IFCE Global Environmental Weekly Events [8/4 - 8/10/2018]

Release time:2018-08-21

01 UK supermarkets started to sell plastic-free, biodegradable chewing gum

Supermarkets in UK started to remove ordinary chewing gum and replace them with the new natural gum, Simply Gum,making it better for the environment. Simply Gum is made from a tree sap called chicle which is extracted from the sapodilla tree, native to Central America.

A recent research among 2,000 UK adults showed that 85 per cent were not aware it usually contains plastic.

Iceland has become the first supermarket chain in the UK to sell plastic-free chewing gum.The decision to stock the product forms part of the supermarket’s pledge to go 'plastic-free' on its own label products – something the chain aims to fulfil by the end of 2023.

Sir Malcolm Walker, Iceland founder and executive chairman, said: “Simply Gum uses the original, natural gum base of chicle and is fully biodegradable.We are delighted to make it available to UK consumers in our stores so that they can have a real choice about what they are consuming and the impact they make on the environment.”

Source: Indepentent

02 NASA satellites assist states in estimating abundance of key wildlife species

Climate and land-use change are shrinking natural wildlife habitats around the world. Yet despite their importance to rural economies and natural ecosystems, remarkably little is known about the geographic distribution of most wild species -- especially those that migrate seasonally over large areas. By combining NASA satellite imagery with wildlife surveys conducted by state natural resources agencies, a team of researchers at Utah State University and the University of Maryland, and the U.S. Geological Survey modeled the effects of plant productivity on populations of mule deer and mountain lions.

These models provide new insights into how differences in climate are transmitted through the food chain, from plants to herbivores and then to predators. Prey and predator abundance both increased with plant productivity, which is governed by precipitation and temperature. Conversely, animals responded to decreases in food availability by moving and foraging over larger areas, which could lead to increased conflict with humans. David Stoner, lead author of the study, "Climatically driven changes in primary production propagate through trophic levels" published today in the journal Global Change Biology, remarked that, "We expected to see that satellite measurements of plant productivity would explain the abundance of deer. However, we were surprised to see how closely the maps of productivity also predicted the distribution of the mountain lion, their major predator."

03 Zinke calls for proactive approach to fighting wildfires in new op-ed

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is calling for a more proactive approach to preventing wildfires, as his department says around 100 fires rage in the western United States.

Zinke suggested the removal of trees infected with tree-killing beetles. Trees killed by beetles, she noted, are dead and dry but can remain upright, giving fires a path to expand upright to the surrounding growth. Zinke's approach also calls for removing some underbrush from the woods -- which acts as kindling for large fires -- and for clearing a perimeter around buildings, such as residential developments. A layer of pine needles on the ground around a national park lodge, for example, can allow a fire to spread to the structure.

Wildfires, he noted in the op-ed, can be bad for the environment."Wildfires produce smoke and emissions," he wrote. "The release of gases and particles can negatively affect air quality. Fires also damage watersheds, and as we see fires burning hotter and longer, the soil is actually becoming scorched and sterilized, preventing regrowth."


04 Plastic food pots and trays are often unrecyclable, say councils

Most of the plastic food containers that householders wash out after use and put in the recycling bin cannot actually be recycled.The mixture of plastics used in many yoghurt pots, ready meal trays and other containers limits the ability of councils to recycle them.

According to the LGA analysis, around 525,000 tonnes of plastic pots, tubs and trays are used by households in the UK every year, but only 169,000 tonnes of this waste is capable of being recycled.Up to 80% of packaging could be made more recyclable, the industry said.

The British Plastics Federation said companies are working to use more recyclable containers and called for a financial incentive for manufacturers to use more recyclable plastics.

Source: BBC

05 Organic solar cells set 'remarkable' energy record

Manufacturers have long used silicon to make solar panels because the material was the most efficient at converting sunlight into electricity. But organic photovoltaics, made from carbon and plastic, promise a cheaper way of generating electricity.Organic photovoltaics (OPV) can be made of compounds that are dissolved in ink so they can be printed on thin rolls of plastic, they can bend or curve around structures or even be incorporated into clothing.

What's stopped them becoming widely used?In a word - efficiency.Commercial solar photovoltaics usually covert 15-22% of sunlight; However organics have long lingered at around half this rate, but this year has seen some major leaps forward.

In April researchers were able to reach 15% in tests. Now this new study pushes that beyond 17% with the authors saying that up to 25% is possible.

"Tandem cell means you have two devices built together in the same structure," said one of the authors, Dr Yongsheng Chen, from Nankai University in Tianjin, China.

"We have two layers of active materials, each layer can absorb different wavelengths of light. That means you can use sunlight in the wider wavelengths or more efficiently and this can generate more current."

How far are these from commercial production?Not that far away according to the researchers. Dr Yongsheng Chen compares the OPV to organic light-emitting diodes, or OLED.

Source: BBC

06 Researchers call for comprehensive transformation of food systems

A group of international researchers published a review article in the journal Agronomy for Sustainable Development. Agriculture and food systems policies should ensure more than just the supply of food. Decision-makers must make a paradigm shift to align policies about climate, agriculture and food with the United Nation's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

"After examining the links between sectors and the evolution of the role of agriculture for development, and building on the outcomes of the Milano Group's discussions, we conclude that we need to implement a comprehensive transformation, moving beyond food supply as the basis for food systems," says Patrick Caron of CIRAD in France, who is lead author of the review.

The researchers say the comprehensive transformation of food systems should rely on four pillars: first, food systems should enable all people to benefit from nutritious and healthy food; second, they should reflect sustainable agricultural production and food value chains; third, efforts should mitigate climate change and build resilience; and finally, these transformations should encourage a renaissance of rural territories.

"We need consistency between global actions for sustainable development and numerous local-level innovations," says Caron.

Source:Science Daily

07 Earth at risk of heading towards 'hothouse Earth' state

An international team of scientists is showing that even if the carbon emission reductions called for in the Paris Agreement are met, there is a risk of Earth entering what the scientists call 'hothouse Earth' conditions. A "Hothouse Earth" climate will in the long-term stabilize at a global average of 4-5°C higher than pre-industrial temperatures with sea level 10-60 m higher than today, the paper says. The authors conclude it is now urgent to greatly accelerate the transition towards an emission-free world economy.

"Human emissions of greenhouse gas are not the sole determinant of temperature on Earth. Our study suggests that human-induced global warming of 2°C may trigger other Earth system processes, often called "feedbacks," that can drive further warming -- even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases," says lead author Will Steffen from the Australian National University and Stockholm Resilience Centre. These feedbacks are: permafrost thaw, loss of methane hydrates from the ocean floor, weakening land and ocean carbon sinks, increasing bacterial respiration in the oceans, Amazon rainforest dieback, boreal forest dieback, reduction of northern hemisphere snow cover, loss of Arctic summer sea ice, and reduction of Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets.

Maximizing the chances of avoiding a "Hothouse Earth" requires not only reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions but also enhancement and/or creation of new biological carbon stores, for example, through improved forest, agricultural and soil management; biodiversity conservation; and technologies that remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it underground, the paper says. Critically, the study emphasizes that these measures must be underpinned by fundamental societal changes that are required to maintain a "Stabilized Earth" where temperatures are ~2°C warmer that the pre-industrial.

Source:Science Daily

08 How Cantonese soups create 40 per cent of Hong Kong’s food waste

Every day Hongkongers throw away 450 tonnes of leftover soup ingredients – a weight equivalent to about 1,000 cows, according to a study by a local NGO. The unwanted dregs make up a hefty 40 per cent of all household food waste in the city.

Casey Ng, Food Grace project officer, says that while the media tend to focus on inorganic waste such as single-use plastics, food leftovers bring their own set of problems.“While it decomposes easily compared to inorganic waste, it produces greenhouse gases such as methane and waste water that harm the environment,” Ng says.

But now a professional Cantonese chef is encouraging cooks to get creative instead of reaching for the rubbish bin.

Chung Chi-keung, head chef at J&T Restaurant in Wan Chai, known for its Cantonese cuisine, says most soup ingredients remain tasty for an extended period as long as they are cooked at the right temperature and correct length of time.

Chung and environmental campaigners have come up with a number of inventive solutions in response to Food Grace’s report. Wendell Chan, programme officer for the Hong Kong branch of Friends of the Earth, says the government needs to put more resources into education and infrastructure to change household habits. He says chickens used in soup are a prime example of where food can go further.“The bones can be boiled again to make broth for vegetables, and the leftover meat can be chopped into slices and served in other dishes,” he says.

Source:South China Morning Post

09 Planting Trees to Help Dallas Breathe

According to a U.S. News Healthiest Communities analysis ,less than 20 percent of Dallas County's land area was covered by tree canopy, lower than the U.S. median of 28.9 percent.

In fact, the city's absence of shade and accumulation of buildings – the Dallas region saw the largest gain in population of any metro area in the U.S. last year, per the Census Bureau – have helped make it the third-fastest growing urban heat island in the U.S., according to nonprofit The Nature Conservancy.

"It has to do with the built environment, impervious cover in the city and the fact that the city is growing – more houses, more buildings, more offices are going up," says Laura Huffman, Texas state director for the environmental group. "It's getting hotter faster than most other cities … (and) the hottest parts of cities are the most disadvantaged parts of cities."

And in April, The Nature Conservancy joined the two groups in beginning a "large-scale tree planting initiative" in the Oak Cliff neighborhood, planting 250 trees in their first scheduled event.

"In the next few months, when not a million degrees in Texas, 1,000 trees will be planted with an emphasis on schools and their surrounding areas, creating shaded walkways," Huffman says.

10 The Green Big Apple: New Yorkers Document the City's Plants

New York City has an ambitious project to photograph all the wild plants that dwell in New York City. On Friday, the organizers announced that citizen scientists had catalogued more than 26,000 sightings, and documented new populations of invasive species and native weeds that seem to be disappearing.Started last year by scientists at the New York Botanical Garden, the effort makes up for the lack of manpower to survey the entire city.

"There are just not enough of us," said Regina Alvarez, a professor at Dominican College in New York who isn't part of the effort. "What we're studying requires a lot of data and it's really hard for the number of scientists that are out there to do all that work."

The project so far has attracted 730 volunteers armed with smartphones who've hit the streets for the quest, called New York City EcoFlora.

Volunteers fire up their iPhone X every time she spots something new or interesting. A fragile tree seedling sticking out of a manhole cover? Click. A white petunia hidden among weeds? Click.

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