Wednesday, June 10, 2009

enviROI again; this time on Tetrapaks

There are many good blogs in the green field.

One such is My Zero Waste run, appropriately, by a Mrs. Green.

Her interest is, as the blog name suggests, Zero Waste. A laudable aim to be sure, though I tend to wonder if it is a tad idealistic, and hence can compromise the overall very worthy intentions by working to an extreme many consumers might not accept and I doubt business or government could hope to satisfy.

But one area, amongst many, she is very good at is finding folk in places of responsibility, and getting them to talk. Better yet, to answer questions in public forum. And good on them in turn for agreeing.

Hence I was interested that a Tetrapak rep was on board, following a previous peice that elicted answers from a council (Cornwall) that seemed to me pretty technically comprehensive...

Recycling officer, Jenny Walden, from Tetrapak answers your recycling questions

All good stuff. however, some that was shared rather cranked an eyebrow or two (the piece rather smacked of being a carefully-constructed PR piece from a website), more for what was not said than what was, and prompted me to write in hoep of clarification...

I wonder if you could amplify that final Q&A on Transport with a few more facts beyond entirely laudable dedication, belief and passion.

I would like the technical details, and if life cycle analysis (what I equate to the 'enviROI' ) is the best tool to gauge the environmental impact so be it, though in this field I have found that science can be used to blind.

Is there anything objective, substantive and, most importantly, easy for the layperson to understand that you might direct me/us to in this regard?

I am lucky to have a carton recycling skip right nearby (though I am actually keeping all mine to see what reuse options might present first), and have pondered the heavy gauge steel container that requires a large diesel truck to get it and what is a large amount of fresh air to a place that might well compact more effectively, but then sends it all on still further.

Frankly I am just keen to be reassured I am not just getting boxes ticked but actually contributing to a scheme that might be sending even more Co2 skywards (a priority to reduce surely?) due to the lack of local alternatives that may appear less attractive, and only exist through policy failings, but for now are on balance perhaps better on a pure GHG emission basis.

I'd also be interested in how all this applies to the costs and processes involved in posting an empty carton in a Jiffy bag.


I have had a reply, or at least a sort of one, which is already to be commended as too often awkward questions go to the naughty corner.

I am very happy to say that a very thorough, independent, peer reviewed study has been done to show just how justified it is for you to continue to recycle your cartons in the UK, despite all these caveats you have highlighted.
Unfortunately, we are still awaiting the publication of this Life Cycle Study by a government agency for me to point you to this. We have asked the agency for special exemption so that we might show you this particular element of the study, but until we secure their permission, I am limited as to what I can communicate beyond this.

Hmn, so having alluded to all sorts of stuff initially, it is not, as such ready yet. And as you will soon gather, by eyebrow is already acquiver at who this all seeing, all-knowing and hence all to be believed government agency is.

It also sets me again to pondering what or why such 'officers' actually do or are. What is their job function, their mission, and what qualifications are the expected to, or do they have. There are an awful lot, in companies, LAs, quangos and schools, etc.

But many times they seem to be sweet young things who disseminate information from on high and 'respond', as here.

It is hard to imagine that most are in any way involved in strategy, discussing the science or setting policy. And so, too often IMHO, they really are no more than press officers with a green sticker pasted on.

Hence any reply to mine will be interesting...

Thank you for responding. I will await this information being made available with anticipation and interest.
In the meantime, might you be able to point to the others you alluded to?: ‘across numerous studies recycling has been shown to be environmentally preferable.’
Also, might I ask which government agency the latest is/will be with? Not WRAP perchance?
This is a quango whose ever-growing board gets bonusses on meeting targets, and it is my experience ticking a tonnage box does not often meet the same enviROI criteria that I tend to feel are better to hold some initiatives to account for improving my kids’ futures.
So I tend to crank an eyebrow at their objectivity.

As many here will know, I am not so convinced that the consumer side of WRAP at least (the industrial seems much more focused) is worth its salt. Quangos at best seem cursed by being vehicles of fudge and compromise, with lack of accountability at their core. It's the worst of business where explaining ROI is usually lost in jargon, and the same governments who use our money to pay them to do their dirty work use them as a firewall if...when things go wrong. Only they keep the pay and pensions as they were only obeying orders.

If it is WRAP, let us not forget this is the same entity who gave £250k of our money to Heinz to 'see how' they could lightweight their cans and save a honking great cost on raw materials.

TetraPak, by my memory, is not short of a bob or two. Now I accept that private, commercial entities should not be expected to fund ever-evolving government policy, that changes goalposts, without a fight, but one giving the other taxpayers' money to help resolve the CSR shortfalls of the policies and systems of both is hardly the solution I favour either.

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