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Snippets for 3 March 2022

Welcome, once again, to our fortnightly newsletter.

In this edition of Snippets, we start off by looking at what action the world is taking around plastic. With only 9% of the approximately 400 million tonnes of plastic that is produced every year, being recycled, the UN looks to hammer out a global treaty to deal with plastic. And they might have some help from an unlikely ally: microscopic enzymes. With the help of scientists and natural evolutionary processes, there are new super enzymes that can actually eat plastic, essentially reversing the manufacturing process. New Zealand scientists are tackling the plastic problem from a different angle, after discovering a way to fully disinfect PPE, allowing for its reuse, avoiding single-use waste.

As we know, decarbonisation can be costly. But perhaps we can look at repurposing money that is already being spent, by governments, on subsidies that directly harm the environment; an approximate $1.8 trillion worth!

Looking now to the ocean, and its incredible carbon capture potential. The often-microscopic flora and fauna that reside in the sea are incredibly effective at capturing carbon and locking it away for a long time. What’s more, this process ramps up with temperature increases, so the ocean will play a crucial role in helping to stabilise the environment. And what better way to protect the ocean, than by decommissioning oil rigs and allowing their underwater structures to be used to create vibrant reefs! On small spits of land within our vast oceans, island communities are coming together to lead the charge on living sustainably. Will they provide the blueprint which mainland communities can follow?

We finish this edition by looking at how the new and the old can provide climate change solutions. First, an article that examines how India is rejuvenating its architecturally stunning stepwells, to provide much needed water to drought hit areas. Lastly, we look looks at how the New Zealand government is investing in new, environmentally friendly transportation solutions – including an electric milk tanker!

We start off with an article that looks at a meeting, at the end of February, of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). Their goal: hammer out an agreement to control plastic pollution worldwide. This is no small task, as there is approximately 400 million tonnes of plastic produced yearly and only 9% of it is recycled. But the plastic industry appear willing to consider an accord. Read more....

And there is an unlikely ally in the fight against plastic waste: microscopic enzymes. Nudged along by scientists and evolution, micro-organisms that digest plastics have the potential to create an efficient method of recycling. A handful of microbes have evolved the ability to “eat” certain plastics, breaking them down into their component molecules. If used effectively, these creatures would allow us to recycle a much larger proportion of plastic than we currently do. Read more....

New Zealand scientists are doing their bit to minimise plastic waste too. By putting used PPE in a 70 degree Celsius environment for 15 minutes, scientists have been able to confirm complete virus inactivation has been achieved. This would allow for the reuse of PPE, cutting down on the 25,000 tonnes of covid-related plastic waste that polluted the oceans over the past two years of the pandemic. Read more....

In this article we take a look at subsidies. Currently the world spends $1.8 trillion a year on subsidies that harm the environment. From tax breaks for beef production in the Amazon to financial support for unsustainable groundwater pumping in the Middle East, billions of government spending and other subsidies are harming the environment. Image if that money was diverted to introduce green practices and improve sustainability or to transition to a green economy, $1.8 trillion would help greatly! Read more....

Changing how we think about ocean carbon sinks could be a major step in the fight against climate change. A study into the long-term rate of permanent carbon removal by seashells and plankton in the ocean has found that, in the oceans around New Zealand, the seashells have drawn down about the same amount of carbon as regional emissions of carbon dioxide, and this process was even higher during ancient periods of climate warming. This is also seen in other areas around the world. Read more....

There are more than 12000 offshore oil rigs and gas platforms worldwide. Once their useful life is over, what happens to them? Remove them at great expense, or abandon them and allow them to disintegrate in situ? There is now another interesting option that the owners of these platforms are increasingly considering…. removing the above sea structure but leaving and maintaining the lower structure for marine ecosystems to utilise, as a skeleton for coral reefs, or a spawning ground for fish larvae; these rigs seem to be better than some natural habitats. Read more....

Some tiny offshore islands are leading the way to a green transition. Many have had no electricity in the past, and renewables are making their inhabitants increasingly self-sufficient. They demonstrate the power of small communities and act as beacons lighting the way towards a world less dependent on fossil fuels. Or are they mere drops in the ocean when rapid, global change is required? This article details the push by some small communities to do more towards lower emissions, but should it be national governments leading the way? Read more....

Sometimes, if we look to how things were done thousands of years ago, it can help alleviate problems experienced today, in this case in India with on-going droughts. Architecture built 1,000 years ago to catch rain ‘Stepwells’ are now being refurbished to do the job they once did, capture and store water. Fifteen wells have been restored so far, and one, the Toorji stepwell, can hold a staggering 6.2 million gallons. The old ways are making quite a difference. Read more....

We finish this week, with a look at some developments in NZ. The country’s first electric milk tanker and electric off-road farm vehicles have been given a government funding boost. The developments, which are part of Government’s $6.45 million Low Emission Transport Fund (LETF), will also see new high-powered EV charging stations. LETF is all about finding replicable solutions through innovative transport and infrastructure. Read more....

This week we have four more innovative ideas we hope you find interesting:

  1. Combining offshore wind with carbon removal

  2. EVs Are About To Score A Major Victory Over ICE Vehicles

  3. Researchers claim major breakthrough in Li-S chemistry that could revolutionise batteries

  4. World’s First: Ships Will Charge Up at Offshore Wind Farms

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