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April 29, 2016

Commission delays ecodesign strategy for fear of offending UK businesses

By Cécile Barbière
Translated By Samuel White

Central to the Circular Economy Package, the 2015-2017 ecodesign strategy will not be presented by the Commission until autumn 2016. Some see this as an attempt not to upset UK businesses. EurActiv France reports.

Ecodesign, one of the pillars of public policy to promote the transition to a circular economy, is making slow progress at the European level.

The European Commission has still not published its much-awaited new ecodesign strategy for 2015-2017, a text which should provide the framework for the formulation of new, more efficient ecodesign standards for consumer products.

“We understand that the ecodesign strategy has always been on the agenda, but that it will not be presented before this autumn,” said a representative of the European Federation representing the European waste management industry (FEAD).

This lack of urgency has left many stakeholders deeply unsatisfied. “Ecodesign must play a determining role in a successful transition towards a circular economy,” the federation explained.

According to FEAD, 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage.

Read more at EurActiv.com.

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April 28, 2016

Eco Action Day marks 10 years of environmental leadership

By Vaidehi Shah
Thursday 28 April 2016

Office workers spend about eight hours a day surrounded by pinging e-mails, whirring photocopiers, and ringing phones; preoccupied with deadlines and meetings, employees might not make sustainability a top priority.

Companies, too, may drag their feet on making their offices more sustainable by investing in energy efficient technologies or switching to cleaner sources of energy, due to worries that these measures are too expensive or time-consuming.

Economic or time constraints are commonly cited reasons for a lack of environmental stewardship in the workplace, but one firm has spent a decade trying to change this.

Japanese electronics multinational firm Ricoh believes the office presents endless opportunities for companies to reduce their environmental impact and change people’s habits to be more sustainable through simple actions such as turning up the air conditioning or using their own cups for takeaway coffee.

This conviction led Ricoh to launch its Global Eco Action programme in 2006 in Japan to encourage its employees, corporate partners and other organisations to cut their energy use. The initiative is observed every June 5, the United Nations’ World Environment Day.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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April 25, 2016

Bioplastic Advancements Show Promise for Biodegradable Milk, Juice, Food Packaging

Food packaging is one of the main generators of packaging waste in developed countries. In 2012, each person in the European Union (EU) countries generated an average of 156.8kg of packaging waste, and plastic containers accounted for 19 percent of it. In total, 15.1 million tons of plastic packaging waste was generated. Of course, many organizations are working on cutting back this waste, and new materials are under development, including biodegradable bioplastics made from renewable materials or even waste.

For example, Italian biotech firm Bio-on has created first-of-its-kind, naturally biodegradable containers made of a combination of paper and bioplastic in collaboration with Tampere University of Technology Finland. The company says that the containers developed as part of the “Minerv PHA Extrusion Coating” project are also recyclable and safe for food and biomedical applications.

The packaging is based on Bio-on’s 100 percent biodegradable bioplastic called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), made from agricultural processing waste materials. PHA has numerous applications, from replacing plastics in electronics to biodegradable microbeads. For the new containers, the researchers used it to replace the polyethylene in current packaging, maintaining all of its impermeability.

Read more at the Sustainable Brands website.

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April 22, 2016

Developing countries take lead at climate change agreement signing

By Lyndal Rowlands

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 22 2016 (IPS) - An unprecedented 175 countries signed the Paris Climate Change Agreement here Friday, with 15 developing countries taking the lead by also ratifying the treaty.


The Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Palestine, Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Tuvalu, the Maldives, Saint Lucia and Mauritius all deposited their instruments of ratification at the signing ceremony, meaning that their governments have already agreed to be legally bound by the terms of the treaty.

Speaking at the opening of the signing ceremony UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon welcomed the record-breaking number of signatures for an international treaty on a single day but reminded the governments present that “records are also being broken outside.”

“Record global temperatures. Record ice loss. Record carbon levels in the atmosphere,” said Ban.

Ban urged all countries to have their governments ratify the agreement at the national level as soon as possible.

“The window for keeping global temperature rise well below two degrees Celsius, let alone 1.5 degrees, is rapidly closing,” he said.

In order for the Paris agreement to enter into force it must first be ratified by 55 countries representing 55 percent of global emissions.

Read more at Inter Press Service.

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April 22, 2016

Connecting Business with the Sustainable Development Goals: WBCSD at the UN General Assembly High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the SDGs

New York City, April 22 2016 – The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) assumed a prominent role in the context of a high level thematic debate which was held yesterday at the United Nations General Assembly in New York focusing on the topic of “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals”.

The debate feeds into the wider framework of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It took place on the eve of the historic signing ceremony for the Paris Climate Agreement, underlining the strong links between these areas.

The debate brought together leaders from around the globe; across politics, civil society and business. It aimed to raise awareness, foster opportunities for partnerships and catalyze action around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted in September 2015. These goals will shape the global development agenda through to 2030.

Read more at the WBCSD website.

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April 22, 2016

What are the most effective ways of promoting electric cars?

Norway has the highest battery-electric vehicle market share of any country worldwide. A new study investigated the incentives that have persuaded consumers to purchase electric vehicles in Norway, revealing that up-front price reductions (such as exemptions from purchase tax) are the most powerful incentives.

An astounding 80% of increases in CO2 emissions in the past 45 years have come from road transport. Electromobility — a road transport system in which vehicles use electricity for propulsion — has been proposed as a method of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector.

Indeed, electric vehicles emit less CO2 than conventional, internal combustion enginepowered cars but also provide enhanced energy efficiency, lower user costs and reduced noise and air pollution.

Norway, where this study was conducted, has become a global leader in electromobility. It has the highest market share of Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs, which use chemical energy stored in rechargeable battery packs to power electric motors) of any country worldwide. Over 70 000 BEVs are registered in the country, and they accounted for almost 20% of new car sales in 2015.

Read more at "Science for Environment Policy": European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, edited by SCU, The University of the West of England, Bristol.

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April 20, 2016

GPP 2020 project tenders save equivalent of more than nine oil tankers

The equivalent of more than 700,000 tonnes of CO2 has been saved through the green procurement activities of the EU-funded GPP 2020 project. The environmental savings amount to 5000 barrels of crude oil, or the contents of over nine oil tankers. Over the course of three years, more than 100 low-carbon tenders were implemented by over 40 public authorities in over ten countries.

The project worked with public procurers in Europe to implement innovative, environmentally-friendly tenders. These impressive tenders were the basis for models that make it easier to purchase low-carbon goods and services. Examples range from the procurement of more energy-efficient commercial dishwashers in Germany, which saw the CO2 equivalent of 207 flights from Barcelona to Ljubljana saved, to the joint procurement of an energy performance contract for Italian hospitals, which saved the astounding equivalent of the power generated by 341 football stadiums each year.

Read more at Sustainable procurement resource centre.

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April 15, 2016

Asian consumer firms need to buck up on sustainability: New report

By Vaidehi Shah
Friday 15 April 2016

Non-profit group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has published a report shining an uncomfortable spotlight on Asian consumer firms, which finds them severely lagging behind international standards on sustainability.

The international group said the lack of sustainability among Asian manufacturers of food, household, and personal care products is in part due to a lack of scrutiny from financiers.

In a new report, titled ‘Asian Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) – A Sustainability Guide for Financiers and Companies’, WWF noted that Asian companies and their investors are not doing enough when it comes to managing their environmental risks.

The report, launched at the third Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources conference organised by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, analysed sustainability and annual reports from 26 Asian FMCG firms to see how they managed the environmental impact of the three most important elements of their operations, namely water use, packaging, and ‘soft commodities’ such as palm oil, sugar, and meat.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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April 15, 2016

Simple steps to increase the uptake of sustainable service-based business models

‘Product-service systems’ are innovative business models designed to satisfy societal needs in an environmentally sustainable manner. This study explores how government policies could increase the uptake of these systems, outlining five key recommendations to achieve this, including schemes to raise awareness and involve local authorities.

There are concerns that the business models currently relied upon to satisfy basic human needs are environmentally unsustainable, with a growing number of voices calling for new models that recognise the value of ecological systems and natural capital for human welfare. Of the new business models proposed to satisfy societal needs in a sustainable manner, product-service systems (PSSs) have received particular attention.

PSSs describe when a business offers a mix of products and services, in contrast to the traditional product-driven models, and are designed to meet customer needs with reduced environmental impact. Examples include Michelin’s fleet-management solution, in which tyres are sold per kilometre driven to reduce fuel use and emissions, or Rolls Royce’s ‘Power by the Hour’ service for aircraft engines, whereby maintenance and repair services are charged per hour of flight.

Although the benefits of PSSs have been well recognised, adoption remains limited due to corporate, cultural and regulatory barriers. This paper studied how ‘demand–pull’ government policies — which influence demand for innovations, through economic incentives for example — may stimulate uptake of PSSs.

Read more at Science for Environment Policy: European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service, edited by SCU, The University of the West of England, Bristol.

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April 14, 2016

CO2 Emissions Down as EU Drivers Buy Cleaner Cars

COPENHAGEN, Denmark, April 14, 2016 (ENS) – New cars sold in the European Union are increasingly more fuel-efficient and beat the official CO2 emissions target handily, concludes the European Environment Agency (EEA) in a new report published today.

Official test results reported by national authorities to the agency show that last year new passenger cars sold emitted, on average, just 119.6 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre.

That’s a full eight percent below the official EU target set for 2015 – more than 10 g CO2/km below the 2015 target.

The EEA report is based on “reported emissions,” which the agency calls “the provisional data,” indicating some possible adjustments to come.

Since 2010, when monitoring started under current legislation, the EEA says official data shows emissions have fallen by more than 20 g CO2/km.

The European Union met its 2015 target of 130 g CO2/km in 2013 – two years ahead of schedule.

Last year, the average CO2 emissions of a new car sold was three percent lower than in the previous year.

In the next few years, the noose of regulations will tighten further to cut off CO2 emissions. Another, even lower, official target of 95 g CO2/km has to be met by 2021.

Read more at Environment News Service.

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April 13, 2016

Edible cutlery company wants us to eat our way out of plastic pollution

Valerie Flynn
Wednesday 13 April 2016 16.01 BST

Plastic waste covers our oceans and landfill. The past 70 years of plastic waste have resulted in pollution so ubiquitous scientists say it’s a marker of a new geological epoch, the manmade Anthropocene.

Plastic cutlery is a contributor to this enormous problem – estimates suggest the US alone uses 40bn plastic utensils a year – but the founder of Indian cutlery company Bakeys thinks he might have a solution. Cutlery you can eat.

The vegan friendly spoons are made from rice, wheat and sorghum, an ancient grain originally from Africa. Sorghum was chosen as a primary ingredient for its tough quality (it doesn’t go soggy in liquids) and because it is suitable for cultivation in semi-arid areas.

The cutlery comes in three flavours – savoury (salt and cumin), sweet (sugar) and plain. “It tastes like a cracker, a dry cracker because we don’t put any fat in it. It can complement any food. The taste of the food gets into the spoon,” says company founder Narayana Peesapaty.

Read more at The Guardian.

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April 13, 2016

SDG Compass: Newly released online resources and translations now available

Geneva, April 13 2016 – Businesses looking for more information about how to take action on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can now use the SDG Compass to access a new series of two-page briefing notes for each of the 17 SDGs.

The briefing notes summarize the challenges and aspirations underlying each of the SDGs, and give an overview of the role for business in their ultimate realization. They highlight the key themes of each SDG and outline the most commonly used corresponding business tools and indicators.

By collating the different points at which business can intersect with the SDG agenda, the briefing notes are an essential resource for companies seeking to better understand the SDGs and can help to explore opportunities for integrating the SGDs into company strategies and actions.

This latest online resource supports the wider SDG Compass guide for business, and complements the existing online inventories of business tools and indicators mapped against the SDGs. The SDG Compass itself has now also been translated into four languages: Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean, and more translations will be added over time.

Read more at the WBCSD website.

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April 12, 2016

European Commission publishes third edition of Buying Green! Handbook

The new edition of the Buying Green! Handbook, the European Commission’s leading publication for assisting public sector entities to purchase goods and services that have a lower impact on the environment, has been published. The Handbook, now in its third edition, has been fully revised to detail the possibilities of how contracting bodies can put green public procurement (GPP) policies into practice under the 2014 Procurement Directives. Given the importance of public sector spending in Europe, GPP is an important tool to help achieve environmental policy goals relating to climate change, resource use and sustainable consumption and production.

Guidance is provided on how environmental considerations can be included at each stage of the procurement process within the revised EU legal framework, practical examples drawn from contracting authorities across EU Member States are presented, and sector specific GPP approaches for buildings, food and catering services, road transport vehicles and energy-using products are outlined.

Read more at Sustainable procurement resource centre.
The third edition of the Buying Green! Handbook is available at the European Commission website.

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April 8, 2016

Trending: Levi Strauss, MIT Partnerships Advancing Textile Innovations

As Levi’s VP of Social and Environmental Sustainability, Michael Kobori, said last year in a blog post, along with a long-standing partnership with Goodwill to divert clothing from landfill and take-back programs for apparel for recycling into everything from building insulation to cushioning material, Levi Strauss’ circular economy ambitions include establishing an infrastructure that supports closed-loop products — recycling your old Levi’s into new ones — by 2020.

In the meantime, and in addition to Levi’s resource-conservation innovations such as its Water

So last week, Levi’s announced a new partnership with Italian upcyled fiber supplier Aquafil — maker of ECONYL®, a nylon made from waste materials such as used carpeting, discarded fishing nets and other marine plastics — to create a new men’s collection incorporating ECONYL, starting with Levi’s 522 men’s tapered pant.

Thanks to smart partnerships such as this, it’s been a busy few years for Aquafil as it continues to create a circular economy for textiles — we first heard of the company in 2013, when companies such as Interface joined Aquafil’s Healthy Seas initiative aimed at tackling the problem of marine litter. In 2015, the company partnered with Kelly Slater’s Outerknown label to incorporate ECONYL into its debut collection; and with Speedo USA on a take-back program for Speedo’s post-manufacturing swimwear scraps, which will be upcycled into ECONYL; and in February, Aquafil and Milliken created a custom ECONYL “green carpet” that greeted celebrity guests at Global Green’s 13th annual Pre-Oscar Party.

Read more at Sustainable Brands.

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April 8, 2016

Why refrigerants are a hot climate issue

By Vaidehi Shah
Friday 8 April 2016

Australian companies can save billions on energy bills and cut cooling-related emissions by half if they switch away from synthetic hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants to natural ones such as carbon dioxide and ammonia, said industry leaders on Tuesday.

Refrigerants are fluids that absorb and release heat in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) systems used in homes, commercial buildings and industrial facilities across the world.

Speaking at the Australian Refrigeration Association’s (ARA) HVACR Energy Efficiency Seminar at the Australian Technology Park in Sydney, ARA president Tim Edwards told the 40-strong audience that “natural (refrigerants) are better in every way and yet, synthetics continue to dominate the industry”.

The most recent study on this by the Australian Department of the Environment in 2012 shows that about 43,500 tonnes of synthetic refrigerants such as HFCs or hydroflurochlorocarbons, or HCFCs, are stored in refrigeration and air conditioning equipment in the country. This volume of stored gas is known as a gas bank.

Read more at Eco-Business.

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April 7, 2016

EU draft Regulation sets tighter BPA limit in FCMs

7 April 2016
by Leigh Stringer

The European Commission has issued a draft Regulation that would see tighter limits set for bisphenol A (BPA) in plastic food contact materials (FCMs).

If adopted, it would apply a "migration limit" of 0.05mg of BPA per kg of food (mg/kg) to plastic materials and articles and varnishes and coatings found in canned foods. This is the maximum permitted amount of a given substance released from a material or article into food. The current limit is set at 0.6 mg of BPA per kg of food (mg/kg).

According to the Commission, small quantities of BPA can migrate into food from the material or article that it is in contact with. This can result in "some exposure".

The draft says that the new limit is to "fully ensure that exposure to BPA remains below the [Tolerable Daily Intake] and does not endanger human health".

The European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) currently sets the Tolerable Daily Intake (TDI) of BPA at four micrograms per kilogram of bodyweight per day (μg/kg bw/day).

However, it designated the TDI as temporary (t-TDI) pending the outcome of a long-term toxicity study on BPA in rodents. This is being undertaken by the US National Toxicology Program and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Read more at ChemicalWatch.

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April 5, 2016

Students convince University of Glasgow to solely purchase conflict-free products

The University of Glasgow is joining a lengthy list of American and Canadian higher-learning institutes in banning the purchase of conflict minerals by introducing a new supply-chain code of conduct. The move comes following pressure applied by the Students’ Representative Council, which advocated for the university to join the ‘Conflict Free Campus Initiative’. The initiative asks organisations to change their procurement policies to ensure that the purchase of conflict materials is reduced.

Minerals such as tin and tungsten, vital ingredients in a wide-range of mobile phones and electronic products, is mined in countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Armed militias often hijack this mining, using the proceeds generated to fund violent conflict. A report by Amnesty International indicated that companies such as Apple, Google, IBM and Amazon include conflict materials within their products, having failed to full eradicate them from the supply chain.

Read more at Sustainable procurement resource centre.

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April 3, 2016

Need to Transform Asia-Pacific Resource Use and Investments for a Green Economy

Bangkok, 3 April 2016 – Transformative change in the use of material and financial resources to promote green economy in the Asia Pacific region is a key recommendation by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in a report prepared with partners and released today during the Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) report, entitled Transformations for Sustainable Development: Promoting Environmental Sustainability in Asia and the Pacific, was prepared with UNEP, the United Nations University and the Institute for Global Environmental Studies, and highlights the importance of transforming public and private investment flows and resource use, to promote sustainable development.

Read more at the UNEP Regional Office for Asia Pacific website.

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April 1, 2016

New public procurement rules to come into force in Scotland

Scotland's public procurement rules will be reformed on 18 April 2016, with two significant pieces of legislation coming into effect. The first is the implementation of EU procurement directives from 2014, which primarily apply to contracting authorities and to utilities, while the second is the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014.

The legislation encourages the supply chain to pay greater attention to prior information notices (PINs) and includes specific details related to compliance. The thresholds at which buyers must advertise have been lowered through the Procurement Reform Act to £50,000 for goods and services and £2 million for works.

Read more at Sustainable procurement resource centre.

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