The electronics industry is notoriously harsh on the planet. Around 60 million metric tons of e-waste end up in landfills each year, and children are sometimes put to work to mine necessary rare earth elements. Technology giant Apple aims to fix these issues in their company. They recently announced plans to use 100 percent recycled materials in all of their devices. Apple’s aims are ambitious. In addition to using only recycled materials, the company also wants 100 percent of their supply chain to run entirely on renewable energy . They want their packaging to be made of 100 percent responsibly sourced and recycled paper. And they want to stop mining the earth. Related: Apple just unveiled a blazing fast iPhone recycling robot Apple has already made progress in many areas. Their data centers are 100 percent powered by solar, wind, or hydropower. 96 percent of their worldwide facilities run on renewable energy and over 99 percent of their packaging is already made with recycled and responsibly sourced materials. But they still have a long way to go. Apple didn’t offer a specific timeline for their mining goal. “It sounds crazy, but we’re working on it,” the company writes on their website. “We’re moving toward a closed-loop supply chain.” In their 2017 Progress Report , they said they’re challenging themselves to “one day end our reliance on mining” but that will require many years. They pointed to recycling programs and their recycling robots as evidence of progress. Apple Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives Lisa Jackson told Vice , “We’re actually doing something we rarely do, which is announce a goal before we’ve completely figured out how to do it. So we’re a little nervous, but we also think it’s really important, because as a sector we believe it’s where technology should be going.” Greenpeace Senior IT Analyst Gary Cook said in a statement Apple’s goal “highlights the need for greater urgency across the sector to reduce resource consumption and e-waste that are causing significant impacts on the environment and human health …While transitioning to 100 percent recycled materials is critical to reducing the sector’s footprint, it is also fundamental for Apple and other major IT companies to design products that last, are easy to repair, and recyclable at the end of their life.” Via Apple and 9to5Mac Images via Maurizio Pesce on Flickr and screenshot
Around 24.8 million miles of roads crisscross the surface of Earth. And hundreds of millions of barrels of oil have been used for that development. Engineer Toby McCartney came up with a solution to that waste of natural resources and the growing plastic pollution problem. His company, Scotland-based MacRebur , lays roads that are as much as 60 percent stronger than regular asphalt roads and last around 10 times longer – and they’re made with recycled plastic. Our city roads require a lot of maintenance over time as weather deteriorates them and potholes open up. Meanwhile there are around five trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean. McCartney came up with an answer to both issues. He turns 100 percent recycled plastic into what he calls MR6 pellets, or small pellets of waste plastic, which replace bitumen , the material used to bind roads together (extracted from crude oil) and sold by oil companies like Shell. Related: Vancouver Becomes First City to Pave Its Streets With Recycled Plastic Normal roads are comprised of around 90 percent rock, sand, and limestone, with 10 percent bitumen. MacRebur’s process replaces most of the bitumen, using household waste plastic, farm waste, and commercial waste. Much of the trash would have otherwise ended up in a landfill . At asphalt plants the MR6 pellets are mixed with quarried rock and a bit of bitumen, and a plant worker told the BBC the process is actually the same “as mixing the conventional way with additions into a bitumen product.” McCartney was inspired to design plastic roads after his daughter’s teacher asked the class what lives in the ocean, and his daughter said, “Plastics.” He didn’t want her to grow up in a world where that was true. He’d also spent time in India, where he saw locals would fix holes in the road by putting waste plastic into the holes and then burning it. He started MacRebur with friends Nick Burnett and Gordon Reid. MacRebur’s first road was McCartney’s own driveway, and now the company’s roads have been laid in the county of Cumbria in the United Kingdom . + MacRebur Via the BBC Images via MacRebur Facebook
Waste management is a pressing problem all over the world, but it’s especially hard for isolated communities that lack access to recycling facilities. Taiwan-based architecture studio Miniwiz has come up with an environmentally friendly solution: TRASHPRESSO, a traveling solar-powered recycling plant that turns trash into tiles. Wherever it goes, TRASHPRESSO takes local waste and recycles it into tiles for use in architecture. The mobile recycling plant is in a 40-foot container platform that a trailer truck can transport, and Miniwiz says the plant opens up similar to how a satellite unpacks in orbit. It can recycle plastic and fabric waste, running on solar power . Garbage is “washed, shredded, melted, and molded” into architectural tiles, and the water to clean the trash is reused in the process. Related: Verti-Cult: Miniwiz Unveils Glowing Green Wall Made From Recycled Bottles The off-grid plant can pump out 10 square meters, or over 107 square feet, of the architectural tiles every 40 minutes. Each tile contains the equivalent of five plastic PET bottles . They can be utilized for exterior or interior floor finishes, according to Miniwiz, “or sold as raw material for further upcycling manufacturing processes like yarning, injection, and extrusion.” Miniwiz CEO and co-founder Arthur Huang said in a statement, “Until now, industrial grade recycling was limited to plants. The TRASHPRESSO overcomes the distance and energy barriers by showing that recycling is possible everywhere. Not only does it serve to transform trash on-site, it also serves as an educational tool in isolated communities.” The TRASHPRESSO will be deployed for the first time this summer to NianBao Yuze on the Tibetan Plateau. The natural beauty of the glacier region has been trashed by tourists who leave behind litter. From there TRASHPRESSO will travel to other remote areas where garbage gathers, such as beaches, lakes, reservoirs, or rivers. Miniwiz showed off the TRASHPRESSO recently in Shanghai to celebrate Earth Day . They’ll bring the recycling plant to NianBao Yuze in partnership with Jackie Chan’s Green Heroes documentary series on National Geographic . + Miniwiz Images courtesy of Miniwiz
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World’s first mobile recycling plant turns trash into tiles
The answer to our global plastic catastrophe may be in sight. Spanish researchers have discovered that the wax worm, a caterpillar known for munching on the wax within beehives, is able to devour and biodegrade polyethylene plastic, converting it into a form of alcohol found in antifreeze. Federica Bertocchini, a scientist at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria, first uncovered the worm’s unique abilities by chance, when she attempted to clean up a wax worm infestation in one of her home beehives . She placed the worms in a plastic bag, tied it off, and left it in her house – only to find that the worms had chewed through the plastic and escaped. In a new paper published in Current Biology , she describes how 100 of the worms can chew through an ordinary polyethylene shopping bag in 40 minutes. At first, Bertocchini and her colleagues assumed the worms might be simply chewing through the plastic and shredding it. But then they took slightly nauseating step of pureeing the worms and leaving the resulting paste in contact with the plastic itself. Related: Scientists develop way to efficiently degrade plastics into diesel fuel The results were bizarre – after 14 hours in contact with the worm paste, 13 percent of the plastic had dissolved and degraded into ethylene glycol, the main component in antifreeze. Rather than simply shredding the plastic with their mouths, this showed that some compound in the worms’ digestive systems is actually breaking down and digesting the material. There have been attempts to degrade plastic before using fungus and bacteria, but none of these experiments have yielded results within a matter of hours. This finding could revolutionize the way that we currently manage waste. At the moment, landfills around the globe are packed with polyethylene shopping bags , which take between 100-400 years to degrade naturally. If researchers can isolate the enzyme the wax worms use to digest it, they could potentially treat the plastic in landfills with the substance to help it break down faster. Via Daily Mail Images via Pixabay and the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria
A team of researchers at UC Riverside developed a low-cost way of turning disgarded glass bottles into lithium-ion batteries that store almost four times more energy and can last much longer than conventional batteries. This could mean significantly fewer charges for laptops, cell phones and electric cars, not to mention reducing waste. The team, led by Cengiz Ozkan, professor of mechanical engineering, and Mihri Ozkan, professor of electrical engineering at UC Riverside, asked themselves whether silicon dioxide found in waste beverage bottles would be able to provide high purity silicon nanoparticles that can be subsequently used for lithium-ion batteries. The three-step process of producing the anodes starts by crushing and grounding glass bottles into fine white powder, silicon dioxide is then converted into nanostructured silicon, followed by coating the silicon nanoparticles with carbon. Related: 94-year-old inventor of lithium-ion cells develops new battery that can store 3 times more energy According to lab test, coin cell batteries that were made using the glass bottle-based silicon anodes considerably outperformed conventional batteries and demonstrated excellent electrochemical performance. The team expect these high-performance batteries to not only extend the range of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and electric vehicles, but also provide extra power with fewer charges to laptops, cell phones, and other gadgets. Photos via University of California, Riverside
Apple just announced plans to close the loop and make all of its products from recycled materials. We tend not to realize how damaging our electronics are for the environment – from mining materials to the toxic effects when we dump them . Apple starting tackling these problems last year with its recycling robot , and now the electronics giant wants to only use recycled materials in its devices. Apple recently released its latest environmental report, and in it, the company claims that it is working towards using recycled materials to create its next generation of products. This will happen, in part, by reclaiming and re-using old Apple devices. Obviously they aren’t there yet, but Apple has never been shy when setting goals. Related: Apple just unveiled a blazing fast iPhone recycling robot Apple has been steadily shifting towards renewable resources. Its data centers all run on renewable energy , and it has partnered with or built its own solar and wind farms to generate the energy it needs. The company has also been recycling old devices, which saved Apple over $40 million in gold re-use alone. Via Engadget
Sponsored: From Fitness trackers to smart socks, these innovations bring lots of promise — but also environmental challenges.
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Will wearable technology destroy advances in recycling?
This Saturday is Earth Day , and while it’s a time to celebrate our planet, it’s also a prime opportunity to take a closer look at the serious environmental issues we’re facing and the solutions that need to be put in place to alleviate them. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore the damage we’ve done to the environment, especially when the effects have been hitting so close to home . If you want to make this Earth Day an opportunity to educate yourself about the problems, read on as we break down the 7 biggest environmental threats facing our society right now and how we might be able to solve them before it’s too late. Climate Change Climate change is first and foremost an issue because people can’t even agree on whether or not it’s an issue in the first place. Before we even get into the solutions, we all (regardless of political party) need to come to the realization that yes, climate change is real and yes, it is affecting us in ways that we can see and feel. If you still believe that the freakish weather and heat waves we’ve been experiencing have nothing to do with climate change, you might want to ask your neighbor what he or she thinks because the majority of Americans say they believe global warming is causing these incidents . You might have noticed that the weather’s been hotter than usual , or you might have noticed a drought in your area or conversely, unusual storms. Furthermore, even small temperature changes are causing crops to die, decreasing the amount of food available. On top of all that, higher temps are causing the polar icecaps to melt, flooding certain areas and leading to an imbalance for wildlife. So we know the threat is real, but what can we do to prevent climate change from being exacerbated even more? Some small steps you can take in your own life are to use less electricity by turning off your lights when you don’t need them, driving less, switching to LED bulbs and eating less meat . On a more global scale, leaders have come to an agreement on how to curb the harmful greenhouse gases each nation emits into the atmosphere, and steps are being taken to plant more forests (which act as natural carbon sinks). Every bit helps, but in order for us to reverse the current course the Earth is on, the United States needs to commit to the Paris Agreement and, along with the rest of the world, work towards a greener planet. Deforestation We mentioned planting more forests above, and sadly at a time when we need more forests, trees are being uprooted at an alarming rate. Deforestation is a rapidly-growing problem in areas like Africa, Central and South America. Not only does this mean less trees, less cleansing oxygen, and the displacement of the wildlife, deforestation means a dangerous decrease in a natural fighter of global warming – the #1 threat to our Earth right now. Removing trees also leads to much drier climates, as trees extract groundwater to release into the air. Our tropical rainforests, which are crucial to stabilizing the climate and to human survival, are being chopped down at a breakneck pace – one and a half acres of rainforest are lost every second . Humans have already chopped down about 50% of the rainforests that once existed on the planet and at the current rate of destruction, we will completely destroy the rainsforests in the next 40 years . If rainforests are so important, why are they being destroyed so carelessly? Short-sighted governments and multi-national logging companies only see the forests as a way to make money by selling timber – they don’t consider the long-term effects . Luckily, deforestation is an issue that we as individuals can combat. By using recycled paper, we can decrease the need to cut down as many trees and by buying goods made with FSC-certified wood, we can show retailers that we don’t want them to support brands that obtain lumber irresponsibly. Last but not least, why not plant a tree or even a hundred trees like this man did . Pollution Pollution comes in many forms and no matter where you live, you’ve probably seen some form of it. From litter on NYC city streets to the smog that lingers over LA to the plastic trash that floats in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch , the visible signs of pollution are more than evident. The main reason for why pollution has gotten so out of control is that our desire for more “stuff” has led to our old stuff being thrown away at an alarming and unnecessary rate. For more information on this, watch Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff . This need for manufactured items also leads to the air and water pollution emitted from factories, which in many countries are highly unregulated. Looking at the bigger picture, government oversight and sloppy industrial practices on the part of big companies has also exacerbated our pollution problem. The first thing we can all do to reduce the amount of pollution in our streets, air and water is to make a mental change. Before buying a new product, ask yourself if you really need it or if you might be able to purchase it secondhand. It could make a big difference in the amount of trash we see in our landfills. Secondly, if you don’t already recycle , get into the habit. If everyone adopted these easy principles, the world would be in a much better place. Loss of Biodiversity Each species has a role in our planet, and when one dies out, it can have catastrophic effects on the rest of us. We don’t want to get all “Butterfly Effect” on you but even a population dwindling can cause major problems for the human race. For example, with their role of pollination , the decline of the bee population has a direct effect on both the environment and food production. Currently, many other animals are in danger of becoming extinct, either from being forced out of their habitats by man or by climate change. This particular problem is more difficult for individuals to combat but we can start by educating ourselves with the facts and donating to organizations like the World Wildlife Fund that facilitate the preservation of animals on the brink of extinction. This problem is also closely linked to deforestation and unchecked habitat destruction so by fighting those two issues, we can also slow down loss of biodiversity. Melting Polar Ice-Caps and Rising Sea Levels Climate change (are you seeing a trend here?) also contributes to another dangerous problem – melting polar ice-caps, which in turn causes rising sea levels. According to the NRCD , average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast they are elsewhere and the ice is melting and rupturing. NASA satellite images reveal that the area of our permanent ice cover is shrinking at a rate of 9% every decade. At that rate, the Arctic could be totally ice-free in the summer season within decades. And if all of that ice melted, where would it go? You guessed it – our oceans. You might think that rising tides are only a problem for people in a few isolated areas, but major cities like NY and London could be underwater soon if we don’t do something soon. Manhattan alone has already dreamt up ways to deal with the potential rising tides over the next few years, but coming up with solutions after the fact is not enough. In order to reverse the melting of polar icecaps, we have to start at the root of the problem. See our section above on climate change to learn what you can do personally to keep global warming from continuing on its deadly course. Oceanic Dead Zones Along the coasts of heavily populated communities, scientists have found more and more dead zones – areas where depleted oxygen levels cannot support marine life. 146 dead zones were found in the world’s oceans, caused by high levels of chemicals in the waters. North America’s Gulf Coast has a high concentration of dead zones, which causes fish to become unable to reproduce. You might think that if you live on land, you won’t be affected by oceanic dead zones but if you eat seafood, seaweed, or care about air quality, you won’t want to ignore this issue. The good news is that dead zones can be reversed, though it is difficult. The Black Sea dead zone disappeared in 1991 and 2001 due to the discontinued use of fertilizers. To find out more about how you can help with dead zone cleanups, visit Oceana.org . Explosive Population Growth It’s usually true that the more the merrier, but not when the human population is growing to a point that our society and systems can’t handle. Last year, the world population hit a whopping 7 billion , and while we welcome the newcomers with open arms, we also want to make sure that we don’t continue to put a strain on our water, food, well-being, space and sanity (yes, we’re talking about you, Tokyo subway system ). If everyone were more conscious of the fact that our limited resources need to be shared (how many times have you grabbed a fistful of paper napkins when you only needed one?), we could make living together, even with such a large amount of people) a lot more pleasant. Another example is our world food supply. Statistics show that we have enough food to feed everyone on the planet but we end up wasting so much (according to the National Resources Defense Council , Americans waste a whopping 30 to 50% of all food produced) that others go without. While we might not be able to stop the population from growing, we can educate the people who currently live here and the new ones that are being born to make smarter choices and consume more responsibly. Images from Wikimedia Commons, Shutterstock, © James Cridland , @ Kevin Crejci , and @ No Minds Vision
7 biggest threats to the environment – why we still need Earth Day
As world population increases, so does the consumption of resources as economies expand. Without arguing about whether some or all of these resources are finite, it is clear to many that to the extent we can recover material which has become waste after its initial use, the more likely we are to sustainably carry out those activities of consumption in the years to come.
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Opportunities for plastics in a circular world
Comments Off on Bipartisan group of former federal CSOs has some advice for President Trump
With the fate of federal sustainability initiatives up in the air, former advisers to Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush and Obama offer their perspective on why the new administration should build on decades of progress.
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Bipartisan group of former federal CSOs has some advice for President Trump