Next-gen GMO entrepreneurs target consumers, not farmers

February 19, 2021 by  
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Next-gen GMO entrepreneurs target consumers, not farmers Jim Giles Fri, 02/19/2021 – 01:00 Want more great analysis of sustainable food systems? Sign up for Food Weekly , our free email newsletter. What does the future hold for genetically modified crops? This is a huge question in food and ag. It’s not one that will be answered quickly — new crops must emerge from the lab and clear regulatory hurdles before finding success, or not, in the marketplace. But a recent funding round provides an indication of what the 2020s might look like for this sector. To peer into this future, we have to start by looking back. The first generation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), including herbicide-resistant soy and corn, continues to divide opinion: dominant on big U.S. farms, yet distrusted by many consumers. This dates back to the introduction of the crops in the 1990s, when critics portrayed GMOs as a risky technology with benefits that flowed only to big agricultural businesses. The entrepreneurs behind the second generation of GMOs are keen to avoid that outcome. That desire is clear in the pitch from Pairwise, a U.S. startup that earlier this month announced a $90 million funding round . To create the company’s first product, engineers took a mustard green and removed a gene that creates the plant’s signature pungency. Critically, the gene does not affect nutrition. The result is a green that combines the mild taste of lettuce with the nutritional benefits of the plant it’s derived from.  “We all know the healthier leafy green are things like kale and arugula, but we tend to eat romaine and iceberg,” Pairwise CEO Tom Adams told me. Pairwise’s new variety should hit stores in 2022, Adams said. Next in the company’s pipeline are blackberry plants engineered to lack seeds (to please consumers) or even thorns (to please pickers). Those are slated for a mid-2020s launch. By the end of the decade, the company hopes to be selling stone-free cherries.  During my chat with Adams, I was struck by how he repeatedly positioned his products as making fruits and vegetables more palatable to consumers, and the societal benefits that would flow from doing so. I don’t say this to question his motives — I’m highlighting it because it shows that, unlike in the past, future debates over the pros and cons of GMOs likely will center on these kinds of consumer benefits. If so, the crops could be much less controversial. In 2019, Calyxt, another U.S. gene-editing startup, launched a soybean engineered to have less saturated fat and more oleic acid, which results in a healthier oil for frying. Did the news pass you by? Perhaps because the benefits felt real, the launch wasn’t particularly controversial. In fact, late last year Calyxt announced that it would sell all of its current crop of gene-edited soybeans to food processing giant Archer Daniels Midland .  If gene-edited crops can find a smooth path to market, how might they be harnessed to make agriculture more sustainable? As a recent report noted , there are multiple possibilities, including rice varieties that emit less methane. The potential financial return on low-emission crops, however, is not as clear-cut, making this kind of research a lower priority for Pairwise, Calyxt and others. When it comes to gene-editing for sustainability, the leaders are not U.S. startups but the multiple government-funded teams leading China’s push to use gene editing to improve everything from wheat and rice to bananas and strawberries. China’s focus on the technology is one reason — admittedly among many — why the country’s government paid $43 billion for the agtech giant Syngenta in 2017. I thought of China’s work in this area when I read about the Biden administration’s plans to create a new climate tech agency dubbed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Climate, or ARPA-C. The project builds on ARPA-E, which focuses on energy. Yet advanced agtech is just as exciting and potentially impactful. Alongside gene editing, we would benefit from artificial intelligence systems for monitoring carbon sequestration in farmland and more efficient indoor growing environments. Maybe the administration also should create ARPA-Ag. Topics Food & Agriculture GMO Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Pairwise is working on modified black and red raspberries, as well as blackberries, that lack seeds and thorns. Courtesy of Pairwise Close Authorship

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Next-gen GMO entrepreneurs target consumers, not farmers

ZHA unveils solar-powered student residences for HKUST

February 18, 2021 by  
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In response to an urgent demand for more student housing at its Clear Water Bay campus, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has tapped Zaha Hadid Architects and local architecture firm Leigh & Orange to design the university’s new residence halls that will house more than 1,500 students once complete in 2023. The student housing buildings also incorporate sustainable design features in line with the university’s pledge to transition the Clear Water Bay campus to carbon-neutral operations. In addition to implementing rooftop solar and high-performance insulation, the architects will optimize the residential facilities’ energy-efficient operations with digital design tools, including Building Information Modeling (BIM) and 3D simulations. Inspired by the university’s mission to solve pressing global issues with technology and innovation, the architects have harnessed the power of digital design tools to optimize the design across multiple site parameters, including terrain, solar radiation, sight lines and soil considerations. As a result, the new residences will be strategically integrated into a steep, sloping site with a hexagonal configuration that embraces the natural landscape. The digital tools will also ensure passive solar considerations, proper material selection and efficient construction strategies to minimize time and waste. Related: ZHA’s sculptural “urban oasis” in Hong Kong to be LEED Platinum The 35,500-square-meter HKUST residence halls will comprise three differing clusters that all include communal living areas and rooms that face open spaces. The “Y” cluster apartments will accommodate 27 students; the “V” cluster will house 36 students; and the “Linear” cluster will offer collective housing for 18 students. The residences will be connected via a rooftop walkway — the main circulation route connecting to the academic blocks in the north — that will include shaded gathering spaces and photovoltaic arrays . To protect against Hong Kong’s intense sunlight, the buildings will be wrapped in high-performance, prefabricated facade units fitted with double-glazed windows and external solar shading fins. + Zaha Hadid Architects + Leigh & Orange Images via Visual Brick

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ZHA unveils solar-powered student residences for HKUST

Global Forest Watch can now see through clouds to stop deforestation

February 17, 2021 by  
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Last year, the Global Forest Watch tracking system starting allowing people to help monitor deforestation in far-flung parts of the world while sitting at home with their laptop. But the satellite program had a flaw: perpetrators could hide behind cloud cover. The system recently announced a new upgrade that uses radar to see right through the clouds. “Essentially, the satellites are sending radio waves to Earth and collecting how they come back,” said Mikaela Weisse, one of site administrators, as reported by NPR . Operated by the European Space Agency, the instrument is delivering sharper pictures than ever. “If we can detect deforestation and other changes as soon as they’re happening, then there’s the possibility to send in law enforcement or what have you, to stop it before it goes further.” Related: You can help monitor Amazon deforestation from your couch The software scans for changes, such as trees disappearing, and issues alerts when it detects something fishy. About once a week, the satellites re-scan each place that they are monitoring. Global Forest Watch has been popular with citizen scientists — ordinary people without training as data or climate experts — who want to do their part to slow deforestation. The app depends on a combination of artificial and human intelligence to monitor the world’s forests. Preliminary studies indicate that the monitoring is paying off. There’s been less forest -clearing in some places when people know their illegal actions are being observed. Eventually, evildoers figured out that clouds would cloak their deeds, so they would clear land under cover of rain, according to Weisse. This was an especially big problem in the tropics. “In Indonesia, my impression is, it’s the rainy season almost all the time,” Weisse said. “There’s almost always cloud cover.” Global Forest Watch is available for anybody to login and see deforestation in real time. Let’s hope that big companies that have pledged not to support deforestation will use this tool to live up to their promises. + Global Forest Watch Via NPR Image via Gryffyn M.

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Global Forest Watch can now see through clouds to stop deforestation

Bitcoin uses more energy than all of Argentina

February 12, 2021 by  
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Bitcoin is a huge energy hog. And  Tesla’s  recent announcement that it had bought $1.5 billion bitcoin — and will soon accept the cryptocurrency as payment for its cars — will only encourage more energy usage. Inhabitat reported on Bitcoin’s out-of-control energy use in 2018. Back then, we noted that  Bitcoin  was on track to use as much energy as Austria by the end of the year. In 2021, Bitcoin has already surpassed Argentina’s energy use, according to a Cambridge University study. To put this growth into perspective, the population of Austria is about 9 million, while Argentina has approximately 45 million residents. Related: Bitcoin is expected to consume enough energy to power Austria by the end of 2018 Since the Tesla announcement, Bitcoin has hit a record high in value. More value means more high-powered computers sucking up energy to power the Bitcoin machine. “It is really by design that Bitcoin consumes that much  electricity ,” Michel Rauchs, a researcher at The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, said in BBC’s Tech Tent podcast. “This is not something that will change in the future unless the Bitcoin price is going to significantly go down.”  Rauchs co-created the online tool that estimates Bitcoin’s energy use. At 121.36 terawatt-hours (TWh) a year, the tool showed that Bitcoin has surpassed the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Argentina, in energy use and may soon edge out Norway. To contextualize this, the Cambridge study noted that this is enough energy to power every kettle in the U.K. for 27 years. “Elon Musk has thrown away a lot of Tesla’s good work promoting energy transition,” said David Gerard, author of “Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain,” as reported by BBC. “This is very bad… I don’t know how he can walk this back effectively.” Gerard suggested that a carbon tax on cryptocurrencies could perhaps balance out some of the impact of the giant  computers  that work 24/7 solving puzzles to verifying transactions. Via BBC Image via Pexels

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Bitcoin uses more energy than all of Argentina

Xin Wei Yi Technology Park reduces energy and water demands

February 4, 2021 by  
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Located along the Yangtze River about 6.5 kilometers from Nanjing’s downtown area, the Nanjing Eco Hi-Tech Island will serve as an ecological destination and sustainability resource for residents and tourists in China . The Xin Wei Yi Technology Park is the first plot to be developed from the design’s masterplan. The Xin Wei Yi Technology Park will be situated adjacent to the island’s main bridge and across from the city’s new central business district. Its campus features an exhibition hall and office research buildings for technology and environmental companies, with plans for residential buildings to come at a later phase. Related: Green-roofed theater in Shenzhen raises the bar for civic architecture Featuring a dramatic roof line, the exhibition hall is designed to inspire a lasting first impression for visitors and citizens as they approach the island from downtown. Eight rooftop peaks symbolize the area’s neighboring Zhong and Stone Mountains, each with an oculus or “light cannon” to drive natural light into the large floor plates. This concept of light cannons is magnified in the design of the eight pentagon-shaped office research buildings, complete with large interior courtyards. The plans for Xin Wei Yi Technology Park put it at 13.4 hectares, comparable to 20 city blocks of New York’s Central Park. Organized into clusters along a central spine, the campus promotes an open-park feeling while promoting visibility and interaction among building tenants. The design includes several green elements to touch on a critical conversation about design practice in China, where fast-moving development often focuses on utility and cost more so than environmental impact . The exhibition hall’s dual-layer roof helps to significantly reduce excess energy, while cantilevered eaves provide shading. A geothermal heat pump system keeps energy usage 30% lower than comparable conventional buildings. The office research buildings are lifted off of the ground by a few stories, and vertical fins are strategically placed to achieve passive cooling . Rooftop gardens on both office research buildings eliminate water runoff and provide refuge for local wildlife while also providing workers and visitors with a green oasis to take in the views. Rainwater harvesting strategies help reduce water use for irrigation by 50% compared to traditional systems, while local plants and trees cover more than 30% of the landscape. + NBBJ Via ArchDaily Images via NBBJ

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Ocean-based sequestration heats up

February 1, 2021 by  
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Ocean-based sequestration heats up Jim Giles Mon, 02/01/2021 – 00:30 This article originally appeared in the State of Green Business 2021. You can download the entire report here . Over the past few years, as companies have come under steadily increasing pressure to tackle climate change, nature-based solutions have emerged as a particularly exciting method for shrinking corporate carbon footprints. Investing in forests can be a win-win that both sequesters carbon and regenerates nature. That’s why one recent survey recorded almost $160 million spent on forest offsets in 2019. And a newer option, soil carbon, also is generating investment from multiple corporate sectors . Yet another natural sink absorbs about as much carbon dioxide as our planet’s soils and forests combined: the world’s coastal and ocean waters. Until recently, ocean sequestration, also known as blue carbon, attracted little attention outside academic and think-tank circles. We might be at a turning point, however, because a handful of forward-looking corporations, conservation organizations and startups recently have accelerated efforts to store carbon in marine systems. Thanks to their work, companies of all sizes soon may be able invest in ocean sequestration. One pioneer in this area is Shopify, an e-commerce company that has committed to spending $5 million annually on innovative clean technologies. Shopify’s first round of investments , announced in September, includes Running Tide, a company based on the coast of Maine. Running Tide’s core business is oyster farming, but CEO Marty Odlin is planning on a new revenue stream: growing kelp and sinking his crop in the deep ocean.  “Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great,” Odlin told Fast Company . “So you can get at least 1,000 years of sequestration. More likely, it will turn into oil or sediment and be sequestered on the geologic timescale — millions of years.” Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. At Running Tide, engineers will use the Shopify investment to build kelp-growing platforms, which they will launch into ocean current systems selected as having the right temperature and nutrients to support kelp growth. The platforms will be kept afloat by buoys designed to biodegrade once they reach the deep ocean, at which point the kelp will fall to the ocean floor, taking its carbon with it. Running Tide will measure the carbon sequestered in the process and sell credits on the carbon markets. Shopify also made a bet on Planetary Hydrogen , a startup that aims to produce “green hydrogen” while simultaneously capturing carbon and healing the ocean. The process begins with a twist on existing green hydrogen technology, in which renewable energy is used to power the production of hydrogen from water, a reaction that produces no carbon. The Planetary Hydrogen team adds a mineral salt to the process, leading to the creation of a waste product — a mineral hydroxide — that binds with atmospheric carbon dioxide. The final step involves adding the bicarbonate compound that results from this reaction to the ocean, where, because the substance is alkaline, it helps counter climate-caused ocean acidification. According to the company’s calculations, the process can capture and store 40 kilograms of carbon dioxide for every kilogram of hydrogen produced. “Our fuel may be the greenest on Earth,” boasted Greg Rau, Planetary Hydrogen’s chief technology officer, at GreenBiz Group’s VERGE Carbon conference last fall.  The catch? Let’s start with costs. Green hydrogen costs two to three times as much as the conventional alternative, and Planetary Hydrogen’s fuel is even more expensive. In most markets that probably would be the end of the story, but the carbon-negative status of Planet Hydrogen’s product means that it could earn credits from schemes such as California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard — enough credits, Rau believes, to make it a cheaper option than other forms of hydrogen. Before that happens, his team will have to scale up the technology, which it plans to do using Shopify’s investment. A pilot plant should come online in 2022, according to Rau. Another challenge facing both Planetary Hydrogen and Running Tide is the issue of permanence. For a credit to be traded on carbon markets, an established certification body — Verra and Gold Standard are two leading examples — needs to sign off on the process used to store the carbon. Among other things, the certifier would assess how long the carbon is likely to stay sequestered. The biology and chemistry of the deep oceans suggest that kelp and bicarbonate could offer a better guarantee of long-term storage than, say, forests. But collecting the data needed to demonstrate that will be challenging given the vastness of the oceans and the fact that this is a new frontier for certification bodies. “We need to rethink the basis for calculating the carbon benefits of these projects,” Carlos Duarte, an expert in marine ecosystems at the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, said at VERGE Carbon. Given the uncertainties, many companies will wait before investing in emerging ocean projects. But there are more established blue carbon options that are better understood. In 2018, for instance, Apple announced that it would back a project to protect and restore 27,000 acres of mangrove forest on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. According to Conservation International, one of the NGOs behind the project, mangroves and other coastal wetlands can store up to 10 times more carbon per unit area than terrestrial forests. Apple will purchase carbon credits generated by the project, generating a new income stream for the 12,000 local people whose livelihoods depend on the mangroves. Pull Quote Once it goes down below 1,000 meters, it’s not coming back up, because the pressures are so great. Topics State of Green Business Report Oceans & Fisheries Carbon Removal Nature Based Solutions Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Forests of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, commonly grow in the cold waters along the coast of California. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

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This acquisition could help make sustainable packaging the norm 

January 29, 2021 by  
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This acquisition could help make sustainable packaging the norm  Deonna Anderson Fri, 01/29/2021 – 00:30 In Manteca, California, a small company is pioneering the creation and production of paper bottles for brands such as L’Oreal and Seventh Generation. Across the U.S. in St. Petersburg, Florida, a manufacturing giant is strategizing on design, development and packaging services for the likes of Apple, Cisco Systems and HP Inc. Now, the two companies are combining forces to scale paper packaging made from recycled cardboard boxes and newspaper. Earlier this month, Jabil, the company in Florida, acquired Ecologic Brands, which will become part of its Packaging Solutions division. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. “The opportunity that we have is kind of bringing together their sustainable packaging platform, and leveraging Jabil’s advanced manufacturing and technology, expertise along with our global footprint to really scale this as a global solution for sustainable packaging,” said Jason Paladino, senior vice president of Jabil and head of the company’s packaging solutions division.  Jabil employs more than 260,000 employees across 100 locations in 30 countries. The acquisition will support the company’s own sustainability goals — it is a signatory of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and has pledged to engage its customers “to eliminate problematic and unnecessary plastic packaging from their current solutions,” according to its 2019 sustainability report . In packaging, to really scale, it means having the quality that brands expect, because the top brands in the world have high, high standards around safety qualities [and] volumes are huge when you start going mainstream. With consumers demanding better from companies and consumer packaged goods companies setting sustainable packaging goals tied to 2025 , it seems the right time for this partnership, according to Ecologic Brands founder Julie Corbett. When Corbett started Ecologic in 2008, scaling its sustainable packaging was challenging because at that time, only the “diehard” in the green movement were pushing for such solutions, she said.  Ecologic’s Eco.Bottle is made from 100 percent recycled cardboard and old newspaper and has an inner plastic liner that is made with 60 percent less plastic than rigid plastic bottles, according to the company.  “We are getting this great, great point of success because we are the right package at the right moment, and consumers love it. But we were really faced with challenges — scale, how to do it in when you’re capital-poor. And you really want to do the right thing without cheating,” Corbett said. “That’s every entrepreneur’s dream — to scale. And if I launched a baby food company or a beverage company, it could have taken me two years,” she added.  “But in packaging, to really scale, it means having the quality that brands expect, because the top brands in the world have high, high standards around safety qualities [and] volumes are huge when you start going mainstream,” Corbett said. Back in 2018, Ecologic worked with L’Oreal to release its Seed Phytonutrients product line in paper bottles. That package has been touted as the first shower-safe paper bottle made in the beauty industry. Now, L’Oreal is working with Ecologic to develop paper packaging for its professional-level products that are used in hair salons. “One of the greatest successes of the Seed Phytonutrients initiative with the first 20 some products is that now we’re migrating what we’ve learned and our abilities to influence really big brands,” said Shane Wolf, global president for U.S. brands in the professional products division at L’Oréal. Wolf noted that the paper packaging for its Redken and Matrix professional lines are in the final stages of development with Ecologic. And he doesn’t want the more sustainable packaging options for L’Oreal to stop there. Rendering of Redken eco.bottle. Image courtesy of Ecologic Brands.   “The more of them that I can move into paper packaging the happier I’ll be,” Wolf said, of the brands that he manages at the beauty giant. And now that Ecologic has teamed up with Jabil, scaling its paper packaging across more products is possible. “Here’s Jabil, with an incredible culture fit, with a global scale of footprint already, creative [and] innovative people with a common vision. I couldn’t think of a better way to really see this technology take off,” Corbett said. Ecologic isn’t the only company working on paper bottles. There’s also Paboco, which GreenBiz previously noted is shorthand for “paper bottle company,” that has coordinated and brought together product development teams at companies such as Carlsberg, Absolut, Coca-Cola and L’Oreal. Then there’s 3Epack  and Diageo, which has teamed up with PepsiCo and Unilever to release products in its paper packaging early this year. Want more great analysis and news about the circular economy? Sign up for Circularity Weekly , our free email newsletter. Pull Quote In packaging, to really scale, it means having the quality that brands expect, because the top brands in the world have high, high standards around safety qualities [and] volumes are huge when you start going mainstream. Topics Circular Economy Design & Packaging Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Image courtesy of Ecologic Brands.

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This acquisition could help make sustainable packaging the norm 

Salesforce, Accenture and a tipping point for carbon accounting

January 28, 2021 by  
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Salesforce, Accenture and a tipping point for carbon accounting Heather Clancy Thu, 01/28/2021 – 01:30 The events of 2020 thrust the issue of corporate sustainability front and center in many C-suites. With that heightened visibility comes questions about accountability and accounting — specifically carbon accounting. It’s a dilemma decades in the making: How to properly track and declare a company’s carbon dioxide emissions in real time, not just in lag time after an annual data hunt. One year ago, cloud software powerhouse Salesforce began touting its answer with the general availability of the Salesforce Sustainability Cloud, a platform for providing real-time access to ESG data such as energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The application was first developed internally for the company’s sustainability team and then spun out into a product meant to help companies collect data for sustainability reporting purposes. This week, Salesforce turned to digital services firm Accenture to accelerate its push to get more companies — especially those already using its Customer 360 platform — to adopt its carbon accounting platform.  Their pitch is that businesses need a digital platform of this nature in order to truly embed ESG metrics and considerations into business decisions. It’s a push to produce “investor-grade” climate data. And, with the leap forward in digitization over the past year, they’re amplifying their push. The announcement also dovetails with a declaration of support this week for “universal” ESG reporting standards advocated by the World Economic Forum. More than 60 big companies have endorsed the framework — including Accenture and Salesforce, but also the likes of KPMG, Deloitte, EY, Dell, Mastercard, IBM and PayPal ( it’s a long list ).  This initiative can help customers on this journey by letting them capture relevant ESG data as well as manage and measure performance against their sustainability targets. By teaming with Accenture, Salesforce hopes to help companies add industry-specific considerations to their dashboards. What’s more, Accenture and Salesforce intend to work together to expand the platform so it can be used to track other metrics that are front-of-mind for companies, including waste management, water consumption and diversity and inclusion data. “Our research shows that more and more companies realize that a sustainable business strategy means more than just ‘doing good’ — it means ‘doing well by doing good,'” noted IDC senior research analyst Bjoern Stengel in a statement. “This initiative can help customers on this journey by letting them capture relevant ESG data as well as manage and measure performance against their sustainability targets.” Salesforce is clearly the biggest cloud software company staking a claim in the emerging carbon accounting software category. While few players are on the field, it’s certainly not the only one positioning to score. I fully expect this year to be abundant with declarations of funding and such by cloud software companies focused on making sustainability reporting more accessible and investor-friendly.  Here are four players I’ll be watching more carefully. (I’ve excluded those linked to energy consulting services or those focused on compliance or managing safety regulations.) Refreshingly, none of them are from Silicon Valley:  Accuvio , an accredited CDP reporting partner, hails from the U.K. and many of its clients are there, including Cobham, West Fraser and Babcock International. ClearTrace (formerly SwychX), which automates carbon emissions and energy data collection for enterprises, investors and real-estate firms, in December raised $4 million. Among early users of its platform are Brookfield Renewables (also an investor) and JPMorgan Chase. Envizi , an Australian firm with customers including Microsoft and Qantas. Its partner list is impressive and includes Accenture, CBRE and Cushman Wakefield.  FigBytes , which last year integrated the reporting metrics from the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, cites customers including Akamai and Taylor Farms.  My question from last week’s column bears repeating: When was the last time you spent time with your company’s CIO? If companies with net-zero goals have any hope of making those targets, the metrics need to be part of core business IT systems — and the carbon accounting software for supporting that progression is finally starting to emerge.  Pull Quote This initiative can help customers on this journey by letting them capture relevant ESG data as well as manage and measure performance against their sustainability targets. Topics Finance & Investing Corporate Strategy Reporting Information Technology Decarbonization Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

January 28, 2021 by  
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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals Scott Breen Thu, 01/28/2021 – 01:15 Numerous companies have set 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging goals such as Colgate-Palmolive and Kellogg. Virtually all these companies, though, are not tracking whether their packaging is actually recycled and what new products their packaging becomes. Without this end-of-life tracking, they cannot determine the extent of the economic and environmental impact from how their packaging was recycled. Technical recyclability is only the first step of many questions to determine if your packaging works in today’s recycling system. Other questions include: Is the packaging collected in the vast majority of recycling programs? Can the packaging be easily separated from the rest of the single stream recyclables? Once baled with like materials, does the material the packaging was made of sell for an amount that pays for the cost to collect and separate it and, ideally, provide additional needed revenue to the material recovery facilities (MRF) that separate single stream recyclables? Is the packaging downcycled into a product unlikely to be recycled at its end-of-life?  These questions are harder to answer. Further, some companies may not want to look under the recycling hood. They might fear uncovering negative characteristics for a packaging type that they want to continue using because they’ve invested in it, it provides higher margins than other packaging, or consumers find it attractive. If companies are serious about fixing the U.S. recycling system, they need to go beyond a new willingness to fee-setting and long-term recyclability goals . They need to consider what inputs they are pumping into the recycling system. Material flows One way to answer some of the above questions is to use material flow analyses (MFA). MFAs show visually how materials flow through the waste management system. They make it easier to identify where material is being lost and whether there is downcycling or ” real recycling .” While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. Metabolic’s ” Recycling Unpacked: Assessing the Circular Potential of Beverage Containers in the U.S. ” has a beverage container MFA. One can see that a third of PET is lost during the mechanical recycling process and 40 percent of the glass material collected from single-stream recycling systems is used as landfill cover. The MFA also shows the best performer. It is aluminum cans with 82 percent of used beverage cans entering the U.S. recycling system able to be recovered for high-quality closed-loop recycling into another can, which easily can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Closed Loop Partners (CLP) also has conducted a detailed MFA for a variety of plastic resins. While the whopping 82 percent of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. End uses vary by resin. One of the top end-uses noted in the MFA is synthetic fiber, which typically is used for clothing. Most new clothing , regardless of if it is made with recycled material, will go to landfill unless nascent solutions are scaled. One extra revolution is far from true circularity. Also consider plastic polyethylene (PE) film in CLP’s MFA. The only PE film that is recycled is the small percent that goes to retail store drop-off and commercial direct bales. So, PE film is technically recyclable . Thus, some companies may count it towards their 100 percent recyclable goal, but it is far from being truly recycled in today’s system. It may be difficult for a company to do an MFA of just its products. Still, companies should look to MFAs of material types and packaging generally to get a sense of if there is ” real recycling ” with their packaging. Revenue source or cost for recyclers The more than 350 residential MRFs in the U.S. are struggling with incessant contamination and often pay more to separate recyclables than they earn selling them.  Companies should consider whether the packaging they put into the marketplace will help recyclers on the back end with added revenue. The consistent, relatively high revenue sources for MRFs are certain kinds of paper ( cardboard ), aluminum beverage cans and certain kinds of plastic ( HDPE ). In fact, one recent study by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton determined that without the revenue from used beverage cans, most MRFs wouldn’t be able to operate . Typically low or even negative value materials for MRFs include glass , mixed paper and cartons .  They also should consider if the material is easy to separate and bale to sell for the needed revenue. For example, steel cans are easy to remove from the rest of the single stream recyclables via a magnet . Artificial Intelligence , robotics and optical scanners help address materials being missorted . Nonetheless, many MRFs do not have this kind of technology, nor the capital to purchase it . Environmental impact of recycling In addition to the economic impact of recycling, companies should consider the environmental impact that comes with how their packaging is recycled. The amount of energy saved from making a product with recycled material versus virgin material differs. With plastic and glass, it’s about a third . In contrast, aluminum cans and steel cans save 90 percent and 75 percent , respectively. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Recycled content goals are certainly a step in the right direction toward building up domestic recycling markets and achieving the above environmental impact with greater displacement of virgin material. However, companies still should consider whether the materials in their packaging can loop numerous times. Plastic can be recycled only two or three times . Alternatively, glass and metal can recycle many more times as there is no loss in quality when they are recycled. When multiple loops from the same piece of material are considered , the environmental and economic impacts stack up . Packaging choice is critical to recycling system health The key to a thriving recycling system is either investing in the technology and infrastructure necessary such that all recyclable materials can be economically and efficiently recycled at scale or having more consumer goods companies choose packaging that recycles economically and efficiently in the current system. Neither is happening right now. Too much packaging dumped into the marketplace does not work in today’s recycling system. It’s worthless, multi-material, hard to separate and/or not easy to recycle into anything useful/recyclable. No wonder there are now calls for the chasing arrows symbol to be taken off all plastic packaging, and Greenpeace is suing Walmart for misleading recyclability labels on its plastic products and packaging. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Companies need to go beyond technically “recyclable” in the sustainability metrics they use to choose their packaging . Potential alternative metrics include some percent of all the company’s packaging is above a certain value per ton, some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily made of material that does not degrade during the recycling process and some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily recycled into the same kind of packaging or other useful, easy to recycle products. There’s an opportunity for a company to be the first mover in next level recycling metrics and packaging choice. Once many companies make the shift, the recycling system will thrive and the economic and environmental impact from recycling will multiply. Pull Quote While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Recycling Packaging Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash .

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

January 28, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals Scott Breen Thu, 01/28/2021 – 01:15 Numerous companies have set 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging goals such as Colgate-Palmolive and Kellogg. Virtually all these companies, though, are not tracking whether their packaging is actually recycled and what new products their packaging becomes. Without this end-of-life tracking, they cannot determine the extent of the economic and environmental impact from how their packaging was recycled. Technical recyclability is only the first step of many questions to determine if your packaging works in today’s recycling system. Other questions include: Is the packaging collected in the vast majority of recycling programs? Can the packaging be easily separated from the rest of the single stream recyclables? Once baled with like materials, does the material the packaging was made of sell for an amount that pays for the cost to collect and separate it and, ideally, provide additional needed revenue to the material recovery facilities (MRF) that separate single stream recyclables? Is the packaging downcycled into a product unlikely to be recycled at its end-of-life?  These questions are harder to answer. Further, some companies may not want to look under the recycling hood. They might fear uncovering negative characteristics for a packaging type that they want to continue using because they’ve invested in it, it provides higher margins than other packaging, or consumers find it attractive. If companies are serious about fixing the U.S. recycling system, they need to go beyond a new willingness to fee-setting and long-term recyclability goals . They need to consider what inputs they are pumping into the recycling system. Material flows One way to answer some of the above questions is to use material flow analyses (MFA). MFAs show visually how materials flow through the waste management system. They make it easier to identify where material is being lost and whether there is downcycling or ” real recycling .” While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. Metabolic’s ” Recycling Unpacked: Assessing the Circular Potential of Beverage Containers in the U.S. ” has a beverage container MFA. One can see that a third of PET is lost during the mechanical recycling process and 40 percent of the glass material collected from single-stream recycling systems is used as landfill cover. The MFA also shows the best performer. It is aluminum cans with 82 percent of used beverage cans entering the U.S. recycling system able to be recovered for high-quality closed-loop recycling into another can, which easily can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Closed Loop Partners (CLP) also has conducted a detailed MFA for a variety of plastic resins. While the whopping 82 percent of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. End uses vary by resin. One of the top end-uses noted in the MFA is synthetic fiber, which typically is used for clothing. Most new clothing , regardless of if it is made with recycled material, will go to landfill unless nascent solutions are scaled. One extra revolution is far from true circularity. Also consider plastic polyethylene (PE) film in CLP’s MFA. The only PE film that is recycled is the small percent that goes to retail store drop-off and commercial direct bales. So, PE film is technically recyclable . Thus, some companies may count it towards their 100 percent recyclable goal, but it is far from being truly recycled in today’s system. It may be difficult for a company to do an MFA of just its products. Still, companies should look to MFAs of material types and packaging generally to get a sense of if there is ” real recycling ” with their packaging. Revenue source or cost for recyclers The more than 350 residential MRFs in the U.S. are struggling with incessant contamination and often pay more to separate recyclables than they earn selling them.  Companies should consider whether the packaging they put into the marketplace will help recyclers on the back end with added revenue. The consistent, relatively high revenue sources for MRFs are certain kinds of paper ( cardboard ), aluminum beverage cans and certain kinds of plastic ( HDPE ). In fact, one recent study by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton determined that without the revenue from used beverage cans, most MRFs wouldn’t be able to operate . Typically low or even negative value materials for MRFs include glass , mixed paper and cartons .  They also should consider if the material is easy to separate and bale to sell for the needed revenue. For example, steel cans are easy to remove from the rest of the single stream recyclables via a magnet . Artificial Intelligence , robotics and optical scanners help address materials being missorted . Nonetheless, many MRFs do not have this kind of technology, nor the capital to purchase it . Environmental impact of recycling In addition to the economic impact of recycling, companies should consider the environmental impact that comes with how their packaging is recycled. The amount of energy saved from making a product with recycled material versus virgin material differs. With plastic and glass, it’s about a third . In contrast, aluminum cans and steel cans save 90 percent and 75 percent , respectively. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Recycled content goals are certainly a step in the right direction toward building up domestic recycling markets and achieving the above environmental impact with greater displacement of virgin material. However, companies still should consider whether the materials in their packaging can loop numerous times. Plastic can be recycled only two or three times . Alternatively, glass and metal can recycle many more times as there is no loss in quality when they are recycled. When multiple loops from the same piece of material are considered , the environmental and economic impacts stack up . Packaging choice is critical to recycling system health The key to a thriving recycling system is either investing in the technology and infrastructure necessary such that all recyclable materials can be economically and efficiently recycled at scale or having more consumer goods companies choose packaging that recycles economically and efficiently in the current system. Neither is happening right now. Too much packaging dumped into the marketplace does not work in today’s recycling system. It’s worthless, multi-material, hard to separate and/or not easy to recycle into anything useful/recyclable. No wonder there are now calls for the chasing arrows symbol to be taken off all plastic packaging, and Greenpeace is suing Walmart for misleading recyclability labels on its plastic products and packaging. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Companies need to go beyond technically “recyclable” in the sustainability metrics they use to choose their packaging . Potential alternative metrics include some percent of all the company’s packaging is above a certain value per ton, some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily made of material that does not degrade during the recycling process and some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily recycled into the same kind of packaging or other useful, easy to recycle products. There’s an opportunity for a company to be the first mover in next level recycling metrics and packaging choice. Once many companies make the shift, the recycling system will thrive and the economic and environmental impact from recycling will multiply. Pull Quote While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Recycling Packaging Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash .

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

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