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Talking Trash

Notes from Planet Earth

But the primary goal of many is to arrive at a society with zero waste. They see waste as indicative of a design flaw. The idea is that everything manufactured, from a glass bottle to a complicated computer to a large industrial machine, should be designed to enable it to be easily de-constructed into its recyclable components. General Motors has embraced this goal and has embarked on efforts to reach this goal over the next few decades. In another arena there are those who are engaged in re-designing toilets so as to recover the significant amounts of energy and nutrients available in our human wastes. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded more than 50 grants aimed at encouraging engineers to come up with workable designs for more improved and efficient sanitation. They have also issued a challenge to re-invent the toilet. One promising design for a new toilet is one that separates urine from feces. Composting toilets are great for rural areas but have less attraction for urban areas.

Unfortunately, we humans seem to suffer from an intuitive sense of disgust regarding our excrement and this makes for considerable difficulty in our acceptance of alternative and more efficient means of disposing of our personal waste. Nevertheless, if we want to avoid smothering our Earth in trash, we do need to focus on improving our recycling technologies.

Questions and suggestions from readers are welcomed and will be responded to in future editions of this column. Contact me at cwdingman2@frontier.com.

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