Monthly Archives: August 2017

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A team of UNSW researchers is trying to find ways to cool our concrete jungles down before they eventually become uninhabitable.

Nowhere is this more important than in areas such as western Sydney, where devoid of the ocean breezes that usually cool the coastal fringe, the city’s western half suffers from the urban heat island effect, thanks to building materials absorbing more of the sun’s energy, waste heat from car engines and air conditioners all conspiring to heat up the temperature.

Photo: article supplied

And this is not just a Sydney problem – over 500 cities across the globe are currently dealing with this problem.

“Urban heat islands are the most documented phenomenon of climate change,” says UNSW Built Environment’s Professor of High Performance Architecture, Mat Santamouris, who has spent the past 15 years mapping urban heat islands in 200 cities, including a collaboration with the European Union that led to the first complete study of urban heat islands in European cities.

“If we can’t find a way to make our cities cooler, they will eventually become uninhabitable,” he says. “It’s hard to remember that kind of heat when we’re in the middle of winter, but last summer the temperature in Penrith was above 40 degrees celsius for about 20 days, reaching even 46 degrees celsius.”

A significant portion of this research involves finding heat-mitigation technologies to help cool our cities such as the use of shading, cool roofs and new-generation, pavements that absorb less solar radiation and green roofs.

“The goal now is to develop heat mitigation solutions capable of reducing urban temperatures by five degrees, and in the case of western Sydney, it needs to be by seven degrees,” he says.

This was originally published by Architecture and Design.

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The global population is growing at a rapid rate and the way we live is likely to change.

The global population is tipped to surge 24 per cent by 2050, from 7.5 billion to 9.8 billion.

According to IKEA’S latest sustainability report, People and Planet Positive 2017, the ageing population is one of the reasons for the rapid growth.

According to the report, 22 per cent of the world will be aged over 60 by 2050, up from 11 per cent recorded in 2012.

New Report Predicts How Our Lives Will Change in 2050

Photo: article supplied

It will be the first time in human history that the elderly population outnumbers the youth.

According to the report, more than 60 per cent of Australians aren’t ready for an increased population and almost 70 per cent believed Australia was not prepared as a nation.

The report made some predictions about how drastically the country will have to change to be able to cope.

There’ll be new cities

To cope with the growing population, the report said Australia would need to create a number of new cities as people will start flocking to cities from regional areas.

According to the UN, 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.

Simon Caspersen, from future-living innovation lab SPACE10, said to handle a 9.3 billion population over the next 40 years, there’d need to be new cities established quickly.

“To put it into perspective, that’s around six new cities for six million people every month,” he said.

“With urbanisation accelerating, there will be increasing pressure on natural resources like water, air, energy and food.

“This means the built environment needs to incorporate elements like spaces to grow food, systems to recycle waste and water, natural cooling and heating mechanisms and design that facilitates all of this.”

Everyone will have housemates

IKEA sustainability manager Kate Ringvall told urbanisation was a key trend that would affect the way we lived in the future.

“A likely scenario, we believe that the future will be more about ‘co-living’ — a shared economy where we make do with less space, surrounded by more people.

“From a retail perspective, we will continue to adapt our home furnishings to suit these future spaces. We expect to see smaller spaces, with clever storage solutions, greener spaces in our environments — inside and out — and home furnishings solutions which will be better for people and the planet.

SPACE10’s Xuan Teo said in the report co-living was the way of the future.

“The rise of the so-called sharing economy, coupled with the planet’s rapidly depleting resources and fast-growing population, is forcing us to rethink the concept of ownership and sharing in our everyday lives, including in housing,” he said.

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Connected, healthy, smart and affordable: these are the four factors that emerged as the most important to making our cities liveable, according to a survey of more than 2500 residents we released this week.

Stockland’s Liveability Index, now in its sixth year, captures the experiences of more than 40 communities across 20 local government areas. It offers insights for governments as they ramp up their efforts to deliver solutions to the challenges — and opportunities — posed by the growth of metropolitan centres.

The release of this research is timely, with the federal government’s Cities References Group continuing its work in partnership with industry to ensure we get this growth right.

walkable cities

Photo: article supplied

As the chairman of that group, Assistant Minister for Cities Angus Taylor told The Australian only last month: “If we can’t measure it, we can’t improve it.”

Liveability is something we must continue to measure and improve.

Far from being an abstract concept, livability is a tangible element critical to the success of both new and established communities. This is because of the flow-on social and economic effects it has on individuals and communities.

Obesity, for example, is one of the most significant challenges in relation to the liveability of Australian cities.

Aside from the personal and community toll, PwC estimated in 2015 that obesity and its related health effects would cost the Australian economy more than $87 billion in the next decade.

Simple measures in planning, designing and encouraging activity in communities significantly lower obesity rates.

This article was originally published by The Australian.

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Australia’s recycling sector is primed for continued growth. It must in order to keep up with waste generation, which is growing at a compound annual rate of 6.2%, that is 6x population growth and 2.5x economic growth. The market is there, and it is being serviced through a combination of regulatory intervention and technological innovation.

Mike Ritchie

Regulators are creating the setting for improved recycling through two simple steps: introducing high landfill levies to make dumping waste in landfill expensive (and increasingly more expensive than recycling), and reinvesting part of the funds raised into recycling infrastructure. Those two measures are staggeringly effective in driving recycling.

Contrast NSW, the lead state in terms of levies and reinvestment, with Queensland, that lags behind. NSW has high levies at $135.70/t, which enables the state to invest $465.7m to the Waste Less, Recycle More program over its first four years. With recycling rates in 2012/13 of more than 55% for MSW, and more than 60% for C&I, NSW recycling rates are high. They are showing steadying improvement, increasing from around 50% and 55% respectively in 2010/11. Queensland has no levies, no real investment in recycling, and its recovery rates are among the worst in Australia (30% for MSW and 40% for C&I in 2014/15). NSW has a vibrant and diverse waste economy, whereas Queensland relies more and more on landfill.

Regulators play a vital role in improving the economics for recycling. High landfill levies make it in everybody’s interest to reduce waste to landfill and therefore help plant the seed for investment in new technologies. This spawns innovation, both in waste processing technology, but also in technology to reduce and recycle materials before they become waste.

Technologies for the processing of waste are becoming increasingly mature. We are seeing more and more composting plants for source separated and mixed waste, coupled with anaerobic digestion plants generating biogas from clean organic waste. It is becoming increasingly common to sort C&I through “dirty MRFs”.

At the generation side, new weighing systems enable weight based charging for skip bins. This encourages business to recycle waste, and can lead to 30-40% reductions in waste generation.

The future for recycling is bright. Recycling is a key contributor to the green economy, creating jobs and local resilience. The future for recycling is helped by the improved economics fostered by high landfill levies and reinvestment into recycling infrastructure.

For more information on this and other resource recovery related topics, please visit ‘The Tipping Point’, MRA’s blog on all things waste.

Article supplied by Mike Ritchie

MRA Consulting – Company profile

MRA Consulting is Australia’s best small consultancy in recycling, waste and carbon (Inside Waste 2013, 14, 15 and 16). MRA provides services to large and small business and all levels of government. The MRA team includes engineers, planners, economists, lawyers and scientists.


  • Is a national leader in carbon reporting, compliance, planning, approvals and project development.
  • Develops strategies for technology providers, Councils and businesses.
  • Delivers tailored commercial advice including economic modelling, market studies and market entry.
  • Provides comprehensive education and consultation services.
  • Has a comprehensive audit and waste assessment program.

MRA is based at Drummoyne in the inner west of Sydney and has offices in Melbourne and Perth.

Mike Ritchie is the Director of MRA. Contact him at