Recycling our e-waste

Our high turnover of tech gear (phones, TVs, computers, etc) is responsible for a correspondingly high quantity of worryingly toxic waste cascading into our rubbish bins and thence to landfill. I wrote about the issue eighteen months ago when a Southern recycling company laudably took the trouble to visit Townsville but the topic is worth revisiting now, especially since we have just enjoyed Christmas and are consequently about to enjoy (if that’s the right word) disposing of old stuff to make room for our presents. (How long does the transition from favourite gadget to junk take, anyway? Longer than ripping off some wrapping paper?)

e-waste infographicAs it happens, a second e-waste recycler contacted me a couple of months ago to see whether I would post their infographic here but I couldn’t find time before Christmas to do so. Here it is now – just click on it to see a larger version, or right-click (control-click) on it to download one – and here’s what they told me about themselves:

PC RECYCLERS is an e-waste collection and recycling company, helping Australian organisations do their part for the environment. Based in Brisbane, the PC RECYCLERS team offer free collection of e waste to schools, businesses and organisations throughout Queensland and nationwide. For specific e-waste recycling services such as computer recycling, PC RECYCLERS provide free data destruction to Department of Defence 5220.22M standards with disposal reporting. For more information on their services or to organise a free collection in Townsville or the wider NQ area, visit

Now that’s all fine, and I don’t mind giving them a plug for it, but we still have a problem at the household level: they offer, “free collection of e waste to schools, businesses and organisations,” and I don’t think my household qualifies as any of the above. Do we have to get (for instance) NQCC to organise a community collection? Could we suggest that our nearest school does it? In return for a donation, maybe?

There are obviously strong possibilities here for groups with initiative but each of them will only collect from a small percentage of households so we are still only intercepting a small percentage of our e-waste. This is clearly a work in progress – but at least it is now in progress.

More information

The PC RECYCLERS chart lists website references but you can’t just click on them and they are a bit old anyway. These links take you to the organisations the chart refers to but not to exactly the same documents:

Solar-powered aircraft

Solar Impulse in flight

Solar-powered aircraft touches down in New York City

An aeroplane powered entirely by the sun has touched down in New York City, completing the final leg of an epic two-month journey across the United States.

A year ago it flew from Spain to Morocco to claim the title of first solar-powered intercontinental plane, but in reality that was a much smaller achievement since the distance was so much shorter. (When you think about it, the shortest possible intercontinental flight is probably ten metres or so from Africa to Asia, or a hop along the bridge between Europe and Asia over the Bosphorus. But hey, it made a good headline.)

More seriously, the Solar Impulse is an excellent demonstration project, like (for instance) the Australian solar car challenge, and it’s great to see its success. Perhaps we should have a solar plane race to push the technology ahead even faster?

More: abc news, UN press release

Geeky fun: metronomes and extreme video

My spies alert me to some fascinating science and tech stuff on the web (thanks, guys!) and it’s time to share again.

1. Metronomes

If you put lots of metronomes on a table and start them at different times, they look for all the world as though they notice each other and gradually agree to line up so that their ticking is synchronised. See a very cute video of it here and read about why it happens.

Read the comments, too. As a musician I particularly liked the one from Bill Benzon:

I make synchrony the centerpiece of my book on music, Beethoven’s Anvil: Music in Mind and Culture, where I discuss Strogatz on fireflies and Barbasi on synchronized clapping. I argue that, when people make music together they individually give up so many degrees of freedom that the overall neural-state space for the group is no larger than that for any one independent individual. And that’s a good thing, otherwise no one in the audience would be able to make sense of the performance as no one has more than their own brain available to make sense of the sound.

2. Light at one trillion frames per second

If the metronomes made you smile, this one will make your jaw hit the ground. The TED talk speaker leads a group which takes high-speed video to levels I had never even contemplated: they have made a movie of a beam of light progressing through a Coke bottle. I have seen it and I still think it sounds flat-out impossible but I have to accept that they have done it.

More geeky fun

Previous posts: Lightning, mathematical butterflies and Kottke’s blog;  interactive periodic table; the scale of the universe; or just browse the ‘technology’ category via the sidebar menu.