By: Michelle Johnson | GFDA Contributor

Unsettled by the fact that 37 million tons of wood waste go into U.S. landfills each year, mechanical engineer Eric Law began searching for solutions. He found that used wood from construction and demolition sites is often discarded because embedded metal fasteners—nails, screws, and staples—make it difficult to recycle. Removing these pieces of metal by hand is not efficient nor cost effective.

Enter The Machine, a robot that targets and removes metal fragments from construction lumber waste, seemingly effortlessly, and reclaiming it for reuse. The automated system is the brainchild of Eric, Alex Thiele, and Andrew Gillies (who cofounded their California-based startup, Urban Machine, in 2021) and is the subject of a new documentary film by Dream Team Directors. Husband-and-wife filmmakers, Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett, created the short film showing The Machine in action and featuring interviews with its three creators.

The Upcycle caught up with Eric Law, and also the filmmakers, to ask them to take a quick break from saving the planet, and entertain our quick-fire questions.

[GFDA] The best advice I’ve ever received:
[Eric Law] “One shouldn’t take life so seriously. No one gets out alive anyway.” –Jim Morrison.

My hope for the future of design:
…is that every designer designs for the end of the life of the materials they specify. The end of life should be reuse, recycle, or compost. 

A place or experience that made me care the most about the environment:
The fresh air and green trees of the mountains. And seeing all the garbage on the beach made me realize we need to do way better.
The person who had the most influence on me (professionally or growing up):
Steve Jobs

An indulgence I would never forego:

If I could invent something, it would be:
A high-speed, all-electric sailboat that does not heel.

What is your most treasured possession? 
My mountain bike

What’s one design trend that should stay?
My favorite architectural style?

What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My family and being an engaged father.

Urban Machine produced a documentary about their story. Here is a teaser from Dream Team Directors, Daniel Lir and Bayou Bennett.

An inefficient and undesirable manual task is now easier through AI robotics from Urban Machine

Interviewed by Michelle Johnson, our GFDA Contributor who lives in Denver, CO. Michelle is currently the home editor at 5280, Denver’s leading city magazine, and has been crafting compelling stories for publications focusing on interior design, architecture, real estate, and lifestyle industries for over ten years. 
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