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With an unprecedented global need for masks and protective gear, came the challenge of complex waste. 27-year-old Binish Desai, who hails from the small district of Valsad in Gujarat, is an environmentalist and waste warrior who is creating eco-friendly bricks out of PPE kits and masks made from non-woven fabric to help decrease the burden on the environment.
A Rotarian, Desai follows a procedure that successfully manages this new kind of waste and puts it to a sustainable use: “After following proper sanitation protocols, the material is shredded, added to industrial paper waste procured from paper mills, and then mixed with binder. The mix is kept for 5-6 hours before being set in molds. The bricks are naturally dried for three days and the product is then ready for use.”
The innovator and sustainability champion is also the Chairman of Recycling, Rotary International’s ESRAG (Environmental Sustainability Rotarian Action Group) in South Asia.
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Desai speaks to IANSlife for World Environment Day 2021:
Q: What got you interested in recycling and waste management? How did you enter the space?
A: Just like any other child, I used to revel in outdoor games, cartoons, and comics. However, at the age of 10, my favorite pastime was watching Captain Planet — a superhero trying to defend Earth from pollution caused by villains and Dexter’s Laboratory — an animated series about a boy who ran a secret science lab at home. The show generated curiosity and inspired me to think innovatively.
In 2009, I got selected as a Rotary Youth Exchange student and that played an integral role in shaping my personality and channelizing my thought process towards contributing to society at large. I informed my host family during the exchange and fellow Rotary members about my plans to build the world’s least expensive house using chewing gum and wastepaper, and finally found a receptive audience I had been seeking.
Q: Tell us about your efforts in and process of recycling used PPE kits, masks, and other protective equipment. Is there a fear that they might contain the virus? How safe is the end product?
A: As the pandemic peaked, there was a significant increase in the unsafe disposal of masks and PPE kits in water bodies, which emerged as a new threat to the environment. According to industry reports, at least 129 billion face masks are being used and discarded every month. The crisis doesn’t just stop there, the manufacturers of PPE are also facing issues with the disposal of the PPE waste that is produced during the manufacturing process.
The solution to this problem was converting the waste into specially formulated bricks that can be used for all types of building construction and boundary walls. We collected discarded PPE from the public at commercial establishments, shopping malls, institutions, offices, etc, and stored it in a separate bin for three days.
Safety and hygiene are paramount when dealing with medical waste which is why we follow all Central Pollution Control Board guidelines. As PPE waste must be kept untouched for 72 hours before disposal, the eco-bins are opened 72 hours later, and the waste is then washed in a pool of disinfectant. After following proper sanitation protocols, the material can be shredded, added to industrial paper waste procured from paper mills, and then mixed with a binder. The mix is kept for 5-6 hours before being set in molds. The bricks are naturally dried for three days and the product is then ready for use.
In 2010, I had designed P-Block (bricks from chewing gum leftovers and industrial paper). Using a similar process, I developed Brick 2.0 using “corona waste”. I added PPE made from non-woven fabric which includes masks, gowns, syringes, and head-covers. I started experimenting with the method in my home lab and soon made a few in my factory. Face masks are a part of the new normal and they are adding to the plastic pollution. The idea was to manage the waste by the way of recycling and utilize it for something better. We have used three things — masks, head cover, and certain types of bodysuits of PPE which are made from non-woven fabric.
Q: Where is this recycled material used? Where have you found these bricks at home?
A: We have been using these bricks to create cost-effective toilets, refabricated houses, apartments, and even eco-centers and eco-schools. There is also a museum being made which will have these bricks made from PPE waste and paper. We have recently started creating furniture as well and have worked with 106 different types of waste (jewelry units, textile scraps, paper surplus, coffee waste, etc.) to create over 180 products such as wall and acoustic panels, paver blocks, home decor artifacts, and more.
Q: What are your thoughts on waste management in India? Is enough being done? What are some key hits and misses of the current practice?
A: Waste management in India is lesser-known among people but the Green India Mission has shed more light on the importance of sustainability. Organizations like Rotary have been trying to make a difference in this area by supporting initiatives at a grassroots level that could have a long-term, positive impact on the environment. Currently, India is the 6th largest producer of waste and we have around 43,000 industries generating 19,000 tonnes of waste every day. Approximately, 10,000 cars are being sent to landfills daily.
Traditionally, Indians have been using the ‘reduce, recycle and reuse’ approach in their everyday life much before it became one of the most successful approaches in making a positive impact on the environment. We see at home how mothers make use of old clothes and have been playing the role of biggest recyclers. Also, it is imperative to understand that waste management is not only segregation or relocation of waste but also about getting sustainably rid of the waste.
We need to find eco-economic and social ideas that can be implemented on a large scale. For this, the government must set regulations creating a circular economy, manufacturers need to be more cautious about what they are using and how they can reduce their consumption of non-recyclable materials or recycle more waste that they are generating. Consumers also should take an extra step to reuse and recycle material or ask the right questions to management or government to reduce waste. Recyclers should understand how to create products that are environmentally friendly and socially impactful but are also economically viable, only then the consumers will be able to utilize them to the maximum. All the stakeholders involved in this cycle need to work together so that one man’s waste becomes another man’s treasure.
Q: There are worrying studies and visuals on plastics and micro-plastics being found in oceans, marine life, soil, and even agricultural produce. How do you view these harmful developments?
A: As the technology evolved and materials became complex, waste came into existence. Nature is also taking longer to break down these materials and that is resulting in the generation of waste in oceans and soil. Microplastics found in the ocean are worrisome and raise an alarm for us to opt for products that are less toxic to nature. It is recommended to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle and move towards eco-friendly products. Reusing and reducing is a common phenomenon that should become a way of life to utilize resources in the right way.
Q: How can we take this message of sustainability far and wide, especially in the age of consumerism?
A: In this age of mass consumption, we have forgotten the essence of going local and buying handmade and eco-friendly products. We are also drawn towards buying things that we want and not just what we need. Minimalism is a way to move forward to produce lesser waste. Recycling as much as possible and segregating waste products to create something useful has become necessary. People can also reach out to their nearest Rotary club who will help in creating more sustainable solutions for the locality. The way to move forward is ‘Paryavaran Sthir Atmanirbharta’ which means environmentally cautious and sustainable self-reliance. (IANS/KB)
(why recycling is important, protect the environment, benefits of recycling, recyclable waste, types of recycling)
The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.
Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.
The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.
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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.
"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.
The immune system has to be educated not to attack one's own tissues and organs to prevent autoimmune disease. But pregnancy presents a unique challenge since the fetus expresses proteins found in the placenta as well as proteins whose genetics are distinct from the mother.
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"It was a conceptual leap to link Aire-expressing cells, which are critical for preventing autoimmune disease, to pregnancy," said Tippi Mackenzie, Professor of Surgery at UCSF's Center for Maternal Foetal Precision Medicine.
In the thymus, Aire-expressing cells begin interacting with other immune cells very early in life to teach them what not to attack. The thymus begins to shrink and is nearly gone by adulthood, by which time most immune cells have been educated. But as the thymus shrinks, the population of eTACs in lymph nodes and the spleen expands, the researchers explained.
The study suggests a healthy pregnancy may depend on having these cells around, they added. (IANS/KB)
The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.
Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.
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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.
"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.
It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.
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This applies to less intense situations too. Dating, for example, can be tricky — especially when it's online or via digital apps, as it often is now.
The study also found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.
In celebration of World Emoji Day on Saturday, Adobe's '2021 Global Emoji Trend Report' surveyed 7,000 people in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Australia, and South Korea. (IANS/KB)
Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.
Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.
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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin
Sirisha flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University.IANS
Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Mary Wallace 'Wally' Funk, and other passengers are set to liftoff from west Texas and travel just beyond the edge of space on July 20. Blue Origin announced this week that Oliver Daemen, an 18-year-old high school graduate from the Netherlands, would join the crew.
Oliver is the son of millionaire Joe Daemen, Founder, and CEO of the Dutch investment company Somerset Capital Partners. Blue Origin, however, did not reveal how much Daemen paid for his son's trip to space. Bezos chose July 20 as the launch date to honor the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
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The launch site for Blue Origin's first human flight will be in a remote location north of Van Horn, Texas, from where the firm had launched New Shepard for previous flights. Blue Origin has received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry humans on the New Shepard rocket into space.
On July 12, Bandla touched the edge of space with three others, including Virgin Galactic's billionaire CEO Richard Branson. Bandla vaulted into space onboard VSS Unity 22. After the successful spaceflight, Branson carried the Indian-American on his shoulders while celebrating their flight to space, at Spaceport America in New Mexico. (IANS/KB)