How to start a community recycling program in 19 steps!
How to start a community recycling program (and, you know, a global community revolution) in 19 steps!
1. Place a 20-foot shipping container in an on-street parking spot in your neighborhood. Most cities have a permitting process to place storage containers on the street. In Portland, Ore., it’s $10 per 20 feet per week, or roughly $40 a month. There is often no set time limit for how long you can keep your container there, as long as none of your neighbors complain.
2. Turn the shipping container it into a Precious Plastic recycling center, following the open-source plans available for free at preciousplastic.com.
3. Start collecting plastic locally and extrude the HDPE (2) and PP (5) plastics into inter-locking beams that bolt together to build the frame of a low-cost tiny home. Use extruded PETE (1) bottles to fill the walls with poly-insulation. Finish with plywood and metal roofing. Total cost should be around $500-$1000.
4. Place one tiny home on every block within a 1-block radius of your new community recycling center, making a collection area of exactly 9 blocks (if you live in a grid-planned neighborhood). In Portland, the city’s current non-enforcement policy allows 2 tiny homes to be placed in the backyard or driveway of any private property. The tiny house can also be placed on the street and/or on a trailer. Choose what’s best for your community.
5. Offer the tiny homes to low-income folks, formerly unhoused folks, or anyone else, as a work-trade position in which the person lives rent-free in exchange for collecting the recycling from each house once or twice a week, and transporting it to the recycling center, where it can be turned into even more houses. Build 15 more tiny homes and you would cover a 2-block radius, and so on.
6. Remember that if you’re going to be picking up plastic anyway, you might as well just take all the garbage. Offer your waste-pick up services to your neighbors for free, on the one condition that they pre-sort their wastes, since trash is waaaay easier to sort at its source. A good place to start is to have bins for the following things: Batteries, Light Bulbs, Food Scraps, Yard Waste, Paper+Cardboard, and then 8 bins for plastics, sorted by their recycling codes 1-7, plus a ? bin for everything else. Add more as needed.
7. Of course, you should ask your neighbors if they’d be willing to pay you for the service you’re providing, even if you don’t require them to. By picking up their trash for free, you’ll be saving them money. In Portland, residential waste pick-up costs about $40 per household per month. If all the houses in a 1-block radius from your recycling center paid, on average, half of what they are all already paying, that would generate a monthly budget of $3,600 to work with, which works out to about $40,000 a year. (assuming roughly 20 houses per block)
8. Use this money to fund new community initiatives, such as a shared tool library or community-owned car-sharing program. Or use it to pay someone from your neighborhood a decent salary to work for the benefit of the neighborhood in some needed way, like running, improving, and maintaining the plastic recycling machines, or developing, installing, and maintaining a low-cost, high-speed community internet service, or doing energy retrofits on the houses.
9. Doing this should continue to generate more and more monthly income, as you systematically lower your neighbor's monthly utility costs for water, electricity, gas, internet, and garbage pickup. Don’t forget that paper, cardboard, yard waste, and food scraps, can be all be composted and/or bio-digested into heat, fuel, and fertilizer. Consider using this free fertilizer and compost to create a distributed network of neighborhood farm plots and vertical gardens, and let neighbors buy a share of whatever is produced locally, to lower your collective food cost.
10. Keep adding services until you’ve got enough money and monthly income to start buying up houses as they come up for sale in your neighborhood, and then put them into a community land trust, so that they can never be rented out or sold for a profit ever again.
11. Turn the houses into tuition-free ecological design schools, where students live rent-free and study urban regenerative systems and permaculture by systematically retrofitting the houses to be more and more energy- and resource-efficient, and by developing new tools, technologies, techniques, hardware, and software that allow the neighborhood to meet as many of its own essential human needs as possible, as directly as possible, from locally available and renewable flows of material and energy.
12. Work out a deal with your local planning and zoning office to ensure that all of your retrofits are legal. If they have concerns about the safety of a certain retrofit, work with them to address the issues, or conduct further testing to see if their concerns are really an issue. Once the issues are resolved and the concerns put to rest, work with them to change your local building codes and permitting processes to accommodate the new technologies.
13. Require that in exchange for free room, board and tuition, the design students must document all of their work — technical schematics, prototypes, build notes, cut files and 3D printing files, and experimental performance data — in a standardized, detailed, and scientifically rigorous way, and share it for free online, so that people anywhere can easily access, replicate and benefit from their work.
14. Create a database/file storage system that lets people easily share, store, search and add information to this repository of open knowledge. Consider how to make that information available to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Note that this may require rebuilding the internet. Don’t forget to make sure that you store the data holographically across many computers, so that it can never be controlled, stopped or suppressed.
15. Use translation services and distributed crowdsourced language learning and translation platforms like Duolingo to translate every page in the database into every major written language on Earth.
16. Create a truly peer-to-peer global inter-communication network that allows every person on Earth to freely and securely communicate with every other person. Don’t forget to take advantage of the fact that because of the planned obsolescence of consumer electronics, there already exist more working wifi-enabled devices in the world than there are people. So do your best to make sure everyone who wants one gets one — there are more than enough for everybody.
17. Use real-time language translation software to dissolve the global language barrier and allow anyone talk to anyone in any language in realtime for free.
18. Wow! Declare a global holiday, that's a big deal! Congratulations! Consider doing the holiday on a full moon, since the full moon is visible all over the Earth, making the whole thing a lot easier to coordinate.
19. While you’re at it, consider adopting an international fixed calendar of 13 identical 28-day months. This will make it much easier to coordinate global efforts to mitigate climate change, and it will come in handy for space exploration later on. It also has the benefit of creating a yearly leap-day that doesn’t belong to any month. Consider declaring this day a yearly global holiday commemorating the fall of the language barrier and the unification of Earth. This may also be a good time to switch to the metric system.