Saturday, 29 January 2011

One green bottle sitting on the (Supermarket) shelf!

'Wonderful,' amazing,' and many other superlatives came to me just now, as I read this piece in The Guardian. Slowly, surely, there is light  at the end of a very dark trunnel? There is now
 an alternative to the ubiquitous plastic bottle, and it's about to hit a supermarket near you!

A Suffolk-based inventor believes he may have found the answer to Britain's rapidly developing landfill crisis.

Each day some 15m plastic bottles are used in the UK, many ending up on the country's burgeoning waste mountains. And as the average plastic bottle takes 500 years to decompose, this legacy will have an impact on generations to come.

But now, inspired by a papier-mache balloon that his son made at school, Martin Myerscough believes he has come up with the answer. The GreenBottle, which looks remarkably like the conventional two-litre plastic bottles on supermarket shelves, comprises a sturdy paper shell with a plastic liner to keep the milk fresh.

Once the lining is ripped out, the paper shell can be quickly flattened and recycled up to seven times – plastic bottles can be recycled only once. Alternatively the paper bottle can be turned into compost within a matter of several weeks.

The bottle has been trialled at Asda stores in East Anglia and a national roll-out across the supermarket chain will start this week, beginning in Cornwall.

Myerscough dreamt up the idea for Greenbottle after talking to a man in his local pub. "A chap I row with was running the local landfill, so I asked him what was the main problem and he said plastic bottles, especially milk bottles, and that set me thinking."

Recalling his son's efforts with papier-mache, Myerscough played around with several designs before coming up with a prototype.

Currently 1,000 two-litre bottles are supplied to shops around Suffolk, and Myerscough claims customers have been "overwhelmingly positive".

There are plans to make the next generation of bottles entirely from paper and to sell products to other industries, such as detergent and shampoo manufacturers.

Asda's decision to introduce the bottles nationally should help bring costs of production down. "The price is the same as a plastic bottle," Myerscough said. "Our target is to be competitive with plastic bottles."

He claims that the production of each GreenBottle has a significantly lower carbon footprint than that of a plastic one, even though the paper cases are currently made in Turkey.

He conceded there were already greener alternatives to plastic bottles, such as pouches, but he said some supermarkets had withdrawn them because customers found them unwieldly. "Our product is more mainstream," Myerscough said. "The way the consumer uses the bottle is identical to a plastic bottle."

Here is a BBC news report about the bottles:

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Lot of Bottle Greenhouse!

I found this in my favourite newspaper, Positive news (which is free by the way)!
It's an amazing way to both recycle old plastic bottles as well as create something wonderful. Problem is that we don't buy these bottles, so are relying on neighbours to supply them to us. You can download the instructing on pdf, and, it looks very easy to make. The only concern I have is that there are too many gaps between the bottles so cold air would get in! I'll probably have to cover those gaps with old plastic sheeting too.

Plastic bottle greenhouses are inexpensive ways to protect winter crops, but they are also making use of resources that might otherwise go to landfill

A greenhouse offers a way to extend the growing season and cultivate fruits and vegetables that struggle during the cold months. Greenhouses, however, can be expensive to buy, difficult to build, costly to maintain and vulnerable to vandalism.

A structure made out of used plastic bottles - a concept devised by Scottish sustainable charity REAP - is an ideal solution. It is a project that everyone can get involved in too, including schools, groups and community organisations, because the basic blueprint can be adapted to make anything, from a pint-sized cold frame to a sizeable sun room.

With a few bits of timber, several bamboo canes and approximately 1,000 two-litre plastic drinks bottles - otherwise destined for landfill - gardeners all over the world are pulling out all the stops. The designs range from simple potting sheds on allotments, to outstanding mock-stained glass sun traps, to award-winning structures on display at the 2010 Chelsea Flower Show. The possibilities are clearly endless.

Meanwhile, plastic bottle greenhouses are popping up in school playgrounds across the UK. At Freemantle Infant School in Southampton, young eco-warriors were concerned about the amount of rubbish going into landfill, and how much time it takes for things to decompose. They also needed a greenhouse to sow seeds for the school's vegetable plots, so they decided a structure made from old plastic bottles was the most efficient way to solve both matters in question.

"We collected bottles from parents and had a fantastic result," say the pupils, "so we designed a large greenhouse and prevented over 1,700 plastic bottles going to landfill." Inspired by the success of this project, the children went on to build a fully functioning bicycle shelter out of 1,000 unwanted video cassettes. "We're going to have another collection of video tapes," they add, "and build a buggy store for parents to keep prams dry and safe." Freemantle School revealed to Positive News that one of their first-year students was overheard telling his parent: "We're super eco; look what we made!" while a year-two student proudly reported: "We grew these seeds in our bottle house."

Richard Bennett, from Fife's environmental group Sustainable Communities Initiatives, designs and build all sorts of plastic bottle structures and he believes they are the perfect project for schools. "With lots of children to help gather the bottles and wash them, it's a great re-use educational structure that really works," he says. Through community workshops, members at Fife have also designed other buildings out of plastic bottles, such as bus shelters and playground screens that shield pupils from the winter weather.

As part of a new sustainability project, the National Botanic Garden of Wales are also building a plastic bottle greenhouse next to the schools’ allotment plots in their double walled garden. Leading the scheme is Jane Richmond, who said: "This is an ongoing project and anyone is welcome to come and see how we are getting on - as long as they bring some bottles that we can use!" Jane added: "We aren't doing this just for show. This will be a functioning greenhouse, which will be used to grow plants in our education programmes. It may be made out of recycled drinks bottles but it'll make a very efficient greenhouse."

Meanwhile, an enterprising green team of volunteers at Linwood, near Glasgow, built their bottle greenhouse to help locals get more out of their community growing space. Schools, residents, groups and members of Renfrewshire Green Gym collected over 1,000 containers and spent the summer months constructing it. "The bottles act as double glazing," says Julie Wilson, a Green Gym coordinator. "Now we can grow veg through the winter."

Renfrewshire Green Gym offers local residents opportunities to improve their fitness levels by taking part in conservation activities, so the greenhouse was an ideal project to engage all its members. "The wonderful thing about Green Gym is that every day is totally different," one resident remarked. "One day, we'll do a litter pick and the next day is something completely different like building a bottle greenhouse. It's so much fun."

Detailed plans for building a plastic bottle greenhouse are available as a free download from REAP Scotland. Contact:

Friday, 21 January 2011

A tale of two countries: Plastic bag use is on the rise in Britain, whilst Togo has baned their use.

Just when we all thought that use of the ubiquitous plastic bag, to carry home our shopping  was in steep decline, along comes a new report in the Guardian, that suggests that we have a long way to go still. Are we just too lazy or don't we care what happens to plastic once it gets into the environment, or are we just not aware of the consequences? 

Plastic bag use in Britain is on the rise after the limited success of a voluntary agreement by retailers to cut the number of bags given to shoppers, according to figures compiled this week.

By contrast, in Ireland, which imposed a tax on plastic bags in 2002, the number of plastic bags has plummeted. Consumers in the UK now use nearly four times as many plastic bags as those in Ireland.

According to the figures by the New Statesman from official government sources, the number of bags used a month by each person in the UK dropped from 11 in 2002 to 7.2 in May 2009, but then rose again to 7.7 in May last year – equivalent to 475m bags in total per month. In Ireland, the equivalent figure – compiled from plastic bag tax receipts – has dropped from 27 in 2002 to 2 in 2009, suggesting that the tax is having a strong impact on consumer behaviour.

"Ireland's shoppers are enjoying freedom from the endless unnecessary plastic bags, as these figures show," said Julian Kirby, resource use campaigner for Friends of the Earth. "A standard charge in England would help save resources and cut climate-changing gases."

Four years ago, single-use plastic bags became an environmental issue in the UK, after the residents of Modbury, Devon, banned them from the village. Photographs of wild animals caught up in plastic bags drew attention to the damage the bags were causing, and the Daily Mail joined the campaign, with a call in 2008 to "Banish the bags", so that "our streets, fields, parks, seas, rivers and beaches will be cleaner for our grandchildren to enjoy".

But, despite support from many sides, Gordon Brown backed away from imposing either a ban or a levy on the bags, and instead allowed retailers to create a voluntary agreement. The New Statesman's waste policy report suggests the agreement – although initially leading to a drop in bag use – has had only a limited success.

Ireland introduced a tax of 15 cents a bag in 2002, increasing it to 22 cents in 2007. The tax, which retailers are required by law to pass on to the shopper, is ring-fenced for green projects. Wales plans to follow suit this year.

Washington DC imposed a tax in January 2009, and Vietnam plans to introduce one this year. In Seattle, however, voters rejected a plastic bag tax, and in France the government performed a U-turn on similar plans.

"We certainly support a ban on plastic bags," said Sam Jarvis of campaign group Wastewatch, "as we would support a ban on any single-use disposable items such as disposable razors, as a general principle. Plastic bags are a totemic issue, and a ban might well encourage people to think about waste more broadly. The Irish example shows this really can work."

"If Gordon Brown hadn't bottled it with the supermarket lobby," says Rebecca Hoskins, who led the Modbury campaign, "plastic bags would now be a distant memory and we would all be wondering what the fuss was about."

But, there is some positive news too. It seems that people in other parts of the world are taking the scourge of plastic a little more seriously than we are. Three cheers to Togo! This is taken from the Independent.

Togo on Wednesday said it will outlaw the import and sale of plastic bags from July in order to protect the environment, picking up on a growing global trend.

"These bags have become truly disastrous for the environment...The public must know that a plastic bag is not biodegradable and that they need at least 400 years to decompose," said trade ministry official Mohamed Saad Sama.

Importers of plastic bags were given a six-month deadline and manufacturers nine months, he told national television.

More than three billion plastic bags are used every year by Lome residents, according to estimates by green group Pour un Avenir Ensoleille (For a Sunny Future)."

Kenya last week declared a similar ban, renewing an earlier pledge that had failed in 2007.

Of all five members of the East African Community - Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda - only Rwanda has so far successfully banned all plastic bags since 2008, and replaced them with paper bags.

Italy, among the top consumers of plastic bags in Europe, began banning them from shops and supermarkets beginning January 1, a move widely welcomed by environmentalists.