Tech vs. Trees: Duke Energy recycles old wood power poles into fences and other products, researchers developing paper test to diagnose African swine fever in hogs, Texas A&M students fight to keep newspaper in print

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March 4, 2022 () –

A roundup of recent trends pitting technology against the printed word:

Trees: Duke Energy recycles old wood power poles into fences and other products

Wood waste has certainly been upcycled into a number of surprising products from furniture and briquettes to even perfume ingredients. Now the source of wood waste has also become interesting thanks to Duke Energy’s program for recycling old wooden power poles. Because power poles could be as tall as a semitrailer truck and weigh as much as four refrigerators, the process of recycling them was a challenge, according to a Duke Energy release on Feb. 22. Russ Wilkenloh, who started the company’s recycling program, didn’t seem deterred as he worked with Blackwood Solutions to find a way to divert the poles from landfills. According to the release, treated wood can be used to build barns, fences and parking lot borders, while smaller scraps can be turned into coarse chips to build roads, and untreated wood can be recycled to produce biochar. The program appears to be a success. In 2021, Duke Energy was able to repurpose or recycle 90% of its old power poles, pallets, reels and other wood, which diverted more then 22,000 tons of wood waste from being discarded. 


Trees: Researchers developing paper test to diagnose African swine fever in hogs

After African swine fever wiped out 50% of China’s pig population a few years ago, this infectious disease has been detected in other parts of the world, including the Dominican Republic. Researchers at Purdue University aim to help hog farmers in the US and around the world contain African swine fever with a rapid paper-based diagnostic test. According to Assistant Professor Mohit Verma, the test is “similar to those of an at-home pregnancy test or COVID-19 test” in terms of ease of use, test timing and size. He envisions the test to use blood or saliva samples and feature an easy-to-see color change for results that can be produced within 30 minutes, according to a university release on March 1. Verma and his team received $1 million for the project from the National Animal Health Laboratory Network and the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program. “It is a devastating disease, and hours, even minutes, matter in containing it,” Verma said.


Trees: Texas A&M students fight to keep print newspaper

While a publication shifting from print to digital has become more common in recent years, it’s probably uncommon that such a move gets pushback from Gen Z readers. But that’s what happened at Texas A&M University’s student newspaper The Battallion when the university president told staff it must end the print edition immediately. The move was quickly met with thousands of students signing a #SaveTheBatt petition or tweeting the petition’s hashtag on Twitter to keep the newspaper in print. For now, the Battallion can keep the presses rolling for the rest of the spring semester, but its print future remains unclear, The Houston Chronicle reported Feb. 24. Student newspapers aren’t the only type of college publications getting love from print fans. A number of college alumni magazines that went online during the pandemic are coming back to print after readers asked about the return of physical copies.

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