Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Jim Crater, Recycling Guru

Jim Crater, Recycling Services Inc's founder and president, is determined to reduce the amount of waste he leaves on the Earth to as close to zero pounds a year as possible. He lives his life according to the mantra, "How can I do what I already do, but better?" And talking with him was by far the most interesting part of our trip to RSI.

Determined to find a use for everything the plant accepts, Jim has recently taken to making functional "found object art" out of several of RSI's collections.

Take, for example, the dragonfly, Merlin 2. Made out of headlights, a dome from a street light, and a swimming pool ladder among other recycled items, this "dragonfly" also flaps his wings and has headlights that blinks. But, as Jim said, "don't get hung up on that, [because] that's not even it."

The sculpture has a bellows that breathes in carbon dioxide and exhales pure oxygen. Using solar panels to operate, Merlin 2 uses renewable resources to purify the air. This catalytic converter technology is similar to one employed by Volvo which removes 90% of noxious fumes from exhaust. Jim noted that if manufacturers had taken the extra step of using this purified oxygen for combustion as well, cars would be a lot more efficient in addition to having cleaner exhaust.

For Jim, who has a simultaneously calm and energetic aura and looks like a cross between Willie Nelson and Wallace Shawn, this illustrates just one of many missed opportunities in industrial design. Engineers and inventors need to figure out what to do with the waste products of their inventions before products can be developed for mass consumption.

For now, Jim remains optimistic about the possibility for a more sustainable, less wasteful society. "When you decide things are going to be different," Jim told us, "it'll push you out of your comfort zone. That's how things will change."

Here Jim introduces one of his functional art pieces, Ron Peyote.

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