Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

A plastic sea

February 18, 2018

We live on a blue planet, a planet of water not land.

We are destroying the oceans. We all depend on the sea. If there is no life in the sea, there will be no life on land.

The oceans do not exist to transport more cheap consumer crap from China. The sea does not exist to sit by on the beach in the Mediterranean.

Plastic is a modern day curse.  It ends up incineration, in landfill, or in the sea.

Plastic, contrary to industry claims, plastic is not recycled. It is not recycled as is steel, glass and aluminium. At best some plastic is down-cycled.

In the sea it breaks down into microscopic particles. It is concentrated by wind and ocean currents into feeding grounds.

Near Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, currents define the Sargasso Sea—the only sea that is not defined by land boundaries. Known by some as a floating rain forest, the Sargasso Sea is named for the free-floating Sargassum which provides food and shelter for a vast variety of wildlife. However, those same currents carry a huge amount of plastics that eventually break down in the water and are eaten by small fish and other species that are then eaten by larger fish. The toxic chemicals intensify as they move up the food chain through these animals—right onto our plates.

Fish and other marine life mistake the microscopic plastic for plankton. Big fish eat the little fish, bigger fish eat the big fish.  We  eat the fish.

The mass of this microscopic plastic exceeds that of the plankton.

Toxic chemicals washed off the land adhere to the plastic.

The Sargasso Sea is a major carbon sink.

By 2050, the mass of plastic in the seas will exceed the mass of fish.

We are all to blame.

The supermarkets with their obsession on plastic.   Why not as local markets, fruit and vegetables loose, pop in a brown paper bag and later drop on the compost heap or on the paper recycling bin?

Challenge the supermarkets for their obscene use of plastics.

Support local markets, farmers markets, where the produce is fresh. And if the are using plastic, speak with the organiser and question their low environmental standards.

Plastic straws, used for only a few minutes at best.

Plastic-lined disposable paper coffee cups loved by the coffee chains churning out disgusting coffee, grab it and go, takeaway, throwaway, consumerist culture.

Cyprus an island surrounded by the sea. The island boasts some of the worst examples of plastic abuse. The worst examples are seen with coffee chains Coffee Island and Costa. A freddo cappuccino, served in plastic with plastic straw, not even for takeaway, for their sit down customers. A drink that could and should be served in glass.

Speciality coffee shops are leading the way, moving towards compostable cups, refillable KeepCups and similar, discount if used.

But this is tinkering with the symptoms, we have to address the underlying grab it and go, consumerist culture, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with a  cup of speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Ask your local coffee shop, what are they doing to discourage grab it and go takeaway coffee?

Government has to do more.

Support the introduction of the 25p latte levy.

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Are compostable coffee cups compostable?

February 14, 2018

The proposed 25p latte levy appears to have focused minds.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every single year. These cups cannot be recycled due to a plastic liner in what at first glance appears to be a simple paper cup. 

An environmental disaster, deadly for for marine life.

Something has to be done. Hence the proposed latte levy.

Indie coffee shops as always are taking the lead, are starting to offer on sale compostable paper cups, reusable KeepCups, discounts if bring back cups for a refill.

If I am on my way home, have picked up fruit and vegetables, I can pop my compostable cup in with my fruit and vegetables, then when home, deposit my compostable coffee cup on the compost heap.

But what if not on my way home, what if not a convenient compost heap, what then with my compostable coffee cup? And therein lies the dilemma, what to do with the compostable coffee cup? It will find its way into the general waste stream.

The underlying assumption, is that my compostable cup will do what it says, actually compost.

Only one way to find out, drop a couple of cups on the compost heap, sit back and wait. That was a few weeks ago. Nothing has happened. They are siting there. Though to be fair, it is winter.

If I am at Infinity Foods in Brighton or at the farmers market in Guildford, I will often pick up a biodegradable plastic bag, these are made of plant-based cellulose.

I will fill with kitchen waste, throw on the compost heap, or at least I used to.

What I found was, everything rotted down, the bag still there, even after several cycles through the compost heap.

For comparison, yogurt pots, those made of waxed paper, do rot down, leaving behind the plastic liner.

The plastic bag is very thin compared with the compostable paper coffee cup.

We need more people to do as I have done, deposit these compostable paper cups on their compost heaps and monitor what happens.

KeepCup and clones thereof are refillable, but from observation the take up and usage is low.  Easy to see why, expensive, bulky, often heavy, a pain to carry around.

This may though change, with 25p latte levy helping to focus minds and indie coffee shops reporting an increase in interest.

In Australia, or least Melbourne, Abigail Forsyth co-founder of KeepCup reports reuse rate has risen from 1% to 30%. Still low, but 30% a lot better than 1%.

The demographics to aim KeepCup at office workers popping out for a coffee, coupled with substantial discount when used.

Compostable coffee cups, KeepCup, are addressing the symptoms, not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture, typified by the chains serving disgusting undrinkable coffee.

Do we not value good coffee? Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served from glass or ceramic, the only way to appreciate a good coffee.

We need dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Could the latte levy kill your local?

February 13, 2018

The latest issue of Caffeine, has a lead article Could the latte levy kill your local?  It is nonsense and shows a lack of understanding of either the proposed latte levy, its impact or why it is necessary.

The simple answer to the question posed is no.

We have a simple principle, the polluter shall pay.

It is not acceptable that coffee shops externalise their costs onto the rest of society, which is what they are doing with plastic-lined coffee cups.

The 25p latte levy is not to penalise coffee shops, it is to make them pay their externalised costs, but more importantly, to change behaviour.

In the UK we are throwing away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year. These coffee cups cannot be recycled. Although they appear to be paper, they are plastic lined, and therein lies the problem, these plastic lined coffee cups cannot be recycled and are adding to the growing problem of waste.

The planet is being smothered in plastic, sea life is being destroyed by plastic.

Compostable paper cups are a step in the right direction, but they are not the answer. If I have a coffee in a compostable cup, I am on my way home, I can drop on the compost heap. But if not what then? Therein lies the dilemma. It will join the general waste stream.

How long to decompose? I dropped a couple on the compost heap a few weeks ago. Not a lot a happening. It is though winter.

I would like to see a few people carry out this experiment. After use, drop compostable cups on a compost heap, monitor what happens.

Reusable coffee cups are not the answer either. Bulky, expensive and a pain to carry around.

I have yet to see anyone buy a KeepCup or clones thereof, let alone see anyone walk in a coffee shop and use one.

Conversations in coffee shops bear this out. Even when substantial discounts are on offer, take up is low.  Though this may be about to change.

I was in a coffee shop, where Frank Green cups were on sale. Ugly,  inelegant and made of plastic. I asked how much did they cost, what discount if any if used? No one knew. They did not know because no one could ever recall one being sold let alone used. They could not even find it on the till.

Where reusable coffee cups come into their own, is if targeting office workers popping out for a coffee, and only then if coupled with a substantial discount.

Compostable cups, reusable cups, are addressing the symptoms not the underlying problem of grab it and go consumerist culture.

We have to encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in ceramic or glass, make takeaway coffee socially unacceptable.

Why do we not grant coffee the respect it deserves?

We wax lyrically about the terroir. We would not dream of swigging a good wine out of a plastic-lined coffee cup. Why therefore do we not treat a good coffee with the same respect?

Those who will lose out will be the chains, not the indie coffee shops. Their businesses model is built on grab it and go undrinkable coffee.

The 25p latte levy will not be absorbed any more than the 5p plastic bag charge is absorbed. To believe otherwise is to entirely miss the point of the levy. It is there as a deterrent to change behaviour, not to penalise coffee shops or coffee drinkers.

All the indie coffee shops I have spoken to welcome the 25p latte levy, they see it to their benefit, plus they see the environmental damage caused by disposable coffee cups.

Since the policy has been proposed, it appears to have focused minds.

One coffee shop I spoke to had had KeepCups on sale for a couple of weeks, more to see how they sold, than anything else. They sold like hot cakes. The day I was there, three had been sold that day.

Another coffee shop has already changed to compostable coffee cups and will have KeepCups on sale soon.

Other coffee shops have told me they are looking into both compostable cups and KeepCups.

Four Boroughs offer a substantial discount which is a good idea, more should follow their excellent example, though I prefer the elegance of KeepCup.

Or is it simply a clever PR gimmick rather like Pret a Manger offering organic filter coffee at 49p a cup, with no reusable  cups on sale? Four Boroughs are not offering a discount if you bring in a reusable cup for a refill.

Research has shown, need to both offer KeepCup or clone thereof and a substantial discount to make any impact on reducing use of disposable cups. Either one on its own has little impact.

I recommended to a coffee shop about to open, buy in KeepCup, sell at cost as a promotion during first week, offer a discount for a refill. They are an integral part of a new bus station. Bus passengers would have been tempted and intrigued by their fellow passengers. Sadly my recommendations fell on deaf ears. Even worse they stuck up a poster telling bus passengers the coffee shop was not a waiting room, in other words bus passengers not welcome.

No one will be paying a latte levy, not if they use a compostable cup, not if they bring a cup for a refill, not if they sit and relax with a coffee served in ceramic or glass.

What we need is dialogue between baristas and clientele, as to what we must do to get rid of disposable coffee cups.

Rather than writing nonsense and showing lack of understanding of the issues, even worse asking readers to lobby Members of Parliament to oppose the latte levy, Caffeine should be urging its readers to lobby hard for the latte levy to be brought in at the next Budget.

By calling for no latte levy, Caffeine is not helping either indie coffee shops or the planet, they are working hand in glove with the chains who behind the scenes are lobbying hard to block the latte levy.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

Reusable coffee cups are not the answer

January 16, 2018

Reusable coffee cups are not the answer to the growing waste problem of plastic pollution.

It seems to be that [reusable cups] are the best solution if we can get to that. — Caroline Lucas

In the UK, we throw away 2.5 billion coffee cups every year.

These coffee cups are not as first appears paper, they are paper lined with plastic and therein lies the problem, these plastic-lined coffee cups cannot be recycled and contribute to the growing problem of plastic pollution.

 

Contrary to what Caroline Lucas has claimed, reusable coffee cups are not the answer.

I have yet to be in a coffee shop and seen a reusable cup sold, let alone used. When I have inquired, I have been told take up is minimal, even when a substantial discount is on offer.

There is also as James Hoffman has drawn attention to, a hygiene problem if people bring in their own cups to be washed.

Compostable coffee cups of little use, unless a compost heap on which to deposit.

Resusable cups are expensive, bulky, inconvenient to carry around. With the exception of office workers popping out for a coffee to take back to the office and even then only if coupled with a discount, unlikely to have any impact.

Pret a Manger started the New Year with filter coffee at 49p a cup, a 50p discount if brought own cup. In the absence of any in-store information, lack of reusable cups on sale, will make little difference. Little more than a PR stunt.

Why are we not seeing any statistics published? I would expect to see a weekly report, to see what impact, if any, in reducing the use of plastic-lined takeaway cups.

Without seeing any results from Pret a Manger SumofUs have launched a petition asking that Costa follow suit.

This is tinkering at the edges, addressing the symptoms not the underlying problem.

The underlying problem is the grab it and go consumerist culture, encouraged by chains like Costa and Pret a Manger, it is what their businesses model is built on.

What we should be doing is encouraging relax with a cup of speciality coffee served from glass or ceramic in an indie coffee shop. Only then are we gong to reduce the plastic pollution.

We should also be pushing for the introduction of a 25p latte levy at the next Budget.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

Caffè Nero demonstrates why we need a latte levy

January 11, 2018

2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK.

What appear to be paper cups are not. They are lined-with plastic, and therein lies the problem, these plastic-lined paper cups cannot be recycled, if tossed in with paper, contaminates the paper with plastic.

Plastic pollution is killing the planet.

8 million tonnes of plastic are discarded into the oceans every year. The plastic accumulates. By 2050 the amount of plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish. It is hazardous to sea life.

It is thanks to chains like Caffè Nero why we have a problem, they encourage a grab it and go, throw away consumerist culture.

Why are these cups sitting on a table, why was the coffee not served in a ceramic cup?

It demonstrates why we need a 25p latte levy, to be introduced at the next budget, why we must make it socially unacceptable the grab it and go coffee culture.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p latte levy. And boycott chains which are lobbying hard to stop introduction of the latte levy.

Meet Lulu

January 8, 2018

Lulu was a whale, an Orca, she was washed ashore dead on a beach in Scotland in 2016. She was a member of the last remaining Orca pod in UK waters.The pod is in danger of being wiped out.

Lulu was found to have high levels of PCB in her system. PCBs were banned decades ago, but are still prevalent in the oceans, are concentrated in the fat of mammals.

Lulu is sculpture suspended from the ceiling at Stokes at The Lawn.

Designed by Ptolemy Elrington,  Lulu is made from bits of plastic and parts from old coffee machines.  She serves as a stark reminder the damage plastic is doing to the planet.

Plastic pollution is killing the planet.

8 tonnes of plastic are discarded into the oceans every year. The plastic accumulates. By 2050 the amount of plastic in the oceans will outweigh the fish.  It is hazardous to sea life.

Ten rivers account for 95% of the plastic in the oceans.

The UK was shipping 5000,000 tonnes of plastic to China every year. It was called recycling. This is not recycling, it is dumping waste onto another country.

Plastic is not recycled, it is down-cycling. Glass, steel, aluminium is recycled.

Wood can be reused.

Makushi is an excellent example of wood reused as tables.

The Underdog has reused railway sleepers as tables.

Something every single one of us can do is stop using disposable coffee cups. In the UK, we throw away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year. These are not made of paper as they first appear.  They are paper with a plastic liner, cannot be recycled, go to landfill or incineration, or are thrown in the street.

Stokes are investigating replacing the plastic-lined cups with compostable paper cups.

A step in the right direction, but, what to do with the paper cup once empty of coffee? Unless a compost heap is to hand will go in the waste stream.

Stokes at The Lawn have on sale Frank Green Smart Cup. Ugly, expensive and no one can recall one ever being sold. It lacks the elegance of a  KeepCup.  And is made of plastic.

Unless targeting office workers with a substantial discount, reusable cups of limited value in reducing waste.

What we have to do is discourage the grab it and go consumer culture that is encouraged by the coffee chains and  instead encourage  sit and relax with a cup of coffee at the coffee shop. After all what is the hurry? Coffee is a drink, or for that matter tea, to relax
with.

The clientele at Stokes do tend to be sit and relax with a coffee or afternoon tea.

Pret a Manger offering filter coffee at 49p a cup if bring own cup for a refill has to be seen in the absence of in-store information and no reusable cups on sale as little more than a clever publicity stunt.

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has called for a 25p levy on all disposable coffee cups, the so-called latte levy. This should be implemented at the next Budget, but already the chains are lobbying for the levy not to be introduced.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

As always, it is the indie coffee shops who are leading the way.

What we have to do is discourage the takeaway culture. Compostable paper cups, reusable cups, is merely tackling the symptoms.

We have to encourage relaxing with a cup of coffee at a coffee shop in ceramic or glass. There is then no requirement for a takeaway cup.

If art has nothing to say, it is not art.

Latte Levy

January 5, 2018

The UK has woken up and smelled the coffee cup nightmare – and now there’s no way this horrendous and avoidable problem can be put back to sleep. — chef and environmental campaigner Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall

2.5 billion throwaway takeaway disposable coffee cups are thrown away every year in the UK.

Prior to the Autumn Budget environmentalists proposed a 5p levy on takeaway coffee cups. It would not have made a jot of difference and was wisely rejected.

House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee has proposed what has already been misleadingly dubbed a latte levy, misleading as not a tax on lattes, it is a tax on disposable coffee cups, a levy of 25p on plastic-lined disposable coffee cups.

These cups are not as first appears paper, they are paper with a plastic liner, which means they cannot be recycled, go to landfill or incineration, or are dumped in the street as litter.

Note: The pedantic may point out there are three plants in the UK that can recycle these plastic-lined cup. They would be correct, but who is going to separate out these cups and send to the the plants? Thus to all practical purposes, they are not recycled.

The Select Committee took evidence. Three chains refused to cooperate, the usual suspects, Pret a Manger, McDonald’s, and tax-dodging Caffe Nero.

Earlier in the week, Pret a Manger launched filter coffee at 49p a cup, a 50p discount if brought own cup. In the absence of in-store information and sale of reusable cups in Pret a Manger, has been dismissed as  a PR stunt.

There are available compostable paper cups. But, in the absence of a scheme to compost or a compost heap to drop the cup on, will join the waste stream.

Reusable cups are of limited value. Expensive to buy, often made of plastic, have to be carried around. They only come into their own if used when popping out of the office for a coffee to bring back to the office, and only then if a substantial discount is given for their use.

The chains are already lobbying hard to stop the latte levy, their business model is built on encouraging the grab it and go, takeaway, consumerist culture, which may be why Pret a Manger  launched a preemptive strike earlier in the week.

Please sign the petition calling on Michael Gove to introduce the 25p levy.

As always, it is the indie coffee shops who are leading the way.

What we have to do is discourage the take away culture. Compostable paper cups, reusable cups, is merely tackling the symptoms.

We have to encourage relaxing with a  cup of coffee at a coffee shop in ceramic or glass. There is then no requirement for a  takeaway cup.

Pret a Manger launch organic takeaway filter coffee at 49p a cup

January 2, 2018

I’m delighted you can now get 50p off a hot drink when you bring your reusable cup to Pret. I hope this will make a difference. — Pret a Manger chief executive Clive Schlee

As of today,  organic takeaway filter coffee from Pret a Manger at 49p a cup.

And the catch? Have to bring own cup for a refill.

Strictly speaking not a catch, it is to encourage use of reusable cups and discourage waste, reduce the number of plastic-lined throwaway cups that go to landfill or incineration.

Or is it?

In the absence of in-store information, no reusable cups on sale in store, store lacking the facility to relax with a coffee out of a ceramic cup, it will make little difference in the use of throwaway cups and will be seen as a PR stunt nothing more.

Note: Mainstream media carry the same story more or less word for word. That is what counts as journalism these days, cut and paste from a press release.

How long will this scheme last once the PR advantage has been milked? In 2016 tax-dodging Starbucks scrapped its own 50p discount for customers who bring their own cup just three months after it was introduced. It does of course raises the obvious question why would anyone who appreciates coffee wish to drink what is called coffee in Starbucks?

We need transparency, we need to see what the figures were before and after this scheme introduced.

Pret a Manger are not pioneers in this. Many indie coffee shops have been offering a discount if bring back a cup to be filled, the main difference, they have on sale resusable cups.

UK ships 500,000 tonnes of plastic to China every year. This is not recycling, this is dumping. China has said it will no longer take plastic waste from the UK.

The UK throws away 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups every year. The planet is being destroyed by plastic.

One of the first steps we can take is to eliminate the use of throwaway  plastic-lined takeaway coffee cups.

And that is the problem, the cups are lined with plastic, cannot be recycled, go to landfill or incineration or are thrown in the street.

Compostable paper cups are available. Fine, if on way home, drop off on the compost heap, but what if not, what then to do with the paper cup? It will end up in the waste stream.

Reusable cups, eg KeepCup, have  a role for office workers popping out for a coffee and taking back to the office. Beyond that limited use as bulky, expensive, and a pain to carry around.

This is to address the symptoms. What we have to do is discourage the grab it and go culture, which Pret a Manger encourages, and encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with a  cup of speciality coffee served in a ceramic cup.

The race to save coffee

November 8, 2017

Coffee can only adapt by moving higher up the mountain, and in doing so moves into an ever more inaccessible, fragile and hostile environment.

The Devil’s Cup documents that in Europe when coffee was first introduced, it was  the drink of the rich.  Coffee will revert to what it once was, the drink of the very rich, ironically the very people who are accruing wealth through destroying the planet.

Coffee resides on a very narrow genetic base.

One reason why the work by Kew Gardens and Union  in Yayu Forest is so important, not only important in helping to safeguard an important forest but help safeguard the wild coffee trees which are a vital genetic reservoir.

But if we are serious, we have to support coffee roasters like Union who engage in direct trade, money goes back to farmers, encouragement to protect the trees and work on reafforestation.

But even more important, we have to deal with climate chaos.

This year, not yet ended, is likely to be one of the warmest on record.

As I write, yet another round of climate talks, corrupt politicians fiddling whilst the planet burns.

Polar bears dying, polar caps melting, a succession of hurricanes devastating the Caribbean, bleaching and die back of coral reefs, projections of the near future of coastal cities under water, it all has no effect, there is a disconnection from our lifestyle.

Could it be denial of coffee, will be the jolt that makes us finally act?

Encounter with a duck 

November 2, 2017

Two years ago I met a duck in the National Garden.

I met him again yesterday.  A  chance encounter

He goes there to seek food in the mud.

In the summer day trips to the seaside where he goes swimming and eats limpets prised from the rocks.