One UK supermarket powered entirely by food waste

The UK supermarket chain J Sainsbury plc has announced that one of its supermarkets will be powered entirely by electricity generated from anaerobic digestion of food waste from all of the chain’s supermarkets. Sainsbury has about 580 supermarkets and almost as many convenience stores in the UK.

The Company states that the project helps to close the loop on food recycling and helps Sainsbury’s continue to send zero operational waste to landfill.

Like many Canadian supermarkets, Sainsbury marks down products that are approaching the end of their life and offers surplus product to food banks and charities. Some of the remaining products go to processing for animal feed. The residue is collected by the Company’s own trucks and sent to an anaerobic digestion facility in the West Midlands of England. The gas from the digester is used to power a generator which supplies electricity to a Sainsbury store some 1.5km away. Excess power is sold into the national grid.

Sainsbury claims to be the UK’s largest retail user of anaerobic digestion, generating enough energy to power 2,500 homes each year. The plant, run by waste management company Biffa, is said by Biffa to be the UK’s largest operational anaerobic digestion facility dealing with source segregated food waste. The facility is licensed to process 120,000 tonnes of food waste annually.

The Company press release can be found at http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/media/latest-stories/2014/0618-running-on-rubbish-supermarket-comes-off-national-grid-to-be-powered-by-food-waste-alone/

Green bond markets are growing fast, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative

The Climate Bonds Initiative, in partnership with global bank HSBC, has just published the 2014 edition of its annual report Bonds and Climate Change: The State of the Market. The CBI claims to be the only organization in the world helping to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy by mobilising the largest capital market of all –  the $80 trillion bond market – for climate change solutions. Its work aims to reduce market friction and improve risk differentiation for green investments.

The study finds:

  • The total universe of bonds linked to key climate changes solutions stands at US$502.6bn, compared to last year’s estimate of $346bn.
  • $35.8bn of the universe is made up of labelled green bonds issued by corporations and development banks.
  • $236.6bn (47% of total) meets index filters around size, rating and currencies.
  • Low carbon transport, notably rail, accounts for 71% of the total, followed by clean energy (15%) and climate finance (10%).
  • By category, green bonds have been issued for transport ($358.4bn), energy ($74.7bn), finance ($50.1bn), buildings and industry ($13.5bn), agriculture and forestry ($4.2bn), waste and pollution ($1.4bn), and water ($266m).
  • China remains the largest single issuing country due to the inclusion of China Railway Corp. which is one of the largest builders of new rail infrastructure in the world.
  • Top green bond issuing countries are China ($164bn), UK ($58.5bn), US ($51bn), France ($49bn), Canada ($25bn), and South Korea ($24bn).

CBI claims that the growth in the Green Bonds market is part of an overarching trend towards increasing interest in environmental, social and governance issues across all asset classes.

The 12 page report, containing much more data about green bonds, is available at http://www.climatebonds.net/bonds-climate-change-2014. Watch for more coverage of green investments in an issue of Gallon Environment Letter later this year.

 

California water use restrictions may indicate future trends

In the face of a major drought California has introduced new emergency rules to restrict water use. With drought potentially becoming more common across many parts of North America, including in Canada, and with California frequently being cited as a leader in environmental initiatives, industrial, commercial and institutional water users as well as property developers would be well advised to watch the California initiatives as a guide to water use restrictions that might in future come to other regions.

Most of the California initiatives relate to urban outdoor uses of water: irrigation of landscaping, washing of vehicles, washing of paved surfaces, decorative fountains, etc. Specific measures include:

  • education of water users and employees of water suppliers;
  • encouragement of use of reclaimed or recycled water;
  • acceleration of projects that will conserve potable water by making use of non-potable supplies, such as recycled water, greywater, and stormwater collection;
  • prohibition of use of potable water in fountains and other outdoor water features;
  • banning application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;
  • prohibiting use of a hose that dispenses potable water to wash a motor vehicle, except where the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle or device attached to it that causes it to cease dispensing water immediately when not in use;
  • prohibiting application of potable water to driveways and sidewalks;
  • limiting outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water to no more than two days per week;
  • dissemination of information regarding opportunities and incentives to upgrade indoor fixtures and appliances;
  • improved distribution system leak reporting and response programs;
  • encouraging water users to seek out and fix leaks;
  • water loss audits;
  • setting “drought rates” (special water surcharges) to discourage water use;
  • encourage and promote new technologies that reduce water usage.

The State regulation can be found at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_decisions/adopted_orders/resolutions/2014/rs2014_0038_regs.pdf

Many large corporations are taking steps to reduce carbon emissions

A new report from US-based CERES, formerly the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, points out that the lead in clean and green energy is now being taken more by large corporations than by governments. The report states that:

  • 43 percent, or 215 of the companies in the Fortune 500 have set targets in one of three categories: (1) greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction commitments, (2) energy efficiency, and (3) renewable energy.
  • Nearly half of the largest companies in the U.S. are capturing significant business value by cutting emissions and using clean forms of energy to power their operations.
  • The largest companies in the Fortune 500 – the Fortune 100 – continue to lead: 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies have set clean energy and GHG reduction targets as of 2013.
  • Among the 53 Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets to CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), they are conservatively saving $1.1 billion annually through their emission reduction and renewable energy initiatives.
  • In 2012 alone, these companies decreased their annual emissions by approximately 58.3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent – comparable to retiring about 15 coal plants – saving them an average of $19 per metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.

The report concludes with recommendations to companies, investors, the electric sector, and policymakers. Among the recommendations to companies:

  • Set time-bound renewable energy, energy efficiency, or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction commitments.
  • Include specific renewable energy or energy efficiency targets, or at a minimum ensure that both are part of any GHG reduction strategy. Many companies are realizing strong ROIs by achieving these targets.
  • Be fully transparent in reporting their GHG commitments and the role that renewable energy should play in meeting them, using emerging global standards for Scope 2 carbon accounting. To measure progress, companies should publicly disclose the amount of renewable energy they purchase annually compared to their total energy consumption.
  • Identify opportunities to support local, state, and national policies that remove barriers to scale up renewable energy, deploy energy efficiency, and  enable companies to achieve their climate commitments. All companies should be engaged in policy advocacy because it helps increase availability of renewable energy and lower prices, while bringing corporate commitments and public policy positions in line with one another.

Many more interesting facts and much more detail is available in the 24 page report available through a link at http://www.ceres.org/resources/reports/power-forward-2.0-how-american-companies-are-setting-clean-energy-targets-and-capturing-greater-business-value/view (registration required).

Ontario Budget continues to ignore most aspects of the environment

The newly re-elected Ontario government today introduced its 2014 budget. As promised, the budget was essentially identical to the May 1st budget that led to defeat of the government and the recent election. As previously, the budget contains little for the environment except for transportation and infrastructure funding and management.

However, the government recently posted an updated summary of those measures recommended by Don Drummond in his report of the Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services, tabled in 2012, that it considers it has implemented. This document may be as good an indicator of the Ontario government’s direction on environment and sustainability issues than either the Speech from the Throne or the Budget. Drummond measures which the government claims to have implemented and which are relevant to environment and sustainable development include:

  • Proposing Bill 141, the Infrastructure for Jobs and Prosperity Act, 2014, that, if passed, would require the Province to regularly table a long-term infrastructure plan in the legislature covering a period of at least 10 years.
  • Improving how municipalities plan and prioritize their infrastructure needs through the Municipal Infrastructure Strategy.
  • Seeking efficiencies in the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) by proposing to merge them into a single, more efficient organization that would help eliminate duplication, better meet today’s electricity needs and save ratepayers money.
  • Launching emPOWERme, a new, interactive website to help energy consumers take charge of the power they use by better understanding the province’s electricity system.
  • Committing to work with Matawa-member First Nation communities on long-term environmental monitoring, socioeconomic and community development, regional infrastructure and resource revenue-sharing as part of developing the Ring of Fire region [mining] opportunities.
  • Continuing to implement risk-based approaches to environmental approvals across more program areas to improve environmental outcomes and address business needs by leveraging current technology.
  • Continuing to coordinate and integrate environmental approvals with other governments to reduce duplication.
  • Exploring policy and legislative options that would support the implementation of the polluter-pay principle. This includes policies focused on prevention and minimizing future provincial liabilities resulting from contaminated sites.

The Speech from the Throne, delivered on July 3, contains only the following commitments related to the environment:

  • The new Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change will co-ordinate action across government to limit greenhouse gas emissions and will renew work with communities across Ontario on adaptation to the growing impacts of climate change.
  • Ontario will work with other provinces and territories to develop a Canadian Energy Strategy, which includes co-ordinated efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and which recognizes the important role of renewable energy and energy conservation.

The 2014 Ontario Speech from the Throne is at http://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2014/07/building-ontario-up-speech-from-the-throne.html

The 2014 Ontario Budget is at http://www.ontario.ca/government/2014-ontario-budget

The report on Progress on Implementing Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Services’ Recommendations is at http://www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/reformcommission/progress/

Apple continues to report on its environmental leadership

Apple. a company which GallonDaily has previously lauded for putting the statement “We believe climate change is real. And that it’s a real problem” right up front, has just published its Environmental Responsibility Report for fiscal year 2013.

Among the reported achievements during the year:

  • Apple is now powering 145 of its U.S. retail stores and all of its retail stores in Australia with 100 percent renewable energy.
  • Apple’s carbon footprint from energy use dropped by 31 percent from fiscal 2011 to fiscal 2013 — even though overall energy consumption increased by 44 percent during that time.
  • Energy efficiency programs applied to Apple’s corporate offices in the Cupertino area over the past three years saved 28.5 million kWh of electricity and 751,000 therms of natural gas.
  • The commute alternatives program for Apple employees provided more than 1 million trips and helped avoid greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking more than 15,000 vehicles off the road.

The new report also highlights some of the challenges the Company faces:

  • Water consumption rose significantly in 2013, in part due to construction and other expansion activities.
  • Carbon emissions from manufacturing partners remain the largest portion of Apple’s carbon footprint, an area Apple is committed to addressing.

Some of the sections in the latest report may provide useful information for other companies implementing or contemplating environmental initiatives. They include:

  • Why we measure our carbon footprint the way we do.
  • How our carbon footprint informs our thinking.
  • An energy-efficient facility is good, and a 100 percent renewable energy facility is better.
  • When we set out to build a 100 percent renewable energy powered data center, we were told it couldn’t be done. But then we did it.
  • Our new home will be green from the ground up.
  • Apple’s travel and commute programs.
  • Energy efficiency is built in.
  • ENERGY STAR standards are just our starting point.
  • Smaller packaging means smarter packing.
  • Keeping recycling local.
  • No product should be hazardous to your health. Or anyone else’s.
  • We design products with safer materials.
  • Testing for toxins begins at home.
  • We’re doing more with less.
  • Designed for durability.
  • Everyone should have water to use and reuse
  • When we buy on Apple’s behalf, we think green.
  • Composting and recycling in our corporate facilities.

A brief summary and a link to the 19 page report are available at http://www.apple.com/ca/environment/our-progress/

 

 

The problem of plastics in the ocean may not be as advertised

More than five years ago some environmental groups started publishing articles about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, supposedly floating islands of mostly plastic waste caught up in the North Pacific Gyre, an area of ocean where the water tends to move in a circular manner. In some reports this floating island was so large that it was ‘visible from space’. It was not too long before scientific observers visited the area and found that there was no such thing as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Reports switched to tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic reportedly floating just below the surface of the ocean. Then it was plastic microparticles. Now a team of scientists who have properly studied the problem and published their results in a peer-reviewed journal have found that the problem is not quite as described by the early reports. In short, while there is a problem, the problem is quite a bit less severe than early reports have suggested, possibly sufficiently less that there is time for industry and society to deal with it before it reaches alarming proportions.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team led by Dr. Andrés Cózar of the Faculty of Ocean and Environmental Sciences of the University of the University of Cádiz, Spain, found that the global load of plastic on the open ocean surface is probably of the order of tens of thousands of tons, far less than expected from earlier unscientific reports.

Key findings of the research include:

  • there has been no significant increasing trend of surface plastic concentration in fixed ocean regions since the 1980s, despite an increase in production and disposal.
  • this suggests that surface waters are not the final destination for buoyant plastic debris in the ocean and that removal processes also play a part.
  • the plastic load in the North Pacific Ocean could be related to the high human population on the eastern coast of the Asian continent, the most densely populated coast in the world.
  • continental plastic litter enters the ocean largely through storm-water runoff, flowing into watercourses or directly discharged into coastal waters.
  • a conservative first-order estimate of the floating plastic released into the open ocean from the 1970s (106 tons) is 100-fold larger than the estimate by these scientists of the current load of plastic stored in the ocean.
  • examination of the size distribution of plastic debris on the ocean surface shows a peak in abundance of fragments around 2 mm and a pronounced gap below 1 mm.
  • the gap in the plastic size distribution below 1 mm could indicate a fast breaking down of the plastic fragments from millimeter scale to micrometer scale. Recent scanning electron micrographs of the surface of microplastic particles showed indications that oceanic bacterial populations may be contributing to their degradation.

The data do not suggest that the problem does not exist. But they do suggest that the level of plastic in the oceans has not yet reached catastrophic proportions and that there may still be time enough to ensure that plastic waste does not kill all ocean life. Hopefully industry and society will use this less bad news to address the problem enough to ensure that the catastrophe that some have been predicting does not occur.

The article, and an abstract, can be found at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/06/25/1314705111.abstract?sid=bc6d04ed-21f9-4907-9a32-6715abe5ced4

Bycatch waste appears to be a major sustainability challenge in N. American fisheries

A new report from the oceans-oriented non-governmental organization Oceana indicates that about $1 billion of edible fish, or 20% of the total US commercial fishery, are being wasted each year, in part because of the unintended consequences of government regulations.

The problem is that regulations control the species that can be landed at fishing ports. But they do not protect, nor is it realistic for them to control, the species that are caught. So large quantities of fish that cannot be legally landed, or for which there are no markets, are tossed overboard from fishing boats. These fish are either already dead or are so damaged that they will not recover. Some are not edible but an estimated 2 billion pounds of edible fish are wasted in this way. This represents not only a waste of income to the fishing and fish processing industry but also a huge loss of food for the world’s hungry populations.

As the fish are discarded at sea there is little data on the loss of seafood and its environmental impact on fish populations and on the oceans in general. According to Oceana little work is being done to reduce the waste. Oceana reports that, in 2009, the World Bank reported this problem as costing the global economy $50 billion every year, and likely $2 trillion over the last three decades.

The problem can be solved but it requires a new way of approaching fisheries regulation. Oceana recommends:

  • investing in better bycatch data
  • bycatch limits. Oceana states that in several situations, bycatch caps have prompted fishermen to come up with innovative gear modifications and real-time open-source reporting to collectively ensure that limits are not exceeded and they do not suffer the economic losses from premature fishery closures.
  • changing fisheries management approaches to integrate economic tools into existing bycatch regulations, for example by requiring landing and sale of controlled bycatch.

The 10 page report Wasted Cash: The Price of Waste in the U.S. Fishing Industry is available via a link at http://oceana.org/en/news-media/press-center/press-releases/oceana-finds-us-fishermen-could-lose-1-billion-annually-in-wasted-catch

A Parliamentary waste management conversation

Canada’s House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is currently undertaking a study of the management of municipal solid waste and industrial materials. Recommendations on the role, if any, of the Federal government are a possible outcome of this Committee work.

Earlier this month Executive Director Michael Goeres from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Mr. Frank Moir, co-chair of the Neighbourhood Liaison Committee of the Highland Creek Treatment Plant (Toronto), Mr. Raymond Louie, first vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Gerry Moore of Island Waste Management Corporation, appeared before the committee. Raymond Louie was also speaking about the recently formed National Zero Waste Council. This was one of several  expert panels with which the Committee is meeting as it proceeds with its task.

The National Zero Waste Council presentation asked the Federal Government to engage with the Council, develop a Canada-wide strategy to reduce waste, develop incentives for producers and consumers, and reduce waste itself.

Of greatest interest to GallonDaily was the response and questions from the parliamentarians. Committee time is always very limited but these interjections can often give an indication of what our elected officials see as the highest priorities in a policy area and hence what they might seek to include in the Committee report. It is also important to note that the Government has control of Parliamentary Committees so nothing is likely to appear in the Committee report that does not have at least general agreement from the Government, meaning the Prime Minister’s Office.

On this particular hearing day, Committee Member comments included:

  • a Conservative Party Member asked why the Government of Canada does not legislate and regulate extended producer responsibility across the country.
  • an NDP Member asked what the federal government is doing right now on the matter of the circular economy, what a national waste management strategy might look like, and the role the federal government should play in the design of products and packaging to make them easier to recycle. Later in the proceedings he asked whether the federal government should adopt a clear policy on the cost of carbon to help companies in the recycling industry with economic viability.
  • another Conservative Member asked about optical sorting of recyclables and suggested that might be something for further study, whether or not the Federal Government should play a greater role in municipal waste management (mostly not), and whether businesses are coming forward to work with you [CCME?] to create opportunities to actually expand and grow industries in the waste diversion sector.
  • a Liberal Member asked about pharmaceutical waste.
  • another NDP Member asked about construction, renovation, and demolition waste and the possible role of the federal government in that sector.
  • another Conservative party Member focused on the relative cost of landfilling and recycling and made the point that, in his opinion, on this issue of waste management and recycling, there is far too much religion and not enough math. He asked how waste management companies deal with low-value materials and silage wrap. He also asked “What are the real environmental benefits of waste diversion” and suggested that the answer was kind of circular: “that the environmental benefit of reducing waste is to reduce waste”.
  • another NDP Member asked about food waste and the possible role of the federal government in funding waste treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants.
  • another Conservative party Member asked how recycling can reduce the costs of waste management that are borne by the householder, whether energy from waste is profitable, and the challenges of recycling collection in rural areas.

A written transcript of the Committee proceedings on this particular day is available at http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=6673945&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2

Air conditioners heat cities!

A recent article by researchers at Arizona State University reported that the heat emitted during the night from air conditioning systems increased the mean air temperature at two metres above the ground by more than 1°C for some urban locations with warm nights. This adds to the already significant “heat island” effect where energy use in all kinds of equipment and appliances may raise air temperatures by as much as five degrees.  During the day, due to greater thermal mixing of the air column, the effect of air conditioners on outdoor air temperature is negligible.

In areas with warm nights this increased air temperature causes air conditioning systems to work even harder, using more energy, putting out even more heat and warming the air even more.

Air conditioners are a form of heat pump and it is unavoidable that they move heat from inside the building being cooled to somewhere else, usually the air outside of the building. The researchers suggest that the warming effect of air conditioners might be reduced or eliminated if the waste heat is redirected to some other location. One possibility is to use it for heating hot water.

Our article on the GE GeoSpring™ Hybrid Water Heater (17 February 2012) has been one of GallonDaily’s most popular articles ever (see http://www.geappliances.ca/appliances/waterproducts/Geospring.pdf for a Canadian brochure). In cities which regularly experience warm nights, this water heater could be one way of effectively reducing the outdoor temperature and energy use impacts of air conditioning systems. The researchers calculate that using the heat from air conditioners for another productive purpose instead of dumping it into the urban environment would save more than 1200 Megawatt hours of electricity per day in the City of Phoenix, Arizona, alone. A heat pump based air conditioning system which directly discharges heat from the building into a hot water heater or other system which can make use of the unwanted building heat would further increase energy savings.

An abstract of the article (free) and the full version (subscription or payment required) can be found at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013JD021225/abstract