Business

New process turns biomass 'waste' into chemical products
December 17, 2014 03:13 PM - Elizabeth K. Gardner, Purdue University

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel for racecars and jets. A team of researchers from Purdue University's Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities. Lignin is a tough and highly complex molecule that gives the plant cell wall its rigid structure.

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An app to save 400 million animals
December 15, 2014 09:57 AM - Alex Rodriguez, MONGABAY.COM

Brazilian biologist Alex Bager has been leading a crusade to raise awareness of a major but neglected threat to biodiversity in his country.

Every year over 475 million animals die in Brazil as victims of roadkill, according to an estimate by Centro Brasileiro de Ecologia de Estradas (the Brazilian Centre for the Study of Road Ecology) or CBEE, an initiative funded and coordinated by Bager. This means 15 animals are run down every second on Brazilian roads and highways.

"The numbers are really scary and we need people to know about them," Bager said.

To register cases of roadkill throughout the country, Bager came up with the idea of an app, now used by thousands of citizen scientists. And a national day of action in November saw hundreds of volunteers participate in events to highlight the impact of roadkill on biodiversity. 

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SPOTLIGHT

What to do with all that zoo poop

Catherine Sengel, ecoRI News

Ron Patalano, director of operations at Roger Williams Park Zoo, has high praise for his staff. After all, it takes a mighty amount of shoveling to fill the two 30-yard Dumpsters of animal excrement that are hauled away weekly as part of the zoo’s recycling program.

 

Added to the grass clippings, vegetable scraps, animal bedding, hay and other natural materials trucked to Earth Care Farm in Charleston for composting, are 624 tons of manure produced annually by the zoo’s 280 inhabitants.

 

Keeping yards and buildings waste free “is not an easy job,” Patalano noted.

 

The zoo’s relationship with Earth Care Farm — Rhode Island’s longtime composting mecca — goes back at least 15 years, according to John Barth, the farm’s manager.

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