Plastic

This Refugee Is Building Homes Out Of Plastic Bottles

In a refugee camp in the Sahara desert, one man is making homes more durable in the face of tough weather conditions ― and he’s using trash to do it.

Tateh Lehbib Breica, a Sahrawi refugee living in a camp in Tindouf, Algeria, is building homes for other refugees out of plastic bottles filled with sand, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) video above that was posted last week.

Breica lives in Awserd refugee camp, one of five camps around Tindouf where Sahrawi refugees have lived for over 40 years, according to a January UNHCR post. Thousands of Sahrawi people, an indigenous group of the Western Sahara, were displaced to Algeria in 1975 during the Western Sahara War, and many have remained there since, according to the BBC.

Today, the desert climate in Tindouf ― including storms, heavy rains, and temperatures of up to 113 degrees ― often causes damage to refugees’ homes, which are either tents or made out of adobe mud brick, according to UNHCR’s video.

One storm in 2015, for instance, destroyed thousands of homes in the area.

Breica’s plastic bottle homes make for a more durable structure than adobe when it comes to fighting heavy rains, reports UNHCR. The circular shape also makes them aerodynamic, which helps to withstand storms.

“We spend months building the other fragile dwelling,” Mailaminin Saleh, a refugee who currently lives in one of Breica’s plastic bottle houses,

This Refugee Is Building Homes Out Of Plastic Bottles

In a refugee camp in the Sahara desert, one man is making homes more durable in the face of tough weather conditions ― and he’s using trash to do it.

Tateh Lehbib Breica, a Sahrawi refugee living in a camp in Tindouf, Algeria, is building homes for other refugees out of plastic bottles filled with sand, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) video above that was posted last week.

Breica lives in Awserd refugee camp, one of five camps around Tindouf where Sahrawi refugees have lived for over 40 years, according to a January UNHCR post. Thousands of Sahrawi people, an indigenous group of the Western Sahara, were displaced to Algeria in 1975 during the Western Sahara War, and many have remained there since, according to the BBC.

Today, the desert climate in Tindouf ― including storms, heavy rains, and temperatures of up to 113 degrees ― often causes damage to refugees’ homes, which are either tents or made out of adobe mud brick, according to UNHCR’s video.

One storm in 2015, for instance, destroyed thousands of homes in the area.

Breica’s plastic bottle homes make for a more durable structure than adobe when it comes to fighting heavy rains, reports UNHCR. The circular shape also makes them aerodynamic, which helps to withstand storms.

“We spend months building the other fragile dwelling,” Mailaminin Saleh, a refugee who currently lives in one of Breica’s plastic bottle houses,

3 Costs to Consider When Mass Manufacturing a Hardware Product

Developing a new electronic product that can be sold in volume is not simple or cheap. Underestimating all of the costs involved is one of the most critical mistakes made by those wanting to bring a new hardware product to market.

If you want to create a new hardware product, development costs will be your first major financial obstacle (assuming you do not immediately patent your product). Roughly 60-80% of the development cost will consist of engineering fees. The remaining 20-40% comprises the prototyping expenses. Development costs for most hardware products can be broken down into three categories: the electronics, the enclosure, and the retail package.

The Electronics

For most hardware products, the electronics are the most complicated and costly piece to develop.

For most new products the electronics will be the most expensive piece to develop.

Hire an Independent Engineer

Since engineering fees are usually the largest chunk of the development costs, your best strategy to minimize the required capital is to reduce the amount of engineering required. If you are experienced with designing electronics then you can save yourself a lot of money. If you are not, you may want to consider bringing on a co-founder with the necessary experience. However, for most startups, the best option is to hire an independent engineer to design the electronics.

One suggestion to lower both your development cost and risk is to hire a second independent engineer to review the work of your primary engineer. This strategy will reduce the likelihood of any design errors, which ultimately means fewer prototype iterations and lower engineering fees.

At Predictable Designs, not only do we offer design review services, but we also always have other engineers review our designs before prototyping. It is just a smart step that will not cost you that much extra, and may save you thousands of dollars.

Getting design reviews also makes it more realistic to hire lower cost Asian engineers to develop your product. Normally this is not recommended unless you have the necessary skills and experience to judge their work. However, if you had the necessary design skills to review their work, you would likely just develop the product yourself. So in most cases the best option is to hire another independent engineer that you have already established some trust with to review the work. This trick can potentially cut your development costs in half or more.

Tip: Find a manufacturer willing to help you offset some of the development costs. Many factories have an engineering department that may have extra time available. If you can find a factory that is not at manufacturing capacity, they will be more likely to help you. That being said, from my experience you need to have at least a first level prototype and/or…

These Blobs May Be the Future of Plastic Water Bottles

These funny looking globs might spell the end of plastic bottles polluting the ocean.

The Ooho! is an “edible water bottle” made entirely out of sustainable packaging.

Designed by London-based startup Skipping Rocks Labs, the biodegradable container is made out of a thin, flexible membrane comprised of sodium alginate – a natural derivative of brown algae – and calcium chloride. It can be either ripped open, allowing the individual to drink the liquid out of the membrane, or simply consumed whole.

Each glob contains 250 ml each, costing only about 2 cents to make.

RELATED: Man Creates ‘Shoes That Grow’ So Poor Kids Don’t Outgrow Them

Skipping Rocks already designed the Ooho! in 2014,…

To Deal with Plastic Trash, All You Need is Bugs

Outlawed now in some places, or only available to tote your purchases at a ridiculous premium, the billions of “T-shirt” bags used every year present a serious waste management problem. Whether blowing across the landscape like synthetic tumbleweeds, floating in the ocean as ersatz jellyfish, or clogging up municipal waste streams, finding a way to deal with them could really make a difference. And finding a bug that eats polyethylene and poops antifreeze might be a great first step in bioremediating the mess.

As with many scientific discoveries, learning about the useful and unexpected eating habits of…

Do You Really Need a Mouse Pad?

Computer mice have been around in one form or another for the better part of 50 years (or longer, based on your definition of invention), and for most of that time they’ve been paired with mouse pads. But modern optical and laser mice can track on just about any surface, unless you’re somehow using your computer on a sand bed. So do those nerdy-looking pads even serve a purpose anymore?

Yes, actually. A mouse pad isn’t technically necessary these days, but there are some obvious and serious benefits of using one, even if you’re not spending a lot of money on a fancy “gamer” model.

When Did Mouse Pads Start to Disappear?

Some computer users used to simply roll their ancient ball-driven mice along a desktop, presumably using their other hand to shove spears at woolly mammoths. But before the advent of optical mice, mouse pads served some very important functions: not only did they offer a smooth and predictable tracking area, they helped keep the tracking ball clean of dirt, skin oils, and other gunk.

An old-fashioned mechanical mouse ball mechanism. Note the horizontal and vertical rollers.

Microsoft and Logitech later introduced consumer-grade optical mice, which ditched the physical roller mechanism for a tiny and low-powered optical sensor and LED combo, around the turn of the century. These offered more consistent tracking on almost any surface (as long as it wasn’t reflective or transparent, like glass) without the possibility of dirt and oil buildup on a conventional ball. A few years later, laser-equipped mice erased even those limitations, and now you can get an inexpensive mouse that will track on more or less any surface.

Microsoft’s Intellimouse Optical, believed to be the first commercial optical mouse, circa 1999.

Consequently, mouse pads began to fall out of fashion. Since optical and laser mice don’t actually contact the surface that they’re tracking (except for the feet of the mouse, which isn’t part of the tracking mechanism), there’s no operational downside to using your desk, or your lap, or the spare…

A cheap plastic device could bring big changes to the worldwide palm oil industry.

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A cheap plastic device could bring big changes to the worldwide palm oil industry.

The Malaysian Palm Oil Board and Orion Genomics have developed a leaf-punch test that can tell whether or not a young oil palm plant will be defective when it matures. The process works like this: Subsistence farmers use the devices, which cost about $4, to punch samples from their plants. Then they mail the samples to laboratories. A few weeks later, farmers receive the molecular test results and use the information to invest only in good plants, while tossing the bad ones. It’s a shift that could drastically increase revenue and sustainability in the industry.

“Our work in this area has been driven in part by environmental concerns,” said Robert Martienssen, co-founder of Orion Genomics and a professor of plant genetics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. “As we devise ways to reliably boost yields, we thereby lessen the economic motivation to spread oil palm holdings into sensitive rainforest areas that are important to preserve.”

(Photo: Adek Berry)

Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet, and it’s used in all types of products — shampoo, pizza, bio-diesel, lipstick, soap, and countless others. It’s also especially productive: One hectare of oil palm can produce 10 times more oil than an hectare of soybean. And for the thousands of subsistence farmers in Malaysia and Indonesia, where about 85 per cent of the world’s oil palm is produced, it’s a livelihood.

Still, people often deride the palm oil industry for its harmful impact on the environment through deforestation and its labor conditions, Raviga Sambanthamurthi, a biochemist and former director of the Malaysian Palm Oil Board’s Advanced Biotechnology and Breeding Centre, thinks these criticisms miss the big picture.

“People really do not appreciate the fact that oil palm only occupies 5 per cent of the land that oil crops occupy, but it produces 50 per cent of the world’s oil,” Sambanthamurthi said. “You cannot run away from the fact that the world needs more oil in food. No other crop is going to give you that kind of yield. You have to clear so much more land if you’re going to produce some of the alternative…

These Caterpillars Chow Down on Plastic Bags

Remember The Very Hungry Caterpillar? He may have some serious real-life competition because scientists have discovered that a common caterpillar can eat and digest plastic. They published their findings in the journal Current Biology.

The wax worm is the larval form of the parasitic wax moth (Galleria mellonella), also known as the honeycomb moth. Adult moths chew their way into beehives, then lay their eggs, which will gorge themselves on honeycomb once they hatch. Because bees didn’t already have enough to deal with.

César Hernández/CSIC

Federica Bertocchini is a research fellow at the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain. In her free time, she’s an amateur beekeeper. One day, she picked handfuls of yellow wax worms out of her hives and tossed them into plastic bags, destined for the trash. But a few hours later, the bags were riddled with holes. The prisoners had made a wiggly break for it.

Bertocchini was intrigued. She and her colleagues rounded up hundreds of wax worms and a bunch of shopping bags and put them…

This Caterpillar Eats Shopping Bags, Could Solve Plastic Waste Problem, Discover Scientists

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Scientists might have stumbled upon an unexpected way to solve pollution from plastics. A caterpillar bred to be fishing bait is apparently able to biodegrade polyethylene – a commonly used plastic found in shopping bags. With people using around a trillion plastic bags every year, and with up to 40% of them ending up in landfills, this could be a very significant discovery.

The wax worm caterpillar that eats plastic is the larvae of the common insect Galleria mellonella, aka greater wax moth.

The team working on the study, published in the journal Current Biology, included Federica Bertocchini from the Spanish Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria, and biochemists Paolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe from the University of Cambridge in the UK.

The discovery was made by sheer chance when Bertocchini, who is an amateur beekeeper, removed the worms living in a beehive as parasites – a common problem across Europe. She collected them in a plastic bag and soon noticed holes throughout the bag. The worms ate their way out!

This prompted a timed experiment by her team, who placed about a hundred such worms in a plastic bag from a UK supermarket. They realized that the holes…

6 Creative Recycling Efforts From Around the Globe

Recycling isn’t—and shouldn’t be—limited to separating plastic cartons, junk mail, and tin cans for the garbage collector. This Earth Day, think outside the plastic bin, and brainstorm creative ways to convert or re-purpose old, discarded, or unexpected materials into something new and useful. Don’t know where to start? Get inspired by one (or all) of the sustainable organizations and initiatives below.

1. THE SHOPPING CENTER THAT SELLS RECYCLED/UPCYCLED ITEMS

The adage “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure” rings true in Eskilstuna, Sweden. The metropolis is home to a shopping center, ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, which only sells upcycled, recycled, or sustainable merchandise. (The name ReTuna Återbruksgalleria combines Tuna, which is a nickname for the city; återbruk, which means “reuse” in Swedish; and galleria, which means mall.)

Patrons can drop off objects they no longer want or need at a designated recycling depot. Items that can be repaired are fixed and re-sold in the mall’s nine shops, which offer customers everything from furniture to clothing items to sporting equipment. Goods that can’t be sold are donated to needy institutions or organizations, or recycled.

2. THE MALL THAT FEEDS ITS FOOD WASTE TO HOGS

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The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the nation’s largest shopping center—and it’s also vying for the title of “greenest.” In addition to LED parking garage lighting, water-efficient toilets, and thousands of air-purifying plants and trees, the mall annually recycles more than 2400 tons of food waste by donating it to a local hog farm. (If you’re an entrepreneur who’s interested in emulating the MOA’s large-scale food waste strategy, you can check out the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for getting started here.)

3. THE NONPROFIT THAT TRANSFORMS FLIP-FLOP FLOTSAM INTO ART

Around 8 million tons of plastic enter the ocean each year. Soda bottles, grocery bags, and six-pack rings aren’t the only plastic items polluting the world’s waterways and harming fish, turtles, and other animals: In…