recyclinglogo.jpg After drinking that refreshing glass – uh, I mean plastic – of water, ensuring the container is properly recycled should be a reward in and of itself. But one unorthodox effort takes that good deed a step further by benefiting other causes. A Turkish company, Pugedon, is tackling the dual issues of recycling and the country’s long-running stray dog and cat epidemic.

Plastic Bottles and Pet Food

The company has introduced a vending machine in Istanbul with a novel idea. When a passer-by deposits an empty plastic bottle in the receptacle, out comes a handful of pet food. Pugedon is marketing the device as a Smart Recycling Box. The city of Istanbul reportedly is not shelling out any funds to operate the machine, and Pugedon’s executives have asserted the income generated by recycling the plastic bottles funds the pet food. On the website Big Think, author Teodora Zareva outlines how Pugedon’s overture is one small step in addressing a far greater issue. The city of Istanbul alone has an estimated 150,000 stray dogs and cats – a startling figure that continues to escalate as growing numbers of animals roam the street and are not neutered or spayed. Oftentimes, the sole source of nutrient-filled food comes from the hands of the 14 million people in and around Istanbul. While Zareva readily recognizes Pugedon’s innovation does not address the core issue of controlling the stray animal population, it does take an important first step in the process. “Until we are ready to address and fix to core of the problem, we’ll have to accept that stray dogs have become urban dogs and co-inhabitants of our cities,” Zareva writes. “They have learned to survive in a completely different ecosystem – one with traffic lights, humans and trash bins that provide food.” Engin Girgin is credited with inventing Pugedon’s Smart Recycling Box. In a Q&A interview on Spiegel Online, Girgin said his invention carried a two-tier purpose. “My primary goal was to make people see that they don’t have to spend any money to help stray dogs,” Girgin says. “And I also wanted to show that people can do good deeds with things they would normally throw away. At the same time, of course, I know that we don’t give much priority to recycling here in Turkey.”

Donating That Old Cell Phone Can …

Let’s face it: Cell phones become obsolete almost as soon as you buy a new one. It’s a little like driving that new car off the dealer’s lot. As technology grows at its rapid clip, we seemingly go through cell phones as rapidly as we shop for new pairs of socks. As with any piece of discarded technology, a looming question surrounds its ultimate fate. On the website Make Use Of, author Saikat Basu outlines some of the ways donating or recycling an old cell phone can help benefit several disparate causes. On the recycling side, old cell phones can be dismantled; in the process, valuable materials can be extracted and reused. One such cell phone ingredient, as Basu points out in his report, is the mineral Coltan. It is mined extensively in such countries as the Congo but can have an impact on the earth’s resources. There are a host of other benefits to donating an old cell phone and having it reused. Such programs as Cell Phones for Soldiers and Eco-Cell are willing to accept old phones, repurpose them and benefit other causes in the process. Cell Phones for Soldiers is the kind of program that speaks for itself. Since its introduction in 2004, more than $7 million has gone to benefit American soldiers serving overseas. With assistance from a company known as Recellular, recipients are able to stay in touch with loved ones at no cost to use the repurposed phones. Eco-cell, meanwhile, is among the companies and organizations committed to reducing the amount of electronic waste (or, more colloquially, e-waste) that winds up populating landfills. The organization also has struck partnerships with more than a hundred botanical gardens, conservation sites and ecological groups. When phones are donated to Eco-cell, some of the proceeds go directly toward some of these organizations. Also noteworthy in the recycling cell phone sphere is a group known as the Orangutan Conservancy. The group pledges to take proceeds from old recycled cell phones and put them toward efforts to build habitats for endangered species.

Developing Countries

Perhaps one of the more direct ways of benefiting the greater good through recycling happens by default. In some developing countries, recycling has brought a much-needed infusion of revenue into the economy. This article on the website Take Part outlines the efforts an organization known as Global Communities has taken to create new recycling programs in countries across the globe. The report put the spotlight on Global Communities’ efforts to train residents in Bangalore, India, and recycle upward of 400 tons of different items that wind up initially in landfills. The so-called “waste collectors” dig through landfills – many considered dangerous – in vacant lots. But with sweeping poverty posing an ongoing challenge to the city of Bangalore, the approximately 20,000 waste collectors are willing to take the risk of sifting through sometimes dangerous rubbish to extract anything of value and bring in an income. In an interview with Take Part, Brian English, an urban planning expert with Global Communities, says the efforts to partner with developing countries are not haphazard. The organization, he said, provides the resources to help facilitate the process of bringing recycling centers to developing countries. English says Global Communities links up with local governments to ensure the process is in keeping with the laws of the respective country. “When you get this confluence of population and disadvantaged and marginalized groups, the way that recycling happens is in the shadows of the city,” English says in an interview on the cable TV channel Pivot. “It’s happening in back alleys, it’s happening in vacant lots. … What we’ve been doing in Bangalore, is putting this population on the map.”