Our plastics are loaded with rare-earth materials, and scientists don’t know why

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Praseodymium. Dysprosium. Neodymium. These are the extremely precious, rare-earth materials that are inside every iPhone and similar electronics. To acquire them is not just costly, but has led to incredible levels of environmental destruction.

Yet scientists have just discovered that rare-earth materials can actually be found in everyday consumer plastics—including water bottles, children’s toys, yogurt containers, and cosmetic cases. Our disposable plastics are filled with very small amounts of the earth’s most finite treasures.

“The irony is they’re extremely valuable,” says Andrew Turner, an associate professor in environmental sciences at the University of Plymouth, who led the study. “They’re critical elements for modern technology. And yet we’re finding that they’re becoming contaminants.”

A community of public servants is at our disposal, if only we’d train it

Read the full story at The Hill.

The Biden-Harris administration must take a page from other governments like GermanyArgentina and Canada who are investing in training all public servants in new ways of working. Key 21st century skills are needed for solving public problems, including knowing how to use data and human-centered design to define problems, mastering the skills of fast field scanning in order to search quickly for solutions that are working elsewhere and understanding how to create and govern partnerships across sectors to implement changes at scale. These are the skills we are teaching to public servants in the Innovation Skills Accelerator in New Jersey.

Using whale songs to image beneath the ocean’s floor

Read the full story at Ars Technica.

Seismic data generated by whale songs helps build a picture of the ocean’s base.

Invasive Asian carp is getting a new name and a public makeover to draw more eaters

Read the full story from the Detroit News.

Care for a plate of slimehead? How about some orange roughy?

It’s the same fish, but one sounds much more palatable than the other. The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service gave the slimehead a rebranding in the late 1970s in an effort to make the underused fish more marketable.

Now, Illinois officials and their partners want to give the invasive Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes a similar makeover. The goal: To grow the fish’s image as a healthy, delicious, organic, sustainable food source — which will, in turn, get more fishermen removing more tons of the fish from Illinois rivers just outside of Lake Michigan.

Markets such as pet food, bait and fertilizer have expanded the use of invasive Asian carp in recent years. But “it’s been hard to get the human consumption part of this because of the four-letter word: carp,” said Kevin Irons, assistant chief of fisheries for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Hungry sheep tackle solar grazing

Read the full story at American Agriculturist.

Young farmers find a niche supplying sheep for grazing solar installations.

IKEA will help turn a Swedish city into a sustainable community

Read the full story at Engadget.

It will showcase new urban farming, housing and energy concepts next year.

This innovator doesn’t cry over spilt milk. He turns it into T-shirts

Read the full story at Beautiful News.

Around 1.3 billion tonnes of food are thrown out every single year. One of the most discarded items is expired milk. Yet innovator Robert Luo believes that everything should be given another chance. “Nothing is ever waste, but rather an opportunity,” he says. His answer to forsaken dairy? A T-shirt.

Report reveals ‘hidden cost’ of salmon farming

Read the full story at Food Navigator.

The short-term pursuit of profits by salmon producers is creating significant unaccounted environmental and social costs, which include growing mortality rates, damage to local ecosystems, pressure on wild fish stocks and poor fish welfare, reveals a new report.

2021 could be year for packaging EPR, nearly a dozen state bills in play

Read the full story at Waste Dive.

Lawmakers throughout the U.S. are increasingly interested in shifting more of recycling’s financial implications to packaging manufacturers, with many taking a coordinated approach.

Meijer rollout of food waste app back on track after pandemic stalls plans

Read the full story in Grocery Dive.

Midwestern regional grocer Meijer is on track to integrate Flashfood’s food waste reduction app into all of its stores by the end of 2021 after facing delays with the rollout due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company said in a press release on Thursday.

Originally, Meijer planned to have the initiative rolled out chainwide by the end of 2020. The Flashfood app, first piloted by Meijer in its Detroit stores in November 2019, reduces food waste by offering customers nearly-expired products at prices discounted up to 50%, which shoppers can order and then pick up at Meijer stores. 

So far, the grocer has brought Flashfood to around 240 of its 256 stores, which span six states. Meijer’s food waste efforts address an issue that nonprofit Refed has labeled as an $18.2 billion liability for the grocery industry.