Making coal from food waste, garden cuttings – and even human sewage

Millions of tonnes of organic waste are currently dumped in landfill, where it decomposes and gives off greenhouse gases. Image credit - Pixabay/Ben_Kerckx, licenced under Pixabay licence

Food waste, garden cuttings, manure, and even human sewage can be turned into solid biocoal for energy generation, and, if scaled up, could help match the industrial demand for carbon with the need to get rid of organic waste and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Europe has a biowaste problem. Rather than using the carbon-rich material … Read more

How hard-to-recycle plastic is being made as good as new

The packaging of fresh foods such as meat and cheese often uses a variety of layers of different plastic types which need to be separated before recycling. Image credit - Pixabay/ photosforyou, licenced under pixabay licence

New recycling technologies currently being tested may allow plastics such as single-use food packaging, fibre-reinforced car parts and mattress foam – polymers which often wind up in landfills or are incinerated – to have more than just a second life: they can become as good as new. Plastic waste is a growing environmental concern. About … Read more

Biodegradable glitter and pollution-eating microalgae: the new materials inspired by nature

The reflected colour of the marble berry differs from cell to cell, giving it a striking appearance. Image credit - Juliano Costa/Wikimedia, licenced under CC BY-SA 3.0

The iridescence of marble berries and the clever, light-bending perforations of microalgae are some lessons from nature that scientists are drawing upon to create biodegradable glitter and makeup pigments, and bionic algae to use in lasers or to clean pollutants. Nature has spent millions of years evolving answers to problems. It has come up with ingenious solutions … Read more

The evolution of biodiversity: ever-increasing or did it hit a ceiling?

Using the fossil record to estimate the levels of biodiversity is still a challenge given that we have more fossils from the recent past and as we go back deeper in time, none have been found for entire continents. Image credit - James St. John/Flickr, licenced under CC BY 2.0

By Gareth Willmer Preserving biodiversity is one of the key debates of our time – but another subject of hot debate in recent decades among evolutionary experts is how biodiversity has changed over the past few hundred million years. New findings are challenging the conventional view on this. Increasing knowledge on historical patterns of biodiversity … Read more