Keeping food out of landfill in South Korea, and nursing Haiti’s forests

1. United States

All-terrain wheelchairs are making parks across the country more accessible. Bumpy environments are too often off-limits for visitors with mobility issues. At least five states, including Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and South Dakota, have invested in wheelchairs with tanklike tracks that navigate rocky terrain. In turn, some parks are creating maps that highlight trails designated for the chairs.

Aimee Copeland Mercier began to use a wheelchair in 2012 after a zip lining accident. She recently spearheaded an initiative in partnership with Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources to try out Action Trackchairs. The new fleet was announced last month and will be available to rent at 11 state parks and outdoor destinations.

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In our progress roundup, problem-solving ranges from the nationwide policies that led South Korea to keep food waste out of landfills, to the taxes and laws that are helping to reduce smoking worldwide.

Users should book in advance and must complete an hourlong certification course for safety, but Ms. Copeland Mercier says the experience is worth it. “I can go over a whole tree trunk, up a steep incline and through snow, swamps and wetlands,” said Ms. Copeland Mercier, whose foundation raised $200,000 to buy 16 of the chairs for use across Georgia. “If I took my regular wheelchair, I’d get stuck in five minutes.”

Jamie Lusch/The Medford Mail Tribune/AP/File
Casey Moore tests an all-terrain wheelchair at TouVelle State Park in Jackson County, Oregon, in 2018.

Source: The Washington Post

2. Haiti

Amid political crisis and economic insecurity, Haitians are restoring much-needed forests. An estimated 99% of the country’s primary forests have disappeared since Spanish colonization, with a third of the land now covered in secondary forests. High levels of poverty mean trees are often felled for fuel, agriculture, and building. While most people in Haiti have needed to focus on other priorities, conservation efforts have quietly and steadily pushed forward.

Conservationists are nurturing a seedling nursery in the Grand Bois National Park through the nonprofit organization Haiti National Trust and its international partners. The project has hired dozens of locals to plant, weed, and care for the seedlings and is working with nearby communities to find alternative sources of income that do not involve tree felling. So far, around 50,000 seedlings have been planted. “What’s important is that these ideas have to come from [the people,] based on what they can do, and what they want to do,” said HNT executive director Anne-Isabelle Bonifassi.

Ariana Cubillos/AP/File
Mountains near Jacmel, in southern Haiti, are sparsely vegetated in 2008. Without trees to anchor the soil, erosion has reduced Haiti’s scarce agricultural land.

Since the national park was established in 2015, scientists have recorded 24 species of frog and even rediscovered a magnolia species not seen in 97 years. The trees also provide a buffer from hurricanes, erosion, and landslides and protect freshwater quality.
Source: Mongabay

3. Togo

Togo became the first country free from four neglected tropical diseases. The World Health Organization acknowledged the progress during the 72nd session of the Regional Committee for Africa in the capital of Lomé. Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé received an outstanding achievement award celebrating the country’s health workforce.

These diseases are considered neglected because they often affect people in extreme poverty and garner less attention than health concerns in richer countries. Freedom from these diseases is “a gift not only for the people of Togo today, but for generations to come,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Source: World Health Organization

4. South Korea

South Korea is recycling nearly 100% of its food waste, compared with 2.6% in 1996. Landfills began to reach capacity around the capital of Seoul in the late 1990s, and South Koreans became increasingly aware of a growing trash crisis. Curbside composting became mandatory in 2013. Residents separate food waste from other trash, which is collected daily from homes.

Food waste is turned into biogas, animal feed, and fertilizer in processing plants around the country. The cost is partially offset by the sale of specially designated plastic bags. In some municipalities and apartment buildings, residents can avoid the bags by paying a weight-based fee for disposal in automated collectors. The key lies in setting an affordable price. “As long as the public’s sense of civic duty can accommodate it, I think it’s good to charge a fee for food waste,” said Hong Su-yeol, a resource recycling expert. “But if you make it so costly that people feel the blow, they’re going to throw it away illegally.”

Some facilities have reached processing capacity, spurring a need for other solutions, such as urban farming projects. But the program’s accessibility and convenience have made food recycling successful, offering lessons for other municipalities and nations.
Source: The Guardian


Globally, the percentage of people who smoke has declined for the first time, from 22.7% in 2007 to 19.6% in 2019. While taxes and other regulatory interventions are protecting more people, over 940 million men and 193 million women ages 15 or older smoke around the world.

Wayne Parry/AP
Demonstrators rally for a ban on smoking in casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, April 12, 2022.

A Tobacco Atlas report published earlier this year notes that the tobacco industry has been linked not only to health problems, but also to environmental damage and social inequity. Most smallholder tobacco farmers struggle economically, but they could be encouraged toward other crops by better access to credit and government support of supply chains for these products, the report says. “In essence, tobacco control needs to be viewed as integral to overall health, well-being, and development,” write the authors of the study.
Sources: Tobacco Atlas, Devex

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