The Pulse: Jan. 25, 2023

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  • 5°C: Increasing cloudiness early in the morning. 30% chance of rain showers or flurries late in the morning and in the afternoon. Wind up to 15 km/h. High plus 5. Wind chill minus 7 in the morning. (forecast)
  • 7:30pm: The Edmonton Oilers (27-18-3) play the Columbus Blue Jackets (14-30-3) at Rogers Place. (details)

Machines in a factory

Airport-based facility to boost production of compostable straws

By Mack Male

Plant Plus, which produces compostable straws using a novel plant-fibre polymer, is planning to boost production thanks to an upgraded facility in the Edmonton region.

Alfie Hsu, founder and CEO of Plant Plus, told Taproot that construction of its expanded facility at the Edmonton International Airport (YEG) should be finished by June. Once complete, the company will be able to grow production by a factor of eight, from about one million straws per month to as many as eight million.

"People are not a fan of paper straws," he said. "In reality, we have to have more ways to solve the problem."

The straws that Plant Plus manufactures use less energy and water than paper straws. They are also reusable, non-toxic, and fully compostable, Hsu said.

The company's analysis suggests that its straws could reduce overall emissions by anywhere from 27% to 70% compared to plastic straws. "If they're composted, we can get close to the 70% mark," Hsu said. The lower end of the range would be if the straws ended up in the landfill.

One of the barriers to wider adoption is cost. Hsu said the company's straws currently cost about four cents per straw (down from about 12 cents per straw when they started), compared to three cents per straw for paper and less than one cent per straw for plastic.

"We think we can get that cost down eventually, thanks to the new facility and the use of local materials."

Plant Plus has been working with Alberta's Bio Processing Innovation Centre to look at using the byproducts of common provincial crops, such as hemp and sugar beet.

"We cannot just import and say we can solve the problem, we have to think about being local," Hsu said.

He's also hoping to develop broader connections with other local businesses, including distributors and waste management companies. "We want to link our solution to support the circular economy."

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Headlines: Jan. 25, 2023

By Kevin Holowack and Mariam Ibrahim

A newspaper clipping of two ads for CKUA shows, one for "Your Home and You" and another for "Hamlets There Have Been"

A moment in history: Jan. 25, 1949

By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1949, CKUA was broadcasting cooking lessons and drama lectures out of the University of Alberta.

Canada's first licenced radio station started regular broadcasts in Montreal in 1920. A little more than a decade later, there were 77 stations transmitting in cities across Canada, carrying everything from music to sports to radio dramas.

But H.P. Brown saw radio's potential to provide education rather than just entertainment. As a supervisor at the University of Alberta's faculty of extension, he wanted to see if the radio could allow academia to reach beyond campus.

On Nov. 21, 1927, CKUA sent its first broadcast from the basement of the Power Plant Building. The station's call letters were chosen to represent their connection with the university — C for Canada, UA for University of Alberta, and K ... because it is an easy letter to pronounce.

University higher-ups viewed the station with skepticism. Funding was tight, and the studio was furnished with things scavenged from other departments. While the station only broadcast eight hours a week, it was a mix of programming that people couldn't find anywhere else — lectures from professors, debates, symphonies, and programming geared towards women. Audiences tuned in, and support for the station grew.

Eventually, it was given adequate facilities and enough funding to remain stable. It expanded to a floor that included a concert room, a control room, and other much-needed facilities. It bumped up its broadcast time to 40 hours a week by the early 1930s, adding science programming, language lessons, and other educational offerings.

In 1945, the station came under the control of Alberta Government Telephones, although it kept its relationship with the university and continued producing educational programming. In 1955, the station moved again, this time off-campus to the Alberta Block on Jasper Avenue. It would continue there for nearly 60 years before settling in its current home, the reconstructed Alberta Hotel.

From a shaky start, CKUA would grow into an Alberta institution broadcasting from 16 frequencies across the province. While no longer part of the university — its journey from government ownership to non-profit status is a full tale in itself — it endures as a source of unique programming, and celebrated its 95th anniversary in November.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.