What we learned this week

The conference Privilege on a Warming Planet: Climate Change, Racism and Patterns of Denial is coming up on Thursday and Friday next week, 23rd and 24th. I’ll be speaking about my book, and you’re welcome to join in online.

2020 was once again a record year for the number of environmental activists killed around the world. An average of four a week, according to Global Witness.

Siemens Gamesa announced something this week that I’ve been expecting for a while – a fully recycleable wind turbine blade. They’ve imaginatively called it the RecyclableBlade and it’s ready for commercial production.

17 of the 20 largest California wildfires have happened since the year 2000, point out Cal Fire in this striking graphic. 2020 and 2021 dominate the picture, and fire season isn’t over yet.

“The Whitehaven Colliery is never going to happen. But the fiasco has dragged on long enough to leave Britain with an excruciating diplomatic embarrassment” writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard for The Telegraph, in fine form on the stupidity of a new coal mine in the UK in 2021.

The many flavours of hydrogen

Last week I introduced a new series on hydrogen. It’s a gas with all kinds of possibilities for a new energy future, because it burns clean. But it has to be made, and how you make it matters. If it’s made with renewable energy, you’ve got yourself a legitimately clean fuel. If you’re making your…

Book review: Great Adaptations, by Morgan Phillips

Morgan Phillips is a director of The Glacier Trust, a charity working with communities affected by climate change in Nepal. In getting involved in that work, he says that he has been shocked at how little attention the environmental movement pays to the issue of adaptation. Climate adaptation is treated with caution because the movement…

Why it’s okay to fly for international climate talks

The communications charity Climate Outreach released some research recently about how the upcoming COP26 climate talks are perceived in the UK. They found that awareness of them is very low, but that when explained, people are supportive. They understand the stakes, and after the experience of COVID-19, there is a possibility that “a more global…


  1. I spent ~22 years working on polymer composite materials and structures, and I think recyclable fibre-reinforced polymers are a pretty significant breakthrough, if they work as suggested in Siemens’ publicity. It’s something the composites industry has struggled with for decades, without success. It would be very interesting to know about the resin they are using: it probably has big implications for much of the other 90% of European produced FRP waste.
    Having said that, it must be recognised that the applications for the recycled fabrics are much more limited, and without more information it’s not clear whether turbine recycling alone might over-saturate the market for those lower value (and perhaps lower volume) uses. And we don’t know what the environmental footprint is of the dissolved resin product.
    So, might be really significant, but would be really good if anyone knows where to find more technical information on the resin and the performance specificiations of recycled materials arising.

    1. Yes, the details of the process are probably under wraps, but there will be an environmental cost to it. Hopefully if it’s been designed as cradle to cradle, then the recyclate will go back to new turbines and will avoid market saturation for a low value product.

      1. Cradle to cradle would be highly desirable but i don’t think it’s possible here. It’s telling that they don’t specify that the fabric can go back into turbine blades: if they could do this, I think they’d be trumpeting it, but technically this will be difficult to impossible. Likewise the dissolved resin would take a lot of processing (including energy and other impacts) to turn back into usable resin, and i very much doubt if that will be practicable. It’s less cost and impact to use other feedstocks for new turbine-blade resin.
        These issues represent a key dilemma for composite materials with respect to Circular Economy. They do have key benefits and advantages for a sustainable future, but this aspect is a big and pretty intractable challenge. So, a significant step forwards, but plenty of difficulties remain.

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