LEGO Bricks Aren't Recyclable, But You Can Donate Them

iStock.com/Ekaterina79
iStock.com/Ekaterina79

LEGO Mindstorms robots or Venom figurines might be all the rage right now, but what happens when your kid grows up and loses interest, leaving you stuck with bins full of bricks? As Lifehacker reports, the ABS plastic used in LEGOs makes it difficult to get rid of them—they aren't recyclable, so if you throw them away, they'll still be sitting in the landfill centuries later—but it's not impossible to find a new home for them.

If you can't find any friends, family, or neighbors to take them off your hands, a couple other options are available. An organization called Brick Recycler lets you donate your pre-loved LEGOs by mailing them directly to their facility in San Jose, California. Brick Recycler then matches those donations with recipients, which may include hospital patients, children in foster care, or kids living in low-income areas. To sweeten the deal, the organization says you don't have to worry about sorting or cleaning the pieces. Brick Recycler accepts mismatched sets or those with missing pieces, and they also handle the sanitation themselves.

Other sites like The Giving Brick (based in Kansas City, Kansas) and BrickDreams (based in Folsom, California) also accept donations of LEGO bricks in all conditions. The latter organization is run by two teen boys, and they donate the LEGOs to child victims of domestic violence and abuse.

If California or Kansas seems too far to ship a heavy box full of LEGOs, you may want to check out the charities in your area. Some, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, may accept the boxes of bricks. However, it's always best to call first and double check before dropping off a truckload of mismatched LEGO sets that they might not have the time or resources to handle.

Lastly, if you're going to give away your LEGOs to a friend, just be sure to clean them first, following the instructions on LEGO's website. After all, they tend to harbor lots of bacteria, and you wouldn't want the neighbor kid to get sick after sticking a dirty Batman figurine in their mouth.

On the bright side, there's now hope that getting rid of old LEGOs won't be as difficult or as big of an environmental issue in the future. Last March, the company announced it would start manufacturing some bricks made from a sustainable bioplastic derived from sugarcane.

[h/t Lifehacker]

The Tree That Inspired Dr. Seuss's The Lorax Has Fallen Over

Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
Rhododendrites, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The Truffula trees at the center of The Lorax may have been a product of Dr. Seuss's imagination, but it's believed they were inspired by a real-life tree in La Jolla, California. Nearly 50 years after the environmental parable was published, Smithsonian reports that the iconic Monterey cypress has fallen.

The tree had grown for 80 to 100 years in what is today Ellen Browning Scripps Park in Southern California. It was clearly visible from the observation tower where Theodor Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, lived in La Jolla following World War II.

While the children's book author and illustrator never stated that the tree inspired his work, locals started referring to it as "The Lorax Tree." The resemblance it bears to Seuss's Truffula is undeniable: Both have skinny trunks with whimsical curves and thick, fluffy canopies of foliage concentrated at the top.

In The Lorax, the Truffula trees are threatened by the Once-ler, who wants to chop them down and turn them into garments called Thneeds. The title character "speaks for the trees" and conveys the book's environmentalist message.

Unlike the Truffula, La Jolla's Monterey cypress appeared to be in no danger until it recently toppled over. Arborists aren't sure what caused the collapse, as they hadn't noticed any prior health issues with the tree except for some termites. The past year's uncharacteristically wet winter and the effect it had on the surrounding soil may have played a role, so experts are looking into that possibility.

Most of the tree has been removed from the area, and the city plans to plant another tree in its place. There are also plans to salvage and repurpose the trunk from the fallen tree, though they haven't been made official.

[h/t Smithsonian]

Tourists Are Picking Apart Britain's Oldest Tree

Paul Hermans, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The Fortingall Yew in the Fortingall churchyard in Perthshire, Scotland has seen a lot. Since it started growing at least 2000 years ago, it's been present for the Roman settlement of Scotland, the shift from paganism to Christianity, and the country's induction into the United Kingdom. But after standing for millennia, the ancient tree is facing its greatest threat yet. Tourists are removing twigs and branches from the tree to take home as souvenirs, and the tree is under so much stress that it's spontaneously changing sexes, Atlas Obscura reports.

Because of how the tree grows, it's hard to date the Fortingall Yew precisely. It comprises several separate trunks that have hollowed out over the years, making it easier for the tree to support itself in its old age. Based on historical measurements and 19th-century ring counts, the yew has been around for at least two millennia, but it could date back as far as 5000 years. That makes it the oldest tree in Britain and one of the oldest living things in Europe.

That impressive title means the tree gets a lot of visitors, not all of whom are concerned with extending its lifespan even longer. A stone and iron wall built in the Victorian era encloses the tree, but that hasn't stopped people from climbing over it to break off pieces or leave behind keepsakes like beads and ribbons.

As the abuse adds up, the tree has responded in concerning ways. It sprouted red berries this spring, a sign that the tree is transitioning to a different sex for the first time in its life. Yew trees are either male or female, and sex changes among the species are incredibly rare and misunderstood. Some botanists believe it's a reaction to stress. The change may be a survival mechanism intended to increase the specimen's chances of reproducing.

Scientists aren't sure why this particular yew, which was formerly male, sprouted berries on its upper branches, an exclusively female characteristic, but they've collected the berries to study them. The seeds from the berries will be preserved as part of a project to protect the genetic diversity of yew trees across the globe.

In the mean time, caretakers of the Fortingall Yew are imploring visitors to be respectful of the tree and keep their hands to themselves.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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