Ray Georgeson's

blog

8 Jul 2010

 

The better management of biowaste, the biodegradable waste which is generated in gardens and kitchens, has long been a priority for European action. The environmental threat from biowaste is well known, as when left for disposal in landfills and not treated it generates methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas 25 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. Measures to manage biowaste through composting and anaerobic digestion are starting to have a positive impact on this problem, and action to reduce food waste through waste prevention will also help. Recent studies[i] show how food waste prevention can reduce greenhouse gas emissions impact by 4.5 tonnes for every tonne of food waste prevented as well as save real money, with one third of food bought by UK households being wasted. 
The main European legislation to drive the reduction of biowaste from landfills and into more productive uses is the Landfill Directive. However, there has been much debate about the merits of establishing specific legislation on biowaste, and the European Commission and Parliament have considered and consulted on the potential for a Biowaste Directive.
The Commission has recently announced in a new Communication[ii] that it has now ruled out bringing forward legislation under a Biowaste Directive. It has determined following consultation with many interests that there is no policy gap at EU level (with the Landfill and Waste Framework Directives very much in mind) and instead has judged that the priority needs...
21 Jun 2010

This week is Recycle Week 2010, where special attention is paid to the importance of recycling and reminding people what can be done.  This year focuses on small electrical items and reminding people that these can also be recycled.  It isn't just the big stuff like fridges and cookers - all those things that just seem to break down but we can't bear to throw away, like toasters, hairdryers and all the other electrical detritus of modern life can all be recycled. 

More information is available on www.recyclenow.com 

It's time to find an hour to clear out that attic, garage or cupboard under the stairs - you never know, you'll probably also find that other thing you thought you had lost and had spent ages searching for... 

7 Jun 2010

Oh dear.  The warm language of partnership expressed by the Coalition Government clearly hasn’t reached the territory occupied by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles.  Today, Mr Pickles unsurprisingly stamped on the previous Government’s attempt to allow local authorities the option of introducing charges for household waste collection to increase recycling by saying it is “time to rein in the bin bullies”[1].

It is a shame that this language continues to be used, as it does little to aid proper debate on waste and recycling.  The ‘bin bullies’ that Mr Pickles describes are the decent public servants in local government and government agencies who have been working hard for years to improve Britain’s recycling services and performance and helping to reduce carbon emissions.

In the rush to pronounce on this consistently hated (by Mr Pickles) policy (and in fairness to Mr Pickles he had indeed been consistent in his views on this issue) we do seem to have overlooked the principles of ‘evidence based policy’ and indeed ‘localism’ that the new Government have expressed.  If the Government are genuine about the desire to give local communities and authorities more power over decisions and spending, surely the consistent thing to do would be to allow councils the right to introduce charging for waste collection if they deem it appropriate for their locality?  Simply ruling it out altogether doesn’t seem consistent at all with the ‘new politics...

4 Jun 2010

In the couple of years or so that I have lived in my adopted home town in West Yorkshire, there have been several closures of much missed community facilities in the form of local pubs.  They tend to be those backstreet, suburban and village hostelries and not the cheap drink emporia frequented by today’s young people, and this is a trend which is being repeated across the country.  The excellent campaigning organisation CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) reports that 39 pubs are closing every week and this is leading to a loss of social as well as economic value in many of our towns and villages.

So what, you might say?  Isn’t that just the way that the market economy operates?  Well, yes it is – but that doesn’t mean it’s a desirable outcome. Often, the closed pubs are left a good while without any redevelopment and become local eyesores.  In addition, there is considerable loss to local economies - a recent report by the Institute of Public Policy Research[1] indicates that local pubs inject an average of £80,000 a year into their immediate local economy which reduces after closure because pubs employ more people than supermarkets on selling beer and at a higher value.  The effect of cheap alcohol sold through the major retail chains has undoubtedly been devastating on the local pub.  True, this isn’t the only reason pubs are in decline – wine drinking trends have played their part too as well as other social changes, but in many places the effect of Big Retailer has been to sound the death...

3 Jun 2010

When the new Coalition Government launched its programme a couple of weeks ago, they published it on a website where comments can be made -  http://programmeforgovernment.hmg.gov.uk/ and so I thought I would have a look and leave a short comment about the few lines on waste and recycling.

What is noticeable though is that of only 54 comments left in the Defra section, 47 of them are about the proposed free vote on the repeal of the ban on hunting with dogs.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this debate might be, and goodness knows the last Parliament spent enough time on this previously, I do hope that this lack of balance in the interest recorded on Defra's policy agenda doesn't end up reflected in the amount of distraction that a renewal of the hunting debate might bring.  Ministers and officials surely have more pressing problems than messing about with legislation that doesn't seem to work anyway from what many reports indicate and always generates a polarised debate that seems irreconcilable.

For what it is worth, I was in favour of the ban but regret the waste of Parliamentary time that the last Government spent on it when they could have been doing other more useful work.  Let's not repeat that mistake.

Here is my modest comment on waste (lost in the middle of the rage about hunting)...

Working towards a 'zero waste' economy is a laudable objective and is to be welcomed, and I hope that a starting point will be a clear statement that the Coalition Government will seek to be more ambitious in meeting and exceeding the targets set in the Waste Framework Directive, particularly for higher then 50% levels of recycling and on strong...

2 Jun 2010

This is an article recently written by me as Chair of REalliance for the Urban Mines website:

Recently, the annual publication of EU waste statistics by EUROSTAT showed that the UK had in 2008 recycled 23% of municipal dry recyclables, which was bang on the EU average.  We were a little behind on composting, with a rate of 12% comparing to an EU average of 17%.  The news that the UK had equalled the EU average on recycling was greeted by Ministers with a cheer but for me this was a hollow cheer – since when did we celebrate being average?

Now, this is not at all to decry the efforts made in the last decade to improve our recycling and composting efforts, far from it.  We have made tremendous strides from a low base in our bid to respond to EU Directives, and there has been a rapid acceleration of collection techniques, communications, technologies and logistics all deployed in the drive for landfill diversion.

I do wonder though whether, in this headlong rush for new technology and ‘advanced’ collection systems we lost sight of the ‘people factor’?  Some of the most innovative and best performing collection schemes were (and are still) run by third sector organisations with a strong focus on people – not just the flair deployed in communicating and motivating the public to sort and recycle, but the investment made in people-friendly operations.  This often involves good training schemes for workers and volunteers, opportunities for employment created for those marginalised in society and value placed on safe working practices.

Third sector organisations have always been strong at making the connections between the waste of material resources and the waste of human resources in...

1 Sep 2009

It's a big day today.  1st September, the end of the summer and everyone is gearing up for a busy autumn.  We head into the political and professional conference season, and getting our minds round all those tasks we put off during the dog days of summer.

It's a time when campaigns and new initiatives often start, and today is no exception.  I was prompted to start blogging properly, not just by the turning of the calender, but by the launching of a new campaign today by The Guardian.  Their 10:10 campaign seeks your active commitment to reduce your carbon emissions by 10% during 2010.  With massive climate talks in Copenhagen coming in a few months time, raising public and corporate commitments to reduce emissions have never been more important, and it is really good to see The Guardian taking this initiative - I support it and have signed up.

However, it prompted me to have another look at what The Guardian itself says about its own paper consumption.  The story is mainly positive, but is not straightforward.   Here is a letter I have sent to the Editor today:

Dear Letters Editor (for consideration for publication) and Editor (for a corporate response please)

 

Two and a half cheers to The Guardian for taking a...

23 Jul 2009

Our media-crowded world bombards us with campaigns, messages, stories, celebrity nonsense, 24/7 news and obsessive analyses of politics, natural disasters, air crashes and so much more. No wonder it can be hard to make an impact when a really important story is being told.

Here is a fresh example. Five years ago, the then Daily Telegraph environment editor Charles Clover wrote a powerful book about the depletion of the world’s fish stocks. Called The End of the Line, it was a detailed description of the systematic destruction of the balance of ocean life as a result of our demand for fish, whether it is for bluefin tuna or our own hearty staples of cod and haddock. It told of the consequences of overfishing and of using destructive techniques with the effect of knocking out all manner of other sealife that wasn’t destined for the dinner table.

Moreover, it highlighted the iniquities of the EU fisheries policy, whereby perfectly good, wholesome and edible fish are being thrown back to sea dead, because although the quota was met, the ‘wrong’ sort of fish had been caught.

The book certainly had an impact, but not as much as was needed to change attitudes with regards to consuming fish sustainably or to transform policies. However, with director Rupert Murray and an award-winning production team, Clover has taken this message one big step further and produced a hard-hitting and very graphic documentary film of...

2 Mar 2009

It isn’t just the relentless responsibility we all have to try and reduce our energy and resource consumption that steers us towards investing in insulation and other energy saving measures, but the reasonable human desire for warmth and cosiness in our homes. 

Hunkering down here in Yorkshire for what we are told is proving to be the coldest winter for some years and having moved into a stone house with no cavity walls, we’ve made a priority of getting drywall insulation fitted to the inside of the coldest and most exposed rooms. For comfort as well as for carbon!

In my case, this has also involved the removal of a couple of very old, very heavy radiators in order to retrofit the insulation. The sensible thing to do was to replace them with modern, more efficient versions that disperse heat around a room more effectively, allowing the same level of warmth for lower fuel use.

And so it was that two large old radiators came to be languishing outside in the back yard, waiting for the inevitable trip to the civic amenity site.

But languish they didn’t. For no sooner had I rested them both against the outbuilding wall, then there was the sound of horses’ hooves on the road outside followed by a knock at the gate. 

So, who should I look up to see, offering to take the scrap metal away? None other than the local rag and bone man, and his trusty horse Bimbo, complete with cart, nicely laden with other scrap items.

Well, I was speechless. I haven’t seen a rag and bone man since I was a child, and I really thought that was a part of the recycling trade that had pretty...

2 Mar 2009

This may not be a new phenomenon, but have you noticed just how big a business the nostalgia industry has turned out to be? It may well be that all those clever marketeers are aiming much of this stuff at forty- and fifty-something people like me (and some of you), but there’s no denying its appeal.

Picture

We have seen the success of TV programmes like Life on Mars set in the 70s-era of sideburns and smoking. Apparently, there was a recent surge in sales of Smash powdered mashed potato! And, if like me you have a youthful fondness for moody electronic 80s pop music, how could you fail to be thrilled by the reforming of OMD and Ultravox, or even seeing Human League, Heaven 17 and ABC all on the same stage after long absences. There’s something for everyone – even Cliff Richard and The Shadows have just announced (and sold out) a concert tour after a 20-year break. [Don’t forget Take That’s recent success, Ray! Ed]

Maybe it’s the passage of time that dims the reality, but those funny dance steps, flared (and later narrowed) trousers, bad haircuts and kohl-stained eyes don’t seem too bad, after all. And isn’t it interesting how some things which were once just good old common sense are being rediscovered and seen in a new light for a new era. Let me give you a couple of examples.

I kid you not, but one of the major banks (probably better that I don’t mention it by name) has just launched a savings account with a higher rate of interest for first time buyers under the slogan ‘save before you borrow’. How novel is that? That you should save a bit of money in...