With matters (literally) hotting up in Newhaven as Veolia has reportedly started work on its new waste incinerator without waiting for the technicality of planning permission, now seems a timely moment to talk some rubbish.
Speak to just about anyone (apart from, of course, the local government chief officers and waste company shareholders who benefit most from the deals) and they'll say the same thing: we don't need or want new incinerators burning rubbish, or more landfill sites, in the beautiful Sussex countryside. But with existing sites near capacity and exporting waste hardly a sustainable or just solution (in fact we face the opposite situation: the reality is that we in Sussex are committed to disposing of millions of tonnes of waste from London) the only way we can avoid new facilities is to throw away less rubbish in the first place, surely? Seems obvious, eh? But, on average, we are all throwing away more and more. Of course, much of what we dispose of is pretty pointless over-packaging and marketing guff, and there's lots industry and the Government can do to prevent us 'consuming' it in the first place, but a lot of it is entirely recycleable, or even perfectly good and reusable in its current form. Yet still we throw it away: few of us make the connection as our hands hover over our bins that unless we minimise our waste we'll have the incinerators and landfill sites whether we like it or not. And it'll only get worse under proposed changes to planning law which could mean such facilities are deemed of strategic importance and therefore beyond the remit of democratic planning committees or the views of local communities.
What we really need is for Government to show some political leadership on this (which is, of course, a problem being repeated up and down the country) and adopt a 'zero waste strategy', including, for example, making manufacturers meet the true costs (social and environmental as well as simply economic) of disposing of the products they produce, making it more difficult NOT to recycle than to do so by channelling some of the money raised from waste charges to the local authorities responsible.
This isn't pie in the sky thinking, it's already been implemented successfully, with astonishing results, in parts of Canada and Australia.
This is just a two-minute rant - and I'm certainly no waste expert. But the latest in Transition Brighton and Hove's series of public talks on energy and resources promises a much better informed and comprehensive discussion on the subject of waste.
Speakers include Biffa Waste Services Limited director Peter Jones and Professor Marie Harder from Brighton University's Waste, Energy and Resources Group.
The meeting takes place this Thursday, June 19th, at the Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton. It's open to all, and tickets are £3 on the door. It should be both interesting and, at the same time, a rubbish discussion (sorry!)