Business
By Katie PohlmanBusiness
Norway to Build World's First Underwater Tunnels

An unconventional and first-of-its-kind form of transportation infrastructure could be the answer to traveling across fjord-ridden Norway.

Photo credit: Norwegian Public Roads Administration

To complete the 680-mile drive under current conditions, you would have to allow 21 hours for travel. Why? Traveling north-to-south across the country requires eight ferry trips across fjords. Norway's fjords are too deep and too wide to support bridges. Well, above water ones that is.

A $25-billion project by the Norwegian Public Roads Administration poses a possible solution to that problem: floating underwater tunnels.

The tunnels could cut trip time to 10.5 hours by reducing the need for ferry rides. The project is expected to be completed by 2023. Each tunnel would be suspended under 100 feet of water, held up by pontoons on the fjord's surface and possibly an anchor bolted to the bedrock. Each fjord would be equipped with two tunnels: each two-lane, one for traffic flowing in each direction.

Photo credit: Norwegian Public Roads Administration

Underwater tunnels aren't a new idea for Norway. The country has 1,150 traffic tunnels, 35 of which are located under shallow bodies of water. Fjords, however, can be a mile deep, creating a challenge for conventional tunnels.

The floating underwater tunnels will allow boats to still traverse the fjord without the worry about hitting or being blocked by a bridge.

But there's still a long way to go before floating underwater tunnels become reality. Engineers have several questions to answer, including how wind, waves and currents will affect the structures. If the tunnels prove too difficult, Inhabitat reported, politicians have the right to send the funding to another project.

The following Norwegian Public Roads Administration video offers more information about the project:

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By Lorraine ChowBusiness
4 Billion Starbucks To-Go Cups Thrown Away Each Year ... Will Recyclable Cup Reduce This Waste?

Starbucks goes through 4 billion to-go cups annually but most of them end up in the landfill. Why? Even though these cups are mostly made of paper, these single-use items are almost never recycled or composted because they are lined with plastic.

Ninety-nine percent of paper cups in the UK do not get recycled. Flickr

Now, in somewhat of a no-brainer, the world's largest coffee chain is testing recyclable coffee cups in UK stores, the Guardian reported.

Frugalpac, the England-based company behind the cups, explains on its website that its product is made of 100 percent recycled, chemical-free paper and lined with a plastic film that can easily be removed by standard recycling facilities. These cups, which can be recycled up to seven times, can be placed in any newspaper or cardboard recycling bin. The company says the cups look and feel the same as the standard varieties.

"We are very interested in finding out more about the Frugalpac cup and we will be testing it to see if it meets our standards for safety and quality, with a view to trialling its recyclability," a Starbucks spokesman said, according to the Guardian. No word yet on when, or if, they will be implemented stateside.

According to the Guardian, Martin Myerscough, the inventor of the Frugalpac cup, wants to help curb the 2.5 billion cups used in the UK each year of which only one in 400 are recycled.

The dismal coffee cup recycling rate led to calls for a ban or tax on disposable coffee cups in March. While the two initiatives ultimately failed, campaigners are still taking action on these environmental pesks.

British chef and environmental activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will feature Frugalpac in his next War on Waste documentary on the BBC. In the documentary, Fearnley-Whittingstall explores why Britain's largest coffee chains—Starbucks, Costa and Caffe Nero—almost never recycle their mountains of discarded cups. One reason, he discovered, is that most people do not realize these cups do not get recycled or do not even recognize the problem.

Another reason, as Starbucks said in a 2014 statement, is that despite years of efforts, implementing a successful recycling program at its 24,000 stores around the world is harder than one might think:

Recycling seems like a simple, straightforward initiative but it's actually quite challenging. Our customers' ability to recycle our cups, whether at home, at work, in public spaces or in our stores, is dependent upon multiple factors, including local government policies and access to recycling markets such as paper mills and plastic processors.

Some communities readily recycle our paper and plastic cups, but with operations in 70 countries, Starbucks faces a patchwork of recycling infrastructure and market conditions. Additionally, in many of our stores landlords control the waste collection and decide whether or not they want to provide recycling. These challenges require recycling programs be customized to each store and market and may limit our ability to offer recycling in some stores.

Not only are there municipal barriers to successful recycling in many cities, but it takes significant changes in behavior to get it right. A few non-recyclable items in a recycle bin can render the entire bag unrecyclable to the hauler. For recycling to be successful, local municipalities, landlords, customers, baristas, and even adjacent businesses all have to work together to keep recyclable materials out of the landfill and non-recyclable materials out of recycling bins.

As coffee companies like Starbucks figure out how to slash their enormous coffee cup footprint, there's an easy thing you can do to help—bring your own mug.

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By EWContributorBusiness
Germany's 62-Mile Bike Highway to Connect 10 Cities + 4 Universities

By Kelly McCartney

Leave it to Germany to build a bicycle autobahn that connect 10 cities within its borders. The goal? To take some 50,000 vehicles off the actual highways and make commuting by bike a much easier—and safer—proposition.

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The idea was sparked six years ago when a cultural project caused the one-day closure of the road between Duisburg and Dortmund and more than three million people flooded the road on bikes, skates and feet. Last December, Germany's first stretch of bike highway opened for business between Mülheim an der Ruhr and Essen. Eventualy, the Radschnellweg will link 10 cities and four universities with 62 miles of bike highway.

The bikeways—and parallel pedestrian paths—are completely separated from the vehicle lanes, with a 13-foot width, tunnels, lights and snow clearing because safety and accessibility issues are two of the biggest obstacles to biking. Coupled with Europe's blossoming affection for electric bikes and Germany's limited proximity between cities, the Radschnellweg stand to attract a new wave of pedal-powered commuters. Frankfurt, Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg are also undertaking bike-related feasibility studies in order to curb traffic and pollution in those urban areas.

Of course, the Germans are only the latest to enter the bike highway fray. The Netherlands started building their 20-strong network of bikeways 10 years ago and continue to expand it, while Denmark focused their efforts on Copenhagen. Norway will soon be getting in on the action too with bikeways connecting nine cities.

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Shareable.

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By Katie PohlmanBusiness
San Diego Bans Plastic Bags

The San Diego City Council voted Tuesday to ban single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, pharmacies and corner markets.

The goal of the new ordinance is to encourage shoppers to use reusable bags, decreasing the number of plastic checkout bags used every year. San Diego goest through roughly 700 million plastic bags a year, with only 3 percent of them being recycled, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

"The vast majority of plastic bags we see are entangled in the brushes next to our rivers and streams," said Kristin Kuhn, community engagement manager for San Diego Coastkeeper. "After every rain event, these bags clog and choke our city's already damaged waterways."

The city's ban would require grocery stores and other food retailers to charge at least 10 cents for each paper bag or for a sturdier bag, which often cost more.

"Stakeholders have worked tirelessly with local jurisdictions throughout the state to find a solution that makes sense for both the environment and businesses," said Sophie Barnhorst, policy coordinator for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. "A ban on plastic and a charge for paper has the potential to achieve maximal environment gain with minimal business disruption."

San Diego's ban—which drew wide support from advocacy organizations such as the Surfrider Foundation's San Diego County chapter and San Diego Coastkeeper as well as the chamber of commerce—makes it the 150th municipality in the Golden State.

A second reading of the ordinance will happen in a few weeks. Large food stores will have six months to comply with the ordinance while smaller drug and convenience stores will have approximately a year.

San Diego has distributed about 40,000 reusable shopping bags to mainly low-income neighborhoods, food banks, schools and libraries to help prepare residents for the ordinance.

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By Lorraine ChowBusiness
World's First Self-Driving Bus Drives Flawlessly Through Amsterdam

Could this be the future of public transportation? Mercedes-Benz has unveiled the world's first autonomous bus—and it actually works.

The "Future Bus" just completed its first 12-mile journey "without steering, accelerating and without brake pedal" on public roads in the Netherlands, according to Daimler Buses, the company working with Mercedez-Benz.

Using CityPilot autonomous driving technology, the full-sized bus successfully navigated through bends, passes, tunnels and traffic lights along the route between Amsterdam's Schiphol airport and the town of Haarlem.

Daimler said its bus drives up to 43-miles-per-hour and can recognize obstacles, especially pedestrians on the road, and brake autonomously.

Thanks to CityPilot, as Wired UK explains, the bus is connected to the city's wireless network, "so it can communicate directly with traffic lights and other city infrastructure for a smoother ride. The built-in camera systems can even scan the road for potholes and avoid bumpy areas the next time it travels on them, sharing that information back to the city."

In the video below, the driver does not touch the wheel as the bus whisks through the city streets and picks up passengers. The cockpit has a large screen that displays information the driver might need.

The Future Bus is equipped with a GPS system and about a dozen cameras that can scan the road and surroundings. A long and short-range radar systems constantly monitors the route ahead. It can even handle bus stops without driver intervention, as the doors open and close automatically.

"Connectivity plus camera and radar systems with data fusion are catapulting the city bus into the future," Daimler said.

As Wired UK pointed out, even though the bus can drive itself, regulations require a human operator in case he or she needs to intervene, like during an emergency.

As for its design, the 39-foot bus features a sleek exterior and open-plan interior inspired by the layouts of city squares and parks, the German automaker said.

Designer seats are loosely arranged along the walls to allow for open seating, grab rails branch upwards like trees and the ceiling lighting resembles a leaf canopy.

The bus even offers wireless charging.

Besides the obvious environmental benefits of public transportation, automated buses have a number of eco-friendly traits. A bus that's connected to a city's communication network could relay and receive information to operate more efficiently and with better fuel economy than perhaps a human driver can. It could also help alleviate city traffic in densely populated areas.

Europe is particularly friendly towards self-driving vehicles. This past April, the transport ministers of all 28 European Union member states signed the Amsterdam Declaration, in which EU member states and the transport industry pledged to "draw up rules and regulations that will allow autonomous vehicles to be used on the roads."

Daimler tweeted that it invest approximately €200 million to further develop its city-bus portfolio by 2020. It is currently unclear if or when these buses will become a reality or even if they will make it stateside but for a sustainable transportation future, these buses can not come soon enough.

Daimler Buses

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By Katie PohlmanBusiness
Will This Bike-Car Hybrid Change the Future of Urban Transportation?

A German manufacturing company has developed a bicycle/car/moped hybrid that could change how people travel around cities.

Photo credit: Schaeffler

Schaeffler, a major manufacturer of parts for the automotive and aerospace industries, created the Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid—a vehicle small enough to fit in the bike lane, but that has motor assist and is easily parked. The company plans to build 30-40 Bio-Hybrids for user feedback tests to be conducted in a city in southern German in 2017.

Patrick Seidel, innovation manager at Shaeffler, called the Bio-Hybrid a "solution for future urban transport."

At 2 meters (6.5 feet) long, 1.5 meters (5 feet) tall and 80 centimeters (31 inches) wide, the bike combines pedal-power and electric motors to move. It is easily maneuvered, only weighing 80 kilograms (176 pounds), and is emissions-free, The Guardian reported. Seidel said the weight of the bike might be reduced as the model is improved.

"It may be a little over-engineered at the moment, but we want to prove the concept," Seidel told The Guardian.

Photo credit: Schaeffler

The Bio-Hybrid's two batteries are located under the seat, easily accessible and light weight enough to be carried inside for charging. Three to 4 hours are required for full charge, but those batteries then power the bike for a range of 50 to 100 kilometers (31 to 62 miles).

Electric-assisted rides are available up to 15 mph, according to Schaeffler. The Guardian's Damian Carrington describes how it feels to drive the Bio-Hybrid:

You just start pedalling. The battery-powered assist kicks in automatically and off you go at a pleasant clip. Pedal faster and the automatic and continuous gears slide upwards to get you up to 15mph, when the assist ends. The racing-style steering wheel (handlebars?) turns the Bio-Hybrid smoothly and the hand lever-operated disc brakes bring you to a smart stop.

Drivers can vary the level of assist they receive while driving the Bio-Hybrid. A setting of zero gives the biker complete control over the speed of the vehicle, if desired, or they can set the assist at maximum for an easy, laid-back ride. There is also a reverse setting, Carrington said, to help with parking and turning.

Electric assist isn't the only customizable portion of the Bio-Hybrid, the seat and steering wheel, The Guardian said, are adjustable as well.

The bike's roof can be removed and stored behind the seat to create a convertible feel and look. Schaeffler's Bio-Hybrid also comes with a coat hook behind the seat and a luggage rack on the back.

Photo credit: Schaeffler

There are a few problems that might have to be fixed, depending on local laws, if the Bio-Hybrid enters the market, such as the lights and mirrors. Carrington wrote:

The integrated lights at the front and back give the Bio-Hybrid a groovy look, but night riders would need to attach more lumens to be safely seen. There are also integrated orange indicators lights, though these would mean the vehicle becomes a car in German law.

"New concepts do not always fit into the legal environment of the moment," Seidel said.

Carrington said the visibility over the driver's shoulders is fine.

Seidel expects the Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid to be pitched with a cost between 2,500 euros (almost $2,800) or even above 7,000 euros ($7,800), which is equivalent to the price of low-end electrical cars.

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By Lorraine ChowEnergy
Driving a Solar-Powered Car Might Be Closer Than You Think

Since we can already fly on sunshine, why can't we drive on it? Chinese company Hanenergy, the world's largest thin-film solar panel maker, has launched four concept cars that are fully powered by sunlight.

The sporty Hanergy Solar R is a two-door with solar panels on the roof, hood and on top of the doors.Hanergy

Hanenergy's cars are basically electric vehicles (EV) covered with solar panels. According to Dr. Gao Weimin, Hanergy vice president and CEO of its Solar Vehicle Business Division, the vehicles are covered with the company's gallium arsenide thin-film solar cells that claim an impressive conversion rate of 31.6 percent (most commercial panels have a conversion rate hovering around 15-20 percent).

Gao said that with five to six hours of sunlight, the panels can generate eight to 10 kilowatt-hours of power a day, allowing the prototype cars to travel about 80 kilometers, the equivalent of more than 20,000 kilometers annually.

Since the panels are directly mounted on the cars, the idea is that you can charge while driving and would not have to stop for juice at a charging station like with traditional EVs. If the concept proves successful, it would eliminate range anxiety—or the fear that your car might run out of power before reaching your destination. Range anxiety, after all, is one of the most frequently cited drawbacks to EVs. The company said that these "zero charge" cars are ideal for short and medium length journeys in cities under normal weather conditions.

"Breaking the bottleneck of poor practicality of previous solar-powered vehicles, the four launched by Hanergy are the first full thin-film solar power vehicles that can be commercialized, redefining new energy vehicles," the company said in a statement. The company has also partnered with China-based Foton Motor to help develop clean energy buses.

The cars debuted at the company's Disruptive Innovations Drive the Future event at its Beijing headquarters on July 2. Hanergy board chairman and CEO Li Hejun drove the sports car series Hanergy Solar R around the venue.

If the cars actually do what the company says, these cars must be much more aerodynamic and lighter than your average two-ton American car sedan. Car News China described that the weight of the Hanergy Solar L, a MPV-like model with gull wing doors and a six-meter solar panel, is estimated at just 700 kilo (0.8 tons).

Car News China has shed light on how they work. For the Hanergy Solar R, the energy generated from the roof goes to the rear wheels and the panel on the hood goes to the front wheels. The door panels power the car's other electrical systems.

In a speech in front of 4,000 attendees, Hejun boasted about the potential of thin-film solar cells and how the light-weight and flexible material allows the cells to be integrated onto a range of products in addition to cars such as unmanned aerial vehicles, mobiles, backpacks and clothes.

While the technology sounds promising, Stephen Engle of Bloomberg News expressed some doubts about the car. Instead of range anxiety, Engle said the driver might experience "cloud anxiety" since the car cannot charge if the sun is not out or if it is a particularly hazy day—a likely occurrence especially in China's smog-choked cities. He did, however, point out that the cars are equipped with lithium batteries that enable travel of up to 350 kilometers per charge. Additionally, a smart managing system allows the driver to choose between different charging modes when traveling in varied weather conditions.

Engle also brought up Hanergy's uncertain future in the market, as the troubled company's shares have been frozen for months as it undergoes investigation over possible stock price manipulation.

That said, while a 100 percent solar-powered car might be more science fiction than reality at this point, the concept has enormous potential. According to Car News China, Hanergy said solar-range will expand dramatically in the future due to improvements in solar panel technology. And Forbes reported that the company expects their panels to increase efficiency to 38 percent in 2020 and 42 percent in 2025, meaning a future of fuel-free transportation might be closer than we might think.

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By Katie PohlmanBusiness
Zero-Waste Markets Hit the U.S.

Zero-waste markets are coming to the U.S. While very popular in Europe, this trend in grocery shopping isn't as well known in North America.

Sarah Metz drew a lot of inspiration for her shop from similar European ones, like this, in Berlin.The Fillery via Instagram

The Fillery, brainchild of Sarah Metz, is "a place where one fills empty containers with goods, such as grains, nuts, seeds, coffee, tea, spices, oils and the like," according to the shop's KickStarter page. Customers can bring their own reusable containers to the shop or purchase compostable ones to place their products in.

"We aim to improve the health of our community in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and the environment by offering alternatives to the plastic entombed, chemical laden options which are ubiquitous in both pantries and landfills worldwide," reads the KickStarter page.

Metz's motivation for The Fillery came after a self-realization, she wrote in her KickStarter bio:

After lots of experimenting with recipes from my extensive library of cookbooks (thanks, mom!), I've acquired a cabinet full of ingredients that will likely go bad before I finish them. A few days ago, I counted 10 types of flour in my cupboard. I see at least four problems with this: 1. food waste is a huge problem. 2. packaging waste is a huge problem 3. it is expensive, and 4. it takes up too much space in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. Combine this with my frustration in trying to find conscientiously sourced, responsibly packaged, healthy groceries nearby, and you have my motivation for The Fillery.

"It's hard not to notice how much waste is generated here," Metz told the Huffington Post. "You walk past piles of trash that are higher than you are."

The Fillery won't just sell grocery items, Metz said. It will also be a community supported agriculture (CSA) pick up spot and a learning center. Customers will be able to take classes in how to hand-make common households necessities such as toothpaste.

Metz raised $17,075 with a goal of $15,000 on KickStarter. The campaign is closed now and she is looking for a storefront, according to the Huffington Post.

The Fillery via KickStarter

In Denver, Lyndsey Manderson, co-founder of the store Zero Market, is also concerned with the amount of plastic used and wasted today, said the Huffington Post. She's planning on installing a tracker to show her customers how much packaging they've kept out of landfills, and even the ocean, by shopping zero-waste.

Roughly 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the world's oceans each year. Plastics are becoming an increasingly common cause of death and injury for marine animals. A 2015 study Valuing Plastic by the Plastic Disclosure Project and Trucost estimated plastic caused $13 billion in damages to marine ecosystems every year, EcoWatch reported.

The Fillery via Instagram

Several entrepreneurs are dabbling in ways to clean plastics out of the oceans. One company,Plastic Whale, is fishing plastics out of the water. Boyan Slat and his Ocean Cleanup Foundation are testing a clean-up boom that would help remove plastics from the oceans.

Metz hopes to open her store sometime this year.

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