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

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    Startup Akamai is on a mission to get people to wash less – but changing modern hygiene habits will not be easy

    Imagine clearing out that bathroom cupboard bursting with bottles and tubes and replacing them with just three products.

    That’s what US-based personal care startup Akamai is trying to persuade people to do, in an unusual business move – asking customers to buy less.

    Related: If having more no longer satisfies us, perhaps we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’ | Will Hutton

    Related: How probiotics are fueling a toxin-free skincare revolution

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    Committee calls for deposit return scheme and free refill stations after finding capital hooked on bottled water but not recycling

    The amount of waste from single-use plastic bottles in London has risen out of control, according to a report from the London assembly environment committee.

    It calls on the mayor to consider introducing a deposit return scheme and to provide free tap water as an alternative.

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    Designers and architects are exploring the potential of repurposed shipping containers, but critics say they are not necessarily sustainable or cost-effective

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  • 04/23/17--09:23: Jon Vogler obituary
  • My father, Jon Vogler, who has died aged 77, used his skills as an engineer to set up the UK’s first large-scale recycling system. In 1974, when recycling at home was virtually unknown in Britain, Jon designed a household scheme in West Yorkshire for Oxfam called Wastesaver.

    His innovative “dumpy” device, made of metal tubing, held four different coloured bags into which households sorted their waste. With the co-operation of Kirklees council, the sorted material was collected from 20,000 homes and taken to a disused mill in Huddersfield for recycling. The project revealed for the first time the public’s appetite for such schemes. When the collection of waste became unviable due to fluctuations in commodity prices, Wastesaver changed tack to deal with clothes and textiles.

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    The Ukrainian city of Lviv – long noted for its Habsburg-era buildings and vibrant cafes – is in the throes of a trash crisis. Who is really to blame?

    An enchanting city in western Ukraine, Lviv has gained a pleasant reputation for its rugged, Habsburg-era beauty and vibrant cafe scene. More recently, however, it has become known for something entirely different: heaping piles of trash.

    For months, Lviv has struggled to properly dispose of the several hundred tonnes of waste it produces each day. Municipal officials say local trash collectors face restricted access to nearby landfills, leaving them few other places to turn with the city’s rubbish.

    This problem will remain the way it is until the bureaucrats sort out their interests among themselves

    Related: A river of rubbish: the ugly secret threatening China's most beautiful city

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    A scheme encouraging young people to take the lead on environmental projects is changing habits, growing leaders – and saving schools money

    At the Manchester Creative and Media Academy, six year 10 students have just done an environmental audit of their school. They conducted interviews with staff and other pupils, inspected what was already being done, and examined energy policies. From this they have planned campaigns on recycling and litter – with specific targets – to make their school greener, all while studying for their GCSEs.

    Related: The best books about green living for children of all ages

    Sustainability is one side of it. The other is the soft skills such as communication and building confidence

    There are enough teachers out there who care about this stuff – and enough students willing to take on these projects

    Related: Creating a buzz: how UK schools are embracing beekeeping

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    Nestlé bows to environmental backlash over popular home brewing system

    Coffee company Nespresso– part of Swiss multinational Nestlé – is to trial a scheme for consumers to recycle their used aluminium capsules for the first time in the UK, in the face of a growing environmental backlash against increasingly popular single-serve pods, many of which end up in landfill.

    A six-month pilot, starting this week in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea, will allow Nespresso Club members to recycle their used capsules through their council household recycling service, using special purple bags provided by the company. The borough’s 190,000 residents will only be able to put out capsules made by Nespresso.

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    The drinks company junked its re-use system. Now the oceans are full of rubbish, will it clean up its act?

    The Coca-Cola Company produced more than 100bn plastic bottles in 2016, Greenpeace claimed last month. This is troubling news, considering how much of the waste ends up outside plastic recycling systems. Separately it has been estimated that, on current trends, by 2050 the plastic in our oceans may weigh more than all the fish.

    In this debate about waste, Coca-Cola has long been the target of environmentalists. After all, it has a massive ecological footprint that few companies can match – and packaging is just part of the story. Beyond the billions of plastic bottles, Coke places heavy demands on the Earth. As early as the 1920s, the company boasted that it was the largest consumer of sugar cane on the planet. It also soon claimed to be the world’s biggest buyer of processed caffeine. Today, at its bottling plants it uses more than 300bn litres of water a year. Its total water footprint, needed to grow sugar cane and all the other ingredients, is 100 times greater.

    Roughly 80% of Coca-Cola bottlers surveyed in 1929 had deposit systems in place

    Related: Coca-Cola U-turn could help UK catch up on can and bottle recycling

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    Environmental consultant says light-touch approach is leading to record levels of waste crime, costing £600m a year

    Regulatory failings are contributing to fly-tipping and waste crime costing more than £604m a year, according to an investigator who was able to license a dog as a rubbish collector.

    A report by an environmental consultancy, Eunomia, says “systematic failure” to regulate the more than 180,000 waste carriers, brokers and dealers is leading to record levels of crime.

    Related: Fly-tipping clean-up costs £50m as cases in England rise for third year in a row

    Related: New litter strategy could see fly-tippers given community service

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    Fears about climate change, air pollution, waste and possible changes to the Hunting Act concern readers from Brian May and Ranulph Fiennes to James Marsden of Much Marcle

    As party leaders prepare to sign off on their election manifestos, we would like to draw their attention to a policy that has the overwhelming support of the British public.

    While 52% of British people voted to leave the EU, 84% want the ban on hunting foxes to stay, according to the latest Ipsos Mori data. In addition, 88% support the ban on deer-hunting, and 91% back the ban on hunting hares. Support for the ban among people in the countryside is at similar levels.

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    Use of electronics in packaging is on the rise, raising questions about the recyclability of everyday products

    In the run up to this year’s Super Bowl, US snack company Frito-Lay launched a limited run of microchipped bags of tortilla chips, supposedly capable of sensing alcohol on a user’s breath and, if instructed, calling them an Uber home.

    It was a stunt to grab attention but the use of interactive, intelligent packaging is not a futuristic fantasy. Already, you can find olive oil and craft beers connected to the cloud and ready to report on their origins to any passing punter with a smartphone.

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

    Related: Warnings over children's health as recycled e-waste comes back as plastic toys

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    Hunting was just a sideshow; nothing was going to go down better with TV viewers than taking the bins out

    Household waste management. Surely the most triumphant aspect of the Mays’ first joint interview was the speed with which they progressed to a subject that, perhaps more than any other, was likely to resonate throughout TheOne Show audience. The excruciating spectacle had hardly begun before Philip, asked about home life with Theresa, joked: “I get to decide when I take the bins out. Not if I take them out.” He repeated: “I definitely do the bins.”

    Though additional talk of “boy and girl jobs” has preoccupied viewers who think a woman prime minister should also, ideally, be challenging gendered boundaries within the home, the really important message here – that the Mays are not too grand to care about the bins – cannot have been lost on, say, readers of the Daily Mail. There, rubbish is a source of unending inspiration for its star columnist, Richard Littlejohn. “Whenever I sit down to write about the shambles which passes for refuse collection these days”, as Littlejohn has admitted, “my problem is not what to include but what to leave out.”

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    Pricey alternatives to plastic wrap and other disposable products are sending out the message that you need to be wealthy to live sustainably

    I was giving the daughter a slice of cake to take away, wrapped in plastic, even though the world is drowning in the stuff, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was something to wrap my food in that didn’t leak and wasn’t wrecking the planet?”

    And there is. Bee’s Wrap – made of cloth, beeswax and tree resin, washable in soap and cold water, reusable and sealed by the warmth of your hands.

    Related: Disturbing turtle video drives UK pub chain to clamp down on plastic straws

    Related: Modern life is rubbish: we don't need all this packaging

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    Recycling Association chief cites crisp brand as one of worst examples of multiple materials being used in single product

    Product designers need to retreat from “the Pringles factor” in order to make their packaging more recyclable, an environmental expert has said.

    Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association, which represents recyclers, pointed to the snack tube as a prime example of the failure to consider recycling in design – and listed a range of other offenders from Lucozade Sport drinks to whisky packaging.

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    Only a small proportion of plastics consumed in Australia is collected for recycling, but it’s what happens after that that could make a difference

    There’s no escaping plastic in modern life. In Australia, more than 1.5m tonnes of the crude oil derivative is consumed each year, not including plastics imported in finished products or their packaging. And most of this ends up on a centuries-long path to degradation in landfill or the world’s waterways and oceans. One recent sobering analysis has estimated that by 2050, the weight of plastics in the oceans will match that of fish.

    Reducing consumption by avoiding the use of disposable plastic shopping bags, for instance, and reusing plastic containers are important waste-reduction measures. But what role does recycling play?

    Related: War on Waste: Craig Reucassel wants to change behaviour, and the law

    Anyone can say no to a plastic [shopping] bag. However, you can’t say no to a bread bag.

    Related: Ikea’s solution to peak stuff? Invest in plastics recycling plant

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    Schemes aim to tackle fashion’s huge waste problem but critics say they are a token gesture and could encourage ‘guilt free’ consumption

    When you walk into a high-street shop, you’re probably looking to snap up a bargain, not get rid of an old jumper. But clothing retailers and brands are increasingly asking shoppers to dump their cast-offs in store.

    Britain alone is expected to send 235m items of clothing to landfill this spring, the majority of which could have been re-worn, reused or recycled. Major retailers are coming under pressure to tackle the waste.

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    Our throwaway habits are wreaking havoc on the planet. Here are six ideas from designers working to reduce waste in our everyday lives

    Modern life is wasteful. From the plastic packaging that fills our kitchens– and ends up in our oceans – to the 40m tons of e-waste we generate per year, our throwaway culture is alive and kicking. And it’s wreaking havoc on the planet.

    But a host of designers, researchers and startups are on the case, coming up with new ideas to cut waste and make life more efficient. Here are six of our favourites.

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    Football in private schools | Welsh history | Police as protectors | Plastic bag recycling

    On Cup final day, I enjoyed reading DJ Taylor’s article on the football novel (Review, 27 May). However, in discussing the first wave of football fiction, largely describing boys’ school stories, he noted that their “real-life, public-school attending equivalents would, of course, have played rugby”. This perpetuates the error, which I thought had been laid to rest, that independent schools shunned football. As an example, before professionalism took hold, Old Etonians contested no fewer than six FA Cup finals, winning two of them. One of their losses was against Old Carthusians.
    Ed Lilley
    Bristol

    • Comforting though it is to see that Oxford students will have to study for exams on “non-British, non-European” topics (Report, 29 May), I wonder whether they might consider studying non-English “British” topics? What does the average student know, for instance, about the Rebecca Riots, the Treason of the Blue Books, Tryweryn, Senghennydd, Pont Trefechan? But then it’s only Wales, so it doesn’t matter, does it?
    Dr Meg Elis
    Caernarfon, Gwynedd

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    Fair-pay groups criticise retailer’s wage benchmark, pointing to low-paid Bangladeshi workers in supply chain

    Marks & Spencer has pledged to raise £25m for mental health, heart and cancer charities, and halve food waste across its operations by 2025, as it steps up its ethical commitments under its new chief executive, Steve Rowe.

    Rowe, who took charge of M&S just over a year ago, said the fashion, food and homewares retailer was also “determined to play a leading role” in social change by supporting community projects in 10 cities, including Rochdale, Glasgow, Liverpool and Middlesbrough.

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    Plastic bags are an infamous problem in Nairobi. They clog its waterways and litter its streets. The Kenyan government is attempting to ban their use from August – with implications for businesses from supermarkets to recyclers.

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