Garbage Day

In which we toss out a veritable scrap heap of news

Published March 11, 2024

They say that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. In that case, consider this a treasure chest full of news briefs!

Pick of the litter

Remember WALL-E, the cute little robot who collected and sorted the out-of-control trash situation on future Earth in the best Pixar movie? (Yes, we see you Ratatouille.) Well, here on present-day Earth, a new kind of robot is streamlining the trash-sorting industry.

A recent Fast Company article highlighted the new AI recycling robot, developed by a start-up called Glacier, that can identify and sort 30 different materials while picking 45 items per minute off a belt. This has obvious ramifications for an industry where 30 to 90+ percent of waste is not recycled, even when the consumer tries. The new tech is being hailed for its environmental contributions to the burgeoning and important circular economy; it’s so groundbreaking that even Amazon has taken notice.

According to the article, in one Indiana recycling facility, in just four months, the robot kept 2 million plastic bottles from ending up in a landfill (worldwide, people buy about a million a minute). But Glacier says the robot has much more potential than that: Each year, one robot could save up to 42 million recyclable items, 5,000 trees, 12.5 million kWh of power (the equivalent of about 1,200 households), and 585 tons of carbon dioxide emissions (127 cars’ worth).

If only it had WALL-E’s dance moves.

Goyish space lasers*

Earth has a space debris problem. There are more than 34,000 pieces in orbit that are 4 or more inches across, and millions of smaller ones. And with the space industry set to ratchet up over the coming years, these could become a real threat to Sandra Bullock. But according to a recent Vox article, scientists have proposed some ideas for tidying up, coaxing the trash into the incinerator that is Earth’s atmosphere. 

For those aforementioned large debris fragments, one solution (which we’ll call “the nudger”) would be to send up a small spacecraft which could either push or pull the hunk o’ trash to slow its orbit. For the tiniest debris less than 1 cm, a physical “sweeper” could collect the fragments, or blast them with a cloud of tungsten metal dust to weigh them down. (Fighting debris with more debris?)

But it’s the in-betweeners that caught our attention—they call for literal ground and space lasers! Basically a laser would track the pieces as they fly, and blast them with a pulse of laser energy to slow and disrupt their orbit. While technology is being researched and developed for different space garbage clean-up technology, NASA believes that the space laser concept is the most cost-effective and practical way of tackling it. YASS!! We hereby volunteer our joystick skills.

*NASA has not actually commented on the religion of the proposed lasers

At least the popcorn was good

Congratulations to Megan Fox! After five nominations, she finally broke through and won her first Razzy award for Worst Actress.

Yes, while everyone was waiting to watch Oppenheimer nuke the Oscars, the 44th Golden Raspberry Awards were handed out, honoring the year’s cinematic trash. Consider Fox’s turn in Johnny & Clyde, a film about–we had to look this up–two madly-in-love serial killers planning a casino heist (Fox is the casino owner). According to one reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes, where it has a 0% rating, “It’s an unwatchable mess, sure to be one of the worst films of 2023, but perhaps this is what (director Tom) DeNucci is going for.” Yeah, sure buddy.

Fox also picked up Worst Supporting Actress for Expend4bles, though that’s one trophy she already had on her shelf, having won for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014).

Other winners:

  • Worst Actor: Jon Voight in Mercy
  • Worst Supporting Actor: Sylvester Stallone in Expend4bles
  • Worst Literally Everything Else: Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey