Why You Shouldn't Crush an Aluminum Can Before Recycling It

iStock.com/FotografiaBasica
iStock.com/FotografiaBasica

Participating in your local recycling program is a great first step toward reducing waste, but tossing your old containers in the right bin is just one part of the process. To make sure your recyclable goods end up where they're supposed to be, you have to treat them right. That means resisting the urge to crush your aluminum cans, according to Lifehacker.

Stomping on an empty can may seem like a logical move: A crushed can takes up less space, which should make it easier to store and recycle. But recycling centers actually have a harder time processing cans that have been flattened.

Many recycling plants sort recyclable materials by shape. Small items tend to be marked as waste and sent to the landfill (which is why it's better to leave caps on plastic bottles when you recycle them). Flat items are usually sorted with the paper and cardboard, so when a can is crushed, it may be misidentified and end up contaminating a batch of paper items.

If you want your aluminum cans to be sent to the right place, leave them in their original 3D shape when you dispose of them. That way your local recycling center will have an easier time identifying the material. But if crushing cans has become a habit, you may be able to keep doing it without creating more waste. Some municipalities use multi-stream recycling systems which are able to recycle your cans properly no matter what shape they're in. So, if you use two separate bins for your recycling and live in a multi-stream recycling area, you can probably continue crushing cans to your heart's content.

[h/t Lifehacker]

The World's First Human Composting Facility Is Coming to Seattle

Simotion/iStock via Getty Images
Simotion/iStock via Getty Images

The state of Washington will soon be home to the world’s first human composting facility, reports IFL Science.

The facility is a project of Recompose, a Seattle-based company founded by architect Katrina Spade. When it opens in 2021, Recompose will offer $5500 services that turn a human body into one cubic yard of soil over the course of 30 days. Families of the deceased can take as much soil as they like—any remainder goes to sustaining conservation land in the Puget Sound region.

Recompose is one of several organizations working to provide more eco-friendly after-death options. Critics charge that more conventional choices, like embalming and cremation, have their share of issues. The formaldehyde used in embalming is carcinogenic, and Spade estimates that the combined formaldehyde found in all U.S. cemeteries could fill eight Olympic-size swimming pools. Plus, traditional burials take up land that’s quickly becoming scarce in urban areas. Cremation isn’t much better, environmentally speaking—a single cremation requires about the same amount of energy that an individual would use over a month, and it produces harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“For every person that chooses to be recomposed instead of cremated or buried, it will save just over a metric ton of carbon, which is pretty significant,” Spade told CityLab in January.

Recompose was made possible by a first-in-the-nation Washington state bill, signed in May, legalizing the practice of the “natural organic reduction” of human remains. Now all that’s left is for Recompose to become a legally licensed funeral home (required before it can start taking people’s payments).

“I think in general, death is a really personal thing,” Spade told CityLab. “And people experience death of a loved one in so many ways. So our goal with recomposition is just to add more choice when it comes to death of a loved one, so that it’s still really personal.”

[h/t IFL Science]

Why Thousands of 'Penis Fish' Washed Up on a California Beach

Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0
Kate Montana, iNaturalist // CC BY-NC 4.0

Nature works in mysterious ways. The latest example materialized at Drakes Beach near San Francisco, California, in early December, when visitors strolling along the shore stumbled upon what looked to be the discarded inventory of an adult novelty shop. In fact, it was thousands of Urechis caupo, a marine worm that bears more than a passing resemblance to a human penis.

The engorged pink invertebrate, which is typically 10 inches in length, is native to the Pacific coast and frequently goes by the less salacious name of “fat innkeeper worm.” Burrowing in sand, the worm produces mucus from its front end to ensnare plankton and other snacks, then pumps water to create a vacuum where the food is directed into their tunnel. Since it builds up a small nest of discarded food, other creatures like crabs will stop by to feed, hence the “innkeeper” label.

You can see the worm in "action" here:

Because the worms enjoy a reclusive life in their burrows, it’s unusual to see thousands stranded on the beach. It’s likely that a strong storm broke up the intertidal sand, decimating their homes and leaving them exposed. The event is likely to thrill otters, as they enjoy dining on the worm. So do humans: Penis fish are served both raw and cooked in Korea and China.

[h/t Live Science]

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