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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

City of Iowa City waste minimization proposals approved in November 2016

by Ben

The Iowa City City Council has approved several proposed changes that will expand the city’s current recycling program. This includes the addition of multifamily units, like apartments, and curbside food waste collection. The final reading of these changes to the City Code was unanimously approved by City Council at its meeting on November 1st, 2016.

Source: Waste minimization proposals | City of Iowa City

We’ve needed multifamily (apartment/condo) recycling and food waste composting for quite some time. Glad to see progress on this!

Where do laptops go when they die?

by Ben

The rest of the e-waste entering Wistron’s recycling plant has a different fate. Cables go one way to have their copper recovered. Steel frames go another. Lithium-ion batteries go to dedicated lithium operations. Case fans might even be saved and reused. Any components that can be yanked off circuit boards are, and then it’s on to precious metals.


“In some ways, it’s gotta start on the front end, in terms of consumers wanting products that are more recyclable,” Huang said.

That’s a particularly tough sell since consumers get almost no information about how recyclable any given product is. A company may improve its image by advertising “green” programs, but there is little financial incentive beyond that to put the work into solving these problems and designing for recyclability. It’s hard enough to match competitors’ progress on all the characteristics consumers know they do want.

The closest thing to an Energy Star label for recyclability is the EPEAT registry, where companies can verify that their products meet an IEEE standard.

Source: Where do laptops go when they die? | Ars Technica

Remember: a working computer can almost always be used by someone.  While recycling is important, re-use is also an important part of the solution.

How Can I Clean Recyclables Without Wasting Water?

by Ben

Clean recyclables or water conservation? You don’t have to pick one over the other!


Bottles containing liquids can be emptied and air-dried before being tossed in the bin, without needing an ounce of water. Wide-mouth containers with stickier foodstuff should be scraped or wiped out by hand using a fork, spatula, or dirty napkin, again avoiding the sink altogether.

If “dry cleaning” doesn’t get the job done and you need to use water, we recommend using graywater (lightly used water). Washing fruits/vegetables or dishes in a large bowl or tub will leave you with graywater perfectly suited for cleaning recyclables before going down the drain. Water can also be collected using a drain plug. Moisten a sponge with graywater for wiping out the muck; bottles with smaller openings that are tougher to wipe out can be filled with graywater, closed, and shaken until clean.

Source: Because You Asked: How Can I Clean Recyclables Without Wasting Water?

Don’t feel like you need to rinse right away.  I tend to leave containers open and in the kitchen sink so that when we wash our hands, etc., they collect the water that was used.

Cereal Bags Can Be Recycled with Plastic Bags

by Ben

Because You Asked: Can Cereal Bags Be Recycled? – Live Green – Recyclebank.

Many cereal box liners are made from HDPE (#2 plastic) film. […] But plastic in film form (including bags) should not be added to your bin because it can jam up and damage recycling machinery. Instead, #2 plastic bags and other plastic film can be dropped off for recycling at one of thousands of retail locations.

Huh, wish I had known that sooner. We’ve started to see this marked on some brands of cereal (notably Chex), so it seems legit.

Recycling Programs at Retail Stores

by Ben

Recycling Programs at Retail Stores – Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District.

Great summary of recycling programs.

Zero Waste, not Recycling

by Ben

Recycling is Bullshit; Make Nov. 15 Zero Waste Day, not America Recycles Day : TreeHugger.

I expected something a little different when I saw the title (which was missing the subtitle when I clicked). Good points about producers using recycling to keep from having to manage reusables.