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May 26, 2007

Recycling? Yes, Again!

As we know, The Boy Dave (M) is insisting that we all collect our food waste so that it can be digested. This is to stop the production of methane. Janice Turner is unimpressed:

But the slop bucket is, as the linguistically retarded say, a big ask. I know it would be nifty if my rotting food didn’t sit in a landfill producing methane and melting glaciers. I’m excited by Mr Miliband’s plan to gather the nation’s leftovers into a giant stomach-like engine whereupon it could be anaerobically digested to create useful biogas. (With the tasty sounding byproducts “digestate” and “liquor”.) Yet when I read the part I will play in this laudable enterprise, my visceral reactions are “eeew!” and “bleugh!” First, you cannot, of course, line your caddy with an incompostible plastic bag. Newspaper is suggested but that gets soggy and inevitably, unless you enjoy the smell of Eau de Dump Municipal, you will have to bleach your caddie – with that enviro-bleach that doesn’t work. Or, according to the website of Richmond upon Thames Council, who have pioneered food waste collection, just take all your food scrapings outside after each meal, wrapped in paper “like you do with fish and chips”.

The big food bin in the yard (should you have a yard and whether flat owners will have to keep their festering food indoors is not clear in Mr Miliband’s plan) will need hosing out from time to time, sluicing away the midsummer maggots.

Those are just some of the problems, of course.

A much greater problem is that the entire idea is unneccessary. For, you see, we no longer dump food into landfill and then allow the methane to escape into the atmosphere. From Hansard:

Mr. Morley: I will, indeed, try to answer all the questions that have been put to me. The hon. Member for Vale of York asked about methane. In fact, the landfill regulations contain requirements for methane to be collected for use in energy production. That relates not only to landfill, but to some technologies that also produce methane.

See, this is not in fact a problem....

Miss McIntosh: Without wishing to detract from anything that the Minister has said, perhaps he will deal with something he has already touched on—the fact that the Environment Agency is responsible for taking off methane gas. The figures on Northern Ireland in the explanatory memorandum are dramatic. Some 20 per cent. of the gas causing global warming is methane and 25 per cent. of UK methane emissions come from landfill. Does he see it as a growing problem?

Mr. Morley: I regard it as a declining problem, because the bulk of methane problems relate to older landfill and methane collection was not engineered from the very beginning. Of course, retrofitting methane collection is difficult. Under the terms of the landfill directive, modern landfills require methane collection, and all future landfill sites will routinely be built with methane collection facilities.

So, err, The Boy Dave (M)'s plans are entirely unnecessary. In fact, they will not reduce methane emissions one iota, not by one molecule. Older landfills will still be producing methane from what is already in them. New landfill sites will be collecting the methane and using it to create power.

So, the question becomes, why are we setting up this vastly expensive system of anaerobic biodigesters, insisting on homes being repositories for rotten food, when we have already solved the problem? Stick it all in a hole in the ground and collect the methane?

By the way, saying that the European Union makes us do this is true, but an insufficient explanation. What must be explained is why we agreed to this rule being imposed upon us. Further, why is no one telling us that this is the reason, why are the details of what is going on being hidden from us?

Anyone?

May 26, 2007 in Environmentalism | Permalink

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Comments

...insisting on homes being repositories for rotten food, when we have already solved the problem? Stick it all in a hole in the ground and collect the methane...

Because this world does not operate by common sense, Tim.

Posted by: jameshigham | May 26, 2007 9:55:50 AM

Tim, any progress on my idea of dividing your rubbish into:
- "stuff that rots" that can be landfilled & methane used to generate electricity, and
- "stuff that will burn" (most packaging) that can be incinerated to generate electricity?

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth | May 26, 2007 12:01:09 PM

'My visceral reactions are “eeew!” and “bleugh!”'
When did "eew!" come in? We used to say "ugh!" Little girls all say "eew"; they think it sounds sweet.

Posted by: Little Black Sambo | May 26, 2007 12:20:30 PM

I've been getting increasingly tired about all this slop bucket nonsense from assortd idiots all week.

Has nobody ever collected their off cuts of vegetables, tea bags, egg shells - not potato peelings though - for the compost, ever? It's really not hard you know.

You don't even have to make the trip down the garden every day. Our "bucket" the size of a small office bin complete with lid and a charcol filter like on a deep fryer so no whiff gets out. We're hardly surrounded by rotting filth.

Yes, it's different if you live in a flat and being forced into something by a cock like Milliband is not right, but for crying out loud, sticking an apple core in a different bin doesn't require any of this manufactured outrage.

Tim adds: I'm not su much into "manufactured outrage" as trying to ask the question: have all the costs and benefits been taken into account here? As far as I can see, as far as officialdom woll tell me, they've left out one of hte largest costs.

Posted by: Mark Holland | May 26, 2007 1:37:59 PM

yes, and on a fine summer evening, Mark, a stroll to the compost bin can be satisfactorily concluded by spraying it with some aqueous nitrogenating solution too.

Posted by: dearieme | May 26, 2007 2:21:58 PM

Newspaper is suggested but that gets soggy .... just take all your food scrapings outside after each meal, wrapped in paper “like you do with fish and chips”.

What about the millions of people who don't buy newspapers? So we have to cut down more trees just to get something to wrap our stinking rubbish in? And waste more water washing out dirty bins?

Has nobody ever collected their off cuts of vegetables, tea bags, egg shells - not potato peelings though - for the compost, ever? It's really not hard you know.

Mark: why no potato peelings? See, I wouldn't have known not to put them in. What else should I not add to the compost heap? And will these items still have to go to landfill? Why should anyone have to remember all these details?

BTW: Do compost heaps release any GHGs?

Posted by: Ed | May 26, 2007 3:43:16 PM

penn and teller did a great demolition of the landfill bollox millibrain et al spew try googling for it its an eye opener

Posted by: mitch | May 26, 2007 4:26:55 PM

Oh bugger, what's the story with potato peelongs?

Tim adds:

"The only reason for not composting potato peelings is that they are a potential source of the fungus that causes potato blight. Blight spores can survive only on living plant material. Potato peelings can provide this when the buds in the eyes of potato skins grow into potato plants. To ensure that the peelings don't sprout, bury them well down in the compost and ensure that you turn the heap regularly. If you do this, it is fine to compost the peelings."

So now you've got to keep stirring this mess as well?

Posted by: Mark Wadsworth | May 26, 2007 4:29:50 PM

Don't put citrus in your compost bin, apparently.

Posted by: dearieme | May 26, 2007 5:00:28 PM

"..on a fine summer evening, Mark, a stroll to the compost bin can be satisfactorily concluded by spraying it with some aqueous nitrogenating solution too."

As the little girls say (apparently): 'eeeew!' :)

"Has nobody ever collected their off cuts of vegetables, tea bags, egg shells...for the compost, ever? It's really not hard you know.....it's different if you live in a flat and being forced into something by a cock like Milliband is not right..."

Have to take issue with this...suppose you don't live in a flat, have a paved garden and therefore no interest in gardening? Why then should you be forced into this, any more than the flat-dweller? If being forced into this is not right for a flat dweller, it's not right for anyone...

....but you are correct in that Milliband is a cock of the first water!

Posted by: JuliaM | May 26, 2007 6:00:16 PM

I find it odd that there is so much environmental tosh from both main parties, despite most of the public not rating this as an issue.

One of the largest issues at the last local elections was how much parties advocating fortnightly collections were damaged. Opinion polls show that it's far below issues like schools, law and order and the economy.

My theory is that politicians are courting the BBC who they know give the environment a high priority.

Posted by: Tim Almond | May 26, 2007 9:06:30 PM

We compost all of our vegetable and garden waste, but the very process of decomposition which generates compost, must be emitting methane. Seems to me you just can't win.

Posted by: Monty | May 26, 2007 10:45:28 PM

"concluded by spraying it with some aqueous nitrogenating solution too. " .. my partner only recently cottoned on as to why I pop into the garden so often.

Posted by: johnnybonk | May 26, 2007 11:22:11 PM

I try to find some consolation in all this greenie tosh, and indeed do find some in that if this is all they can think of to interfere in our lives then maybe things in general are OK.

The human instinct to demonstrate ones higher status by making others do perverse things seems to be the biggest theme in modern government, I guess we are in fact blessed, it is somewhat of an improvement on "the Germans are rearming" or "half our population go out to work at 10 years old" etc.

Look on the bright side.

Posted by: johnnybonk | May 26, 2007 11:29:02 PM

"We compost all of our vegetable and garden waste, but the very process of decomposition which generates compost, must be emitting methane. Seems to me you just can't win."

Seems to me there should be a re-evaluation of the goals of environmentalists. The simple act of being human results in these greenhouse gases, and I think it's time we accept that the process of being alive will inevitably result in a certain level of mess. It shouldn't be a matter of winning or losing, but rather of breaking as close to even as is practical.

I have no issue with people who choose to shape their lives around cancelling out the effects of their being on the planet, but I wish someone would accept my right to live on this planet without demanding that I feel a constant sense of guilt. If I wanted to feel guilty all the time I'd become a Catholic.

I wish that, as Tim has been recommending all this time, recycling fanatics would take a look at the pros and cons of the practice. I'll happily give over an hour a week of unpaid sorting if it will make a real difference, but I won't fish through slops, garden waste and assorted maggot-strewn pap just so some power-mad prick can squeeze out a few more votes for his seat in Barnstaple (or wherever).

I remember a time when this sort of dogmatic crap was in the domain of the nuts interviewed by Penn & Teller, Louis Theroux and Michael Moore on TV. Now it's shifted to people who hold actual power that extends further than a commune in Idaho it's beginning to piss me off.

Posted by: sortapundit | May 27, 2007 2:34:16 AM

There's a massive existing system for disposing of and transporting "food waste".

It's called the drain.

Just stick it down the sink.

Posted by: AntiCitizenOne | May 27, 2007 3:57:36 PM