Friday, June 24, 2011

BYORB... Recycling Bin, That Is

I know, it's Friday, and I should be writing a Friday Feel Good News post, but there isn't much good news out there, not when the Canadian Government has decided to block the listing of asbestos on an international list of hazardous chemicals - apparently saving jobs in the industry here is more important than saving lives in the countries we export asbestos to, because that's not "our problem". So let's distract ourselves from that bad news with a look at a product you might see on store shelves soon: the Waste Folder.

Say you find yourself spontaneously having a picnic only to discover you have no method of transporting your recyclables back home. What will you do with that apple core? That aluminum drink can? Those juice bottles? Look no further than akarchitectes' Waste Folder, a cardboard package the size of a file folder that unfolds into a bag with six compartments to carry your plastic, glass, cans, paper, organics, and tetra packs out of the park in style. For lots of images that showcase the design, check out designboom - I don't have permission to show the images directly from this page.

I heard about this idea back in the winter, when picnics were just about the last thing on my mind. Strangely, I haven't found myself impulsively having any since the weather has improved, so I'm not sure this would be terribly useful. When I do plan picnics, I use an insulated picnic bag. Since it is large enough to carry my food and drinks into the park, it's large enough to carry the waste back out. Most importantly, I will continue to use it for years, whereas the Waste Folder looks like it wouldn't fare so well after the initial use - especially not the food waste compartment, which doesn't even look sturdy enough to be filled with wet organics!

The compartments would be useless to me, too, since curbside recycling pick-up in Toronto uses a "dump everything into the truck to be sorted later" approach to encourage higher participation rates among city residents. I'd be taking the time to sort my waste, then tossing it all into my blue bin once I got home. There's also a good chance I'd forget to take this item with me. Most days my purse can't hold anything as large as a file folder, already filled to capacity with a water bottle, travel mug, empty food container, fork, and cloth napkin!

So... what's the point? Is this perhaps more appealing to the recycling-unconverted, and I just can't see it because I've been carrying home my waste for years? Or is this truly designed for those who frequently go on unplanned picnics? The real question: would you use this?

Photo used under Creative Commons from Ian Westcott (iandavid/flickr).


  1. While I certainly try to be conscious of my "Pack it in, Pack it Out" mentality (thank you twelve years of Boy Scouts), I can still see the utility of this device when camping or picnicing with others who may not be so thougthful.

    Plus, and this is totally the boy in me talking: that is a beautiful bit of engineering design work! Clean lines, clever, and compact! Colour me impressed!

  2. Sure, I wouldn't argue that it's not a nice design. But it's lacking in functionality. Does that actually look sturdy enough to hold glass bottles? Wouldn't wet organics tear through the bottom?

  3. i do think it is cool looking...but for me i would just use a grocery bag, especially since like your area boston does single stream recycling. I was quite impressed when at a picnic I was at last year someone brought a Tupperware container to fill with compost items to bring to her compost bin.

  4. Yeah, see, that's thinking! A Tupperware container! I carry a small one in my purse. It's useful if I go out to dinner and can't finish my plate, or if I take apples with me and can't find a green bin for the cores. I highly recommend this simple solution for everyday organic waste.

  5. It is a cool idea, for sure. But it's only one-time use so it adds to the waste. The more sustainable solution is like you said - pack your waste and recyclables in the same bag you brought your food in. It would be good for the unconverted, who is not yet ready to be uber environmentalist, and prefers something more similar to what we have now.

  6. You're right, Lynn, it makes for a good stepping stone for the unconverted, a bite-sized piece if you will. :)

    Then the question remains, would you actually buy this to give to someone, especially if it's not sustainable enough for your own lifestyle?