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News Alert

The fortnightly News Alert forms the cornerstone of the Science for Environment Policy service.

Subscribers receive a regular news bulletin by email, free of charge, which summarises scientific studies in easy-to-read language with policy implications clearly highlighted. The studies are carefully selected for quality and European policy relevance.

Full details of the research paper that each article is based on are provided, along with contact details for the lead author of the original study, should subscribers wish to find out more.

Latest Alert

Issue 516

Innovative seaweed-based gel coating for urban homes able to capture harmful air particles

Air pollution via small particulate matter (PM) from diesel fumes and other sources is of growing concern in urban areas, and contributes to poor air quality. In European urban areas, PM pollution often exceeds World Health Organization (WHO) safe levels for human wellbeing. In response to this, the European Commission has encouraged researchers to develop a low-cost, sustainable material that captures these particles in order to clean the air1. This study created a new PM capture material using sustainable chemical processes where the carbon footprint and energy use of the production process of the remediation material is taken into account. The newly developed porous material is called ‘SUNSPACE’ (an acronym derived from ‘(SUstaiNable materials Synthesized from By-products and Alginates for Clean air and better Environment’).

Rethinking value-added tax (VAT) to focus on environmental damage and sustainability

Sustainability in the production of goods and services could be encouraged by replacing value-added tax (VAT) with ‘DaVAT,’ a damage and value-added tax, a new study suggests. This tariff is partly based on a life-cycle assessment (LCA) of goods and services and varies from high (products deemed to seriously harm the environment and human health) to low (those with a lesser impact). The researchers propose a novel way to convert VAT into DaVAT and provide a new policy tool, based on LCA, that can be applied by any country wishing to reform its consumption tax system and move towards a more sustainable future.

Recycling ‘end of life’ technologies provides sustainable supplies of scarce valuable metals such as indium

Indium, a unique metal, is in short supply worldwide and is not recycled at the end of its life (EoL). Indium is used in a wide range of technologies, causing regions across the world that are reliant on its import — such as Europe — to be concerned about security of supply. Primary sources of indium are thought to be sufficient for medium-term needs, but with growing demand comes growing concern over long-term supply. A new study has conducted a material flow analysis and examined secondary sources of indium within European ‘urban mines’ and in-use stocks (IUS) of indium products, identifying these as potential sources of 500 tonnes of indium — if it were recycled at EoL.

Predicting and controlling the spread of the invasive pine wood worm pest across Europe

The North American pine wood nematode (PWN), Bursaphelenchus xylophilus, is a pest worm species that causes a disease known as pine wilt. It was discovered for the first time in the EU in Portuguese forests in 1999. Today, the entire territory of Portugal is demarcated for the presence of PWN, with a 20 km buffer zone, free from the pest, established along the Spanish border with the aim of preventing its further spread. The spread and establishment of PWN in the rest of EU territory is very likely if no strict measures are taken, as required by Decision 2012/535/EU of the European Commission, with serious economic and environmental consequences. To date, Spain has experienced five outbreaks of PWN, three of which have been successfully eradicated thanks to the EU measures and the effective work of the Spanish forest administration; and two outbreaks are currently being eradicated.