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A male Onthophagus vacca, the species of dung beetle being released this week in Western Australia. CSIRO

French beetles flown in to clean up Australia’s cattle dung

The average cow drops between 10 and 12 dung pads (also known as “pats”) every day and just one of those cow pads can produce up to 3,000 flies in a fortnight. With more than 28 million cattle in Australia…
When you outputs become your inputs, that’s a circular economy. WRAP

Explainer: What is a circular economy?

The concept of the circular economy has left the realm of academic theory and entered the world of business. The price of natural resources and materials is soaring, and in response to volatile markets…
Electronic thermoset components, such as those found in mobile phones, are destined for landfill – but new research points to a way to make them recyclable. David Goehring/Flickr

Recycling the ‘unrecyclable’: a new class of thermoset plastics

Plastics comprise around 10% of solid waste in Australia. And while we can recycle certain types, there is a group of particularly stable plastics called thermosets, common in electronic devices, which…
Products that were once new and expensive are quickly treated with disdain. Gareth Fuller/PA

Cutting waste needs longer lasting goods, and tax breaks

Reducing waste should be uncontroversial. While the government’s newly published waste prevention programme represents an improvement on previous strategies, it could have been – should have been – far…
An expanding sea of junk in Lagos. Margaret Bates

Europe’s electronic waste has become Africa’s burden

The disposal of computers and other electronic and electrical goods, e-waste, is a growing global problem. In 2011, the world threw away 41.5m tonnes of electrical equipment, and this is expected to rise…
Run, don’t walk. County Clean

We must change our ways to fight fatbergs

It was a ball of grease so enormous, so destructive and so repugnant that not just London, but the whole world, recoiled in horror. The city’s biggest-ever fatberg lurked under Kingston-upon-Thames for…
Mindless littering, or mindful rebellion? Anthony Devlin/PA

In defence of litter

What propels us to notice when a place is badly littered or surprisingly clean? When abroad, why do we often make comparisons between well-swept cities and badly kept ones? Of course, there is the banal…
Tiny fragments of plastic, upon each of which balances a miniature world of microbial life. Marilou Maglione/SEA

Welcome to The Plastisphere: ocean-going microbes on vessels of plastic

The amount of plastic debris accumulating in the open ocean has doubled in 40 years. This has been is a topic of increasing public concern and scientific interest since it was first reported in the 1970s…
“Burgerisation” has made waste as common in the food system as take-away wrappers on streets. Niall Carson/PA

Food waste is the symptom, not the problem

Foundation essay: This article on food waste by Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University London, is part of a series marking the launch of The Conversation in the UK. Our foundation essays…
Despite the popularity, a national container deposit scheme isn’t the right way to clean up our litter. Flickr/nist6ss

Container deposit laws past their use-by date

The old-fashioned approach to recycling in which consumers pay a redeemable deposit on drink containers is popular among all kinds of people, from Greenpeace members to traditional Coalition voters. But…
Social conventions stemming from the marketing of washing product companies means we wash our clothes more than we need to. Jackson Boyle

The dirt on clothes: why washing less is more sustainable

If you’re worried about dressing ethically, chances are you think about sweatshop conditions in developing countries, unsustainable farming practices, convoluted global supply chains that ring up a huge…
In the hold, but for how long? Wasting millions of tonnes of seafood is a tragedy. Maurice McDonald/PA Archive

We must stop committing valuable fish to a watery grave

In European waters controlled by the EU Common Fisheries Policy, the discarding of fish overboard has long been condemned by environmentalists and regretted by fishers. According to the UN Food and Agriculture…
From the plate to the power station. Flickr/tomylees

It stinks, but food waste is feeding our hunger for energy

The amount of scrap food thrown away worldwide is staggering. WRAP, a government-funded non-profit set up to encourage recycling and clamp down on waste, reports that in the UK we discard more than 7.2m…
An estimated 30-50% of food produced worldwide is wasted, and ends up only fit for the birds. Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Food waste: beyond fridge guilt to a sustainable system

The food system is perhaps the most vital component of our modern industrialised world. Without food in shops, it’s fair to say society would unravel in a matter of days. The food industry is in many ways…
Is Coca-Cola Amatil’s opposition to the Northern Territory’s container deposit scheme out of concern for household budgets or simply decreased profit margins? Flickr/Julian Stallabrass

Coke chokes the NT container deposit scheme

A reported 10 billion drink containers are thrown away in Australia every year. Many of these are recycled, but many end up in landfill, on roadsides and in waterways. The danger posed to wildlife by plastic…
Recycling is all very well, but how do we stop producing waste in the first place? Yoav Lerman

For a truly sustainable world, we need zero waste cities

The current state of worldwide urban development is depressing. We are not moving towards environmentally sustainable design and reduced consumption quickly enough. There have been dire warnings about…
Is our distaste for toilet talk halting sanitation improvements in the developing world? Alan Porritt/AAP

Loosen up, it’s time to talk about toilets

Bodily waste can be an embarrassing subject, but one that most of us can avoid thanks to efficient toilets and sewers. Nevertheless, this embarrassment may be holding back improvements in sanitation where…

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