EU proposes plan to ban 90 percent of microplastics

February 4, 2019 by  
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Microplastics may appear small on the outside, but they take a major toll on the environment. Not only do these plastics ruin soil and jeopardize ocean life, but they also create health issues for people all around the world. Fortunately, a newly proposed ban on microplastics might offer a solution to this growing problem. This week, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) put forth a new law that seeks to ban over 90 percent of Europe’s microplastics. If countries in the European Union agree to the legislation, the prohibition could significantly lower the amount of microplastics on a global scale. “Microplastics are a growing concern to a number of human rights. The steps proposed by Echa are necessary to help ensure present and future generations can enjoy what is their human right: a clean, healthy and sustainable environment ,” UN reporter Baskut Tuncak shared. According to The Guardian, there are close to 400,000 tons of these small plastic particles that end up in European environments. These microplastics come from a variety of household sources, including fertilizers, detergents, paint products and cosmetics. The proposed ban would eliminate the vast majority of microplastics that are integrated into these products, many of which are not necessary. Related: Study finds microplastics in sea turtles around the world If passed, the law would not go into effect until 2020. By that time, companies would need to have made drastic changes in the production of goods. This includes removing microplastics from a variety of products, a move that would require a major change in design . The new ban is similar in nature to what the U.K. passed last year. The country prohibited the use of microbeads in certain personal products, such as shower gel and toothpaste. The new law, however, is much larger in scope and would eventually remove the vast majority of microplastics from production. The ban, of course, would only apply to countries that are still in the EU. Following Brexit, there is a chance that the U.K. will not adopt the law, though that has yet to be determined. In the meantime, the ECHA will continue to explore the proposed ban and will vote on the measure in three months. If passed, the law is not expected to go into effect until at least another eight months after the vote is tallied. Via The Guardian Image via Shutterstock

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A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

January 31, 2019 by  
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After a film broadcast on Polish TVN 24 revealed that a slaughterhouse was illegally trafficking sick cattle , Polish police have launched an investigation into the matter. The film showed secret footage of cows too sick to stand being dragged into the plant, as well as slaughterhouse workers cutting carcasses at night “to avoid official supervision.” With no way of knowing where the meat went, the scandalous footage could end up being as serious as the 2013 EU horsemeat scandal that exposed Europe’s complex meat market and triggered product recalls. As first reported by the BBC, a statement issued just days after the movie premiered on TV, Poland’s chief veterinary officer said his inspectors and Polish police received a tip about the possible illegal slaughter at an abattoir in northeastern Poland near Ostrow Mazowiecka. On the night of January 14 eight sick cows were found at the facility and it was decided their suffering must come to an end and were ultimately killed. “During the check, the owners of the animals were identified, along with an animal dealer who transported cattle unfit for transport, and abattoir staff responsible for animal welfare there,” the statement said. Related: ChimpFace could help fight the illegal trade in chimpanzees The inspectors are continuing their investigation by attempting to identify buyers and sellers of meat from sick animals and are also checking other slaughterhouses in the region. According to Eurostat, an EU statistics agency, Poland is the EU’s seventh-largest producer of cow meat behind Ireland, Spain, Italy, the UK, Germany and France. In 2017, the country produced over 558,000 tons of beef and beef products, and each year they slaughter approximately two million head of cattle. However, just two percent of Poland’s meat consumption is beef, which means nearly all of Polish cow meat is exported. Data from UK Revenue and Customs (HMRC) shows that in 2018, the UK imported $85 million worth of Polish beef. Many are hoping that this latest revelation will lead to regulatory action that should have happened after the first scandal. The designated veterinarian for the slaughterhouse and his county supervisor have already been fired. “I think the police, which is at this moment already engaged in this issue, will be trying step by step to explain what has been the role of the supervisory authorities in this illegal, reprehensible, and downright criminal procedure,” says journalist Tomasz Patora of TVN 24’s Superwizjer. Via BBC Image via Shutterstock

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A new Polish film has exposed the illegal trafficking of sick cattle

Renewable electricity could overtake fossil fuels in Britain by next year

January 28, 2019 by  
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A new report from British power analysts EnAppSys is predicting renewable electricity will overtake fossil fuels as the main source of Great Britain’s electricity generation by next year if current trends continue. In their annual market review report for 2018, EnAppSys says that the levels of power generation from coal and gas-fired power stations fell by 6.7 percent, while generation from renewables increased 15.2 percent. If renewables do pass up fossil fuels in Great Britain in 2020, it will be a first, and it will prove that renewable energy has staying power. “It’s clear that renewables will be generating most of our power in the years ahead, with wind playing the leading role,” said Luke Clark, RenewableUK’s Head of External Affairs, told Clean Technica. During 2018, a large number of offshore wind farms were commissioned or went into full operation and the increase of wind energy led the way in renewable energy generation. Since the cost of offshore wind continues to decrease this means it will likely become the primary source of renewable  energy generation, at least in the short term. Related: Greenhouse gas emissions rose during 2018 after three year decline Currently, offshore wind power generation has a 55.4 percent share of the renewables mix. Between the moratorium on onshore wind and the falling costs of offshore wind, that share should climb even higher. However, there are still some concerns about the UK fuel mix because of the suspension of their Capacity Mechanism— a measure designed to ensure the security of the electricity supply by paying for reliable sources. In November, the European Union ruled that the Capacity Mechanism was illegal. Those payments were going to old coal, gas , and nuclear plants, and some saw them as government subsidies. But, without that money, some of those plants may leave the market. If that happens, it will lead to “decreased security of supply.” Ultimately, the Capacity Mechanism payments will need to be reinstated or an alternative will need to be implemented to fill the gap created by the lost income. Via Clean Technica Image via Free-Photos

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This countertop dishwasher promises to wash your dishes in just 10 minutes

January 28, 2019 by  
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Living in a tiny apartment — or tiny home  — no longer needs to mean giving up the luxury of a dishwasher. Meet Tetra, an award-winning countertop dishwasher that’s not only compact and cute as a button, but is also easy to install (no plumbing needed) and affordable with a limited pre-order price of $299. Produced by Heatworks and designed by frog , the small-but-mighty Tetra is marketed with a 10-minute load cycle and was recently demoed at CES 2019 earlier this month. Winner of the CES 2019 Best of Innovation Award, the Tetra dishwasher is unlike its more traditional sibling in that it only requires an electrical outlet — no plumbing needed. As part of Charleston-based Heatworks’ commitment to energy-efficient and resource-saving products, this countertop dishwasher is also designed to save energy and comes with its own reservoir that allows control over the amount of water used, depending on the number of dishes inside. According to Heatworks, hand-washing dishes can use up to 10 times more water than dishwashers. The Tetra countertop dishwasher measures 18 inches in width, 16.75 inches in height and 14 inches deep, and it comes with an internal detergent compartment as well as colorful modular racks that can be swapped out depending on what items need to be washed. The appliance is powered with the Heatworks’ patented Ohmic Array Technology, which the firm said allows for “precise temperature control,” quick cycles and gentle cleaning or even sanitation of baby bottles. Related: Learn which appliances suck up the most energy in your home “Instead of having elements that get really hot and then transfer the heat to the water, we actually pass electrical currents through the water itself,” the firm explained of the technology’s tankless heating. “Using graphite electrodes and electronic controls, we increase the energy state of the water molecules, so they move faster. The faster they move, the more kinetic energy they have. This causes the molecules to begin to bounce off each other; that kinetic energy turns into heat. Through direct energy transfer, your water is heated instantly, within (+/-) 1 degree Fahrenheit of the temperature setpoint.” Pre-orders for the Tetra are slated to open in Q1 2019. + Tetra Images via Heatworks

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Europe’s circular economy competitive advantage

December 7, 2018 by  
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Just look at the trajectory of the Finnish mobile company, Nokia.

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Europe’s circular economy competitive advantage

Why I went to work for the Swedish government

September 4, 2018 by  
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From entrepreneur to civil servant, in the name of sustainability.

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Europe officially has more than one million electric cars

August 28, 2018 by  
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More than a million electric cars can now be seen on the streets of Europe, thanks in part to a sales surge in the first half of 2018. Europe has reached this benchmark more quickly than the United States, which is on track to meet it later this year. Europe and the U.S. have trailed behind China, which reached one million electric vehicle sales in 2017; however, Europe’s achievement is no small feat. Related: The number of electric vehicles on the streets could triple in two years Europe saw 195,000 electric cars sold during the first half of this year, a 42 percent increase from last year. This figure includes electric cars sold in the European Union as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway, the latter of which continues to lead the way, with the highest number of electric vehicles sold. Related: World’s fastest electric car charger offers 120-miles of range in 8 minutes Industry analyst EV-Volumes  estimates that European sales of electric vehicles will reach 1.35 million by the end of the year. The figure includes both fully electric vehicles as well as hybrid plug-in models that switch to conventional engines after their short-distance battery runs out of power. Industry leaders are optimistic about the outlook for environmentally friendly cars, despite plug-in hybrids only accounting for 2% of market share. Viktor Irle, market analyst at EV-Volumes, commented, “a stock of one million electric vehicles is an important milestone on the road to electrification and meeting emission targets but it is of course not enough.” One thing, though, is certain – Europe definitely has the drive to achieve fossil-fuel-free roads. Via The Guardian    

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Illegal ivory trade continues to thrive in Europe

July 11, 2018 by  
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International rights group Avaaz says the illegal ivory trade is still alive and well in Europe after the group purchased 109 ivory products from 10 countries and found that many of these items were illegaly sourced from wildlife after 1989. The findings further support Avaaz’s mission in calling on Europe to completely end its ivory trade and protect elephants . During its four-month investigation, the non-profit was able to successfully purchase ivory items in 10 European nations, including Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain and the United Kingdom. The ivory products were then shipped to Oxford University , where researchers used carbon dating to determine their authenticity and age. According to Avaaz, approximately 20 percent of the discovered items were harvested in 1990 or later. Under international regulations, it is illegal to sell any ivory taken from animals after 1990, when sanctions on the organic material went into effect. Related: United Kingdom moves to ban most of its ivory trade The good news is that the majority of items found date back as far as 1947 and later, meaning no new animals were killed or threatened for ivory. While this is a major win for animal conservation , pre-1990 ivory trade is only allowed with official documentation — Avaaz was able to purchase the items illegally. “This proves beyond doubt that illegal ivory is being sold across Europe,” Bert Wander, campaign director for Avaaz, said in a media statement. “Every day the sale of these trinkets continues is a day closer to wiping out majestic elephants forever.” The undercover operation is part of a wider awareness campaign by Avaaz to stop all ivory trading across Europe. In a recent update , the activist organization accused the European Union of being open to future trading opportunities. Furthermore, Avaaz claims the EU does not support a proposed five-point plan to protect all elephants from poaching for their tusks. Avaaz is not the only group calling for the outright end of ivory sales. Tusk , a charity championed by Prince William , is demanding the U.K. end all ivory trading, claiming the nation is the third-largest supplier of illegal products to the U.S. + Avaaz Via The Guardian

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EU approves complete ban on bee-killing insecticides

April 27, 2018 by  
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In a monumental decision that has been years in the making , all member nations of the European Union have approved a total ban of neonicotinoids, the most widely used insecticide in the world and a well-documented danger to bees and other pollinators. The ban is expected to go into effect by the end of this year, though use of the insecticide will still be allowed in greenhouses . The rapidly declining population of pollinator species in recent years is in part due to the widespread use of harmful pesticides. The ban should result in a healthier pollinator population, which is essential for global food production. The vote follows recent studies that have confirmed the danger that neonicotinoids pose to pollinators, directly and through water and soil contamination. “The commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from [the EU ‘s scientific risk assessors],” Vytenis Andriukaitis, European commissioner for Health and Food Safety, told the Guardian . “Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.” Related: NASA has a plan to put robot bees on Mars This policy change pleased activists. “Finally, our governments are listening to their citizens, the scientific evidence and farmers who know that bees can’t live with these chemicals, and we can’t live without bees,” Antonia Staats at Avaaz said. Meanwhile, industry representatives disapproved. “European agriculture will suffer as a result of this decision,” Graeme Taylor, of the European Crop Protection Association , said. “Perhaps not today, perhaps not tomorrow, but in time decision makers will see the clear impact of removing a vital tool for farmers.” Research suggests that Taylor’s concerns are unfounded, while the dramatic decline in pollinator populations — which will continue to occur without action — proves disastrous for food production. Via The Guardian Images via Depositphotos (1)

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The entire world could be powered by one deep-sea wind farm

October 10, 2017 by  
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What if the world’s energy problems could be solved with one deep-sea wind farm ? A new study, conducted by the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, suggests it could. Scientists determined that if a renewable energy project the size of India were to be constructed in the ocean, enough electricity could be generated to fulfill the energy needs of every nation on earth. In the study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, doctors Anna Possner and Ken Caldeira wrote: “On an annual mean basis, the wind power available in the North Atlantic could be sufficient to power the world.” The duo noted that wind speeds are on average 70 percent higher over the Earth’s oceans than on land. In order to generate the equivalent of all energy used today, a deep-sea wind farm would need to span three million square kilometers. On land, the concept would never work. This is because when more wind turbines are added to a farm, the combined drag from the turning blades limits the amount of energy that can be obtained. As a result of this effect, electricity generation for large wind farms on land is limited to about 1.5 watts per square meter . In the North Atlantic, however, the limit would be much higher — more than six watts per square meter. Related: The world’s biggest offshore wind farm is being built in the UK The Independent reports that this is possible because more heat pours into the atmosphere above the North Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the problem of “ turbine drag” is essentially overcome. Said Possner, “We found that giant ocean-based wind farms are able to tap into the energy of the winds throughout much of the atmosphere whereas wind farms onshore remain constrained by the near-surface wind resources.” During the summer, the output from the vast North Atlantic wind farm would drop to one-fifth of the annual average. Despite this, enough energy would still be generated to meet the electricity demands of all countries in the European Union . The scientists added that a deep sea wind farm would have to operate in “remote and harsh conditions,” where waves heights often reach more than 3 meters. If these hurdles were overcome, political and economic challenges would need to be tackled next. + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Via The Independent Images via Wikimedia Commons [1] , Wikimedia Commons [2] , Wikimedia Commons [3] and Depositphotos ( 1 , 2 )

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