Green gamechangers: five inventions tackling the climate emergency

Green gamechangers: five inventions tackling the climate emergency


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Green gamechangers: five inventions tackling the climate emergency” was written by Hazel Davis, for theguardian.com on Friday 29th March 2019 12.48 UTC

Amid soaring global temperatures and the recent revelations of a mass decline in insect numbers, we may finally have reached the tipping point where the climate crisis becomes an emergency. Within this changed context, radical and novel solutions are now required to arrest global carbon dioxide emissions and mitigate against the already alarming effects of climate change. Here are five startups and innovators with ideas that could make a big difference if sufficiently scaled up.

Pavegen
Pavegen’s technology converts the kinetic energy of pedestrians’ footsteps into electricity and data. Its high-tech walkways have been installed in Abu Dhabi Airport, the University of Birmingham and Dupont Circle in Washington DC, among others. The system works by using pedestrians’ weight to compress electromagnetic generators, producing two to four joules of off-grid electrical energy per step. The technology was invented by Loughborough industrial technology and design graduate Laurence Kemball-Cook, who developed the first Pavegen flooring tile with money from a Royal Society of Arts Student Design Award. The company has worked on projects with Google, BNP Paribas and Adidas.

Pavegen-comp
Pavegen’s tiles convert pedestrians’ weight into electricity.

PHYSEE
PHYSEE develops solutions for architectural exteriors that can reduce the energy consumption of buildings. It makes windows that can generate electricity thanks to a coating on the outside windowpane that collects light, while strips of solar cells in the windowframe convert it into electricity. The system collects temperature, air pressure and humidity data in order to autonomously regulate building climate and facade elements, such as sun blinds. The company was founded in 2014 by two applied physics students at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Its first project was the Rabobank office in Eindhoven and it is now working with the Kells commercial redevelopment project in Dublin. The company won the 2016 Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge.

Swedish Algae Factory
The Gothenburg-based Swedish Algae Factory is making waves with its research into the amazing light-harvesting powers of microscopic algae called diatoms. These remarkable single cell entities have the ability to make their own shell out of a glass-like substance in order to more efficiently photosynthesise sunlight. The company is cultivating its own diatoms to be used to radically supercharge solar panels. Founded in 2014, it is also working on ways to use the diatom shells to produce environmentally friendly cosmetic products, and the organic biomass of diatoms for the production of feed, fertilisers and energy.

BioCarbon Engineering
UK-based startup BioCarbon Engineering specialises in large-scale, data-driven ecosystem restoration. The company uses drone and satellite imagery to map landscapes slated for reforesting to determine the ideal location to plant various species across a given distribution to achieve landscape restoration.

Advanced planting drones then deliver biodegradable seedpods or spread mixes of seeds to each location within a given area, providing a scalable, efficient solution to deforestation – which had previously been limited to planting by hand or inefficient mass delivery by scattering seeds from helicopters.

Harnessing plants initiative
Not strictly a startup, but a potentially gamechanging project at the Salk Institute in California that takes a more novel and natural approach to the work being done by many “carbon removal” startups. While these companies are working on technologies to physically remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – or even at source from the smokestacks of power plants – the processes remain difficult and controversial. By contrast, researchers at Salk are working to enhance the natural ability of plants to suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it in their roots. The plants would need to be planted on a massive scale to have a significant impact, but the idea is at least based on the natural processes of the planet. The project has been backed by private equity veteran Howard Newman.

Are you working on an idea with the potential to contribute to a sustainable planet? The Postcode Lotteries Green Challenge is one of the world’s largest sustainable entrepreneurship competitions. This year’s contest is now open and looking for innovations with a viable business plan and the potential to scale. Find out more at greenchallenge.info. Deadline for entries: 1 May 2019.

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Ikea to sell refurbished furniture to boost culture of recycling

Ikea to sell refurbished furniture to boost culture of recycling


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Ikea to sell refurbished furniture to boost culture of recycling” was written by Sarah Butler, for The Guardian on Thursday 7th February 2019 18.04 UTC

Ikea is trialling the sale of used, patched-up furniture in the UK as part of its efforts to become more environmentally friendly.

An earlier trial in Edinburgh will be expanded to Glasgow in June.

The Swedish retailer is also launching a textile recycling scheme across the UK.

Ikea said the two schemes were a step towards creating a circular business model in which materials and products were reused or recycled.

Customers in Edinburgh have been able to exchange used Ikea furniture for a reward voucher for more than a year. The items are refurbished and sold in the bargain area. The idea will be tested in Glasgow and the company is considering expanding the scheme elsewhere.

Hege Sæbjørnsen, sustainability manager for Ikea in the UK, said the furniture and textile schemes were a step towards creating a greener operation. The company has launched a pilot scheme in Switzerland where it leases its products, although there are no immediate plans to bring it to the UK.

“We are almost in startup mode, testing business models,” Sæbjørnsen said at the launch of Ikea’s greenest store yet in Greenwich, south London.

As well as being run on 100% renewable energy including solar panels on its roof, the Greenwich store has space for workshops where locals can learn how to refurbish furniture.

Sæbjørnsen said there was a lot of interest in learning how to fix items and developing these skills in the community was part of creating a culture around reusing and recycling.

“We are building the foundations towards [leasing and reuse] so we can scale quickly,” she said.

Ikea began testing textile recycling in Cardiff nearly two years ago Customers have been able to bring in old clothes, curtains or other furnishing fabrics to be repaired or cleaned and sent on to a homelessness project or recycled.

Milton Keynes and Greenwich also offer the service, which will be extended to all UK stores over the next few months.

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UK power stations’ electricity output lowest since 1994

UK power stations’ electricity output lowest since 1994


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “UK power stations’ electricity output lowest since 1994” was written by Adam Vaughan, for The Guardian on Thursday 3rd January 2019 00.01 UTC

The output of British power stations fell this year to levels last seen almost a quarter of a century ago, while renewables achieved a record share of the UK electricity supply.

Electricity generation in 2018 was the lowest since 1994, when Tony Blair became the leader of the Labour party.

The reduced need for power came despite there being 8 million more people living in the UK. Analysts said the figures were a sign of increasingly efficient use of energy and the country’s changing economy.

electricity generation graph

The UK website Carbon Brief, which analysed government and industry data, found that 335 terawatt-hours were generated by power plants last year, down by about 1% on the year before. Since 2005 the level has fallen by 16% – or the equivalent of two and a half Hinkley Point C nuclear power stations.

Simon Evans, policy editor at the group, said: “It could be a combination of more efficient appliances, energy-saving lightbulbs and, more recently, LEDs. Then there’s supermarkets installing better fridges, industry using more efficient pumps. Across all of those businesses, efficiency will have been going up. And of course there’s the changing nature of industry in the UK.”

The financial crisis could also have played a role in making homes and businesses more careful with their energy use, he added.

While generation fell almost every year between 2008 and 2014, it remained stable between 2015 and 2017, before resuming its downward march in 2018.

Previous research by the government’s climate change advisers has found that more energy efficient appliances helped save the average household £290 a year between 2008 and 2017.

Continuing to use energy more efficiently would help the UK reach its binding climate goals, Evans said. “Using less as an end in itself isn’t the point. But it is the case that meeting carbon targets is made easier if we use energy efficiently.”

UK electricity mix graph

Separate data from the National Grid showed that 2018 was the greenest year to date for electricity generation as more power is sourced from renewable sources and less from coal. The carbon intensity from electricity generation was down 6.8% last year and has more than halved since 2013.

The analysis by Carbon Brief found that renewable sources including biomass, hydro, solar and wind power supplied a record 33% of electricity this year, up from 29% last year. Renewables were just 6.7% of the mix in 2009.

Green energy was boosted primarily by new windfarms connecting to the grid, as well as new biomass plants, which included the conversion of a coal unit at Drax power station in north Yorkshire and the conversion of a former coal plant at Lynemouth, Northumberland.

Meanwhile the coal-driven output was down 25% despite warnings of a coal comeback driven by high gas prices. Nuclear power also had a weak year, with generation down 8%, mainly due to ageing reactors being taken offline for safety checks. Gas remained the top source of electricity supplies, but fell 4%.

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Rugeley coal plant to be transformed into a sustainable village

Rugeley coal plant to be transformed into a sustainable village


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Rugeley coal plant to be transformed into a sustainable village” was written by Adam Vaughan, for theguardian.com on Monday 19th November 2018 13.01 UTC

An old coal power station is set to be transformed into a “sustainable village” of 2,000 homes powered by solar panels, in the biggest redevelopment yet of a former UK power plant.

French firm Engie said it had decided against selling off the Rugeley site in Staffordshire and would instead build super efficient houses on the 139-hectare site as part of its bid to “move beyond energy”.

Half of the energy required by the new homes will come from green sources, predominantly solar, which will be fitted on rooftops, in a field and even floating on a lake.

The company is planning for 10 megawatts of solar capacity in total, equivalent to one of the UK’s smaller solar farms.

Batteries will be used across the site, both in homes and at a communal power storage facility, to balance out electricity supply and demand.

The firm is also claiming the homes will be so efficient they will use nearly a third less energy than average new builds. Heating will come not from gas boilers but electric devices such as heat pumps.

Rugeley power station cooling towers at night.
Rugeley power station cooling towers at night. Photograph: Northern Nights Photography/Alamy

Wilfrid Petrie, Engie UK’s chief executive, said: “We are positioning ourselves as going beyond energy into place-making. It’s an example of us closing down our coal power plant and, instead of selling off the land, we’ve decided to regenerate it ourselves.”

Rugeley, which stopped generating electricity in the summer of 2016, is one of several coal plants to close in recent years due to economic pressures and environmental regulations.

There are seven operational coal power stations left in the UK, but all are due to shut by a government deadline of 2025, raising questions over what happens to the sizeable parcels of land afterwards.

While some energy companies are hoping to build gas plants on or adjacent to the old coal sites, others will need to be decommissioned for other uses.

In Shropshire, regeneration firm Harworth is planning to turn the 97-hectare brownfield site of a former power station into a development of homes and commercial units.

Engie said it was eyeing other sites around the country. “There’s a list of similar sites, which we are looking at. It’s not in the hundreds, but there are several,” Petrie said.

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Peter Atherton, an analyst at Cornwall Insight, said putting local electricity generation at the heart of new housing projects was almost becoming a prerequisite for developers to get through planning.

“It is the way of the future. There is no doubt large scale housing developments going forward are going to have some form of local generation because it is all the craze,” he said.

Around 30% of the Rugeley project will be classified affordable homes, though it is not clear how much the green energy measures and high building standards will add to the upfront cost of the properties.

Consultation on the scheme starts this month, with construction due to start next year and demolition of the former coal plant – including the cooling towers – due to finish in 2020, with plans for the first people to move in the year after.

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Bamboo house: easy to build, sustainable Cubo wins top prize

Bamboo house: easy to build, sustainable Cubo wins top prize


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Bamboo house: easy to build, sustainable Cubo wins top prize” was written by Sandra Laville, for The Guardian on Thursday 22nd November 2018 00.01 UTC

The creator of a house made of bamboo that can be put together in four hours to solve the chronic shortage of affordable accommodation in the Philippines has won a £50,000 top prize to develop cities for the future. Earl Forlales, 23, a graduate in material science engineering, took inspiration from the bamboo hut his grandparents lived in outside Manilla.

Forlales was awarded first prize by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) for his house, known as Cubo, for its use of low-cost, sustainable material, and the speed at which it could be constructed.

John Hughes, the competition head judge and Rics president, said: “The world’s cities are growing all the time and there is a real need to make sure they are safe, clean and comfortable places to live for future generations.

“There were many exciting, original designs among the submissions. However, Earl’s idea stood out for its simple yet well thought through solution to the world’s growing slum problem.

“As we look at our entrants, who are our next generation of leaders, I believe that real progress will be made in tackling the world’s biggest issues.”

Ever wondered why you feel so gloomy about the world – even at a time when humanity has never been this healthy and prosperous? Could it be because news is almost always grim, focusing on confrontation, disaster, antagonism and blame?

This series is an antidote, an attempt to show that there is plenty of hope, as our journalists scour the planet looking for pioneers, trailblazers, best practice, unsung heroes, ideas that work, ideas that might and innovations whose time might have come.

Readers can recommend other projects, people and progress that we should report on by contacting us at theupside@theguardian.com

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Forlales’s house could be manufactured in a week, constructed in four hours and costs £60 per square metre. Its use of bamboo – which releases 35% more oxygen into the environment than trees – was praised by the judges. The ability of the houses to be constructed in any bamboo-producing area was one of the key attractions.

Cubo
A bedroom inside the bamboo house built by Earl Forlales.
Photograph: Handout

Forlales has already identified a suitable area of land to start building his Cubo houses. He plans to begin work next year with experts from the Rics in an attempt to help relieve the huge pressures on housing in Manila, where a third of the 12 million population live in slums.

He said: “This is a huge step forward to helping the people of Manila. The state of housing in the city is at crisis point, and will undoubtedly get worse with this new influx of workers.

“Cubo started as nothing more than an idea, conceived while spending time at my grandparent’s house – it is incredible to think that it now will become a reality.

“I would like to thank Rics for the opportunity to develop the idea, and look forward to working with them to put this money to good use in Manila, and then hopefully elsewhere around the world.”

The Cities for our Future competition launched in January 2018 aiming to find practical solutions to problems that the world’s cities face. There were more than 1,200 entries, which were narrowed down to 12 finalists, who were given a mentor from the Rics to help them develop their idea over several months. The final judging took place this month.

Cubo
Earl Forlales hopes to start building his Cubo homes next year.
Photograph: Handout

Dr Beth Taylor, a competition judge and the chair of the UK National Commission for Unesco, said: “One of the reasons Earl’s entry stood out from the other finalists was through its use of traditional, sustainable technologies and materials, to solve an issue facing modern cities across the world.”

  • This article is part of a series on possible solutions to some of the world’s most stubborn problems. What else should we cover? Email us at theupside@theguardian.com

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£60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England

£60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “£60m ‘greenery drive’ to plant 10m trees in England” was written by Adam Vaughan, for The Guardian on Monday 29th October 2018 18.40 UTC

More than 10m trees will be planted across England with the injection of £60m of new funding over five years, as part of what the government billed as its “drive to preserve the country’s greenery”.

The bulk of the money, £50m, will pay landowners for planting trees that lock up carbon, which observers said raised questions over how accessible those woodlands would be to the public. That fund, the Woodland Carbon Guarantee scheme, should pay for 10m trees.

The other £10m will be targeted at planting in cities and towns and should fund at least 100,000 more trees.

The Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, said the money was a step in the right direction in terms of tackling climate change and wildlife losses, but not enough in total. “The problem is greater than just having the funds to deliver increased tree-planting,” said Abi Bunker, the group’s director of conservation.

The government said it would also back a study into the possibility of creating a new “Great Thames Park” in the Thames estuary, which experts have said could be ready by 2020. Ministers have pledged to plant 11m trees between 2017 and 2022, approximately the same number that were planted under the five years of the coalition.

England’s tree-planting record is poor compared with other European countries. About 1.6m trees were planted in England with government support in the 2017-18 financial year, covering 895 hectares. By comparison, Scotland planted 7,100 hectares in the same period.

Conservationists have pointed out that because England’s 120m ash trees are threatened by ash dieback, a deadly fungus that arrived in 2012, the country is on track to suffer a net loss of trees over the next five years. The mix of species to be planted under the government’s new funding announcement will be decided at a later date.

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Air pollution fears fuel fight against new London cruise ship terminal

Air pollution fears fuel fight against new London cruise ship terminal


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Air pollution fears fuel fight against new London cruise ship terminal” was written by Matthew Taylor Environment correspondent, for The Guardian on Wednesday 26th September 2018 10.30 UTC

A huge new cruise ship terminal planned for the river Thames would lead to a surge in dangerous levels of air pollution in the heart of the capital with unknown health consequences for hundreds of thousands of people, campaigners have warned.

Under the proposals, which have been given planning permission, up to 55 giant cruise ships would dock in London every year. Each ship would need to run its diesel engines round the clock to power onboard facilities, generating the same amount of toxic NO2 emissions as almost 700 continuously running lorries.

“As we find out more about the damage air pollution is doing to people’s health it is unthinkable that something like this can go ahead,” said local resident Laura Eyres, who is one of those leading the fight against the development.

“There is simply no justification for having these huge ships sitting here right next to busy residential areas and schools, belching out this level of pollution with all the associated damage to people’s health that have now been proven.”

Cruise ship pollution

There has been growing concern about the scale of the air pollution crisis in recent months. A slew of new research has highlighted the health risks associated with toxic air – from reduced intelligence to a rise in asthma deaths; heart disease to spikes in Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

In London, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, has announced a range of measures including plans to introduce a low emissions zone banning the most polluting road vehicles from a large swath of the city from 2021.

However, the Thames does not fall under his jurisdiction and campaigners fear it has become a “wild west” in terms of air pollution.

“The fumes that are emitted on the river simply would not be allowed if they were coming from a road in London,” said Eyres. “It is really worrying to think what damage these fumes are causing local residents, and if the new terminal goes ahead that is only going to get a lot worse.”

The Port of London Authority (PLA) controls traffic on the Thames and admits the “marine sector” has lagged behind in terms of tackling air pollution.

However, it says it is catching up and earlier this year it produced its first air quality strategy. It points out that the Thames is only responsible for 1% of London’s air pollution and says emission levels will improve in the years ahead as clean marine technology comes into force.

Martin Garside from the PLA said it was working with the the mayor and local authorities “to secure strong environmental standards”.

He added: “With a single barge carrying the loads of 50 lorries – the Thames helps reduce traffic and pollution on London’s congested roads. Over four million tonnes of cargo is transported between river terminals – removing about 300,000 lorry movements from the roads.”

The proposed new cruise terminal at Enderby Wharf in Greenwich is owned by Morgan Stanley, which was given planning permission for the terminal and wider residential development by Greenwich council in 2012 and updated permission in 2015.

Now the council has changed its mind and is backing campaigners’ calls for Morgan Stanley to come up with a greener alternative for the cruise terminal.

A huge new cruise ship terminal is planned for the River Thames.
Local residents want the ships to be forced to turn off their engines when they are docked, meaning that they must be capable of drawing power from a shoreside connection. Photograph: Maritime View

Residents want it to be “zero emissions”, only allowing ships that can plug into an onshore power point so they can turn off their polluting diesel engines.

Eyres said: “With 55 cruise ships planned annually and each staying for three days we face huge amounts of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter being released into our homes every day of the summer with potentially devastating health implications.”

One of the big cruise ship companies, Viking, said its ships were already fitted with the “latest technology that meets the strictest environmental regulations”.

A spokesman added: “If shore side power were available then we would consider using it. In fact, we are already prepared to use shore power. Our newest ship, launched this year, has a built-in connection, and we are updating our other four ships to use shore power in order to have the capability fleetwide.”

Campaigners wrote to Morgan Stanley earlier this month raising their concerns again and arguing the current plans were at odds with the company’s stated commitment on environmental sustainability.

A spokesperson for the company said it had received the letter and was working on revised plans for the development.

“We acknowledge East Greenwich Residents Association’s concerns and can assure [them] that our new proposals will take these concerns into account.”

However, Eyres said local residents needed more than encouraging words. “We can’t rest until we see a concrete commitment from Morgan Stanley that their plans for a polluting cruise port are dead in the water.”

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Plastic Pollution

Plastic Pollution

The impact on our oceans and what we can do about it.

Here is a great resource by SLO Active, a social enterprise, dedicated to cleaning up the oceans: a Plastic Pollution Guide that details the facts and figures of plastic pollution and its impact on our oceans and marine life.

Click here to open the guide as a PDF file.

Surfers Against Sewage ride the wave of the ‘Harry and Meghan effect’

Surfers Against Sewage ride the wave of the ‘Harry and Meghan effect’


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Surfers Against Sewage ride the wave of the ‘Harry and Meghan effect'” was written by Caroline Davies, for The Guardian on Sunday 17th June 2018 12.14 UTC

Despite its eye-catching name, Surfers Against Sewage probably owes its existence to plastic. “The advent of panty-liners meant you could really see sewage slicks. Condoms, panty-liners and other plastic refuse made for a visceral, and visual, reminder of pollution,” Chris Hines, surfer and co-founder of this small charity in Cornwall, recalled in Alex Wade’s book, Surf Nation.

Sick of ear, throat and gastric infections, he and others called a meeting in St Agnes village hall. A who’s who of the most committed, passionate surfers in Cornwall – and just about the whole village – turned out. It was 1990 and Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) was born.

Today the sewage has mostly gone, thanks to measures such as the EU’s Urban Waste Water Treatment directive. But SAS still exists, transformed from single-issue pressure group to marine conservation charity.

Plastic is the new sewage. And SAS’s fight against marine plastic pollution has just been massively boosted by “the Harry and Meghan effect”.

“A complete bolt from the blue,” said Hugo Tagholm, SAS’s chief executive, on the charity being chosen as one of seven to receive wedding gift donations by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

The unexpected royal patronage has seen a four-fold increase in donations (the charity cannot reveal how much that is), a surge in website hits, and priceless reputation enhancement. “Suddenly, people don’t think we’re just a bunch of surfers in a shack down at the beach. Suddenly, Surfers Against Sewage isn’t just a niche, quirky, little NGO. Suddenly, people realise we’re a really serious marine conservation charity.

“The global interest is phenomenal. We have never reached that many people in all of our history, ever,” said Tagholm.

SAS is still based in the old tin mining workings of Wheal Kitty, outside St Agnes. Its office – where its small staff of 19 staff are based – is on a headland where five-minute stroll can yield slowworms and adders and a spectacular view over Trevaunance Cove beach and passing dolphins on the north Cornish coast.

Hugo Tagholm after a surf at Porthtowan Beach, St Agnes.
Hugo Tagholm after a surf at Porthtowan Beach, St Agnes. Photograph: Peter Flude for the Guardian

“Being here gives us authenticity rather than being marooned on a busy city street,” said Tagholm, who takes the Truro to Paddington sleeper about twice a week. He delights in creating a national and international agenda “from this far-flung corner of the UK”.

Back when it was formed, the SAS message spread via vanloads of surfers traversing the country chasing the waves. Soon activists were donning wetsuits and gas masks “and waving a six-foot inflatable turd underneath politicians’, councillors’ and local water authority apparatchiks’ faces whenever possible,” said Wade, surfer, lawyer, author, and SAS trustee. One water company’s annual awards was enhanced by activists invading the stage wielding a golden bog brush, he recalled.

“It’s gone from punk-like, very rootsy and edgy – sort of ‘Life’s a beach, and we want to sort the beach, but we still want to party’ – to a much slicker, really well-run professional campaigning organisation whose remit is well beyond just surfing,” he said.

Surfing has evolved too. No longer niche, now high street retailers sell trendy surfing apparel. Hardcore surfers still live their idyll of chasing endless sun around the world in board shorts. But “weekend warriors” – city professionals who descend on beaches in leisure time – are part of the community too.

Add in kayakers, swimmers, sailors, walkers, and SAS, which transformed from NGO to charity in 2012, believes it has unique reach. “You don’t have to be a hard core surfer from St Agnes to be part of SAS, you can be Mr Smith living in Birmingham, interested in protecting beaches,” said Tagholm.

“I think we attract an audience that any other charity would struggle to attract,” he said, boasting an energetic, committed, cooler demographic than many others, and helped by being the nominated charity to a number of festivals, and through alignments with musicians such as Ben Howard and Jack Johnson.

“We are really small. Nationally and internationally, it’s a micro-business,” said Tagholm. With a turnover of £1.3m, it’s a “small charity with a big voice” that likes to punch above its weight. Which means, he said, the impact of the “Harry and Meghan effect” is far greater than it would be on larger organisations.

Since 2008, when Tagholm became chief executive, volunteer numbers have soared from 1,000 to 70,000. These are the “canaries in the coal mine” – people who actively use the coastline, see its toxic tidelines and the impacts of climate change and coastal developments.

SAS’s 155 regional volunteers reps organise beach cleans – 1,200 beaches last year – and help orchestrate campaigns. The idea for the most recent, a Plastic Free Parliament, came to Tagholm while stirring his coffee with a plastic spoon in the Houses of Parliament after a meeting of the Protect Our Waves all-party parliamentary group set up by the charity to discuss marine conservation. It aims to eliminate single-use plastic from parliament by next year.

World Oceans Day, on 8 Jun, saw a relaunch of its first international campaign, Plastic Free Communities. So far 350 communities – in villages, towns and cities collectively representing 24 million people – are working towards gaining plastic-free status. It involves a five-step guide, inspired by the Fair Trade status scheme.

Plastic Free Galapagos is another initiative. And, since the royal wedding, SAS has been contacted by groups and communities from across the globe asking for help and co-operation in adopting similar schemes. It’s been swift to embrace these opportunities. Nifty, quick on its toes, and able to respond swiftly are among the attributes of being so small, said Tagholm, compared to large, perhaps more risk averse charities.

It has campaigned on plastic bags ban and deposit return schemes, sets up Ocean Club and Ocean schools on beaches for children, and has a place at the table at international marine conservation conferences.

Perhaps more in tune with its original objectives, SAS still keeps a wary eye on water quality. Surfers swallow 10 times more sea water than swimmers, which makes them the perfect candidates for testing. “Beach Bums” is “an interesting and intimate” survey testing rectal swabs from 300 volunteers researching antibiotics resistance.

Like sewage, said Tagholm, plastic needs an “upstream solution”. Unlike sewage, where there are a finite number of water companies and easily visible pipes, the plastic comes from everywhere.

Hugo Tagholm, Dominic Ferris, Ellie Ewart, Sally Fish and Harry Dennis (left to right) collect pieces of plastic pollution and other litter along Porthtowan Beach.
Hugo Tagholm, Dominic Ferris, Ellie Ewart, Sally Fish and Harry Dennis (left to right) collect pieces of plastic pollution and other litter along Porthtowan Beach. Photograph: Peter Flude for the Guardian

In reality, the beach clean-ups, though good for raising awareness, can make little lasting difference when the sources of the plastic pollutants remain.

“We can’t pick our way out of this one,” It needs “brave legislation” and incentives, and a thorough overhaul of our systems which show we are “doing thing wrong”, he said. He is optimistic, placing his faith in technology as being part of the solutions. “Plastic is the one pollutant that has truly galvanised every part of society.”

On nearby Porthtowan beach, as he and his team nip out for a quick lunchtime surf, the sands looks clean. Bend down, though, and examination of one small square foot, revealed hundreds and hundreds of “mermaids tears” – the tiny lentil-sized nurdles, or pellets, used to make nearly all our plastic products. They escape from factories, or ships. “They’re known as mermaids tears because they are on the beach, and the mermaid’s aren’t happy,” said Tagholm.

This is truly the plastic age. As it all grinds down to dust, it will, he predicts, leave a rainbow-coloured layer of sediment for future geologists. “Hopefully, a very thin layer, if we manage to wean ourselves off plastics.”

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Recycled plastic could supply three-quarters of UK demand, report finds

Recycled plastic could supply three-quarters of UK demand, report finds


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Recycled plastic could supply three-quarters of UK demand, report finds” was written by Sandra Laville, for theguardian.com on Thursday 14th June 2018 05.01 UTC

Plastic recycled in the UK could supply nearly three-quarters of domestic demand for products and packaging if the government took action to build the industry, a new report said on Thursday.

The UK consumes 3.3m tonnes of plastic annually, the report says, but exports two-thirds to be recycled. It is only able to recycle 9% domestically.

Measures including increased taxes on products made with virgin plastic, and mandatory targets for using recycled plastic in packaging, could encourage an additional 2m tonnes of plastic to be recycled in the UK, the report from Green Alliance said.

The analysis said simply collecting plastic and sending it abroad for recycling does not solve the problem of the global scourge of plastic pollution.

“The UK does not have an adequate system to capture, recycle and re-use plastic materials,” the report said.

It recommends three new measures to ensure more plastic is recovered in the UK and used as raw material in manufacturing. These are:

  • Mandatory recycled content requirements for all plastic products and packaging;
  • Short-term support to kickstart the plastic reprocessing market; and
  • a fund to stabilise the market for companies investing in recycling plastic domestically.

Green Alliance produced the report for a group of businesses that have formed a circular economy taskforce.

Peter Maddox, director of Wrap UK, said the UK had to take more responsibility for its own waste.

“Our mission is to create a world where resources are used sustainably. To make this happen in the UK, we need to design circular systems for plastics and other materials that are sustainable both economically and environmentally. This will require some fundamental changes from all of us.”

The report said government action is necessary to create and support a secondary plastic market in the UK. “The government is uniquely placed to address the market failures that have led to unnecessary reliance on virgin materials to the detriment of the environment, industry and the economy.”

UK businesses including supermarkets recently signed up to a pact to cut plastic.

But voluntary pacts were not enough, the report said, and government action was needed.

“A secondary plastic market … could recycle an additional 2m tonnes in the UK and fulfil 71% of UK manufacturing’s raw material demand … Voluntary initiatives like the UK plastic pact … only thrive when supported by a credible prospect of government regulation if industry does not deliver.”

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