Ocean clean-up halted as plastic waste project hits new snag

A Dutch project to clear plastic waste out of the Pacific ocean has had a second setback in a month - this time, one of the end parts of the boom used to catch rubbish has broken off. This 'structural malfunctioning of the cleanup system' means the team is returning to port earlier than planned, the project founder Boyan Slat said on the organisation's website. The 18 metre piece of the boom which has fractured off contains sensors and satellite communication systems. 'We are, of course, quite bummed about this as we hoped to stay out for a bit longer to collect more data on plastic-system interaction, and it introduces an additional challenge to be solved,' Slat said. The boom is now being towed back to Hawaii for repairs. System 001 has been safely opened and reconnected to the Maersk Transporter. 116 days after launching from San Francisco, the tow back to Hawaii for upgrade and repair has begun. Operations will resume as soon as possible. https://t.co/7H7V6YgvN5 — The Ocean Cleanup (@TheOceanCleanup) January 3, 2019 In early December it emerged that the plastic catcher, a 600 metre floating tube with a skirt attached to sweep up the plastic debris, was not moving fast enough to be able to hold on to the plastic. However, the problem is 'fixable', Slat said at the time. 'Although we would have liked to end the year on a more positive note, we believe these teething troubles are solvable, and the cleanup of the great Pacific garbage patch will be operational in 2019,' he said.  More >

A frosty weekend and snow on Tuesday

After a sunny but cold weekend, snow is set to hit the Netherlands on Tuesday, weather forecasters say. The KNMI weather bureau says it is 90% certain that snow will fall on Tuesday and possibly on Wednesday and Thursday as well. This weekend will be dry, with frost at night and daytime temperatures no higher than three degrees. The north east is likely to be the chilliest and the temperature could plunge to -8 degrees on Saturday night. The KNMI's long-term forecast says there is a 60% chance of continuing cold and changeable weather, with a 50% of wintry showers heading into February. Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Dutch skating union KNSB says the organisation is ready to swing into action if it freezes enough for outdoor skating on natural ice. A marathon race can take place on outdoor rinks as soon as the ice reaches three centimetres thick. Five villages are competing this year to hold the first ice marathon, the KNSB said. Haaksbergen in Twente had the honours last year. Ice marathons have their origins in the long distances skated outdoors during spells of hard frost, which have become increasingly rare in recent years. Marathons became a serious sport in the 1970s. The current races cover distances of up to 200 kilometres. Seven things you need to know about skating in the Netherlands  More >

Higher bills, but we have more to spend

Grocery shopping may be more expensive, health insurance premiums have gone up and energy bills are higher, but most people do have more disposable income in 2019, according to family spending institute Nibud. Nibud has studied pay slips relating to 100 common personal situations and found that in 96 of cases, people have more cash left over after paying their bills. 'But we are talking about 1%, or some €20 a month in some cases,' director Arjan Vliegenthart said. Nibud has developed an online tool where people can check the impact of the various tax changes on their disposable income. Comparison website Pricewise also published its calculations for the rise in household bills on Friday. It says families face an average increase of €600 a year in their bills for energy, internet, television and insurance. Single people face a €400 rise, Pricewise said. Among the extra costs facing consumers: energy bills are up 17% and car insurance 10%, the website said.  More >

Deported journalist may have forged papers

The Dutch journalist deported by Turkey on security grounds is suspected of falsifying paperwork, sources have told television current affairs show Nieuwsuur. Ans Boersma arrived back in the Netherlands on Thursday after being picked up when she went to renew her residency permit. A spokesman for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the deportation followed information from the Netherlands that Boersma had links to terrorist group Jabhat al-Nusra. The Dutch public prosecution department later went public, saying that her name had come up in a criminal investigation relating to terrorism but that Boersma was not suspected of any terrorist activity. Boersma herself said on the Financieele Dagblad website that her deportation may relate to the fact that ‘up to summer 2015’ she had a relationship with a Syrian national who was arrested in the Netherlands last autumn because of his former membership of the Syrian terrorist organisation Jabhat al-Nusra. Various media outlets now report that this is the Syrian national spotted by activists attending a film at the Balie centre in Amsterdam in 2017 and who was arrested last October on terrorism charges. Residence permit The public prosecution department says they consider it likely the 32-year-old was active for Islamic terror group Jabhat al-Nusra before coming to the Netherlands. He was given a temporary residency permit in 2014. One source told Nieuwsuur Boersma is suspected of helping the man, whom she likely met in Turkey in 2013 or 2014, to get a visa for the Netherlands and that forgery is thought to be involved. Boersma herself has not commented further on the case. The man, who goes by the name Aziz, told the Volkskrant at the end of 2017 he had never had anything to do with IS.  More >

Two in five Dutch are eating less meat

The Dutch are eating less meat, with two in five people saying they cut down on steak and burgers last year, according to research by website Nu.nl. Around one third of the 20,000 people polled said they ate meat every day, while one in 10 is vegetarian and 7% fully vegan. Some 90% of vegetarians and vegans said animal welfare issues were the main reason for giving up meat. The environment was the main reason cited by meat eaters who had reduced their consumption, but around 50% also mentioned animal welfare. A quarter of the vegetarians in the survey had given up meat at least 20 years ago, but around a quarter 'converted' in 2017 or 2018, Nu.nl said. Last month, broadcaster NOS reported that the Dutch are buying more vegetarian hamburgers, chicken nuggets and other meat substitutes but meat is still king. According to data analyst group IRI, meat substitutes are becoming more popular but still only represent a fraction of what is spent on meat. In the first 11 months of 2018, some €2bn was spent on meat products, compared with €97m on replacements. The first ‘national week without meat’ in the Netherlands was held last March. During that week spending on substitutes shot up by 50%, partly because supermarkets had offers on to promote the products, NOS said.  More >