British scientists discover that dirty plastic waste can heat homes and fuel cars without producing any greenhouse gases, as conservation groups warn that the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station will kill 250,000 fish a day. Meanwhile, leading UK green business figures have come together in a sustainable supply chain taskforce, Cornwall Council reveals a £30 million forest plan, and Cambodia is to ship 1,600 tonnes of ‘insulting’ plastic waste back to the US and Canada. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
Dirty plastic waste can heat homes and fuel cars without producing greenhouse gases, scientists discover
Researchers have found a way to use dirty plastic waste to produce hydrogen, which can heat homes and fuel cars without producing greenhouse gas emissions.
The process uses a glass kiln, heated to 1,000 Celsius, to instantly break down non-recyclable plastic to release a mix of gases including hydrogen.
The technology, developed by scientists at the University of Chester, will be used commercially for the first time at a plant near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire later this year after two “waste-energy” companies agreed to invest.
Peele Environmental, the owner of the plant, said the project could help keep 25 million tonnes of “contaminated” plastics, which cannot be recycled, from ending up in landfills or the ocean.
New Hinkley Point nuclear power station ‘will kill 250,000 fish a day’
Marine and conservation groups say a cooling system for the new Hinkley Point nuclear power station will kill 250,000 fish a day.
The Somerset power station’s cooling system is described as an underwater ‘plughole’ that will suck in 130,000 litres of water a second.
Along with the water, it will also draw in thousands of fish into the twin inlet tunnels that are as wide as a double-decker bus and span two miles out into the Severn estuary.
Environmental organisations claim the plant, owned by France’s state-owned energy group EDF, has not properly taken into account the impact of the cooling system’s effect on the area’s marine life, which is a Special of Conservation (SAC).
The plant’s Fish Recovery and Return System will have a 5mm mesh barrier set up in the water intake tunnel, 3.3 km long, to stop large fish from being sucked in while another channel will divert fish, dead or alive, back out to sea.
Marine groups say it could injure or kill salmon, cod, twaite shad, sea animals and eels.
Green business figures to lead UK sustainable supply chain taskforce
Leading British business and green group figures have met for the first time as part of an independent UK sustainable supply chain taskforce.
The group will look at the climate and environmental impacts from key supply chains, including for products such as palm oil, soya, and beef.
The Global Resource Initiative (GRI) taskforce, launched by the government, will identify ambitious actions to drive more resilient and sustainable food systems that avoid deforestation and environmental degradation overseas while also supporting jobs and livelihoods.
First announced as part of Defra’s 25-year Environment Plan, the taskforce brings together figures from major corporates such as Legal & General, Cargill, Unilever, McDonald’s, and Tesco, alongside the Green Finance Institute, WWF, and the NGO Forest Coalition.
Meanwhile, high street fashion chain Zara has announced that all of its collections will be made from 100 per cent sustainable fabrics before 2025.
Cornwall Council reveals £30m forest plan
Cornwall Council has revealed a plan to create a 20,000-acre forest costing up to £30 million to help tackle climate change.
“Forest for Cornwall” is the flagship project in Cornwall Council’s climate change and carbon-neutral action plan. It comes after the authority declared a climate emergency in January and set an aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030.
The council’s cabinet will be asked to approve the action plan next week. The 63-page climate change action plan states: “We will develop a mass woodland tree planting programme – once fully developed a Forest for Cornwall – covering approximately 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) … or about 2% of Cornwall’s land mass.”
It continues: “The trees would be planted “on our streets, in our hedgerows and through the creation of new woodlands and forested areas”.
The report, part of a bid for the government-supported national tree planting schemes, estimates the cost of the forest to be between £25 million and £30 million.
Cambodia to ship 1,600 tonnes of ‘insulting’ plastic waste back to US and Canada
Cambodia is to ship 83 shipping containers filled with plastic waste back to the US and Canada.
The Environment Ministry confirmed it will be returning the shipment of 1,600 tonnes of rubbish, which arrived at the port of Sihanoukville, saying: “Cambodia is not a dustbin”.
In a Facebook post, Preap Kol, the executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, slammed the move as a “serious insult” to the country. The customs ministry is now investigating how this shipment arrived in Cambodia, and a government committee has vowed the company responsible for the shipment will be fined and brought to court.
Cambodia is the latest Asian country to reject plastic pollution shipments from Western nations, after China banned foreign plastic imports last year.
The UK, US, Canada and Australia were among the states left scrambling to find new destinations to send their waste.