A village with no rubbish

February 27, 2008 at 10:56 am

More and more of us are finding it hard to imagine what life was like before we recycled our rubbish. However, one staggering little village nestled in the beautiful valleys of South Wales is going one better than everyone else and has recently told the world that they plan to be the first "zero waste" community in Wales.

St Arvans is a few miles down the road from Chepstow in Gwent and has been boasting very impressive recycling initiatives and targets over the years. Its residents already recycle around 77% of all of their household waste. There are weekly kerbside collections for all, which take paper, cans, glass, foil, plastics, textiles, tetrapak cartons, green waste and food. On top of this, the local recycling site also pops around again during the week to see if anything else needs to be picked up. In one week, roughly half of the 261 homes in the village didn’t produce any rubbish whatsoever. They are a pioneering community, but hold on, they haven’t stopped there.

They wanted to do better and wanted to become the benchmark for the rest of Wales and the UK. Local residents turned out in force last year to regular meetings and 95% of the village signed a new "Zero Waste Pledge". Officially launched in June 2007, the principle idea comes more from what the buyer does before they even buy something as opposed to what they will do with it once they are finished. Although they will still recycle as much as ever, the new "zero scheme" will make all residents buy only products that can be either reused, repaired or recycled after use.

A mother of five, Lou Summers, has been positive and vocal about the scheme. At the moment supporters have signed a participation pledge for a minimum of three years. Mrs Summers said, "It’s something I believe in. It is going to teach the children that they need to recycle and reuse. The benefit is your peace of mind. There is not a lot left in our bin, we don’t even fill one black bag a week."

We might all think we have heard the facts and figures a hundred times about why we should make recycling our top priority in all of our homes. The Local Government Association has told us time and time again that over 26.8 million tonnes of rubbish is dumped on a landfill every year. If you do the sums then you’ll find out that’s half a tonne per year each. We’re being embarrassed by the rest of Europe and now we’re being embarrassed by the likes of the people at St Arvans. It’s a good job they are showing the rest of us how it’s done.

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Report shows rodents on the decrease

February 22, 2008 at 10:53 am

We have all heard the alarming statistic that, when walking the streets of our major cities, we are never further than a few feet away from a rat (the precise distance depends on who is telling the story). It was no surprise therefore that when councils introduced alternate week collections of household waste, rats hit the headlines. Indeed, a judge in Oxford told a council tax rebel that he agreed that her rodent problem had arisen because of the council’s fortnightly collection of waste.

Just over a year ago, the National Pest Technicians’ Association (NPTA) published a report blaming “recycling mania” for a 39% increase in brown rat infestations between 1998 and 2005. The report declared that if the problem continued to escalate, the UK could face a major public health problem.

The recycling sector was unimpressed with the research and accuracy of the report, and Jeff Cooper of the Environment Agency argued that unless rats were chewing their way into wheelie bins, fortnightly collections could not possibly be responsible for the increase in infestations. Indeed, they could have a positive effect, since less rubbish was being placed in black bin bags, which offered easy pickings for the rat population.

Twelve months on and the NPTA have changed tack, reporting a 23% decrease in the brown rat population. Their report this year concludes that alternate week collections “properly managed and supervised at grass roots level are working fairly well” and lays the blame for rodent activity on excessive amounts of food being put out for the birds, and home composting issues. The decrease in numbers could also be related to the fact that, with some councils discontinuing their free pest control service, some householders no longer report their rodent problems.

The solution to home composters attracting rats, lies in the positioning of the plastic containers. If left on soft ground, rats are able to tunnel up into the composter. If it is not possible to site the composters on concrete, then strong but fine wire mesh can be used to cover the bottom of the container, rendering it impenetrable for rodents. For added peace of mind, the composter can be dug into a six inch deep hole in the ground, and the displaced soil used to bank up around the base.

There are also various things that you can do to make your garden less of a magnet to rats.

  • Do not put cooked food or egg shells into the compost bin.
  • Cover the raw food scraps with other materials such as grass cuttings.
  • Make sure you give the contents a good shake from time to time as the rats like to be undisturbed.
  • There are various compost bins on the market which are guaranteed to be rat proof although these tend to be more expensive than the normal type.
  • If you feed the birds in your garden, do not put bread or cakes out as this will attract rats. Instead, stick to seeds and nuts in proper bird feeders and keep the surrounding area swept.

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Crafty ideas for recycling

February 18, 2008 at 2:03 pm

Instead of throwing your recyclable materials into the appropriate bin, why not use a bit of imagination and put them to good use in creating something new? If you have children, it can be an excellent way of keeping them occupied on a rainy day. It costs next to nothing and is a great way of making them environmentally aware.

There are all sorts of sites on the Internet devoted to ideas for crafts using recyclable materials, many of which allow you to post your own ideas.
You will find ideas on these sites for every occasion, from Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, and even Chinese New Year. Some of the sites allow you to do a search depending on the occasion and level of difficulty.

The craft ideas are not of course confined to children, some of the more complicated ideas include making a lamp from a glass bottle. This involves using a drill to cut the glass, or alternatively burning a piece of string or heating a wire until it is red hot – definitely not one for the kids to tackle! Another idea is to hollow-out a hardback book for storing valuables whilst at home or travelling. This requires at least some adult assistance, due to the use of an extremely sharp knife. Full instructions can be found here.

Children can enjoy recycling everyday bits and pieces. Some simple ideas include:

CD’s – cover with felt and use as a coaster. Alternatively you could thread string through the hole and hang the CD from a tree. This will scare the birds away from your vegetable patch.

Plastic bottles – cut to size, cover with pretty fabric, lace or ribbon and use as a pot pourri holder. If you are not trying to scare the birds away from your garden using old CD’s, why not see if you can get them to nest. This can be done by cutting suitably sized openings high up on the sides of the bottle, then hanging the bottle from a tree.

Toilet or kitchen roll middles – cut to size to use as a napkin ring and decorate with acrylic paints, ribbon, raffia or lace.

Newspaper – make a paper hat and decorate using paint, glitter, sequins or whatever you have lying around.

Egg Boxes – paint or cover with paper and decorate before using as a handy storage solution for golf balls or jewellery.

Milk Cartons – another one for the birds! Cut holes in the opposite sides of a milk carton and paint with non-toxic paint. You could also add ice-lolly sticks for the roof. Make holes beneath the openings and put a length of wooden dowel through for a perch and you have an attractive bird feeder.

Before you start, make sure that you have a good supply of scissors, glue, scraps of fabric and any pretty sequins or ribbons for decorating your work. If you need papier mache for modelling don’t forget that this can be made very easily using flour, water and strips of torn up newspaper. For full details of how to make it see here.

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M and S team up with Oxfam in clothes recycling initiative

February 12, 2008 at 2:43 am

If your wardrobe has received a boost this Christmas, you may be planning a trip to the charity shop with your old clothes. If they happen to originate from Marks and Spencer and you have an Oxfam shop near you (find your nearest branch here) then you are in luck, because the two organisations have banded together in an unusual initiative designed not only to boost Oxfam’s funds but also to cut down on the one million tonnes of clothing sent each year to landfill sites in the UK. Many of these clothes are perfectly serviceable and could be sold in charity shops, and the rest could be recycled.

A £5 voucher will be given for each bag of clothes donated to any of the charity’s 790 shops, provided at least one item bears the M and S label. The vouchers are valid for a month and can be redeemed against purchases of at least £35 in the clothing, beauty and homeware departments of Marks and Spencer. There is nothing to stop people donating multiple bags of clothes, each one with an item from M and S, thus obtaining more than one voucher, although a spokeswoman said that the retailer would be monitoring the scheme carefully for signs of abuse.

The initiative was announced as part of Marks and Spencer’s Plan A Scheme which promotes environmental awareness in an effort to make the store carbon neutral within the next five years.

The director of Oxfam, Barbara Stocking, said “Recycling and reusing clothes – and anything else we can sell – has always been central to Oxfam’s fundraising, as well as being good for the environment. Through our unique textile sorting facility and the resourcefulness and skills of our specialist staff, Oxfam is able to make the most from all the clothes we receive. People’s unwanted clothes really will raise much-needed money to help people living in poverty.”

Oxfam is a bit of an expert in the textile recycling field, being the only major charity in the UK with its very own facility for sorting and redistributing textiles. Based in Huddersfield, its Wastesaver plant receives 12,000 tonnes of clothes, textiles and shoes each year which cannot be dealt with at store level. This mass is sorted and resold either in shops, online or to wholesalers at home and abroad. Any items which don’t make the grade, are sold for a variety of uses such as mattress filling, insulation or carpet underlay.

Whilst a large percentage of the UK population buys their underwear at Marks and Spencer, you may rest assured that you are not going to see any holey socks or greying Y-fronts adorning the shelves of Oxfam. Items of lingerie, underwear, hosiery, socks and swimwear are excluded from the scheme for reasons of hygiene and one assumes lack of demand!

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