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Aisle be there

  • Chris Jeavans
  • 27 Aug 08, 10:22 AM GMT

It may seem from my posts about farmers' markets, local butchers and fruit stalls that I have shunned supermarkets this month. This is not the case.

I have managed to find a decent amount of non-plastic goods in several major outlets, from naked cucumbers and boxed rice in Lidl to lasagne in cardboard and crackers in paper at Sainsbury's.

That said, my choices have been extremely limited and if I want the convenience of one-stop shopping come September, I will have to go back to plastic.

Every food retailer is aware that packaging is a hot issue, and plastic packaging is arguably the hottest.

Waste Minister Joan Ruddock says at least a third of her postbag is about excess wrapping, much of it railing against plastic pollution.

But more than half of our food is now wrapped in the stuff: is this for consumers' benefit or that of the retailers?

Both, argues Marks and Spencer's head of packaging, Dr Helene Roberts. Lightweight plastics, she says, enable the customer to get their food protected in the optimum way for the least cost - both environmental and financial.

"Plastics are hugely efficient and on a carbon footprint basis they're very effective. They also provide a range of options: I could put meat into one [type of] plastic wrapping and it wouldn't last a day. I can put it into another and it will last 21 days."

The 21 day example she cites is vacuum packaging for steaks and joints as an alternative to the usual rigid plastic meat tray with a film lid.

It is not recyclable because it is made from seven layers of different plastics - but it is, she says, 69% lighter than the tray option, meaning there is less to transport and less to landfill at the end.

marksandspencermeat.jpg

However, to aid recycling, the company is also looking to simplify its plastic packaging across the board so that in general terms it will only use three types: PET, HDPE and polypropylene (PP).

But, says Dr Roberts, consumers "should not have to be material scientists" and sort plastic packaging at home, a mixed plastics infrastructure needs to be in place so all trays and bags can be thrown in together by the householder and sorted at recovery facilities.

Under the 2005 Courtauld Commitment the UK's major food retailers pledged to halt packaging waste growth by this year (achieved in July) and reduce packaging waste by 2010.

tescosquash203.jpgTesco says it is saving over 1,000 tonnes of plastic a year by doubling the concentration of its orange squash so the same amount of diluted drink can be obtained from bottles half the size.

Meanwhile, Morrisons has introduced new bags for cauliflower and broccoli which it calculates will save 85 tonnes of packaging per year; Asda has focussed on cutting the weight of its glass jars and bottles and Sainsbury has introduced recycled bottles and compostable food bags and trays.

Marks and Spencer is next week launching a new range of packaging for its pizzas which will cut out almost 500 tonnes of cardboard and 83 tonnes of plastic.

I am not defending the big food retailers in all their packaging choices - I doubt I will ever understand plastic-wrapped lemons for instance (didn't nature do that job rather well?) - but the Courtauld Commitment efforts are beginning to feel like the top goal of the waste hierarchy: to reduce first, then reuse and then recycle.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Firstly, thanks again Chris for such an interesting and thought provoking blog. I've learnt a lot, I'm sure others have too.

    Plastic wrapped food in supermarkets annoys me a lot. As you say, why wrap a lemon in plastic? The real reason is to prolong shelf life while it is transported half way across the globe. It keeps the food looking fresh despite the loss of goodness (salad still goes off in salad packs, even though it doesn't appear to).

    And then, as you say, what do you do with the wrapping? Where we live it isn't recyclable and goes straight in the bin.

  • Comment number 2.

    great post, Chris - thank you for such interesting information; lots to look into and read up on :)

  • Comment number 3.

    You found naked cucumbers!

    I didn't think that was possible in a supermarket, in England.

    The French manage it perfectly well, but it's not exactly eco-friendly to go hopping over/under the channel for a weekly shop.

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi Chris,

    Companies are changing for the better, but so are consumers. The Zero Waste approach is done to affect the chain of waste. I can do most shopping without packaging and I am finding further alternatives. Today, Wittard and Lush sold me Zero Waste options.

    There are defficiences in recycling (councils), treatment of food waste ( little anaerobic digestion), sustainable plastic use (business) and lack of coordination (government). Only consumers can effect the current situation, by choosing waste reduction.

    Change will take time but it has to happen.
    Numbers are small but our trend is the future.

  • Comment number 5.

    Is the plastic wrapped lemon and alternative to or in addition to the waxy stuff they spray on citrus fruits? The 'loose' lemons are usually sprayed with a sort of varnish made from all sorts of weird and unpleasant substances which makes their zest and rind useless for cooking. Its quite hard work finding untreated citrus.

  • Comment number 6.

    "Tesco says it is saving over 1,000 tonnes of plastic a year by doubling the concentration of its orange squash so the same amount of diluted drink can be obtained from bottles half the size."

    Whilst a bottle of double the volume uses more plastic, the amount of plastic per cubic centimetre is less, so Tesco has got it COMPLETELY wrong.

  • Comment number 7.

    #4 CarolineMB don't know if you've got a Co-op supermarket near you but they only sell 'naked' cucumbers. The plastic came off last year I think.

    They don't tend to routinely hand out carrier bags either but if you do get one it's biodegradable too - which is better than nothing I suppose. And no, I don't work for them!

  • Comment number 8.

    Sorry CarolineMB #3!

  • Comment number 9.

    Further to the comment on Wittard, their paper bag is in fact polythene lined. These bags are therefore only reusable for loose coffee beans. That is sustainable.

    Anyone else planning to go there should take their own commodity bag, if they have a spare.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have just come back from a 2 week holiday in Florida - not a climate condusive to maintaining food freshness. Yet there is far less evidence of plastics in food packaging than here. As usual the major UK food retailers justify themselves with arguments that are a convenient cover to protect their own interests. Pre-packaged fresh food forces us to buy portions larger than we want and quantities that we end up throwing away - thats why the UK wastes millions of tonnes of foodstuffs very year. Try buying 1 chicken breast or a single cut of meat in Asda,Tesco or Sainsburys - you will struggle. Fresh foodstuffs self bagged in paper from display would enable consumers to choose the quantity and quality of foods they purchase and therefore purchase and waste less, just like a traditional market . The supermarket chains dont want that, so dont dont give us the choice..

  • Comment number 11.

    Do you really think that you have avoided the plastic packaging? Much of our fruit is covered in an unnecessary coat of plastic - it makes the fruit look good and allows it to rot from the middle without noticing on the outside. If you haven't shopped for uncoated fruit you have probably been eating it with ethylene wax - a sort of plastic!

  • Comment number 12.

    I've been watching this quietly with great interest all month. I try my best, helped by my local council as they do a kerbside collection of mixed plastics, paper, cardboard and cans. Glass bottles and tetra-paks get walked to my local supermarket.

    My question?

    My council will only collect plastic bottles and cans if they have been 'thoroughly washed' - this is easy with stuff like washing up liquid and toiletries - add water and you can get an extra 5 days out of them, but, the very nature of bottles and cans makes them very hard to dry, so they need HOT water to clean them. Am I doing more harm than good by washing them?

  • Comment number 13.

    Further to #12, I missed the part in my council's instructions - the stuff must be thoroughly washed and dried, sorry

  • Comment number 14.

    sashmill wrote:

    "Whilst a bottle of double the volume uses more plastic, the amount of plastic per cubic centimetre is less, so Tesco has got it COMPLETELY wrong."


    The article was talking about increasing the concentration of the drink, hence a smaller bottle will hold the same amount of juice (after dilution).

    Tesco has it right. You don't.

  • Comment number 15.

    10. At 12:50pm on 27 Aug 2008, Greennortherner wrote:

    "I have just come back from a 2 week holiday in Florida - not a climate condusive to maintaining food freshness. Yet there is far less evidence of plastics in food packaging than here."

    You know why don't you?

    The US routinely irradiate fruit with gamma rays which improves shelf life by nuking any mould spores that may be present. They also use GM technology to knock out certain genes that are involved in the natural over-ripening and rotting process.

    I'm not overtly opposed to either of these techniques, but I suspect most 'greens' in the UK will be.

  • Comment number 16.

    Not so long ago I visted Morrisons and was horrified to discover that they shrink wrapped (with a barcode) INDIVIDUAL CAPISICUMS!!!!

    Other supermarkets trust their checkout staff to identify products but obviously not Morrisons.

    I complained to their HO (who you cannot email, by the way) and received a disinterested response.

  • Comment number 17.

    A lot of good points have been made but I can't agree with the overall sentiment that it is the retailers who are wrong and we are not given a choice - we always have a choice.

    I can understand where 'Greennortherner' is coming from but why would you want to buy 1 chicken breast. We have feeezers. By larger quantities, stock the freezer, the freezer works more efficiently (better for the environment) and we have less trips to the supermarket (also better for the environment).

    'Johnhcrf' makes a good point about the consumer affecting change, but why should we have to accept a lack of foresight in (the current and previous) government's recycling policy.

    I want to recycle but I'm told what I can and can't put in my recycling bin.

    Surely I should be able to put all plastics into a recycling bin (for plastic products) and let the recycling firm sort out what can and can't be recycled effectively, efficiently and with environmental consciousness.

    These recycling firms shoudl be established and subsidised by major manufacturers and retailers, with the level of subsidy dependant on the amount of packaging they use, produce, etc.

    This would not only help fund a recycling program which helps to engage 'Mr Joe Public' by making it as easy as possible and would also encourage the aforementioned corporations to look at the packaging they use.

    Nothing is ever simple but plastics (and packaging) have helped us greatly and we shouldn't loose sight of this.

    Surely, the issue is about getting each 'stakeholder' in the plastic packaging food chain - from the manufacturers of the packaging down to us consumers - working as one not looking to pass the buck onto someone else.

  • Comment number 18.

    " Try buying 1 chicken breast or a single cut of meat in Asda,Tesco or Sainsburys - you will struggle. Fresh foodstuffs self bagged in paper from display would enable consumers to choose the quantity and quality of foods they purchase "

    Most supermarkets have a butcher's counter that will happily sell you a single steak etc. Your idea of self bagging fresh meat is a non-starter though. You'd be unable to monitor best before dates so would end up dumping all the chicken breasts left over at the end of the day and having the public handle raw meat on s upermarket shelf would be an E.coli or salmonella epidemic in the making.

  • Comment number 19.

    #13 - my council also requests that everything be washed and dried, then refuses to provide a lid for any recycling boxes, other than paper and greens, meaning that by the time they come to collect the recycling, my cans, bottles and plastics are all full of rain water. And they always take them away.

    I think this is just something they encourage to ensure we don't put out tins half full of manky beans or gone off milk, which would be very unpleasant for their workers.

    On the cucumber theme, i recently complained to Ocado (who pride themselves on being green) after i received a cucumber with a layer of shrink wrap AND a sealed plastic outer bag as well. I did receive a response - apparently they are taking it up with their suppliers and they apologised.

    Shrink wrapped bananas upset me the most, but that's why i shop on my local market - they give me most things without even a paper bag - carrots, lemons, parsnips etc, straight into my (fabric) bag. brilliant.

  • Comment number 20.

    Hallo Chris,
    really interesting experiment. Our company API spa in Italy developed a new biodegradable plastic material ,we called it APINAT, that is a soft elastomer that biodegrades under specific conditions. It's a perfect material to be used , among other applications , for shoe soles , I saw the article about your broken sandals. That means that also the plastic industry is working to develop and improve new evironmentally friendly alloys , without renouncing to the benefits that plastics brought to our lives.

  • Comment number 21.

    Re: washing your plastic recyclables:

    Washing your recyclables even with hot water is fine. After all, if you shove them into the dishwasher with your dirty crockery and cutlery, you probably will end up with clean plastics. It does not waste water, because whether you've put the plastic in or not, you're using the same amount.

    As for washing up by hand, you can rinse out much of the contents left behind out with cold water and soap, and where necessary, follow up with the hot soapy suds that you wash your dishes in. It should be clean, but it does not mean that it should be spotless. As long as there's no mould, no smells and nothing that can rot in the container, you're fine.

    I have not had any problems recycling my plastics that way. I rinse the drinks bottles out (the ones I don't reuse that is), I wash the little sauce or yoghurt pots where I use them, and my council has not complained.

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks #19 and #21, it's mainly drinks cans I have problems with, especially because my recycling is only collected monthly - any water in them would go stagnant when they've been in the 'green' bin that long. I was just worried the amount of hot water used to rinse them defeated the object of recycling.

    Unfortunately I only have room for a 'slimline' dishwasher in my kitchen and only ever run it when it's full to capacity, adding cans and bottles would not be practical, but I'll try keeping hold of it till I have pans too large for the dishwasher and use the soapy water from them to clean my recycling.

  • Comment number 23.

    My choice is to wash out all recyclables, removing labels in the process.
    Where there are combination paper/plastic labels, I separate the 2 materials, the waste plastic is binned and paper in the compost.

    If these labels are left on I imagine they will be landfilled, so better to remove and retain the useful material.

  • Comment number 24.

    I suppose people should note that plastic packaging is often designed to hold an inert atmosphere in, as well as to keep nasties out.

    So, particularly for fruit, some of your packaging oddities may be explained by the requirement to keep the fruit in a particular environment to delay or encourage ripening as required by the reseller...l

  • Comment number 25.

    Sainsbury used to sell olive oil in glass bottles, now they're all plastic. I suppose the rationale is that there is less breakage (ie less wastage of all the olives grown to make the oil), and much less weight (ie much less fuel used to truck the stuff about). So it's not all plastic bad, glass good.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Chris:

    nice post this time!

  • Comment number 27.

    #25. Half true. Its a weight argument (and probably also a production cost one- glass is more more expensive to make) but a glass bottle is far stronger than a plastic one. Effectively a decent glass olive oil 250 or 500ml bottle is unbreakable unless you put it on an anvil and smack it with a hammer. A 2 foot drop will spilt a plastic one.

    However I agree totally that its not all 'plastic bad, glass good'. This won't stop Johnhcrf chanting 'the glass bottle is a zero waste product' and accusing of both of being in the pay of the packaging industry though!

  • Comment number 28.

    To #27 - thanks for your civilized and friendly comments Peter. I have only read this blog for the first time today and was a bit intimidated by the atmosphere of some of the comments and replies, to the extent I wasn't sure about posting something, but now glad I did.
    The main thing I have noticed from reading all the comments to Chris's "plastic free" articles is that there are no completely win/win answers to everything. Any solution seems to be a trade off, and some people are prepared to make more of an effort than others. I'm prepared to go a bit further than most people I know, but not as far as many of these bloggers. However, that doesn't mean there's no point in me even trying and I'm proud of the fact that I only put out my bin once a month now and not once a week. Not Zero Waste, but definitely A Lot Less Waste.

  • Comment number 29.

    #28. My attitude entirely. With 6 billion people on earth we can't feed everything organically and I don't fancy living in a cave so the best we can all do is make as small an impact as we practically can. As you say its a question of sitting back and weighing up all the options and going for the one that causes the least impact on everyone.

  • Comment number 30.

    #28GlosKat

    A 75% reduction in waste is a very good contribution.

    There are 3 main kinds of waste - Recyclables. Food Waste and Plastic Packaging Waste.

    How have you managed with these waste categories?

    My attitude to Zero Waste may seem extreme to you but it is necessary to change our Dustbin of Europe tag.

  • Comment number 31.

    #30 - I wish there were only 3 main kinds of waste. It would make things a lot easier!

    Not everything arising in the household stream is recyclable. Food waste only accounts for between 16-20% on average. Plastic packaging waste accounts for less than this by weight. Considerable amounts of apparently 'recyclable' fractions are not due to contamination - and for some options, recycling isn't the best environmental option anyway.

    There are waste materials arising from households for which landfill is the only practicable option. I give you my example of the asbestos cement sheets I have outside my house produced from my own DIY activities, and for which you really do not have any other disposal options. This is a material commonly used across the UK right up to the 70's. There's a lot of it knocking around in domestic properties, and this and other 'legacy' wastes will continue to be produced for many years. If you are to realise your 'Zero waste to landfill' aspirations - what do you do with such waste streams?

    So GlosKat has it spot on here. In reality, a reduction to landfill of beyond 75% is really pushing it - and relies totally on downstream options for use of wastes. Which we are developing, but which will take a long time to mature in the UK. Hence a declining use for landfill over a given time period. These residual options also include EfW.

  • Comment number 32.

    To#28Gloskat and #29Petersym

    My thoughts, as well!

    Each of us can do whatever works best for our own lives and circumstances. Some of us can or will go for extremes but others of us will do our own personal best to help the environment. This is not some kind of contest to see who can be 'greenest.'

    I am fortunate to have access to a very good recycling program. We produce a lot of our own food, plus I have swaps with other local growers. We compost and we have animals that happily consume any leftovers we are willing to provide! I do about 85% toward Zero waste. I doubt I will ever pass that mark, which is okay with me.

    Not everyone is in my position. The person living in an urban apartment house, for example, is somewhat at the mercy of both the apartment management and their particular waste disposal company. Also, they may have less access to minimally packaged foods. However, several people in this blog who live in these circumstances have shared what they do to reduce waste.
    Are they less 'green' than I am? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Each of us does what we can. That's what matters.

  • Comment number 33.

    A further note.

    It is my understanding that thin plastic films and especially plastic bags when combined with other recyclable plastics can get caught in the recycling machinery and really 'gum up the works.' So, it is not just a matter of throwing it all together and letting the recycler sort it out.

  • Comment number 34.

    Chris,

    You have done very well and going "back to plastic in September" is not going to produce total eco-disaster. As many people have shared in this blog, plastic has its uses and may often be a more practical environmental choice.

    You have given all of us a great forum and I thank you for that. I appreciate everything I have learned here. I am going out of town for a few days so may not be able to keep up with your blog. I just wanted you to know I am very happy you did this. Good luck and double THANKS from me to you!

  • Comment number 35.

    I was talking to a French guy the other day about the difference between our two countries' attitude to food. He accepted my point that we'd come a long way in the UK in the variety of cuisines and ingredients on offer. 'Yes,'he said with a sigh. 'But the problem is you're still obsessed with what food looks like and not what it tastes like. And you wear organic as if it was some designer label. A country that worships cooking on TV which you can neither taste nor smell and that sells most of its produce wrapped up in plastic doesn't really understand the essence of food. To buy vegetables and fruit, you must be able to feel it and squeeze it if necessary. That helps you to know if it is ripe and if it is good. But even then nothing will compensate for greenhouse grown produce that has never seen the sun. It might look good but it doesn't taste of anything. And taste is what it's all about'.
    I must say living in his country where strawberries smell as they used to do when I was a kid, I thought he had a point.

  • Comment number 36.

    The only containers I rinse out are the ones that have had food in them that sticks - sauces, catfood, beans. If I dont then I will end up with a seriously stinky mouldly recycle bin and frankly I dont want that!

    I also tend to rinse off yoghurt pots and milk cartons for the same reason (sour milk smell literally makes me heave). But I dont clean anything else - beer cans, wine bottles, the packaging from a joint because I just dont see a need to do so, they wont stink the place out in the few days (week at most) that they are in the recycle bin.

    The council havent stopped taking my rubbish - they havent made any mention to us that all recyclable stuffs have to be clean for that matter.

    I also do not seperate my plastics into what can and cannot be recycled. I havent got a ruddy clue which ones cant be - frankly that aint my job and so I put ALL plastics into the recycle bin. All neatly bagged up in one of the biodegradeable carrier bags that are kept for that exact purpose - so that my rubbish isnt going to end up strewn across the estate.

    Been here 2 and a half years now and not had the bin men complain once about my recycleable rubbish not being how it should be so I think some councils in the UK are just being picky for no good reason.

    Just out of interest - does anyone have a recycling collection each week that also includes clothes? West Oxfordshire does and its fantastic :0)

  • Comment number 37.

    Chris,
    Great post today bringing back into the realm of the mainstream with supermarkets. In reality they collectively cover over 75% of the UK grocery trade and therefore for 75% of the population this is how they shop. That means supermakets collectively feed more than 48,000,000 people every year! To do that packaging is absolutely pivotal in protecting and preserving the food through complex supply chains reaching all over the world at all times of the year.

    I can assure you that most supermarkets are doing all they can to reduce not just packaging but also all store estate waste as well as helping us all to waste less food. The Courtauld Commitment undoubtedly helped crystalise the issue and focus action upon packaging reduction and most retail signatories are delivering some strong programmes that make a real difference.

    I was really disapointed that within your post you chose not publicise the efforts that ASDA has gone to in reducing packaging. It has already delivered a 20% reduction in packaging in the last eighteen months, which is industry leading, globally. By the end of this year they have pledged to reduce packaging by a total of 25%.

    In fact in the recent LGA War On Waste study ASDA were found to use less packaging than not just every other supermarket but also the much praised 'local retalers' (high street shops - buthchers, bakers etc) and only 4% more than 'market stalls'. See link:-

    http://www.lga.gov.uk/lga/aio/593234

    Far from being 'greenwash' the major retailers' efforts to reduce packaging are very real, well funded and resourced targeted programmes of action that are and will deliver big changes for consumers and the environment.



  • Comment number 38.

    #3 - CarolineMB

    You excitement at the thought of a naked cucucmber is slightly misplaced, sorry. Whilst packaging waste is undoubtedly an issue we all have a responsibility for we must ensure we are equally aware of food waste.

    As a nation we waste 1/3 of our food, which is staggering. Packaged Cucumbers are a really iconic totem rolled out time and time again to illustrate how wasteful we are. Well actually the 1.4g of plastic used adds at least 10 more days to the shelf-life of the cucumber. That is why they are packaged.

    Many fruit and vegetables could easily be unwrapped and sold loose but food waste would significantly increase as result. As Food Waste is by far the bigger issue we should be very aware of demanding supermarkets strip packaging off produce without fully appreciating the reason it is actually there in the first place.

    Check out latest WRAP Food Waste study, it's huge.

    www.wrap.org.uk

  • Comment number 39.

    #6 - sashmill

    Sorry, tesco are most definitely right. As are Persil with "Small and Mighty". Concentrates use less packaging, given they need to be dilluted. You are neither paying for nor shipping the water you would add at home.

  • Comment number 40.

    #39

    To reduce wasteful packaging even more, why not just buy a washing powder that comes with built in fabric softners like BOld or supermarket own brands?

    No need to buy that seperate concentrated softener, therefore no plastic bottle in your recycle bin :0)

  • Comment number 41.

    #10 - greennortherner

    Other have already mentioned that freezing meat is a great thing to do. It also saves you money. Paying for a pack of six will undoubtedly be cheaper than paying for six individually.

    However you also raised the question about paper bags being available in supermarkets. This is a really interesting one because people 'believe' paper to be 'more green' than plastics. However the truth is somewhat different.....

    Most paper is derived from unsustainable forestry. Paper production is a particularly energy intensive process, especially the drying of the pulp. Huge amounts of energy are consumed. Also paper bags are significantly thicker and heavier than their plastic cousins so when it comes to shipping bags around the country paper bags use far more vehicles vs. plastic.

    From a life-cycle analaysis perspective plastic bags win hands down, every time. It may not 'feel' right but those are the facts.


    "It aint what we dont know that gets us into trouble. It's what we know for sure that just aint so."
    - Al Gore, An Incovenient Truth (quoting Mark Twain)


    PS: How 'green' was your recent transatlantic flight to Florida?

  • Comment number 42.

    # 20 - lorenzoitaly

    Biodegrdable packaging is a step forward and many are now bringing such materials to the market. However anyone believing they are 'sustainable' should take a closer look at the smallprint........

    All biodegrdable materials must be certified to EN13432, the European standard for industrial biodegradability. This certifies that they are "Industrially Compostable". There are no such standards for "Home Compostability".

    However in the UK we face a major issue with 'industrial composting as not one industrial site or LA will take compostable packaging. This leaves those materials destined for landfill where being biodegradable and starved of oxygen (anaerobic landfill) they will emit methane. Great if methane is harvested from that particular landfill, disastorous if not.

    Methane is 23x worse than Co2 as a greenhouse gas. Anyone considering buying products in this packaging should ensure they have the means of disposing of them. If not doing the right thing is actually making the issue [global warming] worse.

    The much vaunted PLA (poly lactic acid) is dervied from corn starch. Put aside the debate about our use of food crops for packaging when large parts of the world are starving and instead focus on the fact that with only one producer of PLA (USA - Cargill Dow) globally then all corn is GM, something UK consumers still find unacceptable.

    It's such a complicated area.

    PS: If it's supposed to 'industrially composted' please don't throw it on your compost bin as it will still be there when they come to carry you off in a biodegrdable box!

  • Comment number 43.

    # Gloskat

    You raise a very interesting and often misunderstood debate in 'plastic vs. glass'. The reasons for using plastic plastic bottles are not simply economic, although plastics are clearly cheaper. Plastic uses far less energy to produce, is typically around 40% lighter than glass and will have an 11% smaller footprint (thinner walls whilst retaining same internal capacity) so uses less enegry (fuel) to distribute and are fully recyclable.

    This all boils down to the fact that plastic bottles typically have a 20%-30% better carbon footprint than their glass cousins.

    Our focus should always remain on the 'bigger picture' and there ain't many bigger pictures than global warming.

    I know it may not 'feel right' but plastic containers are more environmentaly friendly than glass.

  • Comment number 44.

    #30 - johnhcrf

    Never one to miss an opportunity to over-simplify a highly complex issue. You should know better.

  • Comment number 45.

    #33 - aquarizongal

    Plastic film IS recyclable, through the right process and technology. A few examples from UK supermarkets today:-

    1. All 'stretchfilm' recycled from the back of every store. This film is typically clean LDPE of a predictable standard and grade, therefore attractive to recycling operations.

    2. Supermarkets collect and recycle all HDPE carrier bags and cereal bags. Again these are one material, HDPE and of clean predictable quality.

    However plastic film development has moved at pace in recent years and ever-thinner, stronger and better performing films have been developed that use complex blends and laminate structures. Collecting and recycling these is virtually impossible due to the huge array of plastic types in use.

    Also LA collection strategies are targeted by weight (tonnes) and therefore LA's are attracted to the heavy materials such as Aluminium, Steel, Paper etc. LA's would have to collect a whole heap of plastic film (by volume) per tonne vs. a tonne of paper say.

    Plastic films are a victim of their own success. In being lightweight, minimal, carbon efficient, versatile and cheap they are the packaging of choice for most organisations, however for all the above reasons it's not really economically viable to recycle them post-consumer.

    They are however ideal candidates for EfW / CHP plants as part of that last 25% that is 'residual waste'.

  • Comment number 46.

    #36 - VikEvans

    Throwing all of your plastics into the recycling bin and expecting someone else to sort is probably making the issue far worse downstream.

    Complex sorting technologies are not in place at the MRF and in fact in some cases it will be a team of eatern Europeans on minimum wage that with all due respect know even less about plastic types than you do.

    As recycling participation has increased in recent years reprocessors have expodential decreases in quality of feedstock due to consumer ignorance. low quality (unsorted) input means the material coming out of the other end will be of equally low quality which means it will be worth a lower market price.

    If the output is becoming less valuable reprocessors struggle to invest. A vicious doom loop. You put s#*t in, you get s#*t out!

    Instead we should all take the time to ensure we sort all we can. If you are uncertain check out you local council recycling website, check out the retailers website. Also look for the on-pack recycling / disposal instructions.

    I know it's a pain but it is for the best. If companies are to invest in recycling infrastructure then it has to be profitable. If they only get low grade ouputs of little value they will not bother, which is disastorous for everyone in the long-term, including the planet.

  • Comment number 47.

    #38 idontmuchbut

    '...actually the 1.4g of plastic used adds at least 10 more days to the shelf-life of the cucumber.....'


    The fact remains that food may have a longer shelf life but in terms of the goodness you get from the 15-day-old cucumber you might as well have left it unwrapped.

  • Comment number 48.

    # 41 idontmuchbut wrote

    '...you also raised the question about paper bags being available in supermarkets. This is a really interesting one because people 'believe' paper to be 'more green' than plastics. However the truth is somewhat different.....'

    Is this still the case where plastic recycling is not available?


    #43

    Same question


    #46

    Plastic recycling will have to take this into consideration if it is to be successful. Most people won't be bothered even to wash the plastic, let alone sort it into several different piles. They don't need to for paper, glass or cans, why should they for plastic?

  • Comment number 49.

    #47 - CurlySteve

    Good point, however I believe that the nutritional value of the packaged cucumber is comparible, even towards the latter part of it's life. The study done by the Cucumber Growers Association (tes there really is such a thing) should confirm this, see link. I have also e-mailed them to ask you the same question as I am no food Technologist.

    http://www.cucumbergrowers.co.uk/

    It's worth also pointing out that with naked cucumbers you have no idea how old it is or how long it has been sat there before you buy it. with no packaging there are no best before dates.

    I will post back a reply when they come back to me.

  • Comment number 50.

    #48 - CurlySteve

    Yes, I believe the carbon benefits (plastic bags vs. paper bags) stand despite plastic bags not being widely recycled. However let's not assume that plastic bags will ever be recycled, as my post #45. They are ideal candidates for EfW / CHP, in which case the inherent energy is recovered and put to use to heat water / produce energy etc.




    Paper, Glass and Steel are all visually generic materials and therefor easily sortable by consumers or MRF operatives. However it's worth bearing ion mind that many LA's still ask for all three of these materials to be sorted from each other by the householder.

    Plastics, although visually similar are widely different in composition and properties and so need sorting.

    Lots of new technologies are emerging that are very smart and could potentially offer some great solution for sorting plastics at MRF, which has to be the long-term goal.

    Making recycling as easy and as possible will only increase participation, which is we want we all want. For the time being household sorting is here to stay.

  • Comment number 51.

    #43 - actually, I think the carbon footprint of manufacture of glass bottles is quite a bit lower than that of plastic. Where plastic wins out is that if you can close the loop and recycle it all, the benefits of recyling plastic are much greater than those of recycling bottle glass. So in a closed-loop scenario, plastic clearly wins out.

    If you were treating either stream as 'single use to disposal' [which we hopefully will move away from in the very near future], then glass is probably better, as in this scenario you are merely comparing production, use and disposal costs - the production cost of glass is considerably lower than that of plastic, the use costs are higher (as in the transport impacts that you refer to) and the disposal impacts would be comparable.

    In reality, we will continue to use both materials in future, and we will seek to maximise recycling of both. The quality of recycling for glass is not as important as the quality of recycling for plastic though - the use of glass as a secondary aggregate is permissible if you don't have a reasonably local reprocessor, whereas the failure to turn recycled plastic back into equivalent product represents a missed opportunity - such streams as plastic to plastic wood, plastic to EfW etc don't have nearly as good a carbon footprint as plastic back to plastic feedstock for remanufacturing.

  • Comment number 52.

    Idontmuchbut

    Thank you as ever for your interesting and insightful comments, you have made a great contribution to this debate.

    Re #37 - I did mention Asda and highlighted the issue which this company submitted to Wrap as a case study - namely the reduction in glass weight across its own brand products.

    And #38 - Food waste is indeed a very serious issue, especially for products such as meat which are very energy intensive to produce.

    However, the oft-quoted 1/3 figure (6.7m tonnes) does include 1.3m tonnes of inevitable waste such as peelings and bones and a further 1.3m tonnes of possibly avoidable waste such as bread crusts.

    The truly avoidable waste is 4.1m tonnes - which is still far too much but does not add up to 1/3 of all food we buy.


  • Comment number 53.

    #51

    When making the comparison you have to assume that both bottles (glass and plastic) will be recycled, not single life to disposal. Given plastic bottle recycling is now more widely available as a kerbside collection than glass we have to assume that is only going to increase even further. Already we have seen strong growth in plastic bottle recycling which now sits at around 30%+ I think.

    I am intrigued as to your belief that glass manufacture has a lower carbon footprint than plastic, given I have seen specific research that contradicts this view. Can you quote / link the research? I would be very interested to read and understand it.

  • Comment number 54.

    #52 - Chris_Jeavens

    Thanks for taking the time to individually respond. It is appreciated.



    Re #37: Apologies I had missed the one sentence in your blog referencing "ASDA". However reading it back it still sounds like all they are doing is focusing upon lightweight glass when in fact they lead the entire global retail sector in packaging reduction across all materials and formats.

    I think you have probably lifted it directly from the WRAP press release of earlier this month without delving any deeper.



    Re #38: The "we throw away a 1/3" quote is taken direct from the WRAP Food Waste study and associated briefings and documents. It is their quote. I fully understand and do not debate the brekdown of this figure and I fully agree that at 4.1m tonnes of avoidable food waste it is still far too much.

    However packaging has an really important role to play in reducing that 'avoidable food waste'

    Take breakthrough innovations such as Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP) that extend shelf-life and thus reduce waste. Take high barrier coatings, Smart Label Technology that can indicate temperature though supply chains or food condition within the pack. Take plastics that enable dry goods such as crisps, biscuits and crackers etc to carry long shelf-lives. Take re-sealable packaging.

    Also Best-Before dates are fantastically important in reducing food waste, as will be [in the future] RFID technology that can communicate with your fridge re' storage and BBE's etc. None of these waste reductions technologies would be possible without the packaging, plastic or otherwise.

    Packaging remains a very small part of the overall carbon impact of any given product and the energy used to produce that packaging is well spent if it means the food will not be wasted.

    My aim in post #38 is not to over-egg the food waste figures but to highlight that packaging plays a very important role in helping to reduce a far bigger environmental impact, that of food waste. WRAP's own research references the contribution packaging can and does make to reducing avoidable food waste.

    It really is not as simple as naked unwrapped food is best, as I am certain you appreciate.


    PS: Whilst I have your ear, thank you for offering up the opportunity through this blog for all sides to debate the real issues.

    I for one would be very interested to see a 'one year on' update. I am also more than happy to discuss in more detail / offer my perspective [off-forum] on any of the connected subjects, in my official capacity.

  • Comment number 55.

    Do 'we' throw away 1/3rd of our food or is 1/3 of the food that goes through the supermarket warehouses wasted? My food waste tends to be a couple of apples and the last few slices of bread in the pack a week... certainly not 1/3rd of my food.

    If the supermarkets are dumping this much we have to ask why? is it because of an obssession with sell by dates on our part or because we won't buy dented tins?

    Equally much of this food could be recycled as pig swill... its only because of knee jerk foot and mouth legislation that it isn't.

  • Comment number 56.

    #28GlosKat

    2 other contributors have contradicted my bin waste experience, and that of other Zero Waste enthusiaists. How can they possibly know our personal details?

    There are 3 type of bin waste to remove to reduce bin volume, in my case by 99%:

    Recyclables
    Food Waste
    Plastic Packaging Waste

    The last of the 3 is the most difficult, but it can be done, as we have proved. We welcome others who wish to follow this trend and will give full encouragement.

  • Comment number 57.

    "2 other contributors have contradicted my bin waste experience, and that of other Zero Waste enthusiaists. How can they possibly know our personal details?"

    Given that you keep claiming I'm in the paid employ of the plastic packing industry despite repeatedly claiming to the contrary I found that comment HIGHLY amusing. How do we truly know you recycle anything at all?

  • Comment number 58.

    #55 - Peter_Sym

    Supermarket waste is no more than 3%. A model of efficiency.

  • Comment number 59.

    #49 idontmuchbut (and #54)

    True, the food looks as fresh as the day it was packed. The point I was really trying to make was that it is better for you to eat the cucumber as soon as possible after picking.

    Growing your own is the best option, obviously.

    Another option is a local box scheme, where the cucumber is on your door within a couple days of picking (effectively picked to order). This has the added advantage of lower food miles.

    The supermarket cucumber has probably been crated half-way across the continent (or worse, air freighted) before arriving on the shelf. It could be weeks before it actually gets eaten. Bad for you, bad for the environment.

    To prevent the plastic-wrapped cucumber becoming another wooden toothbrush let's change it to salad. Once picked, leaves soon start to turn yellow and rot. Would you eat them like that? Supermarket salads have the same nutritional value.

    If you want to read more it's all documented in the book 'Not on the Label' by Felicity Lawrence.

  • Comment number 60.

    #56 - have a look at this, for example. [Plenty of these compositional analyses across the net if you google for them.]

    http://tinyurl.com/64s34y

    They've looked at it in a bit more detail than you have. Check out table 2. Currently, the best estimates across the household waste stream are that recycling rates of 'up to 80%' are possible, but beyond this you reach the law of diminishing returns - by which you are creating more of an impact to recycle the residual than you gain by doing so. Also, recycling isn't always the best option, as I have explained before.

    So you are oversimplifying things with your statement.

  • Comment number 61.

    #59 - CurlySteve

    To debate the nutritional value of food is not within my remit or experience and I would suggest is distinctly off-thread from packaging and plastics. I am most definitely not a Food Technologist.

    However I would remind that you feeding more than 47,000,000 people a year is a mammoth task that takes complicated but efficient supply chains that deliver fresh food from all over the world 365 days a year, which is what consumers demand and expect.

    People expect to buy strawberries and mango's in December. The country cannot be economically and realistically fed from local retailers, farmers markets and allotments. It is impossible.

  • Comment number 62.

    it difficult to understand why this forum has turned into a competition of one-up-manship and "i'm greener than you because..."

    As someone who has recently moved from an apartment into my own home with garden, I have found this blog and previous related forums very useful and informative. I am at the start of my recycling/reusing journey and i am keen to make all of the changes i can, however, i feel the tone of this forum has become very argumentative and aggressive, rather than a sharing of knowledge and ideas.

    Surely this is about everyone doing what they can?

    In fact, as someone fairly new to these kinds of blogs and forums, i have found it extremely disheartening that other people are posting in such a negative way.

    This should be about offering help and advice, and encouraging others to make an effort too - not judging those who are making an effort and criticising what they do.

  • Comment number 63.

    #28GlosKat

    Again various opposition members (plastic packaging types, waste mangement types and fellow travellers) are contradicitng my honest, and those of my like-minds, home waste statistics.

    This is disgraceful behaviour. The question is why?

    I am speaking out against plastic packaging waste, the possiblity of incineration, what consumers can do and other issues. These must be discussed openly and fairly for public information., to give a balanced view.

  • Comment number 64.

    #58 "Supermarket waste is no more than 3%. A model of efficiency"

    REALLY? I'm a scientist so I believe whatever the results show, but that seems incredible. Do you have any sources for it? I'd have thought simply unsold bread and sandwiches past their use by would account for more than 3%.

  • Comment number 65.

    "The country cannot be economically and realistically fed from local retailers, farmers markets and allotments. It is impossible."

    Not impossible, just very, very boring. We'd be effectively on a 1942 diet with rationing and state implemented menus. Gardens would have to be turned over to veg as would most public parks.

    The EU is actually self sufficient in food- the 10-20% we import are luxuries we could do without if we had too, but trying to convince people to live on basically bread, potatoes and turnips over winter isn't going to be a vote winner.

  • Comment number 66.

    "Again various opposition members (plastic packaging types, waste mangement types and fellow travellers) are contradicitng my honest, and those of my like-minds, home waste statistics....

    ....I am speaking out against plastic packaging waste, the possiblity of incineration, what consumers can do and other issues. These must be discussed openly and fairly for public information., to give a balanced view."

    'Balanced and discussed' by silencing or attacking anyone who poses an alternative view. You clearly subscribe to the Fox News school of 'impartial' where anyone who may have a slightly different opinion is in the pay of the enemy!

  • Comment number 67.

    #65 Peter_Sym

    Yeah you're right, that would be boring (not to mention carrots which are not my particular favourite :-D).

    We get most of our veg from Riverford Norton and, where possible, they grow or source it locally. If not they tend to ship it in from the EU (usually France, Netherlands or Spain), their aim being to minimise food miles while still retaining interesting and seasonal food.

    On an unrelated topic, it's somewhat difficult to get a point of view across on this notice board without some sort of emotion coming through in the text, so I apologise to anyone if I've been coming across as agressive or negative - I don't mean to be and that's not my intention.

  • Comment number 68.

    #46

    I have checked with the West Oxfordshire District Council website and this is what they can and cannot take in the recycling regards plastics:

    Carrier Bags, plastic bottles (squashed down please), plastic containers, yoghurt pots.

    CANNOT take any polystyrene.

    So all my plastic stuff is fine to put together in the recycle bin :0)

    Also they ask that where you contain recyclable items in plastic carrier bags, please make sure it is ONE type of material in the bag (eg not paper and plastics together) and leave it untied or so that they can easily get to the contents to check that it is all suitable.

    In 2 and a half yrs I have not had any of the bin men tell me that the plastics I put out for recycling are NOT compatible, or that I need to break down the types further.

    Perhaps I happen to have a council who are encouraging people to put more into the recycling boxes than their dustbins, by making it far less confusing over which things we can and cannot put in?

    Certainly makes it easier for me to ensure that 75% of my household waste goes for recycling, that's for sure.

  • Comment number 69.

    Sainsbury's have indeed started to use compostable trays, however only for a very few of their premium lines. Their standard lines continue to be packed in heavy plastic trays that are often far too large for the contents.

  • Comment number 70.

    #68VikEvans

    That is a great figure for waste reduction, Vik. Your council seems to be one of the best. That is the way to improve the waste situation a combination of good council/householder practice.

    Other councils will follow this type of successful effort when they see that it can work.

  • Comment number 71.

    It's not that hard to achieve when so much of the waste I have is packaging!

    The bits that do go into my dustbin are food, things like the juice cartons which are not recyclable in our area, polystyrene and that sort of thing.

    We can ask for extra recycle bins with well sealing lids here in West Oxon - took about 4 days from requesting via their website to delivery which is brilliant. I now have 5 large recycle boxes so that I can ensure I have no excuse not to have somewhere for my family to put the recyclable stufs.

    My family are also trained well to put all glass, can, paper and plastic in those boxes. To the extent that I told them if the council find recyclable stuff in the wheelie bin we will be fined over £100 ... yeah okay, its something some councils are threatening but not yet into effect, but heck it worked!! Even my notoriously lazy husband automatically goes to the recycle box and not the bin :0)

    We have a good local council here when it comes to recycling - they even offer a garden waste collection facility which you pay about £35 a year to opt into, buts its been so popular they cant take anymore people on it for a while.

  • Comment number 72.

    Having been inspired by this blog I'm now doing much more to reuse and recycle. Thanks Chris for highlighting the plastic issues.

    I live in France in a city centre appartment and so I thought I would see what the authorities will actually take for recycling as I must admit that I tend to put everything in that I think should be recycled. As it turns out they will take almost everything to be recycled in the one green bin (except things like cling film etc). We also have large bin for glass recycling positioned regularly throughout the city...you're never more than about 5mins away from one.
    I was much more surprised to learn that the waste that goes into the "everything else" bin isn't automatically sent straight to landfill and is sorted to remove food waste for composting.
    I admit I was pleased by this as it does seem to be more difficult to recycle and reduce waste whilst living in a flat.

    It has made me wonder why this can't be done in the UK. Here it seems that all rubbish collection is organised by the council and they are responsble for it from collection to ultimate disposal and so they do not have to send it onto a third party for the recycling aspect. I don't know if this has any bearing in it but it's possible.

    I was also surprised by the frequency of collections- 2x per week for the green bin and 3x per week for the grey one....I'm pretty sure that doesn't happen in the UK.

  • Comment number 73.

    #71VikEvans

    Vik, you mentioned food waste. This is a large component of bin waste. What we Zero Waste enthusiasts do is try to remove food waste from bin waste altogether. I use a compost bin (fruit/veg scraps), Bokashi bin (meat, fat, bone) and I feed rooks, jackdaws, seagulls and magpies with cooked/uncooked rind, fish/meat scraps.

    Council food waste collections is the best way for most householders for Anaerobic Digestion. This is available in only a few areas.

    Have you space in the garden to compost?

  • Comment number 74.

    #73 - 'I feed rooks, jackdaws, seagulls and magpies with cooked/uncooked rind, fish/meat scraps.'

    Hmmm.

    Not the best means of disposing of this material. There's all sorts of public health reasons why we shouldn't all emulate this. Feeding of seagulls carries a fine in a number of areas.

    Have a look at this news article for further info.

    http://tiny.cc/WFn4p

  • Comment number 75.

    #74

    These posts are for householders interested in waste reduction.

    I feed these birds early in the morning 6 - 7am when people are not around and clothes lines are empty. These birds are hungry and anything I throw out is eaten in seconds.

    Seagulls are a problem in many areas, particularly at the seaside. Where there are problems,of course other measures may be needed.

    There are 2 benefit: I reduce my food waste and help birds, which are intelligent creatures, especially the rooks.

  • Comment number 76.

    #74. If you fed seagulls in most parts of Cornwall the locals would be recycling parts of you!

    The birds are hungry because their numbers are kept artificially high by food waste left around by tourists. Outside the tourist season they starve, cause immense damage to property (they'll eat window putty and peck straight through plastic wheelie bins), attack pets and their droppings will take the paint off cars.

    Feeding seagulls and urban foxes is no more logically than feeding rats. All 3 are pests who's enormous populations are supported by our waste.

    Rooks ARE highly intelligent, but so are rats. That kind of the problem.

  • Comment number 77.

    #76

    I have spent the last 3 weeks arguing the benefits of Zero Waste with you and others. This week I am looking to help other potential Zero Waste enthusiasts as I feel that is more important than scoring points against adversaries.

    If you have areas of interest of your own please air them for others to discuss.

  • Comment number 78.

    #73 ... I have a composter and its terrible! I have tried to follow the directions to the letter regards composting stuff down, but it seems to take well over a year to get anything remotely like stuff I can put on my limited garden space.

    So the composter just sits there festering until I can once and for all empty it and give it to someone who may have better luck :0(

    The other problem is that not all food waste can go into a composter anyway - there are many things that are not suitable for it such as meats. I am not inclined to put this out in my garden as if I do not only will that encourage half the neighbourhood cats to come in and terrorise my 2 mogs, but I dont want foxes or rats either thanks.

    I have found that my wheelie bin only needs emptying fortnightly and could go for 3 weeks without being emptied - not bad going for a family of 5 where the youngest is 8 yrs old! I dont tend to leave it longer than 2 weeks though as I dont want it smelling bad.

  • Comment number 79.

    #77. You could have fooled me.

    I'm offering you advice too: its not very ecological to feed vermin, and in many parts of the country its a criminal offence. Thats not a 'point scoring comment' its a cold, hard, fact. Do it around Looe in S.Cornwall and the council will recycle £100 from you.

    However as you asked me to air some points that interest me I've had two thoughts: tin foil and natural latex. Neither are plastic, both are 'natural' yet neither are especially recyclable but they are bio-degradable within reason. However aluminium requires large amounts of electricity to make and rubber plantations generally mean cutting down rain forest.

    Where do they fit into your zero waste philosophy?

  • Comment number 80.

    #73. Sounds like your mix is too heavy. Mix some shredded paper in the compost and it'll allow better air flow and make it a bit drier. There are compost accelerators that help (try a good garden centre) and if you're a proper coffee drinker the left over coffee grounds improve the smell and appearance.

    It DOES take about a year to get anything decent from it so my parents (who have a very large garden) use 4 and rotate them.

    Allegedly a human body will totally decay (bones and all) within a year in a good compost heap so if you get the mix right it'll consume just about anything!

  • Comment number 81.

    #64 - Peter_Sym

    Some areas will be more than 3%, such as Bakery and some fresh areas. However some areas like Ambient Grocery, Frozen etc are a lot less.

    The overall figure comes close to 3%. It is a very efficient model. After all waste is not just bad for the environment but also bad for profit! ;-)

    Interestingly supermarkets are now opting for AD disposal of food waste.

  • Comment number 82.

    #77 - johnhcrf

    "scoring points against adversaries"?
    It's not a fantasy war game you know.

  • Comment number 83.

    #81. Across the entire range of products that DOES make sense. I'm thinking of all the perishables in the first couple of aisles and forgetting everything in the next 20.

    A point I keep making is that waste packaging is bad business. Shops use it for a reason and the fastest way to force change within supermarkets is to make it financially desirable to do so.

  • Comment number 84.

    #78VikEvans

    Composting is slow. I use composting liquid to help and with ground worms acting from the base, after about 8 months the new soil is ace. I have raised beds for veg.

    Do you have space to grow veg?

    It is a big challenge for a growing family. My contacts are Mrs Green at MyZeroWaste and Mrs Average at The RubbishDiet. Join in there and they will give you plenty of advice.

    Food waste can be difficult. A bokashi/green cone are good for the worst stuff.

  • Comment number 85.

    Regarding the lasagne sheets in cardboard boxes. I have always purchased them in cardboard boxes as it's the cheapest way of buying them.

  • Comment number 86.

    #83 Peter_Sym

    I can fully believe the 3% waste figure for supermarkets having worked in one or two through college and university.

    Waste food is lost profits so they keep waste down to the very minimum they can! All perishable goods get sold cheaply the day before their best before or use by date hence why a good time to shop is an hour before closing time!

    to avoid this even occuring most supermarkets drum into their staff the concept of stock rotation - not so important products that sell quickly (eg bread and milk) but vital in other areas of the shop.

    In one supermarket i worked at grocery items (eg tins, cereals, "long life" products) were sold to staff if they had hit their expiration date.

    I would imagine that the majority of the 3% waste comes from damages which are not salvagable, rather than out of date goods, products which are either damaged in transit to store (although very rare in my experience) or items customers knock of displays or shelves.

  • Comment number 87.

    Peter_Sym ... I am rofl at the thought of disposing of a body in a coposting bin now :0) Blimey, will they put that into a storyline in CSI you reckon?

    Certainly puts the whole composting issue into a new light for me if they can achieve that kind of decomp if the conditions are right. Very impressive.

    johnhcrf ... thanks for that information and advice. I have got 2 flower beds in my garden - one is dedicated to growing wild flowers so as to attract the butterflies and bees. It was badly overgrown when we moved in so I cleared it out but kept it as a wild corner of the garden - and my cat is providing compost as he was buried there 18 mths ago.

    The other bed is a mess. The soil sint very good, not brilliantly deep and it has a few ragged small trees there which I am in the process of chopping down and ripping out so that I can make the bed more productive. Growing veg is something I want to do, but need the kick up the bum to get it sorted once and for all.

    I shall give the composter a last chance, because its a shame to get rid when its already there in place. One would be enough for the amount of beds I have anyway :0)

  • Comment number 88.

    #87VikEvans

    I love insect life as well. Bees are under threat from various illnesses so there are 2 Rose of Sharon bushes here to keep them occupied during August/September. The biggest laugh was "bonking beetles", red workers which were mostly seen in pairs. They are good for keeping down pests.

    You should aim for raised beds with the increase compost/soil year by year.

    Sorry to hear about your cat.

    I see you are running for charity from the other topic? What is the charity?

  • Comment number 89.

    #75 - I don't care. You still have to comply with the law. Feeding your leftovers to seagulls does not equate to waste reduction when by doing so you cause a potential problem elsewhere.

    Ask any environmental health department what they think of the practice - they expend a reasonable amount of time, effort and money up and down the UK trying to keep seagulls etc down to manageable numbers. In many of our city centres, these birds are present in very problematic numbers, and bring with them associated costs of clean-up etc. They are also vectors for disease. You may wish to give 'waste reduction advice to householders' - I would like said advice not to give rise to environmental impacts elsewhere.

  • Comment number 90.

    #77 - 'Scoring points against adversaries'?

    This isn't a game! Everyone involved here wants to do the right thing. It's just that some of us work in the field of waste and want to temper the natural enthusiasm with a bit of scientific fact, and are concerned about the bigger picture.

    Sustainable waste management does not start and end at your household bin, after all - household waste is around 1/9th of all the waste produced in the UK. Avoiding sending material to landfill from the household collection is admirable - but where this leads to greater impacts elsewhere, this needs to be considered as part of the bigger picture. Which is one reason that I am not terribly bothered about the use of plastic, provided that our systems are robust enough to capture it all and return it to appropriate use.

  • Comment number 91.

    #90

    Where I live seagulls are not a problem. Situations elsewhere can be dealt with as required. I put feed out for hungry birds, as do many of my neighbours. Seagulls are part of our local population and it would be impossible to prevent them joining in with the other birds. Starving all the birds is not an option.

    People can assess their local conditions and act according to common sense principles.

    A lot of problems are down to street litter, Bill Bryson's area of interest. Maybe this should be addressed rather than a culling of the birds.

  • Comment number 92.

    #91 - johnhcrf

    Please do not go near linking plastic to street litter. I pointed out to you on the "junk raft thread" that plastic packaging does not jump off the shelf of supermarkets and run out of the door on it's own, throwing itself into the nearest gutter, hedgerow or river.

    Litter is a social issue and is driven by lazy minded individuals who cannot be bothered to dispose of their waste properly. To blame packaging or plastic for litter is to blame cars for road accidents. Both are unwitting participants. Human behaviour lies behind both.

  • Comment number 93.

    PS: Bill Brysons suggestion is that we should move back to deposits and returnable packaging. I see two issues with this:-

    1. Already cash-strapped consumers are asked to part with even more money.

    2. The carbon impact of returning the packaging back to a store, for them to backhaul the empty packaging to then be sorted and sent for reprocessing.

    It would be ludicrous to go down this route. Far better economically and environmentally to collect waste in one hit direct from householders. To return it all to stores would simply be crazy.

  • Comment number 94.

    #92

    That is the most stupid comment yet from your one track mind. I am no longer arguing with you about plastic this week.

    The litter I refer to is food litter eg fish and chip supper in paper wrapper, discarded part eaten. The seagulls go for his food. The problem is therefore to stop food litter dropped carelessly by the public.

  • Comment number 95.

    #94 - johnhcrf

    Dealing with you is increasingly becoming like a return to the playground - "I'm not talking to you anyway". I would suggest that such childish behaviour has no place on a forum that attempts to tackle such important issues as these.

    You specifically mentioned within your post "litter", and you specifically linked it "Bill Bryson". I am therefore perfectly within my rights to pass comment on both litter and the suggestions made as part of Bill Brysons crusade against it.

    I think my "one track mind" as you call it has actually brought insight, inside information and a broader perspective to the debate over recent weeks, as others including Chris have commented. The fact that my experience, views and facts do not fit with your own is hardly a reason to publicly refer to them as "stupid" is it? Grow up.

    You were warned by others to drop the aggressive bully boy approach earlier this week. I would be grateful if you would heed such advice, thank you.

  • Comment number 96.

    #88 johnhcrf

    Like the idea of raised beds - reckon what I need to do is have a damn good dig out of the current bed, ditch the damaged trees and shrubs, and then dig in the compost I have got festering .. then add to it each year to grtadually raise it up. Blimey, I almost feel like a proper country girl just thinking about it (been living too long in a city yo uknow).

    I'm running for a military support organisation next week :0) dunno if I am alllowed to name names but its the yellow ribbon foundation. All good fun, especially meeting likeminded people on the route round Hyde Park, and hearing their stories of why they are supporting their particular causes. A realy honest to goodness feelgood day!

  • Comment number 97.

    #88VikEvans

    That's the spirit. In my blog contacts there a dozens of gals doing their bit. Our Zero Waste interest would be worth a look, as they are all salt of the earth types like yourself.

    I have a brother in the Medical Corps so no need to expand on that. I grew potatoes, onions and leeks for this my first year. Next year there is a rotation with beetroot, cauliflower and turnips most likely. Home grown tastes best. With a big family soup is a great choice and ideal with garden veg.

    Hope the weather's kind for you next week.

  • Comment number 98.

    #94

    This has been a better week without your constant attentions.

    Take a leaf out of my book. Join other topics, like the one about plastic bottles or Lush soap. Life is too short for constant negativity, get positive and discuss other things with other people.

  • Comment number 99.

    #98 - johnhcrf

    "Negativity", "get positive".......? After the last three weeks of your chirlish, aggressive and closed-minded behaiour towards myself and many others?

    You really do take the individually wrapped [in plastic] biscuit John.

  • Comment number 100.

    #91 - it doesn't matter if you do not perceive seagulls to be a problem. Uncontrolled, urban seagull populations can grow by over 10% per annum. They also scare off a lot of the smaller birds when they feed.

    As for street litter, this is dumped by people, and is by no means all plastic either. Bill Bryson might have a campaign about it, but its impacts are mainly aesthetic. It's also a very small percentage of total waste arisings.

 

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