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Isle of Bute becomes a Zero Waste island



Scotland’s second Zero Waste Town was launched today thanks to the financial and practical backing of a national waste reduction campaign led by Zero Waste Scotland.

The Isle of Bute is the second part of Scotland so far to join the Zero Waste Towns initiative, which harnesses the efforts of residents and businesses to reduce waste, recycle more, and use resources – such as waste electrical equipment – efficiently. Fyne Futures Ltd, a charity committed to environmental sustainability on the Isle of Bute, will receive support worth £200,000 to implement the initiative locally via a series of projects over the next two years.

Last year, Dunbar in East Lothian became Scotland’s first Zero Waste Town. Both Dunbar and Bute join a growing network of Zero Waste municipalities throughout Europe and across the world, including towns in Holland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Slovenia and Romania.

Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland, said: “The Zero Waste Towns initiative recognises the crucial role that communities play in changing people’s behaviour to reduce and prevent waste. Both Zero Waste Scotland and our partners at the Scottish Government are committed to promoting community-level action in as many towns in Scotland as possible in order to meet our target recycling rate of 70 per cent and reduce waste by 15 per cent in Scotland by 2025.

“As part of this intensive approach, our first priority on Bute will be to inspire, educate and empower communities with the knowledge and skills to prevent waste, increase resource efficiency and thus reduce landfill costs and create jobs. We will also look at the impact and outcomes of each project to help us make the most of similar future projects within other Scottish communities.”

The project will be coordinated by local social enterprise organisation Fyne Futures, which will work closely with Zero Waste Scotland, Argyll & Bute Council, local groups, businesses and residents to coordinate a comprehensive approach to transforming attitudes to waste in the town.

A number of community-led initiatives will be introduced, including:

  • The launch of an enhanced recycling collection trial in the Bush/Serpentine area, to deliver recycling kits to over 500 households with the objective of increasing the current 40% participation rate to 90%.  A larger variation of plastic types will be accepted and kerbside textile collection will be offered;
  • The introduction of a pilot food waste collection service with up to 50 households and a training hub for food composting;
  • Additional recycling facilities;
  • The launch of a community engagement programme to raise awareness of the multiple benefits of waste prevention and increase volunteers;
  • The launch of a programme aimed at local businesses to help them to make changes necessary to prevent waste and increase resource efficiency;
  • A project to set up the facilities needed to launch a collection and re-use service for used and waste electrical equipment (UEEE and WEEE)
  • Increasing the quantity and quality of the recyclable goods collected, including biodegradable waste

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Becoming a member of the Zero Waste Towns initiative represents a crucial milestone for recycling and re-use on the Isle of Bute. Not only will it receive much-deserved recognition among a network of similar, forward-thinking Zero Waste towns and municipalities throughout Europe – the financial support will enable residents to deliver a range of initiatives that are firsts, anywhere in Scotland.

“I also look forward to seeing Bute residents supporting new services like the kerbside recycling collection service, for example, which will result in a considerable reduction in the volume – and therefore cost – of the waste produced on Bute from going to landfill.”

Reeni Kennedy-Boyle, General Manager of Fyne Futures Ltd, said: “We’ve had a hugely positive response to this project from a wide range of organisations, businesses and individuals throughout the community. We’re very excited that we’ll be receiving a range of brand new services and leading the way as one of the first Zero Waste islands, perhaps in the world.

“To have the whole Island of Bute as one of two Zero Waste Towns so far demonstrates the entire community’s firm commitment to making real progress in re-using, recycling and becoming generally more environmentally-aware. This innovative programme will help everyone on the island to recycle more, send less to landfill and use our precious resources more efficiently. I wish everyone involved in this initiative the best of luck and I hope it will create valuable experiences that other communities around Scotland can benefit from as we strive to make Scotland a zero waste country.

“The journey towards becoming a Zero Waste Town will be a great way to bring the community together as we work to achieve a shared goal. We have lots to learn from the pilot project in Dunbar and great examples of best practice which we can recreate on Bute. We look forward to working together to lead the way in eliminating waste.”

The Isle of Bute was selected for the pilot project following submissions from across Scotland after an open call for interested communities in 2013.


Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo |

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.


Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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