Campaign News: May-Aug 1998

Waste Minimisation Campaign to Start Soon
During the March general meeting we decided the group’s priorities for the next 6 to 12 months. Our first aim is to carry out some campaigning on food issues which would then be terminated after a special general meeting in May with one of Friends of the Earth’s national food campaigners giving a talk. We also hope to invite many other speakers such as local organic food growers and people from allotments. After this short campaign, the group will turn its attention to a lot of campaigning about recycling, packaging and other waste minimisation issues rather than campaigning on lots of different issues. We haven’t decided exactly which waste issues we will campaign on but if you have any ideas and would like to get involved please turn up to one of our general meetings.

Sustainable Consumption
As mentioned in the last newsletter, Sheffield FoE were planning to take part in a day of action as part of the International No-Shop Day. We can now report back that several of our members made an appearance at Meadowhall to get the sustainable consumption message across to the public. Members set up a variety of board games and played musical instruments to highlight alternatives to mass consumption.

Sustainable Consumption - Take Action
Keep the pressure up for tough laws to ensure electrical goods are designed for reuse and recycling. FoE have targeted Dixons (the UK’s largest electrical retailer), but they have not yet responded. When you go shopping in Dixons or Currys (Part of the Dixons group) ask the following 3 questions:

  • Will you take back electrical products at the end of their lives?
  • Will you ensure the parts are reused or recycled?
  • What plans do you have to label products with their expected life-spans so I can buy long lasting ones?

Recycling in Sheffield drops
Figures from the Council’s own performance indicators show that Sheffield is falling well behind on its recycling, no doubt partly as a result of the large capacity wheelie bins issued to most people. The percentage of household waste recycled has fallen from 4.65% in 93/94 to 2.47% in 96/97 while the cost of rubbish disposal has shot up from £7.58 per tonne to £13.35 over the same period. Inevitably the refurbishment of the Bernard Road incinerator to bring it up to EC emission standards and the landfill tax on all rubbish that had to be dumped for a year while it was closed for the  work won’t have helped (total cost now put at 15M). While closed the properties normally heated by the system had to be heated by the back-up gas boiler.

At the December Green Party meeting the Council’s recycling officer admitted that the proceeds from the landfill tax  is likely to go to ‘attractive’ causes such as tree planting when money really needs to be spent on better recycling facilities. It is now well documented that there is no real incentive to increase recycling in Sheffield because this could undermine the viability of the incinerator and the associated district heating scheme. (Taken from Greensheaf)

Recycling - Did You Know?

  • Did you know that the UK’s Christmas cards and wrapping paper this year used the equivalent of around a quarter of a million trees?
  • Out of every £75 pounds spent on groceries, £10 is for the packaging?
  • A returnable container system for drinks could create up to 4,000 jobs in the UK?

Food News
Unilever are now labelling one of their smaller brand names, Bachelors Beanfeast (or should that be Genebeast?), as containing genetically engineered soya. As Unilever tests the water for public reaction, FoE have been warning people to watch out for this small label and also to be aware of other brands which Unilever might be thinking about using GE ingredients.

However, on a positive note, as of 1 May, Iceland supermarkets’ own brand products will be free of all genetically engineered ingredients. The tough stance was outlined at a press conference on 18 March in London. FoE supports this position and urges all other supermarkets to follow Iceland.

Forests & Paper Campaign
Finnish company UPM-Kymmene, major paper suppliers to the UK and involved in using wood from the last old forests in Finland, has further demonstrated its lack of commitment to the environment by announcing a joint venture with an Indonesian company APRIL. The venture will involve clear-felling logged-over natural forest in Indonesia and replacing it with industrial monoculture plantation. The APRIL enterprise is also involved in a dispute with a local village who are claiming compensation for loss of their land to the company. FoE groups in Finland, the Netherlands and the UK are launching a campaign calling on UPM-Kymmene to pull out of the deal.

Meanwhile, several old-growth forests in Finland were logged in the past few months. UPM-Kymmene is believed to have bought wood from at least some of the old-growth areas. UPM Kymmene supplies paper to IPC Magazines (publishers of New Scientist, Marie Claire etc.) and BBC Magazines (publishers of Radio Times and BBC Wildlife). UPM-Kymmene is a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a group of companies supposedly committed to sustainable development, which doesn’t square with either clear-felling rainforest, or destroying the last old-growth forests in Finland.

To take action write to UPM-Kymmene’s president, Mr Juha Niemeläa at PO Box 203, FIN-00171 Helsinki, Finland. Say that as a UK paper consumer you urge them to show their commitment to sustainable development by withdrawing from the deal with APRIL and declaring a moratorium on using wood from Finland’s last old-growth forests.

Campaign News from Local Groups
Leeds Friends of the Earth’s Wild Woods Campaigners took to the street with a petition calling for the newspaper industry to buy more recycled paper. This very vocal day of action drew a lot of attention and filled the petition sheets in record time.

Thorne and Hatfield Moors have retained their status as Sites of Special Scientific Interest, despite plans to remove the designation by English Nature at the end of last year. FoE local groups, particular in the north east, quickly responded to a call for action at Conference in September and threw themselves into the fight to save the Moors

Near Doncaster - the last surviving lowland raised peat bog in England. Without a local group in the immediate area, Robin Maynard and Matt Phillips from FoE attended and spoke at a public meeting organised by the local authority. There are now murmurings of a new FoE group in Doncaster.

Frankenstein masks and lab coats were the order of the day for groups in the West Yorkshire FoE Network who quizzed local shoppers about their choices, and cheered and shook hands with shoppers leaving Safeways for taking part in the “biggest genetic experiment”.