It took humankind a lot of time to figure out that there are better places for waste than landfills. Today, a few companies and governments around the world are giving their best to put all that waste to good use. And in this article, we highlight a few initiatives that we like…
Stockholm power plant burning clothes H&M can’t sell
You may don’t know it, but the fashion industry is one of the major polluting industries in the world. The production and distribution of the crops, fibers, and garments used in fashion all contribute to different forms of environmental pollution — including water, air, and soil pollution.
One of the biggest retailers of “Fast Fashion” items is H&M, and the good thing is that the company is aware of that. So it — as well as some other major chains — is trying to reduce their environmental footprint.
In its home turf of Sweden, H&M is helping a Swedish power plant Malarenergi replace coal for good.
The combined heat and power station in Vasteras, northwest of Stockholm, is converting from oil- and coal-fired generation to become a fossil fuel-free facility by 2020. That means burning recycled wood and waste, including clothes H&M can’t sell.
H&M highlights that it doesn’t burn any clothes that are safe to use, but those that contain mold or do not comply with their strict restriction on chemicals.
Between January and November 2017, the Vasteras plant burned about 15 tons of discarded clothes from H&M, compared with about 400,000 tons of rubbish.
A grocery retail chain paved the parking lot with post-consumer plastic
At the end of 2019, Canadian grocery retail chain Sobeys has opened a store with a parking lot paved using post-consumer plastics.
The amount of recycled plastics used in the mixture to pave the lot at the company’s store in Timberlea, Nova Scotia is equivalent to more than six million plastic checkout bags. This way, all that plastic has been diverted from local landfills.
However, just because there is plastic in the parking that doesn’t mean the pavement isn’t up for the task — quite the contrary, it has been tested through intense thawing and refreezing to be able to “cope” with Canadian (harsh) winters.
The innovative approach to plastics reduction and reuse is part of Sobeys’ larger commitment to remove plastic grocery bags from all of its grocery stores by the end of January 2020.
An engaging ashtray that helps keep streets clean from cigarette butts
Cigarette butts are a problem in many cities around the world with many smokers throwing them left and right. And so a novel solution was invented to help tackle this, essentially waste problem, while also engaging the smoker population.
Called Ballot Bin, it was originally built as a one-off installation to incentivize people to correctly dispose of their cigarette butts. Commissioned by Hubbub and Westminster council as part of their wider Neat Streets campaign, the bin invites users to cast their vote on a changeable topic by inserting their cigarette butt into one of two chambers.
The idea came from noticing a trend towards polling or asking questions across social media to drive high engagement with a brand or topic. And so the team behind what will become the Ballot Bot set to implement this trend into a physical installation that was customizable, engaging and playful, but without any technology or moving parts, and with minimal upkeep.
Not only did the installation contribute to a reduction of litter, it also helped highlight the wider issue of cigarette butts — which is estimated to cost the city of London approximately £3.8M a year to clean. Cigarette butts make up for one-third of all litter in the UK and can be found in almost all town center streets. Retail areas have four times as much cigarette litter as main roads.
Anti-rust and weatherproof, the Ballot Bin has proven to reduce cigarette litter on busy streets by 46%.
A giant “mechanical stomach” that turns food waste into energy
The City of Cockburn in Perth, Australia, is using an anaerobic digester to turn the city’s food waste into green energy. Located at a nearby fertilizer plant, the digester is fed food scraps collected from restaurants and supermarkets. As of the end of March 2021, it was producing enough methane to power around 3,000 homes.
After the food waste is collected, it is put through machinery that removes any packaging and other non-food contamination. The waste is then mixed with water and pulped to form a slurry, before being pumped into the digesters. Inside the digesters, bacteria breaks down the organic molecules in the waste and produces methane gas.
From there, the methane gas is siphoned off and used to run two large generators that together produce up to 2.4 megawatts of electricity — which is enough to power the company’s entire operation, along with mentioned 3,000 homes.
A machine that crushes beer bottles into sand for construction
Expleco is a New Zealand-based company specializing in the design and manufacturing of compact glass bottle crushers that turn bottles into a fine grade sand (with no sharp edges) that could be used by the construction industry. As such, these crushers help reduce pressure on global landfill and waterway catchments.
Perhaps the most interesting part is that the sand from crushed bottles is better than the ordinary sand because of its high silica content, which holds better with bricks and concrete.
Aside from offering its bottle-crushing machine to companies and municipalities, Expleco is also helping the Glass2Sand project in India, which aims to reduce the environmental impact of non-recycled glass bottles. Said initiative aims to reduce glass waste by collecting discarded glass bottles and crushing them into the sand.
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