The pollution that has followed in the wake of the consumer society is a worldwide problem.
The pollution that has followed in the wake of the consumer society is a worldwide problem. In Britain two aspects of modern living have presented the authorities with grave pollution problems -- the disposal of household garbage and the control of oil pollution in the surrounding seas.
Warren Spring Laboratory at Stevenage, thirty miles north of London has been tackling these and other problems. On Monday (16 June) the scientists there held there first open day in three years and revealed the line their research has been taking.
The most eye-catching experiment was a garbage recycling plant. It deals with ordinary household refuse and its designers claim it can recycle up to eighty per cent of the constituents. Through a series of conveyor belt and extractors the plant can separate out paper, tins, nylon and glass. The plastics and textiles provide a low-grade fuel. The paper can be repulped and re-used as can the tins, metal and glass.
Last year Britain produced 20 million tons of household and trade waste. Much of this is in fact valuable material which can be re-used, saving resources and of course money.
Research into oil pollution on beaches and at sea has also been centred at the Warren Spring Laboratory. On display on Monday was a vessel fitted with sprinklers. This discharges a chemical onto the oil slick, which is the broken up by floats towed behind the sprinklers. An absorbent plastic rope on a loop was another innovation. This is dipped into the oil slick and then passed through a mangle, extracting the oil into a tank, before the rope goes back into the sea.
A rather different maritime study has been designed to find out the effect of moisture on the various dry cargoes carried at sea. The stability of such cargoes can be drastically altered by moisture, and in some cases ships have gone to the bottom when their cargoes have become wet.
SYNOPSIS: Britan's Warren Spring Laboratory near London this week held its first open day for three years.
Maritime problems are one of their chief concerns. This "mini ship simulator" has been developed to test what happens to cargoes under various sea and wind conditions.
The simulator can also work out how much a ship will toss and pitch under particular conditions.
Zinc concentrate was used to demonstrate the affect of moisture on a dry cargo in a ship's hold. Minerals have various reactions with water. In some cases ships have sunk when the cargo has shifted after absorbing moisture.
This research is designed to cut down the risk of further accidents at sea.
Combatting and preventing oil pollution has become a study in itself. Among the new techniques on display at the Laboratory was this spray equipment. The floats break up the oil after it has been sprayed.
This device is both simple and effective. The rope is made of absorbent plastic fibres. When it is sodden with oil, the mangle squeeze out the excess and the cord is returned to the oil slick.
Household refuse is both wasteful of resources and difficult to dispose of. For years inventors have been trying to find a satisfactory way of reclaiming and recycling the expensive materials the consumer society calls waste. This comprehensive recycling system at the Laboratory is claimed to extract eighty per cent of the constituents of the average garbage can.
The plant uses various methods to extract the components, including screening, magnetism, winnowing, and differentiating between substance which sink or float.
The plant can even make the fine distinction of separating out nylon stocking-tights. Paper is one of the most valuable recoveries. It can be repulped and re-used.
At least one million cans are discarded in Britain every year. Each is made of metal which can be re-used with little difficulty if it can be extracted and purified. Plastics, textiles and some paper is combined to make up a low-grade fuel.