Welsh Green Dragon


Combating Food Waste in Wales by Chris Halpin

How much money do we waste on food each year?

Consumers in Wales will spend twenty four thousand pounds in their lifetime on food that they will never eat.

This equates to around 15p in every pound you spend on your weekly trip to the supermarket, or each year around £480 for the average UK household, increasing to £680 a year for households with children – an average of just over £50 a month.

However, environmental campaigners are saying that supermarkets themselves are needlessly throwing away around 1.8 million tonnes of food each year that is still good to eat, and that they need to do more.

Food for the vulnerable

Charitable organisations like Bristol based Fareshare South West are trying to tap into this waste stream.

They work with food distributors directly and receive weekly palettes of produce that never make it onto supermarket shelves. This food is often within date, and is returned because of packaging errors or over-ordering by certain stores.

They then break down the food, including ready meals, fresh fruit, vegetables and cereals, and distribute it to 27 organisations which work with vulnerable people like drug addicts and the homeless.

Jacqui Reeves, manager of operations for Fareshare, says they are only scratching at the surface in terms of how much waste supermarkets produce.

“It’s really seasonal. In the winter we get loads of soup, now we’re getting a lot of smoked salmon. It’s all perfectly good to eat and otherwise it would just end up in landfill – it’s madness really”

‘Bin diving’

Other people are taking advantage of supermarket throw aways for themselves.

So called ‘Bin Divers’ monitor skips round the back of stores at the end of each day to see what they can find. Gareth Blake from Splott in Cardiff has been ‘diving’ for nearly two years. When asked why he shouldn’t pay for his food like everyone else, he said.

“Well anyone can do it if they want, it’s free to everyone.I’m doing the supermarkets a favour really, and think of all the methane that’s being saved from when it decomposes at landfill”

Finding your dinner in a skip is perhaps not everyone’s idea of a healthy balanced diet though. When posed with this, he was still resolute.

“If you look at where food comes from, like the blood and guts from a slaughter-house or pesticides and herbicides or animal manure from the farm, it’s [the food] not particular hygienic to start with”

Friendly food fight

There are also an increasing number of stunts that environmental campaigners are pulling to try and engage the public in the food waste issue.

Cardiff East Transition Group worked with Fareshare and bin divers to collect food for a mass friendly food fight. It might seem quite perverse to be throwing food around to highlight how wasteful we are, but according to organiser Tim Fisher, it’s not just about the serious message.

“We’ve had a food fight because it’s a fun thing to do, and something people can relate to. We’re chucking stuff around to show how we should stop doing this”

Will landfill tax lead to higher prices?

So three very different approaches to making the most of the food that never makes it into your shopping trolley. However with landfill taxes rising, the supermarkets may well be forced to clean up their acts and start reducing their waste – which means we might be getting higher food bills instead.



Friendly Food Fighting by the Cardiff Food Alliance by Chris Halpin

If you went down to the woods today, you’d certainly have been in for a surprise. However it isn’t a picnic you would’ve found – in fact it could be described as the exact opposite! If you were taking a stroll down the Taff Trail behind Talybont Halls of residence in Cardiff on Saturday afternoon, you may have wondered what on earth was going on.

Members of the Cardiff East Transition group have been routing through bins and getting their hands on waste food, to stage a friendly food fight to demonstrate how much food is wasted in Cardiff everyday.

It might seem quite perverse to be throwing food around to highlight how wasteful we are, but according to the organisers all the food used would otherwise have been headed straight to landfill. It’s all part of the Cardiff ‘Fix the Food Chain’ month which looks at the problems in all the different stages of food production. A number of groups are involved including Friends of the Earth and Fareshare alongside the Cardiff Food Alliance.



Welsh Assembly gets tough on councils to become Zero Waste by Chris Halpin

Measures to improve how Wales deals with its waste have been proposed to the Welsh Assembly Government.

Environment Minister Jane Davidson wants Wales to adopt more sustainable waste management practices.

She hopes Wales will become a high recycling country by 2025 with aims to reach a Zero Waste country by 2050.

There’ll be targets for local authorities to recycle and compost, with financial penalties if these targets are not met. Certain materials will also be banned from going to landfill, like biodegradable food waste which could be used as biomass fuel. The announcement made by the Assembly also includes plans to start charging for plastic carrier bags in all shops from 2011.

What is ‘Zero Waste’?

The concept of ‘Zero Waste’ is to try and recover as much energy from our rubbish as possible, and options on how to do this are being researched by a group of local authorities.

Prosiect Gwyrdd is a partnership between, Caerphilly Borough County Council, The County Council of the City and County of Cardiff, Monmouthshire County Council, Newport Council and Vale of Glamorgan Council.

They are looking into the different ways of turning waste into energy, through modern incinerators (also known as combined heat and power), or anaerobic digestion (where the methane gas produced when waste decomposes is captured to be used as fuel).

Recycling as it stands

We are doing quite well when it comes to recycling in South East Wales. For the last quarter the figures are as follows.

Caerphilly: 39.32%
Cardiff: 38.5%
Monmouthshire: 41.67%
Newport: 39%
Vale of Glamorgan: 41.81%

On average there’s been a 3% rise each year in the amounts recycled since 2001. Its admirable that the Welsh Assembly are committed to reducing the amount we send to landfill and that schemes like Prosiect Gwyrdd are looking into ways to convert our rubbish into energy.

However – will ruling with an iron fist work (dishing out fines to councils left right and centre) or will it just hinder any further progress? Surely working to financial incentives and encouraging better waste management is better than penalising councils for not being up to scratch.

Call me a cynic but if councils are fined, then surely it’ll be us lot who suffer in the long run when we have to cough up more council tax.



Crackdown against fly-tipping in South Wales by Chris Halpin

Fly-Tipping Action Wales Campaign – Radio Feature

You know what they say, where there’s muck there’s money. However in this case its leaving local authorities in South Wales a deficit to the tune of three million pounds per year, and in the end we’re the one’s who pay through higher council tax bills. Tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish is left at roadsides and wasteland each year, and now there is a new drive to tackle the problem.

The Environment Agency are once more trying to convince businesses and families that fly-tipping is not on, with partnership agencies like Keep Cardiff Tidy and Cardiff City Councils Prosiect Gwyrdd (Project Green) on board.

Notorious areas for fly-tipping are the lanes which run between Caerphilly and St Mellon’s where you can find dozens of dumping grounds. The usual suspects include old furniture, settees and large white goods like fridges and washing machines, but alarmingly also a lot of trade and industrial waste like building materials and toxic asbestos. People may think places like this are out of sight so out of mind, but it causes considerable disruption as many sites block farmer’s gates and of course have a devastating impact on the environment.

Duty of care

The new campaign which is backed by the Welsh Assembly Government is designed to remind homeowners and businesses that it’s their responsibility that waste gets disposed of properly. If you’re using a tradesperson like a builder or plumber you must check that they’re registered with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier.

This latest crackdown has been timed for January as it’s the worst month for illegal dumping when people have their annual new year clear out. Surprisingly almost two-thirds of waste found is actually normal household waste in black bin bags which could be left out for the dustbin man.

Hi-tech police crackdown

As technological advancement races on, South Wales Police are developing cunning ways in which to catch illegal fly-tippers out. Forensic techniques like SmartWater and aerial surveillance are being employed to chart illegal dumping sites and track down the culprits.

With the risk of landing a fine of up to £50,000 or even a prison sentence is it really worth the bother?  The scale of the problem is only demonstrated by the fact that out of 55,000 cases between 2008-1009 only 72 arrests and prosecutions were made. Some people argue that the council need to make it easier for people to get rid of waste, especially large electrical items. With the opening of smaller local tips, or Civic Amenity sites like Waungron Road in Fairwater, legimate ways to chuck away waste are being made more accessible – the only stipulation is you can only take waste that will fit in your car; larger vehicles must go to the Recycling site at Lamby Way. Alternatively you can ring Connect 2 Cardiff, Cardiff City Councils helpline and they will arrange collection of larger white goods free of charge. For more information visit the Fly-Tipping Action Wales or Cardiff City Council website.

The root of the problem?

From the people I spoke to it seems part of the problem comes down to disposal cost and people tightening their belts because of the recession. This is especially the case for small tradesmen and businesses disposing of composite or dangerous materials like plasterboard or asbestos. When it comes to waste they often operate at a loss and if they do jump through the right hoops it’s seen by many as a lengthy bureaucratic nightmare.  One builder I spoke to challenged me to try and dispose of some asbestos myself, just to see how hard it really is.

This is no justification for flagrant littering, but unfortunately the age-old dilemma rings true once again; the environment is not everyone’s main priority – time and money are more important. Despite the threat of a hefty fine or time behind bars, the blight that fly-tipping causes looks set to stay. One must hope this new campaign attempts to get to the root of why people lack a conscience when it comes to driving out to the middle of nowhere under the cover of darkness and using the countryside as a dumping ground.



On the seventh day of Christmas Welsh Green Dragon gave to me… by Chris Halpin

So you’ve survived eating cold turkey sandwiches all week, you’ve just about eaten you body weight in cheese and you’re almost glad to see the back of a mince pie for at least another 11 months. We certainly get through a lot of it over the Christmas period, and many of us will now be thinking of our healthy and energetic start to 2010. In this interim week-long limbo between Christmas and New Year, its easy to laze in front of yet another vintage film on ITV and forget all about the growing mountain of waste outside your back door.

So what easy things can be done to combat some of this leftover stuff? You mastered your surprised ‘oh isn’t this a lovely present face’ on Christmas morning when you opened that hideous jumper from Grandma, or received the John Grisham thriller you’ve no intention of ever reading. How on earth can you offload them now everyone’s gone back home and you’re left with a pile of tat you don’t want or need? After tiring of my gifts after about 5 minutes, I went for a trawl on the internet to explore ways one can do exactly that – although at first I stumbled across this reworking of a timeless Christmas Carol!

Having never yet hosted my own Christmas dinner, I too am oblivious to what happens to all that leftover stuff after a Christmas with all the trimmings. It seems for the most resourceful, any leftover food is shoehorned into the subsequent days dinners – and I’m not just talking about those aforementioned never-ending turkey sandwiches. Delia Smith, love her or hate her, has a number of recipe ideas utilizing the leftovers from Christmas lunch ranging from Turkey Soup to a Stilton omelette (so maybe i could manage a bit more cheese then!).

No doubt in the coming weeks every street will become littered with the skeletal remains of the once beloved Christmas tree. Now with pride of place in the heart of every cosy living room the length and breadth of the country, soon to be standing naked and bare on the end of each street corner. Cardiff Council can spare us all the rather depressing January sight that is the christmas tree graveyard as they offer a Christmas Tree recycling service. Well, I may have dressed that up  a bit, as their website advises you to remove the decorations, chop it up and whack it in your green wheelie bin. The same can also be said of that real christmas holly wreath you had hanging on your front door, the boughs of holly with which you decked the halls and the cheeky mistletoe you hid at the top of the stairs.

In terms of recycling all your Christmas cards and wrapping paper, The Woodland Trust are collecting cards at all M&S, WH Smith and TK Maxx stores throughout January. And good news with this is, not only will they be recycling and making new paper but they are also pledging to plant 12,000 new trees, the location of which you can decide by clicking the link above.  Wrapping paper needs to go in your green recycling bags – its estimated that 32 square miles of wrapping paper could end up in UK bins after Christmas!

Finally, back to that dodgy board game, trashy novel or putrid smelling aftershave you received from Auntie Phyllis. Well the charity shop could well be the answer for those who are more ethically minded – here’s Oxfam’s rough guide to the kind of goods they accept. Otherwise you could always whack it up on eBay!

For more information take a look at Cardiff Council’s Christmas recycling guide.



TV recycling campaign is launched by catherinegraham4
An advert using children should see Wales achieve recycling targets. Waste Awareness Wales aims to meet an ambitious new target of 70% recycling for all household waste by 2025

An effective bilingual advertising campaign, created by Golley Slater, has been launched by Waste Awareness Wales in order to meet an ambitious new target of 70% recycling for all household waste by 2025.

Owain Griffiths, head of Waste Awareness Wales, said: “There is a lot more work to be done to reduce the effects of climate change. While 98% of Welsh households receive a recycling collection, only 50% of householders currently take part and this is simply not enough.”

Failing to recycle will soon start to cost us all money. There is a need to meet strict European targets and failing these will result in the taxpayer having to pay more.

Waste Awareness Wales are using children in this television advert, currently being run across ITV1 Wales and S4C, to combat our ‘throw away’ society.

Waste Awareness Wales launched this TV advert on November 16 to promote basic recycling tasks.
The advert features small children who are trying to perform the basic tasks of recycling newspapers, cans, plastic and food waste but they are unable to do so without adult help. The TV campaign will run until January across ITV1 Wales and S4C and will be supported by radio. The second phase of the advert will run February until the end of March.The Welsh Assembly Government has funded Waste Awareness Wales since 2002 to provide official information to the public about managing materials and resources more sustainably, and reducing waste.

Waste Awareness Wales has a number of partners and can be found on Twitter. There are many ways to recycle in the home as well as at school, at work and in the garden

Friends of the Earth offer some great tips for recycling.