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

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    Square Mile teams up with Network Rail, coffee chains and employers in effort to prevent 5m cups a year ending up in landfill

    A scheme to boost disposable coffee cup recycling has been launched in the City of London in an attempt to prevent 5m cups a year from the Square Mile ending up in landfill.

    The City of London Corporation, in conjunction with Network Rail, coffee chains and some employers, are introducing dedicated coffee cup recycling facilities in offices, shops and streets.

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    In a year-long experiment, families in Swadlincote tried to cut food waste by 50% – and attempt to save hundreds of pounds

    Lisa Edwards is busy unpacking shopping for the following day’s dinosaur-themed birthday party for her toddler Max, but is happy to show Guardian Money into her kitchen and explain – short of actually rifling through her bin – how she and her family have reduced their food waste by more than three quarters over the past year, saving £1,000.

    “We were definitely wasting some food before we got involved in the project but the problem was that we just didn’t know how much,” she says. After Max chucks a banana on the floor, she weighs it on scales which are connected, via her iPad, to an app called Winnow.

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    From small-scale traders to a company processing hundreds of tonnes of e-waste, we explore Nairobi’s relationship with a burgeoning waste stream and visit the people turning it into a resource

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    Predictions that our oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050 have forced brands to rethink packaging

    The wide array of plastic cartons, trays and films developed to keep products intact and food safe are often too complex to recycle – with grave environmental consequences.

    According to a recent report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “without fundamental redesign, about 30% of plastic packaging will never be reused or recycled.” And that means ever more plastic into landfill, and into our oceans.

    Related: Shampoo bottle made from ocean plastics hailed as ‘technological breakthrough’

    Related: Swedish supermarkets replace sticky labels with laser marking

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    Since 2005, Philadelphia graphic designer Lydia Ricci has been creating miniature sculptures from scrap materials. From cars to telephones, hairdryers to sun loungers, Ricci has made a miscellany of objects out of receipts, tape measures and even her childhood dictionary. “These objects have personalities and roles in our lives, so I wanted to capture that,” she says, explaining that her creations reflect memories from her own life. Each 5in sculpture is created in a day, sits on a shelf at home and is deliberately rough. “They’re very forgiving because there’s no messing up.” Inspired by a swinging trapeze she has made, Ricci hopes to make more of her creations move as the project continues.

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    Campaigns in the UK and Australia point to grassroots backlash against plastics-to-fuel sector that could be worth £1.5bn by 2024

    “A rural residential community is not the right site to be testing this technology,” says Naomi Joyce, a solicitor from Appley Bridge, Lancashire. Born and raised in the village, Joyce helped to lead its fight against a proposed waste-to-fuel plant, which had hoped to convert up to 6,000 tonnes of plastic rubbish into diesel, gasoline and other products each year.

    Worried that harmful fumes would pollute their valley, locals rallied against the proposal – signing petitions, writing to the council and protesting in the street. In January last year, the project was shelved.

    Related: M&S and Unilever promise plastic redesign to cut waste

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    Environmentalists hail ‘landmark moment’ as world’s biggest soft drinks company agrees to set up pilot scheme in Scotland

    Coca-Cola has announced it supports testing a deposit return service for drinks cans and bottles, in a major coup for environment and anti-waste campaigners.

    Executives told an event in Edinburgh on Tuesday evening they agreed with campaigners who were pressing the Scottish government to set up a bottle-return pilot scheme to cut waste and pollution and boost recycling.

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    A new group of companies is innovating on the problem of plastics recycling by tackling everything from styrofoam to Ziploc bags

    The world recycles just 14% of the plastic packaging it uses. Even worse: 8m tons of plastic, much of it packaging, ends up in the oceans each year, where sea life and birds die from eating it or getting entangled in it. Some of the plastics will also bind with industrial chemicals that have polluted oceans for decades, raising concerns that toxins can make their way into our food chain.

    Recycling the remaining 86% of used plastics could create $80bn-$120bn in revenues, says a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. But those revenues will never be fully achieved without designing new ways to breakdown and reuse 30% (by weight) of the plastic packaging that isn’t recycled because the material is contaminated or too small for easy collection, has very low economic value or contains multiple materials that cannot be easily separated. Think of candy wrappers, take-out containers, single-serving coffee capsules and foil-lined boxes for soup and soymilk.

    Related: Is America's most common pesticide responsible for killing our bees?

    Related: Microfibers are polluting our food chain. This laundry bag can stop that

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    European countries using deposit return schemes, such as Estonia, have recycling rates far better than the UK

    More firms are expected to announce bottle deposit return services after Coca-Cola unexpectedly came out in favour of the idea.

    Pepsi, Nestlé, Unilever and M&S have already committed to producing more eco-friendly bottles by using plant-based materials or less plastic, and an uptick in that trend could now be on the cards.

    Related: Swedish supermarkets replace sticky labels with laser marking

    Related: Taxing coffee cups is not the answer: here's why

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    A trend towards using plastic parts in electrical and electronic goods is causing a headache for the recycling industry

    Flame retardants used in plastics in a wide range of electronic products is putting the health of children exposed to them at risk, according to a new report (pdf).

    Brominated flame-retarding chemicals have been associated with lower mental, psychomotor and IQ development, poorer attention spans and decreases in memory and processing speed, according to the peer-reviewed study by the campaign group CHEM Trust.

    Related: Samsung and Greenpeace: what you need to know about e-waste

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    From encouraging bike riding and compostable plates to better recycling, organisers have diverted 98% of waste from landfill – and they want to do more

    For all the good vibes and communal spirit, when it comes to environmental sustainability there isn’t a great deal to celebrate about the average music festival.

    As anyone who has gazed upon the aftermath of one can attest, these orgies of consumption typically leave in their wake a trail of plastic cups and dumped tents strewn about a wasteland of churned earth.

    Related: Unpaid childcare is Australia's largest industry – it needs to be acknowledged

    Related: What is a robot exactly – and how do we make it pay tax?

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    A survey of five of the six biggest soft drinks firms found just 7% of throwaway plastic bottles are made from recycled materials

    More than two million tonnes of throwaway plastic soft drinks bottles are sold each year, with only a small proportion made from recycled materials, research reveals.

    A survey by Greenpeace found five of six global soft drinks firms sold single-use plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes – only 6.6% of which was recycled plastic.

    Related: The west’s throwaway culture has spread waste worldwide | Waste packaging

    Related: 'Extraordinary' levels of pollutants found in 10km deep Mariana trench

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    Robotic waste sorting is gaining ground as an idea, but experts say the economics don’t yet stack up for household waste

    A team of robots scans objects on a recycling line, sorting wood from concrete at a rate of 4,000 pieces an hour.

    The footage is part of a promotional video for Helsinki-based firm ZenRobotics, which believes its technology can help boost recycling rates and divert valuable resources away from landfill.

    Related: Recycling rates in England drop for first time

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    Researchers are scrambling for ways to get the strong, light material out of landfill and make it ready for recycling and reuse

    Carbon fibre is increasingly celebrated as a wonder material for the clean economy. Its unique combination of high strength and low weight has helped drive the wind power revolution and make planes more fuel efficient.

    Carbon fibre turbine blades can be longer and more rigid than traditional fibreglass models, making them more resilient at sea and more efficient in less breezy conditions.

    Related: A carbon fibre bicycle made for one

    Related: Recycling robots: AI could reverse the UK's decline

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    It’s desperately important that we redouble our efforts to combat pollution and waste

    Recycling is a bit like fitness. The moment you stop putting in the effort, you lose your muscle.

    This was on my mind as I watched microwavable black plastic containers whizzing up a conveyer belt at a recycling depot in Kent. This is progress. Innovation in plastic chemistry means these trays can now be recycled.

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    As 80% of the world’s wastewater flows untreated into the environment, we asked an expert panel to discuss how to promote water reuse

    The main message we should give is that proper reuse can save money and generate income, and is good for the environment. In the Netherlands, there is now a wastewater plant that actually generates energy. As a sector we need to highlight such examples, provide technical options and work with the public to raise their awareness about the danger to their health around wastewater. Arjen Naafs, technical adviser, WaterAid South Asia, @Arjen_Naafs,@wateraid

    Related: Empty reservoirs, dry rivers, thirsty cities – and our water reserves are running out | Yasmin Siddiqi

    Related: Access to drinking water around the world – in five infographics

    Related: Will China's children solve its crippling water shortage problem?

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    Free reusables, 25p charge on disposables and green slogans in cafes could cut some of 2.5bn cups thrown away each year, finds study

    Incentives such as a tax on disposable coffee cups or free reuseable replacements could help cut the number thrown away in the UK every year by between 50m and 300m, according to new research.

    An estimated 2.5bn throwaway coffee cups are used in the UK every year by consumers buying coffee from chains and cafes, creating approximately 25,000 tonnes of waste.

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

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    Airlines generated 5.2m tonnes of waste in 2016, most of which went to landfill or incineration – and it cost them £400m

    You probably know about the waste problem in our oceans. But how about the one in our skies?

    Airline passengers generated 5.2m tonnes of waste in 2016, most of which went to landfill or incineration, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates. That’s the weight of about 2.6m cars. And it’s a figure set to double over the next 15 years.

    Related: Anti-insect paint and electric planes: can technology make aviation sustainable?

    Related: Recycling robots: AI could reverse the UK's decline

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    We’d like to find out about how single-use plastic bottles are recycled where you live. Share your you views and experiences from around the world

    The disposal of plastic bottles is a global issue. Every year millions of single-use bottles end up in landfill sites or in our oceans and a very small proportion are recycled.

    It’s estimated Americans throw away at least 50 million bottles every day. Every year, a UK household uses 480 plastic bottles, but only recycles 270 of them, according to Recycle Now, a campaign group funded by the government’s waste advisory group Wrap. A survey by Greenpeace found five out of six global soft drinks firms sold single-use plastic bottles weighing more than two million tonnes – only 6.6% of which was recycled plastic.

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    Study finds three-quarters of consumers throw away rather than recycle or donate unwanted garments

    A predicted 235m items of Britons’ unwanted clothing are expected to end up in landfill unnecessarily this spring, according to new research.

    Three-quarters of consumers admit to binning their discarded garments, usually because they do not realise that worn-out or dirty clothes can be recycled or accepted by charities, a survey of 2,000 people commissioned by the supermarket Sainsbury’s has found.

    Related: Would you buy patched up clothes to tackle textile waste?

    Related: Pressure mounts on retailers to reform throwaway clothing culture

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