July 2020

PG Tips changed its tea bags to biodegradable

Big stick for single carrots wrapped in plastic

At the start of this month, I asked the major supermarket chains via Twitter what innovations they were putting in place for Plastic Free July.

Many of the major supermarkets have commitments to reducing plastic under their sustainability policies, as outlined on their websites.

But none of them responded, despite their pledges on sustainability. So, I concluded, they didn’t even take advantage of the annual Plastic Free July campaign to show how their commitments on plastics might be working. No innovations to announce: no plastic free aisles; no removal of plastic on eggs, for example.

Meanwhile, a Dutch supermarket chain was shown up by a consumer for wrapping individual carrots in plastic to “protect them”.

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Rubbish outside allotment

Litter tossers have no respect – for area or themselves

It is hard to know which is worse: hundreds of discarded piece of litter, scattered over a reasonably wide area, or dumping rubbish in a concentrated spot, otherwise known as fly-tipping.

One, at best, involves a negligent slip of an item out of a hand, pocket or perhaps a vehicle; the other is a completely deliberate act to avoid disposing of items responsibly, perhaps at cost.

Both types of rubbish disposal could be deliberate, cigarettes or crisp packets flicked from cars for example. And both types of littering have been noted in the Earlswood area in recent days.

One hopes that the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s Joint Enforcement Team, whose attention has been brought to the pile of debris outside the entrance to the Earlswood allotments, will find evidence to point to the culprit.

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An old building in Redhill has been repurposed for modern use

Cherish historic buildings: they can’t go in museums

Our heritage has been in the news recently in various ways. One of the Black Lives Matter protests resulted in the removal of statues celebrating people of the past whose money was made from slavery. The National Trust, and other organisations, have started reopening their historic homes and gardens.

These points are at different ends of the spectrum, but linked. History brings us lessons of evil as well as celebrations of good. It is important to learn about them, either way. Recent events have highlighted that more needs to be written in our school history books about certain characters and their flaws.

Our curriculums are packed with histories of World Wars One and Two. Many people will have learned of Henry VIII, Martin Luther King, or Ghandi. Did you learn of Martin Luther too? As a protestant revolutionary, he’s central to Henry VIII’s story.

Do the depths of those stories evade us or resonate? Few people in history were cleaner than clean, if we choose to stop and study them. Few modern heroes are, either. Many have some vice by modern standards.

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How lockdown has instilled a sense of localism

A favourite jacket’s zip broke. So did a one on a plastic, but reusable, cover on a small greenhouse. What should I do? What would you do?

One option was to throw them away, to buy afresh – online – and keep major clothing and gardening chains in business. Another option was to mend.

Neither needed fixing urgently. The jacket was for days that are colder than summer. The greenhouse has done its work this year, nurturing seedlings that are now planted out. It would seem shameful to discard not just its plastic but metal structure, just because the zip had failed.

So I waited, through lockdown, for a local mender to reopen. I took both items to them – the greenhouse request being an unusual one – and asked them to fit new zips.

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The real Reigate solution: pedestrianise the High Street

When the community recycling centre at Earlswood reopened after lockdown and there were long traffic queues, was the solution to get rid of the recycling centre? No, of course not. After McDonalds’ drive through in Salfords reopened and there were long queues for that too, was the restaurant removed? Don’t be silly.

But when temporary cycle lanes were introduced in Reigate Town Centre last Saturday morning – and were instantly blamed for long traffic queues – were they removed? Or did the delayed drivers think about taking alternative routes instead, another time?

They didn’t get much thinking time. These cycle lanes were part of the Active Travel funding given by central government – the Department for Transport – to Surrey. This was intended to improve cycle access and walkways. In a nationwide scheme, councils were asked to bid for money to set up temporary improvements. But the three-week experiment was halted on Monday night, after three days. By which time there was very little traffic to be impeded.

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An example of an oil drilling rig

Rejecting new oil drilling is slippery business

What did it mean when the Government declared a Climate Emergency and Surrey County Council – among other regional authorities followed suit? Did it give them powers to act in certain ways?

Could they use it to influence policy? To set agendas? To change historical ways of doing things, in order to be more environmentally friendly? Was it a door ajar to push for change, and only ajar rather than open? Or a truly defining moment where the door was wide open and a real crack at reducing our carbon emissions could be made?

Working towards a carbon neutral Britain by 2050 has to start now – and many say that target should be much closer.

When Extinction Rebellion held London, and other cities, to ransom in April 2019, the UK Government took notice.

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Newts just get in the way of housing

Build back better: newt very green at all

Did he say “build back better, greener, faster?” Yes, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a broad list of a £5bn plan to kick start our economy. But it left many who have called for a properly “green” recovery cold.

The banner underneath his podium said “build, build, build” – and it turned out the real emphasis was on building. Building greener was tertiary, behind the concept of “faster”. Environmentalism came across as an after thought.

Build HS2. Build links to north and south; build to sort out the transport bottle neck at Manchester; build a wider road to Scotland, he said, to make good the promise made in 1992; build homes; build 50 schools; build the election pledge of 40 new hospitals.

And, yes, he wanted 4,000 new carbon zero buses and he highlighted a “massive” investment that is underway in cycle way improvements.

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