Are you going to treat yourself to a new television this year? A lot of us do around Christmas time or in the January sales, but do you ever wonder what becomes of all the televisions that are discarded every year? Figures show that we are replacing our television sets more frequently than we used to – the days when ‘it’s still working, we’ll make do with it a bit longer’ was the general rule are over, nowadays we are being enticed to swap by all the tempting new features that get included with every upgrade. In the UK, it is reported that we dispose of about 2 million TVs every year, which is a lot of glass, plastics and electronics to get rid of.
I came across a great example the other day, involving a laptop computer of all things. I am friends with a guy who is the village expert on computers. He’s not a professional computer repairer like those you see listed on ComputerMend, just the useful person to know when something happens with your IT – you give him a call, ‘Hi Jon, how are you? How’s Sarah? Good, listen, my screen has gone black, and nothing is happening, what should I do?’ His usual advice, which works nine times out of ten involves, ‘Switch the computer off and on again,’ or, ‘Pull the battery out and put it back again’, or the old favourite, ‘Re-boot your hub’ The other day we were chatting and he told me about his efforts to help a local writer. Continue reading
Let me begin with a question – do you know how many calories of fossil fuel it takes to produce one calorie of food? Incredibly, the answer to this is 10 fossil fuel calories produce only 1 calorie of food using current agricultural methods. I was astonished when I read this, as I hadn’t connected the growing of food with the use of non-renewable fossil fuels such as oil. When you see a field of wheat or potatoes, or cattle grazing on grass, it doesn’t immediately become apparent that their existence is so dependent on a resource that can’t be replenished. Here’s another fact that amazed me – agriculture is one of the largest consumers of fossil fuels out of all the industries in the UK, and one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases too.
Whether you voted to remain or to leave, the results are in and there are still many people across the UK in a state of shock. The repercussions look like they are going to be affecting us for some considerable time to come. With talk of trying to force a second referendum, Scotland threatening to veto the exit from the EU and both Labour and Conservative parties in total turmoil. However, we need to keep our focus on the environmental aspects of being part of the EU and of leaving it – the EU has had a massive impact on our environmental policies over the years. How and when we will end up in or out of the EU is still not clear. However, we must try to avoid taking any retrograde steps such as tearing up all the EU environmental policies and undoing the good work that has been done. Continue reading
It’s fair to say that we are living in difficult times economically speaking – I don’t think anyone would argue with that. Everybody is trying their best to cut costs, and our local councils are no exception – they are under enormous pressure to save every penny they can. It’s no surprise that if a council sees an opportunity to cut costs, they will take it. However, a new process that has recently been put in place by Flintshire County Council (my local council) seems to me to be in defiance of common sense. There have been articles recently in the local press complaining that 40% of domestic waste removed from the kerbside contains food waste, which is supposed to be collected separately and sent to an organic digestion plant where it can be safely destroyed. If food waste gets into landfill, if can generate methane gas, which is one of the greenhouse gases and is harmful to the environment.
It is heartening to note that manufacturers appear to be spending time and resources in designing products and packaging that either consume fewer of our scarce resources, or make it easier to reclaim them when the products have reached the end of their useful life. This approach is referred to as a circular model, where materials flow through a factory, are turned into saleable goods, and then come back round again to be reused. This is a different way of thinking from the traditional more linear approach, where goods flow out of a factory, and that is the last the manufacturer sees of them. Continue reading
I’ve written lots of articles in the past about the importance of recycling, and how vital it is to get the right materials recycled in the right way. Well, recycling is essential to avoiding wasted resources and environmental pollution, but how about the current trend for ‘upcycling’ items that would otherwise have been dumped? Upcycling means taking waste items or materials and altering them in some way to add value, so that the end result can continue to be useful in some way. I already do a bit of this myself, as I have mentioned before – I tumble-polish glass and turn the resulting material into pictures and ornaments, but some people take the whole process much further.
Yet another surprising source of ‘green’ energy came to our attention recently; apparently food waste is a useful source of biogas, and biogas can be used as a direct replacement for the usual household gas derived from fossil fuels, but at a much lower cost to the environment. The production of biogas is on the point of being expanded in the Lake District, where a new government-supported green energy plant will be coming into operation. This plant will be using the waste products from cheese manufacture as a source of the gas, and this gas will either be used by the creamery itself as a source of energy, or fed into the grid to provide energy for local residents. Continue reading
In the UK, we have a temperate climate and ‘benefit’ from fairly moderate but changeable weather conditions. We certainly can’t claim to be the sun capital of Europe. I was therefore a little surprised the other day as I drove down a major road near my home, to notice that there was a sign at the side of the road pointing to the site of a solar farm which is currently under development. This got me thinking about solar energy, and wondering about just how a solar farm actually works. Continue reading
Many of us will have been making the most of the recent historic low oil price – I have stocked up on my heating oil, and my car costs much less to fuel up. It’s all good news isn’t it? Well actually, it’s not good news for the people who recycle our domestic plastics and the plastic waste produced by manufacturing. Lots of the plastics that we come into contact with each day are made from oil. When oil prices are at their typically high level, it’s worthwhile for the manufacturers of plastic items to make use of a proportion of recycled plastic to keep their costs down. The problem is, when the price of oil is as low as it is today, it’s actually cheaper for those same manufacturers to make new plastics rather than process recycled material.