If empty bottles had dreams

Here’s a question – why do we still need bottle banks when we have doorstep recycling? A relevant question as Haringey Council is on the brink of scrapping them.

Doorstop recycling is great idea in principle. It responds to the reality of any time poor Londoner; there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything let along make it to the bottle bank. Green boxes are an easy and convenient method that lots of Councils have chosen to increase the amount of waste recycled.

The problem is that it is the best worst option. That might sound a bit strange, but here’s what I mean. Take an ordinary glass bottle, let’s say a wine bottle. After you have finished the last drop of that cheeky red I am sure you diligently put it in your green box.

Here is where the problem starts. Because not only do you put in wine bottle from Friday night, but you also put in the weekend’s newspapers, the pizza flyers that come through your letter box and your plastic milk containers after you finished the last drop milk for your crunchy-nut cornflakes that morning.

When this mix leaves your doorstep and gets crushed in the lorries that transports it to the recovery centre, the damage is done. The dreams of that poor bottle are crushed and that empty bottle of cheeky red has absolutely no chance of ever been turned back into even a milk bottle let alone the finest Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

The bottle does get kind of recycled, but the best that poor bottle can ever hope to be is road fill because of the contamination. Hardly the most glamorous end to your favourite Pinot Noir but more seriously, what is lost when it is recycling in this way is the enormous energy saving potential of that glass. It takes about seven times the amount of energy to make new glass than is does to make glass from recycled glass. An extremely important fact as we try to reduce our carbon footprint.

Until a more perfect and cost effective alternative presents itself, kerbside recycling in its current form is here to stay for a while. But in the meantime, why not keep our bottle banks?When practical, I am sure many people are happy to take their glass to the supermarket bottle bank instead of consigning it to be become part of the M1 extension.

Taking the greenest option away is simply ludicrous and retrograde step in our fight to make our communities more environmentally friendly.I for one will be fighting to keep our bottle banks not only to help drive down our borough’s carbon emission, but so green bottles can still dream of rediscovering their cheeky former selves.

(c) Lynne Featherstone, 2008

Save Haringey's recycling banks

Liberal Democrats demanded a halt to the scrapping of Haringey Borough’s 75 recycling banks.The revelation that they are to be cut was unearthed this week in a cross-party Overview and Scrutiny review into the London Borough of Haringey’s waste management and recycling services.

The dedicated recycling facilities located through Haringey offer the only alternative to Haringey Council’s controversial doorstep co-mingling scheme.

Critics of the co-mingling scheme point to poor quality of the recycled material after it is recovered. For example glass recovered from the co-mingled process cannot actually be recycled into glass because of contamination and instead is used as road fill, losing much of the energy saving potential.

Commenting, Councillor Lyn Weber, Overview & Scrutiny Panel Member said:

“We couldn’t believe what we were hearing at the Scrutiny review meeting. Haringey Council should be aiming for better recycling standards not worse.

“Coming only weeks after Labour’s Greenest Borough initiative, the scrapping of this service shows that they haven’t got a clue when it comes to the environment.”

Councillor Ed Butcher, Haringey Liberal Democrat Environment spokesperson added:

“Whilst co-mingled is the best worst option for increasing recycling, it is ludicrous to make it impossible for those dedicated green souls who are willing to make the extra effort to save the planet.

“This decision proves that Haringey Labour carries out absolutely no green assessment of its decisions.If they had done so the evidence would have clearly shown that this bonkers plan will increase the amount of carbon dioxide Haringey Council is indirectly responsible for.”

Plastic – not so fantastic!

This article first appeared in the Highgate and Muswell Hill Flier

I’m throwing down the gauntlet to Highgate and Muswell Hill! After all – we don’t want Crouch End showing us up – do we?

You may have heard about the village of Modbury where the use of plastic bags has been eradicated. This village’s 43 traders, spurred by the need to tackle the environmental mess we have got ourselves into, all decided to do away with a real scourge of the environment – plastic bags. They have converted to corn starch paper, cotton or cloth – all sorts – but not plastic.

Now, Crouch End – with Budgens leading the charge – is on its way to doing a Modbury. Budgens has got a group of traders together to first cut use of plastic bags and is campaigning and on the path to then one day eradicate plastic bags. As well as encouraging shoppers to purchase a ‘bag for life’ (which is a special non-plastic bag) Budgens launched a Pennies for Plastic Appeal earlier this year in a bid to change customers’ shopping habits and cut the use of plastic bags. For every bag a customer reuses, the shop donates one penny towards building a theatre stage for a local school.

I am totally supporting this campaign, and additionally I have written to all the supermarkets in Hornsey & Wood Green to also ask that they provide a recycling bin near the exits so people can discard the woefully excessive packaging there and then. The manufacturers also need to stop the excess at source!

It takes a whole lot of effort to do what Modbury did. But if a whole village can be plastic bagless – so can we in both Highgate and Muswell Hill!

This is partly about how shops behave, But we individuals have to change our habits too if we are to make progress. If we want our local stores not to dish out plastic bags left, right and centre – then we have to remember to take our own bag with us – or be prepared to pay for a re-usable bag at checkout.

Like every real change we make in our lives – it has to start somewhere. I remember when I started recycling. At first I would still throw some recyclable stuff in the bin – well it’s only a bit of cardboard or paper I would think to myself. That won’t make much difference. But now, a few years on, if I accidentally throw a bit of cardboard in the bin – I can’t leave it there. I now feel so guilty – I go back and take it out and put it in the recycling.

That’s what happens in the end. The habit of good behaviour becomes the norm – and that’s where I have got to get to with plastic bags. That will have to be my New Year resolution!

(c) Lynne Featherstone, 2007

Budgens lead the way on curbing plastic bags

Sadly my nice photo of Andrew Thornton (Budgens, Crouch End) and myself is blurred beyond use – so I can’t show you me proudly clutching my Crouch End Shopping Bag at its launch.

The lights were turned on and children from three local schools walking together down Crouch End Broadway to the Town Hall Square to sing carols – but the star of the night is really what Crouch End traders are doing by their drive to cut out plastic bag use in the area and encourage people to use reusable bags instead.

I have also written to all the supermarkets in Hornsey & Wood Green, urging them to supply a recycling bin in store near their checkouts so that people can discard the dreadfully overdone packaging at site.

Just to give you an idea of what can be achieved if a store is willing to commit to this, here are Budgen’s most recent statistics:

  • They have cut the average weekly usage from 35,000 to 16,000
  • They estimate that more than half of their customers now bring their own bags with them
  • They have saved over 220,000 carrier bags so far

Not bad for just five months work! They are now planning to ban free carrier bags totally from March. And they are putting the large multiple chains to shame – who are aiming for a measly 25% cut over two years. If Budgens can do so much more so much quicker, why are they dragging their feet? Perish the thought that they aren’t just as well run as Budgens!