This May, Boyan Slat and his team of The Ocean Cleanup will launch their first fully operational Ocean Cleanup system in the Great Pacific Ocean. The system intends to collect vast amounts of plastic within the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. There is a general consensus that a colossal 6 to 8 billion metric tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans each year. Scientist estimate that 100,000 sea mammals and millions of sea birds and fish deaths each year are caused by plastic ingestion or entanglement.
Tragically, plastic disintegrates fast in the ocean. The influence of salt water and the Sun’s UV-rays contribute to the decomposition of plastic in ever smaller pieces that end up in the marine food chain. The Ocean Cleanup system is here to put a stop to this development by remediating 50% of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch before 2026. At Greenmatch we write about renewable energy solutions and report on the progress of initiatives like The Ocean Cleanup.
The Ocean Cleanup managed to develop a system that is able to collect floating pieces of plastic debris. Although this is a victory for environmentalist, no lasting comfort can be taken from that. Humans have to come up with plastic remediation solutions that can operate in areas where the Ocean Cleanup system will not work. This project is merely the beginning and not an end solution to the problem of marine plastic waste.
Many of us know the environmental issues of air travel, over-consumption and fast fashion. But what about the very real damage that litter can do? Money Guru, a financial advice website, has looked at the tangible cost litter has on individuals and the environment.
With 46,000 pieces of plastic for every square metre of ocean, and 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every year, this is an ever-growing problem. Furthermore, the RSPCA receives over 7,000 calls a year about animals who have been injured by litter. Not only that, but littering attracts rodents who pass on disease, meaning that it’s not only animals who are being increasingly hurt by discarded rubbish.
As well as the physical cost, the UK spends £1bn each year cleaning up litter, this money comes from taxes which could otherwise fund 33,000 nurses and over 4,000 libraries. In recent years there has been a huge strain on the NHS and public spending, if litter was reduced then there would be more money available for the government to spend in these areas.
Luckily, there are deterrents in place to prevent littering, such as fines for littering and fly tipping. And we know that this is a relatively recent problem, littering has increased by 500% since the 1960s, meaning it is in direct correlation with our increasingly consumerist society.
As society has grown used to throwing away, rather than making do and mending, our tendency to throw rubbish onto the street and out of car windows. Therefore, despite the deterrents in place, there is still a very real need to reduce littering to improve the environment.
Read on for Money Guru’s full piece, filled with information on the cost of littering and the things that can be done to reduce that cost.
Half of all the packaged and processed foods in your nearest supermarket contain palm oil, a cheap and versatile product whose growth also happens to have dreadful environmental consequences.
The palm oil industry is booming but at the same time is responsible for cutting down literally millions of acres of rainforest, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia, the countries that make 88% of the globe's supplies of palm oil. This means countless vital rainforest species are being pushed right to the edge of extinction, and the wildfires that break out as a result of the deforestation, fanned by climate change, have led to a thick blanket of smog so bad it's breaking every air pollution record.
Now Norway's food chain contains almost no palm oil
Since the year 2000 palm oil production has more than tripled. But the small yet determined nation of Norway has brought about a dramatic change in the face of all this wanton destruction. Their long term national consumer boycott went viral, and it means that Norwegian food producers, who used 15,000 tons of palm oil in 2011, cut their palm oil use by two thirds in 2012, thanks to eight major food producers slashing their palm oil use by just short of ten thousand tons, a drop of more than 60%.
“Stop eating the rainforest”
The campaign in question asked Norwegians to ‘stop eating the rainforest', and it proved an uncannily powerful message. These days all the nation's food products are produced either completely without palm oil or with only very tiny amounts of it.
The Rainforest Foundation Norway and Green Living launched the campaign to expose the link between palm oil production, deforestation and social conflicts in Indonesia and Malaysia, to cut the country's consumption of palm oil in foods, and force Norwegian food producers to demand traceability and transparency from their palm oil suppliers. It was designed to fix the status quo: an almost complete lack of traceability and transparency in palm oil supply chains.
Targeting all Norway's biggest food producers, the campaign involved a survey, meetings with food producers, an online guide for the consumer, the tactical harnessing of traditional and social media, a nationwide petition plus lots of readily-available information and news about the palm oil industry.
Let's roll it out!
The campaign worked beautifully in Norway, and there's no real reason why it shouldn't work just as well elsewhere. Let's hope we see similar campaigns being rolled out in other nations where foods commonly contain palm oil.
If every Christmas tree bought in the UK every year was put end to end, they would span the distance of a return trip to New York City from the UK. Combined with 4,500 tonnes of tin foil, 13,500 tonnes of glass and enough wrapping paper to wrap around the equator nine times, the amount of waste produced over the festive period is a serious cause for concern.
Figures from Wrap (Waste and Resources Action Programme), the government-funded body that promotes recycling, show that England’s households create nearly three quarters of a million tonnes of extra waste at Christmas, amounting to five black bin bags per household.
What’s more, the body estimates that the extra festive household waste created is equivalent to generating 1.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, the same as producing enough energy to enable all households in Leeds and Doncaster to watch TV for a year.
Figures from writer and editor Carolyn Fry have revealed that small household generally throws out two extra black bags of rubbish at Christmas, creating 14.4kg of waste, generating 26.4kg of carbon dioxide. A medium household throws out five extra bags, creating 36kg of waste and generating 66kg of CO2, while a large house disposes of eight bags, equivalent to 57.6kg of waste or 105.6kg of CO2.
The issue of excess waste goes beyond the consumer, starting early in the supply chain at the raw materials stage and continuing far after the disposal stage. But there are certain actions that households can take to make the festive period more environmentally friendly, dramatically reducing the amount of waste that is put out.
In this post, we will explore ways in which households can dramatically reduce the amount of waste they generate over Christmas.
- Make the most of your council doorstep collection service
- Find out where your local recycling facilities are and use them
- Empty tins of biscuits can be recycled through local bottle banks or in doorstep collections that accept metal cans
- Cardboard sections from selection boxes, packets of stuffing and games/toy boxes can be recycled through cardboard doorstep collection services and at paper banks
- Don’t forget the little things – foil from mince pies can be recycled
- Fruit and vegetable peelings can be added to your compost bin
- Don’t forget that empty bottles of household cleaner – they can also be recycled via your doorstep collection service, or plastic bottle banks
- You can also recycle your tree after Christmas, although only a small number of people actually do so.
If you are having family members around for Christmas dinner, it’s a good idea to adopt eco-friendly habits. Let everyone know that you want to recycle, and inform everyone where the best place is to put their waste.
Christmas can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Going into the festive period with a plan about what you want to recycle means you can avoid additional stress further down the line. Just don’t forget to enjoy it!
By John Haken, Director, WF Denny
Ever since the UN’s FAO released their report Livestock's Long Shadow back in 2006, the relationship between animals and the planet has increasingly been on the minds of environmentalists. These days, climate change is frequently quoted as one of the main reasons to give up meat. There is even talk of the UK state, not known for their progressive policies on climate change, introducing a ‘Meat Tax’ to combat obesity and our growing carbon footprint.
Meat consumption as it currently stands
That said, in the developing parts of the world meat consumption is on the rise, China is certainly one of these countries. Even in India, where a vegetarian diet is an integral part of their culinary tradition, where there are more vegetarians than the rest of the world put together, people are starting to ditch their veggie ways. As the middle classes of the developing world start to widen, their appetite for meat begins to increase. And so, believe it or not, meat consumption and production is thriving on the global scale; livestock production is expected to double by 2050.
However, much of the Western world is bucking this global trend, and reasons such as climate change are encouraging them to eat less meat. According to the NHS around 1 in 50 Brits are now vegetarian.
A Vegetarian world
A Berlin-based startup, MEDIGO, took notice of this growing Western dietary craze and decided to make an infographic taking this phenomenon to its extreme. They created an imaginary world where everyone, for some mysterious reason, turned vegetarian overnight?
In their new (meat free) world, the days of bacon, steaks and fried chicken would be over. The days of the vegetable will have just begun.
Unsurprisingly, it seems this massive global overhaul of our diets would be a true shock to the system. Eating habits, national economies and the world’s wildlife will have to drastically change.
But it doesn’t look like its all bad news. According to MEDIGO, cutting meat from your diet can seriously improve your chances of not developing some major killers, notably heart disease and various types of cancers.
As for the environment, further data reveals the livestock industry emits more greenhouse gases than the world’s planes, trains and automobiles, put together! Beyond this, a portion of meat is surprisingly draining on our global water and land resources.
This infographic suggests that next time you choose a salad over a burger, you could be making a difference not just to your health, but the planet too.
After more than 300,000 tonnes of card packaging is thrown away and the equivalent of 2 million turkeys, our Christmas waste is overwhelming. The average household produces more than a tonne of waste every year – and it’s during the festive period that we waste the most.
Despite pushes for recycling and responsible resource use globally, waste is still a major problem virtually everywhere. But which country produces the most waste?
Annual worldwide urban waste is estimated to more than triple, from 0.68 to 2.2 billion tonnes per year. More commonly known rubbish or trash, Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) consists of everyday items such as product packaging, grass clippings, food scraps, and newspapers.
The top producers of waste are small island nations. These include:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- Sri Lanka
Waste accumulation in places like Kuwait, Antigua and Sri Lanka lack proper landfills to dispose of all the waste, and unfortunately none of these countries have the necessary infrastructure for proper sanitation and waste removal. On the flip side, the more urbanised and industrialised a country become, the more waste it produces.
The top producers in the developed world are:
- New Zealand
- United States
Are you doing enough to recycle, reduce and reuse? Make sure this Christmas isn’t a wasteful one!
Click to view the Christmas Waste interactive graphic from eC02Greetings
The world is producing more food and making a greater profit than at any time in history. Yet, we are wasting more food than ever before.
With Christmas and the inevitable gastronomic feast looming food waste is an important issue consumers need to be aware of.
The USA wastes $218bn worth of food each year.
Over the Christmas period it is predicted that Brits will waste:
- 1.5 million bottles of Prosecco
- 2 million turkeys
- 5 million Christmas puddings
- 74 million mince pies
The implications for the planet, for humans and for animals is shocking. In this piece we take a look at some of the statistics that are a stark reminder as to the seriousness of the problem.
There are lots of things you can do to help cut food waste this Christmas, so we’ve also included some tips to help you get started.
At a time when the global economy is producing more food and making a greater profit than at any time in history, one could be forgiven for thinking that the issue of feeding the global population is yesterday’s news. However, both in the UK and across the world, we are wasting more food than ever before.
This has a huge financial cost and an even greater implication for humans, animals and the planet itself.
- The UK wastes the equivalent of 1.3 billion meals every year
- YET, 590,000 people in the UK used food banks in 2016/17
- £10 billion worth of food thrown away by households each year
- BUT, 60% of people believe they never waste food
A little goes a long way when it comes to cutting down on food waste. In This infographic we take a closer look at some of the shocking statistics around food wastage. A stark reminder of the cost to our pockets, our population and our planet.
Smoking is a grave problem causing serious health issues like chronic lung diseases, heart diseases, pregnancy-related issues, cancers etc. Though the human race is aware of its ill effects, every day thousands of teens stepping into their adulthood take their first puff, and consequently leads to the increase in the number of daily smokers and chain smokers. The dreadful first smoke is usually done in enthusiasm but then engulfs the young adults in its addiction.
It is appalling that smoking is not only injurious to the one who smokes but to other mankind and the environment as well. From the start of cultivation to processing and towards the end stop of being stocked in the store, and finally, the disposal of the cigarette butts as litter is another major issue resulting in water pollution. The whole journey of Tobacco impacts the mother-nature irreparably.
Here is an Infographic from Gray Haze which enlightens with some eye-opening statistics about the effect of Smoking on the environment.
Whether or not you’ve heard of palm oil, you likely consume it or use it on a regular basis. Since the 1970s the demand for vegetable oil rose dramatically and so began the era of large-scale oil palm plantations. Palm oil is considered one of the most high quality and versatile vegetable oils because it can be separated into distinct oils with different properties. Because of its versatility, palm oil has replaced animal fat and vegetable oils in many of our favorite products. Today, palm oil is used as a cooking oil; a main ingredient in margarine; an ingredient in ice cream, baked goods and ready-to-eat meals; a base for waxes, lipstick, polishes, soaps, shampoos and most liquid detergents; a biofuel; and as an industrial lubricant. But despite its usefulness, the mass production of palm oil has far reaching environmental and social impacts.
The Rise of Palm Oil Production
Palm oil comes from the oil palm tree (Elaeisguineensis) which is native to West Africa. Traditionally, the oil palm tree was cultivated for subsistence and used as a food, fiber and medicine. They were originally grown in traditional small-scale agricultural systems and inter-planted with other perennial and annual crops. The oil palm tree thrives in the tropics of Africa, but since the rise of palm oil plantations it is also found in Latin America, Asia-Pacific, and the Caribbean. Palm oil cultivation is considered one of the fastest-growing monocrop plantations in these regions.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), most of the palm oil industry’s expansion occurred in Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2000, the world was covered in 9.7 million hectares of palm oil plantations, and these two countries accounted for just over half of the total area. Nigeria had just over 30% of the world’s total plantation area. Since then, the palm oil plantations have continued to expand because of their high yield (per hectare per year) compared to other vegetable oils. Unfortunately, this productivity has also come at a great cost to wildlife and humans.
Cheap Oil That’s Costly to Communities
Companies that make their way into less developed countries to start new plantations can have negative social impacts on local communities. Companies run into problems with local communities when they start to challenge the communities’ rights and livelihood. When tropical forests have been cut down to create or expand plantations, forest-dwelling peoples have been displaced. The appeal for starting palm oil plantations has been in part because of its low production costs compared to other vegetable oils. Costs tend to be lower with palm oil production because of low labor costs within plantations. In the countries where oil palm trees can grow, workers often receive low wages for their labor.
The Drastic Effect of Palm Oil on the Environment
Two of the most serious environmental offenses of palm oil plantations are the large scale conversion of tropical forests and the loss of critical habitats for endangered species. To establish large palm oil plantations, companies have to clear enough space to start planting their monocrop of oil palm trees. Many of the world’s tropical forests have been clear cut to make way for large scale palm oil production. According to research conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Princeton University, they estimated that 55-60% of Malaysia’s and Indonesia’s oil palm expansion that happened between 1990 and 2005 wiped out virgin forests.
Despite their high ecological significance and biodiversity, large areas of forest continue to be cut down. As a result, critical habitats for endangered species such as rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans are compromised and destroyed. Species that once thrived in these tropical forests become displaced and suffer from a lack of food and habitat. Many of the world’s most biodiverse forests are being threatened and destroyed by palm oil plantations. For example, Indonesia’s Leuser Ecosystem is under threat, even though it’s the last place where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans co-exist. Not only does this ecosystem consists of rainforests, but includes mountainous terrain and peat swamps.
Other negative impacts of large scale palm oil production include: soil erosion and pollution, water pollution, and contribution to climate change. Palm oil plantations are usually planted in rows up and down hillsides, and since they’re not planted along the contours, erosion becomes an issue. The soil and waterways also become polluted from chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and effluent that comes from the palm oil processing mills. The conversion of biodiverse tropical forests to monocropped plantations reduces the “carbon sink” capacity of the world’s forests. According to WWW, “tropical peatland forests in Indonesia… store more carbon per unit area than any other ecosystem in the world.”
Palm Oil: A Growing Problem
In more ways than once, the deforestation of these tropical ecosystems is harmful to humans and wildlife. Palm oil has received praise for its versatility and low productions costs, but in reality these plantations have many negative impacts on the environment and the communities that rely and live within these diverse forests. Next time you go to the store, hopefully you’ll think twice about buying palm oil. Look carefully at the ingredients of products and opt instead for more sustainable alternatives.