Waste

Climate Hack? How Plastics Could Help Save Us From Greenhouse Gases

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 30, 2014   View Article

What’s the fix for a warming planet? Just one word: Plastics.

As the world grapples with greenhouse gas emissions still rising despite years of political wrangling over how to combat global climate change, a technology to convert carbon dioxide and methane into plastic is emerging as one potential market-driven solution. To boot, the process can be less expensive than producing plastics from petroleum.

“You have a new paradigm where plastics are saving the economy a whole lot of money, they are replacing oil, and in the process we are actually sequestering carbon emissions that would otherwise go into the air,” Mark Herrema, the co-founder and chief executive officer of Newlight Technologies in Irvine, Calif., explained to NBC News.

The market for plastics is massive — and thus the ability to sequester carbon. Plastics are found everywhere from beverage and food containers to toys, furniture and car parts. About 280 million tons of the stuff is produced every year, according to industry statistics.

Humans on course to triple daily waste by 2100

Publication: NBC News   Date: October 30, 2013   View Article

Humanity may generate more than 11 million tons of solid waste daily by the end of this century, barring significant reductions in population growth and material consumption, according to experts.

That mind-boggling large heap of trash expected by century end represents a three-fold increase in the amount of stuff people throw away today. In 1900, the world’s 220 million urban residents tossed out fewer than 330,000 tons of trash daily, such as broken household items, packaging and food waste.

‘Living battery’ generates electricity from sewage and wastewater

Publication: NBC News   Date: September 16, 2013   View Article

A new type of living battery has been created that generates electricity from dissolved organic matter such as that found in wastewater flushed down the toilet or washed off farms and out to sea.

The system is as efficient as the highest performing solar cells and, in theory, could generate as much energy as is needed to treat wastewater with current technology, according to researchers working on the so-called microbial battery at Stanford University in California.

Country’s largest brewery goes landfill free

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 27, 2013   View Article

Back in 1873, Rocky Mountain spring water put the Coors brewery in Golden, Colo., on the map for lovers of beer. Now, lovers of all things green will mark the facility as well: This week, the largest brewery in the country moved to landfill-free status.

The accomplishment, announced Monday, means that the 135 tons of waste the brewery generates each month is now recycled or reused. Spent grains, for example, are fed to livestock, while all paper, glass and pallets are recycled.

Energy future may be swamped in fracking wastewater, scientists warn

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 16, 2013   View Article

The current boom in U.S. natural gas production from glassy shale rock formations is poised to usher in an era of energy independence and could bridge the gap between today’s fossil-fuel age and a clean-energy future. But that future may be swamped in a legacy of wastewater, a new study suggests.

Natural gas production is soaring thanks to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technique that shoots several million gallons of water laced with chemicals and sand deep underground to break apart chunks of the glassy rock, freeing trapped gas to escape through cracks and fissures into wells.

An average of 10 percent of this water flows back to the surface within a few weeks of the frack job. The rest is absorbed by the surrounding rock and mixes with briny groundwater, explained Radisav Vidic, a civil and environmental engineer at the University of Pittsburgh.

Technique turns ash into hydrogen gas

Publication: NBC News   Date: April 11, 2013   View Article

Piles of ash leftover from incinerated trash may be a viable source of hydrogen gas that can be used to generate electricity and power cars, suggests a process pioneered in a research lab.

The trick? Just add water, which reacts with residual metallic aluminum in the ash, explained Aamir Ilyas, a water resource engineer at Lund University in Sweden, who developed the technique.

Be green this holiday without being a Grinch

Publication: NBC News   Date: December 20, 2013   View Article

Have you heard about the great Christmas tree debate? The one where you try to figure out which is worse for the environment, chopping down a perfectly good live fir or shipping a factory-made plastic one all the way from China? Well, the truth is, it’s not that big of a deal. If you’re dreaming of a green Christmas, there’re other issues that take precedence.

“You can have the most leverage elsewhere,” Jean-Sebastian Trudel, founder of Ellipsos, a sustainable development consulting firm in Montreal, Canada, told NBC News.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach