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Air travel is terrible for the environment. Can new tech change that?

What is ewaste?
The term ‘ewaste’ encompasses all old electrical appliances either in a state of disrepair or simply obsolete. This includes everything from fridges and microwaves to mobile phones and computers. The correct disposal of ewaste is of vital importance to being able to achieve a sustainable future.


What's good for vacation relaxation is terrible for the environment. Photo / Dean Purcell
carbon dioxide per passenger, as much as the average Nepalese family generates in five years. A Prius would have to travel 10,500 miles to have the same carbon impact.

Yet even those who want, urgently, to fight global warming have been slow to deal with the impact of air travel. Think of those high-profile do-gooders who flew 550 private jets to confab at Davos about carbon dioxide levels in January.

The Environmental Protection Agency only just declared that air travel contributes to global warming and that it will begin regulating greenhouse emissions by carriers under the Clean Air Act.

Why, when car travel is perennially in the hot seat, has this issue gotten so little attention? We’ve got electric cars, smaller cars, cars with great gas mileage. Why haven’t we seen the same technological evolution with planes?

The answer is that airplanes pose a fundamentally different engineering problem. They have to do work to carry their fuel through the air, so are limited by the energy density of the storage medium. Increasing efficiency of aircraft engines and wings will help, but only to a point.

Watch: Solar plane completes 6th leg around globe


And a lot of the “easy” fixes have been made. Companies like Boeing and Airbus have been working for five decades to build planes that burn less fuel, innovating materials and making computer-aided tweaks to aerodynamic design.

They’ve increased use of strong, lightweight materials like carbon fiber laminates that now make up more than 50 per cent of a modern passenger jet’s airframe. They also developed sophisticated turbofan engines that are significantly more efficient than older models.

Their newest aircraft (released in 2000) use half as much fuel per mile as the jets of a half-century ago (Cars and SUVs are about 40 per cent more efficient today.) And engineers say there are few fixes left. “The present technology is already highly optimised,” says writer and aircraft designer Peter Garrison. “The low-hanging fruit has been plucked.”

Solar-powered planes

An alternative idea would be to write off conventional technology as a dead-end, and instead invest in radical approaches like solar-powered aircraft. The topic has been in the news lately, thanks to the photovoltaic-encrusted experimental plane Solar Impulse. The plane, currently in Japan, is part of a 12-year project by Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, who want to fly around the world. If successful, the plane is expected to return to its starting point in Abu Dhabi in August.

If you squint, it’s easy to see in Solar Impulse the dawn of the eco-friendly airliner. With four engines and wings as broad as a 747’s, it physically resembles a commercial aircraft. But appearances deceive. To achieve its long-distance flights, Sunseeker not only uses advanced materials and design techniques, it also relies on extreme design choices.

It is extremely light: At just 5,000 pounds, the 70-foot-long aircraft weighs less than a Chevy Avalanche. A fully laden 737, on the small side for a commercial jet, weighs about 150,000 lb or 30 times more than Solar Impulse. In order to carry the additional weight of passengers and their baggage, a commercial airliner built using the same technology would have to be impractically enormous.

Slow and uncomfortable

It would also be bare of all familiar amenities. To save energy, Solar Impulse is neither pressurised nor climate controlled, so that temperatures in the tiny cockpit swing between 86 F and -4 F.

And it is slow. Solar Impulse cruises at a languid 56 mph, about one-tenth the speed of a typical commercial jet. The reason is simple aerodynamics. As it flies, a plane disrupts the air it moves through, and this takes power. The faster it goes, the more power it will consume.

Very efficient airplanes, like gliders or human-powered airplanes, have long, thin wings designed to move slowly through the air. That’s appealing for aeronautical engineers, but not to travelers on tight schedules. To get from Hawaii to Arizona for the eighth stage of its round-the-world journey Solar Impulse will require more than four days of continuous flight.

Really, the only way for commercial aviation to become green would be for science to come up with a storage medium that’s as energy dense as fossil fuel, but that doesn’t release net carbon into the atmosphere. Someday, our descendants may find out a way to build super-batteries that can be charged using renewable energy sources or nuclear power.

Bio fuel

At present, however, the only technology that fits the bill is bio fuel: a hydrocarbon energy source that we make in the here-and-now, whether from crops or from recycled cooking oil and animal fats.

Last year, aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Embraer teamed up to open a biofuel research centre in Brazil that will promote the development of sustainable aviation fuel. In December, Boeing carried out the first test flight of a 787 Dreamliner using “green diesel.” So far, this kind effort represents baby steps: the Dreamliner flight used just a 15 per cent blend of green diesel with 85 per cent conventionally derived fuel, and that only in one of its two engines.

One problem with using higher percentages than that is that biofuel tends to freeze at typical airliner cruising altitudes. It’s also more difficult to store, and can damage engine parts. We’re a long way from running the world airline fleet on the stuff.

So as you sling your beach duffel into the overhead bin in the summer, know that your fun in the sun this year will unavoidably play a role in making next’s years summer even summerier. If you want to minimise your carbon footprint, there’s really only one option.

Just ask Slate writer Eric Holthaus. He’s come up with an effective strategy – one that allowed him, he writes, to go “from having more than double the carbon footprint as the average American to about 30 per cent less than average.” His trick? He gave up his 75,000-mile-a-year travel habit cold turkey. “This has to be the last flight I ever take,” he tweeted as he boarded a plane last year. “I’m committing right now to stop flying.”

Wise is a New York-based magazine writer and author of the The Plane That Wasn’t There: Why We Haven’t Found MH370 and Extreme Fear: The Science of Your Mind in Danger.

Washington Post


Racing towards mass extinction

Habitat loss and climate change mean species disappearing 100 times faster than normal, study shows.
The Amur leopard is the world's rarest cat and remains at risk from hunters. Photo / AP
The Amur leopard is the world’s rarest cat and remains at risk from hunters. Photo / AP

Earth has entered its sixth mass extinction with animals dying out at 100 times the normal rate, scientists have warned.

Humans have created a toxic mix of habitat loss, pollution and climate change, which has led to the loss of at least 77 species of mammals, 140 types of bird and 34 amphibians since 1500 including the dodo, Steller’s sea cow, the Falkland Islands wolf, the quagga, the Formosan clouded leopard, the Atlas bear, the Caspian tiger and the Cape lion.

Scientists at Stanford University in the United States claim it is the biggest loss of species since the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

“Without any significant doubt we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event,” said Professor Paul Ehrlich, at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate.

“Our calculations very likely underestimate the severity of the extinction crisis. There are examples of species all over the world that are essentially the walking dead.”

Using fossil records and extinction counts from a range of sources, the researchers calculated the normal “background rate” of extinctions and compared it with a conservative estimate of present extinctions. Natural population changes in the wild usually lead to two species of mammals dying out every 10,000 years. But the rate is 114 times that level.

Humans have been responsible for animal decline going much further back. In the islands of tropical Oceania, up to 1800 bird species are estimated to have gone extinct in the last 2000 years. It is likely that early humans were also responsible for wiping out the huge megafauna which used to live in Australia including a giant wombat, a marsupial lion, and a flesh-eating kangaroo.

One in four mammals is at risk of going extinct and 41 per cent of amphibians. Many now only survive in captivity.

“If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on,” said lead author Gerardo Ceballos, of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico.

Ehrlich said governments must start working together to conserve threatened species. Despite the gloomy outlook, there is a meaningful way forward, according to Ehrlich and his colleagues.

“Avoiding a true sixth mass extinction will require rapid, greatly intensified efforts to conserve already threatened species, and to alleviate pressures on their populations – notably habitat loss, over-exploitation for economic gain and climate change,” write the authors of the study, which was published in the journal Science Advances.

10 of the planet’s most endangered species

1 South China tiger
Native to the southern Chinese provinces of Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan and Jiangxi the tiger had a population of 4000 in the 1950s but is now thought to only exist in zoos.

2 Sumatran elephant
As more of Sumatra’s forest becomes converted for agriculture, the elephant has faced a critical loss of habitat. A 2007 study estimated there were less than 2800 remaining in the wild.

3 Amur leopard
The world’s rarest cat is believed to be making a comeback with at least 57 confirmed animals in Russia. Just 30 animals existed in 2007. But the animal is still vulnerable to hunters.

4 Atlantic goliath grouper
Despite the US issuing a moratorium on hunting the big fish in 1990, the animal remains critically endangered.

5 Gulf porpoise
The Gulf porpoise is now one of the rarest mammals in the world, with a global population estimated at under 100 in 2014. The last remaining porpoises live in North America’s Gulf of California and experts expect it to become extinct by 2018.

6 Northern bald ibis
The bird’s natural habitat of North Africa, European and the Middle East has been plagued with war and civil unrest and now only one population exists in Morocco, with just a few hundred remaining. Attempts are under way in Austria, Spain and Italy to breed the animals for reintroduction into the wild.

7 Hawksbill turtle
The 20,000 strong female population is under threat by hunters seeking their brown and gold shells.

8 Black rhinoceros
The black rhino has suffered the most drastic decline in total numbers of all rhino species and was officially declared extinct in the wild in 2011. However, a major conservation effort has seen numbers swell to 5000 and now the animals are kept under armed guard.

9 Pygmy three-toed sloth
Found on Panama’s uninhabited Escudo de Veraguas island, a 2012 study found fewer than 80 sloths were still living because of habitat loss by loggers.

10 Chinese pangolin
Used extensively as a food, and for Chinese medicines, the pangolin has declined by 94 per cent since the 1960s. Numbers have been hard to estimate as the creature is nocturnal and solitary.

The 5 mass extinctions

•83 per cent of sea life wiped out in Ordovician-Silurian mass extinction 443 million years ago.
•In the Late Devonian mass extinction, which followed 90 million years later, three quarters of life on Earth became extinct.
•The Permian mass extinction of 248 million years ago was nicknamed The Great Dying as 96 per cent of species died out.
•48 million years later, half of all species were wiped out by climate change and asteroid impacts.
•The final one marked the end of the dinosaurs

Daily Telegraph UK


Government caught with hidden pollution budget blowout

Blogpost by Nathan Argent – May 20, 2015 at 12:19Add comment

The bean counters at the Treasury have warned government that failing to reduce pollution in New Zealand could cost the taxpayer an eye watering, economy wrecking $52 billion. And John Key’s government want to keep the public in the dark about it.

On the eve of the Government delivering yet another broken budget and a seventh consecutive overspend, one of John Key’s ministers yesterday said Treasury should keep the true cost of climate pollution from the public.

When asked about this figure in Parliament, the reply from Tim Groser was “what Treasury got wrong was that it did not use sufficiently sophisticated software to conceal the redacted information”. In other words, don’t front it to the public.

The Government is currently running a hurried consultation on what pollution reduction targets should be submitted as part of our contribution to solve climate change. And to justify doing next to nothing, they are arguing that the cost of taking pollution out of the economy would be too great.

Yet the reality is that failing to act would cause a budget blow out that would bring our nation to its knees.

See, the maths on this is pretty simple. New Zealand could continue to be part of the problem of climate change by opening up vast areas of our coastline and wild areas to oil and gas exploration and turn a blind eye to the massive impact that dairy pollution is having on our rivers and streams. Both of which threaten to cost you, me and our children tens of billions of dollars.

Or we could be part of the solution. By taking real climate action, we could create many tens of thousands of job in our clean energy industries, give our economy a year on year multi-billion dollar boost and slash our oil import bill by $7 billion. We could run our transport system largely on clean energy and power our homes with solar, cutting our household bills.

Taxpayers deserve to know the true cost of pollution to our economy and the risk it poses to our prosperity and well-being, not have inconvenient facts swept under the carpet.

New Zealand deserves a real climate action plan and sound economic management. So please click here to take action now and demand that the Government acts to take pollution out of our economy and safeguard the financial future for all New Zealanders.

Source: Greenpeace


We’re going overboard with beach rubbish

An estimated 80 per cent of marine rubbish is made up of various types of plastic. 
Photo / 123RF
An estimated 80 per cent of marine rubbish is made up of various types of plastic. Photo / 123RF

Beach rubbish has been in the spotlight recently with keen crabbers on the shores of Omaha leaving behind pigs’ heads and chicken carcasses – apparently irresistible to curious crustaceans. Stumbling upon or indeed over a pig’s head while out for a walk is without doubt an extremely unpleasant experience, however a seemingly innocent plastic bag blowing along the beach is destined to have a much more sinister effect when it ends up inside a sea turtle’s stomach.

Wondering how my local beach fared after a hot day with lots of human activity, I took my dogs for a run and did a spot of rubbish collecting along the shore and rock pools.

I quickly filled one of the four plastic bags I found in the space of half an hour with glass fragments, three tangled sections of fishing line and a sinker, three aluminum cans, two plastic bottles, a plastic lined drink carton, a plastic drink holder ring, a bottle top and a jandal.

As well as rubbish discarded by beachgoers that day, some had clearly been in the sea for a time and had washed up. Marine rubbish from beach users is generously added to by recreational craft and commercial vessels, via stormwater drains, from oil rigs and blown offshore from the mainland.

Does it really matter? The ocean is huge!

Considering that the ocean comprises almost three quarters of our planet, you may think it can ‘soak up’ a lot of rubbish before any real damage is done. This may be so, but sadly the amount of rubbish generated is now at the point that the effects are being well and truly felt.A dramatic example of the cumulative effect of rubbish in the ocean is the ‘Pacific Garbage Patch’ in the North Pacific Ocean, where American oceanographer Charles Moore estimates about 100 million tons of rubbish, predominantly plastics forms a floating island that takes a week to sail through. Ocean currents have concentrated the waste in this area and the ‘plastic soup’ continues to grow.

Volunteers try to clear a dam which is filled with discarded plastic bottles and other garbage, blocking Vacha Dam, near the town of Krichim on April 25, 2009. AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF. Photo / Flickr Creative Commons

How long does rubbish last in the sea and what does it do?

Information from the NZ Forest and Bird Society shows just how long carelessly discarded rubbish remains intact in our oceans:Orange peel: 2 years
Cigarette butts: 1-5 years
Plastic bags: 20-50 years
Tin cans: 50 years
Aluminium cans: 80-100 years
Plastic bottles: 250 years
Glass: I million years

An estimated 80 per cent of marine rubbish is made up of various types of plastic.

Plastics can be mistaken for food by marine animals which then suffer such effects as starvation, dehydration, poisoning and other painful conditions often leading to their death.

Sea turtles for example mistake plastic bags for their jelly fish prey. Sea birds also consume plastic which can resemble small fish. Autopsies of albatross have shown large amounts of plastic contained in their stomachs.

As floating plastic breaks down into smaller pieces it is consumed by plankton feeders, also with disastrous results.

Marine mammals such as dolphins, whales and seals as well as seabirds have been reported entangled in marine rubbish. Discarded fishing equipment and the plastic rings that hold bottles of water together are common examples of this danger. As rubbish sinks to the sea floor it then smothers smaller creatures, blocking out light and preventing the uptake of nutrients.

What you can do?

• Organise a local beach or estuary clean up – this is a great way to work together as a community and get to know your neighbours.
• Choose alternatives to plastic wherever possible.
• No balloon releases – these end up in the sea.
• When on the boat or at the beach, take your rubbish with you.
• Avoid packaging and containers designed for single use and those products with unrecyclable or excessive packaging.
• If you’re at the beach or on the water and you see rubbish, pick it up.The old Reduce, Reuse and Recycle catchphrase is spot on – use less, reuse what you’ve got and recycle what you can’t.

The sea plays an integral role in the health of our planet, it supports millions of creatures, many we are yet to discover and it’s a great place to have fun in the summer. Let’s not treat it like a rubbish dump.



Households and firms have vital role in managing waste

Waste Management's Redvale site produces landfill gas used to heat greenhouses. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey
Waste Management’s Redvale site produces landfill gas used to heat greenhouses. Photo / Glenn Jeffrey

A New Year’s resolution to help the environment – think about it before you chuck things out. If there is one thing you probably didn’t dwell on too much over your summer break it’s the amount of waste we all produce and how it should be managed.

Yet you only need to look at how waste volumes change every holiday season to see how tightly the way we live and what we throw out are entwined.

At a holiday destination like Waiheke, for example, waste volumes jump 20 per cent in January. Perhaps testifying to all those end-of-year parties, Wellington glass recycling rockets by 38 per cent in December.

These days everyone wants to see waste minimised at source and as much as possible of what’s left recycled.

But as Auckland in particular grows so will the demand to manage waste. Smart infrastructural planning will be the key. Yet there is also a surprising amount that households and business can do.

Reducing waste is always the first step. You can make a difference by:

* Checking if you can return old electronic items like laptops to their manufacturer for recycling.

* Washing and putting out cans, bottles and cardboard for recycling.

* Reusing plastic bags and containers.

* Buying items in bulk and avoiding packaging you don’t need.

* Donating unwanted goods rather than throwing them out.

* Selling or exchanging unwanted furniture and goods.

* Avoiding disposables — take your own reusable drink bottle.

* Buy items loose and use refills.

You can dramatically cut the energy used in recycling by packing paper with paper, and glass with glass.

Please also think about the people who pick your waste up. Wrap broken glass in newspaper so those who deal with it are protected.

So, as you return to the normal working year how about adding a new resolution for 2015 – think about your waste before you throw it out – and about the difference that managing it well can make to our environment.

Tom Nickels is managing director of Waste Management New Zealand.

NZ Herald


Smart Energy Challenge Open for Submissions

Wellington-based initiative brings to life community-driven smart energy ideas.

Last year’s Smart Energy Challenge participants Miranda Voke and Oliver ter Ellen from Aro Solar.

Applications are now open for the Smart Energy Challenge 2015. The initiative, now in its second year, is a partnership between Wellington City Council and Enspiral to develop and fund a variety of community-driven projects that make better use of energy.

The programme aims to bring together collaborative partners from across sectors including the youth-based climate change group Generation Zero, crowdfunding platform PledgeMe, and financial advisory firm Deloitte.

“It’s great to see partner organisations from different parts of our community come together to address climate change. Only by fostering those connections are we able to have an impact,” says Wellington City Councillor David Lee.

The programme will help successful applicants take their projects from idea to real-life through a series of workshops, community events, mentoring and networking opportunities taking place in March.

The projects then launch individual public crowdfunding campaign. The Council will match-fund the amount each project raises, capped at a total of $25,000 across all successful projects.

Chelsea Robinson, last year’s programme manager, said: “The Smart Energy Challenge is a great example of a programme that can lead to something bigger. Not only did the Aro Solar team put panels on the roof of the Aro Valley Community Hall, but they’ve gone on to the Ideas for a Better New Zealand / Live the Dream summer programme with their project.”

The Smart Energy Challenge is an initiative funded by the Council’s Smart Energy Capital Programme. Last year’s pilot project won the Renewables Innovation category at the 2014 Sustainable Business Network Awards.

Applications are open from 15 January and close on Sunday 15 February at midnight. The challenge is open for ideas and projects that benefit Wellington City and its residents and visitors.

“Cities must rise to the challenge of climate change,” says Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. “The Wellington City Council encourages innovative citizen-led solutions.”

To register for the launch event, held on 5 February in a central Wellington location (to be confirmed), apply for the challenge and find out more information go


Can your smartphone reduce your energy footprint?

Monitor your power use on your smartphone.
Monitor your power use on your smartphone.

New mobile technology is making energy use – and wastage – much more visible for households.

Since 2009, Powershop has burnished its green credentials as one of the only New Zealand power companies actively helping its customers to use less electricity.

The first to sell carbon offset energy through its online shop, Powershop has now positioned itself as the world’s only ‘mobile power company’. CEO Ari Sargent says smartphones can be fantastic tools for households who want to reduce their energy footprint.

“Mobile makes viewing and understanding energy consumption radically simpler, easier to understand and, importantly, more fun.

“It gives you an incentive to really understand where you’re using or wasting the most power, which leads to lower usage,” Mr Sargent says.

Powershop’s mobile app lets you track and compare your power use between days when heat pumps or heaters were switched off or left running, mornings when no one was home and when guests stayed over, or nights when the game console was used heavily or not at all.

“Mobile makes it real. If you can literally see the difference between switching lights off or leaving them on, you’re far more likely to change your habits and behaviour,” Mr Sargent says.

Small steps add up

Max Dermann, a self-professed ‘conscious consumer’ from the Kapiti Coast joined Powershop three years ago to gain better control over his power consumption. Max says it was just one more choice his family could make to reduce their impact on the environment.

“I want my children to grow up breathing clean air. Everyone can take small steps toward making that happen, if more of us do and we combine them, they become huge steps,” Mr Dermann says.

All the electricity Max buys from Powershop, a product called Airshed, is carbon offset. He and his family also ride bicycles where they can instead of driving, use energy efficient lighting and appliances, grow vegetables at home and buy local organic produce whenever possible.

Max uses Powershop’s mobile app to track how much power his appliances use on a daily basis. He recently found turning his heat pumps down at night used no more power than switching them off and powering them up in the morning.

“It just takes a few seconds to open the app and all the information is there. It’s like checking the weather or your bank account. Mobile is the perfect platform to make you more aware of how much energy you’re using.”

Max and his wife are now thinking of building a modern log home constructed from sustainably sourced pine wood. Despite taking a fraction of the energy to heat compared with traditional New Zealand homes, he says he’ll still track his power use on his smartphone.

“If we can choose to use less energy without compromising our comfort or quality of life, we should make that choice, both for ourselves and our children’s generation,” Mr Dermann says.


Why those charges for plastic bags actually work

In cities like Washington, you have to pay for your plastic bags at the checkout. Photo / Getty
In cities like Washington, you have to pay for your plastic bags at the checkout. Photo / Getty

In cities like Washington, you know the drill: After bagging your groceries, the checkout machine asks you how many bags you used. And if you used plastic or disposable bags (rather than bags you brought on your own), you have to pay 5 cents per bag.

Washington passed a law requiring as much in 2009 – a policy that states like New Jersey and New York are also considering, and that has been adopted around the world from Ireland and Scotland to South Africa.

Some localities have gone farther still – California and Hawaii have effectively banned plastic bags outright – but recent research suggests that charges or fees can also be effective (and have the added benefit of being less coercive). Moreover, it suggests that they work, at least in part, through a surprising mechanism.

Read also:
Napier reduces plastic refuse
Charge to stay for plastic bags

It’s not just the relatively minor added cost, on its own, that impels people to stop using plastic bags and to instead bring their own bags with them to the store.

Rather, it’s the way this small change disrupts habitual behaviours and helps people draw a tighter linkage between the environmental awareness that they already possess, and actions in the world that actually advance that consciousness and their values.

Such is the upshot of a new study on plastic-bag charges published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology by a team of Argentinian researchers, led by psychologist Adriana Jakovcevic of Buenos Aires University. Charging a relatively small amount for bags “produces changes in behaviour,” says Jakovcevic, “and these changes are not only because of the economic value of the incentive – there are also some other processes at play that involve environmental concerns.”

As the researchers note, Buenos Aires provides a perfect opportunity to study the effects of plastic-bag charges because in 2012, the vast city’s Environmental Protection Agency put in place bag restrictions that in turn led the leading supermarket chain association to institute a bag charge (the equivalent of 2.5 US cents for bags of medium size and 4 cents for large bags) on Octoober 9, 2012.

For smaller supermarket associations, meanwhile, the same charge went into effect roughly two months later on December 10, 2012. But for Gran Buenos Aires, the larger area that surrounds the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires (CABA), there was no change instituted at all.

This is, the researchers note, a “natural experiment”: You have three groups of supermarket shoppers, two of which experienced new bag charges at different times, and one of which did not experience plastic-bag charges at all.

So the researchers conducted several field studies, observing shoppers leaving supermarkets in low-to-middle income areas in the three different regions at different times – before any policies went into place, after the first change, and after the second change.

The result was that, sure enough, the policies greatly increased the percentage of shoppers who were observed to be carrying their own bag. Clearly, the bag fees worked to dramatically increase the habit of people carrying their own bags.

In New Zealand, customers can purchase reusable shopping bags at The Warehouse and at most supermarkets. Photo / NZ Herald

But importantly, in a second study that involved directly interviewing consumers who were observed to leave supermarkets carrying either plastic bags or their own bags, the researchers tried to get at why they had begun to adopt this new behaviour, rather than paying the relatively small bag charges.

First, it turned out that a surprising number of people didn’t like the bag-charge policy, but started carrying their own bags anyway. According to Jakovcevic, it is likely that the small economic cost is the best way of explaining the behaviour of these individuals. Past research, however, has called into question whether a purely economic effect like this is a lasting one, with sustained influence on behaviour.

But there was another group of Argentinian shoppers – those who supported the charge and carried their own bags for reasons of environmental concern. They cared much less about economics and much more about green motives. “The people who supported the policy most, they also say they do it for environmental reasons,” says Jakovcevic, “and this is a stronger finding because it was an open question, the people could say anything that comes into their mind, and most of them say it was to protect the environment.”

For these shoppers, says Jakovcevic, the policy provided an opportunity to “rethink why they are using plastic bags or their own bags, and if they care about the environment, this will push them to change their behavior and change it longer over time.”

So just maybe a little charge can indeed help the environment. You don’t have to confiscate all the plastic bags in the world to save the environment. You can just give people the slightest push, and let them fix the problem themselves.

Washington Post


Sort and Prepare your Kerbside Recycling

Hands up: how many of you clean your tins and bottles before chucking them in your recycling bag?

Workers at Southern Landfill sorting recycling at conveyor belt

Workers on the sorting line at Seaview-based recycling facility Full Circle


Those of you feeling sheepish might be interested to know you might as well have thrown your dirty baked bean can in the bin – unclean recycling can’t be processed by our sorting facility, and is sent off to the landfill.

All of Wellington’s recycling is sorted by hand – just as it was back in 1971 when rubbish was collected in hessian sacks by the ‘dusties’. Technology has changed the way our rubbish is collected, but a team of workers is still needed to pick out the recyclables that can’t be processed – either because they have food left in them or they’re made of materials that can’t be recycled.

Sometimes sharp and dangerous items also find their way on to the sorting line, posing a major risk to the team that’s handling your recycling. So before you throw something in your green bag or bin, check it’s clean, not sharp, and is recyclable. You can find a list of recyclable material at