Together for a better future: 3M and partners collaborate on sustainable technologies
Jan 25, 2024

The greatest problems of our time, such as climate change, will affect everyone globally. As a result, it only makes sense that we tackle these problems together, rather than alone. The exchange of ideas, the sharing of expertise and knowledge, and coordinated collaboration, leads to new ideas and new developments that perhaps would not come about on their own. That's why 3M is focused on supporting companies that are just as concerned with the future as we are and are also working to promote sustainability for a better future.  

Disposable batteries: small in your hand, but create large damage

Single-use batteries can contain heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium and lead, as well as other ingredients that are not only toxic but also flammable. To be disposed of properly, they must be collected and recycled separately from unsorted household waste.  However, data from the Environment Agency shows that the UK collection rate of portable batteries actually fell between 2021 and 2022, and as of October the collection rate is lagging significantly behind 2023’s target of 45%.

That's where the new 3M™ PELTOR™ WS™ ALERT™ XPV headset comes into play. In partnership with the Swedish deep-tech company Exeger, 3M has developed the first self-charging communications headset with hearing protection. The innovative headset helps reduce the need for disposable batteries. Through patented Powerfoyle™ solar cell technology, sunlight and artificial light are converted into clean energy. This eliminates the need for disposable batteries and benefits the environment, especially when you consider how many industries, professions and construction sites use headsets in daily operations. The technology is also manufactured in Stockholm using 100% clean energy.

The headsets are partly made from recycled plastic and electronics, to counteract the global increase in electronic waste and promote sustainable, long-term usable electronic products. In order to extend the life of the headset and help reduce the number of headsets purchased and material wasted over time, users can perform over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.

Additionally, users will be able to proactively track their individual energy consumption through the 3M™ Connected Equipment app, which will be included with every headset upon its expected launch in March 2024.

United against energy consumption  

3M has taken another active step in the fight against global energy consumption by teaming up with Voltiris, a Swiss technology company. Since 2020, Voltiris’ team of experts has been working to create a more energy-independent future for greenhouse growers.

Whether it be vegetables such as potatoes, lettuce and cucumbers or fruits like apples and bananas - produce in the supermarket is expected to be available all year round. In the UK, while some produce is imported from warmer climates, it’s entirely possible to cultivate most fruits, vegetables, and herbs in greenhouses, meaning that it’s easy for supermarkets to access this produce at any given time. However, greenhouse cultivation and storage of produce can be energy intensive. Tomatoes in particular require comfortable temperatures of over 20 degrees Celsius, which increases the energy requirements of greenhouses in cool months. Even at a target temperature of 16 degrees Celsius, around 350 kilowatt hours are required per square metre per year, which corresponds to around 35 litres of heating oil. Due to the lower number of hours of sunshine, the plants must be exposed to additional light in order not to have an even greater impact on their yield. Overall, this results in a CO2 footprint of a greenhouse tomato that is almost ten times higher in winter than that of an outdoor tomato.

By retrofitting greenhouses with solar cells that split the incoming light into two light waves, energy costs are reduced, and crop yields are increased. As a result, greenhouse farmers can have more control over their own green energy source, which will in turn lead to more sustainable food systems.

Through partnerships with innovative companies like Exeger and Voltiris, 3M is fostering collaboration and developing technological advancements that are helping to shape a better future, today.

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