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

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  • 06/19/17--05:17: Robin Murray obituary
  • Economist who promoted fair trade and recycling in his quest for more equitable social structures

    Robin Murray, who has died aged 76, advocated and implemented new forms of social and economic organisation by applying humanist principles to practical experience. In Britain and internationally he sought to tease out of today’s structures clues for a more equitable tomorrow.

    He saw beyond Fordism – industrialised mass production and mass consumption – and neoliberalism, with its emphasis on the private sector and free trade. As chief economic adviser to the Greater London council (1981-86), Robin led a team working for an inclusive, democratic economy. Their London Industrial Strategy involved trade unionists and user groups in economic planning, invested in child care and adult education, developed cultural and creative industries, gave a boost to co-operatives and other social enterprises, and helped set up the London Food Commission, whose work included the study of additives and the effects of food poverty.

    Related: Letter: Robin Murray obituary

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    Australians have been spurred into action to reduce their rubbish by the ABC’s War on Waste. We want to know your top recycling tips

    For Christina Grogan, it came down to knowing exactly what to do with her rubbish. “Once you’re educated, it’s not hard,” says Grogan, one of the residents of the Sydney suburban street featured in the ABC’s recent three-part series, War on Waste. Along with her neighbours, Grogan tackled her household waste, reducing it from “more than one bin” to just a quarter of a regular-sized bin.

    The ABC show has been a runaway success, attracting more than 2.6 million metro viewers and, perhaps more importantly, inspiring those viewers to do something about the issues discussed in the show.

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

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    Social enterprise Soft Landing is joining forces with bed manufacturers in a push to recycle mattress parts and divert it from landfill

    It doesn’t matter how deep you bury an old mattress, eventually it will rise to the surface to snag soccer players with its rusty coils or bog vehicles as they sink into its bloated mess.

    The air pockets in the structure mean you can’t keep an interred mattress down.

    Related: Profits with purpose: can social enterprises live up to their promise?

    Related: Coffee order: would you like environmental sustainability with that?

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    In the global rush for bottled water, China leads the way. But while cities lack official recycling schemes, some residents are turning the tide of plastic waste into cash and keeping it out of landfil in the process

    In the great global rush for bottled water, nowhere is thirstier than Asia. Demand is predicted to surge by more than 140% across the region this decade, to account for one-third of the global total by 2020.

    China leads the way. The country accounted for 28% of the global demand for polyethylene terephthalate (Pet) bottles in 2015. Consumers bought 73.8bn bottles of water in 2016, up more than five billion on the previous year.

    Related: A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change'

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    Our dependence on plastic has to end as we contribute to an estimated 12m tonnes entering our oceans, polluting marine life, every year

    Staying hydrated is good for our health. But contributing to the ever growing mound of waste plastic is not only bad for the planet, but for our wellbeing too.

    The global demand for plastic bottles, spurred on by the drinks industry, is wreaking havoc on the environment. Every year, about half a trillion new bottles are produced, and many billions end up in landfill, the sea or the environment.

    Related: Liquid assets: how the business of bottled water went mad | Sophie Elmhirst

    Fantastic to see the #refilldorset drinking taps on #Weymouth beach today.
    Healthy hydration in the sunshine! pic.twitter.com/YxCgMQBAUq

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    Deposit return schemes for plastic bottles have been shown to cut litter and increase recycling in many countries – but not everyone agrees they’re a good idea

    More than 4m plastic bottles a week could be prevented from littering streets and marine environments in Britain if authorities adopted the kind of deposit-return schemes that operate in at least a dozen other countries, according to new evidence.

    A report for the last parliament that was never published suggests there could be a dramatic reduction in the number of bottles littered if people paid a deposit that would be refunded if they returned used bottles.

    Related: How to live without plastic bottles...

    Related: London's plastic water bottle waste is out of control, mayor is told

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    Its fetid landscape may be strewn with debris from the sprawling Kenyan capital, but fortune favours the bold at Nairobi’s Enterprise Road recycling centre

    It is an apocalyptic scene. Fires burn amid the detritus on the side of a major road, sending acrid smoke into the air. Thin men in filthy clothes move amid the rubbish. Some recline on old sofas, watching as trucks lurch past, spewing diesel fumes just feet away. Women and children emerge and disappear down a passage of corrugated iron leading to slum houses illuminated by light bulbs that are linked, illegally, to a mains supply by overhead wires.

    Welcome to Enterprise Road, Nairobi’s recycling centre.

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    Governments must end incentives that see plastic waste shipped abroad, where it may be buried or burned, rather than being turned back into bottles at home, say industry leaders

    Governments must stop exporting so much plastic waste to countries such as China and keep more in-country to be recycled into bottles to tackle the waste crisis, industry insiders say.

    A day after the Guardian revealed that a million plastic bottles are bought every minute across the world, experts aiming to provide a closed loop in which each bottle is used to make a new one, say their industry faces multiple hurdles.

    Related: A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change'

    Related: Could a money-back scheme clean up the UK's plastic bottle plague?

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    Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021. We cannot afford this addiction

    Invention is the mother of necessity, warned Thorstein Veblen. So packaged water is now seen as essential by many, and a million plastic bottles are produced every minute worldwide, as the Guardian series Bottling it has revealed. In the UK, consumers pay up to 1,000 times more than they do for tap water for a potentially less safe product. But the true cost is not to our pockets. Most of these bottles are not recycled; instead we waste energy, choke landfill sites and contaminate our seas. By 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish, research suggests. Marine life is suffering, and perhaps human health too as minute pieces of plastic end up on our plates.

    This is a global problem and the answers will vary accordingly. But the essentials are: using fewer bottles, recycling those that are consumed, and ensuring new bottles contain more recycled material. Clean and readily available tap water is needed – particularly important in Asia, which is leading the surge in use – and pressure on producers. Consumers, as well as government and business, have their part to play. Simple measures can have a striking impact: the UK’s 5p tax on plastic bags has led to an estimated 80% fall in use. No great inventiveness is needed. And tackling our plastic addiction is unquestionably necessary.

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    In the Sahrawi refugee camps in the Algerian desert, Tateh Lehbib Braica – aka ‘the crazy bottle guy’ – has built circular houses from waste plastic that protect from wind and sun

    A group of women drink tea under the shade of a tent and cast an eye over the construction of an odd, circular house. The half-built dwelling is the brainchild of Tateh Lehbib Braica, 27, an engineer who wanders among the workers.

    The project is beneficial not only for those who live in the houses, but also for providing work and for the environment

    Related: The Bristol refill-reuse bottle campaign that is spreading across Europe

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    Roman bowls mended with pine tree resin, a plate fixed with staples and snapped spoons reveal we haven’t always been so squeamish about recycling

    Wretched objects including shattered bowls, cooking pans with holes, snapped spoons, filthy old shoes and shattered wine glasses are going on display at the Museum of London, as proof that for most of human history, junk was far too precious to throw out.

    The curator Hazel Forsyth says that archaeologists who discovered the broken wine glasses in central London realised they had been damaged a second time. The slender stems of the precious handmade objects had snapped 400 years ago and been carefully wired and soldered back together – and in some cases the wires were gilded to try to restore the beauty of the originals.

    Related: Throwaway culture has spread packaging waste worldwide | Waste packaging

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    Green co-leader Caroline Lucas says she hopes to build a cross-party coalition to stop bottle wastage, while other correspondents offer their thoughts on protecting the environment

    The Guardian’s coverage of the global plastic bottle crisis (Surge in plastic bottle use sparks global alert, 29 June) has been powerful and compelling. Like so many of the environmental challenges we face, this issue has been largely ignored in the mainstream, which has led us to the extraordinary situation where we have one million bottles being bought every minute globally. Britain’s contribution to this problem is significant. We use a staggering 38.5m plastic bottles each day, accounting for roughly 40% of the litter found in our environment along with cans. We’ve all read in horror the stories of whales’ stomachs filled with plastic waste, and we’ve all seen bottles littering our local communities.

    The government must take responsibility for this growing crisis. One easy step forward would be to introduce a bottle deposit scheme. Such systems were commonplace in the UK until the 1980s, and are used in 11 other European countries. The concept is simple: you pay a small deposit on bottles and take them back to the shop you bought them from after use for recycling. The Scottish government has taken a major step towards introducing such a scheme – now the Tories must follow suit. We should also be ensuring that it’s easier for people to refill water bottles in shops and other businesses. This week has shown that the government is far more pliant towards the will of parliament than previously, and I’m hoping to build a cross-party coalition on this issue in the coming weeks so that Britain becomes a world leader in tackling plastic bottle pollution.
    Caroline Lucas MP
    Co-leader, Green party of England and Wales

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    We asked, you answered: advice on reducing waste with jamjars, Bokashi bins, composting and backyard chickens

    It’s the show that’s captured our imaginations. The ABC’s recent TV series War on Waste, presented by The Chaser’s Craig Reucassel, has inspired Australians to tackle overconsumption and waste in their daily lives by recycling soft plastics, switching to reusable coffee cups and composting food scraps.

    These were the quick fixes, but we knew there was more we could all be doing. So we asked readers to share their tips.

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

    Related: Australia's first rescued-food supermarket opens in Sydney

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    Opposition parties increase pressure for deposit return initiative to boost recycling and keep litter off streets and beaches

    The UK government is under growing pressure to introduce a money-back return scheme for plastic bottles, in order to tackle huge volumes of waste in a country where 400 bottles are sold every second.

    Opposition parties have called on ministers to introduce a deposit return scheme that experts say would drastically reduce the number of plastic bottles littering streets and seas around the UK. Similar schemes have been successfully introduced in at least a dozen countries.

    Related: The Guardian view on tackling our plastics problem: don’t bottle it | Editorial

    Related: If you drop plastic in the ocean, where does it end up?

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    In my single-handed fight I have collected 180,000 items – 50 pieces of litter a day for 10 years. If only the world didn’t find this weird

    Who’s that weirdo? Sadly, the answer is me. I can feel the question following me as I dive into the gutter or duck around the feet of my fellow Londoners to sweep up the bottles and cans and newspapers they have abandoned.

    The question hasn’t changed in the the decade or so that I’ve been waging what seems a lone fight against the plastic tide threatening to engulf us. And I doubt it will change now, even as the Guardian reports that a million plastic bottles around the world are bought every minute – that’s a staggering 20,000 every second.

    Related: Ocean plastic pollution in Scotland – in pictures

    Related: A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change'

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    There are more than 300 fires a year at UK waste and recycling plants. New guidance hopes to reduce this statistic

    Fire crews were called out on Tuesday to extinguish a major fire at a waste plant in the West Midlands town of Oldbury. It’s very likely another recycling centre will be calling the fire services this month.

    There were on average more than 300 fires per year at waste and recycling plants in the UK between 2001 and 2013. In May, 40 firefighters tackled a blaze that burned for two days at a recycling plant near Rotherham. The same month, 24 residents were evacuated from their homes in Manchester after computer parts went up in flames at a recycling plant in Swinton.

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

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

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    Plastic seems inescapable but there are easy ways like quitting junk food, carrying your own cutlery and using up leftovers that will make a difference

    By now, we all know the horrors of plastic. The way it hangs around without biodegrading for centuries, the way it’s clogging the stomachs of birds, how it creates islands in the ocean for marine life to get stuck in, how it pollutes our riverways and motorways as non-biodegradable rubbish.

    Yet it’s everywhere. If you want a takeaway coffee, there’s plastic lining in about 99% of disposable cups. If you want a sandwich at a deli, it’s more than likely going to be wrapped in plastic. Even when you’re doing your very best to be healthy, a two litre milk comes in a plastic container and most major supermarkets produce is wrapped or bagged in plastic.

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

    Related: Australia's first rescued-food supermarket opens in Sydney

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    Exclusive: move to improve targets and increase support for recycling comes amid pressure from environmentalists

    Coca-Cola is to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% amid pressure from environmentalists over runaway use of the containers.

    The world’s biggest drinks brand says it will hit its new UK recycling target - up from a previous goal of 40% - by 2020.

    Related: Plastic bottles are a recycling disaster. Coca-Cola should have known better | Bart Elmore

    Related: A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change'

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    Drinks giant’s proposals to reduce plastic waste are unambitious and vague, say some enviromental groups

    Coca-Cola’s plan to reduce the millions of plastic bottles that end in the world’s oceans every day has been criticised by environmental groups as unambitious “PR spin”.

    The world’s biggest drinks brand, estimated to produce more than 100bn plastic bottles every year, raised its 2020 target for the amount of recycled plastic used in its bottles from 40% to 50%.

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    Coca-Cola sells more than 100bn single-use plastic bottles a year. Its plans to increase recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% are startlingly unambitious

    Coca-Cola’s grand announcement on plastic packaging is a lot of PR fizz. But when you look at the detail, it’s all a bit flat.

    The news that the company is to increase the amount of recycled plastic in its bottles to 50% shows a startling lack of ambition from the soft-drinks giant to tackle one of the greatest environmental challenges facing us: the plastic pollution choking our oceans.

    Related: If you drop plastic in the ocean, where does it end up?

    Related: The madness of drinking bottled water shipped halfway round the world

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