No burning rubber here: plastic road opens in Zwolle

They call it re-cycling. The municipality of Zwolle today opens a trial 30m stretch of bike path made from reused plastic, in a project that hopes to speed up road building and give old bottles a second life. The PlasticRoad, made “from as much recycled plastic as possible” has been created by the businesses KWS, plastic pipe maker Wavin and Total oil and gas group and the pilot is being supported by Zwolle. The designers hope that the prefabricated road structure will be able to help prevent flooding, with a special hollow to hold water or carry cables, and last three times longer than traditional road structures. KWS announced the concept in 2015, with inventor Simon Jorritsma saying: “You see a bottle; we see a road.” A second trial road will be built in November in Overijssel province, reports the Telegraaf.  More >

Bio-kerosene plant may open in NL

The Netherlands is on the verge of getting its first factory to produce bio-kerosene, an alternative fuel to tradition kerosene and made out of biomass, the AD said on Tuesday. A location for the plant has not yet been confirmed but Groningen is on the shortlist, the paper said. The plans have been confirmed by Maarten van Dijk, director of SkyNRG, which will build the factory. 'We are in the last phase of selecting the location and suppliers. I think that we will be able to reveal more at the end of this year or beginning of the next,' he told the paper. Rotterdam and Amsterdam are being considered as alternative locations. Airline KLM is a important shareholder in SkyNRG and has also confirmed that plans for the factory are being made. The airline currently imports bio-kerosine from Los Angeles and it uses the fuel mainly on its fights to the American east coast. The AD says there are no other bio-kerosines plants in north-west Europe and that the investment will create a large number of jobs. Pollution Passenger air traffic is currently responsible for between 2% and 3% of global carbon-dioxide emissions, but in the Netherlands, the figure is 7%, the AD said. Bio-kerosine is made from leftovers from the timber and agricultural industries, as well as the food processing industry. Wageningen University said earlier this year that bio-kerosene is a potentially important option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the aviation sector. However, the price is two to three times that of ordinary kerosene and 'the direct and indirect effects... on the aviation sector and the Dutch economy as a whole depend to a large extent on how the additional costs of biokerosene will be funded,' University researchers said.  More >

Amsterdam alderman fed up with Airbnb

Amsterdam's housing alderman Laurence Ivens has accused online holiday rentals company Airbnb of not doing enough to combat illegal letting and has threatened not to renew an agreement the city has had with the platform since 2013. Some 20,000 homes were on offer on the rental site this year, a rise of 500 on 2017, despite council efforts to bring holiday rentals under control. The city's agreement with Airbnb on stamping out illegal rentals expires at the end of this year, and Ivens says the American company must do more. Research by local broadcaster AT5 showed that it is still easy for people living in rent-controlled properties to put their homes up for hire by tourists, even though this is illegal. Nor does Airbnb stop people from renting out their homes for three times the permitted 60 days a year by posting their ad multiple times, the documentary claims. The only way officials can check if the law is being broken is to send out inspectors, Ivens said. This is time-consuming and not effective because it needs to be repeated day in, day out, Ivens said. He is now going to increase the number of inspectors to 80. Amsterdam home owners can rent out their property through holiday rental platforms for no more than 60 days a year and to no more than four people at one time. Landlords also have to register each let with the city council. Next January the maximum period for rentals will be cut to 30 days and officials are also looking at bringing in total bans in the busiest parts of the city. Fines People caught breaking the rules can be fined €6,000 for a first offence, mounting to €20,000 for repeated illegal rentals. City officials handed out 148 fines in the first six months of this year and closed 61 apartments which were being rented out illegally to too many people. Laurens told AT5 that he is happy to sit with Airbnb to work out a new deal. 'I am happy to meet them and see if we can come up with a tighter deal, and it is up to them if they want to serve the city,' he said. 'But I am not going to continue like this,' Ivens told the broadcaster. Amsterdam signed its first pioneering agreement on limiting rentals with Airbnb in 2014. has approached Airbnb for comment.  More >

Ocean Cleanup on trial in the Pacific

Pacific Ocean trials of a young Dutch inventor's system to clear plastic waste from the seas started this weekend, 240 nautical miles offshore from San Fransisco. The system, devised by 24-year-old Boyan Slat while he was a student at Delft University, consists of a 600 metre-long floating curved boom which collects and holds waste until it can be collected. The boom has a three metre skirt attached underneath it to catch waste floating just below the surface. The start of the full sea trial follows hundreds of scale-model tests, a series of prototypes, research expeditions and trials involving a shorter boom in the North Sea. If the two-week trial is successful, the boom will be towed towards what has become know as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, 1,200 nautical miles offshore to start the clean up. 'Today’s launch is an important milestone, but the real celebration will come once the first plastic returns to shore. For 60 years, mankind has been putting plastic into the oceans; from that day onwards, we’re taking it back out again,' Slat said in a statement on Saturday. Crowdfunding Slat raised the first $2m to to fund his ambitious plan via crowdfunding in 2014. Today the OceanCleanup has a staff of 70 and counts Dutch marine services group Boskalis and Denmark's shipping giant Maersk among its backers. If the current trial is successful, and if the funding is available, The Ocean Cleanup aims to scale up to a fleet of approximately 60 systems focused on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch over the next two years. 'The system is designed to be propelled by wind and waves, allowing it to passively catch and concentrate plastic debris in front of it,'  the organisation says. 'Moving slightly faster than the plastic, the system will act like a giant Pac-Man, skimming the surface of the ocean.' The Ocean Cleanup projects that the full fleet can remove half of the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch within five years’ time.  More >

Salt mining under scrutiny

Salt mining in the Netherlands is causing subsidence, earthquakes which damage homes and leaks of diesel oil and brine which may threaten groundwater, experts have told MPs at a hearing, the NRC reports. The main areas for salt mining are in Twente and Friesland where companies AkzoNobel, NedMag and Frisia are active. The three together mined some seven million tonnes of salt in 2017. Protests by the local population and local authorities have put salt mining on the political agenda with the most recent hearing on September 12. The problems caused by salt mining are similar to those caused by gas extraction, including the lack of trust in the government and a sluggish compensation policy from companies, the paper says. Two of the companies are already under stricter scrutiny. Mining watchdog SodM has banned future salt mining by NedMag in Veendam where soil subsidence has been much worse than expected. AkzoNobel’s activities have led to various leaks which are currently investigated by the public prosecutor, the paper said. Profit over safety At last Wednesday’s hearing soil expert Adriaan Houtenbos told MPs that salt mining caused four caverns to collapse, seven leaks of diesel or brine and four salt mining related earthquakes in the last ten years. Houtenbos, a former employee of gas production company NAM, said that ‘as with gas extraction, incidents are occurring that seemed impossible. There has been a lot of supposition and there is little know-how and companies are focused more on financial gain than safety,’ the paper quotes him as saying. A complicating factor is that the salt mining is often done in conjunction with gas extraction, putting the onus on the locals to determine which of the two is responsible for the damage to their homes. This is ‘a difficult task, to put it mildly’, the NRC writes. Not so bad Mining company representatives at the hearing said the soil subsidence risks could be limited by proper management of groundwater levels and that the damage to housing was not ‘so bad’. There was, however, support for an independent body to look at the claims. According to Bart Overbeek of environmental organisation Vereniging Behoud Twekkelo the question is whether companies will pay up for damage done in the long term. He also said the government should take a critical look at its own role. ‘How can a government have an independent view of salt mining when they have a stake in it. The state is using the empty salt caverns to store strategic oil reserves. You can imagine the conspiracy theories that are doing the rounds in our region,’ the NRC quotes him as saying.  More >