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Posts Tagged ‘Recycling’

The Climate Change Struggle: A Little Ray of Sunshine?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

I’ve written about climate change in this blog before, and it’s rarely been good news. After you’ve read about the serious rise in global temperatures now being inevitable, the government abolishing the Department for Climate Change and flooding right here in Tameside I wouldn’t blame you for feeling a bit hopeless.

That’s why I welcomed a bit of optimistic climate-related news last week. We know that the only way to reduce our global CO2 emissions is to make a serious move away from using fossil fuels to generate most of our electricity and power our vehicles. Up until now most people thought that it wouldn’t be economically possible. A new report from Imperial College, London and the Climate Tracker think-tank, rather aptly titled “Expect the Unexpected” instead offers the argument that growth in the electric vehicle and solar panel market could led to demand for fossils fuels peaking as early as 2020.

Let me give you an example to show how they reached that conclusion. When IBM released the first PC in 1981 it cost almost £8,000, and that was considered cheap. Around about the same time, Ken Olsen, the founder of computer company Digital Equipment Corporation, said “There is no reason why anyone would want a computer in their home”. Fast forward thirty or so years, I’m writing this blog on a laptop that costs 40 times less and is easily thousands of times more powerful than that IBM PC. That laptop is also one of an estimated two billion computers that are used around the world, in everything from phones to cars to household appliances and goodness knows what else.

What’s the point I’m trying to make? When a new technology appears it’s almost always expensive and impractical, but it gets cheaper, more powerful and easier to use very quickly. As it was with computers, so it looks like it’s going to be with renewable energy. The cost of solar panels has fallen by 85% in the last seven years, while batteries for electric vehicles are 73% cheaper now than they were in 2008. If those costs keep going down people, businesses and countries might start using renewable energy not because if any particular feelings about climate change, but because it’ll actually be cheaper than fossil fuels.

Of course, it’s all very well saying that, but it looks like there are enough willing to take that prediction to the bank. Saudi Arabia, not exactly a country people think of when it comes to renewable energy, is looking to invest £40 billion in wind and solar power by 2030. China is planning for half of its increase in electricity generation over the next 4 years to come from £291 billion worth of renewable energy infrastructure. Almost all of Costa Rica’s electricity in 2016 was produced by renewable energy, compared to 5.7% in the UK over the same time.

Tameside is doing its bit as well. The Greater Manchester Pension Fund, administered in Droylsden and chaired by yours truly, has invested £150 million in the UK’s second largest onshore windfarm in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. Closer to home we’re continuing to roll out LED lighting to all of Tameside’s streets, recycling bins to all our town centres and thousands of trees in every space we can find for them. We’ve also worked closely with our residents to increase recycling in the borough by over 50%, with more to come in the future.

So let’s not underestimate the challenges that we face by choosing to tackle climate change, but let’s not underestimate the opportunities either. Putting Tameside and Greater Manchester at the forefront of the struggle is not just the right thing for the planet; it may very well be the right thing for creating the jobs and the economy of the future as well.

Tameside: A Greener Borough

Monday, December 7th, 2015

Tameside has some fantastic green spaces

There are currently, 25,000 delegates in attendance at the 2015 Climate Conference in Paris. The conference, also known as COP21, is the latest is a series of conferences (the 21st believe it or not!) to review the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The UNFCCC was adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 and has 165 signatories. It sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilising atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Put simply it commits nations to reducing emissions to avert dangerous climate change.

You may be wondering why the holding of a global conference on Climate Change would prompt me to write a blog post. Whilst there is a consensus that Climate Change is one of the biggest threats to global security that we must address, surely it’s a matter that only national governments or inter-governmental organisations can address? Well whilst it’s undoubtedly the case that negotiations between governments do have the potential to lead to commitments that will drastically cut global greenhouse gas emissions, there are things that we as a local authority and each of us as individuals could do right away.

Last month Tameside was among 50 local authorities to sign a pledge committing the Council to run entirely on green energy by 2050. We have already taken a number of steps to slash the carbon footprint of our borough, though until now have not had a target identified that we could work towards. The measures we have taken so far have included beginning the installation of efficient LED street lighting, the insulation of thousands of homes and the use of a government grant to invest £70,000 in to efficient new heating systems for vulnerable households.

This commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050 will require much more action in addition to what we have already done. Our plans for the next year include a commitment to continue rolling out our LED lighting programme, drive up recycling rates (saving money and the environment) and planting more trees to offset emissions where they can’t be prevented at source.

A Tameside electric vehicle

Whilst some of these measures require a small amount of investment up front, the cheaper cost of lighting our streets with LED lights and the reduced landfill charges we will incur by sending less to the tip will pay for themselves. Though even if that were not the case, given the threat of climate change is predicted to result in thousands of environmental refugees and have huge consequences for communities across the globe, in my view these are actions that we can hardly afford not to take.

Bin Swap – It Makes Sense

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Imagine if at the end of every year you took nearly half a tonne of waste and dumped it in a hole in your garden or in your local park. You wouldn’t as it would do real damage to your local environment.

And imagine if at the end of every year you took £150 and dumped it in another hole in the ground. You wouldn’t as you could find any number of important things to spend the money on.

It sounds like an insane thing to do, but when we send the rubbish in our bins to landfill instead of reusing or recycling, we might as well be doing that. Every year in Tameside we spend £12 million putting 40,000 tonnes of waste into landfill.

Of course, some of this is beyond our control. As much as we’d like to, we can’t stop everything that goes into our bins going to landfill. What we can do however, is make sure that anything that we can recycle or reuse is recycled or reused. It’s good for the environment, and it allows us to divert money to service areas struggling under £38 million of additional Government imposed cuts by 2017.

This is where the bin swap comes in.

We could have done what Bury did and gone to 3-weekly collections. We could have done what Bolton did and bought new, smaller bins at a cost of nearly £3 million. Instead, we’ve come up with a simple and cost effective solution. Swap the green and black bins.

This means that under bin swap the larger black bin will be used for glass, plastic and cans, and the smaller green bin will be used for waste that can’t be recycled and goes to landfill. It really is that simple. For you, that means no mucking about with new bins, and no need to get used to new collection days or frequencies as they stay the same.

Of course, if you were in one of our pilot areas last year then you’ll already know all this. What you might not know is just how much of a success the bin swap was. 8 out of 10 of the 4,000 households involved understood why we were doing what we did, two-thirds of those same households found it easy to adapt and waste going to landfill fell by up to a quarter. In January this year, a second roll out to a further 25,000 households gave us similar results.

So now we are taking the plunge and rolling out the bin swap across the entire borough. Every household, every resident and every bin.

This is not a decision that we have made lightly, but in the face of relentless budget cuts we no longer have the luxury of overlooking the easy savings that could be made from this. After almost a year of research, consultation and pilot schemes every other option to reduce our landfill waste has been found to be too expensive, too unpalatable, or both.

But we’re not going to be leaving you to fend for yourself. A wide range of support services will be available to those who are finding it difficult to adjust. You can visit our website www.tameside.gov.uk/recycling to order a new bin, check your collection day or get some advice on recycling more.  We will also be putting out information and replying to questions through local District Assembly meetings, social media (@tmbc_waste, @TamesideCouncil and our Facebook page) and the bin swap roadshows that will held throughout the borough.

So, if you’re interested in protecting the environment and the council services people rely on, I ask that you give the bin swap your full support.

We certainly will be.

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