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

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    This week’s edition of the Upside looks at countries breaking free from the past

    “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” goes the Faulkner line. Sometimes the weight of our history – as individuals, families, nations – can slow down progress, discouraging us from finding solutions.

    This week, we bring you tales of people looking for ways to escape their country’s past and break new ground.

    China won’t be accepting our plastic for recycling and we do not have the facilities to recycle ourselves. It’s going to be a big problem, this is an amazing possibility.

    Commenter selkieheather writing below the line on our story about plastic roads in India.

    Something surprising, some good evidence to back it up and a good human story.

    Tom Colls, from BBC World Service, on what makes good solutions journalism, speaking at the newsrewired.com conference

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    With more funding and product stewardship, the recycling crisis could turn into an opportunity

    There’s nothing like a crisis to spur on the search for a solution.

    Since January, when China stopped accepting our contaminated recycling, Australia has been struggling with a waste crisis. While some local councils have tried to adapt their processes, some have been stockpiling recycling while others are sending it straight to landfill. And there’s still no long-term solution in place.

    Related: Recycling crisis: why don't we have a national container deposit scheme?

    Related: Is this the end of the yellow all-in-one recycling bin?

    Related: Waste crisis: where's your recycling going now?

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    Amount of rubbish burned by local authorities triples while household recycling rates stall

    England is on the brink of burning more of its rubbish in incinerators than it recycles for the first time, according to a new analysis.

    The amount of waste managed by local authorities and sent to incinerators, or energy-from-waste plants, tripled between 2010-11 and 2016-17. By contrast, household recycling rates have stalled since 2013.

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    CSIRO says lack of consumer awareness is ‘number one issue’ affecting recycling

    Australians have to boost their recycling of lithium-ion batteries, a new CSIRO report has found.

    Consumers only recycle 2% of our lithium-ion batteries, and an estimated $813m to $3bn worth of valuable components is in landfill. The commonly-used rechargeable batteries are used in mobile phones, laptops, household appliances and, increasingly, electric vehicles.

    Related: Rethinking recycling: could a circular economy solve the problem?

    Related: The rise of electric cars could leave us with a big battery waste problem

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    Australians tried to do the right thing by recycling but corporations shifted responsibility and set us up to fail

    The announcement by China earlier this year that they would no longer purchase Australia’s contaminated waste plunged the local recycling industry into a crisis from which it has yet to recover.

    But the consequences for public trust might be even more severe.

    Related: 'Mad marketing': Coles Little Shop for children undercuts plastic bag ban, critics say

    McDonalds and Coca-Cola together produced almost one in five rubbish items dumped in Victoria in 2013.

    Related: Hidden in plain sight: what the recycling crisis really looks like

    Recycling plastic is to saving the Earth what hammering a nail is to halting a falling skyscraper.

    Related: The politics of quitting plastic: is it only a lifestyle option for the lucky few? | Stephanie Convery

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    Morrisons leads league table of supermarkets analysed for the proportion of their packaging that can be recycled

    Almost a third of plastic packaging used by UK supermarkets is either non-recyclable through standard collection schemes or difficult to recycle, according to a new analysis by a consumer group.

    Which? is urging the government to introduce compulsory “clear and simple” recycling labelling on all plastic packaging as its new research reveals “huge inconsistencies” involving myriad different schemes and with some items not labelled at all.

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    Millions of tons of plastic sent abroad for recycling may be being dumped in landfill

    Millions of tons of waste plastic from British businesses and homes may be ending up in landfill sites across the world, the government’s spending watchdog has warned.

    Huge amounts of packaging waste is being sent overseas on the basis that it will be recycled and turned into new products. However, concerns have been raised that in reality much of it is being dumped in sites from Turkey to Malaysia.

    Related: Our plastic pollution crisis is too big for recycling to fix | Annie Leonard

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    Host of ABC sleeper hit of 2017 reflects achievements of season one, and what still needs to change

    Who would have thought a show about garbage could be so compelling?

    The success of last year’s sleeper hit War on Waste was a happy surprise to its presenter, Craig Reucassel, and the team behind the ABC TV show – not least because of how responsive audiences were to many of its suggestions. Sales of reusable coffee cups shot up, worm farm suppliers struggled to keep up with demand and the #BantheBag campaign helped to spur supermarkets to get rid of single-use plastic bags.

    Related: War on waste: readers share their top tips for reducing their environmental footprint

    Related: War on Waste: new episode peels away at food extravagance

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    Legoland and Thorpe Park among the attractions that have joined Coca-Cola in a trial offering instant incentives for recycling

    Visitors to some of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions are to be offered half-price entry in exchange for used plastic drinks bottles, as part of a trial starting on Wednesday which gives instant incentives for recycling.

    In a tie-up between theme park operator Merlin and drinks giant Coca-Cola, a series of so-called “reverse vending machines” will be installed outside the entrances of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland.

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    Samantha Harding says Coca-Cola’s rewards-based recycling initiative only fuels more consumption, and Jean Glasberg calls for more water fountains

    As Coca-Cola launches yet another heavily branded rewards-based initiative around recycling (Recyclers get half-price tickets for attractions, 25 July), it’s interesting to note that the global behemoth apparently still wonders whether deposit systems for bottles and cans increase recycling. Not only was it on a government working group that found that they do, but it runs many deposit systems around the world that see recycling rates as high as 98.5%.

    As reward systems only fuel higher levels of consumption, the question is why would a company promote a solution to waste that actually creates more waste? The answer, predictably, is that the system only benefits itself and other big businesses, rather than being better for taxpayers or the environment.

    Related: Share your best photographs of the week with us

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    Recycling should be the last option, says Lucy Siegle. Instead we should record, reduce, replace, refuse, refill, rethink – and reuse

    The recycling crisis is forcing us all to consider what to do with our waste, but recycling should be the last resort for the global problem of plastic pollution.

    In her new book Turning the Tide on Plastic, eco lifestyle expert and regular Guardian contributor Lucy Siegle sets out a better strategy, namely record, reduce, replace, refuse, reuse, refill, rethink, recycle.

    Related: 'Double wrap it for convenience': excessive plastic packaging - in pictures

    Related: Recycling: how corporate Australia played us for mugs | Jeff Sparrow

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    As technology finds innovative ways to recycle, waste products are being used in an unlikely range of goods in high street stores

    First it was “bags for life”, chunky doormats and, more recently, clothing such as fleeces, swimwear and pack-away macs. Now towels made from recycled plastic bottles are to go on sale in the UK for the first time in August – the latest initiative in the war against single-use plastics and the result of a technological breakthrough that has produced a fabric deemed soft and fluffy enough to use on human skin.

    The new range of eco-friendly bath towels will go on sale online and at 18 branches of John Lewis in the last week of August, after nearly two years of extensive testing and work with suppliers. The polyester from the recycled plastic bottles accounts for 35% of their content, while the rest is regenerated cotton.

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    Which? says people often don’t understand various symbols found on packaging

    A confusing array of symbols on household packaging is leaving consumers in the dark about what can be recycled, research reveals.

    Nearly half of respondents to a survey carried out in the UK by consumer group Which? thought that products stamped with the so-called green dot (a circle of two intertwined arrows) were recyclable, when in fact it means only that a manufacturer has paid into a scheme that supports recyclable packaging and systems.

    Related: UK's plastic waste may be dumped overseas instead of recycled

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    Cow waste is a global environmental issue. Jalila Essaïdi and Dutch farmers are tackling the problem by transforming manure into materials

    Would you buy a shirt that has been through the back end of a cow? This could be a future fabric choice according to one Dutch startup, which is extracting cellulose from cowpats to make “manure couture”.

    Jalila Essaïdi believes that a non-vegan future will involve recycling cow manure into cellulose fibre, bioplastics, chemical concentrates and pure water – and being less squeamish about it, too.

    Related: Ten ways to make fashion greener

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    Petition calls on snacks firm to end use of plastic in the 11 million packets a day produced at Leicester factory

    The UK’s biggest crisp brand, Walkers, will come under pressure this week to explain why it is helping to fuel the plastic waste littering the streets and seas by producing more than 7,000 non-recyclable crisp packets every minute.

    A new analysis carried out by campaign organisation 38 Degrees has found that Walkers is set to produce an additional 28bn plastic crisp packets by 2025 – the date by which the company has pledged to make its crisp packets 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable.

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    NGO says it used GPS units to track waste from collection points at Officeworks to Hong Kong and Thailand

    Electronic waste dropped at government-approved recycling points at Officeworks stores was allegedly exported to developing countries, potentially breaching a global waste treaty, a non-government organisation has said.

    The US-based Basel Action Network (Ban) – which embeds GPS units inside discarded electronics and monitors them – said in a report to be released on Thursday that two LCD monitors the organisation placed at Officeworks’ “Bring IT Back” drop zones in Brisbane were tracked to an area of Hong Kong’s New Territories known for “e-waste trafficking”.

    Related: War on Waste returns: Craig Reucassel dishes dirt on recycling crisis

    Related: Recycling: how corporate Australia played us for mugs | Jeff Sparrow

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    If we blame the population’s indifference for ruining the environment, we are letting the real culprits off the hook

    People are the worst.

    Variants of that sentiment appeared all over social media when Coles decided against phasing out plastic bags on the basis that shoppers needed “more time to make the transition”.

    Related: To the ends of the Earth: the activists risking their lives to defend the environment

    Consumer-led campaigns make most sense to those in positions of relative privilege

    Almost every principle that progressives now hold sacrosanct was established by ordinary people

    Related: Recycling: how corporate Australia played us for mugs | Jeff Sparrow

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    Ministers consider doubling existing 5p levy and imposing it on even smallest stores

    Ministers have been considering rolling out the plastic bag levy to all shops and doubling it to 10p.

    The prime minister was reportedly planning to announce the proposals next week as part of a series of measures designed to encourage the reuse of carrier bags and reduce the UK’s reliance on plastics, which are harmful to the environment.

    Related: Your bag for life doesn't have to carry a food poisoning risk. Here's what to do

    Related: Plastic bag-swallowing sperm whales – victims of our remorseless progress

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    We must challenge the corporations that urge us to live in a throwaway society rather than seeking ‘greener’ ways of maintaining the status quo

    Do you believe in miracles? If so, please form an orderly queue. Plenty of people imagine we can carry on as we are, as long as we substitute one material for another. Last month, a request to Starbucks and Costa to replace their plastic coffee cups with cups made from corn starch was retweeted 60,000 times, before it was deleted.

    Those who supported this call failed to ask themselves where the corn starch would come from, how much land would be needed to grow it, or how much food production it would displace. They overlooked the damage this cultivation would inflict: growing corn (maize) is notorious for causing soil erosion, and often requires heavy doses of pesticides and fertilisers.

    Related: Retailers likely to face backlash for failing to curb plastic use, survey finds

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    Company will reuse, repair or recycle products and end use of real fur

    Burberry is to end its practice of burning unsold clothes, bags and perfume and will also stop using real fur after criticism from environmental campaigners.

    The British fashion house destroyed unsold £28.6m worth of products last year to protect its brand and prevent unwanted stock from being sold at knockdown prices, taking the value of items destroyed over the past five years to £105m. It has previously defended its practice by saying that the energy generated from burning its goods was captured.

    Related: Burberry’s bonfire of the vanities is brazen and ecologically reckless | Lucy Siegle

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