Renewable Plastic

By now you’ve run into some of the media coverage concerning potentially toxic plastics used for items such as water bottles. Particular concern was sparked in Canada, where the ministry of health even went as far as to ban certain bottles from being sold in the country.

As someone who drinks plenty of water from the tap, transported often via my nalgene bottle, this left me particularly concerned. Aspects like the age of my bottle, type of plastic used, and other details, have all become subject of extensive research and reflection; what is this thing I drink my water from?

So then at the Brooklyn Bridge office I get word about a renewable plastic company. Renewable plastic, the term itself sparks plenty of interest. I picture a non toxic, planet friendly plastic, both from how it is created, to when I make use of it, to after I’ve disposed of it… that is what I would hope for.

The company’s name is Cereplast. An initial look at how they describe their products is already encouraging,

All Cereplast resins replace a significant percentage of petroleum-based additives with starches made out of corn, wheat, tapioca and potatoes.

Exciting to anyone who doubts the ease with which such plastic could be produced, Celeplast says that their products can be made using conventional manufacturing equipment. When you add to that the fact that most, if not all, national governments as well as at the European Union level, are passing laws that will require health and environmental related reforms in the manufacturing and use of plastics, seems like Cereplast is exactly what I’d like my waterbottle to be made of.

To finish off the post for today, I recommend this list of documents released by the Biodegradable Products Institute in NYC. I think the plastic bottle of my dreams will be listed in there somewhere.

Leaving Your Footprint

I’ve been spending time reading through the Global Footprint Network’s website. Their slogan, “Advancing the Science of Sustainability”.

Among the more interesting parts of their site, the section which features data in graphs and charts is particularly informative.  Here’s one example, global ecological footprint’s divided by region:

The site also allows you to view national footprints for a large selection of countries. Since the TBLI Conference Asia is coming up, I chose Thailand. Have a look at the chart broken down by component:


Sustainable Investment in Switzerland

Zurich based onValues released their survey last week entitled “Sustainable investments in Switzerland 2007”.  Here’s an excerpt of the executive summary:

The survey also asked participants to highlight emerging themes for the next 2-3 years. The
most frequently mentioned ones were (in decreasing order of importance):

• Sustainability issues in emerging markets (e.g. infrastructure, energy and
environmental aspects). Participants seem convinced that the combination of
interesting investment opportunities and the huge sustainable development
challenges in emerging markets offers potential for interesting investment products
satisfying both the ‘altruistic’ and the financial motives of investors.
• New materials/recycling
• Sustainable commodities (e.g. timber and second-generation biofuels)
• Microfinance and other strategies to combat poverty (seen as important but leading to
lower AuM than the top themes)
• Healthy living (seen as important but leading to lower AuM than the top themes).

Click here to download the whole thing as a PDF.

Second and Third Generation Solar

After posting last week about polysilicon and China, Robert came over to my desk and pointed out that what I wrote about is first generation solar technology.  He asked if I had looked up the developments in second and third generation solar technology. In all my reading and research on the topic of polysilicon, I had not . So he gave me some tips of what to look for, terms like thin-film solar.. which admitedly, I had never heard before. (remember I’m new!)

Some initial browsing provides interesting and encouraging information when it comes to new and better ways of harnessing the sun’s energy.  Developments like being able to roll a thin film, with a consistency similar to wallpaper, onto the roof of a house, or a wall.

Somewhere in WalesPreviously I referred to the problem of the manufacturing of first generation solar panels, polysilicon, which requires alot of energy to produce, not to mention the processing of waste.  Producing thin-film uses dramatically less raw materials than those panels, therefore less waste as well.  One example of a company involved in thin film solar technology is the German-American First Solar. Their website provides some background information as well as graphics illustrating what they are doing with thin film.

But perhaps even more encouraging is that there are more advanced methods currently being developed to further reduce the amount of energy and  the environmental impact of producing thin-film solar panels.  At the university of Arizona, researchers in the chemistry department are trying to use molecules made out of organic compounds that could make up a super thin film solar panel.  By super thin they mean 100 nanometers thick… many times thinner than human hair.  Such a breakthrough would not only make for lightweight, easy to deploy solar energy collecting material, but also the production clean and environmentally safe production of solar panels.