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November 25, 2014

How 3D printing is set to shake up manufacturing supply chains

3D printing has come a long way in an extremely short span of time. Initially built by Charles Hull in the 1980s as a tool for making basic polymer objects, today, the technology has spurred remarkable efforts in several manufacturing sectors; from building intricate aircraft and race car components, to human organs and prostheses.

Now, the wider business world is beginning to understand the potential of 3D printing for cost-effective, efficient and environmentally-friendly manufacturing. It is little wonder that analyst firm, Canalys see the global market for 3D printers reaching $16.2bn (£10.3bn) by 2018. With increasing adoption, the technology will revolutionise manufacturing as well as the supply chain and logistics processes which surround it.

Though manufacturing in certain locations can be low-cost, managing a global logistics network isn’t; especially given the transportation costs involved. 3D printing can reduce these costs by enabling businesses to station local manufacturing centres closer to strategic markets, reducing the length of the supply chain and helping towards a reduced carbon footprint.

Regional manufacturing centres can also tackle inventory concerns, especially for the industrial spare parts and consumer sectors selling highly-customised products. 3D printing technology will enable manufacturers to easily produce goods to order, helping save money and minimise waste.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

November 19, 2014

New ZSL toolkit boosts transparency for palm oil

The global palm oil industry is set for a shake-up with the launch of a ground-breaking new tool by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) that will significantly raise the level of transparency in the sector.

The international conservation group recently announced a free online resource called the Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit, or SPOTT, which is designed to allow investors and stakeholders in the industry to assess and monitor oil palm growers on the sustainability of their operations.

In an industry first, SPOTT combines satellite mapping technology with in-depth performance assessments on 25 of the largest publicly listed companies that grow oil palm all in one platform.

The global palm oil industry in recent years has come under heavy scrutiny after oil palm plantations were linked to illegal land clearing, habitat destruction, conflicts with indigenous communities, and forest fires which caused the worst haze crisis in Southeast Asia last June.

Some environmental groups have launched public campaigns against major palm oil firms to pressure them into addressing the sustainability of their operations. Greenpeace noted that from 2009 to 2011 alone, around 300,000 hectares of the 1,240,000 hectares of forest lost in Indonesia was due to palm oil concessions.

ZSL, which has been working with oil palm growers since 2001, said that following the launch of SPOTT, it will continue to work with organisations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to engage companies and rebuild trust in the industry.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

November 17, 2014

Tiny Batteries Could Revolutionize Green Energy--Nanotechnology could dramatically improve energy storage for electronics, cars, and buildings.

By Wendy Koch
National Geographic
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 17, 2014

Tiny is big in the quest to build batteries that store more energy for cars, buildings, and personal electronics.

Nanosize batteries that are 80,000 times thinner than a human hair represent a promising new front. They could advance the use of electric vehicles, now limited by short driving ranges, and of renewable energy, which needs storage for times when the wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine.

The latest breakthrough: a "nanopore" that's the ultimate in miniaturization. It's a hole in a ceramic sheet, no thicker than a grain of salt, that contains all the components a battery needs to produce electric current. One billion of these holes, connected in a honeycomb fashion, could fit on a postage stamp.

The itty-bitty battery delivers. It fully charges in 12 minutes and recharges thousands of times, according to University of Maryland researchers, who published their findings last week in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology.

"We were blown away by the performance," says co-author Eleanor Gillette, a doctoral candidate in chemistry. She attributes its quick charging to the short distances needed to carry the electric current. She says the nanosizing could enable manufacturers to squeeze many batteries into a tight space.

"It looks like a major advance," says George Crabtree, director of Argonne National Laboratory's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. He says nanopores offer multiple advantages. Because they're identical, researchers-once they identify the optimal size-will be guaranteed consistent results that will make grid-scale use more promising, he says.

Read more at National Geographic.

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category : Topics

November 17, 2014

Staples, TerraCycle Launch Zero-Waste Recycling System

Staples along with global recycling company TerraCycle is now offering Canada’s first-ever zero-waste recycling option for all household and office waste.

Through the system, Canadians coast-to-coast can recycle almost anything ? broken pen holders, empty lipstick tubes, old filing accessories, rusty lawn and garden equipment, party decorations, old lightbulbs, used coffee capsules and more ? through TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Boxes, sold online.

How it works: Zero Waste Boxes are labeled either by stream (ex: batteries, light bulbs) or by room (ex: break room waste, bathroom waste). Consumers collect their waste according to the description and mail it to TerraCycle with the prepaid shipping label, already printed on each box.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

November 13, 2014

How Better Glass Can Save Hundreds of Millions of Birds a Year

We can prevent birds from flying into windows with current technologies?experts say we just need the will.
We may be embarrassed to admit it, but we've all done it: run headlong into a window or sliding glass door that we just didn't see.

People usually escape with only a bruised ego. But when birds smack into windows, the results can be deadly.

In fact, as many as 600 million birds die in window collisions in the U.S. and Canada every year, scientists estimate. We may hear only the occasional thump as a sparrow or robin crashes into our home or office window, but they add up.

These collisions kill more birds than oil spills or pesticides do, says Daniel Klem Jr., an ornithologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The spring and fall migration periods are particularly deadly, with large flocks of birds navigating cities and suburbs that are littered with windows.

Klem has been working on the problem since the 1970s, but he's in rare company. Lack of funding and a limited understanding of how birds see are the main reasons why scientists, politicians, and the public seem to be playing catch-up.

But now solutions are starting to pop up on the market, including new kinds of glass with patterns that birds can see and avoid. (And no, those hawk decals don't work.)

If the glass industry can come out with products that satisfy researchers as to their bird-friendliness?as well as consumers looking to preserve their views?then these fledgling efforts have a real chance of saving millions of birds a year. (See "New Report Highlights Dire Situation of Many U.S. Birds.")

Read more at National Geographic.

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category : Topics

November 13, 2014

Two thirds of world's largest companies exposed to serious water risks

São Paulo is the wealthiest state in Brazil. It is the pulsating heartbeat of the Brazilian economy. The state’s capital of the same name is a major driver of commercial activity. A megacity and home to 20 million people, it was at one point the largest industrial city in the southern hemisphere. How then, can such an important metropolis find itself on the verge of running out of water?

Brazil has experienced its driest period since records began, the worst drought in 80 years. São Paulo city’s population has also set records: for the 20 years from 1950, it was among the fastest growing. Today it’s still increasing. The resultant demand for water and the dependency and pressure on the Cantareira reservoir - the system that serves the city - has contributed to an official crisis. The huge basin is nearly dry, having dropped to below 10% of its capacity and São Paolo finds itself locked in difficult negotiations with neighbouring states that also rely on the Cantareira.

More established economies too are becoming acutely aware of the wide-ranging impacts that worsening water security can bring. Travel up from Latin America to California and you witness a severe drought now in its third year. It has cost billions of dollars, wrought havoc with the agriculture industry and caused discomfort for residents.

There are health implications too, some of which go further than the basic need of water for sanitation. California has spent decades working to create cleaner air but its progress is hindered by the heat and extreme drought, which have worsened smog levels.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

November 10, 2014

World's most sustainable innovation in 2014: Pedal-powered recycling

Clearing up waste piling up in the streets using a zero-emissions vehicle, encouraging recycling, and providing jobs to low income communities are just some features of Nigerian initiative Wecyclers, which was crowned the top winner at this year’s Sustainia Award.

The innovative enterprise received the ‘Best Sustainability Solution’ award at the Sustainia Award ceremony in Copenhagen last October 30.

The international award, which honours sustainability solutions that have significant potential to help build a more sustainable future, was initiated by Denmark-based sustainable innovations think tank Sustainia in 2012.

Wecyclers showcases an innovative, but very simple urban waste management system that is scalable and can be easily replicated especially in densely-populated cities around the world.

It deploys a fleet of cargo bicycles to collect recyclable waste such as plastic bottles, plastic sachets and aluminum cans in low-income communities in Nigeria’s capital, Lagos.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

November 10, 2014

Product Sustainability Jumps to the Next Level

Lifecycle analysis (LCA) has become a best practice tool that many companies use to analyze and improve the environmental performance of their products. It enables them to work out what the biggest impacts of a product are and where they occur in the process of creating and consuming it. A company can then focus on reducing those impacts and measure progress towards its goal.

But sustainability metrics are evolving. A recent poll of more than 100 environmental managers, product designers and LCA practitioners conducted by Trucost reveals the limitations of LCA. Measuring impacts in physical terms such as tonnes of greenhouse gases or cubic meters of water used is becoming a first step towards creating more insightful and user-friendly metrics. Converting physical data to monetary values using natural capital valuation takes LCA to a whole new level. The implications for product design were discussed at a recent Trucost webinar.

Natural capital refers to the goods and services provided by nature, such as forests which give us timber and which also clean the air and regulate water flows. In the past, business and society has taken these resources for granted ? and to a great extent still does. But increasingly, companies are having to pay for these costs as a result of environmental regulation. Applying natural capital valuation to products can help companies design lower impact, more sustainable products and avoid these costs.

The poll showed that one limitation with LCA is that the results are very technical, and only really understandable by LCA specialists and experts in the sustainability team. Just 13% of respondents said that the results make sense to a mainstream business audience (see figure 1). Converting LCA data into monetary values overcomes this issue by presenting the data in a way that is accessible to everyone.

Read more at Environmental Leader.

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category : Topics

November 5, 2014

Why metals should be recycled, not mined

There is no denying that the sustainability impacts of the extractive sector are serious ? sometimes even tragic and catastrophic. But they are not without solutions. Technology, which is the source of so much destruction in the mining and metals industry, can also be its saviour.

The most obvious opportunity for the sector is to embrace the circular economy. Many metals can be recycled ? and in some cases, actual recycling rates are already high. For example, 67% of scrap steel, more than 60% of aluminium and 35% of copper (45-50% in the EU) (pdf) is already recycled. Apart from resource savings, there is often also a net energy benefit. Energy accounts for 30% of primary aluminium production costs, but recycling of aluminium scrap uses only 5% of the energy of primary production (pdf).

Recyclability of metals is as important as recycling rates. We need more companies that grow the markets for recycled materials, like Novelis, which announced the commercial availability of the industry’s first independently certified, high-recycled content aluminium (90% minimum) designed specifically for the beverage can market.

The opportunity to increase recycling rates is significant. Today, less than one third of 60 metals analysed have an end-of-life recycling rate above 50% and 34 elements are below 1% (pdf). The irony is that recycling is often far more efficient than mining. For example, a post-consumer automotive catalyst has a concentration of platinum group metals (like platinum, palladium and rhodium) more than 100 times higher than in natural ores. Already, special refining plants are achieving recovery rates of more than 90% from this ‘waste’ (pdf).

This sustainability business case logic has not gone unnoticed. Given the importance of rare earth metals in electronics and renewable technologies, Japan has set aside \42bn (。31m) for the development of rare earth recycling, while Veolia Environmental Services says it plans to extract precious metals such as palladium from road dust in London.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

November 3, 2014

Timberland retreads old tires as new shoes

Timberland announced a partnership with tire manufacturer and distributor Omni United on Monday to create the first line of tires ever purposely designed to be recycled into footwear outsoles at the end of their lifecycle.

The new Timberland Tires will be made in the U.S. and feature a rubber formulation appropriate for the recycling of the tires at the end of their useful life into shoes, rather than being used for tire-derived fuel or ending up in landfills. By designing the tires for a second life from the outset, Timberland and Omni United are taking taking recycling up a notch?to upcycling.

The companies say they first conceived this collaboration three years ago, when sustainability leaders from both brands came together to address a longstanding shared concern; the tire and footwear industries are two of the largest users of virgin rubber. The majority of tires on the market today have a limited life span; ecologically-sound disposal at the end of that life span presents yet another challenge.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics


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