Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Coast beauty spots will be given up to the sea

By Nick Allen
Last Updated: 4:01pm BST 26/08/2008

Ten of Britain's most iconic coastal landmarks face being lost forever after conservationists admitted defeat in the battle against rising sea levels.
Experts have said it is no longer possible to hold back the long term tide and Britain's entire coastline will be dramatically altered in the coming decades.

The causeway linking St Michael's Mount to the Cornish mainland will vanish and it will become a true island
The National Trust, which owns 700 miles of British coastline, said 10 of its most famous beauty spots are under threat and will be allowed to "evolve naturally" - shaped by the power of the sea.They include the castle of St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall, Studland beach in Dorset, the white cliffs of Birling Gap in East Sussex, the dunes of Formby near Liverpool and the 18th-century fishing village of Porthdinllaen in Wales.National Trust coast and marine adviser Phil Dyke said: "Over the next 100 years the shape of our coastline will change, and our favourite sea-side destinations may not look the way they were captured in our holiday snapshots.
"To try and predict what these places will look like in the future we have examined how sea-level rise and increased storms will affect all our coastal sites. We know where change is most likely to happen and what this change might be.
"We need to realise that our environment is not fixed and that change is inevitable. Society needs to learn to adapt."
Sea levels rose by just 2cm in the 18th century, 6cm in the 19th century and 19cm in the 20th century,
But the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates a rise of between 18cm and 59cm during this century.
Other scientists have put the figure much higher based on differing estimates of the effects of melting ice sheets in the Antarctic.
Last week the British-based Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory forecast a sea level rise of up to 1.5 metres by 2100.
The cost of trying to protect the coast is prohibitive. In one case the National Trust estimated it would cost £6 million to protect just one spot in Cornwall for 25 years.
Among the Cornish spots that will bear the brunt of the rising tide is St Michael's Mount, a rocky pinnacle crowned by a medieval church and castle just off the coast of Penzance.
Its causeway to the mainland will vanish and it will become a true island with its harbour facing flooding.
In Sussex the gleaming white chalk cliffs that greet visitors from across the Channel are disappearing at the rate of one metre a year, and at Formby the sands will recede by a minimum of 400 metres over the next century, changing the shape of this coastline forever.
The Trust said the pretty hamlet of Porthdinllaen in Gwynedd, North Wales, with its 16 houses and the Ty Coch Inn, will inevitably be lost to the sea.
Other holiday spots at risk of being washed away by higher tides and increased storms include the magnificent beach and dunes of Portstewart Strand in Northern Ireland, which is visited by 100,000 people a year; Rhossili, one of the finest sandy beaches in the UK on the Gower Peninsula in Wales; and Studland Beach in Dorset which is visited by one million holidaymakers a year.
Also at risk are Blakeney National Nature Reserve in Norfolk, the shingle spit of East Head at the entrance to Chichester Harbour in West Sussex, and the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast which are home to puffin and seal colonies.
Other victims of the rising tide will include Titchwell Marsh, a major nature reserve on the north coast of Norfolk.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which owns the site, has embarked on what it calls a "managed retreat," abandoning a large part of the reserve to the sea.
Last week, the new head of the Environment Agency, Lord Smith of Finsbury, said entire stretches of Britain's coastline are doomed and plans will have to be made to evacuate people living there.
The 10 hotspots at risk from climate change, coastal erosion and rising sea levels, according to National Trust:
St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall
The white cliffs of Birling Gap in East Sussex
Studland beach in Dorset
The dunes of Formby, near Liverpool
The 18th-century fishing village of Porthdinllaen on the north-west coast of Wales
The puffin and seal colonies on the Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast
The shingle spit of East Head at the entrance to Chichester Harbour in West Sussex
The shingle spit and marshes of Blakeney national nature reserve in Norfolk
The sands of Rhossili on the Gower peninsula in Wales. A sand-covered medieval village is also being lost to the sea
Portstewart Strand beach and dunes, Northern Ireland.

Subsidies for biofuel 'better spent on saving rainforests'

THE Government should stop funding subsidies for biofuels to tackle climate change and instead use the money to stop the destruction of rainforests and peatland, a think tank said today.
The "misjudged" biofuels targets had led to an increase in food prices and deforestation and should be abandoned, the Policy Exchange report said.The £550 million annual cost in lost revenue from the Government's aim of using biofuels to make up five per of fuel sold at UK garages could be better spent on avoiding deforestation, it added.The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) target would save 2.6 to 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year, but investing in preventing the destruction of peatland or rainforests could result in a "50 times greater amount of avoided emission" as the habitats act as a store of carbon which is released into the atmosphere when burned.Ben Caldecott, the report's editor, said: "If developed countries spent the same amount of money on preventing deforestation and the destruction of peatlands as they do on biofuel subsidies, this would halve the total costs of tackling climate change."

Tequila sunset: The ethanol boom

Mexico without tequila? It seems a far-fetched notion but the country's farmers are shunning the famous agave plant because of poor prices and switching to profitable crops. By Guy Adams
Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Savour that frozen margarita in your hand, for soon you might not be able to afford it. Mexico's tequila industry is about to become the latest victim of America's growing thirst for ethanol.
Soaring demand for biofuel has sent global commodity prices through the roof, prompting farmers of blue agave, the cactus-like plant from which the country's national spirit is made, to move into more lucrative cash crops such as wheat and corn.
Picturesque plantations of agave – with its long spiky leaves and a heart like a pineapple – are being replaced with orderly rows of corn, a crop now selling for a record 18 cents per pound, as US consumers from across the border seek respite from the soaring oil prices that have pushed the price of petrol over $4 (£2) a gallon and turn to ethanol.
Global food price rises have also seen the cost of another rival crop, beans, rise by 60 per cent in the past six months to 59 cents per pound. By comparison, agave, which in 2002 was worth more than 80 cents a pound, is now retailing for less than two cents. As a result, many farmers of agave – pronounced "a-hav-ay" – are taking the difficult decision to let their over-ripe plants turn brown in the desert sun, claiming it is no longer economically viable for them to bother with the annual harvest.
"Corn is where the money is now," one large-scale farmer, Miguel Ramirez, told USA Today. "I'm going to get out of agave completely." Martin Sanchez, director of agriculture for Mexico's Tequila Regulatory Council, added: "We don't have numbers but we know it is happening: people are abandoning their fields of agave and flipping over to other crops."
Although tequila has been one of the global drinks trade's biggest success stories of recent years, industry experts are now concerned the move to lucrative rival crops could lead to an agave shortage, limiting the supply of the spirit, and driving up the cost of the shots and cocktails enjoyed by Western consumers.
Officials say producers planted between 25 and 35 per cent less of the crop last year, and expect a similar decrease in production for 2008. Because the plant takes more than six years to reach full maturity, it will be impossible to cope with any shortage when the full effects are eventually felt.
The tequila industry is prone to cycles of boom and bust. In the late 1990s, disease and a series of cold winters killed off many agave plantations, causing an international shortage that more than doubled the cost of a typical bottle. Since then, demand for the robust drink has soared, thanks for a boom in the market for premium products, which can retail for several hundred dollars a bottle. But the supply end of the chain may be about to give out.
"Because of the slow growth rate of agave, it is especially sensitive to the boom-and-bust agricultural cycle, only played out in a slightly longer cycle" said Larry Walker, the US correspondent of Drinks International.
A Mexican farm hand Raudel Lopez Sandoval agrees. "You tend an agave for six years, and then the price drops on you or you get hit with a freeze or something. It's a lot of investment to lose," he told USA Today. "Beans grow fast."
The highest quality agave is grown at altitudes of between 1,500 and 2,000 metres, in the regions around the town of Tequila, near to Guadalajara. After harvesting, its pulp is fermented with yeast before being double distilled and aged in oak casks.
Although tequila is legally required to contain at least 51 per cent agave, even cheap brands have recently moved to 100 per cent levels, thanks to the current glut on the market. Experts say any increase in price is most likely to have an impact on the budget market.
"This would principally affect low quality tequila, which will be altered so that it contains a lower percentage of agave," said Chris Mercer of the drinks industry website "If people get more money for other crops, they will stop growing agave and the price will rise. It's basic economics."
Tequila isn't the only drink being hurt by the ethanol boom. In Germany, brewers recently complained that farmers were moving out of the barley market, making it more costly to produce their traditional premium beers.
From the agave plant to the bottle: how tequila is made
The raw ingredient
Contrary to popular belief, blue agave, the raw plant at the beginning of the tequila-making process, is not a cactus but a lily. The indigenous plant grows in the highlands of central Mexico and has been cultivated in the region for 9,000 years. Budding tequila home-brewers must be willing to travel the distance, as agave is not, to date, something that can be scooped up at the supermarket or even the deli and – by law – it must be harvested only in the Mexican states of Jalisco, Guanajuato, Mlchoacan, Nayarit or Tamaulipas.
Remove the pina, the large pineapple-shaped heart on the agave, which can weigh between 40lb and 70lb. Allow 15lb of pina per litre of 100 per cent tequila.
The pina is steam-cooked at high temperatures, in stone ovens heated up to a maximum of 95 degrees Celsius for up to 36 hours. That not only allows the fibres to soften without the agave turning to sugar, but also improves the flavour.
The ethic behind the wash is very much "waste not want not" as it is carried out to prevent the unwanted fibres from stealing any of the desired juices by re-absorption. What emerges is a delectably named juice known as honey water.
Mill and strain
This extracts the juices which are then mixed with water in a big fermentation tank and yeast is thrown in.
The mixture is left to ferment for between one and 12 days in a treated tank. The fermentation process produces a liquid which is then fermented twice more. The second distillation process produces three components: the "head" which is discarded, the "end" which is recycled and the 'heart' which becomes the tequila.
Tequila cannot legally assume its name without aging in an oak barrel when it becomes either blanco, plata, oro, reposado or anejos (white, silver, gold, rested or aged). However, colour does not necessarily reflect quality.
For legal reasons, the labelling is key to the process, with every label having to be printed with either "hecho en Mexico" or NOM (Norma Official Mexicana), the producer's four-digit registration number and the tequila's age.
Miranda Bryant

Landfill sites are being viewed as mines with buried riches

By Kate Kelland Reuters
Published: August 26, 2008

LONDON: Inspired by high oil prices, a sharp rise in the value of old plastic is encouraging waste companies across the world to dig for buried riches in rotting garbage dumps.
Long a symbol of humanity's throw-away culture, existing landfill sites are now being viewed as mines of potential that could also help bolster the planet's dwindling natural resources as the world population grows.
"By 2020 we might have nine billion people on the planet, we could have a very big middle class driving millions more cars, and we could be in a really resource-hungry world with the oil price climbing and a supply situation in Libya, Russia and Saudi, where natural gas is limited," said Peter Jones, a leading expert on waste management in Britain. "It is those drivers, those conditions, which will encourage the possibility of landfill mining."
In Britain alone, experts say landfill sites could offer an estimated 200 million tons of old plastic - worth up to £60 billion, or $111 billion, at current prices - to be recovered and recycled, or converted to liquid fuel.
With many oil analysts predicting that oil prices will stay above $100 a barrel, waste experts in the United States, Europe and across Asia have been conducting pilot projects to recoup old plastic and other waste materials.

Prices for high-quality plastics like high-density polyethylene have more than doubled to between £200 and £300 per ton, from just above £100 a year ago, according to industry experts. With this in mind, leaders of the world's waste management industry are planning to come together in London in October for what is being billed as the first "global landfill mining" conference.
"Once plastic is in a landfill site, it pretty much sits there doing nothing, and the beauty of that is that you're able to go back and recapture it in the future," said Peter Mills, who is a director of New Earth Solutions, a waste and recycling company. "There are some really buoyant prices around, because plastic is all manufactured from oil, so as the raw price of oil goes up, every commodity derived from it goes up accordingly."
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the amount of household garbage thrown out across the world is expected to rise to about three billion tons a year by 2030 from 1.6 billion tons in 2005.
Many of the world's rich countries send about half of that trash to landfills, but the OECD projects that the rate will fall to 40 percent by 2030 as governments promote recycling of materials like metals, glass and paper, or incineration to generate heat or electricity.
"Over a period of a very long time - many decades - we have had a policy of burying whatever we can in landfill sites - so there are valuable resources in those sites," said Steve Whatmore of Orchid Environmental, a waste and recycling company. "And wherever there are valuable resources, there is always the temptation to investigate whether it's worth recovering them. The logic is sound, but the practicalities are complex, and you have to balance those out with the commercial viability."
Landfill mining, digging in dumps for valuable materials, is hardly a new concept, and already viable for some. Images of poor people scavenging waste to sell from landfill sites in Asia and South America have already provided evidence that there is money to be made from other people's garbage.
William Hogland, professor in environmental engineering and recovery at the University of Kalmar, in Sweden, also points to previous instances of dumpsite mining in Israel in the early 1950s where the soil, enriched with rotting waste, was recovered and recycled to improve soil quality in orchards.
And some U.S. states have mined waste from landfills since the 1980s for use as fuel to produce energy. "Several pilot studies have been carried out for research or pre-feasibility studies in countries in Europe, but also in China, Japan and India," Hogland said.
For global waste experts, not everyone's garbage is the same: Different sites have different potential and an individual country's or region's dumps show characteristics relating to the culture, historical development and economic climate. "Landfills in Sweden dating from the 1960s have a lot of waste building material, reflecting the construction boom of that era," Hogland said. "And other landfills have very specific waste, like those used by vehicle breakers, which have high concentrations of aluminum, copper and iron scrap."
The value of these materials varies daily with global market prices, he said. For example, today there is considerable demand for scrap metal from China. But in Britain, it is in the millions of tons of plastic that people threw out in a pre-recycling era that experts see a potentially lucrative future. That potential is clear to Chris Dow, managing director of the first so-called closed-loop recycling plant in Britain, which can recycle plastic bottles to a standard high enough for reuse as food packaging.
Closed Loop London is one of only six such plants around the world - in Austria, Germany, Mexico, Switzerland and the United States - that processes polyethylene terephthalate, or PET plastic, used for water and soda bottles, and high-density polyethylene. The London plant has the capacity to recycle 35,000 tons every year.
A passionate recycler, Dow is convinced that there is value buried in garbage dumps, but he is angry that talk has turned to investing in technologies to harvest it rather than focusing on stopping more plastic from being dumped now. "Just imagine the resources that are lying in those landfills - it could be incredible," he said. "But the insane thing is that we are talking now about investing millions into tapping into a resource under the ground when the real tragedy is that every week we're still dumping tons and tons of plastic into more landfills. It's an act of vandalism against the environment."

U.S. wind power strangled by antiquated power grid

By Matthew L. Wald
Published: August 27, 2008

WASHINGTON: When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind Farm spent $320 million to erect nearly 200 windmills in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.
That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore's hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.
The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.
The grid today, according to experts, is a system conceived 100 years ago to let utilities prop each other up, reducing blackouts and sharing power across small regions. It resembles a network of streets, avenues and country roads.
"We need an interstate transmission superhighway system," said Sudeen Kelley, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which governs many interstate transmission projects.

While the United States now gets less than 1 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, many experts are starting to believe that figure could hit 20 percent.
Achieving that would require moving large amounts of power over long distances, from the windy, lightly populated plains in the middle of the country to the coasts where many people live. Builders are also contemplating immense solar-power stations in the nation's deserts that would pose the same transmission problems.
The grid's limitations are putting a damper on such projects already. Gabriel Alonso, chief development officer of Horizon Wind, the company that operates Maple Ridge, noted that in parts of Wyoming, a turbine could make 50 percent more electricity than an identical model installed in New York or Texas.
"The windiest sites have not been built, because there is no way to move that electricity from there to the load centers," he said.
The basic problem is that many transmission lines, and the connections among them, are simply too small for the amount of power companies would like to squeeze through them. The difficulty is most acute for long-distance transmission, but shows up at times even over distances of a few hundred miles.
The transmission lines carrying power away from the Maple Ridge farm, atop Tug Hill near Lowville, New York, have sometimes become so congested that the company's only choice was to shut down - or pay fees to the grid operator for the privilege of continuing to pump power into the lines.
Politicians in Washington have long known about the grid's limitations and have been talking seriously about solving them for a decade, but they have made little progress. They are reluctant to trample the prerogatives of state governments, which have traditionally exercised authority over the grid but have little incentive to push improvements that would benefit neighboring states.
Another problem is that the grid is balkanized, with about 200,000 miles, or 322,000 kilometers, of power lines divided among 500 owners. Big transmission upgrades often involve multiple companies, many state governments, and numerous permits. Construction costs are astronomical, and every addition to the grid provokes fights with property owners who do not want to look at a line of power pylons marching across the landscape.
These barriers mean that electrical generation is growing four times faster than transmission, according to U.S. government figures. In the last 20 years, according to the U.S. Energy Department, peak electrical demand is up more than 53 percent but the means to transmit that electricity have grown by only 12 percent. (The vulnerability of the grid became clear in August 2003, when trouble on a few power lines in Ohio precipitated a blackout that affected 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada.)
In legislation passed in 2005, Congress gave the Energy Department the authority to step in to approve transmission if states refused to act. The department designated two areas, one in the Middle Atlantic states and one in the Southwest, as national priorities where it might do so; 14 U.S. senators then signed a letter saying the department was being too aggressive.
Energy Department officials say that, however understandable the local concerns, they are getting in the way of a vital priority.
"Viewed from a broad perspective, it is clear that modernizing the electric infrastructure is an urgent national problem, and one we all share," Kevin Kolevar, assistant secretary for electricity delivery and energy reliability, said in a speech last year.
Unlike many of the nation's energy problems, improvements to the grid would require no fancy new technology.
An Energy Department plan to get 20 percent of the nation's electricity from wind calls for a high-voltage backbone that would span the country. It would use technology similar to 2,100 miles of power lines, mostly in Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Indiana, that are already operated by a company called American Electric Power.
The cost would be high - $60 billion or more - but in theory could be spread across many years and many millions of customers who would benefit from access to new power sources. However, in most states, rules used by public service commissions to evaluate transmission investments discourage multi-state projects of this sort. In some states with low electric rates, officials fear that new lines will simply export their cheap power and drive up prices.
Without a clear way of recovering the costs and earning a profit, and with little leadership on the issue from the federal government, no company or organization has offered to fight the political battles necessary to get such a transmission backbone built.
Texas and California have recently made some progress in building transmission lines for wind power, but nationally, the problem seems poised to get worse. Today, New York State has about 1,500 megawatts of wind capacity. The state has windy areas that could handle far more turbines, and is planning for another 8,000 megawatts of capacity.
But those turbines will need to go in remote, windy areas that are far off the beaten path, electrically speaking, and it is not clear that enough transmission capacity will be developed to handle the power.
Save for two underwater connections to Long Island, the state has not built a major new power line in 20 years.

Green consumers say suppliers inflate prices

Steve Hawkes and Angela Jameson

More than 85 per cent of Britain's green consumers believe that energy suppliers have been profiteering this year by implementing record price increases on gas and electricity.
An exclusive survey for The Times shows that the reputations of companies such as npower, British Gas and E.ON are close to record lows after a year in which average annual dual-fuel bills have soared to £1,300.
Despite the energy industry's argument that suppliers have no choice but to raise residential prices, more than four out of five of those surveyed believe that the companies have been using volatile wholesale markets as an excuse to boost margins. Only 6 per cent believe that the companies have no choice but to pass on higher costs.
The Concerned Consumer survey, carried out by Populus, also reveals the pressure felt by homeowners as they struggle to balance rising energy prices with spiralling food price inflation and higher mortgage costs. Nearly 80 per cent have turned down the central heating to save money in the past year, almost 85 per cent have fitted low-energy light bulbs and 94 per cent have turned out unnecessary lights in the home to cut electricity bills.

About four out of ten consumers claim that they will switch energy supplier this year to cut costs, with a third looking to sign long-term fixed-price deals.
The findings come only a week after E.ON and Scottish and Southern Energy increased their gas and electricity prices for the second time this year. British Gas raised gas prices by a record 35 per cent in July, a day before Centrica, its parent company, reported half-year profits of £992 million.
Average dual-fuel bills in Britain are £1,300, 43 per cent higher than in January and almost three times higher than at the beginning of 2003 - £543.
Adam Scorer, campaigns director of energywatch, the consumer group, said that the survey's results high- lighted the level of frustration at the lack of competition in the energy market. He said: “The energy companies are able to protect and improve their profit margins with seeming impunity. There's no real competitive pressure on them. There's no company looking over their shoulder and that shouldn't be possible in a competitive market.
“It's easy to see how consumers feel they are profiteering. They hear that conditions are the worst they have been on wholesale markets, that not all the cost is being passed on, but then they see the level of profits they're making. There is a fundamental breakdown in the market.”
A British Gas spokesman reiterated that the company had no choice but to increase bills to cover costs and pay for the huge investment needed to secure future gas supplies.
The Concerned Consumer survey indicates that the price pressure has forced an increasing number of ethical consumers to put their environmental concerns to one side. The overwhelming majority asserts that price is the determining factor when choosing an energy supplier. Customer service is the second-biggest factor, above a company's level of investment in renewable energy.
David Lourie, of Good Business, the environmental consultancy, said: “Price is king, which reflects the current economic climate and the price rises that are being experienced by most customers. Concerned customers are taking steps to reduce their home energy bills, such as turning out lights or turning down thermostats. But probably the most worrying for energy companies is the desire of many customers to switch supplier over the next year due to price.”
Only 350,000 customers in Britain are on green energy tariffs. Good Energy, the supplier that sources electricity from wind farms and solar panels, is rated the best company in the sector in the survey.
Consultation closes today on proposals from Ofgem, the energy regulator, to set up an independent accreditation scheme for green tariffs. The move is designed to make it easier for customers to understand the environmental benefits of the green tariffs on the market.
Fuelling a debate
— Nearly a fifth of Britain’s ethical consumers firmly oppose any role for nuclear power. The Concerned Consumer survey found that 18 per cent of respondents do not want new nuclear power stations
— Nearly two thirds would accept it as a partial solution
— 18 per cent believe it is the best way to tackle climate change
— Experts believe up to eight new nuclear power stations are needed to replace decommissioned nuclear and coal-fired power plants

Inside Environment: Throwing away our chances of becoming a zero-waste nation?

Published Date: 27 August 2008
By Jenny Haworth

SCOTLAND has ambitious plans to become a "zero-waste" country, where there is literally no such thing as rubbish.
In this future society, everything would have a use, whether it is turned into compost or burned as fuel.However, sources have told The Scotsman that unless the habits of one sector begin to change dramatically, any possibility of reaching this zero-waste goal will be scuppered. The construction industry currently generates the largest amount of waste of any sector in Scotland. According to sources, it produces a massive 48 per cent of all Scotland's rubbish.Environmentalists say a zero-waste society requires a new way of thinking about rubbish, so that waste changes from being something with no use to an untapped resource.In order to stand any chance of success, the zero-waste concept also requires the minimum amount of resources being used in the first place, to cut down on the items thrown away.However, sources claim the construction industry is not fulfilling either of these goals.Much of this is the result of a standard practice of over-ordering, according to industry insiders. A source said it was normal practice within the construction industry to over-order materials by 5 per cent, in case supplies are damaged.He said: "Most of that remains undamaged and still ends up in landfill. It would never be admitted publicly, but it happens all the time."Ordering about 105 per cent is quite normal. If stuff gets damaged, you don't want your guys waiting to build."In addition, about a quarter of the rubbish from building sites is packaging, such as plastic used to wrap up fragile materials. The industry insider believes the amount of packaging could be cut to a certain extent, but he said there was only so far this could go. Much of the packaging is necessary to prevent the building material getting damaged. Reducing it too far could simply add to the amount of waste, by resulting in more damaged goods that end up in landfill."You get to a tipping point where the amount of packaging is so minimised that you get more waste," he said. "So we are never going to get away from all packaging."However, he said there were ways to cut back on the need for packaging, such as by transporting delicate materials by mechanical means rather than by hand.By 2025, the Scottish Government wants only 5 per cent of municipal waste being sent to landfill and 70 per cent of waste being recycled.Waste management alone contributes about 2.5 per cent of Scottish greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the use of raw materials, preventing waste, using recycled goods and getting value from waste have all been shown to cut emissions.

Bunzl: Green revolution not hurting us

BUNZL, the packaging and outsourcing group, said the "green" drive by retailers to reduce plastic bag usage had failed to dent its UK business.
The firm, which supplies "not for resale" items for industries including healthcare, retail and catering, said its broad range of goods had allowed it to provide environmentally-friendly products such as biodegradable bags and "bags for life".Marks & Spencer has reported an 80 per cent fall in the number of bags given out after it began charging 5p per bag in May.But Bunzl said its retail business continued to make progress despite the voluntary initiatives and a weaker economy, although input costs rose.Overall UK operating profits advanced 17 per cent to £37.8 million in the first half.Bunzl expects "good growth" in the UK for the rest of the year but also strengthened its presence internationally with its first move into South America.

Scots opt for landfill alternatives as Danes show a lot of bottle

SCOTLAND is exceeding its target for 30 per cent recycling. Figures show that last year the recycling rate reached 33.4 per cent as the country is becoming increasingly aware of recycling in an everyday sense.
The next recycling and composting targets are 55 per cent by 2020 and 70 per cent by 2025.Websites such as and help to encourage Scots to give away their unwanted items rather than simply dumping in landfill sites.While some "deposit and return" schemes do operate within the UK, a statutory system is in place in Denmark, on all cans and bottles containing beer, cider, soft drinks, alcopops and energy drinks.Denmark has achieved a return rate of 85 per cent for bottles for recycling, with nearer 100 per cent of bottles designed for reuse returned.

Part superstore roof, part convent, part canal lock – the recycled house

Published Date: 27 August 2008

AT FIRST glance, Orchard House seems a perfectly normal abode.
Set in a two-and-a-half acre estate outside the village of Rosewell in Midlothian, the large property resembles a former Georgian manor.But below the surface, the £950,000 house is not all that meets the eye. Most of the materials used to build it were destined for the dump."We made our house backwards," owner Archie Hunter said. "When most people build their own home, they design the plans and then try and get the cheapest materials possible. We had the materials; we just needed to design the house."With his wife Anne, 61, Mr Hunter, 56, began collecting materials to make the house in 2000."We managed to get an oak wood flooring, big heavy timber joists, oak doors and marble steps from Whitehill House, an old mansion."From 1922 Whitehill was run by an order of nuns, so we got stained-glass windows which look fantastic."The Hunters also got materials from his local Sainsbury's. Mr Hunter said: "In 2002 the supermarket was undergoing an extension. I spoke to the site manager who said I could take some materials they were going to throw away."They provided us with steel beams and, most importantly, large amounts of insulation."This was absolutely fundamental in making the house what it is. You hear a lot about eco houses made of tyres and scrap, but the key to any true eco house is having maximum insulation. "We got tens of thousands of pounds of insulation for free – materials that were just going to be dumped in landfill sites."The house also features wall panels made from 100-year-old oak found in lock gates from Glasgow canals.The Hunters spent £200,000 on new materials for the house, with 75 per cent of the materials being recycled. Now they plan on selling it and building a new eco house in the Borders. Duncan McLaren, chief executive of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Construction and demolition waste accounts for almost half of the waste arising in Scotland, while over 10 per cent of all materials delivered to building sites become waste without ever being used. Yet recycled materials are available for many construction uses."Orchard House can be visited on 13 September, when it is among 26 buildings taking part in Midlothian Doors Open Day.

Community project convincing builders to recycle waste

Construction waste makes up a much larger proportion of landfill than household rubbish. Is it time the drive to recycle shifted its focus?
Mel Poluck
The Guardian,
Wednesday August 27 2008

Richard Simpson's daily challenge is to persuade foremen on building sites to separate waste. The former architect is co-founder of the Brighton & Hove Wood Recycling Project, which has recycled nearly 6,000 tonnes of timber since it opened in 1998. All would otherwise have been buried or chipped.
The initiative was one of the first in Britain to take waste wood from building sites to be reused. From humble beginnings when he and a colleague lugged wood across town in a clapped-out camper van, the project has since become a model for community recycling.
"To building firms we were just a bunch of hippies," says Simpson. "But we were the first in the country to go to commercial building sites. The trick is to win over the foreman." And to have a steady stream of volunteers and staff, who between them have collected lab tables from Roedean school, stage sets, and timber from Brighton pier and English Heritage sites.
Grassroots projects such as this are playing an underrated but important role in diverting materials produced by construction from landfill. Simpson provides timber to customers as diverse as the Chelsea Flower Show, students and home improvers.
The project has become a model for community recycling nationwide. Simpson's co-founder, Richard Mehmed, has gone on to help establish 21 wood recycling projects in Cambridge, east London, Glasgow, Llandudno and Manchester, among others, using Brighton as a template.
These kinds of projects are making an impact but the task is herculean. Last week, the House of Lords science committee reported that householders account for 9% of the UK's waste annually. The construction industry, by contrast, generates 90m tonnes of waste a year, producing about 32% of the UK's total waste. Up to a third of construction materials end up in landfill and nearly 13% of materials delivered to building sites never get used.
The Lords called for councils to prioritise reducing waste from businesses, and argued that companies should be made responsible for the waste associated with their products. "We would like to see the VAT regime reformed so that products that have a long life-cycle, or can be easily and cheaply repaired rather than replaced, are made economically more attractive," said Lord O'Neill, who chaired the waste reduction sub-committee.
The threat of rising landfill tax, set to reach £48 per tonne by 2011, will certainly force construction companies to take waste seriously. "It can be difficult to persuade people of the moral argument behind recycling [but] when a business realises that it will affect them financially, they are likely to respond," says Zoe Le Grand, project manager at industry body Constructing Excellence. "Legislation is getting tighter. If they want to prepare their business for the future, they should get arrangements in place for recycling as soon as possible."
Some contractors have started to act. Taylor Woodrow ran a pilot plasterboard recycling scheme in 2005 resulting in recycling rates of 72% from its housebuilding programmes. And like many construction companies, Persimmon Homes' Anglia branch segregates waste materials into separate skips on site, with 300 tonnes of recyclate distributed monthly to metal, plastics and woodchip companies.
Skanska, one of the contractors for the £1bn Bart's and the Royal London hospitals' redevelopment, has during the project reached recycling rates of 99.6% - 50,000 tonnes. "A waste volume is agreed before we sign the contract," explains James MacMillan, the programme's environment manager. "If the trade contractor goes over that, they pay for the waste. The key is to prevent waste from coming to site in the first place, [by] reducing packaging and working with trade contractors. Segregation and waste management should be the last link in the chain."
Reuse of recyclate brought in from elsewhere is becoming more common. BAA's Terminal 5 construction at Heathrow reused more than 80,000 tonnes of materials. Crushed glass from local recycling banks was used to make site roads and around 30% of the concrete mix used for buildings, taxiways and aircraft stands was from a power generation byproduct, pulverised fuel ash.
For smaller building firms that do not have the resources to employ an environment manager, help is at hand. Guidance has emerged from the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) and the Environment Agency's NetRegs website.
The government, it seems, has woken up to the construction waste problem. Last April, the Environment Agency mandated site waste management plans for construction projects in England worth more than £300,000, in which, from the pre-construction stage onwards, firms must declare waste materials and how they will be disposed of. The agency says this will cut 100m tonnes of waste annually.
Last June, the Strategic Forum for Construction, an industry-cum-government body, launched the strategy for sustainable construction, declaring aims for 50% reduction of construction, demolition and excavation waste to landfill by 2012 compared with this year. In May, the Construction Resources and Waste Roadmap was published by a public-private consortium, proposing 10 actions. The report was funded by a body of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
But the outlook for agencies created by the government to encourage sustainable practice among business is beginning to look gloomy. In the next tax year, the government plans to cut funding for environmental advisory agency Envirowise by more than 50%, and the Market Transformation Programme, National Industrial Symbiosis Programme and Wrap will all see their budgets slashed, something the waste reduction sub-committee expressed "extreme disappointment" over.

Bid proves value of rubbish for Augean

Smaller companies
Peter Stiff

As the old saying goes, where there’s muck, there’s brass. It is an adage that followers of Augean may be toasting this morning.
The company, which operates land-fill and treatment plants at 11 sites in the UK, revealed yesterday that it had received a number of approaches, which may or may not lead to an offer for the group at a “significant premium” to its present share price. Augean emphasised that all such discussions were at an early stage.
After the market closed, One Fifty One, an Irish group, confirmed that it had made an approach for Augean and that it already holds 26.89 per cent of its shares. Augean said that it was confident that current-year market expectations would be met. The shares rose more than 38 per cent, or 26p, to 94¼p.

BMW leads industry in emissions cuts

By John Reed in London
Published: August 26 2008 16:14

BMW is reducing its vehicles’ emissions at four times the rate of other major manufacturers, according to a leading Brussels-based environmental watchdog group.
The average new car sold last year by the Munich-based carmaker typically emitted 7.3 per cent less carbon dioxide per kilometer than in 2006, according to a report on carmakers’ fuel efficiency by Transport & Environment, the campaign group.

The finding will vindicate BMW’s Efficient Dynamics strategy of improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions across its vehicle lineup, rather than focusing on a small number of image-boosting “eco-cars.”
BMW, with a fleet dominated by the kind of high-performance luxury cars now in the sights of carbon-cutting legislators, has one of the industry’s largest research and development budgets.
It is investing heavily in more efficient engines, “stop-start” or microhybrid systems, and other emissions-cutting technology in response to pressure from local and national regulators, including the European Union, which wants carmakers to cut their cars’ average CO2 by about a quarter by 2012 to 130 g/km.
“This year you see the first signs of the reaction of the industry to regulatory pressure,” said Jos Dings, T&E’s director. “We hope that next year they show more progress and that this regulatory pressure works.”
The group compiled the report from data submitted by EU governments to the European Commission. Some carmakers have in past disputed the figures T&E uses, and BMW was not immediately available for comment.
Other companies that made significant improvements in CO2 reduction last year included Hyundai and Daimler, down 3.9 per cent and 3.5 per cent respectively.
However, T&E said Daimler’s improved ranking had much to do with its demerger last year with Chrysler, which has many large, high-emission vehicles in its lineup. Nor are carmakers are not yet improving their cars’ efficiency fast enough to meet the EU’s proposed climate target for new cars, according to T&E.
Notwithstanding its improved performance, BMW’s cars emitted an average of 160 g/km last year, slightly above the industry average.
Of the 14 automakers ranked, Ford Motor and Honda showed the least improvement last year, with Ford’s average CO2 emissions down 0.2 per cent and Honda’s up 1.1 per cent, according to the group.
Toyota, which makes much of the green credentials of cars like its hybrid Prius, reduced its emissions by only 2.4 per cent.
The draft EU legislation is due to be discussed in committee in the European parliament next month, and debated by European environment ministers later in the year.
BMW and other carmakers are lobbying for loopholes to be included in the draft to give them more time to meet the targets or exemptions or credits for clean vehicles.
The carmakers say that thousands of jobs and their future profits will be threatened by overzealous legislation. Campaigners warn they are seeking to water down European targets on cutting emissions.
Fiends of the Earth, who are members of T&E, said that members of the European Parliament “must stand firm against the self-interested lobbying of the car industry and vote for tough new standards to cut emissions from cars.”
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008

Entergy, New York Reach Deal Tied to Nuclear-Power Spinoff

August 26, 2008;

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said New York state will continue to receive as much as $72 million a year through 2014 if Entergy Corp. spins off its Indian Point and FitzPatrick nuclear stations into the nation's first stand-alone nuclear-power company.
Mr. Cuomo said the New Orleans-based company agreed not to "renege" on its contract to pay $432 million to the New York Power Authority over the length of the revenue-sharing agreement, which runs through 2014.
Alex Schott, an Entergy spokesman, said the company has agreed to a "resolution of dispute" pact with the New York Power Authority that "the proposed spinoff will not result in a termination of the value-sharing payments."
The deal to spin off the plants has to be approved by the state Public Service Commission and other state regulators. Mr. Cuomo has opposed the spinoff. Mr. Schott said Entergy is still targeting the fourth quarter for receiving regulatory approvals.
Under the proposal, Entergy would transfer five nuclear power plants it owns in the Northeast -- including two reactors at the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., and one reactor at James A. FitzPatrick plant near Oswego, N.Y. -- to a new publicly traded company called Enexus Energy Corp.