Explainer: How Microplastics Threaten Our Environment

Microplastic pollution is being found everywhere, literally: it is in our rivers; on our gardens; in the food we eat; it is even now in human poop.

Perhaps the worst aspect of microplastic pollution is that no effective and efficient way of removing the full range of debris has yet been found.

The EU has, however, recently proposed a wide-ranging ban on the use of ‘intentionally added’ microplastics, which if approved into law could see a phase-out starting 2020.

Meantime, recovering plastics from oceans and recycling them before they start to break down into small fragments is one way to fight this kind of pollution. When recycled, these plastics are used to create sustainable products.

This excellent infographic below, from Roman Chaloupka and GreenMatch, tells us more about how Microplastics Threaten Our Environment.

You can view the original, also learn about becoming ‘waste aware’ and fighting pollution, as well as the creators themselves here; plus Follow them on Twitter.

Micro Plastic Pollution

Circularity: The word snowballing down from Davos

New writing… My latest piece for The Hub – the award-winning content platform curated by Mitsubishi Electric – looks at the mood going into Davos and the messages coming out. Located high in the Swiss Alps, Davos is the exclusive venue for the influential annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). It is where thought-leaders and heavy-hitters from the worlds of politics, economics, business, celebrity and media gather together every January to debate the state of the planet and the big issues, most notably clmate change. Heading into this year’s get-together, the pressure was rising on the international community, particularly in light of the latest IPCC report and sluggish response by national governments to turn talk into action on global warming targets set out in the Paris Agreement. The good news was that the circular economy proved a big story at the summit, with the launch of the Circularity Gap Report 2019 (see video above) truly establishing and evidencing the link with climate change. (Full disclosure: I personally am listed as one of the Contributing Authors on the report.) To learn why a 1.5°C world has to be more than 9% circular, please visit The Hub via the link here and read about ‘Circularity: the word snowballing down from Davos

Circularity: ‘Future of Construction’ in The Times

New writing… Pleased to say I have had another article published in The Times newspaper, as part of a special Raconteur report on the Future of Construction.

BAMB is on a mission: its goal is a systemic shift in sustainable building; its focus, construction waste and material consumption. As the name implies, Buildings as Material Banks (BAMB) reimagines a building as a dynamic repository of value, where tradable material assets can be deposited, data tracked, transferred and withdrawn. Three major changes support the BAMB vision for circular transition: change in design culture, value definition and collaboration. The question is, can a relatively traditional industry such as construction truly embrace the systemic change called for by a circular economy? What would such a shift mean in terms of technology, but more imporantly culture? Furthermore, how might it play out worldwide – across global development markets maturing at different speeds, with different histories of urbanisation? Getting down to project particulars, the article also includes a case study of an inner-city school in Swansea, Wales, which has just set new industry standards, achieving 99.87 per cent diversion from landfill. You can read more about both the scale of the material challenge and the exciting opportunities to close the circularity gap, here:

‘BAMB: Could this be the future for sustainable building?’.

The full 16-page Future of Construction & Development report is available to view/download here.

Changing the word on waste: ‘Future of Food’ in The Times

New writing… Pleased to say I have had another article published in The Times newspaper, as part of a special Raconteur report on Future of Food.

Despite population growth and increasing famine, 1.6 billion tonnes of food is lost or wasted worldwide, every year. With an estimated carbon footprint of 3.3 billion tonnes, this food waste eats up 28 per cent of the world’s agricultural area and drinks enough water to fill Lake Geneva three times. My piece explores some of the many innovations happening worldwide around food waste: from industrial-scale anaerobic digestion, via almond hulls and shells being put to good use in California, to beer made from surplus bread, plus simple sustainability hacks for bartenders that could save over 60,000 limes in London alone. For all the exciting opportunities engaging farmers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs and start-ups, however, policymakers still need to come to the party in numbers and force, if the headline stats are really going to change. You can read more about both the ongoing problem and the emerging solutions, here:

‘Rethinking food waste as a resource’.

The full 12-page Future of Food & Beverage report is available to view/download here.

Plastics & Circularity: ‘Future of Packaging’ in The Times

New writing…. Pleased to say I have had another couple of articles published in The Times newspaper, as part of a special Raconteur report on the Future of Packaging.

Ocean plastic is not a new problem, however it took David Attenborough and Blue Planet II to turn the tide of public opinion. My opening article investigates how prime-time endorsement of the core sustainability message proved a public gamechanger, but there is still a long way to go before we reach peak plastic in our waste streams. From high-street retail and global brands, to entrepreneurial start-ups and consumer activism, I am sharing smart insights of key influencers and seeking out sustainable solutions to the problems of a packaging sector under intense pressure. Issues are complex and commercial realities a challenge, but the question remains:

‘What next after Blue Planet?’

The first step towards fixing something is often to admit it is actually broken. Well, the plastics system is broken. So, since the problem is big, the fix must be even bigger, right? My second piece for the report explores how society must move away from the ‘take, make, dispose’ mindset that has long-informed linear consumption patterns and business models, towards a win-win scenario that simultaneously keeps plastics in the economy, but out of the environment. This discussion of proposals and prospects for the New Plastics Economy and UK Plastics Pact includes interviews with project leads at both the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WRAP UK:

‘UK Plastics Pact is central to forming a circular economy’

The full 24-page Future of Packaging report is available to view/download here.

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