An article provided by By Aldous Hicks, CEO and Co-founder of ReCircle Recycling Ltd
We are constantly reading stories in the news about problems with our carbon footprint, the depletion of resources and fears for the destruction of the planet. What can we do about this? How can technology help us?
Ideally, we’ll move to circular or ‘closed-loop’ economy, where the minimum amount of new materials is needed to make new products and existing products are reused and recycled indefinitely, if possible.
I expect that the technology and eco-devices that will facilitate necessary changes will increasingly make their way into each of our homes. Let’s look at the energy issue and what eco-friendly devices we might be using within ten years.
It’s estimated that 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050 with increasing demands for energy.
Fortunately, new storage batteries currently in development promise to unlock a variety of in-home energy production methods. Batteries will then store power at a locally and perhaps even distribute power across a community. But how will we generate the power?
New Wind Turbine Design
Wind turbines have proven contentious. New designs, however, could change this. For example, take the Liam F1 Urban Wind Turbine from Dutch tech firm, The Archimedes. The spiral design produced in different colours and shapes, resembles a big rotating flower. At 80% efficiency, it is a forerunner of the high-efficiency turbines of the future.
I expect new, high-efficiency wind turbines will play an important role in energy generation, even if they need to be supplemented with other energy generation devices.
Solar panels are improving in efficiency and various companies are now developing solar tiles. For example, Resilience Energy, which is a startup promising to cut energy bills by as much as 80%, and, notably, Tesla who are also producing batteries capable of storing renewable energy.
The tiles will form the roof of your house and can be retrofitted onto any property with a roof. A drawback is the low energy production in less sunny countries.
Most modern bio-fuels rely on the basic principle: collect flammable gases and liquids from organic sources and burn. Burning anything is likely to lead to more CO2 emissions, which feels like a step in the wrong direction.
Fortunately, scientists are working with species of bacteria and algae to make the process cleaner.
Microorganisms can break down organic material and CO2, passing the energy straight into a battery. Food waste and human excrement will feed the machine, providing energy-free sewage treatment and no need for composting.
I anticipate that within the next 10 years, we’ll all have a biofuel synthesiser fitted to our toilet and waste disposal pipe, turning our organic waste into clean energy.
Enabling a closed-loop economy means processing products and packaging back into their original form, or equivalent. The reason we can’t do this currently is the high cost and low-reliability of separating out different materials. Typically over 50% of what we put into recycling bins is dumped in landfill or the ocean.
However, if we can bring the guaranteed correct used-material separation and processing of products and packaging into the home, or place where the use-material is last used, we can produce close to 100% pure materials ready to sell back to manufacturers.
ReCircle is currently working on a home and business appliance to do this. It will use a sensor to ensure different materials are never put together. Then the near-pure used-materials are washed, ground or compacted to contaminant-free sized-reduced pure products ready for storage. The pure close-loop recyclable products will then be collected on-demand from homes when the storage containers are full. And delivered straight to manufacturers to make back into products.
Using Materials in 3D Printer
While still in their infancy, 3D printers promise efficiency savings as well as the construction of new energy-efficient products. Imagine being able to download a product blueprint and simply print it out. Such a system would reduce the energy needed to transport products to shops and homes and would reduce the industrial production of plastics to almost zero.
What’s more, it may be possible to combine technologies like a recycling appliance and a 3D printer, ensuring that everything printed can be reprocessed into future ‘ink’ to make more products. Individual homes can instantly become closed-loop in themselves.
A closed-loop economy will require innovative and smart technology so individuals can benefit from the advantages. For example, once there is domestic appliance recycling used-materials in the home and delivering a cash reward in addition to the convenience, time saving and environmental benefits, we’ll treat our used-materials as we do our clothes; wash, re-use, wash re-use…
The good news is that innovative technologies will empower individuals and households to take the positive action they clearly want to take in their day to day life. The tech will help us to take individual responsibility and collectively we can refocus our consumer culture, benefit from the circular economy and know that are helping to protect the planet.