News

About 2.2 million fewer single-use cups were used by public bodies in Wales in the last year, a drop of nearly 19%. Hospitals, emergency services, councils and government organisations have said they are trying to reduce the amount of waste produced by cups.

Eight out of the 43 bodies asked said they did not buy single-use cups in 2018-19, and seven of those have also withdrawn plastic straws and cutlery.

Campaigners welcomed the fall but said 9.6 million cups ordered was still too many. Information given to BBC Wales, following a Freedom of Information request, showed a £71,000 fall in the amount spent on single-use cups between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

Rebecca Colley-Jones, a trustee of the Chartered Institute of Waste Management, commented: "Two million is a big decrease."

"It's very positive. These things don't happen overnight. You take it a step at a time".

A spokesperson from Cardiff University, one of the bodies to go plastic free, said: "The phasing out of single-use plastics across the university is one of a number of measures that we've put in place to help build an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future for our community and to bring about environmental benefits not only to Cardiff and Wales but to the wider world".

"We are extremely pleased with the progress we've made over the past year, however we are not complacent and will continue to look at ways in which we can reduce our campus footprint".

Monmouthshire council said it had stopped using plastics since 2018-19, while others are investing in biodegradable cups or encouraging staff to have re-usable cups and plastics.

Bettina Gilbert, programme manager at charity Wrap Cymru, said "it's great news that Wales' public bodies are reducing the number of single-use plastic cups they're using and tackling 'problem plastics' such as straws and plastic cutlery, to be eliminated by the end of 2020 under WRAP's UK Plastics Pact".

Nevertheless figures show there is still work to be done, "which is why Wrap Cymru will shortly publish single-use plastics procurement guidance for Wales' public sector and launch hands-on support for public sector bodies so that sustainable procurement lies at the heart of their work".

The director of development firm Enzo's Homes, and the firm itself, has been found guilty at Swansea Magistrates' Court of contravening a tree preservation order. It was found that in preparing a site for a new housing development, 70 protected trees, including one of the oldest redwoods in the country, has been cut down.

Director Fiorenzo Sauro said he had nothing to gain by cutting the trees down and it was an accident coming from others failing to follow instructions. Meanwhile, a self-employed tree surgeon contracted to cut down the trees has pleaded guilty to contravening the tree preservation order.

Amongst the trees felled was a 200-year-old giant redwood, believed to be one of the oldest redwoods in the UK. It was planted by the Llewelyn family who owned the land and who created what is now known as Penllergaer Valley Woods around 10 years before redwood seeds began to arrive in the UK from America. John Dillwyn Llewelyn imported trees from all over the world as he was keenly interested in horticulture, botany and arboriculture.

When permission was granted for a new housing estate near to the trees, a tree preservation order was established to protect them. Tree officer Alan Webster said he visited the building site in November 2018 after reports reached him of the ancient redwood being felled.

Mr Webster said it would cost around £250,000 to replace the redwood alone, even though really it was irreplaceable. He said "this is ancient woodland dating back hundreds of years. It is important. You couldn't replant a tree of this size but this [its size] is used to extrapolate a valuation".

Councillor Mark Thomas, cabinet member for environment, said "in our view this was never a victimless crime".

"The felled tree was part of the heritage of this area of Swansea and one of the first of its kind to be planted in the city. The decision to prosecute was not taken lightly and the convictions should serve as a warning to others".

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, anyone who cuts down a tree in contravention of a tree preservation order commits an offence and could be fined. Sentencing in this case will take place next month.

For more information, see the:

  • Town and Country Planning (Trees) Regulations SI 1999/1892.

100% recyclable wet suit invented
Published: 13 Aug 2019

In a victorious attempt to stop leftover waste material from wetsuits from going to waste, a small company in Cornwall, Finisterre, has pioneered a formula for a 100% recyclable wetsuit.

Finisterre, which specialises in outdoor apparel that is focused on sustainability and functionality, has been the headquarters for the marine conservation charity, 'Surfers against Sewage' - it is here where Tom Kay, the founder of the business, first aimed to create a 100% recyclable wetsuit.

Following the release of David Attenborough's Blue Planet II, there has been an influx in the number of people involved in the battle against single-use plastics. They have been clogging up the ocean water, and more people are beginning to campaign for change; surfers being among the most relevant - whilst not directly affecting the water by swimming and surfing in it, the use of wetsuits and subsequent discarding of them is having a highly negative impact, due to their lack of recyclability.

Wetsuits are manufactured with Neoprene, a type of synthetic rubber (that was originally invented to line landfill sites) with a mix of other substances, which is not currently recyclable. It is estimated that nearly 380 tonnes of wetsuit waste is dumped every year - this grand number is definitely having an adverse effect on the environment. Whilst the company Finisterre has been using a biodegradable rubber in their wetsuits for a while - they make them with Econyl, recycled nylon from discarded fishing nets and carpet tiles - they are looking to take it to the next step. In order to achieve this dream, Finisterre has hired a full-time wetsuit recycler, the only in the world, to help engineer the solution.

The company aims to share their way of creating a recyclable wetsuit so other companies can follow it and prove an economic case, which has waste as a resource at its core.

A construction company Clancy Docwra Limited, as well as one of its employees were sentenced for health and safety breaches following a death of an employee struck by an excavator.

On 2 March 2014 during night work at a construction site at Salford, a site operative, Kevin Campbell, was struck by an Excavator Mounted Vibrator (EMV) attached to a 35-tonne excavator, which he worked in close proximity to. At the time, Mr Campbell was disconnecting lifting accessories from a metal pile that had just been extracted from the ground, when he was fatally crushed against a concrete wall. Another employee who worked directly next to him narrowly avoided being crushed as well.

An investigation carried out by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the company failed to ensure safety of its employees and others working at the site. The investigation also found that Daniel Walsh, the site manager who operated the excavator, failed to take reasonable care for other persons on site at the time.

Clancy Docwra Limited pleaded not guilty for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was fined £1,000,000 and ordered to pay costs of £108,502.30.

Mr Daniel Walsh pleaded not guilty for breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and was given a 6 month custodial sentence, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay costs of £15,000.

After the hearing, the HSE inspector Darren Alldis said: "This death was wholly preventable and serves as a reminder as to why it is so important for companies and individuals to take their responsibilities to protect others seriously and to take the simple actions necessary to eliminate and minimise risks.

"If the risks had been properly considered by the company, and simple and appropriate control measures were put in place, then the likelihood of such an incident occurring would have been significantly reduced. Informing all site operatives of the specific risks they face when carrying out such tasks and the control measures required of exclusion zones, the importance of communication and the mandatory use of excavator safety levers were simple actions that should have been put in place and their effectiveness monitored.

"All those with legal responsibilities must be clear that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action including where appropriate prosecution against those that fall below the required standards"

South Cambridgeshire's District Council officers staged a 'mock fly tip' as part of an effort to raise awareness of the impacts that stem from improper waste disposal. 

Items dumped at a bus stop during rush hour included a fridge, freezer, mattress, pallets, packaging and many bags of other waste. Officers had hoped that those close to the incident would report it to the police, and though no one did, there was one witness who had made it known to the staff at the Milton Park and Ride.

A video of the mock fly tip was shared on both social media and South Cambridgeshire's website in order to highlight the problem. It is part of the council's campaign to try to reduce fly tipping in the district, as there are 900 incidents reported in the country each year.

South Cambridgeshire, as a member of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Waste Partnership, joined the SCRAP fly-tipping campaign this month. SCRAP aims to raise awareness of the responsibilities of the public to ensure that the waste carriers that are used have a proper waste transfer license, to stop fly-tipping before it happens.

Councillor Neil Gough, the Deputy Leader of South Cambridgeshire District Council, said "fly-tipping is a despicable environmental crime and we are working hard to investigate and clear fly-tips more quickly. But we want to stop fly-tipping happening in the first place to save the environmental and financial costs and we really need residents to do their bit too".

The council has estimated that cleaning up just a single incident of fly-tipping can cost the local authority or landowner anywhere from £100 to £2,000.

Scientists warn that attempts to solve the climate crisis by cutting carbon emissions from only cars, factories and power plants are doomed to failure.

A leaked draft of a Report on climate change and land use, which is now being debated in Geneva by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), states that it will be impossible to keep global temperatures at safe levels unless there is also a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land.

The Report warns that:

  • humans now exploit 72% of the planet's ice-free surface to feed, clothe and support the Earth's growing population;
  • agriculture, forestry and other land use produces almost a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • about half of all emissions of methane, one of the more potent greenhouse gases, come from cattle and rice fields;
  • deforestation and the removal of peat lands cause further significant levels of carbon emissions;
  • intensive agriculture has also increased soil erosion and reduced amounts of organic material in the ground.

The Report warns that these problems are likely to get worse, stating, "climate change exacerbates land degradation through increases in rainfall intensity, flooding, drought frequency and severity, heat stress, wind, sea-level rise and wave action".

It is a bleak analysis of the dangers ahead and comes when rising greenhouse gas emissions have made news after severe events, including:

  • arctic sea-ice coverage reached near record lows for July;
  • the heatwaves that hit Europe last month were between 1.5°C and 3°C higher because of climate change;
  • global temperatures for July were 1.2°C above pre-industrial levels for the month.

The IPCC has warned that rises greater than 1.5°C risk triggering climatic destabilisation - while those higher than 2°C make such events even more likely. Bob Ward, policy director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said, “we are now getting very close to some dangerous tipping points in the behaviour of the climate – but as this latest leaked report of the IPCC’s work reveals, it is going to be very difficult to achieve the cuts we need to make to prevent that happening”.

The Report emphasises that land will have to be managed more sustainably so that it releases much less carbon than at present. This means:

  • peat lands will need to be restored by halting drainage schemes;
  • meat consumption will have to be cut to reduce methane production;
  • food waste will have to be reduced.

The Report also proposes a major shift towards vegetarian and vegan diets, that the "consumption of healthy and sustainable diets, such as those based on coarse grains, pulses and vegetables, and nuts and seeds … presents major opportunities for reducing greenhouse gas emissions".

It adds that policies need to include:

  • improved access to markets;
  • empowering women farmers;
  • expanding access to agricultural services;
  • strengthening land tenure security;
  • early warning systems for weather, crop yields and seasonal climate events.

Nations are scheduled to meet in late 2020, probably in the UK, at a key conference where delegates will plan how to achieve effective zero-carbon emission policies over the next few decades.


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