Technologies that transform pollutants into new, more profitable products
Humans have figured out how to make all kinds of things, from edible clothing to comet-exploring robots. We haven’t always done a great job with the byproducts of our creations, which has led to various forms of pollution accumulating around the world, including as smog, tons of old clothing, or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The problems associated with each form of “leftovers” may seem unstoppable, but there are new creations that aim to help us reign in some of these waste products by making the waste into something useful. No idea achieves perfect efficiency, but they do reduce the pattern waste simply piling up into a bigger and bigger problem.
Painting with pollutants
A company called Graviky Labs is developing Air-Ink, which is made from carbon captured from car exhaust. A they call a kaalink is attached to a car’s exhaust pipe where it grabs and filters carbon soot that wasn’t burned completely in the engine. This means that invisible, planet-warming carbon dioxide isn’t stopped from entering the atmosphere, but choking, blackening soot is reduced. Even if the cars in your neighborhood are running pretty efficiently, many people around the world running older vehicles could stand to benefit from keeping some of that carbon out of the air.
Once captured in a series of filters, a full kaalink is then taken to a Graviky Labs processing facility where the carbon is transformed into usable ink. Markers, paint and pens can all be filled this way, as can more lucrative liquids, like ink for your printer. A single marker made from 40 minutes of car exhaust obviously isn’t going to end air pollution, but by creating a tangible cost benefit, it incentivizes people to filter their exhaust and cut down on the amount of carbon emitted each day.
Reclaiming petroleum from plastic
Clean Oceans International is also using the model of changing the value of waste, targeting plastic floating around the oceans. That plastic is known to be circulating around the world, and is likely finding its way even into human bodies by moving up various food chains. In some places, the plastic aggregates where it can be collected and removed from the water, but lots of it is far enough out in the ocean that it would be prohibitively costly to send out ships to haul it back to shore.
To make chasing down plastic a bit more attractive, Clean Oceans International is building a small-to-medium sized reactor that converts plastic waste into usable diesel fuel. That technology isn’t brand new, but the focus on boat-borne portability is. The current reactor fits on the trailer of a flatbed truck, and can make up to 1,000 gallons of fuel a day at a ratio of about 10 pounds of plastic per gallon. Whether or not the final reactor ends up being smaller, the goal is to make scooping up plastic profitable enough that people will be picking the waves clean while making some fuel, and money, in the process.
Source: This Mobile Reactor Makes Diesel Fuel From Plastic Waste Found in the Ocean by Darren Ankrom, Seeker