A study revealed how rewilding could help halt extinctions, the world’s largest furniture chain made a circular pledge and notice was served on ‘thuggish’ debt letters, plus more positive news

Ikea embraced circular economics

The world’s largest furniture brand announced this week that it will buy used goods from customers as part of a drive to become more sustainable.

Ikea’s ‘buy back’ scheme will launch on Black Friday (27 November) and will offer customers up to 50 per cent of the original value of their unwanted items in the form of vouchers. The move follows last month’s announcement that the company will open its first secondhand shop in Stockholm this year.

“The climate crisis requires us all to radically rethink our consumption habits,” said Pia Heidenmark Cook, chief sustainability officer at Ingka Group, Ikea’s holding company.

Image: Ingka Group

Positive news: ‘Thuggish’ debt letters put on notice

‘Thuggish’ debt letters put on notice

The UK government agreed this week to change an old law that compels money lenders to send “thuggish” debt letters containing opaque legal language and block capitals. It follows a campaign by the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute.

Lenders will be required to make debt default letters easier to understand and less intimidating. Borrowers will also have to be told about where they can obtain free debt advice.

“[These] changes will make the most distressing debt letters much less intimidating,” said Martin Lewis, founder of the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute. “And crucially will also easily and calmly point people in serious debt to get the free, non-profit debt advice they need.”

Image: Colin Watts

Positive news: Ethnicity pay gap in England and Wales at lowest recorded level

Ethnicity pay gap in England and Wales at lowest recorded level

The pay gap between white and ethnic minority employees in England and Wales is at its narrowest level since records began in 2012, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed this week.

The median hourly pay for white workers in 2019 was £12.40 per hour, compared with £12.11 per hour for ethnic minority employees – a gap of 2.3 per cent. By way of contrast, the largest gap was in 2014 at 8.4 per cent.

Most minority ethnic groups analysed by the ONS earned less per hour than white British employees; Chinese, white Irish and Indian ethnic groups earned more. But the pay gap only tells part of the story, according to race equality thinktank the Runnymede Trust, which says ethnic minorities are around twice as likely to be unemployed as their white British peers.

Image: Mimi Thian

Positive news: Violent crime fell again in the US in 2019

US violent crime rate fell again in 2019

Violent crime rates in the US fell for the third consecutive year in 2019, according to figures released by the US Justice Department.

Following decreases of 0.7 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively in 2017 and 2018, the country’s violent crime rate fell by an additional one per cent in 2019, while the property crime rate decreased by 4.5 per cent.

The FBI attributed the falls to initiatives like Project Safe Neighborhoods and Project Guardian, which target gun and gang violence in crime hotspots.

Image: David von Diemar

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Positive news: Mass extinction could be prevented by rewilding, a report found

Mass extinction could be prevented by rewilding, a report found

Rewilding a third of the Earth’s most degraded landscapes could prevent around 70 per cent of predicted extinctions from happening and sequester around half of the additional CO2 pumped out by humanity since the Industrial Revolution.

That’s according to a report, published in the journal Nature, which identified key areas where interventions would be most effective. There were opportunities for effective rewilding on every continent.

“We were surprised by the magnitude of what we found – the huge difference that restoration can make,” Bernardo Strassburg, the report’s lead author, told the Guardian. “Most of the priority areas are concentrated in developing countries, which can be a challenge but also means they are often more cost-effective to restore.”

Image: Arnaud Mesureur

Positive news: Greener play areas found to boost children’s immune system

Greener play areas found to boost children’s immune system

The ecological benefits of planting trees have been well documented, but a study conducted in Finland suggests doing so could also benefit children’s immune systems.

Researchers transformed four children’s playgrounds from gravel yards into mini forests to see how this affected their immune systems. Blood samples reportedly showed positive changes to cells and proteins related to the immune system, including cytokine and T cells.

The researchers said their study showed it might be possible to boost the immune system with simple changes to our environment. However, with just 75 children in the study, further research is needed.

Image: Janko Ferlic

Positive news: UK to investigate whether musicians are paid fairly

UK to investigate whether musicians are paid fairly

Offering unfettered access to millions of songs for around £9.99 a month, the economics of music streaming platforms have long been questioned – with many bands admitting they make a pittance from services like Spotify and Apple Music.

Now MPs in the UK are to launch an investigation to find out whether artists are being paid fairly. Julian Knight MP, who will head the investigation, said the growth of the streaming market “cannot come at the expense of talented and lesser-known artists”.

News of the inquiry, set to launch in November, was welcomed by the Musicians’ Union, which launched a petition calling for the review.

Image: Gabriel Gurrola

Positive news: UK supermarkets ditch Christmas glitter

UK supermarkets ditch Christmas glitter

Two UK supermarkets pledged this week to stop using glitter on their own-label Christmas products, after the sparkly plastic was identified as pernicious to wildlife.

Morrisons and Waitrose said they would avoid using glitter in their Christmas ranges this year. It follows a similar move by Tesco, which has pledged to use only edible glitter.

With up to 12m tonnes of plastic estimated to enter the world’s oceans annually, retailers are under increasing pressure to reduce single-use plastic packaging.

Image: Sharon Mccutcheon


Main image: Nikola Jovanovic

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