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Plastic fantastic

Turkey — Recycling

In an effort to boost recycling and environmental awareness – two things Istanbul is lacking – the city is introducing a new programme that makes the process quick, easy and even profitable. By the end of 2018, Istanbul’s metro system aims to install 100 automated “reverse vending machines” in stations where commuters can deposit empty plastic water bottles to receive credit on their metro cards.

The programme relies on what are officially – and awkwardly – called Smart Mobile Waste Transfer Centers, and trial centres will soon be installed in 25 locations (it’s hoped that at least 100 machines will appear by the end of the year). If all goes well, the initiative will be expanded throughout the city, according to a representative within the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality’s Smart City Technologies Company.

The hope is that what is lacking in catchy branding will be made up for in easy access: the machines will guide users with step-by-step instructions that will help them scan and assign a value to bottles before crushing and shredding the materials for future recycling.

Similar systems have been proposed or implemented in China, Norway, the UK, the US and Lithuania, where initial reports show increased recycling rates. Environmentalists and waste-management officials in Istanbul are celebrating the project as a win-win for commuters and the city, which has long struggled with some of the lowest recycling rates in Europe.


Q&A – Andrew Adonis

Labour peer in the House of Lords, UK

As a staunch opponent of the UK leaving the EU, former secretary for transport and current peer in the House of Lords, Andrew Adonis has been one of the most vocal proponents of a “People’s Vote”, also known as a second referendum. He tells Monocle how the UK’s major cities, many of which voted to remain in the EU, will fare in the wake of Brexit.

How will Brexit affect the UK’s cities?
At a time when we should be pushing for greater connectivity between the cities of the UK, in the medium term Brexit will boost further devolution of the countries that make up the UK. The poverty that Brexit will bring will also mean that funding for that connectivity, mainly through transport infrastructure, will virtually disappear.

What impact will Brexit have on new infrastructure?
For a start, the drop in immigration means that the population projections on which current infrastructure projects are based will almost certainly need to be revised. That also means a drop in tax receipts in addition to already very squeezed public-sector funds.

Much-needed plans to link up major northern cities from Liverpool to Hull by rail will most likely be delayed or even cancelled. Luckily, High Speed II, which will connect London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, is already underway and un-cancellable. However, it will be much harder not to leave the Scottish cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow behind because public finances will be too weak to foot the extension.

What do UK’s cities need?
We need significant investment in infrastructure and housing, particularly social housing, in all expanding cities. September’s announcement that £2bn [€2.2bn] had been allocated for social housing in three years’ time is useless. That’s peanuts when you consider the scale of the challenge.


Pulling power

Russia — Transport

The sci-fi future imagined by city-planners in the 1960s typically included a magnetic levitation (maglev) system: a train propelled at high speed without using fossil fuels for power.

The longest line so far, planned to open by 2045, will connect Tokyo to Osaka in just 67 minutes. And in September, St Petersburg hosted the 24th International Maglev Conference, where 300 global delegates enthusiastically endorsed building a Maglev system to connect Russia’s far-flung cities to Moscow.


White stuff

Spain — Streetscape

The Spanish city of A Coruña has personalised its zebra crossings. It’s updated them by dotting cow-like spots, rather than stripes, across the city’s crosswalks in homage to the area’s powerhouse industry: dairy farming. The idea came from Casa Grande de Xanceda, one of the area’s many dairy farms, as a way to recognise how integral the industry is to the city; there’s an average of one cow to every 2.7 residents and it’s estimated that more than half of all the milk consumed in Spain is produced here. It’s an example of how a small, playful urban intervention, when done right, can be a symbol for a city’s pride and identity.

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