Herman van den Bosch

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Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

How plastics became a perfect example of the take-make-waste economy

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Every year, more than 300 million tons of plastic are produced worldwide, half of which are for single use. Only 10% of all plastics are made from recycled material. Their production contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and plastic waste threats our health.

It could have been otherwise, and it still can as plastics are versatile materials which can be valuable parts of a circular economy.

Unilever leads the way in integrating plastics in a circular economy. Better late than never. The company currently produces 700,000 tons of plastic packaging and it intends reducing this massive quantity by a not-very impressive 100,000 tons in 2025. Moreover, the company wants that all its plastic packaging becomes recyclable, compostable of reusable, and that at least 25% recycled plastic is used in the production of new plastic.

Easier said than done

Recycling is easier said than done. Preventing plastics from entering nature requires a labor-intensive and costly system for collecting and separating waste and technology for high-quality recycling of the collected plastic waste. New machines limit this unattractive work thanks to artificial intelligence. They are able to separate 20 different types of plastics. But consumers must be willing to collect used plastics first.

One of the biggest hurdles in recycling plastics is its pollution, for instance because of added dyes. The Dutch company Ioniqa (now part of Unilever) can chemically reduce PET waste to virgin PET. Large plastic users like Coca-Cola intent to co-operate with Ioniqa. This video shows how chemical recycling works.

Reusable high-quality products

If plastic had been designed for a circular economy from the start, the emphasis would undoubtedly have been on reusable high-quality products, in combination with substantial deposits. Together with Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Nestlé, Unilever has joined Loop, a platform that develops refillable packaging. Supermarkets that deliver products at home can easily include them in their range. This video shows how the system works.

The ultimate solution

What about using sustainable raw materials like biomass? Unfortunately, biomass from reliable sources is becoming increasingly scarce. Moreover, most bio-based plastics are not biodegradable. If they end up in litter, the effects are as harmful as those of other plastics. Some types of biobased plastics are compostable and might be thrown in the green waste. However, expecting consumers to be able to discern which are and which are not is too much to ask.

Biologically degradable plastics are the ultimate solution. These are biobased materials, which are safely broken down in nature in short time. PHA for example. Unfortunately, years of research have not yet resulted in any viable application.

Ban some types of plastic

A recently opened pilot factory in Almere that cycles plastic waste that otherwise would be burned is a promising step. However, the collection of plastic waste is still inadequate, and a large proportion ends up in nature as visual litter and returns to our food chain as toxic plastic soup. This applies in particular to plastic bags, cups, trays for snacks and soft drinks bottles without a deposit. A ban seems to be the only way-out awaiting a solid system of reuse based on substantial deposits and an advanced system of waste collection and separation and subsequent high-level reuse.

I will regularly share with you ‘snapshots’ of the challenges of us, earthlings, to bring social and ecological cities closer using technology if helpful. These posts represent findings, updates, and supplements of my e-book Humane cities. Always humane. Smart if helpful. The English version of this book can be downloaded for free below.

Herman van den Bosch's picture #CircularCity
Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

11 building blocks for the transition to sustainable energy

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In five consecutive blog posts, I have explored the opportunities and risks in the energy transition of carbon capturing and storage (CCS), biomass, geothermal energy, hydrogen, and nuclear energy, in addition to solar and wind. Find my conclusions below:

1. Sun and wind energy
I will feel most comfortable in a world deploying energy provided by sun and wind to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This implies a huge transition, which, also brings significant benefits for an emerging sustainable economy.

2. Nuclear energy plants
Instead of opting for an expensive third-generation nuclear power plants, we better invest in the development of fourth generation nuclear energy plants, such as Thorium, or molten salt reactors. Their waste is limited, and they are inherently safe. These reactors could potentially replace outdated wind turbines and solar panels from 2040.

3. Using less
We must also continue using less energy, without undue expectations. After all, clean energy can potentially be abundantly available in the long term, although this is particularly relevant for developing countries.

4. Hydrogen energy
In addition to the use of solar and wind energy, I am opting for hydrogen. It will be used for heavy industry, to level discrepancies in the supply and demand of energy and as an additional provision for heating buildings and houses. The presence of a high-quality gas network is easing this choice. In addition, we use residual heat, biomass of reliable origin and we exploit geothermal energy where its long-term availability is assured.

5. Energy from the desert
By no means we are producing all necessary hydrogen gas ourselves. The expectation is realistic that after 2030 it will be produced in deserts and transported from there at a competitive price.

6. Wind turbines and solar panels
The North Sea and the IJsselmeer will become the most important places for the extraction of wind energy. Besides, solar panels are installed on roofs wherever possible. We care for our landscape and therefore critically consider places where ground-based solar panels can be installed and where wind turbines are not disturbing. Part of the wind energy is converted into hydrogen on site.

7. Capture and store CO2
It could easily last until 2040 before the import and production of hydrogen meets our needs. Therefore, we must continue to use (imported) gas for quite some time.  To prevent greenhouse gas emission, significant capacity to capture and store CO2 must be in place.

8. Gas and coal
Given the availability of temporary underground storage of CO2, premature shutting down our super-efficient gas and coal-fired power stations it is unnecessary capital destruction. They can remain in operation until the facilities for solar and wind energy generation are at the desired level and sufficient hydrogen gas is available.

9. Local energy
Energy co-operations facilitate the local use of locally produced energy, thus enabling lower prices, and limiting the expansion of the electricity grid. To this end, private and neighborhood storage of electricity is provided.

10. Biomass
Reliably collected biomass is deployed as raw material for the biochemical industry in the first place and can further be used for additional fueling of coal and gas-powered stations (with CO2 capture) and as local energy source for medium temperature district heating networks.

11. Take some time
Finally, we must take enough time to choose the best way to heat buildings and houses at neighborhood level. Getting off gas prematurely can induce wrong choices in the longer term. A gradual phasing out of gas heating will enable us to wait longer for the moment when hydrogen (gas) is available to replace the natural gas in neighborhoods where it is the best solution.

Herman van den Bosch's picture #Energy
Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

Meet the five stepdaughters of the energy transition

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Last months, I wrote short essays about controversial aspects of the energy transition: geo-engineering (CCS included), biomass, geothermal energy, hydrogen and nuclear power (in Dutch). With these articles I tried to clarify my thoughts and to share my conclusions with others.  At the end of the fifth article, I arrived at a - provisional - conclusion in 11 short phrases.  I wonder whether you agree....

Herman van den Bosch's picture #Energy
Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

A comprehensive introduction into a human-centric approach of the smart city

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Recently, the peer-reviewed Journal of the Engineering and ˜Technology published an overview of the emergence of a human-centric approach into smart cities in contrast to the techno-centric approach. In this article I give many examples how technology can be applied as an enabler tp improve social and ecological sustainable city actions, starting from the principles of the donut-economy

Herman van den Bosch's picture #Citizens&Living
Herman van den Bosch, professor in management development , posted

Want a printed version of my free e-book Cities of the Future?

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Recently, I published my new e-book: Cities of the Future. Always Humane. Smart if Helpful.
You can download this book for free here:
Dutch version
https://www.dropbox.com/s/ytdadwgdsdw6zke/Looking%20for%20the%20city%20of%20the%20future%20NL.pdf?dl=1
English version
https://www.dropbox.com/s/kfywoszhrn4xi5j/Looking%20for%20the%20city%20of%20the%20future.pdf?dl=1

In case you prefer a compact printed version in Dutch (180 pages), transfer €20,00 to IBAN NL35 INGB 000 167 55 50 on behalf of H. van den Bosch, mention your address and you will receive your copy in a few days

Herman van den Bosch's picture #Citizens&Living