Holyrood in Edinburgh has restated its commitment to a landfill ban that is planned for 2021 - despite chances that it might be pushed back to 2025.

Claims by a spokesperson for the Scottish Government states that available evidence showed "significant progress" had been made towards meeting the 2021 target, and most councils had either long term or interim solutions in place, despite scepticism. This statement came in the response to a letter wrote to the country's Herald national newspaper - one signed by former senior waste and environmental services staff who work at Scottish Councils. These same people also suggested that the deadline was likely to change. 

Those from the councils of:

  • Inverness - Colin Clark;
  • Fife - Chris Ewing;
  • Falkirk -John G Cunningham

have claimed in their letter sent on 5 August to the Herald, that they think the delay will be accompanied by a 'fiscal measure'. They have written: "The 2021 landfill biodegradable waste ban illustrates perfectly the laissez-faire attitude of the government, which will over the coming days put the ban date back probably to 2025 (to coincide with the 2025 recycling and landfill target) doubtless with some lame fiscal measure which will not help."

In response, to defend themselves against these comments, the Scottish Government has emphasised that they are "committed to ending the practice of sending biodegradable municipal waste to landfill". 

The ban itself was passed under the Waste (Scotland) Regulations SSI 2012/148 and states that no biodegradable municipal waste will be allowed to be sent to landfill sites from 1 January 2021.

There were concerns that both the local authorities and commercial waste operators in Scotland have failed to make adequate preparations for the ban, raised in a Eunomia report to Holyrood back in April. At that time, a Scottish Government spokesperson has said that they remained aware of those challenges but persisted that those affected had been given adequate time to prepare, adding: "It is [...] disappointing that there is uncertainty around the readiness of some councils. Our focus is on working with authorities who do not yet have a solution in place to identify ways in which they can comply with the ban. Further details will be available in due course."

The Icelandic nation has held a funeral and presented a plaque to commemorate the once huge Okjokull glacier, now lost as a result of the climate change. 

The nation has come together to bring awareness to the issue, seeing scientists warn that there are hundreds of other ice sheets on the subarctic island which are at risk on the same fate. The country has mounted a bronze plaque onto the bare rock that is laid in the barren terrain where there once the Okjokull glacier existed. Almost 100 people walked up to the mountain for this ceremony, including:

  • the Prime Minister of Iceland, Katrinb Jakobsdottir;
  • the former UN human rights commissioner, Mary Robinson;
  • along with local researchers and colleagues from the United States that pioneered the commemoration project. 

Jakobsdottir has said, "I hope this ceremony will be an inspiration not only to us here in Iceland but also for the rest of the world, because what we are seeing here is just one face of the climate crisis."

The plaque bore the inscription 'A letter to the future', in both English and Icelandic, that is intended to raise awareness of the decline of glaciers and the effects of climate change - adding, "In the next 200 years all our glaciers are expected to follow the same path. This monument is to acknowledge that we know what is happening and what needs to be done. Only you know if we did it."

Iceland loses around 11 billion tonnes of ice per year, and scientists fear that if this is to continue there will be no more left of the 400 plus glaciers by as soon as 2200. These glaciers cover around 11% of the country's surface. The glacier reduced from 16 square kilometres in 1890, to just 0.7 square kilometres by 2012. By 2014 it had its status of glacier removed.

"We made the decision that this was no longer a living glacier, it was only dead ice, it was not moving”, says Oddur Sigurdsson - a glaciologist with the Icelandic Meteorological Office.

Cod Fishing Crisis in the North Sea
Published: 19 Aug 2019

In a report published by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (Ices), it has been revealed that the North Sea Cod Stocks have fallen to critical levels, a grave issue that will have a distinctly negative effect in the coming years. 

There has been warning that cod was being harvested unsustainably, and the report specifically recommended a 63% cut in the catch, which is on top of the cut of a 47% reduction from the previous year. Despite a 250% increase in the 1970s, there has been a strong decline since, seeing most recently a falling of North Sea Cod Stocks since 2015. Waiting for independent auditors to review the Ices report, it is to be decided if the fisheries can retain the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) certificates of sustainability (only issued two years ago), or if they are going to be suspended. Depending on the results of the decision, the North Sea Cod could soon be off the menu. 

According to an official at Peterhead - Europe's largest white-fish port - the cod haul was small, nearly half of the previous night, though that it was not a bother to him as it "fluctuates". There are mixed feelings about the Ices advice from all of those in the industry, some finding the advice worrying, with too many merchants and too few fish - or others feeling more positive. Will Clark, the managing director of Wilsea, had bought 37 boxes of cod just that same morning, and believed it to be a normal event, stating "all stocks go up and down", and that, "we've been here before". 

This is accurate to say, as the North Sea cod stocks were subject to both extreme rises and plummets. They came perilously close to collapse, but a "cod recovery plan" sought to restore these stocks to sustainable levels, by a number of methods, including:

  • limiting fishing days;
  • decommissioning boats;
  • banning catches in nursery areas;
  • putting larger holes in nets to allow young cod to escape.

The UK consumes about 115,000 tonnes of cod each year, of which only 15,000 come from the North Sea, the rest is imported. However, the industry provides nearly 24,000 jobs to people (with more than half working in Scotland). 

Ices are unaware as to why there is such a significant reduction, claiming that "further work is required to investigate climate change, biological and fisheries effects." Environmental organisations point out that cod has been fished far above its maximum sustainable yield for many years, or alternatively it could be due to the slower breeding of the species as a result of the "juvenile fish" being caught and those letting dead fish being thrown back into the sea to stay in quota - despite it being explicitly banned. 

There has been a great call for change to the government to take action just the day after, from companies like the Marine Conservation Society, the WWF and ClientEarth, who have asked to see urgent steps to secure the future of North Sea cod. 

Matters are further complicated by the inclusion of Brexit, with the fishing industry seen as a symbol of the Leave campaign, to be a clear beneficiary of the plan to "Take Back Control". This held limited effect however, as fish do not respect national boundaries, so therefore the industry still needs to see coordinated international management. "After we leave the EU we will have greater control of how fishing takes place at sea. But the buck will then land squarely at the feet of the UK and Scottish ministers. We may have greater control, but we will also have greater responsibility and accountability,"  said Phil Taylor of Open Seas, a company which works on protecting and recovering the marine ecosystem.

Consumers are to continue eating cod that is labelled as sustainable until any change comes into place - at which point the impact on the supermarkets, fishmongers and restaurants would be felt (areas where sustainability is important to consumers). The industry is under great pressure, as the grouping of 90% of cod being imported, and 1 in 5 making the trip to the fishery each week leads to a sharp decline in cod levels. If it is deemed unstable, it will be removed from shelves, which is a great loss for the industry and to the country - to lose something as important and ingrained in the nation's identity, especially at a time which is so critical for morale. 

South West Water has offered to pay £350,000 to the Westcountry Rivers Trust to help a Devon river recover from serious pollution that wiped out the local fish population.

The payment, known as an Enforcement Undertaking, has been accepted by the Environment Agency as an alternative to prosecution and will benefit urban watercourses in the Plymouth area, including the Tamerton stream.

In August 2016 the Environment Agency responded to reports of dead fish in the Tamerton stream. The pollution was traced to an overflowing manhole on South West Water's combined sewer network. South West Water and its contractors arrived on site that evening and stopped the discharge the following morning.

The pollution had a substantial impact on the watercourse, killing more than 100 brown trout. The dead fish were found downstream near Tamerton Foliot, close to where the stream enters the Tavy estuary.

Mike Ingman for the Environment Agency said: "the Tamerton Stream has suffered several pollution incidents over the past five years".

"It is good to see a positive outcome from what was serious pollution of a local stream. South West Water has since cleansed the main sewer line that runs through the woods and this should help reduce the likelihood of any further pollution".

The Tavy Estuary is a sensitive watercourse with several important designations including Special Protection Area, Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

The South West Water Enforcement Undertaking offer will fund a programme of works known as the 'Plymouth River Keepers Project' that will help offset the damage caused by the water company.

Dr Nick Paling of the Westcountry Rivers Trust said "we are excited about the Plymouth River Keepers Project. By encouraging people to reconnect with nature and bringing urban rivers and streams back into the affection of the people living close to them, we believe we can have a positive impact".

The Westcountry Rivers Trust will use the money to restore fish numbers through additional habitat management work and pay for a programme of community engagement to raise awareness of pollution problems on Plymouth's urban streams. The project also aims to increase public usage and appreciation of the Tamerton stream and encourage community-led monitoring of local watercourses.

Accord Housing Association has committed to building 'virtually plastic-free' housing as it attempts to reduce the amount of plastic used during construction.

The West Midlands organisation plans to build 12 homes using alternatives to fit kitchens, bathrooms and windows, as well as reducing the amount of plastic used in building materials.

The organisation notes that the building sector is responsible for more than 60% of resource use in Europe and that more than 30-50% of material use is taking place in the housing construction section.

Accord believes that its project is the first of its kind in the UK. It is part of the CHARM partnership (Circular Housing Asset Renovation & Management) funded by Interreg European Funding.

CHARM is part of a partnership that is made up of representatives from the following four nations:

  • Belgium;
  • France;
  • Netherlands;
  • UK.

Each country has been given a different project to lead on, with the aim to promote a circular economy in the housing construction sector.

Carl Taylor, assistant director of new businesses at Accord, said "we particularly want to remove the plastic from the kitchens and the bathrooms, because even though a house can last for a hundred years or more, the average kitchen and bathroom is changed every few years and we are keen to avoid generating plastic waste. This trans-European project will enable us to work with our European partners to identify plastic-free building products. We haven't yet got a plastic-free solution to the electrics, for instance, but we will be challenging people in the building products manufacturing industry to help us find solutions".

The homes will be built by the housing association's offsite manufacturing facility LoCal Homes, using the latest modern methods of construction.

Alan Yates, deputy chief executive at Accord, added that the organisation has started design work, which it aims to finish in January 2020.

"Our closed timber framed houses have allowed us to build on low-carbon housing development and we have developed technology to build low-carbon houses - now it is about taking that technology a step forward to reduce the use of materials that are not good for the environment both during manufacture and construction and for years to come. This project will change how we manufacture our homes forever".

A solar panel company has been fined after a worker fell through a skylight during the installation of solar panels on a farm workshop in East Sussex.

Brighton Magistrates Court heard in July 2018 an employee of SolarUK Limited was carrying out installation work on the fragile roof. As he stood to move, he stepped on the unprotected skylight and fell approximately four metres to the workshop floor before sustaining multiple and long-term injuries to his wrist.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that, although the company knew the risks from fragile surfaces and unprotected edges, they failed to plan or supervise the work to ensure that access to hazardous areas was prevented. As such the workers were at risk from falls throughout the job.

SolarUK Limited pleaded guilty to breaching the Work at Height Regulations SI 2005/735, was fined £40,000, ordered to pay costs of £2,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

HSE inspector Nicola Wellard said "the risks associated with fragile roofs are widely known throughout this industry. Failing to protect workers from this risk is inexcusable. Simple safety measures could have prevented this incident and the long-term injuries to the worker".

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