EU Launches Urban Mining Project


The European Union’s newest mining project focuses on urban areas throughout the continent. Their ProSUM project built a database of metals, chemicals, and materials brought into the EU market over the last ten plus years; the idea is that the produced goods can be “mined” again. It’s a really novel way to approach recycle by positioning the recycling process as a mining opportunity. To help companies and organizations understand the plentitude of materials available in existing products (most of which are in landfills or recycling centres) they launched a website the Urban Mine Platform.

The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission’s (EC) Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) in order to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU, relevant for many stakeholders:

  • Manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies.
  • Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.
  • The mining industry will have greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.
  • Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.
  • Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.

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Courts vs. Climate Change


New York City launched a lawsuit against some of the larger polluters on the planet to cover the costs the city faces due to climate change (projected to be over $20 billion USD). A decade ago this case would likely have been thrown out, today with the effects of climate change so overt this case stands a winning chance. There have also been a lot of other cases brought to courts around the world that have acted on issues surrounding climate change. The New Republic recently ran a great article outlining why courts are caring about the climate and what the law has done about it.

Some of these lawsuits have succeeded in other countries. In 2015, the Dutch government was forced to lower the country’s greenhouse gas emissions in response to a class action lawsuit from its citizens. A judge in Ireland recently ruled that citizens have a constitutional right to a safe climate and environment. And last month, a climate liability lawsuit against Germany’s largest power company was allowed to move forward. “Judicial decisions around the world show that many courts have the authority, and the willingness, to hold governments to account for climate change,” said Michael Burger, executive director of Columbia’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law. He cited a 2007 lawsuit that forced the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. “Similar litigation all over the world will continue to push governments and corporations to address the most pressing environmental challenge of our times.”

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$150,000 Award Rejected due to Immoral Investments


The insurance company Aviva gives a cash award for community groups that make a positive change, one of their winners this year rejected the financial award. Indigenous Climate Action were thrilled to found out they won, but not so thrilled when they found out that one issue they are campaign against is backed by Aviva. It turns out that Aviva invests in the tar sands. As a result, ICA stood their ground and turned down the money. It’s good to see that a group that could really benefit from additional resources stayed true to their mandate.

Shortly after receiving news they were winners in the competition, ICA received information that Aviva plc, Aviva Canada’s parent company, held major passive investments (over half a billion  USD) in corporations operating in Alberta’s tar sands, including: Teck Resource Ltd (Frontier Open pit mine), Encana, Exxon, Imperial, Suncor, Chevron, Cenovus, Kinder Morgan (TransMountain pipeline), TransCanada (Keystone XL pipeline); and Enbridge (Line 3 pipeline)1. These investments, according to ICA, are in direct contradiction with their organizational mandate.

“We cannot in good conscience accept an award from a corporation that is financially associated with fossil fuel energy projects that violate the rights of Indigenous peoples and contribute to global climate change. Our organization is working to support Indigenous rights and address the climate crisis while Aviva is investing in corporations proposing or operating tar sands projects that threaten water, land, the climate and Indigenous rights,” stated Eriel Deranger, Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action.

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African Development Bank is Going Green


Banks have a reputation for being too greedy for the good of anyone outside themselves; however, some banks are thinking in the long term. The African Development Bank has announced a partnership with Green Climate Fund to push renewable energy and resilient systems. They figure that Africa is the best part of the world to achieve a sustainable economy because of the increasing investment in the continent and the ability to ‘leap frog’ older energy technology.

Together with the Green Climate Fund, we can do a lot to move the continent towards low-carbon and climate-resilient development.”

Approved as a GCF Accredited Entity in March 2016, AfDB is working on a series of mitigation and adaptation initiatives at the national and regional levels designed to enhance African countries’ access to GCF resources.

GCF Executive Director, Howard Bamsey said GCF’s partnership with AfDB will be key in unlocking the potential across the African continent to pursue climate resilient and low-emission growth.

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It’s Time to Think Hard About our Waste Systems

the suburbs

Modern capitalism encourages consumption at levels previously unimaginable which has led to an inconvenient byproduct: the globalization of waste. High levels of consumption means more waste in our system, and with the gift-giving holiday next month we’re going to see a lot of wasteful purchases. This year think about what gifts to give that don’t contribute to a landfill, indeed take some time to think about how your local municipality deals with waste created throughout the year. It turns out that in Canada we have a lot to learn form other places.

It’s time to rethink how we approach waste management in Canada beyond just saying reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Hird tells a story about a research project at Queen’s University, run by one of her grad students, Cassandra Kuyvenhoven, who tracked materials put into blue bins at Queen’s to see where they ended up. “While the system seemed functional and neat on the surface,” says Hird, “It certainly wasn’t that behind the scenes.” Kuyvenhoven found, for example, that when recyclable Styrofoam left Queen’s it was loaded onto trucks and taken to Toronto, where it was compacted chemically then trucked to Montreal where it was put on ships that took it to China, where it eventually ended up in landfill. “We might as well have landfilled it here,” says Hird, “and saved the tons of carbon that went into the atmosphere getting it to China.”

Electronics equipment made its slow way from the university’s loading docks to landfills in India and Mexico.

“When people think their stuff is being recycled, it clears their conscience, no matter what is actually happening beyond the blue box,” says Hird. “Our research shows that when their conscience is clear they tend to consume more than ever. Since Canadians started recycling in earnest maybe 30 years ago, consumerism in this country has done nothing but climb.”

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