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Science & technology > Pop Tart

Waste not

but who would want it?

MT illustrations: Sean Bieri
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Published 10/12/2005

Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, kids had the following government-produced catchphrase repeatedly beaten into the pink pulpy flesh of their impressionable young minds: “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” I remember being forced to draw the recycling pattern with my crayons in third grade. (The teacher, no doubt, later threw the cardboard crayon box in the trash.)

Like all brainwashing, good or bad, the effects are lasting. I have a friend who used to get the full blast of my environmentally friendly-powered wrath when I caught him throwing Coke cans in the trash. Seriously, it was like I caught him disposing of dead babies — in nonrecyclable diapers. I simply couldn’t fathom the idea of not recycling.

But recycling rates are only 20 percent in Michigan, ranking us 28th nationwide for responsibly cleaning up after ourselves. Just as the anti-fur movement has lost its momentum, so has recycling — so now we have women in full-length minks tossing Diet Pepsi bottles in the garbage. It’s enough to make even a Republican hug a tree.

To get us back on the 3R track, governments far and wide are dangling carrots. In Michigan, the Bigger Better Bottle Bill Coalition is pushing to expand the state’s bottle bill to include a 10-cent return on water, juice and sports drink bottles — because, let’s be honest, most of us aren’t going to bother recycling unless we get that juicy dime-a-pop payout. Sad but true.

But it’s not just paper and pop cans; today you can recycle all manner of junk, from printer cartridges to your old cell phone. The Web site usrecycleink.com will even pay you cash for your battered circa 1999 celly. (Then, of course, you can buy a new one. Maybe the new motto should be Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Consume More!)

You can even recycle your iPod. Apple, which has long touted its recycling program for its computers, is now offering an incentive to recycle your lowly, unhip, outdated second generation iPod; bring it in for recycling and you’ll receive 10 percent off your next iPod purchase (Consume More!). It’s a lovely gesture, even if it is hard to imagine a garbage dump overrun by a towering ivory mountain of discarded iPods. If such a thing did exist, I’d imagine it next to a tent camp of homeless hipsters, clad in 2001 Sloan T-shirts, huddled for warmth around a bonfire of Franz Ferdinand albums.

But in the dogged pursuit of waste-not, want-not, are some industrious souls taking the concept of recycling too far?

Maybe. The reaction was less than positive when a German inventor announced a solution to soaring fuel prices, with a new way to make gas from recycled materials. Specifically, dead kitties. A German newspaper article reported that Christian Koch of Saxony whipped up a “bio-diesel” fuel concocted of garbage, roadkill cats and a few magic ingredients (special sauce?). Naturally, animal rights activists pitched a fit, and Koch later denied he'd ever used dead cats. Soylent petrol — it’s made of kitties! Kiiiiitties!

So, as you’re driving your Fluffy-powered Volvo into the Starbucks drive-through, could your latte — served in a recycled cardboard cup — contain a little something extra? Like, oh, cow’s blood? Seeing as slaughterhouses waste more blood than a Friday the 13th marathon, a few crafty Russian scientists came up with a solution: Members of the Voronezh State Technological Academy created a method to process blood and turn it into food products like coffee, chocolate, milk and yogurt. One would have thought the Brits would’ve been the first to think of such a thing, just so they could trademark the brand “Bloody Chocolate.”

Did I mention you can recycle all sorts of crap — literally? NASA has long researched the idea of turning astronaut poop into energy sources. Several years ago, Thai engineers developed a way to turn human waste into fuel, but the idea never took off, because the process required a shitload of money. Thailand, a resourceful country, also developed a way to turn elephant dooky into stationery. The idea inspired an Australian company to do the same with kangaroo crap. Paper products made of animal dung could be the next big thing — giving new meaning to shitty manuscripts everywhere.

So maybe there are some things that we really should just throw away. But a Coke can ain’t one of ’em, folks.

Fortunately, or perhaps not so, Detroit has its own built-in recycling insurance: bums. Let no Colt 45 can go unreturned.

Sarah Klein is the culture editor of Metro Times. Send comments to sklein@metrotimes.com.

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