wouldn't you love it if . . .

there were a use for all those dirty diapers?

Well, there is. Now before you say “Eeuuw!” let me tell you that they clean them up first.

A company inthe United Kingdom, Knowaste, has been recycling dirty diapers – both the juvenile and the adult versions –  and feminine hygiene products (a group they call absorbent hygiene products) since the 1990s.

The process involves three key stages:

  1. Used nappies, adult incontinence and feminine hygiene products (AHPs) are collected and transported to a Knowaste plant.
  2. The Knowaste process sterilizes the AHP material, deactivates and mechanically separates the individual components:  organic residue, plastic and super absorbent polymers.
  3. The reclaimed components can then be made into recycled products such as:
    • plastic components for product manufacturing
    • plastic recycling bins
    • Plastic roofing tiles
    • cardboard
    • cardboard industrial tubing
    • fillers in the construction and road building sector


So, why recycle these AHPs? Knowaste’s answer,” Because we can!” Seriously, folks, we do not want these things in our landfills.

  1. They take 500 years to decompose
  2. They contain human waste
  3. We can salvage the raw materials

So, here we have a company that has been quietly taking our dirty diapers and making them into useful stuff since at least 1999. According to the company website, their facility at Arnheim in the Netherlands:

  • Processes up to 100,000 tons of diaper material per year.
  • Successfully converts disposable diapers and adult incontinence products into marketable materials.
  • Produces 20,000 tons of recycled fiber and 12,000 tons of usable recycled plastic per year.
  • Recycles diaper and incontinence waste from more than 1,200 healthcare institutions, 750 day care facilities and more than 100 municipalities in The Netherlands.
  • Saves 150 million gallons of fresh water that would be used in the normal production of cellulose fiber.
  • Saves more than one million cubic meters of natural gas; enough energy to power a city with a population of 10,000 for one year.
  • Saves more than 230,000 trees from being harvested each year to obtain the equivalent fiber than can be recovered from this facility

Now, I’d probably be very quiet, too, if I were cleaning up dirty diapers. However, I do think that these folks deserve a great big round of applause for taking something so distasteful to us and harmful to the environment and turning it, diaper by diaper by feminine hygiene product, into useful things while saving our other resources.

 If you hear that these folks are coming around your landfills or your towns to ask for a contract, please support them. Speak up for them to your elected officials and get AHPs out of our landfills.  Knowaste will take all the used AHPs from hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and daycare centers and recycle them. So they don’t take AHPs from you and me – that is still a lot of extra room in our landfills and a lot of  resources saved.

Knowaste was once in the US; in Santa Clarita, Ca. (Because of this, California unfairly got the credit for diaper recycling in a blog back in 2002.) The program there was terminated in 2003 because it was still too costly for the single household. Knowaste has been working on bringing the cost to the household down, though it still costs more to recycle those dydies than to throw them away – wehn you measure the cost in dollars spent  on fees alone – so they do not deal with single family dwellings or even apartment complexes, yet. The kids in my life are long out of diapers, but I’m hoping that their children’s dirty dydies will be recycled.

Rock on!



Sportsmanlike conduct still existed?

Especially today, after reading about a high school football player in Ohio who sent the entire opposing team to the doctor for tetanus shots after a game in which he didn’t even play! I was so discouraged over this story, and then I ran across another story that made me take heart.

It seems that some teens do know the meaning of sportsmanship and sportsmanlike conduct. Hooray!   
Here’s what happened:
Josh Ripley, from Andover High in Minnesota, picked up an injured competitor and ran back to the starting line to deliver the boy to his coach before returning to his junior varsity cross country 2-mile race (the Applejack Invite ). It seems that Lakeville South runner Mark Paulauskas had hurt himself. Other runners simply kept going, focused on the competition. But, Josh heard the scream and saw Mark holding his bloody ankle; and then he made a decision. He picked up Mark and carried him  a quarter mile back to his coach! And, it’s a really good thing he did bacuase when Mark got to the emergency room, doctors realized he had been accidentally spiked by another runner’s shoe during the race. His injury required 20 stitches and a walking boot to keep the wounded area from opening up.

And Josh is just like most of the heroes we meet in everyday life. “I didn’t think about my race, I knew I needed to stop and help him,” he said in a press release from his school district . “It was something I would expect my other teammates to do. I’m nothing special; I was just in the right place at the right time.” He’s nothing special? I wish!

Here’s what happened next:

First, his cross country coach, Scott Clark, was incredulous when he heard that Ripley was carrying another runner back to the starting line.”Then Josh comes jogging into view carrying a runner,” Clark said. “I noticed the blood on the runner’s ankle as Josh handed him off to one of the coaches from Lakeville. Josh was tired and you could tell his focus was off as he started back on the course.” After dropping Mark Paulauskas off with his coaches, Josh Ripley went back and finished the race!

Not surprisingly, Josh will be honored for this incident at a school board meeting next week.  Here’s the story from WCCO-TV in Minnesota.

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Hey Josh, Rock on!

people could just help out whenever they have time?

Well, now they (read you and I) can.

A group called The Extraordinaries has started a web site called Sparked.com that matches people and non-profits.  It just takes a few minutes to sign up. And it just takes a few minutes to help. You decide when and what you do. This is micro-volunteering. No applications, no training, no screening or orientation. Just you and a task you can do or not.

You may have heard of the closely related practice of virtual volunteering. The two are similar in that they are both done online or via smart phone. But, as a virtual volunteer, you go through all the regular application and intake processes for your non-profit. You may also require training and orientation. Then, you do your volunteer tasks from home, the office, the library even; wherever there’s a computer. If you’d like to do virtual volunteering, VolunteerMatch.org can get you set up.

Back to microvolunteering: Sparked takes applications from non-profits and then breaks down their tasks into bite-sized pieces. From there, they “cloudsource” it.  Cloudsourcing involves putting a request out to lots of people at once. The potential experts in the group form the “cloud.” The request is what is being “sourced.” So, putting the request out to the people who said they had those skills is “cloudsourcing.”

Say you tell them you design logos. When someone wants a logo designed, they let you know – generally via cell phone. You decide whether you want to spend the time and energy on the non-profit that wants the logo.  Clearly, logo design would take some hours.

Other tasks may require only minutes. You might: advise on how to refine a mission or vision statement, copy-edit a newsletter, teach how to dig a well, design a logo, or vote on your favorite website style.  Almost any job or task that can be done on computer can be done as a volunteer for Sparked.com. 

So, whether you’re into virtual or micro volunteering, I salute you. What a way to make the world a better place: one bite-sized task at a time.

Rock on!

video gamers did something useful?

Well, they have and here’s the proof!


A group of video gamers have cracked the code on a monomeric protease enzyme that has baffled scientists for years. It’s an enzyme that helps build the AIDS virus, among others. Scientists have been trying to determine the structure of the enzyme in labs and with computer simulation programs for more than a decade.

So, how did they do it? By playing a game called Foldit, which was developed at the University of Washington in 2008. When the game players decided to divide into teams and tackle this enzyme, it took them just 3 weeks to solve it.

And you thought your kid would never do anything good with video games.

Rock on!

our military servicepeople were treated like the heroes they are?

Well, there’s a guy in Houston, Texas, named Dan Wallrath, who custom builds homes. And he’s been building new houses and giving them to wounded servicemen and women and their families free of charge. (Gee, it seems like Houston, Texas is the place to be for good things happening today!)

No matter what your politics, and I’m not going to get into mine, you’ve got to admit that these men and women signed up to do a job for us. They expected, because our recruiters told them, that they would be well taken care of both on deployment and after, whether they were well or ill or injured. But, many of them don’t get the benefits they need, or they don’t get them easily.

Life goes on, even after you’ve sustained catastrophic injury. Bills need to be paid, the family needs a home; they need food and clothing, transportation. It goes on and on. But, if you’re that badly wounded, you’re dealing with such basic survival issues that the rest of it gets away from you. And more medical bills pile up. It can get ugly.

And people who got wounded doing a job for us ought to be taken care of better than that. We owe them, whether we agree with a military action or not. Whether they agree with the military action or not, they’re in uniform and they did their job. We owe them.

This guy, giving away houses, is treating our wounded warriors like heroes. In my book, that makes him a hero, too.

Rock on!

there were no more hunger problems?

Me too. With 1 in 6 Americans fighting hunger, many of them children and seniors, the problem is massive. I was there as a child. I know how it feels to try to sleep with an empty belly and no idea where you’ll get a next meal. So, as an adult I’ve been a food bank volunteer, founder, builder, donation solicitor for many years now. I work in my own little corner of the world on a daily basis and pretty much don’t worry about the rest of the planet. I can’t let myself get overwhelmed at the problem, so I keep my focus very limited. Generally.

Today, I got an ad for “Global Hunger Shabbat” in my email. It seems that American Jewish World Service is sponsoring both this Friday evening-Saturday sunset observance and “18 Days of Action” which lead up to Thanksgiving.

America’s Second Harvest is doing a similar build up to Thanksgiving and the holiday season. They also offer an interesting challenge: Live one day on a food stamp (SNAP) budget and then blog about your experience. Pretty cool way to get involved.

Share Our Strength is an organization of food service professionals that work together to fight hunger with special events and education. They are running a Taste Of program, where people get to pay a fee and eat food prepared by some of the top chefs in their area. The money goes to feed hungry children. 

Anyhow, the point is, with each of us doing one thing, getting educated, taking a challenge, contributing food when the library (usually $1 an item in overdue fine reduction) or the postal carriers (coming to your mailbox soon!) start collecting, buying a little extra and leaving it in the food bank containers at the grocery, talking about hunger to our kids, and anything else you can think of . . . we CAN win this. We are the richest nation in the world. We have great organizations and individuals going at the problem in many ways. It will happen. Let’s make it happen soon!

Rock on!

we all stopped using so much electricity?

Well, apparently it’s starting to happen!

This comes from statesman.com:

From 1980 to 2000, residential power demand grew by about 2.5 percent a year. From 2000 to 2010, the growth rate slowed to 2 percent. Over the next 10 years, demand is expected to decline by about 0.5 percent a year, according to the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit group funded by the utility industry.

So, right now, we’re buying more and more electronics, but the demand for power is not increasing as much as one would think to accommodate them. I am most encouraged by the line about the projection into the next decade, where we’re expected to demand less each year.

What can be the reasons for more stuff needing more power but less demand for power?

Well, first there’s the Energy Star program that involves collaboration between the government and manufacturers. The government sets the standards and ratings, the manufacturers produce electronics that use less energy via better conservation of the energy they do use and via things like automatic switch offs. It used to be that only large appliances carried this rating and certification, but I’ve recently seen it on laptop computers and even alarm clock radios!

Second, and to me more encouragingly, there’s the movement toward solar energy. In Southern Arizona, where I currently live, there’s no good reason not to go solar in my mind. I mean, really, what do we have more of than sun? So, if you’re in Southern Arizona and want to go solar, these guys are a good resource, and no this is not a paid endorsement. (If it were, I’d have to print their name!) Santa Rosa Junior College in Northern California that built their new library with recycled materials and so many solar panels that the college makes money from selling electricity to the utility company!  Now that’s using solar power.

Thirdly, some folks are simply abiding by the power companies’ advice on when to consume electric power. Some of the “off peak” times are so late (or early?) in the day that I’m sure it cuts people’s consumption. Most electric companies provide programs like this one at my local utility.

So, no matter whether we’re buying better electronics, using electricity more sparingly on off hours or selling power back from our solar panels, we’re moving in the right direction. Less power use equals smaller carbon footprint and lower bills. This is all to the good whether you are politically, socially or fiscally movtivated.

Rock on!