Dumped waste, from used nappies to industrial by-products, have long wound up in landfills and can take hundreds of years to decay. In October we speak to the scientists figuring out how to keep such items in use to reduce rubbish and create a so-called circular economy. We learn about new efforts to mine industrial waste for the rare metals that go into making aircraft parts, pacemakers and bicycle gears, and find out about the culture shift needed to develop a zero-waste society. We also speak to the researchers building a biorefinery to turn soiled nappies into fertilisers and raw materials, and look at whether seaweed could become the next plastic.
A significant amount of the single-use plastics that we use ends up in our oceans. As people increasingly ditch these plastics, seaweed — also known as macroalgae — and microalgae could be the solutions to the world’s plastic food packaging problem. These are being used to develop everyday items, from edible water bottles to coffee cups to biofuels.
Businesses and consumers need to stop thinking of products as things to own and move towards a culture of sharing and repairing if we are to fulfil the ambition of creating a circular economy, according to Felipe Maya, project and innovation manager at sustainable engineering firm Exergy, headquartered in Coventry, UK.
Thousands of soiled nappies that were destined to clog Italian landfill sites or incinerators are being redirected to a recycling plant that is turning them into streams of high quality raw materials, in a new process that it is hoped will be replicated around Europe.
In August, Horizon takes a look at the quest to make Europe’s cities environmentally sustainable, while also ensuring a healthy and prosperous population. We speak to geographer Professor Harriet Bulkeley on why cities have such an important role in fighting climate change, what it means for a city to be sustainable and the big challenges that lie ahead. We look at the construction of zero-energy housing, homing in on the case of Nottingham, UK, and find out how scientists are putting nature back into the old Spanish capital of Valladolid. We also talk to the city officials breathing new life into historical buildings in Bologna, Italy, and learn how urban planners and architects are taking emotional feedback into account when designing new public spaces and homes.
How can science help refugees to successfully make a new home in Europe? In July, Horizon examines what we mean when we talk about integration and how research can help refugees build a better future. We speak to Dr Dominik Hangertner at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, about defining integration in order to measure it, the impact of current asylum policies and how big data can help resettlement decisions. We examine how researchers are looking into specific programmes that schools can establish to support adolescent refugees and how media literacy is one such area that can empower young newcomers. We also look at how longer-term mental health needs are being addressed and we speak to researchers and scientists who came to the EU as asylum seekers about the challenges of starting over in a new country.
Rivers in Europe are so congested with concrete obstructions like weirs, bridges and other man-made barriers that they no longer flow freely, which harms the wider environment. Removing these blockages could restore these vital aquatic ecosystems to their former glory.
It is used as a fertiliser to help crops grow, burned as a fuel for heat, and is even used as a building material. But exactly when and how humans began using dung is a mystery that is now starting to be unravelled by researchers.
Free flowing rivers have almost entirely vanished across Europe.
Animal droppings are still used to fertilise crops, as fuel and even for building.
R&I missions will mean rethinking the economy - Prof. Mazzucato.