While the calories from a bar of chocolate can keep a human running for a few hours, you won’t get far if you drop a Twix into your car’s fuel tank.
This could well change in the not-too-distant future, as technology exists which can power vehicles using a mix of vegetable oil and waste chocolate. Not just any old vehicles, either, but Formula 3 cars.
It was developed in 2009 by engineers at the University Of Warwick using entirely renewable resources, including a racing seat made from flax fibre and soybean oil, and a steering wheel containing carrots and potatoes.
It has reached a top speed of 135mph, can go from 0 to 60 in under 2.5 seconds, and although it can’t compete in official F3 races due to bio-fuel cars not being allowed to race in the competition, it has successfully shown that items which are routinely sent to landfill can be re-used in innovative and imaginative ways.
In 2014, a church in India realised that it had an unusual problem.
Worshippers at St. Michael’s in Mumbai would leave flowers as offerings at the altar whenever they attended prayers, and with as many as 50,000 people turning up each week, that amounted to an enormous amount of flowers which needed to be disposed of.
To solve the issue, local priest Simon Borgas had a 1,000 litre water tank installed at the church, with all the flowers placed inside it after the services.
The decomposing blooms then generate biogas which is collected into a smaller tank and ultimately used to power the church’s kitchen which feeds their flock.
Furthermore, the flurry of slurry from the flowers is then used as a liquid compost to grow even more plants.
Bacon rind is easy to recycle: just throw it into your food waste bin, wait for it to be collected, and hey presto.
Bacon grease is a little more awkward to deal with. However, that Sunday morning fry-up could help to propel a revolution in biodiesel.
An American company called Hormel realised that the run-off from cooked rashers can power an engine – specifically a motorbike engine. One pound of fat is enough to help produce a gallon of eco-friendly fuel which can propel its hog for up to 100 miles, but the big question is….does the exhaust smell like bacon?
Yes it does.
As a side note, fryer oil has become such an important source of energy in recent times that ‘grease rustling’ has become a modern day crime, with an estimated $1million of revenue being lost per year due to its theft in the US.
Disposable nappies are a major headache when it comes to recycling in the UK. 3 billion of them are sent to landfill each year (that’s more than 8 million a day), and as it can take as long as 500 years for them to fully decompose, scientists have been searching for a way for them to be recycled effectively.
While it may not be perfect, a solution may have been found for nappies and other sanitary products: burn them.
It’s not quite as drastic as that, of course. Firstly, they are shredded and squeezed, with any waste liquid being sent away to be treated at sewage plants, while the dried material left behind is gathered into bales for incineration.
As technology advances, exciting new methods come to light, including transforming used nappies into synthetic soil, baby wipe containers and even cat litter.
We hope that we’ll soon see that day where ‘disposable nappies’ are called ‘recyclable nappies’.
Prince Charles's wine and cheese
The heir to the throne has long been known for taking a staunchly progressive line when it comes to environmental issues, so it should come as no surprise that after a little tinkering with its carburetors, his 1977 Aston Martin DB5 convertible has been converted to run on biofuel.
What will certainly prick up a few ears, though, is that it is powered by a blend of ethanol made from wine and fermented whey.
It may seem extravagant at first, but there is a huge excess of wine produced which isn’t deemed of a high enough quality for export in the UK and across the EU – almost 2 billion litres of of, in fact – and rather than letting it go to waste, biofuel producers snap it up at knock down prices and turn it into a useful energy source.
Onions are around 90% water and 10% eye-stinging venom, so how can we possibly turn them into fuel?
Anaerobic digestion. The process creates carbon dioxide and methane gas, which can then be gathered up and converted into energy for electric cars, or in the case of Gills Onions, a producer in California, powering their entire factory and saving more than $1million in electricity bills per year.
After removing the top, tail and skin of the onions, they are put into an anaerobic digestion system, where microbes breaks down the waste and the excess gasses are converted into clean fuel cells.
Even better, the left over pulp is used in a mix for cattle feed, meaning that there is zero wastage.
While the search continues for the ultimate in renewable energy source, it could be that it was right under our noses all along. Well, if you consider 93 million miles away to be right under our noses…
Solar winds are streams of plasma and particles which are ejected from the sun at staggering speeds, and are the cause of the aurora borealis when they are buffeted against the Earth’s magnetic fields and diverted towards the poles.
While it’s still very much in the theoretical stages, physicists at Washington State University are attempting to come up with a satellite that can ‘capture’ electrons and beam the charged particles back home via an infrared laser.
If the scientists can pull off the seemingly impossible, these bursts could provide a virtually infinite amount of energy, but we’re a long way from even a prototype.
NASA are also on the case, attempting to grow plants in space which could potentially be used to generate energy for future manned exploration missions to Mars.
A Fresh Start for waste
Fresh Start Waste are at the forefront of recycling in the North West of England. As the region’s leading independent waste collection company, one of our primary goals is direct as much waste away from landfill as possible, and we constant invest in new and improved recycling techniques at our two materials recovery facilities in Manchester and Preston.