Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Our news today features dealing with waste, with our top story highlighting the success of Raglan in reducing waste and providing 30 jobs and returning $1.2m to the small community. Three more articles detail other initiatives across the country; a positive response to the recycling crisis resulting from China refusing contaminated waste and increasing awareness of the need to clean up the environment. Also on waste, several articles on moving to a more circular economy, particularly in fashion. In Australia we face another painful moment in government with the PM now removing any emissions reductions from the NEG and it seems like every news agency has a commentary on his weakened position.

Top Story

A blueprint for solving New Zealand’s waste problem |
NEW ZEALAND – The small seaside community of Raglan may well have a blueprint for how New Zealand can reduce its ever-growing pile of rubbish. That blueprint took nearly two decades of work to get its 3200 residents fully on board with reducing their waste. At its centre is Xtreme​ Zero Waste, the community enterprise that has grown from employing one person part time from its inception 18 years ago to being Raglan’s third-largest employer, employing 30 people and returning $1.2 million to the local economy.

Climate Change

Summer weather is getting ‘stuck’ due to Arctic warming | The Guardian
Summer weather patterns are increasingly likely to stall in Europe, North America and parts of Asia, according to a new climate study that explains why Arctic warming is making heatwaves elsewhere more persistent and dangerous. Rising temperatures in the Arctic have slowed the circulation of the jet stream and other giant planetary winds, says the paper, which means high and low pressure fronts are getting stuck and weather is less able to moderate itself.

5 Graphs Show Just How Unusual This Year’s Wildfires Are | World Resources Institute
This time of year always brings wildfires. But what’s unusual this fires season is where and how the blazes are burning—and it could be a warning sign of what’s to come. Hotter-than-normal temperatures and drought across much of northern Europe and North America in June and July have resulted in wildfires burning in what are typically wetter, cooler regions.

Environment and Biodiversity

Earth has more trees now than 35 years ago | Mongabay
Tree cover increased globally over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature. The study, led by Xiao-Peng Song and Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, is based on analysis of satellite data from 1982 to 2016. The research found that tree cover loss on the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions. However all the tree cover data comes with an important caveat: tree cover is not necessarily forest cover.

Fake logging permits undermine Amazonian conservation, say experts | Mongabay
BRAZIL – Falsified numbers are contributing to widespread forest degradation from illegal logging and the over-exploitation of Amazonian timber species, according to experts. In a study published in Science Advances, researchers in Brazil say they found “a strong overestimation bias of high-value timber species volumes in logging permits.” The falsified timber industry data is used for legal cover to transport, market and sell illegally harvested timber. Essentially, fake permits are making it possible for illegally-logged high-value timber species to pass through the cracks undetected, as though they were legally harvested. 

Waste and the Circular Economy

C&A launches ‘world’s most sustainable jeans’ | Business Green
C&A launched what it claims are the world’s most sustainable jeans late last week, as it continues its drive to demonstrate the fashion industry’s potential to adopt a more circular business model. The Dutch-headquartered fashion company said it took more than a year to design the jeans, which are the first to earn ‘Cradle to Cradle’ (C2C) gold certification. Developed in collaboration with Fashion for Good, the jeans are made from sustainable and non-toxic materials with some elements, such as the lining and thread, having been completely redeveloped, C&A said. The product is made in factories that run on renewable power and enforce high social standards.

C&A Cradle to Cradle jeans | Credit: C&A

C&A Cradle to Cradle jeans | Credit: C&A


[Ed: Cradle to Cradle is a certification scheme with circularity of materials, organic and technical, at its heart. I highly recommend the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the way we make things by William McDonough and Michael Braungart.]

Adidas and Stella McCartney launch new line to promote eco-friendly fashion | Climate Action Programme
Adidas has revealed a new clothing line with Stella McCartney which aims to focus on the importance of protecting nature. In keeping with Adidas’s pledge to increase sustainability, the new AW18 line will include eco-friendly fabrics such as recycled polyester, organic cotton, and recycled ocean plastic.

Renting clothes could support sustainability in fashion | Climate Action Programme
The circular economy has inspired new plans to move towards a sustainable textile industry. Globally, one rubbish truck of textiles is thrown away every second. This has resulted in UK landfill sites being inundated with unwanted clothing items costing an estimated £82 million a year, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. The production of clothes is a dynamic process with a constant conveyor belt of new material which leaves behind a mass of unwanted items. Despite the industry’s efforts to become more socially ethical, a lack of commitment to the environment remains.

40,000 tonnes of Auckland’s plastic waste to be turned into concrete from end of 2019 | NZ Herald
A Kiwi company will begin turning tens of thousands of tonnes of Auckland’s plastic waste into concrete as soon as next year. Enviroplaz’s founding director Peter Barrow told the Herald it had been a dream of his for the past 20 years to turn plastic waste into something useful rather than dumping it at the landfill. And finally, he says, that dream is soon to happen.

Concrete solutions to Auckland’s construction waste problem |
NEW ZEALAND – A $3.1 million grant has been awarded to Auckland’s largest recycling facility, which will see it double its recycling capacity. Green Gorilla, a private Kiwi-owned company, specialises in “diverting” industrial waste from landfill by allowing construction site materials to be reused. Avocados, for example, can be grown using a fertiliser recycled from plasterboard.

Trial recycling centre out of sorts as diverted waste falls short |
NEW ZEALAND – Under the watchful eyes of councils across the country, Marlborough has played guinea pig to a recycling experiment hoping to reduce our landfill habits. The $3.3 million Waste Sorting Centre, in Blenheim, was touted as a game-changer; the first time a local authority had built a waste sorting plant for commercial and industrial waste. The Marlborough District Council said in 2016, just before the centre opened, it would share its recycling journey “warts and all” with other councils, as it looked to divert 60 per cent of waste away from landfill.

Flights create millions of tonnes of passenger waste per year, with little recycled | ABC News
There’s been a big focus on the carbon footprint of flying — but have you ever wondered how much rubbish you generate as a passenger on a plane? The question was on my mind as I headed off on a recent holiday, so I decided to conduct an experiment. I collected all of the single-use plastics that found their way onto my tray table, before the hostess could whisk them away.

Photo: The amount of waste generated on a 10-hour return flight (ABC RN: Fiona Pepper)

Photo: The amount of waste generated on a 10-hour return flight (ABC RN: Fiona Pepper)

Politics and Society

Politicians must set aside blinkered ideologies in the climate end-game | The Guardian (Opinion)
AUSTRALIA – Humanity has a big decision to make very soon about its future on a warming planet, but the federal Coalition is still in denial that human-induced climate change even exists, let alone that the climate endgame is upon us. The national energy guarantee (Neg) is the latest manifestation of that denial. A third-rate complex, over-engineered policy that will most likely fail to contribute to meeting all three of its main objectives, namely increased reliability of electricity supply, lower energy prices and a long way third, reducing carbon emissions. A compromise upon compromise designed to placate the scientifically and economically illiterate Coalition right wing, which ignores the first priority of any government, to ensure the security of the people. For climate change is now the greatest threat to that security.


‘Empty pocket season’: Dayak women farmers grapple with the impacts of oil palm plantations | Mongabay
“When oil palm was given out by the district head I didn’t accept it. I am still angry at the oil palm companies,” says Monica Mensea. At 83, Mensea is the oldest woman in her village of Long Bentuk, a Dayak Medang indigenous community in East Kalimantan, a province in Indonesian Borneo. Though her body is weakening and her brown eyes are cloudy with cataracts, Mensea’s mind is as sharp as ever. For nearly 20 years she led her community as the kepala adat (customary head) of Long Bentuk, in the administrative district of East Kutai. Despite her firm stance against converting land to industrial oil palm, today a corporate-run estate abuts her village’s land, where her community’s ancestral forest once stood.

Young oil palm trees grow where the Long Bentuk community’s ancestral forest once stood. Image by Tessa Toumbourou for Mongabay.

Young oil palm trees grow where the Long Bentuk community’s ancestral forest once stood. Image by Tessa Toumbourou for Mongabay.

South Africa’s Wild Coast under threat of mining – photo essay | The Guardian
SOUTH AFRICA – Xolobeni is a cluster of rural communities on the eastern coast of South Africa. Tourists know the beautiful and rugged area as the Wild Coast. The people of Xolobeni are mostly self-sufficient, living off the land and fishing in the sea, and often only travelling the two hours to the closest shops once a month to buy sugar, oil and other basic provisions.

Built Environment

Musk says $25,000 Tesla EV possible in “about three years” | RenewEconomy
It was a big weekend for Elon Musk Saying Stuff in the US. He did this in both an upbeat video chat with a YouTuber, and in a “deeply emotional” New York Times interview, the latter of which was credited with a 9 per cent drop in the share price of the electric vehicle and battery maker at close of trade on Friday. But it was in the interview with with YouTuber Marques Brownlee that Musk casually dropped the suggestion that it might take his company “maybe” three years to start turning out a truly low-cost electric vehicle.