August 17, 2009

Plastic Soup and Project Kaisei

I've written a few times about the massive explosion of plastic that has taken over our oceans - flowing from our rivers and boats to the place where the currents meet. They call this the North Pacific Garbage patch - it isn't a solid island but more of a plastic soup where debris can be found hundreds of meters below sea level and spread out hundreds of miles across.

Project Kaisei is out to study this soup and see what we can do about it:

Project Kaisei consists of a team of innovators, scientists, environmentalists, ocean lovers, sailors, and sports enthusiasts who have come together with a common purpose. To study the North Pacific Gyre and the marine debris that has collected in this oceanic region, to determine how to capture the debris and to study the possible retrieval and processing techniques that could be potentially employed to detoxify and recycle these materials into diesel fuel. This first research expedition, scheduled for the summer of 2009, will be critical to understanding the logistics that would be needed to launch future clean-up operations and testing existing technologies that have never been utilized under oceanic conditions.

While I am not a fan of "recycling" anything into fuel (seems about as plausible to me as burning trash for energy) I am excited about a team of people actually studying this stuff and thinking about how we can clean it up. They seem to have an awesome communications team with them, who combining with Google Earth can show you where they are and give you super cool very short videos about what they are finding and learning.

Now if only we can figure out how to prevent this "waste" in the first place...

December 14, 2008


I've never really "done" pets. Yet years ago, after a bad break up, combined with post-college and post-traveling woes, I decided to commit to trying out having a guinea pig. Mani stuck and now I can't tell how much I am anthropomorphizing and how much she really is "a super special and super smart" rug rat.

My latest acquisition into the animal kingdom has a different sort of motivation - more in line with my general values and based on my lackacompostaphobia - a word I created that reflects my fear not being able to compost.

Continue reading "animals" »

September 25, 2008

Zero Waste Challenge

Two weeks, a zero-waste kit, and no trash

Printed from the Charleston City Paper website:


From the moment you wake up and brush your teeth, wash your hair, and shave your face with products packaged in non-recyclable containers, you're contributing to the waste stream. Need to buy something at a big box retailer or grocery store? Good luck finding anything in recyclable packaging. Going out to eat can be especially wasteful, as restaurants continue to use Styrofoam and other disposals, simply because it's deemed cheaper or easier than having to wash dishes.

Trying to live without generating trash is next to impossible. But we decided it was worth a shot.

Continue reading "Zero Waste Challenge" »

February 14, 2008

Plastic Soup

This just in!

The plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean now covers an area twice the size of the continental U.S.

Key excerpts
The UN Environment Programme estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic

"The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."

"It moves around like a big animal without a leash." When that animal comes close to land, as it does at the Hawaiian archipelago, the results are dramatic. "The garbage patch barfs, and you get a beach covered with this confetti of plastic," he added.

To view the complete Alternet article click below

Continue reading "Plastic Soup" »

November 07, 2007

Plastic Fantastic

Several months ago I read the most illuminating article in Orion Magazine about the permanence of plastic. This stuff just doesn't go away. We are like the Magician's Apprentice - only without a magician. According to Orion it has been like a plastic nuclear bomb exploding on the world 50 years ago and hasn't stopped. Only a small fraction gets recycled and other than the tiny bit that gets burned (which creates a different set of problems) all the plastic that has been created in the last century is still here, on earth, floating around. Most of it literally is floating around (in the ocean) choking sea animals, messing up boats, refracting sunlight, and being a big stewy mess.

Below is an article by the San Francisco Chronicle about this mess we have created.

Continue reading "Plastic Fantastic" »

April 03, 2007

baggin it

A favorite site of mine is "rustle the leaf", a humorous environmental comic. Every week the authors create a new comic and post a great short essay about an environmental issue. The comics are usually funny - in a deliciously dark way. The essays have a bitter sense of humor as well. This week they talked about plastic grocery sack - I thought the below paragraph was worth excerpting:

Standup Comedian Jim Gaffigan does a bit about our strange relationship with plastic bags. Here's a loose paraphrase: 'It's so weird...I go to the grocery store to pick up some trash bags. At the checkout counter, they put my box of trash bags into a plastic grocery bag. Then, when I get home, I open my box of trash bags, get one out, and use it to throw away the plastic grocery bag I brought it home in. Isn't that weird?'

March 30, 2007

enviro trash

Event season is just around the corner and as I do my planning I have found a new enemy.

I hate granola bars and all things related.

This comes easy because I never cared for the taste - even before I was aware of waste issues. However, I as I preach to the environmental crowd I realize that granola bars - and I am talking about anything that is supposed to be a healthy snack for the "granola" crowd - these bars have caught my attention time and time again. To me anything individually wrapped and marketed to environmentally conscious people is an oxymoron. How organic is the plastic these things are wrapped in?

Continue reading "enviro trash" »

March 07, 2007

Grist on two evils

I love Grist - environmental news and commentary with a humble sense of humor. This week advice maven Umbra addresses the question about which is better "landfill or incinerator". It is quick summary and easy read.

January 18, 2007

One of the world's top PET recyclers

Take Three Guesses

Who does the title above refer to? No peeking ahead!

Not a particular recycling firm. I'm talking countries here!

Nope. Wrong! Not the US! Not some European country.

To read the answer check out this blog.

January 04, 2007


Quote of the day:

If it can’t be reduced, reused, repaired, rebuilt, refurbished, refinished, resold, recycled or composted, then it should be restricted, redesigned or removed from production.

The whole article can be found here.

December 12, 2006

recycle those plastic bottles please

I am forever digging recycling out the garbage cans at home. Granted, we don't have the most obvious recycling system (I really need to put some labels up) but it is still a constant reminder to me of the challenges ahead if I can't even get my roommates, who know me, to recycle consistently (or enforce recycling with their guests).

So I wasn't surprised to read that although plastic bottle recycling is increasing, it isn't keeping up with the increase in plastic bottle sales. My roommates are convinced that aluminum cans are the only material worth recycling (and I still find those in the trash occasionally), despite my explanations to the contrary. I am not surprised that most other people don't make the extra effort to recycle that material. With bottled water sales through the roof these days, use of plastic bottles in public spaces is ever increasing. Until we can get successful recycling cans next to every trash can next to every public vending machine we'll continue to keep trashing plastic. Despite my roommates' apathy this isn't just an environmental issue; it is an economic and energy one as well:

Last year our bottle trashing habit cost the equivalent of dumping 18 million barrels of crude oil down the drain.

November 16, 2006

equal rights

I just waded my way through a heavy event recycling season. I also just celebrated six months at my new environmentally friendly job. The amount I have learned over the past half-year is tough to quantify. However, right now as I am deep in the middle of reporting and analyzing my efforts I've noticed one problem again and again - possibly the most common mistake regarding recycling efforts. There is no equality between recycling bins and garbage bins.

I have dug through more garbage than I care to count - including my home trash - after tons (literally) of exploration I realized if you put recycling and garbage together then separate them accurately close to half of what people throw away is recyclable. Yet - count the amount of garbage and recycling cans in your office, home, favorite store, park, daycare, school, or where ever else you find your self - chances are the garbage out numbers recycling two to one (or more). We expect people to litter if they don't have a garbage can every ten feet yet we expect them to hunt down the one recycling station on the entire floor! No wonder Americans throw out so many recyclables! The fact is we can recycle more than ever before from every room in the house - boxboard, cans, and bottles from the kitchen and bathroom, almost everything that comes in the mail, most paper generated in the office and in my house there are plenty of beer and pop bottles generated all over the place. Despite this we only have three recycling containers in the entire house - compared to six garbage cans. I think I need to get some container parity.

All I am saying is give recycling a chance - equal space for all waste!

October 25, 2006


We've all heard about how fantastic those Germans and Japanese are at recycling. Here is a fun fact about Canada's recovery rates:

Ninety-two percent of Canadians reuse their plastic bags. Fifty percent of the time they are reused as garbage bags, thirty percent of all bags get recycled and the rest are reused as shopping bags, lunch bags, and to clean up after pets, among other things. Way to go Canadians! Yet, some want to push things even further with a proposed 25 cents-per-bag tax in British Columbia.

Source: Plastics Recycling Update by Resource Recycling

September 18, 2006


I just celebrated/worked several events. At least one was public where I coordinated recycling and composting and at least one wasn't where I didn't.

At the private event an old friend, upon discovering that I am now a recycler in the environmental movement, asked if it bothered me to be at an event like this that generated waste. "Just think!" she commented, "there are hundreds or thousands of events like this going on every day all the time - that creates SO much garbage!" I replied that I would rather not and changed the subject.

Continue reading "event" »

August 15, 2006

Paper - recycling 202

How many times do you think paper can be recycled?

Continue reading "Paper - recycling 202" »

August 12, 2006


I love my job. Lately I have chosen it over relationships and certainly free time. If anyone wants to keep me yakking all they need to do is ask me how it is going and listen attentively.

However, I have recently found my first stumbling block: I hate design.

As a "manager" I am supposed to make at least some-what executive decisions regarding projects under my watch. This makes perfect sense and I enjoy the responsibility and the freedom it brings - for the most part.

One of my projects though, is creating a self-explanatory waste-free office. At first I was really excited because I love creating systems and refining them to work well. Then I learned that I am supposed to come up with detailed descriptions of all the signs that explain this new type of office. This means I need to think about color, size, wording, and placement. In struggling to complete the assignment, I discovered I am a lot less creative than I suspected. When it comes to words brevity is not my strong point. This is bad if you are trying to create a sign. To top it off, we don't just want signs we want entertaining ones - that engage and humor people. I definitely am not witty and brief in my language. I can occasionally be one or the other but both seems like a tall order. The final cringe factor relates to deciding the look of the signs - what material should they be? Paper? Wood? Metal? What about canvas? How will they hang on the wall? What size is best?

In struggling with this project I have come to understand that while I am efficient and practical - and even creative and resourceful when it comes to accomplishing those two ends - it is at the expense of wit and style. Sad but true. Now I just need to figure out how to work around this handicap I have discovered. I am sure whatever happens I'll end up learning a lot being a better person for it all - I am too efficient and practical to waste a good educational opportunity.

July 13, 2006

Recycling 101 - Plastic Bottles

The most frequent question asked is:

Why can't I recycle plastic containers? Why only number one and two bottles?

Continue reading "Recycling 101 - Plastic Bottles" »

May 11, 2006

Living Green

Last week there was an event where vendors and service providers get together to brag about how green their products and processes are. As the recycler and a sponsor for the event we had our first post-event meeting today I fell in love our mission all over again - realizing how radical it is.

Continue reading "Living Green" »

May 07, 2006

Reduce, Re-use...

Quaking at the knees, I am leaving my comfortable well-known world of natural food for garbage - scratch that - not garbage, but rather recycling. This weekend began the transition into a new position at a recycling company aimed at showing waste is preventable, not inevitable.

I have always had a bit of the environmental fanatic in me. It will be super difficult to rein it in now. To ease my transition have been absorbing "Paper or Plastic: Searching for solutions to an overpackaged world." Between this book and all my coworkers fill my head with, I hope to have an outlet here so as not to chase away the few remaining friends I have. Thus with pride, I start a recycling subject line, in which to pour my enthusiastic learning.

This need not be a solitary journey - already friends are asking me waste related questions and the answers I don't know I will be happy to look up - please post any questions or thoughts you have on this subject as they come up.

No info tonight though. After a jam-packed weekend I have to catch up on some sleep.