September 18th, 2015

Phosphorus: a cosmic lesson for a finite planet


by Thomas Vergunst


The tiny island state of Nauru, stranded halfway between Hawaii and Australia and spanning a mere 21km2, owes its existence to phosphorus. From an uninhabitable coral outcrop, Nauru formed as migrating birds with a propensity for depositing vast amounts of phosphorus rich guano used it as a resting place on their journey across this barren stretch of the Pacific. Over many millennia these birds helped to build up an island, which was miraculously chanced upon some 3,000 years ago by, one must assume, rather grateful seafaring Polynesians.

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June 26th, 2015

Can market forces alone create a circular economy?


by Thomas Vergunst


In recent years the circular economy has emerged as something of a new Holy Grail for the resource sector. The European Commission has joined the quest and we currently await its revised circular economy package. In the literature, one frequently comes across the argument that a transition to a circular economy will be inevitable as businesses respond to rising commodity prices and increased price volatility, driven by rising demand coupled with resource scarcity. This, it is claimed, will start to make the business case for the circular economy increasingly self-evident.

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August 15th, 2014

Has the circular economy killed the waste hierarchy?


by Thomas Vergunst


The concept causing the biggest stir in the resource sector at the moment is without doubt the circular economy. Every other conference and workshop appears to be attempting to untangle its various forms and guises, and understand how it might be implemented in practice. It isn’t unexpected that it should form the central theme of events such as the recent Resource conference in London or Brussels’ Green Week, but it was even on the agenda of the World Economic Forum at its annual meeting in Davos earlier this year.

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June 6th, 2014

WEEEfore art thou waste?

Fireworks and Phones

by Thomas Vergunst


A couple of New Year’s Eves ago I was in London, welcoming in 2013 with the city’s famous fireworks display. No doubt about it, the fireworks were impressive – what’s not impressive about burning £2 million on an event that only lasts a few minutes? – but I was more taken aback by the fact that almost every person present was watching the event through their phones: a mediated reality to try to capture the moment for eternity.

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April 11th, 2014

Does the nanny state have a role in changing nappies?

Nappy photo

by Thomas Vergunst


Some time ago I wrote an article on the merits of reusable nappies; to my surprise the piece proved to be rather popular on Isonomia and generated a whole string of comments on the site. It also stimulated some animated conversations – one friend challenged me as to:

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September 27th, 2013

Putting the boot in to fashion

Billy Super Hero

by Thomas Vergunst


I stand for being a super hero. What do you stand for?” Walking down the high street in my home town of Bristol, I was faced with this question – supposedly asked by somebody called ‘Billy’– writ large across the window of the Dr Martens store. As style-conscious Bristolian shoppers enjoy the Bristol Fashion Week festivities, I’d like them to reflect on what they stand for. Do they support the values the fashion industry embodies? And are they content to buy in to retailers’ attempts to sell us more things we don’t need? As consumers, is there something a little less nebulous to stand for than “being a super hero”?

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June 7th, 2013

Don’t throw in the towel – the case for reusable nappies

Washing Line

by Thomas Vergunst


I was recently speaking to my son’s great-grandmother about her experience of using nappies when her children were in diapers fifty-something years ago. She simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, I was one of the lucky ones — I had a washing machine by the time the first one arrived.”

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