The RSPB does many things, but we don’t do work much on waste.
Yet, this week we’ve two rather eye catching initiatives. The first is yesterday’s announcement by the Coalition Government that they’ve found £250 million to encourage local authorities to return to weekly household bin collections.
Well done Mister Pickles for finding the money – I wish I had that stashed behind my sofa.
But it is worth noting that research by the government’s own Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) found no difference, in terms of hygiene, between fortnightly and weekly collections and there’s certainly no economic or environmental justification for such largesse.
If Mr Pickles wanted to do something for the environment, wouldn’t the money have been far better spent plugging the UKs conservation financing gap, which stands at around £275 million?
Just a thought.
The second initiative is rather more heartening with the introduction of the Welsh Government’s levy on plastic bag use.
Single use plastic bags are bad news on the whole as they add to landfill, litter the countryside or, probably most damagingly, end up in waterways and the sea, where they are a hazard to marine life.
Shoppers in Wales will now need to pay 5p for every new single-use bag which should reduce usage and encourage people to think more about reducing waste.
The Irish led the way on this, introducing a levy in 2002. In England, we tried a voluntary approach which did reduce usage but did not achieve its target reductions. We still use around 6.5 billion single use bags a year.
Now we would expect a levy to significantly reduce use but at current usage rates. Indeed, the levy in Ireland cut plastic bag use by 90%. Still a 5p levy across the UK on current usage would raise £300 million – again just the job to properly fund our biodiversity objectives!
Earlier this year the UK Treasury showed enthusiasm for making greater use of green taxes. Let’s hope they have an eye on Wales, recall the failure of England’s voluntary approach and remember just what good value investing in nature can be.
Oh, and when you go shopping this weekend, remember to dig out an old bag from the pile you are storing in your cupboard...