Solid Waste & Recycling


Stop the drop

Thanks to Bill Sheehan of the Product Policy Institute for passing this along.
Writes Bill, “Here’s a new report from the UK: From waste to work: the potential for a deposit refund system to create jobs in the UK. It is mentioned in the email below from Bill Bryson, the ex-pat American writer [Walk in the Woods, I’m a Stranger Here Myself] and head of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
Here’s the content:
July 29, 2011
Dear Friend
The true degree of our understanding of how others see us is, for some, an area of interesting philosophical debate. I, however, feel I can say without doubt that, amongst my nearest and dearest, I am not noted for my financial extravagance. Be that as it may, I would confidently place a modest wager that should some interested soul commission a poll to determine people’s recall of bestselling American authors, one name in particular would come up.
I believe that name would be John Robbins. Many years ago, John chose to walk away from a privileged life managing the family firm, Baskin-Robbins. His father was Irvine Robbins, co-founder of the ice-cream purveyor now famous for its 31 flavours – ‘one for every day of the month’. John had the enticing option of dedicating his life to devising a 32nd flavour, in between doing lengths of the ice-cream cone-shaped swimming pool Irv had had built in the back yard. However, instead of embracing the role of prodigal son, John Robbins has spent his life protecting the landscapes, habitats and beauty of the natural world, whilst advocating its inherent importance to us. Recently I came across something he said:
‘The level of consumption that we identify with success is utterly unsustainable. We’re gobbling up the world.’
Now this is neither the time nor the place for an extended essay on my thoughts on the important subject of environmental stewardship but I raise the point because what all this consumption leads to is an exponential rise in the amount of waste we create.
It would seem that we’re not unaware of the problem. Recent research by Ipsos MORI examined the environmental concerns of people in 24 nations across the world*. It showed that the second highest concern for people living in Great Britain was how we are going to deal with the amount of waste we generate. It’s only the Italians who are more worried about this than us.
To try and understand the enormous waste problem we’re facing and determine an effective national strategy for dealing with it, the Government has spent the past 12 months undertaking a review of England’s waste policy. You may remember that Stop the Drop made a formal submission to this review in September last year, detailing our work on the costs and benefits of a UK-wide deposit refund system for drinks containers. Over 3,000 of our supporters sent an email to the Government in support of this affordable and achievable solution to the unnecessary waste created by littered bottles and cans.
On June 14th, the Government published the results of its year-long labours. I turned eagerly to page 34 to read its pronouncements on the virtues of deposit refund systems.
I found myself bitterly disappointed. Leaving aside the irritation that CPRE’s name was spelt correctly and then incorrectly within the space of four paragraphs – once you’re a sub-editor, you’re always a sub-editor – I was astonished to see that the figures used to assert that a deposit scheme would be too expensive were incorrect. By a billion pounds. And this was despite the fact we provided all the detailed modelling and the associated figures to the officials responsible for producing the review.
The Government stated that there are ‘alternative measures’ to achieve the results that a deposit scheme would deliver, a position it has repeated with tiresome regularity. As ever, there is no information forthcoming about what these alternative measures may be.
For the sake of propriety I will simply say that this irks me. Greatly. However, I can assure you that this continued bureaucratic denial of an effective solution to littered bottles and cans – a denial in this instance based on an elementary misunderstanding of the financial systems involved, which have then been falsely represented in a public policy document – hasn’t gone unchallenged. And we will continue to question this entrenched political commitment to a status quo that does nothing to resolve the serious issue of drinks container waste.
Further evidence of the importance of giving a deposit refund system proper consideration can be found in Stop the Drop’s new research report From waste to work: the potential for a deposit refund system to create jobs in the UK. The good news is that there would be a net gain of over 4,000 jobs across the UK if a deposit scheme were introduced. We published the report at a recent Trades Union Congress conference, which discussed ‘What makes a good green government?’, reflecting on the Government’s stated ambition to be the ‘greenest government ever’. I would suggest that supporting the introduction of a system that reduces litter, increases recycling and creates thousands of green economy-based jobs would be a good place to start.
On another positive note, I was very pleased to hear the Government announce during its presentation on the outcomes of the waste policy review that a summit is to be convened to discuss the issue of roadside litter. Indeed, the Secretary of State called roadside litter ‘a perennial bugbear’ and I couldn’t agree more. You may remember that I covered this issue in my previous newsletter and Stop the Drop is working hard to get the issue of ineffective legislation for people who litter from their vehicles resolved. I will of course keep you posted on how plans for the summit develop.
Next time I’m going to tell you about a new network-wide clean-up initiative by Network Rail, which was launched after the publication of our Guide to Litter Abatement Orders in February. There now seems to be a genuine commitment within that organisation to deal with its litter problem and I hope to be able to report positive results to you in September.
Until then, I hope you have a wonderful summer of warm days and plenty of ice-cream.
Very best wishes,
Bill Bryson

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