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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 508

‘Carbon law’ could lead to zero global emissions by 2050

Researchers have proposed a global roadmap for decarbonisation over the coming decades. The roadmap is based on the idea of a simple heuristic, described by the researchers as ‘carbon law’, of halving carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions every decade from 2020 to 2050. The researchers say that, if combined with the development of new technologies and efforts to reduce CO2 emissions from land use, this target could lead to a carbon-neutral global economy by 2050.

The economic impact of reducing food waste in Germany, Poland and Spain

A third of all food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted, and the EU alone wastes an estimated 88 billion tonnes of food every single year. This is equivalent to 76 kilograms per person per year. This is an unsustainable level of waste which threatens food supply and the environment. The EU is taking several actions against food waste, as a critical part of efforts to achieve a circular economy, where resources are used more sustainably.

Incinerating nano-enabled thermoplastics linked to increased PAH emissions and toxicity

Advances in nanotechnology mean that a rapidly increasing number of products are being produced using engineered nanomaterials, for example, nano-enabled thermoplastics. Many of these nano-enabled products are destined to reach their end-of-life through waste incineration or accidental fire. Now, an original study has revealed that the presence of nanofiller in thermoplastics significantly enhances both the concentration and toxicity of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) produced during thermal decomposition at the product’s end- of-life, resulting in concentrations of total PAHs and more toxic PAHs that are up to eight times higher than those found in pure (non nano-enabled) thermoplastics. This finding has significant environmental health implications.

Bridging the gap between academic research and regulatory assessment of chemicals: a how-to guide

According to most EU legislation, regulatory assessment of chemicals should make use of all available and relevant studies. However, in practice, assessments tend to be predominantly based on research sponsored and provided by industry as part of their legal obligations to show safety of their products, rather than on independent peer-reviewed findings. To bridge this science–policy gap, a team of Swedish researchers, in combination with regulators at three Swedish governmental agencies, have published a list of recommendations aimed at increasing the regulatory usability and impact of academic research. This advice is aimed at researchers, for whom it clarifies relevant regulatory data requirements and quality criteria. However, it is also relevant to policymakers, in that it highlights the advantages and availability of relevant, reliable peer-reviewed research for use in the regulatory assessment of chemicals. The study’s recommendations contribute to the formulation of more science-based, sustainable policies.

Sewage treatment plants can do better to close the circular economy loop: resources recovered by only 40% of Italian plants

Scientists have published findings from the largest and broadest survey on sewage resource recovery conducted in Europe to date. Researchers surveyed more than 600 waste-water treatment plants (WWTPs) in Italy, which represent approximately 25% of the country’s total load of treated sewage. The findings provide a comprehensive picture of the current state of sewage resource recovery in WWTPs, revealing that just 40% of plants perform some form of material or energy recovery, and identifying several of the important driving forces behind implementation. This research provides valuable information and insights for policymakers and WWTP managers aiming to improve WWTP sustainability and close the sewage resource-recovery loop.

Putting risk analysis and technology assessment (RATA) into practice to support technology development

Risk analysis and technology assessment (RATA) involves assessing the possible human, environmental and societal risks of a novel technology at various stages of the development process. However, best practices for RATA’s successful incorporation into large-scale research programmes are still in development. In a recent study, researchers present a case study of their efforts to bring RATA into practice within a large Dutch nanotechnology consortium. By outlining the procedures and products they developed and reflecting on their experiences, the researchers provide valuable insights for the future integration of RATA in technology development projects. The findings are relevant to stakeholders with an interest in supporting the design of key enabling technologies, including governmental agencies and industrial partners.