Cemented Plastic Makes Concrete Stronger

The existence of eco-friendly, weather-resistant structures such as Thailand’s bamboo building are evidence that designers are saving the planet. To drive a point, MIT students are embedding irradiated water bottles into cement to make concrete more robust and sustainable.

The research revealed that exposing the plastic to gamma radiation actually made it stronger. The irradiated plastic was then ground into a powder and mixed with cement. The subsequent concrete was up to 20 percent stronger than concrete made without the irradiated plastic.

Engineers found the added plastic (only 1.5% of the concoction) made concrete significantly denser. If you’re skeptical about incorporating the mix into future room renovations, don’t worry — it isn’t radioactive. Furthermore, using plastic will potentially relieve a few dozen landfills.

“Concrete produces about 4.5 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions,” says [MIT professor Michael] Short. “Take out 1.5 percent of that, and you’re already talking about 0.0675 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. That’s a huge amount of greenhouse gases in one fell swoop.”

Environmentalists might campaign for a plastic-free society — but it isn’t the easiest option. Perhaps, now, it’s all about redirecting your waste to where it will be most useful.

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Oxford To Ban Non-Electric Vehicles To Cut Emissions

The steady rise of electric vehicles will soon leave petrol and diesel cars in the dust. BMW is launching electric buses all over Europe, while the London Taxi Company is replacing old cabs. A few months later, the U.K. remains on top of the eco-ladder, with Oxford planning to eliminate non-electric vehicles.

The scheme aims to cut levels of nitrogen dioxide, the majority of which comes from traffic fumes, by three-quarters.

To give distributors leeway, Oxford will be imposing the ban in 2020, increasing the affected zone by 2035. We all know electric vehicles aren’t the most affordable, so locals may have to do some walking. The plan is projected to cost £7 million, but the city council deems the shift will be well worth it.

Oxford city councillor John Tanner said a “step change” is urgently needed as toxic air pollution is “damaging the health” of residents.

It’s a bold move, Oxford, but hopefully a successful one.

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Power Plant Generates Power And Cleans Air

Considering the number of annual deaths caused by pollution, it not only makes sense to cut emissions but to also improve air quality. All over the world, groups are working to make the atmosphere as breathable as possible. Bogota is erecting vertical gardens while China is manufacturing air-purifying bicycles. Not to be outdone, Iceland has set up the world’s first negative emissions power plant.

Climate startup Climeworks refitted a geothermal plant in Iceland to remove carbon dioxide from the air while also generating power for thousands of homes. This carbon dioxide is safely embedded in rock, where it will remain for millions of years.

The storage process, called carbon capture and storage, is keeping temperatures from rising to extreme levels. The facility is projected to remove 50 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually. It isn’t much — but it’s something! The procedure is also fairly straightforward.

Climeworks uses… [the] plant’s waste heat to run their own carbon capture tech, pulling carbon dioxide directly out of the air and feeding it into the existing Carbfix infrastructure, which deposits it in underground basalt. There, the carbon dioxide forms crystals within two years, and remains stable underground for millennia.

Limited to information from my high school physics class, I hardly knew trapping CO2 was possible. Either way, we should be over the moon to have chemical engineers.

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Concrete Can Withstand High Magnitude Earthquakes

If a bamboo building can withstand several sorts of natural disasters, surely, any other structure can. Unfortunately, it isn’t really the case — until, maybe, now. Researchers at the University of British Columbia are testing a type of concrete that can resist high magnitude earthquakes.

Researchers at . . . UBC have created a fiber-reinforced concrete called eco-friendly ductile cementitious composite (EDCC), that can withstand high seismic activity. The engineered material combines “cement with polymer-based fibers, fly ash and other industrial additives,” according to a university press release.

Simply adding a 10-millimeter layer of the material to existing walls is enough to make it practically impenetrable. But the strength to withstand high magnitude earthquakes — up to a magnitude 9.0! — isn’t the only fantastic feature of the material. It is also linked to sustainability efforts. Considering that normal concrete contributes to nearly 7% of carbon emissions, using mostly fly ash or a coal combustion byproduct definitely earns EDCC points. Hopefully, it will lessen the damages caused by the cement industry to the environment.

“This UBC-developed technology has far-reaching impact and could save the lives of not only British Columbians, but citizens throughout the world,” said Melanie Mark, the minister of advanced education, skills and training in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “The earthquake-resistant concrete is a great example of how applied research at our public universities is developing the next generation of agents of change.”

In the near future, EDCC will also be used for strengthening home structures and blast-resistant buildings. A proud salute to public universities making a difference!

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Lego To Debut First Plant-Based Toys

They say starting em’ young is the best way to get a point across — and you often can’t go wrong with a toy. Since first promoting sustainability through bioplastics, Lego is already onto something greater. By the end of the year, the trinket tycoon will launch a collection of plant-based bricks.

Production has started on the sustainable pieces, which include “botanical elements” like leaves, bushes, and trees. The new pieces are made from polyethylene, a soft and durable plastic, and Lego notes that they are “technically identical to those produced using conventional plastic.”

Lego’s $165 million investment in plastic alternatives will hopefully see a drop in the 4% annual consumption of petroleum. The masterminds behind the popular Millennium Falcon build-it is also teaming up with WWF to reduce carbon emissions.

“It is essential that companies in each industry find ways to responsibly source their product materials and help ensure a future where people, nature, and the economy thrive,” said Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at WWF in a statement.

For nearly 90 years, Lego has inspired us to build more than just fantasies, but sustainable realities.

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Germany Offers Free Transport To Fight Pollution

The best things in a sustainable life come free. Whether solar power or library books, the end goal is the same. Protect the planet. Educate. With an extensive amount of waste and pollution looming over the globe, Germany has had enough. To cut rising costs of living and minimize emissions, nation is offering free public transport.

“We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars,” three German government ministers wrote in their recent letter to the E.U… “Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany.”

Though it hasn’t topped the list of most polluted countries in Europe, Germans remain among the 400,000 that succumb to air pollution every year. Expenses are tricky, but are encouraging other forms of eco-traveling.

The free public transport plans would be complemented by other measures, such as car-sharing schemes or expanded low-emissions zones within cities.

Sure, a crowded subway may not sound ideal — but let’s hope Germany has its reigns on that as well.

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Turkey Waste Is An Efficient Coal Alternative

With an increasing number of industries stepping away from fossil fuels, eco-friendly substitutes are all the hype. Over time, both human and cow excrement have proved useful in the kitchen and as gas replacements. Unsurprisingly, an Israeli study has found turkey poop to be a valuable resource in producing combustible biomass fuel.

“Environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem,” said the researchers in a statement. “Converting poultry waste to solid fuel, a less resource-intensive, renewable energy source, is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels.”

The process converts turkey stool into hydrochar and biochar. Both materials produce much less methane and ammonia as compared to traditional coal.

“This investigation helped in bridging the gap between hydrochar being considered as a potential energy source toward the development of an alternative renewable fuel,” [environmental hydrology and microbiology professor Amit] Gross said. “Our findings could help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity generation and agricultural wastes.”

At this stage in the game, researchers at the Zuckerberg Institute seem to have killed two birds with one stone. It looks like these turkeys are off the dinner menu.

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Airliner Is Powered By Mustard Seed Biofuel

When it comes to vehicles of the future, it seems the possibilities are limitless. Planes, in particular, have broken boundaries — running on electric or on no motor at all. Many advancements are still under wraps, or completely theoretical, save for Qantas’ latest shocking achievement. The airliner successfully piloted a trans-Pacific flight on 10% eco-fuel derived from mustard seeds.

The biofuel is reportedly capable of reducing carbon emissions by over 80 percent as compared to regular jet fuel. This means that the blended fuel used in… [the] flight should have resulted in a 7 percent reduction, which works out to 18,000 kg (39,683 lb) in reduced carbon emissions.

The Carinata mustard plant makes a perfect contender as the world’s leading aviation biofuel. Able to thrive under unsuitable conditions, the little-seed-that-could also improves soil quality and prevents erosion.

“Our work with Agrisoma will enable Australian farmers to start growing today for the country’s biofuel needs of the future,” says Qantas International CEO, Alison Webster.

Qantas’ ultimate goal is to maintain a near million acres of Carinata and produce 200 million liters of biofuel annually. If you’ve ever doubted the impact of agriculture, you may now consider switching gears.

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Ørsted Wind Turbine Fleet To Power Millions Of Homes

Renewable wind energy has long ago proven its worth, powering 70% of Australian homes just last year. With its maximum potential still undiscovered, Danish company Ørsted is building a 174-fleet wind farm in the UK. The sustainable solution will power a plentiful million homes.

“After years of planning it is fantastic to see the initial stages of offshore construction begin… These wind farms will not only greatly contribute to the UK’s goal of decarbonising our energy system, they are also bringing jobs and investment to Grimsby and the North East.” [said program director Duncan Clark.]

The 800-ton turbines will make their official debut in 2020, with allowance for transport limitations. On the whole, Ørsted is determined to transition as much of society as it can into green energy users. Still, the group is managing its expectations.

“The government has to change the trajectory or we are going to fail. We need to learn our lessons from where things have gone wrong so far,”

With great ambition comes extreme patience — but I do hope I’m around to see our planet change for the better.

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E-Fan X To Be The World’s First Electric Hybrid Plane

If Microsoft can fly planes without motors, surely there is a lot in store for passenger aircrafts. The wait may soon be over, as European manufacturers are aiming to test-fly an electricity-powered plane in 2020.

Airbus is responsible for integrating the engines with flight controls. Rolls-Royce will develop the turbo-shaft engine, two megawatt generator and power electronics. Siemens will deliver the power distribution network.

With all the big guns taking part in developing E-Fan X, commercial flights in 2025 don’t seem too ambitious. Contributing 2% of carbon emissions worldwide, commercial planes could use a makeover. Aircraft giants EasyJet and Boeing are also in on the action, crafting up their own eco-jets.

“The E-Fan X is an important next step in our goal of making electric flight a reality in the foreseeable future,” said Paul Eremenko, Airbus’ Chief Technology Officer.

Looks like cutting on fossil fuels is a virus that has clearly infected aviation titans.

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