Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The cost of waste....who pays?

Recycling Industry Plastic and Paper Bound for Shipment Ecology by Bill Bachmann
Recycling Industry Plastic and Paper Bound for Shipment Ecology

An interesting dilemma is posing itself, not imminently but in the near future with regards to the collection of waste paper products and other waste produced by retailers.

Councils are arguing that supermarkets should be paying for the cost of recycling the amount of waste produced probably in line with the Climate Change Levy that is being charged to businesses on their use of electricity in a bid to reduce waste products and encourage recycling. The reason for this outcry is probably because the amount of money they receive for the sourced product is lower than the cost of collecting this and therefore produces a negative cash flow in their accounts. Should this happen then is is likely that the costs of recycling will be added to the consumers food bill or the business tax rates charged by local councils.

As a business we donated our cardboard to a local charity who used to get paid for collecting the papers, adding useful funds to their efforts and building community. This was a win win situation for all concerned. As a result of the drop in the price of the waste paper as a resource, the paper mill was out of pocket and has now asked the charity to pay for the collection of the container at a cost of £ 30 per month. The charity have therefore decided not to continue with the collection which is understandable. It stands to lose the funds, the goodwill and the community building that resulted from its monthly collections.

I am guessing that the Councils are feeling the same pinch in their cash flow and want retailers to pick up the tab. If the cost of recycling waste exceeds the value as a recycled resource, it is likely that waste will be returned to landfill for which they have ever decreasing targets. This creates a problem that requires a solution.

The costs of recycling have to be met somewhere either by the supplier, the retailer or the consumer. There was a motion last year for consumers and households to pay per waste load on top of the money paid in the community charge for the collection of waste and recycling.

How can we make it add up?

Most products arrive in either a cardboard box or a cardboard tray then wrapped in plastic. The cardboard can be dealt with by recycling and would be preferable than bags and bags of plastic waste for which currently there is no recycling route.

Herein lies an opportunity.......and I see no immediate solution.

If we reduce food miles and consumption we also stand to reduce the amount of packaging that goes to waste. Alternatively, suppliers could produce plastic trays made from the plastic wraps that are returnable to the supplier so they can be reused. Is is possible to create a recycling loop within suppliers so that the waste products you receive as a retailer can be returned like empty milk bottles to your supplier? That would add to the miles the stuff needs to get transported.

How can we step back and downshift our waste products?

Monday, February 09, 2009

What if......

What if we get snowed in, no power, no central heating.How prepared would you be?
What is the plan?
Do you have one?

On Thursday, school was off and the children went out to play all day in the snow. Oh Joy, no accidents, just clean fun on the top of the hill.

As a business we observed that people who had never used the shop started flocking to it like birds and buying all sorts of items, mainly the ones considered they could not do without. We baked as much bread as was possible and milk flew off the shelves. Then at 10 am, the power went off and we found ourselves in the dark.

The phone worked as we have an old one plugged in ( not digital), but apart from that a hush came over the shop. Out came the flashlights and we made a large sign to put outside to say that we were open. The phone did not stop ringing.With questions after questions we decided the phone had to be manned by a person taking messages. One person was sent off to visit the elderly in the road without power to find out what assistance they needed and the child with a head for figures was placed near the counter to make sums. This worked quite well although the queue outside the door was beginning to be noticed.

Next we found that many wanted to purchase batteries for radios and some foods that required no cooking or at best could be prepared by pouring boiling water on them.

Our main concerns were regarding the cold foods and these were moved as much as possible. There has been a lot of wastage.

Some of the points we noted to be prepared:
  • you need a thermos to keep hot drinks in or hot water.
  • a wood burning stove can help prepare a meal consisting of rice, beans and porridge.
  • cooking during daylight hours is better than by candlelight.
  • central heating needs electricity to start the pump so an alternative heat source is necessary.
  • if no heating, the best place to stay warm is in bed.
  • A digital radio and mobile phones do not work when the power supply is interrupted.
  • A solar torch or windup torch is more efficient than battery operated ones.
  • Candles offer sufficient light.
  • Moonlight on snow is magical and quite sufficient to light your path.
  • Larger suppliers leaving depots far far away are not willing and not able to deliver.
  • Small local suppliers who are used to the road conditions are able to supply goods.
  • You need to have a certain amount of cash available as cash machines need electricity
  • Alarms go off and make a loud noise until they run out of battery ( which can take ages). A set of ear defenders is a must if you have a house alarm.
  • Communities have the ability to work together to ensure survival.

Many of our customers appreciated the shop being there and others who had not considered shopping here previously suddenly realised its importance.

The experience taught us how vulnerable we all become when our comforts are taken away and the children were at a loss in the evening on how to stay entertained as all their initial ideas demanded electricity. Eventually we rediscovered monopoly by candlelight, playing cards and....talking to each other.

Tonight we expect a storm as well as snow....we have replenished stock as much as possible.
How prepared would you be?
A collapse in the financial system and transportation system has repercussions on the food supply chain. We plan to have sufficient energy foods to last 7 days minimum for each person in the household.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Peaceful moments to refresh the soul

Navajo Dawn by R. C. Gorman
Navajo Dawn

In the morning, before the village wakes up, a few quiet moments can be found. Opening the door, looking at the sky gives us an indication of what may lay ahead.

In an often stressful world, we can find little places of quiet where our restless minds can find a haven of peace.

I have not always loved silence but can find pockets of silence that help me focus on the now. Sitting quietly in silence, with maybe a cup of steaming tea, refreshes my soul.

After the children leave for school I go around the house, settling the noises into quiet restful places; turning the TV off when we are not watching it, turning lights off and breathing in the spaces in the house. I am mindful of the spaces in our home and take notice of the house, its people, its animals, its dust and cobwebs......

Refreshing the soul by taking a walk in nature. I notice the changes in the quality of the air, its temperature and the way the light colours the landscape in different hues. I try and read the weather and I follow the dog back home.

Meditation is more difficult to fit in to refresh the soul and takes about 20 mins.It offers many benefits and for me it reduces anxiety, depression, irritability and frustration. It brings me back to the essence of me, that part that does not change even though physically I have changed. It lowers my heart rate, it lowers levels of cortisol and lactate associated with stress and leaves me feeling a little more refreshed and more able to cope. When I spend time in the garden I am mindful in my activity and meditate on my surroundings.

Once a year our community leaves to go on a retreat together and I have found these weekends time to reflect and get to know people on a different level.

Taking care of ourselves is often neglected when the world seems to spin out of control and yet, they only demand your time and attention, strangely, money is not really the prime consideration here.

Looking for the stillness in the eye of the storm allows us to centre, to focus and refresh our whole being for what lies ahead.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Magic Winter Snowbaby

Winter has returned. It has been a very long time since our village has seen snow, approximately 10 years and there were mixed reactions when the children were told, business as usual. The eldest boy had a day off as his schoolbus was not running and the others gloomily went to the busstop. At 11am they were back from school and are doing what children do when it snows ........wonder in awe at the beauty, the whiteness and go sledding on the highest hill they can find.

There is community building as well, papers to be delivered to those who do not venture out today. I on the other hand have prepared a snow white cake to celebrate their fun today and marvel at the beauty around us.
Have a great day and stay warm.