News

100% recyclable wet suit invented
Published: 13 Aug 2019

In a victorious attempt to stop leftover waste material from wetsuits from going to waste, a small company in Cornwall, Finisterre, has pioneered a formula for a 100% recyclable wetsuit.

Finisterre, which specialises in outdoor apparel that is focused on sustainability and functionality, has been the headquarters for the marine conservation charity, 'Surfers against Sewage' - it is here where Tom Kay, the founder of the business, first aimed to create a 100% recyclable wetsuit.

Following the release of David Attenborough's Blue Planet II, there has been an influx in the number of people involved in the battle against single-use plastics. They have been clogging up the ocean water, and more people are beginning to campaign for change; surfers being among the most relevant - whilst not directly affecting the water by swimming and surfing in it, the use of wetsuits and subsequent discarding of them is having a highly negative impact, due to their lack of recyclability.

Wetsuits are manufactured with Neoprene, a type of synthetic rubber (that was originally invented to line landfill sites) with a mix of other substances, which is not currently recyclable. It is estimated that nearly 380 tonnes of wetsuit waste is dumped every year - this grand number is definitely having an adverse effect on the environment. Whilst the company Finisterre has been using a biodegradable rubber in their wetsuits for a while - they make them with Econyl, recycled nylon from discarded fishing nets and carpet tiles - they are looking to take it to the next step. In order to achieve this dream, Finisterre has hired a full-time wetsuit recycler, the only in the world, to help engineer the solution.

The company aims to share their way of creating a recyclable wetsuit so other companies can follow it and prove an economic case, which has waste as a resource at its core.

A construction company Clancy Docwra Limited, as well as one of its employees were sentenced for health and safety breaches following a death of an employee struck by an excavator.

On 2 March 2014 during night work at a construction site at Salford, a site operative, Kevin Campbell, was struck by an Excavator Mounted Vibrator (EMV) attached to a 35-tonne excavator, which he worked in close proximity to. At the time, Mr Campbell was disconnecting lifting accessories from a metal pile that had just been extracted from the ground, when he was fatally crushed against a concrete wall. Another employee who worked directly next to him narrowly avoided being crushed as well.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company failed to ensure safety of its employees and others working at the site. The investigation also found that Daniel Walsh, the site manager who operated the excavator, failed to take reasonable care for other persons on site at the time.

Clancy Docwra Limited pleaded not guilty for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1,000,000 and ordered to pay costs of £108,502.30.

Mr Daniel Walsh pleaded not guilty for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was given a 6 month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay costs of £15,000.

After the hearing, the HSE inspector Darren Alldis said: "This death was wholly preventable and serves as a reminder as to why it is so important for companies and individuals to take their responsibilities to protect others seriously and to take the simple actions necessary to eliminate and minimise risks.

"If the risks had been properly considered by the company, and simple and appropriate control measures were put in place, then the likelihood of such an incident occurring would have been significantly reduced. Informing all site operatives of the specific risks they face when carrying out such tasks and the control measures required of exclusion zones, the importance of communication and the mandatory use of excavator safety levers were simple actions that should have been put in place and their effectiveness monitored.

"All those with legal responsibilities must be clear that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action including where appropriate prosecution against those that fall below the required standards"

South Cambridgeshire's District Council officers staged a 'mock fly tip' as part of an effort to raise awareness of the impacts that stem from improper waste disposal. 

Items dumped at a bus stop during rush hour included a fridge, freezer, mattress, pallets, packaging and many bags of other waste. Officers had hoped that those close to the incident would report it to the police, and though no one did, there was one witness who had made it known to the staff at the Milton Park and Ride.

A video of the mock fly tip was shared on both social media and South Cambridgeshire's website in order to highlight the problem. It is part of the council's campaign to try to reduce fly tipping in the district, as there are 900 incidents reported in the country each year.

South Cambridgeshire, as a member of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste Partnership, joined the SCRAP fly-tipping campaign this month. SCRAP aims to raise awareness of the responsibilities of the public to ensure that the waste carriers that are used have a proper waste transfer license, to stop fly-tipping before it happens.

Councillor Neil Gough, the Deputy Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said "fly-tipping is a despicable environmental crime and we are working hard to investigate and clear fly-tips more quickly. But we want to stop fly-tipping happening in the first place to save the environmental and financial costs and we really need residents to do their bit too".

The council has estimated that cleaning up just a single incident of fly-tipping can cost the local authority or landowner anywhere from £100 to £2,000.

Scientists warn that attempts to solve the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions from only cars, factories and power plants are doomed to failure.

A leaked draft of a Report on climate change and land use, which is now being debated in Geneva by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land.

The Report warns that:

  • humans now exploit 72% of the planet's ice-free surface to feed, clothe and support the Earth's growing population;
  • agriculture, forestry and other land use produces almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • about half of all emissions of methane, one of the more potent greenhouse gases, come from cattle and rice fields;
  • deforestation and the removal of peat lands cause further significant levels of carbon emissions;
  • intensive agriculture has also increased soil erosion and reduced amounts of organic material in the ground.

The Report warns that these problems are likely to get worse, stating, "climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, wind, sea-level rise and wave action".

It is a bleak analysis of the dangers ahead and comes when rising greenhouse gas emissions have made news after severe events, including:

  • arctic sea-ice coverage reached near record lows for July;
  • the heatwaves that hit Europe last month were between 1.5°C and 3°C higher because of climate change;
  • global temperatures for July were 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels for the month.

The IPCC has warned that rises greater than 1.5°C risk triggering climatic destabilisation - while those higher than 2°C make such events even more likely. Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said, “we are now getting very close to some dangerous tipping points in the behaviour of the climate – but as this latest leaked report of the IPCC’s work reveals, it is going to be very difficult to achieve the cuts we need to make to prevent that happening”.

The Report emphasises that land will have to be managed more sustainably so that it releases much less carbon than at present. This means:

  • peat lands will need to be restored by halting drainage schemes;
  • meat consumption will have to be cut to reduce methane production;
  • food waste will have to be reduced.

The Report also proposes a major shift towards vegetarian and vegan diets, that the "consumption of healthy and sustainable diets, such as those based on coarse grains, pulses and vegetables, and nuts and seeds … presents major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions".

It adds that policies need to include:

  • improved access to markets;
  • empowering women farmers;
  • expanding access to agricultural services;
  • strengthening land tenure security;
  • early warning systems for weather, crop yields and seasonal climate events.

Nations are scheduled to meet in late 2020, probably in the UK, at a key conference where delegates will plan how to achieve effective zero-carbon emission policies over the next few decades.

Malfunctioning septic tanks systems are posing great risks to people's health, and the environment in the Republic of Ireland. 

Nearly half of septic tank systems failed inspection in both 2017 and 2018, which poses a great risk to human health and the environment. As a part of addressing the issue, the government has proposed to expand the septic tank scheme, but householders need to fix these malfunctioning systems as a way of attacking it from both sides. 

In July 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a review of over 2,000 inspections of septic tanks and other domestic waste water treatment systems, throughout 2017 and 2018. It was found that nearly half the systems failed inspection, as a result of being built or maintained incorrectly. These faulty systems can contaminate household wells and pollute rivers, so householders have been advised to take advantage of the proposed expanded grant scheme when it becomes available, as a way to help address the problem. 

Dr. Tom Ryan, the Director of the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement has said, "If you do not maintain your septic tank, it can contaminate your own or your neighbour’s well or your local stream, putting your health at risk and that of your family and neighbours. You can take simple steps to maintain your septic tank by making sure it is not leaking, ponding or discharging to ditches and by cleaning it out regularly".

Of all the systems that had failed the 2013 report, a third had still not been fixed by 2018, proving that local authorities need to take appropriate measures so they can ensure that householders fix systems that have failed inspection. 

The Senior Scientist in the EPA's Office of Environmental Enforcement, Noel Byrne states, "it is important that householders fix systems where problems are detected. To improve water quality, the government’s proposed expanded septic tank grant scheme, due to be launched later this year, will increase the maximum grant aid available to €5000 and remove the means test requirements”.

Are you wondering why we're discussing legislation in the Republic of Ireland? Watch this space...

Scientists have said that July equalled, and may have possibly beaten the hottest month seen on record. 

All across the world, we saw the entire month surpassing the hottest month that was available on record, at least equal to the highest temperatures we have seen. This, revealed by the World Meteorological Organisation, has followed the hottest June on record. Scientists have calculated that the one-in-a-thousand-year event was made 100 times more likely by human-driven climate change.

Usually the extreme heat is associated with and expected by the El Niño year, the phenomenon often grouped with prolonged temperature surges, but this is not one. Scientists instead suggest that it has been driven to a large extent by the carbon emissions from car exhausts, chimney emissions in power plants, burning forests and other human sources. 

It was found that the extreme heat in both the Netherlands and France, where temperatures reached above 40°, were made at least 10 times, and possibly over 100 times more possible as a result of climate change. The entirety of the UK saw the impact of climate change as being two to three more times likely to have affected the heat, in fact the studied locations would have seen a 1.5 to 3° difference if there was no effect from climate change. 

While temperature records were broken in many countries, there was also the associated impacts to think about. Wildfires devastated vast areas of Siberia, the Greenland ice sheet is melting at a nearly record rate, and the risks of drought occurring has grown more acute across wide areas of Central and Eastern Europe. 

However these records will not stand, as it is highly likely they will be beaten in a couple of years. This extreme heat will have an impact on human beings, with effective heat emergency plans, and accurate weather forecasts being crucial to reduce and anticipate possible risks. 

The UN secretary general, António Guterres has said the seasons are moving alarmingly far from their usual path. "We have always lived through hot summers, but this is not the summer of our youth. This is not your grandfather’s summer”.

"Preventing irreversible climate disruption is the race of our lives, and for our lives. It is a race that we can and must win".

The five year period of 2015-19 is expected to be the warmest ever, with the World Meteorological Organisation's secretary general, Petteri Taalas saying, "unprecedented wildfires raged in the Arctic for the second consecutive month, devastating once pristine forests which used to absorb carbon dioxide and instead turning them into fiery sources of greenhouse gases. This is not science fiction. It is the reality of climate change. It is happening now and it will worsen in the future without urgent climate action".


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