Green, sustainable materials -- some made out of shrimp shells, silk, and plant trash -- are being used for consumer packaging, shipping, and plastic bag replacements.
In fact, those are the largest applications for bioplastics, which are usually created in a process chain from ethanol to polymer that closely parallels the process for creating their petrochemical equivalents. Today durable-grade bioplastics are blended with petro-based plastics and incorporated into PCs. Engineering-grade bioplastics are being used in extreme, under-hood automotive applications.
Click the image below to start a slideshow highlighting the innovative ways green materials are being used:
Recycled plastic bottles and other waste plastic destined for landfills can be transformed into weight-bearing structural materials for heavy-load bridges, such as this one in Scotland,
shown supporting heavy equipment during its construction. (Source: Axion International)
jimiller, I'm with you on that thought. The Europeans are way ahead of us in several green tech departments, and much of the related research has been funded by governments, in partnership with commercial entities and universities.
And in the case of something that will benefit all of us in the long run, occasionally the government needs to step in and provide the initial motivation to begin looking at a technology. Green in this case. But as compaies embrace the idea and continue to develop the technology, within a few years, hopefully, the technology will in fact be a more efficient way to make profits in a way that doesn't hurt the environment.
Rob, we are ahead on recycling out here, as well as on energy savings via methods like turning down the thermostat and going solar. We should be, but probably aren't, on water conservation, considering that most of the state is considered part of the dry Great Basin geographic area.
That's interesting that recycling has made a big enough difference that the waste folks have noted the change. It's picking up here, but it still looks like only about a third of my neighbors are putting much out on the street. You folks in California are way ahead on this.
I ask because a couple years ago our garbage company gave a lower tier price option, not for fewer garbage pickups, but smaller garbage containers, since so many people were recycling so much that the regular can size was too big. Of course, they go the other way--you can pay an extra fee for an extra pickup--but not down. I wish they would also size down price according to pickup frequency.
Rob, that sounds like my garbage company's schedule. My question is, can you pay a lower fee for fewer pickups than once a week? For example, if you only set out garbage twice a month for pickup instead of every week, do they have a lower price tier for that?
Well, I'm on a neighborhood street. The trash just come by once a week (two different trucks) for both at-the-curb recycling pickup as well as the trash for the landfill. I have recycling every week, even if I don't have landfill trash.
The willingness of consumers to pay a bit more for at least some green alternatives is increasing, while the price differentials come down. As I've pointed out several places, the Freedonia Group analyst I interviewed for an upcoming March feature feature made it clear that, at least for bioplastics, consumer demand for sustainable solutions is what's driving innovation. It's consumers who are willing to pay a price premium for ecological plastic bag replacements or EVs, for instance, not aerospace engineers who care if their aircraft components are made of green materials. So lumping everything together in a single discussion is somewhat misleading.
If I composted, we'd probably have our household waste down as far as yours, Rob. My excuse is living in the redwoods--no vegetable gardens here. The question is, will your garbage company pick up only once a month and give you a lower rate? Ours doesn't. I bet none of them do. They need to get with the program and start offering another rate structure level for reduced waste households like yours.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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