ANOTHER PLANET

Greg Clark,the minister at the centre of the row over plans to  radically reform the UK’s planning laws (admittedly rather bureaucratic at the moment) with a new default position of (basically) “anything goes” (I might be exaggerating,  but maybe not) is to speak at a the Conservative party conference to back the reforms – at an event sponsored by Taylor Wimpey – one of the UK’s biggest house builders! Six environmental bodies have joined forces to issue a letter to Clarke, conveying their concern over the government’s current planning reform proposals. In the letter, the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, Royal Meteorological Society, Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management, Institution of Environmental Sciences, Arboricultural Association and Institute of Fisheries Management, challenge the government’s draft national planning policy framework (NPPF), warning that “the proposals, as they presently stand, are draconian in the extreme”. The groups continue to question the government’s planning guidance, which they say removes many safeguards established over generations, arguing this will leave the planning system ill-equipped to consider a range of strategic-level threats facing society, including climate change.

There have been riots at a Chinese factory that produces solar panels after locals complained that the factory was highly polluting and that toxic discharges have killed large numbers of fish. Residents in Haining in the Zhejiang province say that there had been police brutality in the efforts to silence their complaints. Cheng Hingming, deputy head of the Haining environmental protection bureau said that the factory, owned by Jinko  Solar Holding,  had failed to meet pollution standards despite official warnings.

The price of wood in the UK is rising dramatically as firms rush to generate power from biomass (wood, grass, food waste) – pushing the price up from £30 per tonne to near £50.  The UK government wants biomass generation to replace coal and gas generation.

Wales is introducing a country wide 5p levy for all ‘one use’ plastic shopping bags. A similar levy in Eire radically reduced the amount of bags used (and wasted). Most plastic bags are not biodegradable and take 500-1000 years to decompose.

Google is investing $75 million in supporting 3000 residential solar electrical systems across the USA.  Google is teaming up with Clean Power to offer finance that local installers can access for home owners. Its the latest in a string of investments aimed at reducing the environmental impact of Google. Google will own the panels that are installed  and receive the benefit of federal and state renewable energy subsidies.

The UK is facing its warmest September and October for 100 years with temperatures is Gravesend, Kent, on Friday the 30th September hitting 28.2C and temperatures in London expecting  to pass 30C. Horticulturalists have said that some plants which had begun to shed leaves for Autumn are now producing new growth and even flowers, and a farmer in Cambridgeshire has said that he now has a second crop of strawberries.

Police in the Brazillian Amazon say that they have arrested two suspects in connection with the murder of two rainforest activists who were shot in May. Jose Claudio Ribeiro de Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo were killed on the 24th May – they were vocal in their opposition to illegal logging in the Amazon. The two suspects were arrested during a dawn raid in the jungle.

A Energy from Waste (EfW) plant transforming pig waste into power has been backed by the financial muscle of Google. The search engine giant, which invests in offset projects as part of its bid for carbon neutrality, has backed the new scheme designed by Duke University and Duke Energy.  Built on a pig farm in North Carolina in the United States the scheme turns animal waste into electricity, it also creates carbon offset credits for the energy company while the farm benefits from free electricity.

A major new competition has launched in a bid to encourage the development of carbon reduction technologies, with a grant fund of up to £4.5M available. The investment has been made by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) as part of its ongoing scheme to build its portfolio of technologies to help reduce CO2 emissions. The competition, which opens on 1 November 2011, will focus on innovative demonstration projects and aims to build on the success of its 2009 feasibility competition.  The final deadline for applications is 13 December 2011. For more information please visit: http://www.innovateuk.org/

Vehicles could be powered by orange peel waste in the future if a novel research project about to get underway proves fruitful. Researchers from the University of York will examine the potential of extracting biomass-derived chemicals, materials and fuels from the skin of oranges, using safe and sustainable chemistry.

Edie.net reports that a test centre for a building company has not only become energy self-sufficient but has in fact generated more than a 60% in surplus.  In only its first year of operation the Euro 3.5M centre for Wicona’s facade products, in Bellenberg, Germany, has shown outstanding energy results.  The centre, which provides in-house testing facilities for new products and project-specific facade solutions, features roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) panels which generate more than enough power for heating, lighting and operating the entire building.

Costs for installing solar in the USA have dropped by 27% in the past year and a half, according to new research. The research found installing photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States fell ‘substantially’ in 2010 and into the first half of 2011. The drop was revealed in the latest edition of the annual PV cost tracking report by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

The NEC complex in Birmingham is aiming to reach zero waste to landfill by June 2014, following the success of recent on-site recycling initiatives. The complex, which spans a 611 acre site, includes the 20 exhibition halls inside the NEC centre and also the LG Arena. Together both venues attract around three million visitors a year. The complex as a whole is currently recycling 42% of its waste and aims to be recycling 50% by the end of 2013. In February 2009, this figure stood at 0%!.

Edie.net reports that Roger Sparling, the owner of the Devon Hayedown waste recycling business has been ordered to pay £6,302 in fines and costs for illegally disposing  waste on Bonfire Night in 2010 in Tavistock.  A member of the public reported a large fire at the waste site and the flames and large amount of black acrid smoke made the person suspect plastic or rubber was being burnt.  Environment agency officers visited the site and spoke to Sparling, who claimed the bonfire was a traditional November 5th celebration for his staff and family. Sparling runs a waste transfer station that adjoins an old landfill which is used to store waste materials awaiting recycling.

MPs on the Energy and Climate Change Committee are looking into the case for consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reporting in the UK. The committee, chaired by Tim Yeo, is looking into allegations that UK emissions are only “falling” because they are recorded on a production basis.  Production-based emissions reporting only looks at emissions produced physically within a particular territory. However, if the more thorough consumption-based accounting method was used it is, according to the committee ‘very likely’ UK emissions would be up.

BBC’s The One Show Lucy Siegle spoke about society’s relationship with waste in a keynote speech at Birmingham’s RWM exhibition, saying that there was still a lot of work to do around public perception and consumer responsibility. Siegle, a well known environmental champion and Observer newspaper journalist, said there was “so much mileage in waste” but that the industry needed to promote itself better to the wider world if it wanted to encourage people to see the value in viewing it as a resource saying “We all generate waste but are very bad at owning up to it. People view waste as a hassle, it annoys them … but consumers have a responsibility for what they buy and how they drive the market”. At the same event Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) called for the packaging waste recovery note (PRN) system to be strengthened to encourage greater levels of recycling and investment in reprocessing infrastructure. CCE’s commercial recycling manager, Nick Brown, told delegates: “I think the existing PRN system could be used as a much greater tool for good … it needs to be strengthened to act as a driver for change.”

Young people in the UK are deserting the car – the percentage of 17-20 year olds with a current driving licence fell from 48% in the early 1990s to just 35% last year. Road traffic figures for cars and taxis have also begun to fall from a peak in 2007. Motoring groups put the overall decline down to rising petrol; costs and the recession although some commentators ay that modern teenagers are not as interested in cars, preferring digital gadgets such as iPads, MP3 players and laptops. There are also different ways of ‘owning’ a car now, including shared ownership models, short term rental schemes  and initiatuves such as Streetcar, Zipcar and Whipcar, in some areas better public transport (especially national rail) and an increasing use of car pooling and car-sharing for journeys.

Ireland relies heavily on imported plastic recyclate for its raw materials, recycling less than a third of the plastic waste it generates, according to a new government study.  The Irish recycled plastic waste arisings study by rx3 found that while Irish manufacturers have a need and demand for recyclable plastics as raw materials, in 2009 less than a third of the 482,366 tonnes of plastic waste generated was collected for recycling. The report, the first of its kind to be compiled on the island of Ireland, found that plastics makes up 14% of total household and commercial waste produced.

Householders will now be able to recycle their used cooking oil which will be refined and fed back into the National Grid in a novel scheme introduced across Merseyside. Collection tanks have been fitted at the region’s 14 household waste recycling centres where the oil can be deposited. Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA) and its contractor Veolia have teamed up with Living Fuels to implement the scheme. Living Fuels will collect the waste oil and refine it to produce a bio-liquid. This in turn will power engines to supply renewable electricity to the Grid.

Scottish and Southern Energy has confirmed it is looking to abandon plans to build a nuclear power plant in the UK. A SSE spokesman confirmed it is planning on pulling out of a consortium, which includes Iberdrola and GDF Suez, by selling its 25% stake – although said it may become involved again in the future.

Revenue of more than £50m this year has kept  photovoltaic (PV) designer and installer Solarcentury at the top of a renewable business league.   The London-based firm it been listed as the fastest growing private renewable energy company in the UK, for the second consecutive year, by the Sunday Times Tech Track 100.

NHS trusts and other healthcare providers need to start source-segregating their waste better if they are maximise recycling outputs. Historically the healthcare sector has been poor at recycling, with some NHS trusts estimated to be only achieving rates of 15-20% across their organisations. Procurement methods are thought to be partly responsible for this, with many hospitals managing their waste streams separately and not securing the best deal as a result.

SuperGroup, the owner of clothing brand Superdry, has started compacting its waste as part of a campaign to improve recycling operations at its distribution centre. As part of the works, materials are compacted using a baling press before being stored at its distribution site ready for bulk collection. This is in contrast to the company’s previous method of recycling which saw packing being deposited into a number of wheeled bins and collected loose on a daily basis – a system which created no financial benefit. According to SuperGroup, it now benefits from a financial rebate for the material collected and offsets some of its packaging compliance costs through the generation of packaging waste recovery notes from its own recyclable packaging.

Wales is now recycling or composting 48% of its municipal waste, showing an upward national trend.  The latest figures are for April – June 2011, an increase of four percentage points on the same period in 2010. The amount of residual household waste produced per person in Wales is also continuing to fall, from 70kg per person a year ago to 62kg.

Edie.net reports that a fifth of senior IT decision makers in the UK are not confident that all of their company’s redundant computer equipment is being diverted from landfill, according to new research. Despite the landfilling of e-waste being an illegal practice, the survey found that only 65% of respondents were ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ that of all their unwanted IT equipment was not being disposed of in this way.

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