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Why is this important? The plastic pollution highlighted by the Blue Planet TV Program is plastic that was not recycled or incinerated or put in landfill. If it had been it would not be in the oceans. It’s litter. The same applies to litter in Britain. I believe that the only solution it to make sure that packaging is fully biodegradable. But that leads to problem of what to we mean by biodegradable. There is a lot of Greenwash in this area.

Let’s start with a definition.

Biodegradable: capable of being broken down especially into innocuous products by the action of living things such as microorganisms[1]

The problem is that capable does not mean it will breakdown. To quote Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme. “It’s well-intentioned but wrong. A lot of plastics labelled biodegradable, like shopping bags, will only break down in temperatures of 50C and that is not the ocean. They are also not buoyant, so they’re going to sink, so they’re not going to be exposed to UV and break down”[2]

If they need to get to 50oC that will also not happen in the British countryside, not even this Year.

Is compostable an alternative term? Again, this may only work at temperatures above ambient. So, I think compostable can be as misleading as biodegradable.

So, what is the alternative. The best solution is to eliminate single use packaging. But this is utopian. So what alternatives are there.

For some uses paper bags are a good solution. Where paper bags do not work there are alternatives which claim to work but the question I ask is do they breakdown in the environment be that the ocean or the countryside, or even the city.   These alternatives include cellophane and “plastic” made from corn or potato starch.

Searching the web finds lots of products but are they really the solution. I do not know. The term “Home Compostable” look promising but I fear it could become greenwash.

Greenpeace have a useful video here on plastic packaging.

For the more technically minded one informative link is The truth about bioplastics by Renee Cho, Earth Institute, Columbia University  from Phys.org

This is copy of a post I did for Transition Malvern Hills

The post shows the problem and information I have found in  planning and booking a return train journey from Great Malvern Station to Wool in Dorset.

For this journey when I booked it book ahead tickets do not save any money so it's a standard off peak return. I quite often find that for some journeys from Malvern booked ahead does not save or does not save enough to justify the lack of flexibility.

For getting to Wool the quickest  trains  for me are to go via Evesham and Reading but to comeback via Bristol. I tried to book this on  websites as you can get some seat reservations with flexible tickets.

The trains I wanted to use and  book are:

I first tried my website of choice: Ticket Clever, but when I selected my outward train of choice it would not let me select the return I wanted. but it would allow me to select other later return trains via Bristol. This made we worry that there maybe some restrictions on the return that did not allow me to use the trains I wanted.

I then  tried the West Midlands Railway website as I was think I may have to talk to a real person at the station to solve the problem.  It does show three different off peak returns:

For the second two it looks like you can pay more to get more restrictions on where you can use it!

The return train  I wanted can be found on the National Rail and Ticket Clever websites, but cannot be found on the  West Midlands Railway website! even if you look for it as a single journey.

So I then tried to book via the  National Rail website. It sent me to the GWR website were I booked it, meaning that my worries about restriction were unfounded.

I had emailed Ticket Clever about my problem and after three days and after I had booked with GWR they replied saying that if you click "std" for  ("std" "1st" "any") all the fairs are shown and they I could select the return train I wanted. I had assumed that  ("std" "1st" "any") was I filter on the class of fairs, but it's more than that. They also said "The system defaults to the cheapest options available", so I think the Super Off Peak Return was causing their websites  problems.

 

Five years ago I bought an electric assist bike.  I got an Emotion bike. One reason I go that bike was that it used a 'standard' panasonic drivetrain, I hoped that would mean there would be many third party batteries available when I needed a new one. The battery that came with is was a 26V 10Ah. At the time a got the bike a replacement battery was about £380. Inn the next few year the price of replacement batteries when up not down as I was hoping! Though the standard battery was now 12Ah.
Picture

My ebike when new

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Controls and battery indicators:
The on handlebar controls allows for three power settings: economy, normal and sport, you can also turn the assistance off, but when you turn it back on you have to free wheel for a second or so to allow it to recalibrate. If you turn it on while pedaling it gives an error. The handlebar control also uses three lights to show the state of the battery, when the battery is nearly empty the last light flashes. On the battery the state is shown with five lights, again when very empty the last light starts to flash. Both these sets of lights are very stable when I light goes out it does not go back on again till the battery has been charged. One the lat light is flashing there is not much range left in the battery, only a few miles. Once the system thinks the battery is nearly empty it turns off the power. This is done to protect the battery and it's not good news to flatten a lithium based battery. 


Range:
The claimed range was 20+ miles. The actual range is very dependant on which power setting is used, how hilly and I suspect the weight of the cyclist! My normal way of using the assist when on a longish ride was for downhill and on the flat turn it off or use the economy setting and only use full power for uphill. When the bike was new with those settings I could get over the Hills to Ledbury and back, with probably one light showing but not flashing. I also managed to cycle from University Station Birmingham to Malvern over 40 miles, but a lot of it was down the Birmingham to Worcester canal where I did not use assist on the towpath. 

​​

Picture

Bike on the Beacon

Another range test was a cycle to the top of the Worcester Beacon. This used about 80%. This was shown by one or two lights remaining on the battery set of lights.

The battery starts to fail 

Due to an accident, on my non electric bike, I did not use the E Bike or charge it's battery for 6+ months.  When I started to use the E bike again I noticed that range had reduced, The bike and battery were now 4 years old. By looking at the amount of power used by the charge to recharge the battery I estimate the it has reduced to about 60% capacity. I also noticed that the range on flashing has actually increased. Also when the battery was half or more empty the power was not quite as smooth.

This does ask the question what the best way to store a lithium based battery. Although not planned the battery was full charges when I had my accident so I just left it. I knew that leaving it flat was a bad idea.  Another feature of the battery is that when it has not been used for a few weeks it turns itself off and can only be restarted by putting it on the charger. This has the disadvantage you can not simply check the battery charge.

batteryuniversity.com has an artical This says that storing at 40% charge is ideal but the it's not much worse if it has more charge in it. With lithium based batteries storing discharge is bad for them. (this also applies to lead acid based batteries).

So I started to look for a replacement battery, most I found on the net were still expensive. but I did find this one. 20Ah for just £300. So I ordered one but there was a 90 day lead time. So given the time I took working out how the battery was, my procrastination and the lead time it took about a year after I started using the bike again till I go the new battery.

The New Battery

PictureThe new and old battery

When the new battery arrived it was obvious that it was fatter and heavier than the original. So that is how they increased the capacity.  It fits on the bike, though sometimes I feel it with my calf, so It's a fat as it could be.


PictureNew Battery on the bike

My first tests show it does do have the stated capacity but is behaviour is different in two possible connected ways:

  1. The battery status lights are nowhere as stable the number drop when power is being used and increase when power stops being used.  This applies to both the lights on the battery and the lights on the handlebar control, 
  2. Once it is down to two lights the power get less and less even. This is a bit like the old battery became after it lost some of its capacity. The new battery seam to  go on and on forever but getting less powerful. 

I think this means the battery controllers  (electronics in the battery)  in the old and new are not the same. 

Does this mean that the new one has a less sophisticated one and given the "The new battery seam to  go on and on forever but getting less powerful." does this mean that it does not have the cut out when the battery is low, I am reluctant to test it as running the battery fully flat would not be good for it.

My plan when using it round Malvern is to normally only charge it when when under power it goes off three light. I think this happens when the battery is about half empty. I can do quite a few trips round Malvern when the lights stay at three.  I would always plan to charge it before a long trip. 

​I may updated this blog as a learn more about the new battery


In principle I support the idea of a new railway track going north south in England increasing the capacity. The problem with the current proposal it's all about building an independent transport system not integrated with the current rail or other public transport systems.

The problems is as I see it so that they have new stations except in London and Manchester, I’ll come to London later. There's a new station in Nottingham in the middle of nowhere, but close to the Motorway. In Birmingham is not as a new station, if fact a very old one, Curzon Street, but that stopped being used for long distance trains in 1854 when New Street was opened. Because New Street was a better location and closer to the city centre! The new station will be close to Moor Street but will be about a ten minutes walk away from the main Birmingham station of New Street. So for most of us, including us from Malvern I doubt if it will quicker to use HS2 rather than the existing West coast main line trains. I suspect the same may also apply to the Nottingham and the rest of the East Midlands and Sheffield.

Does the speed have to be so fast? Looking a projected time savings the only place where this is significant is London to Manchester see wikipedia .  So should it be such a fast line? Running slightly slower will save construction cost. Less tunnels etc. as the line can curve more, and will use less energy when it is running.

The problem with London is London, the current HS2 plans don't have any connection with HS1 and most importantly there are no plans to a direct trains from Birmingham to the continent. A lot the supporters of HS2 just see it as a way of getting to and from London. To rebalance the economy of the UK away from London, what is needed is better connection with places that are not London. If HS2 is to any use to the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands region there it must be direct trains from Birmingham to Paris and beyond.  Without out these direct connections it will just suck more into London.

Outside my house today I was approached by a G4S meter reader asking where some roads in the Malvern area were. All his 15 year old hand held device gave him was an alphabetical list of properties he had to visit. Malvern, unlike parts of Bracknell, does not have its roads arranged in alphabetical order. I would have thought is would save a lot of time and fuel for G4S to invest a system to plan an optimal route. I suspect they just charge the energy suppliers more who then charge us!

He had just visited just one house in my road. In the old nationalise times the meter read would visit all properties in a street. And they say privatisation make things more efficient!

Maybe smart meters are the solution. But that has been messed up by the way our privatised electricity industry is organising it. The smart meters are being done by the energy suppliers not the distribution companies so if you change suppliers they have to take over a rivals smart meter. So they all have to agree a standard, which I believe they have not yet agreed on.  

Is there any case where privatisation has made things more efficient?

PictureCFL

The original low energy light bulbs are compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). These are four times as efficient as the incandescent light bulbs they replaced. They have several problems:

  • They can take time to switch on and minutes to get to full power.
  • Over time they get less bright, especially when just turned on. This together with, I think, over optimistic labelling of the wattage of the incandescent they replaced has made us think they are not a good as incandescent light bulbs.
  • They contain Mercury. 

New low energy light bulbs are now available,  LED bulbs. LED stands for light-emitting diode. These are now available as standard bayonet (B22) lamps for about £7 in local shops and on line. LED bulbs have the following advantages over CFL lamps.

  • They are even more efficient than the CFL, using at least 30% less power for the same brightness.
  • They are instant on. They do not need time to warm up.
  • The do not contain Mercury.
  • They should last 3 times longer than CFL lamps and 25 times that of a standard incandescent bulb. Like CFL LED may get less bright over time but at least 3 times slower than CFL. 

Picture

LED

How is the brightness of a lamp measured? In the old days when we only had incandescent light bulbs they were measured by the power(electricity) they consumed in Watts(W). This was OK when there were only one type of bulb, and for incandescent it was a good enough measure. When CFL came along they were described by the wattage of the incandescent equivalent. In my view some what optimistically. Now LEDs and other bulbs have come along and we are stopping using incandescent equivalent as this has got ridiculous, so now bulbs are described by how bright they are, this is measured in Lumens. They still also state the power in Watts they use. So the efficiency of a bulb can be measured by lumens/watts.

The standard B22 LED bulbs that are common now come in two brightnesses 450+ and 800+ lumens.  These are the equivalent of the old incandescent 40w and 60w, I think now pessimistically rated. I tried an 810 lumen LED light in my landing and it was too bright.

Conclusion: I am not sure there is an argument for replacing existing CFL with LEDs ahead of when you would replace the CFL. But due to the longer life and less electricity consumed by LED bulbs, for both economic and environmental reasons we should stop buying any more CFL bulbs and buy LED bulbs. And LEDs are better bulbs.

Halogen bulbs

PictureGU10

Above I was talking about standard bayonet bulbs, but the most inefficient in our houses these days are normally halogen bulbs. These are another form of incandescent light bulbs they are found in GU10 spot lights, normally in kitchens and bath rooms.

LED GU10 have been available for a few years and given that LED are more directional than halogen they only need about 1/8 the electricity to produce the same effective light. Some of the early LED GU10 were a bit dim. But any current LED GU10 over 400 lumen (5W) should be a good replacement for 50W incandescent. Given that LEDs last at last 10 times longer than halogen the conclusion is again only buy LED bulbs, but with halogen there may be an economic and environmental argument to replace exiting bulbs with LED.


Another reason to replace all halogen with LEDs is that a lot of them are on when the electricity demand is at it's highest, 6pm on a winters evening, and the reduction in peak grid demand would save building at least one new power station.

Halogen bulbs are also found in outside flood lights and these can be replaced by LEDs.

Notes on LED bulbs

Not all LED can be used with dimmers but ones that can are available sometimes at a slight extra cost.

LED bulbs can come in different colours warm white or bright white. And if you pay more any colour you like and some even changeable by remote control.

Worcestershire County Council have a Public Engagement Exercise for the proposed Worcestershire Parkway station.

Although I support the concept of this station I do not like the 'spin' of the engagement exercise. It's car and building centric and does not look at the whole of Worcestershire. This also applies to the questionnaire. 

The first benefit that is listed is “A rail journey between Worcester and London of 2 hours or less”. This is 2 hours or less is only the rail journey what should be looked at is total journey time. This will only be better for those on the right side of Worcester and the Severn. In fact for existing stations in Malvern and Worcester times and service may get worse.  This could be seen as taking business away from Worcester and giving it to London as is may discourage people from going into the city itself.

Also the station looks like the cheapest that could be done. “As part of this scheme the single platform on the North Cotswold Line will be designed to be compatible with the redoubling at some stage in the future.” Why not at least double the North Cotswold Line through the new station. If this is not done then when a train is stopped in the new station is will block the Line in both directions.

Also there is no platform on the line that is used by the Malvern/Worcester trains to Bristol. This in the future may mean that this service is reduced, again not helping the services from the existing stations in Malvern and Worcester. 

Although there is a section on timetabling is does not give any information on how the timetables will change. There is no mention of using this station as an interchange between the two rail lines, this could be a benefit but is depends on the time tabling. This also applies effects of the existing Worcestershire rail users. Also there is the statement “Direct access to local bus services through a bus / rail interchange”. What local bus services? Given the recent cuts will there be any?

In general this is part of the lack of an integrated transport system, or plans for one, in Worcestershire and England (outside London).  This is not helped by the post privatisation structure of the railways with at least two Train Operating Companies involved. 

This comment is negative and I wish I could be more positive, I do support the building of this station and it will reduce the length some car journeys, but they still have to be driven to the station, but I think a more holistic approach would help reduce the car use more.  

A month ago my tablet developed a fault 2 week before its warranty ran out. So I contacted Amazon and they said I had to go the manufacturer.  On the second email they gave me the phone number of the manufacturer. They pointed out it was  Fulfilled by Amazon meaning  sent to directly by Amazon but sold by a third party. They also said:

  "If they want a proof of purchase, you can get a printable version of the order summary page in Your Account"

So I contacted the manufacturer and after over a week they contacted my by post. Asking for proof of purchase so I did what  Amazon asked but they said:

"Unfortunately, the proof of purchase you have provided did not meet Asus criteria. A valid proof of purchase should ideally be the copy of the original VAT receipt/invoice, not a printout of an order from a website, dispatch note, order note, etc. If VAT receipt/invoice is not available, it should be a letterhead, with a clear date of purchase, VAT number, retailer company details, and an Asus product clearly listed as the sold item.

Please contact your seller, 
Pleasure and they will be able to provide a copy of valid proof of purchase for your product."

If I did get a proof of purchase it would cost me £55.22 to get it repaired or £40.85 to just return it. 

So I contacted Amazon and after trying and failing to get a VAT receipt of the seller  they refunded me £196.95 but wanted the tablet back! One would have thought they would like just to pay £55.22 but no.

After many emails and now a month after I first contacted them this did not change. 

So in the end I paid the £40.85  and I am sending the tablet back.  And I am buying a reconditioned table for £127.46 from BT of all placed.

So if all goes well I should make a profit of £28.64 but I am not sure it worth the hassle.