A startup found a fitting use for worn face masks, wildcat reintroductions were announced for Britain, and New Zealand moved to outlaw smoking, plus the week’s other stories of progress
Proving, perhaps, that it’s possible to get nostalgic about anything, it was announced this week that a new exhibition in London will look back on a year of wearing face masks. By contrast, a Cornish social enterprise looked forward, offering a novel solution to the heaps of blue plastic face coverings left behind by the pandemic.
Waterhaul, which recycles fishing nets and plastic waste, has launched a project to melt old masks into plastic blocks that will be used make new products. The first item, appropriately, is a litter-picker.
The social enterprise is trialling the initiative with Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, which pays £550 per tonne to have PPE incinerated. Instead, Waterhaul will pay the trust for the face masks it uses. A Kickstarter campaign is being launched to help the enterprise scale up.
Roz Davies, general manager at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “It’s fantastic news for our staff, patients and visitors to know that we can create a positive outcome from our waste – and that it will go on to make even further positive impact in the form of litter-pickers.”
The meowing of wildcats could soon echo around Britain’s woodlands again after plans were announced to reintroduce the animals to England, Wales or both nations. A similar scheme was launched in Scotland in March to boost numbers there, where the species is clinging on in the Highlands.
The Wildwood Trust announced the reintroduction programme on Tuesday, hoping to roll back the clock for an animal that was persecuted to extinction over a century ago in England and Wales. The release locations have yet to be determined, but the organisation told Positive News that it intends to build breeding facilities in Kent and Devon.
Though considered functionally extinct in Britain, wildcats are one of the country’s last remaining predators. Often mistaken for domestic cats, the felines prey on rabbits and rodents, helping maintain the balance of ecosystems.
Image: Peter Trimming
Stand aside Cannes and Sundance, there’s a new cinematic event on the circuit. Launching on Friday, the Feel Good Film Festival promises to serve up a smorgasbord of short flicks that organisers say are a celebration of “positivity and the art of happiness”.
“From joyful explorations of wacky subcultures to heartfelt tales of triumph over adversity, the Feel Good Film Festival is a dose of joy and inspiration – delivered to your sofa,” said festival director Nell Teasdale.
As well as short motion pictures, the event features Q&As with filmmakers. Tickets start from £10.
Image: Feel Good Film Festival
It was a week of lofty ambitions and stark realities regarding the climate crisis. While the UK, EU and US tightened existing emissions goals, the International Energy Agency warned levels of CO2 could soar to near-record levels in 2021 – a reminder of the challenge ahead.
The UK government committed to slashing emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 (compared with 1990 levels), which is more ambitious than the current 68 per cent goal. For the first time, aviation and shipping emissions will be included in the legally binding target. How the UK government plans to achieve its objective, particularly with airport expansions and other CO2-intensive infrastructure projects in the pipeline, remains to be seen, and many remain unconvinced.
In Brussels, the EU set a less ambitious 55 per cent target, disappointing campaigners. President Biden, meanwhile, pledged to halve US greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Many hoped he would go further.
The targets were met cautiously by campaigners, who said that radical action was urgently required to meet them. “Targets for cutting emissions are important, but without the right policies they won’t be met,” said Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Connor Schwartz. “The UK government is already struggling to meet its existing, less ambitious climate goals.”
Image: Karsten Wurth
Cigarettes could soon be a thing of the past in New Zealand, where the government has announced radical proposals aimed at outlawing smoking for younger generations.
The plans include increasing the legal smoking age (currently 18) and banning the sale of tobacco to anyone born after 2004, making smoking effectively illegal for future generations.
An estimated 4,500 New Zealanders die annually from tobacco. Supporters of the proposals described them as a “turning point” in the nation’s bid to kick the habit. Critics said they could send the market for cigarettes underground and raised concerns about the level of government intervention in people’s lives.
Image: Possessed Photography
Despite the challenges of the last year, the UK’s co-operative movement is thriving amid growing interest in businesses that benefit communities. Celebrating enterprises committed to co-operative principles is the Co-op of the Year Awards, which announced its shortlist this week.
Twenty three co-ops are up for awards. Nominees include a community-owned energy project in rural Wales, a worker-run bakery in Birmingham and a non-profit digital agency. The public is being called upon to vote for their favourite.
Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK, which runs the awards, said: “As we start to rebuild our economy after over a year of restrictions, these awards shine a spotlight on values-based co-operative businesses and the vital contribution they make to both the local economy and community.”
Image: Kate Remmer
A 26-year-old wordsmith, Taylor Edmonds, has been announced as the new Future Generations poet for Wales. Edmonds will be tasked with bringing to life the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, which seeks to improve social, economical, environmental and cultural wellbeing in Wales. Launched in 2015, the act made Wales the first country in the world to include culture in its definition of sustainable development.
Edmonds, from Barry, is the second poet to take up the post: she follows Rufus Mufasa was was appointed in 2019. Her work explores themes such as womanhood, queerness, empowerment, connection, magic and folktales, and nature.
“I’m looking forward to exploring how poetry can help create a better world for future generations – at a time when we’ve been forced to think about the future in a way we never have before,” she said.
The appointment of Edmonds came as a crowdsourced poem celebrating spring was published. Writer Elizabeth-Jane Burnett brought together 400 voices for the optimistic riposte to the past year.
Image: Matt Horwood
Boats laden with seagrass seeds set off from Plymouth Harbour on Wednesday as England’s largest seagrass restoration project got under way.
Led by Natural England, the LIFE Recreation ReMEDIES programme will plant eight hectares of biodiverse seagrass meadows off the coast of southern England over the next four year.
The project aims to turn the tide for the beleaguered ecosystems, which have declined by 90 per cent in the last century due to pollution, trawling and coastal development. Reckoned to sequester carbon 35 times faster than a tropical rainforest, the meadows provide a haven for seahorses and other marine life.
Read the full Positive News report here.
Image: Ocean Conservation Trust
Main image: Waterhaul