Dec 12, 2017 - Considering we pump millions of tons of plastic into the oceans every year, there is a hell of a lot we don't know about its whereabouts and its impact on the marine environment. A study examining how the material is torn apart by ocean life has uncovered some eye-popping evidence, finding that a single plastic bag is literally broken into millions of microscopic pieces before being spread throughout the seas.
It's hard to overstate the gravity of our plastic problem. Recent research tell us there is somewhere between 4.8 and 12.7 million metric tons of the material washing into the oceans each year. But what makes all that trash so hard to track is that it is broken down into microplastic fragments that are smaller than the fingernail on your pinky.
Scientists say they have been able to account for roughly one percent of all plastic waste in the ocean, but there is still so much to learn about where it all goes after being swept away from open dumps and improperly secured landfills.
Looking into such matters is a team of marine scientists at the University of Plymouth, who conducted a study to learn more about how quickly different types of plastic are broken down by marine organisms, and whether the rate of degradation was impacted by biofilm (a layer of organic material that builds up on the plastic over time).
The team observed how the amphipod Orchestia gammarellus, which lives in coastal areas of northern and western Europe, broke down plastic bags. Through monitoring in the lab and along the shoreline, the scientists found the crustacean could tear a single plastic bag into 1.75 million separate pieces of microplastic, with the debris then found in and around their excrement.
The type of plastic, whether conventional, degradable or biodegradable, was found to have no impact on how quickly it were consumed, but interestingly, the presence of biofilm speed things up by four times. This throws further weight behind a growing body of research that suggests marine life can be enticed by ocean debris at mealtime, particularly when there is natural matter building up on its surface.
For example, a study last year found that seabirds were mistaking plastic debris for food because organic compounds were giving off a familiar stench. Within just three weeks, plastic samples placed in a contained environment had become coated in a sulfur compound called dimethyl sulfide (DMS), which happens to be the same compound (and smell) that the birds usually relied on to find krill for dinner.
"An estimated 120 million tonnes of single-use plastic items – such as carrier bags – are produced each year and they are one of the main sources of plastic pollution," said Professor of Marine Biology at Plymouth University Richard Thompson. "They already represent a potential hazard to marine life, but this research shows species might also be contributing to the spread of such debris. It further demonstrates that marine litter is not only an aesthetic problem but has the potential to cause more serious and persistent environmental damage."
Dec 7, 2017 - A damning report on the state of New Zealand’s drinking water has called for mandatory treatment of the country’s water supply — but a battle is looming over the cost of making that a reality. The previous Government launched a two-stage inquiry into drinking water in September 2016, following an outbreak of gastroenteritis in Havelock North linked to contaminated drinking water which made over 5000 people sick.
A report from the second stage of the inquiry, released yesterday, highlighted “a widespread systemic failure” to supply safe drinking water to the country, with 20 percent of Kiwis supplied water that was not “demonstrably safe” to drink.
It said there were up to 100,000 cases of waterborne illness in New Zealand each year — although some thought the real number could be higher — while there was a degree of complacency from those tasked with managing the water supply system.
The inquiry had received a number of submissions and evidence indicating untreated drinking water was “unacceptably risky in today’s circumstances”, and recommended making it mandatory for drinking water to be treated.
It also recommended the creation of an independent drinking water regulator to monitor supplies around the country and crack down on offenders.
The report estimated the cost of replacing the country’s deteriorating water pipelines, some of which were at risk of collapse, at $2.2 billion.
Councils responsible for water - Parker
Speaking after the report’s release, Attorney-General David Parker said the inquiry had made a clear case for mandatory water treatment.
Nov 28, 2017 - Agrophotovoltaics - Agriculture and renewable energy have worked together for more than fifteen centuries, ever since ancient Persians began using windmills to pump water and grind grain. Today, in the Midwestern US, we see cornfields sharing acreage with megawatt-scale wind turbines that produce minimal shading effects on crops, significant power enhancements to the grid, and additional income for farmers. Researchers in Baden-Württemberg, a region in southern Germany, are looking for ways to increase sustainable energy production in an area where wind speeds are relatively slow, making solar the preferred electrical generating technology. But plants need sunlight just as much as photovoltaic panels do, so engineers are working on an elevated solar array that feeds both of society's energy needs: biological and technological.
| Agrophotovoltaics: Edibles and Energy In a pilot project known as Agrophotovoltaics - Resource-Efficient Land Use (APV-RESOLA), engineers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems designed and constructed a 194 kilowatt elevated solar array over a one-third hectare section of cropland. An adjacent section of the farm remains unaltered to serve as a control. In a three-year study, researchers from the University of Hohemhein are assessing crop quality and yield in both the experimental and control fields. Farmers hope to generate appreciable electricity while maintaining crop production levels at the 80% level.
Nov 23, 2017 - Ara Institute of Canterbury Certificate in Creativity students are turning their art into environmental action. Tomorrow on Friday 24 November, they will wheel their concerns about plastics affecting our environment to the Christchurch City Council, and to Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalzell.
For the past six weeks the students have been working on a group project, incorporating donated shopping trolleys, recycled plastic and plastic bags into three magnificent sculptures that represent their concerns for the planet’s future. Tutor, Henry Sunderland has overseen the creative process. “The students have done research on plastics around the world and how it’s clogging up the ocean. They’re really concerned, and they want to do something.”
At 11.15am tomorrow, they will present their creations to the Mayor, the Christchurch Wizard, and other community leaders, at the CCC building on Hereford Street.
Henry said there has been an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the sculptures on social media. “Is it a protest? I don’t know. I think it’s more about awareness, and the recognition that we’re dealing with a real situation. It’s about communication, and how do we get that message out there. That’s what we’re teaching within this Certificate- creative communication.”
The New Zealand Certificate in Creativity is a new qualification offered at Ara this year. The course focuses on creating change, adding value and communicating ideas.
Nov 21, 2017 - Robots are now being developed to sort household recyclables and differentiate between construction wastes. What will this mean for the human workers? Matt Clay in Waste Management World writes about the increasing presence of robots in industry, in particular recyclables and waste, that robots once suitable for only niche applications, are now being developed that can sort household recyclables and differentiate between construction wastes. What will this mean for the human workers? Does it mean the start of robot revolution? How accurate is the technology?
British pre-eminent scientist Prof Stephen Hawking once warned that the “development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race”. While we are many years away from AI taking over from humans in true Terminator fashion, technology has changed how we interact.
The rise of smart phones and apps have meant that electronic devices have become an extension of the body; a high tech major organ of communication. Being without it, for many, leads to what is now being called ‘nomophobia’ – the fear of being without your mobile phone.
While devices are becoming more integrated in our daily lives, one industry that perhaps hasn’t seen technological development as fast as others is waste management. Many material recovery facilities (MRFs) do contain teams of near infrared (NIR) advanced machines sorting through waste streams at a lighting pace. Yet, teams of waste pickers – people stood in lines working long and hard hours – still remain to provide final quality control; humans are still key to the operation.
Nov 21, 2017 - Air New Zealand has today announced it will work with the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to explore the establishment of a private afforestation scheme, providing funding to landowners to plant trees in return for the carbon benefits this will create.
Building on the success of MPI’s existing Afforestation Grant Scheme, Air New Zealand is working with Government to scope a complementary private afforestation fund, with the airline to engage landowners to plant up to 15,000 hectares of new native and exotic trees.
If the fund goes ahead, Air New Zealand intends to offset some of the emissions from its domestic operations with credits generated by the new forestry. It hopes planting will commence in winter 2018.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon says the initiative demonstrates how business and government can work together to move New Zealand towards a low emissions future.
"As an airline, managing our carbon footprint is a key challenge and while we are working hard to improve efficiencies, offsetting is an important tool in our carbon reduction efforts.
“Air New Zealand has been a strong advocate for more quality offsetting options within New Zealand and we are pleased to work with Government to encourage thousands more hectares of trees into the emissions trading scheme, which will create broader social, environmental and economic benefits,” says Mr Luxon.
MPI Director-General Martyn Dunne says the Ministry is well-placed to be involved with this initiative.
“MPI has significant expertise and experience in forestry and forestry-related investment. We’re proud to be working with Air New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment to scope this important initiative, which could have far-reaching environmental and economic benefits,” says Mr Dunne.
Secretary for the Environment Vicky Robertson says: “I’d like to congratulate Air New Zealand. Partnerships like this between Government and industry provide the opportunity to make a positive difference to New Zealanders and the environment.”
| An air New Zealand release || November 21, 2017 |||
Nov 16 2017 - Co-operative announces ambitious water commitments; invites Kiwis to visit farms and see what’s being done to promote healthy rivers. Fonterra today launched an ambitious plan to help improve the quality of New Zealand’s waterways. Based around six strategic commitments, the plan will underpin Fonterra’s efforts to promote healthy streams and rivers, including a strong focus on sustainable farming and manufacturing.
In parallel, the Co-operative’s farmers will open up their farms around New Zealand to give Kiwis the chance to see first-hand the efforts farmers are making to increase water quality.
The release of the plan signals Fonterra’s desire to play an active role in delivering healthy waterways for New Zealanders and builds on the Co-operative’s previous efforts in this space. Recent examples include Fonterra’s commitment to restore 50 key freshwater catchments, its membership the Farming Leaders’ Pledge and work with the Department of Conservation on the Living Water initiative.
Miles Hurrell, Chief Operating Officer, Fonterra Farm Source, says the Co-operative and its farmers had been working hard to address water quality, but were ready and willing to do even more.
“Like all Kiwis, we want healthy rivers. Our farmers have spent over $1 billion on environmental initiatives over the past five years and fenced more than 98% of significant waterways on farm. That’s a major undertaking but it highlights our commitment to getting this right and we’re already seeing that in some regions these actions are having a positive impact on water quality.
“All intensive land uses have had an impact on water quality in this country. That’s why we have to work together to address the issue. Today, we’re putting up our hands and promising to work with communities to promote healthy waterways for Kiwis to enjoy. Importantly, we’re backing up our words with action and making tangible commitments that we believe will make a real difference,” says Mr Hurrell.
Fonterra’s six water commitments are as follows:
Farm within regional environmental limits
Encourage strong environmental farming practices
Reduce water use and improve wastewater quality at manufacturing plants
Build partnerships to improve waterway health
Invest in science and innovation to find new solutions
Make the products people value most
Each of Fonterra’s commitments is underpinned by a set of clear actions. These range from supporting regional councils to set environmental limits for water use, investing $250 million to drive a 20 percent reduction in water use across its 26 manufacturing sites and almost doubling the Co-operatives network of Sustainable Dairy Advisors.
“We’re keen to show New Zealanders the hard work going on behind the farm gate, so on 10 December we’ll be hosting one of New Zealand’s largest ever community open days, giving people across the country the chance to visit a farm and see what we’re doing for themselves. Our farmers are looking forward to opening their gates,” concluded Mr Hurrell.
Nov 14 2017 - Human-induced global warming is happening faster than ever and accelerating, according to a new measurement index developed by an international team that includes the Director of Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute, Professor Dave Frame.
The researchers’ real-time Global Warming Index will be updated continuously on the website www.globalwarmingindex.org and provides improved scientific context for temperature stabilisation targets, with the potential to reduce climate policy volatility.
The index and its data have been announced in a paper for the Nature research journal Scientific Reports.
Warming exceeded 1°C above mid-nineteenth-century levels in 2017 and is increasing at a rate that leaves little time to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, say the researchers.
“Global temperatures may be pushed up temporarily by El Niño events or down by volcanic eruptions,” says Dr Karsten Haustein from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, lead author of the paper. “We combine temperature observations with measurements of drivers of climate change to provide an up-to-date estimate of the contribution of human influence to global warming.”
The level of human-induced warming reached 1.02°C above the average for 1850–79 in November 2017 (with a 5-95 percent uncertainty range of 0.89–1.20°C) based on the HadCRUT4 temperature dataset from the UK Met Office, or 1.08°C when estimated using a version of HadCRUT4 that interpolates over poorly sampled regions such as the Arctic.
“This Global Warming Index has been increasing continuously since the nineteenth century, with no pause in recent decades,” says Dr Haustein. “It has risen at a rate of 0.16°C per decade over the past 20 years, and is expected to average 0.96°C above 1850–79 for the decade 2010–2019. Worryingly, it appears to be accelerating, despite the recent slowdown in carbon dioxide emissions, because of trends in other climate pollutants, notably methane.”
Professor Frame says: “A robust, continuously updated index of human-induced warming— the only component of global temperatures we have any control over—is essential to monitor progress toward meeting temperature goals. We hope the Global Warming Index will provide this essential information to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] process.
“Using our index, as well as www.climateclock.net, in conjunction with carbon budget estimates based on current emissions, the remaining time until we cross the anthropogenic warming target of 1.5°C or 2°C can be monitored continuously.”
Paper co-author Professor Myles Allen, also from the University of Oxford, presented the team’s findings to delegates of the UNFCCC conference in Bonn, Germany, on Monday 13 November, at a UN Side Event sponsored by Victoria University of Wellington, in partnership with the Universities of Oxford and Reading and Norway’s CICERO Center for International Climate Research.
The paper’s other co-authors were Professor Piers Forster from the University of Leeds in the UK, Dr Friederike Otto and Dr Daniel Mitchell from the University of Oxford and Professor Damon Matthews from Concordia University Montreal in Canada.
| A Victoria University release ||| November 14, 2017 |||
Nov 10 2017 - BONN: As Energy Day gets under way at the 2017 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn today (Friday, November 10), influential and international businesses from a wide range of sectors are driving emissions cuts by leading the way on electric transport, energy productivity and renewable power. Four major businesses from three different continents have today joined The Climate Group’s global electric vehicles campaign (EV100), and pledged to transition to electric transport by 2030. They include the airline Air New Zealand, Mercury – the New Zealand electricity retailer and generator, Dutch engineering and project management consultancy Royal HaskoningDHV, and the Japanese shopping mall developer AEON Mall.
Also new today, one of India’s leading cement producers, Dalmia Cement, has announced that it is already almost half way to doubling its energy productivity by 2030 (using a 2010-11 baseline) as part of The Climate Group’s EP100 initiative.
And the international consultancy and construction company, Mace, which strives to create more sustainable cities and communities, has today joined The Climate Group’s RE100 campaign with CDP, committing the world’s most influential companies to 100% renewable power. The UK-based company is aiming to achieve 100% renewable electricity globally by 2022; and 75% by 2019.
RE100 members are now creating demand of up to 153 TWh of renewable electricity annually – more than enough to power Poland.
The news follows announcements earlier this week from UK-based HSBC, which has joined RE100 with a commitment to sourcing 100% renewable power by 2030. US bank Wells Fargo also announced that it has achieved 100% renewable electricity through the purchase of renewable energy certificates (RECs) to power its over 90 million square feet portfolio, and is now working to achieve its 2020 goal to transition to net new sources of renewable electricity.
Helen Clarkson, CEO, The Climate Group, championed the role of business in driving a zero-emissions economy: “It’s fantastic to see continued leadership from companies on climate action – commitments like these are smart business decisions that future-proof operations and boost the bottom line.
“EV100 members are helping to wean us off polluting petrol and diesel while RE100 members are increasing demand for renewable energy. Together with EP100 commitments that enable companies to get more out of the energy they use, leading companies are shaping our global energy market for the future and helping to accelerate the emissions reductions needed to deliver on the Paris Agreement.” EV100 – new joiners
As part of its ambitious sustainability initiatives, Air New Zealand has taken a leadership position in the shift to EVs, and has already transitioned 100% of its light vehicle fleet and electrified more than half of its heavy airport service vehicles.
Christopher Luxon, CEO, Air New Zealand, said: “At airports and on the roads, our EVs are literally driving a call to action for the business community to commit to more sustainable options. By investing in EVs, we’re helping to increase both supply and demand for electric transport and charging infrastructure – a move which will ultimately make EVs a mainstream sight in New Zealand.”
Mercury has already transitioned every vehicle in its fleet that can be practicably converted to electric (80 out of 114 vehicles), and now 870 employees at nearly 20 sites drive one of the largest EV fleets in New Zealand. Mercury, with others, also helped bring the Electric Highway to New Zealand with the peer-to-peer EV charger location app, ‘Plugshare’.
Fraser Whineray, CEO, Mercury, said: “Now that we’ve converted every vehicle that we can to EVs, our mission of Energy Freedom inspires us to support the electrification of transport throughout New Zealand. Around 90% of New Zealand’s electricity is produced from clean renewable sources so it’s a winning formula for drivers, for business, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and to reduce dependence on imported fossil fuels. Mercury is part of a movement in New Zealand and globally through membership of EV100.”
Between them, Air New Zealand and Mercury have instigated a landmark corporate initiative, influencing over 30 leading New Zealand organisations and businesses to pledge to transition their fleets to at least 30% electric in the next three years.
Royal HaskoningDHV announced in September that it would transition to 100% EVs. Under EV100, the company has committed its leased fleets and service contracts, and is supporting the uptake of EVs by its 6,000 staff and customers in over 150 countries. The company will transition its fleet, just over 500 cars, in the Netherlands by 2021, and internationally by 2030. Currently the fleet holds 20 plug-in hybrids and 30 100% electric vehicles. All employees with plug-ins and 80% of those with EVs have a charger installed at their home.
Erik Oostwegel, CEO, Royal HaskoningDHV, said: “In recent months, as a means of controlling climate change and air pollution, various governments announced measures to phase-out diesel or petrol-driven vehicles. As an innovative company, we want to be a frontrunner in developments relating to sustainability and mobility of the future. We provide advice to clients concerning sustainable mobility and the energy transition. These two elements converge in electric driving. For us the move to 100% electric vehicles is a no-brainer and all companies should do this. The trend is clear. Let’s use our time efficient and stop talking and take action.”
AEON Mall is supporting the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs) by its customers, and has been installing charging facilities at each of its 152 shopping malls across Japan since 2008. Already the company has installed 751 EV chargers in 135 malls in Japan, and plans to have installed them at 143 malls by 2018. In China, the company has so far installed 348 chargers at six malls. AEON Mall was recruited to EV100 via Japan-CLP, a regional engagement partner for the campaign on behalf of The Climate Group.
Yoshiharu Umeda, Senior Managing Director, Administration Division, General Manager, AEON Mall, said: “We have taken the lead in introducing advanced approaches such as utilizing solar photovoltaic energy, building recharging stations for electric vehicles, and increasing the greening of shopping centers. Such approaches have also become acknowledged in recent years as a new value of a commercial facility. We will promote the creation of people-friendly, environment-friendly malls and strive to be Asia’s No.1 specialized commercial developer by gaining support from local residents and society. That’s why we are joining EV100.”
| A Climate Group release || November 10, 2017 |||
Nov 10, 2017 - Reinforcing its leadership position in the shift to electric vehicles, Air New Zealand has been announced as the first airline to join The Climate Group’s EV100 initiative. The global not-for-profit works with businesses and governments around the world on initiatives that help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. EV100 is its new global programme which aims to fast track business uptake of electric vehicles, encouraging organisations to use their buying power and influence to build demand and ultimately help reduce the cost barrier to mainstream use.
Earlier this year Air New Zealand completed the transition of its light vehicle fleet to EVs and the airline’s Head of Sustainability Lisa Daniell says seeing its EVs on the road is a visible reminder of its commitment to more sustainable options.
“Electric transport offers a major solution in cutting millions of tons of greenhouse emissions worldwide. Having led the way in New Zealand it’s exciting to be part of a global initiative committed to making EVs the new normal.”
Sandra Roling, Head of EV100 says The Climate Group is delighted Air New Zealand is joining EV100 as the first airline in the campaign.
“The company’s commitment to rolling out electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in its own operations, as well as its leadership in motivating other companies to do the same, sets a crucial example for making electro-mobility the new normal.”
Air New Zealand also initiated a landmark corporate pledge with Mercury Energy and Westpac New Zealand in 2016, which will see 30 New Zealand companies transition at least 30 percent of their fleet to EVs by 2019.
The Climate Group announced Air New Zealand’s membership of EV100 on Energy Day of the United Nation’s 2017 Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany.
| An Air New Zealand release || November 10 2017 |||