PLASTIC FREE HOME: Don’t delay, have your say…

David Lamont

“The greatest danger to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

The words of polar explorer Robert Swan OBE featured on a slide at the recent Greener Wokingham event, at which I was delighted to be one of the speakers.

They are words that I’ve heard and seen used many times before yet every time I’m confronted with them they make me sit up and think. Now you have an opportunity to do just that.

Wokingham Borough Council is currently inviting input from residents via its Climate Emergency Survey, giving you a chance to have your say and to play a part in helping to shape the Council’s strategy for achieving carbon neutral status by 2030. The plan will then be unveiled in the New Year.

Please get involved if you haven’t already done so. And get your partner, family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and anyone else you can (providing that they live in Wokingham Borough) to participate. You can find the survey in the ‘Current Consultations’ section on the Council’s website.

My own feedback included a desire for a large scale tree planting and wildflower scheme, rules around emissions for taxi, coach and bus companies based in the Borough, and for others who operate fleets of vehicles. I think that improved public transport and better transport for school children is key too and that a workplace parking levy should be considered. Parking and parking permit charges could be varied based on a car’s emissions or fuel type.

Certain materials are much harder or even impossible to recycle when wet, so I’d like to see lids or covers for kerbside recycling boxes provided to all as soon as possible.  I do not think that the answer is to replace tens of thousands of existing boxes with something else entirely, as I have heard mooted be some. This move would also help to reduce the amount of litter the current bins are responsible for.

A Council Tax reduction or subsidy for homes that switch to renewable energy would be a bold move, and pushing ahead with plans to fit solar panels on schools and council buildings would be brilliant. I think much more could be done around new homes and other buildings in terms of design and the use of greener technologies in general. Efficient street lighting is also worth a look.

Crucially, I would like to see communication greatly improved upon. The more I talk to people, the more I realise the extent to which they are not aware of or are confused by the services already available to them. No more so than when it comes to recycling and waste disposal. That’s a real missed opportunity.

I note that those living in Reading are to benefit from a new food waste scheme from 2020 – fantastic news. We should praise Wokingham Borough Council for being ahead of many local authorities across in the UK, having introduced collections earlier this year.

The recycling rate in the Borough was 55% for the quarter ending June 2019, the first to include figures from the food waste scheme. The food waste scheme, coupled with the greater recycling of plastics brought in last year, has helped to push rates up from around 45% in 2018. That means that Wokingham is ahead of schedule in meeting the current EU target of a 50% recycling rate for UK households by 2020.

An incredible 1,200 tonnes of food waste was collected in the Borough between April and June this year. That’s the equivalent of up to 200,000 sacks of rubbish weighing the same as over 200 African elephants.

In landfill food waste produces Methane, a greenhouse gas that is 28 times more potent than Carbon Dioxide when it comes to warming our planet. According to National Geographic, around 20% of the warming the Earth has experienced is a result of Methane.

Simply put, the potential for each and every one of us to make a difference is huge. The wheels have started turning, we just need them to turn much faster. Don’t sit back, don’t wait, and don’t adopt the mindset that it’s someone else’s problem or that it will inevitably all be okay in the end. Sadly it may not. Demand more, (please) do more and share your ideas and views at every opportunity.

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David Lamont
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