The waste of waste

If politicians were genuinely representing the interests of the British public we wouldn't be having a debate on having incinerators. It seems corporate interests come first.


For decades Britain has been producing often unnecessary packaging which is usually thrown away. This packaging requires raw materials and energy to produce, distribute and eventually dispose off. If it is not essential then it simply adds to the cost of an item. It is an extra cost that has to be borne by buyers and taxpayers (with indirect taxes, like VAT, very few people are not paying tax).

Rather than legislate and educate to prevent this wastage, for decades the bulk of our household and business waste has been shovelled into holes in the ground – known as landfill sites.


When it comes to waste UK politicians have been rubbish

In the UK, politicians have been largely content to waste resources producing rubbish (although, in fairness, there have been exceptions – like the Green Party). A position that is NOT in the national interest.

Curiously, politicians in other major West European countries were able to identify the nonsense of wasting limited resources producing waste and take steps to reduce or stop it completely through government policies. Germany, for example, has been thrashing Britain for years when it comes to dealing with trash.

Indeed, it is mainly through the European Union threatening Britain with fines – if it continued to create waste mountains and effectively destroy land by using it for landfill – that there has been headway on reducing waste in the UK.

Unfortunately, this has led to something of a knee jerk reaction among local authorities – mainly because successive governments have failed to deal with the issues at a national level.

It seems incredible that even now there doesn't appear to be any concerted national effort to deal with what is a national problem – even if waste disposal is down to local government.

Given that the UK retail market is dominated by a handful of supermarket chains it really shouldn't be that hard to come up with ways of cutting the amount of household waste if it was dealt with at a national level.

For example:

Remove the plastic trays from meat – just use sealed bags made from a biodegradable or recyclable plastic.

Give customers the option of buying milk in bottles, with a drop off point for the empties – use a standard recyclable plastic for those who don't have their own vehicles or who may have difficulty carrying a 4-litre glass bottle. A deposit scheme on the bottles may help.

Sell eggs without the cardboard boxes (say, in trays of 100) – customers bring in their own reusable plastic egg boxes (6 or 12) which they fill up (and if it's rigid enough will offer more protection). A similar system could be used for products like breakfast cereals.

Full marks to Kenco for introducing a refill pack for their coffee – it reduces their packaging by 97 per cent. At least some companies are taking their corporate social responsibilities seriously – and not just talking about it.

Actions speak louder than words.

It shouldn't be difficulty for the UK government to sit down with environmental groups – like Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Green Party – to come up with ways of reducing unnecessary packaging from the average shopping basket. National government could impose a punitive tax on those food producers and retailers who don't cooperate.

Even if national government continues to fail in its responsibilities, local governments could still show leadership by acting in unison – perhaps through their national association or parties. Or by making it clear that they wouldn't look favourably upon planning applications from those supermarket chains that weren't helping.


Top ^


Back to: Hatfield incinerator threat


Copyright © 2009, 2012 D H Markus. All rights reserved. No liability is accepted for the accuracy of information in this site.