Bill covers his office floor with trash to see what takes up space in a landfill. He digs through fast food containers and diapers to learn that what we really need is green design of our manufactured objects.
Transcript This [holding bags of trash] is the hallmark of human presence, especially in a technological society like ours.
This [pile of trash] shows that engineers not only have to make stuff, they also have to think about how you're going to dispose of it.
What I want to look for today is what people think is in a dump. Most people think that things like fast food fill up our dumps - things like Big Mac containers, cups, plastic peanuts and foam. There is one thing thought they are sure completely fills up our dumps. I'm going to find one for you.
It's diapers. People are sure that this kind of trash makes up fifty percent of a dump. Now it turns out that fast food containers make, oh, about half a percent of a dump. Things like foam make up a few percent. And diapers make up about two percent.
So, if this isn't the stuff filling up a dump, [then] what is filling up a dump?
This [plastic] makes up about fifteen percent of a landfill - its plastic. You can see plastic that's on a fan from a computer, this is an old Zip Drive with a plastic casing, and of course these are two-liter plastic bottles. They [plastic items] make up about fifteen percent, but its decreasing because these just as strong, but thinner.
What really fills up a landfill is this ... paper. A year's worth of the New York Times is equal to about 50,000 Big Mac containers. And its not only newspapers, its things like computer paper. In fact, the computer is at the root of our problem; in this paperless age we fill up our landfills with more and more paper.
The key here is that we already have the low-hanging fruit in terms of recycling. What we need to do is redesign objects that they can be taken apart quickly and recycled easily. Let me show you an example.
I have found in there an LED light. And what we'd like to do with this is to extract the high value aluminum, which is this heat sink that runs around it. I'm going to try to take this apart. [Struggles] I can't find any screws or anything on it. [Hammers LED light] Well as you can see I'm not able to get this apart at all.
We want a green design where this is designed with screws or where this has snaps so it's easy to take apart.