Tag: ‘Recycling’

Eco-friendly bra doubles as shopping bag

08 Nov 2006

No shopping bag bra --

Lingerie manufacturer Triumph International Japan has unveiled a new type of brassiere that can be converted into a shopping bag. Called the "No! Shopping Bag Bra" (NO! reji-bukuro bra), the environmentally-friendly lingerie is designed to promote the reduction of plastic bag consumption, a key objective of the revised Containers and Packaging Recycling Law hammered out by Japanese lawmakers in June.

Each year, Japanese shoppers receive an estimated 30 billion plastic shopping bags, which, in terms of the oil resources needed to produce them, amounts to two giant tankers full of oil (millions of barrels). About 30% of these bags are thrown away without being reused, and since the consumption of plastic shopping bags contributes to environmental problems such as increased energy usage, trash buildup, and global warming due to CO2 released in the garbage incineration process, there are urgent calls to reduce their usage.

When the bra is being worn, the "shopping bag" portions are folded away inside the bra cups, where they serve as extra padding. The bra quickly converts to a shopping bag by removing the bag portions from the cups and connecting the hooks on the bra's underwire. The lace cups serve as decoration along with the shoulder straps, which are disconnected and tied to the top of the bag as ribbons.

The bra -- available in red, blue, green, yellow and pink -- is made from the Teijin Group's ECOPET brand of polyester fiber, which has been recycled from plastic bottles through the company's patented EcoCircle recycling system.

Triumph International Japan has a long history of developing eco-themed bras, with such creations as the Recycle PET Bra (1997), Eco-globe Bra (2004) and Warm Biz Bra (2005).

[Source: Triumph International Japan via Slashdot Japan]

Aimulet LA: award-winning eco design

05 Oct 2006

Aimulet LA --

The 2006 Good Design Award for Ecology Design goes to Aimulet LA, a batteryless, light-activated handheld audio communication device with an outer shell made from molded bamboo. The environmentally friendly communication terminal was designed by the Information Technology Research Institute at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST).

The name "Aimulet" is derived from the word "amulet" plus the letter "i," which denotes "intelligent," "interactive" and "infrared," as well as "ai" (which means "love" in Japanese and refers to Aichi prefecture, the location of the 2005 World Expo). The initials "LA" stand for none other than Laurie Anderson, whose Walk Project installation for the 2005 World Expo featured the Aimulet LA. Visitors to the installation used the device to receive audio messages as they wandered the site.

Aimulet LA is designed to be held up to your ear like a cellphone. When you stand over special LED emitters set into the ground, Aimulet LA receives the light signals via an array of spherical micro solar cells (called Sphelar by manufacturer Kyosemi) set into the bottom of the handset. Aimulet LA translates the signals into audio messages that are transmitted through a tiny speaker in the device. In Laurie Anderson's installation, visitors used Aimulet LA to listen to poems in four different languages as they strolled through a Japanese-style garden.

According to AIST, the technology at work in Aimulet LA can be put to use in public spaces such as outdoor exhibits and events, amusement facilities, train stations and parks, where it can be used in interactive media or entertainment. In addition, the low cost of the device means it could also double as an entrance ticket, annual pass or ID card.

The Good Design Award judges gave high marks to Aimulet LA's design concept for its ingenious blend of new technology and natural materials. The device also earned points for its lack of external power source, a factor that contributes to the creation of a battery-free environment. Being light-activated also makes it highly versatile, and its use of bamboo makes it easily recyclable and environmentally friendly.

This award marks the first time for AIST to receive a Good Design Award in Ecology Design. AIST previously received a Good Design Award for Paro, the cuddly seal robot recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most therapeutic robot.

Check out the Good Design Award page for more amazing designs.

[Source: AIST press release, AIST paper (English, pdf format)]

Bento-flavored biodiesel

08 Sep 2006

Plenus

Plenus Co., Ltd., which operates Japan's nationwide take-out bento chain Hokka Hokka Tei (a.k.a. Hokka Hokka Bento, or Hokka-ben) and Yayoiken restaurants, has unveiled plans to begin recycling the used cooking oil from its 2,400 branches into fuel for its delivery vehicles. According to the plan slated for launch in January 2007, the company will establish 6 refining facilities in 3 years with the capability of producing 3.3 million liters (870,000 gallons) of fuel from 3.7 million liters (975,000 gallons) of used cooking oil -- enough to fuel its entire fleet of delivery vehicles, Plenus claims.

Discarded cooking oil makes for a viable alternative to diesel once it is mixed with methanol and refined into biodiesel. After the refining process, the fuel will be supplied to the company's 300 diesel delivery trucks through a network of independent filling stations.

Plenus will establish the initial refinery base in Fukuoka in January 2007 with 130 million yen (US$1.1 million) in capital. Subsequent refineries will be established in Saitama, Yamanashi and Miyagi prefectures, and in Hokkaido and Osaka. The company hopes to establish an efficient fuel supply system and cut overall fuel costs.

[Source: Nikkei Net]

Martian silkworms eyed as protein source

24 May 2006

BBQ-flavored silkwormsJapanese scientists researching the prospects of long-term human settlements on Mars are dreaming up ways to address the challenges of Martian agriculture. At a recent meeting of the Japan Geoscience Union held in Chiba, Professor Masamichi Yamashita (58) of the Japan Aeropsace Exploration Agency (JAXA) unveiled a unique space agriculture concept that would liven up the rather mundane task of cultivating rice in greenhouse domes. In his concept, settlers would plant mulberry trees and breed silkworms, the pupae of which would be consumed as a source of animal protein.

"Japan has the unique advantage of calling into play its excellent silk cultivation technology and long-established culinary culture," says Yamashita, who has been studying the subject since January 2005. As part of his research, Professor Yamashita has met with about 70 experts in fields ranging from medicine to agriculture to food science. "Space agriculture research is about the pursuit of near-complete recycling inside domes, something that can also be applied to safe organic agriculture on Earth," he says.

With trips to Mars taking 18 months each way, settlers will not be able to rely on frequent supply shipments from Earth. A self-sufficient supply of oxygen and food will be essential to the succes of any lengthy stay on Mars. The thin Martian atmosphere and a sunlight intensity half that on Earth pose additional agricultural challenges, and the unwillingness to taint the search for extraterrestrial life with microorganism-laden human and animal waste demands a rigorous recycling program.

Yamashita's concept involves the construction of transparent resin domes where rice, beans, potatoes, and mulberries are grown in soil consisting of a mixture of Martian sand and compost material. The plants would generate oxygen inside the domes, and the mulberry leaves would serve as food for the silkworms. The settlers could then either eat the silkworm pupae directly or use them as food for fish and poultry they raise.

"When cooked, silkworm pupae taste like shrimp or crab meat," says Professor Yamashita. "People all over Japan ate them during the food shortages after World War II, and you can still buy canned pupae in Nagano prefecture."

[Source: Nishinippon Shimbun]

Portable fuel cell powered by water and aluminum

24 Apr 2006

On April 24, Hitachi Maxell announced the development of a fuel cell battery that relies on water and aluminum to generate electricity.

Portable fuel cell

Measuring 16 (H) x 10 (W) x 6 (D) cm (6 x 4 x 2.5 inches), the simple, low-cost device produces an average of 10 watts of power. The company claims to be working on developing it as a power source with up to 100 watts of power, and they hope to see the fuel cell use recycled aluminum scrap.

The device is described as a type of proton-exchange membrane fuel cell that generates power by combining hydrogen with oxygen in the air. Separate cartridges contain aluminum and water, and hydrogen is generated as water is gradually added to the aluminum. With 20 grams (0.7 ounce) of aluminum, a laptop can be powered for 4 to 5 hours.

[Source: Nishinippon Shimbun, Hitachi Maxell press release]

Ryuichi Sakamoto expands attack on controversial law

23 Mar 2006

Ryuichi SakamotoAt a press conference held in Tokyo on March 23, composer Ryuichi Sakamoto made a public appeal to the government to exempt all secondhand electrical goods from the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law (a.k.a. PSE Law, or DENAN). The law, which is set to take effect April 1, will prohibit businesses from selling electrical goods that do not bear the PSE mark (that signifies compliance with the law’s safety standards). In other words, before putting products up for sale, dealers will be forced to file paperwork and perform tests (such as 1,000 volts for one minute) on each and every pre-2002 electrical product in order to obtain a PSE mark. Though the government recently revised the law so that it does not apply to certain "vintage" electric instruments with high scarcity value, Sakamoto called upon the government to expand the exemption to all secondhand electrical goods.

“It is not up to the bureaucrats to determine what is ‘vintage’ and what is not," said Sakamoto, who was joined at the press conference by several other musicians, including composer/performer Hideki Togi and producer Kenzo Saeki. "The things we use should not be a matter for the government bureaucracy to decide. They think that we musicians will shut up because vintage instruments are no longer subject to the law, but I’d like to see everyone get behind those who make a living in the recycled goods business.”

Sakamoto was scheduled to deliver a formal written demand, in the form of a petition, to the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry after the press conference. The petition includes the signatures of about 50 musicians, including Tetsuya Komuro and Misayoshi Yamazaki, as well as 8 music organizations.

[Sources: Mainichi Shimbun, Kyodo]