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Saatchi and Saatchi IS
Saatchi and Saatchi IS

This Paper Is Designed to Feed Bees

Saatchi and Saatchi IS
Saatchi and Saatchi IS

The world's bees are in danger. Pesticides, disease, and habitat and food source loss have caused bee populations to dwindle for years. To bring back these vital pollinators, one company is proposing an unusual solution: paper.

The biodegradable Bee Saving Paper is made with glucose and contains seeds from the bee-feeding flower lacy phacelia (also known as purple tansy). Launched by the Warsaw-based marketing agency Saatchi and Saatchi IS and City Bees, an organization that advocates for bees in urban communities, the paper is also covered in a biodegradable UV paint that, to bees, looks like a meadow full of pollen sources.

And image of honey jars with Bee Saving Paper labels divided in half to see the visible light vs. UV-ray views.
Łukasz Kaczorowski's honey jars
Saatchi and Saatchi IS

The idea is that bees will land on the paper, grab a glucose snack—similar to what beekeepers feed their hives to help them survive the winter—and fly away. The company describes the paper as being "like an energy drink for bees" to help them fly farther on their journeys to find food. As counterintuitive as it seems, the paper is designed not to be used and recycled, but left out in nature. The paper will eventually fully biodegrade, leaving behind seeds that will grow into the kinds of flowers bees love.

The paper could be used in paper plates, bags, coffee cup sleeves, or other disposable products (though the creators don't really say how that might work—would the bees come up and land on your coffee cup?). A Polish beekeeper named Łukasz Kaczorowski is already using it for honey-jar labels.

When it comes to helping bee populations increase, these sheets are a small-scale intervention whose results remain to be seen. But bees can use all the help they can get.

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iStock
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Scientists Accidentally Make Plastic-Eating Bacteria Even More Efficient
iStock
iStock

In 2016, Japanese researchers discovered a type of bacteria that eats non-biodegradable plastic. The organism, named Ideonella sakaiensis, can break down a thumbnail-sized flake of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the type of plastic used for beverage bottles, in just six weeks. Now, The Guardian reports that an international team of scientists has engineered a mutant version of the plastic-munching bacteria that's 20 percent more efficient.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Portsmouth in the UK didn't originally set out to produce a super-powered version of the bacteria. Rather, they just wanted a better understanding of how it evolved. PET started appearing in landfills only within the last 80 years, which means that I. sakaiensis must have evolved very recently.

The microbe uses an enzyme called PETase to break down the plastic it consumes. The structure of the enzyme is similar to the one used by some bacteria to digest cutin, a natural protective coating that grows on plants. As the scientists write in their study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they hoped to get a clearer picture of how the new mechanism evolved by tweaking the enzyme in the lab.

What they got instead was a mutant enzyme that degrades plastic even faster than the naturally occurring one. The improvement isn't especially dramatic—the enzyme still takes a few days to start the digestion process—but it shows that I. sakaiensis holds even more potential than previously expected.

"What we've learned is that PETase is not yet fully optimized to degrade PET—and now that we've shown this, it's time to apply the tools of protein engineering and evolution to continue to improve it," study coauthor Gregg Beckham said in a press statement.

The planet's plastic problem is only growing worse. According to a study published in 2017, humans have produced a total of 9 billion tons of plastic in less than a century. Of that number, only 9 percent of it is recycled, 12 percent is incinerated, and 79 percent is sent to landfills. By 2050, scientists predict that we'll have created 13 billion tons of plastic waste.

When left alone, PET takes centuries to break down, but the plastic-eating microbes could be the key to ridding it from the environment in a quick and safe way. The researchers believe that PETase could be turned into super-fast enzymes that thrives in extreme temperatures where plastic softens and become easier to break down. They've already filed a patent for the first mutant version of the enzyme.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Moak Studio
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Design
Coin-Operated Lamp Drives Home the Cost of Energy Consumption
Moak Studio
Moak Studio

You consume energy every time you switch on a light, and that ends up costing you, your power company, and the planet. This cost is easy to ignore when just a few minutes of light adds only cents to your electric bill, but over time, all that usage adds up. A new conceptual product spotted by Co.Design visualizes our energy consumption in a creative way.

Moak Studio presented their coin-operated Dina lamp at the Promote Design DIN Exhibition for Milan Design Week. To turn it on, users must first insert a medium-sized coin into a slot on the shade, whether it's a nickel, a quarter, or a euro. The coin fills in a gap in the lamp's circuitry, providing the conductive metal needed to light it. After switching the lamp off, users can flip a knob on the base to retrieve their coin.

The Dina lamp isn't meant to solve our global energy problems singlehandedly; rather, it's designed to get people to pause and think about the impact of their daily choices before they make them. But other strategies, like paying people to conserve energy rather than making them pay to use it, may be more effective when it comes to spurring real change.

Dina Lamp from MOAK Studio on Vimeo.

[h/t Co.Design]

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