Greener than thou

Corn starch bagThe Sun
An ungreen corn starch bag? A green newspaper?

We all know what bloody environmentalists are like once they get going, so it might be asking for trouble bringing this up, but I notice that both of our green blogger friends Vowles and Charlie Bolton are implacably opposed to former rubbish Czar Gary Hopkins’ demands that biodegradeable corn starch bags are introduced to line our recycling bins.

Vowles says:

Where is the sense in manufacturing something (like corn starch plastic bags) specially to throw away – even if its biodegradable?

If people carefully wrap their brown bin waste up properly each day to make newspaper parcels, ensuring several layers are used and that there are no leaks in the parcels, then there should be few problems.

And Charlie says:

To put it another way, whats wrong with wrapping waste in newspaper?????

But what’s so green about newspaper? Why are these two buying newspaper when they could read them for free on the internet? To put it another way: where is the sense in buying something (like newspapers) specially to throw away – when you can get a free and totally wasteless version?

I think we should be told (and I suspect we probably will be).

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20 Responses to Greener than thou

  1. Is the Bristol blogger suggesting we should go for these bags? No position is stated and instead blogger takes the easy option of criticism alone.
    What’s more the criticism is not based on knowledge that blogger has of me and how much newspaper (and other types of paper, since I use that to wrap waste too) that I produce. Its likely that blogger knows full well that greens like myself are usually very far from being hypocritical and living high impact lives!!

    Clearly the choice at present is between the corn starch plastic bags and continuing to wrap in newspaper and I’ve simply pointed out that environmetally and economically, reusing newspaper is a clear winner. Because its already present in homes for other reasons (ie reading them) it does not, unlike the bags, have a long chain of impacts (water use, chemicals use, energy use…) going all the way from taking land for crop growth that would be better used growing food, to the transport costs of getting the bags to users, and everything in between!

    I’m not really saying that using newspaper (or in fact any other ‘waste’ paper) is completely green but it does take us in a much greener direction compared to theses bags. I am saying that using newspaper is currently the most practical option – no special additional manufacturing needed, unlike the proposed bags (which can end up landfilled instead of being composted because they dont shred up very well and often have to be separated out).

    I read the newspapers online fairly often. I still occasionally buy a newspaper though, because I dont want to spend too much time reading from a screen (which I spend a lot of time in front of for work). I make use of newspapers to become informed and be entertained before putting out for recycling or before reusing it to wrap up food waste (note: you dont need that many). Despite efforts to be efficient I still end up with enough paper to wrap up my brown bin food waste (which is small in quantity because most food is eaten not wasted and a lot of what is produced goes into my wormery and onto the compost heap at my allotment).

  2. ann says:

    hmm, of course to read the news online you have to have access (and skills) – lot’s don’t, including many elderly people. And you don’t even need to purchase newspaper – it comes through the door free eg The Obeserver, Metro on the bus etc and numerous unsolicited flyers (often A4, several pages) just keep coming. So, it’s not that hard to get paper to wrap waste, even if you don’t actively purchase. On the other hand, if you do want to buy newspapers, they are not bought just to line the bin and – they have a separate, valid function, to report issues, provide book, film, theatre reviews etc, etc. and BONUS! you can then usefully wrap your rubbish. No problem.

  3. Tess says:

    Recycling everything is what we need to do so bunging your food waste in a used cornflakes box or pizza carton is better than newspaper (if you have to buy newspaper especially for this purpose) and both are better than cornstarch bags which use up energy, land and potential food. What happens to your waste Blogger? Tess

  4. Pete says:

    Trouble with corn starch is that it’s made from corn… and there are loads of people in this world who actually eat the stuff – if it’s available at a price they can afford – instead of turning it into bags to throw away..

    What next? Will we see the Blogger praising the Americans for buying up the crop to turn it into ethanol to keep their cars on the road ?

  5. thebristolblogger says:

    Yes I do recycle although in common with a lot of people I’m pretty cynical about it while the people insisting I have to take responsibility for the environment are busy devising ring roads and airport expansions that destroy this environment.

    Also the refusal of the same people to even attempt to design and development a rapid transit system for the city makes me more cynical about recycling. The powers that be (who I hand 40% of my income to) couldn’t give two tosses really could they? Why should we pay while they fill their boots as usual?

    If I do have to recycle then I want it made as easy and as non-time consuming as possible, therefore I want (free!) corn starch bags.

    As far as I am concerned the corn starch bag industry is a far lesser evil than the newspaper industry.

    Huge corporations producing 15 million entirely disposable products every day and delivering them by road don’t sound very green and sustainable to me.

    I’d have more respect for a green movement that tackled these bastards than nit-picked me for wanting to use a corn starch bag once a week.

  6. Vowlesthe Green says:

    So blogger wants the plastic bags. The plastics industry and behind them petrochemical and agrochemicals industries are presumeably industries with low environmental impact !!

    And blogger prioritises an easier/quicker food recycling system (cause it takes so long to wrap up food in waste paper doesn’t it) above peoples need for land to grow food. Better to grow crops to make plastics than food for the hungry??

    By using a these plastic bags the environmental impact of recycling itself will rise – a backward step from where we are. If he wants them free then he wants a rise in the council tax, because someone has to buy them to give out free!

    Green policy is to get to a situation where we dont have a food waste collection system at all – thus no lorries collecting, and no newspaper used etc – with households and neighbourhoods composting their own waste and using the compost made to grow their own food. However, we are a long way from this ideal and so in the interim we support the council system, preferably with no plastic bags used.

  7. Anonymous says:

    The Bourgeois Blogger strikes again! Always happy to echo the views of the Murdoch press when it comes to issues like political correctness, you’re now spouting populist shite about recycling.

    Your argument makes no sense: the Greens have been the only party in Bristol to consistently oppose airport expansion and the ring road in favour of better public transport – unlike your cornbag loving Lib Dem mates.

    You should be grateful we’ve finally found a use for the Bristol Observer 🙂

  8. thebristolblogger says:

    Don’t get the Bristol Observer ’round here I’m afraid. It’s advertising-led so only goes through the doors of the middle classes who are most likely to consume the goods being advertised.

    (Check with people in Easton, Lawrence Hill, Knowle West, Harcliffe etc. They’ll confirm they don’t get the Observer)

    The same middle classes that are currently trying to convince us that newspaper is environmentally friendly in fact.

    Oh. And is the green movement’s aim to deliberately make recycling unpopular then?

  9. Vowlesthe Green says:

    This response is insubstantial, inaccurate and centred on misconception and stereotyping!

    Why has blogger not responded to points of substance made to him? Growing food for the hungry as a priority? The impact of the petrochemical and agrochemical industries?
    The need for the recycling system itself to be as environmentally friendly as we can practically make it?

    Its simpy inaccurate to say that Greens are trying to convince anyone that newspaper is environmentally friendly. Blogger needs to re-read my first comment. Newspaper re-use may be non-ideal in absolutist terms but then again so is driving around in lorries consuming fossil fuels collecting the food waste for composting! Newspaper re-use is relatively a much better option than the plastic bag and is currently a practical choice.

    It is not accurate to think that the brown bin recycling system is massively unpopular either. This is a misconception and allies blogger to people who just dont support recycling at all. The system has its problems and its critics but many people see the sense of it and are willing to make a bit of effort to support it – is blogger not one of them?

    And what is all this ‘middle classes’ stuff that is spouted. This Green was born, brought up and ‘schooled’ in Knowle West, the son of a Labourer!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I live in the East Bristol NDC area, right on the border between Easton and Lawrence Hill, and we get the Observer pushed through our door every Friday.

    Whereas you obviously live somewhere plush like Windchime Hill where they don’t see such a market for DFS adverts and Wilkinsons pullouts.

    Is your fact-checker on holiday? 🙂

  11. thebristolblogger says:

    “Newspaper re-use is relatively a much better option than the plastic bag and is currently a practical choice.”
    Relatively better for who or what?

    “Newspaper re-use may be non-ideal in absolutist terms but then again so is driving around in lorries consuming fossil fuels collecting the food waste for composting!”
    Quite. If you accept that most recycling solutions are “non-ideal in absolutist terms” why are some “non-ideal in absolutist terms” recycling principles OK (say using newspaper) and some (say corn starch bags) not?
    How are you reaching your conclusions? The newspaper industry is way more environmentally damaging than the corn starch bag industry. That’s a simple fact.

  12. VowlestheGreen says:

    Better for who? The hungry, who need land to be used to grow food not crops to make plastic bags for one! We

    You are not thinking straight if you think that re-using newspaper, or whatever small amounts of other waste paper that ends up in your house, to wrap waste has a smaller environmental impact than taking up land, water, chemicals and energy to specially make plastic bags to do the same job!

    If these bags are made available its inevitable that some people will use them and still have newspaper/other waste paper…that they could have used to wrap their waste in. It follows therefore that total environmental impact will go up because the plastic bag impact would be added to the impact of the newspaper.

  13. thebristolblogger says:

    But if the bags encourage people to recycle and make it easier and less time-consuming to do so then more recycling might happen which also has an environmental impact.
    The easier you make it for people the more effective it’s gonna be.

  14. old misery guts says:

    Fucking hell this is almost as much fun as reading the responses a Richard Dawkins article gets in Guardian Online – way to up the hit rate BB, get the greens going with any sort of article on recycling.

  15. S F says:

    Yes, what a load of bollox moaning about a few corn-starch bags is. Next the greens will be moaning that we shouldnt use cotton wool to clean our ears, we should just use fallen sticks like Homo Eructus used to. I think Mr Vowles should try to avoid so much Reductio ad absurdum.

  16. VowlestheGreen says:

    My apologies to SF and Old Misery Guts for being such a boring git! (I’ll make this my very last comment on this topic – honest). I just dont feel that the issue of using land to grow food for the hungry vs using land to grow crops to make plastic bags is unimportant like you seem to!

    It seems from Bloggers last comment that he concedes the point about having to add plastic bag impact to newspaper impact. Perhaps I just bored him into submission.

    Blogger is relying on an absolutely massive increase in recycling levels miraculously produced by introducing these plastic bags to compensate for all the additional impact of the bags themselves. First – its very unlikely that this will happen. Second – wouldn’t it make more sense to achieve improved recycling levels by appealing to people for support, with extra resources for environmental education and information rather than using the money making plastic bags available ‘free’ !!?

    (I shouldn’t admit it, given the comment from old misery guts, but its all on my blog anyway, so… I’m a Richard Dawkins fan and am reading his book ‘The God Delusion’ – I recommend it)

  17. thebristolblogger says:

    What I don’t understand is why anyone needs to read a book to tell them god doesn’t exist. Haven’t you noticed anyway?

  18. Anonymous says:

    “If I do have to recycle then I want it made as easy and as non-time consuming as possible, therefore I want (free!) corn starch bags.” says Blogger.

    Hmmm.. is that a wind-up? You made a good point when you said that the easier it is, the more will be recycled. But in this case, the easier it is, it won’t just be diverted into the recycling stream from the rubbish bins, it’ll be diverted from the home composting stream as well – especially if the bags were free.

    When you say ‘free’, I take it you mean free at point of use… won’t that push the usage (and the financial cost to the community, and the environmental costs) sky high? Wouldn’t it be fairer if people make their own choice what to use – and if they choose a costly bag, they should pay for it themselves?

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  20. Gary Hopkins says:

    Glad to see the subject has stirred up interest. Of course wrapping up in left over newspapers is a better environmental solution than buying in paper bags,corn starch bags or newspapers (which many do) but many do not have newspapers (bought or freebie delivered) and some less motivated give up because they think it is too messy or difficuilt.70% use the food waste system well and there is no desire to change this but to raise this to 90% you need to make it easier for some . We are not replacing but adding.Every product has an environmental cost but the audit on these stands up and the increased participation (supported by trials) dwarfs the impact of the bags.
    Designing a recycling system for green activists might sound great in theory but they would never get it of the ground and ordinary Joe would switch off.
    Bristol actually reduced waste dramatically over the last 2 years as well as tripling the recycling rate because we got mass buy in and in some ways made it easier for people to recycle than not..The system now though can and should be improved.
    After much prevarication and false excuses the present “administration” has caved in and agreed to corn starch bags this year but have not agreed yet to supply.This is plain daft as the people who are least engaged are those least likely or able to purchase the bags.
    We also need council tax rebates for low waste producers which are practical to introduce and it now seems central goverment are removing the barriers to.

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