Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Growing Good Cities


This month Think Tanks Demos and PwC published a report, Good Growth For Cities, which measured the success of cities throughout Britain in terms of economic wellbeing. A list of 10 factors considered important for growth was drawn up after consultation with politicians, businesses and the public. Top of the list were jobs, health and housing. At the bottom were the environment, a sense of a future, and transport.

Not surprisingly the highest ranking cities were in the South with the lowest in the North East.

The recommendations the report makes for improving the ‘good growth’ of cities is a common sense one of looking to local resources and strengths. It suggests the power to make decisions should be devolved from central government and loosened from local politicians. The ideal would be to have an inspiring leader with a clear vision on how the city could be rebranded and competitively positioned to create economic success by engaging with key local stakeholders and businesses. Your city would then be transformed into a ‘smart city’.  

The language the report is written in is that of the business world. Can a city be treated as a business? 

Meanwhile another Think Tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, has reported on the economic woes of the North. A future conference will discuss such questions as what a successful Northern economy would look like, where will economic growth come from, and how will this be financed. Again decentralisation is given as an answer. Improved transport is also suggested, in particular turning Manchester in the UK’s second international hub airport.

The economic growth of a city and improvement of its citizen’s wellbeing is a difficult problem to solve. Clearly there are still masses of opportunities in waste reuse and recycling that are currently underexploited in Greater Manchester. EMERGE is working to expand this crucial job market by collecting from more from businesses and schools and contributing to the process of manufacturing secondary materials into future products (all the more reason to ‘buy recycled’!). Through our FareShare work, we are also expanding opportunities for food awareness through growing food locally, encouraging healthy eating and ‘love food hate waste’.  

How would you grow and sustain the health of a city? And can you help EMERGE with our mission? Please check us out and contact us via www.emergemanchester.co.uk

Friday, 23 November 2012

Plastic Travels A Long Way To Be Recycled

We all put our plastic bottles in the recycling bin don’t we?

And we know our council empties our bin into a truck that drives away down the road, and then our bottles get recycled. Good, job done. But where exactly do the bottles go once they’ve been picked up?

The majority are exported to China.

Britain exports 60% of the plastic it generates, and the vast majority of this is sent to China.

You may have heard worrying stories of our waste being dumped in other countries with the implication we are offloading our waste onto someone else because we want to keep our green and pleasant land clean, but in this case of washed post-consumer plastics the reason for exportation is simple economics.

China and countries like it have a larger manufacturing industry than the UK. Plastic is a valued raw material, for example, the plastic recycled from milk bottles (HDPE plastic) can be turned into crates or packaging film, and that from fizzy drinks bottles (PET plastic) can be spun into textiles to create clothes made from fleece. There is money to be made from sending our waste on empty containers back to China to supply materials that will eventually be made into goods that will come back to us on the same containers.

At first glance this seems a neat solution to keeping plastics from landfill, but there are some aspects to this cycle that are worth thinking about.

Firstly, it relies on a continued and uninterrupted demand for plastic waste from China. Recently this situation has been changing. As China’s own internal recycling systems improve it naturally needs to import fewer raw materials. China has set a target of recycling domestic plastic of 70% in 2015. Perhaps an ambitiously high goal, but certainly one to concern exporters.

 Don’t forget we aren’t the only country taking part in this industry. We are ‘competing’ with other countries, notably the US, Japan and Germany. Britain accounts for only 10% of China’s plastic waste imports. With a large amount of waste coming its way China has the freedom to choose whose plastic to accept. Quality becomes important. Apparently they consider our plastic waste of a good standard, but not the best. In the last few months the Chinese have banned the import of unwashed post-consumer plastic scrap, and Malaysia has stopped importing all solid plastic waste from the EU. The market for our waste is reducing. Does this imply we are going to have to find new solutions to our problem?

This is an issue about taking responsibility for the waste we generate.

Those involved in Britain’s recycling industry, from those who collect the waste, and the processers, through to plastics manufacturers and WRAP (the Government’s Waste & Resources Action Programme) are urging the government to invest in more recycling facilities. There is money to be made by dealing with plastic waste here.

Wouldn’t it be good if the driver for a more sustainable system wasn’t simply economics, but an ethical concern for the environment and its inhabitants as well?


Thursday, 15 November 2012

FareShare Nominated For An Award

We are pleased to announce that EMERGE’s partners, FareShare National are a finalist in the BBC Food and Farming Awards.

Yes, we’re now rubbing shoulders with TV chefs. We’ve been foraging with Hugh, knocking back pints with Angela Hartnett (I bet she does pints), and cooking pukka grub with Jamie ... well, perhaps not, we haven’t reached celebrity status just yet.

FareShare logo

FareShare National and its partner, Sainsburys, have been nominated for an award in the ‘Best Big Food Idea’ category, a new category for this year designed to highlight innovative ideas about how food can be sourced and sold. Their “Million Meals Appeal” asks Sainsbury’s customers to donate tins and other staple food items over a week-end in October every year.

The BBC Food Awards have always celebrated small, individual food producers, caterers and retailers, but this category looks at wider networks of food provision. For example, one of the nominations is Waitrose who are trying to source sustainable palm oil and soya. Another is in the incredibly energetic town of Todmorden where a number of schemes have been set up to grow and distribute food locally. The multi-layered ambition of FareShare is then a perfect fit for this group, and EMERGE is delighted to be a partner running the Manchester depot, expanding operations in the North West.

Our own idea here in Greater Manchester is not only to redistribute quality food that would otherwise go to waste, but to improve employability by providing training in our warehouse, and to offer cookery courses that show tasty nutritious meals can be created cheaply. We really do have a ‘Big Idea’!
FareShare is a national UK charity supporting communities to relieve food poverty. FareShare is at the centre of two of the most urgent issues that face the UK: food poverty and food waste.
And as Dan Saladino, the producer and co-presenter of Radio 4’s The Food Programme seems to have similar concerns we’re hoping that FareShare are in with a chance of winning:
“We believe, as many others do, that the world can be seen through the lens of food, nearly every issue, every news story has a food dimension to it, and so food as a subject provides stories of pleasure, fun, history and memory, but food is also a very political subject, and at the centre of stories about economics and conflict.”
A number of other Manchester based projects were short-listed for an award (we hosted part of the assessment as one of the judges lives in Macclesfield). In our category Manchester Fruit & Veg People were considered, and The Kindling Trust were nominated for the Derek Cooper Award. This is good to see because nominations are made by the public. It seems Manchester is a city with lots of ideas and the energy to put them into action.

The winners will be announced on the 28th November. Fingers crossed.

Garden 65

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Food: Our Weakest Link?

Lester R. Brown, one of the world's most renowned environmental authors and founder of the Worldwatch Institute and the Earth Policy Institute , has just released his new book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity.

Why is it important? Well, as some of us may have noticed, global society isn't exactly stable at the moment. Mr. Brown believes a lot of this instability comes down to food. We'd be wise to agree with him.

Food is the one thing we all need. But it's not that easy to get anymore. Population growth, water shortages, soil erosion, climate change, increasing demand for meat and dairy products, land grabs, using grains for biofuel... all these things, Brown argues, makes food the weak link of global society:

"I used to think, for our modern, technologically-advanced society, food couldn't be the weak link. I now think not only that it could be the weak link but that it is the weak link." 

Now, I always try to blog with an optimistic, often jovial attitude to environmental issues. I toyed with the idea of writing some sort of Anne Robinson joke in here, or perhaps drawing a Weakest Link cartoon where the contestants were various foods. But I can't. This is far too serious an issue to joke about. Things need to change.

How does this all tie in with EMERGE and FareShare? Preventing waste, my friends. If there's one thing simple thing we can all do to help ease this situation, it is to not waste food

You can read Chapter 1 of Full Planet, Empty Plates for free here.
The Contemporary Caveman

Friday, 9 November 2012

Fashionable Recycling

I'm hardly the most fashionable person in the world. I can't bring myself to wear skinny jeans, I can't wear those flat caps that are 'in' at the moment without actually looking like an apprentice farmer, and I'm not entirely sure what a cummerbund is or does.

I was the kid at school who never quite got it right on mufti days. I was the awkward teenager who was always just behind the trend. I was the guy who went on holiday and could never walk properly in flip flops. Less casual beach bum's stroll, more soldier's parade march. One thing I can do, though, is recycle. I can recycle till the cows come home, my friends. (On that note, maybe I should be wearing one of those flat caps).

Some may argue that recycling hasn't got anything to do with fashion. Those who do are in need of some 21st century education. Wasting stuff is not fashionable. It's an attitude that needs tackling, something EMERGE aims to do every day.

This month, from the 13th to the 23rd, Recycle for Greater Manchester are running their award-winning Watch Your Waste campaign which seamlessly (see what I did there?) blends fashion and recycling into loving siblings. Along with partners Stitched Up, there's free sewing classes helping you to re-vamp your wardrobe and a "Science of Fashion" show at the Museum of Science and Industry where you can mingle with upcycling designers. I might even learn how to turn one of my old jumpers into an exciting range of flat caps.

To find out more, check out RFGM's page!

The Contemporary Caveman

FareShare's October Success

On the 6th and 7th of last month, Sainsbury's Million Meal Appeal - an 18-year-long partnership with the national FareShare network - saw the donation of 2 million meals to those in need, exceeding the total of last year's event! A great start to October, and it only got better for our guys at FareShare North West, with something of a media flurry breaking out as the days rolled by.

On the 10th, Oxfam's Harriet Knowles wrote an article pronouncing FareShare NW as "Food Heroes". Harriet was amazed at the amount of food a small, volunteer-dependent organisation can distribute, and you can read her kind words here.

And we're not finished yet. On the 16th - World Food Day - The Independent ran a story written by Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare. Lindsay highlighted the rising issue of tackling hunger in the UK and explained FareShare's vital work in providing proper breakfasts before school for children all over the country. There's also a video starring our very own Mr. Hollywood, Seb! Check it out!

The Contemporary Caveman