5 Amazing Planet-Saving Technologies

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A few years back, biologist, surfer and entrepreneur Kevin Kumala was disgusted by the amount of plastic waste threatening the pristine island of Bali.

He resolved to create a better, completely biodegradable plastic.

Toward a Plastic-Free Environment

Inspired by the use of corn and soy starch in creating bioplastics, Kumala focused on using cassava, an inexpensive root vegetable commonly found in Indosesia.

The resulting “100% bio-based” material is biodegradable and compostable. It breaks down over a period of months on land or sea. But it also decomposes instantly in hot water.

To prove that his bioplastic leaves no trace of toxic residue, he periodically dissolves the material and drinks it.

“I wanted to show this bioplastic would be so harmless to sea animals that a human could drink it,” Kumala says. “I wasn’t nervous because it passed an oral toxicity test.”

His bioplastics firm, Avani Eco, now produces more than four tons of material a day, and is working with the Bali government toward creating a plastic-free environment for the entire island.

Skimming Trash

A New Delhi company has developed a system for skimming trash from the Ganges River. Cleantec Infra operates debris-skimming boats to collect floating plastic bags and bottles, discarded idols, and construction waste from India’s holiest (and filthiest) river.

Gates on each side of the boat’s collection head guide material toward a conveyor, and then close to trap the material. The conveyor then transfers the waste to a storage area on the boat. From there, an unloading conveyor transfers the waste to a dump truck.

The skimmer can collect 20 tons of trash in about four hours.

Floating Garbage Cans

And speaking of cleaning up waterways, one Australia-based initiative has resulted in the development of an automated floating garbage can with a pump. Dubbed the “Seabin,  this device is being placed at marinas and other calm bodies of water that are often littered with trash.

Here’s how it works: Water is sucked in from the surface and passes through a catch bag inside the Seabin. A submersible water pump, capable of displacing more than 6,500 gallons per hour is plugged directly into a standard 110/220 V outlet. (Although the company is also working on a solar-powered design.)

The water is then pumped back into the marina, leaving the litter and debris trapped in the bag.

Each Seabin holds about 45 lbs of debris, almost all of which is recycled. And the Seabin filter can catch microplastics as small as 2mm in size. There’s also a pad at the bottom to soak up oil.

The Seabin Project has really taken off in Europe, particularly at luxury marinas.  To date, the company has received orders from about 70 countries.

Building Blocks

U.S.-based startup ByFusion has responded to the plastic pollution crisis with a technology that permanently recycles waste plastic into durable construction blocks. The process is the brainchild of New Zealand-based inventor Peter Lewis, one of the company’s principal engineers.

His method uses a modular platform that compresses plastic debris into blocks of various shapes and densities, based on custom settings. The resulting plastic building materials are called ByBlocks (formerly known as RePlast). And the machine used to create them is called the Blocker. The Blocker is portable, designed to run on either gas or electricity, and uses all types of plastics. That’s right — no washing or sorting required.

ByFusion’s system is touted as a “nearly 100 percent carbon-neutral, non-toxic manufacturing process,” The Blocker uses no glue or adhesives, and the resulting ByBlocks produce 95 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions than traditional concrete blocks.

ByFusion’s vision is to “leverage technology, business and common sense” in order to utilize all of the planet’s used plastic.

Sustainable Chargers

How about using a sustainable resource to charge your electronic devices?

PocketPower is an ultra-portable solar charger, which can be folded and easily fit into your pocket. When folded it’s about the size of a standard Iphone. This waterproof charger is ideal for camping, travelling, hiking and emergency preparation.

And so is the WindPal, a portable vertical axis wind turbine, lets you recharge your devices when you’re off the grid.

This lightweight turbine is made from nylon fabric and aluminum, and delivers a slow, steady charge for any electronic device. The WindPal can generate a charge in as little as 8-mph winds, and reaches maximum output around 20 mph.



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