Nano technology to clean up lakes

Nano technology to clean up lakes

Nano Technology to Clean Up Lakes

What happens though when a natural paradise we remember fondly from childhood is on the brink of complete and devastating collapse? When the land is choked with rubbish and the lake filled with poison? Do we return to the place we were once so happy to save it?

This is exactly what Peruvian-Japanese scientist Marino Morikawa did: In 2010, his father told him that the Cascajo wetlands were so contaminated that they were about to be capped. Although the environmental scientist was working at Tsukuba University laboratories in Japan at the time, he decided to fly the 15,000 km back to Peru to see with his own eyes what his father had told him about El Cascajo.

The Cascajo Wetlands are 80 km from Lima in the province of Huaral in the Chancay Valley. Marino used to go fishing with his father here as a child. “When you go fishing, there are times when you catch fish and times you do not,” he recalls. “So when I got tired of sitting for one or two hours without catching anything, I used to walk through the wetlands and throw stones at birds to watch them fly…” Marino laughs: “Of course I’d condemn that action now, especially since I am an environmentalist, but I was just a mischievous child.” He also recalls that when his family would take their inflatable boat out to go swimming, they observed flocks of birds, even flamingos at times.

Would we return to the place we were once so happy to save it?

But when Marino returned, the area looked like an oxidation pond. 20 years had passed since his last visit. He discovered foul smelling waters in a critical stage of decay. The huge 150 hectares of wetland had diminished to a mere 40 hectares.

Two reasons he detected were illegal landfills and the breeding of pigs, cattle and sheep that had badly contaminated the water. Even worse, the previous mayor had built a new drainage canal that bordered on the wetlands and headed seaward. Most of the waste being channeled through this canal was leaking out into the wetlands. Water lettuce, an invasive species, was another major polluting factor that was ultimately choking the wetlands. This type of lettuce fully covers the surface of the water, preventing light and oxygen from reaching the wetland’s depths. It was a major contributor to the putrefaction and stench of El Cascajo.

The authorities had given up hope of ever salvaging the lake. But Marino didn’t think twice: With his experience in management and water quality control, he knew he could and should do something to help it recover. Marino holds a PhD in Bioindustrial Science and specializes in water treatment.

The first steps

“This is hard to explain and might be difficult for many people to understand. But the first thing I did was kneel down in the wetlands. When I put my hands on the ground, I felt a heartbeat, a pulse under my hands. You’re alive, I said, you’re not dead like everyone thinks you are.”

Marino’s family is well-known in their hometown Huaral, and they also just happened to be friends with its current mayor. So the first thing Marino did was set up a meeting with him. “Give me just one year and I’ll do everything in my power to restore the wetlands,” he said. “Just you?” the mayor asked. “Under my administration we tried to save the wetlands many times, but we couldn’t.” Marino replied: “I know, but you won’t have to worry about anything. It won’t cost you a cent, it’ll be my responsibility.”

The mayor agreed to the ambitious project, and Marino started knocking on doors to raise money. Unsuccessful in Peru, he tried his luck in Japan: He took all his savings, borrowed money from three banks, and returned to Peru. It was all his personal commitment: No one refunded him the money.

The nanotechnology system

Marino started off by camping in the wetlands for three days to identify the sources of contamination. He counted the approximate number of people who passed through the wetlands, he analyzed water and soil, and he studied the winds. Afterwards, he returned to Japan to develop adequate technology in the well-equipped laboratories of Tsukuba University. Since he had focused on nanotechnology and chemistry during his studies, he decided to deploy two nanotechnology methods in El Cascajo: a micro-nano bubbling system and a biofilter.

The micro-nano bubbling system consists of introducing microbubbles in the depths of polluted waters that attract bacteria and polluted microorganisms. “Think of soda bubbles,” explains Marino. “Everybody can see the bubbles rising to the surface. Now imagine a bubble ten-thousand times smaller and imperceptible to the human eye. Since it is so small, it is a lot slower and takes 5 to 8 hours to reach the surface. The micro-nano bubble has an electromagnetic field of positive and negative ions that works as a magnet. On the way to the surface of the water, it attracts viruses and bacteria, thus catching them like in a spider’s web.”

Once attracted by the magnet, the viruses and bacteria can’t move anymore and die. But in case the bubbles still reach the surface, they turn in gas and disappear due to radiation and ultraviolet rays.

The second method Marino used was biofilters. A biofilter is a media bed different types of microorganisms attach to and form a biological layer called a biofilm. It attracts water bacteria and preserves the good species that contribute to micro-flora conservation and bioremediation.

Biofilters are commonly used in water treatment worldwide, but they have to be adapted to the specific conditions of the local water. For his work in Peru, Marino used ceramic biofilters that he produced by himself in local pottery courses.

A success story

While it took Marino six months of research to develop the nanotechnology system, the practical application went comparatively quickly: In just 4 months, he had decontaminated the entire wetlands. At least 40 species of migratory birds have returned to El Cascajo Lake, and 10 fish species have come back to inhabit its waters. And what is more: the only equipment he used was materials that are available in any hardware store. “Never use an expensive resource in a poor area, while you can use the home material,” is one of his principles.

“Never use an expensive resource in a poor area, while you can use the home material.”

Marino also successfully raised awareness among the local people in Peru. They saw him working long hours all alone in the wetlands every day and began asking him about what he was doing. One morning, when Marino was thoroughly exhausted and arrived to the wetlands late, he found more than hundred people of different ages waiting for him. They wanted to work together and called out: “Marino, we are with you!” Even the illegal breeders turned up and helped him clean up the area.

In 2014, Marino’s scientific work and his commitment and dedication to Peru were honored by the Peruvian National Council for Science, Technology and Technological Innovation (Concytec). His methods are considered a true innovation and will be used for other applications in future. Marino already has two ambitious goals for 2015: He wants to clean the highest lake in the world, Lake Titicaca, and decontaminate the Rio Chira in the northern city of Sullana in Piura.

“If you take the first step, others will follow,” he says

Leading tire manufacturers are embracing sustainability

Leading tire manufacturers are embracing sustainability

From sustainable materials to end of life solutions.

Eleven of the worlds leading tire manufacturers formed the Tire Industry Project a number of years ago and are making great strides into developing sustainable materials for tire production. From dandelion milk to supplement natural rubber, to biomass based materials into every facet of tires, the push is really on to eliminate petroleum based materials. Some fascinating reading here 

All the major tire manufacturers who account for 65% of the worlds production have announced the objective to produce tires made from sustainable materials.  Recovered carbon black, micronized rubber powder, recycled oils and chemicals from end of life tires will also play a part in reducing the carbon footprint of tire production. Some great companies inhabit this space already and the market is still in it’s infancy. The rate of change of progress in the last couple of years has really been astounding and I look forward to the next 5 years as industry, innovation and consumer preferences all converge into greater acceptance.


Daimler investing $20 billion into battery cells.

Daimler investing $20 billion into battery cells.

Daimler securing battery material supply chain.

This week Daimler announced that they have spent $20 billion euros recently to acquire battery materials to feed into their manufacturing efforts in this area.  

Although it seems to me that they have realized somewhat late compared to other auto manufacturers that the future does not lay with internal combustion engines, this of course is great news. I would expect them to become amongst the leading companies soon. The more innovative, sustainable, renewable, alternative materials coming into the battery material stream coupled with the engineering depth of Daimler will be a huge positive for the industry and environment.


Reducing Your Plastic Waste

Reducing Your Plastic Waste

Drop The Single Use Plastic Items, Go Sustainable

Working and being in the sustainable way of life, we are always on the lookout for ways to reduce our consumption of plastic. One new and fantastic way we’ve recently discovered is Etee. Etee is a Canadian company that has developed a sustainable beeswax coated canvas than can take the place of plastic films and containers for food wraps. 

Our order arrived a couple of days ago and we set to finding out how it works. It comes in colourful,  convenient sheets of various sizes. Just crumple it up to activate it, wrap it around leftovers, or put your lunch inside. Twist it around fruit to keep it fresh, roll it around a sushi roll. It’s easy to clean, easy to use.

We think Etee works really well and is quite an amazing product. It’s interesting to see how it grips itself and how with a little imagination you can wrap up any shape and keep it fresh.

We highly recommend you try this for yourself. Here’s a link to their website 



Green Carbon Black from Wood Waste

Green Carbon Black from Wood Waste

Green Carbon Black from Wood Waste

Our company, Our Blue Planet is developing a technology to produce carbon black from 100% sustainable biomass sources.

You have probably never heard of carbon black, but it is one of the most widely used industrial compounds with some 18 million tonnes produced annually worldwide. It is used in the manufacture of virtually all rubber and plastic items, from tires which are the major consumer, to your laptop, your printer cartridge, cosmetics, to another million and 1 products.

The problem is that it is also one of the most polluting industries in existence because it is made from high Sulfur crude oil.   Production of carbon black creates large amounts of nitrogen oxide (NOx), Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulate matter. NOx and SO2 have numerous adverse health effects and are significant contributors to acid rain, smog and haze. These pollutants are converted in the air to particulate matter that can cause severe respiratory and cardiovascular impacts, and premature death. Last year the US EPA and DOJ announced settlements with several of the largest carbon black producers. Under the settlement, the companies have agreed to install and operate state-of-the-art pollution control technologies to reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants and pay civil penalties.

We are developing the technology to produce carbon black from sustainable biomass sources. This will not be a bio char or like any solid to solid material- what we are working on will eventually become a direct replacement for reinforcing carbon black material. We are aiming to achieve very significant carbon footprint savings by powering our facility from 100% renewable energy sources, siting it in close proximity to a major industrial consumer, and paying strict attention to the feedstock, material, process and delivery food chain. 

For the feedstock end of things, we recently paid a visit to ATCO wood products in Fruitvale, BC and met Scott Weatherford, ATCOs CEO. He gave us a very interesting tour of the facilities and we were super impressed at the cleanliness and organization of the operation. ATCO produces some of the finest quality veneers. The wood waste derived from this process and other wood waste processes has a good potential to be converted into a value added product that can go towards supplementing traditional carbon blacks.

We will be posting some progress reports here from time to time, so please check back if you are interested.

Tire industry to go green.

Tire industry to go green.

Tire industry must continue to go green, according to experts

AKRON — Green business and economic practices, encompassing both manufacturing and recycling, are crucial to the continuing health and viability of the tire industry, speakers said at the recent International Tire Exhibition & Conference (ITEC).

According to Rahinda Mukhopadhyay, director of the Hari Shankar Singhania Elastomer and Tyre Research Institute in Karnataka, India, the population of the world will reach 10 billion humans by 2058.

Population growth will be especially intense in India, which will surpass China as the most populous country in the world, Mr. Mukhopadhyay said.

Along with population growth will come increased economic activity, but also wealth disparity, climate change, increasing social polarization, rising cyber-dependency and an aging population, he said.

Because of these factors, auto and tire manufacturers face the challenge of creating new green technologies and expanding the sustainable economy while remaining globally competitive, he said.

“The green economy means improving human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities,” he said.

Climate change is already having a profound impact on Asia, according to Mr. Mukhopadhyay. The risks include:

  • Increasing crop failure and lower crop production;
  • Increased risk of heat-related mortality;
  • Increased river, coastal and urban flooding, with increased risk of flood-related deaths, injuries and infrastructure damage;
  • Increased water shortages in arid regions; and
  • Increased risk of water- and vector-borne diseases.

To reduce these risks, the world must adopt a green economy that turns away from fossil fuels and unbridled consumption toward a focus on saving resources rather than labor, Mr. Mukhopadhyay said.

In terms of tires, this means the development of renewable, mineral-based and recycled raw materials, he said.

“It is possible to produce a tire with more than a 95-percent non-crude oil base,” he said. “However, the application range today is still limited.”

Moving toward a green economy in the tire industry would include moving to:

  • silaca and a new generation of nano fillers from traditional carbon black;
  • natural rubber, bio-based synthetic rubber and recycled materials from traditional synthetic rubber;
  • vegetable fiber-based reinforcing materials, recycled rayon or thinner, ultra-high-tensile steel cord from polyester, nylon and steel tire cord; and
  • Moving to vegetable oils and substances compliant with the European Union’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations from petroleum-derived oils and chemicals.

A more sustainable vehicle fleet is also vital to achieving a green transportation economy, according to Mr. Mukhopadhyay. India is a good example, with a plan that all new vehicles sold within its borders must be 100-percent electric by 2047, the 100th anniversary of the nation’s independence, he said.

By 2030, 40 percent of new vehicle sales and all new vehicles for intra-city transport fleets must be pure EV, he said.

“As vehicles are one of the main sources of air pollution responsible for poor urban air quality, suitable measures should be taken by all concerned to build a green, sustainable future,” he said.

The U.S. tire industry is well advanced in its efforts to achieve sustainability, according to John Sheerin, director of end-of-life tire programs for the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA).

Members of the trade group continue to prioritize research into the health and environmental impacts of the manufacturing and use of tires, Mr. Sheerin said, while at the same time striving to advance the safety and performance of tires and to manage scrap tires as valuable, reusable materials.

“We recognize the need to increase the use of sustainable materials,” he said. “We are increasing the use of micronized rubber powders, which closes the loop in tire manufacturing.”

USTMA members are also investigating the use of recycled carbon black from pyrolysis, orange and soybean oils instead of petroleum, bioisoprene instead of traditional synthetic rubbers and alternative sources of natural rubber such as guayule and dandelions, according to Sheerin.

The percentage of scrap tires that were recycled dropped from 2013 to 2017, to 81 from 96 percent of tires generated, Mr. Sheerin said. A slight drop in markets plus the sheer increase in scrap tires generated in those years was a major reason for this, he said.

Nevertheless, scrap tires represent one of the great success stories in recycling, the USTMA exec said.

“Only lead-acid batteries have a better recycling rate,” he said. In one sense, scrap tires have a more impressive track record than lead-acid batteries, because scrap tires on their own have a negative economic value, he said.

Tire-derived fuel remains the stalwart of scrap tire recycling, accounting for 43 percent of the 3.4 million tons of tires recycled in 2017, according to Mr. Sheerin.

The Environmental Protection Agency has recognized the biogenic content in TDF, in both the greenhouse gas reporting rule from 2010 and the emissions from stationary sources rules from both 2011 and 2014, he said.

Ground rubber accounted for 25 percent of the scrap tire market in 2017, and civil engineering projects for another 8 percent, according to Mr. Sheerin. Some 16 percent of scrap tires were landfilled — the highest level in three or four years, because of a decline in the market — and the remaining 8 percent went to various markets, he said.

“2017 was not a boom year for rubber-modified asphalt,” Sheerin said. “But we expect this year to be better, because of new road construction.”

Reducing scrap tire stockpiles is also a major success story, according to Mr. Sheerin. Since the USTMA began its scrap tire program in 1990, the number of stockpiled tires has plummeted 94 percent, to about 60 million from an estimated 1 billion, he said.

But problem spots remain in several states, either because of bankruptcies among scrap tire processors or lapsed scrap tire abatement programs, Mr. Sheerin noted.

In South Carolina, for example, the state faces the cleanup of 800,000 stockpiled tires left by a processor that went bankrupt. The state has allocated $2.7 million for cleanup, Mr. Sheerin said.

Colorado has two or three massive tire monofills that the state is required to clean up by 2024, he said.

“Texas has 17 million stockpiled tires that they know of, and I know of no plan to clean them up,” he said. “The state needs a new program.”

Two states — Louisiana and West Virginia — claim to have no stockpiled scrap tires, according to Mr. Sheerin.

“Louisiana has done the work and the cleanups,” he said. “The number of stockpiled tires is probably not zero, but the state is very environmentally aware.

“But West Virginia hasn’t done the work,” he said. “It hasn’t even looked for stockpiles.”

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