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Happy New Year. Yes, it’s 2019 already. Friday 11th January 2019 to be exact, or at least it will be by the time you hear this, unless you’re a patron.
More rubbish. Every Christmas some journalist writes about the mountains of cardboard and acres of paper that we throw away after Christmas. And they ask how many times the sticky tape we used would reach to the moon and back. No doubt it’s a lot, but the issue is how much rubbish we throw away throughout the year, and that’s a lot more.
Back in 2016 Steve Howard, head of the sustainability unit IKEA the furniture store, suggested that we were reaching peak stuff. In other words we were beginning to stop spending our money on things and starting to spend it on experiences instead. Concerts instead of cocktail cabinets. Bungee jumping instead of bookcases. Cruising instead of curtains and adventure weekends instead of armchairs. At first that didn’t seem very likely, but this Christmas period has seen a significant fall-off in high-street sales. What’s even more significant is that at least one on-line retailer, Asos, issued a profit warning as it also saw its sales declining. The good news hidden in all this must be that there will be less things to wrap and less things to throw away as they reach the end of their useful life. There will be less use of resources as well.
But don’t throw it away - recycle it. “I encourage all businesses and governments to go further and embark on a race to the top in the creation of a circular economy for plastic,” said Dame Ellen McArthur, leading proponent of the circular economy. And then, just before Christmas, UK Environment Minister Michael Gove launched his Resources and Waste Strategy for England.
“This strategy,” said the blurb, “sets out how we will preserve material resources by minimising waste, promoting resource efficiency and moving towards a circular economy in England.”
And then, before I’d even heard about it, Talk Radio was on the phone asking if I’d discuss it with presenter Mike Graham. “I’m up to my elbows in cooking,” I said. Which was quite true: it was our anniversary and I was preparing the meal - one of these day-long projects.
An hour later they called again. “We’ve had to put the item back, so we were just wondering if you could be available…”
“What’s the topic?”
“The government’s new Resources and Waste Strategy.”
“How long have I got before we start?”
It’s amazing how much you can find out in 30 minutes. This is how it went.
I had to dash off immediately after the interview and I couldn’t record the debate which followed because I had to take my recorder to interview Professor Chris Thomas at the University of York. You’ll hear that, about evolution, extinction and the care of our planet, on the Sustainable Futures Report next week.
Bags of bags
I leave you with the news that the government intends to raise the plastic bag tax from 5p to 10p, subject to a consultation which is currently in progress. All stores, not just the big ones, will have to make the charge. The 5p led to a fall of more than 80% in one-time plastic bag use and generated income for charities, as the law makes the charge a donation to charity, not a tax.
Good news for the charities, good news for the planet, bad news for the plastic bag manufacturers. And all they were trying to do was to provide something cheap to keep your shopping clean and dry.
Did you read about Nadia Sparkes of Norfolk? Her friends call her Trash Girl, as she makes a point of picking up every bit of litter on her walk to and from school. She says she doesn’t care what they call her - she’s going to keep doing it. In line with my strategy of solving problems at source, don’t drop litter in Norfolk. In fact, don’t drop any litter at all.
And that’s it….
…for this first episode of the Sustainable Futures Report for 2019. I’m Anthony Day and if you would like to support this podcast as a patron just hop across to patreon.com/sfr where you’ll find all the details. As a patron, apart from other things you’ll usually get the Sustainable Futures Report in advance of general release, sometimes by as much as 12 hours. All who support the Sustainable Futures Report, as patrons or in other ways, are much appreciated. Thanks to you all.
Don’t forget the blog at www.sustainablefutures.report where you’ll find the text of 200+ episodes and links to the stories.
I’m Anthony Day
That was the Sustainable Futures Report.
Until next time.