Cardiff Friends of the Earth Newsletter - Winter 2002

Cardiff fifth from bottom in Welsh recycling league

Figures published recently by the National Assembly show that Cardiff's levels of recycling have fallen for the third year running. The council peaked at 7.4 percent of waste recycled in 1997-98; the 2000-01 figures show we managed a pathetic four percent - half the Welsh average. Conwy Council in north Wales managed to recycle or compost over 20 percent of the area's waste. Other parts of the world can manage 50 to 60 percent, but not Cardiff who are now the fifth worst in Wales.

New plans are afoot, but will the Council botch it - as it did before when the residents of Ely blockaded the streets using wheelie bins that they hadn't asked for?

If people don't start recycling we will end up with an incinerator with its pollution problems and negative effect on recycling levels.

Take action by writing to or visiting your councillors. Ask them if they are ashamed of Cardiff's recycling record. Would they support the building of an incinerator in their ward? Will they bring back free recycling bags in Cardiff?

Assembly seeks renewable energy views

The National Assembly wants to know how much electricity in Wales should come from renewable energy.

Friends of the Earth Cymru estimates that by 2010 around 30 percent of our electricity could come from sustainable sources. "That target is realistic and achievable" according to Julian Rosser of FoE Cymru. "It's easy to slag off the Assembly as powerless, but they have very real powers over development budgets and planning."

This is particularly relevant to the wind farm debate. FoE does not propose blanketing the Brecon Beacons with wind turbine (despite what the land owning anti-wind farm lobby might say). On-shore wind is just one part of a renewable energy mix.

  • Onshore wind: 6 - 10 percent
  • Offshore wind: 10+ percent
  • Biomass energy crops 3 - 5 percent
  • Tidal (lagoon) generation: 2 - 14 percent
  • Marine current turbines: 4 - 5 percent
  • Small-scale hydroelectric: 1 - 2 percent
  • Solar photovoltaic: 1 percent

Don't let the anti-wind farm lobby bring more nuclear power stations into Wales.

Prescott memory failure

Back in 1997 the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott asked voters to hold him to his own mark of success in the job: "I will have failed in this if in five years time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car. It is a tall order, but I want you to hold me to it." (Guardian 6 June 1997, page 10).

He's now not so sure he actually said that. This isn't surprising with the state of the railways.

The Government wants to double rail passenger kilometres (i.e. More passengers, more frequently) and raise the amount of rail freight by 80 percent by 2010. Earlier the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, promised £64.5 billion to improve our railway network.

But don't hold your breath for improvements in south Wales. Most of this money is earmarked for high profile projects in London and south-east England. Where will this money come from? Last budget there was no increase in fuel taxes and no indication that the road building budget would be cut. With elections potentially in 2003, tax increases seem unlikely.

So does this promise hold as much sway as that 1997 promise? Without any obvious source of funding, Gordon's promise looks as likely to be kept as John's 1997 one. The probability of amnesia setting in by 2010, however, is much higher than it was five years ago.

Is it too much to ask for a safe; efficient; reliable; and affordable rail system? Evidently the answer is yes. According to a Government still obsessed with car-dependant swing voters in middle England.

Friends of the Earth believe that fuel tax should go up and that the extra revenue should be invested in the railways. The Government set the principle with National Insurance and NHS investment - it can do the same with the railways.

Take action and ask Gordon Brown not to cut fuel tax but instead to invest the money in the railways.

Let's hit Esso where it hurts...

Government negotiators come under intense pressure from oil producers when they attend the climate change negotiations.

Oil companies used to advise oil producing companies on how to use every procedural trick in the book to slow down the climate negotiations down. Earlier this year, however, Esso went a step further by getting the US Government to oust the Chair of the UN scientific committee on climate change. He was a strong advocate for acknowledging that climate change is a reality, and that significant reductions in climate change gas emissions are needed. That is why members of Cardiff Friends of the Earth were protesting outside an Esso petrol station in early November. We will be doing the same again early next year.

Can Cardiff learn from Powys Food Links?

Powys Food Links aims to make the chain linking food production, processing, marketing, and consumption as short as possible. By 'localising' all parts of the chain they believe it will help regenerate the local economy and bring social, environmental and health benefits to Powys.

Established last year, the initiative emerged from the Soil association's Food Futures project. Brecon now has its own farmers market, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group has been established which is seeking new outlets for local produce, and the links group is looking at ways in which the public sector can source food locally.

However they have come up against the 'Best Value' approach to buying products. For example each hospital has to demonstrate that they compared a number of competing tenders for their food supply and chose the winner on 'fair' and competitive grounds. The cheapest doesn't always win, but local suppliers have to compete with the logistical capacity of big suppliers. Getting the right food to the right place at the right time regardless of seasonality can cause problems. On top of this the European Union has competition rules saying that any contract above £144,000 must be advertised across the EU - attracting even more competition from large companies.

Powys Healthcare Trust is particularly interested in getting its food from local sources, and is trying to show that there are health benefits from being able to supply fresh and preferably organic food to its patients. They claim better food makes for happier patients and faster recovery times.

Although there is some controversy over whether organic food is 'better' for you, 53 percent of baby food sold by Waitrose is organic. It seems that many parents have already made the choice.

The Food Links approach will result in mark-ups and the added value created from processing food being kept in the locality, rather than going to investors in the City of London. This will obviously help local employment levels and reduce rural depopulation.

Keeping the food chain local also helps reduce the need for transporting foodstufs and excessive packaging.

Clearly not every item in the huge range of food available to modern consumers can be produced locally, but importing potatoes from Egypt and carrots from the Netherlands does not make sense.

We here in Cardiff could learn a lot from the Powys Food Links project.

Demand for organic food growing rapidly

The amount of organic land in the UK has almost doubled in the last year, and sales of organic food are the second highest in Europe.

Britain imports more than three-quarters of its organic food needs. Tesco plans to grow organic sales five-fold to one billion pounds by 2006 but still sources 75 percent of the produce abroad. Waitrose now sources 85 percent of its organic food from Britain, while 60 percent of Marks and Spencer's organic food is home grown. Sainsbury pledges to reduce its organic food imports to 45 percent within the next two years.