Archive for January, 2009

Victor! everydaytrash gains a voice

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Victor in action

Victor, perhaps blogging

Dear Trashies,

Today is an exciting day for  The keen observer may have already noticed that the last post boasts an unfamiliar byline.  Please welcome Victor Bernhardtz, eurotipster extraordinaire turned contributing editor extraoridinaire.  Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Victor wears many hats: broadcast journalist, blogger, activist, all-around rockstar.  He also shares my passion for looking more closely at what we throw away—as evidenced by his stellar first post on recycling crimes in Sweden.  I am thrilled to have a partner in crime and proud that with Victor’s occasional contributions the blog will be even more international.



Swedish recycling crimes

Friday, January 30, 2009

Living in Sweden, one gets used to recycling. “To not recycle” is one of the things you just don’t_do, should you want to be able to blend in with your average crowd of people. We take it very seriously. A few years ago, municipal authorities brought a 77-year old woman to court for failing to recycle a frying pan in the correct manner, and last year a police candidate was fined for placing a cat litter box outside the plastic recycling container, instead of inside. [The links are in Swedish, so most of the readers will have to take my word for it.]

There are many examples like this, all made possible by a system of Garbage Spies, who stand guard at public recycling stations (undercover), and document wrongdoings. The Garbage Spies however, claim that highlighting the 77-year old woman makes them look stupid (yathink?), and that their work is focused on finding people who dump big things, say 20 gallons of frying oil without permission.

I myself find this highly amusing, but at the same time I’m a staunch supporter of Garbage Spies. Abusing your recycling systems should cost you! Inspired by their great deeds I did some private investigations today, at the recycling station in my house. Noted that several people have put non-coloured glass in the container for coloured glass and that there’s lots of plastic in the wrong places. Scandalous! I will be filing a report.

Supposed to be for coloured glass only

Supposed to be for coloured glass only

In the electronics bin, I found a vacuum cleaner, a television and a pair of speakers. Clearly someone’s been upgrading their gear. Was probably  necessary, the dumped television wasn’t even flat screen… And to finish off this first proper own post of mine, I’m most curious about other recycling cultures? Tell us in the comments section please!

Discarded television et. al.

Discarded television et. al.

“Rubbish is our life.”

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Regardless of the nuances of international debates, I think all sides can agree it sucks to live in Gaza.

Remeber the sewage floods a couple years ago?  Or that story about the Red Cross having so much trouble bringing contstruction materials into the area that they turned to recycling rubble?

Ever-resourceful, the people of Gaza are no strangers to recycling, reusing and selling scrap.  The Arab Times reports that since the latest violence, Gazans are increasingly turning to trash picking for much needed cash.

Shaaban, 27, walks by, his head down looking for a bottle or better still a container that he could sell on.

‘I used to work in construction before. But since I was wounded, my hand has been paralysed,’ says the father of three, showing a large scar on the arm from the Hamas-Fatah battle of 2007.

Today he relies on UN handouts, including several kilos of rice and flour every three months.

‘It’s nowhere near enough,’ he says.

‘Rubbish is our life. You might as well say we don’t have a life.’

dash weh yuh trash

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I just saw this amazing reggae recycling video on Visible Trash.  Little Shiva always finds the quirkiest stuff.  And why does everything sound better in a Caribbean accent??

Tire Furniture

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Brazilian nonprofit makes furniture from scrap tires

Brazilian nonprofit makes furniture from scrap tires

Keith R. over at The Temas blog sent me this link to photos he’s posted from a Brazilian organization called Vida Amiga whose members take old tires and fashion them into furniture, then sell the furniture.  Recycling plus skills building = double sustainable.  I love stories that involve selling things made of trash.  Thanks for the link, Keith!

P.S. The post includes a fantastic roundup of past Temas posts on creative recycling.

Lagosian bottle opener

Monday, January 26, 2009
Ok kids, I’m back from Nigeria.  The most everydaytrash-worthy item I came across while on the road in ever-resourceful Africa?  This handy bottle opener pounded out of a piece of Aluminum tubing that once served to line the windows of a nearby building.

Pounded aluminum bottle opener


Neighborhood building


Bottle opener in action

Just look at all those leverage-producing surfaces, perfect for industrial use at such establishements as this roadside bar where I passed several lovely hours before my flight home.

Optimistic Trash

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I took a little road trip to DC these past 24 hours.  Getting to and from the National Mall without losing my people was chilly madness, but worth it to shed a few layers of pessimism, if only for the afternoon.  Enjoy the rest of the week, I’ll be back Monday if not before.



Upcycling for the Inauguration

Monday, January 19, 2009

I’m heading to DC tomorrow to feel the streets. And then it’s off to Lagos through the weekend for the day job, so advance warning posting may be light this week. In the meantime, enjoy the side bar, archives AND this stellar new webisode from the suburbly-named Threadbanger.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

They pack a lot into six minutes, including two amazing upcycling facts:

1) Number six plastic—such as those clear clam shell containers from the salad bar—can be used to create superfly customized shrinky dinks! [More on this amazing recycling trick from Curbly]

2) You can create your own teeshirt stencil by printing out your design on an old clear plastic folder (finally a use for all that now-awkward A4 stationary aquired during my European junior year abroad).

I love everything about this episode: the shellacked name chain and Obama earrings, the DIY hipster tees, even the brief ad for wePCtv promoting an interview with my internet crush, hip hop DJ, blogger and vlogger Jay Smooth of Underground Railroad, Hip Hop Music and illdoctrine. If there have to be ads, let them be for quality content.

Redefining Trash

Saturday, January 17, 2009

By defining coal as a solid waste, the town of Babylon, Long Island is able to tap into sanitation funds to give its residents cash upfront for energy-efficient renovations.  The Times reports:

A few weeks ago the Chamberses became the first residents in Babylon to have energy-efficient improvements completed.

Any of Babylon’s 65,000 homeowners who qualify can receive up to $12,000 worth of energy-efficient work done by employees that the town contracts with.

Very cleaver, Babylonians.

Unsolicited Fashion

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

This sassy little number—a dress beautifully crafted from junk mail—has made the rounds of the internets.  My friend Rachel saw it on A Dress A Day via Recycle Runway.

Fan mail dress by Nancy Judd

Fan mail dress by Nancy Judd

According to the designer’s site (from which I ripped these photos):

“Colorful junk mail (catalogues, solicitations, newspaper ads) were folded into fans and sewn onto a skirt and dress made of scrap canvas and a mantilla for the hair. The vintage shoes are covered with old postage stamps. The inspiration for this outfit came from the origami peacock earrings- Nancy Judd made them in 1988 when she designed and sold origami jewelry for a summer job.”

She pairs her piece with some helpful info on how to reduce your junk mail.

Thanks for the tip, Rachel!

Weekly Compactor

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Financial Times dress by Gary Harvey

It’s been a while since I’ve done a roundup.  Trash news has been exceptionally dry lately.  Luckily, there are blogs.  This week:

Trash as Punishment

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I don’t care if she is a felon mandated to pick up road side trash, Michelle Rodriguez will always have my fandom because Girl Fight rocked my world.

michellerodriguezAnd that cartoon of a surf movie Blue Crush might have been something if she’d been cast as the lead.  I mean seriously, which one looks like she could plausibly be a champion surfer born and raised in Hawai’i—blond twig or buff brown girl?

This shot reminds me of that entertaining week in ’07 when we asked ourselves each morning how Naomi Campbell could keep forgetting she had community service and dress for the runway instead.

Trashtastic Tuesday with Kuros Zahedi

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I posted a week or two ago that Sustainable Dave‘s recycling materials might be made into a work of art.  It was something I’d read on 365 Days of Trash, making a mental note to follow up and find out just who the artist could be.  As luck would have it, that artist found me first.

Kuros Zahedi, self portrait in powdered alder wood and bark on paper

Kuros Zahedi, self portrait in powdered alder wood and bark on paper

His name is Kuros Zahedi and he comes with excellent credentials: experience in working with recycled materials, an ongoing project to turn Ari Derfel of Save Your Trash‘s trash into a work of art  and a kick ass Persian name (we’re partial to Iranian-Americans around here).

What better way to kick off the first Trashtastic Tuesday of the new year?

everydaytrash: How did you link up with Ari Derfel?

Zahedi: Ari was looking for an artist to turn his collection into a work of art.  He looked the monster in the eye and by doing so put the whole phenomenon of garbage under a lens for everyone.  Ari was Finding Away.  That is title of the art work.

I was involved with a project for a great group in Seattle called Sustainable Capitol Hill.  One of the organizers had a friend who was friends with Ari.  One year’s worth of trash!  What a potent collection to work with, I thought!   I emailed and shared my work.  Ari wrote back.  We talked on email.  We talked on the phone.  I liked Ari immediately.  I liked his energy, his upbeat positivity, spirituality and openness… and the next thing I knew, I was on my way to Oakland.

Ari's trash

Ari's trash

everydaytrash: What are your plans for his trash?

Zahedi: I have counted, weighed and thoroughly documented Ari’s trash and am now starting to take it apart.  It will get crushed, cut and pulped.  It will be totally transformed.

Ari Derfel’s collection brings Trash itself into unusual focus.  Looking deeply into the essence of waste reveals much more than the filth of landfills.  Trash is the precipitate of a much larger reaction.  It stands as a symbol of civilization’s disjointedness and as an emblem of our historic destructiveness and greed toward each other and the earth’s precious ecology.  Today, not only are the earth’s biological systems on the verge of breaking down, but many raw natural resources that civilization depends on are becoming increasingly rare.  EITHER there will be terrible fighting for these resources, leading to suffering on a unimaginable scale, OR there will have to be some sort of major shift in human consciousness, a general enlightenment.

The art work I am developing is a metaphoric vision of this shift.  It will depict humanity collectively rising and working together transform ugliness into beauty, the damaging into the beneficial, and the fragmented into the whole.

What other work have you done with rubbish materials?

Zahedi: I have an ongoing series called Urban Alchemy in which I pick up litter from the streets, often with the help of communities, and then transform the collected trash into art.  My fascination with using trash has a lot to do with its iconic status as the lowest of low and the powerful symbolism of turning it into a work of art.  Often, by the time a piece is finished, the place which was cleaned for it has started to become dirty again, but like an acupuncture needle, a subtle good has been done there. The gesture of cleaning a place and turning the garbage into art is tiny in relation to the enormous challenges facing humanity today, but the project is a metaphor, it is a symbolic act of healing.

"Garden of Hope," created from Seattle street litter, staples, and shellac on recycled doors

"Garden of Hope," created from Seattle street litter, staples, and shellac on recycled doors

everydaytrash: I hear you might do a similar project with Sustainable Dave‘s recycling.  Any teasers you can share about what that project might be like?

Zahedi: I am excited that Dave is planning on sending me his recycling!  His trash is going on permanent display at the Garbage Museum, but I will get his recycling.  Though I have many ideas, I don’t know what I will do with it yet…but using just recyclable materials will present an interesting conceptual challenge.

Lisa Bagwell

Sunday, January 11, 2009

bubblewrap1My little speaking gig at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival led to a wealth of blogable discoveries (thank you Susan Conlon for organizing such a fantastic event).

First up, we have Lisa Bagwell, a trash artist in the audience whose “deepest intention remains to raise people’s awareness of the wasteful and destructive lifestyle lived by most Americans.”  Lisa just  since sent me links to her lovely site and wonderful Flickr pool of sculpture, lamps and mobiles.  I dig the slightly creepy mobiles and this intimidating bottle blimp.

And are those recycled pistachio shells on that lamp shade?  Iranians of the world, take note!

The Penguin

Sunday, January 11, 2009

UPDATED POST:  A while back I got a Penguin soda machine in the mail, thanks to the PR peeps representing Soda-Club.  The pitch: reduce soda can and plastic bottle waste by making your fizzy drinks at home.  The catch: SAMPLE SIZED Soda-Stream flavor syrups come in plastic pouches that can’t be recycled.


Penguin and shrub

Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish came to ethical terms with this dilemma by sticking to the company’s water flavorings, which come in little glass bottles instead of plastic.  Trouble is, I don’t drink much plain or flavored seltzer (unless you count vodka sodas at bars).  I tried out a couple of the sample syrups that came with my machine.  Root beer, too sweet.  Diet cola, tastes JUST like Diet Coke, which I shamefully love.   But I put off posting on the Penguin because, honestly, once I went through the diet coke samples, I only used the thing once to make some lemony water for friends.


flavor packs

I was all set to write just that: I guess it’s cool, but I would never have bought it if it weren’t free and I never use it.  BUT THEN, my wonderful mother gave me an extraordinary gift: a large bottle of raspberry shrub, a fruit vinegar syrup used to make my all time favorite carbonated drink.  Suddenly I’m using the Penguin all the time and sans guilt since shrub can be purchased in bulk and in glass.  SODA-CLUB ALSO SELLS BULK SIZES IN BETTER PACKAGING.

Therefore, it is with great enthusiasm and several reservations that I recommend the Penguin.  On the plus side, it’s very easy to use, a cute design—you carbonate the water by depressing the beak and the whole thing squeeks when its ready—and you can make delicious shrub whenever you want.  On the flip side, it takes up a lot of counter space and it’s expensive (starter kits begin at $200 plus shipping).  THOUGH CHEAPER, SMALLER MODELS ARE AVAILABLE.

Recommendation to Soda-Club: if you’re going for an eco-marketing campaign, DON’T SEND PLASTIC SAMPLES TO GREEN BLOGGERS.

Note to self: save money by mixing vodka sodas at home more often or—moment of genius—vodka shrubs.

%d bloggers like this: