Food waste Tinder and 3D plastic décor: the best green innovations of the week
In a week that set out the next 25 years of the UK's environmental legislation, edie rounds up the low-carbon and resource-efficient innovations that could shape the future.
Theresa May has outlined a vision for a "cleaner, greener Britain", unveiling the long-awaited 25-year Environment Plan which pledges to eliminate all "avoidable" plastic waste by the end of 2042. It sounds promising on paper, but as the green economy has stated, “taking down a few straw men will only take us so far”.
Tackling plastics isn’t exclusive to the UK, however, with EU Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger revealing that the European Commission will propose taxing plastic and shifting emissions trading income to EU level, in an attempt to balance the bloc's coffers once the UK leaves the EU.
While nations are focused on reducing the amount of waste plastic, businesses are using a multifaceted approach to sustainability. While some sectors are reducing emissions through electric vehicles, others are launching new methods to recycle gold and promote resource efficiency.
But PwC has warned that up to two-fifths of businesses are still failing to engage meaningfully with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Clearly, work still needs to be done, with that in mind, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories of the week into this neat and tidy little green package.
C’est la vie
The UK Government recently announced a 25-year plan to eliminate plastic waste, but it appears solutions are already on the horizon. Ecological heating and water solutions provider Solable has launched a €30,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for an innovation that reduces the need to purchase more water bottles.
Solable’s LaVie technology can transform tap water into pure mineral water without needing to add a filter or other products. It works by filling a glass bottle with water and placing it in a bamboo case. UVA lighting then removes harmful bacteria, chlorine, pesticides and chemicals to create high quality drinking water from any tap source.
The technology has a lifespan of 10 years and provides users with access to purified water on the go, cutting down the amount of bottle purchases they would otherwise make. Funds from the Kickstarter campaign will support commercialisation and for every LaVie unit purchased, Solable will donate a system to an NGO.
BlackBerry’s bounce back
BlackBerry has been outgunned, outpaced and out outmanoeuvred by the surge in smartphone technology, but the company is set to strengthen its market presence by targeting autonomous technology.
The tech firm has partnered with Chinese internet specialists Baidu to help develop self-driving technology. Autonomous driving is a growing trend in the transport sector (be sure to check out edie’s CES innovation round-up next week) and BlackBerry wants to use its QNX software to create the “Android” of the self-driving industry.
Companies such as Qualcomm, Aptiv and Denso have all partnered on the QNX software, which is expected to commercialise and create revenue by 2019. QNX will operate Baidu’s Apollo system, which has already been joined by Ford and Hyundai. BlackBerry’s software will enable cars to manage numerous safety systems autonomously.
When thinking of sustainability in the automotive sector, electric vehicles are the first thing to spring to mind. Ford, however, is combining its ongoing electrification process with a focus on sustainable materials for its interior.
The automotive giant has developed a “Honeycomb shelf” for the boots of new EcoSport SUVs that are designed to conceal valuable items using lightweight material that benefits the vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Unsurprisingly, the Honeycomb shelf takes inspiration from the designs of beehives.
Engineers created the shelf by sandwiching a layer of honeycomb-like cells made from recycled paper and water-based glues between two layers of fibreglass. The shelf, which is designed to act as a concealed boot compartment, can support loads of more than 300kg, despite weighing less than 3kg – hence the fuel efficiency savings.
Plastic or plaster?
Bottletop is a self-proclaimed sustainable luxury brand, and its new London showcase facility looks set to back that claim up. The new London store looks set to open on Regent Street and has been fitted with a 3D-printed interior made almost entirely from recycled plastic bottles.
Bottletop worked with Krause Architects and Ai Build to create the 3D-printed interior. It uses robotic printers to create and place sections of the design, layering it with a filament made from plastic bottles. Flooring is also made from recycled rubber tires, while thousands of metal cans have been used to create a canopy.
The company is working with ReFlow to make the filaments, by collecting plastic waste from the streets of Delhi. ReFlow then reinvests a portion of any profit into local manufacturing facilities. The aim is to help 40 million global waste collectors who earn less than £2 daily to create a thriving 3D printing sector.
Anyone who watched the Martian will have a vague grasp of the great effort it takes to grow crops in space. However, NASA has already trialled this initiative, with the aim being to create an unlimited food supply for astronauts during expeditions.
In the modern day, researchers at the John Innes Centre in Norwich are now mimicking these efforts to create crops that can cope with droughts, sever heat, rainfall and other extreme weather conditions generated by climate change.
The experiment works by boosting photosynthesis by exposing crops to LED lights for up to 22 hours a day. The researchers achieved up to six generations of crop in a single year for different types of wheat, barley, peas and rapeseed. The main, and persistent, stumbling block is the heavy costs of the project, which are stopping it from being scaled up.
App-etite for waste
Around one-third of all food produced globally is waste, in the UK this translates to around £700 of wasted food per family annually. Various supermarkets have signed voluntary commitments to tackle the issue, but now some are partnering with social apps to help drive change further.
The Independent has provided some much-needed, mainstream coverage for an app called OLIO, designed for community use, which helps users pass on unwanted food to neighbours and local families. The app mainly deals in leftover meals, vegetables and canned foods.
The makers of OLIO are now working with the likes of Pret A Manger and Sainsbury’s to relocate surplus and unsellable goods to nearby communities. More than 322,000 users - many belonging to low-income families - are registered on the app, and more than 400,000 food transactions have taken place since its inception in 2016. While no means a new innovation, its refreshing to see the likes of the Independent and Reuters reporting on its momentum.