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Recycling - May 1

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Urban miners look for precious metals in cell phones

Miho Yoshikawa, Reuters
Thinking of throwing out your old cell phone? Think again. Maybe you should mine it first for gold, silver, copper and a host of other metals embedded in the electronics -- many of which are enjoying near-record prices.

It's called "urban mining", scavenging through the scrap metal in old electronic products in search of such gems as iridium and gold, and it is a growth industry around the world as metal prices skyrocket.
(27 April 2008)

In Cairo Slum, the Poor Spark Environmental Change
(audio and text)
Liane Hansen, Weekend Edition, National Public Radio
In Cairo, the heart of the city's upscale area is known as Zamalek, a lush island neighborhood in the Nile that thrives with tourists and commerce. Only a short car ride away lies a sprawling slum where impoverished residents have learned to make a living off the trash from Zamalek and other parts of the Egyptian city.

Manshiyet Nasser, with its narrow dirt streets and precariously built houses, is home to tens of thousands of people. They are the Zabaleen, which in Arabic means "garbage collectors," and they have gathered and recycled Cairo's garbage by hand for decades.

While their means of survival may seem lowly, a closer look at this primarily Coptic Christian community reveals that something greater is going on. Here - in the most unlikely of places - the urban poor and some innovative young environmentalists are bringing about environmental change in an age of global warming.
(27 April 2008)

Turning over an old leaf

Charlotte Northedg, Guardian
Only 24 books are produced for every tree felled. But book-swapping websites could provide a solution for the eco-aware reader. Charlotte Northedge reports

The cover is creased and the edges slightly curling, but otherwise The Memory Keeper's Daughter is in surprisingly good condition for a book that has travelled more than 1,000 miles and been through seven pairs of hands.

"I don't bother about creases on the cover or the spine," says Wendy Evans, 48, the seventh and current owner of Kim Edwards' novel, which has travelled from Preston to Leicester via Glasgow and Dorset before landing on her doorstep in Sheffield. "I do object to food residue, but this one's in pretty good nick."

Evans has exchanged 135 books through since last August. "It's addictive," she says. "I can try out authors I wouldn't normally read and I don't feel guilty if I give up halfway. I'm not paying for the book, and I'm not throwing it away after I've read it or leaving it to gather dust on a shelf."

For eco-aware readers, the environmental benefits of swapping rather than buying are clear. In 2003, Greenpeace launched its book campaign, producing evidence that the UK publishing industry was inadvertently fuelling the destruction of ancient forests in Finland and Canada. It found that one Canadian spruce produces just 24 books, which means that if you get through one book every two weeks your reading habits destroy almost one large tree every year.
(1 May 2008)

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