Mountains of food scraps end up in landfills every day. While northern countries glorify attempts to facilitate this trash-to-treasure process using state-of-the-art technologies, Bobbili, a town in Northeast India, adopts a tech-free solution – a park using animals for solid waste management.
In a time when cloth-making was one of the most advanced technologies, a piece of square cloth was all that a man needed to carry goods around. Japanese call it ‘Furoshiki’, a square cloth that with different wrapping techniques can basically transport anything. With its name meaning ‘bath spread’, Furoshiki is a traditional kind of wrapping cloth made of natural materials like silk and cotton. It is believed to date back to the 8th century. What was at first used to wrap up noblemen’s clothes in bathhouses gradually transported goods and gifts.
Click to enlarge. More pictures here.
Modern bags might have outshone Furoshiki, but recent years have seen its comeback as a green alternative to shopping bags, thanks to the ‘Mottainai Furoshiki’ initiative by Yuriko Koike, Japan’s Minister of the Environment, in 2006. “It’s a shame for something to go to waste without having made use of its potential in full,” said Koike. Like what beauty label LUSH has followed to produce, the modern Furoshiki Koike upheld was made of recycled PET bottles that, as the Minister put it, “can wrap almost anything in it regardless of size or shape with a little ingenuity by simply folding it in a right way.”
The above graph demonstrating different wrapping techniques went viral on the internet. A wave of shops emerged to sell fancy furoshiki. The Minister’s statement holds some truism because a furoshiki does wrap up almost anything of all shapes and fragility – from vegetables to bottles, from wine glasses to eggs, from a baby to a dog. Besides its diversity, Furoshiki is a great alternative to adopt also because of its portability, leaving almost no room for excuses like ‘I forgot to bring my own bag’. Most of the time very decorative because Japanese treat it as an artistic craft, a furoshiki makes a great scarf, headband or pocket square.
Light and small, it comfortably fits in your pocket or day bag, whilst some furoshiki clothes are big enough to a bag whose form you can change every other day. A personal experiment proves that it helps encourage shoppers to opt for less- or un-packaged options. To avoid unnecessary packaging I visit local grocery stores for unpackaged tomatoes and to the plastic bag addicts’ surprise, it is very easy and light to transport. Just think about how one piece of cloth has the potential to replace all shopping bags. Does it not make it one of the smartest solution to shopping bags and excessive packaging?
This is a guest post by Ren Wan, a writer and sustainability advocate who is based in Hong Kong. She runs JupYeah, an online swapping platform, is a managing editor for WestEast Magazine, and blogs at Loccomama.
In Ghana, West Africa, both the cars and the auto industry look rather different. In a neighbourhood called Suame Magazine, an estimated 200,000 artisans take apart discarded western cars and use the parts to build easily repairable vehicles that are suitable for African roads. All this happens manually and in open air.
Artist Melle Smets and researcher Joost van Onna, both from the Netherlands, set up shop in Suame Magazine and built a unique African concept car in collaboration with the local community: the SMATI Turtle 1. Their project calls into question western ways of dealing with technology, waste, employment and automation.
Picture: The SMATI Turtle 1
“Our mattress is worn out. We need a new one, but I’ve been dreading buying a new one. I don’t like the waste of it all: The ignoble dragging of the old mattress to the curb. The prospect of sleeping on a brand new construct of toxic foam and fire retardants… In Greece, Italy and France mattresses are made by local craftsmen, and are stuffed with 100% wool. These mattresses basically last for life. When the wool gets compressed the mattress guys will empty it out, fluff it up, and re-stuff it, adding more wool if necessary.” 
“The bed Mary bought was made by Signor Oldani, a Milanese bed-maker and upholsterer. He made beds the Italian way, and the way we used to make mattresses in England before the introduction of short-lived internally sprung ones.
The beauty of the mattress is that when it needs a wash, the wool can be pulled out, stuffed, in batches, into pillow cases, put through the washing machine and after drying, carded back into fluffy pile before being returned to the mattress cover.
Every few years, it needs to be re-carded, as the wool slowly compacts, says Mary. In Italy during the summer, the mattress man, il cardatore, tours Italian homes, pulls out the wool from their mattresses, re-cards it, adds some more, as the process reduces the stuffing a bit, rebuttons and then sews the mattress cover back up again. Mary submitted her mattress to this process four times.” 
“Totally by chance, I found two places in Paris that still make their own 100% wool mattresses by hand… It was ready two days later. They told me to come back in 10 years to have the mattress redone: they pick it up in the morning, take out the wool stuffing, clean and refluff it, put a new cover on it, and then deliver it back to you before bedtime.” 
“The bicyclean is a safe, affordable, and efficient alternative for
harvesting electronic waste in developing regions. The bicyclean is a modified bicycle, where a processing chamber replaces the rear wheel and an external steel frame supports the rear hub. Processing of the circuit boards occurs within the sealed chamber and the particles are removed in a covered tray. A feed tube presses circuit board pieces into a large grinding wheel and become pulverized.”
“The particles pass a magnet that extracts ferrous metal particles. The particles then flow over a small eddy current rotor, which is positioned underneath the grinding wheel and powered by a 3:1 gear ratio with the bicycle chain. The changing magnetic fields of the eddy current rotor repulse conducting metal, but have no effect on non-metals; the metal particles are projected horizontally while the nonmetals fall vertically, separating particles in the bottom collection tray. The bicyclean requires a single operator.”
A battle is brewing in Delhi, India over access and control to garbage. For decades, informal wastepickers and recyclers have turned garbage into cash. They cost the government and taxpayer nothing yet they significantly reduce the waste sent to already overflowing landfills, improve recycling rates and “cool the earth” by reducing carbon emissions. But recent government plans to privatize trash collection have put the livelihoods of the wastepickers under threat. Meanwhile, new plans to build incinerators funded by carbon credits mean the resources the recyclers depend on may soon go up in smoke. Watch the movie: Delhi Waste Wars.
“Until now, little has been known about the climate change reductions that might be offered by reusing and retrofitting existing buildings rather than demolishing and replacing them with new construction. This groundbreaking study concludes that building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction. Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process.” Read more.
“There is a huge need for construction materials, at the same time the planet everywhere is littered by millions of used car tires. A way has to be found for re-using the materials that car tires are made of: rubber and steel. Large scale processes for this are well known. At the smallest scale of use better methods of recuperation have to be developed.”
“Each car tire contains 70 meters of steel wire with a 1 mm cross section. When the properties of the composing parts of a used rubber tire are well understood, then the practice of recuperation can be adapted to it.” Illustrated manual at Demotech.
“Every day, the world over, large amounts of high-level radioactive waste created by nuclear power plants is placed in interim storages, which are vulnerable to natural disasters, man-made disasters, and to societal changes. In Finland the world’s first permanent repository is being hewn out of solid rock – a huge system of underground tunnels – that must last 100,000 years as this is how long the waste remains hazardous.
Once the waste has been deposited and the repository is full, the facility is to be sealed off and never opened again. Or so we hope, but can we ensure that? And how is it possible to warn our descendants of the deadly waste we left behind? How do we prevent them from thinking they have found the pyramids of our time, mystical burial grounds, hidden treasures? Which languages and signs will they understand? And if they understand, will they respect our instructions? While gigantic monster machines dig deeper and deeper into the dark, experts above ground strive to find solutions to this crucially important radioactive waste issue to secure mankind and all species on planet Earth now and in the near and very distant future.”