What is the single most effective thing we can do for the environment?

An article in the New Scientist issue number 2682 gave answers to the question above and many other eco questions, e.g. why can't the machines in my gym be used to generate electricity? or How clean does the pizza box have to be for it to be recyclable? Are laminated juice cartons recyclable? and 22 other eco questions. I would like to summarise these in a blog, but as there are so many interesting questions and answers to deal with in one go, I thought I would do a couple each day or every other day, depending on how busy my day is with deadlines at CAB Abstracts. I'm starting with the 3 questions I mentioned above. The blog title question will be the last in the series. Read on to find out the answers.

Can gym cycling machines be used to generate electricity?
They can and the first gym to do so is one in Portland, Oregon, USA (The Green Microgym). Their three specially adapted bikes and a four-people team dynamo (see picture), combining cycles with hand cranks, canEco bikes generate around 200-600 watts per hour. You can generate some energy at home by investing in a Pedal-A-Watt device, which can then be hooked to a normal exercise bike on a stand to generate 200 watts of electricity when you use your bike. This is enough to power your TV while exercising, or the energy can be stored in a battery for later use. An hour's worth of cycling could power a low-energy light bulb for 8 hours.

How clean does a pizza box need to be for recycling?

According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) in Banbury, Oxon, UK, grease from the toppings contaminates the cardboard and for this reason pizza boxes are not usually recyclable, unless they are clean / free from grease, as the grease makes them useless for the paper mills. However, they can still be composted.

Are laminated juice bottles recyclable?

Yes, but you need to separate them out, since they cannot be recycled with other paper and card, as they are lined with polyethylene or aluminium foil. If they are included in your ordinary paper recycling, that will lower the value of the load or make some mills to reject the whole load. However, the drinks carton manufacturers are recovering them for recycling. In fact, I saw a collection point for drink cartons in my local Tesco store. A processing mill in Sweden turns the cartons' fibre into plasterboard lining, while burning the plastic and aluminium to fuel the plant.

Watch this space for more eco questions and answers! In the meantime search the cabi database for over 10 000 records on recycling.

One thought on “What is the single most effective thing we can do for the environment?

  1. Camilla March 5, 2009 / 10:35 am

    Very interesting and informing article. I’ll be sure to start doing some of these things when I move in with my boyfriend. Two people generate more recycling than one. =]

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