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Fun with Waste: Milk Waste to T-shirts

Mi Terro, a Los Angeles-based cleantech startup recently began manufacturing T-shirts using spoiled using fibers manufactured from spoiled milk.  The company uses biotechnology to re-engineer milk proteins into sustainable fibers.  The fibers can replace plastic in fashion, medical, and packaging industries.  The fibers can also be used to make t-shirts using 60% less water than required for an organic cotton shirt.

The fiber-from-milk method was invented in just three months by co-founders Robert Luo and Daniel Zhuang. After visiting his uncle’s dairy farm in China in 2018, Luo saw just how much milk product gets dumped first-hand, and after some research, he found that the issue was one of a massive global scale.

Mi Terro is make up of a team of Ph.D material scientists and chemists. The company aims to redefine circular economy in which everything begins with food waste and ends as recyclable or biodegradable.

 

 

Innovative company fueling greener steel from Wood Waste

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Ontario-based CHAR Technologies is developing cost-effective and efficient alternative fuels that help manufacturers drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), all while adding value to otherwise wasted resources. Andrew White is CEO of CHAR Technologies Ltd., an innovative Toronto-based cleantech company specializing in biocarbon fuel development and provides custom equipment for industrial air and water treatment, environmental management services, site investigation and remediation and resource efficiency.

Mr. White began developing their first product, SulfaCHAR, while he was a grad student at the University of Toronto (U of T). SulfaCHAR is a patented form of activated biochar that removes hydrogen sulfide from renewable natural gas the same way a Brita® water filter removes contaminants from tap water, leaving behind a clean biogas that can be used for multiple energy applications.

The feedstock used in the production of SulfaCHAR is anaerobic digestate and/or compost.  Production of SulfaCHAR is achieved by pyrolysis under patented conditions that include specific hold times, temperatures, and conditions.  Currently, there is a SulfaCHAR production facility co-located at the Stormfisher Environmental biogas facility in London, Ontario.

CHAR Technologies’ next challenge is to develop a product it calls CleanFyre, a solid biofuel intended to replace traditional coal. On a fundamental level, CleanFyre is produced through pyrolysis, the same process that has been used to turn wood into charcoal since ancient times. “In pyrolysis, you have a bio-based material that you heat up in the absence of oxygen,” explains Devon Barry, Char Technologies’ Biocarbon Manager. “Since there is no oxygen, the organic material does not combust but instead the chemical compounds that make up the material decompose into combustible gases and charcoal.”

As we all know, burning coal proliferates GHGs, and unfortunately, a commercially viable solution that produces high enough energy levels to replace coal in many manufacturing processes, such as iron making, doesn’t exist yet. However, CHAR Technologies believes it can offer a solution to address the need for a high carbon, low ash coal replacement as an energy and reactant source.

The feedstock in the production of Cleanfyre is currently clean wood and waste wood. Other biomass materials are also being testing. The use of wood and biomass in the production the CleanFyre is considered carbon neutral as the source material is renewable.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco is Canada’s largest flat roll steel producer based in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2017, the steelmaker approached one of Ontario’s regional innovation centres, the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), looking for a cost-effective alternative fuel for their blast furnaces that would reduce GHGs.

Andrew White, CEO, CHAR Technologies

“There was nothing that could generate the high levels of carbon and energy needed for steel production,” says White, who has now been meeting with ArcelorMittal Dofasco for 18 months. CHAR Technologies is piloting their CleanFyre energy fuel product through this Ontario-based collaboration, with an eye on opening up a market estimated at $340 million in Ontario alone.

ArcelorMittal Dofasco has active plans towards an initial 20 tonne trial of CleanFyre in their blast furnaces, with the potential to scale-up once they confirm the fuel’s effectiveness. The major advantage of CHAR Technologies’ solution is ‘simplicity,’ says White. “There are no major modifications required for the iron making process; we’re striving towards a ‘drop-in’ solid biofuel.”

Ongoing research at the University of Toronto will be key to CleanFyre’s success. “We are working with researchers at the University of Toronto on some very innovative ways to drastically reduce the ash content, which will allow us to expand our feed stocks to low value ‘wastes’ that have valuable low GHG carbon that’s otherwise inaccessible.”

This article is an edited version from the one posted on the InvestOntario website.

Waste Accumulation Problems and Opportunities

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by Zoltan Kish, Ph.D., Quasar ScienceTech

An incredible amount of waste is produced in Canada and around the world. Humans are dumping 2.12 billion tons of garbage every year and polluting the oceans, land, and air.  Consequently, we need sustainable and effective waste management to protect our environment and save our world.

In 2016, the Ontario government released its Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario, diverting our wasteful ways towards an entirely circular economy.  The proposed strategy requires appropriate tools and an innovative approach to solving the tremendous waste accumulation problem.

The urgency for made-in-Canada solutions for waste management has sped up with the fact that China severely restricts the types of recyclables it accepts.  Prior to the plastic waste restrictions instituted in December 2017, China was the home to 45 percent of the world’s plastic waste since 1992.

Under the new circumstance, some municipal governments could get out of the recycling business altogether, and the recycled waste will end up in the landfills and the energy in waste is mostly lost.  Landfilling plastics would severely lessen the landfill capacity in Canada, already a growing concern as chronicled by Fraser Institute, the Ontario Waste Management Association, and others.

Canadian Solutions

We need more effective and sustainable ways to manage the produced waste.  Government in Canada should implement appropriate tools for the waste management challenge.  One tool would be the encouragement of using waste as a resource.  One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.  For example, depending on the waste plastic composition and level of contaminations, the plastic feedstock could be effectively converted into high-value products through pyrolysis and waste steam gasification technologies.

If the plastic feedstock is clean and has an appropriate composition, pyrolysis (heating in the absence of oxygen) can be applied to depolymerize plastic and convert it mostly into liquid fuel.  The steam gasification reformation technology is more suitable for contaminated plastic waste conversion into high energy value syngas and hydrogen.  Additionally, syngas can be converted into liquid fuels and green chemicals using Gas-to Liquid catalytic process.

The use of advanced and effective waste-to-energy (WTE) technology applications in combination with a reliable scrubbing/cleaning system can provide a solution for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste disposal, clean energy production, and sustainable product regeneration. The waste, potentially, can be converted into various forms of clean energy products, such as electricity, hydrogen, liquid synthetic fuels, and “green” chemicals.

Waste can be a cost-effective and environmentally-sound feedstock in the generation of clean energy, replacing a portion of fossil fuels.

High quality liquid synthetic fuels, without sulfur contamination, can be produced from waste materials by a combination of a Waste-to-Gas technology with a Gas-to-Liquids technology based on the Fischer–Tropsch catalytic process.

Regrettably, mass burn incineration has been often considered as a WTE technology to process waste for an astonishing cost and relatively minimal energy production.  For example, a new mass burn incinerator was built in York and North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom at a cost of £1.4 billion ($2.4 billion Cdn.)  The incinerator will divert more than 230,000 tonnes of household waste but will produce only 24 MW of power.

Allerton Waste Recovery Park, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Another example of an enormous and costly incineration facility is the one planed in Hong Kong. The incinerator will cost $4 billion and process 3000 tonnes of waste per day (1,050,000 tonnes/year).  The total amount of energy the facility will produce per year is 489 million kWh/year of energy, which is equivalent to 57 MW of power.

In my professional opinion, incineration is a very costly and inefficient way for waste conversion into electricity.  The highly pollutants generated from incineration require very expensive air pollution controls.

In a circular economy, advanced emerging waste conversion technologies (e.g., Waste-to-Energy, Waste-to-Gas, and Gas-to-Liquids technologies) can play a pivotal role in waste disposal.  Efficient waste conversion technology applications can be a path to a working circular economy. Recycling is not only based on simple reusing the waste products.

The purpose of recycling is to redesign and convert waste into forms retaining as high value as possible in a circular economy. Contaminated waste products are challenging to recycle and reuse. Garbage can be converted into high-value products through mechanical/physical, thermochemical, and biochemical processes. The waste can be transformed into various forms of sustainable and clean energy products utilizing effective waste conversion technologies in the circular economy.

The increasing amount of waste is one of the most challenging problems facing the world, which creates global environmental challenges. Contaminated waste products (e.g., plastic, paper, diapers, medical waste, waste biomass, and industrial byproducts) are challenging to recycle and reuse in the traditional way.  Therefore, we have an urgent requirement to deal with the tremendous waste accumulation.  At the same time, we have a tremendous business opportunity to convert waste into usable sustainable products.

The circular economy can be based on efficient waste conversion technologies, such as traditional gasification, steam gasification, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion.  Mostly, the steam gasification reformation of waste is more efficient and cost-effective than other thermo-chemical and bio-chemical technologies and able to convert both biodegradable and non-biodegradable carbonaceous waste contents into higher value clean/renewable energy products.

 

It is essential that sustainable waste management become an integral part of urban development. With the right approach, we could have a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for waste disposal, clean energy production, and sustainable product regeneration as a combination of biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste processing.

 About the Author

Dr. Zoltan Kish has a Ph.D. in Chemistry with over 25 years of diverse industrial and academic experience and contributed to more than 70 scientific publications. He has developed and managed complex research and development programs related to alternative/renewable energy, clean technologies, GHG, sustainability, and advanced materials applications, such as solar energy technology, ceramic engine & cutting tool components, materials processing, and electronics. Dr. Kish was the Director of Research & Development at two major Canadian alternative energy companies where he focused on R&D and commercialization of unique Waste-to-Energy technologies and reliable scrubbing/ cleaning systems to produce clean and sustainable energy products. In response to global environmental challenges and the need for scientific evaluations of new technologies and advanced materials applications, he has established a consulting company – Quasar ScienceTech (www.quasarsciencetech.com) to provide multidisciplinary science and technology consulting in the areas of Natural & Applied Sciences, Clean Technologies & Energy, Waste Conversion, Technical Due Diligence, Climate Change Mitigation, Circular Economy, Sustainability, Innovation, and Advanced Materials Applications.