Skip to content

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.

 

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?

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.