A lot of household devices and appliances are rectangular and follow almost the same conventions. It occurs to me the cases for a lot of these can be replaced with flattened bamboo instead of plastic

Internal components with proximity to high voltages still need to be metal anyway so bamboo fibers (especially when steamed) are a good alternative. Hemp too

I think there's untapped potential to get rid of non-biodegradable materials


Addendum to this, there are already bamboo enclosure suppliers for home electronics like bluetooth speakers and kitchen scales

These are mainly intended for hobbyists for now, but I can see the trend spreading to established OEMs

And it doesn't even have to be electronics or devices either. There are lots of things that use plastic today that don't particularly *need* their components to be plastic

I.E. Here's a stapler with all plastic furniture replaced with bamboo

Show thread

@cypnk where can I get some hobby cases for my projects?

@reconbot These are mostly on eBay and Alibaba

But on Alibaba, there are minimum orders, which can be quite high:

Here's an individual set for basic speakers on AliExpress:

(I picked that set because that seller has a decent review history. Be careful when buying from brand new sellers or buying products without any reviews)

@cypnk holy crap that’s like a 10x price difference for volume

@cypnk The other option is treating devices as non-disposable. This is my Apsco 2002 stapler. It is made entirely of metal. It is older than I am. It's still my daily stapler. It will likely outlast me.

@cypnk Yes! Which hammers home your point: devices should either be built for obsolescence and degradation, or enduring use and resilience.

The bamboo examples you provided are the former. My stapler is the latter.

Too many devices, from smartphones to stereos to even food containers are all built using plastics with the negatives of both approaches: obsolescence and resilience. They are meant to be disposed of, yet do not degrade.

And on the flip side, many tools that would never be obsolete if they were made entirely of durable materials, such as knives, can openers, and even flower pots will be rendered unusable thanks to their reliance on plastics. Items like these should last forever, but the fraiglity of plastic means that they must eventually be disposed of, and yet do not degrade.

We must build disposable items out of biodegradable and disposable materials. We must build enduring items out of resilient materials. Plastics are neither, and should never be used unless their material properties render them essential.

@bVork @cypnk I believe there are plastics that last f-ing forever, but they’re not manufacturing them. It’s because of money, really. When you buy a stapler, you don’t keep paying the person who manufactured it. So the longer it lasts, the less money they make. That’s why I think we need a reputation economy to supplement money, for purchases that have lasting value, or uncertain value (like research).

@bVork @cypnk I remember those. We had them in school back in the 80's and 90's. I don't recall seeing anyone being broken, and they were used by hundreds of students every day.

@bVork @cypnk while we think both are great ideas, the industry thinks not. Plastic shells and components are used because they are very cheap to make, lightweight (resulting in reduced transport costs per quantity) and require less time to manufacture. Also, treating devices as non-disposable means the manufacturer is gonna sell a lot less product because demand will be significantly less.

It's all a money game really, and cheap-to-produce mass-consumable shit is how everyone likes to rake in the cash. It's tragic that manufacturers are unwilling to change their practices because the ecological alternatives are unappealing to them in this aspect. They'd rather bleed the world dry than support sustainable solutions.

@fristi @cypnk You're right, which I identify primarily as a failure of government oversight: corporations are always going to prioritize their own self-interest (minimal material costs and maximum profitability) over long-term environmental consequences unless they get hit with those costs directly.

Ideally, I'd like to see significant enough financial penalties for corporations that choose to use non-biodegradable materials that they will choose biodegradable ones unless there is no other option.

This would mean that they'd have no other choice than to use wood in devices intended to be obsolete, or metals in devices intended to last for ages. (I know modern corporations tend to eschew the idea of somebody buying an item and using it forever, but I'd like to think that some would still shoot for that goal.)

@bVork @cypnk I wouldn't immediately push off the use of plastic, just make sure that it isn't being used for cheap disposable stuff (because that's where the pain is the most). It's still a good material for things that are supposed to last a long while, as plastic can be a very durable material.

The problem is more with mass consumption. Even if we switch materials, we quite literally devour materials at an alarming rate for the sake of producing substantial quantities of cheap crap that nobody really needs. To end it would require the world to make a conscious effort to minimize their style of living, to make conscious choices about what you buy and how often you buy it. If the world population started doing that on a grander scale, manufacturers would be forced to adapt their strategies to more sustainable ones; producing actually useful, high-quality durable products.

@bVork @cypnk
I believe my stapler was made in the 70s. So was my typewriter, which I use for everyday purposes. My blender was made in the GDR. My waffle maker is twice as old as I am.

Get your hands on old stuff. If it still works 20 or 40 years later, it probably will last a few decades more.

@anarchiv @cypnk To be honest, I'd like to know more about your blender! My experiences with iron curtain devices have not been positive ones.

That said, though, I do think there is selection bias in play. Durable equipment has remained durable, but how many 70s-era devices were sent to the landfill in the 80s? I unfortunately believe that items like my stapler are the exception rather than the norm, and that a lot of unnecessarily fragile devices have already been disposed of. The iPhone era of disposable consumer devices is not new.

It is absolutely worth preserving and using the resilient devices of decades past, but we mustn't delude ourselves into thinking that things were genuinely crafted better in older times.

@bVork @cypnk
Oh that's absolutely not the conclusion, but in the GDR - with all its flaws - there was more incentive to build things that last. Friends of mine in Saxony wanted to replace the neon lamp in their cabin last year and didn't find the replacement because the model they've been using for as long as they've had the cabin had been phased out 30 years ago.

My blender is a Multiboy model, produced in Dresden in the late 80s. My late grandma had it in her basement and nobody knew why, because we don't have any relatives in the East on her side of the family.

@anarchiv @bVork @cypnk

in Western Europe, it was generally equipment used in places like schools, libraries and other public funded institutions that was more durable, it also seemed to be purchased in bulk and distributed from a central supplies organisation (unfortunately it is very hard to find things like this today)

@anarchiv @bVork @cypnk

A useful rule of hoof if you know nothing about the usable lifespan of an object is that its current age can be assumed to be halfway through its lifecycle. It doesn’t just apply to objects: it also works on ponies and events. For example, We have been the boss mare of Equestria for around 1200 years. It is a reasonable assumption that Our reign will continue for another millennium.

@Celestia @anarchiv @bVork @cypnk Waitasec, why is your posting address coming from a retirement home…

@bVork @cypnk This thing will outlast the entire human civilization!


I love the way bamboo looks!

How sustainable is bamboo production?

@cypnk you have inspired me to buy new plastic cased electronics, throw away the plastic and put them in bamboo cases.

@zens ProTip: Plastic turns to base hydrocarbons around 1000C/2000F so that's your excuse to also build a DIY furnace

@cypnk how much carbon would that put into the atmosphere?

@zens Way less than coal (which, weirdly, also spews radiation into the atmosphere). Even less polluting than gas power, which is why some European and Japanese powered plants are burning waste instead. They use blast furnaces though

@cypnk @zens

I've seen some experimental process demonstrated (particularly around India) where plastic waste that cannot be recycled is processed by heat into petrol, diesel and some other useful hydrocarbons. Not sure how viable it is long term and its certainly not that "green", but it could in the future be a way of processing plastic that is already in landfill?

@vfrmedia @zens The issue in those locations is the infrastructure. The landfill is the cheaper option in most developed countries and so that's what they'll do, unfortunately

Those places in India are literally running out of options and it's either processing the plastic into other fuels or pay a heavier price with an increasingly sick (and super dense) population

@cypnk @vfrmedia this raises an excellent point that- a lot of climate change/ environment conservation comes down to economic policy. people don’t pollute or poach because they are lazy or evil. it’s that markets have taken the shape of assigning value to that activity higher than more helpful activity

@cypnk wooden cabinets were pretty normal for consumer electronics (including larger units used in schools), until well into the 1980s, and the cabinets were generally made in the same country where the finished items were sold (indeed sometimes electronics was imported from Japan but the cabinet was 100% British!)

@vfrmedia I do miss our old cabinet-enclosed TV. Somehow TV time felt more like family time when sitting in front of that thing

@cypnk Philips still sold one with wooden surrounds well into the 2000s, although it wasn't cheap then and weighed in at 64 kilos..

@cypnk this sort of bamboo is compressed with an epoxy tho and is probably significantly more toxic than plastic is and not recyclable.

@liaizon Some of it is, but binders need not come from synthetic sources either

The danger is naturally occurring formaldehyde (some poorly made bamboo flooring has this issue). But there are ways to mitigate this which completely gets rid of carcinogens. Reputable wood flooring manufacturers have already solved this problem

@cypnk I guess it would cost a lot more, since compared to plastic you have to individually machine each item instead of just molding it.

@x44203 Initially, I think so too. But efficiencies will take over as the processes are improved over time. Besides, the waste from bamboo is a lot easier (and cheaper) to deal with than injection molding cast offs. Even finished waste would be safer if non-toxic binders are used

@cypnk Bamboo is greenwashing. I unfortunately purchased a surplus bamboo desk top before doing some research.

There are many downsides: it uses a lot of glue to laminate, and is manufactured in countries where chemical safety of adhesives is not closely monitored, there's quite a bit of waste turning the small diameters in to flat boards, shipping (at least to the US) has a large carbon footprint, it is not actually more water resistant than a standard hardwood.

@bhart Some of it may be greenwashing, but we can't keep producing plastic at the current pace and call it better either. Recycling in the U.S. is a joke and pollution now is already untenable. We need viable alternatives which renew quickly

@cypnk I totally agree, but I think the most pressing concern is ending the disposable convenience culture.

Engineered plastics can have a place in items that are built to be used for a lifetime, but most of our plastic waste was used for only between 10 minutes and 5 years.

Sign in to participate in the conversation

Server run by the main developers of the project 🐘 It is not focused on any particular niche interest - everyone is welcome as long as you follow our code of conduct!