Saturday, 18 June 2022

What Happened?

What happened with these?

Every so often I look back. I keep monthly, large, chock-full-o-links, pages on my documents server and use them to collate my article ideas, links of interest, random thoughts, and sometimes even most of the body of an article ARP. (Almost Ready to Publish)

I collect some of those items into a followup file where they get a bit more of a chance to get published. This is my "dafugappened file" and every so often I check for news so I can either update the article I published or finally publish one due to finally having more info on the subject.

And sometimes, there's a resounding silence and those are my real dafugappened things, so sometimes I have to do a quick search and then slide those articles to the "retired" section. But sometimes, there's things that still bear mentioning, if only for the mysterious nature of what did happen to this

Settle in. This is a slightly long article.

First order of business is: "WTF happened to this NBN connection?"

Catchup:

When we moved from halfway back to the hills and down to the coast, we needed to also move our old ADSL2 connection which we held with Telstra. (Aussie almost monopoly telcom, we used to own it but our RWNJ government privatised it and it's been sucking the hindmost tit ever since - to use a good old USAianism.) After four years of having had nothing but issues with that ADSL connection in the old location, we'd finally had a minor win. Not a resolution, but a workaround.

The tech support person I spoke to not long before we moved, listened patiently while I told him I knew the problem was the wiring in the pit outside getting wet after heavy rain and Telstra never considering that worth sending a technician out to do a 20 minute job and how we'd phoned in the exact same thing year after year and every year we lost Internet for two months of the year cumulative due to rain, and he acted. 

"We've got these new modems they have a mobile broadband modem and if your connection drops out they automatically fail over. You'll literally be the first person in your district to get one. Pardon? Whose mobile broadband account? Oh, the SIMs are paid for by Big Pond Internet, not your concern."

And two weeks later, the new Frontier gateway thing arrived, I plugged it in, set up our home DHCP addresses on it, and it worked. When it rained, the landline dropped out and we didn't even notice. 

Forward to 2018 and we'd moved to our new rental, plugged the shiny Frontier modem in and - it didn't connect. . . Several frantic calls to Tech Support later, we discovered that we were in a newly-converted NBN area. The old phone lines were no longer analog, but humming with digital promise. And yep that was why the landline phone wasn't going to work either. 

I said ". . . but we discussed this, we need a landline here and you did say we'd be able to move our old number with us, so whatcha gonna do? . . ." After a week of calls, they sent a tech out with a new white box, plugged it in, plugged our old landline phone into it, and we had a new number. ("uh yeah, VOIP, we don't have the same number pool, didn't they tell you?") We took the small win, but still didn't have any Internet. 

So I rang about that. Using the phone, which was using VOIP, which uses DATA, sent over the now shiny new DATA phone connection. "We're very sorry but you're in a location that's just recently changed to NBN abd your line still isn't ready for data." DaFug? 

"I'm speaking to you on a phone plugged into a Big Pond NBN modem, using the DATA connection to do so. The data connection is established. Please give us the connection we were promised we'd have last month at the latest." 

"I'm sorry Sir, I'll escalate this to The Back End Team." (I shit you not, he pronounced it with capital letters. Wow this Back End Team must be da shit, eh?)

They weren't. In the meanwhile, having chewed through all our plan data on our mobiles, I decided that Telstra could wear this, and turned our modem on and let it dial into the mobile data network, and just left it running. For, as it turned out, EIGHT WEEKS.  

Yep. Rather than connect our new modem, they hemmed and hawwed, fiddled and farted, and despite twice weekly calls to Tech Support and The Back End Team, at the end of six weeks we still had no broadband, it was now eight weeks since we moved, and I'd had enough. 

Well, no - I was still hopeful but then I phoned the B.E.T. support desk and the person on the other end of the phone floored me: "Okay I'll have to ask the back end team."

I: "But is this not the Back End Team desk?"
BET: "Yes, but we can't do this, we have to ask the back end team."
I: "I'm so sorry, but I've been phoning this number thinking I WAS talking to the fabled Back End Team that was supposed to be working out why our phone line - this line, which I am using to speak to you with via an analog phone connected to a Big Pond modem and sending VOIP data over the existing DATA connection that is obviously working on our line here, so I can't understand what's going on. We have a data connection that's been stable for six weeks, we have a Big Pond modem obviously connecting over broadband to the NBN, so - WHAT THE HELL IS MISSING?"
BET: "well our records show that there's an issue on that li..."
I: "But we're connecting right now using that line without any issue. what is the problem?"
BET: "The back end team has to clear the issue and then the line will be clea..."
I: *CLICK*

That evening I used the free generous mobile broadband connection to email DCSI, a local ISP, and that was a Friday, on Mondat a new broadband NF10 modem arrived and by an hour later I had our broadband up, the new VOIP connection and number working, and used the new connection to log into Telstra's customer portal and cancel our accounts. That took ten minutes compared to the estimated 10-11 hours I'd spent going nowhere with them in the last two months and proved to me that Telstra is actually set up to fail and lose customers rather than to retain them.

But that modem...

Well, the NF10 was rubbish from the get-go, and DCSI pretty quickly replaced it with the NF16. And then THAT failed and they replaced it, then THAT unit failed and they didn't want to replace it so I RAed it with Netcomm, who by that stage had been bought out, but unfortunately with another NF16 which has also failed. Yeah, Netcomm went belly up and bought out for a reason. And our ISP, now taken over by Swoop, also (and probably quite rightly, although if I was their head of TS I'd have just replaced to to maintain a better public image) won't replace it. And I'm calling them out on it. If they send a NOT Netcomm modem that actually works for longer than 12 months then I'll update this but I will not change a word of the existing article. Christ, four years I've been their evangelist in our region and this crap is what I get. 

And now for something completely different

Bacteria Eats MicroPlastics! I put this in my list almost a year ago: www.theguardian.com / science / 2021 / apr /28 /scientists-find-way-to-remove-polluting-microplastics-with-bacteria You are my last hope, Pseudomonas aeruginosa!

. . . and I haven't seemed to see the slightly undesirable (because it's a pathogen to humans, after allp. aeruginosa in any more news but the hunt for a little ally in the fight against microplastics is on:

How Plastic-Eating Bacteria Work.
Newly discovered bacteria eats and digests PET plastic.
Scientists find bacteria that eats plastic.

And I posted about Biobots And Plastic Recovery in the Zen Cookbook Blog a little while back, showing that we have a little robot (well, little biobot) army at our disposal as well if we can just develop them to the mission, so there's hope that one way or the other - or all ways at once - we'll start making a dent in this insidious problem.

And now for an abject failure

Which I hate to end an article on, so this is the before-to-last segment of this article... 

Victoria had an "Elimination Day" target in mind and we could have been one COVID-free place on the whole goddamned planet. We actually HAD that. What happened? 

A Liberal / National Party Coalition, is what. Their "economy is more important than your lives you plebs!" attitude completely totally and utterly has condemned tens of thousands of Australians to death because - money money money money money moneymoneymoneymoneymoneeeeeeyyyyyyy!!! is far more important than human lives if you're a right wing nut job libtard. 

We saw our chances at being a COVID-free island wrecked by capitalist forces, and eventually Western Australia (which is where I came from, and coincidentally the State government there is also a Labor government) was similarly white-anted into opening their borders and are now the same as every other place on Earth these days.

I'm not a Socialist, bu . .  What am I talking about? I'm a Socialist and an Anarchist and I think capitalism and an "economy" are the worst possible things to have ever happened to the planet and to our species. When did we start to idolise pathological hoarders of a currency that has no relationship to any of the real wealth of the planet? (That real wealth being the health of our planet aka our life support system.)

Another FAIL

Here's a bit of news that has more impact AFTER it's been proven than it did before. Despite it having been well known that the warming weather would start making the planet unlivable (and hey, who gave a toss about this 20-30 years ago when scientists first started saying stuff like this) it's come to the point where - well, look at the last four links in this paragraph . . .

I can't

I can't let this article end on a note of fail. I'll add a footnote after this little opinion piece, but this is the goodest news I have gotteth. 

You may have seen here and there that I'm really really into doing something about - everything - that's going on around the world in the areas of climate change, waste accumulation, fossil fuel pollution and its companion, decarbonisation, renewable and sustainable energy, small scale recycling, and letting you and everyone else that I can reach know about all these things. You can help by sharing the heck out of my articles like this because the more people see it the more people will talk about it and the more people talk about it the more people will DO SOMETHING about it - be that email their local government member, email a CEO like the CEO of AGL and tell them you don't want any more of their pollution and greed, sign petitions, and maybe go to a demonstration to let the whole world know how they feel.

Heck, they might even read about plastic recycling and do guerilla plastic recycling at home. . . Or recycle their food waste into their vegetable garden. All sorts of anarchy could result. 

And all it takes is for you to share the link to this article on your favourite social network, or text it to a friend. . . Or even donating so that I can keep the servers running and domain names paid for with some of your money instead always my pension. . .  Not kidding, this costs me hundreds every year. And I pay it out of a pension that was recognised as being well below the poverty line 20 years ago and has gone backwards since then. I could really do with the help. 

Footnote:

In addition to writing these articles I'm also experimenting with ways of recycling waste that can be done at the cottage industry or community hub levels, not so much because it'll magically convert 100% of local waste into recycled useful articles, but because people who are doing these sorts of activities are likely to talk about them to people in their community, and so raise even more awareness of the issues and dangers.

So please - if you can at all spare some time, take a look at my News Stand where you'll see live updated links to everything I publish; And take some time and share the links to the News Stand and this article with your friends and readers. 

Take a subscription to my weekly newsletter where you'll receive the same information; 

Or maybe contact me via the webform; Or email me;

You can also donate either directly or at my Ko-Fi page for the price of a coffee, or even make a regular monthly donation there.

All donations are put towards keeping these websites online, and for developing devices, machines, and techniques to easily and safely recycle materials on a tiny scale.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

So Many Recycling Things #03

 Some World Recycling Projects #3

Summary and wrap-up

This is fairly self-explanatory, I noticed a few things as I watched the videos, took notes, then rewatched segments until I had all the info I wanted, and then tried to compose my thoughts about them. As such this is highly subjective and reflects only my own views.

I look at all these episodes with an eye to my project which is to give people the means to do basic recycling with simple inexpensive equipment and techniques. The hope is that people will get the recycling bug, form local community recycling hubs, and then involve and educate their community.

To see all the articles I write, head for the footnotes

Summary

There were a few cons - as in conniving, 'con-artist' and not contra - in the series. I counted about half a dozen of those, and suggest we make the best of those by using them to disseminate information about sustainability, cradle to cradle circular materials management, and recovery.

Several more were well-intentioned but poorly executed and/or generated almost as many problems as they solved.

Rather a lot of the enterprises were hampered because no corporation or government wants to chip in and help grow them, and sometimes that's just general inertia but sometimes it's because to admit there was a problem would also mean having people make the connection that that particular governmet or corporation is responsible for the issue being recycled, and they are the kinds of eco-disasters that come with lawsuits and class actions attached...

There are as I've mentioned a range of technologies now being developed and available for managing heating and energy in sustainable ways. Our task is to balance these in ways that do the least damage to the planet and restore as much as possible of it. But to keep in mind that proper and specifically targeted application of energy is a solution to many of the issues developed in these three articles. 

Being Earthlings and Stewards of the planet

Using the term 'family' in taxonomy (as in referring to 'the algae family' earlier on) should tell us something - we're not humans and apes and monkeys and fungii and lichens and trees etc - we're EARTHLINGS and we need to start thinking about ourselves in that light - pretty much right now.

If we'd never lost that sense of stewardship due to 'convenience' and economy, our planet and our extended family would never have gotten into the state it's in now. Economising on our efforts (i.e. 'convenience' ) made survival sense in the past but no longer does. There's no longer a survival rationale to our old behaviours, we have enough to easily survive. 

We need to have less 'convenience' and pay far more for what convenience we do have. But see this next paragraph or two.

UBI (Universal Basic Income)

Maintaining 'wealth' was a good survival buffer but again it makes no sense in the current era. Keeping that wealth from 'subclasses' may have made sense when masses of rapidly breeding people had no access to education and had to be controlled, but in this day and age, education (which IS now available thanks to online video and lessons and freely availableshould now be available to all.

(IDEA: Maybe instead of that much-vaunted 'social credit' or 'carbon credit' as a world currency should be also include 'education credit'  and be capped at some sensible level.)

The point is that if we shared things the least bit equitably, almost everyone on the planet could live well enough. The 'Middle Class' deomgraphic that came about last century and the century before, are now only one step up the wealth ladder from homeless refugees and in fact a few of the middle class will also become climate refugees in a really short time frame. 

As far as that goes a UBI could become a given in under a month- as long as everyone got one. Including people right at the top, the 1% of the 1% that own 80% of the wealth of the planet. You can see where the problem is going to lie, can't you? 

So-called "eating the rich" doesn't mean cannibalisation. It means persuading or legislating those with the wealth to redistribute it. There's a growing trend among billionaires to give most of their wealth away, and this is a good thing and a bad thing. 

Footnote:

In addition to writing these articles I'm also experimenting with ways of recycling waste that can be done at the cottage industry or community hub levels, not so much because it'll magically convert 100% of local waste into recycled useful articles, but because people who are doing these sorts of activities are likely to talk about them to people in their community, and so raise even more awareness of the issues and dangers.

So please - if you can at all spare some time, take a look at my News Stand where you'll see live updated links to everything I publish; And take some time and share the links to the News Stand and this article with your friends and readers. 

Take a subscription to my weekly newsletter where you'll receive the same information; 

Or maybe contact me via the webform

You can also donate either directly or at my Ko-Fi page for the price of a coffee, or even make a regular monthly donation there.

All donations are put towards keeping these websites online, and for developing devices, machines, and techniques to easily and safely recycle materials on a tiny scale.


Thursday, 2 June 2022

So Many Recycling Things #02

 

 Some World Recycling Projects

Season 2, more recycling tales

Here's the second video marathon, plastic paving bricks, toxic lake and town, vegan leather, shoes made from plastic bags, recycled polystyrene, using lavender to remediate polluted soils, refrigerator recycling, shampoo bars, tiles made from soot, teddy bears stuffed with cigarette butts, luxury plastic bag bags, repurposing Christmas trees, and lithium batteries. Dive in!

Season 2

The following sections refer to this Business Insider World Wide Waste series season 2 video.

Plastic Bricks

I saw this almost a year ago and was impressed at the enterprise and had my few thoughts. Unfortunately (and unavoidably) the process releases fumes because the plastics are heated to very high temperatures, and there should really be a huge charcoal filter to draw those fumes out of the air. But as the purpose is to nail down plastic that would otherwise be in landfill . . .

. . . and yeah, there you have the other issue - it's still being disposed of in landfills, just right on the surface not buried. As mentioned in the article, this is not the ideal solution as abrasion from vehicle tyres still creates microplastics, there's one more ray of light on the horizon: electric vehicles are a bit lighter on roads than fossil fuelled vehicles because light weight equals more range out of a given battery capacity - and EV manufacturers really want to alleviate range anxiety

So a mixed thing for me. Combine their materials (prepared with lower temperatures so it's not so toxic) with Precious Plastics' sheet press and you could create a very durable flooring material for foot traffic areas. Tempting, anyone? 

Butte toxic lake, waste rock, remediation

This comprises two episodes, one focusing on the birds and one on Butte itself. As they're part and parcel related I've lumped them together in this entry.

The lake produces a small tourist income, yep. But it comes at the expense of continuously exposing migrating birds to sulfuric acid, and not on actually remediating the lake or the town as the mining company should. It's just a sop, an appearance of doing something

The town is built on 'waste rock' which is poisoning the soil, and covered in half a metre of soil - why not force the company to strip back the topsoil, put the waste rock into the lake to slowly fill it up over a decade or two? And then properly fix the soil this time? 

And while you're at it, all that recovered, mixed, and not useful for precision applications plastic from a few episodes back - why not use them to make a series of cylinders the size of 200L (44gal) drums, and float those on the surface of the lake to scare birds off? 

Then as you tip more rock in, the drums get confined to a smaller and smaller area and finally you break them up and burn them for energy.

The important thing to realise is that if the people minding that lake had a different guaranteed income such as a Universal Basic Income (UBI) they'd still come there because they enjoy it. 

Also know that if  Arco (the current owner of the Anaconda mine property) were to really pay for real remediations  they'd be circling bankruptcy and trying to pay almost as much as the mine's profits over its entire operation.

We need to start realising that money is at its basis a fiction, and worth nothing in the face of the disasters we're about to encounter. 

Vegan Leather.

They call this great material 'leather' but it's better than leather, it deserves a better name. And to see it with stamped-on snakeskin or alligator embossing seems depressing. Instead of 'leather' maybe find a unique name like 'appeel' (- heck, come on! People got away with the name naugahide for heaven's sake -) and pattern it to look unique and new. Make it stand out. 

This material needs to be more publicised. Ask any alligator or snake. 

Plastic Bag Kicks

This does get soft (LDPE, Low Density PolyEthylene) out of the waste stream. For a while, until the shoes are thrown out. Which is better than a blowing wasteland of discarded plastic bags. 

Also good is that they use a polyester canvas made from PET bottles for the uppers. So is the fact that even if the shoe has to be recycled it's now a dense mass of LDPE and PET rather than paper-thin sheets and bottles.

One thing that's a bit less appealing is that trend I've mentioned already, to embed seeds in everything and call it green when in fact in some ecosystems it could become an invasive weed. I wish they'd stop doing this. . .

Wind Turbine Recycling

Wind turbine blades are, as admitted in this episode, only going to form 1% of waste in another decade or so. And now comes a tentative nibble at some of the larger issues, as alluded to in my very early sidetrack.

Firstly, we need to need less energy. That's problematic already and only going to get worse as we transition to electric transportation and as global temperatures necessitate more cooling but with some new technology on the horizon, it's going to be attainable.

Secondly, There are a couple of other uses for these blades than just burning them for energy and two are shown, but the internal details of these blades wouldn't be common knowledge, which might account for there not being more uses for them. 

Just in the few seconds here I thought of two, three, or four identical blades set vertically in foundations and supporting something like an observation platform over a wildlife park or natural scene.

Or (wild idea being thrown out here) three, arrange in a teepee formation and skinned with recycled plastic panels and recycled wood interior, use it as the tourist centre at a wind or solar farm or some recycling operation. Great publicity! 

Recycled Polystyrene

It's a dangerous plastic as it's toxic when burned or overheated and is flammable, but I'd rather see it in solid chunks than lightweight fluffy packaging (SINGLE USE!) and insulation. (Which it's good at but not the ideal solution.)

It can be broken down by mealworms into - well, mealworm poo - which is safe to use as a soil for crops. A pseudomonas type bacterium can convert styrene oil into a biodegradable plastic. So it can be broken down.

It produces horrible smoke when burned and it catches fire easily. It melts just above about the boiling point of water. 

In dense (unexpanded) form it is sometimes used to make plastic cutlery and yoghurt tubs and similar, but with the low Tg (Glass Transition Temperature aka softening/melting point) I might prefer other cutlery. And anyway - disposable convenient cutlery is bad. Right? 

I also remember that I had several plastic models as a kid that were made from PS and the glue was horrible stuff that gave me headaches unless I kept a window open. 

So these guys might just be the saviours of the Revell model lineup...  

Lavender Soil Rehabilitation

Lavender is a cash crop that grows in poor soils, but so does mallow. And I realise that (given how we still believe that money and 'the economy' are important) making some income from the remediation seems to be important, but believe me, it isn't. 

That's why I can see that growing a culinary product in polluted soil seems to be the only way out of this, but perhaps there's a clever dodge going on here.

The mining company is held responsible for the remediations. And for damages arising. But they've now seemingly offloaded some of that responsibility to the organisation in this episode. 

And the lavender must be drawing out toxins and metals from the soil. Since the plants can't magically make that disappear, it's still in them.

Then parts get sold as essential extracts and culinary herbs. When the inevitable poisonings and issues arise from ingesting all of that, who is now responsible for damages? The original mining company, or the people that are selling the product?

The trouble with this scenario is that it seems far-fetched and Machiavellian. Until you look at the track records of big corporations . . .

Refrigerator Recovery

It's another good effort. Cleanly draining refrigerants is - well, to do anything else would be beyond just common criminl and into super-villain level crime. So identifying the gases and sending them to be destroyed if they're CFC based and re-using them if they're still legal to use, is a good way to deal with this toxin. 

The description of how the illegal gases are destroyed, also points out how enough energy can disassemble anything. Remember this whenever someone says that a particular material is too difficult to neutralise and decompose quickly. 

Energy is becoming cheaper and cheaper both in monetary and environmental terms, and there are now also technologies that promise to deal with the heat problem. Go to the footnote and subscribe to the newsletter for the article that I'm currently researching about this. 

The inslulation. Powdered, it can probably be put in road mix just as much as any other plastics can. Failing that, it too is susceptible to large amounts of energy to burn it back to base elements.

Shampoo Bars

Shampoo bars are a good idea. That is all. Think how many shampoo bottles hit the waste stream every day, and while those may be HDPE and LDPE (High Density PolyEthylene and Low Density PolyEthylene) and very recyclable, it's still another waste to corral and wrangle, so shampoo bars in paper packaging are a good direction.

Carbon Tiles

As I watched this I realised that here was a thing that at its basis went back to artisans thousands of years ago - when having a tiled floor was a symbol of wealth, a useful way to prevent the soil under where you lived from shifting, and a more easy to clean floor.

These tiles don't need kiln firing but instead use a press and water curing process. That alone means they are eco-friendlier than ceramic tiles that do need firing.

And I wish large companies making ceramic tiles would undertake to make such tiles - but without the inevitable shortcuts those large companies make, without themselves becoming a source of pollution.

And I wish people understood that such flooring isn't a given, and isn't even necessary. I'm also thinking that waste-consuming technologies like those plastic/sand pavers should be developed into a system for making tile flooring that can be used in houses in place of the tons of environment-damaging concrete.

Think about this: Laminated wooden flooring is better for forests and the environment, yes. But it's made with epoxies and resins that aren't as friendly. And of course you're again skating that thin line between durability and decompose-ability. 

So more projects like this please. 

Food Waste Compost

All food waste recovering systems are good in my book. The only thing better than turning food into compost and/or biogas is if the food is caught at the stage before it becomes unfit for consumption and given away / distributed / turned into a more durable food product that can be distributed to those in need. Go for it!

Cigarette Butt Re-use

Here's a thing that's kind of cool. The gathering of cigarette butts for the filters which are then cleaned and made into a fluffy filling for teddy bears and soft toys.

But as that item says, the filters contain heavy metals. I'd want to know for sure that they were really really clean before I bought one of the teddies but there's so much more that gets recycled from a simple cigarette butt that it's an eye-opener.

The paper, still having nicotine in it, is turned into mosquito repellent sheets and I think I'd prefer that to malaria or dengue fever so this too is a brilliant adaptation to get every bit of use out of the resource.

It's all a good and fairly thorough use of every part of the resource, and all production operations could learn something from small operations that are this thorough.

Luxury Plastic Bags

This goes right up there with the plastic bag kicks and general plastic recycling. Anything we can divert from the waste stream until technology and energy come up to the point where we can decompose the plastics back to base elements, is good. 

Also, just like the ring-pull bags, they allow a story to be told, an awareness to be created. Keep the processes clean, keep up jobs, and make sure people that buy them come away impressed at how much can be done with the things that we currently, thoughtlessly, throw away.

Christmas Trees

Every year a sizeable portion of the world's population holds a religious festival that I reckon causes more pollution in a few weeks than we make for the next six months. (BTW I'd welcome anyone that has figures for this to contact me. Use the Contact Me link just a short way down in the footer and let me know.)

Knowing that the trees that are grown specifically for this festival and then become waste, this use of them is a bittersweet thing. It's lovely that they end up naturally decomposing back into the ecosystem and providing shoreline stabilisation as well. Also, these live trees still have a smaller carbon footprint than plastic trees.

And I realise that the trainee pilots would probably fly just as many hours on exercises as they do when using the trees for practice, so I'm okay with it because it repurposes two things, pilot time and ritual objects. 

EV Batteries

This is actually one of the episodes I had the most issue with. Car batteries were an issue - once. Then the industry realised what an almighty muckup lead actually was, and within a few years lead became one of the most recycled resources on the planet. 

Mild prevarications aside, the out and out scaremongering: ". . . and sometimes . . . . . . . . lithium batteries . . . explode . . ." has to be one of the most cringeworthy things that I've ever seen. Even when the series was aired, the problems had been mostly ironed out, and - especially in the EV battery industry - it became a non-factor in buying an EV. 

The company being profiled in this episode could have possibly done a bit more towards actually recovering lithium from the batteries, but okay - there's still more research than actual lithium recovery going on, and it's still early days. 

The video also shows people manually opening an EV battery pack and implies that EV battery packs are that difficult to recyle - but most often these aren't opened like that for scrapping, but for possible reconditioning. I'd rather see battery packs recycled by hand because it'll lead to more of the materials being recovered.

And in any case, EV batteries aren't a huge component of the battery waste stream. Worldwide only 9% of Lithium Ion Batteries ("LIBs") get recycled and the rest go to landfill, and almost 100% of these LIBs are cellphone, power tool, laptop, and similar devices' batteries. 

EV battery packs still aren't so commonplace that they just get thrown out wholesale, because as mentioned a few paragraphs back they can be reconditioned, and of most battery packs only a relatively small number of cells are faulty so EV packs are still treated as a valuable resource.  

Also before I close this segment I'd like to mention home solar batteries, which are also starting to enter the battery waste stream. We do need more research into recovering the elements of LIBs.

Footnote:

In addition to writing these articles I'm also experimenting with ways of recycling waste that can be done at the cottage industry or community hub levels, not so much because it'll magically convert 100% of local waste into recycled useful articles, but because people who are doing these sorts of activities are likely to talk about them to people in their community, and so raise even more awareness of the issues and dangers.

So please - if you can at all spare some time, take a look at my News Stand where you'll see live updated links to everything I publish; And take some time and share the links to the News Stand and this article with your friends and readers. 

Take a subscription to my weekly newsletter where you'll receive the same information; 

Or maybe contact me via the webform

You can also donate either directly or at my Ko-Fi page for the price of a coffee, or even make a regular monthly donation there.

All donations are put towards keeping these websites online, and for developing devices, machines, and techniques to easily and safely recycle materials on a tiny scale.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

So Many Recycling Things #01

Some World Recycling Projects #1

... and some commentary by me

NEEDS A LINK TO BFZCB biobots story (Mon 23rd)  near first intermission

It seems there are millions of environmental disasters these days. I was looking for a few things to brighten my day instead of doomscrolling. And I came across two videos on Youtube that showed me that some projects are actually recycling and making great new products. They were the Business Insider World Wide Waste series season 1 and season 2 marathons. 

(WARNING: These two videos are over four hours long between them. And if  - like me - you're interested in seeing some good news, then that four hours takes six hours with breaks to take notes, make cups of tea and coffee, and chat about it. And then I wrote a Conclusion.)

I've split this into a series of three articles because one would far exceed my preferred range of article lengths. I'll post one a week from now on, and if you're up for it, the first two articles are written pretty much as I was watching the videos, then re-watching them to flesh out my notes.

As usual, the 'notes' ended up being wild ideas fired back and forth, and here are a few of the best ones, so if you're game to fall down the rabbit hole with me, come for a romp through four hours' worth of engrossing videos:

Season 1:

Business Insider World Wide Waste series season 1 - watch the video here, and the sections below follow the order that they appear in the video.

Chopsticks Recycle

It's beautiful. Hot damn it's lovely to look at and I'd love a recycled chopstick panel for a feature wall in the house. And yet it's sad that there's this waste is a problem in the first place, so I reckon the primary aim of these products should be to make people aware of the mess their choice to use disposable cutlery makes. 

And perhaps cities should impose a cost on that convenience, to maybe curb the problem at the source.

Maybe though there's a bit of sun shining through - those chopsticks are either made of wood or bamboo after all, and both do decompose quite well naturally. Also as observed in the segment, one can ask for them NOT to be included in one's meal. 

There's also a tiny bit of shade to cast, too - and that's because of the resin. Because the product shouldn't just randomly decompose and leave you without a feature wall,  it's introducing a new long-lasting thing, but one that'll enter the waste stream eventually.

So right there, in the first video of the first season of the show, is the one standout rule that needs to be emphasised: Almost all waste is down to 'convenience.' I'd also like to say that the idea of convenience really only took hold in the Plastic Age after the Eight Hour Day was first introduced. 

Sorry for a sidetrack right off the bat, but:

Before the Industrial Age, before the Eight Hour Day, there were just "days." And you spent your 'days,' in 'living.' People got up, ate something if they had it, went off to find more. Whether they did that by foraging or hunting or growing it. And in between, they rested or played. The whole notion of an eight hour day or convenience would have seemed silly to them.

Yes there were always a few people with 'convenience' due to positions of wealth and/or power but it wasn't anywhere near as ingrained as it is in the present day.

When industrialisation took hold, people were needed to work in time-ordered shifts. You had to get up to do a whole other kind of day. Before, even if you were a farmer or hunter or gatherer, you could pick your times of day to do stuff, and while it sort of depended on predators and prey and seasons and so forth, it wasn't set in stone.

That held true for a lot of the time up to the Industrial. But then things changed, and if you weren't there at the start of the day's shift well you might lose that work, and so time became important. After almost a century of that, you heard that not everyone had to work from sunup to sundown and never have time with the family. 

The eight hour day was a lot of things. It was the beginning of a more fair system of exploitation, a way to manage that whole slippery 'shifts' thing - and the start of a thing called 'convenience.' You got eight hours to sleep, eight hours to work, and eight hours of leisure time.

And by thunder, you weren't going to let small things like cooking and laundry get in the way of your leisure time. So it was 'convenient' to spend less time buying food and cooking it, it was 'convenient' to not be building your own furniture in your leisure time. 

Of course, that was also 'convenient' for a growing commercial sector that found that econiomies of scale meant they could pack more customers through a single shop that sold more than just a limited range of stock, that they could make your 'convenience' meals also 'convenient' for them by packing them with preservatives so they could make them in huge batches and sell them in months. 

And plastic was 'convenient' for everyone all around. Until now. . .

Anyway - convenience should always have cost more than it does and yet it never did. Put it on the planet's tab. . .

Back to the video.

Flower Incense

Really nice way to make use of a waste stream that's quite significant and localised to India - I like incense anyway, and this is a good way to turn flowers that would otherwise just add to the toxic overload entering the river into a new product that gives employment as well. 

We're strange, we create religions and belief systems and then blindly follow them into potential disasters and danger. Even polluting that deity's sacred river . . .

Avocado Plastic

Avocado (and other biomass-based) plastics bring me to another thing - plastic does come from organisms. Whether that comes from fossil fuel oils or the oils of "OI! I'm not quite fossilised yet!" organisms like avocado stones or algae, it's a bit ironic isn't it that we make utensils out of ancestors and contemporaries? 

And especially with fossil fuel based products, I always have this urge to blame it all on "The Curse Of Digging Up The Ancestors."

But back to the plastics themselves - it's pretty wonderful that we can make even slightly more biodegradable plastics with younger biomass. It's always going to be a fine line between the end product decomposing as you're carrying your food to your table, or taking a hundred years to decompose under natural conditions. 

Luckily, we do have enzymes that are crazy for specific varieties of plastics including avocado plastic et al, and they only need a relatively mild temperature to become activated and digest those plastics - and energy is becoming cleaner and cleaner and cheaper and cheaper all the time, so this is going to be a much more attainable goal as time passes.

Speaking of which, I've got a story in the works about energy, heat, and getting rid of  heat from the planet. Keep an eye out - or better still go to the footnote and subscribe to the newsletter and be informed when it comes out.

Algae flip-flops

Or as we Aussie like to call them to the amusement of the rest of the world, '"Thongs maaaate!"

These are a GREAT idea, and I support the idea. I think they're not exactly high fashion nor really good safe footwear but I do reckon they have a place in the world of footwear. 

The family of algae are some of the best biomass generators in the world and we should be using them a lot more, both as a raw material and as a food. Spirulina is an acquired taste - but so are eggs, beer, insects, and cilantro. And I can grow spirulina in old PET bottles if I have a mind to, and then eat it or experiment with it. I've used culinary spirulina and quite like the seaweed/marine flavour it has. Maybe a series of thing I'll try with algae is forthcoming. Hit me up in the footnote if you like the idea, hey?

Vegetable Biogas

The difference between burning biomass and digesting it into biogas is actually quite a thing. If you just burn biomass, it creates the heat energy, yes. But also digestion creates gas which is easily directed indoors to a cooking or heating device and there it burns without as much black carbon being released. 

And it creates fermentation heat locally, meaning if you situate the biodigestor in your greenhouse you can warm that too as a byproduct. Keep the worst of the frosts off, save your seedlings, keep a productive vegetable production going. If that's your bag.

Biodigestion also creates a sludge that you can use directly as a fertiliser and thus sequester the carbon, or you can dry it and use it, or heat it a bit more to create biochar, which also improves soils and soil fertility, and also sequesters carbon back in the soil where it belongs.

Mushroom Mycelium Products

It has to be said here (and I know myself - I'll probably come back to this point again and again) that is that mushroom mycelium is never going to taste like bacon - so stop calling it that and proudly call it by a non-meat name.

I'm not a vegan or vegetarian but I don't turn my nose up at any culinary experience, and even mycelium has a nice mushroomy flavour you don't need any fake flavourings to make it the star of a meal. 

The cool thing here is that they've worked out how to grow mycelium to order as it were, and from there all the uses for that mycelium are great. Once again and for heaven's sake, it does NOT have to be called 'leather' either - it's a product in its own right. And texture it to look like nothing else before it ever has - make it stand out. 

A big tick from me though - and probably an even bigger tick from that crocodile or snake that didn't end up as leather. . .

Banana Textiles

As the article notes, banana fibres are strong, beautiful, easier to dye (and thus needing less dye) and have been around for a long time in many cultures.

One common thread I often see, and which is also a result of the 'convenience' and 'economies of scale' era we're in, is that some small businesses want to 'grow the business.' They don't seem to see the irony of that, which is that it makes their eco-friendly project into a new corporate monster in its turn. 

So it's good to see many of these small businesses that are happy to just make 

Also, and as pointed out in an episode in the second season, clothes should be valued and kept by their owners, not be a throwaway item. So these smaller manufacturers should sell the product for what it's worth and not aim for parity with the mass-produced garbage. 

Bread Crumbler

Now we're getting to a subject close to my heart (and stomach, and soul, and very being) which is this bread crumbler machine. From my Austrian beginnings I remember real bread dumplings of flour and old dry bread, made by my Oma Mitzi and by my parents. 

I like using breadcrumbs in my cooking and while I've never thought to use them to extend flour in baking I can see that it's a natural holdover from the thrifty (for lack of a better polite word) origins of modern bakers. 

And I can almost taste that recycled bread and I can tell you that - in my 'mind's mouth' - it'd be tasty as. I'll definitely consider this and will probably experiment with it in my baking at some stage.

For now I just want to add that dried bread is also a worthwhile thing - teething rusks used to be just bread that was sliced and cut into 'soldiers' and then placed back in the oven to dry out. 

When I make bread dumplings and don't have dry bread, I put stale bread in the oven and let the oven dry it out the day before. Then I discovered large mason jars and now I can make big fluffy lovely bread dumplings any time I want . . .

And I'm just saying, but - once the baking's done for the day would be a great time to put in chunks of yesterday's bread and dry it right out, bakers. And if packed airtight you could sell 'dumpling bread chunks' all year round. Are you hearing me bakers? 

Sliced breads, French breads, heavy rye breads - these are all great to use in dumplings and will also keep for months if kept airtight. Don't change your thrifty ways, bakers!

E-Waste Recovery

LINK GOES DOWN HERE

This was interesting - I've just done
>>>several stories about biobots<<<
 that should in theory be able to tag specific materials, about bacteria and enzymes that make short work of plastics. And then these videos came along and now I can confidently say that I won't be doing any e-waste recycling projects - no home based industry can match the technical sophistication of this operation. 

That said I'd love to have the gear to do this a there's a lot of money in metals recovery and that would finance my projects to make induction furnaces, presses, injection molds, and filament extruders. . .

(Note: I also blog about small and tiny scale recycling and when I come up with new techniques, new simple adaptations of existing domestic utensils and gadgets that we may already own, or any other useful info, I make it available on one of these blogs or in other places online. See the footer for how to find out more.)

Pineapple Plates

Once again with the bioplastics (although as I mentioned fossil fuel based plastics are technically still bioplastics) and this time with a twist - embedded seeds. Must admit mixed reactions.

On the one hand, they are great for using a resource that's otherwise not easy to use. (Well, I can offhand think of a few like stock feed, stock feed additive, fattening food for livestock, digestibility bioimprover, biogas,) On the other hand, attaching potentially invasive species seeds to the plates so they can claim the novelty factor. No. Just no. 

If they must spill their seeds upon the ground then make some long strips that have seeds spaced at the right distance and with particular seeds, sell them as a garden supply. Print advertising for these strips on the backs of plates, and ads for their plates on the underside of the seeding strips. Sheesh is that not better than bobby trapping their plates with biohazards?

Mushroom Final Exit

This one, hmmmmmmmm. . . On the one hand it's such a cool idea, on the other they look absolutely wonky and fully dodgy. And I just can't forget that we buried our dead to prevent animals from eating the corpses. . .

On the plus side the mycelium and moss just snack up all the heavy metals and other stuff we decompose into that isn't all that eco-friendly, and so our passage back into Earth is not traumatic for the planet. (For instance, all the microplastics that we ingested in our lifetime. But that's for another article, hey?)

"Bottlecap" (actually "ringpull") handbags

It's an elaborate process for a very limited portion of the waste stream and with appeal to a small group of clients, but if it makes people more aware of recycling then it's worth every penny. 

And actually, art like this should cost a bit. It provides employment for people, it will look good, and eventually those ringpulls will still get to the smelter anyway. 

Things like this are good for small groups to get into and raise recycling awareness in their locale.

Clothing "Recycling" 

... surely you can see that we've attained wan-...  - err, sorry, warp - factor nine? This is a waste, a travesty, and a greenwash. It's a cynical attempt to extract multiple incomes out of each item of clothing. There are honest efforts out there to extend the life of clothing (like Fixing Fashion) and any of the methods outlined there is better than the rubbish in this episode.

Also there's the attitude of fast clothing companies like H&M that say they won't back down and they intend to continue to pump out a significant waste stream and that kind of says it all for these large corporations doesn't it? Scuse me while I almost swear - but eff them. No wonder H&M got unceremoniously rejected in China recently. 

Artificial Reefs 

Could have been a good thing if they'd asked a scientist and listened to them when they'd have (inevitably) said not to use stuff that'll do more harm than good. Adding in dead people and making money off their families was a nice touch but somewhat overshadowed that they didn't offer to sink a second reefball for each burial. What? They said that they'd never even supply 1% of the habitat needed, surely they could show some social and ecological conscience too?

IKEA Waste / Recycling Mall

I've lumped these two together because. Because they're next to each other, they have similar aims, and similar methods.

Now do excuse me but does anyone think this is taking away the income of various charities? Shop owners in a mall have outgoings to pay so they can't afford to be too generous with low prices. Usually the people that need repaired furniture also need that lowered price.  

So is it just a boutique for pre-loved items for better-off people? I guess I can see a sort of function for such a mall and I do hope they take off everywhere and are always supported by local government, state government, and even federal government. 

Aside from the obvious benefit of recycling furniture and keeping it out of the waste stream, it does provide employment, and in the local charity opp shops in my area at least, provide a generally close and friendly social work environment for people who may have difficulty entering the workforce.

I hope that any similar concept malls will ensure that they can operate with economy, accept a large workforce, and that mall management can step in occasionally and can apply a small discount for a shop holder's rent if they provide cheaper priced items for someone truly struggling that needs them. 

Algae Blooming Algae

Seaweed and feet again. . . Still cool uses of these little powerhouse algae. Also - I'd rather have a neobioplastic (I sooo wanna copyright/trademark that word...) than a thanatobioplastic (and this one! ...) to decompose after a product reaches the end of its lifespan. 

Such dense foam materials can be used in a variety of purposes other than just footwear, and between algae based and mycelium based materials we have a very good case for kicking polystyrene foam (tradename Styrofoam) to the kerb as a packaging material. 

Also there's an opportunity for some enterprising souls to make molded shock-absorbing packaging from cardboard and paper papiér-maché packing. These days you can make 3D printing stock material from something like polypropylene (PP) and making hard molds custom-fitted for items and stamp out papiér-maché packaging. Does this give anyone any ideas? Hmmm... 

Intermezzo #1:

Om Nom Nom popcorn! See you next week!

Season 2

Business Insider World Wide Waste series season 2

Plastic Bricks

I saw this almost a year ago and was impressed at the enterprise and had my few thoughts. Unfortunately (and unavoidably) the process releases fumes because the plastics are heated to very high temperatures, and there should really be a huge charcoal filter to draw those fumes out of the air. But as the purpose is to nail down plastic that would otherwise be in landfill . . .

. . . and yeah, there you have the other issue - it's still being disposed of in landfills, just right on the surface not buried. As mentioned in the article, this is not the ideal solution as abrasion from vehicle tyres still creates microplastics, there's one more ray of light on the horizon: electric vehicles are a bit lighter on roads than fossil fuelled vehicles because light weight equals more range out of a given battery capacity - and EV manufacturers really want to alleviate range anxiety

So a mixed thing for me. Combine their materials (prepared with lower temperatures so it's not so toxic) with Precious Plastics' sheet press and you could create a very durable flooring material for foot traffic areas. Tempting, anyone? 

Butte toxic lake, waste rock, remediation

This comprises two episodes, one focusing on the birds and one on Butte itself. As they're part and parcel related I've lumped them together in this entry.

The lake produces a small tourist income, yep. But it comes at the expense of continuously exposing migrating birds to sulfuric acid, and not on actually remediating the lake or the town as the mining company should. It's just a sop, an appearance of doing something

The town is built on 'waste rock' which is poisoning the soil, and covered in half a metre of soil - why not force the company to strip back the topsoil, put the waste rock into the lake to slowly fill it up over a decade or two? And then properly fix the soil this time? 

And while you're at it, all that recovered, mixed, and not useful for precision applications plastic from a few episodes back - why not use them to make a series of cylinders the size of 200L (44gal) drums, and float those on the surface of the lake to scare birds off? 

Then as you tip more rock in, the drums get confined to a smaller and smaller area and finally you break them up and burn them for energy.

The important thing to realise is that if the people minding that lake had a different guaranteed income such as a Universal Basic Income (UBI) they'd still come there because they enjoy it. 

Also know that if  Arco (the current owner of the Anaconda mine property) were to really pay for real remediations  they'd be circling bankruptcy and trying to pay almost as much as the mine's profits over its entire operation.

We need to start realising that money is at its basis a fiction, and worth nothing in the face of the disasters we're about to encounter. 

Vegan Leather.

They call this great material 'leather' but it's better than leather, it deserves a better name. And to see it with stamped-on snakeskin or alligator embossing seems depressing. Instead of 'leather' maybe find a unique name like 'appeel' (- heck, come on! People got away with the name naugahide for heaven's sake -) and pattern it to look unique and new. Make it stand out. 

This material needs to be more publicised. Ask any alligator or snake. 

Plastic Bag Kicks

This does get soft (LDPE, Low Density PolyEthylene) out of the waste stream. For a while, until the shoes are thrown out. Which is better than a blowing wasteland of discarded plastic bags. 

Also good is that they use a polyester canvas made from PET bottles for the uppers. So is the fact that even if the shoe has to be recycled it's now a dense mass of LDPE and PET rather than paper-thin sheets and bottles.

One thing that's a bit less appealing is that trend I've mentioned already, to embed seeds in everything and call it green when in fact in some ecosystems it could become an invasive weed. I wish they'd stop doing this. . .

Wind Turbine Recycling

Wind turbine blades are, as admitted in this episode, only going to form 1% of waste in another decade or so. And now comes a tentative nibble at some of the larger issues, as alluded to in my very early sidetrack.

Firstly, we need to need less energy. That's problematic already and only going to get worse as we transition to electric transportation and as global temperatures necessitate more cooling but with some new technology on the horizon, it's going to be attainable.

Secondly, There are a couple of other uses for these blades than just burning them for energy and two are shown, but the internal details of these blades wouldn't be common knowledge, which might account for there not being more uses for them. 

Just in the few seconds here I thought of two, three, or four identical blades set vertically in foundations and supporting something like an observation platform over a wildlife park or natural scene.

Or (wild idea being thrown out here) three, arrange in a teepee formation and skinned with recycled plastic panels and recycled wood interior, use it as the tourist centre at a wind or solar farm or some recycling operation. Great publicity! 

Recycled Polystyrene

It's a dangerous plastic as it's toxic when burned or overheated and is flammable, but I'd rather see it in solid chunks than lightweight fluffy packaging (SINGLE USE!) and insulation. (Which it's good at but not the ideal solution.)

It can be broken down by mealworms into - well, mealworm poo - which is safe to use as a soil for crops. A pseudomonas type bacterium can convert styrene oil into a biodegradable plastic. So it can be broken down.

It produces horrible smoke when burned and it catches fire easily. It melts just above about the boiling point of water. 

In dense (unexpanded) form it is sometimes used to make plastic cutlery and yoghurt tubs and similar, but with the low Tg (Glass Transition Temperature aka softening/melting point) I might prefer other cutlery. And anyway - disposable convenient cutlery is bad. Right? 

I also remember that I had several plastic models as a kid that were made from PS and the glue was horrible stuff that gave me headaches unless I kept a window open. 

So these guys might just be the saviours of the Revell model lineup...  

Lavender Soil Rehabilitation

Lavender is a cash crop that grows in poor soils, but so does mallow. And I realise that (given how we still believe that money and 'the economy' are important) making some income from the remediation seems to be important, but believe me, it isn't. 

That's why I can see that growing a culinary product in polluted soil seems to be the only way out of this, but perhaps there's a clever dodge going on here.

The mining company is held responsible for the remediations. And for damages arising. But they've now seemingly offloaded some of that responsibility to the organisation in this episode. 

And the lavender must be drawing out toxins and metals from the soil. Since the plants can't magically make that disappear, it's still in them.

Then parts get sold as essential extracts and culinary herbs. When the inevitable poisonings and issues arise from ingesting all of that, who is now responsible for damages? The original mining company, or the people that are selling the product?

The trouble with this scenario is that it seems far-fetched and Machiavellian. Until you look at the track records of big corporations . . .

Refrigerator Recovery

It's another good effort. Cleanly draining refrigerants is - well, to do anything else would be beyond just common criminl and into super-villain level crime. So identifying the gases and sending them to be destroyed if they're CFC based and re-using them if they're still legal to use, is a good way to deal with this toxin. 

The description of how the illegal gases are destroyed, also points out how enough energy can disassemble anything. Remember this whenever someone says that a particular material is too difficult to neutralise and decompose quickly. 

Energy is becoming cheaper and cheaper both in monetary and environmental terms, and there are now also technologies that promise to deal with the heat problem. Go to the footnote and subscribe to the newsletter for the article that I'm currently researching about this. 

The inslulation. Powdered, it can probably be put in road mix just as much as any other plastics can. Failing that, it too is susceptible to large amounts of energy to burn it back to base elements.

Shampoo Bars

Shampoo bars are a good idea. That is all. Think how many shampoo bottles hit the waste stream every day, and while those may be HDPE and LDPE (High Density PolyEthylene and Low Density PolyEthylene) and very recyclable, it's still another waste to corral and wrangle, so shampoo bars in paper packaging are a good direction.

Carbon Tiles

As I watched this I realised that here was a thing that at its basis went back to artisans thousands of years ago - when having a tiled floor was a symbol of wealth, a useful way to prevent the soil under where you lived from shifting, and a more easy to clean floor.

These tiles don't need kiln firing but instead use a press and water curing process. That alone means they are eco-friendlier than ceramic tiles that do need firing.

And I wish large companies making ceramic tiles would undertake to make such tiles - but without the inevitable shortcuts those large companies make, without themselves becoming a source of pollution.

And I wish people understood that such flooring isn't a given, and isn't even necessary. I'm also thinking that waste-consuming technologies like those plastic/sand pavers should be developed into a system for making tile flooring that can be used in houses in place of the tons of environment-damaging concrete.

Think about this: Laminated wooden flooring is better for forests and the environment, yes. But it's made with epoxies and resins that aren't as friendly. And of course you're again skating that thin line between durability and decompose-ability. 

So more projects like this please. 

Food Waste Compost

All food waste recovering systems are good in my book. The only thing better than turning food into compost and/or biogas is if the food is caught at the stage before it becomes unfit for consumption and given away / distributed / turned into a more durable food product that can be distributed to those in need. Go for it!

Cigarette Butt Re-use

Here's a thing that's kind of cool. The gathering of cigarette butts for the filters which are then cleaned and made into a fluffy filling for teddy bears and soft toys.

But as that item says, the filters contain heavy metals. I'd want to know for sure that they were really really clean before I bought one of the teddies but there's so much more that gets recycled from a simple cigarette butt that it's an eye-opener.

The paper, still having nicotine in it, is turned into mosquito repellent sheets and I think I'd prefer that to malaria or dengue fever so this too is a brilliant adaptation to get every bit of use out of the resource.

It's all a good and fairly thorough use of every part of the resource, and all production operations could learn something from small operations that are this thorough.

Luxury Plastic Bags

This goes right up there with the plastic bag kicks and general plastic recycling. Anything we can divert from the waste stream until technology and energy come up to the point where we can decompose the plastics back to base elements, is good. 

Also, just like the ring-pull bags, they allow a story to be told, an awareness to be created. Keep the processes clean, keep up jobs, and make sure people that buy them come away impressed at how much can be done with the things that we currently, thoughtlessly, throw away.

Christmas Trees

Every year a sizeable portion of the world's population holds a religious festival that I reckon causes more pollution in a few weeks than we make for the next six months. (BTW I'd welcome anyone that has figures for this to contact me. Use the Contact Me link just a short way down in the footer and let me know.)

Knowing that the trees that are grown specifically for this festival and then become waste, this use of them is a bittersweet thing. It's lovely that they end up naturally decomposing back into the ecosystem and providing shoreline stabilisation as well. Also, these live trees still have a smaller carbon footprint than plastic trees.

And I realise that the trainee pilots would probably fly just as many hours on exercises as they do when using the trees for practice, so I'm okay with it because it repurposes two things, pilot time and ritual objects. 

EV Batteries

This is actually one of the episodes I had the most issue with. Car batteries were an issue - once. Then the industry realised what an almighty muckup lead actually was, and within a few years lead became one of the most recycled resources on the planet. 

Mild prevarications aside, the out and out scaremongering: ". . . and sometimes . . . . . . . . lithium batteries . . . explode . . ." has to be one of the most cringeworthy things that I've ever seen. Even when the series was aired, the problems had been mostly ironed out, and - especially in the EV battery industry - it became a non-factor in buying an EV. 

The company being profiled in this episode could have possibly done a bit more towards actually recovering lithium from the batteries, but okay - there's still more research than actual lithium recovery going on, and it's still early days. 

The video also shows people manually opening an EV battery pack and implies that EV battery packs are that difficult to recyle - but most often these aren't opened like that for scrapping, but for possible reconditioning. I'd rather see battery packs recycled by hand because it'll lead to more of the materials being recovered.

And in any case, EV batteries aren't a huge component of the battery waste stream. Worldwide only 9% of Lithium Ion Batteries ("LIBs") get recycled and the rest go to landfill, and almost 100% of these LIBs are cellphone, power tool, laptop, and similar devices' batteries. 

EV battery packs still aren't so commonplace that they just get thrown out wholesale, because as mentioned a few paragraphs back they can be reconditioned, and of most battery packs only a relatively small number of cells are faulty so EV packs are still treated as a valuable resource.  

Also before I close this segment I'd like to mention home solar batteries, which are also starting to enter the battery waste stream. We do need more research into recovering the elements of LIBs.

Summary

There were a few cons - as in conniving, 'con-artist' and not contra - in the series. I counted about half a dozen of those, and suggest we make the best of those by using them to disseminate information about sustainability, cradle to cradle circular materials management, and recovery.

Several more were well-intentioned but poorly executed and/or generated almost as many problems as they solved.

Rather a lot of the enterprises were hampered because no corporation or government wants to chip in and help grow them, and sometimes that's just general inertia but sometimes it's because to admit there was a problem would also mean having people make the connection that that particular governmet or corporation is responsible for the issue being recycled, and they are the kinds of eco-disasters that come with lawsuits and class actions attached...

There are as I've mentioned a range of technologies now being developed and available for managing heating and energy in sustainable ways. Our task is to balance these in ways that do the least damage to the planet and restore as much as possible of it. But to keep in mind that proper and specifically targeted application of energy is a solution to many of the issues developed in these three articles. 

Being Earthlings and Stewards of the planet

Using the term 'family' in taxonomy (as in referring to 'the algae family' earlier on) should tell us something - we're not humans and apes and monkeys and fungii and lichens and trees etc - we're EARTHLINGS and we need to start thinking about ourselves in that light - pretty much right now.

If we'd never lost that sense of stewardship due to 'convenience' and economy, our planet and our extended family would never have gotten into the state it's in now. Economy of our efforts (== 'convenience' ) made survival sense in the past but no longer does. 

We need to have less 'convenience' and pay far more for what convenience we do have. But see this next paragraph or two.

UBI (Universal Basic Income)

Maintaining 'wealth' was a good survival buffer but again it makes no sense in the current era. Keeping that wealth from 'subclasses' may have made sense when masses of rapidly breeding people had no access to education and had to be controlled, but in this day and age, education (which IS now available thanks to online video and lessons and freely available) should now be available to all.

(IDEA: Maybe instead of that much-vaunted 'social credit' or 'carbon credit' as a world currency should be also include 'education credit'  and be capped at some sensible level.)

The point is that if we shared things the least bit equitably, almost everyone on the planet could live well enough. The 'Middle Class' deomgraphic that came about last century and the century before, are now only one step up the wealth ladder from homeless refugees and in fact a few of the middle class will also become climate refugees in a really short time frame. 

As far as that goes a UBI could become a given in under a month- as long as everyone got one. Including people right at the top, the 1% of the 1% that own 80% of the wealth of the planet. You can see where the problem is going to lie, can't you? 

So-called "eating the rich" doesn't mean cannibalisation. It means persuading or legislating those with the wealth to redistribute it. There's a growing trend among billionaires to give most of their wealth away, and this is a good thing and a bad thing. 

Footnote:

In addition to writing these articles I'm also experimenting with ways of recycling waste that can be done at the cottage industry or community hub levels, not so much because it'll magically convert 100% of local waste into recycled useful articles, but because people who are doing these sorts of activities are likely to talk about them to people in their community, and so raise even more awareness of the issues and dangers.

So please - if you can at all spare some time, take a look at my News Stand where you'll see live updated links to everything I publish; And take some time and share the links to the News Stand and this article with your friends and readers. 

Take a subscription to my weekly newsletter where you'll receive the same information; 

Or maybe contact me via the webform

You can also donate either directly or at my Ko-Fi page for the price of a coffee, or even make a regular monthly donation there.

All donations are put towards keeping these websites online, and for developing devices, machines, and techniques to easily and safely recycle materials on a tiny scale.

Tuesday, 10 May 2022

How To Keep Customers

 Or, How Not To Lose Them

Sometimes, the irony just writes itself, sometimes the line between a truth and a satire is very faint. . .

This Will Be A Short Post

I don't run a business anymore, but I still subscribe to the odd newsletter from business 'gurus' and SEO tutors and website design - after all, there's no harm in keeping up with these trends. So this newsletter was about making websites for clients and said something along the lines of:

"Beware of promising much and delivering little."

No, really? Being dishonest about what you can and will deliver might be seen as a negative by your client? I'm not sure when actual delivered output stopped being the yardstick you'll be judged by. And even in the positively prehistoric times when I worked, there was always that business that promised jet airliners but ended up delivering a kite.

"Businesses have had it with bullshit promises. A bad reputation for under-delivering will really hurt your business."

Again. Say WHAT? Really? I never knew... If I'd known this back in the day, I could have been a good b2b in my time. (Hang on - I was . . .

Oh, and you realise I'm paraphrasing so you can't look this mob up, don't you? They still managed to even pussyfoot around those words of advice, I've condensed their vaporous BS into slightly solid chunks. 

But the solution to all your woes - apparently - is dead simple:

"Underpromise, then you'll look better and more honest."

I can't even. It sounds like a satire but sadly these people make their living giving business advice like that. . . "Lie to your client another way, and you'll look more honest." . . . Imma go out on a business guru limb here and say this:

"KNOW THY SHIT."

That should be the little motivational sign on your desk, above the smoko room hot water urn, and graven on your inner eye.

If you *know* your business, then you can tell the client what you can do for them and then do it. That's the best way I knew to keep clients coming back and I'm guessing it's still the best way.

That's it. If you have to learn some new aspect of the work on the job, tell the client and offer them a time discount to cover your learning curve. That's pretty much my advice. 

I'll also say that I think I do deliver, giving you articles that are worth reading, or that provide a smile, or tell you something new, or help you to get into recycling and sustainable energy and living.

So please - if you can at all spare some time, take a look at my News Stand where you'll see live updated links to everything I publish; Or get a subscription to my weekly newsletter where you'll receive the same information; Or contact me via the webform; Or donate either directly or at my Ko-Fi page for the price of a coffee, or even make a regular monthly donation there. 

Monday, 28 March 2022

What Is Printed Circuit Boards Fatal Flaw?

Have We Hit Peak PCB? 

This person thinks it's coming close to that point, and asked the question of what will happen next. If you're the slightest bit techie you'll already have some idea where this is going, you folks may as well skip the next few paragraphs.

What Are PCBs And Why Are They Inadequate?

Printed Circuit Boards (PCBs) are those generally green or orange things inside devices that are studded all over with electronic components and gizmos, and they are one of the oldest pieces of technology in that picture. 

About a hundred and some years ago it was cool to just mount electronic and electrical parts (usually with some good stout bolts and pieces of varnished wood because those suckers were generally large and heavy parts) wherever and then string wire between connection points. (When a computer less powerful than a school calculator took up two rooms, you know that those components were huge, and the whole technology for mounting and connecting them in a space-saving way was still a ways off.)

A (sort of) timeline of printed circuit boards


If you've ever been fortunate enough to peer inside a really old 'parlor radio gramophone console' you'd have seen the next step - a sheetmetal chassis, with strips of insulating phenolic material with metal tags attached to them, and the components (that were by then several orders of magnitude smaller) would be soldered between tags, and then the wiring soldered from one tag to another to connect those parts to form the needed circuit. 

Then came the next thing, being able to affix thin copper sheet to insulating sheets and etch it to the shape the wiring would have to take, then soldering the components to the copper in their respective positions. In effect smushing all those metal tags and wires flat onto a piece of insulating material and so turning the old console into a smaller and much flatter sheet, with just a few wires going to speakers, lights, and controls. 

This was better (for the manufacturer) than the console because it did away with the cabinetry required, the sheet metal chassis that the tag strips were attached to, and reduced the size of the cabinet to a much smaller flat package that needed less wood and cabinetry craftsmanship, and the most important thing of all - 

* It was soooo much cheaper to print and populate that board than it would have been to assemble a hodgepodge of tagstrips and parts and metal cases and huge old wooden cabinets because you could mass produce the circuit boards by that stage, parts had become smaller and consumed less current, and technology hadn't stood still so there were ever more inexpensive PCBs, small components,  and cabinets. 

So that's a PCB and how it came about.

Now To That Inadequacy:

Parts became smaller and packed more circuitry inside them. That increased their current consumption again, but allowed the designer place more functionality closer together. To place them closer together, the copper traces ("tracks") had to be made thinner because there were physically just more tracks needing to be squeezed into each square centimetre to carry all the signals and power to those smaller parts, and thus they couldn't carry as much current, had signal bandwidth issues in some cases, and PCB designers began to need and use more and more layers

In re: layers. It's become an art form to place tiny little circuits on a PCB so that they occupy as little space as possible, (so the PCB will fit inside your fitbit or smart watch or mobile phone, for example,) and connect parts with best-path trace routing, and still be able to supply the needed current and signal clarity and still be useable. Some PCBs are now also flexible, meaning more design constraints and more demands made of the PCB technology.

Layer Proliferation

I and other hobbyists routinely use a software program that can create a design for a PCB that I can then either manufacture myself using quite old technology - or I can send it to a PCB manufacturer who can produce a small stack of boards for me for peanuts. 

But if I have a difficult design where a chip has fifty inputs, ten outputs, and needs two voltages, then I'm going to run out of board space pretty quickly and will need several traces to cross over each another - which is impossible on a single-layer board. Initially, the bridging was accomplished by ending the track just before it touched the conflicting track(s) and then resuming it on the other side, and bridging the two points with an insulated wire.

However, every extra bridging wire needed to be cut to size and involved two extra soldered joints to be made, and if you had more than ten of them it started to add up to a fair amount of operator time, and so there then arose a need to design in effect TWO boards that are perfectly aligned and place them on opposite sides of a single board so that the endpoints of traces where a trace needs to cross over aligned, then it can go partly on top and partly underneath and a single via connects the top and bottom traces at an overlap spot. 

A 'via' was just a hole drilled at the time the board was manufactured, and the hole copper-plated through during manufacture so that it joined the trace on one side with its continuation on the opposite side, thus skipping under the bridging point. When that wasn't enough commercial PCBs routinely had 3 - or more - many more -layers inside the board which is printed in a specialised process layer by layer, allowing a lot more wiring to pass by each other. Some computer boards can have more than ten layers sandwiched in them.

These issues - of having to make traces thinner and thinner to pack them in (both on each layer, and also because unless the alternating layers of a board are really thin then the board becomes a plank) and the parts needing more and more current necessitating thicker traces which is s direct conflict of requirements - have come together and resulted in PCBs rapidly becoming as unuseable as point-to-point wiring. THAT'S what that author was referring to, and it's about to become a real issue. 

Because Then Came The Limits

Even with all the design improvements of the PCB, limits are being reached, small complex parts with a lot more signal leads (a CPU chip in your PC or laptop can have 200 pins underneath it)  mean it's getting harder to get by even with twenty layers, and some tiny boards (think the battery charging circuit in your mobile phone) need to carry several amps of current on a PCB that's thin and compact enough to fit inside a device that has to fit inside your pocket. . . 

Making equipment point-to-point started off being sufficient but as components got more complex, this technique hit a wall where the wiring took too much space, too much time, and as parts got smaller, led to difficulties fixing parts in place against the wiring weight. It just got plain unwieldy.

Using sheetmetal chassis and tagstrips worked for simple circuits up the a certain number of components and also hit the wall. You can pack so many parts between tagstrips but then at some point it becomes impossible to add another part without colliding / shorting out / ridiculously long lead lengths.

Single layer PCBs were the undisputed king of the heap for a decade or two before they were replaced by 2 layer, and then multilayer - and nowadays also flexible foldable multilayer - circuits. And now that technology too is hitting the limits of what can be done.

My "What If" Moment:

About the late 1990s, the industry was just seeing the rise of FPGAs (field-programmable gate arrays) which were a logic chip that wasn't specifically set up to solve a particular problem but instead consisted of a chip that could be field-programmed to have certain logical parameters and which meant that you could in effect customise the chip to a task.

More recent versions offer a way to create specialised configurations that are less power-hungry for performing some specialised tasks faster than anything except a custom-manufactured chip. (And this is why FPGAs are so useful, having a custom chip manufactured was generally a long and expensive process.)

But in the late 1990s, another term was also trending - nanotechnology. Nanotechnology was promising to develop little machines and materials and revolutionise industries and our lives. Sci-fi authors had already foreseen them coming and posited the famous 'grey goo' idea and of course, I was hooked

Between those things an idea came to me, and while I like to think outside the box, I'm not the only one in the world that does this, and I've generally found that if I have an idea, several other people around the world have already had it or are about to. 

This is a technology which might well see the next step up in technology from the PCB. Nanobots are becoming ever more possible and they could in theory perform the internal programming functions of a FPGA only to a much greater depth.

I was envisaging a CPU all inside a single epoxy or ceramic block with only a handful of connections needed - power, inputs, outputs, and arteries. 

Whoa. Back up there - 'arteries?'

Yep. Imagine a device very similar to a FPGA but with added flexibility - it can actually remove sections of itself and replace them as required with different sections. The chip can grow itself both in the flat plane and in the vertical thanks to some light silicone oil inside it, and this 'blood' would carry a stream of nanobots from a materials area to the active area. 

The materials area would have a collection of circuit modules that perform logical functions, nanomaterials for connecting and affixing them physically, nanobots, and two areas that are isolated, one for inbound new materials and one for outlet of nonfunctional or outdated components, nanomaterials, and nonfunctional nanobots.  

In effect, the chip would be upgradeable just by injecting new modules and bots and clean silicon oil, and allowing all the wastes to drain out. In this way it would become like a living system, able to take in 'nutrients' and 'excreting wastes' and consuming energy to do so. Unlike any living system though, it would be able to alter itself to the 'environment' it found itself in. 

Put it in an aircraft and it could add Inertial Movement Units to become aware of 3D motion it undergoes, a series of input channels so that it could take signals from the aircraft's existing guidance systems, and outputs to operate that aircraft. It could download the Operation Manual for the aircraft and all relevant regulations and geospatial data for airports, and you'd have a plane that could fly itself. Add redundancy by using dual systems (and adding several redundant dual systems on hot standby) and theoretically you'd never have an operator-induced aircraft incident ever again.

Put such a system into a spacecraft with sufficient "sustenance" suspended in silicone oil and a supply of energy from solar panels and you could send this spacecraft to the next solar system to explore or become our ambassador. Put it into your home automation system and it will specialise itself for your house and your habits and your needs.

Exactly how it was going to do that was just a kind of 'black box' in my theory at the time, because while AI (artificial intelligence) was a sci-fi staple, the smartest thing around was a really stupid chat-bot whose name I can't even remember. Back then, this step of micromanaging the internals of the chip was the big stumbling block.

Possible? Maybe Not Back Then...

Only . . .  We now do have tiny prototype nanomachines that can be 'programmed' to do a particular task, we do have nanomaterials that make nanowires and building blocks possible, we can build chips in sections or in one assembly, and AI has taken some huge leaps forward and is now diagnosing patients better than a human, identifying faces better than a human can, and taking control over sensitive and finicky industrial processes far more accurately than a human. 

An AI can be programmed to run millions of combinations of molecules and look for potential drug cures for many ailments, they're performing better than humans at working on COVID vaccination variants and detecting COVID and cancers in xrays and predicting stock market fluctuations and predicting weather and . . .  

You get the idea - for a limited narrow process, AI performs extremely well these days. We could let an AI evolve this chip idea in a simulation, evolve the guidance AI that this chip would need, the processes for making the building blocks, and every other facet of producing such a chip. 

The easy part would be to get an AI to design a 'living chip' such as I've envisaged, and designing an AI to inhabit that chip. The hard part, to me, would be to answer the question "Should we?"