The lights dim, indicating that time has come for the audience to find their seats. The crowd tonight isn`t different from the one that you would normally find attending a Friday night concert at the Vancouver Playhouse, except that there are tears in the eyes of the audience even before a note is played. The Vancouver Playhouse is hosting a sold-out performance of The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura – children from the shanty town of Cateura, Paraguay, performing with make do musical instruments created from the scrap in a nearby landfill – for the first time in Canada.
The youth orchestra was the subject of a Kickstarter-funded documentary called Landfill Harmonic. Cateura, located a few miles outside the Paraguay`s capital, is less of a city and more of a landfill. Most habitants of the city salvage and sell trash for a living. It is certainly true for all the kids, who are part of this orchestra. There’s a nine-year-old playing a violin made out of old paint cans, a pre-teen seated in front of a cello put together out of old barrels and saxophones pieced together out of drainage pipes and bottle caps.
The entire evening gives new meaning to the phrase “someone`s trash is someone else`s treasure,” in a very ironic way. The music stops and you’re left to ponder on not just the depth of poverty that exists in this world, but also the ease with which certain human lives are deemed more valuable than others.
With introspection comes cynicism, that the most innovative thing in recycling over the last decade was the introduction of racoon-proof bins. That simply isn`t the case. The Recycled Orchestra of Cateura is evidence that the most innovative recycling projects occur outside of the blue bins.
Recycling to re-use
Upcycling is the creative reuse of someone else’s trash, like how the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura repurposed old tins and fishing wire for instruments. There are numerous ways to upcycle things you can find in your house to keep them from going into the trash, or worse ending up in landfill thousands of miles away from your country. Have you ever tried turning old CDs into coasters or old tires into swings?
Artists have been upcycling for decades, those beer-bottle chandeliers or the coffee tables made out of old car engines are all examples of upcycling. Lush, the Canadian cosmetic company, began upcycling ocean waste from Victoria Island, British Columbia, into packaging earlier this year. The company indicated that their 2017 goal was to collect 27-tonnnes of trash. Specks of plastic resin that would have otherwise wound up floating in the Pacific are easy to spot in their bottles. Ironically, much of the trash collected for packaging may have been from microbeads which were commonly used in cosmetics until they were banned last year.
Another Canadian company, Hop Compost Solutions, has spent the last two years helping top-restaurants around the country become zero-waste facilities by taking their excess waste and turning it into compost.
“It’s our intention to create a closed loop for local food in every one of these cities within roughly five to seven years,” said founder Kevin Davies. “The goal is to make adoption of sustainable actions attainable.”
Recycling is for energy too!
How`s this for putting a spring in your step. Earlier this year, researchers in Georgia created energy recycling stairs which stores kinetic energy when someone walks down them, only to release it later when someone walks in the opposite direction. Researchers believe its possible that the energy recycling staircase will replace conventional staircases and escalators in the future.
Batteries are notoriously difficult to recycle. Last year, owners of Samsung phones had a further reason to worry after it was reported that the lithium-ion batteries in their devices could blow up. The reason they exploded was because batteries tend to expand as heat. Earlier this year, The University of California Riverside came to the rescue. The school developed a battery based on silicon from recycled glass. Not only are silicon batteries easier to recycle, they also don`t expand.
Recycling is the latest trend in real estate
In Thailand, there`s a Buddhist temple made out of beer bottles. Never mind, if you haven’t had the opportunity to fly a Boeing 747, you could probably stay in one. One of their aircrafts has been repurposed into a hostel in Sweden. But that’s not all. Rumour has it that the hottest trend in recycled spaces is `Cargotecture’, or shipping container living. Old shipping containers can be picked up for a little more than $1000 and if you`re willing to forgo amenities like insulation, ventilation, heating and running water, you can get a decent workspace for that price. Market 707 in Toronto, part-bazaar and part-food court, allows vendors to rent containers for $350 per month.
The circular economy is built on the premise of keeping a product in circulation for as long as possible and then maximizing profit at the end of the product’s lifecycle. It’s how car rental companies make money. It’s why companies are willing to buy old printer cartridges to refill and resell.
The Dutch denim company, MUD, allows its customers to `lease` three pairs of jeans for a little more than seven Euros per month. At the end of the year, customers are given the option to renew their lease for a new pair when the old jeans are either recycled to make a new pair or donated.
“Thanks to the business model of `Lease A Jeans` we surround ourselves with a community of forward thinking people. True pioneers, visionaries and changemakers. Together we share the same concerns for our planet and make some change,” said a MUD representative.
Syed Haider | The Edge Blog