Innovative Product Cuts Plastic Pollution From Single-Use Water Bottles
One of the big environmental issues of our time is plastics pollution. It piles up in landfills where it takes hundreds of years to break down. It washes into the ocean, creating huge gyres of plastic pieces of all sizes, ranging from larger pieces that can choke sea birds and marine animals to microplastics with as-yet unknown impacts on the oceans' ecosystems.
Fortunately, it's also one of the issues we can directly impact through personal actions and community initiatives such as the increasingly popular single-use plastic bag and individual bottled water bans.
Now a Japanese-based inventor/entrepreneur named Graeme Glen has come up with a unique portable device called the WaterBean that lets you use one of those plastic water bottles up to 120 times, slashing your own contribution to the waste stream.
"As advocates for a better environment, it’s both amazing and terrifying how much plastic waste we generate, especially with plastic Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles," he says. "Once in the landfill, these bottles can leak harmful chemicals into the ground and pollute the soil and water. Waterbean reduces the consumption of PET bottles and has a unique design that can be used with any bottle, creating clean and delicious water from any tap."
Glen points out that the average person goes through 167 plastic bottles per year and that 75 percent of those bottles don't get recycled.
"Not only is bottled water pricey, it produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic per year," he says. "These bottles pile up in your car, the ocean, landfills and many other places, harming the planet and becoming a complete eyesore."
On top of that, 40 percent of bottled water is just tap water that's been filtered. So, he asked, why not filter it yourself, save money and save the planet at the same time?
The WaterBean is basically a small water purifier that can be inserted in any 12 ounce or larger plastic water bottle to filter tap water, add minerals and make it taste better. It's constructed from sustainable materials, with a filter based on an ancient Japanese system using coconut carbon. It has an ergonomic, bean-shaped design that expands inside the bottle, with a spring that holds it in place. The user shakes the bottle to activate the filter and swishes it to add the minerals that improve the taste. The replaceable filters last up to three months.
"WaterBean's bright and stylish shape shows people you care about the environment and are willing to actually do something about it," says Glen. "WaterBean takes the nastiest city tap water and creates crisp, clean and delicious drinking water for pennies a bottle. Used properly, WaterBean helps prevent children from developing unhealthy addiction to sugary sodas and so called sports drinks."
The WaterBean comes in three bright, conspicuous colors—red, blue and green—that should attract questions and give you an opening to spread the word about plastics pollution and what individuals can do about it. It retails for $12.95. A pack of replacement filters is $4.95.
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By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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