Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Autumn 2000

Wealdon leads the way for waste

Earlier in the year we ran an article on Cardiff County Council's poor record on waste minimisation and recycling. Cardiff Friends of the Earth have been looking at what other organisations are doing elsewhere to reduce their local community's waste production.

"Recycling our waste has many environmental and economic benefits. However, the most important thing we can all do to tackle the problem of waste is to reduce the amount we create in the first place. For instance buying lose instead of pre-packaged vegetables. Waste reduction is closely tied to reuse..." This familiar mantra doesn't come from a Friends of the Earth or Waste Watch publication as you might expect. These are the opening lines of Wealdon District Council's main website page on recycling.

Wealdon District Council is situated in East Sussex and is home to about 142,000 people. They currently operate their CROWN service (Composting and Recycling Our Waste Now) which is recycling about 50 percent of waste. It is being phased in to all built up areas in the district. By their own admission they have made "a substantial investment in waste management with a modern fleet of refuse and recycling vehicles, and a state of the art materials reclamation facility... where materials are stored and sorted before being transported to reprocessing plants for recycling."

We aren't in any way promoting Wealdon District Council or pledging our wholehearted support to that particular local authority, but their example does provide some food for thought. The decision-makers in Cardiff County Council promised ten years ago to be recycling 50 percent of household waste by 1995. Cardiff currently recycles just 5.7 percent of household waste according to the Office of National Statistics. They would do well to learn from Wealdon District Council, whose website is packed with useful pieces of information, including the user-friendly 102 different ways to reduce waste. It is bursting with handy hints for every waste-minimising occasion. For example:

  • Number 1. At the pub, drink drought beers, the casks can last for 30 years
  • Number 15. Getting married? Consider hiring the wedding outfits. See in the Yellow Pages under Wedding Services - Dressing
  • Number 66. Be careful with food purchasing and cooking to avoid wastage. Keep an eye on perishable fruit and vegetables. Most things that are starting to go off, such as carrots, courgettes, and apples can be quickly stir-fried for a tasty snack
  • Number 96. Buying a piano? Buy a used or reconditioned model. If it breaks, contact a piano repair specialist.

The Wealdon District Council also feel that "an essential element of waste management is the council's promotion and education programme, which while concentrating on local schools, is also directed at local business and voluntary organisations."

Cardiff County Council would do well to look at variety of solutions that exist. The people and environment of Cardiff won't accept business as usual.

World Climate Talks, The Hague 2000

On 18 - 20 November 2000, world leaders will meet once again to discuss the Kyoto Protocol. This year it is vitally important not to let developed nations, such as the US, Canada, and Australia, water down the agreement.

Friends of the Earth and other organisations are planning to build a huge dyke made of sandbags to circle the entire conference location. They need your help.

Travel costs will be approximately £70 and coaches will leave on Friday 17 November. Basic accommodation will be provided for free.

FoE Cymru Conference

Don't miss the event of the year, Friends of the Earth Cymru's conference starts on Friday 10 November. This annual event for local group members in Wales will, this year, be held in Cardiff. It will start with a public meeting to discuss 'business and the environment'. This follows on from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland's conference which focused on the theme of corporate power. The meeting will discuss the economic benefits to companies of following a green agenda. Charles Secrett, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth will debate with a representative of big business whose name will be announced soon.

The Saturday focuses on Friends of the Earth local groups issues. There will be plenty of workshops and presentations aimed at giving information and inspiration to help them with their campaigns across Wales. This year we have workshops on issues covering planning, the National Assembly for Wales, biodiversity, transport, energy, and our new campaign on corporate power. We will also be running two workshops on local group development, focusing on planning a campaign, and running a successful group.

Conference is a time for campaigners from all across Wales to get together and share ideas, as well as the chance to hear about national campaigns in Wales and the UK. There will be plenty of time to socialise. We have hired a room with a bar at the Welsh Institute of Sport where we will hold Friends of the Earth Cymru's first ever Grand Pub Quiz.

The fuel embargoes

The country seems to have gone crazy. Petrol stations are running out of petrol, panicking people are queuing for hours to try to fill their cars, whilst many are stockpiling resources, the siege mentality lives on.

This crisis highlights several issues, the nature of environmental taxation and our ever-increasing dependence on the car. The event of the past week (and the oil crises of the 1970s) show us how dependant our whole society is on petrol and other fossil fuels.

Conventional economics say that if fuel prices continue to rise, people will use less of it which would be good for the environment. However the problem with this is that the poorest will be hit hardest.

There is a lot of debate these days about environmental taxes, a non-radical option that our present government may well pursue more and more. An example would be spending revenues generated from petrol specifically on helping prevent climate change. In general we are all for the 'polluter pays' principle, but we need to make sure that the taxes are not hitting the poor.

By the time you read this the fuel embargoes will probably be old news. Commuters will continue to commute, and the UK will be "business as usual". However we live in hope that the Blair government will see the light and start funding the development of sustainable transport options: that half of all new cars sold after 2020 will be fossil-fuel and emissions-free; that our public transport system will be the envy of the world; and that cyclists will live without the fear of being mown down. Don't be fooled, there are plenty of alternatives to petrol out there. Hydrogen fuel cells, electric and hybrid cars are big contenders at the moment. In a society still in love with the motor car however, where a big shiny car equals status and power, market forces alone won't deliver these goods to the mass market until the oil resources start running low.

The politicians need a good hard shove in the right direction. Please don't let this opportunity go to waste, write to your MP, AMs, and even MEPs. Ask them for more investment in public transport. Tell them about your vision for 2020, where a high percentage of new cars sold are emissions-free. Take the example of California, one of the most car-dependant parts of the world. The State legislature passed a Law in the early 1990s requiring that 10 percent of all cars registered after 2003 must be emissions-free. It was amazing how fast the car manufacturers responded. Such a step could even rejuvenate our ailing car industry.

Challenging corporate power

Five members of Cardiff Friends of the Earth went along to the Friends of the Earth Local Groups Conference, which took place on 8 - 10 September in Birmingham. The main theme of the conference was how do we prevent environmental and social degradation in a world increasingly dominated by an agenda set by powerful corporations? Current thinking is that we have to hit big business where it hurts - financially. This means identifying the organisations investing in damaging projects.

An example of this is the Birmingham Northern Relief Road which would damage two SSSI sites, and it would increase congestion rather than reduce it. Birmingham Friends of the Earth discovered that several high street banks were funding the developers. This gave excellent opportunities for demonstrations, the exercising of consumer power, and approaching individual bank managers.

There was also a big debate as to how far Friends of the Earth should go to try to stop corporations. Should we be working with corporations to try to achieve solutions, or should we continue just to put pressure on them? Should we accept funding from companies who have a proven environmental record, such as the Triodos Bank, or would this lead to a loss of independence? Should we endorse environmentally sound services and products?

At Cardiff Friends of the Earth we have answered a cautious yes to some of these questions. Environmental campaigning should be about finding solutions, not just raising issues and then expecting someone else to sort it out. However accepting funds from dubious sources could lead to an unacceptable lack of independence. We would be interested to hear your view on these issues.

The conference was a great opportunity to chat to other local groups and to share experiences. The good news is that in Cardiff we currently have about 12 to 15 active members and are the envy of most other local groups. The bad news is that all of us find it difficult to find the time to really get our teeth into campaigns. If you have some spare time we could really do with your help. Current campaigns include recycling, the Eastern Bay Link Road, road traffic reduction, and Nycomed Amersham.

Update on Cardiff Friends of the Earth activities

Five group members attended the Local Groups Conference at the University of Aston recently which we found inspiring and enthusing. Hopefully we'll feel a bit more confident about campaigning on the issues we feel strongly about and will have lots of practical ideas for achieving our objectives.

Our waste minimisation and recycling campaign is slowly gearing up, and we hope that with October being Tidy Wales' "waste month", the group can launch the campaign on an unsuspecting council.

The other main project at the moment is building a new information stall out of recycled materials. Our aim is to make it eye-catching and appealing to members of the public.

We will hold our AGM on Saturday 25 November, in order to give us plenty of time to bash out a strategy for next year's campaigns. An invitation will be sent out nearer the time, but please put the date in your diary now, and attend if you can to make sure we are campaigning on the issues you think are important.