Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

Iceland’s palm oil Christmas commercial banned

November 9, 2018

Palm oil plantations are among the biggest driver of deforestation, threatening the orangutan with extinction. — Iceland Foods

Palm oil is bad for people and planet.

There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil plantations, it is an oxymoron.

Palm oil plantations are monocultures devoid of life apart from the plantation trees.

Palm oil plantations are destroying rain forests.

Palm oil is high in saturated fat, higher in saturated fat than pig fat. At room temperature palm oil is solid. It used to be known as axle grease as that was what it was used for. The only reason it is liquid at room temperature is because it has been chemically processed.

Palm oil is used to bulk out products from foods to cosmetics. It is used because it is cheap.

It is ok to advertise and sell products containing palm oil, even though bad for people and planet. Even to mislead people that it is healthy.

Whole Earth peanut butter is padded out with palm oil.

M&S are selling so-called healthy spreads where the main ingredient was palm oil, and yet called olive spread.

Oxfam shops a couple of years ago were selling peanut butter in a plastic jar padded out with sugar, palm oil, and salt.

OK to advertise palm oil products, but try to air an advert that highlights why palm oil is bad, and your advert will be banned for being political, as Iceland learnt when their Christmas advert was banned.

We have an obesity epidemic. We have a type-two diabetes epidemic. But it is ok for McDonald’s to promote their junk food, Coca-Cola their sugary drinks, but not to suggest we eliminate palm oil.

M&S have a stupid Christmas advert claiming they went around the country asking people what they wanted for Christmas.

Would it have not been better to have toured their shops, sorted out their piss-poor service, tills not manned, lights turned out ten minute before store closes, fresh produce wrapped in plastic?

But then M&S is a failing retailer, and with this level of contempt for customer service, it is easy to see why.

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Business for Punks

October 7, 2018

If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do much what as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. — John Locke

At Brew Dog our business is built on the punk mentality. At its core punk is about learning the skills to do things on your own terms. At Brew Dog we reject the status quo, we are passionate, we don’t give a damn and we always do something which is true to ourselves. Our approach has been anti-authoritarian and non-conformist from the word go. — James Watt, Business for Punks

Brew Dog have been fundamental to the development of the craft beer scene in the UK. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Brew Dog have changed the shape of British Beer. — Peter Brown

Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence. — Buddha

The odds are stacked against, heavily stacked against, the success of a new business. 80% have failed after 18 months, even then it is not plain sailing, the chance of becoming a sustainable business is only 1 in 20.

I have recently been witness to one of these failures, a bread shop serving light meals, tea and coffee and cakes. They did so many things wrong it was a car crash in slow motion. The food was served on the first floor up narrow stairs, but with no idea what was up there or on the menu, how many are going to climb the stairs? With the businesses on its last legs a few months before they closed they did stick a few tables and chairs downstairs by the window, but too little too late, still no menu, still no specials listed outside. The tea served was teapigs, rubbish tea, poor quality catering supply coffee sourced locally, no skilled baristas. To display in the shop front serving teapigs may as well run up a flag saying we serve bad tea. I never tried the bread but I was told by those who tried, it was expensive and of poor quality.

Five years ago may have got away with serving poor quality coffee, not today, and especially not when open opposite one of the top coffee shops in town with two more nearby. They were told their tea and coffee was rubbish but refused to listen they knew best.

And not the only failing tea and coffee shop in Lincoln or up for sale.

Brew Dog in 2003 was two men and a dog in shed, £30,000 and ambitions to brew quality craft beer as an alternative to the disgusting beer from corporate chemical factories served in failing pubs. The rest is history. Year on year growth, profitable growth. As I write the company employing over 1500 people, three breweries, the beer found across the world, the company valued at over a billion pounds.

Business for Punks is how they did it, advice for would be punks.

Find a niche in the market. No. Create a new pond and be the biggest fish in the pond, then grow the pond.

Touch phones did not exist until Steve Jobs launched the iPhone.

If opening a coffee shop, be passionate about coffee, buy in only the best specialty coffee not cheap catering supply coffee because it is cheap, have quality tea, loose leave tea. Find someone who can bake mouth watering cakes. And to state the blindingly obvious, employ skilled baristas.

Do what you believe in, be true to yourself, follow your dreams, could be straight from The Alchemist, maybe it is.

What you are doing is what you are passionate about, what you love, you want to share that passion with others. Martin and I did not just start a brewery — we set out on a mission to make other people as passionate about great beer as we are.

Go on a course for would-be entrepreneurs and you will be instructed to draw up a bullshit business plan. Why? To bullshit someone in a bullshit job in a bank or other financial institution to hand you some money.

If you have an awesome product why do you need a sales team, even less a marketing department? The money spent on a sales team is money that should have been spent on your awesome product.

That awesome product is what people will want, they will tell others.

When a specialty coffee shop opens, the owner and baristas are passionate about what they do. Customer who love their coffee will tell their friends, bring their friends, bring ideas from other coffee shops, maybe if very lucky bring in guest coffee to try.

Do not produce cheap widgets with low margins and low cost as the selling point. Someone somewhere will undercut with a lower price. Then in a race to the bottom. Produce a quality product with a high margin, then have the money to reinvest. If attempts are made to lower your price, do not give in.

Two suppliers of catering supply coffee competing on price are in a race to the bottom. There are no winners, only losers. Coffee shops that buy their cheap coffee do not care what they serve their customers, they cannot compete with the corporate chains and eventually go out of business.

High Street chains compete with on-line by cutting service. We know how this ends, they go into liquidation.

A specialty coffee shop does not attempt to compete with corporate chains. They focus on what they are good at, serving high quality coffee. Word of mouth.

Roast quality coffee. Specialty coffee shops will curate as guest coffee. Customers will recommend to other coffee shops. These are your fans, they are advocates for your awesome product.

If you are successful at what you do, trolls will crawl out and attack you. These are pathetic people never successful at anything, who hate the success of others. Ignore them.

Dogged determination, a belief in what you are doing is essential. For the first six months Brew Dog was losing money. They needed to sell 70 cases of beer to break even, they were not even selling ten

Cash is king, without cash flow you are finished.

Jamie Oliver in the middle of an interview, the interview was curtailed, he had two hours to inject cash into Jamie’s Italian before the chain collapsed.

Profit is good, but cash is king. Without cash, no money to pay staff or creditors.

Banks lend to those who have money. Have more than one bank.

Look to alternative financing, crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding gives some goodies, an album, signed album, tickets to a concert. Brew Dog take this a step further with Equity for Punks, yes, get the goodies, but also get a stake in Brew Dog. Those who had faith at the beginning, have seen their shares increase in value by 500% within the first five years.

Brew Dog also have a share trading platform.

The people who have invested, share the same passion for craft beer, spread the word.

As I write, Equity for Punks V.

Look to suppliers for a soft loan. If you are a growing business, it is in their interest you grow as both grow together.

Be aware of opportunity costs. Invest 50,000 in a bottling line may appear a good deal, helps the business to grow, to satisfy demand, but what are not investing in?

That great sale may not be so great if do not get paid, even worse if they go bust.

Demand payment up front, demand payment on time. Late payment eats into cash. Cash is king.

Do everything yourself, you have no money to spend on frivolous activities.

Consultants will bleed you dry.

Focus groups are for losers. If you do not know your businesses, your customers, why are you in businesses.

Ladder pricing is an interesting concept. The product you wish to sell, give it a mid-price, not the highest, not the lowest. If the highest, it looks too expensive. If mid-price, lower price for people who want something cheaper and looking for a bargain, higher price for those who wish to pay a little extra, and the mid-price gives the impression getting a good deal. The actual price has not changed, only the relative pricing structure.

Marketing is for losers.

Marketing jobsworth know nothing about social media.

Word of your awesome product spreads by word of social media, that is word of mouth in a digital age.

Brew Dog at the beginning was selling more to Tokyo than Abderdeen.

Brew Dog did not court overseas distributors, they came to Brew Dog.

People hate advertising. Turn down the sound of the TV, go for a break, freebie magazines with zilch worthwhile content go straight in the bin.

Social media is personal space, when advertising intrudes, people hit back. Vodafone have you paid your tax, Nespresso we like coffee we would not drink your crap.

And yet they do not learn.

Do not grow the fish, grow the pond.

90% of the beer market is, or was, crap beer from the corporate conglomerates.

The same sadly could be said of coffee not only the chains serving crap undrinkable coffee, indie coffee shops serving rubbish corporate brand catering supply coffee.

In a coffee shop, baristas talk to interested customers, why direct trade better than fair trade, low roast better than dark roast, cappuccino not served scalding hot else bitter nor in oversize cups, and no do not dunk on top chocolate or add syrup, it is done to hide the bad taste of cheap coffee. Once the taste of good coffee has been acquired, the customer will ask of other specialty coffee shops in the locality. When visiting a new town, will seek out specialty coffee shops.

The pool is growing, making room for more fish.

Culture matters, everyone knows what they are doing, this is then reflected to the outside world.

Contrast with companies that keep employees in the dark, in soul destroying jobs, on minimum wage, zero hours.

Those that perform well in a job interview, may not be best suited, all they have demonstrated is they will perform well in a job that requires to perform well at interviews, for which job applicants are trained like monkeys jumping through hoops.

Be creative, do not look to the industry as will be a follower not a leader.

If Apple had looked to Nokia, they would have designed a better Nokia, instead they designed something different. Where is Nokia today? Nokia?

Ideas can come from anywhere.

All board members may only spend fifty percent of their time on current issue, the rest of their time on how to grow the business.

Layers of middle management, not wanted. People who have been on businesses courses not wanted, who have learnt how to draw up bullshit business plans, to devise structures for the company, to then distort the company to fit these structures.

Networking is for fools and posers and wannabes.

Take risks. Only by taking risks can move forward. Mistakes will be made. Learn from mistakes. The only person who never makes mistakes is the person who never takes risks.

Brew Dog shipped beer overseas in kegs. The kegs failed to be returned. They leant there was a demand for Brew Dog overseas. How to solve the keg problem? How to meet the growing demand? They used KeyKegs, kegs that could be recycled. Except it has introduced a far bigger problem, KeyKegs are plastic, one way trip disposable plastic kegs. A disaster for the environment.

Be proactive not reactive. When problems arise, and they will, deal with them, knock them on the head, else will grow into larger problems.

Conversation on a train

September 21, 2018

Overcrowded late running LNER train into King’s Cross. Two guys engaged in conversation in the buffet car on their way to Peterborough from a beer festival in York. Topic of conversation Brexit, Donald Trump, EU, Jeremy Corbyn, austerity.

You want to join in?

To understand Trump, have to understand Trump is a brand, Brand Trump, everything he does is to enhance the value of Brand Trump. He could have lost the Presidential race, it would not have mattered, he would have enhanced Brand Trump. Trump is an oligarch in the mould of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or Vladimir Putin. Were it not for the media giving him the oxygen of publicity, Trump would have sunk without trace.

To defeat Trump, have to devalue the value of Brand Trump.

In the Presidential Race, a poor choice, Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton. The Clintons are seen as corrupt, in the pocket of Big Oil, Banks and Big Business. Like money-grubbing war criminal Tony Blair, out to line their own pockets. Bill Clinton was responsible for destruction of American jobs, a legacy of rusting steel mills, crumbling factories, Barack Obama continued the same policies, failed to be tough on the banks.

The banks were bailed out, with nothing in return.

To understand the EU, have to go back to the end of the Second World War. Germany was defeated, Europe lay in ruins, the currencies worthless. The only two countries with viable currencies, US and Switzerland. US had a monetary surplus.

It was not the New Deal that rebuilt the US economy after the Great Depression, it was the war economy. The New Dealers feared not another world war but a return to the Great Depression.

Bretton Woods established IMF and World Bank. J M Keynes proposed a third body that would recycle monetary surpluses, in this case US surplus, but Americans would not accept a body controlled by Europeans who had just started two world wars and it was their money. Keynes returned from Bretton Woods a broken man and died not long after.

The Americans would guarantee European currencies tied to the dollar, which in turn was tied to gold, the Gold Standard.

The Americans created the EU, its forerunner, they had a choice who to deal with either Communists or those who had contempt for democracy, they chose the latter, helped create a cartel for big businesses, eurocrats with a contempt for democracy.

America faced two crisis, coming off the Gold Standard and the Oil Crisis. America switched from a country that recycled its own surpluses to a country that recycled other country’s surpluses.

Post-WWII until mid-1970s economies saw steady growth, since then decline and stagnation.

Banks ever keen to make money, created dodgy financial instruments, worthless, but treated and traded as solid as gold, until they were seen to be worthless, the banks that had invested heavily, collapsed.

Banks were bailed out, the poor paid the price, austerity used as a cover for Shock Doctrine, slash and burn of public services. The rich grew richer, the poor poorer.

When we are told there is no money for public services it is a lie, deal with the tax dodgers.

The euro by design intent or not, drains money from southern Europe into Germany.

With fixed exchange rates, southern Europe cannot devalue and balance the books, German intransigence means there is no recycling mechanism.

The massive loan to Greece was a classic example of extend and pretend, the money flowed into Greece and back out to French and German banks. The conditions imposed turned Greece into a debt colony of the EU, forced sell off of state assets, rape and pillage of Greece. The price as always paid by the poorest and most vulnerable of Greek citizens, benefits have been cut, pensions cut, youth unemployment high, public hospitals collapsing.

Greece was destroyed for daring to challenge the EU, to set an example to other vassal states thinking of challenging the EU.

This should have served as a warning to the UK, but has not.

Following the EU Referendum, there should have been open public meetings to draw up a consensus of where we go, then all political parties work together to take on the EU. Instead petty political squabbling. It does not matter who negotiates with EU, unless it capitulation and appeasement, they will say no. We could have same trade tomorrow as today. This would be to the benefit of all of Europe. The EU is determined to punish the UK to set an example, no matter what the cost to Europe.

A second referendum will solve nothing. If a draw, what then, best of three?

Further reading

No is Not Enough — Naomi Klein

The Global Minotaur — Yanis Varoufakis

And the Weak Suffer What They Must? — Yanis Varoufakis

Adults in the Room — Yanis Varoufakis

Destruction of local businesses

August 15, 2018

What makes a town centre, local businesses, local architecture, they provide a sense of place, the local businesses recycle money within the local economy.

Four local businesses destroyed, for what, a rapacious greedy developer to make fast buck.

A grassy area with flowering cherry trees destroyed, for what, an ugly eyesore of a Premier Inn, and of course a rapacious developer to make a fast buck.

Around the corner The Tumbledown Dick destroyed, for what, a Drive-Thu McDonald’s, and of course to enable  a rapacious developer to make a fast buck, the same rapacious developer.

Within the town centre, half the town centre destroyed, people kicked out of their homes, social housing levelled to the ground for a car park, many local business destroyed, for what, a superstore and a handful of corporate chains.

Welcome to Farnborough, one of the ugliest town centres in the country. And yes, there are worst, Aldershot down the road.

And complicit in all of this, town centre planners, who have not a clue what constitutes good town centre planning, who lack any understanding of how local economies function, but who can be relied upon to act against the interests of the local community, hand greedy developers on a plate whatever they ask for.

Complicit too, thick-as-shit local councillors who rubber-stamp whatever is put before them, who are led by the nose by the planners acting for developers, who stick two fingers up to the local community.

There is one green area left in the town centre. That too is now earmarked for development, no lessons have been learnt, no apologies for the damage wrought on the town centre.

Contrast Farnborough or Aldershot with North Laine in Brighton. Three streets with side streets, quirky indie businesses, coffee shops, music shops, bookshops, restaurants, boutiques, food shops, bakeries, pubs, and not a single corporate chain in sight, nor empty boarded-up shops.  On a Sunday busy, on a Saturday difficult to move for people.

The same is true for the old part of York or Hull Old Town.

Government rejects latte levy

March 10, 2018

The UK’s throwaway culture is having a devastating impact on our streets, beaches and seas. Our report recommended practical solutions to the disposable packaging crisis. The government’s response shows that despite warm words they plan no real action.  — Mary Creagh,  chair  Environmental Audit Committee

In an act of crass stupidity the UK government has rejected out of hand the latte levy.

This is to reject out of hand the evidence and proposals from the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee.

It is a kick in the teeth to the many indie coffee shops that have done the right thing, introduced KeepCup, compostable cups, offered a discount to those who bring in a clean KeepCup for a refill, and above all, encourage people to sit and relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

It is a kick in the teeth to coffee drinkers who have bought a KeepCup, or better still relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

What the government has shown is that it is craven to Big Business. It has caved in to lobbying by the corporate coffee chains. The same chains, Starbucks and Caffe Nero that dodge tax, to which the government turns a blind eye.

2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year. Coffee cups that cannot be recycled, as what at first glance appears to be paper, is plastic-lined paper, and therein lies the problem, these plastic-lined cups cannot be recycled.

Plastic is a modern day curse, it is destroying our seas.

And what does the government do? Nothing. The government would rather pander to corporate greed.

Next time the government claims to care about the environment, respond with two words, latte levy.

Labour must commit now that one of the first acts on taking office will be to introduce a latte levy to take immediate effect.

Big Rock Coffee Company

March 4, 2018

I had never heard of Big Rock Coffee Company until my attention was drawn to a coffee shop hosting a focus group.

Canopy Coffee are looking for keen coffee enthusiasts to partake in a FREE focus group discussion this Wednesday 28th at 6.30pm to give some consumer reaction to an exciting new coffee concept – Big Rock.

When anyone talks of something being exciting, the alarm bells start sounding, worse still a focus group.

Why is everything referred to as exciting? It is PR marketing gibberish, nothing else.

Focus groups are widely discredited.

Why would any reputable coffee shop host a focus group?

Why restrict to the age group 25-40, does no one drink coffee outside this age group? What does it say of the coffee shop?

It took place, the snow was bad. No detailed report posted for those who could not attend or who were barred by the age discrimination.

My curiosity was piqued.

I decided to check out this coffee company, what was special, why did they need a focus group, why not simply sell speciality coffee to discerning coffee shops?

Big Rock is a small single-origin coffee company built on a big idea.

We’re committed to :

1. Providing exceptional quality coffee from single origin sources.

2. Making a big difference to people’s lives by offering stability and hope in an unpredictable world.

We’re honest people with a clear message. We wanted our name to reflect those principles.

It just so happens that we found our first coffee partner on a farm overlooked by a gigantic monolith called ‘El Peñol.’

Marketing hype, tells me nothing about the coffee.

Digging further, more marketing hype, ‘genuinely unique flavour profile rarely found in the UK’ they claim what they are doing is something new, ‘pioneer a new sourcing model directly from his farm’

We’re not willing to compromise and sell Better Coffee using an outdated system which disenfranchises our own farmers. That’s why we created ShareTrade.

And more of the same

Our greatest asset is our direct relationships with individual farmers; the people who’ve planted, nourished and tended their crop – often for decades. So before we started building websites and designing logos, we packed our bags and travelled to the mountains of Colombia.

We learned that the real struggle farmers face is uncertainty. Fluctuating prices and currency exchange rates, insect infestations and plant diseases that threaten their livelihood combine to make coffee farming an extremely risky way to provide for their families. Not only that, some of these problems lead to a lower yield and poorer quality coffee, creating a chain reaction that ends up hurting you, our customer.

The current system seems to work for everyone except the people who matter most- the farmers. There’s so much good work being done by agencies and NGOs on the ground, but we believe the only solution is a total review of the pricing model and striking a mutually beneficial economic deal with the farmers, and a better system of value creation. So we created ShareTrade, a new sourcing model.

NGOs are not doing an excellent job on the ground, they are outsiders, make promises rarely kept, take a few photos with smiling faces to be use for fund raising back home, then depart in their air-conditioned 4x4s, never to be seen again.

NGOs step in, launch projects, outsiders, with no local knowledge, no long term commitment.

As Phil Adams reports, they have a name for these projects in Uganda.

Project has become a dirty word. In Ugandan coffee farming circles it means “fuck things up and take pretty pictures”.

So what is ShareTrade? Is it a coffee crowdfunding, as the name would suggest? Or maybe with all the marketing hype, a scam?

No, it is Direct Trade, but given a different name.

ShareTrade is a new model of cooperation with coffee farmers that recognises and rewards the value they create.

We start with a simple viability price. This price is what’s needed to ensure the profitability of coffee farmers – and take it from us, it’s a lot more than the market price, or even the Fairtrade price. This viability price is guaranteed, come rain or shine (and you need a bit of both.) It’s the foundation that gives our farmers confidence, stability and a basis for committing to their farms and to producing quality coffee.

But a better price and a commitment to investment are just two thirds of what ShareTrade is. The final part is our relationships. We maintain constant contact with our farmers, sometimes as mentors, but mostly as pupils, working together to build a long term system which rewards quality and innovation. And as we look to develop our business and start to make a profit, our commitment is to sharing this with the farmers too.

ShareTrade is the heart of Big Rock – the foundation that lets us accomplish our dream: to bring about deep satisfaction at every level of the coffee chain.

FairTrade is a marketing scam to make smug middle class feel good, nothing more. It pays a tiny premium above commodity price. By not rewarding quality, it maintains growers in poverty.

Direct Trade is about building long term relationships, paying a higher price for quality. Everyone benefits, the growers, the roasteries, coffee shops, those of us who appreciate decent coffee.

Direct Trade offers transparency, accountability, traceability.

No mention by Big Rock of varietals, processing, Q grade of their coffee.

To claim they are doing something new, is disingenuous, it is insulting to the many who have been working hard for many years to establish long term relations to pay higher premiums for coffee, to bring us speciality coffee.

To name but a few, Square Mile, Union Hand-Roasted Coffee, Hasbean, Small Batch, Falcon Speciality Coffee, Dark Woods Coffee, with apologies to the many I have not mentioned.

The name Union in Union Hand-Roasted derives from a union of farmers, roasters, tasters, drinkers and tweeters.

Last week I was contacted by someone who tried to justify drinking at Starbucks because he did not wish to drink coffee at a hipster indie coffee shop. This level of bullshit only serves to reinforce their prejudice.

All Big Rock has done, is renamed Direct Trade, ShareTrade, claimed it is something new, then surrounded it with marketing bullshit.

And no this is not an ‘exciting new coffee concept’ as falsely claimed by Canopy Coffee who hosted the event, which took place during the snow.

Thank you to all the participants for this discussion evening in assocation with Big Rock. Hats off for braving the freeze and the brutal wind chill to talk about all things coffee.

An extremely informative and diverse discussion with lots of opinion and great insight, both in regard to what companies perhaps could be doing and what exactly we all were drawn to as consumers. A big thanks again.

Nothing informative. A detailed report for those who did not or could not attend or were excluded by the age discrimination would have been useful, maybe something to look forward to. The claim ‘what companies perhaps could be doing’ is simply false, many companies are engaged in Direct Trade, working hard to improve the lot of growers, improve the supply chain, to deliver quality coffee.

I have made no mention of the coffee, I have not tried, but Big Rock are not doing either themselves or the farm from which they source any favours with this bullshit. Excellent coffee speaks for itself. It does not need marketing hype or bullshit.

It may well be Big Rock supply excellent coffee. I am more than willing if supplied with a bag, to cup and see how it stacks up in a cup of coffee.

Real Fresh Coffee by the co-founders of Union has a section on Direct Trade, Coffeeography the growers and farms from where Stephen Leighton head of Hasbean sources his coffee,  The Monk of Mokha the risks one Yemeni man Mokhtar Alkhanshali took to bring speciality coffee out of war-torn Yemen.

The Lincoln Coffee Festival kicks off on Wedneday 14 March 2018 at Coffee Aroma  with an afternoon of conversation and book signing with Stephen Leighton. An opportunity to learn about Direct Trade with one of the pioneers of Direct Trade. No bullshit guaranteed.  Chat and speciality coffee served by experts.

James Hoffman on disposable coffee cups and why we need a latte levy

March 3, 2018

Waste is a problem, and yet there is no reason why it should be, other than poor design.  We should have closed loops, the output of one process the input to the another, natural materials or man made which emulate these natural cycles.

In the natural world there is no such thing as waste, in ancient woodlands, we see not the accumulation of waste neither in time nor space.

Plastic is a modern day curse, unlike glass or steel or aluminium, it cannot be recycled, it is down-cycled, which at best delays its one way trip to landfill or incineration, or finds it way into the oceans.

We have beaches covered in plastic, we have ocean vortexes that concentrate plastic, one such being the Sargasso Sea.

Plastic eventually breaks down in the sea, the action of the sea and sunlight, to tiny bits of plastic the size of plankton. Small fish eat the plastic mistaking it for plankton, big fish eat the small fish, bigger fish eat the big fish, we eat the fish.

Toxic chemicals leach off the land, attach to the plastic. These too find their way into our diet.

The weight of plastic in the oceans now equals that of plankton.

Plastic is eaten by sea birds and sea turtles. They die with their stomach full of plastic.

By 2050 the weight of plastic in the sea will be equal to the weight of fish.

Domestic waste accounts for less than 5% of total waste. The majority of waste is generated by businesses and industry. We could eliminate domestic waste entirely we would still be left with in excess of 95% of waste. That is not an argument for not dealing with domestic waste, it is an argument for dealing with the other 95%.

Hypocrisy by councils who do nothing themselves to eliminate waste  whilst at the same time hectoring the rest of us.

Guildford runs a farmers market, Winchester a street food market. The standard on these markets abysmally low.

County Restaurant in Lincoln is the staff restaurant for employees of Lincolnshire County Council. Once again abysmally low environmental standards. Plastic cups for water, staff using disposable coffee cups,  food served in polystyrene burger-style boxes, plastic cutlery.

These councils, in areas which are their responsibility, should be setting high standards for everyone else to follow.

In the UK every year we throw away an estimated 2.5 billion coffee cups. The cups appear to be paper, they are not, they are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem, the complexity of construction means they are not recycled.

Yes, these cups can be segregated and aggregated and Chiltern Railways is running a pilot scheme, but all this does is legitimises a system that should not exist.  It also relies on the passengers segregating the coffee cups into three separate bins,  liquids, lids and cups. The recovered plastic will be down-cycled into branded pens for Chiltern Railways, the loop has not been closed, a delay in the one way trip has been introduced, nothing more.

These takeaway cups may be a tiny percentage of total waste, but it is plastic waste and plastic waste is harmful to the planet.

We should consider whole life cycle costs, which is energy, including embedded energy, material used, environmental damage.

Reusable cups, for example KeepCup, can be refilled, coupled with a substantial  discount, yes will be used. The best so far is 30% reuse, better than 1%, but nowhere near good enough.

KeepCup has become the industry standard, elegant and meets what can be described as barista friendly.  Downside expensive, heavy and a pain to carry around. The target demographic office workers popping out for a coffee.

Compostable cups, ok if I have been shopping, have fresh produce, pop in with my fresh produce, then drop off on a compost heap. But what if not, what then with the compostable cup, throw in the bushes, it is after all compostable?  And that assumes it actually composts when thrown on the compost heap, a moot point for the cups claimed to be compostable. At the very least we need honesty, compostable on a compostable heap within a reasonable time, otherwise coffee shops and their clientele trying to do the right thing are being conned, greenwash at best.

Paper composts on a compost heap, it improves the quality of the compost by adding fibre, it also helps to rot down quicker by opening up the compost heap to flow of air.

Reusable cups, compostable cups, address symptoms, not the underlying problems of grab it and go take away consumerist culture.

Which is part of a wider problem of society, the purchase of worthless consumer crap, from extraction, production, six months in our hands, then on to landfill or incineration.

Why do we disrespect coffee? How many hands does coffee pass through from the picker until it finds its way to Square Mile, to then be roasted, then on to a barista at Madame Waffle? We would not dream of pouring a good wine in a plastic cup, swigging it as we walk down the street, why therefore do we treat coffee in this way? Is it not to insult everyone from farm to cup?

Latte levy will not add any extra costs onto coffee shops, apart from the actual cost of administering it. That is why it is called a levy not a tax.

It is avoidable. It is designed to change behaviour.

Starbucks has introduced a 5p levy at a handful of stores in London, and already its clientele are bleating about the cost, threatening to go to Costa. Happy to pay for overpriced undrinkable coffee, and yet bleat about a 5p levy which is avoidable.

Why does any coffee shop wish to have its logo on a something that is bad for the environment, a negative association? Is it not far better to have a branded KeepCup to send out a positive message?

Speciality coffee shops care about the environment, support local businesses, buy direct trade coffee to support the growers.

Apart from being avoidable, the latte levy is or can be cost neutral. Takeaway coffee should cost more than sitting in a coffee shop with a  speciality coffee served in glass or plastic.  Hike the price of the takeaway coffee by the cost of each takeaway cup, then discount by that amount if brought in a KeepCup or similar for a refill. And yes, should be barista friendly the correct size and clean.

Unless bought in bulk, takeaway coffee cups are not cheap, add the branding, 30p a cup, and that is not counting the environmental costs.

A very simple principle, the polluter shall pay.

Baristas and coffee shop owners need to engage in dialogue with their clientele on how to reduce waste, encourage to sit and relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic, discourage grab it and go takeaway consumerist culture.

A latte levy is to the benefit of speciality coffee shops as it matches their philosophy of serving the best coffee, an art and a craft to be appreciated. The losers will be the High Street chains which drain money out of the local economy, many dodge tax, serving undrinkable coffee, whose business model is built on grab it and go takeaway consumerist culture which is why they are lobbying hard behind the scenes to block the 25p latte levy.

And anyone who thinks business as usual, do nothing, is an option, it is they who will have to explain to future generations why they inherited a dead planet.

Chiltern Railways pilots recycling of coffee cups

March 2, 2018

Everyone needs to take responsibility; the reality is that everyone has been getting away with it for a long time. — Peter Goodwin, Simply Cups co-founder

Chiltern Railways is to introduce a scheme to recycle coffee cups at its stations.

Each station will have bins to deposit the cups, which are then taken away to be recycled, except the passengers have to segregate liquid, lids and cups, three separate bins.

An estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK. Anything that addresses this is to be welcome.

What appears to be paper cups are plastic-lined cups, and there lies the problem, these cups cannot be recycled and therein lies the problem.

At first glance the scheme looks good but does not stand up to close scrutiny.

The Chiltern Railways scheme is at best a distraction, at worst legitimises our throwaway consumerist culture.

If nothing else, it makes the point, plastic is not recycled, cf steel, glass, aluminium, it is down-cycled, the plastic to be turned into branded pens for Chiltern Railways.

In the natural world output from one process is the input to another. There is no accumulation of waste either in time or space.

Ancient woodlands are the perfect example.

Anything that forms closed loops, where waste from one system is input to another is to be welcome, but that is not the case with plastic.

The loop is not closed, all that has happened is a delay, the plastic has been down-cycled, then onward to a one way trip to landfill, incineration or the ocean.

Plastic is a modern day curse. The planet is being smothered in plastic, plastic pollution is killing our marine life.

From where do the passengers obtain their coffee?

A reasonable assumption, either on the train or a takeaway stall at a station somewhere en route.

Make it mandatory, a condition of the lease,  for any of these coffee outlets that takeaway cups have to be compostable, that they have on sale reusable cups for example KeepCup and offer a substantial discount if seeking a refill.

At the station, a bin for compostable waste or at rural stations a compost heap. Though there is a question mark on whether or not these compostable cups do actually compost on a compost heap.

On a different line, an example would be Alton Station, where volunteers maintain a station garden.

The introduction of a 25p latte levy will help to focus minds.

Whilst not applicable to rail passengers, we must end the grab it and go culture, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served on glass or ceramic.

Starbucks introduces 5p latte levy

February 27, 2018

The introduction of a 5p levy by Starbucks on takeaway coffee in a handful of outlets in London is a meaningless gesture.

The variation in the price of coffee from one coffee shop to another exceeds 5p, thus a 5p levy on takeaway coffee is going to make not a jot of difference.

It is quite amusing to see the reaction of Starbucks clientele bleating at having to pay 5p extra for takeaway coffee when they are more than happy to pay for overpriced undrinkable coffee. How they will howl when the proposed 25p latte levy is introduced. Maybe they should take the opportunity to discover the many excellent indie coffee shops that London has to offer. Maybe treat themselves to London Coffee or 111 Coffee Shops in London That You Must Not Miss to open their closed minds that there is another world out there, a world of quality coffee.

A latte levy has to be at least 25p as proposed by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee and introduced across all Starbucks stores, not 35 stores in London.

To be effective, it has to be coupled with other measures, reusable cups on sale, for example KeepCup, a substantial discount if bring a reusable cup for a refill.

Pret a Manger, to preempt the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee proposal on latte levy, introduced at the beginning of the year coffee at 49p, a 50p discount if bring your own cup for a refill.  No reusable cups on sale, no information in store. A refusal to provide any statistics. A clever PR stunt, little more.

Starbucks introduced a 50p discount if brought in a refillable cup. Then a few months later, after grabbing the headlines, quietly dropped the discount to 25p.

The big chains are lobbying hard behind the scenes to block the 25p latte levy.  The reason why, their business model is built upon grab it and go, takeaway, consumerist culture.

In the UK we are throwing away an estimated 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups every year. These cups cannot be recycled, these are are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem.

Can introduce a reusable cup for example KeepCup, but expensive, bulky, a pain to carry around. The target demographics is office workers popping out for a coffee.  And there is only noticeable take up if coupled with a substantial discount when used.

I have yet to see a KeepCup purchased, let alone used, but that was before the report by House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee proposing a latte levy.

Speaking to indie coffee shops, the proposed latte levy may have focused minds. Where they have recently introduced sale of KeepCup, these are selling.

Compostable cups are better then plastic-lined paper cups, but depend on access to a compost heap on which to deposit.

Plastic is killing the planet, marine life is dying. We have to eliminate plastic. We have to move to sit down and relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in ceramic or glass.

Starbucks is a socially irresponsible company, they dodge tax.

To illustrate how much Starbucks cares about the environment, last week they opened a Drive-Thru outside Lincoln serving undrinkable coffee.

Starbucks claim they are the first to introduce a charge on disposable coffee cups. Is this true? I would love to hear from any indie coffee shops who have introduced such a charge.

I am aware of indie coffee shops considering hiking the cost of takeaway coffee by the amount it costs them to buy the cups, then discounting by the same amount if bring in a reusable coffee cup, thus cost neutral.

The media regurgitates a Starbucks press release and calls it news. No critical analysis.

The introduction of a 5p latte levy by Starbucks in a handful of London outlets should be seen for what it is, a PR gimmick, nothing more.

Phishing scam

February 22, 2018

A few days ago I received an e-mail purporting to come from HMRC.

I did not open it. To open it risks malware. Nor did I delete. I mark such e-mail as a phishing scam.

The call that comes through purporting to be from your bank.

There has been an attempted fraud on your account.

Oh.

Yes, but do not worry, our fraud team caught it in time.

Can you  before we discuss it any further confirm who you are? We will need to ask you a few questions.

Full name, date of birth, address ….

This is another example of a phishing scam.

Never discuss anything on the phone, and that includes carrying out a survey.

There has been two of these in the last couple of weeks.

One claiming to be a survey by a hospital, another a random survey.

Yet more examples of phishing scams.

For fraudsters a very useful app for their smart phone. Can set the number of where calling from that will appear on the victim’s phone, can set background noise to create the illusion of where calling from.

As I am writing, a call from a fraudster.

Hello, I am from BT Open Reach, I would like to discuss Internet.

Do not have BT Open Reach.

I would like to discuss Internet.

Don’t have Internet, middle of nowhere.

You do not know why I am calling?

Yes, you are a fraudster, I am recording the call. I have a police officer here.

You have a police officer there?

Yes. I have a police officer here, I am recording the call, the police officer would like to talk to you.

The line goes dead.

Facebook is a goldmine for fraudsters. Facebook is not a social network, facebook exists to steal and abuse personal information.

No matter how many times people are advised not to, they post on facebook where they live, schools, work, name of dog, name of partner, date of birth. All of which is valuable information to the fraudster.  And to help the opportunist burglar, we are on holiday.

Once the phishing scam has access to bank account details, the account will be emptied, possibly even before the call ended.

Easy money for a conversation lasting little more than a minute.  Scams that are netting the fraudsters millions of pounds.

The fraudsters recruit students, who recruit more students. Their accounts are used to launder the money.

Phishing scam is not the only fraud, there are many many more.

Vital Nature and associated companies dodgy pills and potions scam. Pills and potions of dubious provenance, laced with lead, several hundred times recommended dosage, billed for stuff not ordered, stuff ordered does not arrived, harassment phone calls, credit card fraud with card details. Scam mail delivered by Royal Mail.  Operates out of France and that may only be a postal address, a front for somewhere else.  By operating from France, outside jurisdiction of Police in the UK.

Commemorative coin scam. Mints offering worthless commemorative coins. That being only the first part of the scam. Second part, unsolicited coins arrive, if not returned at your expense will be billed.

Dodgy builder scam.  Work that did not need doing. Details of house security passed to opportunist burglars.

Australian Lottery scam. You have won but need to pay administrative fee to release your winnings.

Long lost relative scam. Would love to visit, if could only could  afford air fare from Australia.