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Waste Not Want Not: Recycling Innovations for a Greener World

There’s more to recycling than separating your paper, metal cans and plastic bottles on garbage pickup day. Take a look at these innovative recycling ideas that are helping to protect the environment that we all depend on.


Composting Toilets

Composting toilets take a waste substance and turn it into a valuable resource. The normal process for dealing with bathroom waste involves millions of gallons of fresh water carrying effluent away through the sewer network to expensive treatment plants. It’s convenient for the user but as a system it’s hugely inefficient and the treated effluent discharged into rivers and oceans causes immense environmental damage

These monetary and environmental costs can be averted when composting toilets are used. Composting toilets employ a variety of methods to safely turn bathroom waste into a compost suitable for spreading around trees, fruit bushes and flower beds.

Recycled Building Materials

Green buildings come in all shapes and sizes, from the low cost, low tech, genius designs of the passive solar Earthships in Arizona, to the new high tech Tesla Gigafactory that aims to run on renewable energy

Even when architects aren’t aiming for a 100% green building, the materials chosen for a project can significantly lower a building’s environmental footprint.

Thanks to the growing awareness of sustainability issues many companies around the world are finding ways to turn landfill waste into new building materials that make sustainable architecture easier to achieve.

Scrapped porcelain fixtures are turned into the aggregate used in concrete, terrazzo floor tiles, pavers, and even epoxy kitchen countertops.

Polystyrene packaging, CD cases and plastic coat hangers can be transformed into realistic looking ‘wooden’ planks and beams with the same density and weight as endangered African hardwoods. Other plastics can be recycled into less dense ‘wooden’ building materials that last 5 times longer than treated lumber.

Aluminum Sourced from Junk

Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa has long been an innovator in the recycling industry. Alcoa was responsible for the introduction of aluminum can recycling, and more recently invested in a specialist recycling company to recover the aluminum from computers, phones, TV’s and other electronic equipment destined for landfill.

Plans in the pipeline include mining existing landfill for aluminum. Recycling aluminum uses just 5% of the energy required to process virgin aluminum from ore.

Yard and Food Waste to Compost

Many towns and cities operate systems that take yard waste—grass and hedge clipping, leaves, prunings—and food waste and turn them into compost suitable for all garden uses. Some operations give out the compost for free, while others charge a small fee. Next time you need a sack of compost for your flower beds or vegetable garden, check out your town’s website and find out what they offer before you head off to the big box store.

Local composting schemes keep resources out of landfills and cut down on the emissions generated by transporting compost to stores around the country.

Most of the things that we consider to be waste are actually just resources waiting to be used in a new way. Low tech methods like composting toilets prevent material from entering the waste stream in the first place, and innovations in landfill recycling take valuable ‘junk’ and give it a new lease of life, cutting down on environmental destruction and greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

About Gary Ater

Gary Ater

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