The weekly #goodnewssiren round-up #56

June 18, 2021

From vanilla flavouring made from plastic bottles to environmentalists fighting back, here’s what’s making us smile in the world of sustainability this week… 


Oil giant promises to accelerate the shift to low carbon after court ruling 


Last month we shared the Dutch court rule that ordered oil giant, Shell, to cut its global carbon emissions by 45 per cent by the end of 2030 compared with 2019 levels. As a result, the company has now vowed its strategy towards becoming a net-zero emissions business. 


After the campaign group Milieudefensie successfully argued that Shell had a human rights obligation to bring its business into line with international agreements to avoid increasingly heating the planet, Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden, has promised to rise to the challenge in helping to create a low-carbon energy system, encouraging competitors to follow suit. 


With this being the first time in history that a company has been legally obliged to align its policies with the Paris climate accords, these historic rulings and decisions are seen as the result of unrelenting and unwavering pressure on the fossil fuel industry with additional activist groups around the world now trying to force other companies and their governments to comply with the accords through their courts. 


New method to tackle pollution turns plastic into vanilla flavouring 


Scientists have developed a new way of tackling the alarming issue of plastic pollution – by using genetically engineered bacteria to transform waste from plastic bottles into vanilla flavouring. 


With plans to make recycling more attractive to minimise global plastic pollution, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have used the common bacteria E. coli to convert post-consumer plastic into vanillin, the primary component of extracted vanilla beans that provides the characteristic taste and smell of vanilla. For the time being, the vanillin produced requires further experimental tests before being deemed fit for human consumption, but this transformation could in future boost the circular economy.  


With reports that 1 million plastic bottles are sold every minute around the world with only 14 per cent recorded to be recycled, the research conducted aims to encourage development on upcycling plastic waste into valuable industrial chemicals. 


English landowners will be paid to plant trees 


Landowners will be paid thousands of pounds in bonuses for creating new woodlands that boost wildlife, increase public access and reduce flooding, under a new £16 million scheme for England. 


As part of a post-Brexit shake-up of farming policy, the Forestry Commission scheme will cover the costs of sapling and planting, pay bouses and allow payments for natural regeneration, where wind-blown seeds will colonise land in the best way recreate native woodlands. Additionally, support for planting trees along rivers to improve waterside habitats will also be offered for the first time. 


The fund will cover the first year of the scheme with the government pledging an additional £500 million in future funding for trees and woodlands. As a result, the grant gives everyone the opportunity to see woodland creation as a financially and environmentally rewarding option. 



Asda embarks on major expansion of its packaging-free refill scheme 


British supermarket, Asda, is set to extend its trial of plastic-free shopping that allows shoppers to fill their own reusable containers with everyday groceries including cereal, pasta, laundry detergent and pet food after sales of their initial pilot store in Leeds outsold its packaged alternatives.  


As a result, four new stores in York, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and Glasgow will now offer refill zones with an increased range of household brand and own-label products to be included.  


As Britain’s third biggest grocer, environmentalists are praising the expansion of Asda’s refill models, stating that they are more effective at combatting plastic waste as opposed to the approach of recycling single-use plastic that other supermarkets have adopted.