Waste, recycling, resources, and litter

These topics are all connected through our attitudes and behaviours to the use and disposal of resources, and our sense of responsibility for the environment.  Friends of the Earth Tayside is involved in campaigning and local activity to promote better use of resources and tackle the problem of litter, for example through Beachwatch.

Beachwatch

The most obvious way we do this is through the regular autumn clean-up of beaches from Broughty Ferry to Lunan Bay, as part of the national Beachwatch initiative promoted by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).

Local volunteers join in with FoE Tayside members for a few hours at the weekend in mid-September to scour the beaches and collect whatever rubbish has been washed up.  Records are kept and submitted to the MCS so that the volume and makeup of the rubbish can be assessed and reported on.  In 2010, we found a lot of tiny particules of polystyrene, whilst in 2012 and 2013 there were large numbers of sanitary items on the line left by the high tide.  The MCS is particularly concerned about the impact of this marine litter on sea creatures including dolphins, which regularly visit the Tay estuary.  But it’s also a visual mess for people who enjoy a walk along the seafront, and some items can be dangerous for people as well as wildlife.

Anyone is welcome to help – gloves and bags provided, weather not guaranteed!

Waste and recycling

We keep in contact with the local authorities regarding their waste management policies and activities.  In the past we have joined forces with Dundee City Council to produce leaflets on “Reduce, reuse, recycle” for householders, and in 2012 we were in touch with Angus Council about its approach to waste collection at nursing homes.  Local authority policies are changing frequently as they face growing financial penalties for sending biodegradable waste to landfill, and new technologies open up fresh opportunities both for handling the waste and for processing materials into new products.

The commitment to create a Zero Waste Scotland is to be welcomed, but there’s a lot still to be done to move us all towards a “circular economy” where we make the best use of resources – and then use them again.

 

Dundee waste-to-energy plant at Baldovie

Dundee waste-to-energy plant at Baldovie

 

Resource issues

These are the local end of a global picture, where conflicts over resources are likely to increase in the coming years.  Already major economic powers are buying up deposits of minerals, land and other valuable resources to safeguard supplies to their economies.  It’s a major topic for the EU, which has set out a “Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe“.

It all basically comes down to the problem that we have been profligate in the use of resources since the start of the Industrial Revolution – for a long time we could afford to burn and consume resources, and throw away our waste, as if the planet had unlimited supplies and space.  Now we’re finding those limits, both in terms of supplies of resources, and the capacity of the planet to absorb the waste – especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels.  Technology might come up with some short-term solutions, and alternative materials, but these can only buy us a little time before we will have to make radical changes to the way our economy and society uses resources.  This is what the idea of the circular economy is about.