Technologies

  • OILY SPILLS IN RIVERS: THE BLIND CORNER OF WATER PROTECTION  There are few ecological disasters that arouse indignation and a desire for change like oil spills into the seas, indeed we easily remember the images of the oil tankers and the “oil spill” coming out of those gigantic ships. However, the spill of oil into rivers is constantly excluded. In fact, how many river ecological disasters can we remember? Not many. The reason is that the magnitude of such events is not resonant enough to be proposed in the news and it is a phenomenon of extended intensity and it is diluted over time. Does this mean that they have less relevance in the ecological context? Not at all. In fact, it is proven that river oil spills represent the major source of oily pollution in the seas. Moreover, – probably deriving from the same cause – there is a lack of an extensive and updated scientific literature on the peculiar characteristics that make river spills different from marine ones, leading to a deficit in the methodologies of action against such events. A study published this year offers an overview of the reference literature. According to the study results three are the characteristics that differ river oil spills from marine ones: 1) the water column of the watercourse that disperses or retains the oily mass; 2) the formation and action of oil-particle aggregates ( OPA); 3) the interaction of the oil with the shore. In addition to those, the peculiarities of the river concerned must be included: torrent or river with a large flow, the nature of the banks and the presence of differences in height on the river bed and thus the formation of rapids. Therefore, the central theme concerning the oily spill into water courses is the low...
  • 9 November 2021

    Vitesy: the indoor green

    During our event, Re-think Circular Economy Forum held in Milan in October 2020, Paolo Ganis starts his speech presenting Vitesy, a startup of young entrepreneurs working on sustainability and wellbeing. They have identified two main problems. The first issue is the lack of awareness about indoor pollution and its negative effects on the environment and our health. As a matter of fact, the World Health Organization argued that indoor pollution can be up to 5 times higher than outdoor pollution. This is due to the existence of several unknown contaminants generating pollution and VOC (volatile organic compounds), which are bad for our health considering we spend about 9% of our time indoors. The second problem is related to the use of products using old polluting technologies, which are made of plastic and cannot be recycled. These products work with HEPA and Carbon Filters that need to be replaced often, otherwise the pollution goes back to the indoor area. In the last 5 years, 102 million filters have been wasted and generated 20.000 tons of trash. In their solutions, Vitesy is working on a new concept of connected wellness, thanks to the combination of nature, nanomaterials, technology and design. They have started testing the power of nature in research labs. In 2017, they launched their first product, Clairy, a natural air purifier that should eliminate 93% of VOC in 30 hours. Clairy enhances the phytoremediation power of some plants to remove pollution agents from the air. Thanks to its sensors and its app it is also possible to monitor air quality. In 2019, they launched Natede, the evolution of the previous product, combining photocatalysis and phytoremediation together increasing its purification process. It features advanced sensors to analyze temperature, humidity, VOCs, fine-particulate and carbon monoxide. Their latest product is Eteria with new...
  • 4 November 2021

    Phoenix Materials

    In occasion of our Re-think Circular Economy Forum event held in Milan on October 2020 we had among our speakers Marco Stefanini who told us about nanotechnologies and more specifically about Nanocoatings. What are Nanocoatings? What are the possible applications and what are their properties? Phoenix Materials develops, produces and markets products and treatments that are nanotechnology based. Here, they believe that, as every previous technological revolution, nanotechnology will radically influence every aspect of people’s life. Therefore, Phoenix Materials proposes itself as pioneer of this technology thanks to its knowhow and deep specialization in the creation of these types of materials. At Phoenix Materials they believe that technology and innovation will get closer and closer to people in order to make life easier while keeping an eco-friendly approach, which is a very important qualityof Nanocoatings. Therefore, their mission is to apply nano-technological solutions with the aim of improving existing products and materials (also a very important quality of Nanocoatings). Why Nano-technology? Its name derives from nano meters which is the smallest scale ever realized by men and it is even smaller than bacteria and viruses. Nano-technology, given the fact that works on such a small scale, gives the possibility to plan new materials and introduce innovation to scales where products characteristics and performances can be more influenced and develop their highest capabilities. One specific application of Nano-technology for these purposes are Nano-coatings. Nano-coatings are very thin layers that can be applied on almost any kind of surface. They are so thin and so small that they cannot be seen or touched. At the beginning they are liquid compounds and once they are applied to the surface they solidify and take the form of the extension of the surface itself. Why do they apply them if we don’t see or touch...
  • 26 October 2021

    Earthshot London Prize

    Nowadays, there are many possibilities to get awarded, recognised and supported for sustainable ideas, projects and businesses.   One of the most recently created global environmental prizes is the ‘Earthshot London Prize’, founded and currently run by The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge until the initiative becomes its own entity by the end of this year.  The Prize, whose first edition was held in 2021, was designed to incentivise and support change and to adjust our planet over the next 10 years. In order to do so, they decided to focus on five of the so-called ‘Earthshots’ – global goals – which aim at transforming our system in a more sustainable and equal one for now and tomorrow.   For each of these Earthshot challenge, institutions, cities, companies, startups, organizations can propose a protection-oriented solution and who will propose the best one receive a global platform and prestigious profile with their stories to be illustrated over the ten years to anyone interested in order to have mass adoption, replication and scaling of them.   Moreover, each winner will get £1 million in prize money to support environmental and conservation projects agreed with them.  The Earthshots challenges are the following:  Protect & Restore Nature: species all over the world are facing extinction or have been threatened by men because of improper ways of production, consumption and disposal; Build a waste-free world: the actual economic system is characterised by a logic of easily throwing away what we own and use, without properly considering whether they can be reused, repurposed or recycled; Clean our air: a lot of people breathe toxic air on a daily basis and this provokes numerous deaths that could actually be prevented by introducing 100% renewable energy for everyone, removing pollution caused by human activities and much more; Revive our oceans: life underwater is extremely at risk...
  • 24 September 2021

    Excess Materials Exchange

    Excess Materials Exchange – A dating site for materials  Who said only people can date? At our event Re-think Circular Economy Forum 2020 in Milan, Maayke Aimee Damen, presented Excess Materials Exchange, which she founded with the aim of creating a digital platform and marketplace where companies can exchange their excess materials or as she called it, a dating site for materials.   Maayke started her presentation by posing two questions: what percentage of products we buy ends up as waste within six months? What percentage of material value is lost after a single use? The answers are respectively 99% and 95%, much more than what most of the people would expect. In addition, the resource path trend is on the rise and it is projected to increase even further. At the same time, products on the market are becoming increasingly more complex. Moreover, estimations based on a forecast of materials for technology extracted, shows that there are not many resources left. While demand for resources and the complexity of the product are increasing, most of the European countries import raw materials. Focusing on the city of Amsterdam, the native land of Maayke, a great amount of materials is coming from countries outside Europe, as China and Russia. Due to the current situation, the economic and political tension is rising, so being independent on import is a risky choice. On the other hand, the recycling rates of these materials are very low.  Even though we have overexploited our resources and we are very dependent on other countries, concrete actions on this topic have not been made, and instead worldwide waste-rate is expected to grow with 75% in 2050. The ultimate goal would be reaching a 100% global circular economy, in which resources are infinitely cycled across different sectors without having a negative environmental impact, but at the moment the world is only 8.6%...
  • 21 September 2021

    A Digital Technology Roadmap

    By Shyaam Ramkumar, Circular Innovation Expert at Tondo lab In the occasion of our Re-think Circular Economy Forum 2020 in Milan, Shyaam Ramkumar, Circular Innovation Expert at Tondo lab, explained us how digital technology can form a roadmap to enable Circular Economy.    Shyaam Ramkumar focused his speech on how digital technology can form a roadmap to enable Circular Economy.    Since the latter half of the 20th century we have seen an increasing digitalisation of the world. A proof of this huge exponential digitalisation is visible, for instance, by comparing the amount of world information stored in a digital format. Indeed, in 2014 this percentage overcame the 99%, while in the 80s less than 1%. We are currently experiencing the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, with incredible advancements in different kinds of technologies that are changing our reality (AI, digital fabrication, IoT etc.). Especially this year due to Covid-19, we have seen an accelerating trend towards a more digital society, increasingly moving in the direction of online working, online learning and online socializing. This trend has huge implications for governments, companies and citizens, creating a new normality in a post-covid world. This increasing use of digital technology has actually a huge positive trend to enable the circular transition as well.  Technology allows for greater knowledge sharing and collaboration, insights and analytics to support a better use of assets and resources and improved wellbeing for all. As highlighted in Circular Economy’s “DISRUPT” framework, incorporating digital technology is a key element of the circular economy, especially with regard to how resources could be optimized and connections between actors among the supply chain could be strenthened by using digital online platforms. During his speech, Shyaam focuses on four kinds of technological solutions: digital platforms, blockchain, big data analytics and artificial intelligence. It is relevant not only to understand how these technologies are contributing to the Circular Economy, but also how they are connected to each other.   Many digital platforms have been recently developed, creating the foundation to enable greater connection and collaboration to advance Circular Economy. Through them companies, governments and citizens are able to exchange knowledge, share assets, reduce transaction costs and some of the inefficient market failures for second-hand resources, wastes and products. The constant use of digital platforms is also generating a great amount of data and insights in terms of: patterns of the use of resources and wastes, the demand and the supply of second hand goods. An example of this is Floow2, an online marketplace that enables companies to increase and valorise their existing assets, services, knowledge and skills by sharing them with other businesses under a given price. The platform really opens new opportunities for collaborations within companies and is gathering data on what are the biggest resources required, who has the biggest needs and who has the resources to provide them.   Thinking about the creation of these platforms, it is important to manage and store all of this information in a secure way, while providing them to the different stakeholders. The blockchain can provide a decentralized way to manage and store this information, allowing a greater transaprency in terms of the origin of product, resource use, authentication, tracing supply chain issues etc. In addition,...
  • 2 August 2021

    Fili Pari: wearable marble

    English Is it possible to imagine the use of marble in the textile industry? Can marble be light? It sounds incredible, but Francesca Pievani and Alice Zantedeschi, Co-founders of Fili Pari, explained to us – during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum 2020 in Milan – how that can be done. Fili Pari is an innovative Start-Up focused on research and development of unconventional materials for the textile industry, respecting the territory and the environment. The Start-Up specializes in the development of cutting-edge technologies for the enhancement of marble powders. Fili Pari aims to contribute to protecting the land and valleys from the mountain’s dismemberment and encourage the use of by-products as a raw material. Fili Pari was born from the desire to create a new deep connection between the Italian territory and the textile industry. Fili Pari’s concept starts in fact from marble, a natural, typical element of the Italian territory. Since ancient times marble has been used in art, architecture, and represents a cultural, economic, and geological heritage, a symbol of uniqueness and timeless excellence. For instance, the Carrara marble is one of the most precious and luxurious marbles in the world.  Generally speaking, Italian marble is among the most valuable in the world and it represents a very important sector of Made in Italy. The Italian stone industry boasts the fifth position in the world ranking for processed marbles, with a share of 10%. The supply chain has more than 3,200 companies and 33,800 employees and reached in 2016 a production worth 3.9 billion euros, three-quarters of which is destined to foreign countries. However, marble was never used in the textile sector. Before Fili Pari, there was no connection or synergy between these two industries. In fashion, it was used as an aesthetic inspiration through prints that reproduce...
  • 28 July 2021

    Coffefrom: from nature, the future

    English Version Have you ever thought that spent coffee grounds could not be a waste, but a great resource?  Let’s start with some numbers. Italy imports annually around 606 thousand tonnes of coffee (this is 17% of the EU’s coffee imports), and on average an Italian consumes 6 kg of coffee annually. As we can see, Italy is a significant coffee consumer, which means that Italy produces a significant quantity of spent coffee grounds. Spent coffee grounds have a lot of qualities: in particular, they are rich in nitrogen, an element with a high potential for energy production, saturated fatty acids, and cellulose. They can be used in several industries as they can be used to produce cosmetics, compost, pellets, biofuels, etc.  While some industries do recognize the potential of spent coffee grounds, there are some innovative startups that truly went above and beyond. Coffeefrom uses this resource in a circular way, with a zero-waste approach.  Coffeefrom is an Italian company that was born in 2019, it is based in Milan and it brought an innovative, extremely versatile, and sustainable material of biological origin material on the market. This material is made using spent coffee grounds of industrial origin, in a truly sustainable and circular fashion. Coffeefrom is the second circular economy spin-off launched by a local cooperative, Il Giardinone Cooperativa Sociale. The first experience dates back to Expo 2015, when the team of Il Giardinone experimented with the recovery and transformation of coffee grounds from Lavazza bars, using them to cultivate fresh mushrooms. In 2016, FungoBox was launched: the kit allows for self-production of fresh mushrooms from urban coffee waste.  Over time, the know-how of Il Giardinone in the recovery and transformation of coffee by-products strengthened and a new entrepreneurial vision was born: this is how Coffeefrom first came...
  • By Claudia Fabris English Fairphone is a company that manufactures smartphones by paying special attention to the materials used and the conditions of workers throughout the supply chain. The smartphones are designed to last longer thanks to a modular design that allows for the separation of components to be repaired or upgraded. This extends their life and allows waste parts to be collected and recycled, promoting the idea of a circular economy. That cellphones’ manufacturing relies on practices that are not always sustainable or ethical, as it is sadly known. Fairphone is a model and an example for other companies working in the same field of how it is possible to produce smartphones while respecting the environment and the workers throughout the production process, from the extraction of raw materials to the recycling of components. The “coltan”, a mixture of minerals composed of columbite and tantalite, is used in the production of small high-capacity capacitors for devices such as cellphones and computers. Tantalum has a particularly high commercial value and, for this reason, its extraction in areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to fighting between paramilitary and guerrilla groups for control of the territories where this material is found. These practices have led to uncontrolled exploitation of resources and the population employed in the extraction of these minerals. By committing to purchase materials directly from producers, Fairphone seeks to create positive change to ensure fairer working conditions and increase the amount of recycled and responsibly extracted materials. Together, these practices are designed to increase awareness in the industry and consumers of possible solutions to the problems associated with smartphone production. By 2040, the communications sector will contribute 14% of the total global footprint. The contribution of smartphones will exceed that of computers, displays and laptops combined....
  • By Giovanna Matrone and Simone Bambagioni English Version The manufacturing process is currently living its fourth revolution: Industry 4.0. Based on a wide range of new technologies combining physical, digital, and biological aspects, this means taking an enormous step forward compared to the previous revolutions mainly characterized by technological advancement. These new technologies are impacting all disciplines, economies, and industries, as well as challenging ideas about our conditions as humans. The main characteristic of Industry 4.0 is the connectivity between machines, orders, employees, suppliers, and customers. This digital transformation – based on Internet-of-Things and electronic devices – impacts the entire value chain of the manufacturing process. Within this revolution, some trends are receiving more attention and investments due to their high potential: Smart factory, Predictive maintenance, and 3D printing. 3D printing is a computer-controlled process serving object production by adding sequential layers of material (metal, plastic, composite). The evolution of this technology, mostly used for prototyping of low volumes, is the Additive Manufacturing (AM) aimed to support a real serial production. This manufacturing process significantly differs from conventional subtractive methods, mainly based on removing material from a solid block. AM offers significant advantages: production innovation can be accelerated, while product customization and functional integration can be reached quickly and at lower costs. This makes AM attractive for many companies to differentiate themselves on the market and reach sustainability targets. Indeed, AM becomes a fundamental step in transitioning from a linear to a circular economy, disrupting current supply chain in terms of design, materials, manufacturing, and products. DESIGN AM basically expands the scope of design to a wider range of factors, asking engineers for a real mindset change. Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) is not just focused on the manufacturing step itself, but it also considers the material properties, part parameters,...
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