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News Alert

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

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 525

New tool assesses the life-cycle impact of emerging technologies — despite data gaps

Researchers use life-cycle assessment (LCA) as a tool to evaluate the environmental impact of products and technologies across their entire lifetime — from extraction of raw material to end-of-life (disposal or recycling). It is challenging to apply the conventional LCA method to new or emerging technologies, however, due to the sheer quantity of data needed for such studies. This study proposes a screening-to-LCA method that uses available data to systematically evaluate the performance of such technologies, and support the uptake of those that are most environmentally sustainable.

Innovative batteries struggle to move from research to application, finds study into start-up companies

Innovatively designed batteries offer a way for vehicles to move away from their dependence on fossil fuels. There has been little mass-market uptake of new battery design, however. In the last century, only four types of battery have been used: manganese oxide; lead acid; nickel; and lithium ion, which is a relative newcomer, introduced in 1991. To understand how innovation moves from research and development (R&D) to application and the mass market, scientists perform technology lifecycle (TLC) analyses, often focusing on R&D and basic research. This study adds an additional indicator — start-up companies — to explore the early phases of how batteries transition from science into industry.

Bioeconomy perceptions of the circular economy, Germany

To support the move towards a circular economy, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible to minimise waste, there is great potential for the bioeconomy — those parts of the economy linked to the use of renewable biological resources — to adopt innovative business models and practices, says a new study. However, the study found that bioeconomy businesses instead perceive the circular economy in terms of well-established practices, such as recycling.

What affects household waste separation rates? Regional, cultural, institutional and economic influences examined

Insights from a recent Italian study could help local authorities across Europe improve their rates of separate waste collection for recycling. The researchers found higher rates of separate waste collection in municipalities with high-quality governmental institutions for waste collection, non-mountainous terrain and higher income levels. Separating household waste into streams, such as glass or food, for re-use and recycling helps free up resources for a circular economy. Good-quality institutions are the main driver of separate waste collection and can overcome barriers such as low economic prosperity.