Top Stories

January 17, 2017


Swedish supermarkets replace sticky labels with laser marking

In response to consumer demand for less packaging, Dutch fruit and veg supplier Nature & More and Swedish supermarket ICA have joined forces to run a trial to replace sticky labels on organic avocados and sweet potatoes with a laser mark. The technique uses a strong light to remove pigment from the skin of produce. The mark is invisible once skin is removed and doesn’t affect shelf life or eating quality. The laser technology creates less than 1 percent of the carbon emissions needed to produce a sticker of similar size. Sustainability and communications manager at Nature & More, Michaël Wilde, points out: “This is something we believe more and more supermarkets will take on. It saves resources, CO2 and energy, so it does calculate.” ICA is already preparing to expand the technique to other products like melons this summer. (Guardian)


Electric car boom fuels interest in Bolivia’s fragile salt flats

The Bolivian government claims that it has 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves, piquing the interest of many international companies. Supplying a raw material needed to develop the electric car industry will help to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and could provide a much-needed economic boom for one of South America’s poorest countries. But there are concerns about the impact of the extraction process on the desert’s fragile ecosystem. Extraction could mean increased traffic and pollution, pressure on water supply and damage to the site’s natural beauty, affecting tourism. Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, pledged to develop the country’s lithium industry with the intention to invest a total of $995 million by 2019. There have been unconfirmed reports that a number of companies including Pure Energy Minerals, a lithium supplier for Tesla, have expressed an interest in building a plant in Bolivia. (Guardian)

Technology & Innovation

AkzoNobel launches global chemicals start-up challenge

Multi-national manufacturer AkzoNobel is launching a new challenge, Imagine Chemistry, which will partner with start-up firms, students, research groups and career scientists from across the world to jointly accelerate the knowledge of chemistry. The challenge is part of an integrated approach to further deploy AkzoNobel’s innovation capability and aims to uncover new opportunities. Imagine Chemistry, launched in conjunction with KPMG, will also aim to find new sustainable opportunities for AkzoNobel businesses. Imagine Chemistry focuses on finding solutions within the following five areas: Revolutionizing plastics recycling, Wastewater-free chemical sites, Cellulose-based alternatives to synthetics, Bio-based and biodegradable surfactants and thickeners and Bio-based sources of ethylene.  The challenge will give the winners the chance to see their ideas become a commercial reality and anyone who registers will get feedback from AkzoNobel chemicals experts.(Globe Newswire)

Inclusive Business

Work-life balance ‘increasingly stressful for fathers’

Nearly half of working fathers would like a less stressful job so they can spend more time caring for their children, a study by NGO Working Families has found. The report, entitled ‘The Modern Families Index 2017’, also said that about a third would take a pay cut to achieve a better work-life balance. Employers are not doing enough to help dads take a more active role in childcare, it added. MPs are due to open an inquiry into whether fathers are losing out in the workplace. Of the 2,750 parents surveyed, a third of fathers said they regularly felt burnt out, and one in five were working extra hours. “For many fathers, the workplace is unsupportive of their aspirations for a better work-life fit,” said the charity. Employers’ organisation, the Institute of Directors (IoD), agreed with the charity, saying bosses should design jobs that let both men and women work flexibly. (BBC)


Australian Immigration Department spent more than AUD $1 billion without proper authorisation, independent audit alleges

A report from Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) detailed “significant shortcomings” in the management of contracts for security and welfare services on Manus Island and Nauru. It cited AUD $2.3 billion in payments made between September 2012 and April 2016, which it stated were not authorised or recorded correctly. The report further stated that contract variations totalling more than AUD $1 billion were made without a documented assessment of value for money. The Australian Immigration Department disagreed with the claim that some payments were not appropriately authorised. “Over the last four years, the department has worked very hard to establish sustainable contract arrangements”, says department’s chief operating officer, Jenet Connell.  Greens senator Nick McKim said that “The Australian people deserve accountability. It’s their money after all.” The report also stated there were significant records of incidents in the Nauru and Manus Island centres, with different numbers of incidents recorded.  (ABC)

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