17 city leaders across England and Wales have teamed up to demand that Theresa May takes necessary action to combat air pollution.

The leaders, which represent over 20 million people across the country, have signed a letter that calls for a nationwide plan to clean up the air. The leaders include Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

Mr Khan commented: “Thousands of people across our city and country are suffering from toxic air. London stands side by side with every city in the UK battling to tackle air so lethal it shortens lives.”

Previously, Sadiq Khan has implemented several measures to combat London’s air pollution. This includes; the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone and spending more than £300 million to transform London’s public transport by phasing out pure diesel double deck buses.

The letter is a result of the first-ever National Clean Air Summit which took place in June this year. The letter states “Our country’s polluted air is shortening lives, damaging our children’s lungs and severely impacting on the NHS as well as costing the economy in working days lost.”

It is reported that 40,000 deaths per year are related to air pollution. In England, the total NHS and social care cost due to PM, an urban background pollutant, in 2017 was estimated to be over £41 million.

A government spokesman said: “Although air quality has improved in recent years, with nitrogen oxide emissions falling by 27% and sulphur dioxide emissions down 60%, we recognise there is more to do. That is why we are taking action through our £3.5 billion plan to reduce harmful emissions and our ambitious new Clean Air Strategy which has been welcomed by the WHO.”

This follows a study, conducted in China, which found that high pollution levels led to significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic.

Read more: City leaders demand action for UK air pollution...

A scheme to use intelligent street lighting is to be given a two-year trial on Australia’s north-east Sunshine Coast.

Smart tech company Telensa has been chosen to pilot the project in the new Maroochydore city centre development.

A major Central Business District is being built on a 52 hectare site on the coast and smart technology is being used from the outset. The hope is that the development will become a new capital city for the Sunshine Coast region, a 100 kilometre long collection of towns, stretching north of Brisbane.

The wireless system uses sensors to recognise movement and only operates when necessary. The sensors can also be used to monitor air quality, traffic, and waste conditions. The new pilot is designed to cut the region’s energy consumption, costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re delighted to be working with Sunshine Coast Council to make street lighting in Maroochydore smarter and more efficient, with a system that will be responsive to citizens’ needs for decades to come,” said Will Gibson, Founder and Chief Commercial Officer at Telensa. “We’re looking forward to working together on a new generation of low-cost smart sensor applications, enabled by the city’s lighting network.”

Telensa has already deployed its technology around the world with 1.5 million lights installed. 100,000 lights were built in Birmingham, the UK’s second city, and a further 18,000 in Wellington, New Zealand’s capital.

“By making our streetlights smart, Telensa will help us reduce costs and improve the street lighting experience, as well as providing a platform for smart sensor applications,” said Steve Robinson, a councillor at the Sunshine Coast Council, “This deployment is another example of the Council’s commitment to intelligent infrastructure that delivers a safer, smarter, and more efficient environment for our citizens.”

Photo Credit: Sunshine Coast Council

Read more: Smart street lighting to be trialled on...

Norway’s bottle deposit scheme has allowed for 97 per cent of all plastic bottles to be recycled.

The Norwegian model proposes a loan scheme where the bottle you purchase does not belong to you. Instead, it can be exchanged at the several thousands of reverse vending machines, or over the counter at stores and gas stations in return for cash or store credit.

If the initial incentive is not sufficient, the Norwegian government has implemented an environmental tax on plastic producers which can be reduced the more they recycle.  

If collectively, over the nation, recycling is above 95 per cent then everyone is exempt from paying the tax. Over the last seven years producers have continued to reach this target.

To ensure that people meet the target, they attach a deposit onto the bottle of around 15 to 30 cents which will be redeemed when it is returned.

The scheme reduces the demand to make more plastic. A bottle can be recycled 12 times, the clear bottles are used to re-make bottles and the coloured ones can make new plastic materials.

The model has been welcomed by small shop owners as they receive a small fee for each bottle and it increases business. 

This could be adopted in the UK where only half of all plastic bottles are recycled. Coca Cola have recently introduced, Norwegian-inspired, reverse vending machines across UK attractions. However, it has been reported that the scheme could work across the nation. The UK Government is currently consulting on such a scheme in England.

Kjell Olav Maldum, Chief Executive of Infinitum who runs the Norway bottle scheme, told BBC News: “There are other recycling schemes, but we believe ours is the most cost-efficient.”

He then went onto suggest the model is scalable: “We think it could be copied in the UK – or anywhere.”

Read more: 97% of plastic bottles in Norway are recycled

Two French designers are leading the way to reducing plastic pollution by creating a watch made from recycled bottles.

The new eco-friendly watch is named ‘Awake’. It is made from plastic waste, recycled stainless steel and is powered by solar energy.

The watch, launched on Kickstarter last month, was fully funded within one hour. Currently, they have 858 backers and a total of $307,080 which has dramatically surpassed the $30,000 target. It will cost around $300 and is available to pre-order now.  

The designers have also ensured sustainable production by reusing existing materials, using the cleanest technologies and limiting transport to the maximum.

They watch has four different kinds of straps to accommodate a variety of customers:

  • One made from plastic waste.
  • The second a chemical free vegetable tanned leather strap.
  • The third is a rubber strap that has been made from 100 per cent natural rubber which is strong, flexible and completely waterproof.
  • The last is a recycled stainless steel mesh strap.

The watch itself is powered by nature, and can absorb energy from anywhere. It is sustainable without a disposable battery and is easy going, three hours wear on your wrist will provide up to six months of power reserve, without any light.

Other features include; being water resistant to 100 metres and having premium glass which increases durability and scratch resistance.

The French designers, Lilian and Fred said: “We want to show that we can create objects with an innovative design and very high quality, while still limiting our environmental impact as much as possible. And give people the opportunity to make a difference.”

They have also committed to giving back by supporting ‘Trash Heroes’, a team which create sustainable, community-based projects that remove existing waste, and reduce future waste by inspiring long-term behavioural change. The support has resulted in 160 beach clear-ups that will remove more than 17 tonnes of trash from oceans.

If you want to find out more about the ‘Awake’ watch then click here.

Photo Credit: Awake

Read more: New solar-powered watch is made from recycled...

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