Study shows denim microfibers are polluting our waters

September 9, 2020 by  
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A new study shows that jeans are releasing up to 56,000 denim microfibers per wash into lakes and oceans. The study, which was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology Letters found that denim microfibers have infiltrated waters all the way from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean. The study was conducted to show the extent of human-caused pollution . “It’s not an indictment of jeans — I want to be really clear that we’re not coming down on jeans,” said Miriam Diamond, environmental scientist at the University of Toronto and one of the authors of the study. Related: Wear jeans on your eyes with these funky sunglasses made of upcycled denim Scientists and environmentalists have known for some time that microplastics from synthetic clothing find their way into the oceans. One study estimates that about two trucks’ worth of microplastics drain into waters around Europe via wastewater from washing machines every day. Scientists have found microfibers in the stomachs of marine creatures, although the impact of these tiny plastic particles is still unknown. Much of the world is wearing denim at any given moment. To determine the effect of this popular garment, scientists carried out research on lake and ocean waters. The research looked at samples of water collected from the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, suburban lakes around Toronto and the Great Lakes. According to the American Chemical Society, the samples tested revealed that the lakes near Toronto had the lowest percentage of denim microfibers at 12%. The Arctic waters had 20% denim microfiber pollution, while the Great Lakes had 23%. The researchers also found that new jeans release more microfibers — up to 56,000 denim microfibers — per wash than used jeans. “They’re called ‘natural’ textile fibers,” Sam Athey, coauthor of the study, explained. “I’m doing air quotes around ‘natural’ because they contain these chemical additives. They also pick up chemicals from the environment, when you’re wearing your clothes, when they’re in the closet.” The impact of denim microfibers on the environment requires more research, but the study authors recommend buying used jeans, installing a filter on your washer and washing denim less frequently to cut back on the amount of microfibers released into waterways. + Environmental Science and Technology Letters Via EcoWatch Image via Stux

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Study shows denim microfibers are polluting our waters

Commercial trucking’s future is in the details

September 8, 2020 by  
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Commercial trucking’s future is in the details Rick Mihelic Tue, 09/08/2020 – 01:45 One downside of a career as an engineer is that you are trained to notice detail. Robert Downey Jr., playing Sherlock Holmes in the 2011 movie “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows,” is asked what he sees. His answer: “Everything. That is my curse.” It can make you the invaluable go-to person for information and analyses, and it also can make you the brunt of sarcasm and stereotyping. You are what you are. I had my son snap this photo as we were driving. I thought this one image captured a great deal of salient points I’ve learned after several years of researching medium- and heavy-duty alternatives such as battery electric, fuel cell electric and a variety of hybrid systems for the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). Let’s start with the obvious first: Feeding North America requires trucks and truck drivers. Trucks require energy. This energy has to be replenished regularly. COVID-19’s impact on the North American supply chain, hopefully, has heightened everyone’s appreciation that while food does grow on trees, a truck and driver probably has to get it to you. Over 70 percent of all freight moved in the United States is on trucks. If the trucks don’t move, you do not get food, toilet paper or masks. Those trucks are driven by people. They are taking risks now, and always have, to get you products you need to survive. The trucks need energy, whether diesel, gasoline, natural gas, electricity, hydrogen, propane, etc. That has to come from somewhere on a reliable and consistent basis or you do not get fed. Diving deeper into the photo: Fleets are commercial businesses that exist to deliver product to you. “Free delivery.” It’s a great advertising tag line, but there are no free rides; someone always pays somewhere. Buried in the cost of products are the costs of getting the product from its point of origin to you, the consumer. You may never see it, but fundamentally at some level you understand that the primary purpose of businesses is to be profitable. Embedded in the price you pay for goods are things such as vehicle maintenance, insurance, driver labor, warehouse labor, packaging labor, fuel energy, transport tolls, packaging disposal and, of course, profit margin. Profit is the whole reason a business exists in the first place. Companies that do not make a profit eventually collapse. Little of this detail is visible to you as a consumer. You generally have just a price and applicable taxes on your receipt. Occasionally “shipping and handling” are itemized, but this is probably only the last leg of the delivery. The “supply chain” is all of that infrastructure that gets the product to your door. Many corporations exist to make money from finding and delivering energy to transportation. There is a phenomenal amount of money invested, profits made and infrastructure tied to transportation related energy. They know change is coming. Energy providers such as Shell want to be around for a long time, so they are diversifying into a number of possible energy streams. Vehicle and component manufacturers are similarly diversifying with examples such as Cummins trying to cover most of the alternative technologies in their product portfolio. Utilities such as Duke Energy are getting engaged as well, forecasting major growth in demand for electricity, whether that’s for charging battery electric vehicles or for producing fuels such as hydrogen for fuel cell electric vehicles. Fleet operators such as UPS are experimenting with many alternatives trying to get experience to aid in planning investments. Venture capitalists also are everywhere seeking the next great investment. NACFE presented in its ” Viable Class 7/8 Alternative Vehicles Guidance Report ” the “messy middle” future, where a wide range of powertrains and energy forms are competing for market share. The future is not known yet. This diversity of choices is powering investment in all the alternatives as companies try to position themselves for this future. Prudent regulators are attempting to be technology-neutral while incentivizing significant improvement in market adoption, performance, affordability, emissions and durability. Fifteen states have signed a memorandum of understanding to develop action plans to ensure 100 percent of all new medium- and heavy-duty vehicle sales are zero-emission by 2050 with an interim target of 30 percent zero-emission sales by 2030. California already has enacted regulations requiring all trucks and vans sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2045. The near future may be the “messy middle,” but the longer view is heading toward zero-emission technologies. The gas station/truck stop paradigm is not necessarily the future. It’s an easy trap to fall into that we predict the future based on past experience. Psychologists label this sometimes as a familiarity bias. The gas station/truck stop paradigm we have evolved into may not reflect the future of transportation. Think of past examples. When the Eisenhower administration rolled out the national highway system in the 1950s, fuel stations and towns on venerable Route 66 suddenly found that they had been bypassed by the new multi-lane freeways. Higher speeds enabled by the freeways enabled fuel stations to be farther apart and co-located at key exits. The transition from coal steam trains to diesel electric ones in the 1940s and 1950s saw many fundamental shifts in infrastructure, with trains no longer needing water and coal refill stops. The development of jet commercial aviation in the 1960s largely eliminated the passenger rail system in the U.S. The advent of portable cellular phones has eliminated the ubiquitous phone booth system and all its infrastructure. Today, transportation is seeing daily innovations in alternative energy powertrains in parallel with major innovations in automation. The future is not known, but I bet the traditional gas station/truck stop will not look or operate like the ones of today. Even simplistically, a fully autonomous truck will not need to stop for food, snacks or a bathroom break. It won’t need to be located near convenient shopping or restaurants. As the alternative powertrains mature and become more capable, ranges will improve dramatically. When EVs come into existence that are capable of traveling 500 to 600 miles, energy stations planned around vehicles with a 100- to 200-mile range may be as endangered in the future as were the Route 66 gas stations in the past. Concepts in Europe to electrify highways with either in-pavement wireless or overhead catenary charging might eliminate fuel stations entirely. Some regions with growing numbers of EV cars have found that they primarily charge at home, and they rarely see a commercial charging station. Other regions see heavy use of commercial charging stations, but they may be tied to locations such as shopping centers or grocery store parking lots. In predicting the future, I like to refer to the cautionary note required on nearly all investment advertising, “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Predictions are easy. Really knowing the future is easier once you get there. Topics Transportation & Mobility Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Connor Mihelic Close Authorship

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Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products

September 8, 2020 by  
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Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products Cecilia Keating Tue, 09/08/2020 – 00:15 Unilever last week revealed plans to funnel close to $1.2 billion over the next 10 years into initiatives that will allow it to replace chemicals in its cleaning products made from fossil fuel feedstocks with greener alternatives — an investment it described as critical to meeting its aim of achieving net-zero emissions from its products by 2039. The new program, Clean Future, is largely focused on identifying and commercializing alternative sources of carbon for surfactants, the petrochemical molecules found in cleaning products that help remove grease from fabrics and surfaces. More than 46 percent of Unilever’s cleaning and laundry products’ carbon footprint is incurred by chemicals made from fossil fuel-produced carbon, most of which are used in surfactants.  However, the firm now intends to explore, invest and ramp up carbon capture and use technologies that will eliminate the need for fresh carbon feedstocks and instead allow it to tap recycled carbon already on or above ground, for example, through captured carbon dioxide or carbon captured from waste materials. Peter Styring, professor of chemical engineering and chemistry at the University of Sheffield, who has partnered with Unilever on the initiative, explained to BusinessGreen that Unilever’s investment could help catalyze a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals, a lesser understood but necessary element of the move towards a net-zero emissions economy. “The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals,” he said. “The work we are doing is to try and replace existing chemicals within the supply chain, with not necessarily new chemicals but chemicals derived from a different supply.” Through a strategic partnership with Unilever, Styring’s team at the University of Sheffield is working to identity and develop the technologies that will allow the firm to divorce itself from chemicals made from fossil fuel feedstocks, a transition the multinational anticipates will reduce the carbon footprint of its laundry and cleaning products by as much as 20 percent. In an attempt to help consumers, competitors and partners understand its plans and the production processes behind the technologies it plans to explore, Unilever has devised a “carbon rainbow” model that outlines the alternatives to fossil fuel-produced carbon. On the carbon rainbow, carbon produced through captured carbon dioxide is dubbed “purple carbon”; plants and biological-sourced carbon is labeled “green carbon”; marine-sourced carbon is branded “blue carbon”; and waste material-sourced carbon is denoted as “grey carbon.” Conventional fossil fuel-derived carbon is simply known as “black carbon.” Unilever’s “carbon rainbow” classification system. Styring, a carbon capture and use expert, suggested that eliminating petrochemicals across industry will require active pursuit of all “shades” of the rainbow. “There is no silver bullet; nothing is going to cure the climate issue on its own,” he said. “There has to be a cooperative effect between different technologies. I would love to say purple carbon will be the No. 1 technology, but I can’t because at this stage I don’t know. It really will be a balance and the other shades on the rainbow have to be taken into account.” Unilever’s Clean Future program specifically will focus on funding biotechnology research, CO2 use and low-carbon chemistry, as well as biodegradable and water-efficient product formulations. It already supports a number of initiatives that aim to slash the environmental impact of the firm’s cleaning and laundry products. For example, in Slovakia, the company is working with biotechnology company Evonik Industries to develop the production of rhamnolipids, a renewable and biodegradable surfactant used in its Sunlight dishwashing liquid in Chile and Vietnam. And in Southern India, Unilever is sourcing soda ash — an ingredient in laundry powders — from CO2 capture technology. The firm expects to scale up the use of both technologies over the years to come. Meanwhile, liquid detergent made by Persil — one of Unilever’s largest and most popular brands in the United Kingdom — has been reformulated to rely on plant-based stain removers, with the new line expected to reach British supermarkets later this month. However, beyond the impact on Unilever’s product lines, Styring is hopeful Unilever’s commitment to pour $1.2 billion over 10 years into purging fossil fuel-derived chemicals from its laundry and cleaning products will have a major impact on improving public understanding of the role of environmentally damaging petrochemical feedstocks. “The carbon dioxide utilization industry is developing, and over the last 10 years there have been a lot of development, but it tends to be in niche industries that the public don’t really see — the production of ethanol and methanol and various chemicals,” he explained. “This is a chemical — or a series of chemicals — that goes into households around the world. This will have a big impact.” Unilever has committed to spend a part of its $1.2 billion pot to support the development of “brand communications” that explain the various new technologies to customers. Perhaps even more crucially, Styring reckons the new investment has the potential to accelerate the commercialization of renewable and recycled carbon feedstock technologies that so far largely have been confined to research departments around the world. “What will happen with these strategic partnerships is that you can identify which tech are going to be world-leading, and you can put investment into these in a way that a research council can’t,” he predicted. “Because ultimately you are looking for a commercial success, a product that will give you a profit and at the same time reduce environmental impact. So I think the investment Unilever is making here will accelerate these technologies and allow them to move from small scale, bench scale and small laboratory scale and target a much better commercial operation.” His team, for example, will be working with Unilever to investigate how different technologies can be clustered together to form a local ecosystem that can produce alternatives to black carbon at scale. The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals. “At the moment, the emphasis will be location, location, location,” Styring said. “Have you got the energy to do the chemistry — energy in terms of renewables — do you have the carbon dioxide readily available, do you have hydrogen and water readily available, do you have the inorganics?” Carbon use can be developed at major existing sources of carbon dioxide such as power stations and heavy industrial plans, and could be ramped up within a “couple years,” Styring suggested. In contrast, more ambitious projects focused on direct air capture (DAC) could prove effective but will require much more time and money to reach commercial viability. That said, Styring is still enthusiastic about the long-term prospects for DAC as it is ramped up, predicting its impact could prove to be “phenomenal.” DAC technology also has one big potential advantage over conventional carbon capture systems: It is not tied to a particular location and as such would give operators the ability to tap carbon from the air for their products anywhere in the world, eliminating the need for complex and costly transportation infrastructure and supply chains to ferry the captured carbon to production sites. Styring is hopeful that Unilever’s commitment will encourage the government to throw its weight behind carbon capture and use, a field where he believes the U.K. could emerge as a world leader. “When you go to [carbon capture use] conferences, the U.K. is always the highest represented nation outside of the organizing nation,” he observed. “But the funding doesn’t reflect this, in terms of government funding. Germany is by far and away the biggest funder of this type of research. We have the opportunity to use the best British science and engineering, and psychology and supply chain management. … We have the opportunity to make Britain a leading force, but it needs that investment.” Styring said he has been pressing the government to divert a portion of the subsidies it funnels into oil and gas into carbon capture and use technology designed to produce petrochemicals and produce fuels. The government would argue that it has been listening and plans are progressing — albeit slower than campaigners would like — for new net-zero clusters that could deploy a range of carbon capture use and storage clusters at industrial sites across the U.K. The wide-ranging implications that would flow from such hubs could prove to be hugely significant, providing the fossil fuel industry with both a means to decarbonize and new markets for its capture carbon. At the same time, advances in green and blue carbon could slash demand for fossil fuels at a time when oil majors are betting on the petrochemicals market to pick up some of the slack as the transition to electric vehicles gathers pace. Unilever’s $1.2 billion investment could yet have a huge impact far beyond the consumer goods market. Pull Quote The move from fossil fuel is mainly associated with an energy transition. but similarly we need to look at a transition away from fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals. Topics Corporate Strategy Innovation Bio Economy BusinessGreen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off The materials innovation laboratory at the University of Liverpool. Courtesy of Unilever Close Authorship

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Carbon ‘rainbow’: Unilever pledges $1.2B to scrub fossil fuels from cleaning products

The rise (and rise) of sustainability-linked finance

August 24, 2020 by  
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The rise (and rise) of sustainability-linked finance Joel Makower Mon, 08/24/2020 – 02:11 One silver lining of this horrific moment is the rise of loans, bonds and other financial instruments linked to sustainability outcomes. In this sense, “sustainability” is broadly defined to include environmental issues as well as social ones. And, more recently, a new subcategory of, yes, pandemic-related issues. Indeed, the pandemic response is being financed in part through bonds designed to fund development of vaccines or treatments, support healthcare systems fighting the outbreak or provide relief efforts, such as for cities and counties facing budgetary challenges due to lost revenues and emergency spending. As of the end of May, governments, banks, companies and others raised just over $150 billion globally from selling pandemic bonds, according to research by BNP Paribas, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. “These instruments will contribute to the economic recovery of many sectors and will emphasize socially focused measures targeting specific segments of the population,” BBVA, the Spanish multinational financial services company, wrote recently. When the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. Pandemic bonds join a growing list of sustainability-linked financial instruments that have been gaining the attention of investors worldwide. The bonds alone come in a veritable rainbow of flavors: green bonds; climate bonds; sustainability bonds; social bonds; ESG bonds; blue bonds (related to oceans); and more. Last month, German company Henkel, which specializes in chemistry for adhesives, beauty care and laundry products, issued a “plastic waste reduction bond” to fund projects related to the company’s efforts to reduce packaging waste. There are, no doubt, other flavors, with more to come. And yes, each of those flavors has a more-or-less specific purpose. Green bonds are used to finance projects and activities that benefit the environment. Sustainability bonds are used to finance projects that bring clear environmental and social benefits. Social bonds are aimed at achieving positive economic outcomes for an identified target population, with neutral or positive impact on the environment. (Nasdaq offers definitions and criteria for each type of bond here .) By whatever name, money is pouring in. Last week, Moody’s Investors Service raised its forecast for 2020 sustainable bond issuance to as much as $375 billion, a category that includes green, sustainability and social bonds. Companies are jumping in with such regularity that it is rarely newsworthy anymore, except when it is. A few examples from 2020: In February, Verizon’s green bond drew orders equivalent to eight times the $1 billion the company sought to raise. “Within 25 minutes, orders had already exceeded the $1 billion mark,” said James Gowen, the company’s vice president and chief sustainability officer. By that afternoon, more than 300 investors had ordered more than $8 billion in debt. Also in February, investment firm Neuberger Berman announced a $175 million sustainability-linked corporate revolving credit facility, the first North American financial services firm to do so. The loan will be benchmarked annually against several criteria, including that the company maintain an “A” rating or higher for its ESG integration on each module for which is scored by the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment. This month, Visa issued its first green bond, totaling $500 million, to be used to fund energy-efficiency improvements, expanded use of renewable energy sources, employee commuter programs, water efficiency projects and initiatives that support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals . But the big kahuna of bond sales took place earlier this month, when Alphabet, the parent of Google, issued $5.75 billion in sustainability bonds , the largest sustainability or green bond by any company. (It was one part of a larger, $10 billion bond offering.) The proceeds are intended to fund a laundry list of initiatives, including energy efficiency, clean energy, green buildings, clean transportation, circular economy products and processes, affordable housing, purchases from Black-owned businesses as well as from small and midsized companies, and to support “health organizations, governments and health workers on the frontlines.” Like a growing number of bonds, Google’s hew to the Green Bond Principles and the Social Bond Principles , both promulgated by the International Capital Markets Association. Loan arrangers It’s not just bonds. Sustainability-linked loans — sometimes called ESG-linked loans — are also garnering interest . Last year, the issuance of sustainability loans (which includes social as well as green loans) jumped 168 percent to $122 billion, according to BloombergNEF . Sustainability-linked loans may sound similar to the similarly named bonds described above, but they’re not. Rather than raising funds for a particular category of projects or initiatives, the proceeds of sustainability-linked loans can be used for general business purposes. However, their interest rate is tied in part to the borrower’s sustainability performance. It requires the borrower to set ambitious and meaningful “sustainability performance targets” and report regularly — at least annually — on its progress, ideally with independent verification. Such loans have a built-in pricing mechanism, in which the interest rate drops if the borrower achieves its goals; it may rise if the goals aren’t met. So far, 80 percent of sustainability-linked loans have been made in Europe, although the practice is expanding in other countries. One company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance. Late last year, building controls company Johnson Controls linked the pricing of a $3 billion line of credit to its ESG performance. The deal was underwritten by a consortium of 18 major banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Barclays and Citibank. The sustainability performance targets are tied to employee safety and to greenhouse gas emission reductions from customer projects as well as from Johnson Controls’ own operations. In February, JetBlue Airways announced a sustainability-linked loan deal with BNP Paribas, the French banking group, amending an existing $550 million line of credit. The interest rate is tied to the airline’s ESG score as calculated by Vigeo Eiris, a U.K.-based provider of ESG research and services. In yet another case, one company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance, according to Mallory Rutigliano, green and sustainable finance analyst at BNEF. All of this is expected to continue to grow, with no apparent ceiling, as various types of instruments gain popularity based on a combination of hot-button issues and a hedge against risk. For example, it’s probably not surprising that in today’s climate of social and racial inequities, not to mention the pandemic, social bonds are currently a hot property. According to S&P Global , “We expect social bonds to emerge as the fastest-growing segment of the sustainable debt market in 2020. This stands in sharp contrast to the rest of the global fixed-income market, for which we expect issuance volumes to decline this year.” As with any growing market, there’s a need for standardization of definitions and metrics. But that’s inevitable. For now, let’s celebrate that financial institutions are — finally — beginning to hold companies accountable in ways that can directly affect their their bottom line. And when the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. Pull Quote When the cost of money is tied to a company’s sustainability performance: Game on. One company took out a loan for a renewable energy project, with the interest rate linked to the company’s gender equality performance. Topics Finance & Investing ESG GreenFin Featured Column Two Steps Forward Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage

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Rare large blue butterflies reintroduced in Gloucestershire

August 14, 2020 by  
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Rare large blue butterflies just experienced their most substantial reintroduction into the wild. About 750 of the globally endangered butterflies successfully hatched from larvae and flapped around Rodborough Common in Gloucestershire this summer. “Bringing such an important and rare species back to Rodborough Common is a testament to what collaborations between organisations and individuals can achieve,” said  conservation  officer Julian Bendle in a press release issued by National Trust. “Creating the right conditions has been vital to the programme and this doesn’t happen overnight.” Related: Migrating monarch butterflies get the right-of-way in new agreement Rodborough Common serves as both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. Officials selected this area for the butterfly release because it met the species’  habitat  requirements. The space houses several rare plants and insects, including the pasqueflower, duke of burgundy butterfly, rock rose pot beetle and fourteen different orchid species. Of Britain’s nine types of blue butterflies, the large blue, with a wingspan surpassing two inches, remains the biggest and rarest. With no large blue sightings at Rodborough Common logged for 150 years, in 1979 officials declared the species extinct in  Britain . Lepidopterologists began reintroducing the large blue from continental Europe nearly 40 years ago. The butterfly has now established populations at several sites across southern England. The campaign to bring the butterflies back to Rodborough Common took five years of planning and included changing the grazing patterns of local  cattle , ensuring the butterflies had plenty of marjoram and wild thyme to lay their eggs in and providing an abundance of delicious red ants. This project also required many human partners, including people at the National Trust, Butterfly Conservation, the Limestone’s Living Legacies Back from the Brink project, Natural England, Royal Entomological Society (RES) and the Minchinhampton and Rodborough Committees of Commoners. As David Simcox, research ecologist and co-author of the commons management plan, explained, cows help the butterflies by creating “keeping the grass down so sunlight can reach the soil which gently warms it creating perfect conditions for the ants.” Simcox continues, saying, “Then, in the summer when the ants are out  foraging , nature performs a very neat trick – the ants are deceived into thinking that the parasitic larva of the large blue is one of their own and carry it to their nest. It’s at this point that the caterpillar turns from herbivore to carnivore, feeding on ant grubs throughout the autumn and spring until it is ready to pupate and emerge the following summer.” Last August, conservation groups released 1,100 larvae on the 867-acre site. The 750 resulting adult  butterflies  demonstrate the program’s success. + National Trust Images via Sarah Meredith and David Simcox

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Earth Overshoot Day comes 3 weeks later this year

August 14, 2020 by  
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In more silver-lining news related to COVID-19 , humanity’s ecological footprint contracted this year more than any time since researchers started tracking it in the 1970s. Earth Overshoot Day will fall three weeks later this year than it did in 2019. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, Earth Overshoot Day isn’t exactly a holiday. The date changes year to year and marks the time when humans’ use of ecological resources and services exceeds what our planet can regenerate in a year. This year, Earth Overshoot Day will fall on August 22, according to the Global Footprint Network. Last year, the grim day came three weeks earlier, on July 29. While this is a significant improvement, it still falls noticeably short, with humanity using a year’s worth of resources with more than four months of the year still to go. Related: Every year, humanity ‘overshoots’ the natural resources earth can replenish The Global Footprint Network calculates Earth Overshoot Day by dividing Earth’s biocapacity, or the amount of natural resources the planet can generate that year, by people’s demand for those resources. Then it multiplies the ratio by 365. We have COVID-19 to thank for this year’s 9.3% reduction of our ecological footprint. When you put humans on lockdown, carbon dioxide emissions suddenly drop. “This shift in the year-to-year date of Earth Overshoot Day represents the greatest ever single-year shift since the beginning of global overshoot in the early 1970s,” according to  the Earth Overshoot Calculation Report 2020. “In several instances the date was pushed back temporarily, such as in the aftermath of the post-2008 Great Recession, but the general trend remains that of a consistent upward trajectory.” Humanity is currently burning through natural resources 1.6 times faster than Earth can regenerate. So unless we can find an extra .6 planet, we will either have to change our ways ASAP or run short of resources. The Global Footprint Network’s ambitious goal is to move Earth Overshoot Day back five days per year, so that by 2050, we will be living within our ecological means. The group’s website suggests ways that people can move the date by focusing on five areas: cities, food , population, energy and planet. + Earth Overshoot Day Images via Earth Overshoot Day and Arek Socha

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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business

August 13, 2020 by  
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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business Joana Kleine Jäger Thu, 08/13/2020 – 01:45 Remember the time when milk was delivered to your door in reusable glass bottles? If not, you were probably born during the plastics-era, which began about 50 years ago. Until the 1980s, glass or cotton bags were the go-to packaging materials for many products, such as milk and flour. Today, plastic has taken over. In 2018, 40 percent of the 360 million tonnes of plastics produced globally were converted to packaging. Prized for its durability and ultimate convenience, the plastic addiction from business to consumer is proving hard to shift. But the increasing presence of post-consumer plastic littering the natural environment is a sobering reminder of the extent of damage our love affair with plastic has delivered. Ultimately, we cannot fix this with recycling alone. Alternative materials and models such as bio-based packaging and reuse offer a prime opportunity to extend the lifetime of valuable materials and deliver financial savings to businesses. The case for reusable packaging If we succeed in building and scaling reuse systems, they will outperform single-use systems. This not only benefits the environment but also businesses. About 95 percent of the value of plastic packaging material ($83 to $124 billion annually) is lost to the economy after a very short first-use cycle. Most of it ends up in our environment. The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model. In contrast, research and on-the ground experiences with reusable packaging by Searious Business, a solution provider for zero plastic waste practices, show yearly financial savings of up to 30 percent compared to throw-away versions. Thus, reusable packaging is not only key to achieving a circular economy and solving the plastic pollution problem, but also equally presents untapped business potential. To grasp this potential, business must explore collaborations and capacity sharing to achieve wide-scale success and profit. Benefits of teaming up Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. Replacing single-use with reusable packaging may seem straightforward — technically speaking. Most reuse concepts, such as “bring your own” are rather simple. However, our current packaging system is geared toward single-use packaging. Take the food sector, for example. In today’s fast-paced world, ready-made meals are the preferred option for many consumers. Producers parcel ready-made food in small portions in thoughtfully designed packaging, which ends up in the bin soon after consumption. Reusable packaging provides an environmentally friendlier, financially viable alternative: Together with three major retailers, Searious Business has identified opportunities to reduce carbon footprint by 43 tonnes per year through reusable food containers. Financial pay-offs have appeared within eight months. Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. However, these results cannot be achieved alone. They require close collaboration with waste management players, cleaning facilities and logistics companies. Where the packaging was previously disposed of, the retailer needs to arrange collection points, ensure timely collection by the cleaners and likewise timely return so that the packing can be reused. The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model, so that the system is well used and adequate scale can be realized to make a successful change. Numerous stakeholders need to engage in coordinated actions to reduce plastic waste and gain financial benefit for all parties involved. For reuse platforms to be financially viable and make an impact, scale up through collaboration and capacity sharing is inevitable. How to get started As the above example demonstrates, collaborations are crucial for reuse endeavors. But how can a business get started? Circle Economy’s guide for collaborations in a circular economy directs businesses through the process of identifying attractive partners and establishing successful partnerships. The impact organization found that in scoping a potential new collaboration, businesses first need to understand the local context, market and material flows. This includes relevant legislation, consumption habits, the distance to sourcing and the existing reuse infrastructure, which can vastly differ between locations. Choosing the right partner to implement reuse packaging systems further depends on the company vision. Once a business has a clear vision for the future, it needs to assess which capabilities and resources are needed to reach this vision and what can be filled internally. Gaps identified can be filled by partners. Crucial roles a partner can take Based on the gaps identified, businesses can determine which type of collaboration they need to make the circular transition happen. To illustrate this process, we identify three major roles that a reusable packaging partner can take on, as well as five significant characteristics. 1. When McDonald’s and Burger King joined food delivery platform Deliveroo, they did not only want to meet evolving consumer demands for mobile ordering. They also recognized the benefits of serving as each other’s impact extenders. When competitors collaborate to reach common goals, they can learn together, overcome hurdles, increase volume and scale, share investments or establish standardization of packaging. Such “coopetition” is often pooled under reuse platforms such as Deliveroo. 2. Businesses looking to introduce reusable packaging also can partner with companies that serve as promoters, and help to make reusable packaging accepted and ordinary (again) — or even desirable — through marketing campaigns. Social enterprise Dopper, known for its reusable water bottles, has collaborated with the Amsterdam-based Van Gogh museum to create a Special Edition of their bottles with prints of the famous painter’s works. 3. Returnable packaging schemes such as BarePack meal containers in Singapore and RePack packages in Europe work much in the same way that library books are borrowed, enjoyed and returned. With both consumers and businesses recognizing their environmental and financial benefits, these schemes are gaining market share and increasingly becoming part of our daily lives. Here, we see how businesses tapping into the potential of product-service-systems and product-life-extension business models can serve as use-phase-supporters or businesses seeking to introduce reusable packaging. As reuse system operators, BarePack and RePack support businesses with elements such as (reverse) logistics, cleaning and refilling. What makes a winning partner Deciphering the gaps that your business needs filled is the first step, but the nitty-gritty is crucial too: certain characteristics that can amplify your partnership also should be on your radar. Partnering companies should aim to find a strategic fit: your vision on circularity aligns and your market, context and geographical fit. While knowledge exchange collaborations might operate globally, geographical proximity is needed to ensure resource efficiency and profitability when implementing reusable packaging on the ground. Reusable packaging is a playground for innovation, so creativity is a desirable characteristic: out-of-the-box thinking and novel business models. Open communication and collaborative learning are also important as they can enable joint progress towards successful reuse models and uncertainties can be reduced. Partners should also show alignment with the mission. Being on the same page in terms of sharing interests and benefits will result in flexibility. Finally, circular economy collaborations are characterized by mutual dependence and long-term goals. Therefore, a partner should show commitment in terms of wanting the change and investing resources. Pull Quote The retailer also needs to invest in marketing the benefits and exciting consumers about the opportunity to change to a circular packaging model. Only when key stakeholders align their efforts can the industry change towards a paradigm of reuse. Choosing the right partner to implement reuse packaging systems further depends on the company vision. Contributors Willemijn Peeters Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Plastic Circle Economy Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Reusable packaging comes in many forms. Shutterstock Oleksandra Naumenko Close Authorship

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Reusable packaging provides untapped payoffs for business

IKEA debuts plant-based meatballs

July 21, 2020 by  
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While a plate of Swedish meatballs has long been a standard part of an IKEA visit for omnivores,  vegetarians  endured the shopping trip on an empty stomach. Now, they hunger no more. IKEA has just announced its new plant ball, which allegedly has all the taste of a meatball but only 4% of the climate footprint. The plant balls will launch across Europe in August, before rolling out across the world. Served in  IKEA ‘s in-store restaurants, these plant balls will accompany the classic meatball plate, alongside mashed potatoes, vegetables, cream sauce and lingonberry jam. Both the meaty and meatless meals will cost the same price. Customers will also be able to buy the meals in IKEA’s Swedish Food Market for home preparation. Related: Top 5 sustainable products from IKEA to add to your home “At IKEA, we sell 1 billion meatballs a year,” Sharla Halvorson, Health & Sustainability Manager at IKEA Food, said in a press release. “Imagine if we can convert even some of those into plant balls. That’s a real tangible reduction in our  climate  footprint.” IKEA first introduced its meatballs in 1985. Departing from the classic recipe, the new plant balls use pea  protein , onion, potatoes, oat bran, dried apple and rapeseed oil. The resulting texture mimics that of real meatballs. Environmental concerns drove IKEA’s decision to offer a plant-based alternative. According to IKEA’s statistics, people can reduce their carbon footprint by up to 73% by eliminating meat and dairy products from their diet. The company estimated that 70% of IKEA Food’s  greenhouse gas  emissions come from beef and pork. IKEA Food has set a goal of offering 20% plant-based dishes by 2022. Alexander Magnusson, Chef & Project Leader at IKEA Food, emphasizes the plant balls’ versatility, suggesting that customers preparing them at home could add them to an Indian curry or serve them with kimchi. “Is this a Swedish meatball without  meat ?” he said. “Well, not exactly, but we’ve added the same sort of ingredients. The plant ball actually tastes more than a meatball, in a good way.” + IKEA Images via IKEA

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IKEA debuts plant-based meatballs

Could trash-to-energy technology feed hydrogen demand?

July 15, 2020 by  
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Could trash-to-energy technology feed hydrogen demand? Arlene Karidis Wed, 07/15/2020 – 01:00 One novel spin on emerging hydrogen fuel options is “clean hydrogen” made from trash.  Early pioneers of these hydrogen-from-waste technologies such as Ways2H, SGH2 Energy (SGH2) and Standard Hydrogen say not only are they making carbon-free, energy-rich fuel, their approaches also will divert mountains of trash from landfills and waterways, cutting greenhouse gas emissions.   Green hydrogen — made by splitting water’s hydrogen and oxygen using electricity produced by renewable sources — is a small fish in the “energies pond.” Today, more than 95 percent of hydrogen is fossil-based and does not rely on renewables. Other technologies are in the mix, such as battery electric vehicles. Hydrogen from waste is an even smaller fish than hydrogen from renewable energy. There are only a few waste-to-hydrogen projects, most which are in early stages and relatively small scale. Still, there is potential for clean — low- or zero-carbon — hydrogen to take off, energy experts believe. It is energy-efficient, abundant and an environmentally friendly alternative to natural gas. Clean hydrogen could cut greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel by up to 34 percent, reported Bloomberg New Energy Finance.  Deployed at scale, hydrogen from all sources could account for almost 20 percent of energy consumed by 2050, projects the Hydrogen Council . The annual demand could reach 19,120,458,891 tons by then, representing a tenfold increase from 2015 to 2050.  When we began marketing our services, we expected most of the interest to center around our hydrogen production capabilities, but most inquiries have centered around waste consumption.   Looking specifically at hydrogen from renewable energy, Bloomberg calculates that if the cost for the technology to produce it continues its current downward curve, renewable hydrogen could be competitive with natural gas in several countries before 2050. And it could be cheaper than producing hydrogen from natural gas. Combined with a push for decarbonization, these economics could drive demand, project energy experts.  A few tech companies are working to grow clean hydrogen in Europe and Asia and, lately, California. As the state weighs hydrogen as a possible path to its goal of carbon neutrality by midcentury, California’s policy makers are following emerging research, including a recent report from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory looking specifically at converting hydrogen from waste. It concluded this approach could be a cost-effective way to actually achieve negative emissions. One company hoping to capitalize is Ways2H , which has a thermal process to convert municipal solid waste, medical waste, plastics and sewage sludge into renewable hydrogen. With four pilots under its belt, the company soon plans to launch a commercial project in Tokyo. It will start by making transportation fuel from wastewater sludge, then add plastics, according to the company.  Later this year, the developer intends to build a plant in California to make hydrogen from waste for transportation fuel or for the power grid; it is negotiating with a healthcare provider to supply the trash. The plan is to build more plants in California and other U.S. locations in 2021. Above photo courtesy of Ways2H Ways2H CEO Jean-Louis Kindler believes he’s found a promising niche. “As we see more hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, beginning with public transportation applications … that are happening worldwide, and as more utilities adopt hydrogen as a power generation fuel, producing renewable hydrogen from waste will be an important source of supply to meet growing clean hydrogen demand,” he said.  Is this the best second life for trash? Energy Transitions Commission, a global coalition of leaders across the energy landscape, is exploring low-carbon energy systems — including different ways to make hydrogen. The commission’s stance is that leveraging biomass to make hydrogen fuel is not putting waste as feedstock to its best use. “We try to understand bioresource demand and to prioritize its use, using it as a resource where there are no other low-carbon options. There are other ways to make hydrogen. Meanwhile, there are applications with few low-carbon options that need the biomass more, such as biofuels for aviation,” said Meera Atreya, Energy Transitions Commission Bioeconomy lead. That hasn’t dissuaded Ways2H and others from forging ahead.  SGH2 , for example, is producing hydrogen from mixed paper, which is fed into a gasifier that operates at very high heat generated by oxygen and plasma torches. The heat breaks down waste’s hydrocarbons into a synthetic gas; hydrogen is then separated and purified to 99.9999 percent.   Its first plant will be able to generate 3,800 tons of green hydrogen a year from waste supplied by the city of Lancaster in California, which will co-own the facility according to a memorandum of understanding, according to the SGH2 web site. The image above describes SGH2’s process. SGH2 is negotiating with fueling stations interested in the Lancaster plant’s output. SGH2 CEO Robert Do, whose background is in physics, medicine and business, can’t name companies yet but said, “We have also had enormous interest from other buyers in California and globally. We are in talks with utilities, cement companies, and hydrogen bus manufacturers, among others.”  A preliminary lifecycle analysis indicates that for every ton of hydrogen produced, SGH2’s process displaces 13 to 19 tons more CO2 than processes using electrolysis to split water’s hydrogen and oxygen. Do said his production costs are lower, averaging $2 per kg.  “We can do it cheaper because our fuel is free, in exchange for offering disposal services at no cost to generators. And we can run the plant year-round while electrolysis depends on availability of solar and wind,” he said. A 2020 Hydrogen Council report states that renewable hydrogen produced via electrolysis is about $6/kg hydrogen; although costs have been declining, and it projects they will continue to drop.  Another pioneer in the waste-to-hydrogen movement is Standard Hydrogen Company , which is converting waste to hydrogen sulfide, then splitting it into hydrogen and sulfur to make fuel from the hydrogen. Like SGH2, the company says its process is cheaper than electrolysis because it is less energy-intensive and involves no water. Standard Hydrogen CEO Alan Mintzer hopes to close on his first joint venture this summer with a consortium of North American utilities and multinational corporations that will provide feedstock and purchase the hydrogen. He is targeting pricing of $4/kg wholesale and $5/kg retail.   “When we began marketing our services, we expected most of the interest to center around our hydrogen production capabilities, but most inquiries have centered around waste consumption. Not only will we clean the landfills and plastic and tire dumps, but our process provides an incentive to go to the floating garbage islands out in the oceans, and convert them into hydrogen,” Mintzer said.  The California Energy Commission (CEC) and other agencies in that state have funded research on hydrogen transportation fuel, including potentially sourced from waste.  “As the state moves to deep decarbonization, we’re exploring all options — including hydrogen as a clean energy carrier — in order to identify the most cost-effective pathways to reduce carbon emissions and protect public health,” says Laurie ten Hope, deputy director for Energy Research and Development at the California Energy Commission.  Technology & Investment Solutions is among those doing research for California. Its project is in collaboration with the University of Southern California (USC) and entails converting organic waste to biogas through anaerobic digestion and uses USC’s catalytic reformer to convert the methane to hydrogen for potential use as vehicle fuel.  Still, the process of making hydrogen fuel from any source has a way to go before it has firm footing, even in a state committed to decarbonization.  While California is mandated to bring 100 hydrogen refueling stations on line by 2025, and is looking to add more, it currently has just over 6,000 hydrogen vehicles on the road, compared to nearly 700,000 electric vehicles, noted a CEC spokeswoman. She added, “So while the state has invested in hydrogen technologies, today there is far less adoption of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles than electric ones.” Through their growing pains, developers working on hydrogen from waste are onto something, speculated Keith D. Patch, an energy and technology consultant. Not only are other clean technologies such as electrolysis expensive, they require enormous energy and don’t address the waste problem that waste conversion technologies could, he points out. But what are the hurdles?  “The biggest barrier has been overly optimistic predictions by waste conversion companies, primarily around technical maturity and commercial economics. But once commercial readiness is validated by robust subscale testing, the industry should be primed for takeoff,” Patch said. Pull Quote When we began marketing our services, we expected most of the interest to center around our hydrogen production capabilities, but most inquiries have centered around waste consumption. The biggest barrier has been overly optimistic predictions by waste conversion companies, primarily around technical maturity and commercial economics. Topics Energy & Climate Circular Economy Hydrogen Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Courtesy of Standard Hydrogen Close Authorship

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Could trash-to-energy technology feed hydrogen demand?

Applying rock dust to farms could boost carbon sequestration

July 10, 2020 by  
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A report in the journal Nature has revealed that enhanced rock weathering (ERW) could help slow climate change by sucking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This process involves spreading rock dust on farmland to help absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide. When rocks, such as basalt and other silicates, are crushed and added to the soil, they dissolve and react with carbon dioxide, forming carbonates and lock carbon dioxide. Although this is the first time that scientists are proposing this approach in dealing with carbon dioxide, it is not a new concept. Normally, farmers use limestone dust on the soil to reduce acidification. The use of limestone in agriculture helps enhance yield. If the proposed enhanced rock weathering technique is adopted, farmers could incorporate other types of rock dust on their land. Related: Eos Bioreactor uses AI and algae to combat climate change According to the study, this approach could help capture up to 2 billion metric tons of CO2 each year. This is equal to the combined emissions of Germany and Japan. Interestingly, this technique is much cheaper than conventional methods of carbon capturing. The scientists behind the study say that the cost of capturing a ton of CO2 could be as low as $55 in countries such as India, China, Mexico, Indonesia and Brazil. For the U.S., Canada and Europe, the cost of capturing one metric ton of CO2 with ERW would be about $160. The scientists propose using basalt as the optimal rock for ERW. Given that basalt is already produced in most mines as a byproduct, adding it to farmland soils can easily be instituted. Further, the countries that contribute the highest amounts of carbon dioxide are the best candidates for the ERW technique. Countries such as China, India and the U.S. have large farmlands that can be used to capture excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Given that carbon emissions are a big problem for the entire world, this technique might just be the light at the end of the tunnel. The enhanced rock weathering technique is affordable and practical, making it a win-win. + Nature Via The Guardian Image via Pixabay

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Applying rock dust to farms could boost carbon sequestration

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