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Recycling is not a magic bullet

For a long time, the 4Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle have been used to get us to “go green”.

But there are at least 7Rs:

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, Rot and Recycle.


Refuse:

Just say No. The best way to reduce the environmental impact of an object is not to create it in the first place. If we do not buy it then they will not produce it.

Reduce:

Buy only want you need. If you are not going to use it do not get it.

Reuse:

Were possible always get stuff that can be reused and reuse it.

Repair:

It an item is repaired then we do not need to get a new one and with do not have to dispose of it. A win win. The repair café movement is important.

Repurpose:

If we no longer need an item for its original purpose that can it be used in some other way and given a new lease of life. The in phrase for this is upcycle but that does not start with an R.

Rot:

When an item gets to the end of its life. If it is properly biodegradable, then we can give it to nature to recycle it. The emphasis is on properly biodegradable. See my earlier article “Is plastic ever really biodegradable?”.

There are two good ways to rot things, first as compost and the other is via biodigesters. Biodigesters have the advantage they produce carbon enteral energy. So if you have the choice, it’s probably better to send to a biodigester.

A not so good way to use Rot as a way of disposal is just to give it to nature to let it handle your waste.  If this is just throwing an apple core away during a walk this is probably OK.  But normally this is littering. But if the item littered is properly biodegradable then is will be less of problem as nature will eventually take care of it.

If you have the choice should you rot or recycle? This choice only applies, I think, to paper and cardboard. If it is good quality, then I think it will best recycled. But, if poor quality or contaminated with food then rot. 

Recycle:

The last on the list


Recycling is not a magic bullet

Many people think if they recycle then they have done their bit for saving the planet. But doing some recycling will not on its own stop the climate crisis. The climate crisis is caused by us putting green houses gases into the atmosphere. In general recycling does reduce the carbon footprint but not by much. There are many things you can do that will reduce your carbon footprint more than by recycling. But you should do them all. See my Climate Breakdown what I can do slides.

Recyclable is a word I hate. Making packaging recyclable will not solve the blue planet problem. The blue planet problem is a problem of littering. If all the plastic now in the oceans had been put in land fill or incinerated, it would not be in the oceans.

To put it simply:

This is based on an article by Joe St Clair in the Resurgence & Ecologist magazine.

Down on the farm, a new grassroots initiative is being sown: a simple idea for turning plots of land into sustainable and self-regulating ecosystems that can provide nutritious, healthy, organic food for local communities and also bring those communities together to combat loneliness and engender a sense of comradeship and belonging. And it’s working.

The Food Forest Project is a small, newly formed organisation that has been established to help communities to plant food forests. But it’s not just about growing food for the local community. It’s also about providing food and habitats for wildlife – so it’s a win–win situation for all.

The idea was conceived by Bristol-based Tristan Faith, a specialist in architectural conservation, who shared his vision with me by sketching the concept on paper. “It’s the idea of working with Nature to replenish itself naturally rather than over-working and depleting the soil,” he explained. “It’s all about creating a layered, self-regulating ecosystem. It starts with planting trees that grow to create a canopy layer that shades a mid-layer of fruit trees that in turn shade a shrub layer and a root crop layer, right down into the subsoil. Each layer creates a habitat for different species that enable natural predators to control the insects. It takes around five years for the complete system to stabilise and produce fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, and so on. Once it gets to that level of maturity no further intervention is necessary, because it then becomes self-sustaining.”

Faith’s vision remained a conceptual idea until he found a supportive farmer who kindly donated a suitable plot of land that met the criteria for the project. The land, near Shepton Mallet in Somerset, had been heavily used as pasture for many years. Now the food forest being developed there is creating an organic, biodiverse area of natural habitat that will provide perfect homes for local wildlife. The food forest also helps mitigate the effects of climate change, air pollution and the toxification of soil and water by creating natural spaces that capture carbon, regenerate soil and reduce run-off as well as stabilising erosion through the planting of woodland. No pesticides or fertilisers are necessary once the natural seasonal cycles take over, and the enriched soil will enable organic fruits and vegetables to thrive. These products will then be available for the local community to buy by donation, helping to fund further expansion.

Creating a food forest requires a lot of careful planning if it is to thrive in a self-sustaining manner. Current food-production techniques tend to create huge wastage as well as depleting soil nutrients, so the project focuses on minimising wastage by means of a ‘closed loop’ system. It has been calculated that a large quantity of high-quality and totally organic food can be produced in a small area with minimum wastage. Any excess products can be recycled naturally to further enrich the soil.

The project has another important goal. A large proportion of modern society has lost its connection to the natural environment. In recognition of this, the project has now joined forces with SAFE Collective, an organisation that works with vulnerable and abused young people. Volunteers bring teenagers to the Shepton Mallet site to plant trees and crops and to learn all about sustainable agriculture and food production in a safe, inspiring and natural environment. Introducing vulnerable young people to these and similar activities helps build their self-confidence and shows how they have value in the community.

For more information see www.thefoodforestproject.org

Our Malvern Hills Car Clubs celebrated its 10th Anniversary recently and issued the following press release.

Press Release, for immediate publication

Malvern Hills Car Clubs is a community-based car sharing scheme, and last week, on 1st April, it held its tenth AGM.  The original plan had been to hold this at the Cube, and to combine it with a birthday party, with members bringing food to share.  Given current circumstances, the meeting was held virtually using Zoom (an online conference facility).

The birthday party atmosphere was maintained by some members arriving with gin and tonic and crisps, or cups of tea and biscuits, and the celebration started with everybody present sharing something that they appreciated about the car club.  One member who has recently returned to the Malvern area after several years of living abroad was grateful that she has not had to buy a car since she came back.  A member who lives in the northeast and works in Ledbury is very happy that he did not need to buy a second car for the time that he spends here.  One couple were pleased that they have not needed to own a car for ten years - since the car club started.  Another member expressed gratitude for the fact that there are fewer cars on the roads, and fewer cars parked on the streets. Several people also mentioned the commitment and devotion of the volunteers who run the club, and the sense of community and connection that being a member of the club creates.

With this being an AGM, the accounts were presented, revealing a small surplus and a healthy bank balance.  However, the car club is not immune to the Coronavirus.  On the contrary, the impact has been immediate.  Members are responding to the lockdown advice and only using the cars for the permitted outings with the result that usage for March was a mere 10% of normal. 

In the short term, the car club’s finances will enable the club to ride out the immediate drop in usage.  The conversation about contingency plans to help the situation was followed by thoughts about the opportunities for the future.  Two different opportunities were discussed, the first related to the Covid-19 effect, and the second to possible expansion plans.

First, with almost everyone moving around less at the moment, some people may decide that they can continue to drive less, and therefore that they do not need to own their own car.  The car club is a very good solution for people who only use a car two or three times a week in normal times.  Similarly, households with two cars may decide that they can manage with owning only one, and use a car club car as a substitute for the second.  There are already many car club members in this situation.

The second opportunity is the potential for partnerships with local villages.  The parish councils of six villages in the area - three in Worcestershire, and three in Herefordshire - have recently declared a climate emergency, and are looking at actions that they can take locally to address this.  They are exploring arrangements with Malvern Hills Car Clubs as one possibility - one which would not only help with climate change, but would also support people living in rural locations for whom transport options are limited.

Notes for Editors

Malvern Hills Car Clubs was founded in 2010.  It is one of the initiatives to come from Transition Malvern Hills.

The club is run entirely by volunteers, which keeps costs to a minimum.

The club covers Malvern, Colwall and Ledbury.  140 households are members, and the club has seventeen vehicles, including one electric car and a pick-up truck.

Website: https://malvernhills-carclubs.org.uk/

Our Friends at Greenlink have open a new Shop GL2. This shop allows you to refill your wholefoods, toiletries and household cleaning products.

It is at 14 Cowleigh Road, Malvern, WR14 1QD. Select here for a map.

Their Current opening hours are:

  • Tuesday 10 till 7pm
  • Thursday 10 till 5pm
  • Saturday 10 till 4 pm

Transition Malvern Hills campaign to reduce the use of single use plastic in the Malvern Hills area has a display.  This display is going on tour.  The Dates are:

See plasticfree.transitionmalvernhills.org.uk for the campaign  details.

Plastic jellyfish out of waste (TK)

Our echo chat on 11th April is planning to continue discusing our campaign on  plastic waste and what we can do about it. We are planning to creating a installation to highlight how you can use less plastic.

This has become a very topical problem now that China has stopped taking our dirty recycling.

The following is a list of links on the problem:

What is single-use plastic

9 reasons refuse single use plastic

9 really good alternatives to plastic

Greenpeace

Surfers Against Sewage

Best in glass – can the return of the milkround help squash our plastic problem?

Saving the albatross: 'The war is against plastic and they are casualties on the frontline'

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic in September 2017.

Transition Malvern Hills & Malvern Youth & Community Trust – Community Resilience.

When the Transition Towns initiative was set up it was recognised that helping individuals reduce their Carbon Footprint needed to go hand in hand with supporting the development of community resilience. As this would assist individuals and communities feel more able to face the challenges ahead.

Sadly we now regularly see extreme weather events from around the world on the news and of course more each year as global warming increases. We can see how devastated communities can be. Also there are many examples of how communities get together to create enhanced conditions and possibilities in times of need but not devastating crisis.

In this article I want to talk about what felt to some of us a local crisis and has been turned into being a wonderful local resource, doing great things daily. It is a story of great collaborative effort by Malvern residents committed to supporting the Community.

In 2012 Transition Malvern Hills heard of Worcestershire County Council’s plan to demolish most of the Youth Centre on Albert Rd North and it was decided to join the group that was emerging to support the campaign to save the building as a Youth and Community Centre. After much sweat and tears by all the campaign team our efforts succeeded in WCC leasing the building to the organisation we helped to set up, the Malvern Youth and Community Trust. Whilst the lease didn’t require us to pay a rent it didn’t come with any support and we are responsible for all the costs (running, maintaining and developing what was a very dilapidated building). This meant the building had to be used extensively by the community to generate sufficient funds to at least pay the running and minor maintenance costs (approx. £75,000 per annum). In addition there would need to be a major effort submitting grant applications to charities and potential donors for all the repairs and development of the building and projects.

The centre’s new name was the Malvern Cube and we have recently had our 5th birthday.

What a vibrant place it is serving over 3,000 residents a month. Where else in Malvern can you see/partake in the variety of activities and support groups on offer and go to a café that has all ages and all abilities sharing the space.

Whilst many residents might just come for their Bridge Group, French Lesson, a favourite band or wellbeing group many will notice the enormous variety of offers and people using the Cube. When we encounter difference in a relaxed and friendly environment it helps us break down our stereotypes and reduce any tendencies we have to isolate ourselves. This together with joining, engaging, learning with others and supporting one another are a key part of creating resilient communities. Unless we have the meeting spaces where we “bump in” to difference rather than stay in our same grouping this doesn’t happen. (To get a snapshot of what goes on see the calendar of events on www.malverncube.com).

The Malvern Cube is designed to be such a space with Jon the welcoming manager, a café, 7 different sizes of meeting rooms and a building slowly developing and improving. The Volunteer Trustees group and all the volunteers, so essential to making the place work are very proud of what we have created, for and with the Community, which of course we are all a part of.

Have you visited lately, this August and September after lots of grant applications we were able to resurface the Basketball court/car park, improve the disability access to the rear Theatre entrance with an automatic door, lay new flooring and decoration to the entrance lobbies, bring the Theatre floor it back to its former glory and install energy efficient windows to the back stage rooms and toilets.

Over the 5 years we have spent over £250,000 improving the building. The grant giving organisations and local businesses who have supported us are listed on our website.

In line with Transition Malvern Hills energy reduction aims we have dramatically improved the energy efficiency of the building replacing one of the boilers and heating systems, insulated the wall and installed new windows. The Co-op we created (Malvern Community Energy Co-op) enabled 60 local residents to raise the £40,000 needed to install 120 PV panels on the roof. They generate the same amount electricity that the Cube uses altogether (but because they only generate in daylight hours this provides half the Cube’s consumption and balancing the import and export with the grid).

We mustn’t forget to mention the lovely garden with the community vegetables in their raised beds, the Quaker Peace garden, the Connect learning disability beds and the new Pizza oven. All helping to remind us of our connection with Nature, the wider community of life.

If you would like to find out more so you can use/benefit from the Malvern Cube or offer help as donations or volunteering contact www.malverncube.com or Jon White  manager@malverncube.com, also transitionmalvernhills.org.uk/wp/events/ Robin Coates robin@robincoates.com