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Posts by Ramon Arratia

The impact of regulated labelling: Your Fridge needs dramatically less energy

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Energy efficient household appliances have lead to a drop in electricity consumption as the chart below illustrates. Here is some of the content from the announcement from the DECC detailing the drop in absolute costs of electricity consumed by household goods.

The technical progress with fridges in particular has been incredible – energy requirements have dropped from 300Kwh in 1990 to less than 100Kwh today. This is a combination of mandatory, regulated EU labelling, accompanied by strong innovation incentives.

Can you image what would we could achieve if we tried harder?


You’ll notice recently that energy consumption has plateaued generally, but worryingly there’s a small uplift with TVs. The impact of TVs has been augmented by the increase in size and technology of the new sets, and exposes how bad our regulation and labelling is on the subject. For TVs we don’t regulate on an absolute basis but on a relative basis (eg. size) which is wrong. Product environmental performance should always be regulated on an absolute basis.

Imagine car regulation that instead of measuring kgCO2/km, divided emissions by the size of its steering wheel?

Labelling is most effective when it is regulated, standardised and accompanied by other policies. Private labels where some geezers and certification sharks make the money almost always are condemned to fail.

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Growing a Circular Economy – Ending the Throwaway Society #Report

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Growing a circular economyHere is the content from a report released today by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee – @CommonsEAC

For more information contact Nick Davies on  or 020 7219 3297

Growing a Circular Economy – Ending the Throwaway Society #Report

MPs are calling for lower VAT on recycled products, longer warranty periods for consumer goods and a ban on food waste being sent to landfill, in a new report looking at how the Government could help insulate the UK from rising resource prices by creating a more ‘circular economy’.

Environmental Audit Committee Chair, Joan Walley MP, said:

“We had throwaway economics in the past, but that disposable society simply isn’t sustainable in the twenty-first century. Less than half of all the stuff we throw away each year is recycled and turned back into something useful, despite prices for raw materials rising across the world. Global food prices have roughly doubled since the beginning of the century, metal prices have trebled, and energy prices quadrupled. These trends look likely to continue as emerging economies expand and the world population grows to 9 billion by 2050.

Unless we rethink the way we run our economy and do business in a different way, environmental problems like climate change will get worse and the cost of living and doing business in the UK could continue to rise. The good news is that with the right Government support we can stimulate UK manufacturing, create jobs, grow our GDP and reduce our environmental footprint. We have to create a more circular economy that rewards innovative businesses, values natural capital, and is resilient in the face of rising global resource prices.”

There are potentially billions of pounds of benefits for UK businesses in becoming more resource efficient. The Committee heard from leading companies – such as M&S and B&Q – who explained that this makes economic as well as environmental sense. Some are exploring new business models where things can be hired rather than owned or using innovative processes and materials to reduce environmental impacts.


Businesses told the inquiry that the vast array of different area-by-area recycling regimes in England is confusing, sub-scale and makes it harder for companies to access valuable materials that could be reused. The variety of different recycling services also means there cannot be consistent on-pack information about a product’s recyclability to help households. The MPs say the Government should give new guidance to local authorities in England to standardise recycling collections to create new economic opportunities, as Wales and Scotland have done. The Environmental Audit Committee also wants the Government to support EU proposals to increase recycling rates to 70% by 2030. It points out that while England has improved its recycling rates since the beginning of the century from 11% to 43%, these have started to plateau, and it still has a considerable way to go to catch up with the best performing countries, like Austria and Germany.

Joan Walley MP added:

“It is possible to get recycling rates to nearly 70% as other European Countries and some UK councils have demonstrated.  There is about 3% to 5% of waste that you cannot avoid landfilling at the moment, but with better product design even that might be eliminated.”

Lower VAT on recycled products

The report recommends that the Government takes steps to reform taxation and producer responsibility regulations to reward companies that design greener products.  Differential VAT rates should be introduced based on the environmental impact or recycled content of products. Tax breaks should also be considered for businesses that repair goods or promote re-use.

Zac Goldsmith MP, Member of the Committee:

“Unless we learn to live within nature’s means, we are going to hit a wall. We know that because even while the world’s dwindling resources are becoming more and more expensive, our global appetite for resources continues to soar. Designing waste out of the way we live and do business is therefore a defining challenge. What’s clear is that businesses that take this challenge seriously will flourish, and those that don’t will eventually fall behind. But Government has an important role too, and this report highlights some of the steps it needs to take.”

Extended warranties and eco-design

The Government should work with the EU to establish eco-design standards across a range of products to make them easier to repair, upgrade, or recycle. Such standards should phase out products made from materials that cannot be recycled and encourage companies to design goods that have a clear end-of-life recovery route and are fabricated using easily separable and recyclable components. The Government should also work with industry sectors to set longer minimum warranty periods for consumer products to encourage businesses to adopt more resource-efficient business models.

Joan Walley MP added:

“We all know the frustration when we have to throw something away even though it’s just past its warranty. In our disposable society it often makes more financial sense to buy a new one than get something repaired. Things are not made to last and many manufacturers don’t make it easy for us to fix things. Government should work with companies to incentivise and encourage design that makes it easier to repair products and finally remanufacture or recycle them. Ministers should also work with industry to extend consumer warranties so that companies are encouraged to build things that last.”

Food Waste

The Government should also ban councils from sending food waste to landfill. Just 400,000 tonnes of food waste is separately collected for organic recycling in the UK out of the 7.2 million tonnes thrown out by households every year; around 6%. Instead this food waste could be collected separately and composted or used in anaerobic digesters to produce biogas and renewable energy and fertiliser.

Joan Walley MP:

“Food waste could be used to produce biogas for energy and fertiliser for our farming system yet at the moment too much is thrown into landfill where its value is lost and it produces climate-changing gases like methane.”

Government leadership

The MPs found that the Government’s current approach to these issues lacks ambition and leadership. It is characterised by small-scale schemes and although responsibilities are split across a number of departments, there is no strategic plan to achieve systemic change linked to industrial policy. Furthermore, Defra has dramatically cut funding for resource efficiency initiatives. The Committee argue that the Government should learn from the strategic vision that other countries have adopted and embrace the EU’s ambitious targets for improving resource productivity, supporting business in achieving the economic and environmental benefits of a more circular economy.

Joan Walley MP, concluded:

“Reducing the dependency on primary resource use for economic growth is an essential part of moving to a more sustainable and price-shock proof economic system. Some businesses are showing real leadership and innovation to adjust their business models and become more resource efficient. However, the Government must do more to ensure that the right conditions are in place so that many more businesses can shift from a linear approach to a circular one. We heard from business how successful green taxes such as the landfill tax had been in driving change in the waste industry.  We need the same strong tax signals from the Treasury for the Circular Economy”

Background info

The European Commission published a Circular Economy package on 2 July 2014. This proposes that countries should recycle 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging waste by 2030. The Package also includes a zero-waste-to-landfill policy for plastics, paper, metals, glass and bio-waste by 2025, as well as initiatives around eco-design. The European Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik says that the European Commission’s vision was that “by 2030 each country should recycle everything it is possible to recycle”.

Latest figures (from 2012) show that recycling rates in Europe are highest in Germany (65 %), followed by Austria (62 %) and Belgium (57%).

Recycling rates by local authorities in England in 2011/12 ranged from 69% (Vale of White Horse District Council) to 14% (Ashford Borough Council). Figures from 12/13 are available, but not broken down by authority.

Other countries have introduced regulatory measures to divert organic waste from landfill, such as the regulations requiring households to separate out food waste in Ireland, or the landfill ban on food waste being introduced in Scotland.

The Environmental Services Association suggest that a more circular economy could increase UK GDP by £3 billion a year. A Government study in 2011 indicated that there were £23 billion of financial benefits from low/no cost improvements available to businesses in the UK. The Green Alliance estimate that introducing more consistent recycling collections could be worth £1.7 billion a year.

Novamont submitted evidence to the Committee which uses data from WRAP to estimate that 400,000 tonnes of food waste was separately collected for organic recycling in the UK in 2012.

OTHER INFORMATION: This report (in HTML or PDF format) is available from 18.00 on Thursday 24 July 2014 via:

Likewise, this news story will go live from 18.00 on Thursday 24 July 2014 at:

Membership of the Committee:

Media Information: Nick Davies  020 7219 3297

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The Carbon Footprint Of Meat

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Most people know and accept that meat has a huge carbon footprint.

The land required to harvest red meat is 28 times more than that of pork or chicken. Red meat also needs 10 times the amount of water, and results in more climate-warming emissions by a factor of 5. It’s also worth noting for context that over 90% of our water footprint is created by food production.

Are you a heavy meat eater, or a vegan? This graph courtesy of Vox breaks it down:

less meat less emissions

This recent article from Climate Progress collates multiple sources to illustrate the problem, and this image shows the carbon footprint of one hamburger.

Carbon footprint of one hamburger

“Research published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has found that livestock emissions are on the rise and that beef cattle are responsible for far more GHGs than other animals, including chicken and pork.

Meat production’s heavy environmental toll is not new, but the scale is surprising: The study found that beef requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, 11 times more water, and results in five times more GHG emissions.”

“The big story is just how dramatically impactful beef is compared to all the others,” Prof. Gidon Eshel, at Bard College in New York state, told the Guardian.

“I would strongly hope that governments stay out of people’s diet, but at the same time there are many government policies that favor of the current diet in which animals feature too prominently. Remove the artificial support given to the livestock industry and rising prices will do the rest. In that way you are having less government intervention in people’s diet and not more.”

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Destroy Carbon! Buy Carbon Permits For £6.47

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Let’s all help destroy carbon! In a good way of course.

In Europe, big polluters need pollution permits. These EU permits provide a legal limit on CO2 emissions. However there are too many permits, meaning there’s little incentive to reduce pollution and the millions of tonnes of extra CO2.

Sandbag’s Carbon Destruction initiative gives us the power to change this.

The permit price is now around €6 per tonne, and you can ‘buy to cancel’ permits via the Sandbag website for £6.47 (They make no profit on sales, and only cover admin costs).

The basic idea is that we buy the cancellation of an EU permit to stop companies purchasing the right to emit this carbon.

Destroy Carbon

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UK quietly slashes millions of tonnes of emissions

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Sandbag recently released this article reviewing emissions targets and what action has been taken in the UK. They look at what is really going on in emissions trading and encourage lobbying to ensure fewer permits are handed out. They also buy up the permits already on the market, and destroy them.

“With little fanfare, the UK government cancelled 36 million tonnes of carbon pollution rights in May. These carbon allowances relate to the UK’s carbon budgets and cover emissions outside the ETS that could otherwise have been banked forward into future budgets. With the stroke of a pen this eliminates more greenhouse gas emissions than the country’s two largest coal-fired power stations emit each year. At Sandbag we’re hopeful that this act, plus cancellation of HFC carbon credits in the Netherlands, on the Shenzhen carbon market, and others, sets a precedent for the cancellation of enormous surplus of allowances on the EU ETS.”

Read how Sandbag broke the full story here.



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Here comes the sun – Solar Energy

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Top Documentary Films have posted this video on their site focussing on solar energy.

“If it were up to the sun, we would have no energy problem. Every half hour on the Earth’s surface, there is more than enough light to provide energy needs for the whole world in a year. We don’t have an energy problem, we have a conversion problem. If we are able to harvest sunlight in smart way, then we can prevent a global energy crisis.

That sounds nice but that does not mean it will succeed, at least that is what many different bodies want us to believe. It’s too expensive, takes too much space, too much material, it costs more energy than it brings, and it is still not efficient enough. While all these doubts play a role for solar energy in the distant future, it is still a marginal player in the global energy game. Back-light takes the edge off these myths and shows that a solar economy is much closer than we think. Next year, there are already rolling Giga Watts of solar cells on the conveyor belt. The industry has mastered the technology and the machines.

Radical German government measures have proved that it is possible. Villagers have completely installed solar power on empty lands. Power stations contribute to the network and where they are deserved. Many countries follow the German example: The Americans have their Grand Solar Plan and the French President Sarkozy is talking about a solar plan with the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. According to the Spanish electricity producers, oil companies will be left out. So what energy crisis? The sun is coming!”

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The Interface Pop-Up Showroom

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Interface is preparing to create a stir in Bristol with its latest business innovation – a pop-up showroom.

Over the next few months, customers will be able to visit the showroom to see the company’s latest product collections and sustainability services in situ and attend a series of events.

Congratulations to Tony Ward (@tonyinterface) and the team.

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What percentage of the investment required for our 2030 energy needs will be in renewables?

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This week has seen several articles like this one from The Climate Group exploring what $ investment amount is currently required to meet our energy needs in 2030. Most importantly, citing what percentage of that figure will be invested in renewables.

Global Power Generation BNEF

It’s been proposed that two thirds of the near $8 Trillion required (that’s eight with twelve zeros) will go on renewables. That is still too conservative! If you reverse the figures that’s still a very uncool $2.5Tn spent on the wrong side of the fence.

More must, and in reality, will be invested in renewables.


* The political landscape is sliding aggressively towards climate policies that will affect real change where it’s most required. This proposed ruling from the EPA in the USA is a prime example.

* We can crack the energy storage conundrum. It’s highly likely with current breakthroughs and smart-grids. Plus if Graphene lives up to its promises, then expect step jumps in storage and transmission technologies in the very near future.

* Will coal be around and viable by 2030? Why invest in obsolescence?

* The cost of renewables has already hit marketable levels. This article from the Huffington Post highlights key elements from solar.

It won’t be long before ‘alternative’ energy is simply labelled – Energy.

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#Interface at #Consense – The sustainable building trade fair

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Consense - The sustainable building trade fairConsense – The international trade fair and congress for sustainable building, investment, operations and maintenance exhibited over the last few days in Stuttgart.

It’s a chance to meet the leaders from across the world of sustainability. The joint offer of trade fair and congress makes Consense a cross-sector knowledge platform. Companies present the latest materials, products and construction systems. Experts discuss current issues regarding sustainable building, investment, operation and maintenance.

Interface had a stand with a novel way of getting our message across! What better way to take the transparency message to our customers and opinion leaders than having the EPD results of various products inside real ice? This is EPDs on the rocks!

Consense Sustainable Building Ice 2 Consense Sustainable Building Ice Consense Interface Sustainable Building Ice Consense Sustainable Building Ice 1

Of course the message of transparency is all very well on its own but much stronger when accompanied by a real world product to prove performance.  So we previewed Microsfera, our product with the lowest carbon footprint in the market (by far) – 3kgCO2/m2 cradle to gate.

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