Food recycling priority for Wales

April 30, 2008 at 2:10 pm

Recycling in Wales has been given a boost by the announcement of an extra £15 million in grants from the Welsh Assembly. Jane Davidson, the assembly’s minister for environment, sustainability and housing, revealed that a total of £50 million would be made available for local authorities to put towards recycling schemes in 2008/09. The grants will be given to those authorities that are working towards separating the different types of household waste to facilitate improvements in recycling in Wales.

Wales currently recycles 33 per cent of its waste, with this announcement setting it on course to achieve its EU target of 40 per cent by 2010. The assembly is considering proposals to target 70 per cent recycling rates by 2025. Davidson commented, “Food recycling is an area of great potential and exploiting this will be essential if we are to continue increasing the amount of waste we recycle and divert from landfill.”

It is particularly important to recycle food waste as it generates large amounts of methane when decomposing, a greenhouse gas identified as one of those responsible for global warming. Once recycled, food waste can be used to provide nutrients for soil.

In tandem with the new grants being made available, local authorities will have to pay greater tax on waste they send to landfill sites. Welsh authorities will pay £32 per tonne of waste sent to the landfill, up from £24 last year.

The authorities of Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Merthyr, Carmarthenshire, RCT, Bridgend and Swansea already have separation schemes in place, with Cardiff, Gwynedd, Isle of Anglesey, Conwy, Wrexham and Blaenau Gwent planning to put schemes into effect in the near future.

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15 possible sites for eco-towns

April 22, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Gordon Brown is keen to make an impact on the hearts and minds of the British public and one of his personal passion-projects is called the eco-town. It has been announced this month which of the 15 proposed sites would be home to these 10 new carbon-neutral towns. The plans are to build towns from scratch and make them the very best example of a modern thinking and environmentally friendly habitable area. Everything in the town will be made from recycled materials, the transport designs will all use green renewable energy, and it will house totally sufficient recycling and waste water systems.

It’s a breakthrough for Europe, in as much as there have been eco-developments proposed and put into motion in the world, but this will actually house people and create an entire community. A similar project is now in full swing in Abu Dhabi called Masdar City and the plans for that project look like taken from a science fiction film. The entire city is built from renewable carbon-neutral resources and will more or less run on nothing but solar power.

In the UK though, the eco-towns are still a hugely significant proposal. Between 5 and 20 thousand homes are planned in the towns and all of these will be zero carbon – in theory at least. There has obviously been the usual rejection of the idea by conservationists and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England are worried about what this will mean to the green areas. However, ‘green’ seems to be the whole agenda here so it might end up pleasing everyone. The final 10 sites will be revealed in the next 6 months.

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Boris promises payments to Londoners for recycling

April 15, 2008 at 1:30 pm

At an environmental manifesto launch on Hampstead Heath last month, Boris Johnson, the Conservative candidate for London Mayor, promised to pay Londoners to recycle if he is elected on May 1st. London has fallen behind the rest of the UK with recycling and Boris hopes that the introduction of a scheme similar to one working successfully in America, may make all the difference. Perhaps predictably, current mayor, Ken Livingstone, has denounced the idea as “unconvincing green camouflage”.

Over the last three years the Philadelphia based private company, RecycleBank, has managed to make American households increase their recycling rates by 200% and now operates in over two hundred cities and towns in the States. The scheme works by measuring each household’s recycling and rewarding them with vouchers exchangeable for goods.

The high-tech wheelie bins contain a computer chip which stores the householder’s details, including an online account number, which is credited with “Recycle Bank Dollars” after special computers on the collection trucks scan the barcode, weigh the recyclable materials and work out the reward, which averages out at around $8 a week for most households. The balance on the account can be accessed online and spent in over 250 stores, including national names such as Starbucks, as well as local participating shops. Alternatively, consumers can choose to donate their dollars to local environmental charities.

Mr Johnson plans to get the Conservative councils of Westminster, Maidenhead and Windsor discussing the scheme with RecycleBank to pioneer a similar scheme in the UK. He has stated that the initiative has proved so successful in America because it rewards people for recycling, rather than punishing them by taxes for producing waste.

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Well done Co-op, you’re setting the standard again!

April 8, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Ever wondered what the supermarkets do with all those old receipts and forms? Well it’s not very obvious what all of them are doing, but the good old Co-op is once again leading the way in terms of ethical affairs. It is recycling all of its scrap paper and turning it into toilet roll and kitchen towel. And what’s better is… they are making it into children’s attraction!

The Co-op’s HQ near Stockport in Lancashire houses Waste Works, a facility to which children from local schools are invited to watch recycling in action. The plant recycles at a rate of three tonnes an hour, and at the same time teaches children methods and ideas for helping the environment in the commercial world.

Waste Works is an arm of a charity called Waste Watch – a very well established body with the experience of 20 years in the field. All the waste paper is brought to the plant using a special electronic van – it is often met by classes of up to 60 children, eager to see the technology of the future. It’s a very hands-on trip for the children – they get to make their own paper by the end of the day.

Spokesman from the Co-op Richard Cranshaw is very keen to promote ‘closed loop’ recycling, which means products are made from recycled goods, then go on to be recycled after their use, and so on. Waste Works wants to turn boring grey plants into vibrant and fun places to learn about saving the planet. Once again the Co-op is setting the standard.

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No help for us to get rid of our computers

April 1, 2008 at 2:10 pm

What do you do with that old computer you are now ashamed to be associated with? It’s huge, it’s dusty and it’s got nothing on the new all singing all dancing model you’ve just got out of the box. Well it seems that none of us, including our local authorities, know what to do with the old machines and so many of them end up being perches for seagulls on landfill sites.

The consumer magazine Which? has raised the alarm on this issue and is making a strong case to be concerned. The magazine spoke to 109 of our local authorities and around 15% of them didn’t have a clue what people could do with them. "They just literally go into the landfill; they get smashed apart," so said one council representative.

Apart from the obvious and topical concerns in relation to the protection of the environment, there is also increasing awareness of data protection and many of the people who were surveyed didn’t seem to have thought about the files still on their PC when it’s dumped. If the government are being targeted, then there’s a good chance we all are, but 1 in 7 people in the survey said they’d just dump their computers on the tip.

So is it up to us or up to our councils? Well it’s a bit of both, but the councils have their minds on more regular items of waste it seems so it looks as though it might be up to us to make sure those old breeze-blocks of a computer go to the right place after use. Ring your local councils to find out more or you could donate your old computer to charities, such as Computer Aid, who find a new home for it.

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