Tag Archives: electronic waste

Another Planet?

Caroline_Lucas_2010Recently re-elected Brighton Pavillion MP Caroline Lucas of the Green Party will be returning to the Eco Technology Show in Brighton this year to chair the important discussion titled “The Future of Energy Efficiency”. She will be joined by a panel of energy efficiency experts including Matthew Farrow, Executive Director of the Environmental Industries Commission, Christoph Harwood, Director of Marksman Consulting, Mike Walker, Sustainable Energy Using Products Team at DECC and Alex Hunt, Partner of The Green Building Partnership. Held on Friday 12th June 2:50pm – 3:50pm, this is just one of over 70 free keynotes, panels and talks spread across the three seminar areas throughout the show. You can see the full talk schedule here. Its free to register.

fde1Up to 90% of the global electronic waste produced each year – worth nearly $19bn – is illegally traded or dumped, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). And the “mountain” of illegal e-waste is exhausting valuable resources and contains hazardous elements which pose a “growing threat” to the environment and human health.
UNEP’s ‘Waste Crimes‘ report found that the electronics market generates around 41 million tonnes of e-waste a year, of which 60-90% is illegally traded or dumped. Interpol estimates that one tonne of e-waste can be sold at around $500 on the black market, thanks to harvestable precious metals . UNEP executive director Achim Steiner said: “We are witnessing an unprecedented amount of electronic waste rolling out over the world.

The world’s biggest and most profitable fossil fuel companies are receiving huge and rising subsidies from US taxpayers, a practice slammed as absurd by a presidential candidate given the threat of climate change. A Guardian investigation of three specific projects, run by Shell, ExxonMobil and Marathon Petroleum, has revealed that the subsidises were all granted by politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

airpollutionEnvironmentalists are demanding that the EU close a research fund which they claim offers coal companies tens of millions of pounds of public money in grants. The European commission’s Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) has awarded €144m (£107m) to companies such as E.On UK, RWE Npower and UK Coal Production Ltd, according to research by Greenpeace Energydesk. Most of the the money is spent on mining infrastructure, management and unconventional use of deposits, and on coal preparation and upgrading. Doug Parr, Greenpeace’s chief scientist, said that the fund made little environmental, economic or scientific sense.

Amber Rudd will replace Ed Davey as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change as part of Prime Minister David Cameron’s reshuffle of the new Tory Government. The Hastings and Rye MP, who held onto her seat in Parliament in last week’s General Election, has been promoted from her previous position as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).

The European Green Capital of the year, Bristol, has opened its first-ever community-owned solar farm. The 1.8MW Moorhouse Solar Farm will deliver 1,780 MWh of renewable electricity into the grid each year – enough to power around 430 homes each year – and save 850 tonnes of CO2 a year. The 1.8MW installation park was built by local company Solarsense and funded by Low Carbon Gordano, a co-operative whose purpose is to help the local community to reduce energy costs and become more sustainable.

One in three European birds is endangered, according to a leaked version of the most comprehensive study of Europe’s wildlife and natural habitats ever produced. The EU State of Nature report, seen by the Guardian, paints a picture of dramatic decline among once common avian species such as the skylark and turtle dove mainly as a result of agricultural pressures, and also warns that ecosystems are struggling to cope with the impact of human activity.

Norway’s biggest oil producer is establishing a new business encompassing renewable energy and other low-carbon energy solutions. Statoil, which is the world’s eleventh largest oil and gas company, announced today (12 May) that it is to set up New Energy Solutions (NES); to compliment its existing business and “drive profitable growth” in the green energy market.

Edie.net reports that the renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland has received a welcome boost this week with the launch of a new fully-funded solar solution which could save businesses up to £320m. Kingspan ESB – a joint venture between building technology firm Kingspan and Ireland’s largest energy company ESB will make photovoltaic (PV) energy available to businesses without the investment normally required in the capital outlay, installation or maintenance of a PV system. The funding solution unlocks cost savings of more than £320m over the next 25 years – £5.6m each year – along with significantly improved sustainability and environmental credentials for local businesses.

teaser313_bayer_bees_bundMore than two out of five American honeybee colonies died in the past year, and surprisingly, the worst die-off was in the summer, according to a federal survey. Since April 2014, beekeepers lost 42.1% of their colonies, the second-highest rate in nine years, according to an annual survey conducted by a bee partnership that includes the US Department of Agriculture. “What we’re seeing with this bee problem is just a loud signal that there’s some bad things happening with our agro-ecosystems,” said study co-author Keith Delaplane at the University of Georgia. “We just happen to notice it with the honeybee because they are so easy to count.”

Climate change campaigners reacted with disappointment as Edinburgh University announced on Tuesday that it would not fully divest from fossil fuels. Students lay down in protest on the steps of the building where senior vice principal Professor Charlie Jeffery set out the unanimous decision by the university’s court. Insisting that the university was committed to a change of investment policy, Jeffery said: “Our commitment is to engage before divestment, but the expectation is that we will bring about change by engagement.”  Boris Johnson has rejected a motion by the London assembly calling on City Hall’s pension fund to divest from fossil fuels, arguing the UK needs to press ahead with fracking to avoid being reliant on the Middle East and Russia for gas.  The Mayor of London said that a more realistic approach was needed than divestment, which he called a “sudden cliff edge”.

worldbankCountries could reduce the cost of decarbonisation by a third by enacting green policies immediately, according to a new report from the World Bank. The Decarbonising Development report lays out three steps for countries to follow in order for the planet to produce zero net emission by 2100. The steps include establishing a carbon price, providing support for those most affected by climate change, and setting defined targets.  The solutions exist, and they are affordable – if governments take action today, the report says. It warns, however, that costs will rise for the next generation the longer action is delayed. Data from the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report suggests that waiting just 15 more years and taking no action until 2030 would increase costs by an average of 50 percent through 2050 to keep temperatures from rising less than 2°C. “Choices made today can lock in emissions trajectories for years to come and leave communities vulnerable to climate impacts,” said World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte. “To reach zero net emissions before the end of this century, the global economy needs to be overhauled. We at the World Bank Group are increasing our focus on the policy options.”

The Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) and BRE’s training body, the BRE Academy, have formed a new partnership to develop sustainability training courses with a focus on the built environment. The agreement will see industry-relevant training courses embedded into Higher and Further Education programmes, as the effects of global warming are felt on buildings and infrastructures worldwide. IEMA chief executive Tim Balcon said: “Training and education provision is a key service which we provide for our 15,000-strong global membership, who are focussed on driving more sustainable practices and standards across all sectors. “This collaboration with the BRE Academy will enable us to offer new skills programmes with a focus on the built environment which plays such an integral part of every business and industry as well as the economy.

ecocideEcocide: The Psychology of Environmental Destruction:  Recent scientific reports about climate change make grim reading. A paper published in The Economic Journal by the respected UK economist Lord Stern states that the models previously used to calculate the economic effects of climate change have been ‘woefully inadequate.’ They have severely underestimated the scale of the threat, which will “cost the world far more than estimated.” What makes the situation even more serious is that climate change is just one of the environment-related problems we face. Others include the destruction and pollution of ecosystems, the disappearance of other species (both animal and plant), water shortage, over-population, and the rapacious consumption of resources. Now in his book Back to Sanity, Dr Steve Taylor suggests that human beings may be collectively suffering from a psychological disorder (‘humania’), and our reckless abuse of the environment is one of the best pieces of evidence for this. Would a sane species abuse their own habitat so recklessly? And would they allow such dangerous trends to intensify without taking any serious measures against them? More here.

Nearly two thirds of online shoppers now consider ‘green packaging’ when deciding where to shop according to a new poll. The survey of more than 500 internet shoppers, conducted by logistics firm Dotcom Distribution, found widespread support for environmentally-friendly packaging and green supply chain practices. Around 61% of respondents considered green packaging in their shopping choices with 57% saying it is important to them.

The plantable coffee cup

The plantable coffee cup

A new project called Reduce Reuse Grow is hoping to turn a major source of pollution into a positive solution that plants seeds! The project hopes to build a plantable coffee cup that has seeds built into the actual design. Alex Henige, a senior at California Polytechnic State University is the founder of the project, has created a kickstarter page to fund the new idea. Read More HERE. 569 backers have already pledged $21,077 to help bring this project to life – – “A coffee cup that has native seeds embedded within the material to be used for reforestation in your local communities.”

Shell_oil_croppedThe last intact section of one of Antarctica’s mammoth ice shelves is weakening fast and will likely disintegrate completely in the next few years, contributing further to rising sea levels, according to a Nasa study. The research focused on a remnant of the so-called Larsen B Ice Shelf, which has existed for at least 10,000 years but partially collapsed in 2002. What is left covers about 625 sq miles (1,600 sq km), about half the size of Rhode Island. Antarctica has dozens of ice shelves – massive, glacier-fed floating platforms of ice that hang over the sea at the edge of the continent’s coast line. The largest is roughly the size of France. Larsen B is located in the Antarctic Peninsula, which extends toward the southern tip of South America and is one of two principal areas of the continent where scientists have documented the thinning of such ice formations.

Environmental groups and experts hit out at the US government on Tuesday following its announcement that the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell would be allowed to resume offshore exploration and drilling in the Arctic’s American waters. Unforgiving conditions in the Arctic’s icy waters not only make the chances of a spill likely, the complete lack of infrastructure in place to deal with a potential disaster means the consequences of the move could be calamitous, environmental activists and experts say.





gm crop 2David Cameron seems to have won his battle to press ahead with fracking – the EU has now said that whilst they will issue ‘firm guidance’ on the controversial process, no legislation will be passed. And the UK’s Environment Minister, Owen Patterson, has said that the UK is missing out on the benefits of GM crops because of a ‘medieval’ attitude towards the technology who added that even products which pass regulatory hurdles then get stuck with politicians as ‘witchcraft is re-imposed’.  he told the UK to ignore the EU and press ahead with GM, saying GM was necessary to deal with the World’s fast growing population – due to reach 9 billion by 2050. And finally on our short sighted politicians (is it all really ‘green crap’ David?), the UK Government’s £8 million consultation into creating 127 Marine Conservation Zones has resulted in just 27 being considered after 100 were dropped, as short term interests trumped long term objectives. That said, the Arctic ice cap didn’t melt as predicted – so some good news at least!

Millions of litres of green ‘bio-fuel’ sold to motorists was probably falsely labelled by suppliers trying to benefit from government incentives. The Department of Transport has discovered what looks like a large scale fuel with used ‘cooking oil’ imported from the Netherlands being noting of the sort. The DfT have noted that an ‘implausibly large amount’ of oil was imported in 2011-2012 – 229 million litres, a hundred plus times more than the previous year 2010-2011 of just 2 million litres – just as the incentives kicked in.

UNhornifafricadroughtWater scarcity, climate change and poverty are now society’s most urgent challenges according to hundreds of sustainability experts across the world. Edie.net reports that Almost 900 sustainable development experts across more than 60 countries were asked for their views on the issues most urgent for particular industry sectors, and also which sectors were most accountable for reducing their impact on, or providing solutions for, each issue.  While water scarcity is a top concern for Europeans and those in emerging markets, climate change as an urgent issue trumped all others in North America. Within government, water scarcity and food security were ranked highest suggesting that among politicians, the two are strongly interlinked.

A key committee of the European Parliament has today voted in favour of mandatory environmental and social reporting for large companies. The Legal Affairs Committee significantly strengthened the proposals put forward by the European Commission, which require all large European companies to disclose information in their annual report regarding their impacts on the environment and on human rights throughout their supply chains.

We have recently highlighted the problems of toxic electronic waste being dumped in third world countries . Now a new UN report says that the volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to increase by 33% to 65.4 million tonnes annually by 2017. Based on data compiled by Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative – a partnership of UN organisations, industry, governments, non-government and science organisations – global e-waste is expected to rise from 48.9 million metric tonnes in 2012 to 65.4 million tonnes by 2017.  In the UK, a new initiative is set to forge greater collaboration across the UK electricals sector to maximise opportunities around reuse, redesign and product durability. The sustainable electricals action plan will be delivered and facilitated by WRAP to bring together businesses to explore and take action on the significant opportunities that could boost the UK economy. For example, encouraging trade-in of used TVs alone could grow UK GDP by around £800m a year.

Electric buses are being trialled for the first time in London today in an effort to cut emissions from the Capital’s bus fleet. According to Transport for London (TfL), routes 507 and 521 will trial the new buses as the technology is particularly suitable for busy short commuter services which operate between Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge stations.

An alliance of chief financial officers (CFOs) working for several of Europe’s most well-known corporations have joined a Network aimed at embedding environmental and social issues into company strategy and finances. Established by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales under his Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Project, the Chief Financial Officer Leadership Network will focus on developing and sharing successful strategies “so that these become the ‘norm’ across all businesses”.  This will include improved modelling of future risk and uncertainty as well as engagement with investors and other stakeholders to increase their understanding of the commercial benefits of sustainable business models.

power station3SSE are shutting two coal fired generating plants down in the face of environmental legislation. The plants at Ferrybridge in Yorkshire and Uskmouth in Wales will close at the end of 2013 after SSE decided not to fit technology to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The UK Government has ruled out challenging the European environmental legislation that is behind the move, despite the risk of power blackouts, with Energy Minister Michael Fallon saying that the fines for bringing polluting coal stations back online would be more expensive than building new plants to replace them.  Ofgem have estimated that by 2015-2016 the UK will have just 2% of spare capacity and new emissions policies in 2016 will force more closures – and price rises for industry and consumers. The Eggbororough coal power plant in North Yorkshire that generates 4% of the UK’s electricity will also begin shutting down next year with the owners saying that whilst it has new technology to reduce emissions, increasing carbon taxes means it is uneconomic to operate.

It seems that domestic and business users will have to fund the £19.3 million green levy being handed over to the National Grid for setting up the UK Government’s new programme of awarding green subsidies to energy companies.  The new scheme has been criticised by some energy industry commentators as too complex – and unworkable.

bugResearchers from IBM have linked up with scientists from the Singapore Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to develop a treatment, made from plastic bottle waste, for the hospital superbug MRSA. The treatment attacks drug-resistant fungal infections as well as targeting MRSA, a bacterial infection which has developed a resistance to common antibiotics. Computing company IBM used its experience working with semiconductor materials to come up with the breakthrough.  It works by melting down plastic – specifically PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is commonly found in plastic bottles and packaging – and re-forming it as a new kind of polymer which can be made into various medicine forms.

Manufacturers in the UK are launching a campaign to persuade the Chancellor to exempt them from green energy levies:  the steel industry says that the extra costs will make them uncompetitive  – and also wants to slow the steep increase in carbon taxes. The Industry believes that the levies, which fund sustainable energy projects, add 10% to the cost of energy. Competitors in France and Germany benefit from government subsidies.

BoisderoseBois de rose – the deeply grained red wood – is back in demand, and despite being legally protected in Madagascar, unprecedented numbers of the trees that provide the wood are being chopped down to feed an insatiable thirst from countries like China who prize the wood with its coloured streaks.  One of the world’s rarest trees, the wood is illegally logged in National Parks and then smuggled out of Madagascar, especially since recent presidential elections and the uplift in demand. More on Global Witness.