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Masks to Contain Cow Burps Among Winners of Climate Design Award

The prototypes were among four winners of the Terra Carta Design Lab contest in the United Kingdom, which was evaluated by Jony Ive and Prince Charles. Former Apple Inc. design chief Jony Ives’ latest wearable device is a cow mask that absorbs planet-warming methane gas.

ZELP, a bovine mask designer, is one of four Terra Carta Design Lab award winners announced. The inaugural contest, which is affiliated with the Royal College of Art in the United Kingdom and is part of the Prince of Wales’ Sustainable Markets Initiative, included Ive and Prince Charles on the grand jury.

The prize was created to recognize innovative solutions to the climate crisis.

Each winner receives £50,000 ($63,000) as well as mentoring from Ive, the chancellor of the Royal College of Art, and other Sustainable Markets Initiative members.

Cow burps are a major source of dangerous methane gas, and most remedies have focused on producing feed additives to reduce emissions. With each burp, the ZELP mask, which stands for Zero Emissions Livestock Project, absorbs methane. A catalyst oxidizes the gas, releasing carbon dioxide and water vapor into the atmosphere. According to the business, the gadget can cut methane emissions from cow belches by more than half.

We think it can play a huge role said Francisco Norris, ZELP’s co-founder and chief executive officer. The additional upside for the farmer working with us is that they can tap into the data that we collect on the animals.

He pointed out that the technology is particularly well-suited to cows who graze in pastures and refuse to eat additive-free feed.

The masks have been tested by Cargill Inc., and Norris expects a commercial launch of the device in 2023 once the design is finalized. The U.K. business intends to sell the mask as a subscription service throughout Europe, with members paying an annual fee per cow.

Norris said the startup hasn’t set a subscription pricing yet, but it will target companies looking to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in their agricultural supply chains. This could result in carbon offsets, but first a technique for verifying emissions reductions must be created.

Another winner of the Terra Carta award developed technology to capture microplastics produced by car tires. Tires were determined to be the leading cause of microplastic contamination in California’s coastal waters, according to a 2019 research.

The Tyre Collective’s device lies behind the wheels of a vehicle and has electrostatic plates that collect charged microplastic particles shed by the tires. In laboratory testing, it absorbed 60% of particles.

The Tyre Collective, according to Hanson Cheng, a co-founder, attached the gadget to an SUV and completed a seven-week, 3,000-kilometer road test in London.

“On the road, we’re not at 60% yet,” Cheng said, adding that tests revealed the gadget also collected particles from other vehicles’ tires as well as what seemed to be microplastics from brake pads.

When we talk about vehicle emissions it’s just focused on the exhaust, but tires are the second-largest source of microplastic pollution and are a source of air pollution—particulate matter that has an impact on human health, said Cheng. 

He added that the startup, which is looking for partners in the United States, is also looking into ways to recycle the microplastics collected into new goods, with an initial focus on urban delivery fleets.

Aerseeds, which has invented a seed pod made from food waste that is designed to be disseminated by the wind for reforestation and other ecological restoration activities, is another Terra Carta winner.

Amphitex, the fourth winner, has developed a chemical-free, 100% recyclable material for waterproof outdoor clothing.

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