Swarm solution to recycling

If you’re an enthusiastic recycler, like me, you’ll probably know the frustration of seeing how oblivious most people are to recycling.

Recycling in Japan offers a glimmer of hope. See especially the Japanese town of Kamikatsu, aiming for zero waste. These are examples to follow, and directions we need to move in. But to get to a zero waste world, we’d better not rely on everyone being as orderly and disciplined as a Japanese town. Given the range of personality types, the difficulty many of us have in keeping our desks tidy, and our computer files and backups in order, what would it take to get everything recycled?

I see help coming from technology. Bioplastics are here already – plastic bags that can be composted. They cost just a little more (there was a 15 cent charge for compostable shopping bags when I saw them) and they take around 2 years to compost, but those figures will improve with mass production, and with learning what conditions help them to compost more quickly.

Then there are robots. Boring repetitive tasks like sorting rubbish are ideal for robots – and once they have good enough vision (and maybe other senses), and suitable processing to tell PET from polypropylene from clean paper from soiled paper, we’ll be most of the way there. Look at what swarms of robots can do already:

Ok, it’s scary to think about some applications of this technology, and we need to think hard about that. But the beneficial applications are also huge – and I like the idea of hackers around the world understanding swarm robot tech, rather than having it restricted to militaries and governments.

This is one reason I’m excited about open source hardware. Between Arduino processors, the enthusiasm of hardware hackers, and the latest ideas in swarm robots, we may yet get as near as dammit to a zero waste world. The important thing is to get to work making this happen, sharing best practice as we go.

Pondering Batmania – part 1

I’m staying in the world’s most liveable city, allegedly. I like it here, but I refuse to believe this is as good as it gets.

Melbourne, Australia has been popping up on “most liveable city” lists since 1990, and the most recent version of The Economist‘s liveability ranking puts the town on top again.

(Random trivia: Melbourne was founded by Batman, and Batmania was one of the proposed names for the city – so I like to use that. Pardon my juvenile sense of humor. John Batman was no hero, though… But I digress.)

Melbourne certainly has good points – it has a lot of cultural activity, great cafes, and perhaps the best public transport in Australia, in that it works, is kind-of  frequent, and has integrated ticketing. (Melbournians  complain a lot about their public transport, but I’ve lived in Sydney and Jakarta, and Melbourne is way ahead of both.) There’s a reasonable amount of green space, the water in the bay is clean and clear (if you pick the right beach, away from stormwater drains) and you can cycle with less fear of death than in Sydney. It’s also the social entrepreneur capital of Australia, which is great if you’re a passionate changemaker.

But it’s expensive if you want to live near those great cafes, and has sprawling suburbs if you don’t want to pay those prices. It can be hard to be without a car, though not as hard as Sydney or American cities. And like most Australian and North American cities, the carbon footprint is huge.

And then… Sydney is also in The Economist‘s top 10, which makes me question the whole exercise. Sydney is my hometown, and I’m glad to be away from that beautiful, congested, expensive city, and I regularly run into other Sydneysiders who feel the same way.

Are these cities the standard we want to aim for? Surely we can do a lot better, but how do we get there? I’m all for protesting for more bike paths, and voting for candidates who support public transport, but we’re making slow progress on these things… when we’re not going backwards.

Suburbia, highways and McMansions are helping to drive dangerous climate change, and they’re often creating stressful places to live. We need a major change in awareness, in expectations, and in the conversations we have about our cities – whichever part of the world we’re in.

Where would you start? Where will you start? Leave a comment below, or on the Facebook page for Appropedia. And stay tuned – the conversation continues…

First International Meeting for Sustainable Construction in the Dominican Republic

On a run of four presentations in three days, I wanted to share the most visually stimulating one from ENICONS First International Meeting for Sustainable Construction in the Dominican Republic.

I had the pleasure of presenting with some amazing architects to an audience of engaged architects and change makers.

Please feel free to ask questions since the presentation is mostly pictures. In addition, the majority of the technologies presented do have Appropedia links to more information.

First International Meeting for Sustainable Construction in the Dominican Republic

On a run of four presentations in three days, I wanted to share the most visually stimulating one from ENICONS First International Meeting for Sustainable Construction in the Dominican Republic.

I had the pleasure of presenting with some amazing architects to an audience of engaged architects and change makers.

Please feel free to ask questions since the presentation is mostly pictures. In addition, the majority of the technologies presented do have Appropedia links to more information.