Category Archives: Recycling

Trash Mob – Portland State University [Video]

If you saw this plastic bottle on the ground next to a recycling container, would you stop and pick it up? PSU Recycles! conducted this recycling experiment on campus to see if someone would stop and do the right thing. Watch the video on YouTube.


Video: Carton Recycling Demonstration

Tetra Pak has posted a video demonstrating how cartons are recycled at paper mills into tissue products.

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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Recycling, Video


H&M launches first campaign to promote sustainability initiatives

Read the full story in Marketing Week.

H&M is running its first campaign to promote its clothes recycling scheme as the retailer looks to raise awareness of its sustainability efforts and encourage more shoppers to donate unwanted items of clothing.


America’s tire mountains: 90 percent are gone, thanks to recycling programs

Read the full story at Mother Nature Network.

Once we had 2 billion tires scattered around the U.S. landscape, but now 90 percent of the piles are gone. Ground rubber from tires is becoming roadways, playground equipment and auto floor mats.
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Recycling


The Genius Entrepreneurs Who Turn E-Waste Into Usable Products

iFixIt is featured in Slate.



Why Rare Earth Recycling Is Rare (And What We Can Do About It)

Read the full post at Ensia.

As demand for high-tech devices grows, so does interest in recycling the esoteric metals that make them run. But challenges abound.
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in E-waste, Metals, Recycling


Infographic: The Environmental Benefits of Proper Waste Disposal

There’s a little prevention mixed in with the recycling. Read the full post and view the infographic at Inhabitat.


Why upcycling is both a science and an art

Read the full post at GreenBiz.

Using recycled materials once made for a pretty good sustainability story. Today, though, recycling is blase, and the bar is set higher: Companies need to upcycle materials, shifting their story from “less bad” to “more good.” But as companies jump on the bandwagon and strive to hit the market with new upcycled products, we need to figure out exactly what that phrase means, because frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows.

If we vaguely define upcycling to mean that a material has been made more sustainable through a recycling process, it leads us to think that some scientific measure of sustainability could and should be used. It’s a wonderful notion to believe that our pursuits toward sustainability are grounded in science. When you have entire industries familiarizing themselves with terms such as “metric tons of CO2 equivalents” and “product to package ratio,” it even suggests that sustainability falls squarely in the realm of quantitative measurements. It gives us hope that industry can manage what it can measure.

But if sustainability is about meeting the needs of a growing society while incurring a limited amount of negative environmental impacts, then sustainability is probably only about half-scientific — because meeting the needs of society is also an art.


Plastic shopping bags make a fine diesel fuel, researchers report

Via the University of Illinois News Bureau.

Plastic shopping bags, an abundant source of litter on land and at sea, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful petroleum products, researchers report.

The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires and results in transportation fuels – diesel, for example – that can be blended with existing ultra-low-sulfur diesels and biodiesels. Other products, such as natural gas, naphtha (a solvent), gasoline, waxes and lubricating oils such as engine oil and hydraulic oil also can be obtained from shopping bags.

A report of the new study appears in the journal Fuel Processing Technology.

There are other advantages to the approach, which involves heating the bags in an oxygen-free chamber, a process called pyrolysis, said Brajendra Kumar Sharma, a senior research scientist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center who led the research. The ISTC is a division of the Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois.

“You can get only 50 to 55 percent fuel from the distillation of petroleum crude oil,” Sharma said. “But since this plastic is made from petroleum in the first place, we can recover almost 80 percent fuel from it through distillation.”

Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic shopping bags each year, according to the Worldwatch Institute. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that only about 13 percent are recycled. The rest of the bags end up in landfills or escape to the wild, blowing across the landscape and entering waterways.

Plastic bags make up a sizeable portion of the plastic debris in giant ocean garbage patches that are killing wildlife and littering beaches. Plastic bags “have been detected as far north and south as the poles,” the researchers wrote.

“Over a period of time, this material starts breaking into tiny pieces, and is ingested along with plankton by aquatic animals,” Sharma said. Fish, birds, ocean mammals and other creatures have been found with a lot of plastic particles in their guts.

Whole shopping bags also threaten wildlife, Sharma said.

“Turtles, for example, think that the plastic grocery bags are jellyfish and they try to eat them,” he said. Other creatures become entangled in the bags.

Previous studies have used pyrolysis to convert plastic bags into crude oil. Sharma’s team took the research further, however, by fractionating the crude oil into different petroleum products and testing the diesel fractions to see if they complied with national standards for ultra-low-sulfur diesel and biodiesel fuels.

“A mixture of two distillate fractions, providing an equivalent of U.S. diesel #2, met all of the specifications” required of other diesel fuels in use today – after addition of an antioxidant, Sharma said.

“This diesel mixture had an equivalent energy content, a higher cetane number (a measure of the combustion quality of diesel requiring compression ignition) and better lubricity than ultra-low-sulfur diesel,” he said.

The researchers were able to blend up to 30 percent of their plastic-derived diesel into regular diesel, “and found no compatibility problems with biodiesel,” Sharma said.

“It’s perfect,” he said. “We can just use it as a drop-in fuel in the ultra-low-sulfur diesel without the need for any changes.”

The research team also included Bryan Moser, Karl Vermillion and Kenneth Doll, of the USDA National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, in Peoria, Ill.; and Nandakishore Rajagopalan, of the ISTC at the U. of I.

The Illinois Hazardous Waste Research Fund and the Environmental Research and Education Foundation supported this study.

Editor’s note: To reach Brajendra Sharma, call 217-265-6810; email The paper, “Production, Characterization and Fuel Properties of Alternative Diesel Fuel From Pyrolysis of Waste Plastic Grocery Bags,” is available online or from the U. of I. News Bureau.

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Posted by on February 13, 2014 in Biofuels, Plastics, Publications, Recycling


Why recycling smartphone batteries is vital for sustainability

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Recovering metals from lithium-ion batteries has a 90% smaller ecological footprint than primary mining – so why are recycling rates so low?

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