Magpie 36 – Local Agenda 21 IS Rubbish

Brown, I. (1995) Local Agenda 21 IS Rubbish!  Magpie 36, p14 – 7

Local Agenda 21 IS Rubbish! by Ian Brown 

I once said “You can tell what the average Mancunian thinks about their environment . by the amount of rubbish they throw at it.” (You’ve said it again – Ed)

Heald Green, where I live, was disgraceful; the council have recently tidied it up but it is almost back to normal. Why the council should have to spend the money of the many, clearing up the mess of the few, is a little mystifying.

Strange how other European countries do not seem to have a problem with litter, householders and shopkeepers can be seen sweeping the streets though, in truth, there is little to sweep up.

And I’m not Just talking about the littering of the streets, which is bad enough, but fly-tipping in our woods, streams and other of our rare and rapidly decreasing wildlife havens. It takes little time and effort to scatter the rubbish about (a degree in stupidity helps!) but it costs a fortune in time and resources to clear it up. Having said that, one often wonders at the trouble some people must take to find a remote dumping ground for their old T.V. set, or carpet or; well you name it, we’ve seen it.

What we need is a campaign to “Get Britain Tidy”; “Keep Britain Tidy” or ‘Tidy Britain”‘ don’t seem to have quite filled the bill (or the bin). Some dramatic publicity is needed to impress on people the consequences of dropping litter; from the place looking a mess, at best, to the drowning of young boys in culverts, at worst. 

Just throwing litter in the bin is not good enough; what we need is less of it. There are several ways to achieve this end. Expanding on the Greenpeace slogan, “Reuse -Reduce – Recycle”, here is a slightly more comprehensive way to start solving the problem.

Reduce – Cut down on consumption. Before buying anything, think; do you really need it? There is a “Factor of 10 Club” whose aim is to cut consumption to a tenth of present levels (in the richer countries presumably). I will try to find out more about this, but in the meantime we could be working our way towards this goal. The latest thing I’ve cut out is the use of shampoo, on the principle that clean, hot water is quite adequate for the washing of one’s hair. What next? Suggestions on a postcard please.

Refuse – that carrier bag: when out shopping, take a bag with you. If you really need something, choose the least packaged alternative. Why some things need packaging is a mystery. Take dry cell batteries; do they need to be sold in a bubble pack, put in a paper bag and then carrier bag? Could they not be sold loose and carried home in your pocket?

Reuse – If you buy rechargeable batteries, these can be “re-used” 100 times, or more, and carrier bags can be used to destruction rather than being thrown away after only one use. Don’t buy disposables like razors, pens (try a fountain pen) and, dare I say, nappies; now there’s a problem if you like. 

Repair – A difficulty here is that many things cost more to repair than they do to buy. A solution could be to buy better quality goods which will last longer and be worthwhile repairing. A Bodger Brown chair? 

Return – Returnables seem to have gone out of fashion but there’s still the milk bottle. Even if doorstep deliveries do cost a little more than milk from the supermarket, it’s worth paying extra to avoid the problems caused by having to throw away plastic containers (see later). 

Recycle – This rightly comes last. Do all the above first then recycle as much as you can of what is left. Most of your rubbish is worth something. Aluminium cans can be sold for cash (freephone Alcan 0800 262465 for details). Give the money raised to your favourite wildlife group. Put steel cans in the bin; in Stockport, and other districts, these are extracted, along with other ferrous items. Glass and paper can go to the recycling centre. Clothing etc. to charities (don’t forget, I need somewhere to shop). Plastic is a problem; it has been recycled, for years, on a commercial scale but one wonders if it is environmentally sustainable on a domestic scale. But as you will be buying less stuff in plastic bottles and other containers that should solve that problem. Buy concentrated drinks and detergents (e.g. Stardrops), etc. in glass bottles which can then be returned or recycled. 

An important thing to remember, when recycling, is energy use. For example, the energy saved making new glass from old, as compared to using raw materials (per kilo), is equivalent to the energy used to propel a car one mile. So don’t make a special journey, by car, to the recycling bank; only go when you are passing on a necessary trip. 

I am told it is the intention in Manchester to raise the amount of our rubbish recycled from 3% to 25%. I say this is not good enough. If the guidelines above are followed, I estimate that 75% would be possible. If I had an open fire I would not have to leave any rubbish out for the bin collection, except steel. Recycling facilities vary from district to district. In Stockport, community recycling units have been installed. There are now 100 of these and they are conveniently situated in local shopping areas. This means you can WALK to the shops with your re-used bag full of paper and bottles, dump them in the recycling bins, do your shopping and then pick up aluminium. cans, on the way home. There’ll be a fresh supply 1 tomorrow! (But remember, I’ve got the concession for Heald Green). In Manchester, recycling facilities seem to be diminishing but we hope this will be reversed. If you would like to run a recycling unit, to raise money for your favourite voluntary group, phone Mike Shearing at the Sustainability Group on 234 4629 Then read the article – Local Agenda 21 is RUBBISH.

Then there’s composting. All garden waste, and organic domestic waste (except meat), can be put on the compost heap. The result is a beautiful rich loam which can be used to enrich the soil in your vegetable plot and save you buying fertilisers and peat (from one of our disappearing peat mosses). Compost bins and wormeries can be purchased from your council at bargain prices. In Manchester, phone 273 4578 Ext. 214 and in Stockport, Mark Rimmer 474 4889.

Part of Local Agenda 21 is Education and Consultation. If my experience while collecting recyclable materials is anything to go by, a lot of education is needed on the subject of recycling. There are many examples but finding bottles, strewn on the ground and in the waste bin, right next to a bottle bank is one of the best.

All of this may be old stuff to some of you; if so and you have some great ideas for reducing waste, let us know. Better still, why not take part in the Waste & Pollution Action Group. Phone the Manchester LA21 Forum, Tel. 236 5195 for more details 

So, what has all this to do with wildlife? Well, all the rubbish we throw away has to go somewhere. In the case of Greater Manchester this could be Red Moss. This SSSI represents one of our rarest wildlife habitats. DON’T USE IT, OR LOSE IT, or as it says on the cover: 

Reduce + Refuse + Reuse + Repair + Return + Recycle = Less Landfill – Misguided Bolton Councillors = RED MOSS SAVED? 

Many times I have heard it said that what the individual can do will not make a difference. Don’t forget, there are 60 million individuals in this country; acting together they can make a considerable difference. If not YOU, then who? 

So what else is happening in Local Agenda 21? The Action Groups are going strong and about to hand in their Initial Statements. Public consultation will be between March and June, this year, with the hope that the draft document will be out by the end of the year.

Just out: “Manchester City Vision” the newsletter of the Manchester Local Agenda 21 Forum. Copies should be available in libraries, information centres and similar places but if you have a problem finding one, phone the Sustainability Group on 0161-23 ; 4527 Full of interesting information and all the contacts if you want to become more involved. 

But what of Sustainable Development? We’re still waiting for examples in Manchester, if you have any, let us know. I’m still looking, but the only developments I hear of do not seem to fill the bill. Arenas; concert halls; Commonwealth Games; 2nd runway; art shows; offices, shops and conference facilities at the Great Northern Warehouse; hotels; we may enjoy some of these but there is no way that they can be said to come under the heading of sustainable development. As a U.S. businessman once said, “We can’t all make a living opening doors for one another.” (From: “As it Seemed to Me” by John Cole) It seems to me that that sums it up very nicely. 

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