The Daily Valet. - 3/19/24, Tuesday

Tuesday, March 19th Edition
Cory Ohlendorf  
By Cory Ohlendorf, Valet. Editor
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to recount all the news you need to know.

Today’s Big Story

The U.S. Marriage Rebound


Americans are now getting married at pre-pandemic levels. Will it last?


As we head into wedding season, here’s some relevant news: American marriages have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels with nearly 2.1 million couples getting hitched in 2022. That’s more than a 4% increase from the year before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released the data, but has not released marriage statistics for last year yet.

It should come as no surprise that the pandemic had a negative effect on marriage rates across the United States (and the globe as a whole). Experts are still monitoring the global effects of the pandemic on relationships; The Guardian noted last year that Australia’s divorce rate was increasing, while the New York Times recently polled readers about regrets they’ve had related to the pandemic and relationships.

In other positive matrimony news, divorce rates across the nation also dropped from 2021 to 2022. According to InsideHook, the decline in divorce rates seems to be in keeping with Census data released last year showing both divorce and marriage rates dropping between 2011 and 2021.

New York, the District of Columbia and Hawaii saw the largest increases in marriages from 2021 to 2022. Nevada—home to Las Vegas’ famous wedding chapels—continued to have the highest marriage rate in the nation, though it slightly decreased from 2021.

But overall, marriages remain far less common than they once were in America. According to data that goes back to 1900, the Associated Press found that weddings hit their height in 1946, when the marriage rate was 16.4 per 1,000 people. The rate was above 10 in the early 1980s before beginning a decades-long decline. In the 2022 data set, the rate worked out to be 6.2 per 1,000 people.

Dig Deeper:
What does a wedding cost these days? In 2023, the average spend for a wedding ceremony and reception was $35,000, according to The Knot.

U.S. Bans the Last Type of Asbestos Still in Use


Why did this take so long?

Well, this is good (albeit slightly late) news: The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday announced a ban on the last form of asbestos still used in the United States. According to the Associated Press, the final rule marks a major expansion of EPA regulation under a landmark 2016 law that overhauled regulations governing tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products, from household cleaners to clothing and furniture.

NPR reports that asbestos, which you no doubt know is a cancer-causing substance, is still linked to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans every year. So why did it take so long to outright ban it? More than 50 other countries have already outlawed the substance. But this week’s ban comes after decades of pushback from companies that have used it in everything from consumer goods to manufacturing processes.

And while the import of chrysotile asbestos is banned immediately, fully phasing it out could take anywhere from six months to 12 years in some sectors. For example, the chlor-alkali industry, the main source of chlorine globally, uses asbestos diaphragms to make sodium hydroxide and chlorine, which the EPA says is “critical” to disinfect drinking water and wastewater. The agency said there are other methods to produce chlorine, but the eight plants in the U.S. that still use these asbestos diaphragms will have to find other methods to do their work. They will get at least five more years to make this transition.

The U.S. stopped producing asbestos in 2002. Between 2019 and 2022, Brazil supplied about 70% of all asbestos used in the United States and Russia supplied about 30%.

Mercedes Will Use Humanoid Robots to Build Cars


The German automaker is partnering with U.S.-based robotics firm Apptronik

It’s the idea we used to have of “future factories”, right? All the people working on the assembly line have been replaced by Jetsons-like robots, tinkering away with tools. Well, Mercedes-Benz is going to give it a try: The company said they will trial how humanoid robots could be used to automate “low skill, physically challenging, manual labor.”

According to Robb Report, the automaker has entered into an agreement to try out Austin, Texas-based Apptronik’s humanoid robots at its factories. Mercedes is positioning the partnership as a chance to see how robots can be used to help human workers and ease staffing issues during the manufacturing process. One of these bipedal robots, Apollo, stands five feet eight inches tall, weighs 160 pounds, and can lift up to 55 pounds (it looks like a slightly friendlier version of Tesla’s Optimus). It was designed and built to work alongside humans in industrial spaces.

TechCrunch reports that humanoids have been “drawing massive investor interest of late,” as evidenced by Figure’s recent jaw-dropping $675 million funding raise. The next couple of years will be vitally important for the continued success of these firms, as they look to prove out a meaningful return-on-investment. And The Verge says that other bipedal robots like Agility Robotics’ “Digit” are also being piloted in Amazon’s U.S. warehouses, while BMW is testing out Figure 01 robots in its South Carolina manufacturing facility.

It’s never been cheaper to buy an EV. The Washington Post explains why.

Keurig Debuts Compostable Coffee Pods


But there’s one very inconvenient catch …

Coffee machine maker Keurig just addressed one of their biggest problems—all the plastic waste that comes with the convenient pods of caffeine. The company just unveiled a new plastic-free, metal-free compostable pod called the “K-Round”.

It’s essentially a little puck of coffee compressed and sealed in a plant-based, food-grade shell of cellulose and starch. There’s no little aluminum tab to pull off at the top, no plastic cup or internal filter to dispose of afterward. Just a puck of coffee held together by a food-safe coating of seaweed. This means they’ll biodegrade just like coffee grounds in a landfill or a compost heap. The catch? There’s a new machine you’ll need if you want to use them: the Keurig Alta.

According to The Takeout, K-Rounds aren’t available to the general public just yet; Keurig plans to start testing both the new brewer and rounds with consumers as early as this fall. The company noted in its announcement that it will “leverage learnings from these trials, as well as strategic engagement with and insights from its retailer and coffee brand partners, to refine and optimize the system before making it available for broader sale to consumers.”

By the Numbers:
In 2022, global consumption of K-Cups surpassed 30 billion pods for the year.

The Long Read


The environment in which kids grow up today is hostile to human development


The decline in mental health is just one of many signs that something went awry. Loneliness and friendlessness among American teens began to surge around 2012. Academic achievement went down, too.

- By Jonathan Haidt


What We’re Buying


A Workshirt


Sometimes those J.Crew discounts really add up. For instance, right now, the code SHOPSALE will get you anywhere from 25% to a whopping 50% off already marked-down items. And these are not just the old winter stuff you won't want to wear. There are plenty of pieces that will get you through the transitional time between seasons and well into spring. Just look at these prices.

What We're Buying:
Heavyweight chamois workshirt, $138 / $54.99 by J.Crew

Morning Motto

Try, try again.


Find your path.




Share today’s