‘The milkman model’: Big brand names try reusable containers
By KATHERINE ROTH
Friday, January 25
A new shopping platform announced Thursday at the World Economic Forum aims to change the way we buy many brand-name products. “Loop” would do away with disposable containers for things like food, shampoo, laundry detergent and diapers from some of the world’s biggest manufacturers.
Instead, those goods will be delivered in sleek, reusable containers that will be picked up at your door, washed and refilled.
“Loop is about the future of consumption. And one of the tenets is that garbage shouldn’t exist,” says Tom Szaky, CEO of the Trenton, New Jersey-based international recycling company TerraCycle, which is behind Loop.
“Removing plastics from the ocean is not enough. We need to get at the whole idea of disposability and single-use items,” says Szaky. “We’re going back to the milkman model of the 1950s. You buy the milk but the milk company owns the bottle, which you leave in the milk box to be picked up when you’re done with it.”
Companies partnering with Loop include Nestle, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo and other top brands.
“Our goal is that by 2030, all of our packaging will be reusable or recyclable,” says Virginie Helias, vice president and chief sustainability officer at Procter & Gamble. Loop, she said, “is a very new idea and somewhat risky because no one has tried it. But the response has been very positive, and we’ve selected 10 of our brands to be a part of the pilot project, with a plan to add more later pending positive results.”
Pantene shampoo, for instance, “will come in a beautifully decorated, lightweight-aluminum pump container,” Helias says. “Tide in the U.S. will come in a stainless-steel bottle with a durable twist cap. Cascade will come in ultra-durable packaging. Crest mouthwash will come in a glass bottle. The idea is ultra-durability, convenience and also ultra-luxurious packaging.”
Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream, a Nestle product, will be delivered in a posh, double-walled, stainless-steel tub designed to keep ice cream cold longer.
And instead of adding dirty disposable diapers to landfills, soiled diapers can, starting only in the Paris area, be placed in sleek, durable diaper containers. When a container is filled, Loop will pick it up and deliver a clean, empty one. New technology allows Loop to process and recycle the dirty diapers, something TerraCycle has already started doing in Amsterdam.
“We have only one planet, and we have to take care of it for the long term,” says Laurent Freixe, CEO of the Americas Region of Nestle, which hopes to do away with all its non-recyclable packaging by 2025. “We want to strive for Zero Waste at both the production and consumption level. Loop is so innovative that we felt we had to be a part of it and learn from it.”
The rise of the “Zero Waste” movement and concern about the environment have led many businesses to try to reduce packaging and single-use containers. Loop is unusual in its international scope and the size of the companies participating.
Initially, Loop will offer about 300 products, with plans to add to the list later. According to TerraCycle, partners include Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever, Mars Petcare, The Clorox Company, The Body Shop, Coca-Cola, Mondelez International, Danone, Jacobs Douwe Egberts, BIC, Nature’s Path, Thousand Fell, Greenhouse, Grilliance, Preserve, Carrefour, UPS and the sustainable-resource management company Suez.
Greenpeace, which has criticized many big manufacturers for creating much of the plastic waste polluting the world’s oceans, joined in a panel about sustainable consumption at which Loop was announced in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday. Jennifer Morgan, international executive director of Greenpeace, said beforehand, “While Greenpeace welcomes the aim of the Loop Alliance to move away from throwaway culture and disposability . what the platform will mean for the environment depends on whether corporations worldwide are actually ready to change their business models, or if this effort just becomes a distracting side project to generate positive PR.”
She warned that most businesses behind the initiative are still expanding production of single-use plastic, although company representatives focused on the progress they have vowed to make in adopting more sustainable packaging.
Loop is slated to launch this spring in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and also in Paris and some of its suburbs. Shoppers will be able to buy Zero-Waste products from the Loop website to be delivered to their homes in specially designed shipping totes, and, eventually, at participating retailers, such as Carrefour grocery stores in Paris.
Loop intends to expand to the U.S. West Coast, Toronto and the United Kingdom by the end of this year or early 2020, followed by Japan — ideally in time for the 2020 Olympics, Szaky says.
“It means more delivery trucks, but far fewer garbage trucks,” he says.
Why the Davos elites are still relevant
January 25, 2019
Author: Christopher Michaelson, Professor of Ethics and Business Law, University of St. Thomas
Disclosure statement: Christopher Michaelson is affiliated with the World Economic Forum as a member of its Expert Network.
Has Davos lost its mojo?
After U.S. President Donald Trump, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and other world leaders nixed plans to attend the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Switzerland, some began to claim “Davos is in decline.”
I take the opposite view. Having been there in the past as part of a participant’s supporting staff – condescendingly referred to by status-conscious attendees as a “sherpa” – I have seen up close how much can be accomplished by a handful of people sitting in a room and talking.
As a philosopher and business ethicist, I believe it’s worth remembering some of the history that’s been made in that rarefied Alpine air and why Davos still matters today.
The stated aim of the World Economic Forum – which we commonly refer to by the name of the ski resort in the Swiss Alps where it is held – is “improving the state of the world.”
It does this by promoting global collaboration, capitalism that includes many stakeholders and public-private cooperation.
Numerous international agreements and breakthroughs have emerged from Davos. Examples include preventing war between Turkey and Greece in the 1980s and helping resolve the eurozone’s debt crisis in 2012 – the year I was last there. It brought together world leaders as oppositional as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk in 1992 and Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres in 1994 and 2001.
But Davos doesn’t need to make a breakthrough in an ancient conflict to be effective. Its theme this year, “Globalization 4.0,” served as an important rebuke to the nationalists emerging in the world today who have shown a disdain for multilateralism and a preference for confrontation over cooperation.
And in fact, most of the sessions focused, as I believe they should, on finding cooperative ways to solve the world’s pressing problems.
And the world has many to deal with, from worsening economic inequality and climate change to the growing scarcity of water. All were discussed at Davos this year.
Were any breakthroughs made? Maybe not.
Davos cannot realistically be expected to solve the world’s problems in less than a week each year. But despite its elite reputation, I believe it helps direct attention toward actually making the world better for everyone – and not just the elites in the audience.
Amnesty criticizes Iran’s mass arrests as US frees reporter
By JON GAMBRELL
Thursday, January 24
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran arrested more than 7,000 people last year, including dozens of journalists, in what Amnesty International on Thursday called a “shameless campaign of repression” as the U.S. released an American anchorwoman for Iranian state television held for days as a material witness.
While Iranian officials and state media have widely condemned the arrest of Marzieh Hashemi of the broadcaster’s English-language channel Press TV, the figures released by Amnesty highlight the widespread campaign of arrest and harassment those in the media face in the Islamic Republic.
Even as Hashemi was released, Iran sentenced prominent whistleblower journalist Yashar Soltani to five years in prison after his series of exposes alleging massive corruption in land deals linked to Tehran’s former mayor.
Meanwhile, Iranian state TV continues to face criticism for airing statements from detainees made under duress, including two recent ones from labor activists Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian who allegedly faced torture. Authorities detained both of them again this week.
The Amnesty report said that among those arrested in 2018 were protesters, students, journalists, environmental activists, workers and human rights defenders. Some 50 detainees were media workers, of whom at least 20 “were sentenced to harsh prison or flogging sentences after unfair trials,” the report said.
“2018 will go down in history as a ‘year of shame’ for Iran,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa research and advocacy director. “Iran’s authorities sought to stifle any sign of dissent by stepping up their crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and carrying out mass arrests of protesters.”
Last year began with nationwide protests that started over Iran’s deteriorating economy and soon grew into anti-government demonstrations. Iran is in the grip of a financial crisis and has seen sporadic protests in recent months as officials try to downplay the effects of the newly restored U.S. sanctions on Tehran.
In Hashemi’s case, she was detained by U.S. federal agents on Jan. 13. She appeared at least twice before a U.S. federal judge in Washington, and court papers said she would be released immediately after her testimony before a grand jury. Court documents did not include details on the criminal case in which she was named a witness.
Hashemi sent a message to supporters on Thursday after her release.
“I have a lot of things to say about what I have suffered,” she said in Farsi.
Later on Thursday, Iran’s judiciary chief Ayatollah Sedegh Amoli said a “massive release” of prisoners is expected on the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution next month, according to the judiciary’s official website. Official reports say there are more than 240,000 prisoners in Iran.
You can’t control what you can’t find: Detecting invasive species while they’re still scarce
January 24, 2019
Author: Jake Walsh, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Disclosure statement: Jake Walsh receives funding from the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research Program and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Most of the 10,000 ships lost to the bottom of the Great Lakes in wrecks over the past 400 years are still lost – hidden somewhere in 6 quadrillion gallons of water. Finding anything in a lake is a lesson in humility, so life as a freshwater biologist is always humbling. If we can’t account for huge steel freighters, imagine the challenge of finding a single tiny organism.
But it is crucial to detect invasive species as early as possible. Aquatic invasive species cause billions of dollars in economic damages, and regulators base multimillion-dollar management decisions on scientists’ and managers’ ability to detect them. It is much more cost-effective to invest in prevention measures than to react after a species becomes established. And low-density populations are easier to manage than species that have taken over an ecosystem.
But since funding, gear and time are limited, scientists often can only sample for invasives over small fractions of vulnerable areas. Compounding the challenge, our target species tend to lurk at low densities – that is, they are rare in most places.
I have spent eight years studying the spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus), an invasive zooplankton, in Wisconsin. In a recent study, I worked with my colleagues Eric Pedersen and Jake Vander Zanden to develop a theoretical framework that uses math and computer modeling to improve detection of invasive species at low densities.
Our model provides a simple rule of thumb for designing surveillance programs with no information other than an estimate of expected population densities. In other words, if managers have a ballpark understanding of how many individuals are in a system, our models can provide some basic information about how much effort they need to invest in sampling in order to detect the species reliably. Alternatively, our models can help managers estimate whether their current efforts are effective for detecting populations early in the invasion process.
A belated find
For us, this challenge was personal. The spiny water flea has upended the food web of our own Lake Mendota in Madison, Wisconsin.
In most lakes it’s not surprising to miss new biological invasions. But Lake Mendota is one of the most well-studied lakes in the world, and we sampled it over 200 times in the decade leading up to the flea’s detection.
Zooplankton are tiny organisms: The spiny water flea is less than a half-inch long. To find them, we drag a cone-shaped net through the water. The net is nearly 6 feet long, with a hoop about a foot and a half in diameter at one end and a collection cup that traps captured zooplankton at the other. For every 10 feet that we pull the net through the lake, we sample nearly 160 gallons of water – a quantity that would be a struggle to carry, but represents just one one-billionth of the volume of Lake Mendota.
At first, the spiny water flea’s invasion of Lake Mendota seemed like the simplest of detection challenges. When we first identified its presence in 2009, our nets teemed with pinky-width tail spines and jet-black eye spots. We estimated that these densities would correspond to a lakewide population of trillions.
But as we learned more, we found that the fleas had likely been in the lake for as long as a decade before showing up in masses we referred to as “spiny water flea applesauce” in our collection jars.
Rules of thumb for detecting invasive species
While this realization was a shock, our work revealed that it wasn’t actually surprising. Since invasive species often lurk at low densities, missing invasive populations is more likely the rule than the exception, even in well-monitored ecosystems.
Detecting invasive species is the first step of any management strategy, and early detection is challenging but critical for effectively managing harmful invaders, such as Asian carp and zebra mussels. Failing to detect spiny water flea has been a key stumbling block in managing its spread across the Midwest. Similar dynamics are occurring with other invasive species, including medflies in California and Didymo algae, also known as “rock snot,” which is causing blooms in rivers across North America.
We wanted to see whether there were ways to make detection more effective. To do this, we used theoretical models that explore detection at low densities to provide simple rules of thumb that aim to improve the process.
At low densities, detecting a small invasive organism in a large area can be nearly impossible without extraordinary effort. Even if there were one spiny water flea for every cubic meter of water in Lake Mendota, catching one in a net would be like finding a sesame seed in roughly 250 gallons of water.
However, managers can dramatically improve detection rates by targeting their sampling to areas or time periods when the target species is likely to be present at higher densities. Humans do this naturally when we have the necessary information. For example, I don’t search grocery stores randomly for blueberries – I look in the produce section, mainly in late summer when blueberries are in season in Wisconsin.
The spiny water flea is most abundant in fall. By doubling search efforts in the fall, we calculated that managers would improve detection as much as if they doubled efforts over the entire year.
Targeting is particularly important in multi-species surveys. Managers often look for multiple invasive species when they are sampling, but we concluded in our study that it’s much more efficient to target each species separately if they differ in when or where they are most abundant. And the greater the difference, the greater the benefit from sampling for them separately.
It also helps to identify locations that are vulnerable to invasion. If a manager is tasked with monitoring a dozen lakes, she could either spread effort equally among them or use information about what kinds of lakes the invader tends to invade to target vulnerable lakes. Focusing efforts on a smaller number of vulnerable lakes, instead of sampling all 12, might be enough to overcome the challenges of detecting species at low densities.
Detection is key to control
Invasive species cause enormous ecological and economic harm. As just one example, invasive insects do some US $13 billion in damage yearly to crops in the United States.
Our rules of thumb can help scientists and managers work smarter. Ultimately, though, the United States needs to invest much more in effective and comprehensive invasive species prevention efforts to prevent future ecological and economic harm by invasive species.
How corruption in forensic science is harming the criminal justice system
January 25, 2019
Author: Jessica S. Henry, Associate Professor, Department of Justice Studies at Montclair State University, Montclair State University
Disclosure statement: Jessica S. Henry does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Television crime dramas like “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and its many spin-offs have fostered the popular belief that forensic science, or the use of science to solve crimes, is infallible.
Yet, as forensic scandal after forensic scandal sweeps the nation, a competing truth has emerged. Forensic science is only as reliable as the people performing the tests. This means forensic science is vulnerable to distortions caused by corruption or misconduct.
The latest forensic scandal based on misconduct erupted in New Jersey in December 2018 in the context of drunk driving cases. Alcotest instruments are used in drunk driving cases throughout the country to determine whether a driver’s blood alcohol content is above the legal limit.
But it turns out that these tests needed testing themselves.
Sgt. Marc W. Dennis, a former coordinator in the New Jersey State Police’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Unit, was responsible for conducting twice-a-year tests to confirm the accuracy of the Alcotest machinery, and to recalibrate the machines where necessary. Dennis, however, did not perform the required calibrations and he falsely certified the accuracy of the machines in papers he filed with the state. Thousands of people in New Jersey were convicted based on the readings from these instruments.
As someone who teaches and writes and teaches about wrongful convictions, I know that misconduct by forensic scientists can lead to injustices. When scientists lie in the criminal justice system, innocent people suffer.
Misconduct in New Jersey and beyond
Once Dennis was criminally charged with official misconduct and tampering with public records, the New Jersey attorney general’s office notified the Administrative Office of the Courts that more than 20,000 breath samples were in question. Eileen Cassidy, who had plead guilty to driving under the influence in municipal court, moved to withdraw her guilty plea. The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to review the case and ordered an extensive hearing on Dennis’ failure to follow proper calibration procedures.
The New Jersey Supreme Court ultimately determined in a December 2018 opinion that the accuracy of those 20,000 breath tests results couldn’t be trusted.
That’s 20,000 cases that have to be reviewed, many of which will likely be dismissed.
But it’s not just in New Jersey. Around the nation, corruption and misconduct by forensic experts have led to the reversal of thousands of criminal convictions.
In Massachusetts, Annie Dookhan, a forensic lab scientist, was arrested in 2012 after admitting that she falsified drug tests in nearly 24,000 cases; most of the Dookhan convictions were eventually dismissed. Months later, in a different Massachusetts crime lab, Sonya Farak, a forensic scientist who both tested drugs and illegally used them, falsified lab results in thousands of cases; 11,000 convictions were dismissed after her misconduct was uncovered. Dookhan pleaded guilty to a range of crimes relating to the falsification of tests. She was sentenced to three to five years in prison. Farak also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
In Oregon, Nika Larsen altered drug evidence and stole controlled substances from her lab, requiring review of more than 2,500 cases.
In 2018, Ana Romero from El Paso, Texas, was accused of falsifying test results for alcohol samples, causing the wrongful conviction of 22 people.
John Salvador, a scientist who worked in a different lab in Texas, was accused of falsifying drug test results, impacting thousands of cases.
Lack of oversight
When the people in charge of forensic testing engage in misconduct, the integrity of the entire system is challenged. Our criminal justice system relies on forensic scientists to tell the truth, because laypeople rely on their testimony and lack the expertise to detect their lies. When the system goes awry, guilty people go free, innocent people are wrongly convicted, confidence in the criminal justice system is shaken, and taxpayers carry the significant financial burden of cleaning up the mess left behind.
There are plenty of reasons for forensic misconduct: Career advancement, laziness and greed are only part of the story. But there is also the reality that many crime labs lack proper oversight, and that it is rare for misconduct to be uncovered. In the scandals above, the science itself was not the issue – although the reliability of various forensic science techniques, from fingerprint matching to bite mark analysis have been challenged – but rather it was that so-called experts did not properly do their jobs.
And no one initially noticed.
The certification of scientists within crime labs varies widely, as do the levels of active supervision. In Massachusetts, for instance, Dookhan’s prodigious productivity went unchecked, even though the sheer volume of tests she claimed to have performed should have raised red flags, had anyone been looking. In New Jersey, Dennis’ failure to calibrate the Alocotest machines went undetected for years.
The absence of oversight in forensic science should be cause for alarm. In 2009, the U.S. National Research Council issued a scathing report calling into question forensic practices around the country. It noted the lack of accreditation for crimes labs and the need for certification of forensic scientists. It also called for crime labs to be removed from the purview of law enforcement agencies into independent entities to enable more objective testing outcomes. In a 2016 report, the U.S. President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology echoed these concerns and called for an independent oversight commission for forensic laboratories around the country.
Yet, in 2017, just as forensic reform was picking up momentum, then-U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions shut down the National Commission on Forensic Science. A national independent oversight board has yet to be created.
Misconduct may not ever be entirely preventable. But when life and liberty are on the line, as they are in every criminal case, I’d argue that states should be ever-diligent in adopting measures to identify and prevent forensic misconduct, and in ensuring reliability of forensic testing, analysis and results.