Cambridgeshire Council to offer cooking oil recycling

August 27, 2008 at 1:35 pm

Both residents and the environment will benefit from a scheme being introduced in Cambridgeshire, to recycle cooking oil. Living Fuels, a company operating from Norfolk, has joined forces with Cambridgeshire County Council to provide banks at ten civic amenity sites across the county.

Householders will be able to take their used cooking oil in sealed containers to their nearest bank. The banks will be emptied and the contents taken to a plant in Thetford where it will be converted into LF100 fuel, which can be used to produce clean electricity. Currently Living Fuel collects around 80,000 litres of oil which converts into electricity for 5,700 homes. The estimate for the total amount of cooking oil used each year in the UK is 225,000 tonnes, which has the potential for producing energy for 2,200 homes. For further details of just what the process involves see the company website.

The scheme is good news too for Anglian Water, who estimate that they spend £5 million each year dealing with blockages in drains and sewers, caused by people pouring old cooking oil down their sinks and toilets.

Living Fuel already provides banks free of charge in Suffolk and Norfolk and plans are afoot to extend the scheme to London, where they will be providing two banks in each of three as yet unnamed boroughs.

In the past, most of its supplies of used cooking oil have come from the hospitality industry, schools and prisons, local authorities and government agencies and the food manufacturing industry, with private households being a previously untapped source of raw material.

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Ireland has what it takes in the rubbish stakes

August 20, 2008 at 1:34 pm

Whilst the British government is good at talking about recycling initiatives and convincing us that change is on the horizon, the actual implementation is… well, a bit rubbish.

When it comes to the issue of recycling, it would appear that we Brits just do not get it. Already fresh recycling policies are flagging: supermarkets are failing to use recyclable packaging, shoppers are still able to use large quantities of low-cost (or free) plastic bags and our British beaches are transforming into plastic-littered landfill sites before our very eyes.

Times columnist, Melanie McDonagh, has highlighted "Britain’s poor recycling performance" in her latest article, "How Ireland cleaned up on recycling". The article explains how the Government of Ireland (Rialtas na hÉireann) has cunningly decided to wrestle the recycling dilemma by making people pay for the quantity of rubbish they dispose of. Rather than threatening to fine people if they accidentally put their paper in with their plastics, it is now Ireland’s policy to charge around £4 per rubbish bag. Not only does this mean that less plastic is produced and less money is spent on landfill sites, it also sends out a clear incentive to reduce the amount of rubbish people throw away on a day-to-day basis. McDonagh sums up her article well, concluding that if we are to change the way we see recycling, the government should "make us pay … it’s the only language we understand".

Whether or not we need to introduce a scheme similar to the aptly dubbed Recycle Bank is another question entirely. A number of people feel that the British government should follow the example of Ireland’s plastic bag ban. Rather than pussyfooting around and charging a measly 5p per shopping bag, British supermarkets should charge an amount that will force its customers to rethink the type of bags they use. Please click on the Bag it don’t bin it website to find out more.

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Carrier bags – paper or plastic?

August 14, 2008 at 2:56 pm

If asked to say which was worse for the environment, plastic carrier bags or paper carrier bags, most people would hardly hesitate to say plastic, plastic, plastic! Paper is a natural material and completely biodegradable after all. So why don’t supermarkets just switch (or switch back) to paper bags? Isn’t that the simple answer to the environmental damage plastic bags are causing? Well the truth is, it is certainly not that simple.

Plastic bags are undeniably a problem in many areas. Discarded carrier bags are directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals every year, from turtles to gulls, due to ingestion. They have been blamed for causing massive floods in India after they blocked up drains. Parts of the North Pacific Ocean are becoming a soup of photo-degraded plastic particles, which are then entering the food chain. You simply do not hear about paper bags causing these problems!

But let’s look at it from a different angle. The production of plastic bags is far better in terms of energy use than paper bags. It can take up to five times the energy to make a paper bag. The production of plastic uses valuable oil resources, but so does the production of paper bags. Paper bag production is also responsible for the destruction of millions of trees every year already (over 20 million just for paper carrier bags in the USA alone). The production of paper can create 50 times (yes, that’s 50 times!) the amount of water pollutants than the production of plastic, and up to 70% more air pollutants.

It doesn’t stop there. Paper bags are heavier, up to 6 times heavier, and more difficult to compress than plastic bags. That means more impact from transport pollution. It also means that paper bags would take up much more room in landfill sites than plastic bags currently do (less than 2%). And whilst it is true that plastic bags can take hundreds of years to break down, paper bags also have this problem due to the fact that biodegradation requires light, water and oxygen, elements which are often missing from modern landfill sites.

A much larger percentage of paper bags are recycled when compared to plastic bags; paper recycling in general is much more advanced than plastics recycling. However, recycling paper bags uses many times more energy than recycling plastic bags. Then there is the issue of reuse. It is thought that 80% of plastic carrier bags are reused at least once. This is probably because they are strong, waterproof and don’t fall apart after a couple of uses. Can the same be said for paper bags?

So is paper better than plastic? The answer, quite clearly, is no! Both paper and plastic carrier bags create their own problems for the environment. If plastic bag recycling was brought up to the levels of paper recycling, this already small environmental problem would all but disappear.

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Summer blockbuster encourages children to recycle

August 8, 2008 at 1:55 pm

School’s out and when the inevitable rainy afternoon brings young children and their accompanying adults to the cinema, Disney may well encourage them all to go home and recycle (after seeing WALL-E, that is).

Along with Pixar, the animators who have previously brought us Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, Disney’s summer blockbuster WALL-E transports viewers to a “galaxy not so very far away” in a film where not much is said, and yet a powerful message is put across.

In the film, humans live in spaceships whilst a sweet, courageous robot (whose name stands for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) works to clean up the planet that they have filled to the brim with rubbish. At once an endearing adventure story and a bleak promise of apocalypse, WALL-E is a film that may just bring home an idea or two about the virtues of recycling.

Having the recycling message mixed into their entertainment is likely to be a familiar experience for the very young. The two-to-six-year-old viewers of CBeebies can now tune into EcoBeebies, a range of programmes focused on our impact on the environment. Little ones can sing along at the end of programmes such as Green Balloon Club, “…All the little things we do/make a difference”, and parents can also find sticker charts on the accompanying website to put some of these ideas into action.

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