An innovative system for pricing household water is proposed in a new EU-funded study1 researched in the US and UK. The tariff is designed by combining the economic value of water with reservoir storage data, and is intended to cut water usage during times of shortage by charging large-volume consumers a higher rate which increases as water becomes scarcer. The tariff increase subsidises water for other users, whilst also ensuring the system is economically stable. A case study suggests that the tariff could cut water consumption in the city of Valencia by up to 18%.
Disease-fighting microbes, insect-eating predators and mating-disrupting pheromones are among the tools listed in a new review of methods that can be used to reduce synthetic pesticide use on grapevines in Europe. Using these alternative methods can reduce the environmental and health risks associated with chemical pesticides, but further development is required to make them attractive to growers.
Dietary exposure to neonicotinoid-contaminated plant material poses risk to leaf-shredding invertebrates
Neonicotinoids are pesticides applied to plants to protect them from insects. The use of neonicotinoids may lead to contamination of aquatic environments through, among other routes, the input of contaminated plant material into waterways. While it is well established that direct exposure to contaminated water endangers aquatic invertebrates, scientists have now published findings indicating that dietary exposure through the consumption of contaminated plant material puts leaf-shredding species at increased risk. The researchers recommend that policymakers registering systemic insecticides (those whose active ingredients are transported throughout the plant tissues) consider dietary exposure, and its potential implications for ecosystem integrity, in addition to other exposure pathways.
A new analysis of waste recycling systems in Portugal highlights where kerbside (edge of pavement) collection systems could be optimised, to decrease their environmental impact. In this case, researchers found that the kerbside system was less favourable economically and environmentally due to more packaging and more fuel consumption per tonne of waste, compared to a system where recyclable materials are deposited by residents in large containers. But the researchers suggest that measures such as re-usable boxes and efficient collection routes could help to mitigate the impact of kerbside collection. While there is an environmental impact from waste collection, processing and disposal, this study only focused on the collection phase.
Mercury is a heavy metal that is well known for being the only metal that is liquid at room temperature and normal pressure. It is also a potent neurotoxin with severe global human health impacts. It can be converted from one form to another by natural processes, and, once released, actively cycles in the environment for hundreds to thousands of years before being buried in sediment. This In-Depth Report from Science for Environment Policy summarises the latest scientific studies and research results on mercury pollution in the global environment.
Researchers have developed a new metric to predict the ecological impacts of invasive alien species. The metric was calculated for a number of known invasive alien species and successfully predicted their impact on native species. The tool could be used to help inform the global management of invasive alien species.
A 50% renewable-energy supply, which is both profitable and secure, is possible for the UK’s electricity grid by just 2030 according to a new study. The researchers developed a plan for adapting and operating the UK’s electricity grid, designed to be flexibly controlled through smart-grid technology and to overcome uncertainties in renewable-energy supply and demand.
A new study has mapped levels of chemical elements found in European agricultural soils. In most places, unusually high concentrations are linked to geology, such as high levels of arsenic in the Massif Central in France. Human activity is to blame in some small areas, for example high concentrations of mercury were found near London and Paris. Abnormal concentrations, both too low and too high, could pose an environmental risk. This new data can be used in conjunction with the REACH Regulation1 and can help identify areas where action may be needed in relation to toxic elements in the environment.
Renewable-energy technologies can help meet the increased cooling demand in cities due to climate change
The available and emerging renewable technologies suitable for urban environments have been assessed in a recent study. Wind and solar technology can now be integrated into building design, and smart grids and metering can more efficiently manage energy production and demand at a local level. Investing in community-level renewable-energy projects can, therefore, help meet the future energy needs of towns and cities.
Judging whether to replace a hazardous conventional chemical in a product with a nanomaterial — i.e. to assess which is the safer alternative — is challenging for many reasons. A new study suggests that chemical-alternative assessment frameworks could be adapted to better assess engineered nanomaterials with the help of new tools which provide data on hazards of, and exposure to, nanomaterials.
The factors enabling eco-innovation have been analysed across 19 European countries in a new study. Regulations and environmental subsidies were found to be more important factors in Eastern Europe than in wealthier Western European countries. External research and development (R&D) was also more relevant in Eastern Europe, demonstrating the need for specific technology transfers from other countries and competitors.
Researchers have developed a new indicator for policymakers, which shows the strength of renewable-energy technologies for electricity production in a country’s energy security. They compare their Renewable Energy Security Index (RESI) to the carbon footprint, in that it is easy to report and practical to use in energy policy.
Researchers have examined environmental and economic impacts of supermarket food waste in a new study. Bread and meat products made the largest contribution to the environmental footprint of the supermarket assessed. Alternative waste strategies, such as using bread waste as animal feed, have the potential to reduce these impacts.
Natura 2000 sites have, on average, 10% more carbon in their topsoil than non-protected areas, according to new research. They also generally have lower economic value for agriculture. The results suggest that there is significant potential to develop win-win biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation efforts within the EU.
European Atlantic countries are, in general, at higher risk of being affected by oil spills than Mediterranean and Baltic countries, with the United Kingdom most affected, according to new research. The study developed a new risk index for analysing the potential vulnerability of coastal regions to oil spills at sea.
Can supermarkets encourage customers to cut food waste through social media? Analysis of UK campaign shows mixed results
A study has evaluated three types of media campaign conducted by a large UK supermarket to encourage shoppers to reduce their food waste. These used social media, an e-newsletter and a print/digital magazine, respectively. Although they all appeared to lead to reductions in food waste to some extent, similar behavioural changes were also seen for customers who had not participated in any of the campaigns.
A recent study has evaluated frameworks and tools used in Europe to assess the potential health and environmental risks of manufactured nanomaterials. The study identifies a trend towards tools that provide protocols for conducting experiments, which enable more flexible and efficient hazard testing. Among its conclusions, however, it notes that no existing frameworks meet all the study’s evaluation criteria and calls for a new, more comprehensive framework.
BirdLife International’s ‘Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas’ well covered by Natura 2000 in Europe but potential to extend network
The coverage of ‘Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas’ (IBAs) in relation to Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds in the EU has been assessed in a new study. Overall, 66% of the IBA network is covered by SPAs. SPAs were found to cover 23% of the distributions of 435 EU bird species as well as 25% of the distributions of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.
Landfill leachate is the liquid that seeps through or out of waste deposits in landfill sites. EU regulations, such as the Landfill Directive1, have significantly reduced the volume of leachate produced, a study on leachate management in Ireland has found. Leachate, mainly from younger landfills in Ireland is, however, stronger since implementation of the legislation, and the researchers say the future treatment of leachate under stricter environmental protection regulations will continue to be a long-term concern for landfill operators and regulators.
A range of legislation, including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), is designed to ensure the ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) of EU seas by 2020. Researchers have assessed the MSFD in relation to existing maritime policies, concluding that coordination between directives is important to achieve GES.