France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive

August 14, 2018 by  
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Take that, plastic! France has announced that it plans to make bottles made with recycled plastic less expensive than those made from new plastic, part of a larger plan to intensify regulations on plastic use. Other aspects of the plan include increasing taxes on landfill and lowering the value-added tax on recycling activities. Related: Coca-Cola rewards recycling in the UK with half-priced theme park tickets According to Junior Environment Minister Brune Poirson, the French government will introduce further specific measures to address the problem of plastic pollution . “We need to transform the French economy,” she said. “We are launching a movement that will be scrutinized and followed by our European partners.” Part of this movement is a plan to reduce the price of products packaged in recycled containers by up to 10 percent. The discount-premium system encourages its consumers to recycle by making sustainability the more affordable option. “Tomorrow, when there is a choice between two bottles, one made with recycled plastic, the other not, the first one will be cheaper,” Poiron stated. Related: Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution Currently, France has the second-worst recycling rate in Europe, with just 25.5 percent of its plastic packaging waste recycled. By comparison, Germany and the Netherlands recycle about 50 percent of their plastic waste. Nevertheless, the French government plans to change its plastic recycling rate to 100% by the year 2025, with the recent announcement marking the first steps toward this goal. Veolia and Suez, recycling powerhouses in the French market, have long been calling for the regulation changes, which would provide a boost for business. Retailers have also joined the cause; for example, French company E.Leclerc has pledged to eliminate the sale of throwaway plastics and replace them with more eco-friendly alternatives, such as bamboo , and is testing a loyalty point system for customers who deposit plastic and glass bottles in some store outlets. + Eurostat + Le Journal de Dimanche Via Reuters

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France plans to make recycled plastic bottles less expensive

One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

May 18, 2018 by  
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Bad news for wildlife: 2.3 million square miles of protected areas around the world face human pressure from activities like road building, urbanization, or grazing, according to a new study . Lead author Kendall Jones, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland , said in a statement , “We found major road infrastructure such as highways, industrial agriculture, and even entire cities occurring inside the boundaries of places supposed to be set aside for nature conservation .” Millions of square miles “have this level of human influence that is harmful to the species they are trying to protect,” University of Queensland professor James Watson told the BBC . “It is not passive, it’s not agnostic; it is harmful and that is quite shocking.” Scientists at the University of Queensland, University of Northern British Columbia , and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) teamed up for the study, described as a reality check, that was recently published in the journal Science . Related: Chile creates five new national parks from 10 million acres of land in historic act Watson said that governments claim the areas are protected “when in reality they aren’t.” Even though more land has been protected in the last few decades, the lack of real protection is a major reason for  biodiversity ‘s continued, catastrophic decline. There was a ray of hope in the study’s findings: protected areas that have strict biodiversity conservation objectives in place tend to experience less human pressure. WCS listed the Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary in Cambodia, the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in Ecuador, and the Madidi National Park in Bolivia as examples. Watson said, “We know protected areas work — when well-funded, well-managed and well placed, they are extremely effective in halting the threats that cause biodiversity loss and ensure species return from the brink of extinction . There are also many protected areas that are still in good condition and protect the last strongholds of endangered species worldwide. The challenge is to improve the management of those protected areas that are most valuable for nature conservation to ensure they safeguard it.” + Wildlife Conservation Society + University of Queensland + Science Via the BBC Image via Depositphotos

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One-third of the world’s protected areas face ‘shocking’ human impact

Illicit trade in jaguar fangs linked to Chinese construction projects

March 5, 2018 by  
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Wildlife experts are worried that the illicit trade in jaguars appears to be growing — and they’ve connected it to Chinese construction projects . According to the journal a rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank” href=”https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-02314-5″> Nature , crackdowns on smuggling tiger parts for use in Chinese traditional medicine could be increasing the market for jaguars. Researchers pointed to recent killings in South America , including a dead jaguar discovered in a Belize drainage canal mostly intact, but missing its fangs. Jaguars are in trouble, according to the World Wildlife Fund , imperiled by habitat loss from deforestation and hunting. And now traffickers may be turning to these big cats for Chinese traditional medicine. According to the Nature article, wildlife trafficking “often follows Chinese construction projects in other countries.” Related: Rhino horn auction website says legal sales “best way to save the rhino” Oxford Brookes University ecologist Vincent Nijman told Nature , “If there’s a demand [in China ] for large-cat parts, and that demand can be fulfilled by people living in parts of Africa, other parts of Asia, or South America, then someone will step in to fill that demand. It’s often Chinese-to-Chinese trade, but it’s turning global.” The Guardian said according to experts, Chinese rail, power plant, and road projects in developing countries are stimulants of illicit trade in body parts of endangered animals. The Guardian quoted Nijman as saying the projects “act like giant vacuum cleaners of wildlife that suck everything back to China.” Eight packages with 186 jaguar fangs were confiscated in Bolivia between August 2014 and February 2015, according to Nature , before they could make it to China. Chinese citizens residing in Bolivia had sent seven of the packages. Eight packages were reportedly intercepted in 2016, and then another in China with 120 fangs. Bolivian biologist Angela Núñez told Nature over 100 jaguars could have been killed for those packages, but it’s impossible to be certain. In Brazil, there were over 50 seizures of packages with jaguar parts last year, according to Oxford Brookes University wildlife researcher Thaís Morcatty, with most packages destined for China or Asia. Nijman said few wildlife trafficking cases around the world end with criminal sentences. “The deterrent is when somebody ends up in jail,” he said, but that doesn’t often occur “because society as a whole in most countries is not interested.” Via Nature and The Guardian Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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12,000 distribution boxes in Germany are being converted into EV charging stations

March 5, 2018 by  
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Deutsche Telekom just announced plans to convert distribution boxes in Germany into electric vehicle chargers – and the move will double the size of the nation’s charging infrastructure with 12,000 new stations. According to Electrek , there’s currently about 10,800 public electric car charging points in Germany – and that number stands to skyrocket in the near future. Deutsche Telekom is considering installing 500 100-kilowatt (kW) fast-charging stations, while the rest of the stations will be Level 2 charge points with charge rates up to 22 kW. Level 2 chargers can fill an 80-mile battery in around three and a half hours, and DC fast chargers can get an EV up to 80 percent in around half an hour, according to EV charging technology company ChargePoint . Related: First public ultra-fast EV charging station in Europe is now operational Telekom reportedly possesses two working prototypes, Electrek said. A spokesperson told German publication Automobilwoche they could begin the process of converting distribution boxes this summer. By 2020, all 12,000 charging stations could be in place. Automobilwoche said the EV charging station network in Germany is still patchy. Electrek said EV adoption in Germany has trailed behind other European countries. So a doubling of charging infrastructure could offer a boost the electric car industry needs in the country. In November 2017 CleanTechnica reported almost 40,000 plug-in electric vehicles had been sold in the country up to the end of September that year — around a 106 percent growth rate compared to the same nine-month period in 2016. This won’t be the first time a telecommunications company has utilized infrastructure in place for electric car charging; back in 2010 Inhabitat reported that an Austrian company, Telekom Austria, transformed phone booths into charging stations . Via Electrek and Automobilwoche Images via Wikimedia Commons and K?rlis Dambr?ns on Flickr

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12,000 distribution boxes in Germany are being converted into EV charging stations

Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

February 23, 2018 by  
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Researchers have discovered that Neanderthals, not  homo sapiens , created a series of 64,000 year-old cave drawings in Spain . Published in the journal  Science , this study marks the first time that Neanderthals have been credited as cave painters – and it deems the works of art the oldest known cave paintings. Utilizing advanced radioactive dating, the scientists determined that paintings made in three separate caves are far older than originally thought – they were created 20,000 years before modern humans arrived in the area. The Neanderthal’s reputation as a bulkier, dumber kind of human seems to be misinformed. “It’s impossible to say that one is more clever than the other,” archaeology professor Marie Soressi told the Verge . An earlier theory speculated that Neanderthals only developed a culture after the arrival of modern humans in Europe between 40,000 to 50,000 years ago. The Neanderthal cave artwork proves that the species were creative and maintained their own culture and accompanying art. Neanderthals are also known to have used eagle claws and shells in their clothing as well as pigments to add color. Related: Incredible fossil discovery rewrites the history of human migration out of Africa Previous efforts to determine the age of cave art were complicated by dating technology limitations. The most common method works exclusively with organic matter; using uranium ‘s radioactive decay as a metric requires a great deal of material to be dated, something that is not possible in rare, delicate discoveries like early human cave art. The scientists used a new method of dating in which they scrapped off only the crust of the cave painting, samples which are then dated in a laboratory. Via The Verge Images via D.L. Hoffman, C.D. Standish, et al.

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Neanderthals, not homo sapiens, responsible for 64,000-year-old cave art

IKEA renewable electricity plan could save customers 300 per year

February 23, 2018 by  
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IKEA has set a goal of running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2020 — and they want their customers to live more sustainably too. That’s why they’ve partnered with Big Clean Switch to help people transition to clean power. Using a collective switch model, they’ve secured “an exclusive tariff on 100 percent renewable electricity” — which could save households more than £300 each year . IKEA aims to help people make the change to a renewable electricity provider. According to Big Clean Switch , renewable electricity tariffs work like this: “When you’re on a renewable electricity tariff, your supplier promises to match the amount of electricity you take out of the National Grid by ensuring the same amount of renewable electricity is put in. The more this happens, the greener the Grid should get.” Related: IKEA plans to cut food waste in half by 2020 — here’s how The deal is just for the United Kingdom — but if you live there, you could save hundreds of pounds on your electricity bill each year. Big Clean Switch said making the change is easy; they estimate it will take under five minutes, with no engineer visits necessary, and supply won’t be disrupted. IKEA UK sustainability manager Hege Sæbjørnsen said in a statement, “At IKEA, our commitment to sustainability goes beyond minimizing the impact of our own operations to having a positive impact on the world around us. We want to provide our customers with innovative solutions that will help them live a more sustainable life at home and save money in the short and long term.” IKEA UK started offering solar panels and battery storage for homes last year — we’d love to see the products in the United States! If you live in the UK and want to sign up for the IKEA renewable electricity offer, you can express your interest here . Suppliers will compete to offer their best value tariff, and when the campaign goes live on March 6, IKEA and Big Clean Switch will get in touch with people who expressed interest to let them know the cost. The tariff will only be available from March 6 through March 26. + IKEA + Big Clean Switch Images via Depositphotos and Karsten Würth on Unsplash

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How farming with rocks could improve global food security

February 20, 2018 by  
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Scientists at the University of Sheffield have learned that farming with crushed silicate rocks mixed into the soil could improve global food security, increase crop yields, promote soil health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. “Human societies have long known that volcanic plains are fertile, ideal places for growing crops without adverse human health effects,” study lead author David Beerling told Phys.org , “but until now there has been little consideration for how adding further rocks to soils might capture carbon.” As the rocks slowly dissolve in the soil, they release nutrients while absorbing carbon dioxide. Most importantly, crushed silicate rocks can be amended into existing farmland, offering a non-disruptive, less intensive carbon capture service. The research published in the journal Nature Plants  could have a dramatic applied impact on farming throughout the world. “This study has transformed how we think about managing our croplands for climate, food and soil security,” said Beerling. “It helps move the debate forward for an under-researched strategy of CO2 removal from the atmosphere – enhanced rock weathering – and highlights supplementary benefits for food and soils .” Through enhanced rock weathering, carbon absorption can be achieved without competing for additional land and water. The crushed rock method also reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides and decreases the cost of food production. Related: 6 places where soil-less farming is revolutionizing how we grow food Farming with crushed silicate rocks offers a simple but powerful action to improve environmental health. “The magnitude of future climate change could be moderated by immediately reducing the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere as a result of energy generation,” explained Beerling. “Adopting strategies like this new research that actively remove CO2 from it can have a massive impact and be adapted very quickly.” Via Phys.org Images via Depositphotos (1)  

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How farming with rocks could improve global food security

Hedgehog highways make London friendlier for the adorable spiny mammals

February 20, 2018 by  
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Urban areas don’t tend to be too kind for hedgehogs . As they’re declining in Britain , some people are trying to help. Enter Michel Birkenwald , a jeweler Atlas Obscura described as “one of London’s most enthusiastic engineers of infrastructure for animals .” Birkenwald builds hedgehog highways — and they’re pretty darn adorable. Hedgehogs have declined by around 50 percent in the UK and by one third in urban areas, according to Emily Wilson of hedgehog advocacy group Hedgehog Street . The organization is working to spur people towards saving the small spiny mammals — and they say the most crucial action people can take is make sure the animals can pass through their gardens . Hedgehogs travel about one mile each night to seek out a mate or food, but fences stop them, and Hedgehog Street said our walls becoming more secure is one of the main reasons for hedgehog decline. Related: This sweet animation aims to help save the British hedgehog Successful day yesterday 15 new holes opened up @barneshedgehogs #richmond #london #uk #wildlife A post shared by Barnes hedgehogs (@barneshedgehogs) on Feb 18, 2018 at 10:59pm PST Birkenwald describes himself as “just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals” to Atlas Obscura. He started Barnes Hedgehogs around four years ago, to drill the hedgehog crossings — small holes in walls around the size of a CD — for free. It can take around an hour to drill the passageways in sturdy Victorian bricks in London. First hole of the day drilled by Robin senior technical officer @barneshedgehogs sponsored by Zac Goldsmith MP #richmond #uk #london A post shared by Barnes hedgehogs (@barneshedgehogs) on Feb 18, 2018 at 1:59am PST Other people want to help out too – at least 47,544, in fact. Those are the people who have registered with Hedgehog Street to become Hedgehog Champions, ambassadors for the little mammals in their areas. The organization has other information on how you can help hedgehogs here . This Sunday @barneshedgehogs we are drilling approx 20 holes in timber and brick walls sponsored by Zac Goldsmith MP , get your garden ready for spring and cut a hole in your fences for our favourite mammal #wildlife #richmond #london #uk #spring A post shared by Barnes hedgehogs (@barneshedgehogs) on Feb 13, 2018 at 1:36am PST Birkenwald marks the crossings with small Hedgehog Highway signs that are available through the Hedgehog Street website ; the signs are comprised of recycled plastic and cost about £3, or just over $4, each. + Barnes Hedgehogs + Hedgehog Street + Hedgehog Street Hedgehog Highways Via Atlas Obscura Image via Pixabay

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Researchers develop self-healing concrete powered by fungus

January 19, 2018 by  
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Scientists at Binghamton University have developed the first application of fungi in self-healing concrete. In a paper recently published in the journal Construction and Building Materials , Binghamton University assistant professor Congrui Jin and her team outline the ways in which a special species of fungi,  Trichoderma reesei , may act as a sealing agent when mixed with concrete . “This idea was originally inspired by the miraculous ability of the human body to heal itself of cuts, bruises and broken bones,” said Jin in an interview at Binghampton . “For the damaged skins and tissues, the host will take in nutrients that can produce new substitutes to heal the damaged parts.” Jin and her team’s focus on concrete could not be more topical. In the United States , a crisis fueled by historic underinvestment in infrastructure has resulted in increasingly dangerous roads, bridges, and highways. While Washington struggles to fund the federal government and state governments lack the resources to tackle this multi-trillion dollar problem, citizens still want something to be done before a major collapse occurs. “Without proper treatment, cracks tend to progress further and eventually require costly repair,” said Jin . “If micro-cracks expand and reach the steel reinforcement, not only the concrete will be attacked, but also the reinforcement will be corroded, as it is exposed to water, oxygen, possibly CO2 and chlorides, leading to structural failure.” Related: How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study If concrete were easier to repair, the cost of infrastructure maintenance would likely decrease. This is where T. reesei steps in. The fungus is mixed with concrete and lies dormant until the first crack in newly laid concrete appears. As water and oxygen permeate the crack, fungal spores will germinate, expand, and create calcium carbonate to fill the crack. While the technology is still in its early phase, its successful small-scale application demonstrates that fungal self-healing concrete may fit right in someday soon. Jin said , “In my opinion, further investigation in alternative microorganisms such as fungi and yeasts for the application of self-healing concrete becomes of great potential importance”. Via Binghamton University Images via Jonathan Cohen/Binghamton University and Congrui Jin/Binghamton University

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How fungi made Earth’s atmosphere livable – new study

December 19, 2017 by  
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It turns out mushrooms aren’t just great to eat, but played an essential role in creating an atmosphere suitable for animal life, according to a new study. The earliest plants to dwell on land did not have well developed roots or vascular systems. Fungi, among the earliest colonizers of land, helped facilitate the transfer of phosphorus from rocky soil to the primitive plants , which required the mineral to photosynthesize. “The results of including data on fungal interactions present a significant advance in our understanding of Earth’s early development,” said Benjamin Mills, co-author of a report on the research published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B . “Our work clearly shows the importance of fungi in the creation of an oxygenated atmosphere.” The recent research shines a light on a process that remains mysterious, even in modern times. “Photosynthesis by land plants is ultimately responsible for about half of the oxygen generation on Earth, and requires phosphorus, but we currently have a poor understanding of how the global supply of this nutrient to plants works,” said Mills. Without fungi helping them acquire their necessary phosphorus, the earliest land plants would not have been able to survive. The oldest fossil of a land-living organism is of a fungi species, one of many which moved on land and helped to break down the rocky mantle into soil, enabling plants with roots to more easily extract their minerals . Related: Paris has a new underground – a massive farm for mushrooms and veggies To test fungi’s symbiotic relationship with early plants, a research team at the University of Leeds incorporated computer modeling and laboratory experiments which involved ancient species of fungus that still endure today. The researchers observed the differing rates at which different species of fungi exchanged phosphorus and carbon, which indicated how quickly plants might have produced oxygen. “We used a computer model to simulate what might have happened to the climate throughout the Palaeozoic era if the different types of early plant-fungal symbioses were included in the global phosphorus and carbon cycles,” said Katie Field, study co-author and plant biologist. “We found the effect was potentially dramatic, with the differences in plant-fungal carbon-for-nutrient exchange greatly altering Earth’s climate through plant-powered drawdown of CO2 for photosynthesis , substantially changing the timing of the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere.” Via Science Alert Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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