Thursday, 4 March 2010

Beat up on Biomass

After nearly 28 years of general fence sitting; rarely holding an opinion and being easily swayed to and fro by those held by others - (cue: evolution music -Richard Strauss' sunrise fanfare from sprach Zarathustra) I am forming an opinion. About biomass. Well, kind of.

Having spent 8 weeks working on MRW, I have surprised myself by manifesting a fierce fondness for scrap, waste and recycling in general (because the little blighters at the lower end of the quality heap can't stick up for themselves - so don't mess with me) to the general disinterested bemusement of normal people, who don't engage in our dialogue. And I am a newbie to the industry; so I don't claim to be a walking Britannica.

BUT. I have to say I really support the arguement that there exists serious uncertainty around the use of biomass. Yes, it would be great if we could stop feeding landfill holes (and creating great grassy hills to sunbathe on when the weather picks up) and send all non recyclable waste to be burned to generate energy. So what is the point of these biomass plants being built with systems that can only burn high quality, or new/virgin fibre? Am I being dim?

Do we have enough trees to feed these biomass plants - has everyone forgotten that we need trees to be able to breathe on this planet? How long will it be before all the dedicated biomass feedstock trees are fed to the hungry animal and we reach that point of having to wait a year or two for more trees to mature? Or will we start savagely cutting the lives of baby/kiddie trees short to meet the sector's insatiable appetite. A tad dramatic, I'm sure. But, still I must have a point - this is my first opinion; for god's sake.

The waste hierarchy is not all rubbish. There is sense to it. Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. I note the omission of 'Landfill' from this model. So! In my capacity of surrogate protector and advocator for all non recyclable and heavily contaminated waste material, I say this: burn the little blighters.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Vacuum cleaner waste issues

Some of you may recall how I bought a vacuum cleaner in March from my local Curry’s store. This vacuum cleaner never actually worked properly or picked up any dirt. But we just assumed that it would work eventually so I forgot to take it back after the 28 days shop guarantee. Subsequently, I tried to take it back to the shop last weekend to exchange it for another one that worked – that failed miserably.
The store assistant told me that I never paid for product cover and the store would have to get someone to try and repair it before I got another one.
But one needs a vacuum cleaner so I brought the Henry version- which is good.
The store has just phoned me to say they cannot repair the vacuum cleaner I originally bought because the belt is broken and the belt is not covered under the manufacturer’s guarantee, so we have to fix it ourselves.
This has got me thinking about waste. When did it become acceptable to sell faulty products that didn’t work from the word go? When was it acceptable that you couldn’t get your money back or an exchange if you did not take out a product warranty?
Manufacturer’s need to make products that work and that are durable to stop creating waste. Or do you disagree?

Liz Gyekye, Senior Reporter, MRW

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A need for regulation?

The Conservative Party has announced that it will implement more voluntary agreements that focus on waste rather than rely on regulation.
This issue was also discussed at a recent London Remade conference I attended.
Although I think some regulation can cause red tape and be a burden, others can let people take action and tackle waste.
The recent announcement by retailers that they narrowly missed their voluntary single-use carrier bag targets shows that sometimes voluntary agreements do not necessarily force businesses to meet their targets.
It will be interesting to see what happens in the future on this issue.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Education is the key to recycling

As the Government announced around four different reports last week on cutting carbon emissions, expanding anaerobic digestion, creating green jobs and more,it seemed as though it was actually taking practical action against climate change.
However, I think a key action it has missed is informing the public about just how important these measures are. Because of this many people are still quite cynical about the new technologies being invested in.
For example, I know about anaerobic digestion only because I work in this industry but I had never heard of it before I started this job - which was only three months ago. If my local authority were to bring in food waste collections I think many people in the area would be concerned about it attracting pests and wonder if it was truly necessary, because I know that thought would have previously crossed my mind.
The Government has neglected to explain to the people what AD is and why we need to do it. I believe the same problem lies with combined heat and power plants and even understanding the basic importance of recycling as much waste as we possibly can.
Well done to the Government for its efforts, but action won't be taken unless the public really understand it and accept it.

Tiffany Holland, Reporter, MRW

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The scheme is a load of scrap!

The Government's car scrappage scheme was a funny one from the start. The Government initially branded it a green initiative, which was later abandoned as one of the key motives and reduced to simply advising people to buy more efficient vehicles. Then the primary issue for the scheme was to boost the car manufacturing industry with no real mention of how it might help the struggling scrap industry.
However, I wanted to flare up the fact that although it may not have a been a brilliant success boosting British business - as it seems that many of the foreign car manufactures have taken most of the sales - it has kept many Brits in work, with some manufacturers even having to expand their workforce.
Most importantly, regarding the recycling and waste management sector, the scheme has definitely helped out those in the scrap industry who are apart of the action. I would say this has been a fantastic scheme in that respect.
The success has been patchy as only a predicted 30 per cent of Approved Treatment Facilities are apart of the scheme, so there is room for improvement but I'm still pretty chuffed that after all the negative speculation it has made a bit of a difference.

Tiffany Holland, Reporter, MRW

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Ads aiming to save the planet

This isn't exactly waste and recycling specific, but it's worth having a look at all the same. It's a picture story showing what the Guardian thinks are the 'Best adverts to save the planet' and is worth taking a look at:

Andrea Height, MRW, deputy editor

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Festival Litter

I attended this year's Wireless Festival at Hyde Park (05 July). It was a good experience. The atmosphere was nice, the people were chilled and the music was good.
There was just one thing - the litter on the floor.

Any litter you can name was on the floor - mainly empty plastic beer bottles. It was like walking through the Red Sea of litter. I have never seen anything like it. When performers came on people threw their plastic bottles in the air and I got doused in beer plenty of times (not great). The more they liked the performer the more they threw their bottles.

The promoter of the festival was Live Nation. On its website it states the following: "Recycling systems will be in place to segregate all cardboard, plastic, paper and cans from back of house and the waste from the audience will be sent through a sorting process to extract all recyclable elements. All vendors will be using biodegradable packaging and wooden utensils across the site to avoid plastic packaging including polystyrene."

But what it fails to mention is that festival goers have no place to throw their rubbish so they just use the floor. There were bins at the event but not enough.

It seems as if litter pickers were just paid to pick the litter - poor them.

If we do not target the young to give out the message that it is not cool to throw litter then that generation will grow up thinking that it is OK to do it.

I think nobody is brave enough to challenge anyone, young or old, who drops litter nowadays for fear of getting into a confrontational situation.

Liz Gyekye, Senior Reporter, MRW