The fate of the world’s oceans may rest inside a stainless steel tank not quite the size of a small beer keg. Inside, genetically modified bacteria turn corn syrup into a churning mass of polymers that can be used to produce a wide variety of common plastics.
Our civilization is built on plastics. In 2014 alone, industry generated 311 million metric tons, an amount expected to triple by 2050, according to the World Economic Forum.* Yet less than 15 percent of it gets recycled. Much of the rest is incinerated, sits in landfills or is abandoned in the environment—where, being resistant to microbial digestion, it can persist for hundreds of years. Plastic debris accumulating in the ocean causes all kinds of problems, from killing wildlife when mistakenly ingested to releasing toxic compounds. It can even enter our bodies via contaminated fish.
Bioplastics — typically plastics manufactured from bio-based polymers — stand to contribute to more sustainable commercial plastic life cycles as part of a circular economy, in which virgin polymers are made from renewable or recycled raw materials. Carbon-neutral energy is used for production and products are reused or recycled at their end of life (EOL). In this Review, we assess the advantages and challenges of bioplastics in transitioning towards a circular economy. Compared with fossil-based plastics, bio-based plastics can have a lower carbon footprint and exhibit advantageous materials properties; moreover, they can be compatible with existing recycling streams and some offer biodegradation as an EOL scenario if performed in controlled or predictable environments.
Modern bioenergy is the largest source of renewable energy globally, accounting for 55% of renewable energy and over 6% of global energy supply. The Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario sees a rapid increase in the use of bioenergy to displace fossil fuels by 2030. Use of modern bioenergy has increased on average by about 7% per year between 2010 and 2021, and is on an upward trend. More efforts are needed to accelerate modern bioenergy deployment to get on track with the Net Zero Scenario, which sees deployment increase by 10% per year between 2021 and 2030, while simultaneously ensuring that bioenergy production does not incur negative social and environmental consequences.
The Delta Sustainable Skies Lab, depicted in the vision concept above, will bridge the gap between fledgling ideas and proven innovation by focusing on clean fuel, efficient flying operations, revolutionary fleet concepts and sustainable travel & business practices.
As the climate crisis intensifies, the pressure on the aviation industry to cut emissions increases. And now, the industry has taken a step forward, with a successful test flight of a hydrogen-electric engine, which produces no carbon emissions.
United Nations has a new goal of net-zero carbon emissions for the aviation industry by the year 2050.
On Friday, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has 193 member countries, reached a long-awaited agreement on aviation climate change, calling for net-zero aviation emissions in response to growing pressure for airlines to reduce their air pollution.
Solar arrays that promise to generate happier, healthier cows and crops, while producing cheap electrons on the side, are being put into practice in France, following a series of government-led energy tenders with a difference.
Biofuel, any fuel that is derived from biomass—that is, plant or algae material or animal waste. Since such feedstock material can be replenished readily, biofuel is considered to be a source of renewable energy, unlike fossil fuels such as petroleum, coal, and natural gas. Biofuel is commonly advocated as a cost-effective and environmentally benign alternative to petroleum and other fossil fuels, particularly within the context of rising petroleum prices and increased concern over the contributions made by fossil fuels to global warming. Many critics express concerns about the scope of the expansion of certain biofuels because of the economic and environmental costs associated with the refining process and the potential removal of vast areas of arable land from food production.