Category Archive: Enviroment

  1. UK Could Be Heading for Cardboard Recycling Chaos

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    The United Kingdom could be faced with a major problem with respects to recycling cardboard and plastic in the imminent future due to new restrictions imposed by China. While people around the world are celebrating the New Year, some nursing hangovers from excessive celebrations, China is, on January 1, imposing new restrictions on the cardboard it imports. China is also banning imports of waste plastic that is mixed with paper rubbish.

    Approximately three million tonnes of cardboard are currently exported from the UK to China every year; China uses the waste cardboard for its many manufacturing ventures. Under current legislation, China accepts cardboard with contamination rates of 1.5 percent, but the new laws restrict this to below 0.5 percent. Loosely speaking, this means that any cardboard that contains staples, or contains traces of plastic or other waste products could be rejected by China and returned to the UK to deal with.

    The moves come from China’s president Xi Jinping who is attempting to create a “beautiful china” with a much cleaner environment, which includes campaigning against what Jinping calls yang laji or “foreign garbage.” China is one of the largest importers of recyclable materials in the world with the country importing an estimated 7.3 million tonnes of waste plastics from developed countries such as Japan, the United States of America and the UK.

    An expert in recycling, Simon Ellin of the Recycling Association, spoke to The Guardian newspaper and voiced his concerns for the rapidly approaching changes. Ellin admits that these new controls on contamination could results in millions of tonnes of waste cardboard being returned to the UK and has appealed to the Chinese government to delay the new restrictions until exporting countries have had time to fully implement new measures to reduce the number of rejections. “The ban and greater restrictions on imports is being implemented too quickly. As much as we in the UK, US and elsewhere do not have enough time to adapt, this is also the case with the Chinese agencies at the other end. This suggests there could be chaos.”

    One of the steps countries exporting plastic, which cannot be contaminated with waste paper, and cardboard to China will have to take is to take several more photographs of the waste so it can be checked by Chinese authorities before sending it on the container ships. They will also need to be prepared for China to reject the cargo so will need a contingency plan if the waste is rejected. This was echoed by Ellin.

    “Until we get to the bottom of some of the areas of uncertainty, we are reminding the recycling sector of the need to keep material exceptionally clean, take more photos than were required previously and be prepared that even this material can be rejected.”

    Greenpeace data suggest the UK alone exported more than 2.7 million tonnes of plastic waste to China and Hong Kong between 2012 and 2017, which amounts to two-third of the UK’s waste plastic exports.

  2. Most Polluted Cities in the World

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    The World Health Organization (WHO) set the air quality guideline for cities around the globe. This air quality guideline is an annual mean concentration guideline for particulate matter. Particulates are measures in PM2.5 and PM10, which is in relation to the size of the particles in the air. PM10 means the particles are smaller than approximately 10 micrometres. This size particle can settle in the lungs and can cause serious health problems. PM2.5 is the measurement of particles under 2.5 micrometres. This size particle is particularly harmful to humans; a study showed that as the amount of PM2.5 increase, so do the instances of lung cancer, up to a 22 percent increase.

    The guidelines set by the World Health Organization stipulates that PM2.5 should not exceed 10 micrograms per cubic meter as an annual mean, or 25 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour means. For PM10, measurements should not exceed 20 micrograms per meter cubed annually and 50 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour mean. Despite these World Health Organization guidelines, hundreds of cities around the world are falling short by a huge margin. The worst city in the world was Zabol in Iran, which has an annual PM2.5 of 217 and an annual PM10 of 527. Checking this against the WHO’s guideline shows air pollution in Zabol is more than 21 times the recommended limit for PM2.5 and more than 26 times the recommended limit for PM10.

    Zabol is the capital of Zabol County, Sistan and Baluchistan Province in Iran and lies on the border of Afghanistan with a population of around 130,000. The area around Zabol is known for its “120-day wind” which originates in the deserts and blows hot sand and dust for large parts of the year. The air pollution is that bad in Zabol that a 2017 study by the Preventive Medicine journal suggested that cycling outdoors in Zabol’s poor air for 30-minutes would cause that much harm that it would outweigh the health benefits of the exercise.

    Cities from India make up four of the current top 10 polluted cities in the world. Gwalior is second on the list with annual mean PM2.5 of 176 and PM10 of 329, with Allahabad coming in at number three with a PM2.5 of 170 and a PM10 of 317. Both of these cities have populations in excess of one million, which is quite worrying seeing how the air they breathe on a daily basis is so poor it has been likened to smoking up to 50 cigarettes when air pollution it at its peak. The other Indian cities to make the unwanted top 10 are Patna and Raipur, while Delhi and Ludhiana, Kanpur, Khanna, Firozabad and Lucknow are all part of the top 20. Occupying the fourth and fifth spot in the most polluted cities in the world are in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is number four with the industrial city of Al Jubail being number five. Both cities have higher PM10 levels than all but a couple of the worst 500 cities. Bamenda in Cameroon is the worst polluted city in Africa according to PM2.5 particulate matter. Its levels of 132 place it eighth in the world.

    There is a pattern when it comes to ranking the countries with the most polluted urban areas Pakistan is the worst with an average PM2.5 concentration of 115.7 followed by Qatar (92.4), Afghanistan (86), Bangladesh (83.3), Egypt (73), UAE (64), Mongolia (61.8), India (60.6), Bahrain (56.1) and Nepal (50). All would be considered to be developing or third-world countries in hot, desert areas. Sadly, all people living in these countries are having years taken off their lives due to the air they are forced to breathe.

  3. Alternatives to Fossil Fuels

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    Since the start of the industrial revolution, humans have become reliant on the burning of fossil fuels to provide energy for machinery, heating and power for homes and businesses, and fir fuel for various methods of transportation. While the planet still has an abundance of natural gas, coal and oil, burning fossil fuels is the leading cause of the erosion of the protecting ozone layer and the biggest contributor to the global warming epidemic. With countries around the world dedicating millions and billions of dollars to become more green and help to, literally, save the planet, it is time to take a look at some alternatives to fossil fuels.

    Solar Power

    Solar panels of today may look similar to those used a decade ago, but the technology is miles apart, and in a good way. Technological advances in solar panels have made them cheaper and more energy efficient to install and use than ever before, and improvements continued to be made with every passing year. Solar panels convert the light energy from our Sun into direct current electricity, which is then passed through an inverter to create an alternating current that most household appliances use for power. Of course, solar panels need plenty of sunlight to generate electricity and they do take up quite a lot of room, but in installing them on all new build houses could become the norm, even in less sunnier climates.

    Wind power

    Wind power is a clean and renewable source of energy available throughout the world because the wind blows all around the planet. When people think of wind power, they instantly think of the huge turbines erected in the countryside on massive towers, but advances in technology is allowing wind turbines to be installed without the need for towers; some can even be mounted on balloons!

    Tidal Power

    Approximately 71 percent of the planet is covered in water and a large percentage of that water has ocean currents and tides, which we can now use to generate electricity. Creating electricity from tides and currents uses technology not too dissimilar to wind turbines, but with the added advantage that currents and tides are constant, unlike wind and the Sun. The main problem with tidal power is the fact currently we need to be located near a coastal area to harness energy from the seas and the technology needed is still very expensive.

    Geothermal Energy

    Our planet is amazing when you think of it and it is almost like it wants us to use natural resources to create clean, green energy. The temperature beneath the surface of the Earth’s core-mantel can reach up to 4,000 degrees Celsius and this energy is often released via hot water springs. Geothermal energy is already being used around the globe to power some power stations. Another method of geothermal energy is to drill down near the Earth’s tectonic plates and then harness the energy released. This method is also very expensive, but it could become mainstream as the energy source should essentially never run out, allowing us to power the world without polluting the atmosphere.

  4. The Greenest Cars Money Can Buy

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    One of the biggest pollutants of the modern world is the humble motorcar. There are more than one billion cars on the world’s roads and each of them churns out gasses that are harmful to humans and contribute to the global warming epidemic. Cars are not going anywhere; they are too integral to modern day life, but they are getting cleaner and greener with each passing year. We may not yet have the technology for self-sustaining cars but those days will come one day. Until that happens, however, we may have to make do with the current crop of electric and hybrid motor vehicles, of which some of the cleanest and greenest are found below.

    Tesla Model 3

    Tesla are without a doubt the coolest brand in the world when it comes to electric cars. The company’s revolutionary CEO Elon Musk. Musk wants to fly to space, have a greenhouse on Mars and even have a completely solar powered city, and he also wants to make sustainable energy the energy of choice for everyone in the world. The Tesla Model 3 isn’t overly cheap at $35,000 but it looks beautiful. Its sleek likes make it look like a regular sports car while its 0-60 mph time of under six seconds and a 215-mile range make it drive like one. If all electric cars looked like those Tesla builds, there would be a lot more of them on the roads.

    Gass

    Chevrolet Bolt

    When you think of Chevrolet cars you think of big, brash vehicles with oodles of power that tear up the tarmac under their wheels. This may be the case for “Chevvy’s” of old but the Bolt flips this concept on its head. The Chevrolet Bolt may be a small car in the physical sense, but it could be huge if the American public get behind the project. The Bolt has 200 horsepower and can reach 60-mph from a standing start in 6.5 seconds while being able to travel up to 190-miles on a single charge.

    BMW i3

    No popular car list would be complete without it having a BMW on it. The German giant has one of the fastest and exotic electric cars on the market in the shape of the i8, which can reach 155 mph and go 0-60 in 4.4 seconds, but now it has a more family orientated car in the i3. The small car may have a love-it or hate it shape but it can travel 81 miles when run completely on electric or up to 150 miles thanks to a built-in generator. Improvements in batteries are seeing extensions to the ranges of BMW’s range with each new model so expect this figure to rise sharply.

    Volkswagen E-Golf

    Volkswagen landed themselves in hot water with the authorities after it became public knowledge the German manufacturer had doctored emission figures of its popular diesel models to meet testing standards. VW hopes to make amends with its E-Golf, a beautiful looking car that had 124 miles of range in its first all-electric car.

  5. Three famous city parks

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    A stroll in the park is one of life’s simple pleasures. Being at one with nature, having the sun on your back or kicking the red, brown and yellow autumn leaves can be a superb way to relieve stress and wind down after a hectic chore-filled day or after an arduous week at the office. There is a common misconception that the most beautiful parks in the world are tucked away in far-away places, their delights hidden away and only revealed to those willing to step off the beaten track to discover them. The truth of the matter is, there are some picturesque parks in the middle of vibrant cities around the world, right in the middle of metropolis’ and heavily urbanised areas.

    Central Park

    Perhaps the most famous city park is the Central Park in New York. Some may say that Central Park is almost a celebrity in its own right due to it appearing in dozens of television programmes and films over the years. The Central Park is the most visited urban park in the United States. First established in 1857, the park was placed on the tentative list for the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Visitors to the Central Park can take in breath-taking views of lakes, meander down tree-lined pathways and even stop by the world famous Strawberry Fields, a gorgeous flowering 2.5 acres section dedicated to John Lennon.

    Golden Gate Park

    Another famous American urban park is the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. Spanning 1,017 acres, the Golden Gate Park is 20 percent larger than the Central Park and is visited by more than 13 million people every year, ranking it fifth in the U.S.A. The park features museums, Segway tours, and aquarium and the Japanese Tea Garden along with the stunningly beautiful San Francisco Botanical Garden, a chain of lakes, the famous “Hippie Hill” and if you have a keen eye you may even spot some wild coyotes as more than 100 are said to live within the confines of the park.

    Hyde Park

    Covering 350 acres and boasting of more than 4,000 trees, a meadow, ornamental flower gardens and even a large lake fit for swimming and boating, visiting the Hyde Park could make you forget that you are in the heart of London, United Kingdom. The park is busy throughout the year as visitors take in the scenery and have some respite from the hustle and bustle of London life. It is in the Hyde Park that you will find several fascinating monuments, sculptures and buildings, including the Joy of Life fountain, the Achilles statue and the Diana Memorial Fountain in memory of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.

    These are just a trio of the most famous city parks in the world, parks that have a place in the hearts of millions of people around the globe and parks that help us to remember that this planet is a truly wonderful place to call home.

  6. History of the electric car

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    When you think of electric powered cars, what image does your mind’s eye conjure up? The famous Toyota Prius hybrid car? What about a state of the art Tesla that is packed with the latest technology and gadgets? Both would be valid responses, as would the dozens of other modern electric and hybrid cars on the market today. People believe electric automobiles are something new and even futuristic, but what if we told you that the first electric car in the world was built in 1884, some 133 years ago.

    British inventor Thomas Parker built the first practical production electric car in 1884 after designing his own high-capacity rechargeable batteries, which is amazing when you think about it because it wasn’t until 1891 that the United Kingdom’s first alternating current power system was designed and the first power station was opened. Four years later, Germany’s Andreas Flocken invented the Flocken Elektrowagen and he lays claim, correctly or not, to creating the first electric powered production car.

    Cars powered by electric were quite popular during the late 19th century and the early 20th century, but rapid advances in the internal combustion technology led to their demise. Cars that used gasoline for fuel were quicker and easier to refuel, there was a better range of gasoline powered cars and when mass production of gasoline cars happened the writing was on the wall for the electric automobile; Ford Motor Company even reduced prices of gasoline cars to less than half of the equivalent electric car which effectively removed electric propulsion cars obsolete by the 1930s.

    In more recent times, the popularity of electric cars has increased. Part of the reason for this is the advances in batteries, concerns about the ever fluctuating oil prices around the globe and people wanting to be “greener” in their lives; electric cars do not produce exhaust emissions and therefore can help to reduce greenhouse gases. In 2004, Californian company Tesla Motors began developing the Tesla Roadster and first delivered to its customers four years later in 2008. Seen as a major breakthrough in electronic car technology, the Roadster became the first highway legal serial production all-electric car. It’s lithium-ion batteries (it had no combustion engine at all) allowed the car to travel more than 320 kilometres per charge, another world first.

    Since the Roadster’s launch, more than 30 all-electric models have been released by various manufacturers and more than one million cars have been sold up to September 2016. It appears that along with wanting to increase the potential range the cars can travel, there is also a race to see who can produce the fastest and quickest electric-powered cars. Currently, the Tesla Model S P100D is the fastest electric car in terms of acceleration, reaching 60 miles per hour in only 2.28 seconds, only 0.08 slower than the Porsche 918 Spyder that costs almost seven-times more.

    Exciting times are ahead for the electric car industry. Technology is rapidly improving, production costs are reducing and more charging points are popping up around the world. Whether or not the combustion engine’s days are numbered remains to be seen, but it will be interesting to see how far companies such as Tesla can push the all-electric car.

  7. Five of the greenest cities in the world

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    With the world’s climate forever changing due to pollutants and global warming being a very real thing that puts huge parts of the world’s population under threat, countries around the globe have put measures in place to halt the continued damage to the environment and help people be greener. A large percentage of the countries that make up this wonderful planet have signed up to dozens of treaties to help lower the amount of pollution emitted into the atmosphere, but some of them are going the extra mile and deserve a place on our greenest cities in the world list.

    Copenhagen

    Denmark’s capital city, Copenhagen, has been rated as one of the most desirable cities in the world to live in. Its current population is approaching two million residents so it is one of the smaller cities but that does not stop it from having one of the most advanced environmental policies and planning initiatives on the planet. The Copenhagen government has set an ambitious target of being carbon-neutral by the year 2025 and has 500 companies signed up to the CleanTech Cluster to assist in lowering pollution levels. Also, the city’s infrastructure is designed to be conductive to cycling and walking rather than using automobiles.

    Amsterdam

    Amsterdam of the Netherlands has some of the cleanest air in the world thanks to the fact that it is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities on the planet. There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people, and everyone rides a bike in Amsterdam and has done for decades thanks in part to the flatness of the city and the fact everything is nice and compact in the Dutch capital.

    Stockholm

    The Swedish capital of Stockholm is another Scandinavian city on our list and it definitely deserves a place on it. Why? Because Stockholm has had coordinated environmental planning in place since the 1970s and was the European Union’s first city to win the coveted European Green Capital Award in 2010. Stockholm’s latest target is to be completely fossil fuel-free by the year 2050, which will make it one of the cleanest and greenest cities on the globe.

    Vancouver

    Vancouver has the best air quality in Canada and is ranked in the top 10 in the world for the same measurements. The government of the city knows that as the city grows so will the amount of pollution, but has steps in place to help limit this damaging pollution. Its goal is to have its residents breathe the cleanest air of any major city in the world and is doing this with initiatives such as developing an electric vehicle infrastructure to help cope with the demand for electric vehicles, have permanent air quality stations within city limits and educating Vancouver’s residents to the pollutants their everyday activities can cause.

    Oslo

    Oslo of Norway is yet another green Scandinavian city on our list thanks to its city government having a Strategy for Sustainable Development. Part of this strategy is an aggressive program to protect its natural surroundings, while its Green Belt Boundary protects Oslo’s numerous wild areas from development.

  8. Diesel engines to be banned in the UK

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    The United Kingdom’s government has unveiled plans to ban all new petrol and diesel cars and vans from the year 2040 due to fears that ever increasing nitrogen oxide levels in the air pose a significant health risk to the British public. Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, said that Britain simply cannot carry on allowed petrol and diesel cars because the levels of pollution they create is seriously damaging people’s health and that of the planet, and that people have no alternative to embracing new technology.

    Diesel powered engines have long been popular due to them offering better fuel economy, increased longevity of the engine compared to a petrol engine, more torque at lower engine speeds and minimal carbon monoxide exhaust emissions.

    Back in 2001, the UK’s government introduced new vehicle tax rates as a measure to cut CO2 emissions. Diesel engines, as a rule, produce approximately 15 percent less CO2 than petrol, although they create four times more NO2 and a staggering 22 times more particles into the atmosphere, leading to some people stating diesel is a dirty fuel. Motorists in London are soon to be hit with a daily £10 toxic “T-charge” tax if they own one of the 10,000 oldest, most polluting vehicles. This is in addition to the congestion charged levied on motorists wanting to drive in the centre of London on a weekday. The government hopes this will claw back some of the £2.7 billion in productivity it claims is lost each year by British workers falling ill due to environmental factors.

    The hope is to make improvements to infrastructure, charge vehicles to enter so-called “clean zones,” introduce a scrappage scheme where owners of older diesel cars can scrap their old vehicle and receive a significant discount on a new car or van, before a complete blanket ban on all petrol and diesel powered cars and vans by the year 2040. While everyone should be getting behind initiatives that improve the standard of living for everyone, the banning of these engines could have a major negative effect and people’s wellbeing and the United Kingdom’s economy.

    Bus operators, which primarily use diesel engines, would have to retrofit their buses and coaches with new technology, while haulage firms would see their fuel and maintenance costs rise astronomically, which could cause all but the biggest companies go out of business. Then there is the massive extra strain put onto the National Grid, the high-voltage electric power transmission network in Great Britain; the National Grid connects power stations and substations and ensures homes and businesses have a steady supply of electricity.

    Should the government effectively force motorists to switch to electric cars, the peak demand for electricity could increase by more than 50 percent, particularly during rush hour when potentially millions of cars are plugged in and needing charging. One analyst claims the extra electricity needed will be almost 10 times the total power output that the soon-to-be-built Hinckley Point C nuclear power station can produce, forcing power stations to burn even more gas and import a much larger percentage of its power. If diesel cars are causing health problems then something has to change and change quickly, but a blanket ban doesn’t look like the answer, or even possible, with the current state of the infrastructure in the UK.