Posts Tagged ‘recycling’

Saturday Satire

Unmitigated Disaster!

Today is Wednesday.

Carnaval can be distracting

I remembered when I was washing the dishes. I have been disorientated since last Thursday because of carnaval here in Rio. Carnaval does that to some.

I opened Reduce Footprints… A regular Wednesday thing.

Whaaaaaaaaaaa! No CTWW!

*checks calendar*

*runs cursor over pc clock*

Both confirm that it is indeed Wednesday…

*reloads Reduce Footprints* Obviously there is something amiss…

Still no CTWW.

*Stares at screen blankly*

…………. *blinks*

I know, not enough coffee, I’ll go and make some and the world will have returned to normal.

You browse around here, while I make the coffee.

The above images are all taken in the new renovated Sambódromo this year.

Below is the other side of carnaval.

Disaster Area - all that remains after the blocos (street parades)

But the garis are quick on the job to clear hundreds of kilos of rubbish

Carnaval is a colourful time in Rio de Janeiro, but it does generated tons of rubbish. It doesn’t hang around long, the garis (council road sweepers) are quick on the job to return the route back to normal. This year, for the first time, efforts were made by cooperatives of catadores to separate the rubbish into recyclables.

The blocos are the street parades, to give you an idea of their size, Cordão de Bola Preta in Cinelândia and downtown Rio attracted a record crowd of 2,2 million followers. That’s one big party and a hell of a lot of rubbish.

“We’ll return you to the regular CTWW programme soon…”

Certain Death

A street catador of cardboard

A street 'catador' of cardboard

I am a catador. I know it sounds like an AA confession; and I know it is an addiction. The verb catar in Portuguese means to ‘pick up’ or ‘scoop up’ and is used to describe people who collect useful, recyclable items from other people’s rubbish. These catadores are present everywhere. They collect cardboard, plastic, scrap metal, anything that is not nailed down and sell-able.

I have just read a story about a catadora (f) saving a plant that had been thrown away by someone else and relocating it outside her door on Good Girl Gone Green. Bells rung, lightbulbs flashed (the new CFLs don’t do this) and I realised that I had a post for today.

Espada de São Jorge

I have survived the last three years by ‘picking up’ useful stuff on the street. A few months back I saw a lovely plant Espada de São Jorge (St George’s sword) lying discarded on a pile of rubble. Someone had had a clean out. I was on the way to a private lesson, on the way back, it was still there; quite a clump the roots were just beginning to dry. I picked it up and walked the half hour home and put in a bucket of water to recover saving it from a certain death. Being quite a hardy plant, it did and I have long since replanted it in one of my elegant paint tins. The one shown is not mine, still lacking batteries for my camera.

My plant is ready to be divided and spread around a .bit.

I have no idea what the plant is called in English, if anyone has an idea, please leave a comment.


During my search for an image I found this and thought it appropriate…

A catadore's hand cart


The Portuguese reads: “I recycle, and you?” and “My car doesn’t pollute!”

Make you Fink on Friday

Can you spot the recycling possibility?

We all talk about recycling being the answer to the world’s problems and it is. But we mainly recycle the obvious, stuff thrown out as waste from the home. Of course there is industrial waste that is recycled as well. But there is so much material out there that could be recycled, that we often don’t imagine the recycling possibilities, we don’t even consider them as recyclable. We don’t see the wood for the trees.

Here’s a case in point…

Inghua Ting established TING in 2000. Following her graduation from the Royal College of Art, Inghua worked in Japan developing innovative, futuristic fabrics. However, working at the forefront of fabric technology led her to considering sustainable issues, and the challenge of designing and producing a desirable, luxury product from reclaimed materials. Inspired by seat belts, old leather belts, vintage leather saddles and a range of salvaged fabrics, Inghua cleverly incorporates these materials into new designs to show them off to their best advantage. (from her profile).

Check out a couple TING’s products, they are not only recycling but creating a whole new industry. (Photos from TING’s Gallery)

Makes you think of the myriad of things out there in the world that are just waiting to be recycled. Check out the gallery and see what she does with car seat belts.

Op Shop leather belts (Photo credit Pam Irie)

Looks like someone has been to the Op Shop (second hand clothing) and made their own.

Mad as a Hatter

Carrol's depiction of the Hatter

Anyone with a modicum of education has heard the saying “Mad as a hatter,” but from whence came the saying? Many attribute it to Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland, but it was in use before then. Mercury has been used in England since the 1830s when it was discovered that a hatter who was being treated for syphilis with a mercuric compound made better quality felt hats. Hatters used their own urine to make the camel hair more pliable; and so mercuric nitrate replaced the use of urine for softening the camel hair.

Mercury was prized by the Egyptians

Sublimate (HgCl2 ) is in certain countries still used as an antiseptic for wounds. It was used in large quantities during the World Wars, triggered by the largely increased use of Hg in explosives. Sublimate was also used for preserving wood. Nowadays, the use of Hg in medicine, pharmaceutical products, and gold mining has been prohibited or restricted in industrialized countries, but is still a topic of large concern for the population in many other countries

So mercury has been around for a long time even though it was recognised as a poison in the times of Pliny.

Modern day uses of mercury:

  • For the manufacturing of industrial chemicals or for electrical and electronic applications.

  • In thermometers.

  • The contentious CFL

    As mercury sphygmomanometers, a blood pressure meter.

  • Thimerosal, an organic compound is used as preservative in vaccines and tattoo inks.

  • As mercury barometers, diffusion pumps, coulometers, and many more laboratory instruments.

  • In mercury arc rectifier, a type of electrical rectifier that converts alternate current into direct current.

  • In mercury-vapor lamps and some neon advertising signs and fluorescent lamps and of course CFLs.

  • Once used as coolant for nuclear reactors, which has been replaced by sodium and also in the amalgamation process of refining gold and silver ores.

  • As folk medicine and ceremonial purposes that involves ingestion, injection, or the sprinkling of elemental mercury around the home.

  • In mercury switches, mercury cells and chlorine production, electrodes, batteries, and catalysts.

  • As herbicides, insecticides, dental amalgams and liquid mirror telescopes.

The current debate centres around CFLs (Compact Fluorescent Lights). Many argue that the amount used in these lights is so small as not to be a problem; and then argue that mercury is present in many other household things like batteries so why are we bitching.

Many millions in the Third World

A CFL contains about 5mg of mercury, that’s about the size of the ball on a ballpoint pen (compared to the 11.6mg in a 4′ fluorescent tube), and it can be recycled; if the people recycle them. And herein lies the problem can the people be educated to understand the dangers and recycle them; I am not referring to people who are already been ‘greened’ like yourselves, rather I am referring to the many millions in third world countries who don’t have the education to understand nor do they have the facilities to recycle and are having CFLs forced on them by equally ignorant governments thinking they are doing the right thing. The problem is not just American or European, it’s global.

Dissipated heat from CFL vs incandescent bulb

CFLS use a fraction of the power of incandescent light bulbs, therefore the saving is enormous. But think about this, if you use an incandescent bulb it generates heat, a CFL does not. By using a CFL you end up using more power for heating in the home and the difference in power usage becomes far less significant.

The main argument I can see against CFLs is that the mercury is okay when it’s in the CFL, but it’s when the mercury comes out of the CFL through breakage (accidental or operational), or disposal that it becomes a giant problem.

Why were hatters called mad?

Because they were exposed to mercury vapour that attacks the nervous system. Erratic, flamboyant behavior was one of the most evident alterations caused by mercury; others included excessive drooling and difficulties in talking and thinking clearly, mood swings, psychotic reactions characterized by delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal tendency. There were physical effects too, hair loss, uncontrollable muscle twitching, a lurching gait. Stumbling about in a confused state with slurred speech and trembling hands, affected hatters were sometimes mistaken for drunks. The ailment became known as “The Danbury Shakes”. Today these are the symptoms of diseases that we know as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Grinning inanely like the Cheshire cat

Before we all start running around grinning inanely like the Cheshire cat, the whole matter is rather serious.

While the poor Cheshire cat may not have been subjected to mercury, he is the embodiment of the aberrations displayed by Hatters who had been.

So don’t take the issue of mercury lightly, this may be a case of the cure (CFLs) are worse than the disease (incandescent bulbs).


I wrote this post in response to the many comments, for and against CFLs, after the recent challenge on Reduce Footprint’s Change the World Wednesday and the comments that flowed on to the next week as well. There are many facets that I did not cover such as industry and food contamination and the fact that mercury has been present as a naturally occurring substance for millions of years. This is not meant to be a definitive guide to all aspects of mercury; just my thoughts and observations.

It was also meant to be my Fink on Friday post, but WordPress was only a partial service all day Friday and only came right this morning. So I had to resort to publishing a post that was already prepared, but nevertheless important.

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