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Could mealworms help solve the plastic waste problem?

Researchers at Stanford University have discovered a new way of dealing with plastic waste – by feeding it to mealworms.

Image: Yu Yang / Stanford University
Image: Yu Yang / Stanford University

The study allowed mealworms to feast upon styrofoam waste, and the results suggest that their digestive bacteria were able to safely process the petrochemical polymer. Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford, says that these findings “have opened a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem”.

As unbelievable as it sounds, the collaborative research between Stanford and the Jun Yang of Beihang University in China concludes that the process is clean and safe. 100 mealworms were able to digest between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam per day, only emitting carbon dioxide, which researchers point out would be released regardless of the type of food eaten by the larvae.

Needless to say, further studies will be required before this becomes a serious option for plastics waste. While governments, manufacturers and the public agree that plastic waste is a growing global problem, this process is still fundamentally an ‘end of pipe’ option and diverts attention from addressing the negative impacts of plastic at the initial design stage.

Of course there is an overwhelming volume of existing plastic for mealworms get their teeth into, but potential ‘rebound effects’ would need to be considered. For example, the research has not yet stated whether these mealworms could safely biodegrade after styrofoam consumption, or whether they could be eaten by other animals, as insects are increasingly on the menu for humans and animals alike. As yet, it remains to be seen whether this waste solution could support the transition to a regenerative and restorative circular economy.

Source: Plastic-eating worms may offer solution to mounting waste, Stanford researchers discover


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“Route Map” For Circular Economy In London Expected Soon

The London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) has announced a tender to procure consultancy that could provide technical assistance for the development of a route map to transition the city of London towards a circular economy. CIWM reports that the route map could be published early in 2016.

Licensed under CC - credit Flickr user: barnyz
Licensed under CC – credit Flickr user: barnyz

In November, LWARB are expected to set out the case for circular economy implementation in London, with suggested areas of initial focus. Electronics, textiles, food and plastics are among the obvious starting points for projects in the city.

The potential adoption of a circular economy “plan” for one of the world’s largest economic centres is significant. Moreover, London is not a city dependent on manufacturing, demonstrating that economies reliant on the services and financial sectors, rather than “making things”, can also identify economic benefits in transitioning to a regenerative economy.

Source: Circular Economy Route Map For London Expected Next Year

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Could Hexagro Be the Future of Urban Farming?

As the global population, and in particular the populations of the world cities, continues to grow, the challenges and the barriers obstructing the development of an effective food system grow as well. The future of food is unlikely to be dominated by one solution, rather a healthy and effective system is likely to built upon the exploitation of multiple opportunities. In that context, the potential for urban farming is being explored and that’s where Hexagro might play a role. The innovation, created by a team from Politecnico di Milano as part of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, presents a possible home-based agricultural system, inspired by space and energy saving structures in nature.

Hexagro utilises aeroponics as part of a modular system that can be assembled into a tree-like structure. It can even be connected to a smartphone via an app and is designed to be as simple as possible for the user.

Besides shortening the food supply chain and bringing farming into the home in a manageable way, Hexagro brings several other benefits. The Politecnico di Milano team estimates that the modular tree can produce 324 lettuces/2m2, conventional farming techniques produce 80 lettuces/2m2. The system reportedly also reduces water consumption by 90% and the diminishes the need to use pesticides, since the growing technique is groundless.

The Biomimicry Global Design Challenge is a prestigious international competition that encourages leading innovators to develop practical projects in response to some of the world’s biggest challenges using nature’s solutions as inspiration.

Source: HEXAGRO Urban Cropping System

Licensed under CC  – credit Flickr user: denebola2025

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Canada's Trudeau committed to climate protection and ending Isis combat – video

The prime minister-designate, Justin Trudeau, says he spoke with the US president, Barack Obama, on Tuesday and confirmed his election commitment to withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the coalition campaign against Isis. Trudeau also says he will be making a break from the environmental policies of his predecessor, Stephen Harper

Photograph: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty

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Source: Guardian Environment

Corbyn has 'cordial' exchange with Xi over China's rights record

Labour party leader raises issue of steel imports as well as human rights record in meeting with Chinese president

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has raised China’s human rights record and the impact of its imports on the UK steel industry at a meeting at Buckingham Palace with President Xi Jinping, which the party described as “cordial and constructive”.

A statement from Labour following Corbyn’s meeting stressed the good nature of the exchange, and praised “the remarkable Chinese achievements in poverty-reduction, lifting over 600 million people out of poverty”.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Solar power in crisis: 'My panels generate enough power for two loads of washing'

Endless energy from the sun looked like a long-term solution for running our homes. But now the state has pulled the plug on the subsidies that made panels affordable for many. What happens now?

Sit back, relax, and read this story with an untroubled conscience: it has been created on a laptop and mobile phone powered entirely by the rays of the sun. This feat would surely astound the most idealistic Greek philosopher or Victorian entrepreneur. It would confirm their wildest hopes for humanity’s progress. Perhaps they would be even more amazed that it was possible via a coalition of Chinese companies, British roofers and local councils. Oh, and government support, which is set to be abruptly withdrawn.

The power comes from 16 black Ja solar panels that were fitted to the roof of my home in August. Together, these panels, each the size of a coffee tabletop, have a capacity of 4kW, enough to meet the energy needs of an average family home. Today, a gloomy autumnal moment, they have generated 4.403kWh. It hardly sounds impressive – it’s enough power for a couple of loads of washing – but collectively it represents a revolution. Solar hasn’t changed my life, but it has shifted my perceptions. A little monitor on my desk tells me how much electricity I am generating. I’m acutely aware of the scarcity of energy, the rarity of unbroken sunshine and changing path of the sun. In August, rays hit my panels at 8.30am and an image of a green finger materialised on my monitor, urging me to switch on appliances. Now it doesn’t appear until 10.30am and so we delay putting on the washing machine. We have toddlers around the house all day, so solar suits us: we time the dishwasher for daylight hours and the TV tends to be on more during the day than at night. If I’m working from home, I charge laptops and phones around midday, too. Solar’s drawback is that most power is generated in daylight hours, when people tend to be at work, and there’s currently no affordable battery technology to store the energy you generate. But that energy is not wasted: it goes into the national grid, and solar owners are paid for what they produce.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Here comes Elaine again – why the naming of storms is a washout | Natalie Haynes

We’ve managed perfectly well for centuries calling it ‘that bloody rain’. But now weather forecasters want to start personifying the weather

The naming of storms is a difficult matter, as TS Eliot might have said, if he hadn’t been so distracted by cats. Only last year scientists discovered that Americans failed to take storms seriously when the weather system was given a female name. The most lethal female-named hurricanes have notched up almost twice the death tolls of their male-named counterparts because, one presumes, too many Americans have assumed that lady-storms are just making a fuss about nothing and can safely be ignored until they go off in a huff.

Related: ID of the storm: Met Office invites public to name severe weather systems

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Source: Guardian Environment

Energy minister 'open-minded' about UK solar subsidy cuts

Andrea Leadsom tells a committee of MPs that she remains open to the findings of a consultation into proposed cuts to renewable energy subsidies

Energy minister Andrea Leadsom has told MPs she remains “open-minded” about plans to slash subsidies for solar power in order to protect consumer bills, but told MPs on Tuesday that “very expensive” nuclear power stations were nonetheless “affordable for customers”.

Leadsom was questioned by MPs on the energy and climate change (ECC) select committee about proposed cuts to renewable energy subsidies that her predecessor has called “catastrophic”.

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Source: Guardian Environment

Fukushima nuclear disaster: first worker diagnosed with cancer linked to cleanup

Diagnosis of man who worked on reactor buildings damaged in 2011 tsunami could hamper efforts to encourage people to return to the area

A 41-year old man has become the first worker at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to be diagnosed with cancer that officials recognise as being linked to his work there after the March 2011 disaster.

The unnamed man, who was diagnosed with leukaemia in January 2014 after feeling unwell, spent a year working on reactor buildings that were badly damaged after a magnitude 9 earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck Fukushima and other parts of Japan’s north-east coast on 11 March 2011.

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Source: Guardian Environment