As the planet is hastily running short of natural resources, communities are looking to waste as an asset. Anything from biochar to human excrement are now staples in energy production. To bring everything together, engineers have created the NEWgenerator, which processes materials found in sewage.
First, the waste is fed into a bioreactor, where anaerobic microorganisms break down the solids and produce biogas.
The methane produced is chemical-free and perfect for cooking and heating. To complete the cycle, USF engineers have also made the most of liquid and solid waste.
The water that passes through is… disinfected with chlorine, and while the end result is probably still not drinkable, it’s clean enough to use to flush the toilets in the block or irrigate crops.
The remainder of the waste can be used as fertilizer. So far, the system is testing waters in India and South Africa. Each device is usable for up to 100 people a day, with future versions projected to reach thousands. Considering that millions are without access to basic amenities, the NEWgenerator is a game-changer for marginalized communities.
It’s more than likely that we call groups of ravens an unkindness due to their unforgiving intelligence. A Swedish experiment training birds to earn food rewards had one raven hacking the project entirely. The thoughtful budgie even took the time to teach other birds the secret. Now, startup Crowded Cities is testing the brainpower of crows, using them to pick up litter.
The idea is to train the crows to drop cigarette butts in a ‘Crowbar,’ which scans the item to confirm it’s a cigarette butt, and then gives the crow a food reward to reinforce the behavior.
Considering the amount of cigarette butts that end up on sidewalks annually (about 4.5 trillion), these crows could make a difference. The butts are not only non-biodegradable, but toxic to marine life. For ultimate efficiency, the Crowbar uses a simple give-and-take mechanism.
[Everything] is done with the intention that the crow will fly away and inform others of this system, so that more crows participate in cigarette butt collecting.
Research has found that crows are as cognitive as apes, so the success of the Crowbar should be anticipated.
Oftentimes, for a piece of rubbish, landfills are an eternal resting place. Rarely do they see a better climax, save for those that become furniture or even vodka. Despite lack of efforts to recycle, some continue to hold the Earth near and dear to their hearts. One such individual is 12-year-old Nadia Sparkes, a.k.a. “Trash Girl”, Norwich’s newest cartoon hero.
The Hellesdon schoolgirl was so “shocked” by litter strewn near her home and school she began picking it up in her bicycle basket, leading to jibes and the seemingly cruel nickname.
Sparkes has since encouraged the public to pick up three pieces of litter a day, and hundreds have agreed. If you haven’t heard, kids, sustainability is all the rage — and bullying is so yesterday.
Creative Nation’s Alex Jeffery said… “We think she is a superhero for putting the planet first in the face of the bullies who chose to criticise, rather than help her and get involved.
“We also wanted to see if our image could inspire a nationwide cartoon, sent to schools to inspire more young people to do the same fantastic work.”
Never pick on the kid with a basket of empty cans. It could be their greatest weapon!
Due to the detrimental effects of excessive carbon emissions, researchers are scrambling to produce cleaner energy alternatives. Prototypes of algae-powered wooden motorcycles are making an appearance in the hopes of perfecting eco-vehicles. The entire state of Florida is even attempting to power its homes with waste procured by Hurricane Irma. Now tackling the fashion industry, which turns out nearly 14 million tons of waste per annum, a Swedish power plant is burning discarded H&M products to produce fuel.
“For us it’s a burnable material,” said Jens Neren, head of fuel supplies at Malarenergi AB, which owns and operates the plant in Vasteras… “Our goal is to use only renewable and recycled fuels.”
In this year alone, the plant has burned 15 tons of H&M clothing unsafe for wearing. The incinerated waste, along with 400,000 tons of trash power 150,000 homes.
“It is our legal obligation to make sure that clothes that contain mold or do not comply with our strict restriction on chemicals are destroyed,” [said H&M head of communications Johanna] Dahl…“H&M does not burn any clothes that are safe to use.”
Trends may be exciting, but are equally as damaging, especially when they come to pass.
Getting strangers to clean up after themselves almost always involves an incentive. For Starbucks regulars, it’s a 5p charge on single-use cups. For Freiburg Cup users, its a 1 euro tip back for returns. But for the Swedish community, cleaning-as-you-go is simply an everyday habit — and it’s called plogging.
“It’s not that everyone should be running about picking up other people’s litter. It should be put in the bin in the first place. But I believe all of us should make an effort to keep our surroundings clean.” [said jogging group leader Anna Christopherson.]
The exercise, which has now gained traction in Scotland, pays homage to the Swedish word “plocka.” Meaning both to jog and pick up, the play on words is perfect. Mastermind Christopherson has even incorporated stretching into the mix.
“Quite a few joggers already take it on themselves to pick up litter when they see it in their running spots. Having a whole group of joggers doing this regularly could make a real difference to parks, paths and pavements.”
For some, giving back is less of a hassle when it’s convenient. For ploggers, it’s just another tick on the to-do list.
With dogs acting as cleaners for polluted rivers, it’s safe to say China isn’t taking in any more trash. As a large producer of waste, China has also become a dumping site for countries like Australia. In the hopes of getting clean, the world’s densest country is putting an end to foreign waste imports.
“The real opportunity in Australia is to create that circular economy that’s happening overseas and that’s what China is moving towards, where they’re saying we produce that material, we actually want to recycle that material and reuse it back in the economy,” said Gayle Sloan, the chief executive of the Waste Management Association of Australia.
The ban covers 24 categories of solid waste, among other things. In a single year, China will get to kiss 30 million tons of trash goodbye. However, the ban is forcing Australian recyclers to get creative. Recycling systems are getting a makeover, while startups are beginning to emerge.
“It’s unfair to create waste in the first instance without thinking where it’s going to go and how it’s going to be re-used.”
The ban may be tricky, but it’s also encouraging nations to take responsibility for the trash they produce. Anyway, it isn’t always another man’s treasure.
If an entire landfill can be transformed into a revenue-generating energy hub, a resort can promote sustainability. Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak did just that. It commissioned street artist Eko Nugroho to create a display made entirely of reclaimed plastic waste to highlight plastic pollution.
An impressive 660 pounds of local plastic debris was transformed into the work with which Nugroho hopes will stress the critical need for waste management and conservation.
The piece, titled “Bouquet of Love”, is not Nugroho’s first socio-political artwork. He claims that his projects mostly comment on current events.
“I was deeply drawn to this project because environmental damage and pollution will have an effect on every aspect of life, not just art,”
“My love for Indonesia inspired me to create Bouquet of Love. Indonesia is a rich, magnificent tropical country, which is also experiencing dynamic growth and development.”
Annually, we produce around 300 million tons of plastic worldwide. 8.8 million tons end up in oceans and up to 91% of waste forgoes recycling. It doesn’t take a grand gesture to make an impact on the environment. Make it personal — start at home. You never know the difference you might make.
People don’t always recycle. But when they do, the results are often fascinating. After all, who knew you could build a lamp using a plastic bottle and bleach? The fact of the matter is, while big industries may pioneer sustainability, not everyone will follow suit. This is why Costa Rica aims to be the first country to eliminate single-use plastics by 2021.
The Central American nation intends to replace these wasteful, ocean-clogging items—such as plastic store bags, straws, coffee stirrers, containers and plastic cutlery—for biodegradable or water-soluble alternatives, or products made of renewable materials.
Costa Rica’s government is seeking help from both public and private sectors in performing strategic actions. The country has proven itself an environmental leader, using renewable energy and gradually becoming carbon neutral. However, its landscape is often a dumpsite for waste.
“Although the country has been an example to the world by reversing deforestation and doubling its forest cover from 26 percent in 1984 to more than 52 percent this year, today one fifth of the 4,000 tonnes of solid waste produced daily is not collected and ends up as part of the Costa Rican landscape, also polluting rivers and beaches,”
Single-use plastics are a problem worldwide, but Costa Rica hopes to lead by example. Though eliminating such a common material may be a struggle, the results may well be worth it.
Ever since chancing upon the LooWatt, the phone-charging toilet, it seems there is more to poop than we think. While it may stink, it’s valuable in conducting energy. Organic farmer Albert Straus drives an electric dairy truck powered entirely by methane. In other words, cow excrement.
In a project that ultimately took 8 years to complete, Albert Straus and a local mechanic converted a 33,000 pound International Harvester semi-truck to an all-electric hauler… The truck’s batteries are charged with clean electricity that is generated by the methane gas produced by those same cows’ manure in the farm’s biodigester.
8 years may have been quite some time, but I am certain the wait was worth it. After all, Straus did beat Elon Musk to the punch. Not only is the use of manure as an energy source eco-friendly — it’s cheap, too. In fact, it can save farms up to $50,000 a year.
“What I’ve tried to do is create a sustainable organic farming model that is good for the earth, the soil, the animals, and the people working on these farms, and helps revitalize rural communities.” [says] Straus.
Straus is now working with others on a 20-year carbon farming plan. As for poop-powered vehicles? Straus is set on building a Farmers Market truck. Poop-tastic!
Massachusetts has become the first state to transform its abundance of trash into an energy hub. Other groups are working in smaller scales to refurbish waste into furniture, among other things. However, most seem to be ignoring the elephant in the room or, rather, the floating pile of trash in the Pacific Ocean. The Trash Isles, roughly the size of France, if not removed, may soon be recognized as an independent country.
Advocates of the Trash Isles receiving statehood argue that the island has (ever-growing) borders, and would form a government if needed… They’ve enlisted designer Mario Kerkstra to create a flag, a passport, currency (which would be called “Debris”), and stamps.
So, technically, the floating island of waste qualifies as a legitimate nation. But why go through the trouble? And why, specifically, is former U.S. president Al Gore rallying behind it?
“Ultimately, we want to shrink this nation… Let’s come up with biodegradable materials, let’s add a price on carbon, as well as laws and regulations to stop this wasteful practice of just throwing everything away and doing everything we can to create a circular economy.” [says Gore]
As with most bold gestures regarding the environment, it’s all about awareness. After all, who wouldn’t be moved by a country built upon trash?