Categories
Energy Human Effort Materials

54: Turning beer bottles into building sand

Problem:

Bottles thrown away can end up in landfills or in Nature.

Solution:

In 2017, DB Breweries in New Zealand built a machine which pulverizes glass bottles then turns them into fine-grain substitute building sand in just 5 seconds.


Two thirds of the world’s beaches are retreating as people across the world use non-renewable beach sand for construction, roading and other uses. There were even some beaches in New Zealand where they were taking the sand off one beach and putting it on another beach, which seemed crazy to DB.

All a drinker needs to do is deposit his or her bottle in the machine, a laser triggers a wheel of small steel hammers spinning at 2,800 rpm to crush it into 7 oz. (200 gm.) of sand in only five seconds. After extracting the plastic labels and silica with two vacuum systems, the sand is then processed through a screener which sorts it into a fine grades between 1.1 – 0.4mm particle sizes.

In several months, a fleet of these machines recycled 100 tons of sand, which is the equivalent of 500,000 DB Export Bottles. Until recently about 11,000 ton (10,000 tonnes)of glass at Visy Recycling in Auckland could not be recycled, so, rather than have it diverted to landfill, it now goes into the industrial beer bottle sand machine.

The resulting sand substitute was then given to their construction and retail partners to use in place of beach sand. Finding partners for the program was a critical step in achieving scale for the project.

The brewer has finalized a two-year deal to supply Solution 54 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet: the company now delivers DB Export Beer Bottle Sand to #DryMix to make a super easy eco concrete Solution 54 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet: the company now delivers DB Export Beer Bottle Sand to #DryMix to make a super easy eco concrete , leading to a new brand of eco-concrete, sold to consumers through the country’s biggest home improvement chain.

Beer Bottle sand is now used by Downer in road-making projects, commercial and residential construction, and even golf bunkers and resurfacing projects, and Drymix, which has created a ‘‘super easy eco concrete’’, available through Mitre10.

In 2018, DB Export’s beer bottle sand was combined with recycled ink toner cartridges to make an aggregate for resurfacing the 430,000 ft² (40,000m²) Queenstown Airport apron, the first project of its kind. Requests for machines arrived from as far away as Dubai, with scoping to supply 500 machines currently underway. DB’s trucks carry the slogan “Drink DB Export. Save Our Beaches.” (db.co.nz)

Norway

From May 1999, Norsk Resirk launched a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and aluminum beverage cans which has led to 97% of all plastic drinks bottles in Norway being recycled, 92% to such a high standard that they are turned back into drinks bottles.

Norway’s model is based on a loan scheme, which means when a consumer buys a plastic bottle, they are charged a small additional fee equivalent to about 13 to 30 US cents.

The scheme is open to all consumers who can either take a bottle or can to a reverse vending machine which returns the money after scanning the verifiable barcode of the deposited bottle, or they can return it to various small shops and gas stations for cash or store credit.

These shop owners also receive a small fee for each bottle they recycle, and some argue it has even increased their business.

Three processing plants were opened to receive the bottles, one in Fetsund outside Oslo to handle approximately 80% of what is collected in Norway.

First step in the process is sorting out the aluminum and steel cans. Next step is sorting out clear and light blue bottles. Then follow the colored bottles. Some of the material has been recycled more than 50 times.

The company is now called Infinitum. All the materials are then structured into ballots and sent further for recycling: metals go to the company Norsk Hydro in Holmestrand, Norway; PET bottles are sent to Cleanaway AB in Sweden.

Nevertheless, even in Norway, there is still room for improvement. During the year, Infinitum estimates that 150,000 bottles will not be returned, and if they had, it would have saved enough energy to power 5,600 households for the year.

The same system is now being used in neighbouring Sweden, Denmark, and Germany and a number of US and Canadian states.

There are ten states in the United States with container deposit legislation, popularly called “bottle bills” after the Oregon Bottle Bill (established since 1971), the first such legislation that was passed. Container deposit legislation (CDL) also known as a Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) was first implemented in South Australia in 1977 and has since been extended all over that continent.

Tomorrow’s solution: Kaisei, the ship that goes plastic fishing

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Categories
Materials Planet Care Your Home

51 Bird protecting glass

Solution 50 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet:

Problem:

Billions of birds are killed annually following collision with the large panes of glass used in modern buildings.

Solution:

Bird protection glass with an ultraviolet-reflective coating. Birds can see the coating, but it is virtually invisible to humans.


In the late 1990s Dr. Alfred Meyerhuber, a German attorney with a personal interest in birds and science read an article in a magazine about orb weaver spiders and their use of stabilimenta. Orb weaver spiders, common worldwide, build their distinctive webs using strands of silk with UV reflective properties.

Meyerhuber was good friends with Hans-Joachim Arnold, the owner of Arnold Glas, a manufacturer of insulated glass products headquartered in Remshalden, Germany. As a young business owner, Arnold was motivated by technical and environmental challenges and looked for ways to set Arnold Glas apart from its competition.

When Meyerhuber brought the orb weaver spider’s strategy to his attention, Arnold was intrigued. Despite initial resistance by the board of directors, he convinced the company to undertake the necessary research and put his company to work developing a product that would have the same UV-reflecting qualities as spider silk.

Arnold Glas’s Head of Research and Development, Christian Irmscher, led the technical product development of ORNiLUX. The coating was developed together with technicians at Arnold Glas’s sister company, Arcon, located in Feuchtwangen, Germany, which specializes in thin low-e and solar coatings for architectural glass.

The companies tested many different coating types and patterns. The researchers found that a patterned coating (versus a solid coating) made the contrast of the glazing more intense: the coated parts reflected UV light while the interlayer sandwiched between two layers of glass absorbed the UV light. The two functions together enhanced the reflective effect.

Although the specific pattern of a spider’s web inspired the solution, Irmscher and his team had to design a unique pattern for the window coating in order to make the application process practical.

After patenting the transparent UV coating in 2001, Arnold Glas introduced ORNiLUX SB1 Bird Protection Glass, its first commercial product using the technology, in 2006. The vertical lines of UV-reflective coating used in this product were sometimes perceptible but very subtle and not visually distracting.

Three years later, the company introduced an improved second-generation product, ORNiLUX Mikado. The name refers to the crisscrossed UV pattern of the design and comes from the German name for the game of pick-up sticks.

The new pattern and improved coating of Mikado is nearly invisible to the human eye. Independent pre-market testing by the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, Germany, demonstrated that ORNiLUX windows are highly effective at protecting against bird strikes.

The first project in the USA to use ORNiLUX was at the Center for Global Conservation at the Bronx Zoo and was completed in 2009. The architects specified ORNiLUX SB1 for the entire building, but in the end it was used in only a corner conference room that had the biggest risk of bird strikes.

An ongoing monitoring program has noted a dramatic difference between the portions of the building with and without the bird-safe glass.

A year later, Munich’s Hellebrunn Zoo used ORNiLUX Mikado in the design for a new outdoor polar bear exhibit. Due to the zoo’s location near the Isarauen Nature Reserve, which harbours many wild kingfishers, bird collisions were a significant concern.

The zoo had other outdoor glass enclosures with a history of bird strikes, and previous attempts to use hawk silhouettes and bamboo plantings to protect the birds had failed.

ORNiLUX Mikado was used for the polar bear enclosure and pelican house. Zoo officials were pleased to find a solution that did not block visitors’ views of the animals and noted in the first months after it was installed that no birds had collided with the glass.

Ongoing testing of existing and new configurations continues with American Bird Conservancy’s Flight Tunnel Test Facility located at the Carnegie Museum Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, PA.  Additional tests are conducted with a flight tunnel facility in Rybachy, Russia.

At the American Institute of Architects Expo in June 2019, Arnold Glas debuted new oversize production capabilities for its bird-safety glass, ORNILUX. It is now offered in a maximum size of 126 x 472 in (320 x 1200 cm).

What you can do: Tell local architects and builders about Ornilux.

Discover Solution 52: How to stop birds crashing into solar panels

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Categories
Materials Human Effort Planet Care

50: Rocket high speed composting machine

Solution 49 in a 1-a-day series of 366 creative, hopeful ideas to clean up, repair, protect our planet:

Problem:

The conventional composting of biowaste is slow.

Solution:

The Rocket high-speed composting machine.


In the early 1990s, John Webb of Macclesfield, Cheshire, England, wanting to speed up the composting process on his smallholding, developed a machine that could treat his garden waste and horse manure and turn it into highly nutritious compost in just 14 days.

Working closely with DEFRA (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) after the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, Webb and his son Simon continued to develop the machine to ensure it was fully compliant with the Animal By-Products Regulations to safely treat other organic wastes, including food waste.

They founded Tidy Planet to build and commercialise a machine they called the Rocket.

It comprises a continual flow system with waste being mixed with dry woodchip for compost production. The capacity of the electrically-powered Rocket range of machines goes from 154 gallons (700 liters) up to 3.9 tons (3.5 tonnes) per day.
France

Tidy Planet expanded its globally-acclaimed range of Rocket composters, with the creation of the B1400, a machine specially-commissioned for its French distributor: Alexandre Guilluy and Fabien Kenzo of Les Alchimistes needed equipment that would process up to two tonnes of a mix of food and shredded wood wastes every day – in line with the site’s waste processing threshold.

Les Alchimistes have a fleet of trailer bicycles and small vans which go around Paris collecting food waste from supermarkets, restaurants, and hotels across the French capital.

This is assembled at Lil’O known locally as L’Île-Saint-Denis an island in the River Seine, 6 mi (10km) north of The Eiffel Tower where it is turned into compost, to be sold to urban agriculture and gardening.

Due to the project’s resounding success, Les Alchimistes has received support from the French Government and EU funding to set up similar food waste collection centres in Lyon, Toulouse, Toulon, and Marseille, each of them using Tidy Planet’s B1400 Rocket. Les Détritivores based at the Ecosytème Darwin in Bordeaux are carrying out a similar operation.

China

In China, another solution dealing with food waste is to feed it to cockroaches (Blattodea) which then become either feed for livestock or for curing oral and peptic ulcers, skin wounds and even stomach cancer. At one farm, run by Li Yanrong in the Zhangqiu District, over 1 billion cockroaches are consuming some 55 tons (50 tonnes) of kitchen waste every day.

Elsewhere in Sichuan, a company called Gooddoctor is rearing 6 billion cockroaches, while Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology Co., in Jinan plans to set up three more such plants, aiming to process a third of the kitchen waste produced by Jinan, home to about seven million people.

What you can do: Tell local authorities about advances of Rocket composters in large towns.

Discover solution 51: The miracle of birdsafe window panes

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Categories
Materials

49: Biotransformation for better biodegradables

Problem:

Biodegradable solutions have faltered in the past, largely due to the creation of microplastics, lack of compatibility with recycling systems, and confusion from consumers around the recycling of packaging.

Solution:

A formula that breaks down plastic items to a sludge for easier and more complete biodegradation.


Polymateria Ltd, led by Niall Dunne and currently based at Imperial College London’s I-HUB, has come up with a solution designed to trigger a chemical conversion which attacks the structure of commonly used plastics.

As developed by Graham Chapman, Christopher Wallis and Gavin Hill, Polymateria’s biotransformation technology (or additive) converts the hydrocarbon backbone of a plastic product which has escaped a recycling facility, into an oligomeric material in two ways:

  1. It breaks up / cuts the links in the polymer chain to produce smaller wax-like oligomeric and discrete chemical compounds, i.e. reduces the molecular weight.
  2. Then it chemically transforms the super-hydrophobic hydrocarbon polymer backbone into a hydrophilic bacteria and fungi material capable of interaction with the natural environment, fully biodegrade within two years, leaving behind no microplastics.

In October 2019, Polymateria announced a partnership with Clariant, one of the world’s leading specialty chemical companies.

The ambition of the partnership is to bring Biotransformation technology to market in South East Asia, the main global source of “fugitive” plastic, which is plastic that escapes into the natural environment.

In July 2020, Polymateria received £18.9 m (£15 million) in funding from impact investing platform Planet First Partners (PFP) to fund the roll-out its ‘biotransformation’ technology. Sportswear group Puma will be using Polymateria’s additive in the production of 160 million plastic bags it uses each year which will be on sale in Southeast Asia in 2021.

Tomorrow’s solution: Tidy Planet and the Rocket

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Carbon Capture Materials

47: Making plastic out of greenhouse gases in the air

Problem:

Carbon capture should be turned to something useful.

Solution:

Markus D. Herrema, founder of NewLight Technologies of Huntington Beach, California has found a way to use a specially developed micro-organism-based biocatalyst (similar to an enzyme) to turn waste gas captured from air into a bioplastic called AirCarbon, a naturally-occurring biopolymer that can match the performance of oil-based plastics and out-compete on price.

The biocatalyst pulls carbon out of methane or carbon dioxide from farms, water treatment plants, landfills, or energy facilities, then combines it with hydrogen and oxygen to synthesize a biopolymer material.

AirCarbon can be used in extrusion, blown film, cast film, thermoforming, and injection molding applications to make products, including phone cases and furniture.

Herrema, who graduated magna cum laude High Honors from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and Political Theory, with additional work in Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry, founded NewLight in 2003.

He was assisted by Kenton Kimmel in the design, scale-up, and optimization of the company’s gas-to-plastic technology, including the engineering, construction, commissioning, and optimization of the Company’s production lines, as well as the detailed engineering of Newlight’s commercial production facility.

Since commercial scale-up in 2013, Newlight has developed commercialization relationships with Dell, Sprint, Virgin, KI, HP, and The Body Shop. In 2015, Newlight executed a 19 billion pound off-take agreement with Vinmar International as well as 10 billion pounds in licensed production.

The Netherlands
The following year, Paques Holdings in Balk, the Netherlands entered into a 15-year technology license agreement that would allow Paques to manufacture, process, and sell bioplastics based on Newlight’s proprietary GHG to AirCarbon™ conversion technology, at a rate of up to 1.4 million tons (1.3 million tonnes) per year.

In recognition of Newlight’s technological and commercialization achievements, Newlight was awarded “Innovation of the Year” by “Popular Science” in 2014, “Technology Pioneer” by the World Economic Forum in 2015, “Technology Excellence Award” by “PC Magazine” in 2014, “Company of the Year” by CleanTech OC in 2014, “Biomaterial of the Year” by the Nova-Institute in 2013, and an R&D 100 Award as “one of the 100 most significant innovations of the year” in 2013.

Discover solution 48: a super bug to consume oil spills

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Materials

46: Bioplastic bottles and bags

Problem:

Much bioplastic uses sugar cane and molasses. But some reason that with a burgeoning global population, such vast plantations should be precision-farmed to provide food and that other sources should be used.

Solution:

USA
In 2008 a team lead by John A. Bissell and Makoto N. Masuno started up Micromidas (now Origin Materials) in West Sacramento, California to develop 95% plant-based polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic, made from waste biomass feedstocks, such as old corrugated cardboard (OCC), sawdust, and wood chips, that do not divert resources or land from food production for human or animal consumption.

Since non-food (“gen-2”) plant-based feedstocks do not compete with food production, Origin’s proprietary chemistry turned C-6 cellulose into four isolated building-block chemicals in one chemo-catalytic step, with almost zero carbon loss.

In March 2017 Origin joined with Danone and Nestlé Waters to form the NaturALL Bottle Alliance. The consortium released a report claiming that they had successfully produced samples of 80% bio-based PET at pilot-scale.

In September 2018 beverage firm PepsiCo joined the NaturALL Bottle Alliance. Once construction is complete, the partners expect to produce 95% bio-based PET and subsequently achieve full commercial-scale.(originmaterials.com)

Austria
Another firm using tree cellulose is VPZ (Verpackung Zentrum) in Graz, Austria. Since the late 1990s the family enterprise of Helmut and Susanne Reininger has specialised in biogenic packaging made from alginsulate foam, biopolymers made from agricultural waste materials and net packaging made from cellulose natural fibres.

Packnatur®, their tear-resistant and wet-proof tubular netting first appeared on supermarket shelves in December 2012, when REWE first used it for their Ja! Natürlich products, such as organic fruit and vegetables.

The packaging has also been used by HOFER (the Austrian ALDI) for their “Zurück zum Ursprung” (Back to the Roots) and “Natur aktiv” ranges since June 2013. Since November 2017, the Packnatur cellulose netbag has been on the shelves of the Swiss Coop supermarket chain.

The main raw material is FSC-certified beech wood, which is a by-product of forest thinning in central Europe, and which is converted to cellulose fibres by Lenzing AG, using a CO₂-neutral process in line with the strictest environmental standards. In addition, the bags feature a wooden drawstring stopper, which is also made from beech wood and turned in a local workshop. (vpz.at)

VPZ have also developed organic labels in association with IM Polymer GmbH, Lenzing Plastics GmbH & Co. KG and the Vegetable Growers Association, Marchfeldgemüse.

They have avoided the use of the thermal paper, due to the controversy around bisphenol A. and have even thought about the print on the labels. The Packnatur® organic wineglass labels are printed for EAN-Code and batch identification using thermal transfer (carbon ribbon) printing.

Discover solution 47: plastic from thin air

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Materials Mobility

45: Building boats from bioplastics

Problem:

Boats built of glass-fibre reinforced plastic are very expensive to recycle and usually end up as carcasses in some muddy estuary.

Solution:

The Netherlands
Over in Friesland and Omrin, in August 2019, 10XL of Dordrecht teamed up with Frisian waste management company Morssinkhof in the creation of a 3D printed sloop made out of recycled polypropylene.

The 20ft (6m) boat was printed by a robotic arm with six axes, taking around 24 hours to create. It belongs to the municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân. Now that the company has more or less perfected the design, they are planning to open a ship building factory in Friesland.

USA
Two months later, the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center used the world’s largest prototype polymer 3D printer to create the 25 ft (7.6 m), 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) ship, dubbed 3Dirigo. At the end of the event, the team tested the seaworthiness of its boat in UMaine’s Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory, which features a multidirectional wave basin and a high-performance wind machine.

If pushed to its limits, the 3D printer can create objects up to 100 ft. long, 22 ft. wide, and 10 ft. high.(30m x 6.7m x 3 m) (composites.umaine.edu)

Bioplastics News, July 9, 2018 ; “Frisian companies helping create 3D printed boat from recycled plastic,” The Northern Times, August 12, 2019.

Discover solution: the wonders of PET

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Materials Mobility

44: Cars made from soybeans, coffee and tequila

Problem:

Vehicles made in steel and aluminum which are costly to extract, must be taken to a scrapyard for an energy-expensive process involving crushing, then shipping off to a recycling center where they are shredded and separated into small pieces, which are then sorted into various metals.

Solution:

USA
In the early 1940s, Henry Ford experimented with making plastic parts for automobiles. These experiments resulted in what was described as a “plastic car made from soybeans.

Based on the work of Afro-American scientist/botanist George Washington Carver, the “Soybean Car” was unveiled by Henry Ford on August 13, 1941 at Dearborn Days, an annual community festival. The exact ingredients of the plastic panels are unknown because no record of the formula exists today.

On the other hand, the Trabant automobile of which several million were made between the late 1950s and about 1990, had most of its body panels made from phenol-formaldehyde reinforced with cotton. The average life span of these cars was more than 30 years.

Sixty years later, in 2001, Deborah Mielewski, the Senior Technical Leader of Materials Sustainability at Ford Motor Company’s Research and Innovation Center in Dearborn, Michigan, initiated the biomaterials program.

Her team was the first to demonstrate soy-based foam that met all the requirements for automotive seating, enabling Ford to include the product first on the 2008 Mustang, then in every Ford North American-built vehicle.

Ford Research’s next step was to look at the agave fruit. The blue agave cactus Agave tequilana has spiked leaves and a round, fleshy core (the piña) and grows in the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States.

The leaves are chopped off and the core is cooked and crushed to create juice, which is fermented and distilled to make tequila.

Jose Cuervo make the best-selling tequila in the world. As of 2012, Jose Cuervo sells 3.5 million cases of tequila in the US annually, and a fifth of the world’s tequila by volume.

Ford teamed up with Jose Cuervo to make bioplastics from agave fibre waste that otherwise must be burned or sent to the landfill, for use in vehicle interior and exterior components such as wiring harnesses, storage bins and HVAC units. This could make cars lighter and improve fuel economy.

Mielewski at Ford has also teamed up with McDonald’s to incorporate coffee chaff — coffee bean skin that comes off during the roasting process — into the plastic headlamp housing used in some cars.

The coffee version is more sustainable because it is lighter and does not use the talc which, as a mineral, is not renewable. Coffee chaff, on the other hand, is widely available. McDonald’s also achieved its goal of sourcing all of its US coffee sustainably, one year ahead of schedule, and is also working with competitors to develop more environmentally friendly coffee cups. (corporate.ford.com)

Poland
At the Gdańsk University of Technology in Wroclaw County Selena, a research group led by Wojciech Komala, is turning to plants that are not used in the human food chain as a potential source of eco-friendly plastics.

One environmental benefit of 3D printing is the ability to print items anywhere, even in a store or at home. This theoretically could significantly reduce the need to transport items and therefore lower the emissions associated with that transportation. Unlike subtractive manufacturing, 3D printing uses only the material it needs when layer by layer is added so reducing waste, while it is also capable of reusing plastic waste.

Using 3D printing, automobile dashboards and other interior components could soon be made from Tytan which has been protected by patents in Poland, Germany, France and Great Britain.

Japan
A research team led by Professor Hiroyuki Yano at Kyoto University is working on nanocellulose, a wood pulp material for automobile door panels, fenders and car hoods, a material as strong as steel, but 80% lighter. The team chemically treats wood pulp, which consists of millions of cellulose nanofibres (CNFs), and disperses these CNFs into plastic. (rish.kyoto-u.ac.jp)

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee have spent a lot of time working with unique 3D printing materials, such as polyester, lignin and nanocellulose. In 2019, a new research collaboration between ORNL and the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center aims to increase efforts to use nanocellulose as 3D printing materials.

Together, the team will work with the forest products industry to create new bio-based 3D printing materials that can be used to make products for building components including automobiles.

One of their partners is American Process Inc. with its nanocellulose product BioPlus, made at the company’s plant in Thomaston, Georgia. ORNL have already used their “Big Area Additive Manufacturing” (BAAM) a large fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D-printer, in collaboration with Cincinnati Incorporated to print the full-sized, National Harbor Strati electric car in conjunction with Local Motors in Phoenix, Knoxville, and National Harbor.

The car took just 44 hours to print during the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, Illinois. The printing was followed by three days of milling and assembling.

After the car was printed, the mechanical and electrical parts such as battery, motors, and suspension were manually assembled, with the completed car first test-driven on September 13, 2014.

Local Motors also located to Tempe, Arizona where they teamed up with IBM’s Watson IoT’s AutoLAB to release the self-driving Olli shuttle bus. Local Motors has also set up localized micro-factories in Phoenix, Las Vegas, National Harbor, and Berlin, which design and manufacture automobiles in the regions they serve.

This plan has helped the company achieve a small-batch, on-demand business model, so they can keep a small footprint while working on big ideas such as the Olli bus, that have the potential to redefine existing industries. (ornl.gov)

In 2014, Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation announced the development of a new grade of high-performance, high-transparency bio-based engineering plastic called DURABIO™, for use in touch panels on automobiles, using plant-derived isosorbide as its raw material. (m-chemical.co.jp)

Netherlands: In 2018, Eindhoven University of Technology researchers created the first car made completely out of bioplastics.

The Bioplastic car was named Noah and weighs 794 pounds (360 kg) without batteries, approximately half the weight of a regular car. The batteries weigh 132 lb (60 kg). The chassis  is made from sugars, the body is made from polylactic acid (PLA) and the car is weather-proof. (tue.nl)

Morgen Filament; Axel Barrett, “First Car Made Completely From Bioplastics”

Discover solution 45: nanocellulose boats.

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Categories
Planet Care Materials

43: Bionic Leaf fertilizer

Problem:

Plants have been transforming sunlight into things that we can use for fuel for 1.6 billion years. However, with a few exceptions, they are still only about 1% efficient.

Solution:

In 2009, Daniel D. Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) founded a startup called Sun Catalytix to develop a prototype design for a system to convert sunlight into storable hydrogen which could be used to produce electricity.

During the next two years, Nocera developed what he called the “artificial leaf,” a silicon strip coated with catalysts on each side. When placed in water and exposed to sunlight, the leaf splits the H2O to release oxygen on one side and hydrogen on the other.

In August 2014, Lockheed Martin purchased the assets of Sun Catalytix, and now Sun Catalytix technology is being commercialized under the venture, Lockheed Martin GridStar Flow.

Soon after, Nocera was appointed Patterson Rockwood Professor of Energy in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University, teaming up with Pamela Silver of Harvard Medical School to create the “Bionic Leaf”.

This merged the artificial leaf with genetically engineered bacteria Ralstonia eutropha that feed on the hydrogen and convert CO₂ in the air into alcohol fuels or chemicals.

The first model that used the nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy created a reactive oxygen species that destroyed the bacteria’s DNA.

Abnormally high voltages were used to prevent the microbes from dying, but they also resulted in reduced efficiency. An improved model removed the nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy catalyst and allowed the team to reduce the voltage.

The new catalyst improved the efficiency of producing alcohol fuels by nearly 10%. The Bionic Leaf operates at solar-to-biomass and solar-to-liquid fuels efficiencies that greatly exceed the highest solar-to-biomass efficiencies of natural photosynthesis.

With this system, Xanthobacter bacteria which pull nitrogen from the air and use the bioplastic, which is basically stored hydrogen, to drive the fixation cycle to make a bacteria-laden yellowish liquid that can be sprayed onto fields.

But the real proof is in the radishes. In greenhouse experiments at the Arnold Arboretum, radishes grown with this X. autotrophicus fertilizer ended up more than double the size of control radishes grown without added fertilizer.

The researchers have used their approach to grow five crop cycles. The vegetables receiving the bionic-leaf-derived fertilizer weigh 150% more than the control crops. In 2018, Nocera founded a second company called Kula Bio, to focus on the development of renewable and distributed crop organic fertilization and land restoration.

When mass-produced, these tiny solar “carbon-negative” fuel factories could be inexpensive enough for everyday people to use to power their vehicles and run their lights and appliances.

Farmers with a small on-site array of bionic leaves could create enough fertilizer for their own needs instead of buying container-loads of synthetic fertilizer produced at sprawling CO₂-spewing factories and shipped for thousands of miles.

Daniel D Nocera and Dilek K Dogutan,“Artificial Photosynthesis at Efficiencies Greatly Exceeding That of Natural Photosynthesis” Accounts of Chemical Research 52(11) · October 2019.

Discover solution 44: soybean automobiles

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Materials Planet Care

42: Seaweed to shoes

Problem:

Sargassum algae accumulates on beaches and releases poisonous gases such as hydrogen sulphide and ammonia when it decomposes.

Solution:

Turn the algae into shoes, office supplies, packaging, slabs, glasses frames, mugs and more.


Since 2011, the Caribbean islands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin, Saint-Barthélemy, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago have faced larger and more frequent invasions of Sargassum algae and the problems associated with it.

One method of cleaning is by spade and barrow onshore. Another is by raking boats offshore. Barrages of shallow nets floated by long buoys can be used to ward off algae drifts, depending on wave height and current. Several companies have found solutions to convert Sargassum into compostable biomaterial.

Having worked in plastics manufacturing for 15 years where he specialised in the development of biomaterials, in 2010, Rémy Lucas of Saint Malo (Ille-et-Vilaine), France founded Algopack to commercialise his formula for sourcing Sargassum powder to produce a biomaterial from which office supplies, packaging, slabs, glasses frames, mugs, caddies chips etc. are made.

This included finding a system to capture Sargassum, stabilize it and make sure it does not rot during shipping from the Caribbean.

With two other Breton companies, Olmix (Morbihan) and Codif (Saint-Malo), Algopack founded an acceleration company called BioAlg. Its objective is to create a worldwide chain and to structure the collection of Sargassum, on an industrial scale. In 2015, the company was bought by Lyreco, the European leader in the distribution of office supplies and personal protective equipment. Based in Valenciennes, the group employs 2,500 people in France.

In Quintana Roo, a Mexican state on the Yucatán Peninsula, after five years of research and development, Jorge Castro Ramos of Guanajuato founded Renovare to make clothing-grade textile fibers and environmentally friendly footprint objects using recycled plastic and sargassum.

Traditionally, Sargassum was used as a natural fertilizer or a herbicide to improve the harvest of products like corn, squash, chili and beans.

Recently, this fertilizer process has been commercialised by SUEZ, through its subsidiary SITA Verde. Supported by ADEME, in Guadeloupe, SUEZ has introduced Sargassum from the territory of the riverbank deposits of the Riviera du Levant in its recovery processes.

Discover solution 43: fertilizing with the “Bionic Leaf”

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Materials

41: New products from old coffee grounds

Problem:

A half a billion tonnes of used coffee grounds are dumped into general waste and sent to landfill where they emit the greenhouse gas methane.

Solution:

Turn those grounds into useful things like logs that can be burned in domestic wood burners and multi-fuel stoves.


The world population drinks over 2.25 billion cups of coffee every day. With an estimated average of 11 grams of fresh ground coffee going into each cup, that adds up to an estimated 500,000 tonnes of  old coffee grounds.

While low volumes of spent coffee grounds are good for fertilising domestic gardens, until the past few years, spent coffee grounds have been largely overlooked as a valid, sustainable resource on an industrial scale.

Founded in 2012, Bio-Bean Ltd. in Huntingdon, UK has developed a solution to collect thousands of tons of spent coffee grounds from businesses at every scale, from leading coffee chains and large transport hubs to office buildings, instant coffee manufacturers, restaurants and small independent cafés. It then converts them into sustainable biomass pellets.

In 2016 Bio-Bean launched their first consumer retail product, Coffee Logs, and are now poised to launch their first natural flavouring ingredient into the food and beverage industry.

Discover solution 42: the marvel of sargassum

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Materials

40: Cups and cutlery made from fruits and vegetables

Problem:

Single-use plastic cups, once thrown away, can take over a century to biodegrade.

Solution:

Making eating utensils out of foods.


To biomimic fruit as a replacement, Jun Aizaki of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, founder of the firm Crème, initially tested rice paper, but then settled on the gourd, a fast-growing plant of the family Cucurbitaceae, which for centuries has been used as receptacles including pots, pans and bowls, and gourds, still used to this day in Asia and South America.

For water vessels, they are still preferred over earthenware jars because they are lighter and they cool the water by evaporation. In Chinese culture, gourds were grown to hold alcohol.

In Japan watermelons are grown in little boxes so that they become square. It looks quirky and weird, but it makes them easy to stack and transport. The idea is giving nature a little bit of a nudge to form it into shapes that would be more functional.

The Crème team created 3D-printed molds in several shapes to experiment with, while Aizaki planted gourds in the backyard of his home in Brooklyn so they would grow into the shape of a cup.

After three summers of growing gourds, the team settled on two main shapes: a stackable cup that has geometric facets and a flask style with a smaller opening, which go by the name of HyO-Cup.

The finished cups are translucent, unique objects that are 100% organic and biodegradable. But it takes a month for the plant to fruit, two to three weeks for the fruit to develop, and then once it is finally grown large enough, it takes another two to three months of sitting in the sun for the gourd to dry enough that it can be used to drink out of.

Aizaki is determined to find a way of making the production process more efficient and thus more scalable.

When in 2019, Crème opened their natural timber, white-painted brick and gingham fabric RedFarm eatery in West Village, New York, following with a second eatery in Covent Garden, London, Hyo-Cups were one of the features. (cremedesign.com)

In Mexico, Scott Munguia’s Biofase Company has been making single-use cutlery and straws out of bioplastics made from discarded avocado pits. This is largely due to a phenomenon called “bonus of biogenic carbon”, which explains that the avocado tree, when growing, absorbs CO₂ of the atmosphere to form its tissues. This phenomenon does not occur in the production of any plastic derived of oil.

It takes 240 days for Biofase’s avocado seed-based bioplastic items to biodegrade in natural conditions, whether they are simply buried underground or placed in a compost pile.

The avocado pits Biofase uses are byproducts of a company called Simplot’s Avocado Farms, which are located in Mexico, keeping the manufacturing process domestic. 80% of the items Biofase produces are exported to other countries (the U.S., Canada, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Perú. Biofase also supplies straws to a few major restaurant chains, including P. F. Chang’s and Chili’s.

Discover solution 41: Fuel made from coffee grounds

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Materials Your Home

39: Biodegradable plastics from shrimp, manure and more

Problem:

There is too much plastic in the world that takes too long to break down.

Solution:

A compostable plastic that dissolves instantly in hot water and breaks down over a period of months on land or at sea.


In Indonesia, Kevin Kumala has taken a local and cheap root vegetable called the Cassava and combined its starch with vegetable oil and organic resins to make a compostable plastic.

The inventor claims it leaves no trace of toxic residue, which he demonstrates by drinking the dissolved plastic.

In 2014 Kumala founded Avani Eco, further innovating a material made from corn soy and sunflower seeds with which he has made ponchos. The strength of Avani Eco’s bioplastic is comparable to that of petrochemical-based plastic.

Fungus

Javier Gomez Fernandez, assistant professor and a team at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), researching into biodegradable building options investigated a fungus-like class of eukaryotes known as oomycetes.

Their structures combine cellulose with the second-most abundant polymer on the planet: chitin, an artificial polymer made from chitin, a fibrous substance which is extracted from shells of crustaceans such as shrimps.

Shrimps

Chitin is biodegradable polymer that is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and biocompatible.

Inspired by this newly studied species of oomycetes, a team at  Singapore Univeristy of Technology and Design mixed small amounts of chitin with cellulose in an industrial dough mixer to create an organic, biodegradable composite they call Fungus-Like Additive Material (FLAM).

FLAM can be 3D-printed or cast, as well as manufactured using common woodworking techniques (e.g. sawing, drilling, polishing…) and also combinations of them. (www.epd.sutd.edu.sg

Researchers at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute have developed a material called Shrilk, an artificial insect cuticle made from chitin (a polysaccharide) and fibroin (a protein from silk).

Simply mixed together, the materials have mechanical properties that reflect the average of each material and are two times stronger than the stronger component. Shrilk could one day be used to suture wounds, and serve as scaffolding for tissue regeneration. (www.wyss.harvard.edu

Although shrimp shells are part of the waste problem in Egypt, in collaboration with the Nile University in Egypt, bioengineers at the University of Nottingham engineered chitin into biodegradable shopping bags, as well as new food packaging material to extend product shelf life.

Other materials are being developed. Scientists from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies at the University of Bath have developed a renewable plastic from a chemical called pinene found in pine needles.

Manure

In the Netherlands, Jalila Essaïdi and her team have found a way to turn manure into a bioplastic they called Mestic, which derives from the Dutch word for manure (‘mest’).

Essaïdi was approached by the agricultural sector of the Dutch province Noord-Brabant to help find a way to deal with the surplus of the manure. An annual report in 2016 showed that a total of 190,600 tons (172,900 tonnes) of phosphate was produced in the Netherlands, of which 99.7 million kg. originates from cow manure. www.jalilaessaidi.com

Discover solution 40: Disposable cups made from gourds, avocados and others

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Materials Your Home

38: Biodegradable bottles

Problem:

Humans produce almost 20,000 plastic bottles every second, according to a report by The Guardian, while a study by Oceana.org  finds that as many as 34 billion plastic bottles per year end up in the ocean.

Solution:

Biodegradable plastics made of corn and other plants.


In 1989, Pat Gruber working for commodity grain processor Cargill Inc., set out to turn corn into plastic. Gruber ascertained that if he fermented corn sugar with the right lactic bacteria and distilled it, this might be a route to a commercially viable biodegradable plastic.

By 1994, Gruber had progressed to a test factory to learn how to adjust the process to change the performance of the polymer for different applications.

That was enough to persuade Dow Chemical Co. to collaborate as a partner.

In December 1997, two years and one month after Cargill Dow was officially established, work began on building a US$3 million plant in Blair, Nebraska to produce NatureWorks PLA (poly lactic acid) polymer.

The plant was up and running by early 2002, with the capacity to produce an annual 154,000 tons (140,000 tonnes) of NatureWorks PLA made from 40,000 bushels of locally grown corn per day.

Gruber’s polymer was soon being used for making items such as bottles. In 2002, a manufacturing facility in Blair, Nebraska began operations.

It is the world’s first and largest PLA facility and it supplies NatureWorks’ Ingeo biopolymer. The Blair facility increased its Ingeo nameplate capacity and in 2013 NatureWorks sold 1 billion lb (454,000 kg) of Ingeo. www.natureworksllc.com

In 2009 Coca-Cola invested millions of dollars in creating its PlantBottle™, which uses PET plastic that is combined with up to 30 % of plant-based material made from sugar cane juice and/or molasses.

The company sought verification from third-parties such as Imperial College, London, where a biologist performed a life-cycle analysis of the bottle and reported that the packaging reduced the CO₂ impact by 12% to 19%.

A Michigan State University professor also confirmed PlantBottle’s green benefits. Coca-Cola has since distributed more than 15 billion of the breakthrough bottles in 25 countries, including parts of the U.S., Canada, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Norway, Sweden Denmark and Chile. This saved 347,000 tons (315,000 tonnes) of CO₂ between 2009 and 2015.

In 2011, Coca-Cola took the first step in this collaborative innovation approach by licensing PlantBottle technology to H.J. Heinz for use in its ketchup bottles.

More than 200 million 20 oz (500 gm) packages, which feature “talking labels” asking “Guess what my bottle is made of?” reached store shelves and foodservice counters in the U.S. and Canada.

The next generation of plant-based PET packaging – or PlantBottle 2.0 – began in December 2011, when Coca-Cola invested in three leading biotech companies, Virent, Gevo and Avantium, to speed the commercialization of a PET plastic bottle made entirely from plants.

That year the company did launch a 100% plant-based bottle using a different drop-in plastic. It introduced a single-use bottle made from 100% bio-based high-density polyethylene for its Odwalla juice. The material was sourced from Brazil-based chemicals and plastics company Braskem.

In June 2012, Coca-Cola also teamed up with Ford, Heinz, Nike and Procter & Gamble to form the Plant PET Technology Collaborative.

Together, these brands have been working together to pursue a 100% renewable polyester plastic solution made entirely from plants for use in everything from clothing and footwear, to automotive fabric and packaging.

Coke is partnering with The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to create guiding principles for sourcing agricultural feedstocks used in PlantBottle packaging.

In 2015, at the Expo Milano World’s Fair, Coca-Cola showcased the world’s first demonstration-scale PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based materials. The bottles used BioFormPX paraxylene produced by Coca-Cola partner Virent.

By 2018 PlantBottle technology had been used in more than 60 billion packages worldwide, although Coca-Cola was accused of “greenwashing” by a Danish local environmental group called Forests of the World who claimed that the company’s marketing of PlantBottle was exaggerated and misleading.

In July 2019 the Company committed to reducing the carbon footprint of “the drink in your hand” by 25% by 2020, compared to 2010 levels.

This includes the first-ever goal targeting for the entire Coca-Cola end-to-end value chain, cutting CO₂ across its manufacturing processes, packaging formats, delivery fleet, refrigeration equipment and ingredient sourcing.

Coca-Cola has calculated that this will directly and indirectly prevent the release of 220 million tons (20 million tonnes) of CO₂ into the atmosphere.

Tomorrow’s solution: Shrilk

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Carbon Capture Materials

37: Biochar: ‘green’ charcoal

Problem:

During the past 150 years billions of tons of chemical fertilizers have been added to the planet’s soil, many of them harmful.

Solution:

A ‘charcoal’ made from biomass like wood, manure and leaves, and produces a soil enhancer that holds carbon and makes soil more fertile, reduces agricultural waste and more: Biochar.


Pre-Columbian Amazonians are believed to have used biochar to enhance soil productivity. They seem to have produced it by smouldering agricultural waste in pits or trenches. European settlers called it terra preta de Indio.

Following observations and experiments during 2006, a research team working in French Guiana hypothesized that the Amazonian earthworm Pontoscolex corethrurus was the main agent of fine powdering and incorporation of charcoal debris in the mineral soil to produce tropical soil fertility.

As high yield biochar can be produced through torrefaction or slow pyrolysis, unlike the conventional burning of wood or plant matter, the carbon stored up through photosynthesis is not released back into the atmosphere which has a significant effect on reducing AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) through the reduction of GHG (Greenhouse Gases).

Livestock manure, along with waste-feed residues and bedding materials, is a potential source of biochar.

Pro-Natura International has developed a continuous process of pyrolysis of vegetable waste (agricultural residues, renewable wild-grown biomass) transforming them into green charcoal.

This domestic fuel performs the same as
charcoal made from wood, at half the cost. It represents a freeing up from the constraints of scarcity, distance and cost of available fuels in Africa.

The first pilot program operated at Pro-Natura’s plant in Ross Bethio, Senegal.

Research worldwide into biochar has seriously increased over the past decade, and in India specifically, the number of studies on biochar has gone up in the past five years.

A lab at the University of Zurich is working on understanding how biochar can be effectively used and have conducted field trials in Germany, Spain, Italy, Norway, Nepal, North America, Indonesia, Madagascar, Zambia, and importantly in India where, for over 12 years, Zurich has been collaborating with GKVK College of Agriculture and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru.

On a farm near Manjimup in south-west Australia, since 2012 dung beetles have been working with cowpats to develop biochar which is then added to the cattle’s feed and reduces their methane emissions and also enriches the soil.

Find out more about some of the prominent companies currently functional in the global biochar market which is expected to reach around US$ 3.82 billion by 2025:

Genesis Industries  •   Phoenix Energy  •   Full Circle Biochar  •   Pacific Biochar  •   Earth Systems Bioenergy  •  Agri-Tech Producers  •  Biochar Supreme  •  CharGrow, LLC  •  National Carbon Technologies

Discover solution 38: biodegradable soda pop bottles

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Materials

36: Food containers from sugar cane

Problem:

Because of their short lifespan as packaging, petroleum-based polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE) thermoplastics end up in landfills as waste and take around 20-30 years to completely decompose.

Solution:

Polypropylene made from sugar cane.


In October 2008, at the BioJapan conference in Yokohama, Braskem of Brazil announced that after five years’ research they had succeeded in producing the first green polypropylene sample made using 100% sugar cane as a feedstock resource, which was verified in accordance with ASTM D6866.

They had used fermentative ethanol production, followed by chemical conversion into ethene, dimerization and metathesis.

The following year, Braskem entered into partnership with Novozymes as well as with Brazil’s UNICAMP college and LNBio laboratory. With access to the country’s large sugarcane crops – reaching 30 million ac (12,2 million ha) in 2015 – Braskem became the leading manufacturer of non fully biodegradable bio-polymers in the world.

In 2019, after considerable R&D, Neste  of Finland, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel from waste and residues, and LyondellBasell of Rotterdam, Netherlands, one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world, announced the first parallel production of bio-based polypropylene and bio-based low-density polyethylene on a commercial scale.

The joint project used Neste’s renewable hydrocarbons derived from sustainable bio-based raw materials, such as waste and residue oils.

The project successfully produced several thousand tons of bio-based plastics which are approved for the production of food packaging and being marketed under the names Circulen and Circulen Plus, the new family of LyondellBasell circular economy product brands.

Neste is now working with Jokey, a leading international manufacturer of rigid plastic packaging on rigid food storage and other bins.

LyondellBasell also sold some of the renewable products produced in the trial to customers like the Melitta Group’s Cofresco, and for use in popular household wraps made by Toppits and Albal.

Cofresco plans to use the Circulen Plus bio-based polyethylene to create sustainable food packaging materials. Other uses include textiles, bottles, Rubik’s cube stickers, and even polymer banknotes.

One of Neste’s first clients was home furniture company IKEA initially for plastic storage boxes. As capacities improve, more products will follow. IKEA is working to change all of the plastic used in IKEA products to plastic based on recycled and/or renewable materials by 2030.

In June 2019, during the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Energy Transitions and Global Environment for Sustainable Growth in Karuizawa in Nagano, Japanese materials company Mitsui Chemicals introduced a new cost-effective production concept for bio-PPs – bio-propylene and bio-polyethylene.

This involves the fermentation of various biomass types, mainly non-edible plants, to produce isopropanol (IPA), which is then dehydrated to obtain propylene in a first-of-its-kind IPA method.

During the next few years, bioPP breaking down more readily in sunlight is expected to generate huge profits in terms of revenue but also contribute to planet protection.

Discover solution 37: The marvel of ‘green charcoal’ – biochar

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Mobility Human Effort Materials Your Home

33: Muzzicycles

Problem:

Bicycles are the most energy efficient form of transportation in the world, but the manufacturing of metal frames and components is energy and carbon intensive.

Solution:

The Muzzicycle. A bicycle made of recycled plastic to replace at least some of the 2 billion in the world that are made of steel and  aluminium.


In 1998, Juan Muzzi, a Uruguayan artist and mechanical engineer living in Sao Paulo, Brazil began research into PET and nylon materials including plastic bottles, shampoo containers, car dashboards and kitchen trash cans as a source of raw material, to make a plastic bicycle. It would not rust, be sturdier, more flexible and cheaper.

By 2008, Muzzi had found a way to integrate his molded frames with wheels, mudguards, pedals and seats, but it took four further years of testing to market the product to secure the seal of quality from INMETRO (Brazil’s National Institute of Metrology, Standardization and Industrial Quality).

By then a plant had been built which could take in 17,000 tons (15,400 tonnes) of recycled plastic every year using it to produce 10,000 Muzzicycles per month in every colour of the rainbow.

With 200 plastic bottles going into each frame, the process uses far less energy than is required for making traditional metal frames, saving well over 5 tons (4.5 tonnes) of CO₂ emissions, although a steel bicycle frame will lasdt a lifetime.

In 2020, Do Bem, manufacturer of fruit juice made a promise to remove from the environment 100% of the amount of long-life cartons that it produces per year, approximately 44 million.

This has included the donation of 20 Muzzicycles to four ngos in Rio de Janeiro: “Champion Hug”, “Maré Development Network”, “Irmãos Kennedy Community Center” and “Yes, I am from the Middle”.

Additionally, while working with Teto and Ecolar, the polyaluminium used to line Do Bem’s fruit juice cartons would be recycled into glasses, tiles and floors – the last two items will be used in the construction of sustainable housing organizations.

The production of a tile, for example, takes 500 boxes. Each house has 20 square meters and is made with 63 sheets and 16 recycled tiles, which requires about 40,000 cartons

In 2012 after discovering the Muzzicycle, Juan Carlos Seguro of Medellin, Colombia set up Eco Muévete Seguro making and marketing his bikes as Re-ciclas, or Re-cycles. Seguro then partnered with a local recycling firm, Kaptar, which operates a network of bottle collecting machines that link to smartphone applications.

Bottle collectors, by depositing bottles in the machine, earn points that can be spent on benefits such as subway tokens and movie passes. Kaptar’s machines take in 2,000 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles every day.

Now there is a waiting list of at least 2,500 people to buy a recycled frame bike that is custom made in Sao Paulo. Juan Muzzi is now planning to manufacture recycled child’s bikes and plastic wheelchairs.

Discover solution 34: the billion tree tsunami

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Human Effort Materials Your Home

32: Bread into beer

Problem:

44% in bakeries, delicatessens and supermarkets. When it is deemed stale and can’t be sold it is simply thrown away.

Solution:

Turn uneaten, ready-to-be-thrown-into-the-dumpster bread into ‘can-I-please-have-a-pint’ craft beer.


Tristam Stuart, the founder of Feedback based in London, England campaigns against food waste.

In December 2009, he launched a food waste campaign by organising “Feeding the 5000” in London’s Trafalgar Square in which 5,000 people were served free curry, smoothies and fresh groceries from cast off vegetables and other food that otherwise would have been wasted.

Tristam heard about a brewery in Belgium which uses discarded bread to make craft ale. There is nothing new about this process. Kvass (from rye bread) although typically not strongly alcoholic has been around in Russia, Ukraine etc. for at least 5 centuries.

After refining the recipe with Hackney Brewery in London, Stuart then contracted with Hambleton Ales in North Yorkshire to produce it in quantities.

In 2016, Tristam began selling Toast Ale at London restaurants, online and through a growing number of distributors. Using roughly one slice per ½ UK pint (284 ml) bottle, his team of three recycled 3.6 tons (3.3 tonnes) of bread in the first 15 months.

The beer is made when surplus bread is sliced and mashed to make breadcrumbs, then toasted and brewed with malted barley, hops and yeast to make a quality pale ale with a distinctive taste of caramel notes that balance the bitter hops, giving a malty taste similar to amber ales.

All profits go straight to Feedback. Toast Ale subsequently expanded nationally in the UK, and internationally to the USA, South Africa, Brazil, Iceland and Sweden.

It also open-sources a recipe for homebrewers. The company has received global press coverage and won 11 industry awards, while Tristam Stuart was named at the World Economic Forum in Davos as one of 30 leaders to inspire ambition and mobilise action to reduce food loss and waste globally. Cans of Toast Ale bear the slogan “Here’s to Change” and describes the contents as among other terms “tropical” and “zesty”, “planet-saving. ” (toastale.com)

Discover solution 33: the Muzzicycle

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Materials Energy

30: Batteries made of seawater

Problem:

Many battery materials, including metals such as nickel and cobalt, pose tremendous environmental and humanitarian risks.

Cobalt in particular, which is largely mined in central Africa, has come under fire for careless and exploitative extraction practices.

Solution:

Batteries made from seawater.

IBM Research has joined with Mercedes-Benz Research and Development North America, Central Glass, one of the top battery electrolyte suppliers in the world, and Sidus Energy, a Silicon Valley battery startup to create a new next-generation battery development ecosystem.

In December 2019, a team led by Young-Hye Na at IBM Research Center in Almaden in San José, California, USA announced the development of a new battery built from minerals and compounds found in seawater (magnesium, potassium, boron, strontium, fluoride etc.).

It uses a cobalt and nickel-free cathode material, as well as a safe liquid electrolyte with a high flash point, thereby reducing flammability, which is widely considered a significant drawback for the use of lithium metal as an anode material.

When optimized for this factor, this new battery design will exceed 10,000 Watt per Litre (W/L), outperforming the most powerful li-ion batteries available. Additionally, tests have shown this battery can be designed for a long cycle-life, making it an option for smart power grid applications and new energy infrastructures where longevity and stability are key.

Moving forward, the team has also implemented an AI technique called semantic enrichment to further improve battery performance by identifying safer and higher performance materials.

Using machine learning techniques to give human researchers access to insights from millions of data points to inform their hypothesis and next steps, researchers can speed up the pace of innovation in this important field of study. (www.research.ibm.com)

Discover solution 31: mechanical beach cleaners

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Energy Materials

29: Nuclear waste to diamond batteries

Problem:

Waste from a nuclear fission generating plant can remain radioactive for 250,000 years.

Solution:

Recycle the nuclear waste for diamond battery power.

A team of physicists and chemists led jointly by Professor Tom Scott and Dr Neil Fox at the University of Bristol have grown a man-made diamond that, when placed in a radioactive field, is able to generate a small electrical current in a nuclear-powered battery.

Unlike the majority of electricity-generation technologies, which use mechanical energy to move a magnet through a coil of wire to generate a current, the man-made diamond is able to produce a charge simply by being placed in close proximity to a radioactive source.

The Bristol team have demonstrated a prototype ‘diamond battery’ using Nickel-63 as the radiation source.

They are now working to significantly improve micropower battery efficiency by utilising carbon-14 incorporated within the diamond battery.

One available source of this radioactive version of carbon, is found in decommissioned nuclear reactors where it is generated in graphite blocks used to moderate the reaction in nuclear power plants.

Extracted from waste at the Berkeley power station in Gloucestershire, Carbon-14 was chosen as a source material because it ​is a pure beta emitter, which is quickly absorbed by any solid material. ​

Carbon 14 is naturally present in the ecosystem at a background level as it is easily taken up by living matter. This would only make it dangerous to ingest or touch with your naked skin if present in unnaturally large quantities, but safely held within a diamond, no short-range radiation can escape.

Neutron irradiated (Magnox) reactor graphite blocks form the bulk of the existing legacy feedstock. Each block contains machined ‘through-hole’ channels for accommodating fuel rods and gas cooling.

The wall surfaces of these channels contain the bulk of the carbon 14 carbon which can be harvested by robots and converted into gas such as carbon dioxide and into methane. Gas centrifuges will be used to purify C14 methane and there are techniques to efficiently separate light  isotopes.

The UK currently holds almost 105,000 tons (95,000 tonnes) of graphite blocks and by extracting carbon-14 from them, their radioactivity decreases, reducing the cost and challenge of safely storing this nuclear waste.

Radioactive material from a nuclear power plant being decommissioned in the U.K. could soon be used to create “ultra-long-lasting” power sources. Using carbon-14 the battery would take 5,730 years to reach 50% power, which is about as long as human civilization has existed.

Neil A. Fox et al., “A theoretical study of substitutional boron-nitrogen clusters in diamond” Journal of Physics Condensed Matter 30(42) · August 2018

Discover solution 30: A battery made from seawater

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Materials

28: Bamboo silk

Problem:

Making silk with silk worms kills the worms and emits vapours that cause respiratory problems for workers.

Solution:

Luxurious, environment-friendly silk made from bamboo.

Bamboo silk, a popular fibre because it is breathable like cotton and cool to the touch, is used for luxury towels, bedding and linen.

Sericulture (making silk) is not considered an eco-friendly practice. Living cocoons are collected and kept under the sun, or boiled, or exposed to steam to kill the silkworms and make the cocoons easier to unravel. The boiling of cocoons leads to the formation of vapours that can pollute the environment and also cause

Bamboo can be a very sustainable crop; a fast growing grass, it requires no fertiliser and self-regenerates from its own roots, so it does not need to be replanted.

When compared to cotton cultivation, which requires large amounts of water, pesticides and labour, the advantages are pretty clear.

The first process involves combing out the bamboo fibres and spinning these into thread. This results in a slightly coarse fabric that is usually called “bamboo linen”.

Creating this “linen” is labour intensive and expensive and the result not suitable for the soft, intimate products for which bamboo is most in demand.

The second and much more popular method is the process used to make the silky soft bamboo fabric you find in sheets, underwear and more.

This “bamboo rayon” is produced through a highly intensive chemical process, similar to the process used to turn wood chips into rayon. This is where the sustainability of bamboo gets a little prickly.

The majority of bamboo is grown in China, and there is no information regarding how intensively bamboo is being harvested, or what sort of land clearing might be underway in order to make way for the bamboo.

Also, although bamboo doesn’t require pesticides, there is no guarantee that they are not being used to maximise outputs.

A similar fabric called Lyocell (also known by the brand name TENCEL) uses a closed-loop process to recapture and reuse 99% of the chemical solution.

It was developed beginning in 1972 by a team at the American Enka fibers facility at Enka, Western North Carolina and called Newcell. The fibre was developed further as Tencel in the 1980s by Courtaulds Fibres in Coventry, UK.

Tencel is often made from sustainably farmed oak, birch and eucalyptus trees with respect for the indigenous forest, and the fabric was awarded the “European Award for the Environment” by the European Union.

Bamboo Lyocell is made with pure organic bamboo pulp; it is crushed, washed and spun into yarns. Traditional lyocell is made from wood, but bamboo lyocell is a renewable plant source.

Bamboo lyocell is silky, smooth and very soft. Companies using bamboo Lyocell include Ettitude in Los Angeles for their sustainable bedding brand.

The process of making Lyocell consists of cellulose fibre made from dissolving pulp using dry jet-wet spinning. The amine oxide used to dissolve the cellulose and set the fibre after spinning is recycled. 98% of the amine oxide is typically recovered.

Since there is little waste product, this process is relatively eco-friendly.

In 2000, CVC (Citicorp Venture Capital) sold the Tencel division to Lenzing AG, who combined it with their “Lenzing Lyocell” business but maintained the brand name Tencel.

In 2004 Weyerhaeuser Company introduced a modified kraft pulp fiber that is used to generate Lyocell fibers for textiles and non-woven products. Four years later Lenzing and Weyerhaeuser teamed up to develop lyocell-based nonwoven fabrics.

In 2016, Lenzing’s Tencel Denim Team,Tricia Carey, Hale Ozturk and Michael Kininmo, launched “Carved in Blue”, a blog covering the inner workings and innovations of the denim industry and be part of a community that has a growing environmental consciousness and creativity: stories on sustainability, trends, mills, and brands including social media channels on Instagram, Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and You Tube.

Result: as of 2017, Lenzing’s Tencel brand is perhaps the most widely known lyocell fiber producer throughout the world and is building the world’s biggest Lyocell plant in Thailand.

Dr Richard Blackburn, a sustainable materials expert from Leeds School of Design, believes this extraction method could be extended to other high cellulose plant by-products such as stalks, stems and leaves, to create different types of sustainable fiber.

In August 2020 Tencel, the textile specialty fibre brand under Lenzing, has partnered with India-based textile and garment major Arvind Ltd. to launch a collection of trendy, stylish sustainable workwear shirts and suiting for men.(lenzing.com)

Patent N° US6210801B1: 2001 “Lyocell fibers, and compositions for making same.” Inventors: Mengkui Luo et al.

Discover solution 29: The diamond battery, made from nuclear waste

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Human Effort Materials

27: Biodegradable ballpoint pens

Problem:

Over three billion ball point pens – 18 billion grams, 40 million  pounds – are shipped into the USA each year, with most of them winding up in landfills, or rivers, lakes and oceans.

Solution:

Biodegradable ball point pens.

BiC

From 2003  Société BIC of Clichy, Hauts-de-Seine, France – more commonly known as BiC –  set up a team of 25 researchers to transform their commitment to sustainable development into ecological solutions that must constitute competitive advantages for the Group.

After five years of extensive research and development the BiC team in France learned to develop PLA (Poly-Lactic-Acid) from corn, with which by 2008 they were able to produce a precision shaver handle.

From this BiC built up a new line of stationery products, including pens which they trade-marked as “Ecolutions”.

BiC became the first manufacturer of writing instruments to earn NF Environment certification.

A full range of nineteen BIC products has been granted this ecolabel, including historical products such as the BIC Cristal® and the BIC 4-Colors™ ballpoint pen, as well as the pens in the BIC Ecolutions line, manufactured using recycled materials (at least 50%) in compliance with the standard ISO 14021.

For example, the BIC® Matic Ecolutions® mechanical pencil contains 65% recycled materials. All stationery lines now include at least one product made with alternative (e.g. recycled) materials. In 2019, BIC added the Kids Evolution Ecolutions colouring pencils to this range. (bicgraphic.eu)

PaperMate

On the other hand, from 2010, Paper Mate of Oak Brook, Illinois used Mirel, a bioplastic whose primary raw material is corn sugar (dextrose) derived from a corn wet milling process, to launch a line of biodegradable pens, and pencils, including the Gel 0.7, that feature components that break down in soil or home compost in the space of a year.

Pilot
Five years later,  Pilot Corporation of Tokyo, Japan developed the Bottle to Pen (B2P) Line of writing instruments, which are the world’s first pens made from recycled plastic water bottles.

The plastic from one bottle can be used to create approximately two B2P pens. PET plastic from bottles are used for much of it, so it is sometimes nicknamed the ‘PetPen’ or ‘PetBall’. (jetpens.com)

Other solutions

In 1998, a team led by Yasumichi Iwasi at the Mitsubishi Pencil Co Ltd in Tokyo had obtained Japanese patent JP2000043470A for “a Composting decomposable writing instrument to decompose and return it to soil by adopting biodegradable fiber for obtaining biodegradable performance even in inner members (nib, inner cotton).”

Their solution was a nib and inner cotton formed of lactic lactone of polylactic acid (PLA).

In 2009, Leon Ransmeier and Erik Wysocan of DBA, New York, obtained a patent for a pen made from potato-based plastic which could be composted within 180 days.

The only catch was the stainless steel nib – which made up 2% of the pen and was left behind.

The ink reservoir stored a non-toxic ink. The plug, cap, ink reservoir and main housing were all formed from biodegradable, non-toxic materials. The pens would be made in a wind-powered factory and packaged in 100% recycled and recyclable FSC-certified paper printed with vegetable-based inks.

Although, the DBA98 (98% biodegradable) was launched as the “green pen” with a publicity event at the Standard Hotel in New York, the company was unable to overcome some of the obstacles inherent in the pursuit of challenging conventional, outdated practices and the pen, as well as DBA’s endless notebook made of 100% recycled paper, were never manufactured.

bicgraphic.com; Yigal Azrouel, “Hollywood And Fashion Stars Turn Out To Celebrate A New Eco-Pen,” Styelcaster, 2010.

Discover solution 28: Bamboo silk.

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Materials

26: Compostable baler twine

Problem:

Recycling rates for baling twines are low. The synthetic string used to bind hay or straw into a more compact and easily stacked form  usually ends up in a landfill, or is burned and emits toxins.

Solution:

Rebtex (Pty) Ltd of Polokwane, South Africa manufactures sisal baling twine that is a safe, non-toxic plant fibre product that is totally biodegradable.

Rebtex twine is available countrywide from farmers supply stores and co-ops in three types differing in thickness, tensile strength and length per 5kg spool for round balers, large round balers and square balers.

Sisal fibers are made of 65% cellulose, 12% Hemicellulose, 9.9% Lignin, and 2% Waxes. Cordex “Envirocord” biodegradable baler twine is engineered to be a high-performing, yet cost-saving alternative to sisal baler twine.

It is water proof and odorless, and is solar degradable starting at 3 months of sun exposure. When comparing the same spool length and tensile strength, savings of 33% to 50% are realized.

Tomorrow’s solution: Biodegradable ballpoint pens.

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Materials

25: Protective antibacterial films inspired by sharkskin

Problem:

Hospital-acquired or nosocomial infections are deadly, resulting in more than 99,000 deaths each year

Solution:

Medical protective films and supplies like wound dressings and catheters that inhibit bacterial growth by mimicking the texture of sharkskin.

Dr. Anthony B. Brennan, materials science and engineering professor at University of Florida, had been asked by the U.S. Office of Naval Research to identify new antifouling strategies to reduce use of toxic antifouling paints and trim costs associated with dry dock and drag.

Brennan was convinced that using an engineered topography could be a key to new antifouling technologies.

This became clear upon watching an algae-coated nuclear submarine return to port while visiting the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Oahu in 2002. The submarine was strikingly similar in appearance to a whale moving slowly into the harbour. This observation resulted in a discussion on the topic of slow moving marine mammals that do not readily collect microorganisms on their skin.

The only animal identified with that met these criteria was the shark. Following identification, Brennan became expert in understanding what properties of sharkskin contribute to the difference in adhesion.

An actual impression of sharkskin, or more specifically, its dermal denticles was taken in an effort to understand these properties. Examining the impression with scanning electron microscopy Brennan discovered that sharkskin denticles are arranged in a distinct diamond pattern with tiny riblets.

The presence of millions of tiny diamond-shaped dermal denticles is unique to sharks in comparison to other slow moving marine animals and is key to the micro-organism resistant properties of sharkskin. He called them Sharklets. The first test performed showed an 85% reduction in green algae settlement compared to smooth surfaces.

Taking a biomimicry approach Anthony Brennan has adapted the Sharklets to develop a textured adhesive film which can stop bacterial growth on a number of different surfaces, including medical devices such as hospital surfaces, public restrooms, childcare facilities, commercial venues, laboratories and animal research facilities. The film may also be manufactured into the top layer of workspace mats to create immediate and moveable surface protection.

For manufacturing, Brennan set up Sharklet™ Technologies Inc., a biotechnology company is based at the Bioscience Park Center, an incubator in the Fitzsimons Life Science District adjacent to the renowned Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado.

To test Sharklet, trials were conducted in Sharklet Inc. laboratories, independent facilities and United States’ government agency facilities, on bacteria incuding Staphylococcus aureus, Staphylococcus epidermidis, MRSA, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and VRE.

LG International in Portland, Oregon, a manufacturer of bacteria inhibition products, designed to protect environmental surfaces and decrease bacterial attachment, survival, and touch transference, was the first company to sell a bacteria-inhibiting film-based product under the Tactivex brand.

Tactivex has been deployed into healthcare facilities, research laboratories and other settings where bacterial inhibition is desired. Tactivex with Sharklet products are semi-durable covers for the surfaces that leading microbiologists at the U.S.

Centers for Disease Control have identified as critical for keeping clean. These surfaces include: patient bed rails, overbed tray tables, bedside tables, staff call handsets, patient room light switches and door levers.

The Tactivex line will also feature a product for nurse stations and areas that serve as pivot points of activity between patient room visits. Sharklet will also be applied to children’s backpacks, suitcases and yoga mats.

Kenneth K. Chung, James F Schumacher, Edith M Sampson, Robert A Burne, Patrick J Antonelli, Anthony B Brennan, “Impact of engineered surface microtopography on biofilm formation of Staphylococcus aureus,” Biointerphase, June 1,, 2007 sharklet.com

Tomorrow’s solution: Compostable  baler twine

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Materials

22: Recycling asbestos into ceramics

Problem:

Although asbestos is a naturally-occurring material that was used in thousands of homes and offices for centuries, it is a carcinogen that can cause serious illness and death if not handled correctly.

Even though it is now removed safely by workers wearing hazardous material suits, it is then taken to a qualified landfill – not the safest place for any cancer-causing substance.

Solution:

Asbestos can be recycled by a shingle or siding recycler through the use of incredibly high heat 1,000–1,250 °C (1,800–2,300 °F) which eventually converts the fibers into an inert silicate glass.

The resulting material is completely inert and will no longer cause cancer. Silicate glass can then be used to create porcelain stoneware tiles, porous single-fired wall tiles, and ceramic bricks.

Gualtieri, A. F.; Tartaglia, A, “Thermal decomposition of asbestos and recycling in traditional ceramics“. Journal of the European Ceramic Society. 20 (9): 1409–1418. 2000).

Discover solution 23: Detecting and combating asteroids

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Materials

17: The new antibiotics

Problem:

Dangerous bacteria are becoming resistant to our arsenal of colistin antibiotics, rendering them ineffective and increasing the threat and likelihood of catastrophic public health consequences.

Solution:

A new family of antibiotics inspired by existing natural bacterial peptides – compounds similar to proteins but smaller – could provide new possibilities to overcome this resistance.

In 2011, a team at the health science company Inserm led by Professor Brice Felden and working with Michèle Baudy and his team at Rennes Institute of Chemical Sciences in Brittany discovered a new toxin that they transformed into antibiotics by modifying the peptides of the toxin’s bacteria.

Out of the twenty molecules created, two proved effective against resistant Staphylococcus aureus – one the most dangerous of the  staphylococcal bacteria – and against Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which often causes infections in hospital patients.

Felden and his team tested these molecules at doses 10 to 50 times higher than the effective dose without seeing toxicity. After several days of direct exposure to the drugs in vivo, the bacteria still showed no signs of resistance.

To truly ensure this was the case, the team created conditions that were particularly favorable to resistance and still found a negative result. Longer experimental stages could be helpful, and the team’s next steps are to launch clinical trials on humans.

The patent has been licensed and a startup created.

They are not alone.

National Public Radio in the USA (NPR) reports that

A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by Researchers at Brown, Emory and Harvard universities found that they can repurpose bithionol — a drug formerly used to treat parasitic infections in horses — to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA, a common hospital-acquired infection.

You can read the full NPR article »» here

Discover solution 18: Using electronics to catch poachers

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Energy Materials

16: Electrical energy from animal dung

Problem:

As all transport transitions to electric propulsion, the increase in the demand for electrical energy will call on a diversity of sources.

Solution:

Anaerobic digesters that convert the dung of horses, cattle, pigs and other livestock to electricity.

Anaerobic digestion is a sequence of processes by which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen and create and capture biogas – a flammable fuel with high methane content which  can be used to run turbines and create electricity.

In the Fall of 1998 two ex-Aachen University students from farming families, Hendrik Becker and Jörg Meyer zu Strohe, built an anaerobic digester at a prototype biogas plant feed facility in Münsterland, north-west Westfalen.

Unlike other biogas technology, their innovative solids injection process can operate using  100 percent manure or manure mixed with difficult to process substrates such as straw and grass.

They started a company, PlanET, to manufacture their green dome-shape digesters for use in rural areas.

During the past two decades, PlanET has sold and implemented nearly 480 biogas plants of between 40 kW and several MW to France, the UK, the USA and Canada.

The total electric power of PlanET installations currently in operation is 142,000 kWel. The plant also processes other waste such as that of cereal farmers (the unusable part of the harvest).

Finland

In 2015, Finland’s state energy company, Fortum, led by Anssi Paalanen, also looked at anaerobic digesters as a fuel source and began trials at Lake Järvenpää, gathering raw materials from four stables from Espoo and Kirkkonummi for their units.

They found that the manure and bedding of three horses could provide heat and light for a single-family Finnish home in a colder climate.

Finland has 70,000 horses, enough to provide heat and electricity for up to 23,000 homes. Fortum began with a small plant, with the manure forming just 10% of the wood-shaving mix used for burning.

By autumn, with more stables taking part, the manure proportion was raised to 20%. The number of horses in society is increasing.

According to Statistics Sweden, there are more than 360,000 horses in Sweden, of which three-quarters are situated in urban or near-urban environments. With a dry matter manure content of 40%, this equates to a quantity of 1,500 tons (1,360 tonnes) of horse manure per annum and corresponds to an annual biogas production of 641 GWh.

In 2016, Finland banned the disposal of manure in landfill sites, along with many other organic, biodegradable materials. This meant that stables risked being stuck with a pile of ordure they could not shift.

The manure can be given to farmers for use as fertilizer, but in the EU this is now permitted only on flat fields because of the risk that exists on sloping fields that the manure will leach into water courses. Flat fields are still fair game for muck-spreaders, but the E.U. bans the strewing of horse manure on any sloping site, as a sensible precaution against equine faeces leaching into the water system.

This means that Finland’s manure does not have many places to go, making the manure biomass plan a double win. The Fortum solution, which they called quite simply “HorsePower”, seemed the most logical.

From August 2017, Fortum set up a pilot project in Bergslagen, southern Sweden, requesting manure from the 400-500 horses in the region, the electricity produced going to households in the town of Hällefors.

Fortum was looking for local suppliers and asked that there are at least 10-20 horses in the stable in order to cover transport costs. By the end of the year 3,000 horses were producing energy.

If Fortum could process the manure mix from 280,000 of Sweden’s horses it would be enough to heat all of the houses in Östergötland and Gotland.

Following the 2017 FEI European Equestrian Championships held in the city of Gothenburg in August, Renova, the municipal waste management, created around 360 000 kWh of district heating and 60 000 kWh of electricity, from the estimated 330 tons (300 tonnes) of horse manure and straw left by the 600 horses participating in the competition.

Two months later, Finland’s Horse Show in Helsinki Ice Hall followed suit. During the event, HorsePower delivered wood-based bedding for the 250 or so horses that stayed in temporary stalls, their dung at Fortum’s Järvenpää power plant anaerobically generating 140 kW to meet all of the electricity needs of the event from lighting to scoreboards to support infrastructure. (fortum.com)

According to a report compiled in 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAOSTAT), there are an estimated 58 million horses in the world.

In terms of HorsePower potential, one is therefore talking about gigawatts of electricity. If the manure of the world’s horse population were put to work, this would provide electricity for 19.5 million homes or two New York cities, not to mention electric vehicles.

At the beginning of 2016, the global number of four-wheeled electric vehicles in use came to around 13 million units: 6.18 million electrified power trains will be produced by 2020. This does not take in the hundreds of millions of two- and three-wheeled vehicles, particularly in China.

With such a demand for electrical energy, it is inevitable that horse manure – not to mention manure from cattle, pigs and other livestock – will play its part alongside other sustainable energy sources.

Discover solution 17: the new antibiotics.

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Energy Materials

12: Carbon-free aluminium smelting

Problem:

Nearly all aluminium smelting has for many years been done with hydroelectric power from generators dedicated to the purpose, with the smelters built next to the dams that store the water.

However, smelting is the largest single producer of toxic fluorides worldwide. ‘Scrubbers’ are usually used to remove the majority of fluorides from factory smoke today, but when those scrubbers are spent they are also dumped in landfills where the soluble fluorides absorbed into them can leak out into the soil.

Solution:

In May 2018, Alcoa and Rio Tinto unveiled what they describe as the world’s first carbon-free aluminum smelting process, through a partnership called Elysis, which refers to the electrolysis of alumina, a process at the centre of aluminum smelting.

Apple, which is planning to use the metal in its iPhone and laptop computers, as part of its own efforts to decarbonize its operations and supply chain, is also investing in Elysis.

On August 16, 2019, construction began on the Elysis R&D centre in Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint Jean region, located within Rio Tinto’s Complexe Jonquière, the site of the Arvida smelter, Vaudreuil refinery and Arvida research and development center.

The project is expected to be fully operational by the second half of 2020, employing 25 technical experts.

By 2024, commercialisation on a world scale could eliminate the equivalent of 7 million tons (6.5 million tonnes) of GHG emissions if fully implemented at existing aluminum smelters in Canada – roughly equal to taking nearly 1.8 million light-duty vehicles off the road. (alcoa.com)

Meanwhile, Russian aluminum giant Rusal En+, which uses hydropower from rivers in Siberia to power most of its smelters, is targeting 2021 to roll out its own line of carbon-free aluminum, based on an inert anode system.

Rusal has teamed up with US manufacturer Braidy Industries to build a mill in Kentucky, which will be the world’s largest low-carbon rolled aluminum producer, as well as the first new greenfield aluminum mill in 37 years to be constructed in the United States.

En+ Group, the holding company for Rusal reckons the trend for lighter and more efficient electric car bodies will boost demand for “green” aluminum. (enplusgroup.com/en)

Discover solution 13: floating neighbourhoods that can adapt to changes in water level

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Materials

10: Seaweed, algae and toilet paper textiles

Problem:

Synthetic textiles are economically efficient to produce but are largely based on petroleum products –  harmful to the environment and very slow to decompose. Natural fabrics like cotton are nutrient intensive, putting a strain on soil and other resources.

Solution:

Sea algae grow much faster and need less nutrients then cotton.

Nienke Hoogvliet is a Dutch artist who grew up in a coastal area where algae and seaweed is abundant.

While studying Lifestyle & Design at Rotterdam’s Willem de Kooning Academy, she took some of these sea algae, hand-knotted them into an old fishing net and presented the resulting SEA ME rug at the Dutch Design Week 2014.

With funding from the StimuleringsfondsCreatieveIndustrie, Hoogvliet’s research extended and she discovered uses for the sustainable yarn beyond the textile industry.

Exploring a circular zero waste process (where the waste of one process fuels a second and so on until there is nothing left) led her to unearth the advantages of seaweed as a natural dye.

She collected over 20 different species of seaweed in her native Oosterschelde and experimented. She also visited Ireland, where a potential of 110 ton (110,000 kg) of seaweed floats ashore every year. Each species gives a different color, showing a color palette that reflects this nature reserve.

In 2015, in collaboration with Xandra van der Eijk, Hoogvliet, based in the Hague, presented “Colors of the Oosterschelde”, comprising a bio-plastic chair, a table and bowls at the Dutch Design Week

With the results of this research charted in a self-published 100-page book, “Seaweed Research” (purchase »» here), Hoogvliet’s experimentation with sustainable materials continued with her discovering that fish skins, a waste product of the fishing industry, can also be made into a leather alternative.

She went to fish shops to collect their waste and by using an old technique, that requires a lot of manual labour, she created a strong, sustainable and beautiful material that can be used like regular leather.

Finding a chemical-free, labour-intensive method for tanning the skins, Hoogvliet reached into the deep again and developed RE-SEA ME.

To show the abilities of her leather, Hoogvliet designed a small stool with fish leather seating. For this project she used salmon skins, but almost any kind of fish can be used to make leather.

While the tanning process was done by hand the Dutch designer believes it also has potential to be produced at a larger scale. Nienke Hoogvliet collected her research into the sustainability of the fishing- and leather-tanning industry in her book “Fish Leather”, where she explains the natural tanning process and hopes to encourage others to use this technique.

Whilst there is an intrinsic beauty in fish skin and seaweed, how does one arrive at used toilet paper? By invite it would seem: impressed with her fine work with sustainable materials, the Dutch Water Authorities invited Hoogvliet to design products that would show off their good work in recovering valuable energy and raw materials from wastewater.

Setting ‘fine sieve’ installations into place, water authorities Aa & Maas and Hoogheemraadschap Hollands NoorderkWartier were able to reclaim plenty of the 190,000 tons (180,000 tonnes) (190K US ton.) of toilet paper that is flushed down the toilets of the Netherlands each year. (That is 180,000 trees.)

Hoping to create the sort of positive association with this unpleasant material, these authorities invited Hoogvliet to design products that would show off their good work in recovering valuable energy and raw materials from wastewater.

Eight sewage treatment plants have already transformed into Energy Factories, with preparations underway for a further nine, green electricity can be garnered from the treatment process – as can phosphate, which can be used to produce fertilisers.

Proving time and time again that she can find a rare beauty in materials once discarded, no matter how disagreeable, Hoogvliet used the cleaned pulp to produce unique, handmade products: a collection of objects, consisting of a table, lighting, and decorative bowls.

In May 2019, in New York she exhibited “Kaumera Kimono”, which combines dyes extracted from wastewater like Anammox and Vivianite with the cutting-edge material Kaumera, an alginate-like biopolymer that amplifies a textile’s ability to absorb dye. The result is that less water is required, and polluted, in the dyeing process.

Nienke Hoogvliet’s work, raising awareness of social and environmental problems in the textile, leather and food industry, is exhibited worldwide from the Artipelag in Stockholm to New York’s Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.

Discover solution 11: a reforestation that slows desert growth with 7.5 million acres of trees.

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Carbon Capture Materials Your Home

6: Kaalink • printer ink from car exhausts

Problem:

Fossil-fuel gasoline automobile exhausts pollute and damage health in crowded cities.

Solution:

A machine called Kaalink for recycling their soot to generate ink for printers, has been invented by Anirudh Sharma of India. Between 2013 and 2015 Sharma co-led activities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab India Initiative consortium to help shape self-organized, design-led innovation in India.

During a visit to his Indian home in 2013, Sharma noticed that his friend’s clothing was stained by air pollution. After experimenting for more than a year to see whether pollution rejected by vehicles was a resource recycling idea, Sharma realised that his invention would not help India if he set up office in the US.

So, in 2013 he returned to India and, along with three researcher friends, co-founded Graviky Labs in Bengaluru. Initially when they were experimenting with a new technology, there was no set guidance available in the market.

They conducted several experiments to understand the optimum technique for harvesting pollution from fossil fuel combustion sources. By 2016, the team started to retrofit Kaalink machines to car engine exhaust pipes in Bengaluru.

They were able to capture approximately 95 % or 1.6 kg of the particulate matter pollution without inducing back-pressure. Kaalinks were manually and individually installed by drivers, and after about two weeks of city driving were traded in at a Graviky Labs.

The machines could also be fitted to motorboats and to chimneys.

Graviky then set about converting the captured raw material into a black ink they called Air-Ink. An ounce of ink (28 gm) is produced by about 45 minutes of exhaust. Sharma and his team then built a prototype to test their ink’s printability.

They assembled a Nicolas’ ink shield with Arduino interfaced with their soot-catcher pump design. This shield allowed them to connect a HP C6602 inkjet cartridge to their Arduino2015 turning it into a 96dpi print platform.

It only used 5 pins which could be jumper-selected to avoid other shields. For the project they had to widen the holes of the cartridge to let the ink out, since the size of the particles in Air-Ink is much larger than the fine industrial ink.

Conventional black ink is one of the most consumed products in the industry. Most of this printing ink is produced in factories with complex chemical procedures.

Companies such as HP/Canon make 70 % of their profits by selling these cartridges at 400% margin. Air-Ink presented a far more economic option.

In August 2016, Graviky Labs, in partnership with Tiger Beer, Heineken Global, next linked up with international artists to spread the message of environment conservation.

They collaborated with seven Hong Kong-based artists for this project, providing approximately 42 gallons (150 liters) of Air-Ink in graffiti cans.

These worked well and were used in Hong Kong’s Sheung Wan district for street art activation to campaign against air pollution.

They captured this moment on a video that went viral and garnered 2.5 million views within 10 days. Sharma next travelled to smog-choked cities around the world and challenged 19 street artists to create billboards and murals in Air-Ink illustrating the effects of carbon waste, starting in London, going on to Berlin, Chicago, Sydney, Singapore and Amsterdam.

Street artist Buff Monster created a beautiful black-and-white drawing on a Manhattan sidewalk titled “This art is painted with air pollution.”

Anirudh’s innovation also gained recognition from Shah Rukh Khan, an Indian actor, film producer and television personality. Referred to in the media as the “King of Bollywood” and “King Khan”, he has appeared in more than 80 Bollywood films. Khan pledged to use Air-Ink for his brand promotions.

This included 4 handmade posters of Khan posted across New Delhi and Mumbai advertising the launch of Sharma’s TED-Talks in India “Painted with Pollution.” With corporate and government partnerships, Graviky hopes to install 1,000 capture units in every constituency.

In 2019, Graviky Labs proudly made this post on their website: “(422 billion gallons (1.6 trillion liters) of air cleaned so far.”

Discover solution 7: a wearable badge that helps you figure out the cleanest and healthiest routes to work or school.

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