Day: April 9, 2021

Your couch may be killing you

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Flame retardants can add dangerous chemicals to your home. And a new study proves that couches are full of ’em.

Characterisation and Environmental Value Proposition of Reuse Models for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods: Reusable Packaging and Products.

Muranko Ż, Tassell C, Zeeuw van der Laan A, Aurisicchio M. (2021). “Characterisation and Environmental Value Proposition of Reuse Models for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods: Reusable Packaging and Products.” Sustainability 13(5), 2609.


Problem: Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCGs) are products that are purchased and consumed frequently to satisfy continuous consumer demand. In a linear economy, FMCGs are typically offered as single-use and disposable products. Limitations in product design, insufficient collection systems, and inefficient recovery processes prevent high recycling rates. As a result, FMCGs often end up in landfill or the environment, contributing to waste accumulation, and pollution. Whilst recycling is the most common waste prevention strategy practiced by the industry, the process is limited to addressing only the final stage of the product life cycle, omitting the overproduction and consumption of materials typical of FMCGs. Instead, reuse is a strategy that is capable of extending the value of resources by slowing material flows. Novel reuse models that require the consumer to interact with durable primary packaging and products are emerging in the FMCG industry. However, the constituent elements and operation principles of such reuse models are not fully understood. The aim of this research is to develop a comprehensive characterisation of reuse models and to evaluate their potential to deliver environmental value. 

Method: Ninety-two reuse offerings were selected and analysed to identify their reuse system elements. The analysis led to the identification of a framework including five reuse models, which were also evaluated to establish their capability to deliver environmental value when compared to conventional single-use and disposable FMCGs. 

Results: Currently in the FMCG sector, reusable products are mostly durable packaging, such as bottles and containers for beverages, foods, personal and home care goods, and are infrequently durable products, such as personal and baby care goods, including razors and nappies. Three reuse models involve exclusive reuse, a behaviour by which a reusable product is used and kept by a single user throughout the product lifetime. In exclusive reuse models, users are provided with either a reusable product (model 1), a reusable product with preparation for reuse infrastructure (model 2), or access to preparation for reuse infrastructure (model 3). Two reuse models involve sequential reuse, a behaviour by which a reusable product is used by multiple users throughout the product lifetime and returned after each use to a provider. In sequential reuse models, users are provided with either a reusable product with preparation for reuse infrastructure and provider-operated recovery services (model 4), or a reusable product and provider-operated services for recovery and preparation for reuse (model 5). Whilst the five reuse models can operate standalone, some offerings were found to embed a multi-model approach. Both exclusive and sequential reuse models are capable of delivering environmental value by reducing the use of natural resources and retaining their value in the economy. In particular, sequential reuse models were found to have a greater capability to increase the share of recyclable resources by offering access to infrastructure for the closure of material loops. 

Conclusions: Consumers can currently access five reuse models and choose between exclusive and sequential reuse behaviours. When adopted in conjunction with recycling, reuse models can enable a more efficient consumption of FMCGs. Providing the infrastructure necessary to enable reuse and recycling is key to the successful and sustainable deployment of the reuse models.

The battle to control America’s ‘most destructive’ species: feral pigs

Read the full story in National Geographic.

These “ecological zombies” will eat almost anything and can live almost anywhere.

Scientific Specimens Are Going Online, But Much Remains Hidden In Storage

Read the full story from NPR.

More than a billion biological specimens are thought to be stashed away in museums and universities and other places across the United States — everything from dead fish floating in glass jars to dried plants pressed between paper to vials of microbes chilling in a freezer.

Until recently, it’s been hard to for researchers to locate all the potentially useful stuff scattered around in storage, even though caretakers say these treasures are like time machines that offer an unrivaled opportunity to understand global change.

“I can go into a shelf and grab a jar off the shelf and look at a river in someplace in southeast Asia in the 1800’s,” says Randy Singer, who is in charge of the fish collection at the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology, which has over three million preserved fish. “I can know exactly what the fishes were eating. I can know about the chemical composition of the water they lived in.”

For scientists to pull out detailed information like that, however, they first have to know that a particular specimen even exists. In 2011, the National Science Foundation started handing out grants as part of a ten-year push to bring old-fashioned collections into the Internet age. One of the goals was to put specimen records online and into a searchable portal called iDigBio.

Scientists Finally Identify a Deadly Toxin That’s Been Killing Birds

Read the full story in Wired.

Thousands of eagles and other fowl have died from a mysterious condition that attacks their nervous systems. Now, after decades of investigation, we know why.

Is your clothing really sustainable? These 5 clues will tell you

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Fashion brands are bragging about how sustainable they are—but how can you tell if they’re really making a difference?

Kemin Launches Dry Cellulase ZyloCell™ to Support Biofuels Industries’ Low-carbon Initiatives

Read the press release.

Kemin Biofuels, part of Kemin Industries, a global ingredient manufacturer that strives to sustainably transform the quality of life every day for 80 percent of the world with its products and services, has expanded its enzyme portfolio with ZyloCell, a unique dry cellulase for use in bioethanol plants that breaks down cellulose in corn kernel fiber for a low-carbon fuel source. ZyloCell is a cost-effective alternative to liquid enzyme formulation.

Study Finds Plants Would Grow Well in Solar Cell Greenhouses

Read the full story from North Carolina State University.

A recent study shows that lettuce can be grown in greenhouses that filter out wavelengths of light used to generate solar power, demonstrating the feasibility of using see-through solar panels in greenhouses to generate electricity.

Realistic ways you can combat climate change, today

No matter how much time and money you have, you can help stave off the effects of climate change. This online tool from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University helps you find the most effective ways you can help the planet, according to the experts. Use the sliders on the tool to filter activities that fit your budget.

Study reveals plunge in lithium-ion battery costs

Read the full story from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The cost of the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used for phones, laptops, and cars has fallen dramatically over the last three decades, and has been a major driver of the rapid growth of those technologies. But attempting to quantify that cost decline has produced ambiguous and conflicting results that have hampered attempts to project the technology’s future or devise useful policies and research priorities.

Now, MIT researchers have carried out an exhaustive analysis of the studies that have looked at the decline in the prices these batteries, which are the dominant rechargeable technology in today’s world. The new study looks back over three decades, including analyzing the original underlying datasets and documents whenever possible, to arrive at a clear picture of the technology’s trajectory.

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