Category Archives: 07. recycling revisited

a. Progress Parade


The American Petroleum Institute
1960, 4 min 19 sec

From 1960, the American Petroleum Institute brings us this ‘informative’ film about oyster farmers in Louisiana who are angry at the oil drilling industry. Well, guess what? ‘Scientists’ conduct a series of tests and find that after dumping oil drill mud, crude oil, and other harmful products on a tank of oysters. It was determined that oysters could not only survive, but thrive in oil-tainted waters. It seems the oysters have ‘never been happier.’ In fact, they love oily water.

b. Man Invents Machine to Convert Plastic Into Oil


Akinori Ito, Our World 2.0; United Nations University
2009, 5 min

We are all well aware of plastic’s ‘rap-sheet’. It has been found guilty on many
counts, including the way its production and disposal raises resource issues and lets loose extremely negative environmental impacts. Typically made from petroleum, it is estimated that 7% of the world’s annual oil production is used to produce and manufacture plastic. That is more than the oil consumed by the entire African continent. Thankfully, there are those who fully appreciate that plastic has a higher energy value than anything else commonly found in the waste stream. A Japanese company called Blest created a small, very safe and easy to use machine that can convert several types of plastic back into oil.

Though Japan has much improved its ‘effective utilization’ rate over the years to 72% in 2006, that leaves 28% of plastic to be buried in landfills or burned. According to Plastic Waste Management Institute data, ‘effective utilization’ includes not just the 20% that is actually recycled, but also 52% that is being incinerated for “energy recovery” purposes, i.e., generating heat or electric power. “If we burn the plastic,
we generate toxins and a large amount of CO2. If we convert it into oil, we save CO2 and at the same time increase people’s awareness about the value of plastic garbage,” says Akinori Ito, CEO of Blest.

Blest’s conversion technology is very safe because it uses a temperature controlling electric heater rather than flame. The machines are able to process polyethylene, polystyrene and polypropylene but not PET bottles. The result is a crude gas that can fuel things like generators or stoves and, when refined, can even be pumped into a car, a boat or motorbike. One kilogram of plastic produces almost one liter of oil. To convert that amount takes about 1 kwh of electricity, which is approximately ¥20 or 20 cents’ worth.

The company makes the machines in various sizes and has 60 in place at farms, fisheries and small factories in Japan and several abroad. “To make a machine that anyone can use is my dream,” Ito says. “The home is the oil field of the future.” Perhaps that statement is not as crazy as it sounds, since the makeup of Japanese household waste has been found to contain over 30 % plastic, most of it from packaging.

Continually honing their technology, the company is now able to sell the machines for less than before, and Ito hopes to achieve a product ‘that any one can buy’. Currently the smallest version, shown in the videobrief, costs ¥950,000 (US $9,500). [Note of 30 November 2010: Blest informs us that, since we visited them last year, improvements have been made to the machine and the price is now ¥1,06o,000 (around US$12,700) without tax.]

c. Man Building His Own Island Out of Plastic Bottles


Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, Bravo TV; Cancun, Mexico
2011, 4 min 16 sec

If you can’t afford to buy your own tropical island paradise, why not build your own? That is exactly what Richie Sowa did back in 1998, from over a quarter million plastic bottles. His Spiral Island, destroyed years later by a hurricane, sported a two-story house, solar oven, self-composting toilet and multiple beaches. Better yet, he has started building another one. His ultimate goal? To build an even bigger island and finally float out to sea, travelling the world from the comfort of his own private paradise. The original Spiral Island was – as its successor will be- built upon a floating collection used plastic bottles, all netted together to support a bamboo and plywood structure. Located in Mexico, the original mesured 20 by 16 meters, supported full-sized mangroves to provide shade and could be moved from one place to another thanks to a simple motorized system.

d. House Construction with Plastic Bottles

2011, 3 min 27 sec

Do you remember the last time you bought a drink in a plastic bottle? Chances are that you threw away the bottle, without a second thought, when you were done. That’s what most of us do. Plastic is one of the most disposable materials in the modern world. It makes up much of the street side litter in urban and rural areas, rapidly fills up landfills and chokes water bodies.

Samarpan Foundation has chosen to transform and repurpose this overlooked and environmentally harmful plastic bottle into one that is a useful resource. They’ve constructed a functional living space in New Delhi, using hundreds of used PET bottles instead of conventional bricks. Discarded PET (Polyethelene Terephthalate) bottles were collected, manually sorted by size, compactly filled with mud and sealed. Then these bottle bricks were cemented together to construct the floor, walls and roof of the dwelling.

A mud filled bottle is as strong as a brick and has many other advantages. It forms a valuable alternate building material. Low cost and maintenance, along with its long life, make it excellent value for money. PET provides good alcohol and oil barrier properties and generally chemical resistance. The orienting process of PET serves to improve its gas and moisture barrier properties as well. PET bottles are non biodegradable. Therefore any structure made with it can last a couple of hundred years or more. At the end of its life, the structure may be recycled and reused once more.

Plastic has high tensile strength to weight ratio which makes it strong, durable and versatile. Samarpan Foundation has used this concept to reinforce walls of dams and wells in Goa. Bottle walls act as heat insulators. The Indian armed forces at Siachen use mud filled jerry cans in large numbers to construct living units. The jerry can walls are covered with parachute fabric to provide effective insulation and warmth against the ruthless and freezing Karakorum winds.

Mud filled PET bottles are non brittle and can therefore withstand heavy shock loads without fatigue or failure. In earthquake prone and flood affected areas, plastic brick structures with its high impact resistance can prevent large scale damage to properties. Replacing conventional bricks with plastic bottles will help the environment in many ways. Waste creation will be greatly reduced as bottles become a resource and attract value.

Improved sustainable management of plastic bottle waste will greatly reduce pollution of land and oceans. It will help reduce carbon emissions – released during the baking of bricks – and considerably lower the demand for conventional construction materials. As the volunteers of Samarpan Foundation discovered, these innovative bricks are easy to use and build. In rural areas this can lead to the creation of new jobs especially for women and youth.

f. A Home Made of Recycled Materials


Elemér Zalotay,; Bern, Switzerland
2012, 3 min 34 sec

Elemér Zalotay has built his home almost entirely out of second-hand materials. While other buildings undergo costly renovations or are demolished after just a few decades of use, this Hungarian architect found his own way to deal with the effects of time.

g. No Time To Waste: The Roy Process for Neutralization and Elimination of Nuclear Waste


Earth Information System
1991, 18 min 55 sec

Is there a safe way to get rid of nuclear waste? Maybe! One possible solution is a process invented by Dr. Radha R. Roy, called the Roy Process. The Roy Process does not require storage of radioactive materials. No new equipment is required. In fact, all of the equipment and the chemical separation processes needed are well known. Roy invented a process for transmuting radioactive nuclear isotopes to harmless, stable isotopes. This process is viable not only for nuclear waste from reactors but also for low-level radioactive waste products.

h. The Yes Men: Dow Chemical Spokesman


BBC World, Democracy Now
2003, 5 min 51 sec

On December 3, 2004, the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, Andy Bichlbaum appeared on BBC World as ‘Jude Finisterra’, a Dow Chemical spokesman. Dow is the owner of Union Carbide, responsible for the chemical disaster which killed thousands and left over 120,000 requiring lifelong care.

On their fake Dow Chemical website, the Yes Men said that Dow Chemical Company had no intention whatsoever of repairing the damage. The real company received considerable backlash, and both the real Dow and the phony Dow denied the statements, but Dow took no real action.

The Yes Men decided to pressure Dow further, so as ‘Finisterra’, Bichlbaum went on the news to claim that Dow planned to liquidate Union Carbide and use the resulting $12 billion to pay for medical care, clean up the site, and fund research into the hazards of other Dow products. After two hours of wide coverage, Dow issued a press release denying the statement, ensuring even greater coverage of the phony news of a cleanup. In Frankfurt, Dow’s share price fell 4.24 percent in 23 minutes, wiping $2 billion off its market value. The shares rebounded in Frankfurt after the BBC issued an on-air correction and apology. In New York, Dow Chemical’s stock were little changed.

After the original interview was revealed as a hoax, Bichlbaum appeared in a follow-up interview on the United Kingdom’s Channel 4 news. During the interview he was asked if he had considered the emotions and reaction of the people of Bhopal when producing the hoax. According to the interviewer, “there were many people in tears” upon having learned of the hoax. Bichlbaum said that, in comparison, what distress he had caused the people was minimal to that for which Dow was responsible. The Yes Men claim on their website that they have been told by contacts in Bhopal that once they had got over their disappointment that it wasn’t real, they were pleased about the stunt and thought it had helped to raise awareness of their plight.

In February 2012, it was widely reported in the 2012 Stratfor e-mail leak that Dow Chemical Company hired private intelligence firm Stratfor to monitor the Yes Men.


i. 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World


Paul Stamets, TED2008
2008, 17 min 30 sec

Mycologist Paul Stamets believes that mushrooms can save our lives, restore our ecosystems and transform other worlds. He lists 6 ways the mycelium fungus can help save the universe: cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides, treating smallpox and even flu…

Entrepreneurial mycologist Paul Stamets seeks to rescue the study of mushrooms from forest gourmets and psychedelic warlords. The focus of Stamets’ research is
the Northwest’s native fungal genome, mycelium, but along the way he has filed 22 patents for mushroom-related technologies, including pesticidal fungi that trick insects into eating them, and mushrooms that can break down the neurotoxins used in nerve gas.

There are cosmic implications as well. Stamets believes we could terraform other worlds in our galaxy by sowing a mix of fungal spores and other seeds to create an ecological footprint on a new planet.

j. Using Fungi to Clean Up Oil Spills


Nicola Peel, The Amazon Mycorenewal Project; Amazon, Ecuador
2011, 16 min 43 sec

Mycoremediation in the Ecuadorian Amazon shows how mushrooms are helping to clean up oil spills in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Mycoremediation is an incredible technique using fungi to break down oil and other contaminants. This short film shows how the Amazon Mycorenewal Project initiated the first trials using mycoremediation in highly polluted areas of the Ecuadorian rainforest. Between 1964 and 1982, Texaco spilled over 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste into unlined waste pools in the Ecuadorian Amazon jungle. Learn about this team of mycoremediation-enthusiasts that went down there to establish an ongoing project to clean up the pollution – using the healing power of mushrooms.