Crab-shell 'plastics' and Seabins: the best green innovations of the week

In a week where the UK set out its policies to meet future carbon budgets, edie rounds up the low-carbon and resource-efficient innovations that could emerge to help the ambition.

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package

It’s here, it’s finally here. After around a year of delays, the UK’s Clean Growth Strategy was finally launched on Thursday (12 October). The plan places a big emphasis on low-carbon innovation, which will be backed by more than £2.5bn through to 2021.

While some members of the green economy are yet to be convinced by the strategy, it is still a welcome sign of ambition, and one which will ideally be replicated in the private sector. Although recent announcements suggest this shouldn’t be a problem.

A new CDP report has highlighted an eight-fold increase in the number of large multinationals factoring an internal carbon price into business strategies over the past four years, while IKEA revealed that it now owns more wind turbines than stores.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has teamed up with the University of Reading to hand out micro-chipped refillable drinks bottles to students, and Renault will launch a smart phone app that enables electric vehicle (EV) owners to map charging times to benefit from renewable energy.

Elsewhere, Marks & Spencer (M&S) launched a new menswear wool blend suit made with 55% recycled wool, which includes materials donated in-store by its customers. But even in a week full of business innovations, there is always space for more. With that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.

Tide and seeking new energy forms

Wave power can contribute to 10% of global electricity demand by 2050 if governments and the private sector offer financial support and political stability, and innovators are already launching methods to capture the benefits of this relatively unexplored area.

Marine Power Systems (MPS) unveiled its quarter-scale, prototype WaveSub wave energy generator today (13 October). The system can capture wave energy around 10km from shore by using the orbiting motion of waves to drive a power-take-off system (PTO). In a similar fashion to offshore wind, generated power is transferred via an undersea cable.

At full-scale, MPS claims the device will be 100 metres long with a capacity of 5MW. The energy generated from the full-scale version could power approximately 5,000 homes. Created and assembled in Wales, the device will test the viability of wave energy at a commercial level.

Suck it and sea

If harnessing the energy in our water is an opportunity, then cleaning the water is a necessity. Land Rover (BAR) is a team dedicated to sustainability, as showcased by their latest solar announcement, and they’ve now agreed to oversee a new trial that will improve the water quality at near their base at Portsmouth Harbour.

Land Rover BAR will watch over Seabin, a device that uses natural fibre bags and an automated pump to suck up pollutants in the water and funnel out clean water. Oil can even be included as part of the waste collection, and the system can collect 1.5kg of waste daily.

Over the course of the year, a single Seabin bag can collect 20,000 plastic bottles or more than 80,000 plastic bags. It was originally unveiled in 2015, but has only just reached a crowdsourcing target of $250,000. Similar trials will be conducted at Port Adriano in Spain and the Port of Helsinki in Finland.

Lush (second) life

Two weeks ago, our innovation round-up highlighted Colourform, a renewable, recyclable and coloured moulded fibre packaging product made from 100% natural wood fibres from managed forests and recycled content by James Cropper.

Now, the technology is being used by Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, as part of an in-store sustainable packaging range and a commitment to use materials that are reusable, recyclable or compostable.

New packaging for Lush’s solid bath oils will be made using Colourform materials and uses 100% coffee cup fibre made by James Cropper. The packaging went on sale in the UK in September, and a global rollout is set to follow. The material is fully recyclable with household paper and naturally biodegrades.

Post carbon, in fashion

As part of the 2017 Kering Award for Sustainable Fashion, owned brands Gucci and Stella McCartney set London College of Fashion students a challenge to embed sustainability into new fashion innovations (be sure to check out edie’s interview with Kering on innovation next week).

One of the winners of this year’s award was Dianjen Lin for her “Regenerative Sustainability Activism” project. The project aims to make sustainability an easy feature for consumers and Lin researched how post-carbon material – material that absorbs CO2 – could be used in production.

Lin, who has now received an apprenticeship at Stella McCartney, is still in the preliminary phases of the project, but has mimicked algae characteristics with fibres. So far, a Post-Carbon T-shirt can produce 4% more oxygen generated by a tree.

The seaweed we need

The UK Government may have allocated £557 million available for "less established" renewables projects, but it is unlikely that much of the funding will be set aside for seaweed. But “across the pond” so to speak, seaweed is getting funding all to itself.

The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) initiative has set aside around $1.5m for research projects in Hawaii to establish large-scale seaweed farms to cultivate new biofuels.

The overall aim to create fuels to power nearby homes and vehicles, and almost $1m went to the Makai Ocean Engineering of Honolulu to build simulators and designs for offshore seaweed farms. Elsewhere, $500,000 went to Kampachi Farms of Kailua-Kona to trial new harvesting methods for seaweed grown on the farms, an offshore farm will also be established there.

A wise crab once said, the human world is a mess

There could be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, but what if another ocean dweller could actually reduce our reliance on plastic. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University’s College of Agricultural Services have filed for a patent of a new coating made from the exoskeletons of crabs.

Backed by funding from the US Department of Agriculture, the researchers have created coatings from numerous crustacean exoskeletons and shells. The process combines carboxymethyl cellulose pulp from cotton or wood and blends it with chitosan from the shells.

The process creates a durable coating which has since been trialled on Southern Champion Tray paperboards and while performance was similar to the properties of plastic, the material is not yet entirely waterproof.

Matt Mace


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