Today is Earth Day 2014, and with that in mind we will be taking some time today and throughout the week to take some time to look at the progress of sustainable, environmentally friendly technologies in America and abroad.
Our Earth Day 2013 coverage focused on recycling systems, solar energy generators and other green inventions from Universities. One particularly intriguing set of environmentally friendly inventions related to various hybrid electric vehicle innovations developed by Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. This year, we wanted to start our analysis of green technologies by focusing on patent applications and issued patents describing inventions related to recycling. As the Bureau of International Recycling reports, 1.6 million people across the globe are employed by an industry that recycles more than 600 million tons of material, an industry that creates a global economic impact of $200 billion.
We’ve searched the recently published patent applications and issued patents coming out of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to find the most unique innovations in the realm of recycling technologies. As you can see below, recycling technologies and innovation come in many different forms. While recycling in and of itself is no doubt environmentally friendly, so too are technologies that enable reusing items, relate to biodegradability and recycling items not previously viewed as recyclable.
In our search we’ve found an assortment regarding novel systems for improving retrieval of recyclable material, as well as new systems of recycling existing waste products. Patent applications that caught our eye describe unique systems of retrieving recyclable material to reduce pollution, including one interesting technology related to recycling greenhouse gas for interior heating applications. Other patent applications relate to new designs for materials like bituminous roofing or blood pressure cuffs which are more easily recycled. We also found some recently issued patents related to recycling technologies including a couple of original systems for recyclable collection, including one method of shredding mixed waste to remove glass, metal and other recyclables, as well as new methods of recycling disposable materials, such as artificial bait.
Apparatus for Amplifying Solar Energy by Recycling Greenhouse Gas
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140102439
As far as alternative, renewable forms of energy are concerned, solar energy collection for the generation of electricity is one of the forms that researchers are busiest trying to develop. Solar energy can be collected all over the world, and can generate electricity in great quantities in some cases. At noon at the Equator, for instance, one square meter of solar collection cells can generate 1,000 watts, making for a very high solar power density. Solar cell technologies, however, are complex and expensive to create.
The inventor listed in this patent application, Yong Lee of Seoul, South Korea, has developed a way to cut down on the complexity of generating energy through solar means while also utilizing greenhouse gases, which we typically consider to be pollution. This patent application, first filed in October 2010, describes an invention consisting of a sealed compartment through which flows a greenhouse gas, in this case sulfur hexafluoride, a waste industrial gas that creates a very intense greenhouse effect. When this pipe of sulfur hexafluoride is exposed to sunlight, it heats very well and can be used as a means of providing a heating supply for water.
City Parks for Resource Recycling and Green Revolution
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140083937
Access to drinkable water is a major topic of concern for urban areas, especially for cities in arid regions of the world. In coastal areas like Saudi Arabia, groundwater is mixed with desalinized seawater to support a public water supply. Water for inland cities faced with aridity issues, distant water sources are often utilized, which is usually more costly to transport. Concerns about a diminishing global supply of water have exacerbated this issue even more.
This patent application was filed with the USPTO in September 2012 by the Tarim Resource Recycling Company of Haslemere, England, to protect a system of water recycling in pre-existing or new urban aqueous systems. The system has the added benefit of using carbon emissions to recycle wastewater into biologically cleaned water, making it perfect for urban communities. The patent application further discusses the creation of biofuels from cyanobacteria collected by micro-flotation stations in a small lake or pond.
Smart Recycling System
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140074298
A lot of waste is generated in any space where large groups of people come together on a daily basis, such as a business park or college campus. Recycling systems for most of these institutions typically rely on the strategic placement of bins for recyclable waste around facilities. Advanced recycling systems for the monitoring of receptacles exist which use electronic sensors to report recycling events to a central monitoring facility, but the cost of purchasing and installing a system capable of monitoring an entire campus can be cost-prohibitive.
This patent application, filed with the USPTO in September 2013, would protect a smart recycling system capable of being retrofitted to existing recycling bins. The system includes a housing mounted to a recycling bin that uses sensors that can monitor for recycling events, such as when a person inserts a can or bottle into a receptacle. Visual feedback, such as a light display in the shape of a “smiley face,” could be provided to individuals to inform them that a proper recyclable has been inserted. This patent application was filed by the University of Georgia Research Foundation. We’ve covered patent applications from academic institutions before, but we don’t often see inventions such as this which address an actual problem of campus life.
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Mechanized Separation of Mixed Solid Waste and Recovery of Recyclable Products
U.S. Patent No. 8684288
Landfills and incineration are the common forms of dealing with municipal solid waste which builds up from commercial, residential and industrial sources. These methods of handling waste are very pollutive to the air, however, and many municipalities have attempted to create recycling systems for recovering recyclable materials from waste. In instances where municipalities have to retrieve recyclables from mixed waste, the cost of sorting and transporting recyclable material from mixed waste is often more than it would take to landfill or incinerate the entire mixed waste.
This patent was recently issued by the USPTO to Organic Energy Corporation of Sugar Land, TX, to protect a system of shredding mixed waste to separate organic material, wet organic material and inorganic material. Shredded material is then sent through a fractionating system capable of streams of homogenous recyclable material, like glass or metal. Mixed waste from residential blue trash bins or commercial facilities could then be mechanically sorted to retrieve paper, glass or other recyclable materials.
Portable Mobile Recycling Center
U.S. Patent No. 8684437
The goal of any recycling system is to make recycling easier on individuals. Instead of relying on individuals to take on the burden of sorting recycling and transporting it to a recycling center, municipalities benefit from higher rates of recycling when they can gather recyclables more efficiently.
This patent was issued by the USPTO to solo inventor Jeff Collins of Greeneville, TN, to protect a mobile recycling center housed in a towable multipurpose trailer. The trailer recycling system includes rollers, articulated booms and other means for collecting recyclables from individuals and depositing them into various compartments. The trailer also includes a storefront section with office space, bathroom, fresh water tank and other useful amenities.
Other Patent Applications
Our patent application search today at IPWatchdog rendered up many recycling technologies for a wide array of waste products created by various industries. Many of these systems focus on novel recycling methods for previously unrecyclable material, or new designs for disposable products composed of recyclable material.
New materials for roofing that enable better recycling after the material is stripped from a home is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 20140093710, titled Recyclable Bituminous Roofing Material. Filed by W. Quandt GMBH & Co. of Berlin, Germany, this patent application describes a method of creating bituminous roofing material with a higher melting temperature, which keeps the material from degrading past the point of being recyclable. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140094704, which is titled Recyclable or Biodegradable Blood Pressure Cuff, describes a low-cost blood pressure sleeve, or sphygmomanometer, that is recyclable. This patent application was filed by Welch Allyn, Inc., of Skaneateles Falls, NY, and is a continuation of an earlier application filed in February 2010. The last remnants of soda in a plastic bottle could even be recycled thanks to the system described in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140073025, titled Method and Apparatus for Recycling and Reusing Beverages and Other Liquids and Container Materials. Filed by TMD Technologies Group of Lafayette, LA, in September 2013, this system utilizes a shredder for plastic and glass containers and then a liquid separation process to remove leftover beverages which can then be filtered into ultra-pure water.
We were also intrigued by another patent application describing a system that actively encourages recycling on the part of charities and other organizations. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140108272, which is titled Charitable Donation of Proceeds from Recycling Activity, describes proactive methods for an organization to nominate itself for redemption proceeds offered by certain institutions in response to recycling activities. This patent application is a continuation of a patent application originally filed by Count & Crush Systems, LLC, of South Portland, ME, in July 2011.
Other Issued Patents
In our check in with recently published patent applications related to recycling technology, we’ve noticed a lot of innovations related to recycling of previously unrecyclable material. This differs from many of the technologies we saw in recent patent applications, which discussed new methods of composing devices and supplies to improve their inherent ability to be recycled. These patented technologies have the added benefit of being able to be applied to existing materials which recycling facilities have not yet been able to harvest from waste.
One example of these novel systems for recycling existing material includes the invention protected by U.S. Patent No. 8695270, which is titled Method for Recycling Artificial Fishing Baits. This system, patented by joint inventors Robert Miller of of Holdenville, OK, and Richard Parks of Seminole, OK, would result in the recycling of used, dirty artificial baits into newly molded baits for reuse by fishermen. U.S. Patent No. 8695364, titled System and Method for Recycling Non-Reusable Refrigerant Containers, enables the recycling of refrigerant from industrial transport containers without releasing any refrigerant to the environment. The system, patented by Hudson Technologies, Inc., of Pearl River, NY, includes methods for collecting refrigerant containers in bulk as well as refrigerant material from individual containers. Methods of recycling waste byproducts from thermoelectric power plants are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8696770, entitled Apparatus and Method for Recycling Coal Ash. This technology improves on existing methods of recycling coal ash by grinding ash into a material suitable for aggregate manufacturing.
Finally, we were also intrigued by U.S. Patent No. 8697588, issued under the title Mineral Wool from Recyclable Materials. This patent protects a method of creating mineral wool from recyclable materials like waste glass or furnace slag rather than resources like quartzite or granite. This mineral wool could be used for building insulation and is rated for use in buildings highly rated by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) nonprofit group. This invention was developed and patented by USG Interiors, Inc., of Chicago, IL.