Hungarian company claims their product could rid the Earth of single-use plastic, reducing space junk pollution with wooden satellites. Stockholm experts discuss the COVID-19 and climate change, plus Japan’s largest private banks announce plans to cut investments in overseas coal-fired power plants.
Hungarian Company Claims Its Product Eats Plastic, Reducing Space Junk Pollution with Wooden Satellites? Japan’s Banks Kill Coal Plant Investment, Stockholm Takes Stock of COVID and Climate Change
STOCKHOLM EXPERTS ON CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Two of Stockholm’s leading scientists recently spoke publicly about five key areas – attitudes, food, energy, work and travel – needed to consider in light of the pandemic and how they can be applied to climate change in the after times.
- The art of changing attitudes
Johan Kuylenstierna, Vice Chair of the Swedish Climate Policy Council thinks the best way is to stop being experts in pessimistic messaging, touting the consequences of failing to tackle climate change. Instead of emphasizing the benefits of tackling it.
For example, he points out the climate debate has shifted from the political sphere to the private sector, businesses now view the transition as inevitable and therefore see opportunities in fighting climate change.
- The future of food
Line Gordon, director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, recommends a holistic approach to food to address both personal and planetary well-being. With food production, 70 percent of the freshwater used globally is for agriculture, so it needs to be made really efficient”. Precision agriculture – using big data, satellites, drones and so on – is already making farming more efficient in some areas.
It’s notable that food supply chains have coped well with the challenges of the pandemic so far. But greater awareness of their potential vulnerability should continue to drive innovation and security, Gordon points out. “Trying to deal with that and develop resilience will make you more resilient to potential challenges due to climate change as well.”
- The cold facts for clean energy
Renewable energy should be supported for offering security of supply by governments. In a nutshell, the concept of locally-produced, renewable energy is more palatable when compared to the alternative: Heavy reliance on oil from oligarchic nations (Russia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela)
The climate, geopolitics and pure financial logic all therefore support the case for greater investment in renewables, especially since renewables are competitive even without subsidies.
- Return to work – or remain remote?
Before the pandemic, just 2.9 percent of employees globally were estimated to work exclusively or mainly from home. That figure has surged by an almost unimaginable degree. The advantages and disadvantages of working from home more regularly are now the topic of healthy debate for both businesses and individuals. But a mass reduction in commuting clearly has benefits in terms of cutting carbon emissions. Importantly, he believes developing countries could take a leap forward – and help restrict global warming – by rapidly adopting new technology for remote working.
- Travel and transport: to fly or not to fly?
Passenger demand for air travel has fallen almost 60 percent in 2020, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). While this marks a radical change for a globalised world, what should we expect in the long-term? The two agree for the need for more sustainable travel using alternative energy sources, to travel shorter distances by train. However, if scientists succeed in making jet fuel from CO2, well…
DEEPER DIVE: The Local
CUTTING SPACE JUNK WITH WOODEN SATELLITES
When you think of pollution, what comes to mind? For me, I think of plastic bags floating in the ocean, aluminum cans stuck by a river side, or a glass bottle resting on the side of a highway. But what about pollution…. in space? That’s right – I’m talking about space junk.
Low-Earth orbit has become crowded with satellites, and scientists are increasingly worried about the concentration of space junk — and about the harmful substances that get released into Earth’s atmosphere when those satellites eventually fall. However, a Japanese company and KEY-YOTO University are working together to potentially develop the world’s first satellites made out of wood by 2023.
Reported by the BBC, wood satellites are different than the traditionally used materials. Sumi-tomo Forestry said it has started research on tree growth and the use of wood materials in space. So far, the partnership has been researching different types of woods and experimenting in extreme environments on Earth.
The theory is that wooden satellites will burn up easily without raining debrEE on Earth or releasing toxic pollutants and create tiny alumina particles which will float in the upper atmosphere for many years, said Ta-kao DoY, a professor at KEY-YOTO University and Japanese astronaut. In an interview with the BBC, Do-Y said the next step is developing the engineering model of the satellite and then producing the flight model.
JAPAN’S LARGEST PRIVATE BANK TO CUT OVERSEAS INVESTMENTS IN COAL-FIRED POWER PLANTS
Japan’s largest private banks have all announced plans to cut investments in overseas coal-fired power plants. And South Korea’s Parliament is mulling a ban on the use of taxpayer money on foreign coal projects. And China, Japan and South Korea have all recently announced plans to go carbon neutral in the coming decades. These three nations are the primary financiers of coal plants globally. Their decisions to dump the fossil fuel could end the United States coal industry’s dreams of exporting Appalachian and Wyoming coal.
Now a series of blows over the past few months is threatening to break the financial backbone that has kept demand for American coal going. The first domino to fall was when, earlier this summer, Japan’s largest private banks — Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Mizuho Financial Group and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group — all announced that they would gradually reduce investment in overseas coal-fired power plants. Then, in July, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, one of the world’s largest aid and development financiers, announced it too would be shifting away from coal.
That’s bad news for the American coal industry’s dreams of exporting coal to Asia. With renewable energy sources becoming cheaper, energy storage growing, and a rapidly changing financial and social environment in Asia, coal looks like the wrong choice — for both the environment and for balance sheets.
DEEPER DIVE: OZY
HUNGARIAN COMPANY TOUTS PLASTIC MUNCHING BACTERIA COCKTAIL
A Hungarian company called POLILOOP could rid the Earth of single-use plastic by using their bacteria cocktail! The company’s exclusive bacteria cocktail is able to consume any single-use plastic in seven weeks. In fact, their process is able to remove the plastic without any prior chemical treatment, processing, or major cleaning, and no harmful substances are released during the process.
The process is akin to the way organic waste is consumed in composting piles, but the raw materials here are fossil-based. Their bacteria can turn what was once a fossil-based product (plastic packaging) into what it originally was, millions of years ago, part of the natural ecosystem of Earth. This way, bioplastic can be created. Thus, the same plastic packaging can be used over and over again. The ultimate aim is to offer an industrially relevant solution to deal with unrecyclable plastics by mimicking nature.
The team behind Poliloop was founded by Hungarian Liz Mah-dA-rAs (CEO) and Krisztina LA-vAy (CTO), who met at Budapest University of Technology and Economics during their masters in Pharmaceutical Engineering.
Liz and Krisztina wanted to find a way in which their professional knowledge could help the Earth. They started doing lab research in their free time and on the weekends using whatever resources they had. The final Poliloop cocktail is the product of 2 years of research. Their bacterial cocktail basically consumes plastic packaging waste. The cocktail can consume all types of single-use plastic in 6-8 weeks.
They have recently started doing industrial testing, after Ves-pucci Partners and Techstars both invested in Poliloop. Several Fortune 500 companies have already indicated their interest in working with Poliloop.