Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Tolly’s Tirade

As our own report on the environment shows little progress over five years, and the smell of rotting sea lettuce is still very present from First Tower to Town, this seems appropriate to dwelve into the archives.

From 2007 comes this article in Jersey 25/7, reprinted by permission of the writer, Guernsey journalist Martyn Tolcher on polystyrene waste. It is worth noting that in April this year, The World Economic Forum and McKinsey and Co. predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans by weight than fish. This is still a live problem.

One small light on the horizon. In June 2016, students in a competition created what they termed a Styro-Filter, a mechanism to convert plastic-foam trash into activated carbon for purifying water and really recycle it. They said: "Last year, a couple of our team members took a trip to Central America and were overwhelmed by the amount of plastic-foam trash littered on the beach. After further research, we found that the existing solutions to recycle plastic foam were limited, and that inspired us to think of a solution"

It is a long way from a commercial venture, but it does show that innovation might deal with some of the waste. As for the rest, and the present, it is our choice.

Tolly’s Tirade

Whatever happened to good old fish and chips all simply and lovingly wrapped in yesterday's newspaper? I've been going to the same 'chippie' for more years than I care to remember but these days they dish their French fries in alien containers that seem to serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever.

It’s the same story when I go to my local greasy spoon cafe for my fried egg sandwich to take away. Why, oh why, do they always insist on trying to put my snack in a useless polystyrene carton? And why do they look at me as if I am mad when I insist that a PAPER bag - no polystyrene, no plastic - will be sufficient?

Mad or not, it is time to fight back against this modern day scourge, although it is not going to be easy. Fast food containers made from Styrofoam are the utterly unimaginative and extremely environmentally unfriendly first choice of your average island takeaway joint.

From dozens of different outlets, from chip shops to burger bars and from cafes to beach kiosks to foreign food takeaways, they spew out onto our streets in their thousands. After a Friday or Saturday night in Town the picture the next morning, before the street cleaners arrive, is like a scene from a Mad Max movie.

The Styrofoam cartons and cups, together with their food and drink remnants, appear as a post-apocalyptic equivalent of the tumbleweed that blew through the abandoned settlements of Americas Wild West era.

While the street cleaners and bin men do their best, they are fighting a never-ending battle. The problem with these ubiquitous and seemingly indestructible containers is that they may break up but they do not break down. They simply migrate, either whole or in pieces, onto our cliffs and countryside and common areas, where they continue to blight our landscapes for months or even years to come.

Just as unsightly are the thousands that get into our harbours and marinas and onto our beaches, but they don't just disappear when they're washed away by the tide. They settle insidiously in the marine environment where they are ingested by the wildlife in and above the world's seas and oceans.

A quick trawl through the Internet will show you the global scale of the problem. A recent Australian study has shown that about a million seabirds worldwide, as well as around 100,000 marine mammals, including many seals and turtles, are killed every year by plastic marine litter. In one well-documented case, a marine biologist found a dead turtle with more than a thousand chunks of Styrofoam lodged in its digestive tract.

We don't really need to know much more. It is high time for action and, as small island communities, we could not be better placed to clean up our local streets and do our bit for the planet in one fell swoop.

Let’s do it now by bringing in a total ban on the importation of fast food and drink containers made from Styrofoam. The products that come into these islands are transported on the same ships and all that is needed is one simple piece of legislation, enacted simultaneously by the governments of both Bailiwicks.

Let's follow the example of the tiny Devonshire town of Modbury (pop 1,553) that won worldwide acclaim just a few months ago by becoming the first place in Britain to outlaw the plastic bag.

Every trader in the village has agreed to use environmentally friendly alternatives in the hope that it will serve as a blueprint for the rest of the country and, what little Modbury has done with plastic bags, we in the Channel Islands could do with Styrofoam food and drink containers.

If you need another example, a really big and famous one, look no further than the Golden Gate Bridge in California. More than 20 American cities have now stopped polystyrene food packaging by law and the latest one to do so was San Francisco, which introduced its ban on June 1 2007, affecting roughly 3,400 restaurants.

Of course, if we are to be inspired by the go-ahead governors of San Francisco and the enlightened burghers of Modbury, it will take a certain amount of will and vision from our elected representatives.

Our politicians wilt need to be much bolder than they have been in the past on 'green issues' but the kudos from being the first jurisdictions in Britain, perhaps Europe, to institute a ban on Styrofoam food and drink containers, would be immense.

Instead of following on the coat-tails of the UK or the EU or anyone else, as we habitually do, is it simply too much to ask that the Channel Islands could possibly lead the way for once'

[Americans throw away an estimated 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups every year]

1 comment:

James said...

Blame globalisation...

I'm serious: my wife looked into attempting to get styrofoam cups replaced by something more eco-friendly. The cost of the existing cups (which were imported from China to boot) was lower than any alternatives by a distance, and the bean-counters said that regardless of ecology they would have to stay.