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

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    Tory government dismisses proposals for binding new EU goals to cut waste and improve recycling, setting it on a collision course with Brussels

    The UK has rubbished the idea of Europe setting new targets for recycling, despite warnings from the EU’s environment commissioner that such measures should be non-negotiable.

    Goals for recycling household waste are expected to give teeth to an upcoming EU ‘circular economy’ package, but a paper on the UK’s position, seen by the Guardian, argues that any new targets should be put on ice.

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    Dutch city could be first to pave its streets with recycled plastic bottles, a surface claimed to be greener, quicker to lay and more reliable than asphalt

    The Netherlands could become the first country to pave its streetswith plastic bottles after Rotterdam city council said it was considering piloting a new type of road surface touted by its creators as a greener alternative to asphalt.

    The construction firm VolkerWessels unveiled plans on Friday for a surface made entirely from recycled plastic, which it said required less maintenance than asphalt and could withstand greater extremes of temperature– between -40C and 80C. Roads could be laid in a matter of weeks rather than months and last about three times as long, it claimed.

    Related: From oil to algae: the route to greener roads

    Related: Asphalt mix made with recycled printer toner paves way for eco-friendly roads

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    Rubbish? Garbage? Litter? Landfill or recycled, tip out your music collections to find throwaway treasures that may refer to objects, talk, situations or feelings

    “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” said Hector Urquhart in his introduction to Popular Tales of the West Highlands (1860). Was he talking a load of rubbish? Well, his words actually pertained to fairy eggs – floating seashore objects – and also stories themselves, seen as dubious by some, and magical by others. But the phrase could easily have come from the extremely eccentric man who lives down my street. He resembles Ben Gunn from Treasure Island, his ragged trousers hanging off his backside. He regularly wheels a creaking old bicycle that pulls a trolley, and almost every day fetches and fills his house with unwanted old fridges, washing machines, and a host of hoarded bric-a-brac. Rumour has it he’s got a double-first from Oxford, and perhaps writes poetry of genius. Or perhaps not. Perhaps he’s a ragged trousered philanthropist.

    But meanwhile, what’s that sound? It’s the Readers Recommend lorry making loud warning beeps as it lowers a giant skip. And it is that skip in which you are invited throw any old iron, or indeed irony, but mainly fill up with songs about trash, rubbish or garbage. But what is this stuff? As we have already established, that’s subjective. Are there any brilliant songs about recycling? Possibly not, but there are many about things we might want to throw away, and hopefully not just to landfill. So this may refer to actual objects, but also things people say – trash talk, cutting the crap, or quite simply, bullshit. White trash? Perhaps you might want to bring this into the mix - and what demographic it might refer to. Then again trash might be negative emotions, situations, or simply “feeling rubbish”, or other connotations of these words. But to get one definition of the range, let’s go to an expert in the field, Oscar from Sesame Street.

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    New recycling scheme offers instant quote in stores and payment in vouchers, and may be extended to cameras, satnavs and laptops

    Argos is to become the first big UK retailer to offer customers the chance to trade-in their unwanted mobile handsets as part of a new recycling initiative.

    The service, which is being offered in conjunction with the “circular economy” firm Wrap, will allow customers to take older handsets and tablets to any of the firm’s 788 stores where they will be paid for the items in Argos vouchers.

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    Argos has become the first major British retailer to offer an on-the-spot trade-in service for old devices – so how much could one writer get for the old phones and tablets knocking around her house?

    How many old mobile phones and tablets are languishing in your home? A quick inventory of my drawers, where gadgets go to die, reveals a stash bigger than Las Vegas’s neon boneyard.

    There are five phones, a couple of them smart and stored inexplicably in their original boxes (a state of affairs that makes me look like a serious collector, but is really an example of senseless hoarding). There’s also an Asus tablet that looks, under closer inspection, to be an extremely small Etch A Sketch. It’s a shameful walk down technology lane, although it’s surprising how nostalgic you can get when confronted by your partner’s old Sony Ericsson K850. It also prompts some existential questioning, namely: why the hell am I still using a cracked, two-year-old Samsung Galaxy S3 when I could be posturing ironically with a Nokia 2730?

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    In a perfect world, all packages would be fully recyclable. In reality, it can be harder than expected to turn packaging into something valuable for reuse

    We all know the maxim “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, but what happens when an item doesn’t fit into one of these categories? It becomes the “R” people don’t like to talk as much about: rubbish.

    Related: Are you secretly your company's chief sustainability officer?

    Related: Why are major beverage companies refusing to use a 90% recycled can?

    Related: Toolkit aims to help food producers reduce the waste sent to landfills

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    Richman to Wonder, beachcombing at the coast to the city dump or ghetto, RR’s sonofwebcore finds some true treasures in a big clear up from last week’s topic

    The trashball effect; one little wrapper dropped in the street caught Jonathan Richman’s eye in the gathering litter. Faded by the rain, dried by the sun, he was entranced by its transmogrified colouration. Corroded, cruddy little thing, full of dirt and grit, but colours like that you just can’t git. Must have been one of Owsley’s. In Chewing Gum Wrapper, Jojo wants to take it home, save it from the dump. Hope he did, because badness starts small.

    A windy beach, a skittering dead leaf hitching the wind. Robert Wyatt discovers a plastic bag caught on a rail, bloated with breeze, raring to go. Should he set it free? He does, and it takes off to join a page of last week’s news. Otherwise the beach is completely deserted; the invisible flying sand brushing the beach clean. In The Sight Of The Wind, it is “a day for the rubbish to dance”.

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    With unemployment at a 10 year high, hope is coming in the form of new jobs offered by the country’s burgeoning circular economy

    South Africa’s economy is having a tough time. The country is struggling to escape the effects of the global financial crisis and mining companies – one of South Africa’s key economic sectors – are laying off workers in response to falling commodity prices.

    The shift towards a sharing economy is a western world dilemma. Here, it is part of people’s way of life

    Related: Why China's waste pickers are a better alternative to incineration

    Related: The three biggest circular economy myths holding back businesses

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    A major barrier to reducing the wasteful mindset of business and society is overcapacity and stranded investments in waste-to-energy incineration

    MEPs are calling on the European commission to ban the incineration of recyclable and biodegradable waste by 2020 as part of the latest plan for the EU circular economy package.

    Related: Why China's waste pickers are a better alternative to incineration

    Related: Waste not, want not: how the rubbish industry learned to look beyond landfill

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    What happens when a company embraces social responsibility, and a competitor does not?

    When my wife’s printer recently went on the fritz, she ordered a new one from Amazon, which arrived two days later. I took the broken printer to Best Buy, which offers free and easy recycling of electronics.

    Is this a problem for Best Buy, I wondered? Collecting and recycling electronics costs money, and Best Buy’s program is open to anyone with electronic waste, from any manufacturer. No purchase necessary.

    Related: Up to 90% of world's electronic waste is illegally dumped, says UN

    Related: World's mountain of electrical waste reaches new peak of 42m tonnes

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    AG Barr ends policy after 110 years, citing reduction in number of bottles returned for 30p

    Irn-Bru’s maker, AG Barr, is to end glass-bottle returns after 110 years as it invests £5m in new facilities. The company cited a reduction in the number of bottles returned for 30p as customers increasingly chose to recycle at home.

    The £5m investment at its facility in Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire, will result in installation of high-speed filling equipment for its glass bottle range. While 90% of Barr’s bottles were returned in the early 1990s, the figure has fallen to about half today.

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    Swedish firm Hennes & Mauritz reacts to critics of ‘throwaway culture’ by encouraging ideas for recycling fibre

    Hennes & Mauritz, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, is launching an effort to promote recycling as it seeks to cut its environmental impact, boost its ethical credentials and address looming shortages of raw materials.

    The move comes as critics point out the damage being caused by a throwaway culture fuelled by cheap clothing that has seen a sharp rise in the number of garments sold annually around the world.

    Related: Waste is so last season: recycling clothes in the fashion industry

    Related: Can big brands catch up on sustainable fashion?

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    The retail giant’s foundation is calling for innovative solutions to waste and pollution but critics say it’s just a way to keep the wheels of fast fashion spinning

    H&M, one of the world’s largest fast fashion brands, has launched a €1m ($1.16m) recycling prize in an effort to engage innovators, technologists, scientists and entrepreneurs to find a solution to a growing problem in the clothing industry: waste and pollution.

    The Swedish brand’s foundation, the H&M Conscious Foundation, announced the Global Challenge Award to “catalyse green, truly groundbreaking ideas” that will “protect the earth’s natural resources by closing the loop for fashion”.

    Related: Waste is so last season: recycling clothes in the fashion industry

    Related: Can big brands catch up on sustainable fashion?

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    With the level of waste rising fast in Africa, the Gambia’s first recycling training centre is teaching women to use rubbish as a means of economic empowerment

    In scrubby wasteland tucked behind a bustling market on the Gambia coast, five women in overalls determinedly hammered at small metal cylinders, the din reverberating around the tin-roofed shelter.

    They were pressing charcoal-dried mango leaves into moulds to make organic fuel briquettes, which can be used as an alternative to traditional charcoal, at the Gambia’s first recycling training centre.

    It is women who are in charge of waste and they are dedicated to their communities, and can really contribute a lot

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    Judge rules that the material – used for egg cartons, take-out food and to-go cups – can be recycled in a cost-effective way

    A judge has overturned New York City’s ban on polystyrene foam containers, finding that the material – used for egg cartons, take-out food and to-go cups – can be recycled in a cost-effective way.

    New York became the biggest US city to ban the containers in January after the city’s sanitation department determined that the material was non-recyclable.

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    We can remedy our planet’s problems, but only if we are willing to redesign wasteful manufacturing processes and give up our throwaway habits

    The world’s mineral and metal reserves are dwindling, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for development to switch into reverse gear. If we could redesign our profligate industrial processes, say circular economists, we could put a stop to our throwaway habits without sacrificing growth.

    Instead of burning or burying millions of tonnes of waste every year, we could take today’s garbage − even the fragments of plastics that hapless seabirds ingest − and use them as the building blocks to make anything from carpets to laptops.

    Related: How to bust the biggest myths about the circular economy

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    Fife council begins monthly collection for landfill bins, with recycling bins emptied more often, in first UK trial

    Trials of monthly bin collections in the UK are “an obvious next step” to tackle the UK’s stalling recycling rates, waste management experts have told the Guardian.

    Fife council have begun trialling once-a-month collections for landfill bins, with recycling bins and food waste taken more often.

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    The Closed Loop Fund has has revealed its first projects in Ohio, Iowa and Baltimore as it seeks to boost dismal US recycling rates

    A consortium of 10 of the US’s largest corporations – including Walmart, Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson – has announced three new projects designed to boost dismal recycling rates in the US.

    Just 34% of waste in the US is recycled, placing it well behind other developed countries such as Switzerland, which recycles more than 50% of its waste. Outdated facilities and technologies are partly to blame, as is a lack of access to something as simple as a recycling bin in many parts of the country.

    Related: Why the US recycling industry is feeling down in the dumps

    Related: Recycling fund from Walmart, P&G and others passes the buck on responsibility

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    Small plastic water bags may be one of Haiti’s safest and most affordable ways to hydrate – but once discarded, they contaminate its streets and rivers. Now one organisation is cleaning up the capital, Port-au-Prince, and putting this trash epidemic to good use

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  • 09/28/15--07:32: Margaret Lawson
  • My grandmother, Margaret Lawson, who has died aged 96, was in many ways a woman ahead of her time. She was a passionate environmentalist who worked as a civil servant as well as raising seven children, and at the age of 67 went to university.

    Margaret was born in Brixton, south London, to Joseph Shaw, an accountant, and his wife, Eleanor (nee Wells), a year after the end of the first world war, the eldest of seven children. Her parents were spiritualists.

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