Your weekly roundup of environment and sustainability news in the UK.
We talk about Hinkley C, Earth Overshoot Day, Antartica, the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and the biggest thing you can do as an individual to fight climate change. Then, for World Oceans Day, we find out the 10 most common types of litter on our beaches. Are you as shocked at number 1 as I am?
National Resources Wales has backed a Government plan to dump Hinkley C mud near Cardiff Bay. Thousands of tonnes of material is to be dredged from the Hinkley Point C building site in Somerset. Campaigners have claimed the mud could be contaminated with nuclear waste from the old Hinkley nuclear stations, that testing of samples has been inadequate and there is insufficient evidence about how sea currents will move the sediment after it has been dumped. A NRW spokesperson said “We’re confident the proposed activity will not harm people or the environment and the material is suitable for disposal”
New research shows that avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest thing you can do to reduce your impact on climate change. The study (which has been published in journal Science) that while meat and dairy provide just 18% of calories and 37% of protein, it uses 83% of farmland and produces 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions. It assessed the full impact of these foods, from farm to fork, on land use, climate change emissions, freshwater use, and water and air pollution. Joseph Poore, at the University of Oxford, UK, who led the research, said “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth, not just greenhouse gases, but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use … It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car”
Earth Overshoot Day 2018 has been announced as August 1st. Earth Overshoot Day (which is calculated by the Global Footprint Network) marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources and services in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. The date has moved steadily backwards from when it was first calculated in 2006, when it fell in October. Alarmingly, the UK’s Overshoot Day for 2018 fell on May 8th.
Traces of microplastics and hazardous chemicals found in the majority of snow and ice samples taken from Antartica earlier this year. Researchers from Greenpeace spent three months taking water and snow samples from remote areas of the continent and have confirmed the majority contained “persistent hazardous chemicals” or microplastics. There is growing concern about the extent of the plastic pollution crisis – scientists have warned there is a risk of “permanent contamination” of the planet. The UN warned it is one of the world’s biggest environmental threats earlier this week.
Wales’ first minister Carwyn Jones has offered £200m to get the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon built, amid reports the UK government is on the point of throwing it out. The project was backed in January 2017 by a UK government-commissioned report published by former energy minister Charles Hendry, which recommended that tidal lagoons could play “a cost-effective role in the UK’s energy mix”. But ministers in the UK government have refused to commit to the project put forward by Tidal Lagoon Power (TLP) saying it “must be affordable”. An email written by Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns leaked to the Financial Times suggested that the energy generated would be “twice the power of nuclear”, however Hendry concluded that the lagoon would add “less than a pint of milk” a year to people’s bills for 30 years and make a “strong contribution” to the UK’s energy supply.
Want to know what the 10 most common pieces of litter found on our beaches are (and what to do about them)? You’ll have to watch the video! Number 1 might surprise you.
Read next: Do You Know How Much Plastic You Use?