Recycling is in trouble — and it might be your fault

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ELKRIDGE, Md. — If you are recycling at home, you are probably doing it wrong.

That is why a worker lunged to grab a garden hose off the conveyor belt at a Waste Management recycling facility here Wednesday before it got caught in a giant sorting machine. Such tangles frequently require the plant to stop the waste processing line and clean out the jaws by hand.

"Our contamination changes by the season," said Mike Taylor, the company's director of recycling operations here. Since it's spring, the facility is getting a lot of garden hoses. Around the holidays, they get broken strands of Christmas lights, another choking hazard for the sorting line. And all day every day there are plastic shopping bags (recyclable at a grocery store but not from a household), chunks of styrofoam, diapers, syringes, food-contaminated containers ... a nearly endless litany of things that residents throw into their curbside recycling carts figuring they are or ought to be recyclable. One worker grabs the remnants of a screen door off the sorting line while another snags a wire rack from a DIY shelving unit.

Many cities around the country will celebrate the 47th Earth Day on Saturday by highlighting their recycling programs, but the industry is grappling with a dual threat: The value of recovered waste products has plummeted over the past five years, and the amount of effort required to extract them has risen.

A study by Rob Taylor with the State Recycling Program in the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality estimated that the average market value of a ton of mixed recyclable material arriving at a recovery facility in the state dropped from just over $180 in early 2011 to less than $80 at the end of 2015. That value has since rebounded a bit, Taylor found, to a little over $100, but it still leaves the industry struggling to extract profit from the millions of tons of recyclable material Americans throw away every year.

Read more here.

The Train Now Standing at Platform 3 is a Co-op?

Rob Hopkins spoke with Alex Lawrie about Go-op, a highly ambitious attempt to create the first co-operatively owned train operating company in the U.K.:

I come to this really as a frustrated rail traveller. As someone who is a regular user of the railways, but who always seems to end up in places that the rail network, radiating as it does out from London, fails to serve. I found myself in Somerset and I was just endlessly frustrated that I could see that train lines went from A to B, but no trains appeared to operate on them, unless, as I say, I wanted to go to London. Which sometimes I do, but often I do not.

I thought, "What is needed is for a train operating company that is a co-operative to start bringing ideas forward that meet the needs of people at the grassroots, and meet the needs of communities that have been isolated and forgotten about." We were able to get a little team together and we got a small grant from the Co-operative Group, bless them, and we started doing some early feasibility studies.

I suppose the first conclusions that we came to were that although there were some very romantic ideas out there about re-opening branch lines and laying new track and building new stations, the blunt honest truth was that that was going to be borderline impossible for us as a small group starting from scratch to pull off. That was too advanced. That we had to find some more manageable goal to work toward in the first instance.

To cut a long story short, we find ourselves in the present with a good credible route, from Taunton to Nuneaton, so that’s using that linking track through Melksham, it's using the little cord that links Swindon and Oxford. There is absolutely no convenient way at present to go from Taunton to Frome on a regular basis, from Frome to Swindon, no really easy way to go from Swindon to Oxford, or from Swindon to Coventry, and no very convenient way to go from Oxford to Nuneaton, or Oxford to Coventry. Bear in mind, Coventry is going to be one of the closest points to the high speed rail terminal for the north of England. And Nuneaton is on the west coast mainline. So these are really important places to be able to get to for all sorts of longer journeys.

It's quite a clever route. Really achieves a lot of things, and the plan is to operate it with one train every two hours, which is a modest starting point, and we've proved that 30 percent of the revenue that we generate on that route will be new travellers on the rail network. People who would otherwise be driving cars. The rest admittedly will be shifting from other less convenient trains to our train.

Read more here.

While a great idea, co-operative train company, personally I would rather see British Rail back as a national company, and why could it not be a co-op?

Affordable solar power is coming to low-income minority neighborhoods

Lower electric bills are the big attraction for financially stressed families

In the predominantly African-American neighborhood of Broadway Heights in San Diego, nearly half of the 192 homes have rooftop solar panels. Neighbor after neighbor talks about what they could now afford. They were paying $200 and $300 a month in electric bills. Now they’re paying zero to $50.

“Now I can get my air conditioner!” said Thresia Route, 62, an information technology administrator.

In Southern Homes and Gardens, an affordable townhouse cooperative in predominantly African-American Southeast Washington, 55 of 90 residences have rooftop solar panels. On-site manager Telana Felder calls solar “my best friend” to escape her former monthly bills of $150 to $200.

“Last month the bill was $4, then this month it was $14,” Felder said. “It was so low I said something was wrong, so I called. They said it was because I had credits from the solar.”

These are among the thousands of moderate- to low-income families and fixed-income retired seniors who are the vanguard in communities of color that are now enjoying solar power. Under a wide variety of state and federal policies and funding mechanisms, and under both nonprofit and for-profit business models, such families are changing the face of renewable energy, broadening the diversity of solar customers with respect to race and income.

Read more here.

Antifa, Black-bloc and other so-called Anarchists

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Antifa-BlackBlocAll around the “Western” world, at almost any kind of demonstration, we will see them, those black clad figures who go by whatever name they may chose, who do not just dress alike but act all alike as if they have been trained at the same “academy”, hellbent on causing mayhem and turning even the most peaceful demonstration into a riot.

They claim to be anarchists, anti-fascists, left-wing radicals, and more but are they? They would not recognize anarchism means if it would bite them in the proverbial and they are neither left, as in socialist or communist. They are the stormtroopers of the neo-liberal elite and they are funded and trained by various neo-liberal foundations, and one in particular.

Those so-called Antifa, Anarchists, or by whatever other name they may go, are not the friends of the people and neither of democracy, liberty and socialism. They are the complete antithesis of this. They are wearing a mask, and that not only literally, behind which they hide their true intentions and their true masters we do not know but masters they certainly do have, masters with lots of money, which they hand out freely to those doing their bidding, namely those black clad and masked agent provocateurs.

Those that believe that those Antifa, etc., are left and anti-fascists better wake up and that fast. They are not even left Fascists; they are Fascists, namely neoliberal ones and neoliberalism, together with neo-conservatism, form one side of the same coin, the other side of which is fascism.

© 2017

Glass jar reuse

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

OK, I know, I keep repeating myself harping on about the reuse, repurposing and upcycling of glass jars (packaging waste) but it would appear that there are many who still have not gotten the message and toss most of those jars into the recycling bin (if they can even be bothered to do that).

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From left to right: Back row: storage jar,water bottle, beer glass. Front row: wine/drinking glass, whisky glass

The reuse potential, as well as that for repurposing and upcycling, of glass jars is, to some extent, only limited by your imagination. They are far too valuable a resource, for the individual, to waste, even if it is to put them into the recycling bin. Especially so as they are, more often than not, not recycled into new glass jars and and/or other glass products but are downcycled into the likes of a kind of sand for road building. On top of that you and I have paid for the jars in the purchase price of whatever the product was that was packaged in those glass jars. That is the way our grandparents and their parents saw this for sure and that is why they reused every one of them that they possibly could reuse.

I must admit that I hardly ever throw out a glass jar unless, that is, I really cannot reuse it in any way, shape or form. Some do only serve one other purpose and that is as containers for waste cooking fat which, when the jar is full, goes with the jar into the waste stream. Not the best way but still a great deal better than having such waste fats go down the drain – they never should – and block the sewage pipes, which the stuff will and does.

What makes me laugh, but sometimes I don't know whether I and we all should actually cry about this, is that so many will throw good reusable glass jars into the recycling bin and then go and buy themselves recycled glass storage jars for the kitchen and pantry. They do no seem to even realize, not even when it is being pointed out to them, that that is rather silly and that they could and should rather use clean jars that they toss for that purpose instead.

I tend to find it rather funny, though in a peculiar rather than a humorous way, that the comments one encounters when one suggests reuse of produce jars for storage rather than buying storage jars such as: “But they then don't all match” or even “they may not match the decor”.

Or, when suggesting reusing jars as drinking vessels: “But what about the thread?” Yes, so, what about the thread? Hipsters use Mason jars. Oh, well, but they are “Mason” jars. It's hip to use them.

Aside from reusing glass jars for the obvious, namely for storage of all manner of things, from dry produce, over buttons, nails and screws, to whatever, there are many other reuse uses that they can be put to. A word of warning though to those that have not notices it as yet, I am weird when it comes to reusing, repurposing and upcycling.

In the time before the First World War, and even after that, the poorer classes in society rarely had the money to buy expensive – for they were – drinking glasses for daily use and many, if not indeed all, household would use certain kinds of glass jars from produce as drinking vessels. From this, more than likely, is derived the English colloquialism of “having a jar” when talking about “having a drink”. As I said, I am weird, for I do exactly the same. I repurpose glass jars for drinking water, beer, spirits; all different sizes. So, if you come to my house don't expect the Scotch to be served in a cut glass tumbler or such – no, a small glass jar it will be and the same goes for wine, though the jar will be larger.

Glass jars were, in those days of our grandparents and their parents, but even in the time of our parents, also employed as vases for cut flowers. Why worry about an expensive cut glass vase to display flowers when it is the flowers that are to be the center of attention and not the crystal vase. A nice decent clean jar will equally suffice and for (almost) nothing. Also, if it falls and breaks, oh well, no real loss, use another one. And, as you may have guessed, I do the same. Not that I do much in the way of cut flowers. I rather leave the flowers in the garden.

The same, as to the possibility of breakage, and the fact that they did not actually have the money to buy 'proper' glasses, was why the poorer classes used glass jars of all kinds as drinking glasses. If a kid dropped one and it broke; well, there was another one somewhere that he could use.

Today it has actually become hip – as in hipsters – to use Mason® jars for drinking vessels by the aforementioned hipsters. It is seen as cool and in. But why buy good and not directly cheap canning jars for this purpose and not use rather glass packaging jars? Oh , yes, sorry, forgot, because that is hip and also probably because of the pretty writing on the glasses.

Oh yes, and all the other pretty tricks that they show on the Internet as what to do with Mason® or Ball® canning jars – which now come from the same firm, by the way, namely Ball® – can all be done equally with empty glass produce jars.

So, once again think reuse, repurpose and upcycle before the trip to the recycling bin with your empty glass jar.

© 2017

Stroke and dementia risk linked to artificial sweeteners, study suggests

Drinking a can of diet soft drink a day associated with almost three times higher risk, say researchers – but critics warn against causal connection

Consuming a can a day of low- or no-sugar soft drink is associated with a much higher risk of having a stroke or developing dementia, researchers claim.

Their findings have prompted renewed questions about whether drinks flavoured with artificial sweeteners can increase the risk of serious illness, as heavily sugared drinks have already been shown to do.

“Drinking at least one artificially sweetened beverage daily was associated with almost three times the risk of developing stroke or dementia compared to those who drank artificially sweetened beverages less than once a week,” according to the American researchers who carried out a study published in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association.

“After adjustments for age, sex, education (for analysis of dementia), calorific intake, diet quality, physical activity and smoking, higher recent and higher cumulative intake of artificially sweetened soft drinks were associated with an increased risk of ischaemic stroke, all-cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease dementia,” the co-authors write.

Those consuming at least a can of so-called diet drinks every day were 2.96 times more likely to suffer an ischaemic stroke and 2.89 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank them less than once a week, they found.

Ischaemic strokes occur when blood cannot get to the brain because of a blockage, often one caused by a blood clot forming in either an artery leading to the brain or inside a vein in the brain itself. They comprise the large majority of the 152,0000 strokes a year which occur.

Surprisingly, though, the research also contradicted previous studies by finding that sugared drinks did not raise the risk of either serious outcome. It is based on data for more than 4,300 participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term medical research project in the United States.

Read more here.

Green Investment Bank sold to fracking investor

  • Green Investment Bank sold to fracking investor – what could possibly go wrong?
  • Green Investment Bank – started with public money – being sold by the government to an Australian company.
  • The bank was set up in 2012 to fund renewable energy projects

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

gib_3The Green Investment Bank (GIB), set up by the UK government five years ago, has been sold to Macquarie Bank, with a value of £2.3bn.

The Treasury secures £1.7bn through the process, with a further £600m of liabilities taken on by the Australia-based business lender, which has holdings in fossil fuel and fracking projects.

The bank was set up to fund renewable and low-carbon projects and has invested about £800m per year so far. That includes total government funding of £1.5bn since 2012. The deal with Macquarie should see that rise to £3bn per year over three years. I am not holding my breath on that one though and the reader will see why not by reading further.

The deal does requires the new owner to retain its name and headquarters team in Edinburgh. But, as far as we can see, there seems to be no requirement to actually continue the business of supporting green energy and other ventures.

Macquarie Group, which bought the publicly owned body, claimed it wanted to use the purchase to develop a reputation as one of the “key green investment channels” in Europe. (Yeah, and pigs fly!)

Environmentalists, however, have expressed concerns about the future green credentials of the GIB given the Macquarie Group's other operations and investments.

The sale of the GIB is part of the UK Government's long-term strategy of selling-off state assets it calls “liabilities” and reducing the government's commitment to subsidizing green investment in any way. Campaigners have already criticized the UK Government for cutting subsidies to windfarms in 2015 and early 2016.

Those “liabilities”, as far as the British Tory government is concerned, also includes, no doubt the National Health Service and other still publicly owned assets. Everything that does not give them backhanders and makes money for their cronies is, obviously, a “liability”.

The green credentials of the supposed Green Investment Bank are now in tatters. Why would the new owners allow for genuine green investments to be made if they are going to impact on the profitability of the company's previous investments? That would go against all capitalist business sense. (The track record of the Macquarie Group speaks for itself, as we will see below).

Research by Market Forces has found Macquarie's fossil fuel exposure is at least £1.55bn since 2008, including £255m provided for the Maules Creek Mine in Australia, for which some of the vast Leard State Forest was destroyed.

Macquarie was also a key player in the purchase of opencast coal mine assets in Europe, and was fined millions by the US financial regulator for backing a shell Chinese coal mining company.

As an early supporter of the global drive for shale gas, Macquarie is the largest shareholder of Hutton Energy, which holds fracking licenses in the UK.

Still questions?

© 2017

The Key to Feeding the World? It’s Healthy Soil

Conventional farming practices that degrade soil health undermine humanity’s ability to continue feeding everyone over the long run.

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One of the biggest modern myths about agriculture is that organic farming is inherently sustainable. It can be, but it isn’t necessarily. After all, soil erosion from chemical-free tilled fields undermined the Roman Empire and other ancient societies around the world. Other agricultural myths hinder recognizing the potential to restore degraded soils to feed the world using fewer agrochemicals.

When I embarked on a six-month trip to visit farms around the world to research my forthcoming book, “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” the innovative farmers I met showed me that regenerative farming practices can restore the world’s agricultural soils. In both the developed and developing worlds, these farmers rapidly rebuilt the fertility of their degraded soil, which then allowed them to maintain high yields using far less fertilizer and fewer pesticides.

Their experiences, and the results that I saw on their farms in North and South Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Ghana and Costa Rica, offer compelling evidence that the key to sustaining highly productive agriculture lies in rebuilding healthy, fertile soil. This journey also led me to question three pillars of conventional wisdom about today’s industrialized agrochemical agriculture: that it feeds the world, is a more efficient way to produce food and will be necessary to feed the future.

Myth 1: Large-scale agriculture feeds the world today

According to a recent U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, family farms produce over three-quarters of the world’s food. The FAO also estimates that almost three-quarters of all farms worldwide are smaller than one hectare—about 2.5 acres, or the size of a typical city block.

Read more here.

Cycling to work ‘could halve risk of cancer and heart disease’

'There’s an urgent need to improve road conditions for cyclists,' says cycling charity

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Commuters who swap their car or bus pass for a bike could cut their risk of developing heart disease and cancer by almost half, new research suggests – but campaigners have warned there is still an “urgent need” to improve road conditions for cyclists.

Cycling to work is linked to a lower risk of developing cancer by 45 per cent and cardiovascular disease by 46 per cent, according to a study of a quarter of a million people.

Walking to work also brought health benefits, the University of Glasgow researchers found, but not to the same degree as cycling.

The 264,337 participants were asked how they travelled to work on a typical day. Their health was monitored for five years and the results adjusted for variables such as sex, age, existing illness, smoking and diet.

Overall, people who cycled to work were found to have a 41 per cent lower risk of premature death from any cause, compared to those who drove or took public transport.

The scientists said: “The findings, if causal, suggest population health may be improved by policies that increase active commuting, particularly cycling.”

These policies could include “the creation of cycle lanes, cycle hire or purchase schemes, and better provision for cycles on public transport,” they wrote in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Read more here.

Reuse in the garden

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

I know, we have, basically, been here the other day but nevertheless there are other things aside from the gallon buckets and such that can find a reuse in the garden.

Fireworks_Store-Greenhouse1_webWorking as a groundsman in a municipal park we come across some flytipped things every now and then and I like to make sure that nothing has to go to the tip that does not need to and that includes shopping carts. While the latter do, in fact, belong to the stores whence they came before they were dumped as the stores, generally, refuse to come an collect them they end up as scrap. Well, they don't have to. They make great – mobile – planters when lines with builders' bags (tonne bags) or some other means. Great for growing carrots as they are just the right height to be well out of the vector of the carrot root fly.

Coke_Can_Pot_Stand1_webHowever, there are also a few other things that I have made use of, not counting aforementioned shopping carts, such as old bath tubs that have been dumped, as well as a polycarbonate display cabinet that once held fireworks (see photo above) and a stand for Coke cans (see photo below). The fireworks display cabinet is a kind of greenhouse now and the Coke can stand holds plant puts with seedlings and cuttings. It may not look like designed by the garden designers of the Chelsea or Hampton Court Flower Shows of the RHS but then again it came for free. And who, anyway, could ever afford those designer gardens?

The large plastic water bottles, the 5 liter variety, which are mostly square, and being left behind during picnics quite frequently, make very useful cloches for tender plants or to bring on plants even when there is no longer a real risk of cold and frost. Again they may not looks as fashionable as the manufactured cloches one can buy but, then again, they cost nothing and keep those plastic containers out of the waste stream; for a while at least as eventually they will get brittle and need to got the way all others go.

Many old folks used to create path edging and edging for beds using empty glass bottles and this is something that, actually, can look very pretty indeed. But as I rather use tubs and other containers for my gardening I don't actually do that. I have other uses for glass bottles before they end up in the recycling stream.

Those are just a few thoughts and ideas about reuse in the garden. I am sure many of us, at least those that do do gardening, could come up with a few more things.

© 2017

2017 UK General Election

By Michael Smith (Veshengro)

2010-06-26-solidarityIn a surprise move British Prime Minster Theresa May announced on Tuesday, April 18, 2017 that she is calling a snap general election for June 8, and on Wednesday, April 19, MPs have “overwhelmingly” backed her in this.

Now we are once again asked to make our choice who is allowed to lord it over us but as we have, at present, no better system at hand we have but one choice, that is to say choosing from two parties, the Tories or Labour. Everything else is a wasted vote and if you want a change to the destruction that is being meted out to this country by May's Tories at the moment, whether you are for or against Brexit, the only choice there is is Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

A vote for the Green Party, for instance, is a vote for neo-liberalism as is a vote for the Lib-Dems, the traitors who betrayed the people the last time round when they went into coalition with the Tories. Already now Tim Farron has basically said, by not ruling it out, that the Lib-Dems could be prepared to go into coalition again with the Tories. All just so they can get – somehow – into power, even if only as second fiddle players.

The neoliberals of the Greens and the Lib-Dems will want to keep the UK under the thumb of the neoliberal European Union where democracy means absolutely nothing and which is not just headed towards a federal Europe but actually towards something that will make all the nation states in this one Europe into regions, with, if the lords of Brussels get their way, appointed governors and cabinets and the people having no say in the matter whatsoever.

The Communist Party in Britain did see this coming and that is why they advised to vote for leaving the EU and it was, basically, the late Bob Crow, a true socialist and working class hero, who started the campaign of NO2EU for the trade unions and the labor movement.

As I have said above, there is no other choice, as the current system does not allow for it, and a social democrat government by Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is by far the better outcome than a continuation of austerity and the oppression of the poor and less well off under May and the Tories. The way May and her party are proceeding they will make Thatcher look like St. Francis of Assisi by comparison.

At present there is, as said, but one choice to effect any kind of change and that is a vote for Jeremy Corbyn and Labour. A vote for any other party is a wasted vote.

Only a Labour government can guarantee our environmental policies to continue, and even improve, as far as green issues are concerned, and will put an end to austerity and the oppression of the poor. Another five years of May and the Tories will destroy the working class and the poor and literally lead to deaths among the less well off, the unemployed and disabled. We must put a stop to that.

I know that the ideal case would be a true socialist party to come into office – I will not use the often mentioned “coming to power” for the power should and must rest with the people – but that ideal case we do not, as yet, have.

Do we need a worker's revolution in Britain? Yes! When? Ideally now, but that is not going to happen as the ground just is not ready for it. Thus, the only option is somewhat socialism lite in the form of social democracy as the old Labour Party had and maybe the Labour Party could get again under Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister.

Unless you want to continue the same Tory agenda that we have at present and worse then vote Jeremy Corbyn for Prime Minister. Voting for any other party is a wasted vote that will keep the Tories in power and not voting does the same. If you want a change in the way Britain is governed – until we can get down to a revolution of the working class – then it has to be a vote for JC4PM. So, let's make June the end of May and the Tories and their war on the poor and the environment.

© 2017

The true cost of landfill rubbish sites

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

We might as well be burying sacks of cash: The true cost of landfill rubbish sites

LandfillIt's not just dumping rubbish in a hole in the ground, you know. The act of sending rubbish to landfill sites is far more expensive and damaging as most people think, because it isn't all about burying waste in a hole in the ground and forgetting about it.

It would appear that more people need to know the true financial and environmental cost of waste disposal to encourage them into better recycling habits, or better still the habits of reducing waste and reusing what they have, including some packaging, such as glass jars, etc. And this Blog is dealing often enough with the hows and wherefores of this, including instructions.

Recycling, as we have discussed before, is also not the be all and end all that it is made out to be so often by the powers-that-be and others.

The “hidden” costs such as constant monitoring of landfill sites mean that burying rubbish is not the simple relatively cost-free solution many people believe it to be – and if people knew the truth there would be more pressure on the authorities to cut landfill use to the bare minimum. The cost is thousands of pounds, per site, per year, until eternity, basically. But pressure must also be brought to bear to do the recycling bit properly.

Waste reduction, and that is where industry and retail also and especially has a great part to play, is the first and utmost priority. Then comes reuse, repurposing and upcycling, by individuals and others. Then comes recycling including composting and anaerobic digestion for methane production. The final small amount, and should really only be a small amount of things that can't go the other routes, should then be not buried in the ground but burned in waste to energy plants.

The uncomfortable fact is that even dormant landfill sites need monitoring years after they close. The threat of pollution and other hazards remains real decades after the last truck has delivered its load. In addition to that they leak methane for many more decades to come. Though as to the latter, the methane, that problem could be dealt with – if the will would be there – by using it as a source for energy generation. Even though methane being basically natural gas and thus can be used to power electricity generation and could also be piped into homes for heating and cooking most landfill sites simply vent it off. That despite the fact that methane is many times more dangerous a greenhouse gas than is carbon dioxide.

If people knew how much it costs – both in financial and environmental terms, everybody, I should think, would make greater efforts toward ethical waste disposal and also and especially hold authorities and industry to account.

All this monitoring is incredibly expensive, and the costs involved will continue over many years to ensure public and environmental safety. It is a sum of tens of thousands of pounds for every site in the country and thus we are talking millions in total, every year, for decades and decades.

We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball and stop monitoring, as this could easily lead to the threat of local environmental catastrophe. Sites which closed decades ago are still having to be watched for methane gas and polluted ground water. By continuing to use landfill as a waste solution only adds to this problem.

The best thing we can do is to find greener, safer alternatives to burying our waste in big holes in the ground and pretending it is out of sight and out of mind and those are very much along the lines that I have mentioned above. It is serious time for a change if we do not want to create a legacy that – sooner or later and it probably will be sooner – is coming to haunt us and bite us in the proverbial. And that is aside from the money that it costs to maintain these places.

© 2017

Wooden Kitchen Implements

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

wooden kitchen implementsA simple stick was, more than likely, the first stirrer that people (would have) used for stirring the gruel in the pot and the Scottish spurtle, the traditional implement for stirring the porridge while it is cooking, is still very close to that original.

Sometime later, I should guess, the stirring paddle arrived, which then, later still, turned into the spatula.

The wooden spoon for stirring the pot, and especially for eating, I should think, at that time, was still a long way off and in coming. But it is evident from all this how ancient and traditional the use of wood is in the kitchen, and not just in the kitchen, obviously, and no one seems to have suffered any ill effects as the result of this use.

The stirring paddle, to some extent, is by far more efficient for, well, stirring, as is the wooden spoon though the latter has its uses for sure. More than likely the cooking spoon for use in stirring came about as as tool for multi-tasking, that is to say to also serve as a tasting spoon.

Wooden kitchen implements vary in design from culture to culture and often even from region to region, and that is just the basic tool. Each and every maker, no doubt, make variations on the theme (no, not Greensleeves).

Metal utensils, with the exception of the knife, and especially utensils made from plastic, have really only come into use in the last one and a half centuries or so; plastic obviously only in the last fifty or so years.

The Japanese use the Shamoji, the rice paddle, for “fluffing up” their rice after cooking (steaming); a tool that is virtually unknown in the West. Mind you, I still wonder as to whether one also might require a rice canoe to go with such a paddle. Some Eastern European cultures still the stew (or goulash) with wooden paddles (no, not the canoe kind) rather than wooden spoons and maybe we can learn something from those practices and cultures.

Wood in the kitchen is more hygienic that plastic, and metal even, including stainless steel, as many woods, if not indeed all woods, bar a few toxic ones, have ant-bacterial and anti-viral properties, some to a greater extent than others, with pine and the much maligned sycamore (Acer pseudoplantanus) in the lead here.

If you have used a plastic spatula in your skillet for some time you will notice how much of its original size will have gone over a couple of years, literally melted away. That plastic will have ended up in your food. Such will never happen with a wooden spatula.

Ever since the advent of plastic, from Bakelite until today, industry has tried to convince us that plastic would be so much better than wood and other natural materials and so much more hygienic and healthier for us. But this may not be at all the case as we come to find out more and more today. The damage, however, is done and especially to our woods and woodland industries. A reversal of the fortunes of both is possible but only if people change their ways and habits and return to traditionally crafted goods.

Yes, traditionally crafted wooden goods are somewhat more expensive than those mass produced wooden goods or those made somewhere in countries far away. On the other hand by buying homegrown traditionally crafted wooden goods the buyer invests in the local woodland economy and also in the woodlands.

So, put some homegrown wood into your kitchen (and other parts of your home).

© 2017

Trump's currency war against Germany

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

InGodWeTrump1_webNot so long ago everything was Putin's fault, now it's Trump's. At least for the moment Volodya can breathe a sigh of relief. Or at least that was the case at the time when I first started this article which was before the supposed gas attack in Syria.

It is not so much a currency war but a trade war against Germany (and the EU) and it was not started by Trump but by Obama.

Does anyone really think that the so-called VW emissions scandal, which also seems to have been, somewhat extended to other German and European car makers had really anything to do with cheating in the emission tests. It was known for a long time that that was going on and American car makers cheat better than all of them. It has nothing to do with that but all to do with the fact that Americans, in the eyes of the US government, have higher sales figures in the US than American ones. And that had to be stopped. Enter the emissions scandal.

On the financial front the attack on foreign, and again a German bank, namely Deutsche Bank, in the forefront, plus some British ones, with regards to cheating and other issues, runs along the very same lines. Also not started by President Trump but by the previous US government, under President Obama. But how could the Nobel Peace laureate be at fault. So, attack the new man. Especially as he is not liked by the neoliberal elite, to which Obama belonged and the candidate that lost, Hillary Clinton.

The US, under Obama, was working very hard on undermining Europe and the European economy, by a variety of ways and actions.

Let's look, for an example, at which European brand of cars is sold in the largest numbers in the US. It is Volkswagen (VW). So, in order thus to attack the German (and EU economies) you find a way of attacking the manufacturer of the particular make that you have an issue with, and create an issue that is not the issue you actually have with them. Telling the truth in that department could go against WTO rules, for instance. I guess the reader is getting the idea now from which direction the wind really was blowing.

As far as the USA were (and probably still are) concerned the EU, with Germany in the lead, are dangerous to them as far as the economic power is concerned and that has to be curbed. But it was not the current President who started this, even though the neoliberal media and their paymasters, the neoliberal elite, in Europe (and elsewhere) want us to believe that without questioning. But questioning we must everything that the media and the elite, and that includes our very own respective governments, presents to us, and that more so now than before.

It is also for that very reason that the EU was pushed to impose sanctions against the Russian Federation, with Germany, alas, leading the push for those actions, being a good vassal to the USA, as is her place.

Those sanctions hurt the economies in the EU countries, affecting, in Germany especially, the small and medium sized businesses (SMEs), while US companies continue to do business unabated with Russia. Not, necessarily, officially sanctioned but nevertheless not being stopped either.

This, and I know I am repeating myself, is a trade war, not a currency war, and it was not started by President Trump but by former President Obama. That's something that we have to get right and understand. It was started by the neoliberal elite in Washington (and the US per se) and aided and abetted, to some extend, by the same kind of people in Europe, not even realizing (or do they?) that it could destroy their own SMEs, and very much in the agricultural and food sector, but also in other sectors.

© 2017

Meet the ‘fix-perts’, an army of experts determined to get Britain on the mend

The Repair Café names the seven easiest things you can fix yourself (and that includes laptops), saving you a small fortune and benefiting the environment

Every year British households chuck out £800-worth of electrical goods, nearly half of which goes straight into landfill. Yet many of those items – as well as wonky bits of furniture – suffer a premature death that could be avoided with a simple repair. Trouble is, most householders have no confidence in their ability to fix things, and have been (profitably) trained to dispose of goods and buy new. But householders in many parts of the UK can now find a Repair Café where, over tea and biscuits, volunteer “fix-perts” give them the knowledge to help themselves in future.

Martine Postma launched the concept in Amsterdam in late 2009, and there are now 1,256 Repair Cafés around the world. They are all staffed by volunteers and designed to be free meeting spaces where visitors can bring their broken items, or just pop in and browse the selection of DIY books. They join the increasing number of events and workshops across the UK that can help you tackle the repair jobs yourself.

Over on BBC2’s The Repair Shop, it too aims to be an “antidote to the throwaway culture” – albeit with an emphasis that is firmly on sentimental rather than monetary value, inspiring viewers to repair and restore much-loved but damaged heirlooms instead of throwing them in the skip. Items featured have ranged from a favourite childhood toy and a 70s talking Dalek that had lost its ability to, well, talk, to a late grandad’s cherished Victorian garden gnome so badly battered and bruised he had been hidden away in a cupboard.

Victoria Jackson set up a branch of Repair Café in Brighton five years ago. As she says: “Most things can be fixed with a bit of imagination and lateral thinking. Electrical items can be tricky and are most in demand as people have a fear of opening them. One of the issues with repairing, as an individual, is that it often takes place behind closed doors in the privacy of our homes. By creating these social – and they are very social – events, it becomes a shared activity.”

A survey this week by insurer Aviva revealed how little confidence people have with even basic electricals. It found that 21% are not confident changing a light bulb, while 43% are nervous about wiring a plug.

Read more here.

The City of Austin will pay you to keep a chicken coop in your backyard

Do you dream of having your own chickens?

Dream no more. The City of Austin is offering free chicken keeping classes and is willing to pay you for it.

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he city announced Thursday that as a part of Austin Resource Recovery's Home Composting Rebate Program, Austinites can attend one of five "chicken keeping classes," buy a chicken coop, submit a rebate application online and receive a $75 check from the city.

Read more here.

Not everything that is plastic is 'disposables'

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Not all plastic things are meant to be “disposables” though it would appear that many people see more or less cheap items of plastic, which is not even plastic packaging (waste), as “disposable”, however. Yes, I am on my pet peeve again, unnecessary waste, and I am having a moan. Though educational I hope it to be as well.

I am coming across people's stupidity almost on a daily basis now again with picnics taking part more regularly in the park.

Salad bowl thrown away after picnic1_webThe picture above shows a perfect salad bowl – no not one in which salad was bought in a store but one that would have been bought as a bowl – just simply tossed into the litter bin – treated as a “disposable” item – simply because they could not be bothered to take it home to wash and reuse. The same, on the same day, also goes for a plastic baby feeding spoon that did not even make it into the bin but which was just thrown beside the bin. Needless to say neither item is on the way to landfill; they both came home with me to be – you guessed it – reused. (Apologies for the fuzziness of the picture of the baby spoon but the light was not right).

Thrown away baby spoon1_web1The bowl will be used exactly as its intention, as a salad bowl and the spoon, as I don't have a baby to feed around here, will be serving very well, due to shape, as a spoon with which to extract olives from a jar. Waste not, want not, as I keep saying.

The weird thing with this behavior is that it is not rich folks who do this but ordinary working class families who, one should think, cannot afford to be that wasteful. The saying: “The rich are rich because they live like poor, and the poor are poor because they live like rich.” seems very much to fit here.

What is most disconcerting with this all is that the message as to waste reduction, somehow, is not reaching those groups of people, who would benefit from it the most financially.

In addition to that I have to ask as whether laziness could also be a factor; too lazy to take it home with them and then too lazy to wash it up. Sometimes I am entirely at a loss as to what part of the message people actually do not understand. Is the word “reuse” really such a complicated one?

© 2017

A court just gave Sajid Javid the right to completely ignore democracy

A court just gave Sajid Javid the right to completely ignore democracy

A court has granted the Conservative government the right to essentially ignore local authority decisions. And the will of whole communities. Because a judge has ruled that Communities Secretary Sajid Javid acted within the law on a controversial fracking decision. A campaign group say the case may set a precedent.

You fracking what?

On 15 March the Preston New Road Action Group (PNRAG) took Javid and the government to a Manchester court. The group was challenging the decision by the Communities Secretary to allow oil and gas exploration company Cuadrilla to extract unconventional oil and gas – or ‘frack’ – at the Preston New Road site. This is near the village of Little Plumpton in Lancashire. PNRAG claimed Javid and the government had breached planning law. But Mr Justice Dove disagreed, saying no PNRAG arguments “have been made out in substance”.

Frack you, Javid

Moreover with this case, the government overrode the decisions of Westby Parish Council, Fylde Borough Council and Lancashire County Council. All three refused to grant Cuadrilla a licence to frack.

PNRAG told The Canary at the time of Javid’s decision:

It is wholly undemocratic. The ramifications of overturning local planning decisions are huge… Ordinary people are appalled… Dismantling the democratic process to facilitate a dirty fossil fuel industry… is another example of… governmental hypocrisy. It is clear to all that this government neither listens nor can it be trusted to do the right thing for local communities. Profit clearly comes before people.

Frack the police

Javid’s decision has caused controversy in the Lancashire community. Cuadrilla officially began work on 5 January. And ever since, protesters have been at the site. But their demonstrations against the work have not been without incident. As The Canary previously reported, protesters and local councillors have accused police at the site of “gratuitous violence”. The police deny those accusations.

Read more here.

NYC will get its first zero-waste store this spring, thanks to Lauren Singer

Lauren Singer & Daniel Silverstein

Singer, the mastermind behind 'Trash is for Tossers', wants to make waste-free living as easy and accessible as possible.

In 2014, Lauren Singer invited TreeHugger to take an exclusive tour of her zero-waste apartment. The result was a beautiful slideshow revealing her spacious cupboards and drawers, plastic-free utensils, and uncluttered fridge filled with Mason jars. Over the past several years, Singer has gone on to achieve zero-waste fame with her blog, Trash is for Tossers, her inspiring TED talk, and a YouTube channel full of practical tips. She has also launched a natural laundry detergent company called The Simply Co.

Now Singer is on to another interesting project. Together with Daniel Silverstein, a fashion designer who utilizes discarded fabric to make clothes, she is opening a pop-up zero-waste store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from May till July. Called Package Free, its goal is to provide New Yorkers with the tools they need for trash-free living -- or, as the tagline says, to be able to "think outside the box," quite literally. If the pop-up proves successful, it could turn into a permanent store in the future.

Read more here.

Recycling a la Hyacinth Bucket

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Some of people's weird recycling habits revealed such as putting the recyclables through the dishwasher

recycling_iStock_000019128774XSmall-2Apparently thousands of people all over the UK put their recycling through the dishwasher before leaving out for the refuse collectors which has echoes of "Keeping Up Appearances" where posh Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced "Bouquet", you know) puts her milk bottles through the wash, many Brits admit to doing the same with jars, tins bottles and recyclable plastic.

However, this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg as to all kind of weird habits when it comes to putting out their recycling and rubbish bins.

From sorting by size and color down to shredding every piece of paper to come through the house are some of the habits on top of putting glass, plastic and tin packaging waste through the dishwasher – or the washing up in the bowl – in order to clean them and get the labels off.

A waste collector who recounted that they collect from one house where all the empty bottles are sorted in color order – clear, brown, green – every fortnight – made a very interesting comment and those words should be noted: It makes no difference to us, because they all end up in the back of the same lorry, he said. Here we have the truth about glass recycling. And the powers-that-be are still trying to tell us that they make new bottles and jars from those recyclables.

Putting the recyclables through the dishwasher – unless they are washed with other stuff – is a tremendous waste of energy. Washing or rinsing by hand is the way to go, just watch out for those sharp edges.

It is also worth noting that shredding your sensitive documents prior to putting them out for recycling is a sensible idea, especially if you put your waste paper out the night before.

Bin night is jackpot time for the old-school identity thieves as bank and credit card statements, forms featuring dates of birth are exactly what they're looking for.

When it comes to weird “recycling” habits I personally will probably be in the top ten of the list and Hyacinth Bucket has nothing on me but then I “recycle” in a strange way compared to most. Not actually having a collection where I live there are no recycling bins to put things in for kerbside collection and not having a car it is also not an option to take it to recycling centers. Thus I have a number of ways of my own.

Glass jars, for example, are washed and labels removed and then kept for reuse. Hardly any glass jar gets thrown as I have so many things that they come in handy for.

Glass bottles do not, necessarily, have a reuse potential but being a woodworker broken they make for great scrapers, as in glass shave.

Paper & card does all go through the shredder. On one account for security reasons and on another to make it small enough for, while I had hens, the paper was used as bedding for them and then went into the compost; now it just goes into the compost.

At other times card stock is recycled into business cards, index cards, note cards, etc. Why buy things that I can make out of what would be waste.

Plastic containers also are always being looked at with a reuse potential before even the thought of throwing them comes along, and that includes the plastic milk jugs in which most milk today is being sold in the UK and the US, and probably in most countries.

From those milk jugs I cut templates for spoon carving, leather-working, etc., and also make many other things, including sandwich boxes, scoops, cloches for gardening, and much more. Told you, I am strange.

© 2017

How to Design Our Neighborhoods for Happiness

When we share our yards, sidewalks, and other common spaces, we find a greater sense of belonging and connection to those around us.

Conover Commons

Biology is destiny, declared Sigmund Freud.

But if Freud were around today, he might say “design is destiny”—especially after taking a stroll through most modern cities.

The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives. Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore enjoy fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place. A neighborly sense of the commons is missing.

You don’t have to be a therapist to realize that this creates lasting psychological effects. It thwarts the connections between people that encourage us to congregate, cooperate, and work for the common good. We retreat into ever more privatized existences.

Of course, this is no startling revelation. Over the past 40 years, the shrinking sense of community across America has been widely discussed, and many proposals outlined about how to bring us back together.

One of the notable solutions being put into practice to combat this problem is New Urbanism, an architectural movement to build new communities (and revitalize existing ones) by maximizing opportunities for social exchange: public plazas, front porches, corner stores, coffee shops, neighborhood schools, narrow streets, and, yes, sidewalks.

But while New Urbanism is making strides at the level of the neighborhood, we still spend most of our time at home, which today means seeing no one other than our nuclear family. How could we widen that circle just a bit? Cooperative living and cohousing communities are gaining popularity, especially among young people. Yet, millions more people are looking for more informal arrangements with neighbors, where they share more than a property line.

That’s an idea Seattle-area architect Ross Chapin has explored for many years, and now showcases in an inspiring book: Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating a Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World.

Read more here.

UK grid hits 26% solar. (In early April.)

solar power

"With falling minimum demands on the transmission system, we anticipate there may be times this summer when there is more generation on the system than is needed."

That's how the UK's grid operator, National Grid, describes the anticipated situation this coming summer as the country's solar capacity—which has grown at an astounding rate over the last decade—fundamentally reshapes supply and demand curves.

Growth has been so rapid, reports Business Green, that solar momentarily hit a record high of 26% of electricity supply this past Sunday afternoon. Not bad for early April. (Wind also hit a record 20.59% earlier in the same day.)

With these successes, however, come growing pains. As the National Grid statement quoted from above makes clear, there are likely going to be times when the grid is strained by more supply than demand. That's why National Grid is planning on curtailing some power production during sunny days. The company is also increasing its investments in demand-side adjustments through its so-called Demand TurnUp program, whereby businesses are actually rewarded for shifting energy-intensive operations to times of peak supply.

Read more here.

Invest in future foresters

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

ForestryThe British Royal Forestry Society has launched an appeal and a program for investment in future foresters to encourage young people into forestry, and help them gain skills.

Today 55% of foresters in this country are over 40 and only 11% are under 25. in other words, soon there won't be any around anymore. The old ones will be retiring or not able to continue working while there is no new life coming into the “industry”. Personally I hate to use the word “industry” for forestry and woodland management and working in forests and woodlands but we lack another term for it.

• Forestry and related courses are struggling for applicants

• Shortage of skills at all levels

• lack of awareness of forestry as a career option

• Students qualifying with very little practical experience

Huge growth is planned for the timber sector – this will require more skilled workers. But where to find those workers if they are not being trained? The problem is that even if a youngster at school expresses an interest for a career in forestry, horticulture, etc., in general, and this is especially so if he or she is a bright kid, that the school, because of league tables, will do its utmost to persuade the young person into a different career. This has to change.

The RFS FUTURE FORESTERS program intends strengthen the forestry “industry”, by:

• Promoting forestry as a career option to teenagers and secondary schools

• Giving up to date information, through the Online Forestry and Arboriculture Careers Guide

• Helping students find work experience

• Granting bursaries and awards to help students gain knowledge and recognition

The same is true not just in large-scale forestry, that is to say that foresters are getting older and there are very few young people entering the “industry” (how I hate that word with regards to forestry and farming), but also and especially in the management of smaller woodlands and woodland operations and we have a serious lack of woodsmen/underwoodsmen working the woods, the mixed broad-leaf ones, and especially in the old way of coppicing.

In the latter case, unfortunately, there is not program available from any source, and especially nor bursaries, that would help train more of those woodsmen that are so desperately needed to put our mixed broad-leaf woods back into use and production.

In that department we need some kind of apprentice scheme or schemes where it would be possible for younger – and also not so young people – to learn the skills, in practice and theory, from the old woodsmen. But, alas, those are nowadays far and few between; the old and experienced woodsmen that is.

The biggest obstacle though, in attracting young people to forestry and woodland management is not the young people themselves and that they do not want to go for a “career” in this sector but, like with horticulture, that secondary schools all too often try to dissuade, and that quite vehemently, young people from going to agricultural college to do horticultural or woodland management courses. All the schools are interested in is the league tables and pupils not going for university courses seem to badly affect those.

It is the same with the vocational schools that had their funding and status withdrawn simply because they were teaching practical subjects and especially outdoors trades. There a change will need to be effected before we will see anything happening.

© 2017

Farms could slash pesticide use without losses, research reveals

Study shows almost all farms could significantly cut chemical use while producing as much food, in a major challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry

Virtually all farms could significantly cut their pesticide use while still producing as much food, according to a major new study. The research also shows chemical treatments could be cut without affecting farm profits on over three-quarters of farms.

The scientists said that many farmers wanted to reduce pesticide use, partly due to concerns for their own health. But farmers do not have good access to information on alternatives, the researchers said, because much of their advice comes from representatives of companies that sell both seeds and pesticides.

The work presents a serious challenge to the billion-dollar pesticide industry, which has long argued its products are vital to food production, especially with the world population set to grow to nine billion people by 2050.

However, this was dismissed as a “myth” in March by UN food and pollution experts, who said pesticides cause “catastrophic impacts on the environment and human health” and accused pesticide manufacturers of a “systematic denial of harms”. In a further blow, the Guardian revealed in March that Europe is poised to ban the world’s most widely used insecticides from all fields.

Read more here.

How much food can you grow in six foot?

Growing ladders are simple, effective way of growing more in a small space.

How much food can you grow in six by three foot (two by one metres)?

After growing £900 of food in a year on my London balcony and £548 in six months in my Newcastle concrete backyard, I’m intrigued to find out.

I’ve built two growing ladders (see picture above), which enable me to have three or four times the number of containers in the same space. If you’re not in a position to make your own, they can be bought – search for ‘allotment ladders’ or ‘plant theatres’.

Starting on 1 April 2017 I’ll be weighing the harvests and working out how much they’d cost if bought from the shops.

No space to grow?

I hope to highlight that, even if you don’t have a garden, you can still grow lots of food…. as long as you can find a small piece of concrete, that gets a few hours sun.

If you don’t have a balcony, patio, roof terrace or any other outdoor space at home, you might be able to find another space to grow. Perhaps at work (grow salad with your colleagues?), with a neighbour (I’ve grown in my neighbours front yard), or in a community space near you (like a church).

Read more here.

Ongoing changes to our cash

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The new 12-sided £1 coinOnly recently Britain brought out a new £5 note, a sort-of plastic one – let's forget for a moment the issue of the polymer made with animal fat – and now also coins are undergoing changes.

On March 28, 2017 a new 12-sided £1 coin came out replacing the existing £1 coin, of which about one in 40 are thought to be fake. The old coin will remain legal tender until 15th October 2017, after which shops are under no obligation to accept it.

Soon after each and every introduction the old notes and coins stop being legal tender, as you can see above. Ever considered why that is and why we have having more and more changes over the last couple of years?

No, it has virtually nothing to do with making notes (and coins) less prone to counterfeiting but everything to do with the fact that the powers-that-be (but really should not be) intend to stop us hoarding cash. Cash in our possession at home, whether under the mattress or in the cookie jar, or in a safe, is something that they cannot control and that is something that is an anathema to them. Cash (at home) equals freedom. Do I have to say more?

In years gone by, in the UK at least, the only changes that were ever made to coins and notes was the head of the sovereign and, maybe, the pictures, if there were any, on the back. The white £5 note existed for decades and decades in the same shape and form and the same went for the coins and they remained legal tender even into the time of decimalization; at least a number of them, without changes initially. The Florin became the 10p coin, for instance, and was legal tender for many years after decimalization.

In the last couple of decades, however, the powers-that-be have changed the design of the cash currency more often than they have changed anything else and always, within a very short space of time, the old notes and coins stopped being legal tender. This prevents people keeping their savings – or cash income – at home rather than on a bank account where it can become subject to seizure. People have already experienced how quickly their accounts can be frozen by the authorities for often obscure reasons, and often in error.

In the event of a (banking) crash having one's financial assets in bank accounts – as we are all basically forced to do nowadays – can mean that they are inaccessible for a time, that they are used to bail out the banks (without compensation to the account holders), etc.

We can also see this as a reason for the ongoing push towards a totally cashless society. It has nothing to do with security, with prevention of money laundering and other criminal activities, but everything with total control over the lives of the people.

© 2017

Polish law change unleashes 'massacre' of trees

New law allows private landowners to cut down any number of trees without applying for permission or even informing authorities

A controversial change to Polish environmental law has unleashed what campaigners describe as a “massacre” of trees across the country.

The new amendment, commonly known as “Szyszko’s law”, after Jan Szyszko, Poland’s environment minister, removes the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees, pay compensation or plant new trees, or even to inform local authorities that trees have been or will be removed.

The change came into force on 1 January and has led to a surge in tree-felling, with activists reporting newly cleared spaces in cities, towns and parts of the countryside all over Poland.

“The law allows any tree on private property to be cut down by the owner, even if it is 200 years old,” said Joanna Mazgajska of the Institute of Zoology at the Polish Academy of Sciences. “Many private citizens regard trees on their land as a nuisance. They don’t report, they just cut – it’s barbarism.”

Although the new law prohibits private landowners from engaging in commercial developments themselves on land that has recently been cleared of trees, it contains a loophole: there is nothing stopping them from selling the land to developers as soon as the trees have been cut down.

“A company can sell a plot of land to a private individual for a nominal fee, the individual cuts down the trees, and then sells it back to the company. Legally, there is nothing stopping them from doing so,” said Dagmara Misztela of the campaign group Gdzie Jest Drzewo (Where’s The Tree). “We used to advise local people on how to register an objection to trees being cut down in their area, but now there is no objection process at all.”

Read more here.

The experts’ guide to making your garden bloom on a budget

As many of us return to the garden and wonder how to make it flourish, we asked five of the country’s leading green-fingered experts how to avoid throwing away cash in a garden centre

‘Repurposed containers make a great statement’

Frances Tophill is a gardening TV presenter and author

However tempting they look, don’t buy spring bulbs. With the exception of snowdrops, which actually do need to be bought in a pot with compost, spring bulbs are best bought and planted in late summer or autumn when they are dried. If you buy flowering bulbs in a pot you will pay over the odds.

Bulbs from Poundland can be a great bargain, but don’t be duped into buying spring bulbs now. Only late-flowering plants, such as nerine, amaryllis or colchicums, should be planted at this time of year.

When you look for plants in a garden centre, never look for flowers. If a plant has a nice healthy clump at the base then there is nothing stopping you from dividing it. Spring is the perfect time to do this. Just break up the plant you’ve bought, making sure each clump has some roots, and plant them. By next year you’ll have two or three healthy plants for the price of one.

Keep on trend and on budget by cultivating succulents – I really like crassula and haworthia. Rather than buying individual plants, buy a bigger pot crammed full of plants and split them up. You can pot them in almost anything – an old picture frame, little terracotta pots, broken mugs. Just make sure the plants are in plenty of gravel and get lots of light.

While anything can be used for bringing on seedlings or cuttings, if you are planning more aesthetic features, upcycle things you may have lying around. Old boots, tin cans, suitcases, dustbins, buckets and basically anything else you can think of. Repurposed containers make a great statement as well as being completely free.

Reuse spent compost from seeds and put it on your veg beds. It all helps.

Read more here.

Square Mile coffee cup recycling challenge nothing but a stunt

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Square Mile ChallengeMajor coffee retailers and businesses in the London Square Mile have on April 3, 2017 joined forces to launch a scheme which aims to recycle half a million coffee cups in London this month, edie reports.

The problem is that it is greenwashing and edie is participating in this very act. The great majority of disposable coffee cups cannot be recycled – at least not as yet in the recycling facilities of today – due to the fact that they are a laminate or card and a liner, which in times gone by was a wax material but now is a plastic substance.

Square Mile Challenge bins in the shape of bright yellow coffee cups will be in place on the City's streets and while it makes for nice photo-ops it certainly does not much else.

The Square Mile Challenge will see more than 100 high street coffee retailers, such as Caffè Nero, Costa and Starbucks, offer recycling facilities and accept coffee cups in their stores, regardless of where they were purchased.

Meanwhile, the offices of 34 City-based companies, including the likes of Lloyd's and Deloitte, will be used to collect paper coffee cups, helping divert them in into a new waste stream.

Unless the organizers of this stunt, the environmental charity Hubbub, in collaboration with recycling company Simply Cups, know something that even the recycling facility operators don't know, then this is nothing but a stunt. The charity says that it is hope that through this “event” 5 million cups will be collected and recycled. Well, recycled where and how?

As I said, unless those people know something that even the experts and operators in the field of recycling know not, for they keep saying that, due to the composition of the material currently recycling is impossible and the only place where such cups go is the landfill, then this is a stunt at best and serious greenwash at worst.

London politicians are also in on this trying to bamboozle people. Only a few months back it was all over the news that it is basically impossible, at present, to recycle those takeout coffee cups and it was for that reason that a levy on them, a kind of tax, was to be introduced to encourage people to carry their own reusable cups. A message that is probably too hard to get across to the toffs in the City and hence we play at green.

© 2017

Mushroom tray to soil/compost riddle

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

mushroom_tray_soil_riddle1_webThose trays, thrown out at a daily basis by greengrocers and caterers alike, have many uses, as far as I am concerned, such as in the garden shed and elsewhere but also, as in this case, in the garden itself.

In the shed they are very useful to hold small tools, such as trowels, hand forks, etc., and they can be stacked one upon the other, to maximize space. If we can make use of them by reusing and repurposing them we can keep them out of the waste stream and the landfill, the place where most of them will, inevitably, end up, as recycling is more a myth than a reality.

When using using soils for sowing and potting you do not really want it to be too lumpy and homemade compost often does still have woody bit in it as well that you don't want in it when sowing seeds in trays or when potting on seedlings. In the beds or containers for growing when the plants are bigger it does not really matter. To remove any such lumpy material a riddle or sieve is required, as most experienced gardeners will know.

Soil riddles or soil sieves, while, when made from plastic, are not the most expensive items for the gardener, such as when ALDI sells a small riddle and a scoop for less than £3, and dare I say you could probably get one at Poundland for, well, £1. But, if we reuse such trays for the same purpose we – one – do not have to spend any money at all, however little, and – two – we keep a tray or two of those out of the waste stream, at least for some time (eventually they will break and then they will go the way all of them go).

The great thing in this reuse and repurpose operation is that you don't even have to do any work to the item to make it work but you can just put it to work right away.

So get yourself a couple of those trays as they are useful in so many ways (sorry about the rhyme) and use one for a riddle.

© 2017

Scotland Yard has been accused of hacking campaigners' email accounts

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

New_Scotland_Yard_sign_webThe police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is investigating whether Scotland Yard detectives used hackers in India to target campaigners, including Greenpeace organizers.

A claim, made in a letter from a purported whistleblower, who appears to be a Detective in the Metropolitan Police, talks of hundreds of email accounts were monitored without legal authority. The letter further claims that officers shredded documents to cover up the monitoring, despite being ordered to preserve them.

If the alleged whistleblower's allegations are true, the IPCC said, then the hacking would be unlawful if personal communications were intercepted for any other reason other than to combat major crime, terrorism or some other serious public need. Such monitoring must be approved by the home secretary.

This is the same unit, it would appear, that has been infiltrating protest movements over the years and undercover officers even went as far as to have sexual relations with some of the female members they were spying on, including fathering children, under fake identities. Often those fake identities were those of dead children.

It would appear that the police and intelligence services of this country – and not of this country alone – believe themselves to be entirely above any laws and our respective governments actually collude in their actions. Nay, they encourage them even. Everyone who in even the slightest way disagrees with the actions of the government and the corporations is being seen as a dissident and worse, a (domestic) terrorist. What has happened to government and its agencies being accountable to the people?

© 2017

The dark side of recycling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

dark_side_of_recyclingRecycling is not the most sustainable method to protect the biosphere from greenhouse gasses and other pollutants. In fact the green circular economy of plastics manufacturing and re-manufacturing impacts severely on the environment.

Plastic waste dominates in households. Some of this waste is transported by the scrap-Mafia illegally abroad, especially, E-waste, to Third World countries such as countries in Africa and places in India. Other is legally sent for processing and reprocessing to places abroad, including China. Only a small percentage is actually processed and reprocessed in the countries where it is generated.

Much of the plastic waste, at least in many countries of Europe, is not actually recycled in any way, shape or form, but instead sent to so-called waste-to-energy plants, as in Sweden, for instance, or just simple incinerators. That is also the very reason that Sweden keeps running out of waste, namely waste to burn in those energy plants, and not because they recycle so well in that country.

The problem, while better than putting the stuff in landfill, is that burning this waste, releases emissions. According to research in Germany, however, it is a very small amount only, of all emissions in that country, for example. But as the emitted steam, so to speak, contains a high amount of water and dioxins are water repellent the measurement of gases can be very misleading. Better would be to measure concentrations in the released dust and nano-particles.

The danger with incineration of plastic waste is that often the contents cannot be clearly defined. Different plastic products contain different harmful substances and it is often very difficult to ascertain how dangerous such elements are for the health of people, animals and the Planet.

In many places the asthma rate near such incinerators has risen dramatically but whether this can be attributed to those plants alone or whether it has also other contributing factors is still to be ascertained.

Every tonne of so-called residual waste being burned releases about one tonne of carbon dioxide, together with other gasses and pollutants. Per tonne furthermore there remain 300 kg slag and dust, after the poisonous smoke gasses have been filtered.

The mechanical recycling of plastics also is not without problems. Many of today's jogging suits and other sports articles, as well as jumpers (sweat shirts) are made from so-called fleece. Those fleece textiles are made from mostly recycled plastics. Those textiles through abrasion during wear and washing release small particles, so-called micro- and nano-particles, which end up into the waste water. At sewage plants those small fibers cannot be filtered out of the water and thus this micro-plastic ends up in the rivers, and the seas and, also, in the food chain.

Theoretically there is only one way to over come this dilemma and that is a significant reduction of the use of plastic and, as far as micro-plastic fibers and particles go, maybe also and especially the use of plastic – whether recycled or virgin – for use of fleece and microfiber cloths, and such.

Also, maybe, just maybe, plastic packaging, if it has to be, could be designed in such a way that it – automatically – could have a second use, obvious to the consumer, that could extend the life of those plastic products for many years or even decades to come.

I have one of such products – well, it did not have the second use written on it but it was obvious, to me at least – that has been serving me in my kitchen now for over 20 years. (http://greenreview.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/jellied-eel-tub-reuse.html)

On the other hand we need to get away from the serious over-packaging of products, and especially here the multiple “wrapping”, as is often the case, and the overuse of plastic in wrapping and packaging fruit and vegetables as well.

Many of us out there think of how this issue of plastic pollution can be tackled and I shall be, in the virtual pages of this journal, be bringing the readers from time to time ideas and suggestion for reusing a variety of plastic packaging items to give those things a second life, and with it one that might be a great deal longer than intended by the original manufacturer. The small article on creating a dead-heading/forager's pouch from a 4pt milk just is but one of them. (http://greenreview.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/harvestingdeadheading-tub-from-milk.html).

© 2017