It is no secret that too much of what we consume today is made of non-renewable materials, and although we can recycle some of them, renewing them is not an option. In fact, the planet cannot keep up with our rate of consumption, and according to experts just within the building materials sector, the production of steel and aluminum alone require around 51% of the energy for producing all building materials globally.
Plastic and, in general, all materials derived from non-renewable resources, contribute to global warming threatening not the Earth that surely will survive us, but our way of life and ultimately, human species. The word is out there, and people all over the world is demanding change. Greta Thumberg and the movement she has ignited among youngsters – Fridays for Future – is just an example of what society, and especially younger generations, are demanding from decision-makers.
Trees –in general– are the answer. Technological developments show a future where every product can be made from a material that is not only recyclable but can be re-grown indefinitely, capturing carbon dioxide instead of emitting it. Recently, researchers from the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology, succeeded in 3D printing with a wood-based ink mimicking the unique ‘ultrastructure’ of wood. “Through emulating the natural cellular architecture of wood, they now present the ability to create green products derived from trees, with unique properties – everything from clothes, packaging, and furniture to healthcare and personal care products”, reveals the press release.
This is just one of the many innovative solutions scientists and researchers are coming up with to help reduce our dependence on non-renewable resources. In short, we will be seeing transparent wood substituting glass, as researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm have developed from wood a material that is not only sturdy, but also transparent and able to store and release heat.
Without doubt, future products will depend on timber, especially on timber sourced from sustainable plantations, which can provide many solutions not only in terms of supply but also due to the quality of the wood.
This is where poplar acquires great importance as it is an amazing tree in terms of sustainability. It is an extraordinarily high-potential material directly from nature that can help mitigate climate change in so many ways.
Poplars grow very fast, compared to other trees in Europe. They only take 15 years to complete their cycle, while oak for example takes over 100 years. They also give a high-quality wood and help fight pollution and water degradation. Just think that a plantation the size of a soccer stadium can capture some 11 tonnes of carbon dioxide while purifying an amount of water equivalent to almost 17 Olympic pools in one year.
In a forthcoming world, where most products would come from timber, poplar can become a strategic renewable source of raw material for Europe. But for that to happen we must plant more than we harvest, encouraging farmers to boost plantations and making Europe more competitive in the production of one the key renewable resources for the future.