TIME recycling

Got a Great Recycling Idea? H&M Wants To Give You 1 Million Euros

Shoppers And Retail Economy As German Investor Confidence Jumps
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

H&M's chief exec: 'No company, fast-fashion or not, can continue exactly like today'

The world’s second largest fashion retailer, H&M, is offering an annual 1 million euro prize — about $1.15 million — to those who come up with new recycling techniques, Reuters reports.

The move is part of a larger effort by the retailer to reduce its impact on the environment, operate more ethically, and address raw material shortages.

The fast-fashion model that H&M follows, providing good quality products at inexpensive prices, encourages people to buy more clothes than they probably need, likely leading them to throw away a lot of what they’ve purchased. Consumers are starting to become aware of the huge negative impact this has on the environment.

Karl-Johan Persson, Chief Executive of H&M, told Reuters: “No company, fast-fashion or not, can continue exactly like today. The (prize’s) largest potential lies with finding new technology that means we can recycle the fibers with unchanged quality.”

Existing methods of recycling cotton produce low quality material.

The prize is funded by H&M and the Persson family, the retailer’s main owners.

TIME Innovation

Why Recycling Is a Bad Deal for Cities

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Find out why recycling used to be a good deal for cities, but now it’s costing them millions.

By Aaron C. Davis at the Washington Post

2. Setting its sights on the next billion users, Facebook is opening its first office in Africa.

By Kurt Wagner in Re/code

3. We can save $40 billion of National Park land and assets from climate destruction.

By the U.S. Department of the Interior

4. Let’s get rid of religious tax exemptions.

By Mark Oppenheimer in Time

5. Violence is contagious. Tackle it like an infectious disease.

By Alexa Clay and Kyra Maya Phillips in Salon

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY Food & Drink

5 Amazing Strategies to Eliminate Food Waste and Feed the Hungry

A cook prepares food with unsold products of the food-processing industry during the 'Gaspi'Delice' event in Bordeaux , on June 3, 2015, a few days after French lawmakers voted to stop supermarkets from discarding leftover food, tonnes of which ends up in dustbins every day.
Jean-Pierre Muller—AFP/Getty Images A cook prepares food with unsold products of the food-processing industry during the 'Gaspi'Delice' event in Bordeaux , on June 3, 2015, a few days after French lawmakers voted to stop supermarkets from discarding leftover food.

Waste not, want not.

The modern American has evolved into an incredibly wasteful creature. “The average American consumer wastes 10 times as much food as someone in Southeast Asia, up 50 percent from Americans in the 1970s,” the National Resources Defense Council explains. Approximately “40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten. That is more than 20 pounds of food per person every month.”

The problem is hardly limited to the U.S. Some 100 million tons of food is wasted annually in the EU, and if nothing is done it’s expected the amount of food waste there will hit 126 million tons each year by 2020.

But with all of this waste comes great potential for increasing efficiencies and repurposing food that too often winds up in the trash heap. Here are a handful of interesting campaigns, strategies, and entrepreneurial ventures aimed at cutting food waste, sometimes dramatically so.

Bans on Food Dumping
A recently passed law in France will make it illegal for supermarkets to throw away food that is still edible. Starting in July 2016, French supermarkets that otherwise would have tossed out foods at or near their expiration dates—and that sometimes poured bleach on them to discourage dumpster divers from salvaging them—will be obligated to give the items to charity or farms (for animal feed) or face the possibility of fines and even jail time.

Arash Derambarsh, the French politician who rallied support for the new law, said that it was “scandalous and absurd” that so much food is wasted, often purposefully, and he hopes that the legislation sets a precedent that’s followed globally. As nutrition, environmental, and personal finance experts have noted, many food expiration dates are confusing, overly cautious, or both, and the result is that plenty of perfectly edible food (and money) is wasted. It’s been estimated that $160 billion worth of food in the U.S. alone is never actually eaten.

Independent Supermarket Initiatives
Tesco, the largest supermarket chain in England and one of the biggest in the world, is launching a pilot program at 10 stores in the UK that will distribute 30,000 tons of perishable food annually to registered charities. In the past, Tesco had been known to prosecute people as thieves when they took food that was thrown out by its grocery stores. Two other large supermarket brands in the UK, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, have similar giveaway programs for perishable foods that would otherwise wind up in the trash.

In the U.S., meanwhile, an interesting nonprofit grocery concept called the Daily Table, created by former Trader Joe’s president Doug Rauch, has just opened for business. A store in Dorchester, Mass., outside Boston, is the first location, and the goal is to expand to other urban areas with a dire need for healthy, low-price groceries. Prices are kept phenomenally low (lots of items under $1) thanks to an unusual nonprofit business model that incorporates donations as well as special bulk discounts. “We believe that food is a precious resource that should never be wasted,” the Daily Table website explains. “We will secure wholesome, nutritious food that is excess or overstocked from grocery stores, food suppliers, manufacturers, restaurants and growers. We’ll blend that with food that we also purchase from manufacturers, growers and distributors.”

Food Rescue Programs
Universities often pride themselves on the quality and variety of food offered to students at campus cafeterias and dining halls. But because colleges “never know exactly how many people will be dining in their cafeterias every day,” as NPR reported earlier this year, huge quantities of food are regularly tossed. Hence the need for a wide range of programs cited in the story, which include strategies for salvaging uneaten foods for charities and composting items that aren’t safe for eating.

Food for Free, based in Cambridge, Mass., rescues and redistributes food from restaurants and supermarkets that otherwise would be thrown out, and it has an especially large presence on the college scene, gathering 2,500 pounds of untouched cooked food from Harvard and 40 to 100 pounds of food from MIT every week. In New York City, City Harvest rescues 50 million pounds of food from restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, manufacturers, and such that would have otherwise been wasted and delivers them for free to soup kitchens and shelters.

Celebrity Chef Experiments
Early this spring, Blue Hill, the swanky Manhattan restaurant run by renowned chef Dan Barber, welcomed more than 20 celebrated guest chefs to participate in wastED. The two-week experiment featured dishes with edible ingredients that are usually wasted—salad scraps, pasta trimmings, “yesterday’s oatmeal,” and such—and each exquisitely prepared plate cost a total of just $15. The point was to call attention to how much food is wasted, and to inspire some of the most creative forces in cooking to come up with solutions.

Food Waste Startups
Entrepreneurs have been busy trying to cook up startup businesses that make use of food waste not only because it’s a way to help the environment and the hungry poor, but because considering how much food (and money) is wasted regularly, there’s potential for big profits. Many startups focus on repurposing food that’s already been cooked or has been sitting in stores unsold. Others put the emphasis on “ugly” fruits and vegetables that normally never see the inside of a restaurant kitchen or grocery store because they’re too small or not the most appealing color.

A nonprofit in Oregon called Food Waves, for instance, has introduced something called “Ugly Goat Kraut,” which is sauerkraut made with vegetable parts that would otherwise only be consumed by goats. Another new venture, the Oakland, Calif.-based Imperfect Produce, has launched a crowdfunding campaign and expects to start delivering produce that’s edible and healthy but also “cosmetically-challenged” to customers in Berkeley and Oakland in July. Prices should be 30% to 50% less than similar, non-ugly items at a standard supermarket.

Read next: The Hip New Foodie Trend Could Be Eating Garbage

TIME coca-cola

The Iconic Coca-Cola Bottle Is Getting a Surprising Update

Coca-Cola Buys North American Bottling Operations Of Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. For $12.3 Billion
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Coca-Cola can and bottle images appear on the side of a trailer outside the Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. bottling facility in Niles, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010.

It's pretty sweet

Coca-Cola has come up with a new bottle: one made entirely of plant material—including sugarcane.

It’s called the “PlantBottle.” Coke debuted it as the World Expo in Milan, Italy, a food-tech conference.

Coke said in a statement that the PlantBottle represents a “more responsible plant-based alternative to packaging traditionally made from fossil fuels and other nonrenewable materials.” The company will use the container across its beverage brands: soft drinks, water, juice, and tea.

PlantBottle is “the globe’s first fully recyclable PET plastic bottle made entirely from renewable materials,” said Nancy Quan, Coke’s global research and development officer, in the statement.

The bottles are still plastic, but made from plants including sugarcane and byproducts of processing sugarcane, rather than petroleum products, which leave a much larger environmental footprint. It was developed in partnership with Virent, a processor of biofuels and biochemicals.

Coke made something of a splash in 2009, when it announced that its containers would be made up of 30% plant material. It has sold 35 million of those bottles since then. Coke says those bottles have kept a total of 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from being released into the atmosphere.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports that Coke plans widespread distribution of the bottles by 2020.

MONEY Food & Drink

The Hip New Foodie Trend Could Be Eating Garbage

150401_EM_Wasted
Rosemary Calvert—Getty Images

What's to be learned from a swanky New York City restaurant's ambitious experiment featuring foods pretty much everybody considers garbage?

For the second half of March, Manhattan’s Blue Hill restaurant—renowned chef Dan Barber’s swanky farm-to-table experience described as “flawless” and a “top destination” in Zagat—was closed to make space for a pop-up experiment called wastED. The “waste” sums up what was on the menu, which consisted entirely of things that are usually considered inedible rubbish, including salad scraps, pasta trimmings, off-grade sweet potatoes, “yesterday’s oatmeal,” and seemingly unpalatable parts of meat and fish like skate-wing cartilage. Naturally, the latter was paired with fish-head tartar sauce. A dish dubbed “dog food,” which indeed looked just like dog food, was actually meatloaf made with offal (animal organs) and beef from a cow bred for milking.

A plate of food cost a flat $15. That could seem like a bargain considering people were eating in a chic, experimental, brag-worthy West Village restaurant. Then again, the price could be viewed as a total rip-off in light of the fact that diners were basically eating garbage.

As the pop-up restaurant’s name indicates, the emphasis was on ED, as in education. The point was to call attention to food waste. It’s been estimated that somewhere between 25% and 40% of perfectly edible food winds up in the trash, and the goal of Barber and his team of guest chefs was “creating something delicious out of the ignored or un-coveted.”

This isn’t a new concept for Barber, who a year ago wrote in TIME about the need for restaurants and society at large to “cook with the whole farm” rather than just the prime cuts, so to speak. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have also pointed out that food waste is ripe for profit, what with the potential to turn cheap or free discarded materials into products that can be sold.

For the most part, the reviews were positive—if not concerning the food, then at least the idea. The New Yorker declared the bony monkfish meat to be “juicier than even the best fried chicken,” and that overall, “Ordering horrible-sounding things that turned out to be delicious was a bizarre but exhilarating adventure.” Architectural Digest noted that the décor consisted of repurposed and discarded materials, resulting in the overall effect of “having dinner in an extremely chic construction site, albeit one with perfect mood lighting that’s enhanced by beef tallow candles.” A Fast Company writer had fun ordering “dishes that sounded like blue plate specials for Oscar the Grouch,” though ultimately admitted she wouldn’t actively seek out anything that was on the menu.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever been in a Manhattan restaurant where so many people appeared so enthralled, so thrilled,” wrote GQ‘s Alan Richman. Even so, Richman expressed concern that wastED reminded him of the “inhumane fashion trend of a decade ago called ‘homeless chic,’ whereby designers created pricy fashions for wealthy people that resembled what bag ladies wore on the street.”

There’s something insulting about the idea of privileged people pretending to be dumpster-diving paupers for an evening. There’s also something hypocritical about rich foodies who wouldn’t dream of taking doggie bags home from a restaurant but who would brag about eating “dog food” when it’s created by a celebrity chef.

The New Republic also critiqued one aspect of the wastED experiment, which when you think about it demonstrates how pathetic most of us are at cooking:

The message a restaurant like this sends is that the world’s great chefs can do more with vegetable scraps than home cooks can with prime cuts of meat and high-quality produce.

For home cooks hoping to eliminate waste, it’s wise to take the baby-steps approach rather than ambitiously attempting to make fermented scallion tops or pig’s ears edible. Try to buy only what you’re going to use, be smart about storing and freezing foods that would otherwise be thrown away, and get creative when it comes to leftovers.

TIME China

See China’s Migrant Scrap Peddlers Eke Out a Living on Booming Beijing’s Edge

“These people make the city work,” says Getty photographer Kevin Frayer. “Beijing needs them”

Mrs. Zhou avoids the city. In the seven years she’s lived and worked in Beijing’s vast northern suburbs, she’s ventured only once to the capital’s peak-roofed core. Raised in a village in Henan province, she never learned to read or write much. Subway maps and street signs are impenetrable. She frets about getting lost.

But Zhou, 36, knows the capital. It appears to her each day in the fragments of plastic she sorts. Garbage collectors from across the city lumber in with waste stacked high on their motorbikes. Zhou spends her days picking through twisted tubing, abandoned appliances, and take-away containers still splattered with sauce.

From the hearth of her brick and concrete shelter, she’s also learned a little about the world beyond Beijing. The ever growing city sheds plastic like snakes shed skin, yielding no shortage of waste. But her livelihood depends on the worth of the material, which is linked to the global price of oil. The past two months have been brutal: what once earned her two yuan, or 32¢, now earns 80 jiao, or about 13¢. “More plastic, less money,” she says.

Big cities produce a lot of trash. In Beijing, home to more than 21 million people, the task of collecting, sorting and recycling it falls primarily on migrant workers. In a place that is constantly rebuilding, they clear away the old to make way for the new. Some, in turn, will save enough to make the leap to more comfortable urban life. Others will stay on the margins, making just enough to send a little back home.

It is these links between city and country, core and periphery, that drew Getty photographer Kevin Frayer to Dongxiakou, where Mrs. Zhou lives. The district was once home to tens of thousands of recyclers, but as Beijing bulges northward, the land is being developed. Though half-built apartment blocks now loom in the distance, a few hundred have stayed to keep toiling until the last trucks roll through. “These people make the city work,” says Frayer. “Beijing needs them.”

Yet the city offers little by way of welcome. Though they work about 10 minutes by motorbike from the closest subway station, they live a world apart. Their kids are not eligible for Beijing’s public schools and they often can’t afford private tuition. On a Monday afternoon in January, several children traipsed about the trash heaps in padded jackets and fuzzy slippers, digging for treasure with chapped, blackened hands.

Beijing’s dry, cold weather makes living and working in Dongxiakou tough. Some families give about half of their net income to the local laoban, or boss, for a place to stay and a shot at incoming scrap. (The boss also advised them not to talk to visitors, which is why we’ve withheld their names.) Others simply squat in temporary shelters built from the discarded lumber, scrap metal, and plastic sheets they sort.

Mr. Zhao, a 60-year-old from Sichuan province, more that 1,000 miles away, built his own hut of particleboard, reclaimed bricks and old cement bags. When the camp closes, it will be sold off piece by piece. Then he, and Beijing’s leftovers, must move somewhere, anywhere, else.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 13

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. The U.S. could improve its counterinsurgency strategy by gathering better public opinion data from people in conflict zones.

By Andrew Shaver and Yang-Yang Zhou in the Washington Post

2. The drought-stricken western U.S. can learn from Israel’s water management software which pores over tons of data to detect or prevent leaks.

By Amanda Little in Bloomberg Businessweek

3. Beyond “Teach for Mexico:” To upgrade Latin America’s outdated public education systems, leaders must fight institutional inequality.

By Whitney Eulich and Ruxandra Guidi in the Christian Science Monitor

4. Investment recommendations for retirees are often based on savings levels achieved by only a small fraction of families. Here’s better advice.

By Luke Delorme in the Daily Economy

5. Lessons from the Swiss: We should start making people pay for the trash they throw away.

By Sabine Oishi in the Baltimore Sun

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: January 5

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. After 13 years at war chasing shifting priorities and the wildly different visions of civilian leadership, America’s military is a force adrift.

By Andrew Tilghman, Hope Hodge Seck, Michelle Tan, Patricia Kime, David Larter, Steve Losey and Leo Shane III in the Military Times

2. Sending kids to jail only ups the chances they’ll commit crimes again. States should raise the age of criminal responsibility.

By Sarah Childress at Frontline

3. 95 percent of the world’s population doesn’t own a computer. Repurposing old or unused tech can help close the gap.

By Revivn

4. We must build systems for overcoming subconscious racial bias.

By Sendhil Mullainathan in the Upshot

5. A new tool harnesses data to give teachers personalized roadmaps for professional development.

By Christina Quattrocchi in EdSurge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME europe

The E.U. Plans to Spike Key Clean-Air and Recycling Laws

Prime Minister David Cameron Tries To Take A Harder Line with Europe
Carl Court—Getty Images E.U. flags are pictured outside the European Commission building in Brussels on Oct. 24, 2014

The proposed laws are aimed at preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths and set a 70% recycling target by 2030

The E.U. is planning to scrap environmental laws aimed at averting tens of thousands of possible deaths, according to classified documents published on Thursday.

The leaked files propose the withdrawal of a plan for a clean-air law as well as a directive setting a target of 70% waste recycling by 2030, the Guardian reported.

The plan is reportedly being withdrawn because the commission in charge of it sees “no foreseeable agreement” with states that have a poor track record on recycling, and would not be able to meet the target without additional financial help.

Read more at the Guardian

MONEY Saving

Cheapskate of the Downton Abbey Scene: British Baroness’s Frugal Living Guide

140613_EM_Baroness_1
©Carnival Film and Television Limited —©Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE Downtown Abbey

Yes, even wealthy aristocrats can be total cheapskates. And proud of it!

The July 2014 issue of the British society magazine Tatler has several interesting reads aimed at the upper crust. The articles carry such provocative titles as “Would You Take Your Son to a Prostitute? The Ins-and-Outs of Upper-Class Sex Education” and “How the Middle Classes Ruined Everything.”

Another story also seems to have the aristocratic set in mind, yet it’s getting quite a lot of attention from us schlubs who ruined everything. “How to Run a Stately Home on a Budget” is essentially a frugal living guide from Baroness Rawlings, the 75-year-old owner of a 13-bedroom, 38-acre country estate in Norfolk, currently on the market for around $10.5 million. The baroness’s money-saving tips, which include reusing everything from napkins to bread crust to newspaper and never throwing anything away, have been featured in a host of British publications, including The Telegraph, Express, and Daily Mail.

Lady Rawlings is a strong proponent of growing one’s own fruit, bargain hunting at auctions and on eBay, and leaving warm water in the tub after bathing (it will warm the room at no extra charge). She also takes issue with the common practice of throwing away “horrid little bars” of soap after they’ve been used by guests. “I give my guests a fresh bar,” she said. “But I reuse it afterwards. And it ends up in drawers and cupboards to keep moths away.”

While it may make news that someone so wealthy is simultaneously so frugal, Lady Rawlings is hardly the only person of means to be an unabashed tightwad. Fellow countrywoman the Queen Mother was supposedly too cheap to buy a TV for her Scottish castle, and she refused to replace raincoats that were nearly 30 years old. The frugal tendencies of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles have also occasionally been on display, especially during the tough recession years, when buffets replaced banquets (the horror!).

Some of America’s super rich are also renowned for their penny-pinching habits—most famously, Warren Buffett, who lives a unfancy life in Omaha, Neb., in the home he bought in 1958 for $31,500. This is the man who is CEO of the fourth-ranking company on the Fortune 500. Dick Yuengling, Jr., the owner of Yuengling, the oldest American-owned brewer, is another very wealthy character who refuses to give up his cheapskate ways; he’s been known to drive a 2002 Taurus (bought used) and reuse Styrofoam cups.

The author Thomas J. Stanley has long chronicled the habits of the wealthy, and while the huddled masses may assume rich folks live wildly extravagant, spend-spend-spend lives, the truth is often just the opposite. In one of his surveys from a few years ago, Stanley found out that 75% of millionaires pay less than $20 for a bottle of wine, and 4 in 10 prefer wine that’s $10 or under.

Other studies have found that affluent people tend to use coupons more than those in poverty, and that rich people don’t buy on impulse and prefer quality over prestige in products, among other somewhat surprising habits.

But should these frugal, value-oriented habits really come as a surprise? A prudent, disciplined, savvy approach likely helped these well-off individuals gain their wealth. And without a prudent, disciplined, savvy approach to spending, even the richest folks out there could cease being rich. At some point.

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