Circular Economy: latest developments

Hurrah! – the European Parliament has just voted to support the Right to Repair – more here.

Closer to home, the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report ‘Electronic Waste and the Circular Economy’ came out last week; see the full report here.  It turns out the UK produces the world’s second highest amount of e-waste per person……

But a positive outcome is the committee’s 27 recommendations including enshrining the right to repair in law; enforcing access to repair manuals and access to affordable spare parts; and the ability to repair products without needing access to physical or software tools specifically designed to be a barrier to independent servicing or repair.  (Of course, there is a way to go before these recommendations, if accepted, become law.)
 
Tom Bragg of Cambridgeshire Repair Cafes has done a fantastic job in pulling out the most salient points:
  • the UK generates the second highest amount of E-waste per person in the world (23.9 kg/person/y), after Norway (26kg). 
  • the average European household has 44 electronic or electrical items at home plus another 45 lamps or light fittings
  • Natural resource extraction and processing makes up approximately 50 per cent of the total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions produced worldwide [I assume this includes mining, transport, manufacture, etc]
  • Though the UK collects most of its electronic waste at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs)137 it is also the European country with the least HWRCs per inhabitant and one of lowest per 1000 km2 – mostly out of town and only accessible by car.
  • extending the lifetime of all washing machines, smartphones, laptops and vacuum cleaners in the EU by one year would lead to annual savings of around four million tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, which is equivalent to taking over two million cars off the roads for a year
  • average lifetime of a washing machine fell from an average life of 10 years to seven years between 2000 and 2010
  • large household appliances being replaced within the first five years of their service life due to a defect increased from 3.5 per cent in 2004 to 8.3 per cent in 2013
  • for fridges, the UK had the lowest average replacement age (5.1 years)
  • In 2013, the average smartphone lifetimes in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK were around 18.3 months, rising to 21.6 months in 2016, potentially due to the decreasing rate of innovation
  • 65 per cent of people feel frustrated about how long products last, and 62 per cent at the difficulty of repair. 75 per cent said that Government should ensure businesses produce repairable and recyclable products
  • 40 per cent of Smartphones running the Android operating system are no longer receiving security updates.  iPhones, up to iPhone 6 released in 2015, are now considered obsolete
  • Restart Project has estimated that over 1,000 community repair events logged in its online system have saved an estimated 17,864 kg of electronic waste and an estimated 280,894 kg CO2 emissions
  • Smash the display on Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro Max, for example, and you can expect to pay £326 to get it fixed by the tech giant if it’s out of warranty. If the damage sustained by the iPhone comes under ‘other damage’ (faults not related to the display), that number could rise to a whopping £596.44
  • 1,714,000 tonnes of EEE (Electrical and Electronic Equipment) were purchased in the UK in 2019.  505,445 tonnes WEEE (Waste EEE) were collected, down from a peak of 589,850 tonnes in 2016
  • 155,000 tonnes were thrown away in domestic bins and incinerated or landfilled in 2017
  • 190,000 tonnes, equivalent to 527 million small old unused electronical items, are hoarded by UK Households (av 20 /household)
  • 140 million cables are held in people’s homes across the UK, enough to go around the earth 5 times
  • 2.5% – 10% estimated amount of electronics that are re-used by others

The Committee’s recommendations most relevant to Repair Cafés are:

10.   We support this proposal and urge the Government to bring this forward with the aim of removing electronics with unduly short lives from the market. The expected lifetime label must be linked to the minimum lifespan guarantee. Particular attention must be paid to where the burden of proof lies between consumers and producers.  (Paragraph 94)

11.   The Government must enshrine the right to repair in law, enforcing access to (1) repair manuals; (2) access to affordable spare parts for products; and (3) ability to repair products without repairers needing access to physical or software tools specifically designed to be a barrier to independent servicing or repair. (Paragraph 109)

12.   Technology companies, repair organisations and the UK Government should collaborate to ensure safety is ensured during the repair of electronics. This could be through creating professional standards, that will in turn drive more consumer trust. This collaboration should also look at the protection of intellectual property. (Paragraph 110)

13.   The Government should mandate that products be labelled with a repairability score, based on the products design, the availability and cost of spare parts, access and ease of use of repair manuals. This will incentivise companies to go beyond the minimum requirements already established. Companies with better repairability scores should be rewarded with a reduction in modulated fees for their extended producer responsibility scheme contributions. (Paragraph 111)

14.   The UK Government should encourage repairability through reducing VAT charged on the repair of electrical and electronic products. (Paragraph 112)

Thanks to Cambridgeshire Repair Cafes for this report.

Woman’s Hour Power List 2020 – Environment and Sustainability

The BBC programme ‘Woman’s Hour’ yesterday announced its 2020 Power list celebrating 30 inspiring women from the UK whose work is making a significant positive contribution to the environment and the sustainability of our planet.

Several of the women are nationally acknowledged leaders in their field, but inevitably some are better known than others.  The diversity of age, ethnicity and the area of contribution is striking.

Throughout this week Woman’s Hour (10 am Radio 4) is featuring the women; you can also download a podcast if you miss anything.  Meanwhile the full list is published here.

How is the UK doing on its Pledge for Nature?

On 28 September 2020, along with 76 other national leaders, Boris Johnson signed a 10 point ‘Pledge for Nature’ ahead of the UN Summit on Biodiversity ‘to send a united signal to step up global ambition for biodiversity and to commit to matching our collective ambition for nature, climate and people with the scale of the crisis at hand.’

Now Martin Harper of the RSPB has published an assessment of  how the government is doing so far with regard to these ten points.  You can read his excellent blog here.

The Stop Ecocide Foundation

We were sent this from Jenny Langley, our recent speaker on Extinction Rebellion:

The Stop Ecocide Foundation would be really good for your group to know about.
They are trying to make ecocide an international crime through the UN – on a similar basis to genocide.  They are making progress. Greta gave them £100,000 of the £1M prize she was awarded recently. 
You can sign up to be an Earth Protector (5 euros), make a donation or just spread the word. If for no other reason, do it in memory of Polly Higgins, an amazing barrister who left her career to make this happen and she died young from cancer in April 2019.
This is a worthy cause for us to support.  As Polly Higgins said
“The rules of our world are laws, and they can be changed. Laws can restrict or they can enable. What matters is what they serve. Many of the laws in our world serve property – they are based on ownership. But imagine a law that has a higher moral authority… a law that puts people and planet first. Imagine a law that starts from first do no harm, that stops this dangerous game and takes us to a place of safety….”
Polly Higgins, 2015

Extinction Rebellion Conversation Evening 26 October 2020 – Report

from Linda Whitebread

Cambridge XR members Jenny and Derek Langley talked to us about Extinction Rebellion and answered questions.  They stressed the need to act now on the threats to life on earth; the usual democratic means (via Parliament, petitions, letters, demonstrations etc) are not working quickly enough.

Key XR principles:

  • Non violent
  • Respect for other people even if you disagree with them
  • Acceptance of responsibility for the consequences of your actions
  • Shared mission to create a world safe for everyone: respectful, compassionate, sustainable, equable, connected
  • No alcohol, no drugs
  • No shame, no blame
  • Decisions decentralised and ideally reached by consensus

(LW: this is a personal take on what was said: to see a full list of XR principles and values visit their website)

Afterwards Jenny sent us the following information and follow-up links:

Science/Info about Climate and Ecological Crisis

Science and biodiversity loss – there is loads online and I’d point you towards the XR ‘Heading for Extinction and what to do about it’ (Larch Maxey talk on YouTube).

Cambridge Climate lecture series   (Especially the second one 21st Feb 2019 Professor Schellnhuber  ‘2100: A Climate-Space Odyssey’ – a really good overview of the climate science)

WWF Living Planet Report 2020

Absolute Zero. A collaborative research programme led by Julian Allwood, Professor of Engineering and the Environment at Cambridge, aims to cut the UK’s emissions by 2050 by placing resource efficiency at the heart of future industrial strategy. Very good on practical aspects of what has to be done to achieve zero carbon by 2050.

Extinction Rebellion – useful websites

Cambridge XR   including divestment campaign

Sign-up for newsletters: (bottom of page)

Facebook page

Rebellion Academy: (online training and info for lots of roles in XR)

The only regular action that is happening in Cambridge at the moment is Silent Rebellion, a meditative action, online 9.30 and at Christ’s Pieces 11.30 every Saturday, organised by the Buddhist Affinity Group.  They are keen to spread Silent Rebellion – you could start one of your own!

Jenny Langley

 

 

Have your say on new Planning Laws (by 29 October)

Readers may know that the government is proposing radical changes to planning laws which will mean that individuals, and even councils, will have less opportunity to comment on proposals.

2G3S supporter and planning expert Anthony Cooper wrote a timely letter about this to The Cambridge Independent, much of which we reproduce below:

           The government proposes to “speed up” and “streamline” the planning system by replacing it with a new regime altogether.  They believe that the present system is an obstacle to the delivery of new homes. They are mistaken.  There is plenty of land with permission for building already and most applications for planning permission receive consent.  As we rely upon the market to deliver new homes it is the market which determines when and where those new homes are built.  If the market is slow in delivering new homes it is for commercial reasons.

            Everyone should be concerned at the way the government proposes to change the planning system.  Although the public will still have a say, albeit a rather limited one in the drawing up of new district plans, the scope of the public to comment on and object to specific planning applications will be severely limited and in some circumstances denied altogether.  Even our elected local representatives could be cut out of the process.  In those cases the first thing a houseowner would know about something going on next door would be the arrival of the builders.

            The government is consulting on their ideas and your readers have until the end of this month to make their views known.  The government’s proposals are set out in a White Paper called “Planning for the Future” and can be accessed online here.

The consultation document is available here.  The consultation is open until 11.45 pm on Thursday 29 October.

Helping us to use less plastic

Introducing the Bristol-based campaigning group City to Sea , ‘an environmental organisation on a mission to stop plastic pollution.’  They aim to do serious things in a fun way.

Recent campaigns have included advice on reusables during the Covid pandemic; stopping PPE plastic pollution; plastic-free cotton buds and period products; and ‘Refill’, ‘an award-winning campaign’ to make it easier to reuse and refill water bottles, coffee cups, lunchboxes, groceries, cleaning products and toiletries.

At the foot of the main page linked to above you can sign up for their newsletter, which they describe as ‘a monthly dose of optimism’.

New Report Reveals How Plastic Polluters Have Avoided Regulation Worldwide for Decades

There is an increasing awareness that to combat climate change we should be moving away from fossil fuels.  So the oil companies are switching from fuel production to plastic production.  However, this report is not about the ever-expanding petro-chemical industry that is pumping more and more plastic into the world.  Instead it shows how the largest users of plastic such as Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever deploy tactics to ensure that they evade accountability for their pollution.

According to Changing Markets Foundation, the investigations found:

  • Big Plastic is a well-organized network of organizations that fight against proven solutions to the plastic pollution crisis through similar tactics across the world
  • Voluntary commitments and group initiatives from the ten biggest plastic polluters are used to distract consumers and governments, enabling polluters to continue with business as usual
  • Corporations work behind the scenes to delay and derail legislation and ensure they can continue flooding the world with cheap, disposable plastic packaging
  • Plastic producers have co-opted the Covid-19 pandemic and capitalized on people’s fear to call for regulatory rollbacks and delays on environmental legislation

Planning for Net Zero

2G3S supporter Anthony Cooper has written a timely and very comprehensive paper entitled ‘Planning for Net Zero’ which you can read here.  Note this is a second, revised edition (November 2020) which includes an author’s preface.

Topics covered include:

Governance

The Climate Change Act

Sustainable Development

Planning

Population

Housing

Transport

Water Supply, Flooding and Waste Disposal

Atmospheric Pollution

Commerce and Industry

Energy

Agriculture, Horticulture, Forestry and Fishing

Conservation and Heritage

People

Green Belts

Defence

Where do we go from here?

Anthony is a retired government legal adviser (Treasury Solicitor’s Dept and Department of Trade & Industry) and  has taken a keen interest in town planning and environmental issues for many years.  He served on the National Committee of CPRE in the 1990s and has been an active member of Cambridge, Past, Present and Future (formerly the Cambridge Preservation Society) for 30 years.  He currently serves on the society’s Planning Committee.

Please note that the views expressed in Anthony’s paper are  personal and do not necessarily represent those of 2G3S as a whole.

If you wish to comment on Anthony’s paper, you can reach him via 2G3S.   Email us at *protected email*, with the heading ‘Cooper Net Zero paper’.

 

Problem looming re how to recycle solar panels

Solar panels are becoming more and more popular, and are a valuable contribution to our efforts to cut carbon emissions.  But they are difficult to recycle.  With a life-cycle of around 25 years, an increasing number are now reaching the end of their effectiveness.

This article from the American group Ecowatch discusses the issue.