Top Stories

May 12, 2014

Circular Economy

NGOs call on EU to implement circular economy

A group of leading NGOs have issued a joint statement calling for the European Union to implement ten steps that will help Europe work towards a circular economy. The statement is called ‘Bring waste full circle: How to implement the circular economy’ and it is signed by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Seats at Risk, Zero Waste Europe, Rreuse, Greenpeace, Ecos, the Surfrider Foundation Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe. The joint statement, issued ahead of an EU waste policy review due to be published next month, calls for a 70 percent recycling target for municipal waste across Europe; binding waste prevention targets, including for food waste; a ban on landfilling and incineration by 2020 for all recyclable and compostable waste; and promotion of producer responsibility and resource taxation schemes. EEB policy officer for waste Piotr Barczak said: “The review of waste policy is an opportunity to set Europe on a path towards resource efficiency… The real way to fight waste is not to generate so much of it in the first place. And that can only happen if the EU is ambitious enough in its review of waste policy and includes stringent prevention, reuse and recycling targets.” (Edie)


Washing-up liquid bottle made from ocean plastic aims to clean up seas

The world’s first washing-up liquid bottle made from reclaimed ocean plastic is to go on sale in UK supermarkets later this month. The green cleaning brand Ecover will use the launch of its new Ocean Bottle washing-up liquid to highlight the long-term dangers of dumping plastic in the sea, which is killing fish on a large scale and threatening global ecosystems. Ecover, a Belgian company, has been working with manufacturer Logoplaste to combine plastic trawled from the sea with a plastic made from sugarcane (which it calls Plant-astic) and recycled plastic, in what it is hailing as a world-first for packaging. In the initial trial, 10 percent of the plastic in the new bottle will have been retrieved from the sea, although Ecover is keen to gradually increase that proportion. Philip Malmberg, chief executive of Ecover, said: “The scale of the ocean plastic problem is enormous – every year at least a million sea birds and 100,000 sharks, turtles, dolphins and whales die from eating plastic. There is no choice – we simply have to aim to clean up ocean plastic for good.” (The Guardian)

Community Investment

Community energy projects need ‘support at all levels’ to flourish

While community-led renewable energy projects can help meet climate targets, they need more resources and clear policy frameworks in order to truly thrive, new research has concluded. Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the University of Sussex looked at 12 small-scale community energy projects that aimed to save energy or generate electricity through renewable energy development, to see the level of support they received. UEA’s lead researcher Dr Gill Seyfang said, “The combined pressure of global climate change and threats to energy security mean that we will have to think more radically about sustainable energy. We wanted to know whether energy-saving community projects, run by voluntary organisations, schools, businesses and faith groups, could help. What we found is that there is a great deal of community enthusiasm for small scale innovative projects like this, but the resources available are not always enough to really help them flourish.” The study says that while the UK government’s Community Energy Strategy has improved the situation, flexible and tailored policy support is still required. (Blue and Green Tomorrow)


RSPCA members split over farm certification

The UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) is being urged by grassroots members to drop its Freedom Food farming scheme and launch a hardline attack on farmers. The charity is facing a split between its militant wing and the leadership over whether it should work to improve farming standards or concentrate on policing and prosecuting farms for poor welfare. Freedom Food is an accreditation scheme that already covers 75 million farmed animals, about 8 percent of the UK total, and ensures that adequate welfare standards are maintained. In April last year, McDonald’s became the first high street food chain to adopt 100 percent Freedom Food pork. However, according to minutes from the charity’s latest annual meeting, members attacked the scheme for “sanitising death on [an] industrial scale”, and passed a motion demanding a more radical agenda. The charity said in a statement: “Freedom Food has made a significant impact on the welfare of British farm animals and has been a great British success story. It’s the RSPCA’s aim that all farm animals will be reared to higher welfare standards. However, we recognise that this is a long process and it needs to work with the farming industry, retailers and consumers to bring about improved welfare for as many farm animals as possible.” (The Times*)


Zero-hours contracts breed mistrust and feelings of insecurity, says Acas

Workers on zero-hours contracts are often afraid to look for other jobs and feel excluded from the sense of security given to full-time employees, according to a study. The conciliation service Acas said it was receiving around 70 calls a week about zero-hours contracts, with a feeling of “effective exclusivity” of being tied to one employer emerging as a major concern. Acas’s chairman, Sir Brendan Barber, said: “Our analysis reveals that many workers on zero-hours contracts experience a deep sense of unfairness and mistrust that go beyond the use of exclusivity clauses. This deep rooted ‘effective exclusivity’ can be very damaging to trust and to the employment relationship. There also appeared to be a lack of transparency on the terms of their contractual arrangements.” The UK government has been consulting on the use of such contracts amid calls from unions and campaign groups to have them banned. The business secretary, Vince Cable, said that while zero-hours contracts work for some, the use of exclusivity clauses and the lack of clear information can leave employees feeling vulnerable. (The Guardian)


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Image source: Marine debris by NOAA / public domain