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Latest news and features from theguardian.com, the world's leading liberal voice

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    Rethinking the materials that make your house: mixing shredded paper with a gluing agent, can create a new material as strong as MDF

    Using materials more wisely is important in an time where society faces serious issues with the world's depleting resources. The UK manages to recycle around 70% of its waste paper and card into new paper products. However, the environmental cost of the wet pulping processes required is not as far below the cost of producing new paper as people might think.

    Anthony Crabbe, a reader at Nottingham Trent University's School of Art and Design, had been investigating ways of processing waste paper in its dry state to improve the management of water and increase the lifetime of paper products.

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    Landfill bans and more recycling - the European Commission's attempts to lay foundations for circular economy ignore more ambitious aims of redesign, repair and reuse

    Can policy intervention help lay the foundations for circular economy delivery? And if so, what should such an enabling framework look like? Judging by the mixed reaction to one early contender, the European Commission's circular economy package, and the latest soundings from UK parliament on the issue, reaching a consensus on this issue seems near impossible.

    Last month the Commission set out its circular economy stall, with a raft of policy levers and targets some binding, some aspirational. The thrust of the European package however appears to rely on squeezing the best out of a linear economy for the 28 EU member states, rather than risking more radical step change.

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    Don't put up with cracked shelves, drawers or warm air leaks, or buy a new fridge fix it with a flexible rubber material

    How to mend ... an inkjet printer

    How to mend ... broken headphones

    Your fridge and freezer work continuously on a 24/7 basis for 365 days a year and, when compared to other electrical appliances, they are one of the most reliable in your house.

    However, this means that simple problems are often neglected, simply because it only appears to function correctly. Unfortunately what may appear to be simply cosmetic damage such as a fault with the door seal can significantly add to your electricity bill over the course of a year. The reason for this is that even an apparently small area of damage to the door seal leads to warm, moist air from the kitchen continuously entering the interior of the cabinet. This air quickly condenses and freezes resulting in excessive ice build-up, even in frost-free models. This in turn leads to the compressor (which creates the cooling effect within the fridge) running for much longer than normal which increases the running cost. In the long term it can also lead to premature thermostat and compressor failure due to extended operation of these critical components.

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    Harvesting the rain seems like a no-brainer. But is it too expensive? And could you live with an AstroTurf lawn?

    Greywater systems can they reduce your bills?

    Rainwater harvesting systems (RHS) as you might expect from the name - harvest the rainwater that has fallen freely from the sky, typically onto the roof of your home. In contrast to the humble water butt, which typically captures about 200 litres of rainwater, a rainwater harvesting tank can easily filter and store up to 6,500 litres of clean water.

    Whats more, while these systems have traditionally been used to water the garden, new technology means an RHS can now be plumbed into your homes existing pipework and the rainwater used to flush toilets and wash clothes. This means that you could reduce your water consumption by as much as 40%, according to the Rainwater Harvesting Association, which if you switch to a water meter will lower your water bills as well.

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    Longer warranties for goods and lower VAT on recycled products among committee's proposals to end 'disposal society'

    A ban on sending leftover food to landfill and longer warranties for consumer goods are needed as part of efforts to end the "disposable society", MPs said on Thursday.

    Lower VAT on recycled products could also help make the UK use resources more efficiently in the face of rising prices for raw materials, a report from the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee said.

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    Don't discard a garment because the zip has broken, follow these smooth-running steps to replace and enjoy anew

    Replacing a zip might seem like a daunting task if you havent tried it before, but I would encourage you to give it a go, especially if the garment is rendered un-wearable by the broken zip. That is the beauty of repair you very often have nothing to lose! The following are instructions for replacing a centred zip (a zip that is sewn into the back seam of a garment, such as a skirt or dress).

    You will need:
    Tailor's chalk or fabric marking pen
    Stitch unpicker
    New zip
    Needle and contrasting thread
    Sewing machine with zipper foot attached
    Matching thread
    Pins
    Iron and ironing board

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    A recycling consultancy has warned that the craze for colourful loom bands is a threat to the environment. The rubber bands cannot be recycled, warned WasteConnect, and conservation experts are worried about them getting into the sea, where they could damage marine life. Should we ban the rubber jewellery before the planet is overrun with non-renewable bracelets? Continue reading...

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    New technology that recycles cotton could reach scale and offer hope for fast fashion, but composting might be a better option

    In 2010, the world consumed a record 69.7m tonnes of clothes. That's up from 47.4m tonnes just 10 years earlier, according to statistics from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

    The unwieldy figures translate to approximately 10kg of clothes per person in 2013, up from 6.7kg 10 years earlier. That may not sound like a lot but the world population is growing, as are our western habits. Our apparel consumption is likely to keep increasing, an alarming thought as most worn-out clothing goes straight to the landfill or other unsustainable destinations.

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    Drought-hit state plans $140m expansion at worlds biggest treatment facility to recycle more waste water

    The golden states historic drought is forcing once-squeamish Californians to take a new look at toilet-to-tap water re-use. Or as they prefer to call it in Fountain Valley, showers to flowers.

    The town in conservative Orange County is home to the largest water recycling plant in the world and an example during this epic drought of the life-altering changes California will have to make to avoid running out of water.

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    Bradford Community RePaint is part of a network that recycles and redistributes unwanted paint for vibrant local projects

    Its taken 40 litres of emulsion to basecoat the walls. A further 260 litres is needed to paint the murals, which will then be varnished. But the paint comes free. Its part of the 90 tons of waste paint that a not-for-profit scheme, Bradford Community RePaint collects each year.

    In a Yorkshire subway, a team of artists are using unwanted paint that may otherwise have been tipped into landfill to create murals and stars with the names of local Bradford celebrities from the Brontë sisters to boxers in the Jacobs Well and the National Media Museum subways.

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    Do these popular synthetic rubber bands harm the environment, or do I need to come up with another excuse not to buy them?

    If you have an ethical dilemma, email Lucy at lucy.siegle@observer.co.uk

    Watching his daughters make bracelets from rubber bands, Cheong Choon Ng, an engineer working for Nissan in the US, developed a plastic loom on which to weave coloured synthetic rubber bands. These have proved catnip for four- to eight-year-olds (the recommended age), who churn out homemade plastic jewellery.

    We now have a craze on our hands. Ask any teacher some schools have banned loom bands on the grounds that theyre a distraction or threaten the blood flow of small fingers. Cheong Choon Ng has left Nissan to be the first loom band oligarch.

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  • 08/11/14--08:25: How to mend ... your jeans
  • The crotch is usually the first area on your denim to show wear and tear, so patch up the problem with a few simple steps

    I know what its like to be completely attached to one pair of jeans. But if you wear the same denim day after day, at some point it will wear out and more often than not, its the crotch area thats the first to blow out. I restore and repair denim professionally, but here is a quick guide to making an emergency repair at home. Professional repairs last anything from one to five years depending on usage, and if you get the repair right your own DIY attempt could be just as successful.

    You may need:
    Sewing machine
    Tailors chalk
    Thread
    A fusible piece of denim
    Scissors
    Tape measure

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    Clothes are more cheaply available than ever, but there are more ethical ways to be stylish without the shopping urge

    I stopped buying new clothes last year, increasingly worried by the impact of cheap fashion. Its been really stimulating so I decided to step it up a bit and over the course of a month create a whole new outfit from my wardrobe without buying anything new, that would fit in with the latest fashions. I didnt plan to buy new things, I just wanted to modify or embellish things that I already had.

    At the beginning of the month, I got creative with some curtain edging. Then I was asked to attend the Observer Ethical awards so I decided that I had to make myself a dungarees dress as my attempt to be in fashion using things I already owned (Im not really sure if dungarees dresses are in fashion, but I quite like the dress). I wasnt planning on doing much more than that as I didnt have much time, but towards the end of the month I wore the same dress for around seven days in a row. No one commented or seemed to notice at all.

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    Perhaps not yet, but companies are making progress from developing detachable plastic linings to compostable tableware

    Each year, an estimated 2.5bn paper cups are thrown away in the UK. And a whole lot of energy goes into making these single-use containers.

    Whats more, despite their name, paper cups dont just consist of paper: in order to prevent the cups going soggy, most manufacturers add a thin coating of plastic. While the result may make your coffee experience more enjoyable, it also makes the cups very hard to recycle.

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    From psychedelic teapots to rugs woven from thrown-away saris, weve pulled together some of the most beautiful and cleverly sourced homeware around

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    A floating swimming pool in New Yorks Hudson river and a business turning cigarette butts into plastic pellets, hope to change perception of pollution and waste

    By definition, a circular economy is a term for an industrial economy that is by design or intention, restorative. With over 7 billion people on the planet, reuse has never been more important as the population swells and natural resources become exhausted from our daily demands. Droughts in California and water pollution crowd the headlines, but creating awareness without shaming and making consciousness cool, are what a few businesses are trying to do to break bad habits.

    According to New Jersey-based Terracycle, a business that makes consumer products from pre-consumer and post-consumer waste, 99% of the total material flow in the US becomes garbage within six months. Founder Tom Szaky says it is important to note that from a strictly material or scientific standpoint, everything can be recycled. The only barrier to something being considered recyclable in our society is economics. For-profit waste management companies are allowed to define what is recyclable based on what is profitable for them to collect. That is why our recycling system is broken, says Szaky.

    Oddly Sustainable: powering your computer with cigarette butts?

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    Concerned about dwindling resources and that children inherit a sustainable future? An ongoing campaign could be for you

    Pass to all emergency services. This is a major incident. I repeat; this is a major incident. We require all standby aircraft available, and all available land-based emergency crews as we are in danger of losing Boscastle and all the people in it.

    That was the message to RAF Kinloss Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) from Capt Pete McLelland (Royal Marines) flying above Boscastle, on 16 August 2004. On that day one of Britains worst rainstorms was unleashed on the hills above Boscastle, and I was standing in the village holding my three-year-old daughter in my arms. Its a strange thing when you wonder whether youll ever see your husband alive again. Weird thoughts go through your head. My thoughts seemed quite logical I believed, rightly or wrongly, that everything Id read about climate change was happening. Not in 50 years time, but now. And in that moment, I decided to be part of the solution for my daughters sake.

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    Eric Pickles has plumped for the 'carrot', rather than 'stick', approach by rewarding households that recycle more with shopping vouchers, in lieu of 'draconian fines'. Would it encourage you? Continue reading...

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    City links: This weeks best city stories explore a surprising transit initiative in China, successful green activism in Beirut and reveal the city that tweets more than any other

    The best city stories from around the web this week take a look at Beijings incentives for recycling, campaigns for green space in Beirut, Jakartas winning Twitter activity and bio-cities of the future.

    Wed love to hear your responses to these stories and any others youve read recently, both at Guardian Cities and elsewhere: share your thoughts in the comments below.

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    This month its all about community and were challenging you to get involved with projects in your local area or to even set up one of your own

    Its official! Youre now part of the Live Better Challenge.

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