‘Bio-bricks’ made from urine
A team of students scientists based in South Africa have made the world’s first ‘bio-brick’ made from human urine. Led by Dr Dylann Randall, a lecturer at the University of Cape Town, the students mixed urine with sand and bacteria then moulded the mixture into bricks at room temperature.
Bricks are normally created in a furnace, cooked in extremely high temperatures of 1,400C in a process that releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. By contrast, the bio-bricks generate far less pollution and also release potassium and nitrogen during the moulding process, which can then be used for commercial fertilisers.
The bio-bricks don’t only merely present a good opportunity to sustainably build new homes using sustainable, environmentally-friendly methods, they can also be used to promote farming, with fertilisers in short supply in many parts of the world. To make one bio-brick, the researchers used around 25 litres of urine – drained from the university’s male toilets. The average person unleashes around 250ml of urine when they visit the bathroom, meaning one brick would require about 100 trips to the toilet. As a byproduct, around one kilogram of fertiliser would also be produced.
Lost learners as part-time study falls
A leading business institute has expressed concern that the world is missing out on a whole generation of ‘lost learners’. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that the time and money required means that fewer people are studying part-time degrees at university.
The number of part-time undergraduate students in the UK has fallen by 50% since 2010, according to CBI research. CBI researchers interviewed hundreds of people they consider ‘lost learners’ – those who would like to study but can’t – to ask them what barriers they faced. Around six in ten highlighted higher tuition fees as one of the major obstacles. Other problems were a lack of funding for living costs and the inflexibility of course schedules.
Professor Julie Lydon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Wales and chair of the project’s advisory group, said: “The evidence from this project shows there is significant demand from learners and employers for more flexible learning, where learners combine study with work, and other life commitments. Learning and improved life chances should not stop when you reach your 20s. It must continue over a lifetime.”
Her conclusions were backed by Matthew Fell CBI’s UK Policy Director, who said: “Too often we think of universities as being just for young people, but as this work shows, adult education and lifelong learning matter just as much. There are some fantastic examples of how the university sector is already responding to these challenges, but now is the time to take it to the next level.”
UK youth face nightmare Brexit bill
Young people aged 18-29 could lose £108,000 throughout their lives as a direct consequence of a ‘hard Brexit’, a new report estimates. Our Future Our Choice (OFOC) is an NGO set up to oppose Brexit on behalf of young people across Britain.
The group is backed by former prime minister John Major who said Brexit “was never the choice of the young – who voted overwhelmingly to ‘remain’ in the EU, while their elders voted to Leave.” The research itself was conducted by an economist at the University of Oxford. It assessed a variety of outcomes on the basis of their financial impact on young people aged 18-29, finding that a no-deal Brexit would have the severest consequences.
Under that scenario, whereby the UK would default to World Trade Organisation rules, the average young person joining the employment ladder today would earn between £44,000 and £108,000 less during a 30-year career. The best scenario would be a Norway-style deal, but this would still lead to financial losses of between £7,000 and £32,000, OFOC said. The biggest threat facing young people would be a Brexit-induced recession striking the country just as they graduate, or start their professional life, said the researchers.
“There is a large body of research that suggests the wages of young people entering the workforce during a recession never catch up with their counterparts who join during buoyant times,” concluded the report, which is promoting a petition for a new referendum.
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