12 March 2017New Zealanders have a talent for unexpected answers to tough problems, and sustainability is no exception. Here’s a look at three New Zealand businesses that have applied fresh thinking to global environmental challenges – and created solutions that make sense for business and for the planet.
Buses and garbage trucks are some of the hardest-working vehicles in any city. They’re also amongst the thirstiest, noisiest, and most polluting - with stop-start running and heavy loads meaning high fuel use and toxic diesel and brake particle emissions.
Wrightspeed – founded by New Zealander Ian Wright, a co-founder of Tesla – is working to change this, with tough and efficient electric powertrains for heavy vehicles.
The way Wrightspeed powertrains work is simple: electric motors powered by batteries drive the wheels, while clever technology turns extra energy from braking into electricity that recharges the batteries on the go. If the batteries run low, an on-board turbine generator kicks in, which can be powered by any fuel - including biofuel, landfill gas and natural gas.
When used in garbage trucks, Wrightspeed’s powertrains can cut fuel consumption and emissions by nearly 70 percent – and save up to $25,000 a year in maintenance per truck. In buses, Wrightspeed electric powertrains produce around one-tenth the CO2 emissions of a diesel bus and virtually zero nitrous oxide emissions. Future improvements in battery technology will allow them to run with no emissions at all.
New Zealand transit operator NZ Bus has committed a $43 million investment into Wrightspeed electric powertrains, as part of a transition to electric buses to future proof its business. The technology will be retrofitted into existing diesel buses, with new buses built electric from day one – a cost-efficient upgrade that will cut emissions, save money and make New Zealand cities better places to live.
Plazrok is the brainchild of Enviroplaz, a company based in Auckland, New Zealand that’s making waves in the construction industry with technology that can turn plastic into high-quality concrete.
With demand for construction materials at an all-time high, that’s proving excellent for business. But it’s also great for the environment, since it means less plastic going into landfill, lakes or oceans. “We’re saying it can all come here,” says Plazrok’s Managing Director, Stephen Swart. “No plastic needs to enter landfill anymore.”
As well as its environmental benefits, the commercial positives of this innovative new material are seemingly endless. Plazrok can turn absolutely any kind of plastic into a substance that forms the base of concrete – without cleaning, disassembly or even removing labels, means concrete companies don’t need to change any of their existing processes. The final product is also 10 to 40 percent lighter than regular concrete, allowing big savings in transport and handling.
With global demand for sand slowly depleting beaches, New Zealand’s DB Breweries has developed its own solution: a reverse vending machine that takes an empty glass beer bottle and turns it into artificial sand. The result mimics the lumpy, rough texture of real beach sand – making it ideal for construction uses such as roadbuilding or landscaping, and for producing everyday household products.
Initially, the goal is to produce 100 tonnes of DB Export Beer Bottle Sand. It’s an ambitious goal, but one that DB Breweries Marketing Director Sean O’Donnell, believes is a step in the right direction: “We’re proud to launch an initiative that can help us do our bit to protect our beaches for future generations.”
Original article authored by NZ Story.