Author Archives: GreenBiz.com

How artificial intelligence helps recycling become more circular

Smart robots, sensors and vision systems fortified with machine learning software are creeping into production at recycling facilities in Colorado, Japan and Europe.The promise is twofold: Not only could these technologies help speed up the rate at which incoming items can be sorted, they could dramatically improve the accuracy with which operations can identify specific types of plastics and other materials — including one scourge of today’s system, items contaminated with food and other substances.Two companies talking up the potential to make the act of processing everything from plastic to demolished construction materials far more efficient and scalable include five-year-old startup AMP Robotics, a machine learning and computer vision specialist headquartered in Louisville, Colorado. And a middle-aged Norwegian company, TOMRA, got its start managing reverse vending machines that uses sensors to endow its food sorting and recycling systems with more intelligence.A new vision for sortingAs its name suggests, AMP Robotics’ innovations lie in how it’s rethinking recycling robots. Founder and CEO Matanya Horowitz began receiving grants back in 2014 to research and develop vision systems that could improve the accuracy of separating items with machines rather than by humans. The company’s equipment is "trained" by being shown millions of images — everything from logos to box shapes to dyed plastics."If you can teach a person to distinguish something, you can teach our vision system to distinguish it," said Horowitz, speaking about this topic this week at Circularity 19. If you can teach a person to distinguish something, you can teach our vision system to distinguish it. The idea, he said, is to help facilities become far more specific about separating streams of waste, which could allow operations to capture revenue from entirely new sorts of services.For example, the technology — using a combination of light and machine learning software — could be used to sort out colored whipped cream tubs or yogurt containers from clear plastics. It can even identify items that carry a specific brand logo. One early adopter, Alpine Recyling in Colorado, recently was able to add coffee cups to the mix of stuff that its facility can handle. These levels of specificity could be valuable for consumer products companies seeking either to put their own product packaging back into circulation or to buy specific types of plastics. "We can track what is truly being recycled," Horowitz added, and that could help provide insight into where better collection systems — and messaging — might be needed. Video of AMP Robotics Launches New AI Guided Dual-Robot System for the Recycling Industry AMP’s latest technology is a dual-robot system called Cortex, which the 35-person company will sell for municipal solid waste, electronic waste and construction and demolition applications. The equipment can sort, pick and place items at a speed of 160 pieces per minute. More important, it will allow facilities to tackle a process that typically has been very difficult to scale — separating post-consumer fiber from cardboard to sheets of paper.Horowitz is cagey about how much money his company has raised, although its backers include Closed Loop Partners, and he called out the Alphabet company Sidewalk Labs during our conversation. Likewise, he won’t talk about the cost of his firm’s technology, pointing out that customers are seeing a payback of less than two years and that it sorts at the rate of two people. If you really need to sort out materials to the highest quality possible, you need to be able to do this. That latter statistic might give pause to those concerned about the job-elimination potential of robotics technology, but Horowitz says recycling facilities often have high rates of turnover. "Many facilities are run underutilized," he said.AMP Robotics is also touting applications in the construction sector. Earlier this year, it disclosed a partnership with Japanese waste management company Ryohshin to sell AI-driven robots for recovering materials out of demolition debris — including wood, metal, electronics and concrete.Materials in blackTOMRA, which last week joined the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, is credited as the inventor of near-infrared sensors for sorting applications. It holds close to 80 patents, and has extensive experience with sensors that can provide information about moisture or chlorine levels as items are being washed and sorted. The company’s technology is installed in roughly 100,000 locations worldwide; aside from recycling and collection, the company sells to food operations that need to sort things such as fresh produce. "We urgently need to transform the recycling industry by creating value out of waste," said Stefan Ranstrand, TOMRA president and CEO, in a statement. "In some markets, recycling rates are as high as 98 percent, and some consumer goods companies are now making new products out of 100 percent recycled materials. But this is only a very small part of the picture, and much more must be done to preserve our world for generations to come."Two of TOMRA’s most recent innovations include a material recognition sensor that can sort single-layer polyethylene terephthalate (PET) trays (think cafeteria trays) and a new laser feature. The latter development helps TOMRA's systems detect black objects that are typically hard to ID, as well as those with certain shapes, such as silicon cartridges. Over time, the AI associated with these systems will be able to detect the presence of films within rigid plastics, according to the company’s website. "If you really need to sort out materials to the highest quality possible, you need to be able to do this," said Volker Rehrmann, executive vice president of TOMRA and head of the 4,000-person company’s newly formed circular economy team.AI has been part of TOMRA's technology for some time — some level of algorithmic detection was introduced as part of its original bottle collection machines. The company collects 40 billion used beverage containers annually through those reverse vending machines. So it has plenty of legacy experience, which will be vitally important for finding value in the wide range of plastics that now exist in the world.  "Without going into the details, it now needs to be much more accurate than it used to be," Rehrmann said.That’s because even though recycling is big business — an estimated $110 billion in America alone last year — he estimates that only 2 percent of those materials are valued as a resource, not waste, within a closed loop economy. That’s a problem that the Alliance to End Plastic Waste is determined to address. "They have realized that change is necessary," Rehrmann said. Let's block ads! (Why?)

7 ways for cities to slash plastic pollution

Plastic pollution is a blight in our cities and landscapes and is harming our rivers and oceans. Experts estimate that 300,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste from the United States pollute the ocean every year, which is about 65 dump trucks of plastic waste per day. News of plastic pollution in the United States continues to make headlines:The time has come to move beyond blaming litterbugs and relying on volunteers to lead community cleanups after the pollution has occurred. The smart, sustainable strategy is to look upstream at the root of the problem and stop it before it starts.In the United States, analysis of items collected during cleanups of beaches and rivers shows that disposable plastic items used "on-the-go" are most commonly found: plastic bags; cigarette butts; bottles; caps; straws; food wrappers; and food containers. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average plastic bag takes up to 1,000 years to break down. Even when broken down, the plastic can remain in the environment and the food chain. The problem is growing worse with the increasing trend to "convenient" consumption and the massive expansion of cheap new plastic production in the U.S. Gulf Coast.Throughout the United States, local governments are responsible for solid waste management including litter prevention and collection, recycling, storm drain maintenance, tourism promotion, community health and protecting the local environment. Plastic pollution negatively affects each of these community functions and costs precious taxpayer dollars. As the sight of overflowing public trash cans becomes commonplace, it’s clear that existing approaches alone fail to stem plastic pollution. Simply too much plastic packaging waste is generated and cities can’t afford to pay for capture and management of all of it.Cities can use proven techniques to decrease the amount of plastic pollution generated and capture it before it spreads to landscapes and waterways. While each city’s specific tactics should be customized to local conditions, reduction of pollution at a low cost can be achieved through a combination of leveraging local regulatory authority, requiring retailer responsibility, collaborating with partners and engaging citizens to solve pollution hot spots.1. Legislate restrictions on single use plastic distributionMany single-use plastic items are made of low-value material that makes them widely available but economically impractical to collect and recycle. When reusable alternatives and better materials are available, the best solution is to eliminate the items from use. Plastic straws, plastic bags and expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam food containers quickly fall into the better-to-eliminate category worldwide, as described in the Ban 2.0 List (PDF).Legislative action to restrict single use plastic distribution is an effective way to decrease plastic pollution. To achieve their responsibilities at minimal costs to citizens, local governments are enacting plastic bag fees and bans, restrictions on plastic straws and prohibition of EPS foam food containers. The local plastic bag fees and bans have proven effective in cutting litter, reducing taxpayer costs and improving recycling because plastic bags harm municipal recycling systems by clogging machines.Plastic bag, straw and EPS foam ordinances have been passed in over 300 U.S. cities and a few states. The National Coalition of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) reports that 32 states are considering over 180 pieces of legislation to address plastic pollution.The ability of a U.S. city to legislate restrictions on single use plastics depends on the state. Due to pressure by plastics and retail industry lobbyists, statewide preemption laws have passed prohibiting about 116 million Americans in 16 states from enacting bag ordinances to reduce plastic waste and pollution in their communities.Legislation toolkits for communities and states to create ordinances to restrict or ban plastic items have been developed by Surfrider, Plastic Pollution Coalition and others.2. Promote water refill stations and reverse vending machines in public placesThe best strategy to cut plastic beverage bottle pollution is to make it easy for people to use fewer disposable bottles and to ensure that no bottle is left behind.Public water refill stations are key to decreasing single use plastic water bottle consumption. Cities and their water agencies benefit from installing water refill stations which offer a filling function in addition to a drinking fountain. People are provided with free sources of high-quality drinking water and plastic waste is reduced.Eastern Municipal Water District (EMWD) in Southern California, in partnership with other local agencies, has installed nearly 120 water bottle fill stations at schools and popular community facilities. Wall-mounted or free-standing stations are designed to provide local students and members of the community with access to safe and reliable tap water to refill personal, reusable bottles.Incentivized reverse vending succeeds in stopping plastic bottle pollution and is gaining attention around the world. When mandated by container deposit laws, reverse vending machines offer a convenient way for consumers to return their bottles and claim deposit refunds. Voluntary reverse vending programs, led by nonprofit, public and private-sector groups, are also beginning to spring up in diverse locations. Incentivized by cash refunds (London), prizes (Abu Dhabi), metro transit tickets (Istanbul) or paid telephone cards (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), consumers willingly return their empty bottles to collection machines. Fewer PET bottles are littered and a cleaner stream of material for recycling is created.In the United Kingdom, where a deposit container law is not yet in place, research shows 81 percent of people said they voluntarily would go out their way to deposit a bottle or can. Below is a global map created with examples of incentivized reverse vending programs around the world. Key elements of each program and references are provided.3. Recognize leaders cutting plastic waste to propagate their practicesRecognition for restaurants and retailers that employ reusable containers, such as Just Salad in New York City, rewards efforts that reduce plastic waste, pollution and city sanitation costs. Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurant program supports committed restaurants with collaborative promotions and marketing materials. Recognized restaurants become influential leaders in their community and models to show businesses can be successful while shrinking their plastic footprint.4. Require retailer rubbish responsibilityRetail, gas station and fast food businesses create profits and plastic pollution by attracting consumers to their stores and selling them disposable items to be consumed on-the-go. The image below shows the plastic pollution pathway of items from one overflowing trash can at a suburban retail center in Houston. The trash is blown into trees, the nearby neighborhood bayou where birds and turtles feed and a storm drain that leads to the Gulf of Mexico with turtle habitats. Unfortunately, this sight is common at other retail centers across the country and world.A survey of the 100 largest retailers and 25 largest fast food companies in the United States showed that not a single company reported on their policies and or practices to stop litter in their parking lots or in their urban area. The businesses should be held accountable for the plastic pollution they cause and not rely on volunteers such as Newell Nussbaumer in Buffalo, New York, who regularly cleans his neighborhood because of the litter generated around stores.Many retailers refuse to take responsibility for the litter created in their parking lots. When a complaint was made to a major retailer at the Houston retail center, the store manager’s response was "Those aren’t our parking lots." This rationale is illegitimate because the parking lots exist to serve the stores. This rationale is reminiscent of consumer product companies stating "Those aren’t our factories" about sweatshop conditions in supply chains in the mid-1990s. Consumers demanded improvement in supply chain factories then and should demand retailers maintain clean parking lots now.A simple course of action is a city requirement for all fast food operations to have trash cans at the exit of the drive-through lanes to avoid on-the-go disposal of fast food packaging. It goes without saying that the trash cans must be emptied before they overflow. Retailers and cities also can use new innovations such as smart trash bins to securely capture waste plastics.5. Identify pollution hot spots and lead focused campaignsThe reality is that litter laws exist, but enforcement can be burdensome and costly if city staff are employed to continually monitor many locations across a wide area. Smart tools, networking applications and social media can help cities identify plastic pollution hot spots to focus on and address in a cost-effective manner.Litterati describes itself as a technology company empowering people to "crowdsource-clean" the planet. The free Litterati app allows individuals to take photos of litter on their phones and upload to a public map. The mapped data enables cities to remotely identify litter hot spots. According to Litterati, people in the Netherlands used the Litterati app to map pollution and created such an impact that the local McDonald's promised to clean up the community around its store.Gallatin City-County Health Department in Montana is using the Litterati app to document cigarette butt litter to push for new policies for tobacco-free parks. As reported by CGN, two Health Department staff members, employees at other departments and members of the community are using the app to document litter related to tobacco use. In 8.5 hours of work, app users documented almost 4,000 pieces of cigarette butt litter: 1,515 pieces in five city parks and 2,400 in a five-block area of Main Street in downtown Bozeman.Social media is another efficient method of identifying litter hot spots in communities. Residents regularly use Twitter, Instagram and Nextdoor to lodge litter complaints. Monitoring of these sites by city officials is smart stakeholder engagement and an effective way to find major sources of litter in communities.6. Support container deposit and extended producer responsibility laws at the state levelContainer deposit laws are made at the state level and should be supported by cities to increase return of plastic beverage bottles and cut plastic pollution. Container deposit laws (also known as bottle bills) require the collection of a deposit on beverage containers at the point of sale and refund the deposit when the container is returned. According to NCEL, 10 states and Guam have a deposit-refund system for beverage containers.Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws put significant responsibility on manufacturers for the end-of-life management of their products after they has been used. EPR legislation is designed to decrease source pollution and require manufacturers to use recyclable and recycled materials and develop recycling programs. EPR laws are proposed for plastic packaging in California (AB1080) and Washington (SB5397).7. Monitor microplastic pollution levels and emerging innovationsIn addition to visible plastic pollution, microplastic pollution to waterways and the ocean is a growing concern. It is an issue that cities and their water agencies should closely monitor to possibly act at the city level and to advise residents on what they can do at home. The Plastic Pollution Coalition has published a list of 15 Ways to Stop Microfiber Pollution Now aimed at individuals. As research progresses on the sources of the microplastics and the impacts on human health, further solutions will be invented, tested and made available to the public.The city-changing magic of tidying up"The objective of cleaning is not just to clean, but to feel happiness living within that environment," Marie Kondo, author of the bestselling "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up." says.It’s time to make community cleanup days a relic of the past and celebrate clean cities every day instead.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Around and around on circularity

My head is spinning from all the talk about a circular economy. Where it stops, nobody knows.I’m just back from two weeks in Europe, where the conversation about circularity is going on in earnest. Not surprisingly, the conversation has hot spots, such as the Netherlands, where the national government has stated a goal of achieving a circular economy by 2050 (and a 50 percent reduction in the use of materials, fossil fuels and metals by 2030).It’s the most ambitious goal, even if three decades away, of any nation so far. The Dutch government has selected five economic sectors and value chains to be the first to switch to a circular model: biomass and food; plastics; manufacturing; construction; and consumer goods.That list doesn’t include apparel, but don’t tell that to the innovators at Fashion for Good, a combination museum, incubator, co-working space and showroom focusing on circular and sustainable apparel in a five-story building in the center of Amsterdam. On the day I visited, it was bustling with activity as it prepared for a new exhibition — on color and how to produce it at scale without toxic ingredients — as well as for an upcoming "demo day," in which a dozen or so startups presented their innovations to investors and others. The Netherlands' national government has stated a goal of achieving a circular economy by 2050 (and a 50 percent reduction in the use of materials, fossil fuels and metals by 2030). One of Fashion for Good’s partners is the five-year-old Amsterdam-based nonprofit Circle Economy, which works with organizations and cities around the world to accelerate the transition to circularity. I had lunch with its CEO, Harald Friedl, a high-energy social entrepreneur who previously co-founded Myanmar’s first "pre-incubation" program for social enterprises. Circle Economy is working with Fashion for Good to accelerate recommerce and rental business models in the apparel industry.Friedl and his group are working with cities — in Europe, Asia and North America — that want to use circularity as a "solution framework," as he explained. His group works with business, government and civil society to break down silos. He asked: "What is a thriving city? What should a city look like that is really working for the people?" (You can hear my interview with him in a recent edition of our GreenBiz 350 podcast.)Visiting Amsterdam, it’s easy to view a glimpse of what’s possible through vision, leadership and collaboration.The anchor of my Europe trip was the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Annual Summit last week in London. The one-day event brings together a diverse group, primarily from Europe but also beyond, including from both North and South America. It’s a high-energy day that reinforces the momentum building on circularity around the world. I had the opportunity to speak to the group about what's going on circularity-wise in North America. All of this took place in the run-up to this week’s Circularity 19 in Minneapolis, our premier annual event on all things circular. There were other events in Europe last two weeks that I didn’t get to: the third annual World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki; and the EAT Forum last week in Stockholm, where the Ellen MacArthur Foundation announced that it will work with Danone, Mizkan, Nestlé, Novamont, Veolia and Yara to develop circular economy solutions to the problems of today’s food system, beginning in three flagship cities: London; New York; and São Paulo.All of this, of course, took place in the run-up to this week’s Circularity 19 in Minneapolis, our premier annual event on all things circular. If participation in the event is any indicator — we’d originally planned for 500 attendees but finally cut off registration last week at 850 — there’s an extraordinarily high level of interest about this topic in North America (although attendees will be coming from more than a dozen countries, from Switzerland to South Africa, the Netherlands to New Zealand and Israel to India).Clearly, this is a moment, the beginning rumblings of a revolution that stands to upend products, services and systems of commerce. The challenge for all of these organizations and events is whether and how much circularity can move beyond incremental tweaks to disruptive transformation.If the level of enthusiasm around the world is matched by a concomitant level of action, our circular future will be bright.Circularity Virtual: If you’re unable to join us in Minneapolis this week, I invite you to tune into Circularity Virtual, our event livestream. You’ll see all of the mainstage action as well as some online-only interviews. The livestream will be available on GreenBiz.com and no registration is necessary.Let's block ads! (Why?)

4 key takeaways on ESG reporting and investing

The shares of PG&E, California's utility, lost nearly half their value in January after the company filed for bankruptcy protection because of its role in California wildfires. While this may have resulted in huge losses for some investors, those who carefully scrutinized environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factor — and took note of wildfire-related risk — would have seen the warning signs flashing long before then, and avoided exposure to such a high risk investment.Taking ESG factors into account in investment decisions has become synonymous with sustainable investing — an area experiencing rapid growth in the investment industry. Morningstar found that the number of sustainable investment funds in the United States alone grew 50 percent between 2017 and 2018, to 351 funds with $161 billion under management at the end of 2018.  While sustainable investing is growing in popularity, not all investors are integrating ESG considerations into their decision-making — yet. A recent ESG policy statement by the CFA Institute underscores how this needs to change.The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential is considered the gold standard in the field of investment analysis and management. CFAs often are portfolio managers and research analysts at investment management firms.The CFA Institute manages this credential, held by over 150,000 investment professionals worldwide. While it stopped short of formally requiring CFA charterholders to factor in ESG, its guidance carries a lot of weight in the investment community. We wanted to highlight four takeaways:1. Including ESG factors into investment analysis is consistent with fiduciary dutyFiduciary duties exist to ensure that anyone who manages other people's money act in the best interests of beneficiaries. When you invest in a fund such as a mutual fund, the fund manager has the fiduciary duty to invest in your best interests.  Until recently, incorporating ESG factors into the investment process was widely assumed to violate fiduciary duty. The argument was built on the assumption that incorporating ESG factors requires a trade-off in investment performance or financial returns. This is often used as an excuse for not considering ESG factors. But it turns out, this isn't true (PDF).CFA Institute helps to put this debate to rest in its policy statement.2. Better ESG factoring leads to better investment decisionsThe CFA Institute's new statement emphasizes the need for charterholders to factor in all material information, including material ESG factors, in their financial analysis — because doing so will improve their investment decisions. Material factors are those that a reasonable person would consider important in making investment decisions. Until recently, incorporating ESG factors into the investment process was widely assumed to violate fiduciary duty. Knowing which ESG factors are material is critical but not straightforward, as materiality is not universal. For example, water management is a material factor for a food and beverage company, but not a financial services company; data security is material for a health care company, but not a mining company. The Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has helped to address this challenge by mapping out which sustainability issues are likely to be material to companies within a given industry.In their push for "better factoring" CFA Institute seems to acknowledge the dangers of taking a framework or rating at face value and stopping there. Going back to PG&E — on first blush, it did well on ESG criteria. PG&E ranks among U.S. utilities with the most renewable energy, and it had received higher-than-average ratings for environmental factors by many major ESG rating agencies, including Bloomberg, RobecoSAM and Sustainalytics.These firms missed something. The key material factor that went unnoticed for many was wildfire-related risk. SASB's materiality map, for instance, doesn't highlight physical impacts of climate change — such as wildfires — as material issues for electric utilities. But the risk was embedded in PG&E long before the bankruptcy filing, as PG&E repeatedly delayed a safety overhaul of a transmission line believed to cause the deadliest wildfire in California. Only MSCI cut PG&E's ESG rating in September in anticipation of wildfire-related liabilities.(Although it is true that investors and ratings do not and cannot accurately forecast every crisis, the inconsistent ESG ratings of PG&E highlight weaknesses in current ESG disclosure and rating systems meant to support informed, efficient investment decisions — more on these issues in No. 3 and No. 4.)It's not just active investors who can use ESG factoring. In its statement, CFA Institute also alludes to the importance of ESG factoring for passive products (for example, index funds and exchange-traded funds) that are growing in popularity. CFA institute encourages all investment professionals to consider material ESG factors regardless of investment style, asset class or investment approach.3. Companies' ESG disclosures require further improvements in quality, consistency and comparabilityThe investment decision-making process relies on proper company disclosures. CFA Institute notes that ESG disclosures and data provided by corporations, such as sustainability reporting, are oftentimes inadequate and require further standardization and refinement to improve quality, consistency and comparability. For instance, companies may not provide robust quantitative performance indicators and instead resort to check-boxes or boilerplate language about ESG issues. We had similar insights in our own commentary on sustainability data that we published earlier this year. Knowing which ESG factors are material is critical but not straightforward, as materiality is not universal. In response to the data gap and investors' growing demands for ESG disclosures, frameworks and standards developed by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), SASB and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) have been promoting standardized disclosure.4. ESG investment products need to provide detailed disclosures about their ESG processESG- and sustainable-labeled investment products and services, such as funds and ratings, have integrated ESG factors. However, they are not always transparent about how they do it. Many ESG/sustainable investment products and services rely on ESG scores, ratings or rankings in one form or another. For example, the S&P 500 ESG Index relies on scores provided by RobecoSAM (automatic PDF download), while the MSCI World ESG Universal Index uses the ESG ratings developed by MSCI itself. These ESG scores or ratings have different assumptions about what is material — and as a result, they have very low correlation among each other. In other words, ESG can mean different things, depending who you ask.CFA Institute believes that ESG investment products must include adequate and detailed disclosures with periodic verification. Meaning, asset managers and index creators need to do more to pull back the curtain on their ESG/sustainable investing products and reassure investors about the substance behind their ESG claims.What CFA Institute is doing nextCFA Institute still gives full discretion to its charterholders to determine which ESG issues are material and exactly how to integrate ESG factors into their processes. However, it seems to have a strong focus on providing more educational materials on ESG to its members and candidates, which should help bring more rigor and clarity to ESG integration processes. CFA Institute is also working with other stakeholders such as SASB and the Principles for Responsible Investment to improve the quality, consistency and availability of ESG information.We are encouraged that CFA Institute's seems to be strengthening its focus on ESG. Their support and efforts are essential to help ensure that investment capital is deployed to support a more sustainable future while delivering better returns to investors. We urge charterholders to take heed of CFA Institute's call to action on ESG, and hope that CFA Institute will do more to focus attention on its ESG policy statement.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Human rights, access to remedy and stakeholder engagement

This article is the fourth in a four-part series of essays about stakeholder engagement. The first three essays focused on stakeholder trust, engaging investors and employee activism.The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), released in 2011, provide the first coherent framework for how business should manage their human rights risks and impacts. The framework clearly specifies the responsibilities of government and business and outlines clear steps for business with regards to due diligence, oversight and remedy. The Guiding Principles necessitate detailed engagement by companies with impacted stakeholders — part of a wider shift in the business community from considering risk to understanding societal impact.In particular, stakeholder engagement is needed for: conducting any credible Human Rights Impact Assessment; seeking Free Prior Informed Consent from communities and other affected stakeholders before establishing mining, infrastructure and energy operations; and providing remedy for any harmful human rights impacts.  Indeed, effective remedy requires directly seeking the perspective of stakeholders who have been harmed. This entails, among others, identifying which stakeholders suffered what harm, from which business activities and what the underlying root causes of the harm were. This also requires ensuring affected stakeholders’ perspectives are central in the remedy discussions.All of these developments have been incorporated into BSR’s "Five-Step Approach to Stakeholder Engagement," which aims to show how companies can initiate and sustain constructive relationships with stakeholders over time, throughout the organization, by engaging early and often — and acting based upon what they hear. In 2011, when the original report was published, our approach was driven by considerations of risk to the company. Now, we have revised our framework to incorporate central human rights concepts of vulnerability and impact. There is still a significant gap between companies responding to allegations of harming human rights and actually engaging with affected rights holders to ensure appropriate remedy is provided. Evidence suggests that businesses are still struggling to respond to this new environment. In 2018, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark assessed 101 of the largest publicly traded companies in the world across agricultural products, apparel and extractives industries. The findings of the assessment depict a "deeply concerning" picture, with four in 10 companies "failing" on human rights.It is clear that there is still a significant gap between companies responding to allegations of harming human rights and actually engaging with the affected rights holders to ensure that appropriate remedy is provided. The benchmark found that less than half of the serious allegations of negative human rights impacts reviewed by the benchmark resulted in meaningful engagement with the alleged affected rights holders, and only 3 percent of the reviewed allegations were resolved through by providing remedy that was satisfactory to the victims.Effective remedy itself is comprised of the following five elements:Restitution, which is intended to restore, to the extent possible, whatever has been lost to the victim preceding the harm.Compensation, which is appropriate in cases where damage/ harm to the victim can be economically assessed.Rehabilitation, which covers medical or psychological care, and social or legal services needed to restore the victim.Satisfaction, which includes measures as a cessation of the violations.Guarantee of non-repetition, which includes actions and measures to prevent further abuses or similar future violations.Although stakeholder engagement is an underlying theme throughout the UNGPs, 60 percent of companies assessed in the benchmark were unable to disclose their stakeholder engagement approach, with 38 percent of the companies unable to demonstrate a commitment to, or evidence of, engaging with potentially or actually affected rights holders.In addition, there have been a growing number of cases globally where banks are considered to have contributed to human rights abuses through their financing decisions. These include projects involving farmers being forced off their land (PDF), the destruction of sacred indigenous sites and violence against community members (PDF).In June 2018, BankTrack and Oxfam Australia called on banks to ensure access to remedy (PDF) for victims of human rights abuses. The paper "shows that banks have barely begun to implement their responsibilities to develop grievance mechanisms under the UNGPs" and indicates that banks are not doing enough to ensure that stakeholders affected by bank-financed activities are obtaining proper remedy.For companies working across geographies, including financing projects that affect local communities, it may be beneficial for companies to establish, through engagement with local stakeholders, a standard response for certain common grievances. Engaging with local stakeholders is key to ensuring that the response is acceptable within the local context and also to satisfy the criteria for effective remedy.  Effective remedy requires directly seeking the perspective of stakeholders who have been harmed. In line with this, it is important for companies to consult with local stakeholders to ensure all affected communities, including vulnerable groups, have access to remedy if a human rights violation occurs. Companies should first map the different vulnerable groups that may exist to understand the specific, distinct barriers that these groups may have in accessing remedy. Vulnerable groups can include people who are marginalized due to life circumstances (poor, uneducated); people who are discriminated against by formal laws; people who are marginalized and in hiding such as LGBTI people or people living with HIV/AIDS; or people who are marginalized due to societal discrimination or bias.Stakeholder engagement is especially important to ensure the most vulnerable groups are aware of the various remedy options available. In order to ensure that all vulnerable groups have access to and understand the remedy pathways available to them, companies should:Provide information on the company’s grievance mechanism in written, illustrated and oral formats. Create open, safe and confidential stakeholder engagement forums for the ongoing collection and follow up of community grievances.Consult local communities to ensure that these accessibility measures suit the needs of vulnerable groups, including those who are illiterate or semi-literate.The UNGPs have defined for business how they can manage human rights impacts and risks. Now, the responsibility is on companies to follow the Guiding Principles in order to do business in a way that respects the human rights of workers, customers and communities where they operate. Stakeholder engagement is key in all these aspects, but especially in cases of grievance, engaging stakeholders is necessary to ensure the people affected are granted access to remedy. Let's block ads! (Why?)

Sip, sparkle and drink: Kellogg’s turns cereal waste into beer

Could "snap, crackle and pop" take on a new meaning? Cereal giant Kellogg's has this week unveiled two new products that turn its waste cereals into beer.The company teamed up with Salford-based Brewery Seven Bro7hers to turn surplus Coco Pops into "Sling it Stout" and excess Rice Krispies into "Cast Off Pale Ale."The new beers are made from discarded grains created during the production process at the firm's Manchester factory. The grains were rejected for being overcooked, uncoated or discolored, creating an opportunity to upcycle them into new products."Kellogg's is always looking for innovative ways to use surplus food, the collaboration with Seven Bro7hers is a fun way to repurpose non-packaged, less-than-perfect cereal," said Kate Prince, corporate social responsibility manager for Kellogg's UK and Ireland."This activity is part of our new 'Better Days' commitments which aim to reduce our impact on the planet."The innovations build on the Kellogg's Corn Flakes IPA, which is created using a similar process and was launched in November.The two new beers aim to emulate the success of the IPA, which is said to have sparked strong customer interest since its launch. The Sling it Out Stout brew uses 80kg of Kellogg's Coco Pops to replace malted barley, with the cereal contributing a distinctive chocolatey taste, the firm said.Meanwhile, the "Cast off Pale Ale" uses 80kg of Kellogg's Rice Krispies to replace malted barley, infusing sweet notes into the beer.All three beers will be available to purchase from Seven Bro7hers website and Booths Country Stores, with ambitions to roll out to Ocado and Selfridges in the near future. The beers also will be sold on tap across Manchester.The move comes just days after Kellogg's announced an update to its global sustainability targets, reiterating its commitment to its science-based emissions targets and setting new 2030 targets to support a million farmers and smallholders to deliver climate-smart farming, feed 375 million people through donations, and continue its work to reduce food waste, responsibly source ingredients and switch to sustainable packaging.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Bending the line: How better design can transition a linear economy to a circular one

Excerpted from "Mid-Course Correction Revisited: The Story and Legacy of a Radical Industrialist and his Quest for Authentic Change," by Ray C. Anderson and John A. Lanier (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2019). All rights reserved.If you want to keep material from becoming waste, a good place to start is to keep material from becoming a product in the first place. This circular economy practice is called dematerialization, and it comes straight out of the Interface QUEST playbook. By creating the same-quality product with fewer raw material inputs, a business saves money and reduces demand for materials that might end up becoming waste. Dematerialization comes down to being as efficient as possible with what goes into a product.It is a design challenge — one that Interface’s principal designer, David Oakey, took up. When Ray had his epiphany, Interface carpet tile had at least 24 ounces of face fiber per square yard, and often quite a bit more. David and his team set their sights on driving that number down without sacrificing product performance. In the following years, they have been able to strip out more than 4 ounces per square yard, saving not only material but also the energy that would have been used in manufacturing the superfluous nylon fibers. On top of that, the weight savings generate subsequent fuel savings when Interface products are shipped. David’s hard work generated multiple wins for the company.Another recent example comes from Starbucks. In 2018, in response to growing public awareness about the massive quantities of single-use plastic straws that are used and disposed of every day, Starbucks announced its intent to stop using plastic straws by 2020. In their place, Starbucks has redesigned the lid they use for cold drinks, making it look like an adult "sippy cup." While the new lids use slightly more plastic, the extra plastic is still less compared with the plastic straws, and they are easier to recycle. Less plastic is used for effectively the same user experience. An important observation about a lot of circular economy practices: Just because they are better, that does not make them the best, so we must keep working on improving. Admittedly, it would be even better if customers brought in their own reusable cup and skipped a single-use cup in the first place. That point brings up an important observation about a lot of circular economy practices. Just because they are better, that does not make them the best, so we must keep working on improving. Still, marginal improvement helps to bend the line.Dematerialization is also about preparing for a future with rising input costs. In "The Big Pivot," Andrew Winston observed that while commodity prices generally declined in the 20th century, they have tended to increase in real terms this century. In his words, "Commodity prices, while volatile, are now fundamentally heading higher . . . The imperative to reduce material use is rising. The only practical path for countries and companies that want to keep functioning profitably, or at all, is radical efficiency."Circular economy product design is not just about designing for less, but also about designing for long. Resource needs are reduced when a product can last longer and can be used more times. I will grant you that many consumable goods cannot be designed this way. The last time I checked, I only get to drink a glass of wine once. Durable goods can be designed this way, though, and so we bend the line toward circularity when products are designed for durability and repairability.Patagonia is an exemplary company when it comes to designing products for the long haul. In his memoir "Let My People Go Surfing," Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote, "As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer." To encourage the repair rather than replacement of their products, Patagonia has a garment repair facility in Nevada, an archive of most fabrics and trims they have used, and online repair guides for their goods. The company wants customers to be "owners" rather than "consumers," and Chouinard emphasized the difference. "Owners are empowered to take responsibility for their purchases — from proper cleaning to repairing, reusing, and sharing. Consumers take, make, dispose and repeat — a pattern that is driving us toward ecological bankruptcy." To encourage the repair rather than replacement of their products, Patagonia has a garment repair facility, an archive of most fabrics and trims they have used, and online repair guides for their goods. Many CEOs might shudder at the thought of discouraging customers from making an additional purchase from their company. I think this reaction is shortsighted, though. Durable goods can command a price premium, and offering repairability for a fee can diversify revenue streams for the business. Encouraging customers to trade in their products, as Patagonia does, can also allow businesses to generate multiple sales from one product. Further, as more customers become sensitive to environmental issues, companies that have an environmental ethic have a market-share advantage. Finally, when customers need to purchase a new product, they’re more likely to return to the company that has provided them with high-quality goods in the past.When simple repairs are not possible, the next best option is to remanufacture or refurbish durable goods. This is also a design challenge, in that both products and business models can be designed to make refurbishing easier. Doing so reduces energy and material demand, just as Walter Stahel observed in 1976. This practice can be particularly valuable for businesses in the electronics industry. Hardware and software advancements are incredibly rapid today, so refurbishing devices with the latest capabilities offers an opportunity to sell an even better product than the first one that was sold, while still using many of the original components.When even the most durable product reaches the end of its useful life, we need it to be designed for disassembly. Doing so would be a significant enabler of the recycling industry, which needs material types to be properly sorted in order for them to be recycled. Plenty of products end up in landfills simply because the plastics and metals cannot be easily pulled apart. There is opportunity for value creation here as well, as a lot of high-demand materials could have resale value if producers and consumers could easily disassemble products. From dematerialization to durability to disassembly, products can be designed for the circular economy. From dematerialization to durability to disassembly, products can be designed for the circular economy. All of this comes with a hidden benefit as well: It helps enable the transition to renewable energy. Let me connect the dots, with Andrew Morlet’s help."Think about an engine in a car," Andrew said. "You have a massive amount of embedded energy and resource intensity in that engine, everything that was used to make it. If you keep it in use longer and you can remanufacture it, you retain that energy. Embedded energy is all around us, and the more you can keep an engine, a phone, a table, or a building in use, the more of that embedded energy that stays in use. You lower the demand for energy in the system."This logic is similar to that for energy-efficiency improvements. From a global warming standpoint, reducing the need for fossil fuel energy through efficiency improvement is effectively equivalent to replacing the fossil fuels with wind and solar power. From a financial standpoint, many energy-efficiency improvements have a faster return on investment than wind and solar. That makes energy efficiency an attractive renewable energy investment opportunity, and the same can be said for the circular economy.Capturing the value of embedded energy could be a new frontier for our energy-intensive economic system.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Episode 176: Investors dive into water risks, IKEA’s low-carbon shipping manifest

Week in ReviewTune in around 7:15 for commentary on this week's stories.As more developing nations reject plastic waste exports, wealthy nations seek solutions at homeWhy the U.S.-China trade war is leaving firms vulnerable to soy riskDetroit, Montreal and Lisbon see seamless connections, data as key to ditching solo carsFeaturesInvestors are diving into water risk discussions (21:30)Depending on whose data you use, an estimated 75 percent of multinational organizations acknowledge that they face real risks when it comes to the fresh water resources they need to run their operations — not just in terms of its availability but also quality. Monika Freyman, director of investment engagement, water, at non-profit Ceres, chats about why the investment community is wading into this debate and what issues are defining the conversation.It's official: Britain vows to halt emissions by 2050 (30:28)What the United Kingdom thinks about America's Green New Deal vision. Why the country could be the first G7 nation to officially mandate zero emissions. And how British businesses are getting involved — or not. GreenBiz Executive Editor Joel Makower compares notes, hopes and fears with BusinessGreen Editor in Chief James Murray. The changing politics of climate change (38:18)"This whole agenda is in the process of becoming incredibly political," observes sustainability pioneer John Elkington, co-founder and chief pollinator at consulting firm Volans, during a talk this week in London. Tune in for thoughts from Elkington and GreenBiz's Joel Makower about what the corporate world can learn from Extinction Rebellion and why ground-up activism from employees will be decisive in shaping policies that fight the effects of climate change.IKEA pieces together a sustainable delivery approach (43:45)"This is about us as IKEA stepping outside of our comfort zone," notes Angela Hultberg, head of sustainability mobility for retailer IKEA, during our webcast this week on reducing emissions related to e-commerce. "The problem with being around for a very long time is you are very comfortable with doing things in a certain way." In this segment, Hultberg reflects on how IKEA is shifting to accommodate shipments to urban customers that are buying items online, and what it has learned so far about its experiments with EVs.* All music in this episode by Lee Rosevere: "Try Anything Once," "Keeping Stuff Together," "Southside," "More On That Later" and "As I Was Saying."What's new at GreenBiz?Do we have a newsletter for you! We produce five weekly newsletters: GreenBuzz by Executive Editor Joel Makower (Monday), Transport Weekly by Senior Writer and Analyst Katie Fehrenbacher (Tuesday), VERGE Weekly by Executive Director Shana Rappaport and Editorial Director Heather Clancy (Wednesday), Energy Weekly by Senior Energy Analyst Sarah Golden (Thursday) and Circular Weekly by Director and Senior Analyst Lauren Phipps (Friday). You must subscribe to each newsletter in order to receive it. Please visit this page to choose the newsletters you want to receive.Check out our Center Stage podcast, which features the best of live interviews on sustainable business and clean technology, conducted on stage at GreenBiz and VERGE conferences.The GreenBiz Intelligence Panel is the survey body we poll regularly throughout the year on key trends and developments in sustainability. To become part of the panel, click here. Enrolling is free and should take two minutes.Stay connectedTo make sure you don't miss the newest episodes of GreenBiz 350, subscribe on iTunes. Have a question or suggestion for a future segment? E-mail us at [email protected].Let's block ads! (Why?)

‘Banking’ water surges in communities facing water stress

Houston, Texas, has flooded every year for the past five years. At the same time, Texas is also known for dire water shortages. What if people were to capture the floodwater and store it for later in aquifers — underground layers of permeable rock, gravel and sand that allow water to pass through?A recent study by researchers from the University of Texas at Austin found that coastal aquifers from which water has been pumped for use in farms and cities have enough space to store two-thirds of the water from high-flow events from 10 Texas rivers, reducing the impacts of both floods and droughts — if we figure out a way to get the excess water into them.Actively moving water underground, a practice known as managed aquifer recharge (MAR), is increasingly popular today. About 1,200 managed aquifer recharge projects are in 62 countries, according to the International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (IGRAC) based in Delft, the Netherlands. In addition to helping manage water over- and under-supplies, MAR can be used to restore depleted aquifers, rehabilitate ecosystems and cleanse polluted water. But there are challenges as well.Water in the bankStoring water underground for future use is increasingly popular due to growing volatility in supply because of climate change as well as to the downsides of the alternative: damming rivers to create surface reservoirs.For one thing, in developed countries, many rivers already are dammed. For another, dams cause myriad environmental problems, such as preventing sediment from replenishing coasts, blocking fish migrations and destroying river habitat by slowing down water and allowing it to warm. Reservoirs lose up to a quarter of stored water to evaporation, and sometimes have to release water to make room for big storms. And surface storage can lead to overuse of water because the sight of it gives people a false sense of water security. It also costs around double the price of groundwater recharge.Saving heavy flows underground for higher demand times has been the practice for the barrier island of Wildwood, New Jersey, since the 1960s, says Steven Phillips, a hydrologist and groundwater specialist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Sacramento. A popular resort area, Wildwood hosts numerous visitors in summer. Water managers store excess winter water underground and then pump it out for use during the high season.California is looking to scale up this strategy. The snowpack that historically has supplied water into the dry spring and summer is predicted to largely disappear with the climate crisis. And its winter storms are predicted to grow more intense. Water managers and scientists, led by the California Department of Water Resources, are looking for the best places to move water from winter storms underground (PDF) for use during the dry summers.Other benefitsWater’s natural tendency, in many places in many seasons, is to linger on the land. When surface waters slow down, some can seep underground and recharge aquifers.But in many places we have blocked the opportunity for natural aquifer replenishment. We have cut off rivers from floodplains with concrete channels and levees; drained wetlands and paved over them with sprawling, impervious cities; and eliminated beavers. As a result, stormwater ends up running off into surface waters and away from the region instead of soaking into aquifers. A 2015 study of NASA satellite data found that more than half of the world’s major aquifers were overdrawn or overstressed. Combined with the fact that in many places groundwater is being drawn up for surface uses, this situation has produced a net loss of underground water. In fact, a 2015 study of NASA satellite data found that more than half of the world’s major aquifers were overdrawn or overstressed.This not only threatens water security, it also can cause the land above to sink, as it has in California’s San Joaquin Valley, Beijing and Mexico City. And pumping from an aquifer near the coast can decrease water pressure to the point where saltwater can push in underground, tainting the freshwater.MAR can help reduce such problems. San Jose, California, began using MAR many decades ago after the downtown sank around 13 feet. And Los Angeles and Orange counties were among the first places to use MAR to push back saltwater intrusion. In the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, officials are planning a "fairly large-scale groundwater recharge to push back saltwater coming into their groundwater," says Bill Alley, director of science and technology for the National Groundwater Association. The saltwater intrusion is partly due to rapid sea-level rise.Because surface water and groundwater often are linked by gravity and hydraulic pressure, recharge also can bring new life to wetlands, springs, creeks and other surface-water ecosystems that dry up, get too warm or become choked with algae after people deplete the surface water or groundwater that feeds them. In the Sacramento Valley, The Nature Conservancy cut a gap in a levee so high river flows once again would flood Cosumnes River Preserve and seep down into the aquifer, where the water could provide ongoing sustenance for the ecosystem. Moving water into the ground often can clean it, depending on the pollutants and the composition of the substrate. But sometimes it’s too late. In some parts of the San Joaquin Valley, water tables have fallen more than 500 feet below ground from overpumping, says Phillips. "Water levels are deep enough that we’re not likely to see rivers benefiting from groundwater input for possibly ever." Such aquifers could still be used for water storage — although that’s not always possible because sometimes subsidence causes permanent loss of capacity in an aquifer.Moving water into the ground often can clean it, depending on the pollutants and the composition of the substrate. Gilbert, Arizona, discharges wastewater into recharge ponds, including a riparian preserve that offers recreation space for people and habitat for wildlife, where it percolates down into the aquifer for future use. Pond water also is used directly for irrigation and other nonpotable uses, reducing demand on drinking water.How it's doneA long-used approach to moving water underground, still practiced in rural places around the world, is to harvest or funnel rainfall into a shallow basin or trench and allow it to soak into the soil.In 2011, on a project in Tigray, Ethiopia, a mountainous, rural area, IGRAC hydrogeologist Arnaud Sterckx saw people building check dams in gullies, reforesting steep valley flanks, building terraces for agriculture, and digging ponds to capture rainwater. Such projects typically don’t appear in the MAR global inventory, he says, because these traditional methods don’t require permits, feasibility studies or environmental impact assessments.Sterckx says the corralled water doesn’t even have to filter down to an aquifer to make this a useful practice. By lingering in the soil, it can help crops grow with reduced need for irrigation.An urban version of this approach is cities’ increasing use of green infrastructure. Additions such as green roofs, bioswales, permeable pavement and parks along river banks absorb stormwater, reducing flooding and to retain water locally for future supply.Water managers are also building large infiltration basins, such as Arizona’s 38-acre Hieroglyphic Mountains Recharge facility, which stores Colorado River water for later use. Such basins are built above suitable geology for infiltration, typically a mix of sand, gravel and clay. But recharge basins can clog if the water has a lot of sediment and therefore need to be cleaned out periodically, warns Sterckx.A more natural way to store water underground is to help creeks and rivers that have been engineered to stay within their banks to spread back out into their historic floodplains.In an early example, local leaders in Los Gatos, California, built partial dams across a creek in the 1920s using burlap sacks filled with dirt to cause the water to slow down and spread out across flat areas adjacent to the creek. Today, inflatable dams are deployed in several northern and southern California counties to slow down rivers and streams during high flows to allow more infiltration in the natural channel, says Phillips.The most industrial approach is to inject surplus water into the ground via a well or borehole. It’s more costly than passive methods because of the energy required. Nevertheless, it can be useful for moving water through a nonabsorbent clay layer into an aquifer below, or in places where there isn’t room for a spreading basin. This approach has been used in Rio Rancho, a suburb of Albuquerque, New Mexico, says Alley.Another MAR method is called induced bank filtration. People dig a well several tens of meters away from the river so the hydraulic pressure will attract water from the river, moving it through sand and silt, which have good filtration properties, says Sterckx. Germany and the Netherlands have a lot of these projects and typically use it as a pretreatment for drinking water. Hungary gets about half of its public supply this way, says Alley.ChallengesDespite the many benefits of MAR, there can be downsides as well. The main concern is pollution. Although putting water underground can clean it, in some cases, MAR can taint groundwater due to pollutants in the water or soil. "That’s why you need knowledge about aquifers, hydrogeology, the direction of the groundwater flow, the quality of water you’re infiltrating," says Sterckx. "Otherwise you may have serious issues."Contaminants can come from urban runoff or from agriculture’s use of fertilizers and pesticides. Near Wichita, Kansas, says Alley, people have been pulling high flows from the Little Arkansas River to replenish the Equus Beds aquifers from which they draw their water. "They’ve had to deal with removing atrazine [an herbicide] from the water before they inject it."Other pollutants are naturally occurring, such as arsenic, found in Florida’s geology. When recharging water there, it’s possible to prevent groundwater contamination, but it’s complicated, says Alley. "In the Everglades they had this massive idea of managed aquifer recharge [to resupply water that had been overdrained], and they haven’t followed through on that largely because of the chemistry problems with arsenic."In some cases, polluted groundwater can be diluted with recharged freshwater, cleaning it to a level where it is suitable for certain applications. In San Joaquin Valley, where some groundwater is polluted with nitrates from fertilizer, farmers measure the levels in the groundwater they’re pumping to irrigate their crops and reduce their fertilizer applications accordingly, a practice that could improve groundwater quality over time. Water also can be cleaned for drinking after being pumped from a well, although "it tends to be expensive," says Phillips. Recharging water for later use also can cause consternation over ownership. Getting access to water supply for recharge can be another issue. Although much water used to refill aquifers comes from wet season excesses, in some jurisdictions, it can be complicated due to legal or political considerations to get rights to that water or to ensure it’s of suitable quality, says Jim LaMoreaux, president of the U.S. branch of the International Association of Hydrogeologists.Recharging water for later use also can cause consternation over ownership. Other people may pump out water that you inject, such as in El Paso and San Antonio, Texas, where, says Alley, it’s the "law of the biggest pump" — which essentially means that anyone can pump underground water if it lies beneath their property. That was the case until recently in California as well. But the state’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requires water users in a watershed to work together to use their groundwater sustainably, a challenge that is motivating some districts to use MAR. They share the resource and are therefore accountable to each other.Also, depending on the geology, some water moved underground can be "lost" to the wider environment. Accepting some loss requires a similar shift in thinking from an ownership mentality to one focused sustainability, in which recharging water supports ecosystem health, possibly requiring fewer human interventions to stave off collapse. And it’s worth stating again that above-ground reservoirs lose up to a quarter of stored water to evaporation, and sometimes have to release water to make room for big storms — so "loss" is already part of the status quo.The world’s booming human population and our built environments are increasingly altering the natural water cycle. The impacts of those changes are exacerbated as climate chaos brings bigger floods and longer droughts. As one method to repair the water cycle, MAR likely will spread, especially as people learn from experience how to mitigate potential problems with the processes.Let's block ads! (Why?)

Improving food cold chains for farmers and citizens in India

India farmer Amit Gupta, who grows crops on seven acres in the state of Haryana, knows firsthand how food cold chains can transform lives and livelihoods.For years, he and his wife, Seema Gulati, grew only staples such as potatoes, carrots and onions at their farm, and at harvest time — having no access to refrigeration — they were forced to accept low prices in glutted local markets. Then in 2014, they took a cold chain training course and invested in cold storage equipment.Now, with a 30-ton cold storage unit, a 60-kilowatt solar system and three refrigerated vehicles, Elle Farm is growing high-value mushrooms that are being sold over 100 miles away in supermarkets in Delhi and Gurugram. The farm’s sales have tripled, to $62,000 a year, and its net income has doubled. The couple is looking to expand to markets in Mumbai and Bangalore, which could double their revenues again."For years, we were barely breaking even because we had no way to refrigerate our crops and sold everything locally at low prices," Gupta told us. "Now we’re selling in bigger markets where prices are exponentially higher. Cold chains were especially helpful for growing specialty mushrooms, like Cordyceps militaris."Elle Farm illustrates the vast upside of providing cold chain solutions to small rural farmers who grow most of India’s food. But, according to a recent report by the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, the government’s ambitious food cooling strategy is shortchanging small rural farmers while focusing too much on large-scale cold-storage capacity that most farmers cannot afford. The report calls for a bigger focus on integrated cold chains — temperature-controlled supply chains — that can better serve farmers by reducing crop losses and improving access to markets."Attention has been focused on cold storage rather than cold-chains as a whole," says the report, "Promoting Clean and Energy Efficient Cold-Chains in India," based on dozens of interviews and extensive field visits with farmers in the states of Haryana, Punjab, Maharashtra and Karnataka. "In several states, current policy is to create large cold-rooms instead of locating smaller cold-rooms or pack-houses close to farms, which would enable better use of storage." In several states, current policy is to create large cold-rooms instead of locating smaller cold-rooms or pack-houses close to farms, which would enable better use of storage. The report makes clear that India has a big cold storage challenge. Only 4 percent of the country’s produce moves through cold chains — a big reason why food losses are as high as 40 percent for some crops. These losses have public health implications; 200 million people in India — 15 percent of the population — are undernourished, according to a 2018 FAO report.India’s government is focused on the issue. Cold storage access is a key pillar in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious target to double farmer incomes by 2022. India is also the first country in the world to launch a National Cooling Strategy.The government is providing subsidies, grants, loans and training to help farmers, farmer organizations and private businesses invest in cold chain logistics, including pack-houses where perishable crops are stored, ripening chambers and refrigeration vehicles. The biggest gains have been in new cold storage capacity; last year, the Union Ministry of Food processing reported a near fiftyfold jump in cold storage projects receiving government support.But these advances come at a cost in terms of rising energy demand and climate pollution impacts. Conventional cooling technologies, such as freon-based compressors and diesel-powered generators and trucks, are energy intensive and have a high carbon footprint. The India Cooling Action Plan, released in March, predicts that energy consumption from the nation’s cold-chains nearly will triple in the next two decades, jumping to 212 Terawatt hours (TWh) from 71 TWh in 2017. That increased demand is equivalent to the electricity from about 30 full-sized power plants, many of which likely would be powered by high-polluting coal.To avoid such a scenario, the report calls for using cleaner, more efficient cooling technologies, such as thermal energy storage, low ammonia charge systems and closed-loop systems, which could cut future energy demand in half. It also calls for expanded use of off-grid renewable energy technologies, including solar thermal and PV systems and waste recovery heat systems."We must build cooling capacity while demonstrating the efficiency of new technologies that people will be able to use easily and affordably," said Toby Peters, a clean cooling expert at the United Kingdom-based Birmingham Energy Institute, which helped produce the report.Let's block ads! (Why?)