Materials

Materials. Over the past decades we have come up with a lot of different options to make the products we love. Now it's time to explore how we can use different - and better - materials to do the same or even a better job. Why be lazy here?

As a first step I have generated a list of the most relevant go-to options we have. For now I will strictly focus on The Netherlands. As a general guidance I will use the book 'Drawdown - The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to roll back global warming' by Paul Hawken.

 

Together with experts in the field I am going to challenge this list. It is therefore an ongoing framework. You will find all the updates below, specified for each specific solution we can opt for.

01. Refrigerant Management

Drawdown: 'Every refrigerator and air conditioner contains chemical refrigerants that absorb and release heat to enable chilling. Refrigerants, specifically CFCs and HCFCs, were once culprits in depleting the ozone layer. Thanks to the 1987 Montreal Protocol, they have been phased out. HFCs, the primary replacement, spare the ozone layer, but have 1,000 to 9,000 times greater capacity to warm the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Because 90 percent of refrigerant emissions happen at end of life, effective disposal of those currently in circulation is essential. After being carefully removed and stored, refrigerants can be purified for reuse or transformed into other chemicals that do not cause warming.'

02. Alternative Cement

Drawdown: 'Cement is a vital source of strength in infrastructure, second only to water as one of the most used substances in the world. It is also a source of emissions, generating 5 to 6 percent annually.

To reduce emissions from the decarbonization process, the crucial strategy is to change the composition of cement. Conventional clinker can be partially substituted for alternative materials that include volcanic ash, certain clays, finely ground limestone, ground bottle glass, and industrial waste products—namely blast furnace slag (from manufacturing iron) and fly ash (from burning coal). These materials leapfrog the most carbon-emitting, energy-intensive step in the cement production process. The average global rate of clinker substitution could realistically reach 40 percent and avoid up to 440 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. Standards and product scales will be key for realizing the opportunity of alternative cements.'

03. Bioplastic

Drawdown: 'Globally, we produce roughly 310 million tons of plastic each year. Almost all of it is petro-plastic, made from fossil fuels. Experts, however, estimate that 90 percent of current plastics could be derived from plants instead. Bio-based plastics come from the earth, and those that are biodegradable can return to it—often with lower carbon emissions.

What affords plastics their malleability are chainlike polymers, comprised of many atoms or molecules bound to one another. Cellulose, the most abundant organic material on earth, is a polymer in the cell walls of plants. Chitin is another abundant polymer, found in the shells and exoskeletons of crustaceans and insects. Potatoes, sugarcane, tree bark, algae, and shrimp all contain natural polymers that can be converted to plastic.

Bioplastics can sequester carbon, especially when made from waste biomass. The big challenge for bioplastics is separation from other waste and appropriate processing. Otherwise, they do not fulfill their promise as more sustainable materials.'