Sustainability Compilation #5: Recycle (or Label) Your Food

HomeBiogas

HomeBiogas is a company that has created a small biogas system for homes that enables you to generate gas for your house depending on how much waste you have. From table scraps to liquids and even (as seen above) kitty litter, there are a range of waste products that can be broken down into gas for your home. The specific process is a host of bacteria that break down the compost and produce gas. Funny enough one of the byproducts of this process generates a plant fertilizer. As stated in their life cycle diagram, this allows you to feed your plants which you can then cook and recycle again into the HomeBiogas. They’ve already distributed hundreds of these systems and have even been able to distribute them to poorer communities so that they can use it when no alternative is available.

HomeBiogas

This is their Indiegogo, where they’ve easily raised their target funds.

Indiegogo

Zera

FINALLY, one of my dreams has come true! For the curious listeners out there, picture to yourself a world without food waste. You peel bananas or oranges, crack eggs, cut up vegetables, let food expire or usually have leftover food from meals. All of these scenarios create the same situation, a world where the amount of food going to landfills is obscene and degrades extremely slowly. Regular composting takes a long time, usually months, and often needs to be tended to carefully for nutrient composition, heat and air. But finally a machine has been invented by the Whirlpool Corporation and developed by their W labs to turn all of your spare or rotten foods into fertilizer.

The Zera Food Recycler resembles a large white trash can consisting of a trash bin component where the food is processed and a storage bin at the bottom where the fertilizer is emptied into. First you place a plant-based Zera Additive Pack into the trash can portion and fill until it’s full. Once it reaches maximum capacity all you do is press a start button to start the “transforming cycle”, as the company calls it. A large number of blades in the trash can then literally blend the food while being heated and injected with a stream of fresh air simultaneously to enhance the degradation process. When the process is done (which takes 24 hours) the food is reduced to 2/3 of its original size and deposited into the storage bin. The fertilizer can then be used immediately for your garden, lawn, or whatever it is you use fertilizer for. It also has an app that allows you to start and stop composting remotely.

Zera can turn a week’s worth of food into fertilizer or around 3.5 kg. It was also carefully researched as to how this fertilizer can be used and its bet use was for topsoil. The direct benefit will be that you can save money on food waste as well as fertilizers eventually. But there were a few grey areas. They didn’t mention how long you can store the fertilizer so I suppose it’s best to use it right away. It also hasn’t been mentioned if you can place liquids or hard candies into the Zera yet and the full range of food that can be used hasn’t been mentioned either. Now for the good news.

Whirlpool has released Zera on Indiegogo to impressive results. Their goal of $50,000 was easily met and has climbed to about $292,000 as of this posting with over 400 backers. There were early bird specials at $700 and $900 which are now gone, unfortunately. The only one left is $1,000 while the eventual price will be about $1,200. Luckily, based on their pricing for the additive packs it is very cheap so your main investment would be a large amount up front. Whirlpool will unveil Zera at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas so we’ll get our first live demonstration and the Zera itself will come out around mid-2017. Interestingly Zera isn’t the only one available. A company called Food Cycle Science has another similar food waste recycler called Food Cycle which essentially does the same thing but with 1 kg, taking 3 hours and costing $349. But either way the future of recycling is slowly emerging right before your eyes.

Zera

News Review

Indiegogo

Food Cycler

Laser Food

Sweden is taking yet another step in the direction of a greener economy. They have decided to stop using plastic to label produce, instead using a laser to etch wording directly into the leafy exterior. Called natural branding, a strong light removes pigment from the skin leaving the inside unaffected in regards to the edibility, expiration or texture. By public demand, Nature & More, a Dutch produce supplier, and Swedish supermarket ICA, a Swedish supermarket, have decided to perform a trial run on avocados and sweet potatoes. Peter Hagg, a manager for ICA claims, “By using natural branding on all the organic avocados we would sell in one year we will save 200km (135 miles) of plastic 30cm wide. It’s small but I think it adds up.” ICA has expressed interests in expanding to other fruits and if interest keeps up they intend to keep labeling all their products with laser. The UK supermarket M&S ran a trial last year on oranges however the fruits skin can heal, making the marking less legible. Instead they have been using it on coconuts and have plans to explore a few other items.

The Spanish company using this technology, Laser Food, has been around for a few years but has only recently had their technology used for this purpose. The laser uses less than 1% of the carbon emissions it would take to make a sticker for roughly the same designs. The article I have read claimed that the price is fairly high so it would be an investment until you save enough money from producing stickers. The main benefit is that we can stop using resources (paper, ink, glue) to make and ship the labels and instead use far less power to just label them directly. So get ready for your avocados to start having new tattoos. 

Laser Food

Test Cases

 

For more articles related to sustainability go to Sustainability and check out my other pages for excellent content on science, technology, history and more!

 

 

 

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