Shellworks upcycles leftover lobster shells into biodegradable bioplastics

March 15, 2019 by  
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Four design students from The Royal College of Art and Imperial College have created a biodegradable and recyclable bioplastic using an unusual material — lobster shell waste. In an initiative dubbed Shellworks , the team — Ed Jones, Insiya Jafferjee, Amir Afshar and Andrew Edwards — has developed new manufacturing machines to produce what they believe is a sustainable replacement for single-use plastics. The malleable bioplastic is extremely versatile and can be adjusted in thickness, transparency, flexibility and stiffness to create a variety of biodegradable objects. The critical ingredient in the Shellworks’ bioplastic is chitlin, the world’s second most abundant biopolymer naturally found in the exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. Rather than purchase chitlin, an expensive material on its own, the team opted to built a custom small-scale extractor as well as three custom manufacturing machines — the Dippy, a heated dip molder to create 3D forms; the Vaccy, a steam-heated vacuum former for making molded packaging; and the Sheety, a sheet-forming device for creating controlled flat sheets — that each take advantage of a specific material property for different applications. Prototypes have ranged from antibacterial blister packaging to self-fertilizing plant pots. Since the beginning, product recyclability has stayed at the forefront of Shellworks’ design objectives. Thus, the team steered clear of additives during experimentation and discovered that they could manipulate the bioplastic’s properties by adjusting the ratios of the base ingredients. The highly versatile and recyclable material can be easily turned from a solid back to the original bioplastic solution or used as a natural, non-polluting fertilizer at the end of its lifecycle. Related: Reebok develops plant-based sneakers made of cotton and corn The Shellworks team said, “By designing scalable manufacturing processes, applications tailored to the material and eco-positive waste streams, we believe we can demonstrate how chitosan bioplastic could become a viable alternative for many of the plastic products we use today.” + Shellworks Images via Shellworks

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Shellworks upcycles leftover lobster shells into biodegradable bioplastics

Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

January 23, 2019 by  
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The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW), a group of 28 companies that produce plastics and consumer goods, announced last week that it has pledged to spend $1.5 billion over the next five years to reduce plastic waste. Global companies like  Exxon Mobil , Dow DuPont, Procter & Gamble, Royal Dutch Shell and BASF are all part of the AEPW. The investment will go toward building waste collection infrastructure in Asia and Africa, designing waste-management systems in cities close to rivers that transport waste to the ocean, educating governments, cleaning up highly-polluted areas and funding startups that are developing technologies to prevent plastic waste. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic As the plastic waste problem continues to grow, 8 million tons are now ending up in the oceans every year, and this is resulting in bans on some single-use plastic products. According to the AEPW, 90 percent of global ocean pollution comes from only 10 rivers. More than half of the “land-based plastic litter” that leaks into oceans comes from five Asian countries: China , Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. A spokesperson for the AEPW said that none of China’s major plastics and chemical groups are part of the alliance, but the team is hoping to change that. While most of the alliance members are plastic makers, there are two that make consumer goods: Procter & Gamble and Henkel. More are expected to join the group in the near future. Kraft Heinz, Nestle and Unilever have already made individual pledges to transition their packaging into materials that are recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. Related: Nestle ditching plastic straws, water bottles to reduce plastic waste In an October report, IHS Markit, a London-based information provider, said that 59 percent of global plastic waste comes from single-use plastic packaging. “While there is no single answer to the issue of plastic waste in the environment, we are collaborating to promote infrastructure, education and engagement, innovation and clean-up efforts to keep plastic waste in the right place,” said the AEPW website . + AEPW Via Reuters Image via Monica Volpin

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Companies pledge $1.5 billion to reduce plastic waste

Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic

December 24, 2018 by  
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In recent years, it has become more and more clear that single-use plastics are having a devastating impact on the environment  — especially on the oceans. And, if we don’t start making some changes now, it won’t be long before there is more plastic in the ocean than fish. The solution to this growing problem is relatively simple — reduce the use of single-use plastics. But, the execution of this simple idea can be a bit more challenging. If you want to make 2019 the year that you quit using single-use plastics, here is how to go about it. Food and beverages The easiest and most obvious place to start is food. Stop and think for a minute how many single-use plastics are in your refrigerator and pantry right now. Chances are you have a tub of butter, a bottle of salad dressing or a package of sliced cheese. Or maybe you have a bag of apples that you picked from the produce section at the grocery store. The truth is, the vast majority of grocery items come wrapped in single-use plastic, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options. There are local grocers and farmer’s markets that allow you to fill reusable containers with dry goods, and you can bring reusable bags to just about any store and load them up with fruits and veggies instead of using the plastic bags they provide. Related: European parliament supports the ban of single-use plastics Also, look for items that are packaged in paper, glass or cardboard instead of plastic. You won’t be able to do this with every food item — we haven’t seen any milk in glass bottles lately. But, often, you can find the things that you normally buy in sustainable packaging . Now, let’s talk about beverages. This is a big one. How many to-go beverages do you buy in one week? From bottled water to iced coffees, millions of single-use plastic containers are tossed in the trash every single day because of what we drink. Many coffee shops will allow you to bring in your own reusable tumbler. And, instead of buying that next bottle of water, opt for a reusable bottle that you can fill up with filtered water at home. Household items When it comes to things around your house like soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, cosmetics, razors and toothbrushes, they all come in single-use plastic containers. Consider making your own soap, shampoo and laundry detergent, and replacing your plastic toothbrush with a bamboo , compostable option. Some cosmetics brands have a refill program, and razor refill companies are everywhere at the moment. The benefits of change When you start making a deliberate attempt to cut down single-use plastics, you will notice some big changes in your life. The biggest change will be that you will eat fewer amounts of processed food. More than half of the average American’s daily diet comes from processed foods, and a lot of that is in single-use plastic packaging. Not only will making this change reduce your use of plastic , but it will also result in a healthier diet. You will also find yourself saving some money. When you make your own soap and detergent and cut down on buying bottled water, you will end up saving cash in the long run.  Many coffee shops will give you a discount when you use a reusable mug, and making food from fresh ingredients instead of ordering takeout will be much easier on your pocketbook. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world  You will also become more organized because avoiding single-use plastic requires a plan. Adopting this lifestyle is not convenient, but when you make your own lunch for work instead of hitting a drive-thru or take a reusable bottle with you when you travel, you have to think ahead. Another bonus to cutting out single-use plastic is shopping locally. Hitting up local businesses, farmer’s markets and vintage shops will lead you to get to know the people that make the products you use, instead of buying packaged items that come from all over the world. You might consider growing your own produce in a veggie garden and experiment with fruits and veggies that are in season. Because you are focused on fresh food that isn’t wrapped in plastic, this new approach will make you more aware of the seasons and help you embrace the slow-food movement. Reducing your use of single-use plastic items takes a plan, and it takes time. It is not a convenient lifestyle, but a rewarding one. Not only will you have a new understanding of the work and resources that go into growing and harvesting your food and making the products you use everyday, but you will also reduce your waste . Via Matador Network Images via Shutterstock

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Natural Habitat Adventures launches world’s first zero-waste vacations

September 11, 2018 by  
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In a travel-industry first, Natural Habitat Adventures is spearheading a zero-waste vacation package. The groundbreaking trip will take place in summer 2019, when 14 travelers will visit Yellowstone National Park from July 6-12. The Safari America: Yellowstone Country adventurers will explore the sustainable travel industry as well as refusing, recycling, composting , upcycling and reusing at least 99 percent of all waste produced during the trip. Natural Habitat Adventures hopes to avoid landfill contributions or incineration, fitting all waste into a single small container by the trip’s end. Founder and president of Natural Habitat Adventures Ben Bressler said, “One way we’re dedicated to protecting the planet is to inspire the travel industry to become more sustainable,” of the initiative that is more about setting a new standard for travel than anything else. “Our goal is to continually raise the bar on conservation, and our first zero-waste adventure will show that it’s possible to reduce our environmental impact while providing an exceptional experience for our guests,” he continued. Related: 100% solar-powered Fiji resort combines 5-star luxury with sustainability Trip leaders have already devised plans to mitigate waste , including providing travelers with a zero-waste toolkit containing reusable items such as water bottles, mugs, cutlery and totes as well as digitizing all pre-trip forms and vacation itineraries. Travelers are encouraged to refuse potential waste items such as single-use straws or individually packaged condiments. The vehicles, lodges and camps throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will be stocked with bulk foods that will be transported as individual meals in reusable containers. Napkins and biodegradable foods will be composted by the team, while hard-to-recycle materials will be sent to TerraCycle , a world-leading company that specializes in recycling difficult outputs. There is no better company in achieving this mission than Natural Habitat Adventures, which just celebrated 10 years of being 100 percent carbon neutral — in 2007, the ecotourism pioneer became the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company. Its  carbon offset program has thwarted more than 34.5 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions generated through the company’s global nature adventures. The company hopes to inspire and educate its guests to make an impact beyond the trips. For Natural Habitat Adventures, showing people how to make conscious decisions about daily waste production at home and at the office is a cornerstone of the trips. + Natural Habitat Adventures Images via Collective Retreats & Natural Habitat Adventures

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Natural Habitat Adventures launches world’s first zero-waste vacations

Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution

August 13, 2018 by  
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Many countries are fighting plastic pollution by enforcing harsher regulations such as special labels and plastic taxes, but the island nation of Dominica is now leading the pack by announcing that it will ban plastic foam and common plastics by 2019. With less than five months left to go, the heroic stand involves the elimination of single-use items such as plastic straws, plates, forks and knives as well as plastic foam cups and containers. “Dominica prides itself as the ‘Nature Isle,’” Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said in his July 2018  budget address . “We must in every way deserve and reflect that designation. The issue of solid waste management affects that perception and we continue to grapple with it.” His hopes are to inspire not just a more environmentally prominent Dominica through successful sustainability measures , but to also create the world’s first-ever climate-resilient nation. Related: Shocking Caribbean photos reveal a “sea of plastic and Styrofoam” This undertaking to fight plastic pollution and become climate-resilient complements the country’s aim to better protect itself from natural disasters. In September 2017, Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, which is still grappling with the humanitarian and economic effects of the disaster. “Extreme weather events are now more frequent and intense, brought on by climate change impacts that are real, visible, devastating and unrelenting,” Skerrit said. “We must rebuild and reset our society and economy and protect our environment in order to achieve a new, more resilient Dominica.” Dominica follows in the footsteps of countries such as the U.K., New Zealand and Australia, which have seen a significant reduction in plastic pollution after taking measures against single-use plastic bags. Major companies such as Starbucks and Disney have also gained traction in their battles against plastic straws. Dominica will be the first nation to launch such a strict initiative against the major pollutants of plastic and plastic foam, and hopefully many countries will look to the nation’s progress when adopting their own action plans. + Dominica Via CNN Image via JD Lasica

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Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution

India plans to eliminate single-use plastic by 2022

June 6, 2018 by  
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Big news from India : the country aims to abolish single-use plastic in about four years. Prime minister Narendra Modi announced the goal on World Environment Day , and The Guardian said it’s the most ambitious commitment out of the actions to combat plastic pollution happening in 60 nations. The move could dramatically reduce the flow of plastic from 1.3 billion people. India is resisting plastic pollution with what United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim called a phenomenal commitment. The country’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Harsh Vardhan said single-use plastics will be banned in all of the country’s states by 2022. Solheim said the move would inspire the planet and “ignite real change.” Related: Kenya introduces world’s harshest law on plastic bags “It is the duty of each one of us to ensure that the quest for material prosperity does not compromise our environment ,” Modi said. “The choices that we make today will define our collective future. The choices may not be easy. But through awareness, technology and a genuine global partnership, I am sure we can make the right choices. Let us all join together to beat plastic pollution and make this planet a better place to live.” UN Environment released  a report providing “the first comprehensive global assessment of government action against plastic pollution,” including case studies from over 60 countries. The report included a list of states and cities in India that have banned plastic bags or disposable plastic products, and the selected case study in the country highlighted beach cleanup efforts in Mumbai; Inhabitat covered the initiative started by local lawyer Afroz Shah earlier this year. Volunteers have cleaned up around 13,000 tons of trash, largely plastics , according to the case study, and this year people spotted Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings on the beach for the first time in more than 20 years. + United Nations Environment Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Juggadery/Flickr

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Volkswagen says it will stop all animal testing

June 6, 2018 by  
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German automaker Volkswagen came under fire earlier this year for funding an experiment subjecting macaque monkeys to diesel fumes — tests PETA  described as cruel and outrageous. But PETA has also  just announced a victory : CEO Herbert Diess told PETA Germany the company would “never again use animals in testing unless required to do so by law.” In January, the New York Times reported  on a study involving 10 macaque monkeys at the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the experiment, equipment pulled exhaust from tailpipes of a Volkswagen Beetle and a 1999 Ford pickup. The gas was diluted and sent into airtight chambers where the monkeys were kept. The laboratory played cartoons for the monkeys as they sat for four hours breathing fumes. The Beetle used, provided by Volkswagen, had been rigged to generate pollution levels less harmful in a laboratory than on a street. Related: Volkswagen to pay $4.3 billion to US following emissions scandal The European Research Group on Environment and Health in the Transport Sector (EUGT), funded by Volkswagen , BMW, and Daimler, commissioned the Albuquerque experiment. The group shut down in 2017 during controversy about its work. EUGT wanted the Albuquerque experiment to challenge a World Health Organization finding that classified diesel exhaust as a carcinogen. EcoWatch said a new Netflix series called Dirty Money, from which the above YouTube video was taken, also documented diesel emissions tests on monkeys. PETA said due to biological and genetic differences between monkeys and humans, “the results of experiments on them are useless in predicting human responses to things like inhaling diesel exhaust.” They also said LRRI has a history of abusing and neglecting animals. Diess told PETA Germany that Volkswagen will update their code of conduct later in 2018 with the ban on animal testing. PETA credited the victory to communications with company executives, protests at Volkswagen headquarters, and emails sent to the car company. They said over 160,000 people in the United States alone took action. + PETA Via EcoWatch and The New York Times Image via Depositphotos

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Soil Algae aims to improve soil quality through algae cultures

June 6, 2018 by  
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Algae : it’s not just for bodies of water anymore. Algae Research and Supply , a company based in Carlsbad, California that historically provides algae products for educational purposes, aims to bring its algae cultures to farmers across the world through a line of products called Soil Algae , so that farms may improve the health of their soil and boost production. In addition to offering its own algae cultures, Soil Algae also offers products that will allow farmers to cultivate the indigenous varieties of algae found in their fields. “Twenty percent of the microbial biomass in natural, healthy soil is algae, but many farmers only monitor and maintain bacteria and fungi.” said Matthew Huber, Chief Scientist at Algae Research and Supply, in a statement. “We want to bring Soil Algae to the public consciousness.” The company is now running a Kickstarter campaign to do just that. Algae Research and Supply originally became intrigued by algae’s agricultural potential when farmers continued to buy algae cultures from them. Upon digging into research, the company concluded that algae’s benefits for agricultural production should be more widely promoted, particularly as the world faces a crisis of growing populations and degrading soils. Some of the benefits of adding algae directly into irrigation lines include increased water retention through algae-produced polysaccharide, reduced erosion through its cementing effect in soil , more aerated soil, and a reduction of nutrient runoff through a process known as luxary uptake, which also decreases algal bloom in bodies of water. Related: Light-manipulating algae could boost solar power technology Soil Algae, specifically through bluegreen algae or cyanobacteria, is also capable of pulling nitrogen from the air and converting it into usable nitrogen within the soil. The added algae increases soil biodiversity, organic biomass, and the total humus found in soil, all good things for farmers keen to produce in healthy soils. “Algae in our soil has long been neglected but it is nevertheless important for soil ecology . We intend to correct that gap in knowledge,” said Huber. Via Soil Algae Images courtesy of Algae Research and Supply

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Soil Algae aims to improve soil quality through algae cultures

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