Western Consumerism Linked To Deaths In Developing Countries

Western consumers who buy cheap imported toys, clothes and mobile phones are indirectly contributing to tens of thousands of pollution-related deaths in the countries where the goods are produced, according to a landmark study.
Nearly 3.5 million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution, the research estimates, and about 22% of these deaths are associated with goods and services that were produced in one region for consumption in another.
The analysis provides the first detailed picture of the extent to which consumer demand in the US and western Europe contributes to pollution in developing countries, with profound health consequences.
“If the cost of imported products is lower because of less stringent air pollution controls in the regions where they are produced, then the consumer savings may come at the expense of lives lost elsewhere,” the authors conclude.
The study also reveals how emissions from industrial hotspots affect the health of people in neighbouring countries and, to a lesser extent, more distant regions, as pollutants circulate on global air currents. About 12% (411,100) of early deaths globally were related to air pollutants emitted in a different region of the world, the research found.
The study focused on the emission of fine particulate matter pollution (PM 2.5) from power stations, factories, aeroplanes and shipping in 13 regions, taking in data from 228 countries. Particulates are thought to account for more than 90% of the global mortality from outdoor air pollution, raising the number of deaths from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and asthma.

The tiny particles can trigger asthma attacks in the lungs and can cross from the air sacs in the lung into the bloodstream, where they can cause inflammation, alter the way blood clots, and make blood vessels more permeable. Particulates have also been shown to migrate into other tissues, such as the liver, kidneys and brain, although it is less clear what the health consequences are in these organs, and the effects also depend on the chemical makeup of the particulates.
“In general, air pollution links to general ill health,” said Matthew Loxham, a toxicologist at Southampton University who was not involved in the study. “It’s a range of different conditions.”
The scientists used a combination of air pollution data, emissions measurements and models of global air currents to tally up where pollution was emitted and where it ended up in 2007. An economic model, based on data from the Global Trade Analysis Project, was then used to attribute air pollution to the demand of consumers for finished goods, although the results were not broken down by product type.
Chinese emissions caused more than twice the number of deaths worldwide than the emissions of any other region, followed by emissions produced in India and the rest of the Asia region. The scientists calculated that PM 2.5 pollution produced in China is linked to more than 64,800 premature deaths in other regions, including more than 3,000 deaths in western Europe and the US.
However, this figure was significantly outweighed by the 108,600 premature deaths in China linked to consumption in western Europe and the US.
Steven Davis, a co-author based at the University of California, Irvine, said that the paper simply aimed to lay out the evidence for the benefit of policymakers. “It’s not really up to us to say what’s fair or not,” he said.
In a press briefing this week, his co-authors called for international action on the issue.
“For greenhouse gas emissions we have a global agreement. People can argue about whether its been effective or not – but at least we have a global framework,” said Dabo Guan, a professor in climate change economics at the University of East Anglia and the paper’s senior author. “People have thought air pollution was a local issue.”
Guan cites the example of mobile phones made in China, which might be sold for $200, around 70% of which goes to the company that designed the product and just $5-6 to the Chinese manufacturer.

“On average every six months we change our phone,” he said. “It has a health cost on the other side of the world.”
For countries like China, whose economies are dependent on exporting cheaply-made goods, improving environmental standards has to be balanced against potential negative economic impacts.
“Some other country would step up and say hey, we’re willing to let our people die to have that business,” said Davis.
Improving pollution control technologies in China, India and elsewhere in Asia would have a disproportionately large health benefit in those regions and worldwide, according to the analysis in the journal Nature.
Qiang Zhang, another author from Tsinghua University, Beijing, said that consumers in Europe and the US who buy cheap imported toys and clothes also bear a responsibility.
“We need to move our lifestyles away from cheap and wasteful,” he said.
Oliver Hayes, a pollution campaigner for Friends of the Earth air pollution, said: “No-one should be denied the right to breathe clean air, whether they live in Beijing or Barking. But air pollution doesn’t recognise borders, and it’s clear that the devastating impacts of polluters can be felt many miles from their activities.
source : the guardian

Norways Up and Coming Renewables Sector

Øyvind Christian Rohn spent more than two decades in the oil and gas industry. But the 50-year-old from Skedsmo, near Oslo in Norway, has just set out on a new fossil-free career path: developing offshore solar power technology.
His alternative energy startup, Ocean Sun has developed technology that will mean solar farms can float on the ocean surface, with their power transmitted back to land. Since physical space is limited in population centres, especially in areas of high growth such as South East Asia, Rohn’s idea is to use the ocean’s surface around the world.
With a grant from Innovation Norway, a state-funded organisation supporting the development of Norwegian industry, the company is aiming to get a product to market within four years.
Rohn is one of a new brand of Norwegian entrepreneurs moving from oil to green energy in light of the oil-price decline and more pessimistic outlook for the sector.
Though still tiny at less than 1% of Norway’s power generation, according to the agency Multiconsult, the country’s solar sector is growing fast. Solar panel installation grew by 366% in 2016.
“We see solar becoming the long-term solution for the world because it is abundant energy and costs have gone down rapidly,” says Rohn. 

Wake-up call

Norway already produces a lot of renewable energy – 97% of electricity generated in the country comes from renewable sources, mainly hydropower, according toInnovation Norway.
But when it comes to the economy, petrochemicals are still king: about half of Norway’s exports relate to oil and gas.
The decline in revenues from crude oil – which dropped by more than 30% between 2014 and 2015, according to Norway’s statistics agency – was therefore a wake-up call, says Sigridur Thormodsdottir, a sustainability expert at Innovation Norway.
“It revealed our economy was not sustainable in the long run. New technology supporting more sustainable urbanisation is one area we think can become an export for Norwegian companies.”
The government clearly agrees. Since 2014, it has launched a number of “clusters” promoting startup innovation, including a new solar energy cluster, launched last year with three years of funding.
Young start-ups, who have joined the clusters of companies and agencies working together, include wave power firm Tidetec, hydrogen technology firm Hynor Lillestrøm, solar powered-devices company Kyoto Energy and DeepRiver, which aims to generate hydropower from rivers.
Major fossil fuel companies are also investing in renewables. Statoil, for example, established as the Norwegian State Oil Company is testing floating wind turbines technology off the country’s coast. 
Mali Skoden is director of the Oslo Renewable Energy and Environment Cluster (OREEC), a similar networking initiative to the government clusters, created with regional companies and other partners. She says lower oil prices and awareness of climate change are providing opportunities.
“Much of our economy depends on the oil and gas industry, which is declining. A lot of engineers and bright minds from that industry are looking for jobs so we can channel that brain power into new sectors of green energy.”

As part of this, solar is getting a lot of attention, says Trine Kopstad Berentsen, chief executive of the solar energy cluster in Norway. The municipal council in Oslo is offering individual householders a subsidy of 30% of the investment for solar panel installation, for example, she says.

Culture change

Cost is not the only obstacle, however, adds Berentsen: “The biggest challenge for Norway ... is conservatism in the energy sector.”
This is echoed by Glen Peters, senior researcher at the Oslo-based Centre for International Climate Research, who says that not everyone wants to pivot to greener power. “Oil and gas has made Norway what it is, a lot of people have worked [in the sector] directly and indirectly, and it’s almost part of the culture. It’s hard to lift out and see other opportunities,” he says.

Rohn believes that Norway’s renewables sector will coexist with petrochemicals for the foreseeable future.
“I haven’t had any negative feedback. People think it’s quite brave, of course, to start up something from scratch after having worked for such big organisations before but generally there’s no conflict.
“People who work in oil and gas think their contribution will be to make sure that they develop oil and gas in the best possible way to minimise environmental change, and that they can do that better here in Norway,” he says. “I believe we have to change.”
source:the guardian

Satellite Identifies Global Ammonia ‘Hotspots’ On Earth

The first global, long-term satellite study of airborne ammonia gas has revealed “hotspots” of the pollutant over four of the world’s most productive agricultural regions. The results of the study, conducted using data from NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite, could inform the development of strategies to control pollution from ammonia and ammonia byproducts in Earth’s agricultural areas.
A University of Maryland-led team discovered steadily increasing ammonia concentrations from 2002 to 2016 over agricultural centers in the United States, Europe, China and India. Increased concentrations of atmospheric ammonia are linked to poor air and water quality.   
The NASA-funded study, published March 16 in Geophysical Research Letters, describes probable causes for the observed increased airborne ammonia concentrations in each region. Although specifics vary between areas, the increases are broadly tied to crop fertilizers, livestock animal wastes, changes to atmospheric chemistry, and warming soils that retain less ammonia.
“Measuring ammonia from the ground is difficult, but the satellite-based method we have developed allows us to track ammonia efficiently and accurately, said Juying Warner, University of Maryland associate research scientist in atmospheric and oceanic science. “We hope that our results will help guide better management of ammonia emissions.”
AIRS, in conjunction with the Advanced Microwave Sounding Unit (AMSU) also on Aqua, senses emitted infrared and microwave radiation from Earth to provide a 3-D look at our planet's weather and climate. Working in tandem, the instruments make simultaneous observations down to Earth's surface, even in the presence of heavy clouds. With more than 2,000 channels sensing different regions of the atmosphere, the system creates a global, 3-D map of atmospheric temperature and humidity, cloud amounts and heights, concentrations of selected greenhouse and other trace gases, and many other atmospheric phenomena.
"AIRS wasn’t designed to observe ammonia, but the instrument sensitivity and stability have allowed us to monitor ammonia trends,” said AIRS Project Scientist Eric Fetzer of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. “The unexpected large ammonia increase is one example of rapid atmospheric changes from human activities that AIRS is observing."
Gaseous ammonia is a natural part of Earth’s nitrogen cycle, but excess ammonia is harmful to plants and reduces air and water quality. In the troposphere -- the lowest, most dense part of the atmosphere where all weather takes place and where people live -- ammonia gas reacts with nitric and sulfuric acids to form nitrate-containing particles. Those particles contribute to aerosol pollution that is damaging to human health. Ammonia gas can also fall back to Earth and enter lakes, streams and oceans, where it contributes to harmful algal blooms and “dead zones” with dangerously low oxygen levels.

“Little ammonia comes from tailpipes or smokestacks. It’s mainly agricultural, from fertilizer and animal husbandry,” said co-author and University of Maryland professor Russell Dickerson. “It has a profound effect on air and water quality -- and ecosystems.”
Each major agricultural region highlighted in the study experienced a slightly different combination of factors that correlate with increased ammonia in the air from 2002 to 2016.
The United States, for example, has not experienced a dramatic increase in fertilizer use or major changes in fertilizer application practices. But the study authors found that successful legislation to reduce acid rain in the early 1990s most likely had the unintended effect of increasing gaseous ammonia. The acids that cause acid rain also scrub ammonia gas from the atmosphere, and so the sharp decrease in these acids in the atmosphere is the most plausible explanation for the increase in ammonia over the same time frame.
Europe experienced the least dramatic increase in atmospheric ammonia of the major agricultural areas studied. The researchers suggest this is due in part to successful limits on ammonia-rich fertilizers and improved practices for treating animal waste. Much like the United States, a major potential cause for increased ammonia traces back to reductions in atmospheric acids that would normally remove ammonia from the atmosphere.
“The decrease in acid rain is a good thing. Aerosol loading has plummeted -- a substantial benefit to us all,” Dickerson said. “But it has also increased gaseous ammonia loading, which we can see from space.”
In China, a complex interaction of factors is tied to increased atmospheric ammonia. The authors suggest efforts to limit sulfur dioxide -- a key precursor of sulfuric acid, one of the acids that scrubs ammonia from the atmosphere -- could be partially responsible. But China has also greatly expanded agricultural activities since 2002, widening its use of ammonia-containing fertilizers and increasing ammonia emissions from animal waste. Warming of agricultural soils, due at least in part to global climate change, could also contribute.

“The increase in ammonia has spiked aerosol loading in China. This is a major contributor to the thick haze seen in Beijing during the winter, for example,” Warner said. “Also, meat is becoming a more popular component of the Chinese diet. As people shift from a vegetarian to a meat-based diet, ammonia emissions will continue to go up.”

In India, a broad increase in fertilizer use coupled with large contributions from livestock waste have resulted in the world’s highest concentrations of atmospheric ammonia. But the researchers note that ammonia concentrations have not increased nearly as quickly as over other regions. The study authors suggest that this is most likely due to increased emissions of acid rain precursors and, consequently, some increased scrubbing of ammonia from the atmosphere. This leads to increased levels of haze, a dangerous trend confirmed by other NASA satellite instruments, Dickerson said. 
In all regions, the researchers attributed some of the increase in atmospheric ammonia to climate change, reflected in warmer air and soil temperatures. Ammonia vaporizes more readily from warmer soil, so as the soils in each region have warmed year by year, their contributions to atmospheric ammonia have also increased since 2002. The study also ascribes some ammonia fluctuations to wildfires, but these events are sporadic and unpredictable. As such, the authors excluded wildfires in their current analysis.
“This analysis has provided the first evidence for some processes we suspected were happening in the atmosphere for some time,” Warner said. “We would like to incorporate data from other sources in future studies to build a clearer picture.”



Diesel black cabs will be a “thing of the past” within six years as Londoners opt to travel in electric models to tackle toxic air, a taxi drivers’ boss said today.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, believes the public will rapidly switch to using electric cabs.
He made the prediction as the Government announced £7,500 grants for cabbies to buy electric models being built at the London Taxi Company factory in Coventry, which opened today.
Mr McNamara said: “By the end of 2023, diesel black cabs will be a thing of the past.
"There will be a customer-driven switch to electric models and the public will be choosing them over diesel. It will be like the switch from horse-driven to motor cabs which took around seven years in the early 1900s.”
The business secretary, Greg Clark, announced a £50 million plug-in taxi grant scheme as he opened the factory to build electric London black cabs after a £300 million investment by its Chinese owners.

City Hall is allocating a further £27 million, largely received from central government, to the electric taxi grant scheme, so it will be contributing £3,000 towards the £7,500 being offered to cab drivers.
The vehicles are expected to be more expensive than the latest diesel black cabs, which cost about £45,000, possibly coming onto the market at between £50,000 and £55,000. 
However, drivers could save £2,800 a year in lower fuel costs, according to the Department for Transport.
Mr Clark said: “With around 23,000 diesel black cabs in London, the introduction of electric taxis could help transform air quality in our capital.” 
Chris Gubbey, chief executive of the LTC, said: “We believe we can lead the charge in ensuring London’s air quality returns to safe and legal levels and believe that London can lead the world in zero-emissions urban transport.”
The DfT expects there to be 10,000 electric taxis on Britain’s roads by 2021, with many of them in London. The capital will also receive £5.2 million from a £14 million fund to install dedicated charging points to encourage the switch to electric.
Transport minister John Hayes said: “This could be a game-changer for improving the capital’s air quality.” 
Sadiq Khan’s measures to cut pollution include stopping licences being issued for new diesel taxis from January 1, 2018. A spokesman said: “He is fully committed to helping the iconic London taxi trade become the greenest, most sustainable fleet in the world.”
Mr McNamara criticised higher vehicle excise duty for vehicles costing more than £40,000. He claimed this would be a £1,500 blow over three years, undermining the benefits of the grant to go electric.


Thames Water has been hit with a record fine of £20.3m after huge leaks of untreated sewage into the Thames and its tributaries and on to land, including the popular Thames path. The prolonged leaks led to serious impacts on residents, farmers and wildlife, killing birds and fish.
The fine imposed on Wednesday was for numerous offences in 2013 and 2014 at sewage treatment works at Aylesbury, Didcot, Henley and Little Marlow, and a large sewage pumping station at Littlemore.
The Environment Agency, which brought the prosecution, said the enormous volume of untreated sewage discharged was unprecedented – 1.4bn litres – as was the length of time over which the discharges occurred.
The sewage caused long-term pollution in the Thames and some tributaries, revolting riverside users and wiping out the season for a commercial cray fisherman. The Environment Agency said it was the biggest freshwater pollution case it had ever undertaken.
“This is a shocking and disgraceful state of affairs,” said Judge Francis Sheridan, who delivered the sentence at Aylesbury crown court. “It should not be cheaper to offend than to take appropriate precautions.”
“I have to make the fine sufficiently large that [Thames Water] get the message,” he said. Describing the breaches as “wicked” and noting the companies “continual failure to report incidents”, he said: “One has to get the message across to the shareholders that the environment is to be treasured and protected, and not poisoned.”
Water companies have been the most frequent polluters of beaches and rivers in England and past fines were criticised as too low to deter these highly profitable companies, which often offended repeatedly. But a change in sentencing guidelines in 2014 is now leading to far heavier penalties.
Thames Water, which is the UK’s biggest water company and serves about a quarter of the population, was fined £1m in 2016 for repeated discharges of sewage into the Grand Union canal in Hertfordshire and £380,000 later the same year, after a sewage leak in an area of outstanding natural beauty in the Chilterns.
Thames Water made an operating profit of £742m in 2015-16 and paid out £82m in dividends. It is owned by a consortium of institutional investors, including funds from China and Abu Dhabi, and was managed by Macquarie Capital Funds, which sold its final stake earlier in March to Kuwaiti and Canadian investors.
Richard Aylard, from Thames Water, said outside the court: “We have failed in our responsibility to the environment and that hurts both personally and professionally because we do care. But in the three years since the last of those incidents we have learnt our lesson – there have been sweeping, far-reaching changes across the waste water business.” He insisted the fine would not increase customers’ bills: “This fine will be paid in full by shareholders only.”
In 2013, the Observer revealed that the nation’s 10 biggest water companies were the most persistent polluters of England’s rivers and beaches. They committed more than 1,000 incidents between 2005-2013 but were fined a total of just £3.5m, a sum described at the time as “pitiful” by a senior MP.
Thames Water was the most heavily fined company in that period, paying £842,500 for 87 incidents. Fines have soared since the change in sentencing guidelines but it remains too early to determine if pollution incidents are falling, due to the time it takes prosecutions to come to court.
However, one source close to the issue told the Guardian recently: “The courts have basically added a nought. Once it gets to that level, the boards and shareholders of water companies start to take notice.”
The previous record fine was the £2m penalty imposed on Southern Water in December for flooding beaches in Kent with raw sewage, which left them closed to the public for nine days.
The Environment Agency called that event “catastrophic” and the judge in the case said the company’s repeat offending was “wholly unacceptable”. The company apologised unreservedly, as it had when fined £200,000 in 2013 for similar offences.
Water companies have been frequently criticised for making huge profits and awarding large shareholder dividends while paying little or no corporation tax. In October 2015, the National Audit Office found that an £800m windfall for water companies had not been passed on to consumers.

source:the guardian

How Do We Know The Earth Is Getting Warmer ?

The sky is still blue. Trees are still green. Wind still blows. Clouds are still white and fluffy. Rain still pours from the sky. Snow falls and it still gets really cold sometimes in some places. Earth is still beautiful.
So what is the problem? What is the fuss about climate change and global warming?
Well, after observing and making lots of measurements, using lots of NASA satellites and special instruments, scientists see some alarming changes. These changes are happening fast—much faster than these kinds of changes have happened in Earth's long past.

Global air temperatures near Earth's surface rose almost one and one-half degrees Fahrenheit in the last century. Eleven of the last 12 years have been the warmest on record. Earth has warmed twice as fast in the last 50 years as in the 50 years before that.
One and one-half degrees may not seem like much. But when we are talking about the average over the whole Earth, lots of things start to change.

Why is Earth getting warmer?

Why is Earth getting warmer? Here's one clue: As the temperature goes up, the amount of carbon dioxide, or CO2, in the air goes up. And as the carbon dioxide goes up, the temperature goes up even more.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means it traps heat from Earth's surface and holds the heat in the atmosphere. Scientists have learned that, throughout Earth's history, temperature and CO2levels in the air are closely tied.

Line graph show carbon dioxide levels over the past 400,000 years. Shows sharp increase starting around 1950.
This graph shows carbon dioxide levels over the past 450,000 years. Notice the sharp increase starting around 1950.
This graph shows CO2 levels over the past 450,000 years. As you can see, for 450,000 years, CO2 went up and down. But CO2 levels never rose over 280 parts per million until 1950. But then something different happens and CO2 increases very fast. At the end of 2012, it is 394 parts per million*. Why?
Because of us and our fossil fuels.
Now, let's look at that graph again, but adding the temperatures for that same period of Earth's history.
See caption.
This graph shows how carbon dioxide and temperature have risen and fallen together in Antarctica over the past 400,000 years.
You can see how CO2 levels change with temperature. Look at what it is doing now.

How do we know what Earth was like long ago?

A big part of the answer is ice cores.
In Antarctica, scientists have drilled down two miles below the surface and brought up samples of the ice. These samples are called ice cores. It's like what you get if you plunge a drinking straw into a slushy drink and pull it out with your finger over the end of the straw. What you will have inside the straw is an ice core—although a very slushy one.
The layers in an Arctic ice core are frozen solid. They give clues about every year of Earth's history back to the time the deepest layer was formed. The ice contains bubbles of the air from each year. Scientists analyze the bubbles in each layer to see how much CO2 they contain. Scientists can also learn about the temperatures for each year by measuring relative amounts of different types of oxygen atoms in the water. (Remember, water is H2O: two hydrogen atoms, and one oxygen.)

Other scientists study cores of sediment from the bottom of the ocean or lakes. Or they study tree rings and layers of rocks to give them clues about climate change throughout history. They compare all their findings to see if they agree. If they do, then their findings are accepted as most likely true. If they don't agree, they go back and figure out what is wrong with their methods.
In the case of Earth's climate history, the facts agree from a lot of different kinds of studies.

source. nasa

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Air Travel

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint From Air Travel

  • General. Until petroleum-based aviation fuel is replaced, you should avoid flying when possible, fly less frequently, fly shorter distances, and fly economy class.
  • Leisure Air Travel. Take fewer and longer vacations that are far away, and more frequent and driveable “staycations” closer to home.
  • Work Air Travel. Increase your use of video-conferencing tools like Skype and Facetime.
  • What class? Economy class is best, for the same reasons as carpooling and public transportation. Each flyer’s share of a flight’s carbon emissions is relatively less because it’s spread out over more people

  • That’s Economy class. When Prince William flies economy class, he’s leading by example. 
  • Don’t fly on private jets. Fly first or business class if you must, because at least those seats always fill up anyway, and avoid private jets.
  • Don’t buy a Honda. HondaJet, that is. Their cars are fine, though.
  • Don’t be a space tourist. Watch NOVΛ on PBS instead. Richard Branson’s “spaceline” Virgin Galactic seeks to right the injustice that “most of our planet’s seven billion people have had no opportunity to experience space” and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin promises “life-changing views” of what’s left of our planet.

Sanitary Waste, Energy For UK Power Stations

One of the UK’s trickiest waste problems is being tackled by turning the undesirable into the combustible – tampons and incontinence pads are being converted into dry, burnable bales. The new initiative, from a major waste company, compresses the waste into fuel for power stations.
Huge volumes of what are known in the trade as “absorbent hygiene products” are produced in the UK. But it is difficult to deal with as its dampness makes incineration expensive. Dumping the waste in landfill is the other current option, but the material takes decades to degrade and heavy and rising landfill taxes are aiming to end the practice.
“Hygiene products are an essential part of many of our everyday lives but disposing of them has always been an issue,” said Justin Tydeman, CEO of the PHS group, which developed the new, patented process. PHS removes waste for 90,000 customers across the UK and Ireland, including many offices, schools and care homes, and tackles 45,000 tonnes of sanitary, nappy and incontinence waste a year.

In the new process, the waste is first screened for unwanted items. “The strangest thing we have found so far was a pair of handcuffs,” said Tydeman. The material is then shredded and squeezed, with the waste liquid disposed of as sewage. The dry material remaining is packed into bales, which can be burned in power stations.
The process is being analysed by experts from the University of Birmingham, who will report on how environmentally friendly the new process is in practice, compared to landfill or wet incineration.
“Whether or not it turns out to be a major source of energy in itself, the key thing is we find a good way to handle what is a complex and growing waste stream,” said Tydeman. “We don’t want this stuff just going into the ground.”
The use of fuel derived from general refuse is already common in the rest of Europe and is growing in the UK, which exports millions of tonnes of it to the continent. The PHS plant in the West Midlands began testing the new process last year, but on Monday it announced it has moved to commercial-scale operation, currently 15% of all the waste it receives. The company aims to turn all the 45,000 tonnes of absorbent hygiene products it handles into bales by the end of 2017.

Tydeman expects more such waste in future, as a result of an ageing population: “The great thing about life today is people are living longer, but what comes with that is often incontinence issues. We want this to be a growing issue, because we want people to live longer.”
Disposable nappies are already a huge waste disposal challenge, with 3bn a year being thrown away in the UK. Other companies are looking at ways to recycle this waste into things as varied as cat litter, insulation material and fertile soil.
One challenge is collecting such waste from homes, but the charity Zero Waste Scotland recently ran a successful trial of kerbside collections of absorbent hygiene products. Another problem is that almost half of women flush tampons down the toilet, rather than disposing of them in the bin. Between 1.5bn and 2bnsanitary items are estimated to be flushed down Britain’s toilets each year, leading to blocked drains and waste littering rivers and beaches.

source :the guardian


A few weeks ago, HSBC took a big step forward in cutting its links with the destruction of Indonesia's forests by pledging to end funding for destructive palm oil companies. But HSBC is not the only bank lending money to palm oil companies pushing further and further into the forest, and the others now have a lot of catching up to do.
HSBC brought in a new policy after we showed how it had been involved in providing loans to some of the most destructive palm oil companies and hundreds of thousands of people around the world demanded tougher action. We still need to see how good HSBC is at putting this new policy into practice, but if done right it could put significant pressure on palm oil companies to stop destroying forests.
Other banks, however, are lagging way behind. When we threw the spotlight on HSBC's role in deforestation earlier this year, we also highlighted 17 other banks from around the world that are also shelling out for less-than-responsible palm oil companies.
Take Standard Chartered, for instance - it's based in the UK but does most of its business in Africa and Asia. At least it has a palm oil policy on its website - many of the banks we surveyed didn't even go that far. However, the policy is weak. Only certain types of forest are mentioned as no-go areas, and it says nothing about protecting peatlands other than that it might generally be a good idea. That’s despite the fact that clearing peatlands for palm oil is a cause of forest fires in Southeast Asia, fires which cause a huge health crisis in this area.
Like many other banks, Standard Chartered refuses to talk about its palm oil customers, claiming legal restrictions prevent it from doing so, which makes it very hard for anyone else to judge how well it keeps any commitment to protecting forests.. But as HSBC demonstrated, there is a way round this - its palm oil customers are now required to give permission to be named, otherwise they'll be refused business. HSBC still hasn't said what (if anything) it will do with this information, but it does show there's an easy way to make sure lending to palm oil companies is transparent, if only banks have the will to do it.

You may remember Standard Chartered as the bank that, following another Greenpeace campaign, pulled out of the giant Carmichael coal mine in Australia that threatened the Great Barrier Reef. So we know Standard Chartered changed direction in the past when faced with a damaging situation and a public outcry.
Other banks have even lower standards and often their policies will reference things like protecting forests or human rights, but these lack a clear indication that funding will be refused if customers are found to be in breach.
ANZ is one of those that doesn't have a published policy, despite being a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Bank of America does have a policy that covers labour standards, but fails to set strong benchmarks on deforestation and peatland clearance. Deutsche Bank fares even worse, with only human rights concerns like forced or child labour covered. There are mentions of forest and peatland protection, but only in that customers are expected - not required - to have plans to address these issues.
BNP Paribas fares better with peatland clearance and human rights abuses listed as prohibited, although it too only requires customers to protect certain types of forest, those identified in surveys as high conservation value. This leaves the door wide open to continued forest clearance, although BNP Paribas has said it is working on a new policy.
Will it and other banks take the hint and follow HSBC's lead? When you see what some of the palm oil companies are up to, it's hard to think otherwise.
Recent satellite images have shown that the a palm oil company controlled by of one of these companies - South Korean conglomerate POSCO Daewoo - is preparing to clear a colossal area of forest in Papua. We flagged this palm oil concession in our evidence to HSBC as one of great concern, and since the end of December a network of roads have appeared in what was intact forest. It's a clear sign that this area - about the size of Luton - is about to be cleared.

Those banks funding POSCO Daewoo - ANZ, BNP Paribas and Standard Chartered, amongst others - should be using their influence to prevent this destruction, and this is just one example. Our investigations have linked global banks with other notorious companies that have destroyed forests and violated the rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities.

We're waiting to see what action Standard Chartered and other banks will take to halt the flow of cash to companies that continue to cause environmental and social havoc. To make sure the message is getting though, we've placed a full-page advert in today's Financial Times - generously paid for by over 3,500 Greenpeace supporters.

Banks funding palm oil companies need to take a hard look at their involvement in the ongoing devastation of Indonesia. HSBC has shown it's possible to have far stronger commitments on protecting forests, so now there's no excuse.


Plastic, Pollution And The Ocean

More than two million tonnes of throwaway plastic soft drinks bottles are sold each year, with only a small proportion made from recycled materials, research reveals.
A survey by Greenpeace found five of six global soft drinks firms sold single-use plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes – only 6.6% of which was recycled plastic.
If figures from Coca-Cola, which did not disclose how many tonnes of plastic it sells, were included, the numbers would be much higher, the campaigners said.
Single-use drinks bottles are a visible part of the problem of plastics pollution in the world’s oceans, forming the most common type of plastic packaging found washed up on shorelines globally, Greenpeace said.
Millions of tonnes of plastics are ending up in the ocean every year, harming marine wildlife, taking centuries to break down and spreading toxic chemicals.
Greenpeace wants soft drinks brands to do more to tackle marine plastic pollution, for example by producing more 100% recycled bottles and committing to phasing out the use of throwaway plastic.
Louise Edge, senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK, said: “We know that plastic bottles are a huge ocean-polluter and in the UK alone we dump 16m of them in our environment every day.

“If we’re going to protect our oceans we need to end the age of throwaway plastic.
“Companies need to move away from single-use plastic, embrace reusable packaging and make sure the rest is made from 100% recycled content.”
Companies responding to the survey are taking action including reducing plastic by making bottles thinner or using bioplastics which are not made from oil, and removing “problem plastics” to make them more recyclable.
But Greenpeace said lighter and bioplastic bottles still contributed to marine pollution, and did not compensate for the growth in the total volume being produced.
There was also a move away from refillable bottles, low levels of recycled plastic used in drinks containers and opposition to deposit return schemes which pay people to return empty bottles, according to the green group.
The firms surveyed by Greenpeace were Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Suntory, Danone, Dr Pepper Snapple and Nestle.

British Soft Drinks Association director general Gavin Partington said: “We should all be concerned about the problem of marine litter.
“All plastic bottles are 100% recyclable so it is important that consumers are encouraged to dispose of bottles responsibly.

“However, we recognise more needs to be done to increase recycling and reduce littering.
“We want to work with campaigners, central and local government and other companies in the supply chain to support action that achieves these aims.”
A Coca-Cola Great Britain spokeswoman said: “For decades we have actively supported recycling programmes, anti-litter campaigns and ocean clean-up, but it is clear more action is needed.
“That’s why last year we began a review of our sustainable packaging strategy and recently agreed to support the trial of a well-designed deposit return scheme in Scotland to understand whether it will help to improve recycling rates and reduce litter.”
The company has reduced the amount of packaging by 15% since 2007 in Great Britain, and its bottles in the country contain 25% recycled material.
It will also publish new sustainability plans in June.
source :the guardian