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

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    Footballers have had their fair share of attention but join us on Tuesday 12 July, 1-2pm BST, to discuss the unsung heroes making sport more sustainable

    Few might realise as they watch the semi-final of the UEFA European Championship that the Stade Vélodrome stadium has micro urban wind turbines or that the venue, which is the largest club football ground in France, recovers heat from a nearby wastewater treatment plant.

    Huge sporting events such as the Euros present big challenges and opportunities for innovation around issues such as construction, energy, transport and consumer waste. But innovative ideas are being applied to sports all year round.

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    Measures include cutting food waste, designing out waste and avoiding lecturing fans. Here’s what we learned in this week’s debate on sports and sustainability

    It is a year of huge sporting events – Euro 2016, the Rio Olympics, Wimbledon and the 2016 Open Championships, to name a few.

    Along with the excitement and anticipation surrounding these events comes a serious waste issue. This week we brought together nine experts to debate how to improve sport’s environmental footprint. Here’s what we learned.

    When you look at the footprints of sporting events, food is a significant part of the impact

    To attend a sporting event will typically consume 2-6kg CO2. This jumps up by 2kg or so if you drive 20km to get there, and another 2kg if you eat a burger. If that burger is composted you could save a few grams, which is great, but the bigger picture is that there are other areas that require more attention, such as selling the burger in the first place

    Often the sustainability team ... is there to ‘tidy up’ after the mess has been made. Clearly this leads to a question around integrating sustainability into the whole business but unless you are starting from a clean sheet (such as the Olympic Games or Euro 2016) you are dealing with years of legacy

    Does Mo Farah really eat Quorn? Has he inspired other long distance runners to switch away from red meat? Do those amateurs care that there is an environmental saving from this [as long as] they think their half marathon times are improving?

    If the event is likely to be temporary the stadium needs to be designed with deconstruction in mind so that the materials can be re-used directly on other building projects. If it is permanent the stadium needs to be able to adapt to future demand increases/decreases so that it is never more viable to knock down and rebuild

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    Inventor of eco-friendly Frugalpac cup in talks with other coffee chains and supermarkets about using it as standard

    Starbucks will trial a fully recyclable coffee cup in its UK shops, which could eventually divert huge numbers of cups away from landfill.

    The cup, invented by the entrepreneur and engineer Martin Myerscough, aims to reduce the environmental impact of the 2.5 billion paper coffee cups used in the UK each year. Earlier this year it emerged that only one in 400 were recycled and the rest sent to landfill or incineration. This led to calls for a ban, an idea the government rejected.

    Related: World's first fully recyclable paper cup to hit UK high streets

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    Brian Everidge accused of attempting to pull off a caper straight out of Seinfeld, hoping to cash in on bottles bought out of state

    In a memorable episode of Seinfeld, two characters hatch a plot: instead of returning bottles in New York for a 5-cent refund, round up a load of containers and run them to Michigan, where the return is double, at 10 cents each.

    In reality, the ploy – returning bottles purchased outside of Michigan to capitalize on the refund – is illegal under the state’s bottle deposit law. And a Michigan resident is finding out just how steep the penalties could be.

    Related: Garbage in, energy out: creating biofuel from plastic waste

    Related: From oil use to ocean pollution: five facts about the plastics industry

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    Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is an entertainingly sarcastic environmental champion. Plus: Roger Bannister, track champ and thoroughly decent chap

    I had no idea. Like these other early morning caffeine enthusiasts Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is accosting in the street in Hugh’s War on Waste: The Battle Continues (BBC1). What will they do when they finish their takeaway coffee from Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero? They’ll put the cup in the recycling, because these people are aware and responsible and cardboard is recyclable, right? Except when it’s a coffee cup that has been treated with something called polyacetylene, making it coffee-proof but also very hard to recycle.

    Still, isn’t that a recyclable arrow symbol? Yes, but it’s on the cardboard sleeve that stops you burning your fingers and it refers to just that, not the cup too, as you might think. That’s extra-evil isn’t it, because of the deception? You thought they were OK, and they really aren’t. Then there’s the fact that the cups can’t even be made from recycled paper in the first place, it has to be virgin tree. It wouldn’t be much worse if takeaway coffee cups were whittled from the horns of black rhinos. And we throw away 2.5bn of them in this country every year. BOOO!

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    Number of single-use bags handed out dropped to 500m in first six months since charge, compared with 7bn the previous year

    The number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England has plummeted by more than 85% after the introduction of a 5p charge last October, early figures suggest.

    More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

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    Ocean waste is a serious problem for companies emotionally and physically connected to the sea, said the founder of outdoor clothing company Finisterre in a recent Guardian debate, but that connection also gives them a strong incentive to find solutions. Here we profile some of the companies doing just that

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    Rio authorities partner with Coca-Cola to fund the Rio Olympics waste pickers programme, putting a spotlight on one of Brazil’s most marginalised professions

    Claudete Da Costa started working as a waste picker with her mother when she was 11 years old, collecting recyclable goods in Rio de Janeiro to sell to scrap merchants.

    “We were ashamed,” she says. “People saw us and spat at us, thought we were thieves.”

    Related: Rio Olympics: who are the real winners and losers?

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    Poor and homeless San Franciscans rely on income earned by trading cans for cash, but their subsistence is under threat as hundreds of centers close down

    Mr Wong was fourth in line to pay his bus fare when the driver spotted the black garbage bag he was carrying.

    “Off! Off!” the driver shouted. “Nobody wants to smell your cans.”

    Related: Ordinary people can't afford a home in San Francisco. How did it come to this?

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    Americans dispose of about 12.8m tons of textiles annually. But a growing number of environmentalists and clothing retailers say it’s time to begin making new clothes out of old items on a large scale, reports Yale Environment 360

    Fast-growing, fast-fashion retailer H&M, which has more than 4,000 stores in 62 countries, sold $24.5bn worth of T-shirts, pants, jackets, and dresses last year. It also took 12,000 tons of clothes back. In a glossy, celebrity-studded video, H&M says: “There are no rules in fashion but one: Recycle your clothes.”

    Recycling has become a rallying cry in the apparel industry, with H&M as its most vocal evangelist. The Swedish firm launched a €1m contest to seek out ideas for turning old clothes into new, invested in Worn Again, a company that is developing textile recycling technology, and enlisted hip-hop artist MIA. to produce a music video called Rewear It, that aims to “highlight the importance of garment collecting and recycling”. With Nike, H&M is a global partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, whose mission is to drive a transition to a circular economy – that is, an industrial system in which everything at the end of its life is made into something new, in contrast to today’s economy, where most consumer goods are produced, used, and then thrown away.

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

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    A Greenpeace survey finds people would be happy to upgrade less often and think companies should be responsible for phone recycling

    Consumers want manufacturers to release fewer mobile phone models and do more to help them recycle, according to a new study by Greenpeace.

    A survey of approximately 6,000 people across the US, Mexico, Russia, Germany, China and South Korea has found they have an average of at least three phones sitting at home (and more than five in Russia and Mexico). But more than half think manufacturers release too many models, and almost half feel phone makers should be “most responsible” for making recycling accessible.

    Related: Turning old smartphones into anti-burglary devices and baby monitors

    Related: Innovation or e-waste? Apple's rumoured plan to ditch headphone jack

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    The online giant has launched Dash buttons in the UK allowing customers to order product refills but campaigners criticise the tech as wasteful

    Amazon launched its Dash buttons in the UK and parts of Europe this week. For the price of £4.99 – redeemable from a first order – Amazon Prime subscribers will be able to summon refills of products from Play-Doh to Wilkinson Sword razor blades with a button press.

    Related: Amazon launches Dash instant-order Internet of Things buttons in the UK

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    Having led the way with the coalition’s popular 5p bag levy, the Lib Dems have another cunning plan ...



    Name: The 5p cup charge.

    Status: Just a possibility.

    Related: Caffeine hit: what happens to Britain's 3bn empty coffee cups?

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    Companies are working on ways to turn disposable diapers, which take hundreds of years to degrade in landfill, into commercial products

    What can be done with used nappies? The UK throws away around 3bn disposable nappies a year, while in the US it’s approximately 20bn. Each can take hundreds of years to degrade. But now companies are developing new ways of reusing dirty nappies.

    Waste2Aromatics, a Dutch-led project from tech company Biorizon, is working with a consortium of companies to convert the virgin wood fibre from recycled nappies, supplied by UK nappy recycler Knowaste, and other absorbent hygiene products (AHPs) into bio-aromatics – raw materials for the chemical industry.

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    What started out as a fraternity experiment has now turned into a startup that recycles edible waste from breweries in its hometown

    When Dan Kurzock started brewing his own beer in 2010, his fraternity brothers at the University of California, Los Angeles, were psyched. A frat with its own in-house brewery is about as good as it gets. Kurzrock’s popularity soared even more when he started to use the leftover grain from brewing to bake bread, the perfect hangover cure.

    That’s what sparked the idea for ReGrained, a startup Kurzrock co-founded with fellow student Jordan Schwartz in 2013, which uses grain waste from small city breweries to make snack bars.

    Related: Let them eat bugs: US startup sees future of sustainable food in creepy crawlies

    Related: American farmers are struggling to feed the country's appetite for organic food

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    Plastic wrapping, mobile phones and disposable coffee cups top the list of items people are uncertain about, poll finds

    British consumers admit that they are confused about exactly what household waste they can recycle, a new poll reveals, with plastic wrapping, mobile phones and disposable coffee cups at the top of their list.

    Frustrated by what they can and can’t recycle, 63% of householders are puzzled that different councils collect waste in different ways - for example, using different colour bins - while 43% say they are not sure which days to put their bins out.

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    A new waste handling project in Northwich, run by Dong Energy, is expected to create enough biogas to power 10,000 homes

    The world’s largest waste-to-biogas conversion plant is gearing up for a grand opening next spring in Northwich, north-west England, using advanced enzyme technology to handle unsorted domestic waste.

    Around 15 tonnes of trash per hour – 120,000 tonnes a year – will be sorted at the REnescience plant in a process that will power nearly 10,000 homes, according to Dong Energy, which runs the project. The Danish energy company has invested £60m in the Northwich venture, which will use trash collections by local councils in Chester and Wigan to produce 5MW of renewable energy.

    Related: Amazon Dash: does the world really need more little pieces of plastic?

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    International coalition of NGOs is calling for an end to the throwaway culture after the success of a plastic bag charge shows a similar charge on coffee cups could work too

    The billions of disposable coffee cups thrown away each year globally should be replaced with reusable ones because they are a waste of resources and harm forests, an international coalition of NGOs has urged.

    The call comes as a study by Cardiff University said that the plastic bag charge in England had been so successful that it showed a charge on coffee cups in the UK could work too.

    Related: Starbucks trials recyclable cups in move to tackle landfill waste

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    In the first six months of the 5p charge in England, 6bn fewer bags were handed out. Watch out coffee cups and plastic bottles

    Once, my family’s kitchen cupboard would have contained dozens of plastic bags. But today – a year after the introduction of England’s 5p plastic bag charge – I count just six (three secondhand ones, given to us by other people, one corner-shop bag and two small bags supplied with meat and fish).

    England’s plastic bag charge was a long time coming– long after Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales – and critics predicted its exemptions for small stores and paper bags would diminish its effectiveness. A year ago, Andy Cummins, campaigns director of Surfers Against Sewage, predicted that England’s charge would reduce use of plastic bags, but not as effectively as in Scotland, Wales (down 78%) and Northern Ireland (down 81%).

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    Campaigners call for use of eco-friendly options and tax on paper and plastic takeaway cups as most are not recyclable

    Coffee-addicted Britain is leaving a mountain of toxic waste for the next generation as scientists warn it could take decades for paper cups from Starbucks, Pret a Manger and other chains to decompose.

    The environmental cost of the coffee-to-go culture has been highlighted amid growing concerns that much of the public wrongly believe the cups are recycled, when in fact they are dumped in the green bin in the office or the recycling bin on the street.

    Related: Switch disposable coffee cups for reusables, urge campaign groups

    Related: Would you favour a tax on coffee cups?

    Related: Nestlé, if you care about the environment what's with your disposable coffee cups?

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