Paul Willis - 2018 blog posts archive
Waste Strategy Manager
Paul has stopped his weekly postings, but you can still read his stories here ...
Paul Willis is the councils' waste strategy manager. He has been in this role for the last 13 years.
Paul is passionate about keeping our local environment clean and making sure that waste is used as a resource rather than just being thrown away. His role includes waste education and environmental enforcement to help achieve these aims.
You can read Paul's archived 2018 blog posts on this page below - or read his archive of 2017 blog posts ...
Hello and welcome back to my blog on all things recycling.
This month we are teaming up with Sompting Big Local for our next community engagement project that will last the course of the summer.
In recent years we have had a much more targeted approach to waste education, focusing our efforts on engaging as many residents as we can in a geographical area rather than using more general campaigns. In this way we can speak with people who we would never normally get to speak to.
The National Lottery funded Sompting Big Local project are also eager to engage with Sompting residents about their ideas for their local community and this partnership will mean that we both meet our aspirations.
Using some of the learning points from previous projects we are using a range of communication methods to raise awareness, change behaviour, bust some myths and enable residents to get a better understanding of how their waste services work.
This comprehensive communications exercise has been shown elsewhere to achieve higher quantities of recycling material collected that is also very high quality.
Residents of Sompting will have already seen materials stickers placed on their recycling bins and a ‘Think Before You Throw’ sticker placed on their refuse bins. These are nudges to residents to remind them to put materials in the most appropriate bins.
Experience of using these in Findon Valley showed that the stickers by themselves can generate good results, but this time we will also be backing up this work with some doorstep interviews.
These two way conversations will enable to residents to ask questions about the service as well as us finding out how well people understand the value of their efforts.
Newsletters are currently being delivered to outline the project, offer opportunities to take part and remind them about what the recycling scheme and Sompting Big Local are trying to do.
Sompting Big Local have got some exciting ideas for improving the local community and they want to hear the thoughts of local residents to gauge support for these ideas.
The main outcome they want to achieve is to improve the quality of life for local residents through providing community led projects. The doorstep interviews will enable them to reach as many residents as possible to get ideas, viewpoints and support for the programme.
The better the level of support the richer the project will be for the whole community. It promises to be an exciting project and I will keep you up to date with progress in this blog throughout the summer months.
Easter weekend always seems to be a turning point in the year; a time when we finally cast off the gloom of the long winter months and look forward to a more active time. With a change in attitude towards the (hopefully) warmer and lighter months ahead it's no accident that many of us will be spring cleaning this weekend, either inside our houses or out in our gardens.
As a result the sound of lawnmowers will undoubtedly fill the air this weekend as gardeners try and get to grips with appearances and making green spaces look healthy once again. There will be clipping and potting, getting ready for the growing season again. Our garden waste collection service will be busy again as bins and sacks are filled with clippings and dead material. If you would like to know more see our weekly garden waste collection service. See also: Home composting.
Elsewhere in the house lofts, cupboards and garages will be cleared of rubbish, wardrobes emptied, fridges and freezers cleaned out as we all ready ourselves for summer. I know some of my colleagues have been champing at the bit for the last couple of weeks and even the 'Beast From The East' didn't seem to quell their enthusiasm. The potential for waste generation is enormous, so what can we do to get the best value from it?
Last season's clothing would be very welcome at one of our textile banks. The ones in Worthing support the Community Chest, a charity that funds local grassroots projects and ensures that our local community benefits financially from all the recycling done by our local residents. In Adur textile banks largely help the Salvation Army in all the good works that they do with local communities. See textile banks at our bring sites and donating items to charity.
Thinking about doing a DIY project? The good news for local residents is that the household waste sites move to summer opening hours this weekend. The Worthing site is also going to resume with 7 day opening from Sunday and this should benefit you if you are planning to take some of your cleared out material. Watch out for the queues though - you might want to go at a quieter time in the day. Check our tips pages before you go to make sure of opening times, what you can and cannot recycle and whether the site will accept your material.
If you are feeling a little flush you might even be thinking about changing your furniture. If you have old stuff that you are just tired of but could be of use to someone else why not donate it to Re-Loved? They refurbish and redistribute old furniture for use by those in desperate need locally. Please also make sure that you don't cut the fire label off your new furniture as that might cause a problem for re-use later. See also: donating items to charity.
As for me I won't be doing any of this stuff this year as I am taking a well-earned holiday. See you in a couple of weeks and Happy Easter!
For those of you that think that Christmas was only five minutes ago I have a shock for you - Easter is just around the corner!
Now that Mothering Sunday is behind us the next big celebration is the Easter weekend and the shops filling up with Easter Eggs rather proves the point. Over the next week or so the supermarkets will be trying desperately to make sure you spend money in their outlets.
As with Christmas though it is worth a bit of planning to make sure that you can minimise your waste when all the celebrations have died down.
You may or may not remember that a couple of years ago changes to our recycling service ensured that all the packaging from Easter Eggs could be recycled. Of course we have accepted foil and cardboard for many years but the plastic inserts that keep the egg steady and protect it from damage during shipping have also been accepted since 2016.
You can go ahead and buy that Easter Egg guilt free from a packaging point of view. Of course if you were able to buy an egg with a lot less packaging that would be even better news!
It has been possible to buy hot cross buns since just after Christmas. Personally I think eating them in the depths of January feels wrong but no doubt consumption will increase significantly in the next week or so. Sadly we cannot take the outside film for recycling but sometimes they come in plastic trays inside the packaging. The trays are perfectly acceptable in your recycling bin.
Easter dinner does not seem to have the same ring about it as Christmas dinner but no doubt a good many of you will be having a celebration meal with family and friends over the big weekend. It is often these big celebrations that have the potential to cause food waste and this can be avoided by shopping smart and not buying more than you need. Your vegetable peelings can of course be home composted and hopefully with higher temperatures around the corner you should find that they will break down more quickly than they have done over the last few weeks.
How about the other trimmings associated with Easter?
Easter Egg hunts can be done either with real eggs or using ones that are endlessly reusable (we have plastic ones at home that are at least 20 years old!).
Having flowers that are grown locally will reduce the packaging needs and personally I prefer seeing daffodils and tulips over any more exotic ones at this time of year.
Finally cards can happily go in your recycling bin when everything is over.
Happy Easter everyone - let's hope that the weekend heralds the proper start of spring as well!
See also: Recycling
Photo: Colourful Easter eggs in a basket for an egg hunt
In my job there is no such thing as a typical week. In fact issues and events move so quickly that I rarely stop to think about the wide range of issues and people I deal with. When thinking about the subject matter for my blog this week I ran through a number of ideas of all the different initiatives that I am currently involved in and was rather astonished at the range.
My first love are community events. We are just wrapping up on the Great British Spring Clean events run by our local communities and it was pleasing to see such a great turnout for all of them. The last one takes place next week having been postponed because of the weather. I reckon over 1,000 people have taken part this year and I have been very pleased that all the logistics that I helped put in place worked so well.
This weekend I spent a morning at Southwick Methodist Church promoting recycling and answering all manner of questions from local residents about the service, what materials they can recycle and where it all ends up. We are now planning another set of events next month, including supporting the Worthing Eco-Houses event on 21st April 2018.
We are also working with Sompting Big Local, a National Lottery funded organisation set up to improve the quality of life for Sompting residents, to deliver an exciting looking project over the course of the summer. We are in the process of networking with stakeholders in the area to engage their support and add value to the project. Among the organisations I am due to visit will be Sompting Parish Council later today to engage their support.
We are now putting the finishing touches to our Findon Valley project that I spoke about before Christmas. The results look quite exciting and I hope that I can share these through this blog in the next few weeks.
I have visited two schools in the last week, St Mary's and Bohunt and I hope that in different ways I can help the teachers deliver some new initiatives within both schools to encourage their students become the next generation of recyclers. Capturing the young is a vital component of our work.
Photo: Paul with a big bag of recycling
Education is a large part of my remit and this can take many forms. I also deal with compliance and enforcement and this week we have been reviewing the licensing initiative designed to improve the street scene of Warwick Street in Worthing.
I have also been reviewing bin arrangements at various blocks of flats to ensure that they are used more responsibly. This has involved writing to residents, putting up signage and in some cases changing the bins.
In order to make bin facilities more user friendly we work with our colleagues from planning to ensure that new developments have the right facilities designed in from the outset. I shall be going to a new development with planners and developers later this week to work out the best access and collection arrangements for a block of flats due to be constructed in an awkward place for us. These types of meetings are crucial to ensure that all parties are happy with the final result.
Finally, on the day that I write this I shall be meeting with our cabinet members to bring them up to speed on a range of topics. Keeping members abreast of developments and results is a crucial part of planning for our service going forward.
All in a week's work
One of the quirkier aspects of life in Britain that always makes me smile is the random timing of awareness raising weeks or days.
These are often marketing gimmicks dreamt up by some whizzo who wants to promote their wares.
I'll bet most of these pass by without anyone noticing - for example did you know that last month was national pizza day? That one passed me by I must admit. Some upcoming events have caught my eye this week though, principally because I can immediately see their relationship with waste management.
The first is rather obviously waste week. This year we'll be supporting our colleagues to urge people to try to reduce their reliance on single use plastic. Keep an eye out for Tweets and Facebook posts with the handle #passonplastic. There are plenty of plastic items that we could do without - straws, cutlery, cling film and plastic bags to name but a few!
With Mothering Sunday at the end of the week that could be the perfect time to put your purchasing habits to the test by considering plastic free products. How about some flowers wrapped in paper for example? The paper can then be recycled while the flowers can be composted afterwards.
Just to prove that I consider waste in every conversation I also note with interest that it is British Pie Week.
I love a good pie - they are the ultimate comfort food for me. They are also really useful means of dealing with leftovers or a glut of fruit.
Photo: Pies in recyclable foil containers
This concept is far from new - ask any Cornish person. They were putting the leftovers of their Sunday lunch into pastry and taking them to work more than 150 years ago. Most pasties these days don't originate that way, but that is how they started as a tradition.
Last autumn we ended up with a huge apple harvest from the two rather modest looking trees in our garden. Many of these apples ended up in pies for the freezer and in that way we have managed to enjoy the harvest for far longer than we could have thought possible. A casserole or even a roast dinner can have a second life as a pie - some of our Christmas dinner ended up that way!
Don't want to make your own pie? Don't forget that a good number of shop-bought pies come in foil containers. It seems to be a little known fact that we collect foil in recycling and have done for more than 10 years. I say little known because people always seem surprised when I say that we can collect foil. Pie trays are particularly good as the pie often comes out nice and cleanly, leaving a perfect container behind.
Will you be looking at the humble pie differently now you have read this? I hope so as they are really useful food items for reducing waste. What I cannot claim though is that they perform the same miracle for your waist!
See also Recycling
Photo: Pie dishes can be recycled at A&W Councils
This week sees the annual Great British Spring Clean event and the contrast between the interest locally this year compared with last could not be more stark. Last year all the groups that we had dealings with on a regular basis all took part and we had somewhere in the region of fifty volunteers taking part. This year we have those groups once again taking part - the likes of the Friends of Shoreham Beach, Keep Lancing Lovely and Storm all regularly turn out to help keep our areas clean and free of litter. This year they will be joined by hundreds more at events all along our seafront and in parks and open spaces in Fishersgate, Durrington and Brooklands Park. This has proven to be a nice problem to have as we try to ensure that all the groups can be properly supported.
This year because of the numbers involved we have had to spread the events a bit so that all the litter picking equipment can make it round to all of the groups involved. As I write this I have already seen the feedback from the community litter pick in Brooklands Park. The group did a brilliant job relieving the park of approximately 30 bags of rubbish, some of which had been there for some considerable time. Among the items removed was an old bike, some frying pans, a briefcase and a motorcycle number plate.
This week we have The Conservation Volunteers leading a litter pick in Longcroft Park in Durrington on Friday between 10am and 12pm. All are welcome and you should meet at the gazebo in the park. Looking at the weather forecast you will need to ensure that you dress warmly as it looks like it will be very cold! Storm will be out and about in Worthing Town Centre on Saturday 3rd March between 2pm and 4pm. All welcome to join in - meeting point is Storm House in Union Place.
The biggest event of the weekend looks set to be the Big Beach Clean on Sunday at 10am on Shoreham Beach. There are two meeting points, at Forthaven Car Park or Widewater Car Park at 10am. The two groups will clean the whole of Shoreham Beach and converge at Beach Green. This event is being organised by local resident Georgina Stevens and she is hopeful of hundreds of volunteers all wanting to do their part. She is even hoping to reward volunteers with free pies at the end as an incentive for coming along!
From Shoreham Beach to Fishersgate on Monday when The Conservation Volunteers will lead on a clean up of the Fishergate area. Meet at Eastbrook Manor at 10am. Lastly Councillors Ed Crouch and Diane Guest will be leading clean-ups of the stretches of beach in their respective wards starting at the end of Grand Avenue. Meet at 11am. If you are interested please contact them via their social media sites so that they can gauge numbers.
It is very exciting to see so many people engaged in the Spring Clean and the results of so much activity will hopefully inspire others in future months and years. It would be great to think that the community rallying around like this will also help change behaviour in terms of dropping litter and dumping rubbish to prevent the problem arising in the first place!
Photo: A group of litter pickers celebrating the annual Great British Spring Clean outside Worthing's Town Hall
Photo: The community getting involved with the Spring Clean
I've just returned from a weekend in Plymouth, where I was a student many moons ago. I return every once in a while and it is always interesting to see the changes that have taken place there since I lived in the city.
This weekend my eyes were drawn to a number of metal signs that have been installed to deal with the anti-littering message. The slogans were certainly thought provoking and clearly had target audiences in mind. One of them was “Children - teach adults not to litter” - This is opposite to the perceived wisdom that adults have to teach children not to litter.
With all the signs being semi-permanently placed adjacent to major road junctions clearly some significant investment had been made and although I was only in one part of the city all weekend there was no reason to think that they were confined to this area.
It set me thinking about whether a sign on its own actually does change behaviour?
I can see that signage as part of a package of other communication messages might do the trick. For example over the years we have put together communication packages of materials that have similar designs so that they look like they all belong to the same campaign.
A good case in point is our recycling materials. We have used the nationally recognised iconography developed by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and bound that into fun designs for our leaflets, lorry banners, bin stickers and other promotional materials.
Keeping the same style of designs helps to achieve recognition and drive the messaging through a number of different channels. Does it work? We do know that residents have got used to the calendars that come through the door periodically and know what to look for when they come. Bin stickers with the iconography also seem to do the trick as we see less contamination in the bins where we have affixed them.
When it comes to other signage though can we be sure of their impact? I am sure we all seen innumerable anti-littering and anti dog fouling signs wherever you go in this country but do they work? Considering the amount of litter that blights some areas it is difficult to argue even when the threat of being monitored by CCTV or being hit with a heavy fine is included in the signage.
One thing I can say about the roads around Plymouth is that they didn't seem as littered as I remember on previous visits. Is that the effect of the signage or that I just got lucky and visited just after those sections of road had been cleaned?
Photo: Banner on one of our trucks
It might be because I am older but Valentine's Day definitely holds less importance to me these days. Nevertheless the shops are full of items that are 'must haves' in order to declare undying love to your special person. As someone who avoids buying 'tat' wherever possible I am amused by some of the merchandise on offer but I also cannot help but see the recycling potential too.
As a bare minimum token of your affection the card is probably the first thing you might think of buying. These are easy to recycle - card and envelope are generally accepted but watch out for the odd one not made of card as sometimes they are made of plastic and sadly not recyclable.
How about the red roses? These are often highly packaged in plastic wrap which sadly cannot be recycled. Choose carefully to reduce the packaging and when the flowers finally expire (hopefully long before your love) they can happily be put in your home compost bin or your garden waste bin. Please do not put in general waste unless you have no other choice as they then create an unnecessary environmental burden.
You might want to push the boat out and treat your beloved to a posh meal and even some champagne. The good news is that champagne bottles are fully recyclable although we don't want the cork thanks - that ideally can go in your home composting bin. As far as a posh meal is concerned steak, salmon and caviar produce very little waste and as for strawberries, the punnet they come in is recyclable and the green stalks can be home composted. We can also recycle the containers that posh ready meals come in if a quiet night in without cooking is on the cards.
At your special meal you might want to decorate the table with a mylar balloon (the foil type). These are made from plastic and not recyclable so probably not a good choice. Chocolates usually come in recyclable packaging as we can collect cardboard boxes, plastic tubs, the paper inserts, black trays and even the foil (make a ball out of it so it is big enough to be sorted effectively).
Finally the seductive clothing. I won't go into too much detail here except to say that if this replaces old tatty stuff don't throw that away - please take it to a clothing bank as it can be recycled or reused. The added benefit to taking your old stuff to a textile bank is that local charities get to benefit from your donation.
Hopefully I haven't destroyed the mood with all these hints and tips! I hope you all enjoy your special day!
Now that the days are getting noticeably longer and the light is stronger my thoughts are once again turning to gardening. I wouldn't class myself as a particularly keen gardener but we do like to grow a few vegetables in our back garden. In the next week or so I shall probably be preparing ground for whatever crops we decide to have a go at this year. One of the things I do during this process is empty our compost bin of all that wonderfully rich material that we get from our fruit and vegetable waste.
Home composting is a bit like baking a cake. The secret is all in the mix and while I don't profess to be an expert (ask more proficient gardeners than me their secrets!) what I do know is that my mixture of fruit and vegetable peelings, grass cuttings, toilet roll tubes and shredded paper make for excellent compost.
I was told many years ago that it is all about the ratio of 'greens' and 'browns'. Too many 'greens' and you end up with a smelly sludge as the mixture is too wet to compost effectively and your material putrefies. Too many 'browns' and your compost doesn't break down quickly enough as there is insufficient moisture to drive the process. In chemistry terms the 'greens' represent nitrogen and the 'browns' represent carbon. The ratio between carbon and nitrogen is crucial to the effective breakdown of material within your compost bin.
So what are 'greens' in composting terms?
The material doesn't have to be green; in fact most of my feed-stock isn't green at all. It is generally the wetter fraction of organic waste and could include potato peelings, cabbage stalks, onion skins, grass cuttings and cut flowers. Because of the wet nature of this material if this is put in a compost bin on its own the moisture content will prevent free drainage and anaerobic conditions (ie without oxygen) will develop. The material will still break down but methane is generally produced under these conditions and the material will smell pretty bad quite quickly.
'Browns' are generally woodier items such as hedge cuttings, shrub prunings and dead leaves. You can also substitute paper based items in the absence of natural materials and this is where shredded paper and toilet roll tubes come in. The browns help provide structure, creating the permeability for the moisture from the greens to drain away or be absorbed. The browns will also break down much more quickly if there is a healthy balance of greens. The resulting heat generated by the chemical breakdown of this material helps drive the process as well as kill any pathogens.
What you end up with after a few months is a wonderfully rich soil that will help your garden no end. Essentially it is free material and will help reduce the amount that goes in your waste bin by at least 20%. On that basis everyone is a winner! If you would like to get yourself started subsidised compost bins are available from the Get Composting website with prices starting at £15.
See also: Home composting
Photo: Fresh compost
I have spoken before in this blog about the Attenborough Effect, a phenomenon that we have all noticed since the transmission of the Blue Planet II programme just before Christmas. The effect it has had on people is fantastic, in particular those who are eager to do something to help reduce ocean litter. In order to harness this enthusiasm and ensure that it works effectively it is really important that the event organisers talk to the Council first. This is not about us being overly bureaucratic or getting in the way of community effort for we very much welcome it. Rather it is to make sure that some basic preparations are done before people gather in large groups to carry out litter picking.
We have had a couple of recent examples where people have just shown up without contacting us first.
In the first case the group discovered there was almost no litter to pick up. If they had checked with us they would have been told that the stretch of beach they chose was recently litter picked by another group and didn't warrant any further attention for a while.
The second group gathered far more interest than anyone could have dreamed and ended up doing the work without any form of insurance in place, a risk assessment carried out, how to deal with any hazardous material or even any proper plan what to do with the waste afterwards. Luckily we got wind of the plans at the 11th hour and were able to put some contingency in place but the event could have been so much better if only the organiser had been in touch first.
For any would-be beach cleaners please make sure to contact the Beach Office first at email@example.com and also the cleansing team at firstname.lastname@example.org. The beach office will then make sure their patrolling officers know that you are there on the day and can deal with any emergency that arises. The cleansing team can put arrangements in place for the disposal of any rubbish cleaned up and provide advice for what to do in case of finding anything hazardous. Needles, tar, dog faeces and broken glass are all examples of items that can be found on the beach that could cause injury or harm.
We can also provide support in terms of advice on public liability insurance so that you are covered in case of accident while out on your litter pick, advertising your event to gather support, communication of your efforts and crucially where would be the best place to go. We are used to co-ordinating groups as we have been doing so for many years. If we know where they are all going we can make sure that they don't duplicate their efforts. Nothing will sap the enthusiasm quicker than turning up to find the litter problem you were hoping to tackle no longer existing because another group got their first!
We have a number of groups litter picking in the next few weeks so if you were thinking of joining in I am sure you would be welcomed with open arms. We certainly welcome the efforts of all the volunteers who help us out and hopefully with more people getting involved it will put peer pressure on those individuals that are the source of the problem.
See also: Beaches
Photo: Litter picking party on the beach
Last week we had a scary moment when one of our recycling lorries delivered its load to the waste transfer station at Lancing. As the vehicle tipped a small fire was discovered, which luckily was found at the right time before it caused damage to the vehicle or any injury to the crew and transfer station staff. The material immediately by the fire was removed and the flames were quickly extinguished.
It is thought that the fire was started by a discarded battery that overheated.
With a lot of paper and card to act as a fuel to this ignition source it doesn't bear thinking about what a lucky escape we had.
This incident serves to remind us all why we are diligent in dealing with contamination in our recycling. It isn't just batteries that cause problems - other electrical items can do the same and we have even had incidents of lit cigarettes being thrown into the back of a recycling truck. Recycling in particular carries a greater risk of catching fire than refuse as the latter tends to be wetter and in that respect is naturally more fire retardant.
As far as batteries are concerned they are perfectly recyclable; we just don't want them in your blue-topped bin.
A number of large stores including supermarkets, DIY shops and ironmongers have collection points for recycling batteries and can therefore be dropped off while you do your shopping. Alternatively you could take them to the household waste and recycling sites in Worthing or Shoreham as each of them have a collection point as well.
The same goes for your toasters, kettles irons and other electrical items; we want them to be recycled but please don't put them in your blue topped bin.
They present a risk to the remaining recycling and the sorting plant isn't really geared up to take them. Sorting at this point is a much more expensive proposition as well as the risk they pose. Instead they should go to the household waste recycling site where there is a separate container for their collection.
Many thanks for your co-operation; ultimately we want our crews to stay safe as well as make sure that we can recycle as much of your material as possible.
The timing of the Government's 25 Year Plan for a Greener Future could not have been better, hot on the heels of Blue Planet II and at a time when media interest is already sparked by the 'latte levy', banning of microbeads and the amount of plastic in our environment. The new strategy is the first we have had from national Government for many years and is a welcome development. As you might expect from such a wide ranging document it is quite a meaty volume but I have taken a look at what it has to say about waste management as this will no doubt inform our work for many years to come.
The most noticeable thing about the section that deals with waste is that it highlights resource efficiency and waste reduction. This very much ties in with the notion of a circular economy, an idea that has slowly gained traction over the past few years. In a nutshell the circular economy deals with the issues of using resources better, manufacturing in a way that allows for easier recycling and uses any waste as a resource first before any disposal is allowed. In this way materials can be used time and again without dropping out of the system.
One of the materials that has attracted a lot of focus is plastic. Plastic has supplanted a lot of other packaging materials over the past few years, principally because it is lighter to transport (therefore reducing fuel bills), durable, hygienic and cheap to produce. Unfortunately its durability means that it is very persistent in the environment if it escapes from our control as illustrated to good effect on David Attenborough's programme. We have to acknowledge also that plastics are largely made from fossil fuels and are therefore a finite resource that we will have to find alternatives for over the next few decades. The Government have given a commitment to do just that within this document. There are some interesting ideas such as rolling out the 5p bag levy to cover small retailers, providing more water refill points to reduce demand for bottled water, the development of an app so you can easily find such facilities and plastic free aisles in supermarkets.
While Government have signalled their intentions to do their part we can all do our part to help too. The easiest plastics to avoid are water bottles (get a refillable one and/ or use a water filter), disposable plastic cutlery, polystyrene containers, plastic straws and single use shopping bags. Most of these cannot currently be recycled by the Council (except the water bottles). You can also help by ensuring that all your plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays are put in your kerbside bin so that we can send them for reprocessing. In that way we can ensure these resources have a new life and reduce the demand for more virgin materials.
Photo: Plastic bottles ready for shipping to the reprocessing plant
Welcome back to my first blog of 2018!
It's amazing the power of the media and I have come back to a bulging inbox of emails from people all wanting to do their bit for the environment as their New Year's resolution.
Most of the people that have contacted me were inspired by the Blue Planet II programme that aired just before Christmas. They want to know how to get involved in beach litter picks, what types of recycling we will collect and wanting me to sign petitions to ban straws, add taxes to coffee cups and swap out some of those disposable nasties such as plastic forks.
Suddenly the waste minimisation agenda has become trendy again and I hope it stays that way.
Christmas tends to be the time of year that people think about waste as a matter of course. Whether it is because of the large amounts of packaging that accompanies their shopping, the extra food that we all consume or the bulging bins that we cannot wait to get emptied I don't know but I sense something more this year and I reckon it's the Attenborough factor.
The debate that I have followed with particular interest is the one surrounding disposable coffee cups. These have become part of everyday life over the last 15 years or so and it is almost as common to see people walking down the road clutching a hot beverage as it is to see someone with a mobile phone. It isn't just in urban environments either - yesterday I visited a National Trust beauty spot with a refreshment kiosk and saw dozens of people walk out into the countryside with cups of coffee. Hopefully they all made it back to the bin!
One of the reasons that there has been so much focus on disposable coffee cups is that they aren't very recyclable. They are made from a special grade of paper that is designed to keep the drink in its best possible quality until it is consumed. Unfortunately these properties also mean that they need to be reprocessed differently from other grades of paper and card and therein lies the problem. Additionally many end up littering our verges and gutters as drinkers discard them as soon as they are finished and they end up blighting our neighbourhoods and main roads. The good news for Adur and Worthing residents is that we do collect the cups for recycling locally despite the media messages of doom and gloom.
In order to tackle the problem nationally a 25p 'Latte Levy' has been proposed to encourage people to switch to reusable cups. This might seem like a notional figure but interestingly this is often all it takes.
Some of the supermarkets have stopped selling the 5p plastic carrier bags after a decrease in use so dramatic that it was no longer viable to produce them. Could the same happen with disposable coffee cups? I'm probably not the best person to ask as I rarely use them. But if I were faced with a 25p additional charge I would probably have a reusable alternative.
Photo: Coffee cup being dropped out of a car window
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