The world is infested with the toxic results of our love affair with plastic. Could nature itself offer some alternatives? From transport to manufacturing to food services, plastic is everywhere, Fortunately, scientists, engineers and designers are shifting their focus to ecologically friendly alternatives that create circular, low-waste ecosystems these would include, liquid wood, algae insulation, and polymer substitutes made from fermented plant starch such as corn or potatoes., These alternatives can do lot more than stem the flood of plastics around the world, they effectively address issues such as safely housing a growing population, offsetting carbon emissions, and returning nutrients to the earth.

transforming one of the world’s most abundant resources into something with utility and sustainability takes a special kind of reworking of natures materials. Stone wool is a naturally occurring rock, much of it forms after lava cools ,this process also forms a steel making by product called slag; these substances can now be melted together and spun into fibers,

Unlike fiberglass insulation (made with recycled glass), or foamed plastic which is often used to block heat loss through attics, stone wool can be engineered to boast unique properties, including fire resilience, acoustic and thermal capabilities, water repellency and durability in extreme weather conditions.

Over the past few years, stone wool has gained traction with Eco-conscious architects and designers as they search for more sustainable building materials that are still cost-effective and aesthetic. A company named Rock-wool Group is a leading manufacturer of stone wool insulation, running production facilities in Europe, North America and Asia. They have installed stone wool in commercial and industrial buildings across the globe, including London’s O2 Arena and the Hong Kong Airport.

As wildfires and floods increase in frequency and severity, Stone Wool Is also likely give homeowners an extra measure of safety in natural disasters.

tree-hugging fungi and forest-floor toadstools may replace materials like polystyrene, protective packaging, insulation, acoustic insulation, furniture, aquatic materials and even leather goods.

MycoWorks,Is a team of creative engineers, designers and scientists working to extract the vegetative tissues of mushrooms and solidify them into new structures, curating fungi as one might other organic materials like rubber or cork. Another company, New York-based Evocative Design, uses mycelium as a bonding agent to hold together wood paneling, as well as for flame-retardant packaging. Mushrooms consist of a network of filaments called hyphae. When growth conditions are suitable, fruiting bodies which are the structures specialized for the production of spores make a sudden appearance; so-called mycelial products are thus easy to culture and germinate.

Mycelium can be grown in almost any kind of agricultural waste (think sawdust or pistachio shells); mushrooms grow together within the material, which can be configured into any shape, forming natural polymers that adhere like a strong glue. By baking the fungi at precise temperatures, they are rendered inert, thereby ensuring that the mushroom doesn’t suddenly sprout again in a rainstorm. While chanterelles, shiitaki and portobello may go better with pizza than mushroomy plaster, one thing is clear: the future is fungi.

Urine bricks: Cement, concrete’s primary ingredient, accounts for about 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Researchers and engineers are working to develop less energy-intensive alternatives, including bricks made with leftover brewery grains, concrete modeled after ancient Roman breakwaters , and less pleasant sounding but still a step forward is bricks made of urine. As part of his thesis project, Edinburgh College of Art student Peter Trimble was working on an exhibit that was supposed to feature a module on sustainability. Almost by accident, he created “Biostone”: this is a mixture of sand , nutrients, and urea – a chemical found in human urine. By Pumping bacterial solution into a sand-filled mould, Trimble devised hundreds of experiments over the course of a year until he tweaked the recipe. The microbes eventually metabolized the mixture of sand, urea, and calcium chloride, creating a glue that strongly bound the sand molecules together.

Trimble’s design offers an alternative to the energy-intensive methods with a low energy biological process of microbial manufacturing. the big bonus is that Biostone produces no greenhouse gases and uses a widely available raw material. While Trimble's material would require reinforcement to be as strong as concrete, it could become a low-cost way of building temporary structures or street furniture. At the very least, Biostone has spawned a discussion on ways in which industrial manufacturing can be made more sustainable, particularly in developing countries where sand is readily available.

These bio-bricks do have an environmental downside, however: the same bacterial metabolism that solidifies them work also turns the urea into ammonia, which can pollute groundwater if it escapes into the environment.

A greener particleboard

Despite what it sounds like, particleboard – those rigid panels made of compressed and veneered wood chips and resin used in furniture and kitchen cabinetry throughout the world – hasn’t actually a place in the green-building pantheon. That’s because the glue that binds particleboard’s wood fibres traditionally contain formaldehyde, a colourless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical and a known respiratory irritant and carcinogen. Yes that faux-wood Ikea shelf is quietly “off-gassing” toxins into the air.

One company, NU Green, created a material made from 100% per-consumer recycled or recovered wood fiber called “Uniboard”. Uniboard saves trees and avoids landfill, while also generating far fewer greenhouse gases than traditional particleboard, and contains no toxins. That’s because Uniboard has pioneered the use of renewable fibers like corn stalks and hops, as well as no added formaldehyde resin instead of glue.Particleboard contains glues which can leach toxic formaldehyde fumes

It’s no secret that petroleum extraction, which is required to produce plastic, has devastating environmental consequences. Worse still is disposing of the plastic itself: the toxic chemicals contained in plastic often leach into foods, beverages and groundwater.

Shockingly, recycling merely slows down the journey of plastics to landfills or oceans, where the material simply fragments into smaller and smaller bits that never completely biodegrade. Some reports predict that, by 2030, 111 million metric tons of plastic will wind up in landfills and oceans .While recycling is a step in the right direction, the solution is to truly reverse course, we need to look toward plastic alternatives and renewable resources for a sustainable future.b

UPDATE: 3D printing has a long history and its not really new, however its more recent evolution has made it extremely popular , the process of creating a three-dimensional object from a CAD (computer-aided design) model involves using an additive process, laying down successive layers of material until you create the desired object.

3D printing has been heralded as an environmentally-friendly method of creating complex shapes because it uses far less material than typical manufacturing processes.

The entire process begins with a three-dimensional model. You can either download one from a special 3D repository or develop one yourself. If you go down the DIY route, you have the option of using a 3D scanner, 3D modeling software, code, an app, or a haptic device. The most popular choice of data handling is to use 3D modeling software. You can get open-source software for free, or if your financially lucky enough pay thousands of dollars a year for a license to get so called industrial-grade software. Once you have your 3D model, the next step is to prepare the file for the printer; a process known as ‘slicing.’

Slicing involves dividing your 3D model into hundreds, or even thousands, of horizontal layers. While you can buy special slicing software, high-grade printers often have built-in slicers. Select the file and feed it into your 3D printer. Now, you have the excitement of seeing your sliced model get printed in three-dimensional form layer by layer!

The 3D printing industry is expected to be worth $15 billion per annum , and up to $35 billion by 2024! It has a huge range of applications including:

   Designing furniture
   Reconstructing badly damaged evidence from a crime scene
   Replicating ancient artifacts
   Automotive parts to restore old cars

3D printing experts now believe that the process is the future of construction. At the time of writing, it is already possible to print doors, floors, and walls. If you have enough time on your hands, it is potentially possible to print an entire house!

At present, the dominant material for 3D printing is plastic, but innovators are using coffee, beer, and even hemp! Hemp – An Unconventional 3D Printing Material

It is no secret that our environment is taking a beating. Some suggest that it is already too late to try and prevent climate catastrophe, but we owe it to future generations to try! Several companies are exploring the possibility of using recycled material for 3D printing. The market for plastic filaments is extremely competitive, so it is necessary to find alternatives to stand out.

The popular plastic filament is also an environmental hazard. These filaments are made from plastics which are melted down at extremely high temperatures to create objects. Various firms have decided to ‘go green’ and are now using materials such as hemp plants, and recycled beer and coffee waste. As well as being better for the planet, these alternative filaments can print with PLA using standard PLA settings. They aren’t dyed, which means you end up with natural colors.

3D Fuel was one of the first companies to create a hemp-based 3D printing filament. Its special ‘Entwined’ filament is made from American grown hemp. You can clearly see the natural brown color which contains no dye. It also has a significant amount of visible bio-fill; you don’t get that with standard PLA.

Recently, 3D Fuel reduced hemp’s particle size but increased the percentage in its filament. As a result, you can use Entwined in a far greater variety of printers. For the record, the material prints well at temperatures of between 356- and 410-degrees Fahrenheit. The brand recommends a starting point of around 20 degrees Fahrenheit lower than what you would usually use when printing with PLA. 3D Printer Hemp Filament in Action

Hemp is making a big comeback and is now legal to grow in the United States as long as its THC content is ultra-low. 3D printing itself is capable of reducing the manufacturing industry’s environmental impact as it reduces waste, speeds up processes, and uses less energy in the main.

However, there are still plenty of mistakes made with bad 3D prints part and parcel of the process. When this happens using plastics, you end up wasting a lot of material. Recyclable materials such as PLA and hemp are being championed as viable alternatives. Hemp, in particular, could be a Godsend to the industry because it doesn’t need pesticides, grows quickly, and is a durable crop.

PLA is also biodegradable, so when you combine it with hemp, you open up a world of possibilities. Making hemp filament isn’t that difficult once you become familiar with the process. Typically, you use PLA as a polymer base and grind up the hemp fibers into particles, which are mixed into the PLA. The legality of hemp filaments depends on where you live. In France, for example, hemp filaments must have 0.2% THC or less.

As for using 3D printer hemp filament, the printing properties closely resemble those associated with PLA. It is odorless, which makes it ideal for use indoors in smaller spaces. As hemp filament is ‘low-warp,’ it means you don’t need a heated bed when printing. However, if you use one, the best heat setting is 104 degrees. The combination of biodegradable attributes and ease of use make hemp filament a good choice for daily prototyping.

As for price, you can get a 500-gram spool anywhere from $35 to $60 depending on the seller. Printing Hemp Houses

The 3D printing construction market is in the process of massive growth. In 2017, it was worth around $70 million per annum. According to SmarTech, the market could grow to $40 billion in 2027! In many ways, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the benefits of using 3D printing in construction.

Aside from the high durability of printed buildings, they are faster to construct and have far lower costs and wastage. 3D printers also make it easier to create complicated design masterpieces.

Mirreco is an Australian biotechnology company that is dedicated to finding environmentally-friendly ways to construct buildings. It hopes to build 3D printed homes made from hemp filament ultimately. Already, Mirreco has developed carbon-neutral hemp panels that are being 3D printed into walls, roofs, and floors.

It is worth remembering that hemp can hold and store carbon dioxide; a major advantage in the quest to reduce ‘greenhouse gases.’ It is now possible to create hemp-based biocomposite materials which are stronger and more reliable than the synthetic materials currently used in the construction industry.

Back in 2018, Mirreco unveiled its concept of a sustainable hemp home which was designed by Arcforms. According to Mirreco, the walls, roof, and floors are going to be made using hemp biomass, while the windows will allow light to pass through the glass and get converted into electricity. Ultimately, the company wants to manufacture, sell, own, and operate a large number of mobile machines to process the hemp onsite.

Naturally, the company plans to use a gigantic 3D printer. A prime example is the Autonomous Robotic Construction Systems (ARCS) printer designed by S-Squared 3D (SQ3D) Printers. According to the company, its XXL printer will be able to create structures of up to 92,000 square meters!

SQ3D has a humanitarian goal in mind. It has stated that it plans to create properties for people in impoverished regions. It continued by saying that they could build a 500 square foot home for around $1,000. Most importantly, these structures would be solid enough to withstand tornadoes, hurricanes, and virtually any Act of God. Final Thoughts on Hemp & 3D Printing

The list of potential uses for the hemp plant is growing. It is absolutely unbelievable that this remarkable crop was banned for so long. In what is surely a case of ‘better late than never,’ industrial hemp is now legal to grow in the U.S. and in Canada.

The fact that hemp can be used to create the filament used in 3D printing is another feather in the crop’s cap. It is a significantly more environmentally-friendly material than plastic, and its durability and versatility really comes to the fore. Imagine a situation where it becomes possible to use hemp filament and a 3D printer to build an entire house for little more than a thousand bucks. That sounds like a better kind of future.

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