Plastic recycling

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

UK plastics recycling industry under investigation for fraud and corruption

The plastics recycling industry is facing an investigation into suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system amid warnings the world is about to close the door on UK packaging waste.

The Environment Agency (EA) has set up a team of investigators, including three retired police officers, in an attempt to deal with complaints that organized criminals and firms are abusing the system.

Six UK exporters of plastic waste have had their licenses suspended or canceled in the last three months, according to EA data. One firm has had 57 containers of plastic waste stopped at UK ports in the last three years due to concerns over contamination of waste.

Allegations that the agency is understood to be investigating include:
  • Exporters are falsely claiming for tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic waste which might not exist
  • UK plastic waste is not being recycled and is being left to leak into rivers and oceans
  • Illegal shipments of plastic waste are being routed to the Far East via the Netherlands
  • UK firms with serial offenses of shipping contaminated waste are being allowed to continue exporting.
The picture shows mixed household waste, which had been falsely and fraudulently declared as plastic recyclables, arriving at a Brazilian port.

UK households and businesses used 11m tonnes of packaging last year, according to government figures. Two-thirds of our plastic packaging waste is exported by an export industry which was worth more than £50m last year.

In light of this several councils in the UK have now withdrawn plastic kerbside recycling schemes and are telling residents to throw their plastic waste into the ordinary bins for landfill or incineration to energy. Others are, more than likely, are going to follow with this action.

A recycling expert told the BBC that we should not even consider sending such valuable materials abroad but instead build proper recycling businesses in the UK so that the UK would produce its own recycled plastic. It would create thousands upon thousands of jobs.

Who would have thought? Well I have and said this for years and years already but, alas, no one wanted to have it. The same goes for glass in so many instances where it is ground down to “sand” as road aggregate rather than actually be turned into new glass.

Now that China is refusing to take the world's garbage for “recycling” companies are simply shipping the stuff to other. Mostly Third World countries which do not have any proper recycling infrastructure of any kind. But, out of sight out of mind and if it is out of the country what's the problem, seems to be the attitude. In many of those places the waste shipped from the UK (and other places probably) gathers unprocessed and leaks into rivers and oceans.

This was to be expected, however, as soon as the market, so to speak, in China was closed and waste exporters – which really should not even exist – were looking for other places where they could dump the waste.

As the recycling expert who has been talking to the BBC says, we should be keeping those valuable resources – all of them – at home and recycle the recyclables into new products here. It could create thousands upon thousands of jobs. But, hey, we can't possibly do that as that would mean investing to create those facilities. It is far cheaper to fill up some empty containers with waste and have that shipped across the ocean to be dumped at someone else's doorstep. Far too many rules to follow in Britain to recycle without contaminating the environment. It would be too expensive. That appears to be the attitude and government is not helping.

Every country should look after it's own waste, and recycle it at home, and not ship it out to become some other country's problem. There are only a very small number, probably less than a handful or two, of councils in Britain who do have their own recycling facilities to turn waste materials into new products of any kind. There are also but a few open market facilities in the country who do that. Those that make recycled plastic products, for instance, rely on the recycled polymer coming from China, and other places. In the UK we have the know-how, the expertize and the experts; what is missing is the (political) will to do it, unfortunately.

A lot of kerbside and similar “recycling” is no more than a farce as, in the case of glass, it is not being recycled but downcycled or in the case of paper, plastic, and other waste, it is either shipped abroad or if the market does provide enough return put into landfills. So why do councils go through this this exercise in the first place?

© 2019

Open Source and Open Design

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

It all started, I guess, with computers, or better with software, from general programs, such as Open Office, The Gimp, Firefox, Thunderbird, etc., to entire operating systems such as Linux, and others. Now open source has gone further that that and will enable people not just to connect and cooperate but to help “save the Planet” but also to create businesses.

Aside from Open Source computer operating systems and general programs we now also have Open Source Design and this is what really could make a real difference, not that the computer programs don't. They too have their place in this revolution of all things.

In a book, to be published in May 2019 by Thames & Hudson, called “Futurekind”, many kinds of such Open Source Designs are being showcased.

But what does Open Source Design, also called open-design, mean?

The open-design movement involves the development of physical products, machines and systems through use of publicly shared design information. This includes the making of both free and open-source software (FOSS) as well as open-source hardware. The process is generally facilitated by the Internet and often performed without monetary compensation. The goals and philosophy of the movement are identical to that of the open-source movement, but are implemented for the development of physical products rather than software. Open design is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users, rather than an external stakeholder such as a private company.

The open-design movement currently unites two trends. On one hand, people apply their skills and time on projects for the common good, perhaps where funding or commercial interest is lacking, for developing countries or to help spread ecological or cheaper technologies. On the other hand, open design may provide a framework for developing advanced projects and technologies that might be beyond the resource of any single company or country and involve people who, without the copyleft mechanism, might not collaborate otherwise. There is now also a third trend, where these two methods come together to use high-tech open-source (e.g. 3D printing) but customized local solutions for sustainable development. Open Design holds great potential in driving future innovation as resent research has proven that stakeholder users working together produce more innovative designs than designers consulting users through more traditional means.

Design per se can and must play a new and proper role in human development and in advancing everyone everywhere. Design, good design, also holds the key to the avoidance of waste. It is not rocket science because that kind of design has been with us before, as has repairability, even by means of DIY by the user (or someone with some knowledge).

Open design, on the other hand goes a step or ten further in that open design in the design, often downloadable, which is then turned by a small enterprise. or the end user him- or herself, into the desired product with, often, the added plus that the design can, because it is open source, be modified to fit a need. No longer does a corporation or corporations hold the key to the design and end-product but the people as a whole.

Sometime the designs cost a small amount, at other times, and that quite frequently, at least the basic ones, are free. The machines to make the products are often also open-source designed in such a way that they can, more or less, easily be made from scrap, including 3D-printers. Making those machines, though, does require a small workshop set up, generally, or at least a welder and the knowledge of how to use one.

Open source and open design are a great way of reducing waste, as well as production and distribution costs and transportation footprint. We now have clothing design that is downloadable and the garments are then made more or less locally to where they will be bought and used. With the technology of CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacture), especially via means of 3D-printing, as well as other varieties, many things could and can, literally, be made in a domestic garage or garden shed, including the making of spares for a variety of things, or the very parts to make a product, to complete 3D-printed products themselves.

With open source software older computers can be kept alive, so to speak, for much longer and if they are also of the desktop variety rather than the laptop or even smaller kind then they can also be hardware upgraded and repaired, and thus run almost indefinitely. Though here open design can also come in additionally in that computers themselves could be designed in this pattern to that people could build, upgrade and repair their own without, necessarily, having to resort to a specialist. It doe not need (all) to be throw-away, especially considering that there is, actually, no such place as “away”.

© 2019

Paper is a near-perfect barrier to hackers, ransomware and other exploits

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The most “futuristic” data security is a pen and pad, and also the old-fashioned typewriter.

America's most secure federal agencies were hacked by a 16-year old who obtained their internal files; a Medical Center in Los Angeles that was hit by an infection of "ransomware" which locked up all its data in encrypted form until a ransom (hence the name) was paid to the software deployers to decrypt the data again; and those are but two incidents of many.

A much more secure technology, that would serve as a near-perfect barrier to hackers, ransomware and other exploits, is a rather old-fashioned one, namely, put all important records back on paper and put them into lockable filing cabinets and safes.

Worried about your mail communications – your emails – being (able to be )read by those who maybe should not? The we must return to the humble snail mail and use the letter carrier once again. All electronic encryption can, eventually, be broken because it is electronically generated and has a weak point somewhere. The mail service, theoretically, cannot simply be intercepted and thus is far more secure than email, alas a great deal slower.

Because of the problems that have been encountered by intelligence and security services in other countries the Russian services, including the FSB, have gone, for sensitive material back to paper records, circulars, etc., written on typewriters. All such circulars have a limited circulation list and any leak can therefore, theoretically, only come from members on that list.

Handwritten records also have serious anti-fraud characteristics. Such notes capture information in terms of handwriting, ink color, etc., that make it harder to make wholesale changes without it showing. Electronic records, on the other hand, tend to look the same. Also, to make changes, within a written handwritten text your would have to erase, in some way, the original words. It shows. Not so in electronic material. Even the original of an email can, under Forward, be altered to appear to say something other than what original was written. Altering, however, handwritten or typewritten material, afterward, requires a very good forger generally.

If I were running an intelligence agency, I would have all my important stuff done in handwriting or on mechanical typewriters (the old kind that type over the same fabric ribbon multiple times) and distributed in sealed envelopes. If I were setting up a voting system, I would use paper ballots instead of electronic voting machines. And if I were running a hospital, I would seriously consider doing everything on paper.

There is a place for computers and computer records, of course. But for things that really matter and that need to be genuinely secure, maybe we should try a more advanced technology: Paper and ink. Take that, hackers.

Data on computers can and will never be perfectly safe. Thus, I propose a more secure technology that would serve as a near-perfect barrier to hackers, ransomware and other exploits: Put important records back on paper. And then lock the stuff up in lockable filing cabinets, safes, or vaults.

Writing by hand, as far as note-taking is concerned and such, is also a great deal faster than using a keyboard, and, as far as medical staff are concerned the contact with patient/client and the person taking the notes is closer.

The truth is, paper records are inherently more secure. To steal 10 million electronic user records from a government agency, all you might need is a cracked password and a thumb drive. To steal that many records on paper, you would need a fleet of trucks and an uninterrupted month.

And ransomware would not work on paper records. What would you do? Put a padlock on the filing cabinets and demand ransom for the key? Not very likely to succeed. There are things called bolt cutters and angle grinders, if you get my meaning.

And often, putting things on computers is a crock anyway. Electronic medical records, touted as saving money and streamlining care, are a major cause of physician burnout. It has gotten so bad that some hospitals actually advertise the lack of electronic medical record systems as a selling point in recruiting doctors. Nor have electronic systems paid off as promised.

A recent study of more than 1 million medication errors reported to a national database between 2003 and 2010 found that 6% were related to the computerized prescribing system. Those problems, and considerable expense, could have been prevented by sticking with pen and paper.

So, if you really want data security stick with pen, typewriter and paper. OK, or use the computer to print out the material and file it in the old-fashioned manner, in a filing cabinet.

You address book is also much better served being in a real book or on index cards and filing box for same. You can get to it be it the power is down or your computer or other device has crashed, or whatever. Yes, it is a little more on the bulky side but short of a fire your data will always be recoverable.

© 2019