couldn’t make it to the Gala 4 Good last week, a fundraiser for Goods for Good. Goods for Good is an organization with a simple mission: to connect surplus goods from the U.S. with Africans who could use them. They get American companies to donate things like pens, pads and excess fabric that would have rotted in warehouses or been thrown away or destroyed and ship those materials to Malawi (they also work in Liberia).
What I love about G4G is their focus on sustainability. They don’t just drop off boxes of crap in the capital city and hope that the overstretched government of Malawi figures out how to distribute them equitably (that would be more like exporting trash than helping anyone). Instead, they set up partnerships with established community organizations and schools and take care to sort and match the goods with ongoing programs in need of support. So the excess fabric becomes school uniforms, the pens get to teachers and students and donated clothes make it onto the backs of AIDS orphans.
Over their tenure, G4G has rescued nearly 100 tons of goods and connected it with over 500,000 orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi and Liberia. When you consider that half of young people who leave school in Malawi say it’s because they couldn’t afford the materials to keep going, that’s more than recycling. It’s lifesaving.
One of the reasons I get all ooey gooey about Malawi is because I’ve spent some time there and have remained in awe of Malawians’ resourcefulness under the severe constraints of limited resources. In the poorest of poor countries, community organizations provide the services the government cannot. Like caring for orphans (1/4 of adolescents in Malawi has lost one or both parents).
And the reason I get ooey gooey over Goods for Good is because I feel personally connected to their work through Brigitte, their program director and one of my sister Soraya’s best friends from high school. I know Brigitte to be supersmart and incredibly caring. Last year she spent months in Malawi setting up and strengthening partnerships with well-run local organizations to assess the needs of Malawians and ensure the most efficient distribution of donated materials. If you’ve ever worked in international development you know this kind of planning is not the norm. In Malawi, it’s hard to find internaitonal interventions that aren’t a) one-off and unsustainable or b) clouded by the ugliest representation of religion.
Soraya visited Brigitte in Malawi last November and took the photo above while accompanying her on a round of visits to G4G partners. On that day, in addition to pads of paper, the girls brought a couple jumbo bags of lollipops for the students at this school. What you see are a bunch of kids who have never had a lollipop. The reason they’re all looking in different directions is becaues they’re not quite sure what to do with them. I so wish I had video of this cross-cultural encounter!
A zoo in England recently dropped £150,000 on a poo-converting machine to make compost out of elephant and other dung available to them via their permanent residents. I don’t like zoos. Seeing animals in small and smelly spaces, much like seeing old people alone on park benches, makes me sad and uncomfortable. I guess it’s a good thing that this particular zoo will save the waste produced on site and use it to beatify the space and feed the animals by turning it into fertilizer for feed crops and other plantings on the grounds.
Then again, I might just be biased because, as you may recall, I already have a favorite elephant dung recycling program: the Paper Making Education Trust (PAMET) in Malawi. Here is a sample of their lovely stationary.
And here is a sample of the dung and paper bricks they make and sell as low-cost fuel for homes (a product clearly endorsed by Jesus).
PAMET makes the world a better place by providing jobs and job training and recycling elephant dung from a game park. They collect old school exercise books and other discarded paper and use it (mixed with dung and other plant fibers) to make stationary sold at relatively high prices by Malawian standards. I love the idea that people employed by PAMET use the cash recooped from dung mixed with old school materials to send their kids to school.
I also recently discovered a Thai group called simply Elephant Dung Paper whose main purpose is more elefocused. The proceeds from their paper goes back into conservation. Here is a handy chart of how recycling poo leads to “fat and healthy elephants” (who in turn produce more dung which in turn leads to…).
And of course, the best known of the genre is The Great Elephant Poo Paper Company whose “poo-tique” you can visit online. Consider this my nod to holiday gift guide blog posts.
Uh oh, looks like trash ain’t worth what it used to be. The Times reports today that recycled materials like plastic and cardboard, once sold as scap for a profit, are piling up because no one wants to buy junk anymore. It’s a development that sadly takes a big bite out of a cost/benefits argument for public recycling programs. Cities don’t seem to be cutting back on collection just yet, but the figures are dramatic.
On the West Coast, for example, mixed paper is selling for $20 to $25 a ton, down from $105 in October, according to Official Board Markets, a newsletter that tracks paper prices. And recyclers say tin is worth about $5 a ton, down from $327 earlier this year. There is greater domestic demand for glass, so its price has not fallen as much.
Apparently China used to buy a lot of our junk but stopped doing so when the economy turned. Perhaps the conversation can now turn to reducing the amount of junk Americans create in the first place.
The Red Cross will use the rubble of a wall knocked down by fighters in Gaza to line and complete a long-delayed rainwater ditch project, according to an article in the International Herald Tribune today. Apparently, construction materials are so hard to clear through the Israeli and Egyptian borders during these tense times that even international development agencies are suffering and, according to the article, forced to scrounge and scavenge like everyday Gazans.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has been trying to make do by scouring Gaza for materials it can use. It’s a survival technique perfected by ordinary Gazans, who use vegetable oil for car fuel when gasoline is in tight supply and ancient kerosene stoves when natural gas runs out. Gazans dig tunnels into Egypt to haul in everything from chocolate to computers.
The situation has gotten so bad that the Red Cross, a Swiss and otherwise neutral organization, issued a frustrated statement saying that the Israeli government holds up deliveries so long that this project would not have been completed had it not been for salvaged materials.
Like many aspects of the Middle East conflict, this story is a messy mix of uplifting and heartbreaking. It is wonderful to read about resourcefulness in the face of conflict and terrible to read about politics standing in the way people’s basic needs for infrastructure and security.
A very friendly coworker brought me some sweet potato pie today. Traveling with my dad and sister for Thanksgiving was fun, but I have to admit I missed all the traditional foods. Especially the pie. I was kind of surprised at first that she still had pie, a full week later. But when I think about it, nearly every family I know makes huge meals for Thanksgiving and the leftovers are just as much a part of the ritual as the meal itself. Jonathan Bloom over at Wasted Food wrote about this on nytimes.com before the holiday and today responded to some of the questions generated by readers.
One of the topics discussed is food rescue, or restaurants that donate left over food to the hungry. New York is home to one of the best food rescue programs in the world, City Harvest. This reminds me that I’ve been meaning to post more about their incredible work. I heard a rumor that the City Harvest founders got the idea for their nonprofit after ordering potato skins at a restaurant and learning that the rest of the potato ended up in the trash. I’ll see if I can verify that for you before the New Year.
Turkey photo via igourmet.com
Tis the season for trash art, it seems. I feel like I’ve been getting daily tips on creative exploration of solid waste in various media. The latest comes via Freshkills Park (which has a Facebook page for those of you interested in keeping tabs on the conversion from landfill to massive public park). Tattfoo is a Staten Island-based self-described “community intervention artist” who recently took some lovely shots of Fresh Kills (such as the one above, ripped from the artist’s site).
Anna over at Bring Your Own is one of the first green bloggers I started to follow when I launched everydaytrash over two years ago now. BYO focuses on our disposible culture and its consequences. It was through trading links with blogs like BYO that I came to the self-realization that my own blog had an environmental—and not just political and artistic—theme. Anyway, Anna took a short break from updating BYO last summer in order to sail accross the Pacific Ocean on JUNK, a ship made of plastic bottles. The stories she and her colleagues returned with are both fascinaitng and devastating. Check out this post on the growing problem of plastic winding up in the bellies of fish. Here’s a photo ripped from that post, click through for the full thing complete with a video from the ship.
While the photo is kind of gross, I find the rainbow of plastic bits morbidly pretty. Someone should make awareness-raising jewelry out of this stuff, like post-apocalyptic pearls. Or maybe not. Wouldn’t want to start a for-profit plastic fish frenzy. Just from eyeballing the fragments in this sample, it looks like this fish ate pieces of over a dozen different plastic things that ended up floating in the ocean. It’s strange to imagine where those bits started out: action figures, food containers, toothpaste caps…