Green products 'should be the norm' – UK Government

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The British government has said that green products must become the norm on Britain's supermarket shelves and that the most harmful products need to change. I assume that one can but agree. However, one can also but wonder with what draconian laws they are going to want to enforce this.

The most harmful products, maybe, need not change; they must be superseded with products that do the same job but that are not harmful or, if need be, maybe, that are a lot less harmful.

Ministers made that call as they published updates on progress with the “Waste Strategy and the Sustainable Products and Materials Programme”. Oh dear, now there is a mouthful. I presume that it will have an acronym like WSSPMP or such.

Waste Minister Joan Ruddock said that government and industry were working together to make the whole life cycle of products and services more green.

"We know that people are concerned about their effect on the environment, but they do not get to see the full picture of what goes into producing the goods they buy and they do not see what happens after they have thrown them away," Ms Ruddock said.

"It needs to be easier for people to buy products that will save them money and reduce their impact on the environment, and that's exactly what we're doing.

"There are real savings to be made. Through this action to green the products and materials we use, UK households could save £5 billion a year on their bills." That is billion as in English billion and not American billion.

She added that the so-called “credit crunch” was making it even more important for businesses to use resources more efficiently.

Now it would be very nice if those green products actually would save people money and would be safer. Most of the time the green products cost an arm and a leg to buy and, as we can see with CFLs, have themselves an inherent danger, namely that of mercury.

When it comes to some products of the green range than may, nowadays, be cheaper on the supermarket shelves, such as Ecover dish washing liquid for instance, then there are issues there too. Firstly Ecover has been linked to high level a dangerous substance – namely Dioxane 1,4 – in it and secondly I personally have found that it cannot stand up in cleaning power and in value for money against a leading general brand of washing up liquid. The other one, though a little more expensive, of a non-green kind (though its color is very green) requires less of the liquid to use and works much more efficient with less irritation to my hands than with Ecover and, as one uses less, one saves money. So, where the savings are going to come from that Ms Ruddock mentions beats me.

The Sustainable Products and Materials report, which sets out progress with the piloting of ten Product Roadmaps, including the Milk Roadmap, was launched earlier this year.

It also includes details of government initiatives such as the “agreement” with retailers to take inefficient light bulbs off the shelves by 2011.

I really must say I like the term “agreement” here. Do we call that whitewash or greenwash, for the truth is that there is a law coming into effect that will make it illegal to sell incandescent light bulbs of the aforementioned inefficient kind and only CFLs will be permitted to be sold (and used) after the law comes into effect. So it is not so much as an agreement as a requirement on shops to remove the incandescent light bulbs from their shelves and from sale.

That is the way Britain tried to tackle all the environmental issues, with laws and threats and such. Same as in regards to waste reduction and recycling. It just does not appear to be possible to offer incentives for people to do “the right thing”, as is the case in so many other countries.

The summary of progress with the Waste Strategy revealed that the amount of residual household waste has dropped and household recycling is increasing.

Is this indeed the case or is it just a case that the bins are emptier, simply because fortnightly collections have been started and people fly tip rubbish rather than putting it into the bins.

It also showed the amount of commercial and industrial waste being sent to landfill has continued to fall and less biodegradable waste is finding its way to landfill.

The parks and open spaces, and farms, I should think, have seen a significant increase in fly tipping of ordinary household waste, including biodegradable waste, and especially also the so-called “green” waste, that is to say, garden refuse. The latter because in many ares the councils have been “forced” to take away the free collections of garden waste from householders and people now either have to bring such waste to the municipal refuse tips or have to pay a fee to have it collected.

Not a very green alternative that having to take it by vehicle to the rubbish dump as that often involves waiting in long lines for and hour or more with the engines of the cars left running.

Ministers said further work is needed to identify whether an increase in reports of fly tipping is a result of more fly tipping or improved information from local authorities to its Fly Capture national database.

This, no doubt, means a lot of wasted money for long-winded studies to then claim it is due to better reporting. That is a load of poppycock.

As someone who is involved with parks and open spaces on a daily basis I can vouch for the fact that the incidences of fly tipping, from small to large, are on the up and up, and I am certain that they are going to continue to rise the more we see the fortnightly collections and the removal or reduction of the other collections.

M Smith (Veshengro), July 2008