Orange peel packaging and walking houses: the best green innovations of the week

After a week that saw the UK raise the drawbridge and vote to leave the EU, edie rounds up the latest low-carbon technologies and innovations that could help our nation towards becoming to become a global hub for low-carbon technology and innovation.

The public has spoken and the UK will, at some point in the near future, depart the bloc. A red alert for environmental policies, maybe, but government heavyweights have flocked to London to ensure the business world that Brexit won’t halt the low-carbon movement.

The low-carbon commitment has been personified by the business sector, which has seemingly agreed to take up its end of the climate change agenda, slashing carbon emissions by 3.7 billion mtCO2e this year.

But, in order to truly drive the low-carbon movement, businesses and governments will have to turn to new business models and green technologies as they leave traditional 20th century values behind and drive towards a “carbon-free” future.

This week, edie has once again pulled the best innovation stories that could drive the low-carbon, resource efficient transition into this neat and tidy little green package.

Coffee waste becomes the new BBQ essential

Ground coffee waste as a fuel source may not be a new concept, but it is finally starting to gain the traction it deserves. Thanks to a spotlight provided by Richard Branson and Virgin’s VOOM 2016 competition – the biggest entrepreneurial competition in the UK and Ireland – coffee waste-to-energy innovator bio-bean has secured a slice of a £1m funding pot.

Named as winners of the competition’s ‘grow’ category, bio-bean now operates the world’s first coffee waste recycling factory and can power 15,000 London homes. The company caught the eye of the VOOM 2016 judging panel for its Coffee Logs concept – a carbon neutral consumer product that replaces coal and wood.

Having previously provided coffee waste biofuel to corporates, bio-beans Coffee Logs are available to the general public, to be used to power stoves and BBQs. The logs burn hotter for longer, are quicker to ignite and provide a low-cost and low-carbon sustainable fuel for the public.

Wrap your kitchen goods in orange peel

Plastic packaging seems to be growing in prominence as a truly global – and increasingly critical – issue. Whether its concerns around its inability to be recycled (even when the packaging says otherwise) or the growing phenomena of plastic in the oceans, the issue doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon.

While companies such as Coca-Cola and Heinz have opted for plant-based packaging, an innovative Israeli company has developed packaging that acts more like a fruit than a plant. Tipa Sustainable Packaging provides a new form of flexible packaging – commonly used as carrot bags and for perishables – that “acts like an orange peel” and can biodegrade in just 180 days.

The packaging is already making waves in the US and parts of the Europe such as the Netherlands. Tipa has also found a foothold in the UK with two as-yet-unnamed medium-sized enterprises.

While flexible packaging can’t be recycled, new compostable packaging will be out of your hands in 26 weeks and with the market for this concept growing at twice the speed of conventional flexible packaging other the last five years, this concept could soon make kitchen waste a thing of the past.

The hermit house that walks on water

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that climate change is cementing itself as the number one threat to mankind. With rising sea levels increasingly likely to cause a mass-movement in climate refugees, Terry & Terry Architecture has designed a floating house that accounts for turbulent seas levels by utilising mobile offshore drilling exploratory platforms to create retractable legs to move when necessary.

These hermit-like homes – created as part of a recent architecture exhibition in Italy – can float with the tides and uses solar photovoltaics to provide electricity. The design was implemented so that it could be joined up with other pods to create floating communities, with its spherical roof protecting against strong winds.

As the planet becomes more urbanised and the need for rural crop growing becomes more severe, expanding communities out into the oceans may provide a sustainable solution to both urbanisation and food production.

Solar power: hair today, invisible tomorrow

The use of solar power has become such a mainstream concept that is verging on becoming the low-hanging fruit of the renewables industry and many green businesses. But with mainstreaming comes adaptation, and solar has leant itself to new revolutionary designs including solar windows.

Now, a team of scientists from South Korea have developed solar panels that are 100 times thinner than human hair and can be wrapped around the frame of sunglasses as a new wearable form of technology.

The science surrounding the innovation involved the use of a semi-conductor and gallium arsenide – it can be explored in-depth in this journal – but the scientists believe that it could be used as the power source for smart glasses and other forms of wearable technology.

Follow the fluorescent brick road

If the world leapfrogged to LED lamps in all sectors, global electricity consumption for lighting would be reduced by more than half (52%), with 735 million tons of CO2 emissions avoided each year. This is why LED seems to be the go-to choice for office retrofits.

But what if a new technology came along that made street lighting obsolete and reduced consumption to near enough 100%? That is the potential of the phosphorescent cement from Michoacan University of San Nicolás de Hidalgo in Mexico, which could illuminate buildings and pathways without electricity.

By modifying the optical properties of raw materials found in cement to prevent the formation of crystals, the new material is able to absorb energy from radiation and solar and emit it as light for 12 hours. New research is currently underway to improve the durability of the material and find a way to repair it when it becomes damaged.

BMW’s new engine is as pretty as a portrait for your wall

BMW has become the latest automotive giant to venture into the energy storage market. While Tesla set the benchmark with the Powerwall, Nissan recently took the concept a step further with an innovative vehicle-to-grid concept.

BMW is now attempting to take this movement and add an extra element of sustainability to it, by taking old and used i3 batteries from cars and essentially hanging them on walls as repurposed energy storage systems to provide batteries that would usually be sent to the scrap heap with a new lease of life.

Revealed at last week’s Electric Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition in Montreal, BMW says it is the first automaker to use the battery size and capabilities found in cars to create an energy storage backup – Tesla’s Powerwall batteries are usually smaller than those found in Tesla vehicles.

The system can integrate with solar panels and charging stations and real-time supply/demand energy readings. BMW believes that new 33kWh packs could run home appliance devices for up to 24 hours.

Matt Mace

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