Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Coffee Cup Chaos

"Every day hundreds of thousands of Britons put their coffee cup into a recycling bin. They're wrong - those cups aren't recyclable, and the UK throws away 2.5bn of them a year. [...] The millions of coffee cups we use every day are, in effect, virgin materials with a single use, thrown almost immediately into the bin - a horrendous waste, with a hefty carbon footprint."

That's from this new BBC article The waste mountain of coffee cups. Well worth a read. Also the cup is the most expensive part of the drink. A shame councils don't treat this waste as a consideration when granting trading licences.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

No Place For Exploitative Entertainment


Circus Mondao, one of the few animal circuses left in the UK, was in Aberystwyth recently, where we were treated to the view of camels shivering in the pouring rain. The circus tried to deflect attention from their practices, and unfortunately the Cambrian News quoted them without bothering to check facts: for example, the Circus Licensing Panel of DEFRA (hardly known for showing much care for animals) had a number of concerns about Circus Mondao as recently as March 2016. The DEFRA report says there are "concerns about insufficient outdoor exercise space", "concerns about the amount of exercise being provided" and concerns about poor record keeping in relation to exercise records and veterinary visits for their zebra, two camels and two reindeer.

In 2012 the UK Government said that it would implement a ban on wild animals in circuses, but thanks to persistent blocking by three Conservative MPs this ban hasn't been put in place yet; even if they do go ahead with it we may well need a separate bill for Wales as animal welfare is a devolved issue. There are currently only two UK circuses with wild animals, Peter Jolly’s Circus and Circus Mondao.

The Welsh Government really should implement a ban on wild animals in circuses in Wales. Many local authority councils (including Ceredigion, I think) already ban wild animal circuses on public land, but it still means such circuses can operate in Wales on private land, as has happened here with Mondao. The majority of the population want to see a total ban, and this is backed by commitments in political manifestos by the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and Plaid Cymru. The British Veterinary Association and the RSPCA back a ban on wild animals in circuses. More general animal circus information can be found on the ADI site or this site.

Circuses can never simulate the natural habitat of a wild animal. There are no educational or conservation reasons for animal circuses. They are only aimed at profit and entertainment, neither of which are justifiable. Other countries across Europe and the world have banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Instead of exploiting animals, we should encourage and support human circuses such as the amazing Welsh circus No Fit State.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

EU Referendum - What Next?

In the EU referendum the other day, Ceredigion was one of the few Welsh counties that had a majority who voted to remain within the EU. Sadly not enough to swing the overall vote, but it was a strong statement.

Still, the UK ref results were so close it is surprising that the Government seems to be contemplating acting on it. The referendum was not legally binding and nor was it decisive – 51.9% vs 48.1% would not be enough of a majority to convict in a court of law, so it shouldn’t be enough to enact such a huge change; and because a third of people did not vote, that 2% difference is far less than 2% of the UK population. Many people are now stating that they would change their vote if they had the chance again, especially those who wanted to make a point but didn’t expect it to actually lead to such a huge change. There certainly isn’t a clear lead one way or the other, which is why it's surprising that many people are acting as if leaving the EU as a result is a foregone conclusion. It isn’t. An ideal way forward would be to try and fix some EU issues that people have problems with (e.g. the EU’s secret and undemocratic TTIP negotiations; concerns such as the huge subsidies to animal agriculture when there are more important roles that are not subsidised, and so on). Then the UK could hold another referendum in a year or so, hopefully with a clearer majority one way or the other. That would be better than rash decisions based on an incredibly marginal voting difference. Many people were annoyed at only having the choice of leaving or staying – many want to stay, but also to see some reform, and that was not a choice the UK citizens were given. It should have been.

Well over a million people have already signed this petition requesting a second referendum. There is plenty of room for adopting this approach – some of the options are covered here. Let's hope politicians support this more reasonable reaction to the results of the EU referendum vote, which were indicative and something to be learned from, but certainly not convincing enough to drive a radical and potentially regrettable action such as leaving the EU as a result of it.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Passing The Buck

We've been forwarded details of another example of environmental ineptitude (or neglect) from Ceredigion County Council and the Welsh Government. We've been given permission to reproduce the details here. It's certainly a typical case.

A number of people had reported shopping trolleys dumped in the river at Aberystwyth. Ceredigion County Council are responsible for dealing with flytipping and litter in Ceredigion (a job they fail at miserably). The trolleys were in shallow water by the edge - a Council worker could have safely waded in and removed them easily at that point.

A number of reports of shopping trolleys in the river 
at Aberystwyth - why wasn't the Council doing anything?
From FixMyStreet.

When the trolleys were found to be still in the water it was followed up with Ceredigion County Council, who responded by saying they weren't responsible for it, and to try contacting Natural Resources Wales. They didn't even forward the details on, just washed their hands of the issue.

Natural Resources Wales are part of the Welsh Government. When they were contacted they responded by saying it was nothing to do with them ... end of story, from their point of view.

And while all this responsibility-denying was going back and forth some of the trolleys have washed into the sea, adding to marine pollution. This is ridiculous. Can you imagine if all public services took this approach?
Phone answered. "Hi, this is the police, what can we do?"
"Someone's being threatened in the shopping centre."
"Mmm. Not really our jurisdiction. See the site security."
Person finds site security. Situation explained to them.
"Sorry. We don't deal with that, it's a police matter."
Rings the police again, complains. Police and site security both say "We take your complaints seriously and will get back to you within 14 working days with a response."
Silence follows.
The threat escalates into a mugging.
At that point the person didn't give up, and instead wrote a letter to both bodies, which we think is a really good example, and includes some stuff about law we didn't know (and will no doubt use ourselves in future). We'll paste the whole thing in.
Dear Ceredigion County Council and Natural Resources Wales,

I am copying this to both of you because it is a formal complaint to both bodies about the unhelpfulness of your replies. Trolleys and other items dumped into rivers are an environmental problem, a wildlife issue, a litter problem, and a possible safety issue (kayakers, swimmers, paddlers). As such their removal should be covered by one or both of your organisations. Instead, as the email chain below shows, Ceredigion County Council denied that it is anything to do with them, and said to go elsewhere (not even having the courtesy to forward an email on to the body that is supposedly responsible); then Natural Resources Wales replied and said it is not their problem either. Something is very wrong here. It is obviously someone’s responsibility; yet both likely bodies are refusing to take any responsibility. Beyond the general poor service this displays, I believe both bodies are thereby in breach of the Well-being of Future Generations Act (WBFG Act).


I think it would be beneficial to reflect on the situation of multiple metal trolleys in rivers. It may seem like a trivial matter, one that can be passed from organisation to organisation, but, ultimately, people are compromising the future well-being of the planet for future generations, through an inability, or unwillingness to work together or to fix things that improve the environment.

The Well-being of Future Generations Act (WBFG Act) places a statutory duty on specific public bodies (including Ceredigion County Council and Natural Resources Wales) to think more about the long term, to work better with people and communities and each other, and to look to prevent problems and take a more joined-up approach. These are covered by the five ways of working, particularly prevention and collaboration.

I think every one of these has been highlighted as not working in this case of the trolleys in the river.

•    CCC and NRW are not thinking about the long term – if you do not remove the trolleys and other litter they will either be washed down into the sea and then washed up on the beach, or they will get lodged on the riverbank and rust and pollute the land and river/marine environment. Either way, they will remain an unnatural part of the environment for decades.
•    CCC and NRW are not working well with people and each other. Looking at Fix My Street shows that other people reported this and many issues like it – presumably they were met with the same brush-off. But local people actually care about their local environment and communities, and you are not working well with them.
•    CCC and NRW are not working well to prevent problems. If the trolleys were removed now, they would not create future pollution and environmental problems.
•    CCC and NRW have not provided a joined up approach. CCC’s reply could have been forwarded to NRW, rather than expecting the member of public to complete another piece of correspondence.

The WBFG Act means public bodies such as CCC and NRW have to take into account the impact they could have on people living their lives in Wales in the future. They must work to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales. By failing address a reported issue, they are failing to improve the social and environmental wellbeing of Wales.

In addition, there are two of the seven key goals of the WBFG Act that are relevant. These are:

•    “A resilient Wales - A nation which maintains and enhances a biodiverse natural environment with healthy functioning ecosystems that support social, economic and ecological resilience and the capacity to adapt to change (for example climate change).”
•    “A globally responsible Wales - A nation which, when doing anything to improve the economic, social, environmental and cultural well-being of Wales, takes account of whether doing such a thing may make a positive contribution to global well-being.”

I therefore suggest that you reflect on your statutory duty of the WBFG Act, that you work together to remove litter from rivers when it is reported to you, and that you work towards improving the environment for everyone. It should be made clear to the public that this is a responsibility you share under the act.

There is a certain irony too that Ceredigion County Council go to any lengths – including using public money to evict a pensioner from her home - in order to encourage yet more supermarkets to Aberystwyth. Then the Council refuses to deal with the inevitable problems such as supermarket trolleys being dumped in waterways.

Please inform me when the trolleys have been removed – ideally before they wash away. I shall be following this up. I shall also send this correspondence to the WBFG Commissioner and to the Welsh Government.
The downside is that we checked with the letter-writer - and they still haven't had a reply other than an acknowledgement. They contacted Ceredigion County Council and Natural Resources Wales on 23rd May. It's now 8th June, 16 days later.

Of course, both bodies will say they are acting according to guideline. In their emails they said "Please be assured that your complaint is being taken seriously" and "Your comments are being considered and a detailed reply will be sent to you no later than 27 June 2016" - ah. So they will deliberate on it for over a month, while the time-related issue being reported is ignored. As we pointed out, some of the trolleys have washed down the river in the last rain, adding to marine pollution for generations to come while Ceredigion County Council and Natural Resources Wales deny responsibility and bury their heads in the sand. Totally useless. Maybe they wonder why they are so frequently despised?

Updated 14th June 2016: We've seen the replies from Ceredigion County Council and Natural Resources Wales. Both basically refused to accept responsibility for their appalling actions concerning this problem, and neither of them agreed to alter their policies or behaviour when this situation occurs again. And by then the trolleys had washed into the sea. Useless.

"Please be assured that National Resources Wales (NRW) and Ceredigion County Council (CCC), as well as other stakeholders, are in ongoing contact with regards issues in which they have a mutual interest."

No evidence of that so far - hence the complaint.

"I would like to thank you for your interest in this matter."

Shame the organisations themselves had no interest. Also, the Welsh Government didn't respond at all.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Renewable Energies Meet Demand

Can renewable energies keep us going? Hell yes! Look at the news from this week:

Germany raises renewable bar again: clean energy meets nearly 100% of demand
Portugal runs for four days straight on renewable energy alone

That is in addition to news from Denmark, Costa Rica, Norway, Iceland and Tokelau.

If we also cut our energy usage (we waste so much) then this is a totally viable future. Good news for once!

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Items That Last Longer Than A Fortnight

So much gets wasted nowadays. My kettle broke recently. It had been made so it wasn't repairable. Planned obsolescence and throwaway culture joining forces. If Governments said things had to last for 5-10 years I bet we'd suddenly see the quality improve once companies couldn't get away with shoddy items with inherent weak points.

It's interesting to see some companies trying to fight back against this, such as the BuyMeOnce site. Pay more for something, but then have it for life, not just for Christmas. Have an item you care for, repair if necessary, rather than throw away. Until environmental cost is built in to financial cost, it's up to the consumer to be responsible. It's not like we can rely on politicians to do that for us.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Voting Time Approaches

There's a week to go until the National Assembly for Wales elections. Remember you get two votes - your local constituency area (a named person/party) and your larger region (a vote for a party).

It's worth checking whether your inbuilt preference matches current policies by taking a quiz. There's a specific Wales one which I prefer (BBC mention), and a more detailed one which goes beyond yes/no answers. The latter survey gives your results on a map to show you where similar like-minded people live.