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Time to tackle plastic

I get asked frequently, why do you care so much about the oceans?  What does your job in technology have to do with ocean health. Turns out a lot, says DAVID LEAR, Vice President of Corporate Sustainability, Dell.

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A healthy world ocean is critical to our survival – this magnificent body of water flows over nearly three-quarters of the planet, holds 97% of our water and produces more than half of the oxygen in the atmosphere. It impacts all of us, the health of our families, our communities and our businesses. However, despite commitments from governments, vocal campaigns with celebrity endorsement and a lot of people talking about the issue, our oceans are still in danger.

Each year, more than eight million tons of plastic enter the ocean, over time breaking into trillions of microplastic particles, which only leave the ocean when they are ingested by sea life and enter the human food chain (the average seafood eater consumes 11,000 plastic particles per year). Ocean plastics impact the environment, human health and, ultimately, are threat to the future of our planet – making it an issue that everyone should care about.

Where do we start to tackle the plastic problem?

Any attempt to reduce plastic waste, be it on an individual or organisational level, is a step in the right direction. Campaigns like #StopSucking or The Last Straw are fantastic gateways to highlighting plastic pollution; raising awareness and starting to educate a wider audience. However, a key theme that came to light at a recent roundtable held by Dell and Lonely Whale, was that whilst there has been a lot of research into the ocean plastic problem, not enough is actually being done right now to tackle the problem.

On an individual level, the advice for preventing plastic pollution is straightforward – do your part and be smart in everyday actions and we can all make a difference. The roundtable discussion, which included representatives from CIEL, Common Seas, World Resources Institute and Interface showed that whilst individual impacts matter, alone they aren’t enough.

Instead, we need governments, businesses and NGO’s to be held accountable and make commitments to remove the plastic that is already in the ocean, prevent more from entering and make sustainable decisions that limits plastic production. 

Actions speak louder than words

When speaking at the recent roundtable, Kristian Teleki, Director of the Sustainable Ocean Initiative at World Resources Institute noted that there are notable new levels of interest in plastic pollution in the public, political and private spheres. As such, there is now a clear end goal to decouple waste generation from economic growth.

Until that happens, governments around the world have made commitments to address the plastic problem. It is, however, important to note that there is no one size fits all solution; what works in France might not work in Egypt, and we need to consider that there are different starting points for each country. Each government need to invest in individual infrastructures which allow for waste solutions that can scale at a speed which meets the problem at hand.

This is a daunting task and the improvements to infrastructure that needs to occur isn’t going to happen overnight. It is unsurprising, therefore, that we are increasingly seeing governments pull out of sustainability agreements, face a lack of accountability, or simply just promise to make changes but not actually take any action.

Be it due to an absence of investment in infrastructure or poor visibility into a country’s waste disposal or recycling system, governments across the globe are failing to offer sufficient waste management solutions.  As such, it is up to businesses to take the lead in plastic innovation and reducing waste in our oceans.

Pledges that keep plastics in the economy 

There may be no way to reverse the ocean plastics damage to date, however, there is an opportunity to transform the way we think about this issue. In fact, companies have begun to reimagine plastic waste as a resourceful material rather than waste, taking note of the positive economic and sustainable impact of utilising plastic waste rather than virgin materials in their production lines. Companies such as Adidas, Trek and Herman Miller amongst others, have incorporated ocean plastics into their products, whether it is  packaging, furniture or footwear. Then there’s McDonalds who is taking the step to remove single use plastics as an option. Businesses have to start taking action, and looking into how they can reuse plastic waste and the alternative materials which they can utilise instead. This is why Dell, in addition to using ocean-bound plastic in our product packaging, is going strawless at our facilities globally in honour of World Ocean Day.

The good news is commercial sustainability is driven by customer enthusiasm, innovation and cost cutting – it isn’t just great for the environment.

Consumers are increasingly looking to help tackle the plastics problem by making green purchasing decisions. Lastly, businesses leading the sustainable, ocean-bound plastic movement will be ready to comply with future plastic waste regulations – especially as governments are increasingly looking to do their part in helping our ocean through new plastic related taxes.

Collaboration is key

No one can fight the oceans plastics problem alone – a view I made very clear when speaking at the recent roundtable. Whilst having individual sustainability goals drives innovation, it is so important to collaborate with customers governments and even competitors. After all, in the long-term, alleviating the ocean plastic problem is going to make a difference for all of us and we can’t do it alone.

For this reason, companies who have pioneered new ways of using ocean plastics are already sharing knowledge and blueprints for projects that have worked well for them, so that others can build upon and learn from these ideas.

An example of this is an open-source initiative called NextWave, which convened leading technology and consumer-focused companies to develop the first-ever commercial-scale ocean-bound plastics and nylon supply chain, while also ensuring economic and social benefits for multiple stakeholders. The founding list of companies include Dell, General Motors, Trek Bicycle, Herman Miller, Interface, Van de Sant, Humanscale and Bureo, with others able to easily apply to join the cause. The companies are working with scientists and advocates working with marine litter and ocean health to advise on a sustainable model that supports the needs of coastal communities and environments.

Among other collaboration efforts is also Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance, which aims to finance solutions to address marine debris or advice resources such as foundations like Lonely Whale, a group facilitating the creation of innovative ideas to maintain the health of our ocean.

The time to take a stand is now

The road to sustainable production and business practices can seem long, but the early believers and adopters will win the hearts and minds in the future.

Eventually, no doubt, governments across the world will invest in the necessary infrastructures and enforce the changes we all need them to make

This World Oceans Day, take the opportunity to reach out to NextWave to find out more on how you can switch to more sustainable practice and help us turn the tide on the ocean plastic problem.

 

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Money talks and electronic gaming evolves

Computer gaming has evolved dramatically in the last two years, as it follows the money, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK in the second of a two-part series.

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The clue that gaming has become big business in South Africa was delivered by a non-gaming brand. When Comic Con, an American popular culture convention that has become a mecca for comics enthusiasts, was hosted in South Arica for the first time last month, it used gaming as the major drawcard. More than 45 000 people attended.

The event and its attendance was expected to be a major dampener for the annual rAge gaming expo, which took place just weeks later. Instead, rAge saw only a marginal fall in visitor numbers. No less than 34 000 people descended on the Ticketpro Dome for the chaos of cosplay, LAN gaming, virtual reality, board gaming and new video games. 

It proved not only that there was room for more than one major gaming event, but also that a massive market exists for the sector in South Africa. And with a large market, one also found numerous gaming niches that either emerged afresh or will keep going over the years. One of these, LAN (for Local Area Network) gaming, which sees hordes of players camping out at the venue for three days to play each other on elaborate computer rigs, was back as strong as ever at rAge.

MWeb provided an 8Gbps line to the expo, to connect all these gamers, and recorded 120TB in downloads and 15Tb in uploads – a total that would have used up the entire country’s bandwidth a few years ago.

“LANs are supposed to be a thing of the past, yet we buck the trend each year,” says Michael James, senior project manager and owner of rAge. “It is more of a spectacle than a simple LAN, so I can understand.”

New phenomena, often associated with the flavour of the moment, also emerge every year.

“Fortnite is a good example this year of how we evolve,” says James. “It’s a crazy huge phenomenon and nobody was servicing the demand from a tournament point of view. So rAge and Xbox created a casual LAN tournament that anyone could enter and win a prize. I think the top 10 people got something each round.”

Read on to see how esports is starting to make an impact in gaming.

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Blockchain unpacked

Blockchain is generally associated with Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but these are just the tip of the iceberg, says ESET Southern Africa.

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This technology was originally conceived in 1991, when Stuart Haber and W. Scott Stornetta described their first work on a chain of cryptographically secured blocks, but only gained notoriety in 2008, when it became popular with the arrival of Bitcoin. It is currently gaining demand in other commercial applications and its annual growth is expected to reach 51% by 2022 in numerous markets, such as those of financial institutions and the Internet of Things (IoT), according to MarketWatch.

What is blockchain?

A blockchain is a unique, consensual record that is distributed over multiple network nodes. In the case of cryptocurrencies, think of it as the accounting ledger where each transaction is recorded.

A blockchain transaction is complex and can be difficult to understand if you delve into the inner details of how it works, but the basic idea is simple to follow.

Each block stores:

–           A number of valid records or transactions.
–           Information referring to that block.
–           A link to the previous block and next block through the hash of each block—a unique code that can be thought of as the block’s fingerprint.

Accordingly, each block has a specific and immovable place within the chain, since each block contains information from the hash of the previous block. The entire chain is stored in each network node that makes up the blockchain, so an exact copy of the chain is stored in all network participants.

As new records are created, they are first verified and validated by the network nodes and then added to a new block that is linked to the chain.

How is blockchain so secure?

Being a distributed technology in which each network node stores an exact copy of the chain, the availability of the information is guaranteed at all times. So if an attacker wanted to cause a denial-of-service attack, they would have to annul all network nodes since it only takes one node to be operative for the information to be available.

Besides that, since each record is consensual, and all nodes contain the same information, it is almost impossible to alter it, ensuring its integrity. If an attacker wanted to modify the information in a blockchain, they would have to modify the entire chain in at least 51% of the nodes.

In blockchain, data is distributed across all network nodes. With no central node, all participate equally, storing, and validating all information. It is a very powerful tool for transmitting and storing information in a reliable way; a decentralised model in which the information belongs to us, since we do not need a company to provide the service.

What else can blockchain be used for?

Essentially, blockchain can be used to store any type of information that must be kept intact and remain available in a secure, decentralised and cheaper way than through intermediaries. Moreover, since the information stored is encrypted, its confidentiality can be guaranteed, as only those who have the encryption key can access it.

Use of blockchain in healthcare

Health records could be consolidated and stored in blockchain, for instance. This would mean that the medical history of each patient would be safe and, at the same time, available to each doctor authorised, regardless of the health centre where the patient was treated. Even the pharmaceutical industry could use this technology to verify medicines and prevent counterfeiting.

Use of blockchain for documents

Blockchain would also be very useful for managing digital assets and documentation. Up to now, the problem with digital is that everything is easy to copy, but Blockchain allows you to record purchases, deeds, documents, or any other type of online asset without them being falsified.

Other blockchain uses

This technology could also revolutionise the Internet of Things  (IoT) market where the challenge lies in the millions of devices connected to the internet that must be managed by the supplier companies. In a few years’ time, the centralised model won’t be able to support so many devices, not to mention the fact that many of these are not secure enough. With blockchain, devices can communicate through the network directly, safely, and reliably with no need for intermediaries.

Blockchain allows you to verify, validate, track, and store all types of information, from digital certificates, democratic voting systems, logistics and messaging services, to intelligent contracts and, of course, money and financial transactions.

Without doubt, blockchain has turned the immutable and decentralized layer the internet has always dreamed about into a reality. This technology takes reliance out of the equation and replaces it with mathematical fact.

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