Pen and paper…

Thoughts, ideas, questions, experiences

Paxman’s war on waste: “The fault, dear Brutus, is in ourselves” February 27, 2010

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled,Online journalism — Kellie Maddox @ 2:52 pm

I read a cynical and unsurprisingly dry piece from Jeremy Paxman entitled ‘Litter: our legacy to future generations’ and I have to say I largely agree with him that we are becoming a nation of litter bugs with an “everyone for himself” attitude. And it’ll be future generations that will suffer as a result.

What I find myself disagreeing with though is Paxman’s finger-pointing at food manufacturer’s:

And what does Coca-Cola say by way of apology? A company spokesman “acknowledges” the report. How very gracious of him. He goes on to blather that its bottles “carry the Tidy Man and Recycle Now logos”. Well, that should do it.

There is more fatuous wittering from McDonald’s, which even has the nerve to attempt a tone of wronged outrage, saying that “in 2009 we spent over £2m on staff labour alone” picking up ­litter. That’s £2m out of a turn­over of more than £2bn in Britain.

Ok, so there’s a certain level of responsibility manufacturer’s have in where their packaging ends up but how are they supposed to stop thoughtless litter-droppers discarding cans and packets onto the street?

He then says:

What can we do? Local councils are supposed to have a statutory duty to clear up litter, but are largely useless. Ditto the national government. The fault, dear Brutus, is in ourselves. At least future generations won’t lack evidence of the kind of people we were.

Maybe a  more pro-active attitude might help instead of residing in the thought that we will one day be consumed by our own rubbish. Groups like Litter Heroes are setting the example we should all be following. No-one expects you to go litter picking in your weekend leisure time – if we all take responsibility for our own rubbish, organisations like them would not need to clear up behind us.

And (cue personal pet-hate) it really annoys me when people point the finger at youngsters. Ok, so I’ve seen lots of kids drop litter but I’ve also seen more adults throw it out of cars windows or drop it on the street (often just feet away from a bin). Great example to set and no comeback when kids copy.

Any suggestions as to what can actually be done about this? If councils aren’t picking litter (or even if they are), how can people be targeted to take responsibility for their actions? Litter fines – is this the best way to go about it?


Primark – trading ethically but what about recycling? February 26, 2010

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled — Kellie Maddox @ 4:09 pm
Tags: , ,

Today, @jaderance tweeted:

primark eco fail! 2 bags for 2 items.. OH THANKS. is there a recycling story here? #onlinejournalism

My thoughts: yes, there could well be a recycling story here. So, first stop Primark website to find out their policies on bags:

Packaging Waste Regulations

Packaging Waste Regulations are designed to reduce the amount of packaging that goes into landfill. The Packaging Waste Regulations work on the principle of Shared Producer Responsibility – encouraging producers to take responsibility for their environmental impact. The Regulations require obligated producers to pay a proportion of the cost of the recovery and recycling of their packaging. The level of  obligation depends on the stage of the chain at which the packaging is brought into the country.

Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Primark participates in a scheme operated by Valpak which ensures the company’s full compliance with the obligations of the UK Waste Management Packaging Regulations to recover packaging waste.

Republic of Ireland. Penneys, the name under which Primark operates in Ireland, participates in a similar scheme operated by Repak. This ensures the company’s full compliance with the obligations of the Republic of Ireland Waste Management Packaging Regulations. Repak is an approved body for the recovery of packaging waste and assumes responsibility to fund the recovery/recycling of packaging on Penneys’ behalf. 

Carrier bags

We are progressively replacing plastic carrier bags with paper bags, thus reducing further our impact on the environment.

Ok, so Primark’s swapping plastic bags for paper bags (a few years too late?) but there’s nothing to say if they limit the number of bags given to customers or ask whether they really need a bag for one item.

Next steps: check out Packaging Waste Regulations and Valpak then take the issue to Primark themselves.

Anyone else have bag issues with Primark or any other store?


First published article for Birmingham Recycled

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kellie Maddox @ 3:20 pm

Just published my first story for Birmingham Recycled – a nice, community-spirited one!

Take a look…


Recycled plastic homes – is this the future?

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled — Kellie Maddox @ 11:10 am
Tags: , ,

BBC Swansea published a story this week about sustainable housing manufacturer Affresol developing a technology to build low-carbon houses from recycled plastic. There’s also an interesting video showing you around one of the houses, which has panels made from chopped up TV sets and Thermo Poly Rock (the structural material made from recycled plastics and minerals).

TPR is thought to:

  • Be 7 times the strength of breeze blocks
  • Be a substantial material
  • Be waterproof
  • Won’t rot
  • Recycles materials that otherwise would end up in landfill

So, the all important question about any new house – how much does it cost? Well, to build them costs £40,000 so even with an added profit-margin, they still look to market lower than the average ‘brick’ house (and you’d have the extra satisfaction of the ‘green’ label).

The article mentions:

This week domestic heating and water system company Worcester Bosch ordered the first modular building from Affresol for its Worcestershire plant.

Worcester Bosch said supplying Affresol with plastic from recycled boilers would enable it to achieve a zero waste policy.

I’m looking to speak to Worcester Bosch about their plans to work with Affresol to minimise waste from recycled boilers and hope to post my findings soon.


Recycling and blogging in the same sentence = winner

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled,Online journalism — Kellie Maddox @ 10:30 am
Tags: ,

When we think of recycling, we see those little blue boxes full of plastic bottles, cans and papers sitting on the curbside for the council to collect. So, as a fledgling social media student and amateur navigator of the online world; the lightbulb in my head flashed when the words ‘recycle’ and ‘blog’ appeared in the same sentence (hoorah!) 

I spotted this article on recycling your blog traffic and not only does it interest me for my own blogging purposes but it conveniently falls into my Birmingham Recycled area of recycling. Result. In summary, the article talks about recycling traffic: 

Recycling traffic simply means that you are redirecting or sending your existing website traffic back to your blog again and again through newsletters, email marketing or RSS feed subscriptions. 

It then goes on to give a few tips on how to go about recycling blog traffic such as: 

  • Continuously building your mailing list by offering good valuable information in the form of a free report or newsletter
  • Break up your blog post into a series of shorter blogs to keep users  in suspense and yearn for more of such great information
  • Get users to sign up to your blog’s RSS feed to keep up-to-date with latest posts

I think this is really useful for new bloggers or businesses trying to optimise their online reach through blogging tools. I’m sure there are lots more tips out there to help maximise traffic to your website or blog. I’m curious to find out more on how bloggers and those who have websites for less commercial reasons could recycle traffic – as they don’t necessarily have a ‘customer’ base in the financial sense. Anyone have any other ideas?


First ‘real’ eco networking: Northfield Eco Centre February 25, 2010

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled — Kellie Maddox @ 10:37 pm
Tags: , ,

'Swappers' browse the clothes

Having just returned from my first ‘eco’ event, I feel inspired (and a tad relieved) that the world of  ‘all things environmental’ is actually interesting and dare I say…….fun.

Tonight, I found myself at Northfield Eco Centre (after driving miles past the place and performing an illegal U-turn to get back) and what a lovely little place it is! Just on the other side of the town, nestled in a corner aback from the main road, the centre is small but perfectly formed. Not just ‘eco’ in its mission but ‘eco’ in its makeup – the centre boasts lots of energy-efficient features such as solar panels for heating, insulation and energy-saving light bulbs (even the toilets have sensors on the lights incase you forget to turn them off after your visit). You name it, they’ve thought about it.

For those not-in-the-know with all things environmentally friendly, the centre is a great place to visit. The walls are covered with posters and information about all the ways you can save energy in the home, reduce waste, reduce transport emissions and make a difference to the environment (as well as your wallet).

The team are very friendly and were happy to tell me all about the centre and upcoming events that would be of interest. The centre has two part-time employees and a group of dedicated volunteers who help run different events and promote the good work of the centre. And it seems that a good base of local residents and friends really offer their support as much as they can; it gave me a real community feel, which I think is great for a small, voluntary organisation.

Anyway, the event tonight was a clothes swap – the rules; bring one to three items in good condition and swap the same amount from everyone else’s donations. On arriving, I was informed by one organiser:

The rules have kind of disintegrated, we said two or three items but most people have brought bags full. I can’t believe it!

The smile on her face said it all – as the first of such events for the centre, I don’t think they were expecting it to be such a hit. But I’m glad it was. It was clear that a lot of people give much time and effort to the centre and it was nice for them to get such tremendous support from local residents. I think what made it, apart from ‘doing its bit for the environment’, was that it was a social event, everyone enjoyed chatting to others, exchanging clothes, expanding their wardrobe, swapping fashion tips.

It was the ‘feel-good factor’ with an added dash of ‘eco’ for good measures! Recycling, yes, community spirit, yes, social networking, yes. A successful night all round I’d say.

Next step –  Birmingham Recycled article. Nice first story.

A selection of the 'bags of clothes' donated


Coffee shops – are they keeping their ‘eco’ promises?

Filed under: Birmingham Recycled — Kellie Maddox @ 11:26 am
Tags: , ,

Inspired by Emma Dando’s latest findings re: Starbuck’s wasted water saga, I’ve had a look at their website ‘Starbucks Shared Planet’ and discovered their aims and policies regarding recycling in stores. But the last update on progress to meet its targets was 2008! So, what progress has been made in the last two years?

In terms of finding solutions for ‘Greener cups’, the company says:

Our goal is that by 2015 100 percent of our cups will be reusable or recyclable. To help achieve this goal, we’ve made the following commitments:

  • Developing and launching recyclable hot and cold cups by 2012
  • Reducing paper and plastic cup usage in our stores by 25 percent by using reusable mugs instead
  • Having recycling available in our stores
  • Re-establishing glassware or ceramic mugs as our global standard for our customers who enjoy their beverages in our stores
  • Converting all of our plastic cups to polypropylene in our stores in North America and Latin America, and Foodservice accounts by 2009

But has it achieved this or has any progress towards these goals been made? Since no information has been posted since 2008, I’m looking to ask the company what, if any, progress has been made and what their current waste and recycling ‘levels’/targets are in the UK.

Alongside this, I’m also curious to see what rivals Costa Coffee are doing to reduce their waste and improve recycling initiatives (I couldn’t find anything on the site about recycling cups). I’m looking to do a small survey on whether coffee shops are doing all they can to reduce waste. At our Costa in Birmingham City University, I’ve never been asked whether I want to drink my coffee in the cafe or ‘take it out’ – I’m always given a paper cup even if I sit at the table right next to the counter!

Has anyone else experienced this? My friend actually asked for a ceramic mug yesterday and was met by a look of disgust and a heavy sigh! Maybe she should have come with a tag – sorry for the inconvenience of the washing up this may cause. I’m quite intrigued to find out the company’s policy on the ‘in or out’ thing and whether employees actually should be asking all their customers their preference.

I’m on the case………thoughts/experiences/incidents of disapproving looks welcomed!