Skip to content

☁️ "Death of a Toaster"

The Big Switch

Photo by Daniel Salgado / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Dr. Melissa Lott
Guest: Chris Bataille | Associate Researcher | Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI)
Category: ☁️ Carbon Reduction

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[5:21] “Roughly a third of all our emissions is dedicated to making all the stuff around us. […] Your toaster probably cost you […] somewhere between $25 and $50. […] The actual materials were only a few dollars. So greener versions of those materials would only add another couple of dollars, even if they were double the cost. So somewhere in the chain, whether it's the government specifying it or labeling it, you want to buy things that are made out of green steel, plastics, what have you. And that's a cooperative thing between consumers and manufacturers. The second thing is, we tend to buy things that we use for five years and then throw away. And then when they throw them away, they end up in the landfill, and they usually end up burnt and they just end up as carbon in the atmosphere. And all that really good metal in there often gets degraded and not recycled properly. We need to change that paradigm.”

[7:30] “The number one bucket [in terms of industrial emissions] is making […] iron and steel products. […] And that's somewhere between 7% and 10%. […] Then there's cement, which is about 6%. Then you get down into chemicals and they vary at 2% to 4%, depending on which one. There's a whole bunch of tail industries [and] there's this whole other manufacturing group that's about 10% of emissions, [which is] basically all the light manufacturing and all the small medium enterprises that we see in the economy.”

[8:34] “The first biggest lever [to reduce emissions] is what we call material efficiency. We use too much steel and cement and concrete, because they're cheap, and they're effective. And engineers try to make things safe and durable. […] With modern computing technology, we can design buildings and infrastructure, bridges and what have you, such that we can minimize the amount of concrete and cement used and only use the steel and cement where it's really needed. Now once you've done that, then you're into energy efficiency, substituting materials where you can, changing the fundamental processes, electrification, and its close relative the use of hydrogen.”

[12:27] “Heat is a really big deal. It's at least half the challenge. It's going to be less of a problem with steel, it's a significant problem with cement. For chemicals it's about 40% of the problem. […] Today in North America, it mostly comes from natural gas, unfortunately, in a lot of the world that comes from coal. The trick is we need to get to a point where that primary heat is coming from things like hydrogen, coming directly from electricity. […] Now, electricity and hydrogen are quite expensive today, but we can be much more efficient in how we use it.”

[14:10] “The interesting thing is […] some [plastic] more or less recyclable than the others. We're coming back to the design question. You […] almost need to mandate design that only uses recyclable plastic. And that when the toaster comes apart, it's very clearly marked with those little triangles that you can pull it out and it goes into the right bin for that type of plastic. Now, making plastics is a chemical transformation process. […] And in the processing we can be a lot more selective. Instead of using heat, we can use filters, we can use what's called electrocatalytic catalysis, where we directly use electricity and catalysts to mix and match carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules into exactly what we want. Chemical plants of the future are likely going to be more […] electrocatalytic catalytically driven, and the feedstocks coming in won't be fossil fuel feedstocks. They'll […] initially some recycled fossil fuel feedstocks, but mainly it'll be bio, it'll be air capture, it'll be it pulled from other sources that if that stuff ends up in the atmosphere, it's not net adding to the CO2 up there.”

[15:56] “The reason I'm focusing so much on the 2030 mark is that 20 years across all industries is the usual what we call the retrofit and renovation cycle. […] Every 20 years or so stuff wears out, […] brick lining or masonry lining wears out [and] has to be replaced. And the cost of replacing that is almost the cost of a new plant. That is the moment that we have to catch and put in the zero emissions option.”

[17:38] “Currently, there are only two companies globally that can build the equipment necessary for making near zero emission steel plants. We need 15 of these companies, or they need to grow 15 times in size at the very least. So […] we've got 10 years to master the technologies ,10 years to build up the supply chain, train enough engineers and construction workers, build the factories necessary to pump these things out as they're as they're needed as stuff wears out and that applies across heavy industry.”

Rating: ⚡⚡⚡⚡

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify | Google
🕰️ 22 min | 🗓️ 10/02/2022
✅ Time saved: 20 min