Thousands of angered villagers protested in the northern Chinese province of Hebei on 3 May after a leak at a chemical plant called Hebei Xingfei Chemical Co. factory near Xingtai city releases toxic gases into the air. Residents of several villages near the site reported vomiting and fainting, while thousands have gathered outside the factory gates, blocking the road and demanding the plant's relocation for the past few days. Local officials have called on protesters to wait for environmental tests to be completed before they take a decision about how to deal with the factory.
The yearlong ban on logging across all of Myanmar since April 2016 was lifted at the end of March 2017, and now the Myanmar government says it is on its way to bringing verifiably legal timber to the international market. Although a number of illegal activities were prevented by the government, illegal logging continued during the ban due to insufficiently collaboration. International buyers and local NGOs are concerned that Myanmar is not doing enough to keep its forests safe.
A major fire broke out at a printing ink manufacturing factory in Athipet near Ambattur Industrial Estate in India on 23 April. As the factory contained a large stock of chemicals, the raw material for manufacturing ink, the fire and rescue services personnel found it difficult to immediately douse the fire. The fire was brought under control after more than three hours of struggle.
Two former subcontractors allege they were exploited and underpaid while working at an Aldi warehouse in Brisbane for a period of five weeks 18 months ago. These two staff were hired through recruitment agency, and were made to work excessive overtime with flat rate. They were also told to stay in accommodation at Chermside (in Brisbane’s north) and were picked up and driven to the site, and all accommodation and travel costs would be taken out of their pay. ALDI says it is investigating the allegations.
Zambian government has announced a ban on all “In Transit” timber within the country. 17 species of timber have been specified within the official Statutory Instrument, with the most notable inclusions pertaining to Pterocarpus chrysothrix (mukula)—a threatened species most commonly sourced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The decision addresses ongoing international concerns that the country is being exploited by smuggling networks to transport timber to lucrative markets overseas, with primary destinations including China and Vietnam.
An unannounced inspection by officials from China’s top environment watchdog at a factory in eastern China ended with an unexpected turn of events for all involved, as inspectors were obstructed from performing their duties and later blocked from leaving. The incident happened at a furnace maker in Jinan City, Shandong province, called Shandong Lüjie Environmental Protection Energy Saving Technology Co. Ltd. The manager identified had stopped the team from doing their work, citing “problematic” government identification cards, according to a statement on the Weibo microblog of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP).
Greenpeace is campaigning for a ban on phthalates in toys marketed in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) countries of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. Phthalates is a family of toxic, synthetic, high production volume industrial chemicals used mostly to make plastics softer and more flexible. (Relevant story: NRDC and Scientists Urge CPSC to Finalize Phthalate Bans)
Turkey's customs and trade ministry has amended the recently adopted Regulation on toy safety. The most significant change is a large reduction of the metal content in toys. The Regulation now provides an exemption for nickel used in toys, or their components, made of stainless steel that are intended to conduct an electric current. The amendments also comprise specific limit values for certain substances in toys intended for children under 36 months and in other toys intended to be placed in the mouth.
The UK parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has just published its Human Rights and Business 2017 report calling for “stronger legislation, stronger enforcement and clearer routes to justice” to protect workers’ human rights. ETI gave written and oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights for the report – and helped facilitate the committee’s visits to Turkish and Leicester garment supply chains, which were used as case studies.
The OECD has launched version four of its Qsar Toolbox, with some features designed specifically for companies looking to register substances under REACH ahead of the 2018 deadline. Echa head Geert Dancet used the agency's stakeholders day to remind companies planning to register substances under next year's deadline that they must pre-register their substances by 31 May this year.
Many tropical forests around the world have been severely fragmented as human disturbance split once-contiguous forests into pieces. Previous research indicates trees on the edges of these fragments have higher mortality rates than trees growing in the interiors of forests. Researchers used satellite data and analysis software they developed to figure out how many forest fragments there are, and the extent of their edges. They discovered that there are around 50 million tropical forest fragments in the world today. When they calculated how much carbon is being released from tree death at these edges, they found a 31% increase from current tropical deforestation estimates.
China has completely banned the felling of natural forests for commercial purposes, according to the State Forestry Administration (SFA). China had previously made a three-step plan to phase out deforestation, starting with the worst deforested areas and setting the end of 2017 as the deadline for a complete national halt on deforestation. China will step up efforts to plan and establish 20 national forest reserves in seven key areas, in hopes of reducing the country's dependence on timber imports to less than 30 percent by 2030.
FSC in Brazil is now working with BVRio, the organization that set up the Responsible Timber Exchange in late 2016. BVRio pulls together data on the pricing, supply chain and certification of timber and wood products through its Responsible Timber Exchange. Since opening in November 2016, the exchange has fielded more than 400 offers for 5 million cubic meters of timber, 30% of which was FSC-certified. The partnership with FSC is aimed at bolstering the market for certified forest products.
A study shows that recycled plastics from electrical and electronic goods used in toy manufacturing which contains brominated flame retardants is putting the health of children exposed to them at risk. Brominated flame-retarding chemicals have been associated with lower mental, psychomotor and IQ development, poorer attention spans and decreases in memory and processing speed. In February EU restrict the use of one such substance, DecaBDE, but also allowed exemptions. Meanwhile, the substances may still be found in imported products that have been recycled in countries like China, which means buying something on the market because the company likes the design then they may bring products into the EU that contain substances that are not allowed.
Another seven toxic substances may be added to the REACH chemicals regime authorisation list under plans drawn up by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Consultation on the list, which heralds a significant expansion of annex XIV to REACH, began on 2 March. These seven substances are karanal, 1-methyl-2-pyrrolidone, four related phenolic benzotriazoles (UV-328, UV-327, UV-350 and UV-320) and a family of phthalic acid esters which could be used in adhesives. ECHA is seeking comment on the substances’ uses, proposed transitional arrangements, possible exemptions from authorisation and information on supply chains until 2 June. A final decision on the proposals will be taken by the European Commission.
The Co-op has announced to offer jobs to victims of the modern slave trade as part of a new scheme. The group has teamed up with charity City Hearts, which offers support and accommodation to vulnerable people, to provide 30 survivors of modern slavery with paid work experience in its food business. Following the placement, the survivors will be given a non-competitive interview and, if it is successful and a position is vacant, be offered a job.
China's food packaging regulations, announced in November 2016, will take effect on 19 October this year. Violations can result in fines of 20 times the commodity value for manufacturers or importers using unapproved materials, and up to ten times the value for food producers or operators using non-compliant products. However, the clearances for food contact materials (FCMs) could be very different from the substances approved in the EU – many substances currently permitted in the US and Europe are not yet cleared under the Chinese system.
Hivos and Greenpeace Netherlands, together with indigenous groups from the Amazon rainforest, are launching a new campaign against deforestation called ‘All eyes on the Amazon’. Studies show that indigenous communities living in rainforests are crucial to the sustainable protection of these areas. This programme will aim to give indigenous communities the tools, knowledge and contacts to combat deforestation. It will also use satellite technology and drone photography to give indigenous groups evidence of the deforestation that is occurring.
H&M is planning to have elected committees and proper pay structures for workers in its main supply factories across the world by 2018 in a bid to curb labour exploitation. By setting up these goals, the company is planning to work with its main suppliers to ensure wages for its 1.6 million garment workers are enough to afford a decent living and enable workers to raise their voices in a meaningful way with management by implementing capacity building programmes.
A report by WWF and ISEAL has stated that standards for supply chains and businesses can help accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while delivering direct benefits for companies and small-scale producers. These benefits can include minimising risk, efficiency gains, and improved transparency throughout the supply chain.