Electronic Waste: New EU Rules Target Throwaway Culture
All those phones, computers and tablets we rely on are dependent on mined resources. Extracting and processing those resources accounts for nearly half of our greenhouse gas emissions, which is why the European Commission's Circular Economy Action Plan calls for "initiatives for the entire life cycle of products, from design and manufacturing to consumption, repair, reuse, recycling, and bringing resources back into the economy."
Essentially, the European Union wants to get rid of planned obsolescence, where manufacturers design a product with a short lifespan so consumers have to buy a new one, which leads to throwaway culture. To that end, the European Commission announced Wednesday that it will introduce laws to halve the amount of waste the EU produces by 2030. Right now, less than 40 percent of electronic waste in the EU is recycled.
The new laws will ensure that new products brought to the EU market are repairable, recyclable and designed to last longer than our current phones and tablets, according to Reuters.
"The goal, in the end, is decoupling resource extraction from our economic growth," Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevicius told reporters in Brussels, as Deutsche Welle reported. He added, "The linear growth model of take, make, use and discard has reached its limits."
The sweeping legislation will apply to a wide range of products, including mobile phones, textiles, electronics, batteries, construction and packaging, according to the BBC. The legislation that will make it easier to repair a broken phone display or to replace the battery is spurred by the Right to Repair movement.
It also updates current efficiency standards to apply to a broader selection of everyday items. The efficiency laws are outdated since they only apply to computers, televisions, dishwashers and washing machines, according to The Guardian.
Sinkevicius added that the electronic devices sector has "a massive impact" and "is constantly growing," as Reuters reported. The European Union will not meet its target of zero-emissions by 2050 if it does not address the impact that mobile technology is having on the environment.
In addition to addressing the throwaway culture and planned obsolescence of mobile devices, batteries and other items, the European Commission wants to change the culture around textiles, which are also resource-intensive and seldom mended or recycled. In fact, only 1 percent of textiles are recycled, as Reuters reported.
"Textile is the new plastics," Sinkevicius said, as Deutsche Welle reported. The proposed law, which needs the approval of 27-member nations, restricts intentionally added microplastics from textiles and requires measures to make recycled content and waste reduction mandatory, according to Reuters.
One environmental advocacy group dubbed it the most ambitious and comprehensive proposal ever put forward to reduce the environmental and climate impact of the things we use and wear, according to the BBC.
The European Environment Bureau, an environmental group, told the BBC: "The strategy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we manufacture, use and dispose of our products in a way that benefits people and the planet."
Yet, some other environmental advocates felt that the plan does not go far enough."It is absurd, given that the EU consumes nearly three planets' worth of resources, that reducing absolute consumption is not at the core of the plan," said Meadhbh Bolger, resource justice campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe, as The Guardian reported. "The Von der Leyen commission's plan for a circular economy is out of touch with the reality and urgency of the planetary emergency."
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The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando<p>This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. <a href="https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/200527/dq200527b-eng.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Studies from the spring of 2020</a> indicate that Canadian's <a href="https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/moneytalk-mental-health-during-covid-19-1.1567633" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mental health has worsened</a> since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19. </p><p>The <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/in-depth/safe-activities-during-covid19/art-20489385" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mayo Clinic</a> lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."</p><p>TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."</p><p>Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/stories/" target="_blank">trail stories</a> and <a href="https://thegreattrail.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/TCT_2020-Donor-Impact-Report_EN_8.5x14-web.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Impact Report</a>.</p>
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By Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati
Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, the biggest recorded earthquake in Japanese history hit the country's northeast coast. It was followed by a tsunami that traveled up to 6 miles inland, reaching heights of over 140 feet in some areas and sweeping entire towns away in seconds.
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Nuclear power generates about 10% of the world's electricity (TWh = terawatt-hours). About 50 new plants are under construction, but many operating plants are aging. World Nuclear Association / CC BY-ND
<div id="07c42" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ac2be7bdc1a748c089d24d27f01992a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366694917045690369" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">🇸🇪 Nuclear Safety statement in IAEA BoG: Important safety upgrades introduced at 6 remaining nuclear power stations… https://t.co/FrgHv4N4UL</div> — SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪 (@SwedenUN Vienna 🇸🇪)<a href="https://twitter.com/SwedenUN_Vienna/statuses/1366694917045690369">1614680434.0</a></blockquote></div>
Author Najmedin Meshkati holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Najmedin Meshkati / CC BY-ND
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"Watch. Connect. Take Action."
These words are the invitation and mandate of the WaterBear Network, a free film-streaming platform that launched in November of 2020. Its goal is to turn inspirational images of the natural world into actions to save it.
WaterBear CEO Ellen Windemuth uses films to inspire planet-positive actions. WaterBear
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By Kenny Stancil
Amid the ongoing climate emergency and the devastating coronavirus pandemic that has resulted in more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. alone as well as an economic meltdown that has left millions of people unemployed, the Sunrise Movement on Thursday launched its "Good Jobs for All" campaign to demand that lawmakers pursue a robust recovery that guarantees a good job to anyone who wants one and puts the country on a path toward a Green New Deal.
<div id="c7fe3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5664692fdfd187db01eff5ac2787c564"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1367650177436311562" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">We’re coming together to fight for each other and guarantee #GoodJobsForAll Join us: https://t.co/MoJhmlzoaS https://t.co/IAPa8DeeLR</div> — Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@Sunrise Movement 🌅)<a href="https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/statuses/1367650177436311562">1614908186.0</a></blockquote></div>
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bpperry / Getty Images
By Tara Lohan
Each year the amount of plastic swirling in ocean gyres and surfing the tide toward coastal beaches seems to increase. So too does the amount of plastic particles being consumed by fish — including species that help feed billions of people around the world.
Blue shark at Cape Point, South Africa, 2016. Steve Woods / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0