A robot shark that swallows up to 60kg of plastic at a time is released in Devon harbour, scientists make carbon capture breakthrough by turning Co2 into ‘coal’ and Warrington Council commits £62 million for landmark solar power venture. The Co-op’s first female chief executive takes up her new role, Bulb bucks the trend by lowering energy prices and M&G launches sustainable mixed-asset fund in the UK. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
Robot shark that eats plastic waste released in Devon
A robot shark that can ‘swallow’ up to 60kg of rubbish in just one trip has been released in a Devon harbour.
The launch in Ilfracombe is part of an effort by WWF and Sky Ocean Rescue to clean up coastal waters in the UK’s most vital marine zones. Modelled on the world’s largest fish, the whale shark, the WasteShark emits no pollution and poses no threat to local wildlife.
While its namesake swims around with its mouth open to capture plankton and small fish, the robot shark consumes any plastic waste that crosses its path. It can be programmed to seek out hotspots where waste gathers, and can also collect important data on water quality as it travels.
The robot has already been launched in five countries since it was created by Dutch environmental technology company RanMarine. A single WasteShark deployed five days a week has the capacity to clear 15.6 tons of waste from waterways every year.
Scientists turn Co2 into solid ‘coal’ in groundbreaking carbon capture experiment
Scientists have successfully turned Co2 from a gas back into solid ‘coal’ in a carbon capture breakthrough.
The innovative technique could help to remove harmful greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The research team, led by RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, developed the method using a liquid metal electrolysis method that efficiently converts Co2 from a gas into solid particles of carbon.
The technology offers an alternative pathway for “safely and permanently” removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Current carbon capture techniques involve turning the gas into a liquid and injecting it underground, but its use is not widespread due to issues around economic viability, and environmental concerns about leaks from the storage site.
The new technique results in solid flakes of carbon, similar to coal, which may be easier to store safely.
£62 million for landmark solar power venture
Warrington Council is to become the first in the UK to use 100 per cent renewable electricity in a landmark £62 million investment.
The country’s biggest solar power investment since 2016 will move ahead without the need for subsidies. Investec Bank and Leapfrog Finance will fund the construction of two “ultra-advanced” solar projects in York and Hull. Together the zero-subsidy projects will produce enough renewable electricity to power the equivalent of 18,000 average UK homes, or more than 30,000 electric vehicles.
Warrington Borough Council plans to pay £62 million for the pair of solar parks once they are operational. It will be the first local authority to power its offices, streetlights and several primary schools entirely from renewable energy.
The council expects the investment to free up an extra £150m over 30 years, which it will invest in frontline services.
First female Co-op chief executive takes up her role
Central England Co-op’s new female chief executive Debbie Robinson takes up her role today.
Robinson, who was appointed in November, will oversee one of the largest independent retail co-operative societies in the UK with more than 8,000 staff and over 400 trading outlets across 16 counties.
She takes over from Martyn Cheatle, who is retiring in April after successfully leading Central England Co-op since 2010. Robinson has over 30 years’ experience working with Co-op Group, Marks & Spencer and WHSmith among others. Most recently, she was UK Managing Director at SPAR UK.
She said: “My vision for the future of Central England Co-op is to grow sustainably and make the most of the Society’s key USP; our co-operative values and principles.” She will be responsible for developing the strategic and commercial direction of the Society.
Meanwhile, Legal & General has added another woman to its senior team. Michelle Scrimgeour has been appointed as chief executive of the asset manager’s investment management arm. The company headhunted Scrimgeour from Columbia Threadneedle where she was chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Bulb bucks the trend by lowering gas prices for one million customers.
Renewable energy provider Bulb is to cut its gas prices by two per cent for its one million customers.
In a move that bucks the current trend for price hikes, the average annual dual fuel bill with Bulb – which provides 100 per cent renewable electricity – will go down to £1,000. That is more than £250 cheaper than the new default tariffs of the largest suppliers, which have all announced price rises from 1 April to £1,254 – the maximum allowed under the government’s price cap.
Bulb is the eight biggest energy supplier behind Ovo energy and the big six, and recently hit the landmark of one million customers. Although wholesale energy costs rose last year, they have begun to fall in the past few months. Bulb is the first large supplier to pass those savings on to consumers.
M&G launches sustainable multi-asset fund in UK.
M&G has launched a UK version of its new sustainable multi-asset fund.
The M&G Sustainable Allocation strategy is managed by Maria Municchi, deputy of the M&G Episode Income and Income Allocation funds.
Municchi will invest in a diversified range of asset classes globally, aiming for a total return of four to eight per cent a year over five-year terms. The fund will hold 20-80 per cent in bonds, 20-60 per cent in equities and zero to 20 per cent in other assets.
The strategy initially launched in Luxembourg in December.
Municchi said: “Financial returns should remain the foremost objective of investing, but the way in which we choose to invest can make a difference beyond just those returns.
“Some of the biggest challenges the world is facing, from climate change to population growth, from corruption to pollution, need addressing urgently. By considering how your investments might affect society and the environment, you can choose to contribute towards a sustainable future.”