Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

Plastic Free July

July 1, 2018

You may not know, I did not know, I only know because it came up as I was typing a hashtag, it is Plastic Free July.

The place to begin is your local coffee shop.

Are those takeaway coffee cups compostable, do they sell reusable coffee cups, for example KeepCup, do they offer discount if bring a clean, barista friendly reusable coffee cup?

Not that compostable coffee cups or reusable coffee cups are the answer, they are not, they are addressing symptoms, but at least they are a small step in the right direction.

Why are you still drinking coffee in a chain, it is not drinkable coffee, they opposed the latte levy, many dodge tax, they drain money out of local economies?

As always it is indie coffee shops leading the way.

Support your local indie coffee shop. Relax with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic. Ditch your bad takeaway habit, not unless you bring your own cup.

Question over packaging in supermarkets. Worst offenders Waitrose and M&S.

Buy fresh produce off your local market or farmers market.  It will be fresher, cheaper, pick what you want and pop into a brown paper bag.

It will be interesting to see what Guildford farmers market, Winchester street food market and Godalming street food market are doing. The environmental standards on these markets appalling.

 

 

 

Do compostable coffee cups compost?

June 25, 2018

Compostable coffee cups are a step in the right direction, but addressing symptoms not the underlying problems of takeaway grab it and go throw away culture, which is part of a larger problem of pointless consumption.

Compostable coffee cups raise two questions:

  • what to do with the coffee cups
  • do they actually compost

If I pick up a coffee cup then wander down the street what to do with the cup? If thrown in a bin it will join the general waste stream.

Do the cups compost, do they compost on a compost heap? Some cups claim to be biodegradable, a few compostable, some make no claim at all. For example a coffee cup from Morrisons, the outer is card, can be recycled, but what of the inner core, a composite structure forming an integral whole?

Only one way to find out, conduct a little experiment, deposit takeaway coffee cups on a compost heap.

A little collection of cups, including what I believe to be a plant-based cellulose straw. It clams to be biodegradable.

These added to a compost heap a little after midday today. End of June temperatures 27C and forecast higher over the next few days.

Always need a control. Added a cup from Starbucks which helpful staff did not believe to be biodegradeable.

Starbucks have on sale at £1 ugly reusable cups. Bring own reusable coffee cup a small discount of 25p.

As always it is indie coffee shops leading the way. One small chain Boston Tea Party has banned takeaway cups. More need to follow their excellent example, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in glass or plastic.

Morrisons Café takeaway coffee cups

June 21, 2018

Takeaway coffee cups in Morrisons Café illustrate why we have a problem and why we need a latte levy.

The cup a composite structure, a cardboard surround wrapped around a who knows what inner core forming an integral whole.

The cup showed the outer is card and can be recycled but how? It would have to be separated from the inner.

Questions to Morrisons lead nowhere.

Why are there takeaway cups in Morrisons Café when there are ceramic mugs? It would not seem very likely anyone would pop in for a takeaway coffee. Maybe shoppers wander around the store with a coffee in hand. But in that case use compostable cups with a bin provided in which to deposit the cups.

What this highlights yet again is the need for a latte levy.

Imagine a beach free of litter

June 12, 2018

Imagine, just quickly,
A beach free of litter,
A sea, clean and sparkly alive,
Let’s make it happen
Yes we can do it
We must if we’re going to survive.

These words were written on the window of an ethical fashion shop in Brighton, The Fair Shop, on the road leading down to the seafront from Brighton Station.

On the seafront, disgusting fish n chip shops serving their disgusting fish n chips on polystyrene plates or in polystyrene burger-style boxes.

Iydea in North Laine, which for more than a decade has led the way on recycling, a fruit juice served with a plastic straw.

Salty Fig a bar overlooking Fig Tree Bay serving overpriced drinks in plastic.

Plastic served overlooking the sea finds its way into the sea.

Walk in a supermarket, plastic surrounds everything, podded peas in a plastic box, potatoes and bananas in plastic bags, a coconut with shell hacked off shrink-wrapped in plastic.

As always it is the indie coffee shops leading the way, serving takeaway coffee in compostable cups, KeepCup or similar reusable cups on sale, a discount if used.

We must eliminate the takeaway coffee culture, encourage relax in an indie coffee shop with speciality coffee served in glass or ceramic.

Water is a human right.

The coffee shops in Athens bring without asking ice cold water to the table or failing that water from which to help oneself.

A Drop In the Ocean, from March to October 2018, plastic bottle tops are to be collected from Brighton seafront to illustrate the amount of plastic finding its way into our oceans.

Plastic bottle tops are among the top five most deadly ocean trash items. Marine mammals, birds and fish see plastic bottle caps as food, which can lead to ingestion and potentially fatal consequences.

Plastic bottle tops float and take a long time to degrade. They are small enough to be swallowed whole by birds and animals. Every bottle top collected is a bottle top that won’t be eaten by a turtle, swallowed by a seabird, or settle as microplastic particles inside a mussel.

 

Plastic pollution in the sea off Bali

March 6, 2018

British diver Rich Horner has filmed the level of plastic pollution in the sea off Bali.

Anyone who still believes plastic pollution is not a problem, that we do not need a latte levy to eliminate plastic-lined paper cups, that plastic is not a modern day curse or that we do not need to to eliminate plastic, watch these films and think again.

Surprise, surprise there weren’t many mantas at the cleaning station.

The dive took place in an area frequented by manta rays which come to get cleaned. The area lies off the coast of Nusa Penida — a small island with low population — there is a stretch of only 20 kilometres of water separating Nusa Penida from the island of Bali and its capital Denpasar.

The beaches of Bali are covered in plastic, the sea full of plastic.

The plastic breaks down into microscopic plastic, marine life cannot distinguish from plankton, eat the plankton.

The weight of plastic equals that of plankton.

Seabirds and sea turtles are eating larger pieces of plastic. They die, their stomachs full of plastic.

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

Our first visible sign of the problem is litter dropped on the bus, in our streets, plastic covering our beaches, which finds it way into the sea.

A week of snow

March 4, 2018

It started Monday a week ago, awoke to a light covering of snow.  It soon melted away.

In Lincoln, bitterly cold, light flurries of snow, few people about, those that were were stocking up with food.

I had intended to leave early, instead left late, after lunch at County Restaurant the afternoon in Madame Waffle.

Tuesday the snow had arrived. Before breakfast a path cleared of snow.

A day of dark clouds, bright sunshine, heavy snowfalls.

Heavy snowfall, blizzard, and something I had never experienced before, whiteout.  This would alternate with clear blue sky and sun shining.

Subzero outside, and yet, was able to sit and relax in the conservatory, heated by the sun.

Solar power though of no use. Looking out, I see solar panels covered in snow.

Nothing moving, everyone snowed in.

Wednesday, as Tuesday, heavy snow, several inches deep, before breakfast clearing the snow.  No soonest cleared, within half an hour, at least an inch deep. Before lunch, once again clear the snow, now a couple of inches deep.

As Tuesday, heavy snow, dark clouds, sunshine. Again possible to sit in the conservatory, minus three degrees outside, drops to minus seven.

As Tuesday, heavy snowfall, blizzard, whiteout, which  would alternate with clear blue sky and sun shining.

Impossible to go out, sink into the snow.

Farnborough two days in a row, record for colddest place, minus 11.9C.

Warning, we are running out of gas. People should drop their temperature by a degree, will not notice, saves money, saves gas. If going out, turn down the thermostat by at least five degrees, then turn back up on return.

We need large gas storage facilities. We had but was closed last year. That is what happens when privatise energy supply, lose energy security, no resilience in the system.

Not possible to import from Europe, as pipes lack capacity, and even if possible, Europe colder than UK, thus need the gas.

UK was powered by North Sea Gas. It was sold of on the cheap, now UK imports roughly half the gas it needs.

Wind is providing as much energy as gas, but different usage.

Industrial users of gas cannot be cut off, crash cool a kiln and cause tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the kiln.

In Lincolnshire, at least 45 roads are closed, idiots who should not be out, are out in their cars no idea how to handle a car in the snow, get stuck then block the roads.

Police call in the military they cannot cope.

Thursday I managed to get out. To my surprise, many people are walking in the snow in Washingborough. I guess house bound and an opportunity to get out the house.

I ask one man, is it worth walking to the local Coop? He says no, no bread, he has taken the last milk.

As I thought, no deliveries and more people placing demand on local Coop.

Slowly running out of food.

Walking around the village, very cold, Arctic conditions, sub-zero with a gale blowing.

There has been no snow all day.

Friday again no snow. Manage to get out and walk to the local Coop. As I thought, very little stock, no bread, little in the way of vegetables, a small amount of milk.

Again very cold with strong winds blowing.

Saturday a little snow overnight, light covering of snow.

One degree Celsius. It actually feels warm.

Hop on the bus to Heighington. The Spar shop reasonably well stocked, actually able to get some bread, the butcher well stocked.

Stock up with provisions. At least will not starve.

In the afternoon a trip into Lincoln. One kind person has even cleared the bus stop.

Walking to the bus stop and waiting for the bus, cold and damp, a breeze blowing, misty.

Very bleak journey into Lincoln.

The State of the Art Lincoln Central Bus Station colder than outside.

Outside the entrance a couple of inches of slush, Lincoln City Council cannot be arsed to clear the snow.

Sincil Street and High Street the same, slush covered streets. Traders pay enough in businesses rates, the least they can expect is the streets to be cleared of slush.

More people out than I expected. Maybe Saturday, maybe first opportunity to get out of the house and into Lincoln.

Stokes on High Bridge as always, empty, same for Cafe W at Waterstone’s. On the other hand Coffee Aroma busy and at Madame Waffle packed queuing at the door to get in. That is th difference good coffee makes.

I take the opportunity to stock up with more provisions.

Walking back to the bus station, I notice the slush melting, water gathers at the lowest point and flows, the newly installed drains not at the lowest point. Yet another design flaw for the newly opened Lincoln Central Bus Station that only opened last month.

Sunday a few degrees above freezing, the snow starting to melt, very misty.

It snows, and the country grinds to a halt, the trains do not run, those that do run, break down leaving people stranded for several hours, foolish people go out in the cars, clueless driving on snow.

For the last decade winters have been mild. Temperatures of 10C, maybe drops to 5C, occasionally below zero.

These mild winters have lulled the country into a false sense of security.

The Arctic, zero degrees, at least twenty degrees warmer than it should be , strong winds circling the North Pole driving the cold air southward into Europe.

What is a heat wave in the Arctic has panicked climate scientists, as what has been observed is way beyond their worst case scenarios for climate change.

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.

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.