Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Ad men and women go to war!

Today I attended a meeting at the DfT with the ad industry and interested bodies. Boy, are they unhappy with us. They don't like that they are going to have to put CO2 info on their pretty car ads. Apparently it will ruin the ad industry and the economy...!

The same person, who will remain anonymous said at the beginning of the meeting "All of us support regulation and want to comply with the law." By the end of the meeting she was saying "If you give us specific guidance it's easy for us to get around." I think the latter comment might be the more honest!

The fact is, the DfT aren't going to backtrack on this - the legislation will be brought in. Whether it is strictly enforced is another matter. To be realistic, I am sceptical.

Now we have a month (the industry wanted 10 weeks!) to go away and decide what size the info regarding CO2 should be on the billboards. We want it big and easy to understand. They want it tiny, ignorable and incomprehensible.

The funniest thing was how they kept trying to tell us that the info didn't serve a purpose so why should it be there at all? However, if it doesn't serve a purpose and isn't generally read, why do they have such a problem putting it on there in the first place? Because it will make their ad unsightly? They should just see it as a challenge to creating subtler ads, like our friends the cigarette advertisers did, back in the day.

At the end of the meeting we were sworn to secrecy. We were told not to talk to the press. So I've granted anonymity to the above woman. But they're not going to stop me blogging about it. I just can't keep secrets, evidently.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Co-mingling / Co-mangling

I have been doing lots of research on co-mingled recycling, which is the system we've got in Haringey at present. As I have long suspected, NOT recycling is actually better than putting things into a co-mingled system. I sent the following letter to Cllr Brian Haley, cabinet member for Environment and Conservation at Haringey Council:

Dear Cllr Brian Haley,

I have recently heard from my local councillor Rachel Allison that Haringey Council are soon going to look again at their recycling scheme.

I live on the Summersby Road estate in N6, and we had recycling facilities introduced earlier this year, after two years of asking for bins to be delivered. Residents have taken to recycling easily, and the bins are regularly full.

However, we have discussed at Residents’ Association meetings the issue of co-mingled versus separated recycling facilities, and it largely agreed that we would prefer the latter scheme.

There are many reasons why separated recycling is better than co-mingled (aka co-mangled!), as I am sure you are already aware, namely:

A recent WRAP report pointed to the fact that only 12-15% of co-mingled recycling actually ends up getting recycled. If Haringey was really recycling, as it claims, 25% of its waste, that would still be low. But 12-15% of 25% is truly scandalous in 2008.
Glass that has been put into co-mingled recycling facilities is so degraded that it can only be used as road aggregate. Andy Moore of the Campaign for Real Recycling told me that recently roadfill people have been rejecting loads of late.
The paper gets so contaminated by glass fragments and the remnants of what was in the bottles and cans that no British papermaker can use it to make recycled paper. So it gets sent to the Far East. And what happens to it there? Maybe Malaysian papermakers have lower standards or better technology. Maybe not. Either way it would make more sense not to contaminate the paper in the first place.
A recent report showed that Greenwich’s co-mingled scheme ADDED 77% to the carbon footprint. In other words, people would be better off not recycling at all. This is disheartening, as residents are keen to ‘do their bit’ for the environment by recycling, an activity they undertake in good faith.

I know that by collecting a co-mingled recycling load you can increase tonnage and meet government targets more readily, but as discussion at our residents’ meetings has shown, people are not ignorant. They are wholly suspicious of co-mingling, as well they should be.

I also understand that by switching to separated recycling facilities, it may mean more collection lorries on the road. However, I can see two possible solutions:

1) Separate out the glass from the co-mingled collection to minimise contamination. This could be done relatively easily by giving residents a separate bag for glass.
2) Collect paper and cardboard (“fibres”) separately from glass, plastic and metal (“containers”). This method allows reasonably easy automated separation of “containers” and it means any leftover food and drink in the “containers” doesn’t contaminate the paper. The whole of Germany uses this system.

Regarding the increased trucks on the street, so we could fuel them using biomethane made from food waste, which has virtually no carbon or noxious emissions, and which Veolia is currently trialling in Camden.

It makes sense to switch to switch to separated facilities if Haringey TRULY wants to be the ‘Greenest Borough’. From an economic point of view, materials will be of a greater quality and therefore result in an increased revenue.

I hope you take the responsible, the ‘green’ and the correct decision, and opt for separated recycling facilities at the soonest possible opportunity.

I look forward to hearing from you on this important matter,

Yours Sincerely,

Sarah Mitchell
Chair, Summersby Road Residents’ Association.