Junk raft meets Savage boat

  • Chris Jeavans
  • 20 Aug 08, 12:45 PM GMT

A tale of serendipity and human ingenuity has emerged on two blogs being updated from the Pacific.

Junk432_ambient.jpgThe two-man crew of a raft made from plastic bottles and a British woman rowing solo across the Pacific have managed to meet mid-ocean for dinner and a vital sharing of water.

The sail-powered Junk raft, steered by Dr Marcus Eriksen from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation and film-maker Joel Paschal, met up with rower Roz Savage, 600 miles east of Hawaii.

Each found out about the other's proximity via avid readers of their respective blogs and, over many days, engineered a rendezvous for a meal of mahi mahi and a good old chin wag.

Joel Paschal, Roz Savage and Dr Marcus Eriksen
Roz Savage's two water makers had both broken so the Junk pair were able to help her out from their own supply, and, as the weather has since turned hotter she now says this may have even saved her life.

After some difficulties with satellite phones and timezones (were they on Hawaii time, 11 hours behind UK time or Pacific time, eight hours behind?) I managed to speak to Dr Eriksen.

He said it was "wonderful" to meet up with Ms Savage in the middle of the ocean and added that the achievement was "one of the highlights of my life".

Read the full story here.

Dr Eriksen and Mr Paschal are making the voyage to draw attention to the plastic pollution in the North Pacific gyre - the circling ocean currents which concentrate debris (you can see a sample of seawater from the "plastic soup" in the North Pacific below).

Plastic in sea waterHe said: "There are nine gyres in the world and we assume that every one of them is hoarding plastic.

"We can find plastic on every beach around the world. All the oceans are linked and they are all exchanging nutrients and debris.

"Plastics have been found in or around the bodies of 267 species. Entanglement is a huge issue for marine mammals and also many sea creatures eat plastic.

"Plastics in the marine environment are like sponges for toxins like DDT, other pesticides, PCBs, another group called PAHs that come from the burning of fossil fuels.

"They stick to plastic and what happens is a plastic particle becomes a toxic pill.

"So the animal consumes these plastics or debris thinking they are food and those toxins will likely come through plastic into the animal's body. They can then appear up the food chain and potentially onto your dinner plate."

It's just not the Pacific which is affected by plastic debris, the UK's Marine Conservation Society says plastic is the number one litter item on British beaches too.


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  • Comment number 1.

    It was a similar story that set us on our own zero waste path; in particular reducing as much plastic as we could.

    The ocean floors are in a sad state and marine life is being adversely affected :(

  • Comment number 2.

    Oceans are the biggest landfills on earth. Sad.

  • Comment number 3.

    Surely, this is the ultimate achievement of the Throw Away Society. As well as the waste problems on land, this despoiling of marine ecosystems is down to the unthinking use of plastic.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you for this blog, Chris!

    For me it raises several issues. Not just the irresponsible dumping of plastic but also issues of water and how we can take it for granted.

    These brave souls are trying to raise awareness of how we are polluting our oceans but Ms Savage's predicament of malfunctioning fresh water collectors also illustrates how important all water is for sustaining life.

    This may be overly passionate, but I consider water to be sacred. I live in the desert (annual precipitation approximately 12 inches.)

    We have been blessed this year with ample summer rain. Stock tanks and cisterns are full, the need for crop irrigation is minimal, we are green and growing! But I remember other years when the rain did not come and the land suffered in drought. It pains me to see water befouled or wasted.

  • Comment number 5.

    For the first time ever I have followed a blog, your blog over this month.
    I have not been able to log on every day. I have had other commitments, but I hope some attention is better than none.

    I have been impressed by some of the contributions. I have been exasperated by some who seem to have such a two dimensional view of the situation that their only answer in the face of an undeniable fact is ‘plastic bad I will not use it’.
    I have been amazed by the timeline of some entries and frequency of some contributors. Don’t they sleep or have a job to do?

    However, I want to ask you. Why are you doing it??

    Yes, I know you are trying to do a month without plastic, but why are you trying to do a month without plastic. What is the desirability of doing without plastic? What do you see as the benefit to yourself or society at large of the experiment?

    I can see that as a journalist you may be trying to get a debate going but the mere fact of the experiment is an implied criticism of plastic, any plastic for any application. Would you not be better to have brought in some real experts on the subject, Local Authority representatives, waste company experts, Recycling company managers, Packaging specifiers, Food scientist, composting experts and so on. People who really know why plastic is being used and why it should not be. People who know the most effective and most environmentally responsible way to go forward; less plastic, no plastic, which plastic…

    I am asking this today because I will go on holiday at the weekend and I feel life is too short (my hol is at least) to spend time and petrol looking for an internet caff or other wired establishment to ask the question at the end of the period. So, why are you doing it??

    The rest of you readers please don’t tell me you have a right to express your opinion (you do) or that I should not go on holiday or give me advice on what I should or should not do while away and so on.

    This is a question for Chris.

  • Comment number 6.


    Living in a water deficit area you can appreciate it more than a British citizen. We have plenty, sometimes too much. Worldwide water is a problem in many countries and that should be addressed in a separate blog.

    #5 This is a crude attempt to sabotage the topic. The plastic packaging types who have contributed to this blog have tried to strangle the debate, so far without success. Chris is entirely justified in raising this issue even though avoiding plastic totally is impossible.

  • Comment number 7.

    I am checking your blog every day and enjoy reading about your challenges. It is certainly making me think - plastic is truly EVERYWHERE and we often don't think about how much of it we are accumulating every day.
    Having lived for 8 years in Germany where recycling is mandatory has certainly helped our family be more conscious of where our rubbish ends up - our children have literally been recycling since they were old enough to walk to the rubbish bins. When we moved to the USA our refuse collection agency asked if we were going to be recycling - they offer a very small discount on your monthly bill for curbside recycling - they do not recycle as much as in Germany, but it is a step in the right direction. Hopefully as we train the younger generation, recycling will become more and more prevalent, but it would certainly help if manufacturers and distributors would not put so much packaging on their products.
    Good luck with the rest of the month.

  • Comment number 8.


    You made a very good point. One of the problems that we have here in the US is that some kind of national or even state-wide standard for recycling is non-existent. For example, I have a relative living in Boulder County, Colorado who achieves under 90% waste because recycling is so extensive and efficient. My understanding is that the county actually makes money on recycling and is able to pass this on to their residents in lower waste rates.

    There are other places in the US that have this level of recycling but it would be truly wonderful to have it be a nation-wide effort to protect our environment and reduce landfill.

  • Comment number 9.

    The reaction by joethepack #5 has saddened me. His words suggested that this opportunity to share ideas and reflect about Chris' experiment is more about divisive commentry and judging those who wish to go on holidays(!).

    I hope not.

    I've been following readers' comments with interest. I'm not a science person, some of the statistics and figures presented are informative, though overwhelming.

    Things I've learned:
    - lifecycle assessments are important.
    - not all plastic is bad: they are a durable material. It is the disposable kind and the disposable culture that seems to be more a problem.

    This blog has encouraged me to reflect on and change the ways I consume all resources, not just plastic. Making simple reductions, or careful purchasing decisions, that really don't impact my quality or happiness in life. From how often I change my toothbrush (plastic or not), to cancelling the delivery of a new telephone directory, to whether I really need that new mobile phone.

    While I understand the 'economies of scale' idea that more impact can be made by larger organisations - this doesn't mean we as individuals shouldn't be reflective and responsible for our own actions. Individuals make up councils and businesses.

    I thank Chris and her efforts. She has also prompted me to learn about other people's efforts and ideas to live more ecologically aware in a 'normal' life. In particular the easy list of ideas suggested in one of Chris' blogroll sites, myzerowaste, has been brilliant.

    Let's not be divisive about the efforts and concerns made by everybody who has contributed here, and keep this as a productive space for learning, reflection, and change.

  • Comment number 10.

    I've been reading avidly, given that I have been trying to critially reduce our family waste. We live in a city that has basically no recycling. There is no curbside pick up of anything but trash. The nearest multi-material recycling plant is on the opposite side of the city, which is the third-largest city in the world, land-size. Driving over there uses more gas than it saves in anything! I can drop off paper at my son's school, clothing and toys at the big red donation box on the nearest major corner, and plastic shopping bags at the grocery store. But what about everything else? There's a local aluminum recycling plant, and a hazardous waste collection point. But what about plastic bottles and cardboard boxes? Why should they end up in a (huge, monsterous, freakishly, distubingly, alarmingly big) landfill? I cloth diaper (and, in fact, my youngest son was wearing the same cover as Chris's son in the picture when I first read that post). I don't buy individual sized ANYTHING. In addition, I don't use many paper products, and fight the dreaded food waste every day. But I'm always searching for new ways to reduce, and this blog - plus a lot of commentors - have given lots of food for thought!

  • Comment number 11.

    "plastic packaging types" ae not "trying to strangle the debate". They are trying to ensure that the case for the defence is heard. They are trying to promote a rounded and more balanced debate that takes in an appreciation of the wider evidence, latest thinking and considerations. This is something any healthy and meaningful debate needs to have - two sides.

    I would like to also add a possibly contencious point - plastic is NOT killing animals. Human disposal at sea / near coastlines is killing animals. To demonise the material when the issue is actually a direct consequence of human behaviour is to rather miss the point I would suggest.

    Litter doesn't run out of a supermarket door and throw itself on the ground or into the waterways, it is placed there by people. People who cannot be bothered one jot for the planet, it's inhabitants or its eco-system.

    I would suggest blaming plastic for dead dolphins and turtles is like blaming cars for death on the roads. Cars don't crash (very rarely), people do, cars are just an unwitting participant, as is plastic.

    You want to change litter - change behaviour. Back in the 70's the Womens Institute (WI) were the pioneers of the 'keep britain tidy' campaign - it worked fantastically well. However it now seems to have rather gone out of fashion. Perhaps bringing this back to life in a big way would deliver better and more lasting improvements to a needless and sickening social problem.

    Either that or we could hold ritualistic stoning / burning of carrier bags and broadcast it on the BBC at license payers expense. That way we can all feel good about ourselves without actually having to do anything about the problem.

    "stone him, he's a plastic packaging type!"

    "feed him to the lions, he uses carrier bags!"

  • Comment number 12.

    #9, #10 and #11

    We are all learning and sharing here. I think that just by reading and participating in this blog we are doing something to reduce waste by bringing attention to it.

    I agree that plastic is not the enemy, it is how we use/reuse, recycle and dispose of it that needs to be examined.

    Also, if each of us does even one small thing to reduce our waste, I think that can add up to a lot eventually. Alone we cannot do everything but together we each can do something!

  • Comment number 13.


    I fully agree. Consumers can change the situation by taking greener choices. We have the power to lead the rest.

    There is a lot of opposition to our campaign but their interest is financial, not moral. We can alter even their behaviour by avoiding the worst examples of their wasteful practices.


    The One Use and Throw Away society is to blame for this disaster in the oceans. Plastic is an integral part of this. Make plastic sustainable and the throwaway society is gone. That is the Zero Waste Challenge.

  • Comment number 14.

    "This is a crude attempt to sabotage the topic. The plastic packaging types who have contributed to this blog have tried to strangle the debate"

    I'd love to read a 'debate' where everyone agreed with each other. So far I think I've raised 3 serious points:

    -plastic uses less energy (which is carbon based) to make than many alternatives, therefore can be greener.

    -the production of cotton (which is being claimed to be better than plastic) destroys water systems and I've highlighted the Aral sea and the Southern US everglades as examples which Chris seems never to have heard of.

    -I've also suggested that landill can be put to good use such as making reclaimable land- something we all might be glad of if sea levels do rise and highlighted places such as Nagata airport, Kai-tak, Singapore etc where hundreds acres of land have been reclaimed, mainly by infilling with trash.

    In return I've been told 'it doesn't work' which is rather like claiming black is white or ignored, or accused of working for the plastics industry. If anyone is 'strangling the debate' its not me.

    I've also corrected basic errors in science which the 'green' lot seem unaware of. If you want to continue living your life based on totally false principles be my guest....

  • Comment number 15.


    The topic here is the North Pacific gyre and the destruction of the marine ecosystem. The result of the unthinking use of plastic.
    This must end. If you cannot see that this is a major problem then you must be thick-skinned.

    Recognise that there is a problem and join in with the campaign for a better sustainable system where this present nightmare will end for all time.

  • Comment number 16.

    No. The North pacific gyre is not being destroyed by the use of plastic.

    Its being destroyed because HUMANS are dumping plastic into the sea.

    The main problem from this plastic is that it binds to non-plastic elements like DDT (which incidentally hasn't been used in the west since the 60's but IS used in the cotton fields of the aral basin and in India) and the products of burning fossil fuel which is why I'm concerned about the increased need for fossil fuel for your 'alternative' products. The problem goes a lot deeper than a floating plastic bottle.

    If you'd read my comments yesterday I made a statement along the lines of the forests not being the worlds lungs- the marine photosynthetic plankton is and if that is destroyed we all die. Are those the words of someone not concerned with this problem and in the pay of the plastics industry?

  • Comment number 17.


    The blame game is a familiar strategy to shift blame. The plastic material is causing the harm. How can we change this terrible situation?

    Abandon the Use Once and Throw Away culture by adopting a sustainable system where waste plastic is minimised. In this sustainable system there would be minimal production and minimal waste.

    Can you not see that this is a better way?

  • Comment number 18.

    No its isn't and your article at the top of the blog even says as much. Plastic is non-toxic. Sea life is dying because the sea has DDT in it. This devastated eco-systems on land because it accumulates in the fat of the predators at various stages in the food chain. You can take every plastic bottle out of the sea and the sea will still contain a poisonous pesticide that will be taken up by plankton, accumulate in small fish and then kill bigger fish that eat the small ones. The plastic bottles are merely playing that part of the small fish and accumulating the poisons.

    In any case why don't you tackle the real probelms in the north pacific? The japanese and taiwanese use 50 mile long drift nets that kill every fish in their path and the chinese are dumping so much fertiliser into their rivers that you can practically walk on water 10 miles out to sea because of the toxic algal blooms. You may have seen the clean up before the Olympics... they won't bother next week.

  • Comment number 19.


    Plastic is killing sealife there. Your attempt to shift blame from there is a waste of time. We have seen the damage.

    Bringing in other Pacific issues is merely a side-show to the main event.

    Ditch the plastic waste. Choose sustainability for a better future.

  • Comment number 20.

    "Choose sustainability for a better future" while ignoring the fact that everytime the oceanholocaust-maru puts out from Tapai with its 50 mile long monofilament driftnet it kills EVERY fish within that net from dolphins down to sardines. Most of those go straight over the side because they're inedible.

    No its far more important to worry about the 5 fish that die from eating plastic bottles. If we stop tossing plastic in the sea -something I've never felt the need to do- then peace and harmony will rain and the fish stock will recover overnight.

    I don't think so.

  • Comment number 21.


    This plastic mess is over vast stretches of ocean. It is not a trivial matter. We need to focus on this before irreversible damage is done.

    Waste plastic is the problem. I do not understand why you refuse to see the seriousness of this problem.

  • Comment number 22.

    I've been following this blog for sometime now and have found the debate very interesting.

    But i have to agree plastic itself is not the problem - it's people's "throw away lifestyle". I'll freely admit i probably throw out far too many recyclable items at home but that is something i'm looking to change.

    While the aim of this blog is to live without new plastic for a month - which i think Chris has discovered is impossible - its highlights the importants for reducing what we landfill and making better use of what we have.

    For those that are using this as a platform for demonising plastic - get a grip!

    I also have a message for johnhcrf - while i admire your committment and conviction of belief and do feel you are very narrow minded and choose to ignore/disbelieve anything which contradicts or does not fit with your agenda. You mention that various people have been trying to "strangle" the debate but from my observations they are simply providing a different slant to the issues being discussed - which unless they have rewritten the dictionary recently - defines what a debate is!

  • Comment number 23.

    I'm sure the plastic mess does cover vast areas of the ocean, but remember a few points:

    It only covers the surface whereas the pacific is over 10,000 feet deep. Most sea-life is microscopic. The amount of sea-life that feeds on the surface and has a mouth big enough to eat floating plastic in miniscule. Its 'sexy' top end of the foodchain animals like turtles that are affected, not the majority of the fish.

    Drift-netting on the other hand kills everything and pesticides starts at the bottom with the krill and works up contaminating everything.

    The problems you can't see are far worse than the ones you can.

  • Comment number 24.


    At the beginning of this topic a certain plastic packaging type challenged Chris to answer his wild accusations. This was an attempt to hi-jack the debate. Totally wrong!

    Zero Waste is a great worldwide cause. The detractors mainly act out of self-interest. I am defending my position which I share with a lot of other good people with concerns about current practice.

    There are other issues. These can be addressed on other forums.

  • Comment number 25.


    The plastic pieces, which can last for hundreds of years, are made up of a vast range of sizes. They are a permanent and growing problem therefore. Who knows what the final extent will be.
    The worst case must be full ocean coverage to the maximum depth. Surely we must prevent this situation first from getting worse and second removing what is already there.

  • Comment number 26.

    "The amount of sea-life that feeds on the surface and has a mouth big enough to eat floating plastic in miniscule"

    This is not true, plastic is gradually broken down into smaller and smaller bits until they are microscopic. These microscopic bits of plastic are then taken in by filter feeders, which if they do not die as a result of it are eaten by larger animals leading up the food chain.

    "The plastic bottles are merely playing that part of the small fish and accumulating the poisons."

    Again, not true. It has been found that plastic can accumulate poisons up to one million times that of the surrounding water. This is leads to much greater bio-accumulation through the food chain than would be without plastic, as, like I said, they small particles of plastic are taken in by filter feeders and then work they way up the food chain.

    "It only covers the surface whereas the pacific is over 10,000 feet deep."
    Exactly, and most of the life in the pacific is concentrated in the surface layers and animals in the lower layers depend on input from the top layers.

    I agree with you statement that drift netting is not a good way to go about things, it does kill a lot but you are underestimating the problem that plastic pollution can cause in the sea. These "sexy"animals at the top have a very low reproductive rate and their populations do not do well with a continues large rise in mortality rates.
    And yes, take away the plastic you still have poisons which is another sad fact which we need to deal with.

    All in all, with unsustainable fishing, poisonous substances and it being full of plastic the oceans are in a sorry state.

  • Comment number 27.

    I'm interested to know how Chris is communicating the blog - most communications devices, including laptops and mobile phones are largely plastic.

  • Comment number 28.


    The blog is designed for plastic purchases during the month period. Did you not read the introduction? Chris has found it impossible to stick strictly to that trend. A more realistic challenge would be plastic waste reduction.

  • Comment number 29.

    "And yes, take away the plastic you still have poisons which is another sad fact which we need to deal with.

    All in all, with unsustainable fishing, poisonous substances and it being full of plastic the oceans are in a sorry state. "

    Hurray! Thats all I asked for. An admission that there is much more wrong with the world than disposable plastic.

    The west has largely woken up to this fact (after causing horrific damage) but the far east hasn't... the floating plastic is just a symptom of a cultural attitude that considers the sea a big drain to flush things into not the problem itself.

    However given that plastic floats unless its broken into very tiny spaces I'm 100% certain there isn't enough oil in the world to make enough plastic to fill the ocean to the bottom. The Marianas trench is about 35,000 feet deep. #25

  • Comment number 30.

    hi boys! Plastics can actually be a a tool to remove chemical contamination from the sea and water, chemicals that have been spilled due to extraction or transport of fossel fuel. The fact that plastic binds to PCBs, DDT and PAH groups is very very good news, because it can give us hope in trying to clean up the mess. PAH, PCB's and others also destroy the marine life, and ends up on our plate.

    it can also be a good thing if you have to work in science.

    Johrnhrcf: Why have you not answered my question (about what do you do if you go to a hospital or receive dental treatment? How do you suppose the material could be 'recycled' and deemed safe?)

  • Comment number 31.

    I commend Chris for highlighting how pervasive plastics are in our daily lives. It is something that people generally don't remain aware of (other than going shopping, and ending up with half a bin full of packaging once or twice a month).

    But - Instead of throwing insults at each other and claiming that the other half either is ignorant or 'working for plastic' (or the packaging industry), look at the arguments and the semantics thereof.

    Some arguments specifically address some of the finer points than the overall "plastic is bad, mkay" debate. Yet, those who argue those finer points are accused of trying to poison or sidetrack the debate. They're not. Oversimplification of a problem is the biggest threat we all face, and it appears that certain members on here are desperately trying to make it look like they are always right by oversimplifying the problem of plastic.

    Peter_Sym made some good arguments as to why plastic could be good (but that's all dependent on the recycling rate of plastics), and why specifically in oceans it is bad (because it attracts and binds organochemicals, i.e. DDT, that are poisoning the foodchain, thereby causing the concentration of the chemical to kill the animals in the chain). Yet most of those arguments were drowned out by the "you're wrong, you're wrong!!" bleatings of johnhcrf.

    I would rather see responsible use of plastics (i.e. a recycling chain that accepts all plastics for reuse) than a ban altogether, but until the entire world comes together on this, it is not going to happen. Developing nations do not have the resources to develop recycling chains, especially where large, sparsely populated landmasses are involved. They'll rather landfill it because it's simpler. That it binds hydrocarbon resources for whatever time it takes for plastics to decay, is not their greatest concern in life. Surviving often is more important.

  • Comment number 32.


    You must be kidding. This plastic holding concentrated chemical waste is taken in by small fish and thus the food chain is poisoned. Great news indeed!

    To be honest I am not interested in every possible scenario. Keep to the mainstream of activity.

  • Comment number 33.

    #32. I think the idea was to clean up the plastic after it absorbs the toxin and hopefully also stop using DDT etc in the first place.

    Given the bizarre minority obsessions that have been aired here 'keeping to the mainstream' had me chuckling.

  • Comment number 34.


    Plastic packaging waste is not recycled! It goes to landfill. That is why I avoid it like the plague.

    My views on Zero Waste, in this country in particular, is to push for a better future. Surely that is a good idea? Many others agree with this viewpoint.

    I only argue against views antagonistic to this ideal. A lot of it is packaging waste types who have admitted as much.

    Take for instance a sustainable wooden toothbrush. Can you honestly say this is bad thing? It removes apermanent source of landfill waste.

  • Comment number 35.

    "Plastic packaging waste is not recycled! It goes to landfill. That is why I avoid it like the plague."

    Agreed. So why don't we just recycle it? That way we get the best of both worlds- cheap clean lightweight packing and no long term landfill problem.

    As for the totemic wooden toothbrush I've told you about 100 times why its not such a great idea but apparently you seem to think that the truly vast carbon footprint of processing wood, processing pigs then trucking the finished brush from Germany to the UK is worse than 4" of polythene going in the bin. Apparently Scottish wood isn't even suitable but I haven't been told why.

    Incidentally does THE toothbrush sit in a mug or on a gilded plinth when not in use?

  • Comment number 36.

    #34: Toothbrush made from pig bristles? natural fibers? Trees? Why do you choose to ignore the cycle. Just because you don't have to go and dispose of the 'waste' doesn't mean someone else didn't have to do it for you. It is the same waste, just that you didn't dispose of it.

    #32: During an oil spill, most marine life die because the oil is stuck to their surface, and blocking their source of oxygen, they don't have arms in which to clean themselves. Oil floats on the surface of the ocean, and we do need to clean it. Plastics offer a way to do this. I never suggested that our littler is a good thing.

    Please stop calling people with another view "plastic waste type"

  • Comment number 37.


    I expected spaetow, or is that an alias. A sustainable wooden toothbrush is an excellent contribution to Zero Waste. A perfect choice for a better future.

    Plastic packaging waste will never be recycled. What is required is sustainable plastic. Until that arrives I will continue to avoid this other waste material. Unpackaged is an excellent alternative.

  • Comment number 38.

    Peter_Sym: I propose a scenario: Please save the papers you use do desinfect your counters, and your gloves and syringes, tubing, and any other lab material you use for your research. I'll do the same, and collect vials of water samples and so on. Then we ban both autoclave the contents (plastic separate or just 'bleached cleaned' if you don't have the autoclavable sort) and when Johrncrf goes to the backery, uses toillet paper, or even a napkin, he will have the 'recycled' version. In the case he goes to a hospital (because of an infection given the material of your work or mine) we'll make sure to send in the recycled version of our 'syringes', petri-dishes so that he can be treated. Don't forget the paper/plastic cover of those syringes. That way he can tell the hospital that he will be taking the equipment home for reuse.

    meanwhile, we'll write technical papers on the risk assessment of recycling and we'll apply for funding of better recyling facilities as well as disposal of bioharzardous material.

    Sorry I couldn't resist! :)

  • Comment number 39.

    #38 Thats a great idea especially as our autoclave is broken and we're just double bagging and incinerating. It'll save a lot of work!

  • Comment number 40.

    All this about plastics taking up DDT and the like.
    I am taking out a patent to use plastic as a sponge for all the chemicals in the ocean.
    A friend of mine has decided to come on board with the idea.
    He will design a plastic item (name suggestions please) which will be big and ugly enough that no fishy fellow will want to nible or wrap round itself.
    We will then drop as many as we possibly can into as many of the oceans as we can get to.
    As this item will last in the sea, for hundreds of years, before starting to break up will give us the time to collect the poison filled plastic filth and dispose of it properly.
    Governments all over the world will pay us handsomly for our collection services.

    Anyone wishing to purchase shares in this promising venture please register your interest here.

  • Comment number 41.


    Just one small problem or is that 1,000,000,000 problems. The stuff that is already there will continue to damage the eco-system. This is not a trivial subject.

  • Comment number 42.

    I am definitely not an alias for Peter_Sym.

    You will find that there are not many who are not for a better future. What you will find is that people like Peter_Sym, who have made very good arguments as to the reuse of plastic instead of an outright ban, look for a more intelligent future that is better at the same time.

    Surely, a smarter, better future is better than just a blunt "we shouldn't rely on this" type better future?

    As you point out, packaging is often not recycled, but that's mostly thanks to the limits that organisations like WRAP put on recycling plastic packaging. Why is it that in other European countries plastic packaging is recyclable along with all other plastics used in the homes, without a fat sticker on your green box telling you "we don't recycle this sort of plastic"?

    My point is that more intelligent/smarter re-use of plastic is more likely more beneficial to society as a whole than a ban altogether.

  • Comment number 43.


    I agree that recycling is preferable to landfill. But when the plastic industry refuses to take responsibility for its waste how will this recycling be financed.

    The mentality is this: get the packed goods to the consumer. As long as they get food in a fit condition, the packaging has fulfilled its use.

    Where's the recycling in this philosophy?

  • Comment number 44.


    A good profitable company is always looking to diversify. We will add collection of existing bits of plastic to its services. Filthy plastic is filthy plastic, we will collect it all.

    How many shares can we put you down for???

  • Comment number 45.


    The process of collecting, sorting, cleaning, treating and reconstituting materials that would otherwise become solid waste, and returning them to the economic mainstream in the form of raw material for new products.

    What is wrong with Waste management taking our 'solid waste' and recycling it? What is wrong with my cream-cheese tin being used to make a new one? What's wrong with the industries selling needed packaging and then re-using it to make new packaging? What is wrong with incinerators whose energy goes into powering other industries?

    You just want to label every plastic product with a scarlet "P"

    Back to blog topic: What kind of pen do you use when all is made of plastic (or have plastic containing the ink?)

  • Comment number 46.


    Recycling should be the standard for plastic waste. This will cost but the companies can claim the green kudos from such practices.

    In the meantime, as a Zero Waste enthusiast, I , and other like-minds, will avoid this type of plastic.

    A sustainable system will have minimal waste and minimal production. This must be the final goal to forever end the current chain of waste system, with its unending contribution to landfill or its partner in crime, incineration.

  • Comment number 47.

    I think you just don't like trees!

  • Comment number 48.

    Thanks for posting this. It seems like a bit of irrelevant fun at first, instead of the useful tool the rest of the blog has been, but it provided a vital reinforcement for me. I assume my trash will sit in a landfill indefinately, but I try not to throw anything that I wouldn't want to see the light of day. I cut back, but honestly, I can't stop generating trash.

    I can stop using permanent stuff for disposables.

  • Comment number 49.


    You misunderstand Zero Waste. We avoid all plastic by taking purchases unpackaged. The toothbrush issue is a minor example for illustration.

    In taking personal responsibility for our waste we are helping to reduce landfill impact. Others are also reducing their waste as part of the trend to Zero.

  • Comment number 50.


    It is not easy to achieve Zero but all anyone can do is to reduce their waste and hopefully learn better practice from the more experienced.

    Mrs Green's MyZeroWaste is a great blog for beginners and experienced alike. All questions are answered with careful consideration.

  • Comment number 51.

    How many times do I have to ask: can we have this topic dragged back into the real world? There is nothing intrinsically more re-cyclable about aluminium, tin-plated ferrous metals, cardboard or paper than "plastic" (a spectacularly amorphous definition, covering a huge range of materials).

    If you don't look at the processes and logistics involved in getting a product from raw material state to the point where you pick it up, then any evaluation of its environmental impact is utterly meaningless. This whole project - as currently defined - is as pointless as vowing to walk around wearing one shoe only, to cut world shoe production by 50%.....

    Being well-meaning isn't the same as having any in-depth understanding of the issue. Yes, do without plastic by all means, but please don't pretend that substituting other materials is, in all cases, most cases or even some cases, "better", since without going into incredible detail on how those materials got to the point where you use them, you can't possibly know. The environmental issue deserves better than shallow, superficial stunts like this.

  • Comment number 52.


    One of the most succint and accurate posts I have seen on here. Love the 'one shoe' analogy.

  • Comment number 53.


    My issue with plastic is that I cannot recycle a lot of it. It goes to landfill. Zero Waste is putting Zero to landfill, a good aim.
    What I advocate is sustainable plastic use.
    Minimal production and minimal waste. Can you not see the value of this? I think such a system would waste little virgin material. It would be sustainable over a very long period of time, with little landfill.

  • Comment number 54.


    You are mistaken, I do not replace this plastic packaging waste, I choose items unpackaged. Is this not even better than using plastic?


    I am still using my little wooden toothbrush for the purpose it was sustainably crafted for.

  • Comment number 55.


    Sorry I am late on today / tonight, been a bit busy. I have been at a major plastic conference today plotting our next move in the dismantling of the 'zero waste movement. We are starting with you.

    In response to your post #13:

    Exactly how do you propose we "make plastic sustainable"? I really do want to hear your utopian suggestions here.

    I really thought for a minute you had grasped the point that litter is about unacceptable human behaviour not the material and that blaming plastic for dead sealife is like blaming cars for road accidents. Both cars and plastic are, as I said "unwitting participants". It's the people at the steering wheel that invariably to blame.

    I thought you had it, just fleatingly, just for a second you were going to grasp the real issue - but no. I should have known coming from a "plastic packaging type" like me it would be inconsiderable in your one-dimensional world. Silly me.

    Still, let's organise the stonings and ritualistic burnings. I'll bring the petrol - damn! I forgot, we are not allowed petrol!! Urgh, this zero waste thing is getting more difficlut by the day! I'l get the pig fat instead.

    John- are we allowed sustainable matches or can I get away with a plastic lighter?

  • Comment number 56.


    Sustainability is the best use of plastic ie no landfill contribution, as opposed to today's situation where the chain of waste leads to endless amounts of material, with no end in sight.

    In the sustainable system, which is a closed loop, there is some waste made up with a small amount of extra production.

    Packaging is used as before but recycled 100%, for cleaning, remelt etc. What this material is made of it could be polythene, HDPE/PET or any other type which is easy to recycle. Recycling would be essential, with a refund available for consumers. Packaging design would change for ease of use.

    The whole idea is to end landfill as an option. I think a gradual approach is best. We are currently looking into polythene recycling as the potential is already there.
    HDPE/PET will be used for ready meals, which I will be able to buy again. This is planned some time ahead.

    The will has to be there for it to succeed.

    You decry Zero Waste, which is a worldwide movement of concerned individuals who are taking personal responsibility for the waste they deal with. The people I know in this are all good citizens.

    I will refrain from calling anyone a plastic packaging type but waste remains my biggest concern, with incineration casting a threatening shadow.

    You must also accept that other opinions have value.

  • Comment number 57.


    Congratulations on entering into a debate and expressing your views in a more multi-dimensional perspective. Commiserations on avoiding the question re' plastic being an "unwitting participant" in the death of sealife and instead social behaviour (littering) being the real issue.

    I want you to address a response on this please.

    You make some suggestions re' "closed loop". There is no evidence to suggest that recycling todays packaging back into tomorrows packaging in a "closed loop" has any environmental benefit at all. In fact several papers and pieces of research have been published to suggest that chasing such a "idealistic goal" would be environmentally worse in the majority of cases. Geographics of collection, recycling and packaging conversion mean extra roadmiles would be added therefore rendering any environmental benefit lost through the uneccessary utilisation of additional road miles. Far better to recycle the material for ANY use and not be too specific about second life application.

    In fact, one should not assume that recycling is actually the best option for some plastics. I know you dont like it but EfW / CHP plants offer excellent capture and utilisation of the calorific value of plastics and can consume less energy than recycling in a lot of [material specific] instances. They also tick your box in terms of landfill avoidance. You should learn more about these as they are a fantastic example of efficiency.

    Most leading EU nations that are suucessful in their battle to avoid landfill are 80% realiant upon EfW / CHP with only c20% of waste actually being "recycled". The UK already recycles far more than at around c35% [dont quote me, but I think that is near enough - check at Defra if you like].

    By "Refunds" I assume you mean that the LA would offer Council tax discounts to committed recyclers? Assuming this is what you mean I absolutely agree that positive reinforcement and recognition [the carrot] will be far more successful in motivating to participation in recycling than financially penalising through "fines" [the stick] laggards who cannot be bothered. We agree, what do you know! However latest inside info suggests the stick may be more widely adopted than the carrot, but dont quote me on that. I really hope not.

    Polythene recycling [post-consumer] is highly unlikely to ever get off the ground due to economics and practicalities. As I explained in previous posts despite being "recyclable" polythene [and other films] are a "victim of their own success" in being lightweight and versatile, which is why very few [c2%] LA's collect these for recycling today. They have to collect a whole heap of them to make a tonne of waste whereas with paper / aluminimum etc you dont need a huge volume per tonne. Added to this plastic film technology has advanced at an awesome pace in recent years and films are now typically around 30%-30% thinner / lighter than just 30% years ago, which makes them even less attractive for recycling. Also to deliver this decreased weight / gauge and therefotre greater efficiency of resourses in manufacture complicated polymers, co-extrusions and laminates have been developed that make recycling increasingly difficult. to now unpick all of this development and innovation simply to tick the "recycling box" would be environmentally wrong on the wider perspective and lead to a far bigger consumption of oil and energy in manufacture than currently exists. Even you can see this?

    Recycling of INDUSTRIAL use polythene / films is happening on a large scale and numerous organisations are doing it right now. In 'industrial streams' the polymers are more specific to the organisations consuming and therefore cleaner streams can be established. In post-consumer streams you have everything under the sun, contaminated with food and debris and it is neither, economically, practically or environmentally right to recycle them. It just aint never going to happen, forget it! Anyone that suggests different is simply wrong.

    Instead "films" [post-consumer] are most suitably diverted from landfill through EfW / CHP and the inherent calorific value recovered. You really need to understand more about this John - I urge you to do the research.

    Further on in your post you make mention of HDPE/PET being used for Ready Meals. Neither of these plastics is suitable for a ready meals application due to limitations with heat resistance. I believe neither material would survive beyond 70C and therefore would 'melt' in your microwave or oven. I dont know where you have got this from but it is just not accurate information.

    Today's ready meals are predominantly packed in black cPET (chrystlised PET) which is effectively 'super hardened' PET (Polyester) to withstand sustained high temp abuse. This is not going to change to standard PET or HDPE, believe me I know. However more pulp based ready meals are coming onto the market, meals are being packed into films and pouches and times are changing. I suspect the ubiquotous black cPET tray will be consigned to the past. Although I believe people are now beginning to recycle them. However I think other packaging forms forms may take over.

    For the record I don't and never have "decried zero waste". I have through this forum on numerous occasions stated it to be a commendable goal, however I have also said on numerous occasions that pursuit of this utopian goal should not be to the detriment of the wider environmental impact of your choices. Please don't mistake my dry sense of humour for derision.

    My fundamental point is that you cannot and should not pursue a zero waste life if your individual choices mean you have have a bigger and more signifcant environemtal impact. To do so would be completely and utterly environmetally inappropriate. To do so knowingly would be absolutely and categorically wrong on every level. I suspect a lot of your choices, as demonstrated by your previous posts fall into this latter category [knowingly]. This is my fundamental issue with you and others like you. Despite being shown the evidence you still do not want to accept it and see nothing wrong in your material choices. I dont care who is making the decsion, you or anyone else - it's wrong!

    Choosing no packaging does not make your choices right. Just because you dont have to dispose of any packaging does not mean that someone else further up the chain has not had to dispose of it on your behalf. In some cases they will have had to dispose of far more secondary / tertiary packaging than you would have consumed had the item being bought packaged in primary packaging originally.

    PS: Thank you for agreeing to abondon the "plastic packaging type" tag. I think it's for the best given you were bandying it around to all and sundry, including medical research scientists!

    PPS: Welcome to the debate.

  • Comment number 58.


    Here's an exert from a Joan Ruddock interview, under-secretary of state for climate change, waste and recycling and biodiversity.

    Very telling about current govt position on LA postcode lottery (not going to face into telling LA's what to do) and also EfW / CHP.

    Full interview on link:

    Also thought i would throw in a link about how it 'greener' to ship waste to China than landfill it - just to upset you!! :-)

    Just for good measure one on household waste only accounting for 9% of the UK's total waste.

    The lack of standardisation between local authorities’ recycling collections is another hot topic for Ruddock. Many industry figures compare our unregulated waste recovery system unfavourably to that in continental Europe, where recycling is much more centralised and packaging is much less of an issue. Ruddock, however, questions how justifiable it is to complain when "most people do not live in two places". In her view, the issue is one of aspirations. This is why people "want to do more", she says, and why people want to see local authorities adhering to best practice throughout the country.

    So should local authorities be asked to standardise their recycling capabilities? Ruddock’s answer is a firm no. But they should follow best practice, she argues. "It’s my view that if everyone went forward following best practice we’d probably end up with local authorities doing very similar things."

    While it would be wonderful if councils were to align their recycling activities, for the moment this appears to remain a pipedream. For now, though, the government is promoting the reuse of packaging where possible, and otherwise recycling.

    Energy from waste, the other option for waste treatment – besides landfill – is also filling Ruddock’s schedule. In her London constituency, Ruddock has one of only two energy-from-waste plants in the city. She admits that local people have raised concerns over the years, not least when a white powder appeared over local properties and people immediately blamed the plant. "It turned out to be a cement crusher, which had illegally set up and operated in some back yard and blown all over," she explains.

    This incident led Ruddock to investigate the broader concerns about energy from waste and a health impact assessment was carried out by the local Primary Care Trust – and nothing was found. "I think previous environment ministers have been on record saying that Guy Fawkes Night produces more dioxins," she says with a smile. "Waste plants of any kind tend to produce objections, but they are absolutely essential. We shouldn’t be afraid of them."

    The Waste Strategy 2000 predicted energy-from-waste plants would handle a quarter of all waste by 2020. Ruddock says that the figure currently stands at around 11%. But £2bn of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) credits for waste infrastructure, which will allow local authorities to develop recycling, energy from waste and even anaerobic digestion plants, could change all that. "It’s possible that by 2020 the 25% prediction will be met, but nobody is quite certain as it depends on what is built," she says.

  • Comment number 59.

    For those of you who ask why someone would go a month without plastic, have you ever had a Catholic friend who gave up coffee (or whatever) for Lent, or a Muslim friend who fasted for Ramadan? I see this as a very similar thing. The item being given up, whether coffee or food or plastic, is not in itself evil, but the process of doing without it compells you to think about the role it plays in your life.

    Why is there so much plastic around us? Sometimes because plastic containers really are the best option; they are light, sturdy, and can be adapted to many different needs. But why do all my local stores insist on selling individually shrink-wrapped bell peppers and heads of broccoli? (I'm going to wash them before I use them anyway!) Why do clothing store clerks get upset if I say I don't need a plastic bag for the single item I've just purchased? Some plastic is clearly unnecessary. Trying to do without any plastic highlights both where plastic is a very useful convenience and where we could easily do without.

  • Comment number 60.


    I fundamentally disagree with your acceptance of the chain of waste system. My opinion will not change on this. A sustainable system will emerge which removes this unthinking mess regardless of what you say. Where there is a will there is a way.

    You are rather dismissive of the downside to incineration. If you think this will be accepted by the public without a response you are living in a dream world.

    As for Zero Waste, the campaign will continue and I notice that there are increasing numbers joining in. I refuse to use this packaging waste until it is made sustainable. If you were wise you would take on board the justified concerns of consumers. In the end the consumer will decide.

  • Comment number 61.

    Mining Landfill has long since been predicted, however it now seems like it may be moving forward and becoming a reality.

    Check out this link:

    Hard to get the jist of who owns the waste from the interview. I suspect Local Authorities will 'own it' however possibly the waste management contractors / providers do, I don't know. Does anyone have any inside info re' ownership of waste?

  • Comment number 62.


    I think supermarkets wrap everything in plastic to increase the shelf-life. They may or may not package it in a special atmosphere (one without oxygen), to stop the food appearing to go off.

    (The food loses nutrients wrapped this way but looks fresh and healthy).

  • Comment number 63.

    Further to incineration. There is worldwide concern about its spread, especially in the Third World. The Zero Waste for Zero Warmth campaign is advocating alternatives to this type of system.

    In Britain, it is seen by many, councils, business (waste management, plastic packaging industry) as a cheap way to avoid the required changes in waste reduction.

    It is not on officially the agenda but attempts are being made to install the first. Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, take your pick.

  • Comment number 64.


    We've already seen that energy-recovery is the worst of the three options for plastics (see the discussion on 15th August re the Defra report) (the other options being landfill (next worst) and recycling (best)).

    However, according to the discussion on the same day it that seems no matter how hard we recycle everything there is always 20% residual waste left over that needs dealing with. Is this all burnt?

    I think it's a good argument for cutting out waste.

  • Comment number 65.


    Surely the concern is that it will be used to maintain the unsustainable chain of waste and to avoid the costs to companies of recycling to the max.

    The public will not accept it. What politician has come forward to support it?

    The remaining 20% does need attention. What this attention will be can be discussed. Incineration should be the last option, not the first.

  • Comment number 66.

    idontmuchbut @ 61:

    Waste in landfill sites has been abandoned. So whoever finds it, owns it.

    Another way to think about it: Theft is taking something with intent to permanently deprive somebody of it. If you take something in good faith that the former owner intended to destroy it, then you can legally state that you intended only to deprive them of it temporarily (i.e. for as long as it would have taken them to destroy it, at which point they would no longer have it) and therefore in the eyes of the law, you have not committed theft.

  • Comment number 67.

    I don't know if the local council cannot be bothered to even try harder when it comes to Recycling. I have two small green boxes, they provided everyone with nice new boxes, and didn't collect all of the old ones (the van soon got filled up apparently).

    In the past they used to throw any unsuitable plastic out of the box, leaving it to blow away, following complains they did leave the rejected plastic in the box.

    Lately Tesco (and other independant recycling areas), introduced a mixed plastics and Tetra Box recycling system. They seem to be putting more effort into it. Although council tax is increasingly rising, they cannot afford to purchase larger vehicles, and may even have to introduce 2 weekly pickups.

  • Comment number 68.

    Further to the points on incineration.

    Energy from Waste (EfW) is the current name thta Waste companies use instead of incineration. Why are they avoiding the name? Could it be that they know fine well there is no public support for this. In fact there is a gorwing list of organisation opposed to this practice. Friends of The Earth, Greenpeace, UkWin, Nail2, Sail2 and many others.

    Please when anyone discusses EfW in future bracket incineration for the benefit of readers. Hiding this fact is wrong.

  • Comment number 69.

    #68 - johnhcrf

    "Incineration" means literally seeting fire to it and simply destroying it through burning.

    "EfW" means Energy From Waste, which means that instead of simply burning it and it's gone you now burn it but capture the inherent energy within the material and put it back to use. This could be feeding national grid, heating water for local amenities etc.

    You already know this, so dont be so pedantic.

    Also in you post #65 you asked "what politician has come forward to support it" [EfW]. You may actually like to read my earlier post #58 in which I posted an interview with Joan Ruddock, our "waste minister". In the interview she clearly states that she supports EfW and predicts a rise over the few years.

    I would suggest she is at the very top of the tree as far as waste and recycling goes and if she / govt support it then undoubtedly it will happen.

    EfW does not make your "unsustainable chain of waste". I took a lot of time to write a very detailed answer to all your points and questions and yet again you have chosen to conveniently leave out the bits you like or understand, such closed loop recycling, polythene recycling, cPET trays, Litter driven by social behaviour etc and instead focus on the one bit you have a view on, EfW. Why am I not surprised that you have chosen to ignore the facts and evidence providing by an expert in the field?

    I really thought you were going to open your mind so I took the time to engage you with the full facts in the hope of a menaingful debate but yet again you dispoint by disappearing back up your one dimensional backside.

    I really am beginning to lose patience with you.

  • Comment number 70.

    #60 johnhcrf

    "in the end consumers will decide".

    here's a contencious view for you:-

    Customers cannot be allowed to decide. Global warming, sustainability, recycling infrastructure, material choice are all too big and too complex and absolutely too important for joe public to be allowed to decide what is and is not the right thing to do.

    We have one chance to get this right and it cannot be guided by the man in the street.

    I am all for customer feedback and responding to customer need etc however the line stops on this subject. Yes they want less packaging, yes they want less waste, yes they want it to be recyclable. However very few have any idea how this should be achieved and therefore simply want it doing for them. Customer research shows they expect major retailers and brands to have 'choice edited' on their behalf and they then take confidence that they are doing the right thing in buying that particular product or service.

    There are far too many pieces of headline chasing misinformation coming out of govt and media for the majority of average consumers to be anywhere near educated on these subjects. Whilst this misinformation exists consumers will never grasp the full complexity of the debate unless people like myself and others use this forum and other channels like it to get out the wider messages and facts.

  • Comment number 71.


    Save the insults.

    Do you know of one area of Britain or Northern Ireland where the public are willing to accept incineration (EfW)?

    You want to ride roughshod over the public's health and local environment concerns.

    Recycle more, as they do in Germany. This is the best course of action. No local MP will back an incinerator in his/her backyard, unless you know different. Please feel free to name such an individual.

    This is highly unpopular as you have already read from my earlier posts. How can you go against the public will?

  • Comment number 72.


    You go on about complexity. This is arraogant in the extreme. People can decide to turn their backs on the cycle of waste, knowing as they do that such waste production is not good for our society.

    Zero Waste is our stand against unsustainable practices. We choose not to follow your example, as we have every right to do. I ask other consumers to send you a message by avoiding the waste, as I am doing.

    I will send a home binbag to landfill in 4-5 years. That, among other actions, is my contribution to Zero Waste. Why dont you try a challenge as well. Join in and see the benefit.

  • Comment number 73.


    Whether the public are currently willing to accept it [EfW] in their area is besides the point. They are making their judgements, as you are from an absolute position of ignorance of the latest facts and evidence in support of such facilities.

    Whilst the ignorance persists sadly the NIMBY attitude will persist. Getting the facts out in the public arena so people can develop a position of knowledage will allow them to make informed decisions.

    If you are going to comment on this area you really do need to do more research around the latest studies and technologies. they are safe, clean and offer efficient capture of energy that would otherwise be landfilled / buried in the ground.

    Whilst ignorance persists no local MP or Council will publicly stand up in favour of it. However my reasons for posting Joan Ruddocks interview to was to illustrate that times and attitudes are changing and EfW now plays a big part in the future waste strategy for this country.

    To hold up Germany as paragon of recycling virtue is slightly innaccurate as they themselves use EfW to avoid landfill, as do the majority of other EU nations.

  • Comment number 74.


    To pursue "zero waste" at the detriment to the wider environement is completely and utterly wrong. Myself and others have pointed this out on numerous occasions and tried to get you to think about the wider impact your 'no waste' or 'no packaging' choices can have. Sadly you continue to ignore this, instead choosing to pursue your noble but misinformed crusade against your own personal waste whilst completely ignoring upstream waste for the products you buy as life-cycle impacts.

    To allow consumers even less informed than yourself to lead this debate would be environmental suicide. Choice-editing by govt and major organisations based upon robust science and research has to be the way forward. This is not "arrogance in the extreme".

  • Comment number 75.


    GreenPeace, Friends of The Earth, UKWIN, nail2, sail2, Zero Waste and Zero Warming, to name but a few groups who disagree with your intrepretation of the incineration debate.

    The public will not stand by and let you destroy air quality and landfill (containing contaminated ash) with this undesirable technology. That is the truth of the situation. You should respect their views rather than try to browbeat them. You cannot succeed in this.

  • Comment number 76.


    I am pleased to say it is not my job to win this debate with the public. I have no part in the waste management industry, local or central govt.

    Just because NGO's are opposed to idea does no mean they are correct. We usually allow the science to influence decision making not public opinion.

  • Comment number 77.


    Name an MP who will back incineration (EfW) in his/her constituency. I know you cannot.

    The voters who are the important part of this democracy will cast their votes for the MP who defends their health and environment. Business cannot stand against this powerful force of democracy.

  • Comment number 78.


    Just becuase a decision is democratic it does not make it environmentally appropriate.

    I highlighted 'choice editing' as being on the part of the organisation, not govt supplying the product / service. Consumers WANT choice-editing as many pieces of research suggest. They want to know that doing the right thing has been taken care of.

    I did say that getting the facts and evidence re' EfW into the public arena to dispel the pervading ignorance around the subject was good thing. I also said when the evidence and science is out there people can make informed decisions based upon it.

    Is that not democratic?

    PS: I am convinced certain MP's support EfW, even if only in private. the ignorance around the subject fuels the silent support. MP's are politically 'scared' to stand up and be counted on this one. However if central govt has it built into their waste strategy and promotes a public debate around science and evidence I am sure their own MP's will undoubtedly make a stand.

  • Comment number 79.

    idontmuchbut @ 70:

    You have hit the nail on the head.

    The problem is that the general public are ignorant and proud of it, and if allowed to make wrong choices they will do.

    Meanwhile, capitalism is very good at presenting fifty different "wrong" choices and often no "right" choice. Whether it's Coke, Pepsi or Happy Shopper Own Brand Cola Effect Flavour Beverage, they all end up in the same place.

    And the instant you try to take away one of the wrong choices, some shill will pipe up that there are 49 choices out there that are just as bad if not worse.

  • Comment number 80.


    You cannot name one with the courage of his/her convictions, as I said.

    The plan to maintain the chain of waste to supply enough material to justify the costs of incineration (EfW) is the most sinister aspect in this secret world. Hopefully, this will be given as much airing as possible to thwart the whole scheme.

  • Comment number 81.

    Please, johnhcrf, learn the difference between energy from waste and old-fashioned incineration.

    The former, if done properly, would release fewer noxious chemicals over the course of a year than 5 November.

    Transporting contaminated plastic material to a recycling facility, purifying it enough to recycle, melting it down and making something else out of it uses up energy. If that energy exceeds the amount that was required to make it in the first place, then the process is uneconomical.

    It would only make sense if the raw material for plastic was more scarce than energy. But in practice, it's the *same* raw material!

    Using contaminated plastic as a fuel for electricity generation removes an equivalent amount (measured by kWh) of fossil fuel from the equation.

    Now, none of that is to say that eliminating contaminated plastic altogether is not a noble goal. But realistically, it isn't going to happen -- at least, not straight away, so we need an interim solution.

    The popular arguments against EfW are ill-informed and based on misunderstandings of science.

  • Comment number 82.


    Incineration (EfW) will remove plastic rather than reuse it. This means more will have to be created to replace the lost plastic. This is the current chain of waste.

    I say let us recycle to the max, as they do elsewhere, and avoid using finite virgin material, in other words a sustainable cycle.
    What can you say against a minimal waste, minimal production system.

    You tell me what is wrong with such a system.

  • Comment number 83.


    Incineration(EfW) is deeply unpopular. You must accept this and find an alternative solution. You cannot ride roughshod over the public.

    No amount of hectoring will change that situation. Get real and recycle more.

  • Comment number 84.

    #75 - Here's a little test for you.

    Have a look at the 5 EU member states with the highest recycling rates.
    Now look at the 5 EU member states with the highest use of incineration.
    Then look at the 5 EU member states with the lowest landfill rates.
    Finally, look at the percentage of the green vote in these member states compared to the UK.

    You'll find that the best recycling nations are those with the least reliance on landfill and the greatest use of EfW (they were when I did this exercise in early 2006 anyway.)

    They also routinely elect representatives running on a green ticket to their various legislatures - Germany, for example, had over 50 Green/Socialist MP's last time I checked. We have two? Green MEP's, and a member of the London Assembly. And a number of councillors. Our share of the vote is modest in comparison.

    What does this tell us? That environmentalists in EU member states which perform far better than we do at recycling waste and which come far closer to your zero landfill ideals don't have nearly as much an issue with EfW as our green lobby does in this country. Why? Because they work from a position of debating these issues in a mature fashion through considering scientific evidence. We have a lot to learn.

  • Comment number 85.

    #73 - you confirm what I state in #84. Germany does very well for recycling - and most of what it doesn't recycle (or AD - this technology is very popular there) goes to EfW.

  • Comment number 86.

    #71 - 'Do you know of one area of Britain or Northern Ireland where the public are willing to accept incineration (EfW)?'

    The biggest whinge in the area is from those people who aren't actually yet connected to the scheme. They don't mind the scheme, they just can't wait to get on the hot water ring.

    How do I know this? I've been there, seen it and spoken to the locals. The direct financial benefits to them are significant. It also helps fund the work of the Shetland Environmental Trust, who are doing some very good things with recycling and reuse of waste.

  • Comment number 87.


    Joan Ruddock MP - Lewisham
    Hilary Benn MP - Central Leeds
    David Milliband - South Shields

    All areas have or are considering EfW. All above are public supporters of EfW. Do I need to go on?

  • Comment number 88.


    Excellent post - I too have seen the data and associated chart. I have it on my laptop but we cannot upload to the site. If I could I would.

    Do you know if the chart is available on-line so we can give him a link to it?

  • Comment number 89.


    The public do not want this. They are concerned with health issues, from the flue ejectate and environmental issues, when the contaminated ash ends up in landfill.

    How can you allay the public's fear. It seems to me that the waste industry, packaging industry are very keen, self interest.

    You cannot ride over people's objections. Do you not realise this?

  • Comment number 90.


    I have already stated that the full facts are not being passed through to the public. Modern EfW plants produce less toxins in one year than is produced in just one night, 5th November.

    That is fact.

  • Comment number 91.


    What about the 30% volume contaminated ash?

  • Comment number 92.


    Recycling of the bottom ash from EfW plant into construction applications reduces the quantity requiring landfill disposal to under 10% of the feedstock mass.

    In english that means we landfill 90% less than we would have pre-EfW.

  • Comment number 93.

    #91 - the ash volume is not 30%. It varies between 19 and 26% according to the operational figures I have seen. The contaminated fraction (fly ash) represents 2-3% by volume - the other 16-23% are bottom ash, which is reasonably inert - and which is used as a secondary aggregate.

  • Comment number 94.

    #90 - Good point.

    In the late 80's, incineration accounted for around 50% of all UK dioxin production. It now accounts for less than 0.5%. Its contribution is dwarfed by the contribution made from domestic bonfires, barbeques and fireworks.

  • Comment number 95.


    What effect does this fly ash have on the environment, keeping in mind the 25 years of use. That must be some volume of hazardoud waste.

    Do you have a financial interest in this process?

  • Comment number 96.


    Yes, but I dont want a barbeque in my back yard! If I see the neighbours light a barbeque I am round there like a shot to ignorantly oppose it!!

    Unless they bung me free sausage and then I am all for it.


  • Comment number 97.

    #95 - effect on the environment? Negligible compared to landfill of mixed waste, as it is generally monofilled. It just sits there.

    Do I have a financial interest? Absolutely! As do you. I'm a taxpayer, and EfW, if done properly, is the best social, economic and environmental option for the non-recyclable residual. If we can avoid producing the residual, then so much the better- which is why I'm only really in favour of small scale, dispersed, local, flexible modern EfW plant. Pick the right plant (ie gasification or pyrolysis), and it can then go on to other duty when you engineer out the residual upstream. The plant that started out burning residual waste? It now burns biomass. What a result!

    I have no other financial interest though. I have no formal connection with any of the technology providers. Which is good, because it allows me to make up my own mind about what is good and what is not so good.

    Here's something I think is good. Just for illustrative purposes.

    and something else

  • Comment number 98.


    What kind of recycling rate do you foresee. I assume it should be 60+%

  • Comment number 99.

    #98 - I'd be pushing for 70% plus. I think the difficulty with household waste is the last 20%. Now we should be able over the longer term to engineer this out - hence getting towards your zero landfill aspirations - and hence why I think that monolithic traditional EfW isn't the right way to go necessarily, as what happens if you run out of waste to feed it with halfway through its life? Expensive white elephant...

    Far better to use smaller, modular flexible advanced technology that can be used to generate energy from biomass at some future date when the waste runs out. As I sincerely hope that it will.

    I'm after facilities so small and well-designed that you could put them on a small business park and not even know that they were there - not an incinerator with a 300ft stack. Hence the push for gasification. I'd also like them to meet an energy efficiency target that beats the efficiency of any fossil fuel power station (including gas turbines) - only possible by using the heat as well as the electricity (or instead of.)

    The end result? A plant that can burn waste or biomass - and do it with less emissions and a lower environmental impact than producing the same amount of energy via any other traditional combustion process. A tall order? Possibly - but I know a number of very good process engineers who think it can be done.

  • Comment number 100.


    I totally agree with that. I assumed that the figure would be 30% ie full of recyclables to suit the current chain of waste.
    Zero Waste is an aspirational figure for householders.

    The links were good as well.


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