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recycling

Gordon Ramsay at play... work.

This article originally appeared on 04.22.15


Gordon Ramsay is not exactly known for being nice.

Or patient.

Or nurturing.

On his competition show "Hell's Kitchen," he belittles cooks who can't keep up. If people come to him with their problems, he berates them. If someone is struggling to get something right in the kitchen, he curses them out.

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Science

Hawaiian eco-entrepreneur unites people to fix the Big Island’s massive cardboard problem

He found a clever way to make use of climate-destroying cardboard.

Evan Lam is working to fix Hawaii's big recycling problem.

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The United States generates an incredible amount of paper and cardboard waste every year. The most recent EPA statistics from 2018 found that Americans throw away 67.4 million tons of paper and paperboard a year. Sixty-eight percent of it is recycled, with the remainder being dumped in landfills.

Cardboard will eventually deteriorate in a landfill but as it degrades it creates methane gas, one of the largest contributors to climate change. While carbon-trapping trees are one of the biggest ways to combat climate change, over a billion of them are chopped down every year to meet the country’s ever-growing cardboard demands.

In Hawaii, cardboard waste is an even greater contributor to climate change because the state lacks adequate recycling facilities. So, all of the country’s recycled cardboard is packaged and shipped five thousand miles to Thailand to be reprocessed.

Twenty-nine-year-old Evan Lam is improving the cardboard problem on Hawaii’s Big Island by upcycling the material into useful products that keep it on the island. He sees his work as part of a larger, global trend.

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Photo by Vivianne Lemay on Unsplash

Those of us who want a sustainable future for our grandkids try really hard to do the right things for our planet. We grew up internalizing the three R's–Reduce, Reuse, Recycle—but it appears that one of those Rs has not lived up to its promise.

We all know that plastic and excessive packaging of all kinds are problematic, but most of us don't worry about it too much because most of it can be recycled anyway, right? We cheerfully put our yogurt containers and pizza boxes and egg cartons into our curbside recycling bin, confident that we've done our part for the environment by not throwing them into a landfill.

We imagine our municipalities taking that recycling to some kind of local recycling plant, where our plastic and paper gets transformed into shiny new eco-friendly products. Right?

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Vélosophy

Single-use coffee pods might make a good cup of joe, but they're detrimental to the environment.

"Coffee pods are one of the best examples of unnecessary single-use plastics that are polluting our planet," John Hocevar, the campaign director of Greenpeace USA, an environmental nonprofit organization, told USA Today. "Many end up getting incinerated, dumping poison into our air, water and our soil."

Currently, 29,000 single-use coffee pods are thrown away each minute. You have to ask yourself, is it worth filling up the landfills to satisfy your caffeine habit? While the aluminum capsules are recyclable, it's not as easy as tossing them in the bin. Instead, you typically have to take them a designated collection point created by the brand.

But Nespresso has taken it one step further by using its recycled pods to make a bicycle, illustrating the potential for repurposing the often thrown out by-product of its coffee.

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