Monday, 5 October 2015

Plastic Bag Charge

Tomorrow, England catches up with the rest of the UK in imposing a levy on single use carrier bags. Figures for Scotland, which introduced the charge last year, indicate an 80% reduction in their use due to the levy and large drops have also been seen in Wales and Northern Ireland which introduced charges in 2011 and 2013 respectively.

The charge being introduced in England is not universal - it is limited to larger shops and smaller convenience stores can, conveniently, still hand out single use bags free of charge. And it only covers plastic bags, not other single use bags.  Bur still, its a start.  The Scottish charge applies to all retailers and includes not only plastic bags but also bags made from paper and other materials.  While paper is biodegradable and renewable (in that more trees can grow) it is still not a perfect solution.

Also, the money charged goes directly to the retailer unlike the Scottish charging scheme in which the money is given to charities. It is not, therefore, a "stealth" tax and nor do the retailers profit from it, which is much more palatable to consumers.

Plastic bags are, of course, only part of the problem. Profligate use of "disposable" plastics in all forms needs to be tackled, whether through closed loop recycling or using alternative packaging. This article on plastic in fish highlights need for improving our systems for dealing with plastics -

For the latest on #plasticbags on Twitter, click here

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Friday, 2 October 2015

The Clyde Fastlink - A Follow Up

In the three years and three weeks since EcoWarriorMe's first post on Glasgow's Fastlink priority bus route there has been a whirlwind of inactivity, culminating in a buses running along the dedicated lane along the Broomielaw for a few weeks this summer as the new Southern General hospital opened its doors. Then stopped while some modifications were made. Then back again. And now, according to BBC Scotland:

Bus firms ditch 'too slow' £40m fast lanes in Glasgow

McGill's bus on Fastlink routeImage copyrightGoogle
Image captionMcGill's is one of two operators to withdraw from using the Fastlink lanes
Two major bus firms have stopped using the newly-built £40m Fastlink lanes in Glasgow because they are too slow.

On the positive side, bus shelters have been added to the route in the last few weeks so you can stand out of the rain waiting for the bus that will never come (surely such facilities should be an integral part of a quality bus route and not an add on after the fact).

Those familiar with the route would be right to point out that the Broomielaw is only a small part of the scheme. The route from Finnieston through Govan can only be described as bizarre - with buses and cars swapping lanes and even the side of the road on which they drive. All of this takes up limited road space and adds to car congestion, especially when the buses are sharing the space.  If the extra congestion encouraged people out of their cars and into more sustainable transport modes that would be a benefit but the bus routes are not sufficiently joined up and are not quicker.

There must have been more effective ways to invest this £40m to improve transport across the city, to deliver real improvements for the people who live and work here. Perhaps the council could re-invest some of the bus lane fines in public transport, as the cameras do not appear to have done much to reduce journey times by bus. 

Here's hoping.

(More info on the scheme and its history on the original EWM Post here.)