Friday, 27 November 2009

'Road Trains' To Reduce Emissions?


Continuing from my post about how electric cars could increase carbon emissions. I'm interested to by the technology being developed by EU research teams for the introduction of 'road trains'. The premise behind the research is that if vehicles could be remotely controlled by a leading vehicle, they could drive much closer and reduce the amount of air turbulence and resistance they experience, and in theory reduce energy consumption and emissions...

One concern is whether or not having large numbers of vehicles driving in close proximity could prove potentially dangerous under emergency braking situations? I'm not sure how this could reduce the kind of congestion we experience in Greater Manchester and most other urban centres but perhaps those insistent on road travel matched with these boffins will work out to defy the arguably inevitable logic of congestion charging schemes (sigh).

Personally I'd rather see more focus being made on the development of hydrogen vehicles than trying to reduce the outputs of fossil fuelled vehicles... At least there is now a national campaign encouraging drivers to reduce their driving "by 5 miles a week" - every little counts?

Onwards & upwards!


Friday, 20 November 2009

Electric Cars Increase Carbon Emissions!


A recent report published by the Environmental Transport Association (ETA) has urged us to reconsider the purported environmental benefits of electric vehicles. The ETA's research has shows that because of the demand on the national grid the UK would have to build a significant number of additional coal powered or nuclear power stations to meet the demand. The ETA argue that in effect all we would be doing is transferring vehicle emissions from the exhaust pipe to the power station chimney. Without effective sustainable energy sources, the argument for electric vehicles carries very little weight.

One solution supported by the ETA is the installation of Piezoelectric crystals in the road network, which generate electricity through vibrations caused by vehicular passage . Sounds too good to be true? Although at the early stages of development , potentially it seems that solutions like this could make very real contributions to our power demands of the future...

Unfortunately meanwhile, the UK government is committed to the construction of yet more nuclear power stations in the UK even though there is no effective solution to the disposal of the massive amounts of toxic waste generated by the process. It looks like a sustainable solution to our future energy demands is further away than ever. Who is doing the energy conservation advice and awareness so badly needed for Jo Bloggs (household and business) at grassroots level? If you know, please let me know - surely we should have an army of folk doing it by now?

Bring on the smart metering in every building!


Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Kenco Eco Refill Packaging - Part 2


Following on from my post last month about the new Kenco Eco Refill Packaging, I was contacted by a member of their branding team who very kindly clarified a few misconceptions I had about the packaging.

They asked if I had any questions about the new packaging, so I popped a few over to them and here are their responses:
LD: In the process of developing the Eco Refill, at any point was the option of changing the existing lid material to a recyclable metal instead of polypropylene given due consideration?

Kenco: The jar lid minus the paper 'wad' is polypropylene and is technically recyclable – however there are very few polypropylene recycling facilities in the UK which means that in the vast majority of cases the lid is sent to landfill even when people put lids in their green recycling bins. Our R&D team has looked into other recyclable alternatives but we are unable to get the quality & strength we require for the lid using other recyclable materials.
LD: What percentage of consumers who purchase the Eco Refill do you estimate will actually go through the process of registering on the teracycle website, printing postage labels and then sending them to Terracycle?

Kenco: It's early days for our TerraCycle partnership but early signs are promising in terms of redemptions. It is a freepost process, so we hope as many consumers as possible do upcycle. Our partner TerraCycle will donate 2p per returned pack to a charity of choice which we also hope will encourage returns of the Eco Refill.
LD: Do you not think that in truth the process of “upcycling” the Eco Refill does not actually answer the problem of the packaging not being recyclable as once the upcycled bags etc reach their end of life they will be sent to landfill? Hence you are in fact delaying the process of landfilling the product instead of trying to work out an environmental packaging solution to prevent it?

Kenco: As a brand we are on a sustainability journey - the current Eco Refill packaging is the most sustainable packaging option available that protects the coffee inside it. Through upcycling we can give the packaging another use, and thereby reduce the amount of virgin materials that would otherwise have been used to make these items. In addition TerraCycle are able to continually upcycle packaging, for example if a shopping bag was to break it can be sent back to TerraCycle to be given a further use. One such way is to grind the plastic down and use it as another material thus avoiding landfill.
LD: Whilst I recognise that there is a minimisation to imbedded transport carbon costs through weight reduction, is Kenco saying that in effect, to have a smaller amount of landfill is more environmentally friendly than a larger amount of recycling?

Kenco: Creating less waste and sending less waste to landfill is more important according to the EU-advocated waste hierarchy. Recycling is just one solution to the waste problem. We already encourage the recycling of our glass jars (with recycling messages on-pack) and the Eco Refill is a simple and convenient way for consumers to send less packaging waste to landfill.

Refilling as a principle makes good environmental sense. Just as consumers have been encouraged to reuse plastic bags when they shop rather than buying new ones, so we are encouraging our customers to make best use of the glass jars or other containers by refilling them.

A June 2008 report from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) showed that refill systems have the potential to significantly reduce both retail packaging waste and product waste. WRAP also supports our new Eco Refill pack. Richard Swannell, Director of Retail & Organics, WRAP has said, 'We support the development of the new Kenco refillable packaging. It means less packaging for consumers by allowing them to re-use a favourite container . While the refill pouches are not currently recycled in the UK, the move to refills will help reduce the overall waste being sent to landfill.’

Not For Profit organisation Recycle Now also supports refills as environmentally positive packaging choices.
Whilst I'm glad that Kenco responded to me so quickly & it is clear they're trying to do the right thing, I'm not entirely convinced by the strength of their responses.

I've made my case but I guess it's up to you to decide; Kenco Eco Refill packaging, greenwash or sound environmental solution?

Onwards & upwards!


Thursday, 12 November 2009

UK Produces £12bn Food Waste Per Annum

Hi Folks,

A shocking report published on monday by WRAP show just how much food the UK is wasting.

According to their study, every household is throwing away as much as £480 worth of edible food every year; across the country that equates to £12bn worth of wasted edible food, weighing approximately 8.3 million tonnes!!! WRAP states that this could amount to as much as 25% of all food purchased in the UK - and at a time when food poverty still exists - even in the UK!

Clearly something needs to be done to raise awareness and help reduce the level of waste we are all generating - as concern builds about global food shortages we can little afford to waste a quarter of all of the food we purchase.

On the subject of diverting food waste: have you come across FareShare? EMERGE Food is a new subsidiary within the EMERGE Group and we are very proud to be running the North West FareShare franchise and acting as a hub for food surplus deliveries to divert in date food to people in need. If you know someone who could donate food or volunteer please contact Paul Beswick on 0161 223 8200.

And while you're at it: carry on composting!