The impact of climate change has never been felt so strongly in Europe. With temperatures hitting record highs in October and November 2022 after a summer of dramatic droughts, our leaders must continue to work toward implementing policies that will effectively reduce our environmental footprint and limit the effects of global warming. To get there as quickly and efficiently as possible, science and evidence should underpin decision-making.
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Inside a large industrial building in Jamaica, Queens, I sighed, taking a quick break from ripping staples off of fabric. My back was to the windows, but even if I wanted to look outside, I’d have a problem. A mountain of trash bags blocked any view, each stuffed with thousands of tiny fabric scraps from fashion companies around New York City. I had signed up to sort through the material, but after working for three long hours alongside five other volunteers, we had barely made it through five bags. Dozens remained. I was at the headquarters of FabScrap, a textile recycling company that processes material leftover from fashion production. They’re just one of many well-intentioned textile recycling companies that have bumped up against a painful reality: There is simply too much clothing to process. As it stands, 84 percent of all unwanted clothes end up in landfills, according to Newsweek. In New York City alone, this comes to about 400 million pounds thrown away annually—6 percent of the city’s waste stream. Traditionally, unwanted secondhand clothes are sent abroad, but some countries have started to reject the goods. Technology to transform the old clothes into new items isn’t ready yet, so many recyclers and designers are focusing on something else: getting consumers to buy less. “We have to educate consumers about the mindless consumption being forced down our throats,” says Adam Baruchowitz, the founder of Wearable Collections, a secondhand clothing retailer. “We need to be getting people to think twice about how quickly they consume things.”
Mike Reynolds never worried too much as the world inched closer to doomsday. In the spring of 2020, motorists lined up in their cars outside grocery stores waiting for food as the coronavirus pandemic first wrapped its tentacles around the global supply chain.
Tires may not be the first commodity that comes to mind when imagining a circular economy. Their numbers are hidden in plain sight. Globally, approximately 1 billion tires reach the end of their lives each year, and the potential consequences of discarding, stockpiling and dumping tires can include catching fire and breeding mosquitoes.
The fashion industry is a profligate source of pollution, even when making baby clothing. Lauren Gregor founded Rent-a-Romper
When you toss a plastic bottle into your recycling bin, there’s no guarantee it actually gets recycled. In fact, odds are, it doesn’t. According to the World Economic Forum, just 14% of plastic packaging is collected for recycling globally. And because of complexities in the recycling process, huge amounts of single-use plastic (as well as glass and cardboard) that consumers try to recycle ultimately end up getting burned or tossed into landfills anyway.
As consumer demand for more sustainable packaging increases, DS Smith is researching the use of seaweed in paper and packaging products. In particular, the British multinational packaging company is exploring seaweed as an alternative fiber to wood. If successful, it would be the first company in the packaging industry to take this approach. The company is also examining the potential of seaweed as a barrier coating, potentially replacing petroleum-based products.
Battery chemistries are changing rapidly, and battery designs with significantly lower cobalt content could dramatically impact profitability. One of the biggest challenges these companies face is inhomogeneous input material. Furthermore, solid state or lithium metal designs might not be easily incorporated into the current recycling process. In response, companies such as Li-Cycle are accounting for diverse inputs with blending procedures.
The current battery supply chain is shown in red in Figure 2. Low grade (e.g. 50%) material from mines is refined by a smelter to 97-99%, and further upgraded to battery specifications (99.9% or greater), before being sent to cathode manufacturers. As of 2019, upstream/mining (23%), midstream chemical refining (80%), cathode/anode production (66%), and downstream lithium ion battery cell production (73%) are all primarily located in China , with Europe slowly becoming the second largest Li-ion battery producer.