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January 30, 2015

Indian suppliers to MNCs like L’Oreal, Dell may lose out if they fail to address climate concerns

With climate change rising to the top of the global agenda, Indian companies supplying to multinational chains like L’Oreal, Dell, Unilever, Colgate Pamolive, Jaguar Land Rover are likely to lose out if they don’t start taking measures that address concerns about climate change, particularly the amount of carbon produced.

UK-based international organisation, CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) states in a study released on Tuesday that many Indian companies supplying to global chains are not altering their production processes in light of climate and water risks.

Global chains are of the view that physical climate, regulatory and consumer preference changes is making it absolutely necessary to ensure that companies in its supply chains take steps to ensure their production is responsive to the growing levels of climate risk.

Suppliers from India, Brazil, and Canada, who participated in the research, reported fewer emission reduction initiatives than the global average. This despite the fact that those companies that are orienting their production processes to climate and water risks the best return on investment in terms of emissions reductions and monetary savings.

Around 130 Indian companies supplying to major global chains responded to CDP. Only 25 per cent of the Indian suppliers consider physical climate risk, such as floods, extreme rainfall, droughts, as an issue to be addressed.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

January 29, 2015

Global supply chain still yawns at climate risks, CDP finds

Barbara Grady
Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 3:00am

Climate change warnings keep growing more dire, and the world's business leaders now even cite water crises and extreme weather as top economic risks. And yet the supply chains leading to many of the world's biggest companies reflect only middling attention to these issues.

That's the conclusion of a new report by CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project, and Accenture Strategy, which was informed by responses from 3,396 supply chain companies that sell goods or services to 66 of the world’s largest multinational corporations. Those multinationals, including companies like Microsoft, L'Oreal and Coca-Cola, are part of CDP's Supply Chain Program and procure $1.3 trillion worth of goods and services.

Most supply chain companies around the world are making “marginal or no improvements” in developing sustainable practices and climate resiliency, according to the report entitled “Supply Chain Sustainability Revealed: A Country Comparison.” Only 22 percent of supply chain companies are implementing low-carbon energy projects. About 55 percent have assessed their water risks, even though droughts and floods are increasingly common.

“What is concerning is that, despite the increase in the number of companies assessing and reporting on their emissions, the data suggests that suppliers are making either marginal or no improvements,” said Gary Hanifan, managing director of Accenture Strategy.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

January 29, 2015

What plastic can learn from steel in a circular economy

Mike Biddle
Thursday 29 January 2015 14.24 GMT

The global plastics industry generates over 280m metric tons in waste every year (pdf). The majority ends up in landfills, incinerators or as marine and land litter.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 32m tons of plastics waste were generated in 2012, with only about 9% recovered for recycling (collected, sorted, baled and sold). Actual recycling rates are even lower because not everything in the bales is recycled. This is especially true with mixed plastic bales, which are mostly sent to developing countries for “low-cost” recycling.

And this is not just an issue of waste or disposal. These environmental health and safety practices impact workers and local ecosystems. The by-products and waste from these processors are often disposed of in ways that would be considered illegal in the countries where the waste originated, including dumping into “self-cleaning” streams that eventually find their way into oceans.

Following in the footsteps of steel
Plastics are much more valuable by weight than steel, which has an extremely high recycling rate. Interestingly, virgin steel companies often said that steel recycling would never expand beyond “downcycling” – a method of recycling that involves breaking an item down into its component elements or materials – into applications like reinforcing bars. Today, however, the biggest steel companies in the US are based on mini-mills and recycled steel. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), “steel produced by predominantly scrap-fed electric-arc furnaces accounted for more than 60% of the total raw steel produced in the United States in 2013.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

January 29, 2015

Almost half of EU freshwaters suffer from chemical pollution

The health of almost half of all European freshwaters is at risk from organic chemical pollution, finds new research. The study, a continental-scale risk assessment of the potential effects of toxic organic chemicals on freshwater ecosystems, based its conclusions on data for over 200 pollutants measured at 4000 monitoring sites across Europe.

Freshwater ecosystems provide a number of important ecosystem services to humans, such as clean drinking water, irrigation, food and recreation. They are also important habitats for wildlife which help to create and maintain these ecosystem services. These important environments can be damaged by organic chemical pollutants from human activities, such as pesticide use or fossil fuel use, which risks the loss of the ecosystem services and biodiversity.

This new study examined the risk posed by these chemicals to freshwater ecosystems at a continental scale. The researchers used monitoring data (collected in the European Environment Agency’s Waterbase database) from 4 000 sites spanning 91 river basins throughout Europe. These data contained information on the average and maximum annual concentrations of 223 organic chemical pollutants.

They set two ‘risk thresholds’ for three different groups of indicator species (fish, invertebrates and algae). The first was a high concentration ‘acute risk threshold’ (ART), likely to cause death, and the second was a lower concentration ‘chronic risk threshold’ (CRT), likely to cause long-term impacts, for example, decreased breeding rate or increased vulnerability to diseases.

Read more at "Science for Environment Policy": European Commission DG.

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category : Topics

January 28, 2015

Global Plastic Production Rises, Recycling Lags

Washington, D.C.—For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year, writes Gaelle Gourmelon, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article (www.worldwatch.org).

Worldwide plastic production has been growing as the durable, primarily petroleum-based material gradually replaces materials like glass and metal. Today, an average person living in Western Europe or North America consumes 100 kilograms of plastic each year, mostly in the form of packaging. Asia uses just 20 kilograms per person, but this figure is expected to grow rapidly as economies in the region expand.

According to the United Nations Environmental Program, between 22 percent and 43 percent of the plastic used worldwide is disposed of in landfills, where its resources are wasted, the material takes up valuable space, and it blights communities. Recovering plastic from the waste stream for recycling or for combustion for energy generation has the potential to minimize these problems. However, much of the plastic collected for recycling is shipped to countries with lower environmental regulation. And burning plastic for energy requires air emissions controls and produces hazardous ash, all while being relatively inefficient.

Read more at Worldwatch Institute.

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category : Topics

January 26, 2015

World's largest palm oil trader commits to zero deforestation

Oliver Balch
Monday 26 January 2015 07.00 GMT

Let’s start with some good news. Wilmar International, the largest palm oil trader in the world, recently committed not to engage in deforestation. A year on from announcing the policy, the Singapore-based agribusiness was lauded in a report on deforestation-free supply chains (pdf) by the pro-transparency organisation CDP.

On the face of it, the praise appears merited. Wilmar’s new policy (which also includes a ban on developing palm on peat areas) stands to save more than 1.5 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020 – equivalent to the combined annual energy-related carbon emissions of Central and South America.

That’s all supposing the company can deliver, of course. So can it?

On its wholly owned, directly managed palm plantations, meeting its pledge should be straightforward. The real challenge arises with the franchised or independent smallholder farmers from whom Wilmar buys around one third of its raw supply.

Often farming in remote areas and with little regulatory oversight, smallholders are far more likely to engage in “slash-and-burn” forest clearance, excessive chemical use and other environmentally unsustainable agricultural practices. “Smallholders lack capacity [and] they are people who often don’t have choice,” says Simon Siburat, Wilmar’s group sustainability controller. “And they don’t really see the need to be certified,” he says.

It’s not just a problem for Wilmar. An estimated two-fifths of the world’s palm oil derives from plantations of fewer than 50 hectares, the general marker for a smallholding. Without the engagement of these farmers, palm oil will never be able to shake off its reputation as environmentally destructive.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

January 20, 2015

Tetra Pak rolls out world’s first plant-based cartons

By Medilyn Manibo
Tuesday 20 January 2015

Food packaging giant Tetra Pak announced on Wednesday that its carton package manufactured entirely from plant-based raw materials has arrived on the shelves of retail shops in Finland.

The Sweden-based firm said Finnish dairy producer Valio became the first company in the world to sell products packaged in Tetra Rex, which is made of certified paperboard cartons, bioplastic laminate films and necks and caps derived from sugarcane.

Valio is trying out the package with its Eila lactose-free semi-skimmed milk drink in retail outlets across Finland until the middle of March, and then based on feedback from consumers, the dairy firm will decide whether to adopt the cartons more broadly across its chilled product range.

Tetra Pak said the launch of the carton with all its components, including the plastic caps, made from biomass as a renewable source of raw materials instead of fossil-fuel based derivatives, signals an important milestone in the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability across its portfolio and supply chain.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

January 19, 2015

OECD report shows economic growth not hampered by green policies

The drive towards more sustainable, less-polluting economies does not result in lower productivity or reduced economic activity, a new study by the OECD has revealed. The study shows that while countries may initially experience a fall in economic growth as companies adapt to green regulations, what follows is generally a rebound period, with companies increasing productivity through enhancing innovation and taking advantage of new opportunities opened by the regulations.

Although more polluting companies have generally seen a downturn as a result of national efforts to combat climate change, the shortfall in production from these businesses has been picked up by companies with cleaner-business models, meaning the net effect has been minimal. The report stressed that to maintain or increase growth, green policies must be implemented in a manner that does not impede competition, or which presents an unreasonable “green administrative burden”.

Read more at ICLEI Europe.

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category : Topics

January 16, 2015

Dutch Rally Support for a Europe Wide Microplastic Ban

The Netherlands, Austria, Luxembourg, Belgium and Sweden recently issued a joint call to ban the microplastics used in personal care products, saying the measure will protect marine ecosystems - and seafood such as mussels - from contamination.
The joint statement that was forwarded to the European Union's 28 environment ministers stated that the elimination of microplastics in products, and in particular, in cosmetics and detergents, "is of utmost priority".

Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic that have been added to possibly thousands of personal care products sold around the world. These microbeads - hardly visible to the naked eye - flow straight from the bathroom drain into the sewer system.

Not biodegradable, once microplastics enter the marine environment, they are extremely hard to remove. Scientists have recently warned that microplastics might have a harmful effect on human health via contamination of the food chain. For instance, some evidence suggests that microplastics can absorb persistent organic pollutants and facilitate their transfer within marine food webs.

Although it is evident that alternatives to microplastics are available, hundreds of tonnes of microplastics are still being released onto the EU market each year.

The Netherlands is particularly concerned that seafood - including its national production of mussels - could suffer from microplastic pollution. "Zeeuwse mosselen", or mussels from the Dutch province of Zeeland, are a very popular and typical Dutch speciality seafood dish.

Read more at UNEP News Centre.

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category : Topics

January 15, 2015

Palm oil risk to Africa as prospectors eye swaths of land

Josephine Moulds
Thursday 15 January 2015 07.00 GMT

Palm oil has long been produced in Africa on small-scale, diversified plantations. A report on palm oil, published last year by the NGO Grain, notes that tens of millions of people in Africa, most of them women, rely on this native tree for food and livelihoods. But the landscape is changing.

Booming global demand for palm oil and limited room for the industry’s expansion in Asia have led large palm oil producers to look towards Africa. Companies are also betting on an explosion in demand from the European Union for palm oil as a sustainable fuel, and Africa is the closest palm oil-producing region.

These producers are being welcomed into Africa with open arms. Governments desperate for foreign investment are scrambling to sign deals, offering companies cheap land and tax holidays in the hope of generating jobs and development.

Politicians are struggling with the supposed trade-off between growth and conservation. Liberia’s finance minister, Amara Konneh, has said the country is “worried about the ecological consequences, but we have to grow the economy. We have to create jobs for our own people. How we do it sustainably is where we are struggling.”

Swaths of land have been allocated to foreign companies for oil palm plantations. Grain lists 66 deals (pdf) covering nearly 4m hectares over the past decade and a half.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

January 14, 2015

What's driving the clean vehicle revolution?

Kristin Meek
Wednesday, January 14, 2015 - 2:00am

Americans are on the road to greener vehicles. Over the last five years, the number of SUV models getting at least 25 miles per gallon has doubled, while the number of car models achieving at least 40 mpg has increased sevenfold. By 2025, cars and light trucks will be almost twice as efficient as new cars are today, thanks to recent greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Transportation.

These lower fuel costs are expected to save drivers an average $3,400 to $5,000 over the life of the vehicle, compared with 2016 cars and trucks.

A greener fleet of vehicles is also good news for the planet, as passenger cars and light trucks account for about 16.5 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that new policies can drive efficient vehicle use even further, lowering emissions and saving consumers money.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

January 12, 2015

Smart strategies to go green can improve your health

As 2015 begins, how about committing to resource-consumption choices that can reduce your impact on the environment while improving your health?

We have learned that food choices involve consideration of multiple attributes such as nutritional values, freshness, safety of storage and packaging, limits on specific ingredients which may cause sensitivity or be unhealthy, and accounting for point of origin. In the same fashion, product choices should consider multiple attributes.

Consider the life cycle of products you purchase ? what are the impacts of material extraction and manufacturing, transportation, use and disposal. Often we make purchases in a hurry and focus on the tag price without considering the costs associated with a product's use or disposal. Buying products with recycled content reduces impact of material extraction and helps build the market for recycling. Reusing products and buying durable products reduces impacts all along the life cycle, so that is an even better choice.

It is sometimes better to pay a little more for something initially, and use less of it or reuse it. Planning purchases is important so you buy what you need but not more than you need. Little decisions made every day can add up to big changes in your eco- and healthy- lifestyle.

Some choices, such as retrofitting with LED lamps or paying for regular maintenance of equipment, may seem like money you don’t want to spend at first. However, when looking at the cost over a longer term, these choices make excellent financial sense. When re-lamping, get a redesign at the same time. Your workspace may have been modified since the original design and you may need fewer fixtures when switching to LED lamps. Along with energy savings, new lighting also provides an updated look and can contribute to higher productivity.

Similarly, better-quality and more flavorful foods can satisfy in lower quantity. If the food you eat is better quality, it may be more expensive, but planning to eat less of it allows you to stay within your budget.

Read more at GreenBiz.

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category : Topics

January 12, 2015

Chitosan: Sustainable alternative for food packaging

A research group of the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country has used a material known as chitosan, made from crustacean shells, to substitute petroleum by-products.

Riverbanks and oceans are full of plastic; there are bits of this material in the organism of a large number of fish, etc. Packaging and wrappers made from petroleum by-products are seriously damaging the environment. The search for less harmful materials has driven many pieces of research; among them that of Itsaso Leceta.

This researcher has shown in her work entitled “Quality attributes of map packaged ready-to-eat baby carrots by using chitosan-based coatings,” that chitosan films are effective in preserving some of the properties of carrots as well as in preserving them longer. What is more, chitosan films are less harmful for the environment than those made of plastic in various impact categories.

Food items are covered with plastic films to make them last longer and protect them from microbes. The environment, however, is seriously affected by the use of this material. The plastic bottles and films present everywhere in our civilization take between 100 and 400 years to degrade. So the quest for alternative materials to plastics produced from petroleum is an environmental priority.

Various products and substances are used to manufacture these materials: cellulose, potatoes, etc.; and in this case, chitosan.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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category : Topics

January 9, 2015

Forget carbon offsetting, insetting is the future

Tim Smedley
Friday 9 January 2015 14.24 GMT

Planting trees for carbon offsets is little better than green-washing in many people’s eyes. But what if this sustainability cliche were turned on its head ? if trees were planted to support agroforestry within a business’s direct supply chain? Welcome to the world of insetting. Coined and promoted by sustainability standards Plan Vivo and Pur Projet, it’s a potentially powerful concept that can benefit businesses and the environment.

Offsetting may have long had a bad name (George Monbiot has strongly voiced his concerns), but it remains big business. Commodities Now reported that the globally-traded carbon market was expected to reach ?64bn in 2014. If even a small slice of that were diverted towards sustainability schemes within supply chains, it could have a big impact.

The Accor hotel group, for example, has 470,000 rooms across 92 countries, and a water and electricity footprint akin to a 1 million inhabitant city. Its sustainable development manager, Arnaud Herrmann, explains that instead of offsetting, “we wanted to support projects that made sense with our own activities. The hotel industry is very water-intensive … and food and beverage represents about 40% of Accor’s turnover. So it was natural to support local projects committed to sustainable water and agriculture.”

Teaming up with Pur Projet, Accor identified the potential to bolster community groups within its supply chain. One such project in Morocco planted olive groves and helped to set up a female-run olive oil business. “Women in the area can have trouble finding work,” says Herrmann, “so we provide the budget to plant the olive trees, the women of the region take care of the trees and transform the olives into olive oil, and part of the olive oil produced is sold back to our hotels.”

Accor now has similar projects in other countries growing rice and vegetables. It also supports more traditional tree-planting for CO2 reduction, but does so only in areas close to its hotels that its clients can see. Herrmann believes this is valuable for marketing and customer loyalty.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

January 8, 2015

A new study urges leaving fossil fuels in the ground. How will it impact business?

Katharine Gammon
Thursday 8 January 2015 23.57 GMT

To prevent the Earth from overheating, countries must leave vast reserves of fossil fuels untouched underground. That’s the conclusion of a new report published this week in the journal Nature. Trillions of dollars of known and extractable coal, oil and gas ? including deposits in Canada and the Arctic ? cannot be burned if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the agreed-upon goal of 2C.

While much of the carbon math is known ? about three to five times more carbon in reserve than can be burned to stay within the world-set temperature limit ? this is the first study to look at exactly where those fossil fuels are.

Around the globe, 82% of current fossil fuels must be left underground. In the US, Australia and Russia, more than 90% of coal reserves must be unused, and in China and India, two-thirds of coal reserves are not to be burned in the scenario. The researchers question why fossil fuel companies continue to pour billions (approximately $670bn in 2013) into the search for new oil and gas when there is more underground than humans can safely use.

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

January 7, 2015

Procurement platform helps reduce CO2 by 65,000 tonnes

Public tenders published through the GPP 2020 project have saved the equivalent of over 65,000 tonnes of CO2 since the project began, more than the CO2 produced by 10,000 average European households each year. The project, co-funded by the Intelligent Energy Europe programme of the European Commission, is an online resource where low-carbon tenders are accessible to procurers and public authorities across a wide variety of topics, from the purchase of white goods to the leasing of green vehicles. The available tenders have also saved an impressive 15,000 tonnes of oil equivalent.

The savings are based on a comparison between emissions of previous, or standard, tenders and those of the new tenders that have been implemented by the purchasing partners of GPP 2020. To date, 15 tender models have been uploaded to the GPP 2020 website, outlining exactly how different councils across Europe have implemented low-carbon tenders. These models include procurement approaches and award criteria that can be implemented by other public authorities.

Read more at ICLEI Europe.

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category : Topics

January 6, 2015

Toyota Takes Fuel-Cell Cars Further, Patents Are Free

In an effort to get fuel-cell cars off the ground, Toyota is giving automakers free access to some 5680 patents, following in the footsteps of Elon Musk, who did the same last year for Tesla's electric car.

Toyota is making the patents available through 2020, "the initial market introduction period" of fuel cell vehicles. And it will soon also make patents available for hydrogen fueling stations.

"By allowing royalty-free use of FCV-related patent licenses, Toyota is going one step further as it aims to promote the widespread use of FCVs and actively contribute to the realization of a hydrogen-based society," the company says.

In December, Toyota started selling the world's first mass-produced fuel cell vehicle - the Mirai sedan - in Japan, and sales begin late this year on the east and west coast of the US, and in some European countries, like UK, Denmark and Germany. The goal is to sell more than 3,000 cars in the next two years, but it may well exceed that given the thousands of pre-orders from government agencies and fleets.

With two hydrogen tanks under the seats, Mirai has a range of 400-435 miles, and can accelerate from 0-60 miles per hour in 9 seconds. A powertrain with an electric motor and fuel cell stack replaces the gasoline engine. It will retail around $45,000 after federal and state incentives in the US, and fueling is free in California.

Read more at SustainableBusiness.com.

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category : Topics

January 6, 2015

Researchers link air pollution to heart diseases

Responsible for 400,000 deaths each year globally, air pollution has yet to be sufficiently addressed by the world's governments, researchers have warned. EurActiv France reports.

Air pollution damages the heart. According to an expert position paper published in the European Heart Journal, many types of cardiovascular disease are linked to poor air quality.

Not only does air pollution exacerbate existing heart problems, but it also appears to play a role in the development of heart disease in otherwise healthy people, the researchers said. There is particularly strong evidence of the harmful effects of suspended particles, as opposed to gas pollution, they said.

Air pollution is made up of thousands of different particles and gasses. Among the most important pollutants, from a health point of view, are particles in suspension and gasses like ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), volatile organic compounds (like benzene), carbon monoxide (CO) and sulphur dioxide (SO2). The burning of fossil fuels releases soot particles, nitrogen oxides and sulphur directly into the atmosphere. The main sources of NO2 are road traffic, power generation, industrial processes and domestic heating.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) ranks heart disease as the world's leading cause of premature death. In Europe alone cardiovascular diseases kill 4 million citizens every year, 1.9 million of which come from the EU, according to the European Society of Cardiology.

Read more at EurActiv.

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category : Topics

January 6, 2015

How new technologies are helping mining companies to come clean

Oliver Balch
Tuesday 6 January 2015 17.48 GMT

The devastating effects of mine wastewater are regrettably obvious: polluted rivers and streams, dead aquatic life and countless hardships for downstream populations. Mining companies are under increasing pressure to contain, control and clear up contaminated water from their operations.

One knock-on effect is the mining industry’s emergence as “one of the most dynamic” markets for water and wastewater treatment, according to a recent report by industry analysts Frost & Sullivan. By 2016, the industry’s demand for water-treatment equipment and services is expected to be worth $3.6bn (£2.3bn).

While regulatory trends explain much of this growth, another force is also at work: the rising value of metal recovery. Historically, wastewater treatment was catergorised exclusively as a business cost, but advances in metal-removal technologies now mean there could be money to be made too. “Metal recovery is especially interesting on the precious metals side, such as gold, copper and [other] highly valuable metals,” says Fredrick Royan, global research director for environment markets at Frost & Sullivan.

Almost any marketable metal extracted from wastewater could prove profitable. And any revenue stream that helps offset the expense of mandatory wastewater merits consideration, according to Adrian Brown, a wastewater consultant and former president of the International Mine Water Association (IMWA). “[Mining firms] are pretty much stuck with treating the wastewater whether it’s economic or not,” he says. “So suddenly any metal recovery is beneficial in the sense that it has the ability to either reduce your project costs or, at the very least, to dispose of the extracted material from your project at zero or no cost.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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category : Topics

January 5, 2015

Sustainable mining: an inherent contradiction in terms?

Ucilia Wang
Monday 5 January 2015 19.50 GMT

Mining conjures up an ugly environmental image. Companies dig deep into the earth and use large amounts of energy and water to extract, process and transport minerals, leaving behind a devastating impact.

That image has come to define the mining industry, and it’s increasingly hurting its ability to make money. Now a new group is working to remake that reputation by changing some of the industry’s practices.

A white paper issued by the Kellogg Innovation Network at Northwestern University last month outlines key issues and ways to tackle them. The white paper is meant to serve as a framework to inspire more mining companies to develop sustainable projects that could also boost their profits.

In particular, it focuses on building good relationships with local communities most heavily impacted by mining operations. But it also pinpoints some of the significant troubles the mining industry faces as it seek to expand into more remote areas of the map.

Keeping tabs of the mining industry’s progress in adopting more sustainable approaches should be in everyone’s interest. The raw materials extracted by mining companies are powering the world’s growing population and its dependence on gadgets and other technologies. The industry supports roughly 45% of the world’s economic activities, according to the white paper. Yet it’s impossible to carry out large-scale mining without leaving social and environmental scars.

Read more at The Guardian.

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