By Erin Folan, Wes Horne & Kimberly Macaluso
The first signs of recycling in the United States appear when World War II began in 1939. “Salvage drives” were used throughout the war as recycling campaigns to collect materials used to manufacture explosives for the war. Unfortunately, as the war ended, the recycling campaigns ended as well.
RECYCLING POSTERS DURING WWI + WWII
Less than 10 years after the war ended, a landfill “temporarily” opened in Staten Island in order to accommodate the massive amounts of waste produced by households throughout New York City. Although the landfill was only expected to remain open for 20 years, it remained in use until 2001 since there simply was no other place to put the garbage!
A LANDFILL WHEN 100% OF HOUSEHOLD TRASH WAS NOT BEING RECYCLED
As waste removal issues became a growing problem, individual cities began their own recycling initiatives. In 1980, Woodbury, New Jersey was the first U.S city to mandate recycling for all residents and became a model for other cities to follow. As you can see, it wasn’t too long ago that households sent 100% of their garbage to landfills and the country was in dire need to create effective recycling programs to help eliminate landfill usage. So where are we today with recycling?
Today most cities and municipalities in the United States have established household waste recycling programs. These programs vary in terms of participation requirements, how recyclable material is sorted, and how it is collected. San Francisco, Seattle, and other “progressive” cities have mandatory recycling laws that include fines for residents and businesses that do not sort their garbage correctly. (Fig. 1)
Other major U.S. cities have not made recycling a priority. Houston, for example, recycled only 2.6 percent of its total waste in 2008.
There are competing arguments about the costs and benefits of recycling. Currently it still costs more for cities to recycle waste than to use landfills. The recent decline in the price of oil has affected the market value of recycled materials. In many cases it is cheaper for manufacturers to utilize new plastic, glass, and paper instead of recycled products. This impacts recycling businesses and municipal recycling programs.
Many citizens believe that recycling is so essential to creating a sustainable future that economics should not be the driving factor in determining whether or not recycling is enforced. Like many issues in the political arena, there is a divide between those who believe market forces should determine policy and those who believe environmental sustainability should be the primary concern.
In terms of how recycling takes place in the home today, the major consideration is space allocation – where recycling bins are located, how waste is sorted, and how often the waste is picked up and taken to recycling centers. Paper waste is generally allocated to one bin and plastic, glass, and aluminum containers allocated to a second bin. Some municipalities ask citizens to divide waste into each of the four types.
Recycling bins can be placed on the surface of countertops (Fig. 2) in the kitchen or in specially built base cabinets (Fig. 3).
Other options are to install recycling containers into a moveable island (Fig. 4) or place recycling bins inside a multi-purpose container with a flip top, such as a bench in a mud room (Fig. 5).
For many years there were few options for household recycling containers beyond the basic green or blue plastic bins imprinted with the “chasing arrows” symbol. Today designers are starting to offer new designs with more aesthetic appeal and functional creativity. An example is the Ovetto model designed by Gianluca Soldi (Figure 6.)
When looking toward a brighter future in recycling as well as technology in the kitchen, recycling will go beyond the regular day-to-day sorting of recyclable items in labeled trash bins. In 2014, Electrolux brought an herb garden appliance to market at Milan’s EuroCucina. This high-tech herb garden appliance was created to be incorporated or installed like an under counter refrigerator and comes with humidity controls and bulbs that emit artificial sunlight.
There is also an appliance, the Food Cycler, which has been in the market a bit longer. The Food Cycler breaks down food scraps into compost in these 4 simple steps:
- Insert food waste up to 6 cups of cooked or uncooked food into the removable basket. Bones, peels, and shells can be included.
- Push the power button to release the agitators which will break down the basket’s contents into small particles. The internal compartment will heat to 180 Fahrenheit which will in turn decompose and sterilize the contents of the removable basket without odor.
- The unit will automatically turn off to save energy consumption. There is then a 3 hour waiting period so the contents can be cooled.
- The unit produces nutrient rich soil amendment which will contribute to more nutritious, healthy, home grown herbs and vegetables.
COMPOSTING UNIT, THE FOOD CYCLER (CLICK ON IMAGE TO LEARN MORE)
Some benefits of the Food Cycler composter are its compact size, it is energy efficient (costing only $5 per month in energy use), and it can reduce food waste by 90%.
We envision the kitchen-of-the-future coming standard with an appliance that blends the functions of the Food Cycler and the Electrolux into one, making it the ultimate kitchen appliance to reduce waste and promote self-sustainability. This appliance would be customizable in regards to size in order to accommodate both residential and commercial spaces. The sizes would range from as small as a 33” high under cabinet unit to as large as a 36” wide floor to ceiling cabinet unit.
CONCEPTUAL SKETCH BY KIMBERLY MACALUSO OF DUAL COMPOST AND HOME GARDEN APPLIANCES OF THE FUTURE.
The all-in-one composter and herb garden appliance would first take kitchen scraps and turn it into compost. The compost would then be used as soil amendment to promote vegetation growth for the herb garden within the appliance. Although called an “herb garden,” the appliance would allow for just about any produce to grow within the confines of the appliance, given the ability to control humidity and sunlight levels. The “herb garden” would be watered through an internal irrigation system which would mimic Vertical Harvest, a 3-story greenhouse vertical farm in the town of Jackson, WY. Vertical Harvest utilizes the method of hydroponic farming where excess water drips down from the plants above to the plants below, resulting in less water usage, a key benefit during a time where water shortages are prevalent. This farming method also allows produce to grow in harsh winter climates which was extremely important to creators Nona Yehia and Mcbride, as harsh Wyoming winters prevented residents from growing their own produce at home or in community gardens. The futuristic appliance we envision, will not only contribute to 90% less food waste but it will also allow for a self-sustaining ‘farm stand’ within households, where families could potentially grow all of their own produce. With humidity and sunlight settings, even out-of-season vegetables could be on the dinner menu!
Any excess compost produced by the futuristic appliance would be donated or distributed to the community for roof gardens or other outdoor gardens. In doing so, this appliance would contribute to “The Urban Revolution” as discussed in the Ted Talk video, “The Urban Farming Revolution” (see link below). In order to encourage participation in the Urban Farming Revolution, individuals would receive a receipt for tax purposes showing proof of compost donation, similar to how Goodwill operates today.
Behold: The Kitchen of the Future
Vertical Gardens, An “Up” And Coming Green Trend
The Food Cycler (Video)
The Urban Farming Revolution (Video)
A Ski Town Greenhouse Takes Local Produce to Another Level