Grand Opportunity

Environmental

Navigating through the technology hype

What is the grand opportunity?

The global push for improvements in environmental sustainability is strong and growing, forcing companies to re-invent their supply chains and re-design their products and services. Emerging game-changing technologies are disrupting industries increasing environmental sustainability. Examples include carbon capture and utilisation technologies, bio-based chemical feedstocks, and new, more efficient recycling processes. CamIn’s guidance helps companies avoid potential pitfalls and use the opportunities created by new technologies to enter new industries and markets, and implement new business models.
4.5

Trillion Dollar additional economic output generated by the Circular Economy by 2030

55

Target percentage of recyclable plastic packaging by 2030, driven by consumer demand.

Which Industries Will Benefit The Most From Environmental Technologies?

Download our latest insight identifying which industries will benefit the most from the environmental technologies over the next two years.
Which Industries Will Benefit The Most From Environmental Technologies?

Recycling & Bio-Degradability

Baffled Oscillation Separation System

A baffled oscillation separation system (BOSS) solves the problem of sorting recyclable mixed plastic waste by using fluid dynamics and oscillation to create patterns in water that affect different polymers in different ways. Unlike other separation methods, BOSS can separate chemically similar polymers and produce pure recyclate streams, which can then be further separated using infrared sensing. Systems based on this approach are being scaled up, and they will offer benefits not only to the recycling and waste management industries, but also to other sectors that are embracing the principles of the circular economy.

Poly Hydroxybutyrate-co-hydroxyvalerate

Poly hydroxybutyrate-co-hydroxyvalerate (PHBV) plastic materials are on a trajectory to replace oil-based plastics and other less environmentally friendly alternatives, because they can be made from a variety of industrial by-products such as cheese whey and almond shells. PHBV is also compostable under ambient conditions and exhibits better barrier properties than oil-based polypropylene and PET materials. YPACK, a 3-year EU-funded project with multiple industrial partners, is focused on making commercially viable packaging solutions from PHBVs. The full results of this program, which are due to be published at the end of 2020, have the potential to disrupt industries dependent on single-use plastic containers.

Wastewater Processing

Bacterial Water Treatment Systems

Bacterial water treatment systems have the potential to improve the wastewater treatment process. Bacterial treatment of wastewater streams provides a safe and ecological way to reduce the total amount of biosolid waste that a facility must eventually manage. Companies such as San Francisco-based Microvi have commercialised systems that provide a safe environment for beneficial bacteria to grow and feed on the biosolid “sludge” that commonly accompanies wastewater. This process allows for reduced energy and chemical usage during water processing, making the process more environmentally friendly and potentially more affordable.

Biosolids

Biosolids are a class of semi-solid waste found in sewage. Though costly to process and store, biosolids can be specially treated and made safe enough to use as a natural fertilizer, providing an additional source of nutrients and improving soil. Mixing mining tailings, or the waste mud and rock removed during mining process, with biosolids can produce a mixture that is an even more valuable source of sustainable fertilizers. This process can be extended further, incorporating additional types of waste materials, such as cardboard, to produce fertilizers with improved consistency that make them easier to apply.

Non-Toxic Feedstock

Lignin

Lignin is a common waste by-product produced from the biomass used by the paper-making industry, which is often discarded or burned as a source of heat. However, Lignin can be used to create valuable, non-toxic, bio-based feedstocks for use in a variety of chemical industry processes. Currently, almost all bio-based products are produced using the cellulose fraction of biomass, which represents ~35% of the total input biomass; the lignin portion is treated as waste. As a result, the total manufacturing costs of bio-based products derived from cellulose sources have remained too high to compete with petroleum-based equivalents. The utilisation of lignin for chemical and material production would offset these high costs of producing bio-based products. Thus, it will be key to the success of the bioeconomy.

Levoglucosenone

Levoglucosenone is a versatile bio-based molecule that can be synthesised directly from lignocellulosic biomass. It is highly functionalised, meaning that there are many "handles" from which it can react, allowing its use as part of a wide range of potential downstream chemicals and products. Levoglucosenone has gained a lot of attention in recent years as the precursor to the bio-based solvent, Cyrene, which can replace various toxic solvents used to manufacture synthetic leathers, adhesives, cosmetics, surface coatings, pigments, and plastics, just to name a few.

CO₂ Capture and Utilisation

CO₂ Utilisation

CO₂ utilisation can be used as part of an ecologically friendly manufacturing process for carbon materials. These alternative processes may be required as conventional processes are likely to be phased out due to the global drive to lower carbon emissions. Conventional manufacturing processes for carbon materials typically require toxic materials and create toxic by-products. By contrast, carbon capture & utilisation technologies can take existing CO₂ waste gas streams and convert them into valuable carbon materials using environmentally benign methods.

Capture CO₂ in Concrete

Processes that capture CO₂ in concrete can offset the high CO₂ emissions created by conventional concrete production processes and allow this critical industry to reduce its impact on the environment. By feeding CO₂ gases back into the concrete mixing process, CO₂ is captured in the solid concrete as a mineral, providing structural benefits including increased compressive strength. This increased strength means that builders can use less cement in total, thus reducing the concrete industry’s CO₂ footprint even further. This new approach is expected to positively impact the infrastructure, materials, and utilities sectors.

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