Is plastic ever really biodegradable

Why is this important? The plastic pollution highlighted by the Blue Planet TV Program is plastic that was not recycled or incinerated or put in landfill. If it had been it would not be in the oceans. It’s litter. The same applies to litter in Britain. I believe that the only solution it to make sure that packaging is fully biodegradable. But that leads to problem of what to we mean by biodegradable. There is a lot of Greenwash in this area.

Let’s start with a definition.

Biodegradable: capable of being broken down especially into innocuous products by the action of living things such as microorganisms[1]

The problem is that capable does not mean it will breakdown. To quote Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme. “It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50C and that is not the ocean. They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down”[2]

If they need to get to 50oC that will also not happen in the British countryside, not even this Year.

Is compostable an alternative term? Again, this may only work at temperatures above ambient. So, I think compostable can be as misleading as biodegradable.

So, what is the alternative. The best solution is to eliminate single use packaging. But this is utopian. So what alternatives are there.

For some uses paper bags are a good solution. Where paper bags do not work there are alternatives which claim to work but the question I ask is do they breakdown in the environment be that the ocean or the countryside, or even the city.   These alternatives include cellophane and “plastic” made from corn or potato starch.

Searching the web finds lots of products but are they really the solution. I do not know. The term “Home Compostable” look promising but I fear it could become greenwash.

Greenpeace have a useful video here on plastic packaging.

For the more technically minded one informative link is The truth about bioplastics by Renee Cho, Earth Institute, Columbia University  from Phys.org

Ian Caldwell

 

Eco-Chat, Thoughts and Action

Transition Malvern Hills (TMHills) continues to promote and support sustainable projects and initiatives in Malvern and the surrounding area.  We are organising regular meet ups, (under the title of TMHills Eco-Chat, Thoughts and Action), for individuals and groups to discuss how Malvern is making the positive changes needed to reduce our environmental impact.  There will be monthly meetings normally at Greenlink for all that wish to participate in these friendly discussions.

Below is the chats we have currently planned. To keep upto date sign up for our mailing list here. 

  • 11:00 on Monday, 8 October 2018

    Topic: Speak Out on Plastics

    Location: Greenlink Organic Foods, 11 Graham Rd, Malvern WR14 2HR, UK

Make a difference use less plastic display tour

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.

Electric Bike Loan in Ledbury

The electric bike loan scheme is hoping to expand to Ledbury.

Our appeal for funds to have an Electric Bike in Ledbury has been successful in being part of the Ledbury Tesco plastic bag Community Fund. So all tokens deposited in the Ledbury store in May and June will contribute and depending where we are placed amongst the 3 contenders will determine the amount we get. If you are in Ledbury please add your tokens if you shop at Tesco.

Malvern seed and plant swap

The Malvern seed and plant swap will take place in the  Lyttleton rooms, Saturday April 14, 2018 10.00am – 3.00pm

A chance for you to start growing / diversify what you grow / share excess seeds / find new plants / meet like-minded people / contribute to a good cause.

  • Come and find seeds and plants for garden, patio, or pot.
  • Give your divided plants, excess cuttings and seedlings a new home and find something different for yourself.
  • Bring surplus seeds (in date and divided into small quantities) and swap; we have a variety of self saved 2017 seeds, really interesting new varieties from Tamar Organics and flower / veg offerings from Thompson & Morgan and Sarah Raven.
  • Donate unwanted / broken manual tools, sewing machines, good garden sundries.
  • Have some tools sharpened (noon-3pm)
  • Munch a home-made savoury muffin or cake and have a drink while browsing.

Proceeds to Tools for Self Reliance – tools for sale on the day.

Can you help on the day or offer cakes / savouries? if  so contact: Caroll Murphy caroll.a.murphy@gmail.com or  MaggieJo St John mjstj@me.com

Malvern Cube & Community Resilience.

This is copy of an article by Robin Coates, first written for Malvern Hillistic in February 2018.

In the Oct/Nov issue of Hillistic we introduced the connection between Transition Malvern Hills interest in Community Resilience and our commitment to the Malvern Cube. In this edition we would like to say more about the Malvern Cube as we believe it to be a unique resource providing an integrated example of what we as a community need in order to be sustainable and flourish.

In a way it is a big village hall (with 8 meeting rooms ranging from 1 on 1 consultations to a 250 seater theatre) run by volunteers with one paid manager. So it is a place to meet, for support, informal learning, entertainment, enhancing our fitness and wellbeing and having a meal or coffee and cake, all in one very relaxed space.

But it is also so much more because visionary questions spurred it’s founding like:

Why not make the place itself an example of good sustainable practice?

So this led to all the energy saving changes like the wall insulation, new windows, large ones triple glazed, small ones double glazed, efficient heating systems, LED lights and the extensive 120 PV panels generating the electricity. We hope 2018 will see the last windows changed. It has taken 5 years of getting grants from charitable trusts and the setting up of the Energy Coop and underpinned by an unwavering determination to transform the building. There is more to do but there is a real feeling that it is well under way.

Why don’t we use the land in public view to create a Community Vegetable garden?

This led to all those raised beds with their beautiful organic vegetables – with Volunteers coming to learn how easy it is to grow vegetables. Being in public view maybe gets passers-by thinking why vegetables and not flowers.

Why don’t we use the Community Garden Vegetables in our In House café?

We have organically grown vegetables, so no fossil fuel fertilisers or pesticides and no air or road miles or packaging – that is climate change friendly (healthy for the planet) and healthy for the café visitors.

Can we ensure there are a range of activities that enhance residents’ wellbeing?

Wellbeing is a big one as it covers what we put into our bodies, how we use them (physical activity, posture and stretching), mental stimulation, crafts, emotional and spiritual support and growth. Over time we have attracted classes and courses that cover all these areas. It is great that the physical activity is so diverse from kick boxing to table tennis, from yoga to extend exercises for the less mobile. U3A run many of their classes to stimulate the grey cells from languages to the ever popular geology and bridge. There are craft based groups, music practice for a local Brass band, a death café and Celtic Festivals that are held 4 times a year.

We also have the Sunday Dog Training group. This is the longest running group, which started well before we took the building over in 2012. We feel sure Malvern has some of the best behaved dogs as a result.

Can we attract the diverse range of people that live in Malvern?

Perfect Circle the Youth Theatre organisation in Malvern have 2 age groups creating plays, rehearsing every week and performing every term.

We have been working hard to make the building friendlier for visitors with disabilities. Over the Christmas break we installed another Automatic door so now both Theatre entrances (front and rear) have these doors.

The Connect Services has its day room providing a great resource for people with learning disability and we have several classes for them. AA and Drug and Alcohol help, also use the Cube.

Can we create a week end performing arts centre? Our Theatre is big enough for reasonable sized audiences and low cost enough for the less famous but still high quality acts.

You might well have been to our music, dance, comedy, poetry or drama events and maybe noticed that we are increasing the number and range each year. A special mention needs to be made of the Feast Festival (Feast stands for Festival of Equality in Arts and Society through Theatre) and the recent events in November over 3 days beautifully demonstrated that title.

Don’t let us forget a major part of the rationale for saving the Cube was so we could ensure Malvern still has positive activities for young people.

Long may this continue, it is a financial struggle as there is no Statutory requirement for Councils to fund Youth Work.

Going back to the village hall idea we also need to be the place residents can have their party, celebration, wedding or the local charity can hold its annual event. All these are possible at the cube.

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 01684 575363 manager@malverncube.com