Recycling

How to Securely Wipe a Hard Drive on Your Mac

Thinking of giving an old hard drive to a friend, or taking it to be recycled? Be careful. When you delete a file on a mechanical drive, it’s not really gone—at least, not physically. Your file system marks the spot taken up by the file as “free space,” which is why you can sometimes recover deleted files.

With enough usage, new files will overwrite your deleted files, making them harder to recover. Until that happens, though, your files aren’t physically gone. As a result, it’s very important that you securely wipe a mechanical drive before giving it away or recycling it.

If you’re a Mac user, Disk Utility can write random information over any entire drive. A single pass with random data will foil most recovery software, but if you’re as paranoid as the US government, you can run multiple passes as well.

NOTE: it’s not really necessary to overwrite files on an SSD with TRiM enabled; your Mac is already deleting files completely to ensure fast write speeds later. This is much more important for mechanical drives with spinning platters.

To wipe your mechanical drive, open Disk Utility, which you’ll find in Applications > Utilities.

Connect the drive you want to securely delete, then click it in…

Filament Friday: Refil ABS Is Recycled Plastic for More Sustainable Prints

A major complaint leveraged against 3D printing is the creation of additional plastic waste that is quickly filling the world’s waterways. Most filament on the market is created from new, first-use polymers, but the team at Refil is working to combat that with their line of recycled plastic filament — creating little to no extra plastic waste.

A good friend of mine called me up to let me know he was helping out with 3D Brooklyn (who have recently been creating downloadable models for the History channel’s Vikings TV show) and that he thought I should check out the new filament they were bringing to the US market. He sent me a spool of the Refil ABS, a filament made from 100% recycled car parts, with no virgin plastic used. While you may not get the color options found in new plastics (Refil ABS only comes in black) you will have the peace of mind knowing that you are not contributing to the pollution problem as much as using new plastic.

Using the Refil ABS made me remember how much I love printing in ABS. It was not that long ago that ABS was the dominant 3D printing material and PLA was experimental. ABS…

Timberland Is Making Shoes and Bags From Recycled Plastic Bottles

Americans go through about 50 billion water bottles a year, but only recycle a fraction of that colossal total. Now, more companies and organizations are looking for creative ways to repurpose the waste that hydration leaves behind. Possibly taking cues from Adidas, Timberland has started making its own environmentally-conscious footwear.

The shoe company has partnered with Pennsylvania-based manufacturer Thread (and their Ground to Good fabric) to transform used water bottles into wearable shoes, bags, and shirts. The Timberland x Thread collaboration is taking bottles from the streets and landfills of Haiti in an effort to promote sustainability and…

Young South African Inventor Makes Bricks From Recycled Paper

Aiming to reduce pollution and expand his country’s limited housing options, a South African inventor has created Nubrix, a brick made of recycled paper, France 24’s The Observers reports.

Elijah Djan, 21, is an industrial engineering student at the University of Pretoria. His innovative construction material has been years in the making: As a kid, Djan witnessed his father, a lecturer, burning old textbooks, and was inspired to take action. “I knew that it was bad for the environment, but my dad said he wouldn’t stop doing it unless I had a better idea for how to use the paper,” Djan says.

Djan watched a documentary on South Africa’s low-income housing shortage (as of 2011, nearly 2 million…

Innovated Recycling Appliance Turns Scraps of Food Into Fertilizer

A new kitchen appliance aims to turn food waste into “black gold” with the touch of a button. As Curbed reports, the Zera Food Recycler is an automated composter that, according to its designers, can turn food scraps into fresh fertilizer in just 24 hours.

Traditionally, the composting process takes weeks—if not months—to complete as microorganisms turn organic material into rich fertilizer (what gardeners call “black gold”). It’s also a somewhat taxing activity because in order to provide oxygen to the microorganisms responsible for the decomposition,…

Recycled Materials Create Nature-Inspired Sculptures

UK-based artist Kate Kato makes tiny, life-sized sculptures of insects, plants, and fungi from old books and other recycled materials. She works mostly with paper and textiles, adding color or detail using paints, embroidery, and metal wire. Then, she displays the delicate models in small collections or dioramas.

Kato says her work is inspired by a lifelong love of nature. She grew up in Bristol, England, and now lives in the Welsh countryside. “As a child I spent a lot of time collecting bits and pieces in tins or boxes, which I would take…

NASA Is Looking to Make a Mobile Water Factory on the Moon

Water has long been the limiting factor for humans in space. But now, NASA is developing a rover that can make water on the Moon. Such a capability will be necessary for any serious attempt at the permanent settlement of Mars, or any other long-term space voyage. If successful, it will inaugurate a new, critical area in space exploration, where resources from other worlds can be harnessed and used.

Presently, everything we use in space is made on Earth. Consider the big, visible parts of human exploration of the solar system, rockets like the Space Launch System (SLS), under construction and set for its maiden voyage in 2018. There’s also the Orion capsule, tested previously and set to fly atop SLS (without astronauts). Then there’s work on habitats: Scientists are currently working on manufacturing artificial habitats for the International Space Station, but soon will be working on one for the Martian surface. A huge part of this kind of pioneering the solar system, however, concerns not just what we bring to other worlds, but what we leave behind. The Lunar Resource Prospector is the first big step in striking that balance.

The real problem of colonization is mass. It’s very expensive to send something to space, and the heavier it is, the more it costs. It takes hundreds of kilograms on the launch pad to put a single kilogram on the surface of Mars, and Martian settlers will need many, many metric tons of commodities to survive. Practically speaking, they can’t take everything they will need from Earth. To colonize the solar system, they will have to learn how to use the resources of the solar system.

The good news is that everything in the solar system is a potential resource for settlers. In-situ resource utilization, or ISRU, is the concept of mining resources on other worlds and turning them into useful commodities, as well as recycling waste created on other worlds. (Waste conversion solves two problems: It creates new useful things and eliminates garbage. The ISS dumps its garbage, allowing it to burn up in the atmosphere. But surface dwellers on Mars won’t have such a convenient disposal service.)

Energy is an important part of ISRU, and from a settlement perspective, energy is very cheap. The Sun is a giant fusion reactor in the sky, after all, and to harness it, all pioneers need are a few solar panels that they bring from home. Those panels will provide energy for a very long time—energy that can be used for ISRU.

Mars is the most likely current spot for future human settlement, so consider what resources might be available there: Settlers could extract oxygen from Mars’s soil, known as regolith. Water could be extracted from volatiles in the soil, essentially baking them off. There is also carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Combine carbon with electrolyzed water and settlers can make methane, which could be used as fuel.

Settlers won’t need to take building material to Mars; they could easily glue soil together and make bricks. Metals could also be extracted from Martian regolith to build things. Because Mars is rich with carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, settlers could even make plastic. What would they build first? Probably greenhouses, for starters. Growing crops for food will also be useful for water purification and oxygen generation.

For…