Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Aphid Resistant GM Wheat

The Rothamsted Institute has frequently been in the news in recent weeks over their trials of a new genetically modified strain of wheat. This particular genetic modification splices genes from other plants, such as mint, hops or apples, which naturally produce an odour which simulates that released by aphids when distressed or under attack. This phenomenon has evolved in some plants as a natural defence as aphids that would otherwise attack the plant detect the odour and avoid the host plants.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Plastic Recycling

PET Symbol

Look at the recycling logo on a plastic bottle or container. It depicts a continuous loop, a virtuous circle, if you like, of plastic being made into bottles then being recycled into new bottles then the whole process repeating endlessly. Nothing falls out of the cycle and nothing new is introduced. It is a bit misleading. It doesn't take much imagination to realise that energy needs added to the process at the very least - energy for collecting the used plastic, treating it and manufacturing the new bottles. Less obvious is the fact that very few food grade bottles contain material from recycled bottles. Plant has been developed to do this but at this time its use not widespread.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

"Recycling" Food Waste

There are moves afoot to begin uplifting food waste separately from other waste to allow energy to be extracted through the use of anaerobic digestion. On the face of it this sounds like a very good idea – not only does it extract energy but the residual waste can be used as a commercial grade compost, unlike the low grade compost extracted from Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) systems. This would see large reductions in material going to landfill.

My concern is that large scale adoption of this technology will encourage more waste or, at best, stop any further reduction in the food we waste.

Here is why.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Mechanical Biological Treatment: an alternative to kerbside recycling?

Continuing with the theme of Recycling Week, here is a brief introduction to Mechanical Biological Treatment of domestic waste.

What is Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT)?

It is a method for sorting through domestic waste and separating it into materials that can be recycled such as glass, metals and plastics or organic materials that will decompose, such as food waste.

What are the benefits of it?

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

City Living

I took this photograph while out on a bike ride with the kids at the end of March this year.  I had been thinking about urban biodiversity after reading an article on Nature Deficit Disorder and this view captured my train of thought.  We are in Robroyston Park, one of Glasgow's parks which is designated as a Local Nature Reserve.  A diverse range of habitats are present. The pond at centre frame attracts the swans pictured and other birds, insects, fish and amphibians.  To the right of the frame is deciduous woodland providing cover for small mammals and birds, including a heron which nests in the trees and to the left we have rough grassland which is attractive to many insects and various ground nesting birds. Juxtaposed in the background are several blocks of high rise flats - a potent symbol our densely populated urban environment.

Monday, 18 June 2012

More Recycling, Please

Recycling week runs from today, the 18th of June until the 26th with the aim of promoting recycling at home and away. There are many events around the country promoted by the Recycle Now website run by WRAP (Waste & Resource Action Programme). The website also contains a lot of information on recycling.

Recycling helps to conserve limited resources and using recycled materials often use less energy than virgin materials. In addition, recycling reduces the amount of waste that goes in to landfill, hence extending the life of existing sites and reducing the need for opening new sites at great environmental and social cost. Recycling week is focusing on kerbside recycling (home) and recycling centres where you can take recyclable waste that is not collected kerbside(away).  Another aspect of "away" that does not appear to be addressed is the dearth of recycling options in public places.  In some countries, they standard pavement bin will have compartments for glass, metals, plastics and others but these are rare in the UK.

We really do need to encourage more recycling in the UK as we lag behind our European neighbours in terms of recycling and the proportion of waste going to landfill. We compost or recycle 34% of domestic waste compared with an average of 39% across Europe according to DEFRA figures and 55% goes to landfill compared with 40% across Europe. The figures vary significantly across the country with some areas recycling less than 20% of domestic waste and others over 50%.

Between different local authority areas recycling rates vary tremendously. The aim of recycling week is to raise awareness amongst the public and encourage participation but we should turn it around and challenge our local authorities to provide better and more comprehensive facilities and also to challenge retailers and manufacturers to make it easier for us to reduce waste.

Of course recycling isn't the whole solution, before recycling our domestic waste we should consider whether things can be reused and before that whether we actually need them in the first place.

Related Links:

Related Posts:

Mechanical Biological Treatment: an alternative to kerbside recycling?
"Recycling" Food Waste

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Electric Cars

Electric cars in stables at Pollok Park

Glasgow is a compact city.  Nowhere in the city is much further than 10 miles from any where else.  It is perfect for electric vehicles(EVs) which typically have a short range.

Pictured above are two of the forty electric vehicles being trialled by Glasgow City Council.  The trial which began over a year ago is scheduled to run for three years.  The vehicle fleet operated by the City Council comprises over 1200 vehicles of which over 350 are cars or car derived vans with the remainder including everything from small vans to bin lorries, minibuses and even articulated lorries.

This is surely a welcome measure to reduce the city's carbon footprint and improve air quality. Or is it?