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The Real-Life Impact of Plastic (Part 1)

News for green investors and organisations, stock watch & grant opportunities

After a half-century of incorporating plastic into virtually all aspects of human life, the planet is now choking on it both literally and figuratively. There was more plastic made in the first 10 years of the 21st century than in all of the 20th century and much of that production has already made its way to recycling centres, landfills and ecosystems around the planet.

Every bit of plastic ever manufactured is still in existence today and is likely to outlast all of us. Whether it’s leaching into soil structures and waterways, flaking off into nanoparticles that cause behavioural disorders in fish or killing the largest creatures in the ocean, plastic has permeated every corner of the globe. Scientists in the last decade have exerted extensive energy documenting the effects of plastic on organisms and ecosystems while urging the world to curb consumption before we destroy some of our most precious resources, perhaps most urgently the world’s oceans.

A 2015 study published in Science Magazine estimated that 192 coastal countries in 2010 generated 275 million metric tons of plastic waste. To figure out these numbers, researchers had to connect population density and economic status with global solid waste data. Countries with the highest volume of uncaptured waste correlated directly with waste management systems and population size.

Of those 275 million metric tons of plastic waste, up to an estimated 5% of it entered the ocean. The 2015 study represents the first report of its kind since scientists first began to discuss oceanic plastic pollution in the 1970s.

Commercial production of polyethylene, polyolefins, and polypropylene made plastic mainstream in the 1950s. The high durability of plastic products popularized them among consumers but cost us dearly in environmental degradation. Consumption is the most common risk plastic poses to organisms in nature, according to a February 2019 study by researchers at the University of Queensland and the University of Exeter.

Plastic pollution hurts the ocean, lakes, rivers, soil, dust, and air. Plastic has been found in larvae and adult fish, cetaceans, sea turtles, birds, zooplankton, and marine animals. There is yet to be a study done on ingestion by humans, reptiles, or terrestrial mammals.

Over 11 billion plastic items entangle Pacific coral reefs. Coral reefs are essential to protecting coastlines and offering habitats for fish and other sea life. Plastic pollution poses significant dangers to reefs, including light deprivation, and significant oxygen depletion.

640,000 tons of discarded plastic fishing gear annually land in the ocean. A 2019 Greenpeace report suggests fishing gear represents the biggest source of ocean pollution. In recent decades, fishing gear increasingly is made from plastic, from fishing lines and nets to buckets and traps. The UN’s report puts fishing gear behind land-based river and land runoff and direct dumping among top plastic pollution.

One piece of clothing can generate over 1,900 fibres per wash. By studying fibres found in wastewater from a standard domestic washing machine, scientists in a 2011 report surmised that many of the microplastic fibres discovered in bodies of water may come from the sewage byproduct of clothes washing. The report, published in Environmental Science & Technology Magazine, went on to predict microplastic pollution will worsen as global populations grow and people continue wearing and using synthetic fabrics.

Share Watch

Redflow Limited (ASX: RFX) is pleased to announce the commencement of the first customer trial of its new Gen3 battery.

Using two new Gen3 batteries, the trial will take place in Mount Tamborine in Queensland where Redflow already has four Gen 2 batteries supporting an off-grid energy system with end customer James Emmett.  The two new Gen 3 batteries at the Mount Tamborine site will run for a number of weeks before returning to Redflow for further analysis and testing.

Commenting on the deployment, Redflow CEO and Managing Director Tim Harris said: “This is an important development milestone for Redflow’s Gen3 battery to become customer and production ready in 2021.  Having previously outlined our goal to commence customer trials of the Gen 3 battery by the end of 2020, we are pleased that the Gen 3 battery development and program is on track.  There is no substitute for real-life customer testing and this trial will be very valuable to understand how the Gen3 battery performs in a live environment.”

“With Gen3, we are confident of achieving a 30% reduction in manufacturing costs through supply chain and engineering productivity impacts.  We also believe further savings can be targeted through further production and scale benefits.  The Gen3 battery will underpin Redflow’s ability to expand into larger systems and more rapidly increase take-up of our world-leading Australian technology.”

WA stockfeed supply company Semini Custom Feeds has ordered a 60-battery Large Scale Battery (LSB) – Australia’s largest Redflow-based energy storage system – to cut its fuel and energy costs by 80 per cent. Working with Redflow’s WA partner, TIEC Electrical, Semini Custom Feeds expects the 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh) system to cut its costs by about $120,000 per year based on current expenditure on diesel, maintenance and mains power.

The Redflow LSB is a powerful integrated system for deploying as many as 60 Redflow zinc-bromine flow batteries in large energy storage systems, delivering as much as 600kWh of energy storage capacity and comprehensive redundancy capabilities.

Once the Redflow LSB and 400 kilowatts-peak (kWp) photovoltaic (PV) solar panel system is deployed, the family-owned business, located at Cowaramup, 260km south-east of Perth, near Margaret River, will also eliminate its need to buy electricity from the grid. The design aims to mitigate 80 per cent of the diesel and servicing costs and all costs for grid-connected services.

EcoGraf (EGR:ASX) has received promising results from a test run of its proprietary carbon purification process. The process aims to recover carbon anode material from production waste generated during the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries.

During a recent test work program, carbon was recovered at more than 99.95 per cent purity. EcoGraf called the results “outstanding”, as the recovered carbon meets the purity levels required for re-use as battery-grade graphite. By recovering the excess carbon, EcoGraf aims to recycle the waste material back into the graphite anode manufacturing process.

Notably, the company’s proprietary process does not require the use of hydrofluoric acid, a toxic chemical common in the other carbon recovery methods. The push for a more efficient and less toxic manufacturing process is being motivated by new guidelines brought forward by a recent European Union Commission. Under the new legislative changes, battery manufacturers must aim to increase waste recovery to 65 per cent by 2025 and then up to 70 per cent by 2030.

The new legislation is responding to rising concerns about the environmental impact of the booming lithium-ion battery market. Currently, it is estimated that around 40 per cent of an electric vehicle’s carbon footprint is generated during the manufacturing of its lithium-ion battery.

The positive results bode well for the company, as it continues to develop its 20,000 tonnes per annum battery graphite facility in Western Australia.  Toward this end, EcoGraf recently submitted detailed development reports and engineering study information to Export Finance Australia, in the hopes of securing a $45 million debt facility.

Evolution Mining (EVN:ASX) has reported a negative all-in sustaining cost at the Glencore-operated Ernest Henry copper-gold mine in Queensland. The company declared an AISC of negative $710 per ounce on the same day Newcrest reported its lowest ever AISC at its Cadia copper-gold mine of negative $US6 ($7.82) per ounce.

This was guided by Ernest Henry’s negative operating costs due to revenue generated from copper and silver by-products. It builds on the mine’s achievement of negative $515 per ounce AISC during the September quarter.

Evolution produced 4972 tonnes of copper per tonne during the December quarter, slightly less than the 5040 tonnes delivered in the previous period. It has a 30 per cent interest in copper production at Ernest Henry, with the operator Glencore holding the remaining 70 per cent.

Evolution’s progress in completing an underground feasibility study at the Cowal gold mine in New South Wales is also on schedule. This is aimed to increase Cowal’s annual production to more than 350,000 ounces.

The board of Evolution has approved the ramp up of development of the Galway decline, paving the way for mobilisation in the March quarter. Drilling has proven the potential for further growth in the Cowal underground mine, according to Evolution.

At the Mungari gold mine in Western Australia, production slipped from 35,370 ounces in the September quarter to 30,463 ounces in the December period due to a planned mill shutdown. The mine also endured a minor seismic event in the White Foil open pit, although operations have resumed since. Mungari’s AISC jumped from $1115 per ounce to $1402 per ounce over the same period.

Financial indicators

The VIX fear gauge down since last Tuesday by 3.96 points to 21.59.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up 497.48 points or 1.62% since last Tuesday to 31,385.76, the STOXX 600 up 4.84 points or 1.19% to 409.71 and the Shanghai Composite index up 83.93 points or 2.44% to 3,603.49.

Gold on 1,846.60. US 10-year Treasury Bonds on 1.150 and oil up again to 58.09. Cryptos Bitcoin going through the roof and up another 10, 203 points or 27.87% to 46,801.

ASX 200 steady since last Tuesday and sitting on 6,821.20 today. The Aussie dollar on 77.25US cents.

Eco Market Spot Prices

LGC $37.00

STC $38.25

ESC $30.50

VEEC $48.10

ACCU $16.75

Sources: RenewEconomy, demandmanager,  Reuters, SMH, Market Watch, Stockhead

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