Environmental Ponderings No. 12: Litter – the Scourge of the Modern World

Mention the word “litter” in a conversation with a group of people and it is almost guaranteed that everyone present will have a horror story or example of the scourge of litter. Kloof Conservancy chairman, Paolo Candotti, will tell you about his distress at the quantities of litter seen during a weekend walk through the beautiful Krantzkloof Reserve. Local newspapers were full of appalling photographs of Durban harbour and the beaches, covered in layers and layers of littler flushed down the streams and rivers of KwaZulu-Natal after the recent heavy storms.

What is litter? It consists mostly of debris from the “throw-away society” that has characterised the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It is mainly the cast offs of manufactured materials and goods such as plastic bottles and containers, cans, plastic and paper wrappings, newspapers, shopping bags, fast food packaging, cigarette packets and butts,  cardboard and rotten or left over food. On a larger scale, urban litter can also include dead animals, old clothing, oil filters, discarded tyres, planks, broken bricks, pieces of concrete, branches and leaves, old mattresses and broken furniture.

Just give a thought to all of this ending up in stormwater drains. It blocks the drains and results in flooding which causes significant damage and costs for repair and restoration. Seventeen years ago, the cost of keeping stormwater drains and waterways clean of this disgusting detritus was over R2 billion (R2,000 million) per year (at an annual inflation rate of 6%, that converts to R5.37 billion in today’s money).

What are the main causes of litter? The main cause is the anti-social behaviour of individuals dropping litter indiscriminately and dumping household wastes illegally. (It is a lazy myth to suggest that dropping litter creates jobs for people to pick it all up.) Inadequate disposal facilities, including insufficient litter and public disposal bins has been cited as another cause, linked to the failure of authorities to enforce effective penalties to act as a deterrent to offenders. It has also been suggested that the failure of street sweeping services to rid pavements and curb sides of litter and rubbish has also reinforced the “acceptability” of litter. Some municipalities have claimed that street sweeping was cut because it was an extravagant and unnecessary “beautification” cost, rather than an important, preventative function for keeping stormwater drains clear.

Litter – Negative Social, Environmental & Economic Impacts

Social & Human Health Impacts

–       Unsightly, smelly and dirty

–       Can promote transmission of disease

–       Tyres and containers can provide mosquito breeding areas

–       Sharp objects can injure

–       Psychological degradation of areas due to littering

–       Environmental Impacts

o   Injure, trap, suffocate, strangle or poison pets and wildlife

o   Contamination of soil and water

o   Blockage of stormwater drains

–       Economic Impacts

o   High cost of clean-up of illegal dumping

o   High cost of extra litter clean up teams

o   Lowering of property prices in affected areas

o   Reduction of tourism in affected areas

There is no simple or straightforward solution to littering. It requires a long term strategy which includes a widespread change in the social behaviour regarding the use and discarding of resources. (Let’s start by not using the word “waste”, but instead regarding it as a resource that we haven’t yet found a use for?) The “consumer society” must go back to a more practical and family based focus upon the resource hierarchy model of  use, reuse, repair, recycle and return.

Municipalities need to revisit their budgets on “waste management” and look at the preventative aspect, as well as the reactive component of waste disposal. In other words, spend money on community education, enhanced street sweeping to protect stormwater drains, strengthen the provision of disposal facilities such as litter bins and public skips, invest in recycling facilities even to the point of cross subsidising costs to make recycling more financially stable and sustainable, and build the brand of “sustainable use and management of resources” instead of the negative reactionary philosophy of “waste disposal”. From a corrective point of view, there needs be a stronger deterrent and penalty for littering and miscreants need to be made to understand their wrong doing. (How about 200 hours of community service picking up litter or cleaning fouled-up rivers?)

People must be proud of their community and environmental space and be committed to keeping it clean and attractive. There needs to be “buy-in” from all sectors of Society and an understanding by all of the financial and non-financial benefits of a clean and healthy environment. Section 24 of the South African Constitution  says that, “…everyone has a right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being… “ That won’t just happen, we have to make it happen. So, as a citizen committed to the Constitution,  what are you going to do to maintain that right?

Arend Hoogervorst is an environmental scientist with some 36 years of experience in South Africa in environmental management and sustainable development in local and central government, commerce and industry and private practice.

© Arend Hoogervorst, 2017.

Environmental Ponderings No:11

Have you ever said things to yourself like, “It’ll never happen to me”, or “It won’t affect me”, “I can never do that”, or “It doesn’t apply to me”? Do these phrases sometimes come back and bite you?

In the environmental business, we get many issues that do just that. I am not just talking about “the public”. We professionals get caught out as well. It is often on matters where we are entrenched in the detailed knowledge of “the business”. We know it all, we’ve seen it all and we’ve even got the T-shirt…..

One of my more embarrassing experiences in this area was with zero waste. I had worked with many companies and managed to bring down their waste generation to single digits. I then read a book by Gunter Pauli called “Upsizing – The Road to Zero Emissions, More Jobs More Income and No Pollution”. Pauli observed that industry works to priorities such as fast returns on investments and maintaining a focus on the core activities of the company.  He postulated that core activities are not an end in itself, as believed by corporate strategists, but a beginning. There is a need for diversification and cooperation, for more from less, for Upsizing. He said that to operationalise Upsizing, we must stop expecting the earth to produce more but start doing more with what the earth produces. As an example, he quoted agro-forestry  where less than 5% of its output is effectively used and 95% is discarded. If the economic system were to use that 95%, it would be possible to satisfy 20 times more material needs without expecting the earth to produce more. Think about all the extra jobs, more productive industries and reduced waste streams.

This was enough for me to start thinking creatively about all the “lost opportunities” that so many industries were casting aside because, “..their Return On Investment was longer than two years..”  Through such creative thinking, we managed to turn a company around from facing a massive investment in a new multi-million rand water treatment plant, to a change in production sequencing which not only reduced the quantities of waste effluent produced, but also reduced the quantities of potable water utilised.

Some of you may have read my past comments on my own efforts in reducing my water consumption and generating electricity from solar panels. You may have said to yourselves, “…that doesn’t apply to me”, “other people can do that, I can’t.”  I read a number of articles and journals which may give you cause to re-think.

An article in a recent issue of the “Mail & Guardian” suggested that perhaps Eskom electricity was becoming too expensive for many to afford. It was suggested that the poor just stopped paying for electricity and the more affluent classes were beginning to cut back on electricity usage and switch to alternative energy sources such as photo voltaics, wind power and solar geysers.

It was reported that for the first time recently, the UK did not need to use coal to generate Grid electricity  for a full 24 hours, making use of alternate energy sources such as wind power, gas, and photovoltaics, instead. In the same article, it reported that the UK subsidiary of Unilever was sourcing 100% of its electricity requirements from Scottish wind farms.

So, have you done everything that you possibly can to reduce your reliance on grid electricity, cut your wasteful consumption of potable water and reduce the amount of recyclable materials that you put out in your black garbage bags every week?

Just a last word. Strategists are beginning to suggest that petrol and diesel combustion engine cars may stop being produced in Europe as soon as 2025. Can I refer you back to my first paragraph above?

Arend Hoogervorst is an environmental scientist with over 30 years of experience in South Africa in environmental management and sustainable development in local and central government, commerce and industry and private practice.

© Arend Hoogervorst, 2017.

Environmental Ponderings No. 10: How much do we appreciate water?

How much do we appreciate water?  No, seriously, have you thought about how important clean, fresh water is to you and what it would be like without it? No, of course not, you are used to opening a tap and using as much as you want. It’s cheap, we are told it is one of our constitutional rights, so why should we worry about how much we use or where it comes from?

Facts and Figures

·         Approximately 0.024% of the planet’s water supply is available for human use as liquid freshwater in underground deposits, lakes, rivers and streams.

·         South Africa is a water scarce country, the 30th driest country in the world.

·         South Africa has an average rainfall of less than 500mm, the world average is 850mm.

·         South Africa loses between 37 and 42% of its potable water through leaks, wastage and illegal connections.

Sources: SA Government Press Briefing on Water Scarcity and Drought – 13 November 2015, Living in the Environment, G Tyler Miller, S E Spoolman, 18th Edition, Cengage Learning, 2015.

I am not saying that I am any better or any worse than anyone else but I think the concept of optimising water consumption only really “hit” me, practically (as opposed to academically), after I took the decision to manage my own water usage more effectively. That doesn’t mean I decided to go completely “off the grid” and resort to borehole water and water harvesting, but I looked at how I could use water more optimally. I first began to look at how much water we, as a household, were using.

The daily water readings I took, trying to relate usage to consumption were an initial eye opener. One begins very quickly to realise how much potable water[1] is used for non-potable purposes. The table below shows an interesting breakdown resulting from studies.

Water Use in Households

Low-Income Household Mid to High-Income Household
Toilets 73% 37%
Baths & Showers 19% 32%
Washing Machine NA 17%
Other e.g. cooking, washing dishes and clothes, drinking, etc. 8% 14%

 Households with Gardens 

Gardening 46%
Other 54%

(Source: Water – How is it used at home, HE Jacobs, LC Geustyn and BF Loubser, 2005)

I decided to make better use of my rainwater tanks (I had two which were only used for watering gardens and the washing of cars) by connecting them to my toilet water cisterns via a pump (which was, incidentally, solar powered.) The current on-going drought prompted me to add a third tank at the back of the house and link it to the first tank. This meant that I had a total of 4,700 litres of water available for toilet flushing.

Yes, I did consider the option of moving away from a water borne sewage system but I decided it was a little too complex and could be better managed in a two stage change at some point later in time. Change is tough so it is best to tackle it in manageable, bite size chunks.

We introduced a more disciplined toilet flushing regime where we didn’t flush the toilet after every use  and started filling the toilet cisterns, not connected to the rainwater tank, with a bucket. There is nothing better to focus the mind on “cost” than to relate effort and inconvenience to reward. This is much more difficult for the urban dweller. We didn’t compromise on hygiene and cleanliness but realised that a flush was not required after every use.. The consequence of this was that one heavy rainstorm filled the main tank and that full tank lasted us for three months until the next set of rains arrived. (Remember that although our inland dams were not getting rainfall, we on the coast were getting more frequent rains which filled the rainwater tanks.)

So, what we didn’t do was to change the washing machine to a lower water usage model or make use of grey water. Grey water usage requires more thought and more adaption to our plumbing which I was also not ready to face at this time. When the washing machine needs replacing, guess what is going to be one of the top requirements after energy efficiency?

It was quite a surprise to realise that, with a little thought, self-discipline, modification (and, yes, some money), we managed to drop our monthly water usage from over 12 kilolitres[2] down to below 5 kilolitres. OK, so it has little impact upon the wider drought situation but if we all took this on as a community responsibility issue and if thousands of people dropped their water consumption, then we might be in a better position to “weather the drought”…

[1] Potable water is water that has been filtered, cleaned, or treated to meet the standards for drinking water.

[2] One kilolitre is 1,000 litres.

Arend Hoogervorst is an environmental scientist with some 35 years of experience in South Africa in environmental management and sustainable development in local and central government, commerce and industry and private practice.

© Arend Hoogervorst, 2016.

Unicef Report – Water, Children & Climate Change

 UNICEF have released a report entitled, “Thirsting for a Future – Water and Children in a Changing Climate”. The report can be freely downloaded from the UNICEF page.

Climate change is one of many forces contributing to an unfolding water crisis. In the coming years, the demand for water will increase as food production grows, populations grow and move, industries develop and consumption increases. This can lead to water stress, as increasing demand and use of water strain available supplies. One of the most effective ways to protect children in the face of climate change is to safeguard their access to safe water and sanitation. This report shares a series of solutions, policy responses and case studies from UNICEF’s work around the world.

By 2040, almost 600 million children are projected to be living in areas of extremely high water stress. The report says that if action is not taken to plan for water stress, and to safeguard access to safe water and sanitation, many of these children will face a higher risk of death, disease, and malnutrition.

The effects of climate change intensify the multiple risks contributing to an unfolding water crisis by reducing the quantity and quality of water, contaminating water reserves, and disrupting water and sanitation systems. Rising temperatures, greater frequency and severity of droughts and floods, melting snow and ice, and rising sea levels, all threaten the water supplies that children rely on and can undermine safe sanitation and hygiene practices.

New Fruit Peel Adsorbent Material Helps Clean Contaminated Wastewater

Mexican researchers have developed a new adsorbent material, made from orange and grapefruit peels, that could help clean highly contaminated wastewater. The new process, called Instant Controlled Pressure Drop (ICPD) treatment, modifies the structure of the residues, giving them adsorbent properties such as a greater porosity and surface area.

The researchers spearheading this project are from the University of Granada (UGR), Centre for Electrochemical Research and Technological Development (Centro de Investigación y Desarrollo Tecnológico en Electroquímica, CIDETEQ) and the Centre of Engineering and Industrial Development (Centro de Ingeniería y Desarrollo Industrial, CIDESI).

Researcher, Luis Alberto Romero Cano, from the Carbon Materials Research Team at the Faculty of Science, UGR, explains that by a subsequent chemical treatment, they, “…have managed to add functional groups to the material, thus making it selective in order to remove metals and organic pollutants present in water…”

Mr Romero Cano said, “…The results show a great potential for the use of said materials as adsorbents capable of competing with commercial activated carbon for the adsorption and recovery of metals present in wastewater, in a way that it could be possible to carry out sustainable processes in which products with a great commercial value could be obtained from food industry residues…”

Fruit peels are wastes which pose a problem for the food industry, given that they take up a great volume and aren’t very useful at present. According to experts, 38.2 million tons of fruit peels are produced worldwide each year by the food industry.

The Updated Ceres Road Map to Sustainability

 The CERES Road MAP to Sustainability is described as a strategic vision and practical framework for sustainable corporations in the 21st Century. The Roadmap presents 20 expectations in the areas of governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure, and performance that companies should seek to meet by 2020 in order to transform into truly sustainable enterprises. Moving on the road to 2020, it has been important to take stock of the changing world and to refresh the Ceres Roadmap expectations to reflect global sustainability trends. Thus, there have been some changes in the Road map which are highlighted here.

Transportation Environmental Procedures Manual

This manual was produced in 2015 by the South Dakota Department of Transportation. It focuses upon US state and legal compliance but there are some very useful sections which can function as templates for developing or customising procedures. So often, people struggle with wording and content of procedures and this manual helps to give a “leg up” where one is struggling for word and phrasing options. If you are US-based, this will be even more relevant.

I particularly liked the simplicity of the historic and archaeological resources section and the hot links in the documents to detailed support documentation such as official forms and the Construction Field Manual: Construction Site Management and Erosion and Sediment Control.

Waste Reduction Techniques – An Overview

This paper was published in Pollution Prevention Review, Winter 1990/91 and is a prompt to go back to basics. Many concepts may be old but they are still applicable to businesses.

The techniques used in waste reduction are broken down into four major categories-managing inventory, modifying production processes, reducing waste volume, and recovering waste. Within each category, the paper gives examples of process or materials changes or modifications that can be implemented to minimize waste.

Environmental Management Tools and Techniques

This publication was supported by UNDP and GEF and published under the auspices of the Bhutan National Environment Commission. Although published in 2011, there are useful perspectives included because it was produced as a teaching tool.

The publication is split into four main sections: Environmental Management Concepts; Environmental Management Principles; Environmental Management Tools and Techniques; and Other best known Environmental Management Tools and Processes. The explanations for many common terms and concepts are in plain language and are good for the “newbie” and the veteran, alike.

Sustainable Development Goals – A Guide for Business

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define global priorities and aspirations for 2030. They represent an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate extreme poverty and put the world on a sustainable path.

The objective of the Guide, developed by GRI, the UN Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), is to support companies in aligning their strategies with the SDGs and in measuring and managing their contribution. There is also a four page, Summary of the guide for those who wish to sample the contents.

The guide has been developed with a focus on large multinational enterprises. However, small and medium enterprises and other organizations are also encouraged to use it as a source of inspiration and adapt it, as necessary. It is designed for use at high level, but may be applied at product, site, divisional or regional level as required.

Designed for global action: Between 2000 and 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) provided an important development framework and achieved success in a number of areas such as reducing poverty and improving health and education in developing countries. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have succeeded the MDGs, expanding the challenges that must be addressed to eliminate poverty and embracing a wide range of inter-connected topics across the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. The SDGs were born out of what is arguably the most inclusive process in the history of the United Nations, reflecting substantive input from all sectors of society and all parts of the world. Through the UN Global Compact alone, more than 1,500 companies provided input and guidance.

The goals are universally applicable in developing and developed countries alike. Governments are expected to translate them into national action plans, policies and initiatives, reflecting the different realities and capacities their countries possess. While they primarily target governments, the SDGs are designed to rally a wide range of organizations, and shape priorities and aspirations for sustainable development efforts around a common framework. Most importantly, the SDGs recognize the key role that business can and must play in achieving them.

Picking up the Pieces and Mending the Breaks After the Event

 “…There is no such thing as chance or accident; the words merely signify our ignorance of some real and immediate cause…”

Adam Clarke


After incidents and accidents, most organisations go through some form of review or soul-searching to ask themselves if they could have done things better. The problem with this is that often company staff are too close to the systems to be honest (consciously and unconsciously) and often the phenomena of “industrial blindness” means that they are unable to objectively observe shortcomings or areas for improvement.

Any improvement, or reflection on improvement, needs to occur fairly soon after the incidents or accidents, whilst the memories of the events are still fresh. By bringing in an outside, “disinterested party”, it is possible to collect valuable evidence and intelligence which can be constructively used to make improvements and close any gaps in response and reactivity that may exist in the company’s systems, awareness, procedures, training and response mechanisms.


There are many different processes and routes that can be taken to guide the activities for review. They depend very much upon how much the company is willing to spend and what information it would like to gather. Before costing the review exercise, it is important to have a meeting between the company and the external reviewer:- to establish an outline understanding of the event or occurrence; and define a scope of work and activity. This can then result in a cost effective and optimal proposal which can lead to a useful document for continuous improvement purposes within the company.

Topics to be reviewed

The following pointers are a sample of the topics that should be covered in the review:-

  • Cause

Was the cause of the incident covered in the corporate risk assessment, risk policy and or aspects and impact register? Was it covered by the company’s ISO 9001, 14001, OHSAS 18001/ ISO 45001, ISO 31001, ISO 37101, etc. certified or aligned systems?

  • Response

Was there a response plan based upon the scenarios developed in the planning of the emergency response plan/policy/procedure?

  • Response Team

Was the response team adequately briefed and trained to deal with the incident? Is there an effective succession plan in place to cover temporary or permanent absences of key management and technical staff in the response plan?

  • Communication

Was communication to identified and appropriate stakeholders on the incident spelled out in a communication strategy/procedure, including who to communicate with, what to say to them and how to maintain the dialogue? Was anyone tasked to track and file media coverage of the incident and feedback strategic content to the response team and or senior management?

  • Decision-making

Was there a structure in place to ensure that any necessary high level decision could be taken, passed down to the response teams and communicated to stakeholders and the media timeously?

  • Record keeping

Was there a mechanism is place to ensure that key information from the incident, as it unfolded, was fully recorded, documented and circulated to pre-identified key decision making individuals?

  • Incident Investigation

Was there a multi-dimensional incident investigation process/procedure in place to commence investigating cause and effect as soon as possible?

  • Training

Were staff sufficiently trained and empowered to deal quickly with the incident and minimise the damage/loss/cost? Could hesitation or delay be put down to lack of confidence due to inadequate training, exercising or sequential tasks steps?

  • Procedures

Are there procedures in place to respond to the incident? If so, were they successful? If not, why not and what was used in their place?

  • Recurrence

Is the incident isolated or could it occur again in the same, or similar, form elsewhere in the company?

Concluding Thoughts

The passing of time generally means that it is very difficult to completely “undo” the consequences of accidents and incidents. If it is possible, this may take a long time and may cost considerable resources.

It is crucial to look forward and learn from the experience, good or bad. Fobbing off the incident as “a freak chance” or “not likely to happen again” is not constructive. Minimising the possibility of recurrence requires careful deliberate investigation, root cause identification and modification and change of systems procedures, training and preparedness. It may even require the implementation of a change management process to test options and alternatives.

Arend Hoogervorst

EMS Auditor

Eagle Environmental

BP Energy Outlook 2017

Annually, BP produces an informative and broad-based review and prediction of energy production and usage. There is a 6½ minute video presentation by BP Group Chief Economist, Spencer Dale, which summarises the contents of the report. On the same page as the video presentation, there is a link to the Energy Outlook launch webcast hosted by BP Chief Executive, Bob Dudley, assisted by Spencer Dale, held on 25th January 2017.

Spencer Dale commented, “…The main story in this year’s Energy Outlook is about energy transition that is taking place and is likely to continue to take place over the next 20 years. On the demand side, there’s a shift in the pattern of demand, away from the US and Europe to the fast growing Asian markets. On the supply side, the story is one of a continuing shift in the fuel mix towards lower carbon fuels…”

Reporting Guidance For Responsible Palm Oil Production

Palm oil is the world’s most common and versatile oilseed, found in products ranging from cooking oil to biofuels and household chemicals. Conventional palm oil production can be associated with illegal and unethical practices such as clearing of rainforest, land appropriations and the use of forced labour. These issues create regulatory, operational, and reputational risks for companies that can threaten their market access and overall brand equity.

This document, released by CERES in January 2017, aims to increase understanding, transparency, and accountability regarding responsible palm oil production by providing a shared set of reporting guidance for companies across the supply chain. Its primary purpose is to inform the content of public corporate communications and transparency on responsible production and sourcing activities including and beyond certification.

The document can also be used as a resource to guide dialogues and due diligence processes between companies, their suppliers, civil society stakeholders and investors.

The guidance document builds on, and integrates, common recommendations from existing reporting frameworks and sustainability initiatives. It is not intended as a new verification standard or as a separate reporting survey or scorecard. Companies are encouraged to report the information outlined in the guidance document through existing channels, such as sustainability reports, dashboards, and existing reporting frameworks.

While the document sets out “better practice” reporting, it can be used to improve reporting and transparency through a process of continuous improvement, regardless of where companies are in their sustainability journey.

Smart Office Handbook – A Guide to Greening Your Office

The downloadable print version of this book is available here. However, should you wish to make use of the on-line toolkit, along with all of its various links, start here. The on-line kit and handbook includes information on energy efficiency, waste reduction, biodiversity protection, and sustainability beyond the office. The on-line facility also links to case studies which can be downloaded.

This initiative was championed by the Cape Town City Council with the help of various commercial sponsors, and was actually launched in 2013 but the material is still relevant and usable. It covers many bases and is a very useful way for businesses to start the process. It needs more depth to sustain an initiative of this nature but there are links to sites and organisations that can assist with taking the programme to more mature levels, once the basics are achieved.

Business Case for the Green Economy

The UNEP publication, “The Business Case for the Green Economy – Sustainable Return on Investment”, although published in 2012, is still a relevant and valuable document, particularly when preparing motivations for sceptical directors and reluctant managers.

This 40 page document is right-sized to provide the basic facts and these are well supported by nine, one page, company case studies. The full Technical Report is available for those who wish to delve deeper into the facts.

For those who need to understand the emerging issues that may affect corporate risk management programmes, there is a very useful table on page 8 which describes material issues in various industry sectors and the implications for transition to a Green Economy. Of course, these implications also highlight the issues that are developing for those sectors which have not yet decided to consider the transition to a green economy focus.

Another useful table, on page 22, describes how brand reputation is often seen as an important reason for organisational responses to calls for increased sustainability. The thought provoker here is the list of business benefits along the bottom access of the table.

Better Business, Better World Report Released

The Business & Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) has launched its flagship Better Business, Better World report. The report sets out to map the economic prize that could be available to business if the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are achieved. Following extensive research, it has identified 60 sustainable and inclusive market “hotspots” across four key areas (energy; cities; food and agriculture; health and wellbeing) that could create at least US$12 trillion in business value by 2030 and generate up to 380 million jobs. The report was produced by three dozen leaders from the private sector and civil society (including CEOs from four WBCSD member companies and our President and CEO, Peter Bakker).

The Better Business, Better World report was supported by: the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission was launched in Davos in January 2016. It brings together leaders from business, finance, civil society, labour, and international organisations, with the twin aims of mapping the economic prize that could be available to business if the UN Sustainable Development Goals are achieved, and describing how business can contribute to delivering these goals.

Environmental Resource Guidebook for SME Manufacturers

The Environmental Resource Guidebook for SME Manufacturers was produced by the Federation of Hong Kong Industries in September 2008. Despite its age, it has a great deal of very useful information on key environmental issues in different industry sectors and discusses in basic terms, different environmental management tools that are available. The general checklist for environmental audit is excellent and a good basis on which to build any internal environmental audit.

The general content of this guidebook will be of use to anyone involved in environmental management and can be downloaded free of charge.

Municipal Service Paying For Itself and Generating Surplus

The Marselisborg Wastewater Treatment Plant in Aarhus, Denmark, produces over150% more electricity than is required to run the plant. The plant generates energy from the biogas it creates from household waste water and sewage. Carbon is extracted from the waste water and pumped into bio-digesters kept at 38°C. The bacteria on the bio-digesters produce methane which is burned to make heat and generate electricity. In 2015, Marselisborg WWTP had a total energy production of 9,628 MWh/ year and consumed 6,311 MWh/year, giving an equivalent net energy production of 153 percent.

Over the past five years focus has been placed on energy savings and energy production. At the Plant, energy-saving technologies such as an advanced SCADA control system, a new turbo compressor, sludge liquor treatment based on the anammox process, and a fine bubble aeration system have optimised processes, reduced energy consumption and fine-tuned systems. The energy production has also been improved through implementation of new energy efficient biogas engines (CHP), resulting in an increase in electricity production of approximately 1 GWh/year. Furthermore, a new heat exchanger has been installed with the aim of selling surplus heat to the district heating grid, which represents approx. 2 GWh/year. This has resulted in a reduction in power consumption of approximately 1 GWh/year which corresponds to about 25 percent in total savings.

Energy Toolkit 2.0: Leading Instruments And Methodologies For Sustainable Energy Planning

The Worldwatch Institute, in collaboration with the Low-Emissions Development Strategies Global Partnership (LEDS GP), have produced the second iteration of the Energy Toolkit The toolkit is a collection of leading instruments and methodologies for climate-compatible energy planning, offering energy practitioners, policymakers, and experts a quick reference guide to some of the best-established instruments available at no or low cost. The result is a compilation of 26 tools from agencies around the world.

The compilers say that the toolkit does not claim to be a complete encyclopaedia of all available tools. They hope to update and further improve the toolkit in coming years. They request that if you have developed a sustainable energy modelling tool or know of one that should be featured here, please contact them at energy@ledsgp.org

Handbook Of Drought Indicators And Indices Released

 The Integrated Drought Management Programme (IDMP) has released a Handbook of Drought Indicators and Indices which is freely downloadable The IDMP is co-sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and some 30 other partners.

The handbook is aimed at those who want to generate indicators and indices themselves, as well as for those who simply want to obtain and use products that are generated elsewhere. It is intended for use by general drought practitioners such as meteorological and hydrological services and ministries, resource managers and other decision-makers.

Based on available literature and drawing findings from relevant works wherever possible, the handbook addresses the needs of practitioners and policymakers, and is not an academic paper. The handbook aims to present some of the most commonly used drought indicators and indices that are being applied across drought-prone regions.

The goal is to advance monitoring, early-warning and information-delivery systems in support of risk-based drought management policies and preparedness plans. These concepts and indicators and indices are outlined in the Handbook, which will evolve and integrate new indicators and indices as they come to light and are applied in the future.

WBCSD – Lifestyle Material Footprint: An Explanation

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has released a Briefing Paper,  Lifestyle Material Footprint: An explanation, which explains in plain language exactly what the material footprint is.

The material footprint measures the resource use over the complete life-cycle of products, services and activities that shape lifestyles, e.g. food consumption and mobility patterns. It can be applied in different scales, from individual lifestyle material footprints to the average material footprint per capita in a country.

CERES Supplier Self-Assessment Questionnaire: Building the Foundation for Sustainable Supply Chains

The CERES Supplier Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ): Building the Foundation for Sustainable Supply Chains has been designed to assist companies seeking to strengthen their supply chain engagement. The aim is to help companies be more competitive and build resiliency in their supply chains by identifying, assessing, managing and disclosing supply chain sustainability risks.

The SAQ will be useful for companies seeking to strengthen their supply chain engagement. It was designed with the industrial goods sector in mind, but can also help companies beginning to address sustainability issues in their supply chains.

The SAQ uses leading practices in the field, and addresses environmental, social, and governance issues, it is a “conversation starter” for companies to use with their suppliers as they begin to assess the sustainability risks in their supply chains. The SAQ will help companies be more competitive and build resiliency in their supply chains by identifying, assessing, managing and disclosing supply chain sustainability risks.

Although the tool is free to download, it does require registration so that CERES can track where the tool is used, and by whom.

CERES is a non-profit organization advocating for sustainability leadership. They mobilise a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy. In 2014, CERES celebrated 25 years of advancing a sustainable economy.

Open Access Journal – Environmental Health Perspectives

Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) is a monthly, peer-reviewed journal of research and news, published with support from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), National Institutes of Health, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. EHP‘s news content is prepared by science journalists and reviewed by subject matter experts. Published since 1972, EHP has been online-only since January 2013. EHP is open access, and all content is available for free online. Articles can be downloaded as PDF files.

The environmental health sciences include many fields of study and increasingly comprise a multidisciplinary research area. EHP publishes articles from a wide range of scientific disciplines encompassing basic research; epidemiologic studies; risk assessment; relevant ethical, legal, social, environmental justice, and policy topics; longitudinal human studies; and in vitro and in vivo animal research with a clear relationship to human health. Children are uniquely sensitive to their environments, and thus EHP devotes a research section specifically to issues surrounding children’s environmental health.

As an example of the diversity of topics published in the journal, the January 2017 issue contains papers on: an estimation of premature deaths attributable to vegetation smoke, the global food system as a transport pathway for hazardous chemicals,  Colorectal Cancer and Long-Term Exposure to Trihalomethanes in Drinking Water, Urban and Transport Planning Related Exposures and Mortality: A Health Impact Assessment for Cities, and Placental Pathology Associated with Household Air Pollution in a Cohort of Pregnant Women from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

WBCSD Report – Quantification Matters – How To Mobilize Finance For Social Impact

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) report, “Quantification Matters – How To Mobilize Finance For Social Impact”, first released in September 2016, demonstrates how impact and financial value go hand in hand. The private sector can be a central actor for positive social impact, transforming global problems into opportunities. The report suggests that more clearly communicating the business case of these opportunities is the key to mobilizing finance.

Key findings suggest that:- mainstream finance mechanisms are more powerful in creating social impact at scale than a separate asset class (for example, social impact bonds); it is a myth that social impact bonds are a panacea in that their risk/return profile makes them unviable for traditional investors; and to achieve viable and scalable social impact, companies need to mobilize support from institutional investors.

Freshwater Governance For The 21st Century – Free Book

Freshwater Governance for the 21st Century is a free book published by Springer Open and the South African Water Research Council.

The stated purpose of the book is to illustrate, in broad terms, the general matters of freshwater governance, mapping the spectrum of decision-making. The book aspires to contribute to the transitioning between techno-centric and eco-centric approaches, or a hybrid concept, to people-centric approaches. The set of book chapters presented in the volume are based on the existing current knowledge as well as the authors’ experience working in the water sector, using nontechnical jargon in order to reach a wider audience. The target audience of this volume will range from academics, technicians, decision-makers, and managers to students; the aim is to target not just academia but also policy-makers and deep thinkers.

The book was contemplated in late 2012 after the International Conference on Fresh Water Governance which was held in South Africa. It was actively pursued after the then newly appointed WRC CEO, Mr. Dhesigen Naidoo, led the initial authors’ workshop in Madrid. The premise was that freshwater governance needed some serious reflection and collective wisdom to chart its way forward.

Comic-Santa’s Green Christmas – Father Christmas Battles Climate Change

Comics Uniting Nations have released a new aid for teaching and raising awareness of climate change. Santa Claus gives a deeply personal account of his struggle to recognize, understand and take action against the widespread global impacts of rising temperatures and extreme weather events, and the rapid Arctic ice melting that is threatening the very foundations of his fabled Workshop and Village.

The comic, entitled, Santa’s Green Christmas Father Christmas Battles Climate Change, is freely downloadable and provides a different approach and background to explaining some of the issues linked to climate change. Comic United Nations has invited schools, churches, NGOs and businesses to print and utilize the comic as a teaching tool, or to distribute as a holiday gift to students, members, employees or customers. The text is written to appeal to a range of age and education levels.


Nature Doesn’t Need People – People Need Nature

The NGO, Conservation International, has prepared a series of short videos (1 – 2 minutes each) which encapsulate many of the reasons why Nature and our environment are important to us. The series opens with a video narrated by actress, Julia Roberts, as “Mother Nature”. She points out that Nature has been around for 4.5 billion years, 22,500 times longer than humankind and doesn’t really need humankind. Her stark statements put into perspective human dependence on Nature. Other celebrities such as Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey, Rees Witherspoon, Liam Neeson, and Joan Chen tackle issues such as Water, Ice, Rain Forests, Coral Reef, Redwoods, the Soil and the Ocean in a simple and powerful manner which brings home some of the extreme  environmental crises that are being faced at the moment. This communication is critical and should be viewed by as many people as possible.

Rethinking the Future of Plastics

A new report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, World Economic Forum and McKinsey, suggests that by applying circular economy principles, the role of plastics and plastic packaging could be reshaped. The report, The new plastics economy: Rethinking the future of plastics, does not come up with a detailed proposal for the restructuring, but it does present a range of thinking to contribute to a new approach.

The data presented in the report can be somewhat stark at times. Global plastics production rose from 15 million metric tons in 1964 to 311 million metric tons in 2014. This is expected to double to more than 600 million metric tons in the next 20 years. Plastic packaging represents a quarter of the total volume of plastic production and around 95% of the value of plastic packaging material. A staggering 32% of plastic packaging escapes collection systems, generating significant economic costs by reducing the productivity of vital natural systems such as the ocean and clogging urban infrastructure. The cost of such after-use externalities for plastic packaging, plus the cost associated with greenhouse gas emissions from its production, is conservatively estimated at US$ 40 billion annually — exceeding the plastic packaging industry’s profit pool. The report indicates that in future, these costs will have to be covered.

The Report suggests that stakeholders need to evolve systems and responses which would address the following:-

  1. Create an effective after-use plastics economy by improving the economics and uptake of recycling, reuse and controlling biodegradation for targeted applications.
  2. Drastically reduce “leakage” of plastics into natural systems (in particular, the ocean) and other negative externalities.
  3. Decouple plastics from fossil fuel feedstocks by, in addition to reducing cycle losses and dematerialising, exploring and adapting renewably sourced feedstocks.

The report was disappointing in that it recognised both the significant environmental impacts of plastics and the expected massive growth of plastic production, yet gave no clear action plans or targets to reduce the environmental impacts in balance to the increased production. Sadly, production and pollution will continue whereas action to minimise the externalities is not prioritised or targeted.

Electric Scooters-Cost Effective Transport of the Future?

A Cape town-based company, EWIZZ electric vehicles, is pushing electric powered scooters as the economic, environmentally friendly way of the future. They are selling a range of five electrically powered scooters which they claim cost R0.05 per kilometre for fuel and cut out many of the polluting components of a combustion engine vehicle such as petrol, gas and particulate emissions, oil, filters, radiators and spark plugs.

In a trip around the Cape Peninsula, a Volt 6 electric motorbike  driven at 50 -60 km per hour with an 80 kg rider was tested at 155 km for one electric charge. Batteries are either lithium ion or lead acid and charge rates vary, with the fastest being the lithium ion battery. There are two types of charger, on board and external (15 amp wall socket). There are an increasing number of public charging points at shops, cafes and restaurants which are operated rather like WiFi hot spots. The establishments offer the recharge, free of cost, adding to the low cost of operation.

One of the scooters available is a delivery bike option which makes operating costs for a delivery service very attractive and low.

The company’s website at http://www.ewizz.co.za/ provides full details to enable prospective buyers to assess the benefits of the scooters. The company is also looking for new dealers around the country.

GEMI ISO 14001:2015 Self-Assessment Checklist

GEMI (Global Environmental Management Initiative) have produced an ISO 14001:2015 Self-Assessment Checklist which is freely available. The purpose of the checklist is to improve a facility manager’s understanding of the requirements and elements of the updated ISO 14001:2015 environmental management systems standard.

The criteria of the standard have been rephrased in the format of a simple questionnaire with a three part scoring system. This can therefore be used as an internal “gap analysis” either highlighting potential areas of improvement or assisting with decision making on ISO 14001 certification. The checklist was first published in 1996 with the early version of ISO 14001. The latest version is a complete revision taking into account feedback from users and the 2015 ISO revisions.

GEMI has been in existence for some 25 years and has provided business with insights, networking and collaborative sustainability and environmental management solutions. Other freely accessible environmental management and sustainability tools can be downloaded from the GEMI site.