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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Can We Grow Plastic Cars?

Sustainability is a general concept of living and consuming resources in a way that leaves an abundance for future generations. The goal is to make sure there is more than just a planet with some homes and a few jobs available for future generations, we are ensuring future generations have a better lifestyle - we leave them a legacy of wealth like a trust fund.

Needless to say, there is no need to deprive ourselves in the present in order to leave a legacy. Quite the contrary. It is imperative that we enjoy luxury today as well because you cannot pass on what you do not know how to create or manage. If I have never seen a ship or built a ship, how do I enable future generations the skills needed to make a living in the ship building industry? The same is true for a sustainable and abundant lifestyle, we first have to practice it before we can bestow it.

Within the umbrella concept of sustainability, there are many different practices that are emerging and more will surely come. Three concepts that are increasingly commercially viable are:

1. Renewable Energy - avoid those budget breaking fuel and electricity prices by using sources of energy that can be easily replenished anywhere in the world.

Circular economy with focus on waste, renewable energy and sustainable bioenergy in Estonia

2. Biodegradable Plastics - we use plastics everywhere and we don't want to be buried alive in plastic garbage so we are designing plastics that do multiple things (biodegrade so our waste management costs are lower, fertilise the soil while biodegrading even better, use natural plants that we don't eat so that we can give commercial value to non arable land and agricultural waste, recycle easier so we can make new things more affordably)

Biodegradable Plastics: Let’s Clear Up The Confusion

Questions about PLA/Bio Plastics

Green Composites Made of Bamboo Fabric and Poly (Lactic) Acid for Packaging Applications—A Review

Production of biodegradable plastic from agricultural wastes

An Agricultural Waste Based Composite to Replace or Reduce the Use of Plastics

3. Circular Economy - this idea is a perfect example of why we need to practice today. We started by thinking about recycling. Then we discovered a lot of what we throw away can be refurbished or remanufactured into high quality new products. Then we totally embraced creativity by deciding to explore what will happen if we design entire industrial systems in a way that everything can be re-used?

Biological Cycle in a Circular Economy

Regeneration in ACTION: A Circular Economy Approach for Urban Nutrient Cycles

The side benefit of all the above is healthier living because we have become more aware of all the toxins and polluants we can easily get rid off so that we have products that are both more affordable to make and better for our human longevity.

Now we are starting to put all the sustainability practices together into a new production system - Plastic Cars!

Think of a car that runs on renewable electricity (e.g. solar power). You need a body material that is durable and safe yet lighter than fiber glass (e.g. PLA plastic) so that it requires less energy to drive. You need to have a planned system via which all or most of the car can be re-used when the car is no longer useful (circular economy).

Violà: meet Noah, the new car fondly dubbed "The Ark of History" because of the way in which our industrial system can be transformed for the better using the avant garde design principles that enabled the prototype

Watch "Meet Noah: World's first circular car" on YouTube

There are several benefits to this new industrial model:

A. You don't have to live in a country with oil reserves in order to have energy or plastic production. Any country can excel in industrial production because we all have waste and we all have plants. The natural resource barrier to advanced industrialization is shattered. 

B. There are new jobs to be created that integrate agriculture with urban manufacturing. As an example: you don't have to live in a city next to a multinational manufacturing plant. You can live in a rural area and mobilise your neighbours to form a network that supplies biofeestock in a way that meets the needs of the various industrial uses. There could be a biofeestock network for renewable energy. Another one for bioplastics. Another one for biopharma

Here is an example

Here are some general guidelines on bioplastics

C. We are also examining better ways of boosting agricultural production. Non arable land is limited in space and accessibility so what can we do on arable land without compromising food security? 

One example is to grow energy crops in between food crop harvests (during the fallow period). Camelina sativa is promising because it is good for renewable energy AND improves the yields of dryland wheat. 

Camelina sativa (aka false flax) as a fallow replacement crop in wheat-based crop production systems in the US Great Plains

In Kenya we can explore the viability of intercropping Vemonia galamensis (aka Ironweed) which can be used for biodiesel and industrial chemicals such as epoxy acid. Intercropping candidates include maize, soybean and cassava.

By now you are hopefully thinking of both garbage and weeds in a new way. Nothing is wasted if we know how to add value. 

Check out more of our Circular Economy resources

Also feel free to contact us about contracted collaborative research

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