BEAD Recycling – a resident’s experience

 

My initial interest, for Silchester, was to find out whether they could help recycle plastics that I currently have to consign to my Black Wheelie bin. As you probably know, I process everything we collect on Fridays for the Ali-recycling group. Inevitably we receive a few items that are not accepted by the TerraCycle organisation, and the quandary is always “What should I do with this?”. My hope was that the answer could be “Send it to BEAD”. In every case that was the right answer!

The TerraCycle approach is based on individual, “difficult to recycle”, items which they have learned, through research, how best to process. The BEAD approach is based on “material type” rather than “item type”. For those who don’t know, there are 7 different types of plastic in common use around the world, and each is (supposed to be!) stamped with its type. That’s slightly misleading as there are in fact MANY more types of plastic in use in various industries, but the less common ones are classed as “Type 7 – Other” !! BEAD recycling have stated that they can recycle Types 1 – 6 , but not 7.

Most of the “discards” from the Ali-recycling collection fall into types 3 & 4 – “soft plastics”.

There are, of course, other recycling opportunities available to me, but the Council-run “Green Wheelie bin” kerbside collection facility only “wants” what they describe as “bottle-shaped bottles”. (Turns out these are mostly type 2, So they certainly do NOT want my “soft plastics”).

There is also a facility at Tadley Sainsbury which purports to collect “mixed plastics” – mainly “tubs & trays” (mostly type 5). But anyone who has been following my articles in the Parish Magazine this year, will know that this service has been very “patchy” recently.

Where BEAD scores is that they don’t require you to visit a special location, and wade through piles of litter only to find the the skip is full or closed or missing – instead they will come and collect from your house!

By the time my research had got this far, I decided to sign up – as a sort of “pilot” project for Silchester. Signing up is a very simple process that can be done online in a few minutes. There is a  one-off £13.50 charge for the “Welcome pack” – a neat, A4 box containing coloured plastic bags, some tags, string, a pencil and a few sheets of information and “instructions”. These bags (and bits) are replaced with an empty one, whenever they collect a full one.

[My replacements were delivered in a cheerful little red bag, left outside my front door – not, interestingly, under the brick I had placed conveniently close to the bags on the front “grassy patch” (I cannot in all honesty refer to is as a “lawn”!)]

When I signed up it was explained on the web site that, as they were rather busy, it would take about 3 weeks for the welcome pack to arrive. (3 weeks later, give or take a day, it did!).

Within 24 hours of sign-up, though, I was assigned a code, which I could look up on the BEAD calendar web page to find out when the next collection day would be. (It was a Wednesday, which also happened to be a 2-bin day for Council collections. I emailed their Customer Service team to point this out and they promised to review this for future collections as they generally try to avoid such clashes). As it turned out, though the council collected in the morning and BEAD came in the afternoon, so it wasn’t a problem.

Collection day was set about a month after sign-up day, giving me plenty of opportunity to gather “stuff” ready to fill the colourful bags, when they turned up. Other members of the SS group were kindly able to provide a few extra carrier bags of material to supplement what I had amassed myself so, on the day, I was able to muster 5 bags for BEAD to collect. 5 bags of plastic saved from landfill. Not bad!

One interesting incident arose as I was trying to group my potential BEAD collection into crates – prior to the arrival of the official bags. I found two things I didn’t quite understand on the BEAD web page that lists all their bags and what to put into which. I contacted customer services and they clarified the instructions AND AMENDED THE WEB page accordingly. That impressed me!

I assigned myself a task in my garage on collection day, hoping to be able to see the BEAD van and maybe chat to the driver. The collection window is specified as “Between 9am and 8pm”. But they came just after 6pm, when hunger had forced me indoors to make my dinner!

As well as types 1 – 6 of plastic, BEAD will collect a lot of the other “standard”  recyclables as well – aluminium foil, batteries, paper, toys, books clothing, etc. which, I understand, they pass on to other local charities if they cannot recycle them.

One interesting, but frustrating, line is TETRA-PAKs. Unfortunately that service is suspended at the moment, because the local processing facility they used to pass it to had closed. As it will be popular, judging by conversations I have had, I will advise (through the SS web site and Parish Magazine) when this is available again.

One wrinkle we, in Silchester, need to be aware of, is that BEAD also collect for TerraCycle programmes – same as Ali-recycling does. The DIFFERENCE is that the charities supported by Ali-recycling are all in Silchester Village, whereas those supported by BEAD are (schools, I think), local to their Basingstoke base. Although there is a lot of overlap between the Ali-recycling TerraCycle programmes and the BEAD ones, there are around half a dozen that BEAD can use which Ali cannot.

Overall, I strongly recommend BEAD as an efficient way to recycle many of those hard-to-recycle items.

 

Plastic Myth Busting

  • Wise-up on alternative plastics, unless you see hard evidence
  • Don’t use single-use plastics
  • Choose to reuse instead

The Government and the plastics industry aren’t regulating the use of terms like ‘bioplastic’, ‘biodegradable’ or ‘compostable’ in relation to alternative plastics. That means there’s nothing to stop some manufacturers using these terms to sell their products without any evidence to back up their claims, or any obligation to provide evidence if challenged.

Research shows that many of these products only degrade under very specific conditions that most shops and consumers won’t be able to replicate. You can’t just put a ‘compostable’ take away coffee cup in your home compost bin and expect it to decompose. It would need a specialist industrial composter and there are few of these in the UK, and none locally at the moment.

The products, if tested at all, are often evaluated in unnatural conditions e.g. wet wipes are tested for decomposition in a warm washing machine not in a sewer or salt water environment where they will end up if flushed as advised on the packet.

There are other problems:

  •  ‘Biodegradable’/‘compostable’ items encourage littering, especially ‘biodegradable’ dog poo bags.
  • They’re usually more expensive
  • Most alternative plastic products used in particularly by take-away food outlets (who are trying to do the right thing) end up in a litter bin.
  • There’s an established recycling industry for traditional plastics. Not only can recycling companies not recycle biodegradable plastics, these items also contaminate the traditional recycling streams.
  • If you try to compost them at home they’re highly unlikely to decompose in any meaningful timeframe.
  • Bio plastic does not encourage the behaviour change needed to address the problem of plastics ending up in our oceans, rivers, parks and hedgerows, in the food chain and in foreign landfill sites, which is why concerns about plastics were raised in the first place.

Many alternative plastics can be worse for the environment, not better than traditional plastic.

Please buy a travel mug, a re-useable water bottle or other re-useable item instead, or if you must choose a single-use plastic item, please opt for traditional plastic that you can recycle.

https://scilly.gov.uk/environment-transport/waste-recycling/plastic-free-scilly

Insulation Properties of Older Houses: Investigation with a thermal imaging camera

Older houses pose particular challenges with regard to thermal efficiency and sustainability. For this reason Sarah and myself found it extremely useful to borrow the thermal imaging camera to investigate our house- Culhams Farmhouse. The farmhouse was built in 1840 and the original part of the house has solid brick walls although several more modern extensions have cavities and mostly meet today’s building regulation standards. Windows in the original house have thick oak frames and single glazed lead mullions. The property is Grade 2 listed so anything we do has to meet the approval of the conservation officer. Originally the house was built without a damp proof course, but a chemical course was inserted over 40 years ago much to the disapproval of the conservation officer who told us that this should not have been allowed. We don’t appear to have any significant damp issues. Today the house has a modern gas central heating system (boiler replaced 18 months ago) which is supplemented by two log burners (both replaced recently and meet today’s standards) and an open fire. I have purchased a wood moisture meter to ensure I only burn seasoned wood.

Another part of the thermal efficiency jigsaw is how we use the property. It’s relatively large and there are only the two of us rattling around in it so throughout the winter half of it is unused and unheated apart from Xmas. Two downstairs reception rooms are mostly unheated- but the radiators and log fires can bring them up to temperature quite quickly in the event they are needed. Similarly, only one of the bedrooms and both bathrooms have background heating the rest being left completely unheated. The house has two large, cavernous lofts and I have improved the depth of insulation on the one above our bedroom, but the other larger loft doesn’t meet today’s standard for thickness of insulation.

Having set the scene what did the thermal imaging camera reveal? We borrowed it on a cold and frosty night when there was a log fire in the lounge log burner and the radiators were working in the rooms we heat. The camera is very sophisticated with a large instruction manual but in simplistic mode you can forget all this and switch it on then pull and hold the trigger. The screen now reveals the thermal image, and you can walk round the outside of the property to investigate its thermal properties. Black or grey is good but yellow or orange is bad suggesting significant heat loss and red is awfully bad.

How did Culhams Farmhouse fare? The good news is (and somewhat surprising) that the walls of the original structure and all of the roofs were black showing no appreciable heat leakage. Rather surprising is that the image of the downstairs cloakroom, a 1980s addition with a conventional cavity wall construction, clearly showed the outline of its radiator in orange suggesting much greater heat loss from the newer construction. The bad news was the windows, where all of the original window openings with single glazing, showed significant heat loss. The camera was also effective in identifying heat loss through drafts. We have a new extension completed 18 months ago comprising a large kitchen extension and involved excavation of the original kitchen to install underfloor heating which is modern and efficient. (I know that earlier I said the house is too big so you might wonder why we extended- it’s a long story but in essence the space we had wasn’t in the right place). As an aside the kitchen refurbishment made a major contribution to reducing our carbon footprint as we got rid of the solid fuel AGA which used to run 24/7 throughout three seasons and consumed anthracite at an alarming rate. The kitchen extension was built with an insulated cavity wall and no problems were detected here. However, we had windows with solid oak surrounds and also tri-fold doors with solid oak frames. We were warned these might shrink and cause drafts and these were clearly visible on the camera showing as a thin strip of orange along the hinged joints. The other major draft leakage was from the old front door. This is rarely used but is the original oak door, 180 years old. Its warped and has been for years but we have a curtain we can draw across it.

So what are the next steps having seen the thermal imaging? Well, the apparent loss of heat through the solid walls was a huge relief. Solid walls can be a major problem in older properties and options are limited- wall cladding is ugly and, in any event, wouldn’t be permitted in a listed building. Thankfully, the walls at Culhams  are thick (four bricks thick in fact) greater than many older properties and thicker than modern cavity construction albeit without the benefit of high performance insulation. I’m surprised about heat loss through the downstairs cloakroom- I would have expected a 1980s construction to have insulation in the cavity but perhaps not. I will fit a thermostatic valve on the radiator and lower the temperature. I have just bought a load of draft excluder and have started to fix the worst problems. Then there is the question of the single glazed windows! Some were replaced a few years back by a previous owner and had to be handmade- the bill was huge. There is no easy answer to this but I am looking a the possibility of secondary glazing although Sarah and I have yet to agree on this radical step. In the meantime we will continue to draw the thick curtains in the winter months.

All in all, the thermal imaging experience was very good. It provided some reassurance but also focussed attention on where the quick wins are for thermal efficiency. I would recommend it to everyone.

 

Paul Roper

Living with an Electric Car

I love my electric car.  I’ve had a Renault Zoe for 7 years now and it still makes my smile every time I put my foot down and pull silently away from the lights faster than almost any other car.    In the word used for Rolls Royces – it has waftability.

 

The first question I am always asked, is how far it can get on a charge. 

Mine is an early electric car, and the range is 70-80 miles depending on driving conditions and the temperature.   There are very few days when I need to travel further than 70 miles.    Almost every charge is done at home.  I have made it to Portsmouth, Bath and Cambridge  – and all those places will come easily within range when I come to replace it,  as newer models all have ranges in excess of 200 miles.  But at the moment longer journeys need a little bit of planning, although this is getting easier as the number of charging points increases.

If you are thinking about an electric car, it is worth looking at electricity tariffs designed for the electric car owner, which don’t come up on comparison websites.  I’m currently using Octopus Go, which gives me a few hours of very cheap charging overnight, so a full charge costs less than £1.

I do like the green credentials: lower CO2 emissions and no pollution, I love the silence that allows me to listen to music without the engine as background noise, but that’s not the main reason that I would recommend an electric car.  The main reason is the driveability.  It is just so nice to have a car that responds so quickly and smoothly when you put your foot down.  It’s very difficult not to be a boy racer away from the lights.

Energy Efficiency in Heritage Buildings

On 8 April I attended a talk by Daniel Ayre, from BDBC’s planning department, on energy efficiency in Historic Buildings.  Here’s my take on what he had to say.

Many of the houses in Silchester are in the Conservation Area, or are historic or notable buildings, and they require some different energy efficiency measures from more modern buildings.  Historic buildings work differently from modern buildings.  Modern buildings are “sealed units” whereas  historic buildings “breath”, letting moisture and air in at night and out during the day.  Any change to this can disrupt the function of the building and cause problems. For example, there may be condensation on the windows in the morning.  However, if you change the windows and stop the condensation, then you have to consider where  the moisture is going instead.  It may be somewhere less easy to deal with.   Similarly any wall insulation that stops the building breathing is likely to do more harm than good.

Although when we talk about energy efficiency, we are usually thinking about heating and electricity, Daniel observed that for buildings there are actually three sorts of energy that we should consider:

  • Embodied Energy – the energy of construction locked up in the building
  • Operational Energy – heating, lighting etc
  • Demolition Energy – the cost of disposal

A historic building has a lot of embodied energy, stored in some cases for hundreds of years and it is not necessarily energy efficient to demolish that to make small savings in operational energy.  For this reason, as well as the need to conserve the character of the area, the council will often recommend repair to existing structures rather than replacement.   Thinking again about the windows: many people think that energy efficiency requires moving to modern double-glazed windows.  This is possibly true if the existing windows are beyond repair (say, more than 55% of the frames would need replacement), but the energy in constructing a modern double glazed window in a factory far outweighs the cost of a local joiner building a replacement single-glazed unit.  And, when it fails, a double glazed window will need replacing in it’s entirety using yet more energy, a single-glazed pane of glass can be replaced.

 Energy efficiency measures that you might consider include:

  • keep the building in a good state of repair, and prevent draughts
  • repair what you have, rather than replacing with new
  • breathable insulation in the loft
  • secondary glazing
  • consider a heat pump, the steady heat can be better for a historic building than the heat-cool cycle of existing heating systems

Finally, historic buildings are often inherently more energy efficient than they appear, staying warmer in winter and cooler in summer than some modern properties.  So if you are lucky enough to have a historic property, enjoy it!

Why Sustainable Silchester?

The relentless stream of bad news about the climate, habitat-loss and plastic mountains is tough to take.  It’s difficult sometimes even to watch David Attenborough.  And I’m not alone – climate anxiety is becoming a widespread problem.  and most experts agree at the answer is to focus on positive action on the things that you can control.

But what could I do?  I don’t want to be an eco-warrior, I’m not that keen on the idea of chaining myself to a tree, or being arrested.

Then I heard a story.  This version was adapted by Peter Straube from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. 

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

Source:  Events for Change

And so the idea for Sustainable Silchester grew.  I can’t solve all the planets problems, but small actions can help.  And if enough people take small actions, then that will make a difference.  For example, the carbon footprint of Silchester is about 8,750 tCO2e each year.  If we could cut that by just 10%, we would save 875 tCO2e each year.  On it’s own, that is not going to save the planet, but if every town and village in England saved 875 tCO2e each year, that would be 42 million tCO2e.  And that would make a noticeable difference in helping the UK meet net zero by 2050.   

Everyone that I have spoken too has been very enthusiastic about the initiative.  And it helps.  Now when I watch David Attenborough, I still can’t solve all the world’s problems.  But I can be part of the solution.