Greens and local campaigners call for a ‘plastic free’ city

Greens urge Council to ‘go plastic free’ and encourage traders, residents and businesses to do the same in a bid to reduce damage plastic waste causes the environment and public health


The Green Group of Councillors and local campaigners [quoted below] are calling on the Council to take serious action on plastic waste in Brighton and Hove.

Ahead of a meeting of Full Council on 2nd November, the Green Group are urging the Council to take decisive action on single-use plastics (SUP) such as bottles, plastic cups and straws, that are used just once before being thrown away and are not widely recycled.

The Green Group are also hoping that all parties will support a call to work with residents, businesses and local traders to set up a ‘Plastic Free Network,’ that builds on the best practice of organisations in the city already phasing out the use of plastics, to support people in making the transition to more sustainable alternatives.

Over 56 venues in Brighton and Hove have signed up to the ‘Plastic Free Pledge’, a campaign to limit, or remove, many single-use plastics from their business, such as plastic straws.

Only 14 percent of plastic packaging is ever recycled or re-used and like many other Councils, Brighton and Hove only has the facilities to recycle plastic bottles. With recent studies showing that plastics are now present in samples of British tap water, and present in a third of all fish caught off the British coastline, the Greens have also raised the alarm about the role Brighton and Hove has to play in preventing plastics from entering the ocean.

Local campaigners Claire Potter and Jake Arney, co-founders of the Plastic Free Pledge, have commented on the issue. Jake said:

“Plastic straws were the first target of the Plastic Free Pledge, however we are already helping organisations to look at their single-use plastic waste in other areas. Whether it is plastic cutlery, takeaway containers or coffee cups, there are viable alternatives available. We don’t hate plastic, we hate the wasteful misuse of plastic and the damage it causes.”

Claire Potter added:

A recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation states that if we carry on in this throwaway nature, by 2050 there will be a greater weight of plastics in the ocean than fish. Plus we are yet to outlive a single piece of plastic – unless we have incinerated it, every piece of plastic we have ever created is still on Earth. We need to use and value plastic more highly – single use-plastic needs to be removed from our convenience lifestyles and replaced by for more sustainable alternatives, such as reusable containers instead.”

Councillor Phélim Mac Cafferty, who is proposing the motion for the Green Group of Councillors, commented:

“A plastic straw – used just once before being thrown away – can take up to 600 years to degrade. This and other single-use plastics in fact break down into smaller fragments, which studies now unequivocally show are strangling the life in our seas, entering our food chain and even our water supply, affecting our health too.

“The Green Councillors are calling on our city to lead by example on this scourge of plastic waste. We want to phase out the use of these unnecessary single-use plastics in all Council buildings, including in our purchasing and supply chain, and to champion alternatives. But plastics don’t just damage the environment; the waste costs us billions a year.  

“As a coastal city we all know about the beauty of our seas. But our seas are incredibly fragile so the time for action cannot come soon enough. We are also a city full of trailblazing organisations who we can learn from, and who already have advice on how they have reduced plastic usage and waste in their own business models.

“We are hoping all of the political parties are aware of the need to take decisive action on this issue and can come with us on what is perhaps the most important environmental issue of our time.”

Proposals to reduce single-use plastics will be heard by the meeting of Brighton and Hove full Council on November 2nd.

 

Notes…

Unnecessary (i.e. excluding medical items) Single-Use Plastics (SUP) used once before disposal e.g. bottles, cups and straws, are not widely recycled. Studies from Columbia University show SUPs can take up to 600 years to degrade, breaking into fragments that cause damage to the environment and permeate the food chain. Recent studies found that 72% of U.K tap water samples were contaminated with plastic fibres, and a third of all fish caught off the British coast contained plastic.

The Plastic Free Pledge encourages organisations and individuals to reduce SUP waste https://plasticfreepledge.com/ A petition calling on the Council to issue guidelines to local businesses on plastic reduction is here: http://bit.ly/2gtwqFC and a petition calling on Government to reduce and end SUPs here: http://bit.ly/2xSFLhs

Several businesses and organisations in Brighton and Hove have already implemented plastic free alternatives, such as Brighton Catering Supplies, Silo, HisBe supermarket and The Tempest Inn.

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Are plans for recycling in Brighton and Hove simply going up in smoke?

Leo Littman, Preston Park Ward Councillor

News that cardboard meant for recycling may have instead been sent to the incinerator by the company in charge, Veolia, is scandalous if true.  Residents in this city pay the Council a considerable amount every month to have their refuse collected, and many residents spend time sorting their rubbish to ensure as much of it as possible is recycled. If they now learn that the people they rely on to process that recycling are simply burning it because they don’t have the staff needed to do the job properly, they are entitled to be furious.  Both Veolia and the Council need to be open about what is going on – the Council’s statement, which placidly accepts Veolia’s ‘assurances’, will put no-one’s mind at rest.

Local Labour are once again failing to get even the basics right.  The city is becoming dirty and run down and recycling rates are still in the doldrums. Let’s not forget: it was Labour who landed the city with this regressive 25-year waste PFI (Private Finance Initiative) deal in the first place, a deal which pays us not to recycle effectively, or even to reduce our waste. The Tories then extended the agony for another five years. Neither Party can be trusted on this issue. If the investigation finds a breach of contract has occurred, the Labour group must commit to serious review of the terms of the contract.
Residents deserve better.

Original article on the claims that cardboard recycling in Brighton and Hove is being incinerated available here: http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/15522573.Cardboard_collected_for_recycling_is_being_incinerated_claims_whistleblower/

We are pushing for action on toxic air pollution levels in Brighton and Hove

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Green ‘Notice of Motion’ going to Full Council this Thursday 6th April

At the meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council this Thursday, the Greens have put forward a set of proposals aiming to challenge the rising levels of air pollution in Brighton and Hove. We hope our calls to protect public health will be backed by all parties.

Brighton and Hove is one of 40 UK cities listed by the World Health Organisation as breaching safe air pollution limits. ‘Hotspots’ in the city such as Queens Road, Western Road and Rottingdean High Street regularly exceed both U.K and E.U limits for nitrogen dioxide, a toxic gas that along with other pollutants is primarily emitted by diesel vehicles and which can cause premature deaths and lung cancer.

Greens are calling on the Council to reduce the harm of emissions and protect public health by encouraging alternatives to diesel vehicle use. The proposals also call for better enforcement of regulations on engine idling, a major contributor to both noise and air pollution. The Greens are keen that the Council push for more government assistance to help taxi drivers to replace diesel cars with low-emission vehicles. Following similar initiatives rolled out in London, Greens are also pushing for differential charges to be applied to diesel vehicles parking in areas of the city badly affected by diesel fumes.

Green Councillor Lizzie Deane is keen to stress that any changes that lead to cleaner air will benefit everyone. She said:

“The rationale of this motion is entirely health related because, although air quality in the city has improved in recent years, there is still much to be done, especially in the city centre. It is now widely accepted that diesel emissions can cause serious health conditions, including asthma and lung cancer. So this is a motion that aims to benefit everyone, including motorists who, after all, are breathing the same air. In fact, recent studies have shown it is motorists who are most affected by diesel air pollution. I am particularly concerned for babies and toddlers who, by virtue of their size, are closer and more vulnerable to vehicle pollution emissions than adults.

“I do appreciate that some motorists bought diesel vehicles in good faith at a time when Government advised diesel to be a safer option. However, the only safe option is low emission vehicles, and we must do as much as we can to encourage their use. I am also aware that some of the proposals may have ramifications for the taxi trade, and am keen that existing cabbies are assisted when making upgrades to low emission vehicles.”

Studies have estimated that diesel fumes contribute to the deaths of more than 29,000 people in the UK each year and increase the likelihood of individuals contracting lung cancer almost threefold.

Green Councillors are calling on all parties to support their call for cleaner air at a meeting of Full Council this Thursday, April 6th.

Greens taking action to halt Downland sales – now let’s push to stop sales altogether

Earlier today, following our amendment that was submitted to Policy and Resources Committee, we have successfully called for a halt to the fast-moving sales of parcels of land in the Downland Estate. We put forward both a letter, setting out clearly why the Downland must be protected, but also two concrete proposals which, supported by the Conservatives, demand that the council look into alternative options to these sales and suspends the disposal process as it stands. (Amendment here, you can also read our letter)

 

We are relieved and energised that our requests to put the brakes on the sales have been accepted by all. We have fought hard to stop these plans despite how far ahead they were in the process. For now, this means that the plans to dispose of two parcels of land of the Downland Estate totalling more than 91.5 acres will not go ahead. But a halt is not enough. What is a fact now is that momentum and support is still needed to ensure we can finish what we have started and reverse the sales altogether.

Like many residents of Brighton and Hove and the surrounding area, we consider the Downland to be a special place that should be treated differently to other council ‘assets.’ It is a stunning area, a habitat for wildlife to flourish and for us to experience the local natural environment. It’s beautiful to look at, and an amazing part of our local environment both for flora and fauna, but it also secretly sustains us in more ways than we realise. Underneath our toes, the Downland also encompasses the ‘chalk aquifer’; – nothing short of a giant natural ‘sponge’ that forms a reservoir providing all the natural drinking water for Brighton and Hove. It is no surprise then that previous civic leaders had the foresight to purchase the Downland and protect it.

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Questions have therefore been rightfully asked about how these sales were made possible in the first place. We recognise that Councillors from all our local political parties sat on the committees that oversaw the original disposal plans and had the opportunity then to oppose them. In the original committees of July 2014 and Feb 2016, where these sales were agreed, the land was identified, not as part of the ‘Downland Estate’ but as a ‘non-core asset’ available for disposal to fund the Stanmer Park restoration and development.

Now we know that the details of the programme of land disposals would have benefitted from greater scrutiny. The Green group of Councillors have always valued the strength and importance of learning how to do things differently and to adapt when new information comes to light. As soon as details about the true nature of these sales became clear, we moved swiftly to act. Most importantly, we have also demanded significant changes to council policy and procedure that will ensure Downland is never again identified as an area suitable for sale.

We will be working with Councillors across all parties to increase protection of our estate which not only provides our water but is also unique for its biodiversity, heritage and landscape. We appreciate the irony that it is the Conservatives who have seconded our proposals, knowing as we do that it is the cuts and austerity policies of their colleagues in central government that force local councils to consider such drastic measures as selling the natural environment. Yet working together is essential if we are to reverse the sales. We believe protecting the natural environment is a task for all of us.

No matter the value, elected Councillors should always be clearly notified of any proposals to sell the Downland.  That’s because the ‘value’ of the Downland is about so much more than ‘money.’ You cannot put a price on nature.

Here is our opportunity to implement positive changes to council policy. I also hope we will lead the way to a change in the ‘culture’ in local government that all too quickly ignores the bounty of our natural environment.

The environment isn’t just another service to cut

By CLLR LOUISA GREENBAUM

 

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Brighton & Lewes Downs became a UNESCO Biosphere Region in 2014, now threatened by planned cuts.

The recent round of floods across the country was another in a series of wake-up calls on climate change.  Already we are seeing the impacts of the 1C rise in global temperatures so far, as freak rainfall events become more common and the scale of flooding increases.  It is a stark reminder of the impending threat of massive and catastrophic climate change over the next few decades.

The floods are an example of how the government’s ideological austerity programme has brought misery and destruction to the country.  In the 2010 spending review, the coalition government slashed flood defence spending by over £100m in a single year, and despite one-off high-profile cash boosts, this trend has continued.  The Environment Agency’s funding for maintaining flood assets has fallen by 14% in response to cuts. Floods in 2015 alone cost the economy £5.8 billion and displaced thousands of people.  Cutting spending on flood protection is counter-productive and hugely damaging to at-risk communities.

Investment in flood protection is just a sticking plaster for climate change, and one that will become increasingly expensive as environmental damage outstrips our capacity to mitigate it.  What is needed is a comprehensive and holistic approach to tackling the causes of climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It requires a shift in our way of life towards a greener economy.  Thankfully, the international community have agreed to limit climate change to less than 2%.  What needs to happen now is to transform those lofty goals into meaningful action.

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Views through the spectacular Devil’s Dyke – a precious green space for Brighton & Hove

At the national level, the last 6 months have revealed the government’s intention to cut back on environmental protection measures.  In the latest spending review we saw cuts to subsidies for energy efficiency, renewable heating technology and home insulation, which comes on top of increases in the cost of renewable energy.  We also saw cuts to the Department for Energy and Climate Change and Defra of 22% and 15% respectively.  This follows the 2010-15 coalition government which according to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee presided over disastrous declines in air quality, biodiversity and flood protection.  For central government, environmental protection is just another pocket of national spending to slash and burn.

Locally, in Brighton and Hove it is up to the Labour-led City Council to implement these Tory cuts.  A role they seem to have taken up with no small amount of gusto, despite strong Green resistance.  So far, the Labour Council has switched energy supplies away from renewable sources, refused to divest pension funds from fossil fuels and expressed unwavering support for expansion of air travel at Gatwick.  Future plans in the 2016/17 budget include cuts to recycling budgets, sustainability teams and park rangers.  Sadly, Labour seem to take the view that the environment is just another service to cut, a middle-class luxury that the city cannot afford in these hard times.

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Floods in Brighton in 2015

When the consequences of inaction are the loss of homes, droughts, sea-level rise and rising food costs, investment in the environment is not a luxury.  It is massively short-sighted to think we can wait until we are nearly underwater, when it will be too late to act.  It is imperative and urgent that we act now.  The Tory Government and Labour Council have it all backwards.  The environment cannot be seen as just another service we cannot afford.  With such high-stakes, the reality is we cannot afford NOT to act.

Greens are calling for a halt to austerity.  It poses an immense risk to this city, this country, this planet.  We must resist the cuts and demand a greener world.  As families in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire try to pick up the pieces now the media spotlight is gone, they can tell you what climate change costs.  If we don’t act soon, we will all be telling a similar story.