Plastic remains as one of the biggest hurdles in the path of circular economy in Europe

As European economies have flourished and developed along the last 50 years, the use of plastic has intensified enormously. According to recent estimations, plastic production has become 50 times bigger in this time period, and it is supposed to stay on growing.

While this can make sense to a certain extent since population and consumption has also increased during this period, what remains unbearable is how little is being done to switch to a more circular approach: nowadays, only 7% of the plastic produced is recycled. Furthermore, Europe is exporting part of that recycled plastic to countries like China, because the inner demand is not high enough.

Although the image of used bottles and bags can be the more visual representation of plastic waste, truth is technology has taken this problem to a whole new level. Specifically, the existence of microplastics (tiny pieces of plastic materials of less than 5mms) makes it so that a lot of the plastic we throw away is undetectable also for us: from hygiene products to clothes, many of the products we use on daily basis include almost undetectable traces of plastic, making it really hard for the average user to know the damage he is causing by using those products.

According to studies, the highest damage by plastic waste is done in the oceans. All those microplastics slowly tear apart and go down the sink to end in the waters of all around the world. For instance, rain takes microparticles of the car tires away, which finish in the sea. We have another example in the washing machines: recent evaluation suggests that around 10% of the microplastic present in the oceans comes from its use.

And why is this so important? Well, for a start, it is much easier to tackle the problem while the waste is still on land. Even when the plastic particles are already into the sewer system, it is possible to apply different filters to capture it. In this sense, the company SUEZ has developed new technology to filtrate the microplastics that pass through different plants for water treatment.

Nonetheless, the full circle of the circular economy does not close just with the increasing capability of collection. As Jean-Marc Boursier, one of Suez’s senior executives affirms, “it does not make much sense to ask people to increase their efforts on separating their waste to facilitate the recycling process when, for instance, most of the plastic collected in Europe ends up in China because the internal demand is not high enough”. “It’s a matter of political will” he adds.

European Commission is trying to take some steps in this direction. Recently, a proposal was raised to change the relation with plastic, materialized on the goal of recycling at least 90% of disposable bottles by 2025. While on paper it may seem ambitious enough, reality keeps on pushing us to make bigger efforts: it has been forecasted that by 2025 the oceans will bear a plastic waste/fish ratio will be 1:3. The time to raise awareness is falling behind, and now is the time to take actions.

Extreme weather is due to Climate Change. Really?!

Every once in a while, I meet someone who doesn’t believe in climate change. They say that all the changes are happening since the beginning of the time and will continue to be so it is quite normal for the Earth to be so warm or to be so cold. Well, I always partially agree with them. But since last century we can see more and more storms all over the world. Maybe 2 of them you might think as a normal phenomenon but we saw in UK,China and India among other countries made it clear that it is indeed happening due to Climate Change.
If you still do not agree, read this post where the scientist in UK did some research and Carbon Brief did further research on that research and then followed up some Question and Answers session to understand these disasters happening all over the world. Why I can a storm a disaster? Well, it completes ruins your city and daily routine and not to mention the financial problem it causes the government in the matter of days.

A series of storms – first Desmond, then Eva, and finally Frank – dumped 230mm of rain on the UK during December, triggering flooding across much of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland. The preliminary results – from three different approaches – indicate the human impact on climate was as large, or even larger, than the impact of natural fluctuations in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean – even during a strong El Niño event. Climate change and ocean variability each made the record rainfall totals 50-75% more likely, the researchers say, and doubled the chances of such a warm month. Random variability in weather also contributed to the severe conditions.

Do you still feel that Climate Change isn’t happening? Is Yes, then I am sure you believe that Santa Claus exist too!

Source: Carbon Brief, Climate Prediction

Sustainable Transport – step by step reducing impacts caused by transport

It was never easier then now to reach the most remote places on earth, or to get the most exotic fruits from the furthest South American rainforest, and no end is in sight. In fact, transport will be growing strongly in the upcoming decades; with the progressing globalization and cheaper technologies, the transport of persons and goods will reach much higher levels then nowadays, where transport systems have a significant impact on the environment accounting for between 20% – 25% of world energy consumption and CO2 emissions.  All this traffic will have a huge impact on the environment of the whole planet, so one way to avoid some very bad pollution, accidents, commuting problems ecc.. could be to make transport more sustainable in the sense of social, environmental and climate impacts. Obviously all this should happen in a framework where it is possible to take up the opportunities offered by increased mobility.

So which are the possibilities to reach this goals? One way are Green vehicles that have less envirmonmental impact than equivalent standard vehicles, speaking electric/hybrid vehicles for private use but also in public transport. In urban planning there is another way of keeping city centres sustainable in transport: increasing pedestrian areas and bicycle lanes as those two are the most sustainable ways of transport, but also carsharing are good ways to reduce the different kinds of impacts. The fast progressing electrification of cars can help substantially to keep cities and the environment in general clean.

If you want to see some empirical application of the stuff above check out Denmarks Campaign “State of Green” where they show how things are done in Denmark.

 

The wired wild – data is the key

Some weeks ago the World Wildlife Fund WWF organized the fuller symposium event, bringing together leaders in science, policy business and development to talk about innovative technologies and the promises it give when it comes to face the challenges on our planet. Even if you are not a big fan of WWF, you can check out the “WIRED IN THE WILD – Can technology save the planet?” agenda because it offers some interesting point of views, TED-talks, videos and many more, just click on the link above to get there.

There are some several outcomes of this summit, one is collaboration. Collaboration is crucial to bring together scientist from various fields to guarantee that a mix of different technologies gives a more accurate view on what is happening in the big picture but not only. In fact without community participation and the support of local communities  and their data “from the ground” very often it would not be possible to guarantee that the outcome of the research reflects what is really happening in the “real” world. Here technology is key because without sensors and technologies that gather information and that are positioned in strategic points and possibly with some kind of real-time information. With an everyday growing level of connectivity this could be possible and should help to get the big-data that is necessary to do some high quality research in many fields, from climate change to pollution and renewable energy consumption and many more.

Check it out!

Ever heard of: Carbon Conversations!

This is my second post of ‘Ever heard of’. The first one was based on Sustainable goals by UN. Today I would like to talk about Carbon Conversations.

We were suppose to have a small ‘talk’ on it by one professor from Hamburg today but it got cancelled for some reason. I hope the ‘seminar’ happens again. Anyway while I was in the class, I got curious and looked about them online.

This is the link. So it is kind of a group which The groups offer:

1) space for people to explore what climate change means for themselves, their families and their aspirations
2) permission to share their hopes, doubts and anxieties
3) time to work through the conflicts between intention, social pressure and identity
4) reliable, well-researched information and practical guidance on what will make a difference
5) support in creating a personal plan for change

They charge you for 6 to 8 sessions and they charge you for the handbook manuals. They say that they can cut your carbon footprint by half. Interesting.

Check out the site and find out more if the center exists near your area!