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Sustainable Production and Consumption

Sustainable Production and Consumption

A new resource-efficiency framework for bridge design highlights that adaptability is key to circularity

Increasing resource efficiency in the construction industry, in line with circular economy principles, could greatly reduce waste and increase sustainability. Focusing on bridges — often demolished when requirements change — this study presents a way to rate the circularity of different design options. The new framework could help decision making at the procurement stage of infrastructure projects.<a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/569na5_en-1338_development-of-a-bridge-circularity-assessment-framework.pdf">Click here to read more</a>

 
The 'Dark Ecological Network': strategically tackling light pollution for biodiversity and people

Night-time light pollution from artificial sources can disrupt biological processes and fragment habitats. This study presents a new concept for addressing the problem: a 'dark ecological network'. Its development involves mapping a new system of connected functional zones and corridors where dark can be preserved to help birds, bats and other taxa, and gives people the chance to experience starry skies. <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/569na2_en-1317_grasping-darkness_the-dark-ecological-network_v2.pdf">Click here to read more</a>

 
GACERE - the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency - takes off

The EU, teaming up with the United Nations Environment Programme, and in coordination with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, launched the Global Alliance on Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency (GACERE). The Alliance is one of the deliverables of the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan. Alongside the EU, fourteen countries (Canada, Chile, Colombia, Japan, India, Kenya, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Rwanda, Morocco, South Africa and South Korea) have already joined the Alliance. A number of other countries are also considering their membership including Switzerland, Mexico, and Singapore. The second working meeting took place on 1 Jun 2021.

 
Reduced environmental impact, new green jobs: Exploring the outcomes of Italy’s renewable energy plan

Transitioning energy production from a dependence upon fossil fuels to renewable energy sources (RESs) promises to reduce environmental impacts while aiding economic growth. A study explores the benefits of implementing the Italian government’s renewable energy plan, which includes installing photovoltaic (PV), hydroelectric, wind, and geothermal infrastructure from now to 2040. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/560na4_en-reduced-environmental-impact-new-green-jobs-exploring-the-outcomes-of-italys-renewable-energy-plan.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Circular consumption: paying attention to potential rebound effects

The circular economy (CE) aims to reduce the use of virgin materials by reusing materials as much as possible. This study examines which types of European households adopt circular consumption habits, how this is reflected in their material footprint and how rebound effects (when environmental actions result in financial savings or require consumer investments) may affect the overall impact. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/558na3_en-circular-consumption-paying-attention-to-potential-rebound-effects.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Nanopesticides may have the potential to increase food production — but are they environmentally safe?

As the world’s population increases, so does the need for environmentally sustainable ways to increase food production. Nanopesticides are growing in popularity, as they appear able to achieve the same results as traditional agrochemicals when applied at lower amounts. However, regulatory and ecotoxicological research gaps remain. A literature review now identifies these gaps, and suggests the steps needed to enable sustainable nanopesticide use on a global scale. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/558na2_en-nanopesticides-may-have-the-potential-to-increase-food-production-but-are-they-environmentally-safe.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Bioreactors and wetlands: two-step solutions could support lagoon recovery in Spain

The Mar Menor coastal saltwater lagoon, in south-east Spain, is the largest such water body in the Mediterranean basin. The lagoon is experiencing a ‘eutrophication crisis’ as excess nutrients — largely nitrates, but also phosphorus and dissolved organic carbon — are washed into the lagoon from its surroundings. A study explores the Mar Menor’s nutrient inputs and evaluates the results of a two-step system including a <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/info/research-and-innovation/research-area/environment/nature-based-solutions_en">nature-based solution (NBS)</a>; an initiative that works with and enhances nature to address societal challenges. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/558na1_en-bioreactors-and-wetlands-two-step-solutions-could-support-lagoon-recovery-in-spain.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Heat tolerance found in sweet potato cultivars could protect food security from the effects of climate change

Food security is a growing concern as crop yields are threatened by increasing climatic variability — periods of excessively hot weather, or heatwaves, specifically. This study examines the crop diversity of the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) to understand which genetic variants flourish in response to climatic stress and to identify the crop traits that aid this success. </br> </br> <b><a href="https://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/research/newsalert/pdf/557na3_en_heat-tolerance-found-in-sweet-potato-cultivars-could-protect-food-security-from-the-effects-of-climate-change.pdf">Click here to read more</a></b>

 
Waste coffee grounds could provide carbon for use in high-energy storage devices

Demand for portable energy storage is growing with rising demand for products such as electric cars. Supercapacitors supply a higher power density and longer cycle life than a conventional battery but require porous carbon in their manufacture. A new study presents a method to create large amounts of carbon — suitable for supercapacitor manufacture — from an abundant, low-cost source: used coffee grounds.

 
Food waste: prevention in the service sector would have major environmental benefits

Approximately 88 megatonnes (Mt) of food are wasted every year in the European Union, causing 186 metric tons (Mt) carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) — a universal measure for all greenhouse gases. The impact of food waste on the climate, acidification and eutrophication is around 15–16% of the environmental impact of the entire food chain. In developed countries, food waste is high at the point of consumption— so significantly reducing food losses would require a food-waste reduction in households and the food-services sector.

 
Shifts in cropland and trade patterns could feed the world in 2050

How can we grow more crops without taking too much water away from freshwater ecosystems for irrigation? A new study indicates that it is possible to double crop production by 2050 without exceeding set limits for water extraction if more crops are grown in regions with higher rainfall and with corresponding shifts in international trade and agricultural management. However, without appropriate safeguards, and if we follow the current business-as-usual scenario, this could come at the ecological cost of converting natural land and forest into cropland. This research provides a ‘first-step’ in analysing potential trade-offs in the global food-trade-water nexus.

 
Can 3D printing reduce environmental impacts in the automotive industry?

As 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), begins to replace conventional manufacturing, the environmental impacts of its implementation must be assessed. This study conducted a life cycle assessment (LCA) to investigate the environmental and resource implications of using AM to manufacture the metal parts of an engine in a light distribution truck. In the LCA, the impacts of both present and possible future states of AM technology were compared with current conventional manufacturing. The results suggest that there are potential environmental and resource benefits1 to AM technologies, but that these benefits rely on the achievement of a clean energy source and further technological development.