Welcome to our two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of articles to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
In this Snippets we cover sustainability stories ranging from waste management to agriculture and energy generation. With stories of local innovation, and international trends you’ll get a relevant snapshot of national and global sustainability efforts in 2018.
For more than 20-years, China has been the world’s recycling bin, but on the 1st January 2018, China said no more and closed its borders to 24 types of imported waste including waste plastics, unsorted scrap paper and waste textiles. In 2016 China imported $18 billion of waste, but in July 2017 they advised the WTO that they intend to stop accepting waste out of concerns for their own environmental issues. Unsurprisingly, this has sent shock waves around the world.
Needless to say this waste import ban has also impacted on New Zealand. However, unlike many other countries, we have a waste recycler who is putting their hand up, as at least offering a partial solution. Comspec, a Christchurch based company dominates the South Island recycling market, where it takes general plastic waste, transforming it into high-quality resin. They have also recently added an Otaki processing plant and are actively seeking additional sources of plastic to recycle.
And as it turns out there are many ways we can all come together to tackle plastic waste. As this article examines, there are a number of different ways of undertaking this, with 1) Getting consumers to think differently in terms of demanding products made of recycled plastic, 2) Using recycled plastic in many new and novel applications such as building resilient houses and roads, 3) Actively offsetting plastic consumption by investing in plastic neutrality, 4) Extending producer responsibility to take into account the whole of life impacts.
Part of the plastic solution also extends to cleaning up the plastic that is already in our oceans. As a regular Dutch high school student, Boyan Slat came up with a scheme to create a massive boom to corral and then collect ocean plastic waste using large booms. Six years and $320M later, his scheme is set to launch utilising a series of smaller floating booms that are projected to collect 50% of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch in just five years. Brilliant.
For sustainable agriculture we must start to look back to the past for inspiration. Modern industrial monoculture is not sustainable and some farmers are turning back to polyculture to make productivity gains while preserving and enhancing the soil. This is made possible by using the ultra-modern technology of… TREES!
This is another good story that shows that there are alternatives to modern high input farming methods. In Iowa, some farmers are experimenting with the addition of “small grains” to their crop rotations. Results have been quite positive and show that total production increases, inputs decrease, soil erosion is reduced and nutrient runoffs are reduced.
Another development in agricultural sustainability is that of Kernza, a deep rooted perennial grain that lends itself to a “no plough” kind of agriculture. Ploughing the land can actually be quite destructive in terms of carbon and soil erosion, so a perennial crop makes good sense. There are also other benefits such as enhanced drought resistance and increased carbon sequestration. Another potential win-win.
We end this week’s Snippets with two articles around energy. The rate of new natural gas plants is slowing and renewables are taking the lead on new generation. Gas itself has been seen by many as a coal replacement, but as customers call for more and more electrification of energy supply (as do the IEA), there has been a large drop off in demand for new natural gas plants. An opinion piece, but makes interesting reading.
With demand for new gas plants in decline, and the proven combination of wind power and battery storage in South Australia there has been a shift in thinking about new generation which has led to new battery projects being commissioned in Australia. This is encouraging to see in a country primarily powered by coal and gas.
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and we look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit, then please feel free to forward them.