Categories
Materials

296: Second-hand Shopping Mall

Problem:

A large proportion of goods sold in the thousands of shopping malls around the world eventually end up in landfills, particularly their packaging.

Solution:

Second-hand recycling shopping centre


Anna Bergstrom moved to Eskilstuna an hour’s train journey west of Stockholm in 2012, after becoming disillusioned with the huge waste she encountered during her career in commercial fashion;

Eskilstuna was already implementing a spate of green initiatives, vying to make it the most environmentally friendly city in Sweden – and perhaps the world.

Public buses and cars are run on biogas and electricity, and the town uses low-carbon combined heat and power plants, which use the thermal energy from electricity production to heat water. Residents sort their waste into seven multicoloured categories at home – green for food, pink for textiles, grey for metal, yellow for paper, blue for newspaper, orange for plastic and black for mixed.

Three years’ later, Bergstrom added her solution, “ReTuna Återbruksgalleria” (“Tuna” because that’s the nickname for the city where it is based – Eskilstuna, – and “Re” because the goods on sale have been recycled or repurposed)

At ReTuna, run by the municipality-owned company Eskilstuna Energi och Miljö (EEM), it is easy for visitors to sort materials they are discarding into the containers and then drop off reusable toys, furniture, clothes, decorative items, and electronic devices in the mall’s depot, called “Returen”.

In the depot, staff from AMA (Eskilstuna Municipality’s resource unit for activity, motivation and work) perform an initial culling of what is usable and what is not.

The items are then distributed to the recycling shops in the mall. The shop staff then perform a second culling, where they choose what they want to repair, fix up, convert, refine – and ultimately sell. In this way, the materials are given new life.

It’s very important to Anna that this place is enticing, because Bergstrom feels it is making a statement. Everything for sale here, in 14 specialist shops covering everything from clothes to DIY tools, is recycled.and for the past four years people have been able to drop off their unwanted goods for recycling at Bergström’s secondhand mall.

In a store that specialises in handmade household ornaments, Bergstrom is keen to show off a nice example of this, from one of her star tenants. Shopkeeper Maria Larsson has upcycled a container that resembles the body of a pine cone. Each segment of its skin has been cut from leather jackets.

In 2018, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria had SEK 11.7 million in sales for recycled products.

ReTuna also organizes events, workshops, lectures, theme days, and more – all with a focus on sustainability. The folk high school Eskilstuna Folkhögskola conducts its one-year education program “Recycle Design – Återbruk” in the premises. There are also conference rooms, where guests can hold climate-smart meetings. Organic lunch and baked treats are on offer at Café Returama.

What you can do: If you are able, shop at ReTuna.

Discover Solution 297: Tidal stream power generator

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Materials Your Home

295: Polypropylene-free tea bags

Problem:

Canadian researchers published a study in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Environmental Science and Technology which found that steeping a single plastic tea bag at brewing temperature releases about 11.6 billion minuscule particles known as “microplastics” and 3.1 billion “nanoplastics” into each cup. Teabags could be as big a cause of plastic pollution as microbeads or carrier bags.

Solution:

Organic tea bags are made by a dozen manufacturers including Brew Tea Co., Teapigs. Aldi, Duchy Organics, Hampstead Tea, Steenbergs, We are Tea, Hannah Sell’s Tea and Nemi.


Based in Keynsham, England, Pukka Herb teabags are made of a special blend of natural abaca (a type of banana) and plant cellulose fibres. Their supply of tea bag paper is also unbleached. They are staple-free and 100% biodegradable and/or recyclable. The tea bag strings are made from 100% organic, non-GMO, un-bleached cotton use a simple stitch of organic cotton and a unique folding process. This means they do not need to use polypropylene or a metal staple to hold their teabags together.

The tea bag is only a century old. Before that loose tea leaves would brew in a tea pot, while the tea infuser or strainer made of stainless steel was fine for one or two people. These systems are still eco friendly.

What you can do: Purchase tea that uses organic tea bags.

Discover Solution 296: Second-hand Shopping Mall

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Materials

292: faecal to water OmniProcessor

Problem:

Sewage sludge is the residual, semi-solid material that is produced as a by-product during sewage treatment of industrial or municipal wastewater.

The sludge will become putrescent in a short time once anaerobic bacteria take over, and must be removed from the sedimentation tank before this happens Environmental issues related to the recycling of wet sewage sludge on land include the risk of nutrient leaching, impacts on soil biodiversity and GHG emissions.

According to a report released by the World Health Organization and Unicef in 2013, data collected two years earlier showed that 2.5 billion people worldwide lacked “improved sanitation facilities”.

Solution:

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle-based engineering firm Janicki Bioenergy have developed the Omni Processor which boils the wet sewage sludge to generate water vapour that is cleaned and turned into purified water, the leftover dry sewage is then burned to create a little bit of ash and lots of steam which is used to drive a generator.

For use in developing countries, one of the OmniProcessor’s main treatment aims is pathogen removal to stop the spread of disease from fecal sludge.


The term OmniProcessor was created by staff of the Water, Sanitation, Hygiene Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012. Peter Janicki presented in 2014 a prototype using combustion. In a video, Janicki is shown pouring Bill Gates a glass of water processed by the machine. The US$100 prototype model can produce 2,853 gallons (10,800 liters) of drinking water per day and 100 kW net electricity.

A larger model under development, the S200, is designed to handle the waste from 100,000 people, produce 22,700 gallons (86,000 liters) of drinking water per day and 250 kW net output electricity. These systems are designed to provide a “self-sustaining bioenergy” process.

A pilot project of Janicki Bioenergy’s Omni processor was installed in Dakar, Senegal, in 2015 and can now treat the fecal sludge of 50,000-100,000 people. In 2018 Sedron Technologies, Sedro-Woolley, Washington, formerly Janicki Bioenergy received a license to commercialise its patented Omni Processor.

Discover Solution 293: Passive Downdraught Evaporative Cooling (PDEC)

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Materials

289: 3D house printer

Problem:

According to the United Nations, some 1.6 billion people lack adequate shelter, and a third of the world’s urban population lives in informal settlements or slums. Traditional building methods lead to wasted materials such as cement and excess labour costs, driving up housing prices beyond the reach of many poor families.

Solution:

3D printed houses


At the Aeditive GmbH startup located in Norderstedt, next to Hamburg, Germany, a team led by architect and 3D software engineer Hendrik Lindemann is digitalising the construction industry.Their name, “Aeditive”, is a made-up word and based on “additive manufacturing” and “aedificium”, Latin for building.
Their robotic 3D shotcrete printer known as the Concrete Aeditor can create elements up to 11x4x4 meters, including reinforcement and built-in parts.

A steel pallet is positioned in the Concrete Aeditor. One of the Kuka robots creates the element on the pallet based on RSP. The second Kuka robot supports this process by placing built-in elements such as reinforcements. The element’s surfaces are robotically post-processed. The pallet including the finished element is removed from the manufacturing space.

The Concrete Aeditor integrated system consists of six container modules and can be deployed flexibly and autonomously, both, offsite and onsite. After setting up the containers, it only requires connections for freshwater, wastewater and electricity.

Aeditive is not alone. Based on the experience of Alex le Roux, previously co-founder of Vesta Printers, ICON of Austin, Texas has been using its Vulcan 3D tablet-operated robotic printer, integrated material delivery system with a printing capability to approximately 2,000 square feet.

It has an adjustable width (to accommodate different slab sizes) and is transported in a custom trailer with no assembly required. It uses a cement-based material called “Lavacrete”.

In 2018, ICON was the first company in America to secure a building permit for and in 24 hours build a 3D printed home in Austin. During 2019, it had built 16 houses in Austin and in Salvador, Mexico, where it is constructing the world’s first 3D-printed community of 400-500 square foot Tiny Houses designed to accommodate 50 low-income families.

Alongside this ICON has been working with the US Defence Innovation Unit (DIU) at Camp Pendleton to demonstrate the use of commercial scale additive manufacturing for military use.
In October 2020, ICON was awarded a government Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract including funding from NASA to begin research and development of a space-based construction system that could support future exploration of the Moon.

Aeditive and Icon’s ultimate goal is to reduce the cost of homebuilding by 50%.

Discover Solution 290: Million-Mile Battery

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Categories
Materials

287: Enzyme-based recyclable plastic

Problem:

Current plastics recycling processes are primarily thermo-mechanical which limits their recyclability.

Solution:

In 2012, Marie-Laure Desrousseaux, a researcher in specialized enzyme technology, brought together a team including Alain Marty of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) to investigate using enzymatic technologies for the recovery of plastic waste.

Research in this area was influenced by work on plastic-eating bugs at a Japanese dump. The bacterium had naturally evolved to eat plastic, and scientists worked to identify the key enzyme which existed in the bacterium, allowing it to break down plastic.

Within the framework of the Thanaplast consortium, they innovated an enzymatic technology enabling the specific de-polymerization of a single polymer (e.g. PET) contained in the various plastics to be recycled.  The PET is placed in a bioreactor, where water and enzymes are added to the waste, which is then heated and churned. At the end of this stage, the monomer or monomers resulting from the de-polymerization process are purified, with the objective to re-polymerize them, thus enabling a recycling process to infinity.

A company called Carbios was set up at the Biopôle Clermont-Limagne (France’s “Chemical Valley”) in Saint-Beauzire in the Puy-de-Dôme department in Auvergne in central France.

In February 2019, after nine years’ R&D in collaboration with Toulouse Biotechnology Institute (TBI), Carbios achieved a world first by converting PET plastic waste into its basic constituents at 98% in just 10 hours; a technology applicable to all kinds of PET bottles (clear, colored, opaque, complex).

32 patents were taken out worldwide, 13 of which are related to the bio-recycling technology. Carbios created the Carbiolice joint venture, in partnership with Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients and the SPI fund operated by Bpifrance. This company will produce the enzymatic granules.

In 2019, Carbolice was awarded the EuropaBio Prize for innovation. L’Oréal, the world’s largest cosmetics company and Carbios signed an agreement to jointly found a consortium for the bio-recycling of plastic on industrial scale. An industrial demonstrator at Saint-Fons, south of Lyon, was scheduled to go into operation in 2021.

By 2025, L’Oreal is planning that 50% of the plastic used in their packaging will be recycled or bio-sourced. Nestlé Waters, Pepsico and Suntory Europe (Orangina-Schweppes) have joined a consortium with Carbios. (carbios.fr)

By linking two separate enzymes, scientists at the University of Portsmouth, UK have engineered a new super-enzyme which gets to work six times faster, with the capacity to allow mixed-fabric clothing to be recycled.

Discover Solution 288: SeaTwirl

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Categories
Carbon Capture Energy Materials

286: Pavements for carbon capture

Problem:

As pedestrians walk on a walkway, instead of wasting good energy, the pressure could be used to transfer electromagnetic induction creating kinetic energy which can then be used to power devices.

Solution:

Jose Luis Moracho Amigot and Angel Moracho Jimenez direct PVT (Pavimentos de Tudela) in Navarra, Spain, a company with more than 30 years of experience specializing in the manufacture of non-slip outdoor Granicem pavements.

In 2009, they adapted the system developed by Italcementi of Italy, to manufacture paving stones whose photosynthetic, concrete-titanium dioxide composition would enable them to absorb particulate matter, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), and render them harmless.

Their patented product, ecoGranic, bio-mimics the performance of chlorophyll in plants. A top layer comprises oxide additives titanium incorporating a catalyst that is activated by sunlight, which then converts pollution that go with the rain nitrates and carbonates and the wind until it reaches where vegetation is removed. The lower layet consists of recycled materials.

ISO rule trials made at prestigious laboratory of the Dutch Twente University, and field studies carried out at different sites, showed ecoGranic’s decontaminating efficiency at up to 56% of nitrous oxide degradation.

A sidewalk the size of a soccer field with ecoGranic would eliminate pollution from approximately 4,000 vehicles. Following the success of three streets repaved with ecoGranic in Spain’s capital, Madrid, Plaza de la Cruz, an entire 10,800 ft² (1,000 m²) square in La Rioja, was repaved with ecoGranic, following by another square in Santander.

The technology soon spread to dozens of cities across Spain. The Navarra company currently has two plants, one located in Tudela and another in Cabanillas with a production capacity of more than 54,000 ft² (5,000 m2) per day. While PVT has signed with China to supply their ecoGranic decontaminating pavement, its co-inventor José Luis Moracho is working on a domestic version.

Meanhile Aira has produced a bicycle and a scooter which, by carrying the PVT ecoGranic tile vertically below its front handlebars can absorb CO₂ as it moves along. (pvt.es)

Discover Solution 287: Enzyme-based recyclable plastic

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Planet Care Materials

284: 99Recycle

Problem:

Every year, Russia generates 55-60 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) 99% of which is non-hazardous waste. In St Petersburg the sprawling mountains of rubbish located on the outskirts have become a testament to our 21st Century throw-away culture.

Solution:

Anton Rykachevskiy, Alexander Semenov, Olesya Kulik and a team at 99Recycle in St Petersburg exclusively source plastic from landfill sites to create its products. The brand works alongside various charities that support in their quest to collect plastic. Covers for Kindness is one of these.


The organisation gathers old plastic lids or covers, sorts them according to colour, and delivers them to 99Recycle. According to Maria Kutuzova, head of the project, they have collected over 70 tonnes of plastic so far.

Most of 99Recycle’s is taken up by the preparation, because they need to clean it, to make it even, to select it, to reject some materials.

The current roster includes a range of waist bags, tiles, plant pots, jewellery and pencil cases, through to skateboards and even a bike produced from recycled plastics via 3D printing.

Discover Solution 285: Offshore floating wind farm

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Energy Materials Uncategorized

282: Hydrogen-powered steel

Problem:

Worldwide steel production currently totals about 1.5 billion tons (1.36 billion tonnes) per year, and each ton produced generates almost two tons of carbon dioxide, This accounts for about 5 % of the world’s GHG emissions.

Solution:

In 2016, Swedish-Finnish steelmaker SSAB, iron pellet supplier LKAB (Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag), and electricity generator Vattenfall joined forces to create HYBRIT – an initiative to replace coking coal, traditionally needed for ore-based steel making, in the direct reduction of iron (DRI) ore, using hydrogen.


During 2018, work started on the construction of a pilot plant for fossil-free steel production in Luleå, Sweden. Trials are set to run from 2021–2024, then scaling up to a demonstration capacity of 500,000 t/y in 2025 with completion set for 2035. the goal being to have a solution for fossil-free steel by 2035.

Hybrit is a significant part of the road towards SSAB’s goal of being fossil-free by 2045 If successful, HYBRIT means a reduction of Sweden’s CO₂ emissions by 25%. and Finland’s by 7%. (hybritdevelopment.com)

In 2019 steel and mining company ArcelorMittal with an annual production volume of 8 million tonnes crude steel, launched a project in Hamburg, Germany using hydrogen on an industrial scale to directly reduce iron ore for steel production.

The company aims to enable low-CO₂ steel production. In ArcelorMittal’s process, 95% pure hydrogen will be separated from the top gas of an existing plant by pressure swing adsorption. To allow economical operation, the process will initially use grey hydrogen produced at gas separation.

Grey hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced as a waste or industrial by-product. ‘Green’ hydrogen – produced using renewable energy – will be used in the future, when sufficient quantities are available. ArcelorMittal, working with academia, will test the procedure in the coming years at a site in Hamburg. Reduction will initially be carried out at demonstration scale – 100,000 t/y.

In North Rhine-Westphalia, steelmaker Thyssenkrupp also plans to phase out CO₂-intensive coke-based steel production and replace it with a hydrogen-based process by 2050. It has partnered with Air Liquide and the non-profit research institute BFI to convert a blast furnace to hydrogen operation.

On November 11, 2019, in an initial test phase, hydrogen was blown into one of the 28 Cu cooler tuyeres on Blast Furnace 9 in Duisburg. The NRW state government is funding this initial project phase under its IN4climate initiative. Following analysis of the test phase, hydrogen is then to be used at all 28 tuyeres of the blast furnace in 2023.

On the same day, what is currently the world’s largest pilot plant for the CO₂-neutral production of hydrogen successfully commenced operation at voestalpine AG in Linz, Austria. As part of the EU-funded H2FUTURE project, partners voestalpine, VERBUND, Siemens, Austrian Power Grid, K1-MET and TNO are researching the industrial production of green hydrogen as a means of replacing fossil fuels in steel production over the long term. (voestalpine.com)

Since November 2020 a 1.2 Mt DRI production plant powered by hydrogen enriched gas is being set up in China by the HBIS Group including a 600,000 ktpy Energiron DRI plant jointly developed by Tenova and Danieli in Italy. The HBIS DRI plant will use make-up gas with approximately a 70% hydrogen concentration, with a final net emission of just about 125kg of CO2 per ton. This is a historic step forward for the decarbonisation of the Chinese steel industry, which represents more than half of global steel production and related carbon dioxide emissions. It is scheduled to begin production by the end of 2021.

Discover Solution 283: Microfilter clothes washing devices

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Materials

279: Paper Bottles, plastic free

Problem:

The current rate of demand for glass is unsustainable. Globally, the world is using up 50 billion tonnes of sand every year, which is twice the amount that our rivers can replenish in the same time frame. Commonly harvested from seabeds and riverbeds, the demand for sand is disrupting marine ecosystems and microorganisms that depend upon it for survival, and leaving coastal communities vulnerable to flooding caused by erosion as well.

Solution:

Paper-based spirits bottle.


In Spring 2021, the British multinational beverage alcohol company Diageo, whose brand portfolio includes Smirnoff, Guinness and Johnnie Walker, debuted the world’s first paper-based spirits bottle, produced by Pulpex Ltd., originally developed by Lextar for Hercules, Inc. of Wilmington, Delaware. The bottle, which is fully recyclable, is made using sustainably sourced wood pulp and contains no plastic.

Diageo has started with one size and variant of Johnnie Walker, the famous brand of Scotch whisky, expanding its brand partnerships later this year. Diageo unveiled an impressive list of multinationals backing the technology, including Unilever and PepsiCo, who are expected to launch their own branded paper bottles soon after.

Meanwhile, Martin Myerscough, inventor and co-founder of Frugalpac of Ipswich, Suffolk, England has also launched a paper wine bottle, based on the already proven technology which produced the Frugal Carton and then the Frugal Cup, the world’s first take-away coffee cup.

Frugal Bottle is made from 94% recycled paper with a food-grade liner to hold the wine or spirit. At just 83g it is five times lighter than a normal glass bottle It’s easy to recycle again – simply separate the liner from the paper bottle and put them in your different recycling bins. As the Frugal Bottle is made from recycled paper, it allows for 360-degree branding across the bottle and it can be produced in the heart of any bottling facility.

The first wine to go on sale in the Frugal Bottle is from the award-winning Italian vineyard Cantina Goccia with its 3Q, an unwooded Sangiovese red with a hint of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

What you can do: Be aware of packaging and look out for sustainable options. 

Discover Solution 280: Radiative passive cooling system

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Materials

278: Orange juice bar – circular economy

Problem:

Machines for making fresh orange juice, usually throw away the peel.

Solution:

The Circular Orange Juice Bar


Carlo Ratti Associati in Turin and energy company Eni have created “Feel the Peel”, a Circular Orange Juice bar which supplies freshly squeezed juice in a 3D printed bioplastic cup made from the orange peel.

The prototype machine is 3.1 meters tall and has a circular dome which holds 1,500 oranges. When you order an orange juice, an orange slides down, is cut in half, and juiced. The peel is then dropped into a container at the bottom of the machine and the leftover rinds are dried and milled to make “dust“. This is then mixed with PLA pellets to create a material ready for 3D printing into a cup. The 3D printer – presumably provided by Wasp, whose logo is emblazoned on the side of the unit – resides in the middle of the juice bar.

Visitors can watch as their cup is created and then filled with juice. After the drink is finished, the cup can be recycled. It could potentially be broken down and re-made into another cup to keep the circular economy going. In October 2019, the Circular Juice Bar was trialled at the Singularity University Summit in Milan, Italy.

Discover Solution 279: Paper Bottles, plastic free

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Materials

272: Algae-based paint

Problem:

VOC from solvent and paint emissions contribute to harmful ozone formation and peroxyacetyl nitrate. The VOC content of paint and the CO₂ emitted during manufacture are key contributors to air pollution.

Solution:

In 2008, Lionel Bouillon, keen to revive the family business of Félor in Brittany, inspired by algae-based shampoo, began to research the possibility of using algae to create a range of eco-friendly colors.


He consulted both Yves Rocher’s research team who were making algae-based cosmetics, the Rennes National School of Chemistry (ENSCR) and the Center for the Study of Algae Recovery (Ceva) so that the project would be collaborative and local.

By 2012, the prototype ecological paint composition they had obtained comprised a range of algae with one or more alga having mineral structure. This involved their preparing the paint composition by making a gel comprising water, thickening extracts and optionally additives, dispersing the algae and optionally the pigment in a mixer, and adding a binder and/or a resin or casein or its derivative, and adjusting the viscosity.

Having obtained a patent, Algo, located in Vern-sur-Seiche, a few kilometers from Rennes, in Ille-et-Vilaine, launched its first range with storytale names: Nantes Berlingot, Brioche with pralines, Southwest black cherry jam, View of the cape Erquy and Stroll in the Camargue.

Containing less than 1 gram of VOC per liter, with 0 odor, 0 solvent and 0 emissiviions, hospitals, communities or large companies were seduced, such as the headquarters of Delta Dore, the Hennessy cellar LVMH group or Rennes metropolis to renovate its nurseries.

Spotted by the DIY chain Mr. Bricolage, Algo paint was soon distributed at Leroy Merlin, Théolaur and Biocoop. Exported to Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, Algo aimed for worldwide distribution. On Wednesday, December 13, 2017, in the framework of the COP 23, Algo received the My Positive Impact trophy.

What you can do: Painting? Use Algo paints.

Discover Solution 273: Robo bees

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Planet Care Materials Mobility

271: OEOO (One Earth – One Ocean)

Problem:

After fishing plastic waste out of the ocean, it normally has to be shipped back to port and on to a recycling plant.

Solution:

Günter Bolin is a passionate sailor. On his ocean voyages, the Munich-based IT entrepreneur came across ever increasing amounts of plastic waste. He decided to put his IT company to rest and to deal intensively with solving the global plastic waste problem.


In 2011 with Dr. Harald Frank, Erich Groever, Lennart Rölz, Bolin founded the environmental organization One Earth – One Ocean (OEOO). In 2013, One Earth – One Ocean e.V. was awarded the prestigious GreenTec Award 2013, Europe’s largest environmental and business award, for its concept of “marine litter cleanup”.

Since then, from its Kiel and Hamburg bases, OEOO has been developing various types of ships to collect plastic waste from the sea: Since 2012, five 5m x 2 m SeeHamsters developed by OEOO have been sailing in rivers and port areas. These are equipped with a collapsible safety net or safety harness to collect plastic waste from inland waters.

The SeeKuh, a plastic collecting ship measuring 12m × 10 m, has also been in use since 2016. It is used collect the plastic debris and the plastic that is floating up to 4 meters under the surface in coastal regions and estuaries of the Baltic Sea and in Hong Kong.

In 2018 OEOO became an official partner of the UN Environment #CleanSeas campaign. During the past two years, OEOO has been developing the SeeElefant, (= Elephant Seal) a container ship that is designed to take on board the rubbish collected by the hamsters and cows and process, sort, process and, among other things, reprocess it into oil using the system technology integrated in the ship.

Over the past few years OEOO has carried out a feasibility study for this largest ship model; the pilot system is scheduled to start in 2021.

In the future, this vessel will press the finds into single-variety plastic balls that can be processed into new products on land. For the SeeElefant, OEOO received the Federal Ecodesign Award in the “Concept” category in 2019.

With the second generation of the SeeKuh, which is currently under construction, the garbage will be divided into recyclable and non-recyclable materials. Organics such as algae and mussels are sorted out and returned to the sea. So far, the recycling garbage has been given unsorted to local recycling companies.

OEOO’s vision is to establish as many systems of collection vehicles and processing vessels as possible, preferably in front of each river mouth. Because when no more rubbish ends up in the sea, it helps a lot. Once it’s drifted into the open sea, it’s actually too late.

What you can do: Reduce your plastic usage.

Discover Solution 272: Algae-based paint

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Materials Energy

267: Zinc Battery

Problem:

Rechargeable batteries have been used to power various electric devices and store energy from renewables, but their toxic components (namely, electrode materials, electrolyte, and separator) generally cause serious environment issues when disused. Such toxicity characteristic makes them difficult to power future wearable electronic devices.

Solution:

Zinc battery.


Zinc-chloride cells (usually marketed as “heavy duty” batteries) use a paste primarily composed of zinc chloride, which gives a longer life and steadier voltage output compared with ammonium chloride electrolyte

An environmentally friendly and highly safe rechargeable battery, based on a pyrene‐4,5,9,10‐tetraone (PTO) cathode and zinc anode in mild aqueous electrolyte has been developed by a team of researchers at Fudan University, Shanghai, China.

Their PTO//Zn full cell exhibits a high energy density (186.7 Wh kg−1), supercapacitor‐like power behaviour and long‐term lifespan (over 1000 cycles). Moreover, a belt‐shaped PTO//Zn battery with robust mechanical durability and remarkable flexibility is first fabricated to clarify its potential application in wearable electronic devices.

In a collaboration between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, USA and the MEET Battery Research Center of University of Münster and Helmholtz Institute Münster, Germany, 12 scientists have developed a new type of dual-ion battery.

The cell chemistry graphite zinc metal with an aqueous electrolyte is safer, cheaper and more sustainable than proven energy storage systems and showed a promising electrochemical performance.

The cathode of the energy storage device can consist of graphitic carbons, which can be produced from renewable raw materials. In addition, water and biological binders, such as those found in yoghurt, can be used in electrode production. Further, the zinc metal-based anode offers a better material availability

For the charging and discharging mechanism: instead of only one type of ion – lithium ions – the electrolyte anions are also involved in energy storage in the dual-ion battery. The electrolyte thus functions as an active material, which offers researchers further optimisation approaches. It also comes with an inherently lower risk of fire.

Discover Solution 268: Tree-planting drones

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Materials Energy

258: Plaxx plastic-recycled oil

Problem:

Incineration of plastic waste is not energy efficient.

Solution:

Since 2011, Adrian Griffiths of Recycling Technologies, Swindon, United Kingdom has been perfecting a machine to break down MPW (mixed plastic waste), a variety of plastic products including cling wrap and electronics, and turn them into Plaxx™, a valuable hydrocarbon product usable materials or energy-producing oil.


The RT7000, a thermal cracker, heats up the waste to 500° C, melting the debris into a vapor. It is then cooled to create one of three different materials: a fuel that can be sold to petrochemical companies, a wax-such as substance that is similar to what ship engines burn or a brown wax that can be used for shoe polish or cosmetics.

Using Plaxx® as feedstock for new polymers allows plastics circularity. In 2019 Tesco, the UK’s leading retailer began to trial RT7000 units in ten of its stores. Modular, they can be moved around.

From 2020, international energy company Total, Recycling Technologies, and global brands Nestlé and Mars joined forces to develop an “innovative” industrial chemical recycling industry in France. Recycling Technologies, with a production capacity of 200 unts per year, plans to install 1,700 units and reach 7 million tpy capacity by 2027.

In January 2020, Nestlé announced that it would cut costs in other parts of its business to buy 2 million tonnes of recycled plastic between now and 2025. This should enable the food giant to meet its goal of reducing its use of virgin plastics by a third.

Discover Solution 259: Zero emission racing yacht

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Materials Your Home

255: Eco-friendly mattress

Problem:

Most mattresses are made with synthetic fibers or foam, which don’t biodegrade. Cotton or wool stuffing can be processed with pesticides and other chemicals—some of them potentially carcinogenic.

Solution:

The eco-friendly mattress.


In September 2020, John Lewis & Partners, a brand of high-end department stores operating for almost one century throughout Great Britain, launched its first ever fully recyclable eco mattress.

Their EcoMattress is handcrafted in a carbon-neutral factory in Yorkshire using chemical-free materials, 200 recycled plastic bottles, and layers of EcoFlex fibres (a soft polyester filling made from 100 % recycled fibres).

The mattress, which can be fully recycled at the end of its life, also features a clever glue-free high density Cortec Quad pocket spring system, innovated by Harrison Spinks Springs of Leeds, UK. With a total of 750 pocket springs in the king size mattress, it aims to provide balance during the night, while also reliving pressure and helping to keep your body weight evenly distributed.

What you can do: When you next purchase a mattress, make it an Eco-mattress 

Discover Solution 256: Natrium Reactor

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Materials Your Home

252: recyclable pantyhose

Problem:

A pair of women’s tights (pantyhose) does not resist more than six uses. The 104 million pairs of tights in France thrown away each year equal to the weight of the Eiffel Tower or 7, 300 tonnes of garbage..

Solutions:

Lætitia Paput and Aurore Jacques of the Bordeaux suburb of Blanquefort, France decided to make pantyhose in a fiber recycled from plastic waste from the textile industry which were previously buried or burned. They also created bins specifically from thrown-away tights.


They called their start-up REV, the first three letters of the French words “rêver, révolutionner et revivre” (= dream, revolutionise and recycle). Rêver because it is a childlike dream to create this brand of textile; revolutionise eco-fashion with pretty and comfortable products and recycle materials.

To finance their first pairs of tights, Paput and Jacques launched a fundraising campaign on the Ulule platform. In a few hours they had reached 440% of their goal.

In Stockholm, Sweden, Nadja Forsberg and Linn Frisinger started up “Swedish Stockings” to make a luxury range of pantyhose from recycled nylon and natural fibers, at a plant in Italy which uses sustainable practices like eco-friendly dyes, post-dyeing water treatments, and solar power.

From a fashion perspective, there are classic black opaque panty hose, racy Astrid fishnets, lace and leopard tights, and pointelle socks, among other styles. Committed to a circular fashion industry, Swedish Stockings also provide two recycling centres to which you can post your old nylons for recycling, and they will accept any brand.

Send a minimum of 3 old pairs at once, and they will send you a discount code for your next purchase.

Considering whether there is a second life for old tights, Forsberg and Frisinger teamed up with Gustaf Westman to combine recycled tights and recycled fiberglass and make them into a limited edition collection of marble-look tables durable enough to be used both indoors and outdoors.

Each table (depending on its size) contains between 80 and 350 pairs of tights that have been diverted from landfills through their recycling program.

What you can do: Buy stockings form and support REV and Swedish Stockings

Discover Solution 253: Smog-dissipating gun for Delhi pollution

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Materials

249: Nylon from ocean and landfill waste

Problem:

Luxury-car interiors usually feature exotic hardwoods and animal-sourced leather

Solution:

The British automaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is using Econyl nylon made by nylon manufacturer Aquafil in Ljubljana, Slovenia, employing depolymerisation from recycled industrial plastic, clothing offcuts, and fishing nets, to develop high-quality interiors such as floor mats and trim pieces from ocean and landfill waste.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 250: Offshore computer server

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Materials

248: Mater-Bi bioplastic

Problem:

Normally, plastic items can take up to 1,000 years to decompose in landfills.

Solution:

Aliphatic-aromatic biodegradable polyester


One of the European pioneers of bio-plastic is Catia Bastioli, a chemist from Novara, in the Piedmont region in northwest Italy.

In the late 1980s, Bastioli and a team at the Guido Donegani Institute, Ferruzzi-Montedison’s Corporate Research Center, started up an ambitious project to develop chemicals with low environmental impact using raw materials of agricultural origin, so integrating chemistry, the environment and agriculture.

Bastioli and a team set up Fertec research center where they Tomorrow’sed an enzymatic bacteria that makes goat cheese, cellulose to make alcohol, and a fabulous anti-wrinkle material. They then investigated the potential of corn starch, wheat and potatoes. Novamont (Novara-Montedison) was created to commercialise their bio-plastic.

One of Fertec’s earliest achievements was the creation of a biodegradable watch for Walt Disney. With Fertec incorporated with Novamont in 1991, production of the aliphatic-aromatic biodegradable polyester they tradenamed Mater-Bi (Materiale-Biotech) began at a new plant in Terni. Bastioli worked as technical director, general manager and managing director at Novamont became the force behind the transformation and rise of the company.

Before long it was found that Mater-Bi presented properties and viscosity values that made it suitable, after adjusting its molecular weight, for use in numerous practical applications such as films, injection molded products, extrusion coatings, fibers, foams, thermoformed products, extruded profiles and sheets, extrusion blow molding, injection blow molding, rotomolding, and stretch blow molding.

An initial production of 4,000 tons (3630 tonnes) per year, had doubled by 1997 and in 2001 had reached 16,000 tons (14,500 tonnes) per year. Products made in Mater-Bi bags, cutlery, plates, glasses, toys, food trays, biodegradable mulch sheets are produced.

In Sardinia, the thistle is wild plant that grows in profusion and without fertilizer. Bastioli’s team at Novamont realised that they could extract an oil that proved to be an excellent pesticide, and an effective lubricant for the maintenance of agricultural machinery.

Teaming up with partners in both Sardinia such as Versalis, the Matrica refinery and also Mater-Biotech, a joint venture with Genomatica in California began production of Mater-Bi from renewable sources and also creating sustainable rural regeneration.

In 2012 the Novamont research center was expanded by acquiring a medical biotechnology research center from Sigma-tau, redirecting its activities towards industrial biotechnology.

In 2019 a report about the biodegradability of compostable bags was published by the University of Pisa in the scientific journal Ecological Indicators in which is was found that Mater-Bi does not release persistent microplastics, as it is completely biodegradable within 20-30 days, as required by the OECD guidelines.

When exposed to marine micro-organisms, the material achieves high levels of biodegradation, substantially equal to those of paper, in a test period of less than one year. Furthermore, the speed of biodegradation increases as the particle size decreases

Bastioli has been a member of important EU working groups on climate change, environment and renewable raw materials, such as the European Union Bioeconomy Panel. Prime inventor of around 80 patent families in the sector of synthetic and natural polymers and transformation processes of renewable raw materials, she was awarded “European Inventor of the Year 2007” by the European Patent Office and the European Commission for her inventions related to starch-based bioplastics between 1991 and 2001.

She has become known as the Iron Lady and the Wonder Woman of the bioplastics industry.

Discover Solution 249: Nylon from ocean and landfill waste

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Materials

247: PV paint

Problem:

Installing solar panels is an expensive, laborious process, a fact that keeps many homeowners from making the switch.

Solution:

PV (Photovoltaic) paint could be applied to any surface that will capture energy from the sun and transform it into electricity.


The most common type of PV paint uses colloidal quantum dots. These are semiconductor crystals that are already used in solar panels, as well as LEDs and computers. The University of Toronto created an iteration of solar paint wherein they sprayed these dots atom by atom onto a backing. This backing could then be rolled up, sent to the place where it is to be installed, and then applied like wallpaper.

At the University of Buffalo, in 2013, researchers announced that they had made progress using plasmonic-enhanced materials. The team noted, however, that the thin nature of paint makes absorbing as much light difficult.

Four years later a research team led by Torben Daeneke at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology demonstrated solar paint that splits water particles to harness the hydrogen. Wai-Lun Chan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas has been working with other researchers to explore how to use organic semiconductors to produce PV solar cells. The best method to commercialise the right formulae for PV paint has still to be found.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 248: Mater-Bi bioplastic

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Materials Your Home

245: Sustainable tooth cleaners

Problem:

All-plastic polyethylene toothpaste tubes were introduced in the 1990s. One billion toothpaste tubes end up in landfills every year harsh chemical residues Every year, more than 50 Empire State Buildings worth of toothpaste tubes end up in landfills or oceans.

Solution:

Tube-free toothpaste


Determined to replace toothpaste tubes with tablets, in 2016, Lindsay McCormick, a TV producer in Hollywood, California, bought a new TDP 0 tablet machine made in Texas and having learned how to use it, began experimenting in her Los Angeles apartment with a range of different ingredients.

She talked to every dentist and dental hygienist who would give her the time of day and even took open source online chemistry classes to develop the right formula, free from harsh chemicals, dyes, artificial flavors, and unnecessary fillers.

The result was a product she called Bite Toothpaste Bits, a mint or mint charcoal flavored pill which once bitten becomes foamy like toothpaste, quantities of which can be contained in a refillable glass bottle.

Before long Lindsay started getting orders from people who shared her passion for sustainability.

So she bought a TDP 5 machine from the same company in Texas for US$2,599 that could make five thousand pills in an hour. A “Women’s Health” video that she had shot on her iPhone started going viral. Soon after, Lindsay ended up having to quit her job and has been working full time on Bite ever since.

After being featured in media outlets such Cosmopolitan and Business Insider, Bite operates out of a fully FDA-approved manufacturing facility to keep up with demand. Since August 2018, Bite has sold more than 12 million tablets.

Early in 2020, kid-friendly flavored Bits became available with their 4-month subscription. At the same time, in response to the hand sanitizer shortage due to COVID-19, Bite found the World Health Organization’s (WHO) formula and made it, using their repurposed and sanitized glass Bite bottles, then donating the first batch to those most in need in the Los Angeles area. (bitetoothepastebits.com)

Lindsay McCormick is not alone. In 2018, Kalleonne Laboratoire des Sources in Souspierre in the Drôme region of France, launched Ascentical, toothpaste sourced from mountain plants in a recyclable metal tin. It sells in BioCoop stores across France.

Toothpaste can be applied by fingers, but usually by a brush. John and Heather McDougall grew up in a small town in North Dakota. With a dad as a dentist, John’s path to design school, and Heather’s to law, were far from the family business. During school, however, they decided to use their talents to create products with environmental and social value, and as fate would have it, they could not resist starting with a toothbrush.

The result was the Bogobrush made from sculpted organic wild bamboo with bristles made from 62% castor bean oil and 38% nylon, and packaged in a cardboard box. Another firm, Radius, makes funky-looking toothbrushes called Source from cellulose and removable heads with vegetable-based nylon bristles.

What you can do: Buy and use these products.

Discover Solution 246: Peppermint tea for fart reduction

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Materials

234: Looop

Problem:

According to a waste statistics from Greenpeace in 2015, people in Hong Kong throw away 110,000 tonnes of textile products annually. Among these textiles wastes, there is a substantial amount made from blended materials. However, no commercially viable separation, sorting, and recycling technologies are currently available for materials such as cotton and polyester blends.

Solution:

Looop recycling system


Looop is created by the non-profit H&M Foundation, together with research partner HKRITA (The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel) and Hong Kong-based yarn spinner Novetex Textiles to develop practical solutions to recycle blended textiles into new fabrics and yarns.

The objective of the collaboration is to facilitate the development of a closed loop textiles industry. The technology will be licensed widely to ensure broad market access and maximum impact.
H&M Foundation has installed a machine the size of a shipping container called Looop in its store in the Drottninggatan shopping district of Stockholm.

It invites customers to bring a garment they’re planning to discard—say, an old T-shirt or cotton dress—and watch it get broken down, then rewoven into a sweater, scarf, or baby blanket through the glass walls of the machine. The process takes about five hours, but when it’s complete, the customer can pay $15 for the finished item.

H&M Group also recently announced that it has invested in Petri Alava’s Finnish biotech firm Infinited Fiber, which has found a way to liquefy bio-based fibers—such as cotton or viscose—then transform the fibers into a range of fabrics—for instance, jersey and denim.

Discover Solution 235: Poetry for our Planet

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Materials

233: Biodegradable rope

Problem:

Nylon ropes may be tough, but they are not biodegradable.

Solution:

In 2016  a research team from the CSIR–Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute, Bhavnagar, Gujarat developed a biodegradable material made of seaweed extracts to replace synthetic ropes that are used in seaweed farming and other applications.


Polysaccharides extracted from three seaweed species Gracilaria dura, Gelidiella acerosa and Kappaphyucus al varezi, were first heated and then treated with potassium persulphate, vinyl acetate and glycerol to make them tolerant to saline water.

Intermas Nets SA of Llinars del Valles, Barcelona, Spain is one of the world leaders in the manufacture of extruded mesh. It works in particular in the field of aquaculture for oyster bags and / or rack screens. It has developed a compostable and biodegradable rope. The Biorope begins to decompose from 58 degrees in an on-land composter and three months are enough to degrade it entirely.

On the other hand, Biorope retains its mechanical properties at sea. Tests on the catining nets show the durability of the material in the marine environment, submerged and emerged. A hemp end  lasts 3 to 4 months when the catinage net will hold for more than a year and even longer for the Biorope end.

With negative buoyancy and high elasticity, the biorope tip could find applications in boating, especially as a hawser. The mooring of buoys or pontoons for port managers is also possible. Objective: replace 15 to 20% of plastic ropes.

In November 2019, BIOGEARS, an innovative project funded by the European Union under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, set out to develop biobased gear solutions for the creation of an eco-friendly offshore aquaculture sector using a multitrophic approach and new biobased value chains.

This will include biobased ropes that though durable and fit-for-purpose, still biodegrade in a shorter time; With EU-funded running until 2022 partners in the consortium include Azti, Gaiker and Itsaskorda from Spain, Centexbel from Belgium and Intrigo from Ireland.

There are other manufactures of biodegradable rope: 366 has already featured hemp (Solution N° xx)

Discover Solution 234: H&M’s Looop

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Energy Materials

226: Li-ion battery recycling

Problem:

Since 2005, the commercialised li-ion battery has surged, starting with electronics and expanding into many applications, including the growing electric and hybrid vehicle industry. As the popularity of electric vehicles starts to grow explosively, so does the pile of spent li-ion batteries that once powered those cars. Industry analysts predict that by 2020, China alone will generate some 550,000 tons (500,000 tonnes) of used Li-ion batteries and that by 2030, the worldwide number will hit 2.2 million tons (2 million tonnes) per year.

But the technologies to optimize recycling of these batteries have not kept pace. If current trends for handling these spent batteries hold, most of those batteries may end up in landfills even though Li-ion batteries can be recycled.

Solution:

In 2009, far-sightedly, the US Department of Energy DOE granted US$9.5 million to W. Novis Smith and Scott Swoffer at Toxco in California to build America’s first recycling facility for li-ion vehicle batteries.

Toxco used the funds to expand an existing facility in Lancaster, Ohio, that already recycled the lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries used in hybrid-electric vehicles. The new facility opened in 2015 and is currently in operation. It recycles a multitude of li-ion batteries, including those that have substituted cobalt for other minerals, including iron phosphate, manganese spinal, and nickel manganese. (toxcommc.com)

In 2018 China recycled around 67,000 tons (61,000 tonnes) of li-ion batteries 2018, or 69 % of all the stock available for recycling worldwide. The People’s Republic has benefited from around a decade of mobile phone manufacturing, which has enabled it to perfect li-ion battery recycling as part of a growing handset refurbishing industry.

Hunan Brunp Recycling Technology, a subsidiary of li-ion battery leader CATL, recycled about 30,000 tons (27,000 tonnes) of batteries. Meanwhile, Quzhou Huayou Cobalt New Material has roughly 60,000 tons (40,000 tonnes) of li-ion battery recycling capacity a year and recycled around 10,000 tons (9.100 tonnes) in 2018. Recycling is also being carried out by Ganzhou Highpower Technology and Guangdong Guanghua Sci-Tech.

In 2018, researchers in the UK formed a large consortium dedicated to improving Li-ion battery recycling, specifically from electric vehicles. Led by the University of Birmingham, the Reuse and Recycling of Li-ion Batteries (ReLiB) project brings together some 50 scientists and engineers at eight academic institutions, and it includes 14 industry partners. (relib.org.uk)

In February 2019, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) opened the ReCell Center a battery recycling research and development center at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Illinois.

The goal of the R&D facility is to reclaim and recycle materials such as cobalt and lithium from spent li-ion batteries. Launched with a US$15 million investment and headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory, ReCell includes some 50 researchers from Argonne; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and several universities, including Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in Massachusetts, the University of California at San Diego and Michigan Technological University.

Recycled materials from li-ion batteries can be reused in new batteries, reducing production costs by 10% to 30 %. This could help lower the overall cost of electric vehicle (EV) batteries closer to the DOE’s goal of US$80 per kilowatt hour, says the agency. The ReCell Center is supported by the DOE with US$15 million in funding over three years, and its work will include development of test beds and a process scale-up facility at Argonne. (recellcenter.org)

The DOE also announced its US$5.5 million Li-ion Battery Recycling Prize. The prize encourages entrepreneurs to find innovative solutions to collecting, storing and transporting discarded li-ion batteries for eventual recycling. It will award cash prizes totaling US$5.5 million to contestants in three phases designed to accelerate the development of solutions from concept to prototype.

The ReCell collaborators also will use existing modeling and analysis tools to help industry determine how to optimize value. EverBatt, Argonne’s closed-loop battery life-cycle model evaluates the techno-economic and environmental impacts of each stage of a battery’s life, including recycling.  NREL’s supply chain analysis tool provides a birds-eye view of the interconnections between raw material availability, primary manufacture, recycling, and demand.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute is researching the effects of impurities on the cathode materials used to make li-ion batteries. After 7 years’ research, Yan Wang, a WPI William Smith Dean’s Professor of Mechanical Engineering who developed a process for recycling li-ion batteries that can recover and reuse cathode materials regardless of their chemistry is leading the project. Yan Wang founded Battery Resourcers in Worcester to demonstrate that the process can be scaled up to near-commercial capacity. (wpi.edu)

In Germany, Volkswagen started battery recycling in 2020 at Volkswagen Group’s component plant in Salzgitter, with an initial capacity to recycle roughly 1,200 tons (1089 tonnes) of EV batteries per year, equal to the batteries from about 3,000 vehicles. The recycling rate of raw materials in Salzgitter is around 72%, which is already a lot higher than the industry average.

Using a special shredder, the individual battery parts can be ground up, the liquid electrolyte can be cleaned off, and the components separated into “black powder.” This contains the valuable raw materials cobalt, lithium, manganese, and nickel, which, while requiring further physical separation, are then ready for re-use in new batteries.

In the long term, Volkswagen wants to recycle about 97 % of all raw materials in the battery packs. In France, Renault and Euro Dieuxe Industrie, a Veolia subsidiary, are employing a unique hydrometallurgical process that allows the recovery of precious metals such as cobalt and nickel contained in the batteries of electric vehicles, in order to promote their re-use in various industrial applications or in chemistry for the manufacture of battery cells.

CSIRO’s Australian Battery Recycling Initiative is preparing to tackle Australia’s annual 3,600 tons (3300 tonnes) of li-ion battery waste. In September 2019 following Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s meeting with President Donald Trump, the CSIRO is joining ReCell Center’s industrial advisory council to deepen collaboration on li-ion recycling.

DiscoverSolution 227: NASA’s X-planes

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Materials Energy

224: Ultra fast charge batteries

Problem:

Existing battery electrodes have low electrical, thermal and ionic conductivity, along with poor mechanical behaviour when discharged and recharged, and can also suffer from early delamination and degradation leading to safety and lifecycle issues.

Solution:

The Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode


A team at the CEA (Atomic and Renewable Energy Commissariat) led by French mathematician Pascal Boulanger has developed and patented an electrode using vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes (VACNT) a derivative of graphene, making it possible to manufacture super capacitors 1,000 times faster than a lithium-ion battery.

The electrode combines the highest ionic conductivity – thanks to a 3D fully accessible nanostructure – with the highest electrical and thermal conductivity, provided by its arrangement of 100 billion nanotubes per sq. cm, all vertically aligned.

Put simply, a battery using this VACNT technology can give an electric car 800 to 1,000 km of range with only 5 minutes of recharging.

In 2014, Boulanger collaborated with Ludovic Eveillard to create a start-up called NaWaTechnologies based in Rousset, near Aix-en-Provence and the first carbon nanotube mats were made two years later.(nawa in Japanese = short string, but na(no) + wa(arming)
NaWaCap Power super capacitors offer power densities between 10 and 100 times higher than existing super capacitors.

Their Equivalent Series Resistance = ESR is more than 10 times lower. The temperature (low and high) and frequency behavior is also greatly improved and NaWaCap Power super capacitors thus make it possible to preserve more than 5 times more energy at high or low temperature or at high frequency compared to current products.

NaWa set up a subsidiary NaWa America in Dayton, Ohio, created by the acquisition of the assets of the US leader in VACNT for composite applications, N12 Technologies. Working with Dr. Paul Kladitis’ Multifunctional Structures and Materials at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), with Laboratory, NaWa America has developed NaWaStitch, a thin film made of hundreds of billions of carbon nanotubes all aligned vertically which serves as an interface between the folds of composite materials and like a “nano-velcro” mechanically reinforces this interface.

NaWa America has also signed an exclusive license agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the work of the research laboratory of Professor Brian Wardle (NECSTLAB), well known in the fields of composites and nanotubes.

In February 2020 NaWaTechnologies in France raised €13 million to build next-generation production line equipment at Rousset by 2021, allowing NaWa to steadily build up to over 100,000 ultracapacitor cells per month when at full capacity. The integration of this technology for future urban mobility, including electric buses, trams or autonomous vehicles is estimated at around 2024/2025.

At the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, as proof of concept, NaWaTechnologies revealed its 150 kg NAWA Racer concept e-bike which debuted their NaWaCap innovation.

The bike’s 9kWh lithium-ion battery can capture 80% more energy by regenerative braking. The smaller battery is mounted low in the chassis and will weigh around 10kg, much less than current electric sportbike batteries.

This gives the NAWA Racer a 300km (186 miles) range for inner-city riding, while recharging in just 2 minutes or an 80% entire battery charge in one hour.

NaWa Technologies is also developing a concept called NaWaShell, an integrated structural hybrid battery that incorporates VACNT to give two complimentary characteristics: enhanced mechanical strength and electrical energy storage within the core of the composite structure.

NaWa’s dry electrode technology also brings significant environmental advantages, being easily recyclable and eco-disposable at the end of its long lifecycle. As a result, NAWA estimates that by using an Ultra Fast Carbon Electrode in lithium battery cell, the CO2 footprint could be reduced by as much as 60%, simply because less active material is required.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 225: Race for Water

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Materials

223: apple and pineapple animal-free leather

Problem:

Not only is the slaughter of millions of animals for meat considered very cruel, but also the secondary industry of tanning the hide

Solution:

In recent years, when animal rights are something people are more aware of, animal-free leather innovations are being trialled.


One of these is apple leather. The raw material grows in Southern Tirol over an area of around 4,500 ac (18,400 ha) where 60 million apple trees deliver the healthy fruit into the hands of more than 7,000 fruit farmers every year.

Around 950,000 tons (860,000 tonnes) of apples are harvested a year – 10 % of the European apple harvest. Most of the apples end up in supermarkets, however many are processed into juice or puree, with stalks, fibres and peel left as residue.

This is known as apple pomace. Animals are pleased to have the delicious waste, some of which is also incinerated to produce energy.

A few years ago, Hannes Prath, founder of the company Frumat in the Italian town of Bolzano (Bozen), the industrial area of Florence, had the idea of producing imitation leather from apple waste.

To do this, the fruit waste is dried and ground to a powder, which is applied to a tear-resistant cotton canvas with a biological plastics substitute. The solvent still remaining on it is washed out; the residual elements fuse together at 130°C to make the finished apple leather, which currently makes up 50 % of the material for bags; for stability, the rest is made of biodegradable polyurethane (PU).

One of the companies to take up this product was Nuuwaï (New Way) founded in Isernhagen Hamburg by a vegan called Svenja Detto who had seen saw a post on TV about it. This was not without reason: Svenja’s father Gunnar Detto founded the handbag label ‘diboni’ six years before and was selling more than 1,000 of his own women’s handbag designs a year.

The appleskin bags are made by a family-run concern in India. Customers think that apple leather looks very such as animal leather and more genuine than traditional imitation leather. The lining is made of recycled plastic that has been fished out of the sea.

For this Detto buys up remaining stocks of ECOALF, which they no longer use. In this way they support the “Upcycling the Oceans” project and conserve resources. Because all used materials are free from animal derived ingredients nuuwaï is {PETA-Approved vegan}. The Nuuwaï bags, initially available in black are now produced in light blue, pink, apricot and other colours. (nuuwai.com)

For Dr Carmen Hijos, discarded pineapple leaves are the key. Originally from Spain, Hijos was working for the Design Centre Philippines leather export industry in the 1990s, but was shocked at the environmental impact of mass leather production and chemical tanning.

Inspired by the abundance of natural resources, including the use of plant fibres in traditional weaving such as the delicate Barong Tagalog garments, Hijos sought to create a new, non-woven textile that could be commercially produced, provide positive social and economic impact and maintain a low environmental footprint throughout its life cycle.

She then spent seven years developing the product through a PhD at the Royal College of Art in London, and joint collaborations with Bangor University in Wales, Northampton Leather Technology Center, Leitat Technological Centre in Spain, alongside NonWoven Philippines Inc. in Manila, and Bonditex S.A., a textile finishing company in Spain.

In 2015 she presented Piñatex at the PhD graduate exhibition. To make one square meter of Piñatex takes 460 leaves but there is no shortage of raw material. Global pineapple production topped 28 million tons (25 million tonnes) in 2016, according to Statistica.

Since its commercial launch in 2015, Piñatex faux leather has been used by about 500 manufacturers, including vegan sneakers sold by fashion house Hugo Boss, a jacket by H&M, by Altiir’s for their biker-style jacket, by Somebody People for their barstools, by Apple as a strap for their watch and by Chanel for its luxury gold boater hat.

Lucie Trejtnarová, a postgraduate student at the Faculty of Multimedia Communication, Tomas Bata University in Zlín (UTB), Czech Republic, and materials manufacturer Fillamentum have developed the Organic 3D printed shoe collection. The experimental sandal line integrates 3D printed outsoles from TPU-based Flexfill 98A, Malai, also known as coconut leather, and Piñatex.

Another approach to make leather handbags, pairs of shoes, smartphone hulls clothing and upholstery, but not using animals has been taken by Nawal Allaoui, a student at the Higher School of Textile and Clothing Industries (Esith) in Morocco.

This young woman was working in social entrepreneurship in the coastal zone of Sidi Rahal with the wives of the fishermen who cleaned the fish and took away the spines of sea urchins.

She observed how the skins, considered as waste, usually go to the trash to pile up in bins where they decompose in oily matter. After several tests in her room at the boarding school of Esith, Nawal was able to concoct an innovative recipe for the tanning of fish skins, based on Moroccan organic products, such as henna.

In 2016, Nawal founded SeaSkin, sourcing raw fish skin (sole, whiting and salmon from fish restaurants and a fish fillet plant, before training six women in Sidi Rahal to peel the skin by removing the remaining flesh residues and rinsing the whole. The next day is devoted to vegetable tanning, Nawal bathes the skins by gradually incorporating the preparation made from natural products. Finally, the skin will be ready to go into a dye bath to be customized according to the product.

At the end of the chain, the final touch is to flatten and dry the leather to create a luxury leather goods product. There is no fish smell because the oils, naturally present in the skins, are replaced by natural tanning or protective oils, so the object simply smells of leather. For the marketing of its products, Nawal sells only online.

In England, Lucy Hughes, a graduate of the product design program at the University of Sussex, has also developed a method of using fish waste, scales and skin, to make a bioplastic called MarinaTex, which can biodegrade back into the soil in only six weeks. Over 172,000 tons (156,000 tonnes) of fish waste produced annually by UK processing plants alone could be converted. Hughes was awarded the 2019 James Dyson Innovation Award.

Near Biarritz, on the Franco-Spanish border, Erik de Laurens and Edouard de Dreuzy have developed Scalite, using salmon scales from the local fishing industry and sardine scales from Brittany.

Once cleaned, crushed they are transformed into powder without any addition of chemical product. Made from this flour-like dust, Scalite with a marbled or more homogeneous appearance is resistant to scratches and fire and can be worked like wood hence of great interest to architects and decorators.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 224: a battery that charges 1,000 times faster

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Materials

217: Vertical farms

Problem:

For thousands of years the only way to farm was horizontally or on terraced slopes.

Solution:

In a 1999 effort to figure out an effective way to feed the population of New York using only urban rooftop agriculture, Columbia University environmental health sciences professor Dr. Dickson Despommier and his students developed the idea of a a 30-story urban farm with a greenhouse on every floor: in other words, a contemporary vertical farming tower.


The next key element was the employment of LED to balance light emissions in order to increase the return rate of vegetables. This system was tuned to service two types of chlorophyll, one preferring red light and the other blue. (Despommier has since gone on to become the world’s foremost expert on and proponent of vertical farms.).

In 2006, Shinji Inada, a former vegetable trader, founded SPREAD, and opened his first indoor vertical farm facility the following year in Kameoka, Japan. The company spent years refining systems for lighting, water supply, nutrients and other costs. By 2013, producing 21,000 heads of lettuce per day, which at the time was the world’s largest vertical farm in terms of production, Spread finally turned its first profits. Their brand, “Vegetus” was soon available in supermarkets nationwide.

In 2014, a partnership system and global expansion strategy for Spread’s vertical farming business was established. In 2015, they announced the concept for the leading vegetable production system. This new low cost and more environmentally friendly system would first be constructed in a new facility called Techno Farm Keihanna in the Kansai Science City, designed as the world’s largest automated leaf-vegetable factory with an output of 30,000 heads of lettuce a day.
This system can produce or 648 heads of lettuce per m² annually, on racks under custom-designed lights using light-emitting diode. A sealed room protects the vegetables from pests, diseases and dirt. Temperature and humidity are optimized to suitable growth of the greens, which are harvested by robots.

The Techno Farm will use only 110 milliliters of water per lettuce, 1 % of the volume needed outdoors, as moisture emitted by the vegetable is condensed and reused. Electrical power consumption per head will also decrease, with the new factory using custom-designed LEDs that require about 30 % less energy. A collaboration with telecoms company NTT West on an artificial intelligence program to analyze production data could boost yields even more. Spread won the Edison Award in 2016 for its vertical-farming system. (spread.co.jp)

Spread is not alone. As of 2014, Vertical Fresh Farms was operating in Buffalo, New York, specializing in salad greens, herbs and sprouts. In March the world’s then largest vertical farm opened in Scranton, Pennsylvania, built by Green Spirit Farms (GSF). The firm is housed in a single story building covering 8 ac (3.25 ha), with racks stacked six high to house 17 million plants. The farm grows 14 lettuce crops per year, as well as spinach, kale, tomatoes, peppers, basil and strawberries. Water is scavenged from the farm’s atmosphere with a dehumidifier.

AeroFarms in Newark, New Jersey leans heavily on intelligent machines, a sustainable 70,000 ft.² (6,500 m²) vertical farm located in a former steel factory in the Ironbound section. There, 2 million lb (907,000 kg) of greens and herbs are produced each year, using an aeroponic growing method.  Aeroponic growing towers are a closed-loop system, recycling the water and nutrients with virtually zero waste.

AeroFarms patented growing system mists the roots of their plants with targeted nutrients, water, and oxygen. This system uses up to 95% less water than field farming to grow high-quality produce faster and more efficiently, with zero pesticides. After testing hundreds of growth media for their plants, they have developed a patented, reusable cloth medium made out of 100% recycled materials for seeding, germinating, growing, and harvesting.

With projects in development in China, the United Arab Emirates, and Europe, AeroFarms has its sights on the world, but is still very focused on Newark. Where they have four farming operations and employ over 120 people — 40 % of whom live in Newark, with 80 % within a 15 mi (24 km) radius.

AeroFarms produce is sold through their retail brand, Dream Greens. Meanwhile, Bowery, which is growing crops inside two warehouses in New Jersey, can promise people in New York that their “bok choy” did not travel far at all. (aerofarms.com)

Some commercial ventures have targeted wealthy nations in the Middle East as prime candidates for vertical farms because of the high cost of importing fresh produce.

In 2019, Dubai’s Emirates Flight Catering began construction of a 130,000 ft.² (12,000 m²) vertical farm, located near Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central to supply airlines in a joint venture with California-based Crop One Holdings. The US$40 million facility was planning to deliver its first vegetables to airlines and airport lounges in December 2019.

Due to the COVID19 pandemic, the program to produce 6,000 lb (2,700 kg) of herbicide-free and pesticide-free leafy greens every day was postponed. In April 2020, the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) invested US$100 million to four agri-tech companies to set up high-tech agricultural facilities including an 88,000 ft² (8200 m²) plant by AeroFarms.

In Canada, Elevate Farm is working with North Star Agriculture to bring vertical farming and ‎‎‎production of leafy green vegetables to northern Canada including Yukon and other isolated northern territories. Once the installation completed and begins to operate, it is expected to produce an estimated 9,100 kg of leafy green vegetables per week and reaching over 473,200 kg crops per year. (elevate.farm)

Other high-rise farms have appeared in office towers or condos as part of the design. In Tokyo’s Ginza shopping area, stationery retailer Itoya tends a vertical farm on the 11th floor of its 12-story building to supply lettuces exclusively to its cafe, at a cost that would be uncompetitive with vegetables grown in outdoor farms.

Javier F. Ponce and a team at Smart Floating Farms (SFF) in Barcelona, Spain hav designed a sustainable, solar-powered vertical farm that floats on pontoons, making it possible to grow food off a coast, in the open sea or just about any large body of water.

The designers estimate that SFF can produce an estimated 8,152 tonnes of vegetables and 1,703 tonnes of fish annually. The farm is comprised of three levels and features innovative agricultural technologies that are already in use around the globe. It can be modified or stacked in different ways to suit the needs of respective locations.

The top level incorporates rainwater collectors for irrigation needs, photovoltaic panels for electricity and skylight openings to provide natural light for plants. It’s also possible to integrate other renewable power technologies such as micro wind turbines or wave energy converter systems.

The second level features a greenhouse and hydroponic systems (which allows crops to grow year round in any weather and without soil).

Lastly, the ground level is designated for offshore aquaculture. According to the designers, this cage fishing method takes place in the open sea and eliminates the exposure to wind and waves. This level also includes a hatchery where fish eggs are incubated and hatched, a nursery for growing fish, a slaughterhouse and a storage room to hold the fish before they are ready for the market.

The designers said the farm is ideal for many large cities or densely populated areas with access to water.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 218: The glass battery

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Materials

215: Turning plastic garbage into oil – on a desktop!

Problem:

To convert plastic waste into fuel usually requires transporting the raw material to a fairly sizeable factory.

Solution:

Akinori Ito wanted to make the process of plastic recycling more accessible, so that less landfill would be required — an increasing problem in his densely-populated native Japan.

So he invented a tabletop Batch-type machine (called Be-h), household appliance which converts plastic bags into fuel.


To operate, users put their plastic trash in a large bucket, then screw on a lid. The temperature inside rises, slowly melting the plastic, which becomes a liquid and then a gas. The gas passes through a tube into a container filled with water, where it than cools and forms oil again. That oil can then be burned as-is or further separated into gasoline, diesel and kerosene. A kilogram of plastic turns into about a litre of oil.

In 2011, Akinori set up the Blest Corporation to commercialise his solution which he called the Be-h. Initially it retailed for approximately $10,000, and Ito was planning to bring the price down as the system became more popular.

There was also a Small-scale system (with a max. capacity of 200kg/hr and a Big-scale system with two models (one with a max. capacity of 1000kg/24h and the other with a max. capacity of 2000kg/24h).

Discover Solution 216: Dry rice

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212: Drone fireworks

Problem:

Traditional fireworks create a toxic fog of fine particulates, poisonous aerosols and heavy metals.

Solution:

Drones were used in several cities to ring in 2021. In London a 10-minute show used more than 300 drones which were flown around the Millenium Dome after the annual fireworks display at the London Eye was cancelled.


The London Show  ended with the image of a sea turtle and ended with Sir David Attenborough calling for people to work in 2021 to help our ‘fragile’ planet. In Scotland 150 drones were part of a three-part choreographed show called “Fare Well” to say bye to 2020 and welcome

Three months’ before, during the night of September 20, some 3,051 drones took to the skies above Zhuhai, Guangdong, China to break the record for the most Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) airborne simultaneously.

During this official challenge, the design executive team represented achievements of Chinese space science and technology in the night sky, such as the Tiangong-1, Beidou satellite system and China’s space station.

The benchmark for this record was set by a 2,200 drone display in Russia on September 4, 2020. This broke the Guinness World Records title set by Intel Corporation (USA) with 2,066 drones in Folsom, California, USA on 15 July 2018.

Another solution is the Japanese solution of sticky rice fireworks, which offers fireworks with far less smoke. The rice cares are prepared, toasted then broken apart before heating them again and making paste once more. Although this takes a bit of effort, it produces the ultimate paste.

If the adhesive strength is neither too weak nor too strong, a beautiful hoshi combustion will not be achieved

Thailand rang in the New Year 2021 with a 1.4 km display of 20,000 sticky rice fireworks along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya riverfront as eco-friendly message of hope to the world.

Discover Solution 213: The molten salt reactor ship

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208: Office and home furniture from chopsticks

Problem:

Asian fast food consumption in the United States surged by 135% between 1999 and 2015, increasing the popularity of Asian cuisine at an unstoppable rate. This has lead to a significant rise in chopstick use worldwide. It is estimated that in the Metro Vancouver district of Canada alone, approximately 100,000 chopsticks are discarded each day after being used for only 20 minutes to shovel sushi into a greedy mouth.

Solution:

Furniture made out of recycled chopsticks


The idea was born over trays of sushi. Felix Böck, then a PhD student at Canada’s University of British Columbia, was venting his frustration over the scant interest in his proposal to use waste wood from demolition and construction sites.

His solution involves collecting thousands of used chopsticks from restaurants, cleaning them, sorting them and then pressing them in a carbon-neutral hydraulic hot press that Felix Böck designed.

They are then transformed into 8×8-inch engineered bamboo tiles — an innovative new material with the same strength, durability and beauty of the original bamboo. These are then made into furniture and home décor products.

For example; SMILE a modular shelving unit made from 4,276 recycled chopsticks and recycled construction steel; a work-from-home desk from 9,600 chopsticks or a simple butcher’s block.

Böck ‘s start-up ChopValue currently has around 500 partnering companies across the 3 cities they operate in: Vancouver, Montreal, and Los Angeles. They are made up of small and large restaurants in and out of malls, and notably, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) which recently celebrated recycling their 1 millionth chopstick.

By 2021, ChopValue has recycled more than 32 million chopsticks – diverting them from landfills and creating employment for 40 people.

Böck, aged 32, has also developed a franchise concept for global expansion whereby with microfactories operating in multiple cities, ChopValue can truly be local, wherever their suppliers and customers are, for a more efficient process while being a carbon negative company:Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary, Los Angeles, London and Tokyo

What you can do: Purchase the recycled chopstick items at ChopValue

Discover Solution 209: Predators instead of pesticides.

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206: Kayaks from recycled plastic

Problem:

Plastic kayaks are rotationally molded (‘rotomolded’) from a various grades and types of polyethylene resins ranging from soft to hard. Such kayaks are particularly resistant to impact and particularly slow to biodegrade.

Solution:

Kayaks made of recycled materials.


In 1971, when Graham Mackereth turned his love of kayaking into a full-time job and started building kayaks in his father’s garage, most kayak touring was done in fibreglass ‘general purpose’ kayaks, which varied little from boats designed for slalom, and confusingly were frequently referred to as ‘canoes’.

Since 2012, all Mackereth’s Venture Kayaks have been made incorporating recycled plastic from their own scrap and from their second-hand kayak scrapage scheme, effectively closing the loop in their waste cycle.

In July 2015, Rob Thompson of Cornwall, England, had the honour of meeting Their Royal Highnesses, Prince Charles and Camilla the Duchess of Cornwall, during The Ocean Plastics Awareness Day.

Here he signed a Statement of Intent, as a pledge to explore ways to develop a circular economy around marine plastic. Taking this responsibility seriously, Rob started to contemplate what he could create from marine plastic.

The eureka moment came after participating in a litter pick using kayaks, at the end with all participants stood around a great haul of bin bags to have their photo taken, he had an idea.

The knowledge that these bin bags ended up in landfill had always played upon Rob’s mind and it occurred to him that he could make the kayaks out the plastics gathered and then use these kayaks to gather more plastic.

It took a further two years of research and development for Rob to find a way of recycling the marine plastic into a material suitable for kayak manufacturing.

During this time he formed partnerships with Keep Britain Tidy, to assist in recycling beach plastic and Plastix to recycle fishing nets.

In January 2018 to deliver this plan Odyssey Innovation Ltd. was created to collaborate with the Ocean Recovery Project, charities, ngos, government bodies, the fishing industry, recyclers, manufacturers, Innovators and businesses, in order to find long-term sustainable solutions to tackle marine plastic pollution by incorporating the circular economy.

For manufacture, Rob approached Palm Equipment, in Clevedon, near Bristol, a based leading kayak manufacturer, with a recycled material suitable for roto moulding. Within a matter of days, the world’s first prototype marine plastic recycled kayak was produced.

Several prototype kayaks were created of varying styles, which are currently being used for campaigns throughout Europe to retrieve and raise awareness about marine plastic.

In December 2017, the ocean plastic recycled kayak project was highly commended in the category of Tomorrow’s Contribution to Sustainability at the Cornwall Sustainability Awards ceremony. In 2018 it also received the highly commended award for the Best Contribution to a More Sustainable Tomorrow through Innovation. Odyssey Innovation started selling the kayaks in January 2019.

In Tumbes, a village in southern Chile, Bureo, a start-up founded by three North American surfers, is collaborating with local fishermen to keep hundreds of tonnes of discarded fishing nets out of the ocean each year. Nets are sorted, cleaned, and cut in Bureo’s warehouse in Concepción, a city a few miles from Tumbes.

Here they are turned into 100% recycled polyester and nylon pellets, called NetPlus, which are sold to companies as a sustainable alternative to first-use plastics. Patagonia’s hat brims now use Netplus, accounting for 60 tonnes of recycled material, while Trek uses it for bike parts and Humanscale for office chairs.

What you can do: Purchase products made of recycled plastic.

Discover Solution 207: Sewing with seaweed

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