An investigation from consumer body Which? has found mixed results on the levels of recyclable plastic in the UK’s largest supermarkets.

The group ordered 27 of the most popular own-brand items from the top 10 supermarkets in the UK. They then weighed and ranked the brands by whether they could be easily recycled at the kerbside.   

Morrisons performed the highest with 81 percent of their produce being recyclable, while Lidl came last with 71 percent. Iceland (73 percent), Ocado (74 percent) and Sainsbury’s (75 percent) were also the lowest performers.

Between 12 and 22 percent of the packaging was not recyclable at all.

“We found key differences in some of the packaging used - showing there's plenty more that most supermarkets could be doing to reduce their non-recyclable packaging,” said Ellie Simmonds at Which?

Alongside the research, Which? conducted polling among a sample of 2,100 adults which found that two-thirds of shoppers felt that recycling was important when choosing what to buy. However, this only translated into 15 percent of people refusing to make purchases on this basis.

The analysts also found “huge inconsistencies” with the kind of labelling used for recycling information.

“Different systems of labelling were used. Some items weren’t labelled with recycling information at all. Others were incorrectly labelled and still more had labels which were only visible once the food was unwrapped – not helpful to those trying to make a considered choice in the supermarket aisle,” Simmonds added.

The patchy performances from the UK’s leading supermarkets puts into sharp focus the challenge to change their businesses.

All of the retailers in the investigation are among the 50 manufacturers which recently signed the UK Plastics Pact to ensure 100 percent of plastic packaging is either “reusable, recyclable, or compostable” by 2025. The UK Government has also committed to removing all ‘avoidable’ plastic waste across the entire country within the next 25 years.

Source: Which?

Read more: Up to one third of supermarket plastic not...

Facebook has signed a new deal to ensure one of its main data centers uses 100 percent clean energy.

The data center in the small town of Prineville, Oregon has been operational for the past seven years, and was Facebook’s first one. It is already equipped with energy efficiency measures, rainwater reclamation and contains a solar installation.

Its new partnership with Pacific Power will support the development of 437 megawatts of new solar power, including 100 megawatts directly in the Prineville area.

The news was announced at an event in Prineville this week, attended by the city’s mayor and Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown. Ms Brown said the project demonstrates that “Oregon is ready for the clean energy economy of the future.”

Facebook’s presence in the region has been a boon to economic growth, leading to a decline in unemployment and investment in public services, such as schools, parks and roads, according to the city’s mayor.

“We are expanding from our timber roots to a future with greater business diversity and a workforce with broader skills,” said Mayor Betty Jean Roppe.

Since 2013, the tech giant has made a commitment to ensure all its new data centers are designed and built with the highest sustainability standards in mind; this includes ensuring they are only powered by renewables.

 “Our work with Pacific Power to develop new solar resources represents a significant milestone for our hyper-efficient Prineville Data Center. We are committed to supporting 100 percent renewable energy, and we are thrilled to have found a solution for our first data center,” said Peter Freed, Facebook’s energy strategy manager. “We are proud to be a part of the Prineville community, and look forward to a continued partnership with the city and the state of Oregon.”

Photo Credit: Intel Free Press/Flickr

Read more: Facebook powers Oregon data center with 100%...

Liverpool City Council has signed a new agreement with the Poseidon Foundation to help offset its carbon emissions.

The year-long trial is intended to help Liverpool become the first local authority in the UK to become ‘climate positive’ by the end of 2018. This means that the city will help remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than it emits each year.

Finance start-up Poseidon will incorporate its block chain technology into the council’s day-to-day operations to help offset more than 110 percent of its emissions.

The sum of Liverpool’s entire carbon emissions is first priced and the cost passed on to purchase carbon credits, certificates which are tradable and internationally recognised in financial markets. The non-profit will use these credits to support forestry conservation projects to reverse the environmental impact of the city’s every day activities, particularly its carbon intensive shipping and aviation sectors.  

If the trial is successful the council will utilise the technology to become climate positive across the whole city.

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool, said: “I’m delighted we have signed this partnership agreement with Poseidon to connect Liverpool directly with climate positive projects across the globe. Poseidon’s technology is the first of its kind to truly deliver a solution to governments, businesses and individuals around the world to help reverse the causes of climate change and I am thrilled this agreement will bring this cutting-edge technology to our city.”

Poseidon has also agreed to work with local schools and businesses to develop ways to cut their own carbon emissions. This will help council has a commitment to reduce its emissions by 40 percent by 2030.

Laszlo Giricz, founder and CEO of Poseidon, said the “ground-breaking” partnership was a first for both the city and the world.

“Liverpool is a trail blazer and a shining example to other cities in the UK and across the world on what can be achieved through harnessing the power of technology to meet one of humanity’s greatest challenges. And now that it is clear that our platform is fully scalable, it is time for other cities to take action.”

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Liverpool bids to be first ‘Climate Positive’ City by end of 2020 from The Guide Liverpool on Vimeo.

Read more: Liverpool aiming to become world’s first...

A new report has highlighted the new economic benefits to households in East Africa from off-grid solar power.

The report was released this week by GOGLA, the non-profit trade body for off-grid solar power.

The researchers collated data from 2,300 solar owners in Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to work out the impact of new renewable installation on their livelihood.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents reported an increase of economic activity within the first three months of using a home solar system. This includes increased income, job opportunities and more work time.

An astonishing 94 percent said that their quality of life had improved thanks to the off-grid system with 86 percent stating that they have greater disposable income. Equally high levels were reported for the availability of light and the health improvements seen by family members.

The result of clean, free and reliable power has opened new doors for many communities, providing opportunities to start new businesses and extend working hours. Solar is also helping households ditch expensive and life-threatening kerosene lamps, currently in use by millions of people in the developing world; 90 percent of those polled said they had now replaced the toxic lamps.

Koen Peters, Executive Director of GOGLA said the new report shows “the net economic and social benefits off-grid solar are a huge opportunity for national governments of the developing world.”

“Governments tell us they are interested in jobs and economic impact. As this report shows, off-grid solar is directly delivering such impacts and significantly. We call on policy makers, treasury and energy departments to work together with off-grid companies, banks and institutions to breakdown barriers to off-grid solar and build a pathway to accelerate energy access,” he added.

The work was funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, which has raised over £4 billion to support climate adaptation and mitigation in the developing world.

Source: GOGLA

Photo Credit: Power Africa

Read more: Solar power is providing new economic...

The World Bank is spending more money than ever on combatting climate change.

The institution released figures this week which shows that it invested $20.5 billion during the 2018 fiscal year on projects which address the impacts of climate change. This represent 32.1 percent of all funding and exceeds its target of spending at least 28 percent of its finances on tackling the problem by 2020.

“We have not just exceeded our climate targets on paper, we have transformed the way we work with countries and are seeing major transitions to renewable energy, clean and resilient transport systems, climate-smart agriculture and sustainable cities,” said the bank’s Chief Executive Officer Kristalina Georgieva. “This gives the most vulnerable people a fighting chance against climate change, by confronting and adapting to today’s impacts and working to contain future damage to our planet.”

As a result, the bank will set new targets at the December UN climate conference in Poland. The World Bank’s climate strategy has created 22 investment plans to support climate-smart agriculture in 20 countries. 38 million people have also benefited from access to climate-related information, such as early warning systems for extreme weather events.

Over the past year, the institution has invested $784 million on making transport systems withstand the impact of new climate challenges and supported 18 gigawatts of additional renewable energy. About half of the World Bank’s climate finance is now going into adaptation programmes, highlighting the importance of responding to the changes already taking place to the planet.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a key member of the World Bank Group, has ramped up its level of sustainable investments, reaching $3.9 billion. It helped mobilise 4.4 billion in private sector funding on climate as well.

“The lion’s share of economic growth is taking place in emerging markets, and at IFC we recognize that we must ensure this growth is inclusive and sustainable. This is a trillion-dollar investment opportunity,” said Philippe Le Houérou, IFC’s Chief Executive Officer. “We have a critical role to play to enable these opportunities to reach their full potential,” he added.

Read more: World Bank sets $20 billion record for climate...

Financial close has been reached on a major new wind farm in Sweden.

The Green Investment Group (GIG) has put forward 270 million euros to develop the 235 megawatt project in the country’s central belt.

The Överturingen wind farm will consist of 56 turbines reaching 220 metres into the sky, making them taller than any building in Scandinavia. Each machine will have a capacity of 4.2 megawatts, built by Siemens Gamesa, making them some of the most powerful onshore turbines currently available.

SCA Energy, which owns 2.6 million hectares of forest in Sweden, has also come on board to help finance the project, although GIG will own 100 percent of its equity.

The move is GIG’s second foray into the Swedish renewables market after its successful financing of a 650 megawatt wind farm, set to become the largest in Europe. The group has identified Scandinavia as a “priority market”, according to a statement.

Aluminium giant Norsk Hydro has already signed a 29-year power purchase agreement on the project, reflecting the current confidence and maturity of the onshore wind market.

Ed Northam, Head of GIG in Europe said: “The Överturingen project demonstrates our capability as a development partner, successfully bringing permitted projects forward to financial close. By working closely with SCA, Siemens Gamesa and Norsk Hydro, we were able to establish the partnerships needed to convert a development opportunity into a market-leading project under construction.”

Ricardo Chocarro, CEO Onshore at Siemens Gamesa, said: “We are proud to set a visible example of the performance of our products in Sweden. Our technology perfectly meets the site and project-specific requirements. At the same time, this project demonstrates the attractiveness of wind energy for the capital markets, investors and communities.”

The wind farm is expected to be operational by December 2019.

Read more: Green Investment Group lands huge onshore wind...

UN Environment has announced a partnership with Google to provide trackable data on human impacts on the environment.

The goal of the new partnership is to provide countries, NGOs, and the public with unprecedented levels of access to data through a platform that monitors environmental changes. Once completed, the platform will allow countries to see which areas are in need of the most immediate attention, while also allowing them to track the progress that they have made on their ecosystems so far.

“UN Environment is excited to be partnering with Google, to make sure we have the most sophisticated online tools to track progress, identify priority areas for our action, and bring us one step closer to a sustainable world.” said UN Environment Head, Erik Solheim of the deal.

Compiling data can be slow and complicated, especially for smaller countries and, as a result, action on environmental problems is often hindered. This is something that the platform will attempt to change.

Rebecca Moore, Google’s Director of Google Earth, stated: "We are excited to enable all countries with equal access to the latest technology and information in support of global climate action and sustainable development."

Upon launching in October, the platform will only provide information on the Earth’s freshwater ecosystems, which provide habitat for 10 percent of the world’s species, but are also amongst the most threatened areas. From there, it will grow to include other critical ecosystems and environments.

Google will also collaborate with the European Space Agency (ESA), the National Aeronautics, Space Administration (NASA), and European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), to obtain satellite imagery and statistics, which it will then compile using its cloud computing technology.

The partnership between the American tech company and the UN was announced this week in New York City, at the annual High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. The conference, which brings together governments, NGOs, and businesses, aims to review and ensure the implementation of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Read more: UN and Google team up to monitor environmental...

London’s Gatwick Airport has partnered with car sharing service Bluecity to provide greater zero-emission transport.

A new car sharing hub at the airport contains 10 electric vehicles and charging stations, with plans underway to add more.

The initiative is one of the steps Gatwick is taking to become more sustainable; it already sources 100 percent of its electricity from renewables. Guy Stephenson, the airport’s chief commercial officer, said: “Gatwick leads the way on airport innovation and this UK airport first not only offers a new, flexible option for getting on and off the airport, it also improves air quality.”

The partnership creates a cleaner and potentially more affordable way to travel to and from the airport. Users are able to reserve cars in advance using an app which picks them up on arrival. They can then drive the vehicles to any of the 300 pick-up or drop off points throughout London.

The service works both ways as passengers can pick up a car anywhere in the city and leave it at the airport. A typical ride to Gatwick, in moderate traffic, will cost about £15.

“We are particularly proud of this milestone agreement with Gatwick Airport and look forward to our collaboration for years to come. We believe this new service is a fantastic solution for travellers. Our cars are powered exclusively with 100 percent renewable energy making the service the greenest and most affordable transport option to and from central London.” said Bluecity’s managing director Christopher Arnaud.

This move towards electric vehicles matches a larger national trend emerging in the UK. The government has set out ambitious goals to bring about lower carbon emissions from transport and sales of electric vehicles are reaching all-time highs. It is estimated that there could be upwards of 36 million electric cars on the road by 2030.

Bluecity is the only ride sharing provider in London that uses entirely electric vehicles with 100 zero-emission vehicles currently in use. The company is hoping its partnership with Gatwick will help expand their ride-sharing network and promote clean, zero-emission transportation.  

Read more: Gatwick Airport to introduce electric car...

The world’s largest hotel chain is set to remove all plastic straws from its 6,500 properties.

Marriott International made the announcement this week which it plans to enforce by July 2019, allowing hotels to deplete their existing stocks and source alternatives.

The global chain, which operates in 127 countries, estimates the plan will remove the production of one billion plastic straws, making a significant dent in the battle against plastic pollution. A similar pledge from Starbucks earlier this month will also prevent the use of around one billion straws, according to the company.

“We are proud to be among the first large US companies to announce that we’re eliminating plastic straws in our properties worldwide,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International.

A number of Marriott’s most popular brands have already made the switch away from plastic. The iconic Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London was among 60 hotels in the UK to provide alternative straws. The Marco Island beach resort in Florida will also remove plastic straws, leading to the elimination of 65,000 a month.

“Removing plastic straws is one of the simplest ways our guests can contribute to plastic reduction when staying with us – something they are increasingly concerned about and are already doing in their own homes. We are committed to operating responsibly and – with over one million guests staying with us every night – we think this is a powerful step forward to reducing our reliance on plastics.”

The plan runs alongside other recent sustainability commitments made by the hotel company, including a goal to reduce landfill waste by 45 percent by 2025. One of its first steps to tackle the problem was to replace small toiletry bottles across 1,500 hotels in North America. Once complete, the move will eliminate 35 million of the bottles from going to landfill.

Photo Credit: José Carlos Cortizo Pérez/CC

Read more: Marriott to remove all plastic straws from...

UK supermarket Morrisons has become the latest retailer to trial a scheme to increase plastic bottle recycling.

Two stores in Skipton and Lindsayfield will now come with vending machines which allow customers to return any plastic bottle and receive store coupons as a reward. Alternatively, they can donate 10p to cancer charity CLIC Sargent, one of Morrisons’ partners.

“We want to play our part in making sure plastic bottles are collected and recycled,” said Andrew Clappen, Morrisons’ group corporate services director.

If successful the trial will be rolled-out to other stores and Morrisons pledged to “listen to customers” on their own views.

The scheme adds to Morrisons’ growing commitments to tackle plastic pollution throughout its stores and within its supply chain. The food retailer, the fourth largest in the UK, has pledged to make all its own-brand plastic packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. This commitment was made as part of a wider campaign, endorsed by over 50 major manufacturers, including Sainsbury’s, ASDA and Tesco.

Morrisons has also stopped buying plastic straws and only buys cottons buds with paper stems instead of plastic ones. The company’s own research has suggested that plastic waste is one of the most important issues to its customers.

The UK Government announced plans earlier this year to introduce a similar scheme across England in a bid to tackle the scourge of single-use plastics.  Iceland was the first supermarket to voluntarily adopt a similar scheme; its vending machines also repay customers with a 10p voucher.

At the time, Environment Secretary Michael Gove MP, commented that: “It is absolutely vital we act now to curb the millions of plastic bottles a day that go unrecycled. Support from businesses will be a vital part of ensuring we leave our environment in a better state than we found it.”

Photo Credit: Billy McCrorie/CC

Read more: Morrisons supermarket to trial plastic bottle...

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is financing two onshore wind farms in northern Greece with a 24 million euro loan.

The investment will support Terna Energy Group construct and operate 44.4 megawatts of renewable power.

Two projects will contain 22 turbines built at altitudes of over 1,400 metres. A similar loan was agreed with Terna last year to develop 48.6 megawatts of wind power near Athens.

As of 2016, Greece sources 15 percent of its energy from renewable sources with a target to reach 18 percent by 2020.

The loan forms part of the Investment Plan for Europe, a successful initiative from President Jean-Claude Juncker to boost economic activity across the European Union. The plan has already exceeded its initial target to mobilise 315 billion euros over the past three years. The initiative is on course to create 1.4 million jobs and raise the EU’s GDP by 1.3 percent by 2020.

Jonathan Taylor, the EIB’s Vice-President for lending in Greece, commented: “We have followed developments in the Greek energy sector and remain ready to step in to finance sound projects that meet our criteria and respond to EU energy policies”.

“The Bank is particularly committed to financing green energy projects across the Union and the EFSI (European Fund for Strategic Investments) has enabled us to do even more. This project is precisely the kind of operation the Investment Plan for Europe was designed to support.”

Pierre Moscovici, the European Commission’s economics chief, said: "After Greece exits its stability support programme on 20 August, the country will stand on its own two feet – but the European Commission will continue to stand by its side, including financially. Today's announcement is a concrete example of how the Juncker Plan is helping to modernise Greece's energy infrastructure, supporting growth and job creation along the way."

Read more: European Investment Bank commits €24m to Greek...

A new renewable energy fund has been set up with the help of a major oil broker.

Vitol, better known as a global distributer of crude oil, has partnered with the UK investment firm Low Carbon on the new clean energy fund.

Vitol has kick-started the project with a 200 million euro injection of cash. It will initially focus on funding onshore and offshore wind developments within Europe. The fund, called VLC Renewables, will draw on Low Carbon’s expertise in the field; the firm has funded 320 megawatts of solar power and has interests in wind, storage and energy efficiency.

Simon Hale, who handles investments at Vitol said: “By 2025 almost 27 percent of European electricity will be generated from wind and solar.  As a major participant in Europe’s power markets and as a significant investor in energy infrastructure worldwide, Vitol is keen to build a portfolio of renewable investments to complement its existing activities.”

Vitol reportedly trades up to seven million barrels of crude oil and related products every day, but in recent years it has turned its attention to cleaner forms of energy. The partnership follows a joint venture with Low Carbon on a battery storage project across two sites in England. The project was run through Vitol’s combined heat and power company VPI Immingham, which it purchased in 2013.

Roy Bedlow Chief Executive at Low Carbon said: “We are very pleased to close this new Fund. Partnering with Vitol, one of the largest energy companies in the world, will enable us to drive scale in the investment and development of clean energy”.

“At its core, Low Carbon is committed to tackling climate change and reducing carbon emissions through its long-term investments into the green infrastructure space. We firmly believe it is possible to provide all the energy we need through renewable sources, and this fund will help us further our ambition,” he added.

Read more: Oil company Vitol launches €200m renewables fund...

“Green finance has yet to reach its full potential,” said John Glen MP, the UK’s government’s minister for the City of London.

He was speaking yesterday to an audience of leading policymakers and financiers about the challenges the sector faced from climate change.

“…For too long, tackling climate change has been left to government, with the private sector largely left by the wayside,” he said, while pointing out that the industry is finally gaining a seat at the table.

London is one of the world’s leading centres for green finance and has so far issued 78 green bonds with a combined value of $24 billion. The purpose of the minister’s speech was to reaffirm the government’s commitment to the area and secure London’s place as a leader in the burgeoning market.

“The conversation has been dominated by a few specific areas, such as green bonds. And whilst there will always be a place for them, more lies further afield…in the breadth, and depth of global capital markets.”

He went on to argue that new financial instruments, such as green loans, mortgages and securitisation are gaining traction and the capacity to grow these markets has so far been largely untapped.

Leading institutional investors and pension funds have been slow to respond to the risks and opportunities posed by climate change. However, the market for green bonds has increased by 80 percent in five years and major European insurers have started to move away from the fossil fuel industry.

The momentum behind green finance needs to grow to the point where it becomes part of the mainstream, and simply ‘finance’, Mr Glen concluded.

Last month, the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced a new Green Finance Institute to attract more investment in the market. Mr Glen’s speech also announced a new Advisory Board to guide the strategy of the institute.

The Green Finance Summit, only the second time it has taken place, was hosted at London’s Guildhall. Lord Nicholas Stern, also speaking at the conference, said that the green transition was the “growth story of the century” and that governments needed to provide clear and reliable policies to accelerate this transition.

Photo Credit: Green Finance

Read more: We need to mainstream green finance, argues UK...

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