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

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    Clare’s not afraid to tackle the big questions

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    Supermarket’s customers will still be able to claim free drink if they bring a reusable cup

    Waitrose plans to remove all disposable coffee cups from its shops by this autumn as part of efforts to reduce plastic and packaging waste and stop millions going into landfill.

    Customers who belong to the myWaitrose loyalty scheme will still be able to get free tea or coffee from the stores’ self-service machines but will be instead be asked to use a refillable cup, the company said.

    Related: Iceland to be first UK supermarket to cut palm oil from own-brand products

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    Dial A Dump’s waste-to-energy generation project likely to be put on hold until after NSW election due to pollution fears

    A planned major waste incinerator and energy plant for western Sydney – the largest in the southern hemisphere – is likely to be put on ice until after the New South Wales election next March after the Department of Planning recommended against the project.

    The director-general of the department is about to issue a negative assessment, saying that on the advice of Environmental Protection Authority, NSW Health and independent experts, the department had concluded it was inconsistent with the NSW EPA’s energy from waste policy statement (2015), and the air quality impacts and risk to human health were unknown.

    Related: The Menindee Lakes project: who loses and who really wins?

    Related: Josh Frydenberg lobbies AGL board to force Liddell power plant sale

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    Five surprising objects that contain plastic – with toxic implications for the environment

    Last Tuesday, Waitrose announced plans to remove all disposable coffee cups from their stores by autumn of this year – customers will have to bring a reusable one of their own. Despite their cardboard appearance, coffee cups are actually lined with polyethylene and are hard to recycle. The cups gradually break down to form microplastics, which make their way into our waterways and food supply.

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    ‘It never breaks down and goes away,’ say scientists struggling to understand the impact of widespread pollution

    While heading down the Brisbane river, Jim Hinds once pulled aboard a drunken half-naked man just seconds from “going down for the last time”.

    But on this day, like most other days for Hinds, it’s back to the horribly predictable as he launches his boat into the Nerang river on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

    Related: The Brazilian villagers turning plastic pollution into profit

    Related: Single-use plastic bags ban under scrutiny as shoppers switch and ditch reusables

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    As Kathmandu overflows with trash, the city is seeking not just to transform attitudes to waste – but the waste itself

    From the air, Kathmandu seems to have a thousand winking eyes as the sun hits the solar panels installed on many homes across the city.

    But on the ground, the sun illuminates something very different: piles of plastic and household rubbish, strewn amongst the pagodas and along the labyrinthine streets.

    When we said we are building a playground and the materials come or we find them, everyone began laughing

    We as the human race have hit the wall to some extent, and places like Kathmandu are the front bumper against that wall

    So many youngsters are involved that often the mindset gets changed at home: kids tell their parents to use less plastic.

    Related: Has air pollution made Kathmandu unliveable?

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    UK’s largest coffee shop chain has pledged to recycle up to 500m cups a year by 2020 – a fifth of the total used in the country

    The UK’s largest coffee chain is to become the first to commit to recycling the same volume of takeaway cups used by its customers every year in a bid to stop hundreds of millions needlessly ending up in landfill.

    Costa Coffee has pledged to recycle up to 500m coffee cups a year by 2020 – the equivalent of its entire annual use of takeaway cups and one-fifth of the total 2.5bn takeaway coffee cups used in the UK each year.

    Starbucks offers a 25p discount for customers who bring in a reusable mug or tumbler. Its own costs £1.

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    Queensland council’s mayor, Andrew Antoniolli, says every other council will feel brunt of China’s recycling crackdown
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    The mayor of Ipswich city council, Andrew Antoniolli, has warned every council will feel the brunt of China’s recycling clampdown and ratepayers will eventually foot the bill.

    The local government body has come under fire for dumping recyclable waste in landfill because it would have cost $2m a year to comply with China’s tighter imported recycling regulations.

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    The Drastic on Plastic initiative will target single-use plastics, including drinks and toiletry bottles, straws, food trays, cable ties and glitter

    More than 60 independent British music festivals have committed to ban single-use plastic from their sites by 2021. The Drastic on Plastic initiative, led by the Association of Independent Festivals (AIF), will lead to the removal of plastic drinks bottles, plastic straws, glitter, plastic food trays, cable ties and toiletry bottles from festival sites.

    All 61 of AIF’s members have signed up to the pledge, including End of the Road, Bestival, Boardmasters and Kendal Calling. As an initial measure, participants will also support the Final Straw initiative to ban vendors from supplying plastic straws at their sites this year.

    Related: I kept all my plastic for a year – the 4,490 items forced me to rethink

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    Calls for state governments to invest in long-term recycling and sustainable waste solutions
    Sign up to receive the top stories in Australia every day at noon

    The body representing Australian councils is urging the federal government to take seriously China’s effective ban on accepting shipments of plastic for recycling, warning it should not ignore potential implications for trade between the two countries.

    The Australian Local Government Association is calling on state governments to stop treating hundreds of millions of dollars in landfill levies collected when rubbish was dumped as general revenue, and to instead invest it in long-term recycling and other sustainable waste solutions.

    Related: Ipswich axes kerbside recycling that would cost residents a 'few extra dollars per week'

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    From plastic forks to Arctic oil, here are eight crackdowns any plastic-restricting government should consider

    Cotton buds and plastic straws could be banned in England next year

    At least two decades after cotton buds (known in my childhood home as “ear cleaners”) became well known as a public health hazard, never, ever to be placed anywhere near ears, the government has announced plans to ban them, maybe next year. Low-hanging fruit and all that, but like the 5p plastic bag charge introduced in 2015, this is a bit feeble.

    That doesn’t mean it isn’t good news: because they are small, hard and pointy these nasty pieces of plastic are dangerous for marine creatures, who sometimes eat them, and the sooner we get rid of them the better. The same goes for coffee stirrers and plastic straws, 8.5bn of which are thrown away in the UK each year. I blame dentists for my late conversion to straw-hating: they recommend straws (well, mine did) because sugary drinks are conducted more directly to children’s throats, bypassing teeth.

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    Kenya’s ban comes with the world’s stiffest fines and some businesses are struggling to find affordable alternatives, but in Nairobi’s shanty towns the clean-up is changing lives

    Waterways are clearer, the food chain is less contaminated with plastic – and there are fewer “flying toilets”.

    A year after Kenya announced the world’s toughest ban on plastic bags, and eight months after it was introduced, the authorities are claiming victory – so much so that other east African nations Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan are considering following suit.

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    Critics say retailers can pick and choose whether to sign up to Plastics Pact, a series of pledges that have no enforcement mechanism

    UK supermarkets and food companies launched a new voluntary pledge to cut plastic packaging on Thursday as ministers consider forcing them to pay more towards collecting and recycling the waste they produce.

    In a first response to a growing public backlash against the huge volumes of plastic rubbish, most of the UK’s largest supermarkets signed up to support the UK Plastics Pact – an industry-wide initiative which says it aims to transform packaging and reduce avoidable plastic waste.

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    Analysis of a similar system in Norway shows no one will be out of pocket as long as bottles and cans are returned

    Retailers will not suffer financial losses from the introduction of a plastic bottle deposit return scheme (DRS) in the UK, according to an analysis of a similar system in Norway.

    The environment secretary, Michael Gove, has announced plans to launch a deposit system for bottles and cans in the UK, and MPs are due to debate the subject in parliament today.

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    Josh Frydenberg will seek agreement at meeting of environment ministers for a national stocktake of recycling

    Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

    The Turnbull government will ask the states to work towards a national fix on recycling in the wake of an import ban imposed by China on recycled waste, which has triggered a crisis in Australia.

    Environment ministers will meet on Friday to discuss practical responses to the Chinese ban, with the commonwealth seeking agreement from state counterparts for a national stocktake as the precursor to boosting domestic capacity to recycle.

    Related: Australia's kerbside recycling system in crisis following China ban

    Related: 'Plastic is literally everywhere': the epidemic attacking Australia's oceans

    Related: Recycling row: China's ban stokes trade fears amid concerns councils will follow Ipswich's lead

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    The agreement was triggered by the Chinese ban on imported plastic waste but critics say it is too little too late

    Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

    The Turnbull government and states have agreed that all Australian packaging should be reusable, compostable or recyclable by 2025 at the latest, but face accusations they are not moving quickly enough to fix a recycling industry crisis triggered by a Chinese ban on imported plastic waste.

    The 2025 target was the only specific goal set at a meeting of federal and state environment ministers in Melbourne on Friday. But there was broad agreement that governments would ensure the use of more recycled materials in building roads and other construction projects, and that work would be done to improve recycling capacity within Australia.

    Related: Recycling row: China's ban stokes trade fears amid concerns councils will follow Ipswich's lead

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    I want to dispose of it in an environmentally responsible way, not fly-tip it like so many other people

    We have been running around like headless chickens to find an environmentally responsible way to gift or dispose of two inkjet printers. None of the charitable organisations or companies we contacted is able to help. Our local Space Waye recycling centre (London Borough of Hounslow) will not allow pedestrians to use the facility – you can only drive in, not drop anything off. We do not own a car. The council will not take printers in the recycling collections, as they restrict this to electronic/electrical items that fit into a normal supermarket carrier bag. We now understand why so many people just fly-tip computers and printers. What do we do?

    CP, London

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    Almost all single use plastics, including coffee cups, bags and water bottles will be replaced with compostable or reusable versions by 2019

    The UK parliament has unveiled a package of measures to “virtually eliminate” single-use plastics from Westminster in the next year.

    The move will see a range of items – from coffee cups to straws, plastic bags to water bottles – removed from the parliamentary estate, to be replaced by compostable or reuseable options by 2019.

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    Major UK producer of plastic bottles for drinks and oils is aiming to hit new target within four months

    A major producer of plastic bottles in the UK is to increase its recycled content to more than 50% within four months.

    Princes, which produces 7% of plastic bottles used in the UK, says it has started the process to increase the amount of recycled plastic in all its bottles and will finish by September.

    Related: New labelling helps UK shoppers avoid plastic packaging

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    Powers to censure recalcitrant households have sparked fears for workers’ safety

    Refuse collectors in the Netherlands are being followed by close protection officers after getting the power to issue red and yellow cards to force householders to properly recycle.

    The new football-style card system has led to a series of rubbish rage incidents in the south of the country, with collectors threatened, abused and one bin lorry hemmed in to a street by furious householders who had not had their waste taken away.

    Related: Free coffee and half price bike repairs: Amsterdam rewards its recyclers

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