Watching a video about IoT insecurities, trying to plan my own IoT stuff in my head while writing this, and also trying to formulate a recycling idea – BIG IDEA – that has been bouncing around my head for almost a decade, and it’s what I might focus on right here in this post.
For a start, what are the problems with recycling? I have come down to several big issues and how they interact. Here goes:
Recycling plants don’t work. Simple as that, they just don’t achieve what they’re set up to do. Recycle plastics? One of the easiest processes around? They FAIL. Most of what plastic arrives at the plant, ends up in landfill or storage anyway, and slowly becomes microplastics and tries to kill us.
Metals rust over time and cause small localised deposits of metal-rich ground. (And I wonder when some archaeologist will figure out that many of our current mineral deposits were actually formed when the LAST peak civilisation choked in their own wastes, and the shale oils are actually the remnants of the Earth’s ecosystem cleaning up our LAST microplastics emergency.)
Not even paper gets recycled properly. WTF?
Part of the reason is that no-one does their part because they don’t feel very invested in the process. I don’t bother too much to clean plastics, glass, and tin because I get to SEE that failure every time the news runs a story on it, which is several times in an average year.
I see video of disgruntled underpaid workers who don’t bother too much with sorting and cleaning because they feel WE let them down and don’t value them and their work, and because they too see that nothing is achieved for all their work anyway.
Meanwhile the people who are the root cause of this (manufacturers, corporations) are being let off scot – free from doing what they morally know they should be doing. Governments are kowtowing to those corporations and making token efforts to recycle, hence all those recycling plants.
And there seems to be no solution to this issue at the moment, either. No-one’s willing to sacrifice the almighty dollars to do this, and yet it’s becoming catastrophically evident that some one has to.
(So yeah, I’m good at mouthing off, but do I have a solution? And it turns out – I do.)
Bear with me. The problem is that everyone perceives it to be someone else’s problem. Except the people that caused the problem in the first place, who are hoping frantically that we never figure it out.
And who’ll then say (if we do work it out) that if we hadn’t bought their products they wouldn’t have produced them. And then they’ll try to make it our problem – because they know what the true cost of their profits has been and that it would ruin their company if they had to make good. (And anyway – it was their predecessor CEO that started it, so nyahh!)
Something like this has to start SOMEWHERE. My proposal is to start a few pioneering little projects, particularly in the easier fields of plastics and paper recovery. Build little plastics reclamation machines, that can process just the local plastics, into ropes and cordage, new plastic girders and panels, 3D printer filaments, and so forth.
Give each community a small plant that can recycle waste paper into pellets for cat litter, garden soil improver, or stock for making papercrete blocks. Soft plastics are also good for papercrete.
These are all possible – people have been showing how to make small plastic recycling equipment, paper recovery and re-use equipment, and how to make and use papercrete. (See here. And also here.)
If random people around the world can repurpose old washing machines and car jacks into the required machinery with scrap metal frames and tiny cheap electronics, then surely a government can set up manufacturing facilities and staff them with people who would otherwise be unemployed, making these tiny transportable recycling plants for a living income. (That would be better than the dole.)
Our tax dollars at work – pay people unable to find work a living wage to make the equipment that can then be operated for a living wage by other previously unemployed people, to recycle the materials that the governments have been unsuccessful in recycling, and the mega-corporations have been disinclined to own the responsibility for.
Make that plant available to communities for a token fee (or for free) and see community interest in delivering CLEAN and well-sorted plastics suddenly increase as Mr Norm Normal realises that he can have strong durable material for fence posts or garden stakes – for free. Or the framework for a gazebo. Whatever. Free.
Let local community volunteer groups run it – pensioners and job seekers. Pensioners would be better off on a living wage and contributing to their community, job seekers in a limited job market would find a living wage AND a satisfying job.
Provide local advertising material – “bring your plastics here instead of to the ocean, get free stuff back!”
Make no mistake, this is as important to the survival of the world as fighting fires has been to Australia this year. These are things that will get us back to a productive society post COVID-19. These are things that will provide a morale boost, a boost to the local economy, and prove far better for the Earth than our current efforts have been.
These are REAL jobs that need doing, not some bean-counter who’s figuring out how to make their product give a 1/2 c more profit at the expense of our planet.
Now give these corporations an ultimatum – they contribute to these recycling projects or face a moratorium of their products. There is a web presence that goes with this concept I have and it will be well-advertised by the community projects, advertising funded by the federal, state, and local governments.
Once you have such a system in place, you can expand on it. Car manufacturers (and prospective owners that have no legitimate use for one) to face stiff tariffs on ICEVs (Internal Combustion Engine Vehicle) and incentives on EVs. (Electric Vehicles)
A relatively simple scheme for this might be to impose mandatory “scrapping fees” for any ICEV sold. At the moment, low paid workers are being paid to scrap old vehicles and separate them into various recyclables. Create an inbuilt scrapping price per vehicle and they’ll get paid better, will feel more pride in their work, and feel more valued for the jobs they do
Another simple scheme could be – incentives. EVs (Electric Vehicles) create far less pollution, and have less of an impact on roads. Especially if they’re autonomous and driverless and traffic flows smoothly.
(There are quite a few alternative scenarios for this and I’ll be coming back to it in a future article.)
And so you can gradually change the conversation – no longer is it “they” that recycle “stuff” “somehow” – it’s US, WE’RE DOING THIS! (Remember that it takes very little advertising and publicity to make it a part of everyday life. Look at how ingrained some TV adverts are in the public psyche.) Change that conversation and you will eventually penetrate even the densest CEO’s brain fog, make everyone aware of just how much we are owed by their corporations.
And little by little, we’ll change the way things are done, and it’ll all happen a lot faster than current efforts to fix the world. We’re going to need some strategies for dealing with the pandemic fallout, and these are at least going to do some lasting good rather than making stopgap knee jerk decisions.