Saturday, 10 September 2016

Plastic and littering contaminating UK and Thailand

I’ve written previously on celebrity chefs and their important work for UK tastebuds and the wider economy. Jamie Oliver for example and his sugar tax work. And it was good to see the dynamic Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall sharpening his knives again and writing in The Sunday Times last week on plastic and the food chain.

Chefs and plastic? Tupperware boxes?

Well, not quite although there is the excellent news on the microbead plastics ban in shower gels and face creams and cosmetics. The UK washing 80 tons of these plastics literally down the drain and into the sea. Even into Arctic pack-ice. And, of more concern into fish. Which of course we eat and the plastic is in us as easily as if we’d eaten the bar of soap or drunk the shower gel.

A sobering reality given the mercury poisonings of Minamata in Japan and Thor mercury in Cato Ridge and Margate – the latter still, as with the Infratil missing monitors scandal, without acknowledgment let alone clean up by Kent’s politicians and civil servants.

The UK parliament has acted promptly to call for a ban on microbeads. The Daily Mail as UK’s 2nd largest circulation newspaper has created one of its famous crusading journalism campaigns on the perils of microbeads. And Tesco has urged its suppliers to end microbeads cosmetics etc by 2017.

Worldwide over 12M tons of plastic waste are added to the oceans with forecasts that by 2050 the oceans will host more plastic than fish. And worryingly only 4% of plastics in the oceans are microbeads, so the problem is huge.

Hugh is also rightly campaigning on coffee shops such as Starbucks and Costa and Café Nero to recycle the 2.5BN plastic cups we use every year just in UK. As a keen Starbucks fan I was astonished to see its company spokesman promise a small reduction in its home-use cup charge – and that subsequently withdrawn a few months later after Hugh and the BBC camera crew had gone.

And only inaction on removing the plastic liner from its cups that’s technologically feasible today.

And is it so outrageous for the coffee-cup plastic lids to be sterilised or washed in the dishwasher and reused, just as china cups are?

It’s simply astonishing that in the 21st century only 30% of plastic packaging in Europe is recycled with the rest dumped in landfill or incinerated or exported.

The UK uses over 13BN plastic water bottles each year, about 200 per person and less than 25% are reused or recycled.

And Hugh is right that the manufacturers and retailers of products need to do more than describing “in theory” recycling practices. Clarifying in the company report both the theory of recyclable plastic, and the actuality, is not difficult and certainly no more unpalatable than a mouthful of microbeads.

Khun Wasant Techawongtham writing “Time to end our rubbish behaviour” in The Bangkok Post also makes various interesting points on rubbish and recycling. Koh Samui with over 250,000 tonnes of rubbish, 73,000 tonnes of rubbish each day in Thailand – with 28M tonnes unprocessed.

In Kent the story is not too bad: KCC have produced an excellent plan to reduce landfill sites to just 5 smaller sites before 2030. Although care must be taken to ensure the carbon-free doesn’t mean burying waste or exporting it to dumps in the Third World. KCC has form on that to some extent with Kent County Council computers being found dumped in Ghana.

Recycling has improved dramatically in recent years – but questions over how the rubbish s recycled still remain if it’s sorted by households but all simply dumped into the back of a dustcart.

The two waste mountains that blight Kent at St. Pauls Cray near Bromley – over 5 storeys high and 18,000 tonnes – have at long last been agreed to be removed by the Environment Agency and KCC after causing outbreaks of flies and fires described by Khun Wasant at the Phraeska landfill site.

Thor mercury is a lingering scandal here in East Kent: the banned factory not only remaining open for 30 years after the ban(!), for polluting and killing its own workers, but pollution to the site increasing and now spreading beyond the factory gates to the surrounding housing estates and even QEQM hospital.

Thor circumnavigated the ban by opening a similar factory in Cato Ridge, South Africa, now notorious for polluting the water supply and killing its workers. While Minamata in Japan named Minamata disease for mercury poisoning. Shocking abuses of governance and corporate well-being as bad as Bhopal or Traifgura or Flint, Michigan.

In my Kent MP role I will not only ensure no Kent waste exports, and faster closure of landfill as well as landfill-mining of existing sites, but also increased recycling for medical products eg tampons, condoms and plasters that should be incinerated, or even eaten by biobugs, and GPO Post Office-style recycling factories to sift rubbish into reuseable products.

And a clear plan to recycle all household waste and coffee shop cups before 2020.

I will support the new Hillsboro Law with its duty of civil servants and politicians beyond their job or organisation to reveal the truth on such coverups and calamities.

While a Thailand-UK partnership would be ideal given Liverpool’s John West seafood is owned by a Thai corporation and Thailand’s fisheries a key part of Thailand’s economy. No doubt for public health and protection of the seafood industry, Thailand’s cosmetics and toiletries and retail industries will also be as diligent on a microbead ban as in UK.

And the Thai Royal Navy has been active in its series of advertisements in The Economist on its efforts on fisheries management and human trafficking. With my advertising hat on, and my fun Tim's Thai Typos campaign on big brand mistakes, the ads are so badly designed and written though it provides a negative impression of their work and even if it is the Navy.

Whle surely UK and Thailand should more fully cooperate with the work of Khun Kunying Chodchoy, President of the Thai Environment and Community Asscoation and her Magic Eyes litter campaign cited by Khun Wasant?

The Ta Vises Hen Na campaign funded by Bangkok Bank could be expanded from their branch here in London and the UK’s $1.5BN Keep Britain Tidy litter campaign - with British Council support for the stage play at the Thai Cultural Centre?

And extending the Rajabhat teacher training colleges work by Khun Kunying into the provinces.

While the latter should surely be ideal to mix with the innovative Khon Kaen University work on Isaan-Thai-englsih signage, translations and exchanges – even the Isaan tartan patterns and weaving.

The British Council is the UK and Thailand's secret weapon for dynamic arts and education work, and in already active in supporting Scotland’s oft-neglected schools, and ideal for Kent’s 4 universities too, especially Kent University and CCU (Canterbury Christchurch University) both based in Canterbury here in East Kent.

The UK's Thai Eye programme sounds ideal for Magic Eyes?

I can't recommend British Council Thailand highly enough as a Great British Thailand organisation, and hope their sparkling Shakespeare work could be developed with the Magic Eyes stage play and Khon ballet.

Plastic, litter and recycling is certainly less than ideal with Thailand's Cuisine Culture resulting in thousands of food plastic bags blowing across streets and fields. The UK certainly less than perfect compared to Netherlands or Germany in street cleaning but the new UK plastic bag tax is a roaring success with a 90% reduction in plastic bags. And as an aside may be useful for the Thai bamboo and cloth industries for hessian bags? Why shouldn't Tesco/Lotus sell Magic Eyes bamboo/cloth shopping bags?

But on the wider environment and fishing, the UK has been active on the Pacific with a Marine Zone around Pitcairn Island only now bested as the world’s largest, by President Obama launching the Midway marine zone this week on his way to Laos.

As an aside, more later on UK colonies and frankly what seems a paedocracy in Pitcairn and Falklands - Kent social services recently purged of shockingly weak child protection, and concern snow over Calais Jungle child refugees inaction.

And Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has raised before the wider malaise in the UK fishing industry with dead fish being thrown back now ended – but a wider failure to with only Ramsgate and Hastings maintaining fishing fleets in the South East. Most fishing boats – even Hull, Grimsby and Newcastle now based in Scotland.

The North Sea is now almost bio-extinct – the recent crop of dead whales on Kent’s coast, even the famous Pegwell Bay, starving to death for lack of fish.

Surely the UK and Thailand should be active in ocean reseeding with fisheries? At the very least fishermen would be paid twice – once for sailing out to restock ocean pens and once for catching fish them on the way back.

While more could be done on the Pacific Plastic Patch of rubbish drifting on the Pacific Ocean currents – a patch the size of Texas. Surely in its last few months as chair of the UN G77 Group Thailand, with UK, should be urging action on the Plastic Patch – and for the Pacific navies from Chile and Mexico and USA and Canada to join in the clean-up?

The absurdity of Royal Navy ships tied up in UK port for lack of anything to do and the sailors given a summer holiday on the rates is outrageous tax bloat and waste. And almost a crime against humanity with over 3,000 refugee deaths in the Mediterranean this year form the Broken Nations of East Africa, and Charlie Elphicke MP calling for the reinstatement of the Royal Marines Dover Patrol, to prevent Channel refugee crossings from the chaos of the Calais jungle.

And how outrageous with the various EU navies and dozens of ships that a charity ship has to be deployed.

Quite frankly much of the Royal Navy would be both cheaper and of more use on litter patrol.

Chief Constable Pughsley of Kent Police is already considering a ban on recruitment from the Royal Navy, to reverse the effects institutional lethargy, heavy drinking, emphasis on fancy uniforms, aversion to walking about, and surfeit of tattoos and below-decks antics.

I will be urging HMS Kent a Type 23 newer Royal Navy ship is assigned to a regular Asia-Pacific tour of duty with the Commonwealth and other Asian allies - surely the Thai and Canadian and Chilean navies should be active eon this issue too?

At least then Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and celebrity chefs, and Khuns Wasant and Khunying could declare Kent and Asia ship-shape in terms of dealing with the plastic and litter problems.

Time for Change


* Thanks to Michaels Bookshop in Ramsgate for photos of Princess Patricia Military Hospital for the Canadian military and Canadian Red Cross in WW1, a conversion of St Lawrence College, the alma-mater of the former head of the British Army General Richard Dannatt. And one of numerous Canadian bases in Ramsgate and Thanet that would be interesting to details part of the WW1 Anniversary commemorations in UK and Belgium. And to establish firm links with Canadian towns and organisations, say Medicine Hat or Yellowknife or Montreal and the Canadian Army and Red Cross and ice hockey clubs.

* the GPO and Royal Mint issuing various stamps and coins to celebrate the links needed in East Kent too for the rare orchids.

* And good to see Chief Canuck Mark Carney of the Bank of England launching the new banknotes – the Canadian-issued plastic polymer notes supposedly with a hint of maple - at the Turner Gallery recently. If only East Kent’s dynamic Givaudan could replicate the tang of the sea or fish and chips for the UK notes or an East Kent local currency, or the Treasury or local banks provide a favourable Euro rate for East Kent’s Benelux tourism trade and SME’s?

* Kent’s links with Virginia and Hungary unfortunately still gathering dust, as Chimay and Conflans become rejuvenated – and what wasted opportunity from the Virginia Ships conference with the then-Senator dynamic Tim Kaine now the Democrat Vice-Presidential candidate and keen harmonica player.

* interestingly the General Dannatt spoke out last week on the scourge of the antimalarial drug Lariam/Mefloquine used by UK troops but causing numerous health problems of hallucinations etc. I took it in India 20 years ago, and stopped preferring to risk malaria.

Mistakes happen etc - but 11,000 doses still in stock today for UK troops is outrageous:

• the BBC Panorama programme on safety failures at Sellafield nuclear plant was terrifying – even parliament being lied to by the Sellafield management on the dangers of the concrete pool of radioactive sludge, silos of radioactive waste and Magnox reactor with a the most dangerous safety leak as recent as 2013.
• The only bright spot in the programme was Sellafield closing in the next 4 years - but then 100 years of cleanup
• With radioactive waste travelling from Dungeness here in Kent by nuclear train through London upto Cumbria and safety breaches at Dungeness too, the sooner the 2nd reactor is also closed the better
• An investigation into Channel waste dumping in previous years and the leaks at the French and Belgian reactors is crucial too – and the sabotage claims at Douel reactor.

• two beautiful bits of retail merchandising if you’re into that sort of thing:

-the good folks of York St Flowers with a beautiful almost Zen-like display of Kent orchids – perfect for Ramsgate in Bloom, stationmaster’s basket and the Battle of Flowers long-neglected. An interesting article in The Spectator last month with Paul McCartney describing how Kent’s The Beatles originally developed the Sgt Pepper album cover with Peter Blake as a council flowerbed clock. TDC council struggle with a display of dogdirt and cancer victims. Has it really been 15 years of corruption and dereliction of duty at Pleasurama and Thor mercury? Are the councillors and civil servants really hoping to just keep shtum and pick up their paycheques an pensions as though nothing has happened?

- Pilgrims Hospice charity shop with a striking display of 1970’s pottery – Grayson Perry’s Alan Measles cat would be purring with delight at the clay shapes thrown

* And the dynamic ladies of Thomas Cook and Thomsons have been busy – a superb £25 deposit and interest free payments for your holiday in the former, some neat trips to Great British Cuba and Great British Spain too. And Thomsons smooth as silk with a cruise ship event – perfect for Cuba and the Caribbean and also developing the great British Commonwealth cruise ship tourism trade with Fiji and Solomon Islands etc along with Papua New Guinea and the Australian Great Barrier Reef

* Silence on Sir Shifty of BHS and The Lord of Fraud Grabiner of One Essex Court still on their holidays, with Glick QC and Guy Hollingworth, probably Britain's most corrupt firm of barristers. Surprising too that their colleagues such as Peter Leaver QC and slippery clerk Darren Burrows are keeping shtum in effect aiding and abetting blatant white collar crime that should have them fined, struck off and jailed as wit the previous Clerk forced resignation.

* Silence too from Judge Mann, The Wee Grey Scot, The Teacup judge and The Crying Judge – a High Court of sleaze and shambles.

* Good that Sports Direct undergoing reform after parliamentary complaints and shareholder revolts over zero hours contract etc - as with Wetherspoons the unacceptable face of British business.

* Eight Days a week documentary this week and Kent Police Blue Blowers brass band tuning up for Sgt Pepper on the Eastcliff Bandstand visited by Jeremy Corbyn Labour leader, the UK's Redshirts if you will, last week.

* More on KORA and Project Gilgamesh later.

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