Connect with us

Technology

Canada’s major grocery chains slow to tackle the mounting problem of plastic waste

Editor

Published

on

[ad_1]

When you throw your food’s plastic packaging into a blue bin you probably don’t expect it to be exported across the world to be dumped or burned. But that’s exactly what could happen.

Exclusive images provided by Greenpeace show mountains of plastic packaging dumped next to palm plantations, near waterways and burned on the roadside in industrial areas to the south of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia imports plastic waste from all over the world, including Canada. Much of it is recycled, but some of the materials may be discarded due to poor quality, contamination or degradation from being improperly stored outside in the tropical climate.

Among the piles were pieces of plastic that came from Canadian grocery stores including a bag from Sobeys, a milk bag from Nova Scotia dairy Scotsburn and a burger bun bag from Ben’s Bakery.

Despite being the source of a huge amount of plastic packaging, Loblaws and Sobeys, the two largest Canadian-owned supermarket chains, don’t have targets — or at least none they were willing to share with Marketplace — to reduce the amount of plastic they sell in their stores.

A milk bag from Nova Scotia sits among the piles of plastic waste Greenpeace investigators documented in Jenjarom, Malaysia. (Greenpeace)

“Things need to change,” said Sylvain Charlebois, an expert in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

He says single-use plastics such as those used for food packaging are becoming increasingly controversial and that “companies will need to comply with what the public is beginning to expect of them.”

As Marketplace discovered, that process is much further along in the U.K. compared to Canada. Retailers there have begun to take major steps toward removing plastic from their stores.

‘We took action’

Iceland, a U.K.-based chain that specializes in frozen products, is the first supermarket in the world to commit to removing all plastic from its own products within five years.

Morrisons, another large British chain, has banned single-use plastic bags and allows customers to bring reusable containers for meat and fish. The company has also removed packaging from fruit and vegetables on a trial basis in some stores.

Andrew Thornton, owner of Thornton’s Budgens in London, has taken drastic steps to eliminate as much plastic packaging as possible from items sold in his grocery store. (CBC)

Thornton’s Budgens, a branch of the Budgens chain located in London’s Camden borough, has gone even further, becoming one of the first supermarkets in the world to introduce completely plastic-free zones throughout the store.

In 10 weeks, the store eliminated the use of plastic packaging for nearly 2,000 products including fruit, vegetables, bacon, fish, baked goods, cheese and takeout food.

“We are trashing the planet, and for me, plastic has become … one of the things that’s wrong with our society today,” store owner Andrew Thornton said.

“We took action because we could and we felt we could make a difference.”

Fruit and vegetables are packaged with compostable beechwood netting made from sawmill offcuts or have no packaging at all. Bakery products are sold as is or packaged in paper, and cheese, fish and some meats are wrapped in wax paper or compostable cellulose wrap.

“Our customers love it,” said Thornton, who plans to have the whole store “virtually plastic-free” in three years.

WATCH: British anti-plastic campaigner Frankie Gillard is shocked to see how much plastic is used to package groceries in Canada.

British anti-plastic campaigner Frankie Gillard is shocked to see how much plastic is used to package groceries in Canada. 0:56

But to take those further steps, he says he will need co-operation from major suppliers like Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola to find alternative packaging for their products.

Frankie Gillard of the environmental group A Plastic Planet, who oversaw the project at Thornton’s Budgens, says big supermarkets have the power to get major brands to switch to more sustainable packaging methods.

“You basically say, ‘We’re going to de-list your product otherwise,'” she said.

“They have the power to make or break a brand. So, of course, they have the power to say how it should be packaged.”

China closes its doors

If public opinion could help push the grocery giants in that direction, those mountains of plastic waste in Malaysia might provide an added sense of urgency.

Until recently, for much of the developed world, recycling meant shipping plastic to China, where it was bought as a commodity and processed cheaply to be used in new consumer products.

Western countries had grown used to this solution rather than re-processing all of their materials at home. Nearly half of the world’s plastic trash has been sent to China since 1991, according to a University of Georgia study.

But this all changed in January 2018, when China closed its doors to much of this waste as part of an effort to reduce pollution in the country. The University of Georgia study estimates the move could lead to 111 million tonnes of global plastic waste having nowhere to go by 2030.

Plastic waste is piled next to a waterway near Kuala Lumpur. (Greenpeace)  

Marketplace contacted municipal waste managers in cities across Canada to find out what impact the change has had one year on. While the challenges varied across the country, many municipalities are still facing major headaches.

“It’s a buyer’s market out there. We’re not selling material anymore, we’re paying people to take it,” said Matt Kelleher, manager of solid waste for the City of Halifax.

The business of finding markets for Canada’s plastic waste has become “hyper-competitive,” he said. Kelleher wouldn’t reveal the destination for plastic collected in Halifax’s blue bin program for fear the city could be undercut by other municipalities.

Sharon Howland, head of program management for the City of Calgary, said the municipality used to send 50 per cent of its recyclables to China. Calgary still hasn’t found a destination for some materials, including those plastic clamshells used to package things like cherry tomatoes, salads and berries.

“They’re just sitting in containers with nowhere to go,” she said.

Sobeys sells many vegetables packaged in plastic. (CBC)

Toronto and Montreal have been less negatively affected by China’s decision. Waste officials in those cities told Marketplace they work with recyclers based in Ontario and Quebec.

However, both cities are still struggling to find markets for what is known as film plastic, which is used for shopping bags, bread bags and dry cleaning bags.

“Film is a problematic one, as all of it was going to China before,” said Nadine Kerr, manager of processing and resource management for the City of Toronto.

And it is this type of plastic — including some apparently shipped from Canada — that Greenpeace found dumped in Malaysia.

Malaysian government statistics provided to Greenpeace show a sharp increase in global plastic exports to that country since China introduced its new restrictions. In the first six months of 2018, Canada shipped more than 16,000 tonnes of plastic to Malaysia.

‘Overwhelmed’

Reuben Muni, Greenpeace’s Malaysia program manager, says the country’s recycling industry is “overwhelmed by the huge influx of imported plastic waste.”

He says the global recycling system is broken and that fixing it will require the co-operation of the wealthy countries that produce so much of the waste and the countries that import it.

Since mass production of plastic began in the 1950s, the world has produced 8.3 billion tonnes of it. In Canada, just 11 per cent of plastic gets recycled, and globally that number drops to nine per cent.

Plastic has been found in the Arctic, in the deepest trenches of the oceans, in the air and in our food. By 2050, it is believed there will be more plastic in the world’s oceans per tonnage than fish.

Unlike materials such as aluminum and glass, plastic can only be re-processed a finite number of times. This means even the plastic we do manage to recycle will eventually end up as waste. Once discarded, it takes hundreds of years to break down.

A University of California, Santa Barbara study estimates that 40 per cent of plastic is used for packaging.

But reducing the amount we use as consumers is difficult when retailers provide few alternatives.

Plastic everywhere

The shelves at Canadian grocery giants Loblaws and Sobeys are filled with plastic-wrapped products.

Fruit, vegetables, eggs, bakery products and even coconuts are wrapped in plastic packaging. Meat and fish are wrapped in difficult-to-recycle foam trays, and ready-made takeout food is sold in black plastic trays that aren’t accepted for recycling in most of Canada.

Loblaws and Sobeys customers reveal how much plastic packaging comes with their groceries.

Loblaws and Sobeys customers reveal how much plastic packaging comes with their groceries. 0:57

Both stores also still provide customers with single-use plastic shopping bags, although Loblaws says it provides a billion fewer bags a year since introducing a small fee in 2009.

Marketplace reached out to both Loblaws and Sobeys to find out their targets to reduce plastic packaging in their stores.

A look at takeout options at a Loblaws store. The black trays are particularly difficult to recycle. (CBC)

In a statement, Loblaws did not reveal any specific targets, but the company did say it recognizes that “plastic packaging is an area that needs considerable attention” and that it will take “incremental steps” to tackle it.

The grocery giant says it has reduced total packaging by 4.9 million kilograms since 2009, but didn’t provide a specific figure for plastic.

Sobeys did not respond to repeated requests to share any steps the chain is taking to cut down on plastic.

‘The big change’

As for Thornton in London, he hopes the big stores will be inspired to follow his lead.

“If we … can do this in 10 weeks, what could a Loblaws, or a Tesco, or a Walmart do if they put all their resources behind it?” he said.

“That’s when the big change happens.”

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Technology

Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

Editor

Published

on

By

Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

Continue Reading

Technology

Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

Editor

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Technology

Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

Editor

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

[ad_2]

Source link

قالب وردپرس

Continue Reading

Chat

Trending