Waste Solution For Not-Recycling Houston: One Trash Bin For All Waste.

Landfill
Laura Spanjian - City of Houston Sustainability DirectorHow do you get a city with a low 14% recycling rate and no enforceable recycling laws to start separating their trash and divert it from landfills?

You don’t…. you bring in some garbage sorting technology and let it do the work. The City of Houston knew it would be tough to educate and motivate their residents to separate their trash so they went out and found companies that process it for them. Spearheading the effort is Laura Spanjian, Houston’s sustainability director. From Fast Co.Exist:

“Spanjian’s dream system combines many of these technologies: It would take everyone’s trash in one bin and send it to a facility that pulls out every piece of recyclable material and separates out food waste. Recyclable commodities would be sold, and food waste would be turned into compost or put in an anaerobic digester to power facilities or trucks. Another portion of the waste would be turned into gasoline.”

Brilliant – put all the trash in one bin and let the specialized machines sort it. Much better than the alternative of sending all of the trash to landfills.

Here are some of the companies Ms. Spanjian found that can divert and reuse/recycle Houston’s trash:

“One company cited by Spanjian, Organic Energy Corporation, offers a one-bin waste sorting solution. A company called BHS operates a material recovery facility in San Jose, California–but it doesn’t deal with food waste. ZeroWaste can take care of that; the company operates anaerobic digesters to deal with food waste in the city. And CRI Catalyst Company–a Houston-based company–offers a technology that turn biomass into gasoline or diesel.”

Not all cities are like San Francisco – which diverts 80% of their trash from landfills. If Ms. Spanjian’s model is successful, other low recycling rate cities can copy and implement a scaled version of her system. Dog wags tail. [Fast Co.Exist]

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Outbox Mail Service Digitizes Your Mail For Viewing On A Laptop, Desktop Or Mobile Device.

Outbox mail serviceJust heard about Outbox digital mail service and I’m not so sure about it. Outbox is a $4.99/month service that receives your USPS mail for you, scans it and lets you access it on any type of computer or mobile device. It’s a middle-mailman and a feature of the service is that you can unsubscribe from any company sending you junk mail right in the Outbox app. Unfortunately, that may be where the Jubbling ends.

Digitizing personal USPS mail just seems back-asswards to me. It’s a waste of energy (scanning, viewing) being used on a waste of mail; it’s like double dipping into the consumption bowl in order to make life a little more convenient. And what happens if Outbox receives some important mail for you? You have 30 days to have Outbox mail it to you… again; or you can print it out… for a second time.

In addition to the security issues of having strangers remotely handling your personal mail – how the Outbox digital mail service truly fails for me is mentioned in the CNET article:

“no more daily trek to the mailbox followed by the daily armload of junk into the trash can.”

Is walking to your mailbox that much of an inconvenience? Maybe if you purchased a Segway to get you to the mailbox it wouldn’t be such a hardship.

Sorry but applications should uncomplicate our lives and not add layers to it. Outbox may be necessary for some travelers or people that live overseas and need to check their USPS mail but for most of their potential clients, who feel strained by their daily commute to the mailbox, it’s an unnecessarily wasteful idea. Want the best feature of Outbox without signing up for the service? Try Catalog Choice to unsubscribe from junk mailing lists. [CNET]

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China Is Moving Forward With A Carbon Tax. US Politicians Who Oppose Carbon Tax Lose An Ally.

Wait Until China Acts on Climate. What? They Are!? - Climate DeskThe whole childish “you go first” between the US and China on carbon taxes might be coming to an end soon. According to a report in China’s state-run Xinhua news website, taxing carbon emissions is on the agenda for the Ministry of Finance (MOF). From Xinhua:

“The [Chinese] government will collect the environmental protection tax instead of pollutant discharge fees, as well as levy a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Jia Chen, head of the ministry’s tax policy division, wrote in an article published on the MOF’s website.

It will be the local taxation authority, rather than the environmental protection department, that will collect the taxes.

The government is also looking into the possibility of taxing energy-intensive products such as batteries, as well as luxury goods such as aircraft that are not used for public transportation, according to Jia.

To conserve natural resources, the government will push forward resource tax reforms by taxing coal based on prices instead of sales volume, as well as raising coal taxes. A resource tax will also be levied on water.”

As consumers of $400 billion worth of Chinese goods (2011), the US deserves an assist for China’s pollution problem. I never quite understood how carbon tax opposing US politicians could pass so much blame on China for their lack of pollution controls when our consumption of their goods is driving it. At least the Inhofes, Rubios and Bachmanns will still have India to blame and do the “you go first” carbon tax dance with. [Mother Jones]


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The Sunset House Cabin Is Built Out Of Reuse, Reclaim, Recycle, Repurpose, Re-Everything!

The Sunset House - Reclaim, Reuse, Repurposed Cabin In West Virginia.The Sunset House is Jubbling at its most awesome. From Cabin Porn:

“The Sunset House in southern West Virginia was built by Lilah and Nick using lumber reclaimed from a barn on their property which was cut and milled from the land by the previous owner many years ago. All the windows are reclaimed from junkyards over their history of thrifting together.”

To view more images of the Sunset House, check out Old World Grange. [Cabin Porn]

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The Unnecessary But Still Lovable Smart Trash-Can That Autonomously Catches Trash.

The tech behind Minoru Kurata’s autonomous trash-catching Smart Trash Can is pretty cool. In a way, it pairs an Xbox Kinect with your trash can. Here’s how it works (DigInfo):

“”When you toss trash at it, a sensor detects the position of the trash, and sends the information to a PC. The PC calculates where the trash will fall, and communicates it to the can via wireless connection.”

Is it too much technology for tossing trash? Probably but the idea could be ported to another product that could help people reduce.

How about a smart trash can that threw back recyclables? (Easy for me to say – never could I do.) [DigInfo]

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Lessons Learned From Eco-Cities In China.

Tianjin Eco-City Tianjin Eco-City - Solar panels in front of building.Wouldn’t it be great if we could have a do-over? China has been looking to redo by re-thinking their future cities and developing eco-cities like Tianjin Eco-city. When it’s complete some time after 2020, Tianjin Eco-city will be home to 350,000 residents where 90% of in-city travel can be accomplished by foot, bike or public transportation. Green buildings will be the norm and renewable power will supply 15% of the eco-city’s electricity needs. What’s the motivation? From the NY Times:

“Today, facing challenges like runaway urbanization, soaring energy consumption and environmental degradation, China is hoping to establish a different set of paragons. With its cities expected to swell by another 350 million residents in the next 25 years, according to World Bank estimates, the government is scurrying to find sustainable urban solutions. To that end, it hopes to have 100 model cities, 200 model counties, 1,000 model districts and 10,000 model towns by 2015.”

One interesting fact about the Tianjin Eco-city project is that when construction started in 2008, EV charging stations where never included in the plans. Maybe a good lesson that can be learned from China’s experience is to build future eco-cities that are simple and flexible. They didn’t plan for electric vehicles and now, just like every non eco-city, they have to update their infrastructure to account for them.

Check out the NYT article for more information on the goals and challenges of building an eco-city. [NY Times]

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