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New Food Recycling Appliance Will Turn Scraps Into Fertilizer in 24 Hours

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A new kitchen appliance aims to turn food waste into "black gold" with the touch of a button. As Curbed reports, the Zera Food Recycler is an automated composter that, according to its designers, can turn food scraps into fresh fertilizer in just 24 hours.

Traditionally, the composting process takes weeks—if not months—to complete as microorganisms turn organic material into rich fertilizer (what gardeners call "black gold"). It’s also a somewhat taxing activity because in order to provide oxygen to the microorganisms responsible for the decomposition, you have to mix the pile regularly.

By contrast, Zera is completely hands-free. The trash can-sized bin chops up food scraps, heats them up, and churns the mixture up with a special additive made from coconut fibers and baking soda designed to speed up the process. (Composting requires a certain amount of “brown” material like dry leaves, hay, or sawdust to provide carbon.)

The appliance, invented at Whirlpool’s WLabs and launched at CES this year, can also take in food that traditional compost operations cannot. It will break down meat and dairy, unlike your average community garden compost pile.

A prototype Zera was built in July, and production of the final design is set to begin in March. The $999 units (available for pre-order on Indiegogo) are due out in summer 2017.

[h/t Curbed]

All images courtesy Zera / Whirlpool

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environment
To Encourage Responsible Trash Disposal, a Startup in Nigeria Pays People for their Waste
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Nigeria is home to more than 180 million people, who produce more than 32 million tons of waste per year and just 20 to 30 percent of this garbage is collected, according to one estimate. To provide Nigerians with incentive to dispose of their trash responsibly, Junks, a Nigerian waste management startup, provides people with the chance to exchange their trash for cash, according to Konbini.

The company offers to pay for items and materials like discarded electronics, glass, plastic, aluminum, books, and clothes. Once purchased, these materials are re-sold to wholesalers and recycling companies, according to Techpoint. Potential users who want to sell their trash are required to register on the startup's website, Junks.ng, and fill out a form with a description of the trash they're selling, along with their asking price and contact information. Once this information is received, representatives from Junks are sent to pick up and pay for the waste.

Computer programmer Bradley Yarrow founded Junks.ng in August 2017. Based in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, Nigeria, the company currently has just three employees, in addition to Yarrow. That said, the tiny startup appears to be doing big business, judging from a growing list of sold junk—which includes laminating machines, old laptops, and scrap car parts—already listed on Junks.ng.

[h/t Konbini]

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architecture
High-Tech Skyscrapers Could be Built with Low-Tech Wood
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When we think of wood construction, we often think of log cabins, tree houses, or the framework of residential properties. But if a new start-up has its way, we might soon be gazing up at 12-story buildings made almost entirely out of Douglas firs.

In a report for CityLab, journalist Amanda Kolson Hurley profiled Portland, Oregon's Lever Architecture, a firm attempting to revitalize wood-based towers that reduce the carbon footprints of conventional buildings. Their offices are located in a four-story property made from wood; their next major project, titled Framework, is expected to be 12 stories and slated to debut in Portland in 2019.

Part of Lever’s goal is to reduce concerns over wooden structures—namely, that they’re prone to fire hazards or might not be structurally sound in an earthquake. Developers use a building material called mass timber, a special type of strengthened wood in which timber panels are glued together to make beams and cross-set layers for walls and floors. Fire tests have shown the mass timber doesn’t ignite easily: It chars, which can insulate the rest of the panel from the heat. Strength testing has shown the layers aren’t easily jostled by outside forces.

Lever’s architects hope that wooden buildings will lessen the environmental impact of commercial towers that use concrete and steel, which are responsible for 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions during their manufacturing.

Other firms have designs on taller buildings, including one 35-story tower in Paris and a 24-story building in Vienna.

[h/t CityLab]

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