Discarded Electronics Are Literal Gold Mines

If you have seen any dystopian film or have read any piece at all of dystopian literature, you would know that a landscape made of metal offers intense horrors that bank on some of the deep-seated fears of today’s society.

Realistically speaking, we have been inventing ways to address the problem of metal such as recycling laptop batteries into a source of alternative energy or something as strangely innovative as making stylish backpacks out of car parts, but there is a need to push further. A trio of researchers recently took a shot at that and conducted a study which tries to answer how profitable it is to recover metals from old electronics.

In 2016 alone, the world discarded 44.7 million metric tons of unusable or simply unwanted electronics, according to the United Nations’ 2017 Global E-Waste Monitor report. That’s 4,500 Eiffel Towers-worth of phones, laptops, microwaves, and TVs. Only 20 percent of this e-waste was properly recycled that year. The rest was likely either incinerated, pumping pollution into the atmosphere, or added to a landfill somewhere, with its toxins now leaking into our soil and water supply.

It turns out, urban mining costs much less than traditional mining. The researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University and Sydney’s Macquarie University published their results in a scientific journal after collecting data from recycling companies in China. While the cost of recycling might vary from country to country, China’s status as the world’s biggest producer of e-waste makes light of the truth that the practice of urban mining could have a big impact on both economic and environmental matters.

[W]e already knew electronics contain precious metals in addition to all that glass and plastic. While a single smartphone might not contain all that much, consumers buy about 1.7 billion of the devices each year. In just one million of those, you’ll find roughly 75 pounds of gold, 35,000 pounds of copper, and 772 pounds of silver.

Necessary reminder though: this is no reason at all to justify our technological consumption practices. If anything, it should make us ask more conscientiously, what do I do with my smartphone once I find a new replacement that has great upgrades and loads informative online articles (like this!) much faster?

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Scotland’s Wind Power Enough for 5 Million Homes

Attempts at finding alternative energy sources to fossil fuels might seem like everyday news—of course not futile, still of course productive and necessary, though less surprising. Every so often, some efforts make the world extra proud, extra green, and extra clean, like perhaps seeing the biofuel potential of kelp farms in the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and running an entire school in Denmark solely through solar power.

Today, one groundbreaking (or windbreaking?) story brings us a breath of fresh air. Scotland has achieved another wind power record by supplying energy equivalent to the usage of five million homes.

“Renewables have provided an incredible amount of power during the first three months of this year,” Dr. Sam Gardner, WWF Scotland’s acting director, said in a statement. “An increase of 44 percent on the record-breaking equivalent period in 2017 is clear evidence the investment made in this technology has paid off for the economy and the environment, putting Scotland at the forefront of the fight against climate change.”

In the first quarter of 2018, 5.3 million megawatt hours of energy were generated by Scotland’s wind turbines. March 1, considered so far as the best day in the country for wind power, produced 110,000 megawatt-hours of energy that could have provided for 173 percent of the nation’s entire electricity demand.

But WWF Scotland’s acting director is not only proud; he wants the potential of the country’s wind power production to serve as a call to action for the rest of the UK.

“If Scotland’s full renewables potential is to be unleashed to power our economy, heat our homes and charge our cars, then the UK government needs to stop excluding the cheapest forms of power, like onshore wind and solar, from the market,” he said.

With this record and all its implications for Scotland’s—and perhaps the UK’s—future, not only is Scotland taking our breath away, it is set to take the world by windstorm.

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Dogs Love Baby Talk, Study Says

Dear dog moms and dog dads, fret not. When your pup saves people from a house fire, learns a new trick that would make the family proud, or simply behaves like the good boy that he is, you are not delusional to spend a few minutes babying him. You don’t even need to get him a comfy armchair or mouth-watering treats, researchers at York University say that dogs appreciate baby talk or high-pitched “dog speak.”

“Obviously we know that dogs can’t learn to talk, so we wanted to know whether dog-speak also has a function for dogs, or whether it is simply something we tend to use with our pets in a culture where we think of dogs as part of the family, like fur-babies,” lead author Alex Benjamin told HuffPost […]

The researchers wanted to see if the dogs were interested in the high-pitched intonation used for them or if they were responding to the actual words said to them. After conducting speech tests with 69 adult ones, the research team discovered that dogs were most likely to engage with people who mix dog-directed speech (high-pitched tone) and dog-related content (“Who’s a good boy? You’re a good boy!”).

“I was a little surprised that in the second experiment, neither content, nor prosody ― which [is] intonation of the voice ― was driving the dogs’ preference,” she said. “I think it is really interesting that our dogs are able to use both acoustic and content information to determine what speech might be meant for them.”

So next time, when somebody says that you’re just being a crazy dog mom or dad, give them the scientific basis of your adoration. Perhaps using baby talk could help you guys communicate, too.

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Interracial Couple Marry On U.S.-Mexico Border

While human rights activists are seeing progress in countries such as Saudi Arabia, some causes remain stagnant. With little headway on the Trump administration’s hostility towards Mexico, an interracial couple decided to make a statement. Mexican bride Evelia Reyes married San Diego native Brian Houston at the steel border gate dividing both countries.

“It’s a statement that love has no borders,” [said] Houston… “Even though we are divided by a giant fence here, we can still love each other on both sides of the fence.”

Though Reyes has applied for a green card, the process could take over a year. For the ceremony, Border Patrol opened the gates, known as the “Door of Hope” for an hour. Relatives passed through for a mere three minutes to greet and embrace one another before shuttling back onto either side. Border Angels executive director Enrique Morones arranged the ritual.

“While some people want to build walls, we want to open doors,” Morones said.

Opened only for the 6th time sine 2013, the border is a symbol of hard times — but also a reminder than we can overcome them.

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Apple Now Powered by Clean Energy

Corporate giants like McDonalds (along with other fast food chains) and Google (along with other tech companies) have been participating in the global venture towards turning green. Recently, another giant techie has joined the cause: Apple has announced that its operations are now completely powered by renewable energy. The company claims that all of its shops, offices, and data centers across 43 different countries are part of the program.

“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

“We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

In a similar vein, Apple has also built an Apple Park campus completely powered by solar energy, as well as other wind and solar projects in China to help counteract its manufacturing wastes. However, Apple products still come from suppliers that the Apple company does not have complete control over. In response to this, the giant has been active in encouraging its suppliers to improve their standards, inclusive of labor conditions and environmental work.

It has encouraged suppliers to follow its lead in using renewable energy, it said, and now 23 of them are committed to working on green power.

If corporate competition between biggies in various industries like food and tech keep happening on the green stage, then one victor would always emerge for sure: our environment. Let’s just hope the battle continues.

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Twitter Backfire Raises Thousands For Girls’ Education In Africa

September alone has seen many successful fundraisers. In a month, a deaf boy raised $15,000 for deaf children in need. Similarly, a group of El Segundo cops raised $5,000 for a student robbed of her college fund. Students at the Craigburn Primary School in South Australia raised a whopping $200,000 to educate girls in Africa — thanks to an unanticipated Twitter backfire.

Senator Bernardi tweeted his frustration about the idea on Wednesday by writing, “This gender morphing is really getting absurd.”

The campaign, known as Do It In A Dress, encourages students of all genders to sport dresses for the sake of awareness. Australian charity OneGirl has been running the project for six years, schooling others on the lack of education for African girls. Despite the backlash, Bernardi, whose tweet prompted a frenzy of donations, stands by his opinion.

“I think, and many parents think, that it’s completely inappropriate for a school to encourage their male teachers and male students to wear drag at a casual clothes day,”

Ru Paul ought to give Bernardi a lesson in empowerment. OneGirl executive Morgan Koegel expressed her surprise over the positive response of benefactors. The tight-knit Australian fundraising community is proof that anyone can do good — no matter what the attire.

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Divers Discover Ancient Castle In Turkey’s Lake Van

Truly, 2017 has been a year of discovery — whether we’ve unearthed something new or deeply hidden in the past. While astronomers observed snow on Mars, casual hikers came across a fossilized Cretaceous water bird. Adding to this year’s list of wow moments are archeologists from the Van Yüzüncü Yıl University. Divers discovered an ancient fortress dating as far back as 9 B.C. in Turkey’s Lake Van.

“It is a miracle to find this castle underwater,” [head diver Tahsin Ceylan] added. “Archaeologists will come here to examine the castle’s history and provide information on it,” he said.

The castle presumably existed under the Uratu civilization in the iron age. Bearing in mind that the structure has been underwater for over 3,000 years, it’s a miracle that its walls are still intact up to 13 feet. Lake Van itself is some 600,000 years old and likely harbors other mysteries.

“With this belief in mind, we are working to reveal the lake’s secrets,” Mr Ceylan added.

Home to unusual stalagmite formations and numerous shipwrecks, who knows what else Lake Van might be hiding?

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Dad Works As Janitor To Send Kids To College

Parents will do almost anything for their children. They will take an extra shift or, if they’re tech-savvy, defend their kids on social media. Dad-of-five Fred Vautour set the ultimate standard, working 23 years as a graveyard shift janitor at Boston College to send his kids to school.

“I came from a poor family and kind of a broken home and I was kind of on my own,” Fred Vautour explained. “I did my best to be a father and a family man.”

Boston College, which provides benefits for its staff, granted all five of Vautour’s children a place in the school. While Vautour was able to save $700,000 in tuition, his greatest pride was watching each of them graduate.

“I want to be remembered as the grandkids knowing that their grandfather did a lot for my own,” he said. “And my kids are learning from that and they seem to be doing well with their kids, too, so it’s a trickle-down effect.”

Vautour has expressed his gratitude and still works at the university, however bittersweet. The hardworking dad has proved that status isn’t everything. Sometimes, being a good parent is enough.

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Dentist Shoulders Bill For Retired Staff Sergeant

Trips to the dentist may not be everyone’s favorite errand — that is, until excruciating cavities become a problem. Admittedly, probes are no fun, and neither is the price tag they come with. But following Dr. Kenny Wilstead’s good deed for a domestic abuse victim, Dr. David Nguyen decided to shoulder a military vet’s $15,000 bill.

“There was infection in his gum tissue, a lot of cracked teeth everywhere, a lot of crowding, a lot of grinding problems,” described Dr. Nguyen, a dentist at URBN Dental River Oaks in Houston.

Former Staff Sergeant David Tyler Harmon didn’t anticipate a simple toothache to reveal years of decay. To cover the costs, Harmon would’ve had to undergo months of paperwork with the Veterans Administration. Much to his delight, Dr. Nguyen decided to simply waive the charges.

“All veterans are heroes,” said Dr. Nguyen. “They give up so much for this country, and whatever I can do just to help him out a little bit, it’s all worth it to me.”

If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, it might be time for a cleaning!

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London Buses To Run On Coffee Fuel

Coffee: it’s every workaholic’s go-to beverage and, astoundingly, perfect for manufacturing sportswear. Nowadays, it isn’t just perfect for a pick-me-up — it’s potentially fueling London’s signature double-decker buses.

“Instead of sending a tonne of waste coffee grounds to landfill where it degrades and releases methane and CO2, we collect it, recycle it and turn it into a renewable fuel which is then used to replace further conventional fuels – so it’s a double saving”, [said] Bio-bean founder Arthur Kay.

Among the heaviest Americano consumers, Londoners contribute up to 200,000 tons of coffee waste annually. To make the most out of discarded grounds, Bio-bean is extracting 6,000 liters of oil to mix into fuel. The final blend is of 20% biofuel, which will also help to reduce carbon emissions.

“We’re not saying that it’s going to totally replace fossil fuels overnight,” Kay said.

“The amount of diesel produced globally is always going to be more than the amount of coffee.”

Considering London buses run nearly 2 billion trips a year, Bio-bean’s initiative could encourage alternative energy use. Perhaps a beer fuel may even be in talks.

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