Scientists support use of reusable containers during COVID-19 pandemic

June 25, 2020 by  
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Since the start of the pandemic, there have been concerns that using reusable containers and bags at grocery stores and cafes could enhance the spread of the virus. However, such claims have now been refuted by a team of 119 scientists. The team, which includes scientists from 18 countries, has published a document stating that reusable containers are safe. Many cafes, restaurants and grocery stores around the world have stopped accepting reusable cups, bags and other containers for fear that these items would spread COVID-19. Environmentalists have pushed for a long time to have restaurants and other businesses adopt the use of reusable containers. But these gains made over the years risk being eroded almost overnight if people continue to revert to single-use containers. Environmentalists are now accusing plastic manufactures of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to lobby for single-use plastics. Related: COVID-19 leads to plastic ban reversals The scientists involved in reassuring the public include epidemiologists, virologists, biologists and doctors. They have compiled a statement that encourages restaurants and individuals to continue using reusable containers as long as public health requirements are observed. The team said that reusable items are safe as long as high standards of hygiene are observed. One of the signatories to the statement, professor Charlotte Williams of Oxford University, explained that COVID-19 should not stop the efforts made toward a sustainable future. “I hope we can come out of the COVID-19 crisis more determined than ever to solve the pernicious problems associated with plastics in the environment,” Williams said. According to the scientists’ statement, the coronavirus primarily spreads through aerosol droplets and not from contact with surfaces. Although surfaces can transfer the virus, washing reusable containers is much safer than relying on single-use ones. The scientists explained that most people do not bother cleaning single-use containers under the assumption that they are safe. Unfortunately, the virus can get in contact with any surface, including single-use containers. Europe plans to ban all single-use plastics starting next year. There is concern that plastic manufacturers are now using the coronavirus pandemic to delay the ban. Such a move would be detrimental, considering that plastic waste contributes 80% of all marine pollution . + Health Expert Statement Via The Guardian Image via Goran Ivos

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China plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2025

January 21, 2020 by  
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As the world’s most populous country, with close to 1.5 billion denizens, China also produces the largest quantity of plastic . In fact, the University of Oxford-based publication Our World In Data (OWID) has documented China’s plastic production rate at 60 million tons per year. To mitigate the resulting plastic pollution , the Chinese government is set to enact a plastic ban, phasing out the production and use of several single-use plastic items by 2025, thanks to a detailed policy directive and timeline from the country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Three avenues are currently available for plastic waste disposal: recycling , incinerating or discarding. Only an estimated 20% of global plastic waste is recycled, 25% incinerated and a whopping 55% is discarded, according to OWID. The more shocking statistic is that only 9% of 5.8 billion tons of plastic no longer in use has been recycled since 1950. Related: Ireland plans to ban single-use plastics Interestingly, of all the regions across the globe where mismanaged plastic is prevalent, East Asia and the Pacific alarmingly outrank all regions at 60%, followed distantly by South Asia at 11%, Sub-Saharan Africa at 8.9%, the Middle East and North Africa at 8.3%, Latin America and the Caribbean at 7.2%, Europe and Central Asia at 3.6% and North America at 0.9%. Discarded plastic accumulates in landfills, but some also enters the oceans, threatening marine life and ecosystems. OWID explained, “Mismanaged plastic waste eventually enters the ocean via inland waterways, wastewater outflows and transport by wind or tides.” Thus, China’s new initiative to curtail single-use plastic production might help substantially in solving the Pacific regions’, and by extension the planet’s, crisis with plastic waste. The plastic ban calls for several components, including a ban on China’s production and sale of plastic bags that are less than 0.025 mm thick; a ban on plastic bags in major cities before 20201, then all cities and towns by 2022 and all produce vendors by 2025; a ban on single-use straws in restaurants before 2021, and a reduction of single-use plastic items by 30% in restaurants by 2021; a phase-out of plastic packaging in China’s postal service; and a ban on single-use plastic items in hotels by 2025. Via BBC , EcoWatch and Our World In Data (OWID) Image via Lennard Kollossa

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China plans to phase out single-use plastics by 2025

Pacific nation Vanuatu is the first to ban disposable diapers

June 25, 2019 by  
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The mothers of Vanuatu will shoulder the Pacific island nation’s dream of a pristine future with the recent announcement of a ban on disposable diapers. Despite backlash by parents in the country of about 250,000 people, the government announced that a ban will roll out by the end of the year. Vanuatu is believed to be the first country in the world to prohibit disposable diapers and has one of the strictest bans on single-use plastics , including plates, cups, drink stirrers, egg cartons, plastic flowers and food containers. Related: New study finds harmful chemicals, including glyphosate, in disposable diapers Although the government admits it was a difficult decision that will disproportionately impact mothers, ministers argue that they had no choice. The low-lying islands of Vanuatu are already drowning in plastic pollution and the rising sea levels. “Vanuatu is safeguarding its future,” said Mike Masauvakalo, Minister of Foreign Affairs. “Eventually, plastics find their way into the water and the food chain and at the end of the day, the people of Vanuatu end up consuming [them].” A study by the Commonwealth Litter Program indicated that compostable waste and disposable diapers constituted nearly 75 percent of all plastic waste in the country. So, in addition to composting programs, a ban on diapers was an obvious target. “It is a long road ahead,” Masauvakalo said. “But knowing my country, we will work it out. Vanuatu is very vocal about the climate emergency. It is visible, we are living it. It is affecting our food supply and our fish populations.” Thomas Maes from the Commonwealth Litter Programme said , “Although Pacific islands produce a fraction of the waste of other countries, bad waste management practices may be contributing to the problem of microplastics in the oceans.” Meanwhile, in the U.K., the outcry was so vocal after a government official mentioned banning disposable diapers that he was forced to retract his mere suggestion. Via The Guardian and RNZ Image via Shutterstock

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Sculptural YULIN Artistic Center dramatically tops a Chongqing cliff

June 25, 2019 by  
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On the edge of a steep precipice in Longxing, Chongqing, Chinese architectural firm CHALLENGE DESIGN has completed a striking building that looks like a natural extension of the landscape. Defined by its sharp geometric form, the YULIN Artistic Center makes the most of its clifftop location with walls of glass that embrace stunning panoramic views. Not only were the majority of the building components prefabricated in a factory in Yancheng to mitigate the challenges of building on steep terrain, but the architects also used glue laminated timber to reduce the weight of construction. The YULIN Artistic Center consists of two main volumes stacked at an angle to one another and optimally placed for unobstructed views of the landscape. The line between the indoors and outdoors is continually blurred, from the massive wall of glass that runs along the side of the building to the interior spaces that are arranged to face the outdoors. The building consists of an exhibition center, a time-lapse gallery, a spherical video hall and an infinity pool on the cliff’s edge. Visitors access the site via a 30-meter glass elevator and a bridge on the northeast side of the site. “The building topping the paramount cliff reflects the minimalist design concept by following the natural landscape,” the architects said. “By making full use of the dramatic height drop and ingenious angles, the scenery is presented to the full extent. Like a natural part of the mount itself, the Artistic Center can be seen from a mile away, resembling a crane of legend standing on a rock, opening its wings and showing its grandeur and magnificence.” Related: 10 shipping containers make up this modern, mixed-use structure in Shanghai The building’s sculptural appeal is reinforced with the glulam lattice structure exposed in the interior as well as the facade that’s clad in gray aluminum panels laid out in a diamond-shaped pattern. The prefabricated components of the building were created in just three weeks. No tower crane was used to assemble the building onsite. + CHALLENGE DESIGN Photos by Prism Images and Arch-Exist

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Sculptural YULIN Artistic Center dramatically tops a Chongqing cliff

Taiwan introduces one of the world’s most comprehensive plastic bans

March 12, 2019 by  
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Taiwan aims to be completely free of plastic bags and all single-use plastic items, such as utensils and beverage cups, by 2030. But first, the straws. Starting this year, chain restaurants will be restricted from giving straws to customers for in-store use. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) Minister Ying-Yuan Lee announced the new policy at a press conference last month. “”We aim to implement a blanket ban by 2030 to significantly reduce plastic waste that pollutes the ocean and also gets into the food chain to affect human health,” said Ying-Yuan Lee. Related: Simple tips to reduce single-use plastic Aspects of Taiwan’s new program will be phased in over the next decade. Retail stores will face fines for giving customers disposable food containers, utensils and plastic bags in 2020. By 2025, those fees will increase. As for straws, the new policy will first affect in-store diners, then later extend to carry-out. By 2030, the straw ban should be complete throughout Taiwan. Taiwan’s new plastic policy is among the farthest-reaching in the world, though other countries are also stepping up the war against plastic waste. Scotland has banned single-use straws. In Kenya, people caught producing or selling plastic bags face stiff fines and even jail time. Rwanda banned plastic bags all the way back in 2008. Cities around the world have enacted anti-plastic policies to try to put a dent in the 8 million metric tons of plastic that wind up in the oceans every year. A 2018 policy to severely decrease plastic bag use in Taiwan met great success. Starting January 1 of last year, businesses like pharmacies, bakeries and beverage shops could no longer offer customers free plastic bags. Follow-up research indicated that 70 percent of customers chose to forego buying plastic bags . The EPA minister isn’t losing any sleep over the despair of single-use straw devotees. “You can use steel products, or edible straws — or maybe you just don’t need to use straws at all,” Ying-Yuan Lee said. “There is no inconvenience caused at all.” + Environmental Protection Administration (Taiwan) Via Global Citizen Image via Hans Braxmeier

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European parliament supports the ban of single-use plastics

October 31, 2018 by  
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The EU adopted new plans last week to ban single-use plastic items like plates, straws, cutlery, balloon sticks and cotton buds — which make up over 70 percent of marine litter — by 2021. Under draft plans approved by Parliament, MEPs also added items to the banned list that contained products made of oxo-degradable plastics, like bags and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene. The ban also incorporates a plan for several other items that do not have an alternative, like single-use sandwich boxes and containers for fruits, veggies, ice cream and desserts. For those products, EU member states will need to reduce their use by at least 25 percent by 2025. The strategy for those items includes using multiple-use products and recycling . Parliament also approved other plastics, like beverage bottles, to be collected separately and then recycled at a rate of 90 percent by 2025. Related: Jamaica will ban plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam by 2019 MEPs have also targeted waste from tobacco products, particularly cigarette filters that contain plastic, in the plastic ban . The plan for those items is a 50 percent reduction by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2030. Cigarette butts are the second-most littered single-use plastic item in the EU, and just one can pollute between 500 and 1000 liters (132 and 264 gallons) of water. When thrown on the roadway, they can take up to 12 years to degrade. There is also a plan for lost or abandoned fishing gear, which represents about 27 percent of the waste found on European beaches. Member states are to ensure that at least half of it is collected each year, with a recycling target of 15 percent by 2025. The costs to reach the goals set for cigarette butts and fishing gear is to be paid for by tobacco companies and manufacturers of fishing gear. Frédérique Ries, who drafted the report, said that the ban is an ambitious directive that is essential for protecting the marine environment. + European Parliament Image via Tim Parkinson

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Jamaica will ban plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam by 2019

October 17, 2018 by  
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Jamaica has become the latest country to introduce a ban on single-use plastics. In order to reduce pollution and the impact of plastic on the environment, the Caribbean nation will ban single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam beginning on January 1 next year. One of the details of the new environmental policy is a ban on importing, manufacturing and distributing plastic bags that are smaller than 24 by 24 inches. This includes black “scandal” bags that are popular in Jamaica, because the dark color prevents others from seeing what is inside the bag. The ban does not apply to single-use bags that are used to package raw meats, flour, rice, sugar and baked goods, because their purpose is to maintain public health and food safety standards. Related: Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution Daryl Vaz, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, is encouraging consumers to use reusable carrier bags from local enterprises instead of plastic bags. Plastic foam, such as Styrofoam and also known as polyethylene, will also be prohibited starting next year, but importers and manufacturers will be able to apply for a limited two-year exemption. There is also a two-year extension for plastic straws attached to juice boxes and drink pouches. The medical sector can apply for exemptions from the plastic straw ban, because paper and bamboo alternatives are not always suitable for patients. According to U.K.’s The Independent , the Jamaican government does plan to assist companies in making the transition to sustainable alternatives. In addition to the environmental impact, Jamaica has another reason for banning single-use plastics. The island nation’s economy depends on tourism , and the disproportionate effect of marine litter on the coastline has done some damage. Some studies suggest that tourism hot spots can lose millions of dollars a year if visitors see litter. Not only does this ban help the environment, but it might also help to improve the slow economic growth the country has seen in the past few years. Other nations making moves against single-use plastic include Scotland, which has banned plastic-handled cotton buds, and India, which has reportedly issued a ban on all single-use plastics by 2023. Via The Independent and TreeHugger Image via Cpl. Samuel Guerra

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Hefty EnergyBag Program: Keeping Plastics out of Landfills

August 3, 2018 by  
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When China’s plastic ban went into effect in January of … The post Hefty EnergyBag Program: Keeping Plastics out of Landfills appeared first on Earth911.com.

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BP’s chief economist predicts plastic bans will slash oil demand

February 21, 2018 by  
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Oil giant BP has predicted that increased regulation on plastic pollution around the world will result in decreased demand for petroleum, the key ingredient in most plastic. “We think we’re going to see increasing regulation against some types of petrochemical products, particularly single-use plastics,” BP’s Chief Economist Spencer Dale told Bloomberg . “As a result of that, we have less growth in non-combusted oils than we otherwise would have done.” While petrochemicals are predicted to continue as the largest driver of oil consumption, BP also predicts that oil demand will drop by two million barrels a day as a result of developing plastic regulations. BP also predicts that oil production will continue to rise over the next two decades, apparently peaking in the mid-2030s. Notably, this forecast expects an oil peak nearly a decade earlier than BP’s prediction last year. Despite its estimation that one third of total miles driven will be powered by electricity by 2040, BP does not expect the electric vehicle market to impact oil dramatically. “Selling more EVs will tend to have almost no effect on oil demand because now I can sell a greater number of large cars or I can do less investment in light weighting,” said Dale. This assumes that large, heavy, fossil-fuel-powered cars continue to be profitable. Related: Beer with biodegradable six-pack rings finally hits the market BP also revised its expectations from previous years regarding the growth of renewable energy , with the company now estimating that renewable energy will constitute 40 percent of all energy growth in the near future. “We cannot predict where these changes will take us, but we can use this knowledge to get fit and ready to play our role in meeting the energy needs of tomorrow,” said BP Chief Executive Officer Bob Dudley in a statement. To prepare for a cleaner energy future, BP has purchased a $200 million stake in British solar developer Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd. and is reportedly considering purchasing Terra Firma’s Rete Rinnovabile Srl, a solar company based in Italy. Via Bloomberg and Treehugger Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Scientists develop the first solar fuels reactor that works at night

February 21, 2018 by  
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Researchers have developed the world’s first solar fuels reactor that is able to function at night. Called CONTISOL, the solar fuels reactor is capable of producing fuel such as hydrogen without the intensive greenhouse gas emissions caused by creating the fuel from burning natural gas. CONTISOL is able to run at all hours of the day because it relies on concentrated solar power (CSP), which allows for thermal energy storage. Notably, the reactor uses air, which is abundant, accessible, and non-corrosive, in order to store and transfer heat within the device. “It can pull air in just out of the atmosphere and then runs it through the heat exchanger to store the heat,” explained study lead author Justin Lapp , “and then it can vent that air out once it is cool.” In a traditional solar fuels reactor, the process depends upon the solar thermal heat provided by the sun. When the sun disappears at night, so too does its energy. Scientists at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) developed their all-hours solar fuels reactor by combining two previously developed systems. “So the main idea of CONTISOL was to build two reactors together,” said Lapp. “One where sunlight is directly doing chemical processing; the other side for storing energy. In the chemical channels, the high temperatures of the material drives the chemical reaction and you get a change from reactants to products within those channels.” This balancing act provides CONTISOL with stable temperatures and an efficient heat source for powering reactions that create fuels like hydrogen . Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl So far, the team has only developed a small-scale prototype that is capable of operating at 850 degrees Celsius with an energy output of 5kW. “This scale is a scientific prototype simply for us to understand how to control it. It wouldn’t be commercialized at 5 kW,” said Lapp. “Commercially, 1-5 MW would be about the smallest for industrial-scale reactors, and they could scale to 100 MW or even larger.” Though still in its early stages, a full-scale CONTISOL system would allow for low-impact access to clean hydrogen fuel when fully developed and deployed. Via EurkAlert Images via SolarPACES

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