Plastic waste is especially rough to breakdown because of the polyethylene-based compounds used to make up a variety of plastics that is very tough. Current industrial methods to breakdown polyethylene plastics require toxic corrosive chemicals and take a long time to breakdown. Once in a landfill, polyethylene plastic shopping bags do not break down for a really long time. Some researchers estimate bags and other polyethylene packaging could take between 100 and 400 years to naturally degrade. Now, wax worms offer perhaps a natural solution to breaking down our plastic waste.
Wax worms are medium-white caterpillars with black-tipped feet and small, black or brown heads. They are the caterpillar larvae of wax moths. In the wild, they live as nest parasites in bee colonies and eat cocoons, pollen and shed skins of bees, and chew through beeswax, thus the name. They were found to be able to feed on plastic, much like other scientific discoveries in the past, by complete accident as Scientist Federica Bertocchini of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain first noticed the Wax Worms’ plastic-eating skills while she was cleaning up a wax worm infestation in one of the beehives she keeps at home. She had placed them in a plastic bag when she came back and saw that they’d escaped by chewing their way out of the bag, and fast.
Scientists then conducted research to see if they were truly digesting the polyethylene and how much they could consume. Bertocchini and her colleagues found that 100 wax worms were able to chew through a polyethylene shopping bag in around 40 minutes. After 12 hours, the bag was significantly shredded. While other items such as fungi and bacteria have been found to also be able to breakdown polyethylene plastics, Wax Worms have been found to do so at a much faster rate and offers us a new environmentally-friendly option of processing our plastic waste.
3D printing is quickly becoming one of the most widely used manufacturing processes in a variety of industries such as clothing and medicine. The ability to have 3D printers, or automated machines, create objects by using computer 3D-rendered models has many advantages, including increased precision and the automation of manufacturing many items, which now includes homes. Apis Cor. is a Russian company that has developed a mobile 3D printer and process that created a home in less than 24 hours at a cost of $275 per square meter. The total cost for the home including labor, materials and furnishing came out to $10,134.00 USD.
The home made in Stupino town — a region near Moscow, Russia — is equipped with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and a hallway. The home was made on-site by using a mobile printer. It is the world’s first 3D-printed building constructed in a small amount of time. Apis Cor. was able to reduce the costs of previous methods by over 70 percent in the production of the home.
The process is as automated as possible and begins by placing the 3D printer in the center of the site where it rotates, placing concrete in layers to create the walls of the home. Once the walls are made, a crane manipulator removes the mobile printer in order to allow manual workers to come in and finish the job. This includes installing the windows and electronics, as well as painting the outside of the home. Apis Cor. hopes to partner with contractors worldwide to continue the advancement of greener construction methods.
While most of us today can’t remember the last time we used a record player, there are millions of records out there that were once made to satisfy the world’s craving for music. Vinyl records may be making a comeback amongst some audiophiles, but many of them are now collecting dust in storage or waiting for their trip to landfills.
One innovative artist, Shawn McClure, has taken up the challenge of repurposing old damaged or unwanted records into beautiful works of art through a successfully funded campaign on Kickstarter. The Skylinyl is a new medium that features designs from iconic city skylines to musicians and bands. For the avid music enthusiasts, these are great pieces of art to hang up in their homes or in their businesses.
The Skylinyl comes in two sizes and styles that feature different aspects of the possibilities for the new art medium. The 12” x 12” size is a single Vinyl design that is framed in a Matte Black 12” x 12” frame. The 20” x 20” size features a 3-D design made with 4 Vinyl layers that is framed in a Matte Black 20”x 20” frame. Both sizes and styles involve intricate craftsmanship and there is neither assembly nor tools required to mount the piece of art. The Skylinyl art piece needs no maintenance and the piece lasts forever, making good use of old damaged or unwanted records and keeping them out of our landfills. The Skylinyl is now available for purchase through their Indiegogo campaign with the 12”x 12” costing $89 and the 20” x 20” costing $189.
Did you know that the United States generates up to 21 billion pounds of textile waste that ends up in landfills every year? OSOM brand socks are aiming to reduce the amount of textile waste that goes to landfills by creating a premium sustainable, zero waste, zero water, upcycled pair of socks out of upcycled denim and other articles of clothing. OSOM socks are made from reprocessed denim and old clothes that would otherwise go to our landfills and remove the need for new fibers and materials to be made into socks.
Upcycling is a great process that both diverts waste from landfills and generates raw materials that replaces the virgin materials that would require more natural resources. The idea of Upcycling comes from the concept that items that would otherwise be viewed as waste can become a technical nutrient in a closed loop system where it circulates in a cycle of production, recovery and remanufactured.
There is neither a toxic process nor toxic waste produced as a result of making the OSOM brand socks, and it is ethically produced in Guatemala. This product is one of the most sustainable options in socks available. OSOM socks rock and you can get your pair now by pledging $10 or more on their Kickstarter.
Additive manufacturing (AM) company, ALT LLC, has recently announced an Indiegogo Campaign in late December of this year to raise funds in order to produce high performance Recycled 3D Printing Filament made from everyday plastic waste. The company based out of Santa Barbara, CA operates a 3D Printing Service, providing design, fabrication and consultation services. ALT realized that, although AM offers many environmental benefits over standard manufacturing, they were still introducing virgin plastic into the waste stream in Santa Barbara.
The company set out to create a new way to doing business by offering recycled and recyclable products to the 3D printing community. Their goal is to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills, waterways and ultimately, the ocean, by sourcing the plastic waste used to make their filament from local California waste collection facilities. ALT hopes their initiative will inspire other local engineering firms to adopt green practices.
ALT’s recycled 3D printing filament is produced in-house and made from a class of polymers called Polyolefins. This includes common plastics such as Polypropylene (PP), Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE) and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) used to make plastic bags, milk jugs, bottle caps, and other short-lived products that are discarded within a year of manufacture. Polyolefins have excellent properties for use in many applications, which makes them the perfect material for 3D printing. High and low-density polyethylene are desirable due to their flexibility, toughness, ability to withstand high temperatures, and their resistance to impact, moisture and chemicals. Polypropylene is similar, but has a higher thermal resistance enabling it to withstand the heat of an autoclave. Together, polyolefins account for nearly half of the plastic being used on the planet today. While several companies use plastic water bottles to make PET 3D printing filament, ALT wants to tackle the plastic that makes up the largest amount waste and that rarely gets recycled. Supporting this campaign will help ALT produce their high-performance recycled 3D printing filaments and bring them to the market at an affordable price, which may help reduce waste and make an impact on the environment.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have produced a “biocrude” oil that can be further refined into liquid fuels similar to petroleum products. Hydrothermal processing (HTP) uses similar conditions used by nature to create crude oil underground. HTP pressurizes the sludge to about 3,000 pounds per square inch, and then feeds it into a reactor that operates at about 660 degrees Fahrenheit. The heat and pressure breaks down the cells of the feedstock into the biocrude oil and “an aqueous liquid phase,” which can then be treated and used to create other fuels and chemical products. HTP is able to turn 60 percent of the available carbon in the sewage sludge into biocrude, with the other byproducts being a methane-rich gas (also a fuel) and water.
This technology, when scaled up, has the potential to turn municipal wastewater treatment plants into renewable energy producers, while “virtually eliminating” the need for the processing, transport and disposal of residuals from sewage treatment. Each year, the U.S. produces 34 billion tons of sewage and if all wastewater treatment plants used HTP, it could produce the equivalent of up to 30 million barrels of oil from that sewage waste.
By enabling the use of a wet feedstock, this HTP process could open a lot of new doors for cleaner liquid fuels from organic materials, including agricultural waste, that has previously been dismissed as being inappropriate for biofuel production due to the need to dry them before using, which rendered them both expensive and energy-intensive to convert into fuels. PNNL has licensed the new technology to Genifuel Corporation, based in Utah, which is working toward the creation of a demonstration plant with Metro Vancouver that could be operating as soon as 2018. And for those interested in a lifecycle analysis of the HTP process, PNNL has you covered right here.
Biodiesel can reduce carbon emissions by up to 70 percent and is 100 percent renewable. The BioCubeTM is a new smart commercial and community enterprises scale innovative solution that produces biodiesel from a variety of waste and renewable feedstock oils such as waste vegetable oil (WVO) from restaurants, canola, crude palm oil (CPO), soya, corn, coconut, pongamia and tallow.
Biodiesel produced from the BioCubeTM can be used in any modern diesel engine and has a negligible carbon intensity index compared with fossil diesel. The BioCubeTM system can run off the biodiesel it produces off-grid consuming approximately three percent of its production, or using grid electricity where it is available. The system is considered an amazing solution for remote areas where fossil diesel is either expensive or unavailable. It can be operated by semi-skilled labor after a short training program that includes learning how to use the system’s easy-to-use visual touch screen interface.
One recent BioCubeTM customer was a Palm Oil Mill out in Congo, Africa that now uses the waste from the mill to power the trucks, tractors and diesel generators that keep the plantation running. The BioCubeTM system for this customer was manufactured in Canada by CBVL based in Coquitlam, BC and shipped to the Congo, including a trip upriver to reach the plantation location.
The BioCube™ is designed to robust marine engineering standards to last for 20 years or more in harsh tropical conditions and will run for a minimum of five years between overhauls. The only by-products of the BioCube™ system is glycerin and mulch, which are valuable commodities for anaerobic digesters or as a combustion fuel or fertilizer. This system is considered a green machine and may be able to provide liquid fuel alternatives to developing countries across the world.
Residential food waste is something that is not usually considered a renewable source of energy, but a new innovation may change that perspective. The new Homebiogas System brings forth this opportunity to individuals and multi-family units. According to CalRecycle; Californians dispose of almost 5.6 million tons of food each year, which represents 16 percent of material going to landfills.
The inspiration for the Homebiogas System design came from rural off-grid areas of India that were able to produce enough gas for their cooking needs with the use of animal manure. Improving upon conventional designs and using cutting edge technology, the Homebiogas System has produced an efficient, modern, off-grid method to not only divert organic waste from landfills but to also produce a decentralized clean source of energy for residential use. The Homebiogas System can produce clean biogas of approximately 65 percent CH4 and 35 percent CO2. From up to six liters of food waste, the system can produce over three hours of cooking time. The system’s only other byproduct is a rich natural fertilizer solution that can also offset the use of chemical fertilizer for residential gardens and plants.
The Homebiogas Company has been around since 2011 and after having launched an Indiegogo campaign that was funded in less than 24 hours; Homebiogas is now shipping early bird units across 35 countries. The Homebiogas System is set to retail for over $1,500.00 USD, but early adopter specials are still available at $995.00 USD per unit–cheaper if purchased in bulk. The Homebiogas System stands to be one of the more innovative solutions to enter the marketplace, producing decentralized, renewable energy from waste.
Biogas and biofuels are renewable and carbon neutral sources of energy. The crops that have ultimately been targeted for biogas production such as corn however, have been shown to displace sources of food and feed for cattle while having some of the same negative effects of commercial crop production such as runoff pollution and soil erosion. Nopal, a type of cactus commonly found in over 52 percent of the Mexican territory, even in the dry desert, has been found to not only provide a cleaner burning alternative to natural gas; but also grown with less than half the required amount of water necessary for a corn field.
The process of making biogas from the nopal plant does not involve complex machinery as it simply involves shredding the leaves and placing them in a bio digester where they start decomposing and generate biogas. The biogas produced contains up to 65 percent methane that is fed into an internal combustion engine generator that produces electric energy.
Yield could be up to 800 tons per acre and produce about 43,300 m3 of biogas or the equivalent, in energy terms, to 25,000 liters of diesel per acre. This nopal yield is significant compared to the yield of corn, which produces the equivalent to 1,600 liters of diesel per acre. It also surpasses other possible renewable options such as the flowering plant, Jatropha, which produces the equivalent to 3,000 liters of diesel per acre.
The nopal helps retain soil in places where the ground has eroded and can grow in some of the driest conditions such as those found in the deserts of the western U.S. The entire list of products generated from the use of the nopal as biomass are: biogas, electricity, water, nitrogen, humus, earthworm flour (animal feed) and carbon credits by participating in the process of carbon dioxide absorption, making them one of the best possible solutions for greener future renewable energy sources.
Recycling efforts have skyrocketed and new strategies on what can be recycled and how to best recycle those items have emerged. The conventional idea of recycling is to throw a plastic bottle or an aluminum can into a blue bin that gets hauled away once a week. As the recycling practice grows, we are finding more materials we can recycle by means of more advanced technology
Although efforts have increased, one of the considerably most harmful groups of materials is still not being treated as a priority. Electronics are not often recycled, and these are one of the most detrimental pieces to our environment. When computers are made, pieces and parts that contain plastic and heavy metals that contain toxins are used.
When these pieces and parts are thrown into the trash instead of being recycled, those toxins leak into the ground, which causes a myriad of problems. Toxins contaminate groundwater, which can cause heath issues.
Jerry Do-It-Together (DIT) is a project that was started in Paris to try and avoid the repercussions of throwing electronics away instead of recycling them. A collaboration stemming from Hedera Technology and ENSCI, Jerry DIT strives to promote making internet servers out of easy-to-find parts as well as previously- used parts. The basic Jerry design can accomplish simple tasks like sending an SMS message, storing data and browsing. Options are also available to add a WI-FI component and a hard drive.
The Jerry DIT website includes manuals on how to make Jerry and a how-to video showing the process. Current hotspots include the United States, France and Africa. To find out more on how you can build your own Jerry, visit the website here.