Recycle plastic types


Michael drew my attention to this list of plastic types: plastic types and the associated symbols

The idea is that you can figure out what kind of plastic something is and choose the right glue or solvent for joining parts.

Apparently the example in this picture is Polyethylene terephthalate.

Green Drinks

post canada

I was at Green Drinks last night in Ottawa. It was an amazingly interesting crowd as usual. Some regulars and some new. Even a guest from Vancouver. Great conversation for the whole event.

I brought a Post Canada blunder for show and tell.

It’s the shipping materials for something I ordered from Robotshop in Montreal. The item is a few grams and is about the size of a postage stamp.

The box it came in was huge (and expensive).

My first response when I got the box was to get after Robotshop for putting such a small item in such a huge box. Of course they’re the one that made the decision to put it in such a large container.

But wait! Things are not always what they seem. I once tried to send something very small through post Canada in a small container.  Because the small container was small and inexpensive to ship, Post Canada refused to insure it. Apparently if it’s small it can’t have any value (according to Post Canada).

What I did was left the counter, went next door and bought a box of cereal on sale for 2.99. I grabbed some tape that was sitting on the postal counter and simply tapped my small item to the cereal box.

The postal worker objected saying I was “beating the system”. I persisted calmly and they eventually mailed my small item with insurance with the cereal box.

Clearly Robotshop can’t send cereal with all their shipments. Instead the send some heavy packing material. Post Canada gets to have more business and burn lots more jet fuel! Yay!


HD Polyethylene Mill is slower but


I used it for making boxes for about 3h straight the other day. It runs slower than the Chinese mill but while it’s cutting I glue the boxes together and box up orders. The machine can actually keep up with me.

I think the mill was a good buy. It’s slower, less accurate, has more backlash but for many jobs, it can get the work done.

There is a wobble problem on the Z axis and the Y and X axis have quite a bit of play. The Y axis also started binding the other day at the far back extreme. I had to reduce the acceleration and maximum speed of the axis to get it to finish the job I was on. The supplier has agreed to send me new parts. He’s in Canada so it shouldn’t be too hard to work it out.

Wind energy exists but…

Wind energy is pretty small for the amount of hardware and space it takes. Also, because there are no good storage mechanisms available, the energy has to be used right away.

Here’s a great recreational application where it works great.

Bike Generator


I’m doing experiments with human power.

Here is the mounting plate design to connect a generator to my friend’s bike.

I’ve test fitted the part on the generator and here it is being test fitted on Sanjay’s bike.

Time to get a piece of aluminum to cut this out. I’m figuring 1/4 inch will be good.

We need a 3/8″ to 1/4″ direct drive coupler of some sort. I need to find that or someone with a lathe. 🙂

If I don’t find something shortly I’ll get a lathe or a 4th axis for my mill or something.

The generator is a 350W, 24V DC go cart motor. Any ideas of some interesting loads to try it with?

Ottawa Green Bins

I looked at this a while back.

I feel it’s a huge ripoff. They sell you a green bin, collect your waste, then sell you the composted soil back.

I decided to just put my compost in my own composter (not one I bought from the city) and then turn the compost into vegetables, herbs and whatever else is easy to grow.

Generators Arrived!


I finally received four generators. These are 24V, 350W DC motors from a go-kart/scooter application. I figure they will make nice generators for human power.

They came with nice motor mounts built in. There is a little sprocket on each shaft. I will either put a roller there to mate with a bicycle wheel or I will get the matching chain and sprocket (or try both).

Micro vehicles

I just received this cool article on electric bikes from Steve Aplin.

One of my predictions has been that electric bicycles, scooters and small vehicles would increase in popularity for short range commuting.

Electric bikes is an easy one since they are not expensive. They take less road space, can currently take shortcuts such as bike paths, are easier to park and don’t require licensing (not to mention profoundly more efficient because of their small size). You could even bring them with you on a bus (some buses have bike racks). They are also great for fitness. One could use a combination of electric and pedal power for a great city transportation solution.

I don’t know who would pay for a giveaway program but I think there is enough value in these tiny vehicles for them to eventually see wider adoption.

Weaker points are: Danger. There would need to be licensing eventually because of this danger. They don’t co-mingle with cars well because of lower speed and safety. The extra lane thing works but we’d need a lot of adoption to justify it. Also in a climate like Ottawa, they would be seasonal. Another issue is that they are not as comfortable as a car and can’t carry as much.

I like the idea of a kit to add to a bicycle that would consist of a motor, drive mechanism, speed control, battery and charger. You could unmount it off the bicycle with a clip of some sort and take it with you for security (perhaps just leaving a mounting bracket behind).

A city wide initiative to support micro vehicles would be very healthy for people and the environment if the safety issue could be managed.

A city wide network of roads and paths would also be necessary. A campaign to get car drivers to accept these vehicles on the road may have to be looked at too. Car drivers hate bicycles because that are often “in the way”.

Green Drinks Ottawa

Green Drinks Ottawa

I’ve been enjoying the occasional meetup with environmentally conscious people.

I went there last Thursday for an hour just before my Salsa rehearsal.

As usual there were lots of great people and lots of great conversations.

Just before I went to green drinks I had a meeting with my friend Steve for an hour and we were talking about energy and electricity and such. We were agreeing that the average person doesn’t know very much about electricity. I devised a quiz with three questions to do a quick sanity check.

I rolled out the questions to a couple of people at the green drinks activity.

The questions are:

1) List the sources of electricity in order of volume that supplies the electricity that is lighting the room.

2) Does the electricity consumption vary through a 24 hour period by 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80 or 90 percent?

3) Given a generator bicycle, how many 60 Watt bulbs could a person typically sustain?

What do you think?

Using a Stepper Motor as a generator

Pedal-A-Watt Stationary Bike Power Generator

I would like to make a human powered generator for an art project.

Challenge: I am curious if a couple of NEMA 34 motors is large enough to capture all the power that a human can generate.

I’m looking at a couple of applications.

1) To run a 120V toaster. I suspect this might need as many as 5 people to peddle. Also to run a 60W incandescence bulb.

2) To charge a 12V battery.

I’m suspecting that a stepper motor is a good candidate to make the electricity. I think the first part of the project is to make up some BOMs that show what motor to use, the RPM that it would require and parts for a rectifier and whatever else is necessary to operate in these applications.

Does anybody know of any existing projects or have any recommendations?

Richard Guy Briggs brought the Pedal-A-Watt Stationary Bike Power Generator to my attention (in the picture). I think if we could figure out what motor it is they are using for a generator, that might be the thing to get.

I just added another link below where the motor looks the same. They’re calling it an Oatley DC motor.

I found it here for cheap. Here’s another.

A nice 500W.

A nice 350W.

Here’s a DIY 1000W one.

Another DIY using Volvo parts (more).

I noticed they claim the Oatley works well in a windmill (which would be low RPM). Well that one claims it only got to 5V, but that’s pretty low RPM so this might be promising.


Urban composting

If this kids gets it, shouldn’t we? Every time I throw egg shells or vegetable scraps in the garbage I know I’m throwing away good calories. I want to convert those calories into something good. Perhaps tomatoes or herbs or hot chili peppers!

Challenge: I live in an apartment.

I started to research into composting on balconies and such. I’m figuring that it will have a smell so I don’t want to do an indoor system.

So that narrows it down to a balcony or an outdoor window hangar.

Challenge: In the winter it is extremely cold.

I suspect that it will freeze during the winter and then start composting in the spring. I bet it will compost well after thawing because the freezing might break up the plant cells a bit.

A friend of a friend of a friend who is studying urban agriculture and food systems says that if it is about 4 feet x 4 feet x 4 feet, it may generate enough energy to keep going in the winter. Two problems there. That’s huge! Plus I don’t think I generate enough material to fuel such a system.

I considered using a heater but here’s an excerpt from

60 watt bulb consumes 60 watt•hours in one hour, or 60 Wh x 24 hr/day = 1440 Wh per day. That is the same as 1.44 kilowatt•hours (kWh). If 1 kWh costs you 25 cents, then leaving a 60 watt
light bulb switched on for 24 hours straight would cost you 1.44 kWh x 25¢/kWh = 36 cents.

That comes out to about $10 per month. I’m not sure about the calculation or if that’s a good price for electricity but I think it the composer uses electricity it will cannibalize the benefits.

I also considered grabbing heat from a balcony window. I went on a balcony and put my hand against the glass. I couldn’t feel much heat. This might have to be tried to see if it keeps the temperature in a good range. If it works it will be increasing insulation from part of the window and will be reusing the lost heat. Pretty cool idea so we’ll see if I can make that one come forward.

Apparently there are two types of compost methods. One is aerobic and the other is using worms (Vermi-composting). The vermi one is using worms to do the work. Because I’m hedging towards a system that will run in a seasonal fashion, it may eliminate the vermi-composting method. We’ll see if I can find a heat source.

So my initial impression is that my solution will be an aerobic compost system that will sit on a balcony. I think I should have two or three going so I can use one to feed the other. During the summers I may try a worm one outdoors for kicks.

I’m reading that you can use an aerated plastic bucket. You add some soil, leaves or paper to the bottom, then sprinkle waste on it. When it piles up a bit, more soil/leaves/paper. You stir it once in a while. After it is ready, it is soil. You can use the soil to grow stuff or reuse some of it to to make the layers for more composting.

I’m not going to use paper because its not for eating and is likely full of chemicals, inks and bad stuff.

Challenge: Can the compost system be automated?

A friend told me that ideas for automation may be found here:

Suggestions for an aerobic composter are:

A friend of a friend uses ‘bokashi’ and  suggests “It can definitely work in smaller zones, though its nicer when you have a bit of garden somewhere to dig the bokashi bucket into after 2-4 weeks.   (apparently in high rises in Japan, for lack of gardens, people bury the fermented waste into houseplant pots).  Also, don’t be mislead by the notes about ‘no smell’… there is a smell, though less offensive than traditional compost…  more pickled than rotten… Also note, you don’t have to make your own bokashi mix, you can buy it from places like Richie’s Feed and Lee Valley (though its marketed as compost accelerator).

Here are some links about bokashi composting:

Suggestions for a worm based composter are:

Cathy’s Crawly composters (people say this doesn’t smell).

Question: I wonder why meat and oil can’t be composted.

So I guess I need to get some plastic pails and some starting soil!

I’ll report back!

First batch of Kitchen Scrap.

Dec 14: Okay, I’ve got my first pile of scrap. I don’t have the compost system yet but I have a pail so I will add holes. This evening I will go look for some sort of soil to put in the bottom of my composter.

Yummy onions!

Jan 4, 2011 Up to a couple of gallons

I’ve now got quite a bit. I’m keeping it frozen outside. I’m figuring come the thaw this spring it will compost quickly and then I’ll use it to grow some vegetables and stuff.

I figure it doesn’t have to be aerated yet since its so cold outside.

I’m tempted to try and keep it inside for a bit to see if it will smell. As it stands now it smells good because I put some great fruit in it. 🙂