In the UK it is estimated that we drink around 70 million cups of coffee per day and 2/3 of us tend to buy from coffee shops rather than make our own at home. It is estimated that if you placed all the paper cup used in the UK in one year end-to-end, they would go around the world 5 and ½ times! While this trend is good for our highstreets, in 2012 the estimated turnover for coffee shops was £5.8 billion, there is a growing environmental issue. Less than 1% of paper cups are being recycled, with most ending up in landfill.
One of the main issues is with the composition of the cups themselves. As they are made from a combination of paper and plastic, they have to undergo special treatment in order to separate the paper for recycling. At the moment there are only 2 facilities in the UK that can do this process, and while they are hoping to expand in the next few years, they are currently struggling to meet the demand.
This composition also makes the cups difficult to sort when recycling. Due to the plastic liner they cannot be placed in paper recycling and they aren’t always filtered correctly when mixed recycling is sorted. There is also an issue with contamination, as items often need to be clean and dry before they are recycled. This sometimes means that even if the cups are put in the correct recycling bin, they still end up in landfill.
There have been calls from campaigners for a tax on disposable cups, similar to the one introduced on plastic bags in October, as a way of encouraging the use of reusable cups. However the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has released a statement that there are currently no plans for a tax.
One of the easiest ways to tackle this issue is to use a reusable cup when ordering take-away coffee. Starbucks has even introduced a 25p discount on drinks if you bring your own cup (and it doesn’t have to be Starbucks branded!). There are many types of reusable cups available to buy in high street and online stores, which many people claim even help improve the flavour of the coffee!
British Coffee Association: http://www.britishcoffeeassociation.org/about_coffee/coffee_facts/
Simply Cups: http://www.simplycups.co.uk/
Food waste is becoming a growing issue in the UK. The charity WRAP estimates that 15 million tonnes of food is thrown away every year. While only 1% is estimated to come from supermarkets, there has been lots of media focus on supermarket waste in recent months.
In January Asda started selling ‘Wonky Vegetable’ boxes in order to help reduce the amount of waste they produced. The boxes include seasonal vegetables that are misshapen or are a different size than average, and cost just £3.50. So far this seems very successful with many of the 128 stores taking part reporting selling out of the boxes very quickly.
Following on from this, Tesco has also recently announced that they will start selling “Perfectly Imperfect” vegetables in 200 stores. Tesco has also announced that they are extending their partnership with Fareshare, a food distribution charity, who work with community groups and charities to provide meals to vulnerable people, including the homeless, elderly and children.
While these schemes look positive in terms of reducing waste, there have been some criticisms over the high standards fruit and vegetables are held to in the first place. It is also worth remembering that a high proportion of food waste is created from households (for more tips on reducing your own food waste check out this previous blog post).
The term ‘circular economy’ has become popular in recent years in discussions about recycling and waste reduction, but what does it actually mean? The charity WRAP defines a circular economy as a system “where we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use and regenerate products at the end of the resources life”. In more simple terms this means using items for as long as possible and recycling or reusing them, rather than just throwing them away.
One easy way to contribute to a circular economy is to donate and buy clothes from charity shops. This keeps clothes out of landfill, where approximately 350,000 tonnes are sent every year, as well as helping charitable causes.
Recycling everyday items also help to contribute to a circular economy, especially in the case of tin cans. Recycling aluminium can happen time and time again without any loss of quality. As a bonus, creating a can from recycled materials only uses 5% of the energy needed to create one from scratch.
There are many other ways to help develop a circular economy, from simple ways like using scrap paper, to the more entrepreneurial like using coffee grounds to heat your home (more details here http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/feb/14/the-innovators-how-your-coffee-can-light-up-your-barbecue-and-boiler).
Please leave a comment or Tweet us @ACEnvironment with more ideas about contributing to a circular economy.
An article published by The Evening Standard in 2015 showed that London contains 6 out of 10 of the worst areas for cases of fly-tipping in the UK.
Fly-tipping happens when households or businesses illegally dump waste in areas that are not licensed to manage it. Common items include general household waste, household ‘white goods’ such as fridges, freezers and washing machines, construction debris (demolition and home improvement waste), garden waste, and waste from businesses.
These items may be dumped on highways, back alleyways and footpaths or other areas of public land. Not only does this impede access to these areas and look unpleasant for residents, this practice can lead to a host of environmental, health-related and economic consequences. Food waste can attract pests, and the products dumped may be toxic or hazardous waste. This can cause problems for people and wildlife that come into contact with it, and if liquids are not contained they can seep into the ground and contaminate waterways. The economic cost of identifying cases of fly-dumping, collecting the illegally dumped waste, and pursuing law-enforcement measures across the UK was said to cost £45 million in 2013.
Keep Britain Tidy campaign: fly-tipping: http://kb.keepbritaintidy.org/flytipping/Content/Publications/flylaw.pdf
An article published by The Guardian last year highlights how the use of landfills for waste treatment has decreased across the UK in recent years, from treating around 90% of all waste in 2009 to around 50% in 2015. This is forecast to represent only around 10% in 2020.
This has happened for a combination of reasons. Since the 1990s, many landfills in the UK have closed down, as they have gradually become full and haven’t been replaced with new ones. Although landfills in the UK are well managed, they take up a very large amount of space and are considered unpleasant for local residents. A landfill tax has further made it more expensive to operate landfills in the UK. Businesses and municipalities that bring their waste to landfill now have to pay £82.60 per tonne of waste brought to landfill.
Although recycling is prioritized in the first instance as a method of waste treatment, government policy now favors incineration for final disposal, which allows energy to be generated by burning waste at very high temperatures.
In 2015, the European Commission finalized an ambitious Action Plan for waste management, setting targets which included:
- A common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030
- A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030
Rates of recycling for household waste in the UK were at 40.4% in 2014.
EU Circular Economy directive: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm
In the UK we throw away around 7 million tonnes of food and drink waste a year! This is both harmful to the environment and to our pockets, where the average family with children wastes around £700 a year!
Whilst preventing food waste is a priority (see previous blog posts) some food waste is unavoidable, such as egg shells or peelings. When this is the case there are other ways to recycle and reduce your wastage. It is important that food waste is not sent to landfill as it does not have access to oxygen so breaks down (anaerobically) into methane – a harmful green house gas.
One method that allows food waste to decompose ‘aerobically’ (with oxygen) is home composting! Composting is a natural process that can turn kitchen and garden waste into nutrient rich food for your garden.
ACE’s compost tips:
- Find a space outside in a sunny spot, on bare soil if possible. If you have to place on concrete or pavement place a layer of compost on the bottom to allow the worms to colonise.
- Collect food/ garden waste. Take care not to add cooked food, meat or fish as this will not compost.
- For the perfect compost add 50% greens and 50% browns to your compost bin. Greens are quick to rot and provide moisture, for example: Tea bags, vegetable peel, fruit, coffee grounds, weeds, grass. Whilst browns are slower to rot and provide carbon and fibre such as: egg shells, cereal boxes, twigs, wool, feathers, tissues, wood chippings.
- After around 9-12 months your compost will be ready to use in your garden. It will have turned into a crumbly dark material, perfect for keeping your garden nutrient rich and healthy.
So why not give it a go! They are cheap to purchase and gives you a free supply of nutrient rich compost to keep your garden blooming all year round. If you are unable to compost at home why not contact your local council and found out if they provide a food waste collection.
This week is WASTE LESS, LIVE MORE week created by Keep Britain Tidy. This approach brings together organisations and communities to take part in activities that are good for people as well as the environment. Head to www.wastelesslivemore.com to download your own challenge pack, with 51 ways to Waste Less and Live More.
At ACE we aim to promote the waste hierarchy (see below), with a focus on reducing, re-using and recycling.
Why not take one of the following challenges and see if you can follow the waste hierarchy. Not only will you waste less, but you could also save money! Benefiting yourself and the environment.
Upcycling is a form of creative re-use and is the process of turning something old or unused into something new and usable. For example, you could turn an old cork board into a jewellery organiser or use old books as shelves! This is a great way to re-use items and a fun way to get the whole family involved.
Try and go the whole day or week without using disposables. Why not switch to reusable coffee cups when out and about. Or try and ‘Live with Less Plastic’ by ditching the plastic bag or swapping plastic bottles for re-usable stainless steel ones. See our website for more details about our Live with Less Plastic campaign.
Go Zero Waste
Why not try and produce no waste for a whole day?! Make a packed lunch using leftovers and avoid buying anything in packaging that cannot be recycled! Try to follow the waste hierarchy: reduce, re-use then recycle.
See if you can go paperless for an entire day, or if you do need to use paper make sure to print doubled sided or re-use scraps for note taking. As a last resort recycle any paper you do need to use.
Hashtag #WLLM15 on twitter to spread the word about what challenges you are trying out this week or why not tweet ACE to let us know or ask for some advice on how to waste less!
Each year UK householders waste on average 7 million tonnes of food waste. Of this waste, 4.2 million tonnes is avoidable, the equivalent of 6 meals every week for the average household. This wastage is estimated to cost £470 for the average householder and £700 for a household with children according to data from WRAP.
At ACE, as part of our Sustainable Communities Project we are trying to engage and communicate with communities about living sustainably, including food waste avoidance. To achieve this we run interactive workshops to engage local communities and provide practical tips and information.
So what can I do? ACE has come up with a series of simple steps that can be carried out to reduce your food waste and save your money!
1. Planning, Planning, Planning!
-Create shopping lists to make sure you only buy what you need and plan meals ahead.
-Love your leftovers – get creative! Come up with new recipes using leftover food.
2. Portion sizes
-Perfect portion sizes, only cook what you can eat! Check the labels on pasta and rice packets for further guidance.
-Make the most of your freezer! The freezer can be a useful way to store food you have not eaten and reheat when you need. Be careful to check the guidelines as to how long items can be frozen . (Guidelines)
-Store foods at the correct temperature, check food labels to ensure you are storing them at the right temperature so they stay fresher for longer.
-Use date labels on food to make sure you know when it will expire.
So why not give some of these quick and easy tips a go?! Not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint by avoiding food waste but you will also be saving money!
Head to WRAP’s Love Food Hate Waste page for recipes and more information. One of our favourite recipes at ACE are these crispy fried rice cakes which can be quickly made up using everyday items from the kitchen.
Or why not get in contact with ACE to organise a workshop in your area? At firstname.lastname@example.org or 02072506961.
Waste is something that we all have and interact with on a daily basis, whether at home, in public or in the workplace. The United Kingdom sends more waste to landfills than any other nation in Europe, but why? By comparison to another large industrialised European nation such as Germany, Britain puts 20 million tonnes of waste into the ground annually compared to their 500,000 tonnes. At ACE we are trying to combat this unnecessary waste in Britain, we are trying to promote waste to be used as a resource and end our addiction to automatically putting things we don’t want or need immediately into landfills. When waste is put into landfills it emits methane, a highly damaging gas and is 20 times more detrimental to the environment than the infamous carbon dioxide. Processes such as, anaerobic digestion which turns sewage and food waste into a sustainable energy source. Britain discard 18 million tonnes of food waste each year, if the energy was harnessed from this waste it would be enough to heat 700,000 homes. Action for Community and Environment is promoting and exploring ways to recycle waste and use it as a resource in both the professional and home environments. ACE is holding and event in Holborn on the 3rd of April 2013 that will include a tremendous number of opportunities for companies to network and learn how to turn waste into an advantage. We invite anyone who wishes to change their life or business for the better and reduce their waste!
Plastics are versatile, hardwearing materials which have benefited humans through its application in medicine, electronics or transport. Most plastics, however, are used for packaging and discarded after a single use. Due to their durability and disposable usage, the detrimental effect of plastics and plastic carrier bags in particular on the environment is immense.
Even when plastic bags are disposed of properly, the wind blows them from landfills into the ocean. All the plastics that slip into the sea are carried by currents, and pile up where the various currents converge. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the most well known of the floating rubbish gyres; it is five times the size of the UK. However, there are actually five of them across the globe (see picture below).
The campaigners from Greener Upon Thames bring the problem of plastics to the point: “Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photodegrade – breaking down into smaller and smaller toxic bits, contaminating soil, waterways, oceans and entering the food chain when ingested by animals. In the marine environment plastic bag litter is lethal, causing severe pain and distress, and killing at least 100,000 birds, whales, seals and turtles every year.”
Reducing the consumption of plastics and plastic carrier bags therefore is crucial and you can start making a difference today:
– Talk to businesses
When you visit shops, ask them whether they use biodegradable packaging and why not if they don’t.
– Use a re-useable cotton bag
Reduce your reliance upon plastic bags.
– Make your party green
Parties, weddings, all kinds of social functions generate waste. ACE has teamed up with London Bio Packaging (proud supplier of sustainable packaging to the London 2012 Olympic Games) to promote food packaging made from palm leaf, sugar bagasse and plant starch. Check our websiteace.org.uk/shop.html for details.