Recycling household items: the fan – is it really worth it?

 

Since metals were first molded and forged, there have been people that have collected the broken parts and pieces to salvage the metals within.  Since WWII engineers have been incorporating plastics into machines.  Three reasons for this are: a)to reduce the cost of manufacturing  b) reduce the shipping weight and c) ease and speed of manufacture.  With the increase of plastics into all forms of consumer life, the value of breaking machines into their base materials becomes a time consuming practice into fined tuned materials organization.

In looking at the common household fan, there are 4 basic composition of materials. Most upright and box fans have a mixture of plastic and pot metal in the base, fan casing and outer housing. These are fairly easy to separate and generally require nothing more than a simple Phillips screwdriver. The plastics are generally injection molded and may be stamped with recycling codes, but are not always. This is especially true fit the gears in the motor housing.

The motor of an standard household fan – made of copper and steel this should never go to a landfill.

Depending on manufacturer, the fan housing may be made of plastic, tin or zinc.  The same goes for fan blades which may be Plastic, Steele or Aluminum.  By removing the protective housing and blades we come to the main motor assembly.  This is where we’ll get our majority of metal parts as there are generally a dozen screws, 4 bolts and 4 nuts for those bolts.

The various parts can be separated into containers by type. In many areas of the world,recycling bin iron metals is not a revenue generating option. Causes may be a lack of access to materials collectors, as well as shipping or transportation costs. Unlike most cities in the United States, many island nations face daunting shipping costs and regulations that make low value iron blends, often referred to as pot metal, to expensive to gather and ship. Items like screw’s may be saved for use in other projects but own end up as waste when storage space is at a minimum. Business like e waste recycling will have different methodologies for these items.  One key is that separated items with can add significant metal weight when collected in bulk. This is also true for the metal housing, and the permanent magnet. The real bread and butter piece you will see is the copper from the motor itself and the electrical wires.

When it comes to metals, non ferrous materials are the most important within this unit. Individually, one fan will contain about one lb of copper. The average price of clean copper is still above above$ 2.00 lb., down from $4.00 about five years ago.  One of the most important rules to remember is that the cleaner the metal, the greater the financial yield.  For most this will require getting out an electrical saw and in the case of our fan, cutting the motor core to separate the copper and plate steel.  Most DIY electronics recyclers will save up a quantity of several dozen motor assemblies before cutting the copper from the pressed steel core.  This will save time and energy by setting up task oriented jobs to be done concurrently.  This work will require an electronic saw, and a reciprocating saw is generally considered the best tool for this job.

The payout? It depends on the size of the fan.  For most people the answer is:  Maybe $1.00 in copper $0.02 in steel and $.001 in tin ( waste steel).  This of course depends on if you live somewhere that all of these metals are purchased.  If not, then the end result is a about $1.00 for your copper.  Stripping the wires will add no more than another $0.25 to the pile.

The problem for most of us is very simple – who wants to go through all that work?  In the end is it really worth it?  Most people would agree that they would never take the time to take apart their fan for recycling.  Most of us are content to just put it at the curb and forget about it.  However, the realities of life don’t work like this.  While many people don’t understand the intricacies of waste management, including the efforts of ‘garbage companies’ to reduce the quantities of human consumption finding their ways into burial sites (also known as landfills).   The mental thought processes regarding our waste streams must continue, as must our dialogue.  Every time we make a consumption decision, there is a long term impact on our planet.   For more reading enjoy this article by Waste Drive on why “Zero Waste” isn’t everything people think it is.

Time consuming or not, every time I see a piece of electronics in the waste,  I think about this village in Chili who’s water was poisoned by mining operations.  Then I have no doubt that every piece of metal, every piece of copper – it needs to be recycled regardless of the time that is consumed in disassembling it.

Advertisements

Issues island nations face with modern consumption practices.

Beach debris at Lion’s Park -Tutuilia, American Samoa shows the impacts of both localized littering and ocean debris being deposited on the shoreline.

In the modern era, gone are the days when whole island villages consumed all the food they needed by planting gardens, fishing in the ocean and picking food off of the trees.  With the modernization of consumption practices comes a whole new slew of issues island nations have to face.  These items can be listed in three major categories:  health, infrastructure and pollution.  Over the last 40 years as consumption practices around the world have significantly changed the way island communities interact with the world around them.

Non Communicable Diseases – Issues with Health

One of the largest problems with modernization of island communities is the overall diet that is being consumed by the population as a whole.  According to the World Health Organization, a transition has occurred from pathogen based diseases to food intake and activity based health concerns.  In the 2011 report on American Samoa the WHO reports;

“The most serious health issues relate to the increase in chronic diseases associated with lifestyle, with their roots in improper nutrition and physical inactivity. Significant increases in the prevalence of obesity, in both sexes and at increasingly younger ages, are associated with a number of these conditions. Hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, type II diabetes mellitus and its complications, arthritis, gout and some forms of cancer are among the most important chronic diseases. (http://www.wpro.who.int/countries/asm/1FAMSpro2011_finaldraft.pdf)

These dietary concerns are largely focused on the prevalence of foods packaged in metal lined plastic bags.  Prepackaged foods fall out of shipping containers like waves on a shore.  The names and varieties are as diverse as the country of origin the store owners call home.  In American Samoa, local markets are rarely operated by indigenous islanders and are instead run by entrepreneurs from places like Vietnam and China.  As part of the big picture of the problems with the local economy, this is one of the issues that many may point to regarding causes of money leaving the local economy at a catastrophic rate.  What can be said to be growing in America Samoa at an enormous rate is the wasteline of children.  With the prevalence of packaged food, the tastes of children are turning to this highly addictive, easy to consume food.  And the results are showing.  Diabetes, anemia, cancer and heart disease are all appearing as part of a modernized Samoa that are not part of it’s history and culture.  According to a guest speaker at a recent farming education event, the island of American Samoa is currently facing a 40% or greater population diagnosis of Diabetes.  This staggering statistic is supported by the American Diabetes Association

Pollution – What happens to all that packaging?

 Another part of the island life that was never part of it’s original heritage is the packaging from these manufactured goods.  Items like steel food containers, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and bags with a metallic lining are being shipped to the island and are offloaded from shipping containers by the tens of thousands every couple of weeks.  With these imported materials comes a requirement to dispose of these materials on island or export them for reclamation of the natural resources they contain.  In the case of many Pacific Island Nations with no recycling programs, the eventuality for the majority of these items is the community landfill.   For islands with recycling initiatives in place, these programs are often source separated materials – requiring individualized participation at a community drop off point instead of curbside pickup.  The need to expand collection he problem can be addressed by acquiring the next stage in technology, MRF Units.  The issue is expanding the capacity to recycle to include single stream sources like generated from public recycling containers like those found in community parks and at business locations, further allowing or even mandating by law – curbside collection that occurs in most, but not all, states.

Littering is a common behaviour in American Samoa.

Aluminum cans are littered into this hole in the sidewalk on a regular basis even though they are collected multiple times a week. This type of mentality shows the lack of education and need for local recycling programs.

What do you do when there is no concentrated focus on recycling as part of the cultural norm?  Unfortunately, as is often seen in American Samoa, where the focus of recycling does not exist – excessive littering and open burning of trash does.  This creates two specific problems.  One, emissions from burning trash are often toxic, especially when burning plastics and hazardous materials like batteries.  In addition, island based littering adds to the global burden of mitigating ocean pollution efforts by groups like The Plastic Pollution Coalition and 5 Gyres.  Due to the creation of litter on island nations combined with relatively short distances for litter to travel to reach the ocean,  much of this debris can become ocean debris as it enters streams and estuaries that feed into global currents.

With limited space to increase infrastructure, meet growing population needs and prepare for rising sea levels  expected with continued melting of the global ice shelves and glaciers; island governments will face many difficulties between balancing the population’s desires for manufactured and consumer goods and the need manage the waste stream produced by a growing consumption of these goods.  Without the implementation of infrastructure to separate and process the packaging from these goods, many governments are likely to find themselves beyond reasonable capacity in managing their island’s waste streams.

Unfortunately, even with a focus toward capturing recycling goods, there are other issues to be focused on throughout the search to develop solutions.  One reason recycling programs often have difficulty taking off is the cost of shipping materials off island.  When local businesses ship items inbound for the community to purchase, it’s easy to add the costs of shipping these items into the retail price.  However, without enhanced manufactures responsibility to reclaim or assist with the costs of shipping the items or their packaging off island, governments will continue to find the cost of shipping recycled goods to be greater than the resale value of the raw materials themselves.  It will only be with a blend of government action, education, and increased infrastructure that the combined issues of healthy lifestyles and waste management can be effectively tackled.

It’s all about the MRF (merf) unit, A look at the potential growth of recycling in Kauai, HI.

One of the blessings of this trip is being able to have educated conversations with one of the people responsible for recycling programs out here in Hawaii.  It’s been a great warm up on this journey to reengage in the discussions of waste management that I enjoyed in the classes and interviews leading up to my graduation from Metropolitan State University in Denver, CO.  In my conversations and visual touring of places around the island of Kauai, there have been several things that point in one direction – to the effective capture and separation of consumed materials as a key factor holding back increased recycling rates.  This is a bold statement, and one many readers won’t understand off the bat; so let’s take a minute to break this down.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County.  Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

This is an example of solid plastic recycling accepted in Kauaii County. Because there is no separating unit, only the most valuable of plastics are accepted.

One of the first things I recognized about being in Hawaii is that the types of recycling accepted is far out of proportion to what I am currently accustomed to. In the majority of North America, recycling systems accept the majority of plastics, including Styrofoam products.  The reason for this ties into several global factors.  The first is a concern about the value of shipping things in adequate quantity.  When a manufacturer or point of sale location orders product, they generally follow principles of economics where the products will be delivered ‘on time’; or when they will be needed for the purpose of the specific operation.  These quantities are required to fill demand, in this case the second concern – sufficient quantities of source separated product.  For post-consumer plastics there are many aspects of the brokerage requirements, including minimum packaging requirements, generally at minimum – one shipping container of source separated product.  This requirement is the same in Denver as it is in Kauai.

I have been pleased with the interaction I have been able to have with the Kauai Solid Waste Management representatives and the level of presence they have attained here in Kauai.  I have found many aspects of the recycling program quite interesting.  The first is that there is a Bottle Bill in place, and actually it is the last one passed in the US, “celebrating over 6.6 billion containers in the last decade”, according to the official government’s info website.  That’s a lot of plastic!

In addition to the idea that only #1 and #2 plastics are currently processed through a recycling stream,  at the county’s government building in Lihue, HI for example there are 4 separate recycling containers! They are for: a) 1 and 2 plastics only (no black plastic allowed), Glass and Aluminum, Cardboard, and Steele.  This system is designed to allow members of the community access to drop of materials should they so decide.  For businesses, this type of separation will prove cumbersome.  In order to increase the overall effectiveness of closing the loop between purchase and capture of consumable packaging single stream recycling will have to become available for this island nation.

For many, the culture of recycling on the island is becoming one that has the look and feel of a natural process.  Throughout the communities are recycling drop of stations where HI5 and other materials can be dropped off.  There are accessible containers in many parts of the community and overall the towns I have been to all have minimum micro trash issues.  It may be due to the lack of single stream systems, but I have noticed that the majority of business spaces do not have public recycling.  Businesses like the ABC Stores, banks and restaurants may have in house systems for their employees to use in the back of the house, but the access to the common public is sorely lacking.  Municipalities will find this struggle to be one that cannot be won unless the process is easy to manage – like single stream recycling offers.

In order to build this type of facility, there are going to be many steps to the process. Fortunately for the citizens, many steps of the process are well under way.  To have a closed community with both a plastic bag ban and a bottle bill is a wonderful thing to find.  Unfortunately there are battles that still have to be fought.  Corporations seeking to sell mass incineration systems regularly press municipalities attempting to convince government officials that purchasing this incineration management system is the solution to their problems.  We already know that burning anything leads to excess greenhouse gasses, something that is bad.  ( If you want to know more – check this page out – it’s great for your whole family!)

For more information on recycling programs in Kauaii, HI please check out this awesome page!

http://www.kauai.gov/Government/Departments/PublicWorks/SolidWaste/RecyclingPrograms/TheKauaiResourceCenter/tabid/108/Default.aspx

Plastic recycling, water conservation and good values, something you don’t see everyday.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like plastic.  I don’t like that in many ways I’m forced to over consume the natural resources of our planet while working to survive our planet. So when I purchase plastics I recycle them, and I do what I can to make up for those that don’t.  At work and school I openly remind people of the importance of conserving and recycling all the materials we use.  Don’t get me wrong, the concept and use of plastics can be a good thing.  Honestly, I prefer plastic that allows me to live a better life, while minimizing overall consumption. This means that I want products made in the USA and they should be made  of recycled plastic.  In addition I want to avoid the sins of green-washing and I want it to minimize my overall carbon footprint.   My three most important pieces of plastic are my water bottle, my coffee cup and my public transportation pass.  Each is reusable, and minimizes my impact on my planet by minimizing the need  for  mining the oil, generated electricity and greenhouse gases and over-consumption of water that is required to generate unnecessary waste materials. In addition my participation in the process helps to establish societal norms like refill stations that are built into water fountains, and coffee shops giving a discount for bringing your own cup.

Tonight, while surfing the web and reading about barges being used to clean up rivers, plastic recycling concepts and solutions, I was watching a rerun of Shark Tank  and it really stirred me, so much you have to learn about this too!!!  I have it brings value and reduces my overall footprint.  I have a plastic  I’m looking for some specific things.  I want the plastics I invest in to represent a benefit to society.  The modern use of plastics, when originally presented to the word were supposed to be a benefit to the planet.  Common ideology in cos  When the company goes the extra mile and finds methods to take existing waste plastic and recycle it, I’m all ears.  When you lay out a simple and logical example of effectively creating long term waste elimination processes while protecting natural resources and reducing the use of  fertilizers I’m excited.  And that’s why I can wholeheartedly get behind a company like Tree T-Pee.

One of the things that makes me feel so good about this guy is how I learned about him.  I was watching a national TV show, and on the show walks in a man, not like the rest.  He cares about doing the right thing, about water and farmers an American business man, trying to do a better job of taking care of those people who lived in the direct 9 acres around him. What he didn’t see, and almost missed out on, was that these people mostly saw his product as a $10 profit. He presented himself in a way that just struck me, its a rare breed of man.  What also makes this so stirring to me is that he really brings value.  The concept of recycled plastic that reduces water consumption and the water cost of feeding society.   Its low tech, but it works.

And here’s how it gets even better – what these ‘businessmen’ missed out on, is that this product concept could be worth BILLIONS.  Something they obviously missed as they were so intent on jacking a product’s profits so they could sell these for a fat cat sack of money.  I am so glad that there are times when the wealthiest of fat cats are blinded by their greed and the needs of the common person, the other 99% if you will, that the miss an obvious window of opportunity to fleece the people of the world.

Most people are unaware that the effective rates for water evaporation from irrigation systems has farmers from all over the United States paying attention.   In recent years farmers in Kansas and Nebraska have begun making agreements limiting their water consumption because the Ogallala Aquifer is becoming dangerously low, especially when the majority of water used in irrigation evaporates or  dissipates as groundwater.  In addition private corporations are continuing to seek ways to purchase your natural resources, and not so they can protect them.  Examples of this can be seen in the drought conditions that occurred in Texas last year, forcing families to be unable to turn on the water faucet to receive potable water, while fracking operations continued to demand – and consume – clean unpolluted water for the sole process of making it unconsumable by humans ever again.

Which brings me back to Tree T-Pee.  Not only is owner, Johnny Georges, an obviously passionate man – he cares about the people who’s lives he is interacting with.  This is a quality not commonly seen in the world of public media, big business and the faceless corporations.  Johnny Georges, was a man who took his passion as his lively hood and stands to make a difference in the lives of humans around the globe.  Water issues are becoming a greater and greater topic of concern in institutions everywhere, just type “Water Crisis” into any search engine and you may be stuck reading articles for weeks to come.  The idea that we can use simple technology to build a long lasting product that provides value for citizens AND incorporates the concepts of “Reduce” and “Reuse” – this product definitely has my stamp of approval.

Update: How could I forget,