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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: Africa’s plastic solutions, plus more positive news

Posted 25th February 2022 • Written by •

Some weeks we need positive news more than others. This is one of them. Highlights include Africa’s solutions to plastic pollution, the UK’s rebounding urban hedgehogs, and the dogs trained to save seabirds

An award showcased African solutions to plastic pollution

Entrepreneurs in Africa are finding novel solutions to plastic pollution, turning the stuff into house bricks (pictured), designer textiles, cooking fuel and more.

Such innovations are being celebrated by the Afri-Plastic Challenge, which announced its shortlist this week. The prize was launched to help entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa scale up their response to plastic pollution.

In the running for the £1m prize is a Nigerian project that turns plastic waste into designer textiles; a buy-back scheme in Kenya that helps women earn money through plastic recycling; and a Rwandan project that turns plastic waste into school benches. The prize will also offer dozens of grants up to £100,000 to startups with scalable ideas. 

“The solutions to Africa’s ever-increasing struggle with managing the rising tide of plastic pollution are already out there,” said Constance Agyeman, director of international development at Nesta Challenges, which launched the prize.

“The Afri-Plastics Challenge is supporting the most promising sub-Saharan African innovators to refine and scale local ideas to have impact on the continent.”

The UK government pledged to repeal the Vagrancy Act

Since the Vagrancy Act was passed in 1824, rough sleeping has been illegal in the UK, inflicting further hardship on homeless people. This week, the UK government finally committed to repealing the legislation. 

Matt Downie, chief executive of the homeless charity Crisis, said: “For almost two hundred years, the criminalisation of homelessness has shamed our society. But now, at long last, the Vagrancy Act’s days are numbered.

“This offensive law does nothing to tackle rough sleeping, only entrenching it further in our society by driving people further from support. We know there are better, more effective ways to help people overcome their homelessness.”

Money swooshed towards renewable in the US

The US has been late to the renewables party, with domestic investment in green energy lagging way behind other nations – but not for much longer. 

This week, the US held the largest auction of offshore wind development rights in the country’s history. The sale (for areas off the coast of New York and New Jersey) attracted a record $1.5bn (£1.1bn) in bids, representing a major vote of confidence in the US’s burgeoning green energy sector.

The expansion of offshore wind is the cornerstone of President Biden’s plan to decarbonise the country’s electricity grid by 2035. It can’t happen too soon: the US is the word’s second largest carbon emitter after China.  

There was hope for the UK’s hedgehogs

Their prickly figures used to be a common sight in the UK’s towns and cities, but hedgehogs have suffered huge declines in recent years. A report out this week suggests the tide could be turning. 

It found that hedgehog numbers were stabilising and even rising in some urban areas. The uplift follows various campaigns to get people to make their gardens more hedgehog friendly. 

The positive news was tempered by the picture from rural areas, where numbers are still believed to be plummeting. The study adds to a growing body of research highlighting the importance of urban areas in boosting biodiversity.

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