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New analysis explores trends in global plastic consumption and recycling

January 28, 2015 - 3:35pm
For more than 50 years, global production of plastic has continued to rise. Some 299 million tons of plastics were produced in 2013, representing a 4 percent increase over 2012. Recovery and recycling, however, remain insufficient, and millions of tons of plastics end up in landfills and oceans each year, writes Gaelle Gourmelon, Communications and Marketing Manager at the Worldwatch Institute, in the Institute’s latest Vital Signs Online article.

Shell Slapped with Near-$1 million Fine for Falsely Selling Green Motor Fuel

January 20, 2015 - 4:43pm
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a settlement with threecompanies affiliated with Shell Oil Company to resolve Clean Air Act violations, including selling gasoline and diesel fuel that did not conform to federal standards. The violations resulted in excess emissions of harmful air pollutants from motor vehicles, which pose public health threats and environmental impacts. The companies will pay a $900,000 penalty to resolve these violations.

Study Finds New Toxic Contaminants In Oil And Gas Wastewater

January 14, 2015 - 12:21pm
Scientists have discovered high levels of two potentially hazardous contaminants, ammonium and iodide, in wastewater being discharged or spilled into streams and rivers from oil and gas operations.Levels of contamination were just as high in wastewater coming from conventional oil and gas wells as from hydraulically fractured shale gas wells.

Are the US drinking water standards outdated?

January 14, 2015 - 9:15am
Changes in drinking water quality in the 21st Century are coming from a myriad of circumstances, and not all are for the best. Top contenders for why water-drinking quality might become suspect to the average consumer include California's drought conditions, the technology of fracking, and the nationwide aging infrastructure of rusty, degrading pipes.Citing these and other relatively recent scenarios, Andrea Dietrich, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Virginia Tech, and her colleague Gary A. Burlingame of the Philadelphia Water Department, are calling for a critical review and rethinking of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) secondary standards for maintaining consumers' confidence in tap water as well as in its sensory quality.

Reducing aircraft emissions globally will require effective regulations

January 4, 2015 - 8:17am
Aviation emissions are a major clause of climate change, writes Valerie Brown - yet they remain unregulated. The gap between the best and worst performing airlines demonstrates ample opportunities for improvement - but is the political will there to impose effective regulation?The performance gap suggests the industry could reduce GHG emissions significantly if the least efficient airlines would emulate the most efficient.If commercial aviation were a country, it would rank seventh in global greenhouse gas emissions according to a recent report by the International Council on Clean Transportation(ICCT).

Diesel truck air pollution better thanks to California regulations

December 21, 2014 - 8:37am
Ever wonder what's in the black cloud that emits from some semi trucks that you pass on the freeway? Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) scientist Thomas Kirchstetter knows very precisely what's in there, having conducted detailed measurements of thousands of heavy-duty trucks over months at a time at two San Francisco Bay Area locations.With a specially outfitted research van equipped with sophisticated monitors for several pollutant types, he and his team are studying emissions levels from diesel trucks to understand and analyze the impact of new control technologies and California air pollution regulations.

Solar power shines brightly in the UK

December 13, 2014 - 10:52am
Solar power has a sunny future - even without any major breakthroughs, writes Ralph Gottschalg. There are huge gains to be made simply by getting smarter and using existing technologies more effectively. A new report shows that - given political support - solar PV could be competitive in the UK by 2020.PV can achieve the costs required to survive - without subsidies, and without any step change in technology. All it needs is the political will. 

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

December 3, 2014 - 10:18am
The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or The People’s Tree, began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. This tree lived three years before succumbing to wind and root damage. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide The People’s Tree. This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C.  This year, the 88-foot-tall white spruce tree was harvested from the Chippewa National Forest in northeastern Minnesota by Jim Scheff who won the Logger of the Year award from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (SFI).  That begs the question how can a logger win an award from a sustainability group? 

Japan submits new proposal to continue "scientific" whaling program

December 2, 2014 - 4:55pm
Earlier this year whales won a historic victory when the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s scientific whaling program in the Antarctic was illegal and ordered it be ended, but Japan is back at it with plans to continue under a new proposal. Despite a worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling that was put in place in 1986, Japan has continued with annual whale hunts that it claims are being conducted to collect scientific data. Whale advocates, however, have long argued that Japan has been abusing a loophole in the moratorium that allows for lethal scientific research whaling. Fortunately for whales, the court agreed, ruling that Japan’s program breached international law, had no justifications for the quotas it was setting and that it had failed to consider non-lethal alternatives under it’s JARPA II research program.

Europe's Plastic Bag Agreement Contested by Industry

November 26, 2014 - 9:14am
As lawmakers reached agreement this week to limit the use of plastic bags across Europe, industry voices warned that such rules will have a negative impact on trade in Europe's internal market. The ban could also lead to different standards in legislation in member states and ultimately, to a ban on other types of packaging, according to PlasticsEurope, the association of plastics manufacturers. The European Parliament and the Council agreed on Friday (21 November) on EU-wide legislation obliging member states to reduce the use of plastic bags. The law will apply only to bags with a thickness below 0.05mm, because they are less reusable, and turn into waste more quickly.

Children's rights and child labor in hazardous jobs around the world

November 20, 2014 - 5:15am
Nearly half of the countries that ratified the U.N. agreement still allow children to work in jobs that endanger their health and safety.Twenty-five years ago this month, the countries that compose the United Nations reached a landmark agreement that laid the foundation for much-needed strengthening of children’s rights and protections in nearly every country around the world.Today, the Convention on the Rights of the Child remains the only formal global effort to improve children’s rights and the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history. Only three U.N. member nations have not ratified the treaty: Somalia, South Sudan and the United States. 

EU Court Rules Against UK For Failure to Tackle Air Pollution

November 19, 2014 - 11:57am
A landmark judgment by the European Court of Justice compels the UK Government to act as soon as possible to reduce air pollution in British cities, writes Keith Taylor - and a good thing too for our health, safety and wellbeing. But it's not just the UK that benefits: every EU country must also comply with the ruling.

Want to Help Fight Wildlife Crimes? There's an App for that!

November 13, 2014 - 3:43pm
We know wildlife trafficking has become a huge problem for wild animals and imperiled species, but making it illegal is only part of the solution. Without the ability to identify wildlife products moving through ports, authorities have less power to stop the trade. The good news, according to a recent report published in the journal Biological Conservation, is that conservationists are successfully developing mobile apps to help authorities working around the world with the identification of wildlife that they believe are helping crack down on the problem.