Frugal Cartons and wooden wind turbines: the best green innovations of the week

In a week of warnings for the UK green economy, edie rounds up the low-carbon and resource-efficient innovations that could shape the future.

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

Sustainability is all about future-proofing, and this week provided a timely reminder that progress can always be quicker. WWF warned that an overseas area the size of Greece would be needed by the UK to produce key imported consumer products including cocoa, palm oil, pulp and paper. Fortunately, 23 global firms have pledged to tackle soy-driven deforestation in Cerrado.

In the UK, the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) warned that “outdated" policy on onshore wind could cost the UK around £1bn over the next four or five years. A major government-backed study also found that the costs of energy for UK businesses are higher than necessary and policymakers must streamline clean energy regulations.

Even climate change minister Claire Perry is convening a taskforce next month to deliver carbon capture and storage plants more cost effectively, following a “deadlock” of progress against policy.

Finally, emissions targets from large corporates are only one-third of the way to bringing the private sector on a trajectory to keep global warming below 2C, highlighting the need for more science-based targets, new analysis from CDP found.

Evidently there is still much more work 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.

Carton network

In the UK, approximately two billion cartons are purchased each year. Conventional cartons consist of a laminate of several layers of plastic, which is tightly bonded to cardboard. This means that they have to be sent to the only specialist facility in the UK that can treat them, operated by ACE Sonoco.

Less than 10% of cartons are recycled at the ACE plant every year. In response, the creators of the first recyclable coffee cup, Frugalpac, has launched a solution to this issue, the Frugal Carton. Launching in 2018, the carton can be processed at any paper recycling facility in the UK.

The Frugal Carton contains layers that aren’t bonded together. The outer shell is made from 100% paperboard and a foil bag sits inside as a waterproof layer. The bag can be separated by the consumer by tearing off the top, and separating the carton and the foil.

Cool it on the water use

The California drought served as a reminder on our dependence on water, but also the scarcity of water. More than 5,000 Californians lost access to running water during the drought, and the state mandated a 25% cut in water use.

Now, a new study from the Climate Readiness Institute claims that an innovative solution could reduce energy and conserve water across state-sized areas. Cool roofs range from white-painted roofs to shingle tiles and use reflective materials to limit the heat absorption of a building.

The study, which used satellite climate data for 18 counties in California, notes that cool roofs could keep buildings cool, reduce energy use and reduce ambient temperatures around California. These solutions are applicable to businesses and residents alike, the study said, and could save around 15 gallons of water per person per day.

Dog days are over

Last week, the innovation round-up showcased how one start-up was training crows to collect litter. In a similar fashion, Turkish company Pugedon has been using waste management since 2014 to help with Instanbul’s rising number of stray dogs.

Approximately 150,000 stray dogs wander the streets of Istanbul, and Pugedon’s Smart Recycling Boxes can simultaneously feed the dogs and recycle plastic. The box dispenses food every time a person places a plastic bottle in it for recycling.

Plastic waste is put in the top of the box, and food is dispensed at the bottom for the animals. A water dish is also attached so that those who are recycling bottles can pour any leftover water for the dogs to drink before recycling. The money made by selling the plastic for recycling is meant to cover the cost of the food for the dogs.

A forest near the ocean

The costs of wind energy are tumbling at a record rate. Now, a Swedish start-up looks set to reduce the cost of a turbine by 30% - by using a wood-based “natural carbon fibre” to replace concrete in the masts of giant wind turbines.

Modvion, a Swedish firm backed by the country’s Energy Agency is using glulam, a plywood product that can outperform the strength of steel, as a wooden tower for wind turbines. The new towers are modular and can be taken apart and transported, before being assembled onsite.

According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), towers account for 12% of the cost for an onshore wind turbine and 7% for offshore systems. Modvion is aiming to tailor its product for bigger turbines as well. A 30m tower should be finalised by spring 2019 and a 150m tower is also being targeted.

Arabian sites

Saudi Arabia has announced plans to build the world’s first independent economic zone, an area 33 times the size of New York that will powered entirely by renewable energy. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has named the city NEOM and it will cost around £337bn to build.

Funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and numerous international investors, the city should have its first phase, spanning three countries near the Red Sea, completed by 2025. According to those involved in the project, the city is targeting the highest GDP per capital in the world.

Saudi Arabia is now targeting and communicating with investors, scientists and innovators to develop, trial and rollout uncovered technologies that will enable NEOM to champion food production, energy and biotechnology among other factors.

Swiss army rooftop

The World Green Building Council has called for all buildings to be “net-zero carbon” by 2050. As part of the quest to develop buildings that can produce more energy than it consumes, researchers in Switzerland have created an ultra-lightweight concrete roof capable of generating energy.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) have unveiled a self-supporting concrete roof that is fitted with cooling and heating coils, insulation and a thin solar film capable of generating energy.

The roof is made up from multiple layers and the average thickness of the concrete is around two inches, while the support surface reached 4.7 inches. The edges of the prototype were just one inch thick. As the roof uses a lot less material than conventional roofs, it has a lower embodied carbon footprint. The first commercial version will be fitted in 2018.

Matt Mace


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