Countries agree to new mercury rules
Published: 22 Jan 2013
Following UN talks in Geneva, more than 140 countries have agreed on legally binding measures which aim to reduce mercury pollution.
Mercury can be released into the environment through a number of industrial processes including mining, metal and cement production and the burning of fossil fuels. It can also cause serious harm to human health and is known to permanently damage the nervous system. In addition, given that data recently published by the UN shows that mercury pollution is on the rise in developing nations, the agreement could not have come at a better time.
Achum Steiner, the UNs Environmental Programme executive, said, "After complex and often all night sessions here in Geneva, nations have today laid the foundations for a global response to a pollutant whose notoriety has been recognised for well over a century."
The rules, known as the Minamata Convention, will open for nations to sign at a conference later in the year. They will regulate a number of areas, including the:
- supply and trade in mercury;
- use of mercury in products and industrial processes;
- measures to be taken to reduce emissions from artisanal and small-scale gold mining;
- measures to be taken to reduce emissions from power plants and metal production facilities.
For more information, see:
New Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations for England and Wales
Published: 22 Jan 2013
The Energy Performance of Buildings (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2012/3118 came into force on 9 January 2013 and consolidate the Energy Performance of Buildings (Certificates and Inspections) (England and Wales) Regulations SI 2007/991, and their subsequent amendments.
They introduce the following additional requirements arising from Directive 2010/31/EU, on the same subject:
- property advertisements must include details of the energy performance certificate (EPC) rating where available;
- display energy certificates (DECs) are required in public buildings larger than 500m2 that are frequently visited by the public;
- an EPC must be displayed in commercial premises larger than 500m2 that are frequently visited by the public;
- the content of the EPC is to be improved by including a list of energy efficiency improvements that could be carried out and providing consumers with information on this.
They also remove what is referred to as "gold-plating" (meaning going beyond the minimum requirements) by:
- extending the list of buildings exempt from the requirement to have an EPC, so it now includes:
- buildings and monuments officially protected as part of a designated environment or because of their special architectural or historical merit,
- buildings which are used for religious activities or as places of worship,
- non-residential agricultural buildings which are in use by a sector covered by a national sectoral agreement on energy performance, and
- stand-alone dwellings with a total useful floor area of less than 50m2;
- removing the requirement to attach an EPC to an estate agent’s written particulars.
Mine charged with manslaughter
Published: 22 Jan 2013
The manager of Gleision Colliery in South Wales has been charged with gross negligence manslaughter following the deaths of four miners in September 2011.
MNS Mining, the company which owns the colliery, has also been summonsed for four counts of corporate manslaughter. Both will appear at Neath Magistrates' Court on 1 February.
The four men died after becoming trapped in the mine at Cilybebyll in the Swansea Valley when the area they were working in was engulfed by an enormous inrush of water. An estimated half a million gallons of water entered the area in around three minutes and a major rescue operation was launched following the incident.
Malcolm McHaffie, deputy head of special crime at the Crown Prosecution Service, commented, "The prosecution alleges that because of the way in which its activities were managed or organised by its senior management, namely Malcolm Fyfield, the company caused the deaths of the miners by failing to ensure a safe system of working was in place. It is alleged that this failure amounted to a gross breach of duty of care owed by the company to each of the four mine workers."
For more information, see the:
Published: 22 Jan 2013
With the addition of 54 new Substances of Very High Concern (SVHCs) to the Candidate List, it now contains a total of 138 substances and the target set by Vice-President Tajani and Commissioner Potocnik to have 136 SVHCs on the Candidate List by the end of 2012 has been reached.
There are legal obligations that companies may have resulting from the inclusion of substances in the Candidate List and these apply to the listed substances on their own, in mixtures or in articles. You can find further information and details of the 54 substances included at: http://cedr.ec/l0.
Also published is the fourth European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) recommendation of substances for authorisation from the Candidate List. It recommends 10 chemicals which are classified as carcinogenic or toxic to reproduction and used in applications where there is potential for worker exposure. They have been prioritised based on their hazard properties; volumes used, and use related potential for exposure to humans.
Further information and details of the 10 substances is at http://cedr.ec/kz.
For more information see:
- Regulation (EC) 1907/2006, on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).
Half of all food wasted
Published: 21 Jan 2013
According to a UK-based report, as much as half of the world's food, around two billion tonnes worth, is being wasted.
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said the waste was being caused by poor storage, strict sell-by dates, bulk offers and consumer fussiness. The study also found that up to 30% of vegetables in the UK were not harvested because of their physical appearance.
Dr Fox, head of energy and environment at the institution said, "The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world's growing population - as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food".
He continued, "The reasons for this situation range from poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one-free offers. If you're in the developing world, then the losses are in the early part of the food supply chain, so between the field and the marketplace. In the mature, developed economies the waste is really down to poor marketing practices and consumer behaviour".
The report - "Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not" - also found that huge amounts of water, totalling 550 billion cubic metres, were being used to grow crops that were never eaten.
Construction industry hammered in 2012
Published: 18 Jan 2013
According to a recent study, the UK's construction industry will not recover from the recession easily. In fact, it is believed that the industry will only return to its pre-recession peak level of output by 2022.
In 2012, 60,000 jobs in the sector were lost and output fell 9%, in large because of the public spending cuts. Overall, public sector construction fell 20% in 2012 whilst infrastructure fell 15%, commercial construction 10% and private housing 5%. This is despite a radical overhaul of the planning system which was partially aimed to help the construction industry by simplifying the planning system.
Judy Lowe, deputy director of the CITB-ConstructionSkills, said "construction found itself at the heart of a perfect storm in 2012." She added that the sector has been "hit hard by a combination of public sector spending cuts and a lack of investment in the private sector."
The study claimed that Greater London would be the only bright spot in the next five years, with most parts of the country continuing to suffer contraction. Employment in construction is expected to pick up in the East of England and in Greater London, but nowhere else.
Steve Murphy, the general secretary of Ucatt, said, "These latest figures make grim but all too predictable reading. The construction industry is struggling as a direct result of Government policies. The Government, the largest client in the construction industry, has cut spending at a time when the private sector has been unable to fill that gap. This has been catastrophic for construction workers who have needlessly lost their jobs."