EU Science for Environmental Policy, News Alert/Issue 535, 21 November 2019

Jay Owen Sustainability News, Earth Systems Science, Latest Headlines


News Alert
Issue 535, 21 November 2019

In this issue

Importing goods from sustainable production countries could lower EU’s environmental footprint

A new study has analysed how to reduce the environmental footprint of EU trade by preferentially importing goods from countries that have greener production processes. The study concludes that the environmental impacts of 200 product groups imported into the EU could be considerably reduced in this way. For example, water consumption caused by these imports could be cut by 72%, and land use by 65%.

(scroll down to read more, or open PDF in new browser window)

Towards a circular economy for platinum in Europe

Around 40% of the platinum used in EU catalytic converters is not recovered for recycling and is therefore ‘lost’ forever, indicates a new study. A more circular economy for platinum is essential to reduce imports of this critical raw material to the EU and minimise its damaging effects on the environment, the researchers argue. Better collection systems for end-of-life catalytic converters and tighter regulation of waste exports could help close the loop on platinum.

(scroll down to read more, or open PDF in new browser window)

Changes in soil carbon, biodiversity and ecotoxicity should be considered when assessing environmental impact of dairy products

Considering the impact on soil carbon, biodiversity and ecotoxicity is important when assessing the environmental footprint of dairy products, suggests a new study, which explored the impacts of organic and conventional milk production in three types of system established in Western Europe. The study found that organic milk production had a significantly lower impact on ecotoxicity and biodiversity than conventional milk production, and suggests that including soil carbon changes in the assessment would result in greater reductions in the carbon footprint of organic, rather than conventional, milk — in some cases by up to 18%.

(scroll down to read more, or open PDF in new browser window)


Food packaging: a practical guide to environmental footprint labelling

Food packaging waste is currently under scrutiny. In the context of its Circular Economy Action Plan1, the EU is addressing this through, among others, its Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) initiative2, which aims to enhance the reliability of environmental claims — both in a business-to-consumer and in a business-to-business context. The initiative aims, therefore, to boost the market of green and circular products. However, a review of the methods available for assessing the environmental sustainability of packaging now highlights the difficulty of clearly characterising packaging’s environmental impact. The study suggests a new, fully quantifiable framework that could help to standardise assessment methods and bring ‘environmental footprint labelling’ to fruition.

(scroll down to read more, or open PDF in new browser window)

Microplastics alter soil properties and plant performance, Germany

Microplastics, polymer-based particles of less than five millimetres in size, have become an archetypal sign of anthropogenic waste and environmental pollution. This German study explores how microplastics in soil affect plants, screening the potential effects of six different microplastics on the soil environment, plant traits and function using a terrestrial plant-soil model based on the spring onion (Allium fistulosum). The researchers find that plants react strongly to microplastic exposure, with signi?cant changes observed in the physical parameters of soil, plant root and leaf traits and plant biomass.