IFCE Global Environmental Weekly Events [7/28 - 8/3/2018]
01 Africa Is On The Right Path To Eradicate Plastics
The ongoing global movement for eliminating plastics is gaining momentum in Africa. Several countries are now taking steps to eliminate the production and distribution of single-use plastics, some adopting a total ban on the production and use of plastic bags. Kenya, Rwanda, Cameroon, South Africa, Mauritania, Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Eritrea have taken the lead, others, like Botswana and Ethiopia, are following suit.
UN Environment and its partners are working closely with African governments to establish policies and create programmes that are geared towards a plastic-free continent. The campaign Beat Plastic Pollution has mobilized the continent to come together and clean up plastics in land and water ecosystems. The campaign also encourages governments to adopt the initiative and come up with regulations to curb plastic pollution.
UN Environment continues to play a key role in advocating for sound plastic waste management and environmental conservation, and in encouraging collaborative efforts and synergies to beat plastic pollution in Africa and beyond.
Source: UN Environment
02 Fewer Children Walk Or Cycle to School Despite Air Pollution Fears
The proportion of parents who drive their children to school rather than walk or cycle is on the rise despite growing concerns about the impact of air pollution on young people’s health. New figures from the government’s National Travel Survey show that the percentage of primary school children who walk or cycle in England fell from 53% to 51% in 2017.
Joe Irvin, chief executive of Living Streets, a charity that campaigns to increase walking and cycling, said the figures underlined the challenge of persuading people to abandon their cars for the school run and other short journeys. “The rise in people using their car for journeys that could be walked shows that Britain’s illegal levels of air pollution are set to continue.”
Last year, the government set the first target around the school run, aiming to to increase the proportion of primary school children walking to school to 55% by 2025. The Guardian found that thousands of schools in UK cities and towns – from Edinburgh to London, Manchester to Ellesmere Port – are taking measures to try to deter parents using their cars. However, that target is still way below the levels seen a generation ago when, according to Living Streets, about 70% of children walked to primary school.
Source: The Guardian
03 Study Finds New Reason to Ban Plastic: It Emits Methane in the Sun
The study, published in PLOS One Wednesday, found that some of the most common plastics in the environment release the greenhouse gasses methane and ethylene when exposed to sunlight.
While the amounts released by the plastics are small, researchers are concerned that the scale of plastic production and waste means they could still contribute to climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions over time.
"Considering the amounts of plastic washing ashore on our coastlines and the amount of plastic exposed to ambient conditions, our finding provides further evidence that we need to stop plastic production at the source, especially single use plastic," lead author Dr. Sarah-Jeanne Royer said in a University of Hawaii press release.
Royer didn't set out to study plastics, BBC News reported. Instead, she was measuring the methane produced by biological organisms in sea water when she discovered that more methane was coming from the plastic bottles holding the samples.
"It was a totally unexpected discovery," she told BBC News.Her University of Hawaii research team went on to test polycarbonate, acrylic,polypropylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene, high-density polyethylene and low-density polyethylene (LDPE), which are used commonly in food packaging, textiles, construction and other plastic goods, according to the University of Hawaii.
04 Old Plastic Bottles Made Into Towel, Bag and Swimsuit
First it was “bags for life”, chunky doormats and, more recently, clothing such as fleeces, swimwear and pack-away macs. Now towels made from recycled plastic bottles are to go on sale in the UK for the first time in August – the latest initiative in the war against single-use plastics and the result of a technological breakthrough that has produced a fabric deemed soft and fluffy enough to use on human skin.
The new range of eco-friendly bath towels will go on sale online and at 18 branches of John Lewis in the last week of August, after nearly two years of extensive testing and work with suppliers. The polyester from the recycled plastic bottles accounts for 35% of their content, while the rest is regenerated cotton. The bath towel is made from about 10 one-litre plastic bottles, and John Lewis says that the use of recycled rather than virgin cotton will save about five tonnes of fabric from going to landfill each year.
Marks & Spencer has recently launched a pack-away mac, made with 50% recycled polyester sourced from plastic bottles. The mac – for men, women and children – has been designed as part of M&S’s sustainability plan, in which it has committed to at least 25% of its clothing and home products being made with reused or recycled materials by 2025.
Source: The Guardian
05 Flow Battery For Green Energy Doubles Max Voltage
A new type of flow battery that involves a liquid metal more than doubles the maximum voltage of conventional flow batteries and could lead to affordable storage of renewable power.
The technology has long been considered as a likely candidate for storing intermittent renewable energy. However, until now the kinds of liquids that could produce the electrical current have either been limited by the amount of energy they could deliver or have required extremely high temperatures or used very toxic or expensive chemicals.
In order to use the liquid metal negative end of the battery, scientists found a suitable ceramic membrane made of potassium and aluminum oxide to keep the negative and positive materials separate while allowing current to flow. The two advances together more than doubled the maximum voltage of conventional flow batteries, and the prototype remained stable for thousands of hours of operation. This higher voltage means the battery can store more energy for its size, which also brings down the cost of producing the battery.
06 China’s Pollution Obsession Spawns A Global Consumer Industry
The Chinese market for air purifiers has boomed since 2011, when the US embassy began tweeting Beijing air quality levels. At that time, 3m air purifiers were sold in China each year, according to Guangdong-based GF Securities. By 2016, 4.35m units a year were sold. GF Securities expects the number will rise to 9.85m a year by 2021.
“The level of pollution in China has spawned a worldwide air purifier market,” says Matloob Hasan, director of research at Azoth Analytics in India. “The awareness about the harmful effects caused to health by the rising air pollution in China has increasingly persuaded a large population across the globe to install air purifiers, in both commercial as well as residential facilities.” In South Korea, where the public worries about homegrown pollution as well as that blowing in from China, the market for air purifiers grew from $268m in 2013 to $888m in 2016, according to news agency Yonhap.
The explosion of public concern over air quality has led to the development of smartphone apps, small household air monitors and even mini-purifiers for inside cars. The quality of air has also become a sales point for schools, shopping malls and even Wanda cinemas in China. High-end real estate developers offer air purification systems to raise the sale prices of their apartments. That too is catching on elsewhere, especially in the Indian capital Delhi, where pollution levels are fast becoming a litmus test for public dissatisfaction.
Source: Financial Times
07 Europe Speeds Up Plastic Restrictions As Sea Pollution Worsens
European countries and industries are among the leading forces promoting restrictions on plastic products such as straws that are polluting the oceans worldwide on an unprecedented scale.
The European Commission, the policy enforcement organization of the European Union (EU), introduced a strategy to ensure that all plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable in a cost-effective manner by 2030. As part of the plan, the commission presented to 27 EU member nations in late May a draft directive banning the private use of disposable plastic products like straws, plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic coffee stirrers, cotton swabs with plastic stems and plastic balloon holders, and requested that they be replaced with alternative products.
The draft directive also restricts the use of plastic cups for beverages as well as plastic food containers, such as the ones used for take-away items, and urges members to set numerical reduction goals or charge consumers for those goods. Products used for fishing, such as nets, lines, etc., are also targeted.
Source: The Mainichi
08 Air Pollution Causing Lung Cancer Among Youth
Air pollution has emerged as a major factor for lung cancer in India, especially among those below the age of 40, suggests a new study. The study found that 50 percent of cancer patients are non-smokers.
"Pollution is contributing a lot to the rise in lung cancer cases. Industrial and vehicular emissions and stubble burning are some major reasons for lung cancer. Young people and women are victims of lung cancer mostly due to pollution," Neeraj Jain, Chest Physician, Ganga Ram Hospital said.
"PM 2.5 level pollution in air is equivalent to smoking one cigarette a day. And therefore, new borns inhaling this bad air have higher chances of being diagnosed for lung cancer. That is why we recommend check-ups," he said.
09 Not Using New E-Waste Collection Service Could Harm Environment, Hong Kong Minister Warns
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing issued the public reminder as a producer responsibility scheme covering air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, television sets, computers, printers, scanners and monitors entered into force on Wednesday.
“People who opt to, like in the past, dispose of these items haphazardly or just sell it off to door-to-door collectors who could just end up dismantling them [and disposing of the rest] improperly, could be damaging the environment,” he said during a morning radio programme. “There could be heavy metals and chemicals in the components. In bad recycling practices, all valuable materials will be recovered, and the rest, the hazardous stuff, will be disposed of improperly, affecting the environment and the worker’s health.”
Under the scheme, producers and sellers are required to provide free and approved removal services for old and unwanted appliances to customers who buy new ones of the same type from them. The goods have to be taken to a recycler licensed to process and store e-waste.
Source: South China Morning Post
10 America's First Large Offshore Wind Farm to Offer $1.4B in Savings
The 800-megawatt wind farm Vineyard Wind project, the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S., has offered a total levelized price of $65 per megawatt-hour (MWh)—a record low.The planned wind farm, located 15 miles south of Martha's Vineyard, will be jointly developed by Avangrid Inc. and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Their contract was filed Wednesday with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.
In all, Massachusetts electricity users will save about $1.4 billion over the 20-year duration of the contract, Bloomberg reported.
Energy expert Peter Kelly-Detwiler tweeted that the $65/MWh figure was "astonishing." To put that price into context, he went on, the next record-low price for offshore wind was Maryland's recent $131.9/MWh offer. Rhode Island's Block Island wind farm is set at $244/MWh. Kriegers Flak, a proposed offshore wind farm in the Baltic Sea, will cost $73/MWh.