Action plan for sustainable clothing launched

March 27, 2009 at 2:31 pm

Last month saw the start of London Fashion Week and the industry looks all set to tackle its environmental footprint, with the launch of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, involving some 300 organisations from High Street retail outlets to designers and textile manufacturers.

The fashion industry has long been criticised for its throw away culture and is responsible for one and a half million tons of unwanted clothing ending up in landfill sites each year. In addition, it produces over 3 million tons of CO2, 70 million tons of waste water, and 2 million tons of waste.

The Action Plan will tackle four key areas:

  1. Improvement in sustainable design, fabrics and fibres, optimising re-use and recycling of clothes and issues around the cleaning of clothes
  2. Raising public awareness of the sustainability of clothes through education and the media
  3. Promoting markets for sustainable clothing
  4. Improved traceability across the entire supply chain

The Association of Charity Shops will be increasing the number of boutiques selling nearly-new clothes and sustainably designed new clothes, whilst big names such as Marks and Spencer and Tesco are increasing the amount of Fair Trade and Organic ranges and educating the public about the environmental benefits of using a 30 degree wash cycle.

Tesco and Adili, an online retailer, are working towards labelling certain items with a carbon footprint indicator, so that consumers can make educated choices in what they buy.

For further details of the Clothing Roadmap, see the website for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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Earth’s Asprin?

March 27, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Mankind deposits billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. Most of the world’s scientists now agree that this unnatural increase in carbon dioxide is directly responsible for climate change and ocean acidification.

Recent studies have shown that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere takes up to 10 years to build up in the upper atmosphere; this means that right now we are seeing the warming effects of the CO2 released in the 1990’s. World emissions have almost doubled since then.

Carbon Air Capture

Carbon Air Capture is the process of removing (and storing) CO2 from the atmosphere. It is increasingly beginning to be viewed as an imperative part of our transition to non-polluting energy technology. A company called Global Research Technologies has just successfully demonstrated the world’s first working prototype of such a device. The idea of such devices is that they will buy us a little time in which to reorganise our energy dependencies, removing the greenhouse gas from the air and storing it, in liquid form, in vast underground tanks.

The problem of carbon capture up to this point is that it could only be done at “point of entry”, on the chimney stacks of factories or power stations, and on the exhaust of every car. This is vastly expensive and extremely impractical; cars would have to pull a trailer at all times to collect exhaust emissions.

These devices can be placed anywhere. With enough of them we could control the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, eventually aiming to reverse the climate change that we have already caused, by returning CO2 levels to pre-industrial levels.

The device they have tested is one metre square and can remove 10 tons of CO2 from the atmosphere each year. GRT (Global Research Technologies) intend to begin production of 10 metre square versions later this year. These will be able to remove 1000 tons of CO2 each year. Millions of these devices will be needed if we are to remove the 11 billion tons needed each year. This would sustain a concentration of carbon dioxide at twice pre-industrial levels.

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Toxic waste illegally sent to Africa

March 19, 2009 at 12:51 pm

The Independent, Sky News and Greenpeace recently joined forces to expose the shameful practice being carried out by Britain and other European countries of sending toxic electronic goods, that should be recycled, to a number of African countries, including Nigeria and Ghana. The raw materials within these products are then extracted by people working at the African dumps, including children, who are put at significant risk by the highly toxic contents.

Computers, laptops, TVs and numerous gadgets that are broken beyond repair have managed to find their way into these countries, despite strict government regulations that insist any electric products that cannot be reused, known collectively as e-waste, have to be recycled or dismantled by specialist contractors.

The investigation followed the journey taken by a broken TV which had been fitted with a satellite tracking device, which started at a site run by Hampshire County Council and ended up in a market in Lagos, Nigeria via a London-based dealer.

A spokesman for Hampshire County Council said that they were “extremely disappointed” about the discovery, and an investigation has now been launched. The spokesman emphasised that they “do not condone the exportation of televisions that cannot be reused”.

Claire Snow, who is the director of ICER (Industry Council for Equipment Recycling), said that it is clear the system “is not working as well as it should”, which is an understatement.

According to the government, 450,000 tonnes of e-waste is treated appropriately every year, but The Independent has said that this means 500,000 tonnes of e-waste is not being accounted for, and is probably ending up on foreign soil where it will put people’s health at risk.

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Supermarkets undermining recycling efforts

March 19, 2009 at 12:49 pm

A recent report published by the LGA (Local Government Association) has criticised supermarkets for using excessive amounts of packaging, much of which cannot be recycled. The report claims that around 40% of packaging will end up in landfill which will cost councils a whopping £360 million over the next two years.

The survey looked at the packaging in an average basket at eight different supermarkets. At the top of the table was Sainsbury’s with recyclable packaging of 67%, whilst Lidl was at the bottom with only 58%. In terms of the actual weight of packaging, Tesco’s gets the gold star with 645.5 grams whilst Waitrose gets a black mark with 802.5 grams.

The BRC (British Retail Consortium) has defended its members’ position saying that packaging is necessary to protect food, thereby reducing waste, and has criticised councils for the lack of recycling facilities. The original survey carried out by the LGA was published in Oct 2007 and since then, although the percentage of packaging able to be recycled has remained roughly the same, the actual weight of packaging has been reduced.

Councillor Margaret Eaton of the LGA hit out at supermarkets with their “cling filmed coconuts and shrink wrapped tins of baked beans”, saying that the public are tired of having to bring home so much packaging which leads to higher food prices and a high environmental cost too.

The BRC, however, has said that it is nonsense to suggest that retailers “swathe their goods in masses of unnecessary packaging” and has challenged councils to up their game.

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Recycle any unwanted items with!

March 18, 2009 at 11:50 am is a new web-site that gives people with unwanted but useful household items an opportunity to donate them to other people instead of throwing them away. Any item that is no longer needed but still has some life left in it can be added to the SnaffleUp website where other people can view it and arrange collection. Items already donated include TVs, dining tables, books, toys, computer peripherals, clothes and garden furniture.

“A lot of what ends up in landfill sites still has plenty of useful life left in it,” says SnaffleUp founder Chris Toynbee. “Why throw something away when you can give it to someone else who needs or wants it? And will use it! At a time when the credit crunch is making life harder for a lot of people, a source of free goods obviously has its attractions. SnaffleUp represents a new and easy way to help people save money while helping the environment at the same time.”

SnaffleUp differs from sites like Freecycle by offering a more user-friendly experience. The website has an ongoing improvement policy focused around a forum that lets users post suggestions for improving the site, which can then be voted for by other member of the SnaffleUp community.

Visitors to SnaffleUp do not need to register in order to start looking for or adding items, simply enter your postcode to search for items in your local area. When looking for a specific item, it is possible to set up email alerts that inform you when items of interest have been added. If you want to add an item, or arrange collection of an item, you need to complete a short and simple registration form. All items are offered free of charge and it is up to site users to negotiate any collection or delivery costs between themselves.

For further information please go to

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New MRF search tool revealed by WRAP

March 13, 2009 at 2:58 pm

WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) has launched a new online database of MRFs (Material Recovery Facilities). The not-for-profit company hopes the database will lead to much improved communication all the way along the recycling supply chain, which will in turn lead to a greater quality of recycled products over time.

The new database has been based on the ORIS (Online Recycling Information System) from WRAP. This provides information on recycling services for household waste, and has proved to be such a success that demand for the MRF database had been growing. Now it is up and running, it will help local authorities and others in the recycling industry to locate the MRFs with very little effort, and it is hoped that this will greatly improve the system as a whole.

The information will be free for anyone involved in the process of recycling dry waste. It works by displaying interactive maps, and it also includes a search function for the companies to locate the MRFs with ease. Information that is then provided on the MRFs includes the material streams that they accept and what capacities and outputs they are capable of.

It is hoped that the MRF database will improve the system by helping to coordinate different sections of the recycling process, ultimately helping to improve the quality of the materials that end up at MRFs.

WRAP’s materials recycling programme manager, Mike Falconer Hall, said that improving communication is “an essential part of WRAP’s drive to support the industry”.

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Recycling campaign for London launched

March 13, 2009 at 2:56 pm

A huge new drive has just been launched in the nation’s capital. The aim? To encourage Londoners to take advantage of the improved recycling facilities now available to them.

The ‘Recycle for London’ campaign was launched in a rather unique way. Although part of the campaign involves standard forms of advertising, including television, radio and billboard advertisements, it also launched a new mobile phone game to push the message using a novel format.

The game represents a unique way of advertising to the modern market. It is quite basic in itself, as players simply have to try to starve a greedy bin by catching the recyclable materials rather than letting it eat them. So although it is not going to be winning any game awards, it is certainly going to help spread the message of recycling. It is also going alongside downloadable ringtones and wallpaper which the campaign hopes will spread the message even further.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who is also chair of the London Waste and Recycling Board, said that he is excited about how the campaign is “using innovative technologies to boost recycling”.

The timing of the new campaign couldn’t be better, hot on the heels of recent announcements concerning the fall in demand for recyclables. This has prompted the authorities to further encourage recycling, attempting to counteract people’s fear that their recycled material may just end up in landfill.

According to (the official website for the Mayor of London, the London Assembly and the Greater London Authority) residents of London are able to recycle 60% of the rubbish they currently throw away, but at present they only recycle 20% of it. It is this poor statistic that has led to this further push to get people to take a greater interest in recycling.

If you would like to play the game you should text BIN to 62967, and it’s also available for iPhone users on iTunes.

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Films made to boost recycling in Wiltshire

March 4, 2009 at 4:08 pm

The government is keen to improve the levels of recycling in the UK, and local councils are therefore always desperate to find new and innovative ways of getting the message across to the public. Wiltshire County Council has recently come up with the bright idea of making specially-commissioned films to educate residents and they have proved to be a hit with local people.

Last summer it commissioned eight films which are available to view on the Internet and are also good educational tools for schools and community meetings. The films cover such topics as household recycling centres, kerbside collections and also take a look at the process of recycling various materials from garden waste, textiles, tin cans and foil, to paper, glass and electrical goods. The latest five films explore the recycling processes of cardboard and plastic and also look at the management of landfill facilities in the county.

Wiltshire’s waste projects officer, Catherine Dixon, says that with the credit crunch much has been made of whether or not recycling is worth the money, but explains that as a nation we simply cannot afford not to recycle. She hopes that the new videos will address people’s concerns and will explain just why recycling is so important.

The county is well on its way to recycling 40% of its household waste but there is always room for improvement. Unlike some counties, Wiltshire can say hand on heart that absolutely none of its recyclable waste collected from households is being stockpiled or sent to landfill sites.

If you would like to see the films for yourself they can be found on the county’s recycling website. Better still, there is now a facility for the public to leave a comment and rate the films using a star system.

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Meat and mush missing from recycling

March 4, 2009 at 4:05 pm

It may sound revolting but local councils want more meat and mush in their recycling bins. This is the somewhat unsavoury sounding term given to plate scrapings. It seems that whilst we all know that fruit and vegetables can be recycled, we are not so sure about our meat and mush. They come bottom of the food recycling hierarchy, with cooked non-meat products coming somewhere in the middle.

The good news is that Defra has announced that there is “widespread” support from the public for separate food waste collections, with only 10% of us saying that we don’t see the point of it. Participation rates in the pilot schemes are between 50% and 80%, with the average household recycling around 3kg of food waste per week. The most successful schemes tend to be those which collect food waste separately on a weekly basis, with residual waste being picked up fortnightly. Schemes where food waste and garden waste collections are combined have a lower success rate.

Whilst there is evidence that some food is diverted away from home composting to food recycling, it is interesting to note that areas with the highest composting rates also fare well with food recycling. Those least likely to participate in food recycling schemes are younger people, students, the unemployed, certain ethnic communities, particularly small or large households, and those living in private rented accommodation or converted properties.

It was concluded at a recent Defra meeting that whilst most householders are well informed, councils need to focus their efforts on the missing meat and mush.

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