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The major wins and fails in the quest for sustainability

There have been many advances in technology in the quest of sustainability but some have been more successful than others. Here we go through the biggest wins and the biggest fail in the journey to a more sustainable and cleaner future.

Could adding more plastic to water really help those in water crisis?

In 2015, LA California added 96 million small black plastic shade balls into LA reservoirs in hopes of protecting the water from algae and evaporation.

The director of water operations at the LA departments of water and power stated that the reservoirs had been developing algae as a result of being in so much sunlight. When the algae mixed with the chlorine disinfectant it created a carcinogenic by product.

By covering the surface of the water it prevents sunlight reaching the water and the balls also stop the loss of upto 1.1 billion litres of water a year. A floating cover for the reservoir would not have been suitable due to the size of the area it would have to cover, it would also be very expensive. Whereas, the plastic balls only cost 23p (36 cents) each which saves money on the cost by over $250 million.

The black spheres were meant to protect the water below by deflecting UV rays and deter wildlife from contaminating the reservoir, however the idea did not quite go to plan.

Where did the plan go wrong?

The shade balls were meant to be the innovative solution to over four years of record breaking drought in Los Angeles. However the shade balls caused even more issues.

Hydrologists stated that the black spheres fueled the amount of bacteria in the water which ultimately ended up in the taps of people’s homes. The shade balls created a thermal blanket which provided a new area for bacteria to grow. It also wasn’t helped by the colour of the balls which absorb heat further impacting the growth of bacteria.

The black spheres have now been removed from the reservoirs as a result of this catastrophic fail.

Wind power is winning

However wind power has come on leaps and bounds in the last five years and in particular offshore wind farms are becoming one of Britain's new top energy resources. Which makes them a real asset for a the future of energy.

More energy was generated by wind in 2017 than coal in the UK for more than 75% of the days of the year. In 2017 in total, renewables actually generated more than 3 times the electricity as coal over the year.

So there is a lot of hope for the future of renewable energy to be found in wind power.

The building that eats smog

The cities of the future could potentially look a lot like the Milan Memesi Studio, the Italian Pavillion is covered with a white geometric skin. The web-like look comes from a new type of cement by Bergamo-based manufacturer Italcementi.

The lead architect Michele Mole states that the building acts like a tree or forest, which may sound confusing at first, however, the panels of the building are like leaves which reduce the surrounding pollution. The material could make a huge difference to cities in future that suffer from smog.

The cement is made using 80% recycled aggregates. The exposure to light triggers artificial version of photosynthesis, turning pollutants which get trapped in the cement to turn into harmless salts.

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