20 January 2010

Alternatives to Plastic Bags

For the Plastic Bag-Free Penrith Campaign:

Notes following a discussion with Zab at www.biodegradablebag.co.uk - who started out making (biodegradable?) agricultural mulch film. They are a manufacturer who make materials from granules. They primarily want bulk orders, eg 5,000+?

What is our aim?
- plastic-bag-free
- zero carbon town

Other considerations
- distance travelled
- ethically made
- not from food-chain

Best not to use a disposable bag at all.

Food bags must be FSA certified.

For alternative disposable carrier and food bags: choose your poison: there are four alternatives:

1. Recycled plastic
- not suitable for food waste

2. Degradable bags
- ordinary plastic with an additive
- breaks down more quickly than normal (3 months+) into water, CO2 and "non-toxic mineral matter" (ie not tiny bits of plastic?)
- they use an additive from Wales, been around for 20+ years
- other additives such as D2W come from USA

3. Biodegradable/Compostable, eg starch/cornstarch, to EN14322
- 3 x price, ie 10p/carrier or 5p/food-bag
- most starch not made in the UK, except bulk potato starch
- some from USA may be GM
- non-GM is more expensive
- starch could have been from food-chain
- anecdote: interacts with bread
- must go in compost, not landfill or plastic recycling

4. Recycled plastic with additive
- no new resources and yet breaks down in landfill
- can be recycled

The choice of which is best may depend on whether household rubbish is composted or incinerated.

Be aware that super-markets might be making money out by charging for disposable bags now.

Printed jute bags made ethically in India cost £2.50 - or £1.20 in bulk.

Printed cotton bags would cost £1.25 in bulk.

We also looking at using:

* cornstarch carrier bags from www.ecosac.net
- not from food-chain
- GM-free, grown in EU
- generic: 13p+VAT quantity 2,000
- custom: 10p+VAT quantity 20,000

* food containers etc from www.londonbiopackaging.com
- sugar bagasse container: 10p+VAT quantity 500
- film bag: 3.5p+VAT quantity 1,000

* Paper and cellulose bags from www.suma.coop
- cellophane bag: 3.5p+VAT quantity 1,000
- recycled paper bag: 1.8p+VAT quantity 1,000

29 January 2009

'Bog Off' new card game

"Bog Off" card game - invented by my daughter Viv Walker on 4th January 2009.

One pack, no jokers.

The aim is to collect the most sets of 4 cards of the same face value.

Deal out 4 cards to each player. Starting to the left of the dealer, go round in turn, asking any other player for a particular value card - you must have the same value card in your hand. If the person has any such cards, then these must all be handed over. If the person has no card, then you pick a card from the pack.

Once you have 4 cards of the same value, put the set down face down in front of you.

If you have no more cards then you play no further part in the game; the other player(s) continue; if you are the last player then you get all the remaining pack (which you will make into sets in front you).

We've played it with 2, 3, 4 and 6 people so far.

One danger is getting rid of all your cards too early by being too successful in making sets.

You need a good memory for the cards that others have asked for.

10 November 2008

Thought for the Day on "Reuse"

A Thought for the Day aired on BBC Radio Cumbia on Monday 10 November 2008:

When our kids were very small, we received quite a few bags of clothes for them from family and friends. The clothes weren’t worn out so there was no need to throw them away. Passing them on to us saved us some money and time buying new ones. Just as importantly, it was great to be part of a community that helps out when you need it.

I think that we have become too used to buying new – we should be repairing things and having unwanted stuff from others. The world doesn’t have endless resources, so we shouldn’t be squandering what we’ve got already.

Someone recently told me that they went to the local tip. A £700 bike was being dumped, and all that was wrong with it was two broken spokes! Someone else was told that he could have got £40 for a copper boiler at a scrap yard but 'he couldn't be bothered to take it'.

Smaller things can be reused too: We’ve given away home brew equipment, and even spare soil to a local conservation group, usefully getting rid of some of the clutter that’s built up over the years.

Cumbria households produce more waste per head than any other county*. Let’s reduce that by recycling, composting and re-using. Getting things second hand can even be cool - somewhat surprisingly, my eldest daughter has recently adopted one of my old lumberjack shirts.

So: if you have to get rid of something, don’t chuck it: sell it, or give it away to family, friends, a charity shop or jumble sale.

Or give it away on Freecycle.

Outtro: Freecycle is a set of internet groups that help you give and receive unwanted items for free. For more details, go their web site, www.uk.freecycle.org.

There are 7 Freecycle groups in Cumbria with a total of over 10,000 members. There are Freecycle groups across the UK and in the world there are almost 6 million members.

If you have something to give away, join your local group for free, then send an email message saying OFFER: item (location). Do the same for something you need using a WANTED message.

The Cumbria groups are: Barrow-in-Furness, Carlisle, Kendal, North Lakes (Keswick), Penrith and Eden, South Lakes (Windermere) and West Lakes.

Freecycle UK is registered charity (No 1118148)

* “Each year in Cumbria we throw away 350,000 tonnes of domestic waste. That equates to 136 bin bags full for each household. That's a lot of rubbish! In fact, Cumbria households produce more waste per head than any other county. But that's the bad news. The good news is that we can actually recycle over four-fifths of this.” (Source: http://www.recycleforcumbria.org/)

18 June 2007

Smart Bag recycling

Email to longlifesolutions.com, 26 March 2007:

Can a smart bag be put in with ordinary plastic bag recycling? What is the smart bag made of? What recycling number is it?

I strongly recommend that you put this information on your bags and on your web site.
No reply to the email or a posted letter

Memorials in the Lake District

Email to the Lake District National Park, 29 April 2007:

I am writing to ask what your policy is as regards plaques, crosses and other memorials in the hills. I assume that you are against them. But what about existing 'famous' memorial stones?
Last time I looked a while back, there was a cross tucked away near the head of Haweswater. Should I report it to you for removal? There is a prominent cross high up on the way to Stony Cove Pike.
And there is a memorial pillar above Buckbarrow crag, Longsleddale.
There is a (what I think is a) boundary stone on top of Harter Fell (Mardale) - are these OK?
I worked previously in another case to ensure that someone removed a new plaque in the Haweswater area.
As you probably know, the John Muir Trust has cleared lots of memorials from the summit of Ben Nevis. There are applying for permission to set up a memorial garden: http://www.jmt.org/news.asp?s=2&cat=Latest%20News&nid=JMT-N10158 I think the newsletter also said that they were thinking of making a memorials web site.
The crucial policy is to band and remove any new plaques which will spoil the very thing that the dead person (or dog etc) appreciated.
A search of your web site only found brief mention of memorials:

Reply: 22 May 2007:
We do not allow new memorials on the fells on land that we own and we discourage them elsewhere.
Do please report any new ones that you find to us. I have forwarded your email to the ranger for the area to look into the ones you mentioned.
We do not have a policy of removing existing famous memorial stones.
Memorials have not been a problem here on the scale of that at Ben Nevis, which ultimately promoted their removal. As you saw on our website, if somebody asks us we promote donations to the Landscape Fund rather than specific items in the landscape.

Shirley Muir
Northern Countryside Team Leader
Lake District National Park Authority

House price inflation measures

Email to the Office for National Statistics, 18 April 2007:

I understand that your standard RPI/CPI inflation measures do not include house prices although they do include the cost of mortgage payments. Do you have a paper that justifies this position, which surely gives a false indication of the real costs for many people.

A look at the house prices figures on your site indicates that they have generally risen by significantly more than the usual inflation figures. (How do house prices increases compare to average income increases?) While some of the cost of a house may be financed by other capital (such as money from parents), surely the typical
new mortgage cost has risen dramatically.

Do you increase your mortgage figure or weighting regularly? Have you done an analysis to determine what proportion of income is spent on mortgages by a range of

Using your house price figures, people with a 1986 £36k mortgage will have a relatively low mortgage repayment compared to say a £204k mortgage taken out in 2006. I doubt that income has risen by a similar amount.

Having an inflation figure that has a better allowance for house price inflation would seem to be in order.

Do you have a general view on whether house price inflation is good for the country?

Do you have any sort of assessment of how much recent mortgagees are susceptible to interest rate rises?


Reply 25 April 2007:

You ask about the inclusion (or lack of inclusion) of house prices in the
RPI and CPI.

RPI does include, as you state does include house prices indirectly through
mortgage interest payments.

It also includes house prices indirectly through other items including
depreciation and rental costs.

The details of the rational behind the method of inclusion of housing costs
is given in our Technical Manual section 7.4.4 (Treatment of Housing

The Technical Manual is accessible on the internet via the link:


The first 2 paragraphs of this subsection are:

The treatment of owner-occupied housing is one of the most difficult
issues faced by compilers of
consumer prices indices. A number of alternative conceptual treatments
exists, and the choice
between them can have a significant impact on the overall index,
affecting both weights and, at least,
short-term measures of price change. The absence of any firm consensus
concerning the appropriate
treatment of such costs, both in the UK and international contexts,
partly reflects the fact that national
consumer price indices like the RPI are often constructed to serve
several distinct purposes, from
monitoring the economy to adjustment of incomes or state benefits.
National housing market
structures and of course practical measurement issues are likewise
important considerations.

A RPI Advisory Committee last considered the various options for the
treatment of owner-occupier
costs in 1992-94 (Cmd 2717). The Committee concluded that mortgage
interest payments, first
introduced into the RPI in 1975 replacing an equivalent rents approach,
should continue to represent
the current cost to home-owning index households of occupying the
dwelling and so acquiring housing
shelter services (alongside a rents component for tenants). Repayments
of mortgage capital are
excluded so as to preserve the distinction between consumption and
investment expenditure. The
Committee also recommended that a new 'depreciation' component for
shelter costs should be
introduced to represent the ongoing costs homeowners face in maintaining
the standard of their

I hope the above together with the explanations in the rest of 7.4.4 may
answer many of your questions.

On the questions:

Do you increase your mortgage figure or weighting regularly ?

The answer to this is 'yes'. The average house price used in this
calculation is updated monthly and the weighting updated annually.

Have you done an analysis to determine what proportion of income is spent
on mortgages by a range of people?

The answer to this is 'yes' as is explained in our weights article
accessible via the link:


The relevant section of the above article is:

Weights for the costs of owner-occupation, comprising mortgage interest
payments and
depreciation, are not based on EFS expenditures. The weight for
depreciation is calculated
using National Accounts data to estimate a rate of depreciation for
household sector
dwellings, which is applied to the average house price, excluding land,
to give a notional
annual cost of depreciation. The weight for mortgage interest payments
is based on a
modelled mortgage incorporating both repayment and endowment components
over an
average 23 year term. Each of these is updated annually and expressed in
terms of average
weekly expenditure.

On your last 2 questions:

Do you have a general view on whether house price inflation is good for
the country?

Do you have any sort of assessment of how much recent mortgagees are
susceptible to interest rate rises?

I have to say that the above 2 questions lie outside the scope of our work;
in the ONS we are concerned only with the methodology for and the
calculation of the various indices.

I hope the above has been of some help, but if anything here is not clear
or you have any other questions, please feel free to contact us further,

Best regards,
John Bailey

Sale of Li, Knoydart

29 April 2007:
Hello John Muir Trust

I saw in the Annual Report that Li in Knoydart was sold to the tenant. I may have missed an explanation of this in previous publications - if so, sorry.

To me this sounds like an inadvisable course because it goes against the principle of holding land for conservation - and potentially sets a dangerous precedent.

The JMT holds land so that it can be preserved for the conservation purposes while being used and appreciated by people. Working with community bodies rather than individuals should probably be the way to consider land holding, as the JMT has done in helping fund community buy outs.

I am most concerned that this sets a precedent that could lead to a fragmentation of our holdings making it much harder to achieve our goals.

PS I think that your memorial clearance policy for Ben Nevis is definitely a good idea - there seem to be more memorials popping up here in the Lake District so I am writing to the National Park to recommend their removal.

Reply 16 May 2007:
Dear Chris

Your e-mail regarding the sale of land at Li on Knoydart has been passed to me for my attention.

The sale of Li (approx 7acres of land which incorporates the house and garden grounds) was to the tenants of the house. They had taken on the tenancy of the house, which was completely derelict, over 30 years ago and were the tenants when the JMT took over ownership in 1887.

The tenants had expressed a desire to purchase the property mainly to give them security into the future but also due to the fact that they wished to upgrade the property to a reasonable living standard and with the lease they had they would not be eligible for compensation for any permanent improvements to the property nor could they raise the necessary capital to undertake the works as they did not own the property they wished to raise finance against.

There are many positive examples of how home ownership is being promoted in the context of rural (and urban) Scotland today e.g the Crofters’ Right to buy (which is a common occurrence on JMT crofted estates), the rights of agricultural tenants, the community right to buy under the Land Reform Act as well as other policies on public housing. Most public sector tenants have both the right to buy and the right to compensation for permanent improvements. Furthermore, the housing policy of the Knoydart Foundation (KF), of which the JMT is a member, actively encourages freehold ownership. At least six other Knoydart tenants who had similar leases to that at Li have now bought their properties.

Given the all above the JMT Trustees agreed to sell with various conservation burdens attached to the sale, including a right of pre-emption. The sale was also agreed by the National Heritage Memorial Fund who gave a grant towards the purchase of Li & Coire Dhorrcail.

The JMT see this as an exceptional case and infact was the only tenant of this type we had, other than crofting tenants who have a statutory right to buy their crofts, and therefore do not see it as setting a precedent for the future.

I hope this answers your query regarding the land at Li and please feel free to get back to me if you wish any further clarification.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Campbell
JMT Head of Land Management