Tag Archives: ban

Carved Ivory.

The price of ivory is up 1,000% since global ban on ivory trade, but is slowly decreasing

The global ban on ivory has increased the price of tusks on legitimate and black markets tenfold.

Carved Ivory.

Image via Pixabay.

Back in 1989, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) issued a worldwide ban on the trading of ivory. The move was intended to insulate Earth’s elephants from hunters and poachers and help stave off extinction. The decision did work: ivory prices plummeted, initially, and markets around the world closed down.

However, that was just the initial effect of the ban. A new study shows that the price of ivory increased tenfold since 1989, which is driving up incentive for poachers supplying illegal markets. Poaching is now responsible for an 8% drop in the world’s total elephant population every year, the team reports — and they hope this analysis can help us drive that number down.

Black ivory

“With poachers killing an estimated 100 elephants of the remaining 350,000 each day, we believe our findings are significant to global wildlife conservation policy-making,” says lead author Monique Sosnowski, who carried out the research at the Bristol Veterinary School as part of her MSc in Global Wildlife Health and Conservation.

The ban was introduced in 1975 for Asian elephants and 1989 for African elephants in response to unsustainable elephant poaching in the 1970s and 80s. The species were placed on Appendix I of the CITES, which forbids all international trade in a species and its products.

To better understand its effects, the team used data on ivory prices collected between 1989 and 2017 from literature searches and visits to ivory markets across Africa, Europe, and Asia, which they meshed with information such as ivory product type (raw, polished, carved), weight, region, and legality. This dataset allowed them to gauge the factors that lead to the rise in ivory prices.

Asian markets demand the highest prices for ivory on a global scale, while prices are the lowest in Africa. The global average price of ivory increased tenfold (~1,019%) between 1989 and 2014, but has been slowly decreasing since 2014. The main factors influencing the sale, purchasing, and price of ivory were the location of sale, whether the ivory had been carved or worked in any way, the legality of the sale (there are conditions under which ivory can be traded legally), and the total amount of ivory estimated to have been traded that year.

“Until now, very little has been known about global ivory prices since the international ban in 1989,” says Sosnowski. “We hope that a greater understanding of the factors that drive the price of ivory will lead to better informed policy interventions that lead to a more secure future for the long-term survival of elephants and other animals that suffer due to the ivory trade.”

The team hopes that their research will help policymakers better tweak global ivory policy. They explain that understanding regional price trends, the variables that drive them, and the associated demand can guide efforts on anti-trade campaigns, wildlife conservation, and education — all of them aimed at combating poaching. For example, focusing efforts to more heavily regulate trade in East Asia, where ivory demand and prices are highest, could decrease poaching and increase future security for elephants.

In the future, the team plans to incorporate their findings into larger economic models to guide more effective policy design concerning the CITES ivory ban, national trade regulations, and global ivory stockpile management. They also say that a similar study framework could be used for other endangered species experiencing poaching and illegal trade in their products, such as rhinos and tigers.

The paper “Global ivory market prices since the 1989 CITES ban” has been published in the journal Biological Conservation.


Hawaii moves to ban common sunscreen mixes in a bid to safeguard its corals

Sunbathers beware — Hawaii plans to become the first US state to ban sunscreen mixes that are toxic to marine life.


Satellite view of the Hawaii archipelago. Image credits Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC / Wikimedia.

Two chemicals that are often used in sunscreen mixes (oxybenzone and octinoxate) are also sadly quite very deadly — if you happen to be a coral, a fish, or some other kind of marine resident. While that may not often concern us, landlubbers, especially as we’re basking in the sun on those oh-so-sweet vacation days, it’s a real problem for beach-totting tourist hotspots such as Hawaii.

That’s why the state is moving to ban the sale of sunscreen mixes containing these two compounds, becoming the first US state to do so. The bill was passed by the Hawaii state legislature on Tuesday and is now awaiting the governor’s signature. If this comes to pass, the ban would enter into force in 2021.

More coral protection factor, please

One past study (published in Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, 2015) has shown that both oxybenzone and octinoxate break down coral reefs by leeching its vital nutrients. The same compounds also disrupt the normal development of simple marine organisms (like algae or sea urchins) as well as more complex creatures (like fish). According to the same paper, these compounds can be found in especially high-concentrations in beaches frequented by tourists.

NOAA has also warned about the dangers such sunscreen compositions pose.

They affect corrals in three different ways: by leeching them of nutrients, by altering their DNA, making coral more susceptible to bleachings, and finally, by inhibiting their endocrine system (i.e. glands), deforming and ultimately killing baby coral. These effects started at extremely low concentrations — only 62 parts per trillion (ppt). Oxybenzone can also turn adult male fish into female fish, cause sexually immature fish to adopt characteristics common to mature, pregnant female fish, is toxic to shrimp, sea urchins, bivalves (e.g., scallops, mussels), and is especially toxic to marine algae (according to the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Hawaii).

The reefs of Hawaii and the U.S Virgin Islands showed some of the highest concentrations of oxybenzone out of all coral reefs that attract tourists, the 2015 paper reported. Sunscreen enters the ocean both from direct contact with people wearing such compounds and from wastewater streams that drain into the sea. Both oxybenzone and octinoxate are widely employed in sunscreens, as well as some other types of lotions.

“More and more people realize, as you go home and shower the water is getting treated and put out into the ocean,” Hawaii state Sen. Laura Thielen told KHON2.

“So really it’s damaging our corals no matter whether you’re wearing it on land or at the beach.”

So the only realistic option that Hawaii had at its disposal was a carpet ban on all products containing these compounds. If the governor puts his signature on the bill, vacationers will have to use alternative sunscreen options. Luckily, these options are readily available, with mixes most often substituting ingredients such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide in lieu of the dangerous chemicals.

The European Union rules: total ban on bee-harming pesticides

In a landmark decision, the European Union (EU) has announced a near-total neonicotinoids ban. Neonicotinoids, the most widely used class of insecticides in the world, have long been shown to hurt bee populations.

Honey bee (Apis mellifera). Image credits: Charles Sharp.

Study after study has shown that pesticides (neonicotinoids in particular) hurt bee populations, as well as other insects, worms, and even birds. Although studies have consistently reported this issue, authorities have been slow to implement measures to protect honeybees, largely because the pesticides are so cheap and effective. Now, despite strong interventions and lobby from the industry, EU officials have instituted a ban on neonicotinoids which will come into force by the end of the year. While the EU has taken some steps to protect bee populations from the harmful effects of pesticides, it’s the first time such a wide-scale ban has been approved.

“Member states’ representatives have endorsed a proposal by the European Commission to further restrict the use of three active substances … for which a scientific review concluded that their outdoor use harms bees,” the European Commission said in a statement.

A partial ban has already been in place, and now, an expert panel of representatives from the European Union’s 28 member states has ruled the wider ban implementation. The approved ban falls over three substances: imidacloprid (which is developed by Germany’s Bayer CropScience), clothianidin (also created by Bayer CropScience, as well as Japan’s Takeda Chemical Industries), and thiamethoxam (from Switzerland’s Syngenta). All outdoor usages of the substances will be banned — they will be allowed only in closed greenhouses.

Much like the industrial companies, many farmers have also complained about the ban, claiming that it will serve to lower production. But the panel followed the scientific evidence, focusing on the environmental damage rather than on the production output and short-term economic benefits. Symbolically, this could usher in a new age, where sustainable practices and environmental safety are placed on the same pedestal as profits.

“The Commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority,” said EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis.

“Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment.”

Meanwhile, environmental groups have been extremely supportive of the decision.

“It’s a significant indication that we need a different form of farming across Europe that farms with nature and not against it,” said Sandra Bell from Friends of the Earth.

“The ban on neonicotinoids could be a really important step towards a more general questioning of the use of pesticides and the harm they are doing to our environment.”

Neonicotinoids, which are nerve agents, significantly hurt bees, reducing their ability to fight off diseases and causing them to become disoriented. As a result, the pesticides have also been linked to colony collapse disorder and it’s quite likely that we’ve only uncovered some of the damage they’re causing. A recent, study revealed that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany in the past 25 years — with the exact causes of this ecological Armageddon being unclear. Unlike other pesticides which remain on the surface of the plant, neonicotinoids seep inside the plant. This means that while they are effective at killing off some pests, they are also having unwanted effects on the rest of the environment.

Bees provide irreplaceable environmental services. Pollination helps at least 30 percent of the world’s crops and up to 90 percent of our wild plants to thrive. Without pollinators, and especially bees to spread seeds, many plants (including food crops) wouldn’t be able to survive.

Fuel pump.

Scotland to ban petrol and diesel cars by 2032, eight years earlier than the rest of the UK

Scotland wants to phase out the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2032 — a full eight years ahead of the rest of the UK. The country will also be investing in a carbon capture project in Aberdeenshire to reduce its carbon footprint.

Fuel pump.

Image via Pixabay.

This Tuesday, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlined local government’s plans to end the sale of new diesel and petrol cars by 2032. The deadline puts Scotland eight years ahead of the roadmap Westminster set back in July, which aims to ban the sale of these vehicles throughout the UK in 2040. She added that her government wants to pay for feasibility studies of the Acorn carbon capture and storage project in Aberdeenshire.

Thistle green

“As members will be aware, we don’t currently hold powers over vehicle standards and taxation. However, we can and will take action,” Sturgeon said on Tuesday. “Our aim is for new petrol and diesel cars and vans to be phased out in Scotland by 2032 – the end of the period covered by our new climate change plan and eight years ahead of the target set by the UK government.”

“We live in a time of unprecedented global challenge and change. We face rapid advances in technology; a moral obligation to tackle climate change,” she added. “These challenges are considerable, but in each of them we will find opportunity. It is our job to seize it.”

The ban announcement comes as part of the larger climate initiative in Scotland but is perhaps the first which will have a noticeable effect for the public. It will limit “the avoidable impact poor air quality was having on people’s health,” government officials reported, a problem made glaringly obvious in other areas of the UK, most notably London. The transport sector has proved to be one of the hardest high-carbon areas of our economies to green up, partly because of industry lobby in government and partly because people didn’t feel their cars were “dirty” enough to warrant the hassle.

But, in the aftermath of recent revelations that some car manufacturers flat-out lie about their car’s emission levels, public sentiment has shifted strongly away from the industry — and with it, political support is also drying up. Public outcry over the scandal and air pollution levels, coupled with the rapid emergence of electric vehicles, have enabled Scotland to take a more decisive stance on the issue and impose earlier deadlines: the rest of the UK will enforce a similar ban by 2040, now eight years later than the Scotts. France has a similar ban in mind for 2040, and Norway takes the cake with a deadline set for 2025.

It’s not only about cars, however. Other goals Sturgeon’s government is pursuing include the creation of a fund to promote and support innovations in climate-change solutions, a “massive” expansion of the country’s electrical charging infrastructure, and plans to make the A9 the first fully electric-enabled road in Scottland. Finally, they will work on reviving the Acord capture and storage project which was shut down by the Tory government in 2015.

You can see the Scottish Government’s full programme here.

Shark fin.

Most shark fins and ray gills sold in Vancouver come from threatened, trade-banned species

DNA sequencing of over 100 shark fins and manta ray gills in Vancouver has revealed that over half come from threatened species who are banned for trade under international law.

Shark fin.

Image via Pixabay.

As far as traditional Chinese delicacies go, shark fins are more on the expensive side. They’re used to make soups that can sell for over US$100 per bowl and are generally served during special occasions. Manta ray gill rakers, tiny filaments which these species use to filter nutrients out of water are used in traditional Chinese medicine, advertised as effective against all sorts of conditions from smallpox to cancer according to the conservation group Manta Ray of Hope.

The problem with them is two-fold. First, about a quarter of shark and ray species around the world are threatened due to overfishing, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Secondly, they’re sourced very inhumanely — shark fins, for example, are cut off from live animals which are then thrown back into the ocean where they die a slow, agonizing death. So the commercial use of these commodities sourced from several species of both shark and ray are banned for international trade in an effort to give the animals respite from commercial fishing, and allow them an opportunity to recover.

But that doesn’t mean people don’t still buy and sell them, according to a research team led by Dirk Steinke from the University of Guelph. They’ve tested over 100 samples of the items available for purchase in Vancouver, Canada, and report that over 71% belong to species that are considered endangered.

Fin-ding soup

Yokohama shark fin.

Dried shark fins on display in a traditional Chinese medicine shop in Yohokama.
Image credits Chris 73 / Wikimedia.

According to Steinke, Canada is the largest importer of shark fins outside of Asia. The Senate of Canada’s website reports that in 2015, the country imported some 114,540 kilograms (252,517 pounds) of fins, and the CBC cites Statistics Canada as saying this increased to 140,750 kilograms (310,300 pounds) of shark fins worth $3.08 million (of the total $11,3 million estimated global trade) in 2016.

Steinke’s research was in part prompted by the Vancouver Animal Defence League, which was concerned that fins from protected species were being sold locally. Because these fins are very expensive, the team used 71 dried fin samples collected in 2011 and 2012 by volunteers and University of Guelph researchers, and 54 ray gill plates obtained by scientists working with the Save Our Seas Shark Research Centre at the Nova Southeastern University from Hong Kong and mainland China.

“It took them awhile to get the money together because they’re not cheap,” Steinke said.

The samples were analyzed using DNA barcoding, a technique developed at the University of Guelph which allows for species to be pinpointed using relatively short bits of DNA. The drying process actually helped speed this along, Steinke said, as it helps preserve DNA in a usable form.

Overall, the team traced the samples back to 20 species of sharks and some 5 species of rays. Roughly 56% of them are on the IUCN Red List as endangered or vulnerable, and some 24% are close to threatened status. Seven of the shark species and all five ray species are also banned from international trade under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species treaty. It must be pointed out that the ban for most of these species went into effect between 2014 and 2017, which is after the samples were collected. However, the team did trace some samples back to species which did have protected status and was banned from trade at the time the samples were collected, such as the whale shark.

Banned but not gone

Chinese shark fin soup.

Chinese shark fin soup in Austin, Texas.
Image credits harmon / Wikimedia.

That last tidbit, coupled with the fact that there are “confirmed occurrence of these species’ body parts in recent trade suggests ongoing market demands,” the researchers wrote. Although almost three-quarters of shark and ray species are not considered threatened, are not banned from trade in Canada, and are not at risk of extinction, it’s “very frustrating, although not unexpected” that we see such a large percentage of banned species still up for trade — rarer types of fins will, after all, demand a higher market price, offering an incentive in their continued trade.

Compounding the problem is that authorities simply lack the means to meaningfully impose the ban. It’s virtually impossible to tell what species a dried fin belongs to simply by looking at it. Retailers can reliably expect to get off without being caught and fined, and along with the high price fetched by the fins selling illegal species “might still pay off,” Steinke says. DNA testing can reliably trace the source species, and is quite cheap at US$10 a pop — but it can take up to several weeks for a result.

Steinke hopes that raising awareness and lowering demand will wither the market and at least help some sharks make it out alive — and eventually stop it altogether. He also hopes the results (and ideally, public support for such measures) will goad politicians into banning shark fin sales on a larger scale. Similar bans are already in effect at a local level in over a dozen municipalities in Canada, but bills for a federal ban have already failed to pass in 2013 and 2016.

These animals have been around for longer than trees, and we’re killing them over what’s widely agreed to be a pretty tasteless soup. Traditions do have a very important role to play in human life, granted. But there’s a point where we have to take the reigns, a point beyond which getting bogged down in the past will make tomorrow less — and in this case, we’re literally eating the viability of tomorrow’s oceans. Although, that seems to be a very human-like take on a lot of very serious issues.

Third time’s the charm as far as bans go, hopefully.

The paper “DNA analysis of traded shark fins and mobulid gill plates reveals a high proportion of species of conservation concern” has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Canada set to join US in banning microbeads

In a laudable move, Canada has announced that they are taking steps to ban plastic microbeads in an attempt to protect the environment and address pollution.

Toothbrush with microbeads. Image credits: Thegreenj

Microbeads are, as the name says it, small beads. They are most frequently made of polyethylene but can be created from other petrochemical plastics. You’ll typically find them in cosmetic products. If you’ve used any exfoliating cosmetics or toothpaste, then the odds are you’ve been using microbeads.

They’re used because their small size and roundness result in a silky texture and spreadability. Smoothness and roundness can provide lubrication and overall create a pleasant, cleansing sensation.

Most such beads vary in size from 10 micrometres (0.00039 in) to 1 millimetre (0.039 in). They’re so small they are easily washed down the drain, can pass unfiltered through the sewage treatment plants and make their way into rivers and canals, where they do massive damage to the environment.

The problem is often even bigger than with “regular” plastic, because the beads can absorb and concentrate other pollutants, like hydrocarbons or pesticides. Fish and other wildlife can accidentally eat them, with devastating results.

“While they may not seem scary, these tiny plastic beads can have a devastating impact on fish, wildlife, and humans,” Kristy Meyer, Ohio Environmental Council managing director of natural resources, said.

The US was surprisingly quick to react to this issue – environmental national measures are much rarer than state or local measures, but the US government decided through the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015 that microbeads will be phased out by 2017.

Now, Canada will also step in. Microbeads have been detected in alarming quantities in the Great Lakes, and this affects both countries.

Canada said that it cannot afford to wait for initiative from the industry alone, and it will prohibit the manufacture, import, sale, or offer for sale of toiletries that contain plastic microbeads, both inside and outside of cosmetics. No official timeline has been announced.

[ALSO SEE] Biodegradable plastics don’t break down in the ocean

Worldwide, the Netherlands has already announced plans to become microbead-free by the end of the year, but most countries in Europe are still discussing how to address the issue. No such official announcement has emerged from Asia.

Plastic pollution remains a huge issue and tackling microbeads, while necessary, is still just a small step. The Canadian National Academy of Sciences found more than 90 percent of all sea birds with pieces of plastic in their guts, and the situation is only getting worse in time. Such bans and state interventions are much needed.

California becomes the first US state to ban plastic bags

California confirms its status as a leader in American sustainability, becoming the first US state ever to ban plastic bags.

Image credits: katerha/Flickr.

A silent battle was being fought in California. Eclipsed by the much noisier national elections and by international climate talks, the Plastic Bag Veto Referendum went largely unnoticed, at least by outsiders. The measure was first proposed more than a year ago but was put on hold as California’s secretary of state’s office announced that a referendum to overturn the measure will be held. The referendum was decided after a trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance (APBA) submitted over 500,000 signatures. According to California’s law, a referendum must be held if this happens.

“It’s outrageous that California legislators voted to kill California jobs just to line the pockets of big grocers and their labor union supporters,” the APBA said back then. “But the APBA is proud to defend these workers and we remain confident California voters will reject the bag ban scam at the ballot box in November 2016.”

Well, despite a $6 million campaign waged by the APBA and other out-of-state plastic bag industry, California’s voters still wanted to ban plastic bags – though narrowly, with 51.97% in favor to 48.03% opposed. The plastic bag industry wanted to protect its profits and invested heavily into the campaign, but it simply wasn’t enough.

“California voters have taken a stand against a deceptive, multi-million dollar campaign by out-of-state plastic bag makers,” said Californians Against Waste (CAW) campaign co-chair, Mark Murray. “This is a significant environmental victory that will mean an immediate elimination of the 25 million plastic bags that are polluted in California every day, threatening wildlife.”

California isn’t the only place in the US where plastic bags aren’t allowed. In 2015, Hawaii entered into a de facto ban on non-biodegradable bags because all of its counties banned the bags – though the measure wasn’t technically implemented state-wide while Washington, D.C., prohibited non-recyclable plastic carryout bags in 2009. Numerous other US cities and municipalities also outlawed the use of plastic bags, but a nation-wide ban still seems far away.

In many countries of the world, there has been a phase-out of lightweight plastic bags. Single-use plastic shopping bags were traditionally given to customers, but national and subnational governments are taking measures to stop plastic waste and are targeting these bans. Among others, Morocco, Italy, Bangladesh and the Netherlands have banned plastic bags. Meanwhile, countries like Germany, China, and the UK have implemented taxes on plastic bags, which also helps to reduce consumption, though not totally. A mere 5 pence tax in the UK has led plastic bag usage to plummet by 70-80%. Every year, in the UK alone, this small tax keeps billions of plastic bags from being used. Reducing emissions does little for us if we don’t also ensure a more efficient way to use materials – and reducing plastic waste is a key component of a sustainable future.

Romania clamps down on hunting big carnivores for sport

An unexpected governmental decision comes to the protection of large carnivores in Romania, after years of rising hunting quotas since joining the EU.

Image credits Albert Lew / Flickr.

The country’s government has imposed an unexpected ban on trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynxes, and big cats on Tuesday. The move will give remaining populations of carnivores a respite from the abusive hunting practices that have been threatening it. Future incidents of damage by wildlife will be handled by the soon-to-be-created Serviciul de Urgenta pentru Animale Salbatice (The Wild Animal Emergency Service / SUAS).

Romania is home to the largest population of big predators in Europe — and, sadly, the Union’s most sought-after hunting spot. Over the last decade, hunting for sport has grown into an industry worth millions of euros in the country, with hunters shelling out up to €10,000 (£8,800) to claim a single trophy from the Carpathians, the Guardian reports. So it’s not hard to see why Romania has been setting higher and higher quotas of large carnivores to be taken down each year since joining the EU in 2007. The largest one yet, set in 2016, called for the shooting of 550 bears, 600 wolves, and 500 big cats over the year.

To put it into perspective, that’s equivalent to killing the entire brown bear population in Slovakia, the population of wolves living in France, Norway, and Sweeden, and four Poland-worths of lynxes — in one country, in a single year. Official data shows that 2,374 bears, 1,586 wolves, 898 big cats, and 120 lynxes have been shot in Romania between 2007 and 2015, local media reports.

While these species are technically protected in states of the EU under the habitats directive, legislative loopholes allow for the hunting of dangerous wild animals — those that have attacked a person or have damaged public property. Hunting associations across the country are responsible for reporting the total number of large carnivore in the country and how many of them are likely to cause damages, to governmental agencies each year. Based on the second number, authorities would decide on a hunting quota for each species which would be divided up between hunting associations to be sold to hunters as permits.

Hands up if you spot the conflict of interest there.

I do, and I’m just a bear.
Image via Wikimedia.

Even worse, since every association tends to a particular area of the country many animals are counted more than once, potentially inflating the total reported population by thousands of individuals.

“[…] there has been some controversy regarding the method by which these species’ populations are calculated or numbered, [as well as] suspicions regarding the utility of preemptive intervention and rectitude of intervention,” said environment minister Cristina Pasca-Palmer for local media. “The question was if these species really are [intervened upon] because of an underlying human-animal conflict, or if it’s just a cloacked hunting practice.”

In her interview with The Guardian, she added:

“How can hunting associations count how many animals are causing damages a priori – before the damages have happened? By introducing the ban, what we are doing is simply putting things back on the right track, as the habitats directive originally intended.”

“Hunting for money was already illegal, but it was given a green light anyway,” she added “[The dangerous animal clause] acted as a cover for trophy hunting.”

There is some concern that Tuesday’s decision will divide the country’s population — with urban residents welcoming the decision, and those living in the countryside opposing it. Wildlife protection group NGO Milvus’ bear specialist with Csaba Domokos says that damages by wildlife “are a very real concern in the countryside.” He adds that while the hunting system up to now definitely didn’t work, locals see killing the predators as the only real option. The success or failure of the law hinges on how well SUAS will handle future incidents.

But overall, the Romanian people put great value on maintaining the wilderness wild and welcome the decision. There are strong traditional ties to the wilderness and the environment, and in recent years anti-corruption officers have convicted dozens of foresters, hunters, and local officials for abusive practices that led to environmental damage.

“The Carpathian mountains are home to more biodiversity than anywhere else in Europe, but for too long they have been ruthlessly exploited for forestry and hunting. Let’s hope the government’s decision is a sign of things to come,” said activist and conservationist Gabriel Paun, who gathered 11,000 signatures for a petition in support of the ban.

The option of exporting excess wildlife to other countries interested in ‘re-wilding’ is also being discussed.


England and Wales ban smoking in cars with children

Drivers and passengers who light one up while kids are in the car now face fines in England and Wales, in an attempt to curve down the effects of passive smoking. The ban went into effect Thursday (1st October), but police said they would take it easy for a few weeks, waiting for people to become accustomed to the new law.

Image via Wiki Commons.

Penny Woods, chief of the British Lung Foundation was happy to see the law come into effect, bringing England and Wales in line with other European countries.

“Today is truly a cause for celebration for all those who care about protecting the health of generations to come,” she said.

If anything, it seems that the fine of 50 pounds ($75) is considered insufficient. However, the National Police Chiefs’ Council said in a statement that police would take an “educational, advisory and non-confrontational approach” for at least the first three months.

“This would see people being given warnings rather than being issued with fines,” police said.

The law applies even if the windows or sunroof is opened, but electronic cigarettes are not impacted. Scotland and Northern Ireland have not yet rated the law.

Second-hand smoke causes many of the same diseases as direct smoking, including cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases. The effects are especially dangerous for children, who are most prone to asthma, respiratory problems and even cancer.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization concluded in 2004 that there was sufficient evidence that second-hand smoke caused cancer in humans and since then, many countries have taken efforts to limit passive smoking as much as possible.

New York City to Ban Styrofoam in July 2015

The administration of New York City mayor Bill De Blasio announced today that styrofoam will be banned in the city starting in July this year, in an attempt to “green up” the city. The decision comes after the Department of Sanitation that Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) announced that styrofoam is non-recyclable.

New York City announced a ban on styrofoam – users have until July 2015 to find an alternative. Image via Black Business Now.

Styrofoam is actually a trademarked brand of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam currently made for thermal insulation and craft applications. It is owned and manufactured by The Dow Chemical Company. However, colloquially, in the US, styrofoam is used to name any expanded (not extruded) polystyrene foam, such as disposable coffee cups, coolers, or cushioning material in packaging, which is typically white and is made of expanded polystyrene beads.

The ban means that now the material won’t be used at all within the city – so you can say goodbye to the traditional coffee cups, food containers, and packing materials as well as insulation. Mayor De Blasio is optimistic about the ban’s environmental impact and the law is expected to keep some 30,000 tons of EPS waste out of New York landfills and streets.

“These products cause real environmental harm and have no place in New York City. We have better options, better alternatives, and if more cities across the country follow our lead and institute similar bans, those alternatives will soon become more plentiful and will cost less,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “By removing nearly 30,000 tons of expanded polystyrene waste from our landfills, streets and waterways, today’s announcement is a major step towards our goal of a greener, greater New York City.”

In 2013, a law was introduced to restrict the sale of single-use polystyrene containers. However, authorities still gave styrofoam a chance, as long as a method to recycle it would be deemed viable. This proved not to be the case, and at least in NYC, you can say goodbye to styrofoam!