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

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

LEGO Is Rolling Out Its First Sustainable, Plant-Based Blocks

LEGO produces roughly 19 billion elements each year [PDF], and until recently, most of those bricks, minifigures, and accessories were made using oil. Now, the toy company has announced that it's experimenting with more sustainable production methods for certain items. As Mashable reports, the company will start selling 'botanical' pieces made from real plants this year.

To craft the new type of material, LEGO is sourcing sugarcane from Brazil. The crops are grown on agricultural land rather than former rainforests, and the sourcing has received the stamp of approval from the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, an organization that encourages corporations to make sustainable, plant-based plastics.

Making LEGO parts from sugarcane results in a softer plastic, so the new method will only be used to make plant pieces like leaves, bushes, and trees for now. The bioplastic botanicals will start appearing in LEGO boxes this year and become standard by the end of 2018.

“The LEGO Group’s decision to pursue sustainably sourced bio-based plastics represents an incredible opportunity to reduce dependence on finite resources," Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a release from LEGO.

Though the switch will reduce the company's carbon footprint, the bioplastic botanicals still only make up of a small fraction of their total product line. LEGO says the change represents one step in its mission to use sustainable materials in core products and packaging by 2030.

[h/t Mashable]

Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Why Scientists Are Hunting Down Iguanas in Florida
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images

In South Florida, iguanas had better watch their backs. That's because scientists are on an unusual hunt to kill them, with the help of captive bolt guns and a $63,000 research grant, according to the Sun Sentinel.

It's not as cruel as it might seem at first glance. The green iguana, native to Central and South America, is an invasive species in Florida. The large lizards—which can grow up to 6 feet long—first made it to Florida in the 1960s, and as their population has exploded, they have expanded farther north. The reptiles damage roads, sidewalks, sea walls, and flood-control canals with their burrows; chomp their way through landscaping; spread Salmonella, largely by pooping in people's backyard pools; and compete with the endangered Miami blue butterfly for precious food resources.

The population boom has caused an uptick in complaints from residents, Florida Fish and Wildlife's Sarah Funck told the Sun Sentinel in 2017, pushing the state to find new strategies to deal with the reptiles. One approach? Hire scientists to hunt them down and kill them.

As part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife research project, 15 University of Florida biologists have been tasked with executing as many iguanas as possible in Broward County (home to Fort Lauderdale and parts of the Miami metropolitan area), setting out in teams of two at night. Armed with flashlights and captive bolt guns—which are often used on animals in slaughterhouses and are considered a humane way of killing an animal instantly and painlessly—the researchers attempt to sneak up on sleeping lizards and shoot them before they can scurry away. They also sometimes dispatch the iguanas by smashing their heads against a hard surface, including the side of a truck or a boat.

They've exterminated 249 lizards so far. They take the dead animals back to the lab to be weighed and measured for their dataset, then deposit the carcasses in a landfill. The iguana killing spree is expected to last into May.

While they have tried trapping the iguanas in county parks, they haven't succeeded in capturing any with that method.

As part of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's iguana-eradicating efforts, the agency has also been hosting public workshops on how to deter and trap iguanas and has hired a dedicated trapper to control populations on public lands in the Florida Keys. 

[h/t Sun Sentinel]


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