Tag Archives: building foundations

What a waste

20110313 Unhappy polystyrene face 150x150 What a waste

Look at the image and there is a scary screaming face with different sized eyes looking back at you.  But no, there isn’t.  Look again and you’ll see what I mean.  Where the supposed face is there is actually nothing, nada, le Jacques merde absolutement – to coin a phrase (again).  It is a block of expanded polystyrene with holes cut out and the illusion of an image of a face is in fact negative space.

Expanded polystyrene (or Styrofoam if you’re that way inclined) is an interesting material that has its uses in packaging, protecting building foundations against clay heave and reducing fill in building up embankments and so on, but because of its low cost it is ubiquitous and due to its low density it is bulky and a nuisance to get rid of.

I am not really a gadget freak and hate buying new electrical items if my existing item is still working.  In the last decade or so there has been a troubling development of mobile phone manufacturers (and so network operators) pushing their latest models and forcing unnecessary upgrades.  The upside of this churn in the mobile phones market is that it stimulates the economy and drives progress and technological innovation.  This has got to be a good thing in that it benefits society.  Improved digital electronics has shrunk mobile phones from the big black box under my dad’s car seat in the 1980s to something you can carry around in your pocket.  This kind of progress has been mirrored across the electronics spectrum over the decades and has resulted in cheaper, higher resolution digital “this” and digital “that”, which has had a positive impact in the fields of research and medical science.

The problem with an economy driven by consumption is that it generates waste.  Waste gets a bad rap in popular parlance, but it is in itself not necessarily bad or dangerous.  It is simply a product that is deemed surplus to requirements in a particular process.  Wood chippings from a saw mill can be turned into chipboard, MDF or biofuel, for example.  The challenge is to find new uses for waste materials, to use materials that generate less waste and to simply use less material.

Recycling was drilled into me from an early age.  In the Netherlands, where I was born and lived for a good 10 years of my life, it is a part of life and the Dutch are very good at it and the Germans seem to do it even better.  In Britain we are progressively getting better at recycling and I have seen new collection boxes for separated waste being introduced over the years, including a blue box for plastic bottles, a black box for glass, cans and paper and so on.  Recycle bins have popped up all over the centre of Bristol and replaced some of the general waste bins.  I was on College Green not too long ago and spotted a new one by the Council House.  At all the festivals and events and events over the past couple of years or so (including the Bristol Harbour Festival, Brisfest, International Balloon Fiesta and so on) there have been separate bins for paper, cans, bottles and so on.  It’s all in the name of saving the environment.

Looking at the greater picture, I can’t help but wonder whether the overall impact of recycling on the environment (taking into consideration CO2 emissions) is actually worse than or the same as not recycling.  I wonder if Eric from Recresco has anything to say about this.  I’d love to hear from you again!

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