Archives for category: Waste

Some time ago West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street travelled to Finland – thought to be the only country in Europe where homelessness is falling.

He said: “We have got to be realistic about this. This can’t be about a sticking plaster. We have got to ask ourselves the question, are we prepared to make a similar commitment?”

Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation of the long-term homeless, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature.

As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”. Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’ and eventually have to leave because of alcohol, drug or debt problems.

Mayor:  travel to Cambridge Emmaus to see the homeless rehabilitated

The mayor of Birmingham may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or better still, go the centre in Cambridge, the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing and workshops are on the same site – and also a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people.

The secular Emmaus movement flourishes on the continent where it was started in 1945 by a French priest to help homeless ex-servicemen to repair war-damaged houses.

Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.

Those who had an alcohol addiction, go out for a drink but are expected to behave acceptably. Even if they are asked to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while.

The four storey Trinity Centre (a former church, a listed building) in Camp Hill near the city centre, highlighted on this site in 2014, would offer a suitable site, as Emmaus prefers to have the residential, working and retail activities on the same site.. It housed many homeless ex-servicemen and workers displaced by machinery.

The ground floor was a dormitory, with three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week. All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat on the top storey.

When the Centre was put up for sale some local people suggested that this converted four storey Anglican ‘Commissioners’ church and the land nearby would be perfect for an Emmaus Community.

 

Could Trinity Centre become the city’s first Emmaus?

Bishop David Urquhart is a Church Commissioner: should the Mayor contact him?

 

 

 

enquiries@emmauscoventry.org.uk

 

– though in Coventry this has not been possible.

Mayor Andy Street and Bishop David Urquhart could begin to address homelessness

Some time ago West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street travelled to Finland – thought to be the only country in Europe where homelessness is falling.

He said: “We have got to be realistic about this. This can’t be about a sticking plaster. We have got to ask ourselves the question, are we prepared to make a similar commitment?”

Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation of the long-term homeless, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature.

As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”. Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’ and eventually have to leave because of alcohol, drug or debt problems.

Mayor Andy Street:  travel to Cambridge Emmaus to see the homeless rehabilitated

The mayor of Birmingham may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or better still, go the centre in Cambridge, the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing and workshops are on the same site – and also a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people.

The Emmaus movement flourishes on the continent where it was started in 1945 by a French priest to help homeless ex-servicemen to repair war-damaged houses.

Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.

Those who had an alcohol addiction, go out for a drink but are expected to behave acceptably. Even if they are asked to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while.

The four storey Trinity Centre (a former church, a listed building) in Camp Hill near the city centre, highlighted on this site in 2014, would offer a suitable site, as Emmaus prefers to have the residential, working and retail activities on the same site.. It housed many homeless ex-servicemen and workers displaced by machinery.

The ground floor was a dormitory, with three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week. All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat on the top storey.

When the Centre was put up for sale some local people suggested that this converted four storey Anglican ‘Commissioners’ church and the land nearby would be perfect for an Emmaus Community.

 

Could Trinity Centre become the city’s first Emmaus?

Bishop David Urquhart is a Church Commissioner: should the Mayor contact him?

 

 

 

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In July on this site a Gloucestershire reader recommended the local food waste collection which began in 2016. A Stroud newspaper recorded in 2016 that two weeks into the scheme 232 tonnes of food waste from 52,000 residents had already been collected.

Birmingham Friends of the Earth have been campaigning on recycling issues for many years.

They urge readers to join them writing to their councillors in support of the motion for a food waste collection to be included in the waste strategy and a pilot scheme organised. This will be debated at the council meeting on Tuesday 9th January

Councillors Roger Harmer and Morriam Jan: Notice of Motion:

“This Council notes that:

1) UK households were estimated to throw away 7 million tonnes of food each year in 2012

2) The total cost of the food wasted in the UK is equivalent to 6 meals per household per week or £470 per year

3) Food wasted in the UK has a major environmental impact. It takes 19,000km2 of land to grow and produces Green House Gas emissions equivalent to 17million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to those produced by 1 in 4 UK cars

4) A two week survey in 2016 showed that food waste makes up 48% of the total waste collected in Birmingham

5) Collecting food waste has been shown to reduce the amount of food wasted, bringing environmental and cost benefits

6) A Parliamentary report into food waste in 2017 recommended that: “Local authorities must look at the opportunities to introduce separate food waste collections when new waste contracts are put in place.

Council therefore regrets that the Waste Strategy 2017-40, agreed by Cabinet in October 2017, rules out Council-led food waste recycling.

Council further resolves that the Waste Strategy 2017-40 be amended, so that it does not explicitly exclude Council-led food waste recycling initiatives, and instead prioritises the development of options for a Council-led food waste collection trial.”

As John Newson, lead waste campaigner, Birmingham Friends of the Earth notes: “During the recent bin strike, we could see that much of what is in bin bags is food waste. This contaminates the other items that might be recycled if they were clean and dry. A pilot of separate food waste should be run in Birmingham, learning from what is done in Wolverhampton and Sandwell”.

 

 

 

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In July, Birmingham City Council reneged on an ACAS-mediated, cabinet-approved agreement between the Unite union and Birmingham’s talented Council Leader, John Clancy, which was to end the seven-week refuse collection dispute.

The well-paid BCC chief executive (right) was seeking to downgrade 106 Grade 3 jobs to a Grade 2, which meant that workers would lose £3,500-5,000 from their already low salaries of around £20,000.

And when BCC reneged on the Unite/Clancy deal, they also issued redundancy notices to the Grade 3 workers. These were later banned in the High Court when Mr Justice Fraser spoke at length about the “extraordinary” and “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council with “chaos” between senior personnel. Read more about his reflections here.

Council leader Ian Ward (left) told a BBC reporter: “The cost of the (three month) dispute, yes that’s cost in excess of £6m”.

This ‘new’ version of the original deal (details here), described by union insiders as a ‘total climb-down’, was agreed at a special meeting of the BCC cabinet on Friday.

 ITV reports that yesterday Birmingham bin workers voted to accept the council deal.

So a seven week dispute was allowed to go on for three months, regardless of health and safety implications, losing £6m of ratepayers’ money – and the wrong head rolled.

 

 

 

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The BBC reports that, at a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Fraser dismissed the council’s argument that Mr Clancy had no authority to make a deal at ACAS with Unite.

He said that he was ‘more than satisfied’ there is enough evidence about what was referred to in court as the ‘Clancy Agreement’ to be tested at a full trial. He also dismissed a submission by Birmingham City Council’s legal team that a trial would not be in the public interest.

An interim injunction was granted against the bid – favoured by council officers – to make refuse collectors in Birmingham redundant.

The union is calling for Ms Stella Manzie, the authority’s interim chief executive, who had been leading the negotiating team, to stand down.

Justice Fraser said that documents made clear an internal rift at the council and read out an email sent on 15 August from the interim chief executive Stella Manzie to ex-leader Mr Clancy saying the council could not look weak and “as if it’s being walked over”.

On 11th August Cllr Lisa Trickett had corrected the impression that there will be job losses and cuts to basic pay for workers affected by the removal of the “leading hand” role  “one of the two supervisors in a three-person team: 

“Those supervisors will be offered other permanent roles within the council that their skills are broadly suited to, with training on offer to help ensure they could move into the jobs as easily as possible”.

John Clancy said in July that the council is ‘bending over backwards’ to reform the inefficient bins service inherited from the previous administration, without making job losses:

“We are giving the leading hands every opportunity to further their careers elsewhere in the city council with at least the same basic salary.”  He pointed out that 220 more permanent bin jobs will be created to replace the expensive agency staff currently used.

The conciliation service ACAS said on 16 August the council had accepted the workers’ case and restored the jobs of grade three workers, who are responsible for safety at the back of refuse vehicles. However, a council report said the deal struck by UNITE and the council was unaffordable.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said refuse workers would now return to a full working day until the five-day court hearing.

 

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SUPPORTIVE COMMENTS ON THE BBC WEBSITE

  • So council bosses want to get rid of 120 binmen but not their huge wages and pensions. No surprise there then.
  • Why not scrap a couple of councillor jobs and pay for the service The council tax should cover bin collection costs, not pay rises for the suits
  • It’s costing the council more to pay for agency staff to clear the rubbish than it would for them to accept the deal brokered by ACAS with Clancy.
  • They could find £188 million to build a library, and no doubt have spent millions more on other vanity projects, but want to save money collecting peoples rubbish.
  • As with most councils, they have their priorities all wrong. https://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/sheffield-councillors-vote-to-end-35-year-veolia-contract/ I live in Sheffield & I can tell you first hand Veolia are 100% inadequately staffed and just as poorly managed and led by their corporate offices. Privatization of a service that should be ‘in house’ to any local authority is a huge financial gamble – as proven here.
  • That is the issue – tenders being brought in by councils that cost more in the long run to fund than staffing with their own paid employees. Look at Veolia – Google search to see the muck ups they make & their costs.
  • A simpler way to save the money would be to get rid of Stella Manzie, the interim CEO who has been sent to Birmingham by the government to do a hatchet job on our local authority. She is well known for being parachuted into ‘difficult’ local authorities who are not following Conservative government rules. She is the one who scuppered the agreement between Unite and the council leader John Clancy.
  • Birmingham City Council has behaved appallingly in this dispute. They did not consult properly with the bin men from the start. The council leader then agreed a deal that would change shift patterns but removed the threat of redundancy. The council then reneged on the deal. The interim CEO (a government stooge) was behind the report to scupper the deal. They then issued redundancy notices!
  • The right decision. Workers’ rights have been eroded to the core as it is but central government is the problem here. Birmingham, like most councils, has had its funding cut severely. If they don’t save the money here they will be forced, by the government, to save it somewhere else.

 

  • Be clear here. Bin men were not being made redundant to end up on the dole. Their jobs were being made redundant, & the men were offered replacement jobs elsewhere in the council work-places on the SAME PAY grade as they were on.

 

 

 

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Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Waste and Recycling, sent a message to Birmingham citizens to say that the pattern of industrial action changed on August 11. There are now three one-hour strikes each working day (7am-8am, then 10.30am-11.30am and finally 1.30pm-2.30pm):

“The travel time before and after each hour of industrial action along with crew breaks being taken at their depot – rather than out and about in the city – will have a significant impact on collections. In simple terms this will be much more than the three hours of strike action that Unite the union claim to be staging”.

She corrects the impression that there will be job losses and cuts to basic pay for workers that are affected by the removal of the “leading hand” role ( “one of the two supervisors we currently have – in a crew that is only a three-person team”).

Those supervisors will be offered other permanent roles within the council that their skills are broadly suited to, with training on offer to help ensure they could move into the jobs as easily as possible.

The plan being discussed with the unions is based on the best practice used by other councils. Under the new model, more than 200 new permanent employees will be recruited to collect rubbish and recycling from our streets. This will bring stability to the service and improve efficiency.

Many readers will welcome the determination to move away from an over-reliance on agency staff and other in-house moves taken – notably the reduced use of Capita services.

To read the full message go to: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/refuse-collections-an-open-letter-to-citizens/

 

 

 

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The sketchy reports on the dispute about the refuse collection changes on the BBC and Birmingham Mail websites have been supplemented by welcome information from Jacqui Kennedy, Corporate Director for Place.

She explained that this action is being taken because the council is facing significant financial challenges following six years of cuts to local government funding.

Taking refuse collection ‘in-house’ – dispensing with 200 expensive agency staff

Jacqui continued: “It is extremely important that we move away from relying on expensive agency staffAt the moment 200 out of 595 employees in refuse collection are hired from agencies. We intend to replace agency staff with up to 246 full-time staff employed directly by the council. All of these new permanent employees will enjoy the associated benefits that come with working for the council such as pension, holiday entitlement and sick pay”. The Mail adds that overtime will also go and the number of binmen will be increased by 152.

Agreement with the unions is sought as waste collection crews will be required to shift from a four day week of just over nine hours per day to a five day week of just over seven hours per day. Joint development of the detailed plans needed to make these proposals work is important.

Jacqui points out that over 40% of material in our bins is food waste. Last year, UK households wasted around 20% of all the food they buy – but there has been a 17% reduction since 2007, according to Food Waste Facts.

Visitors to this site come from many British regions and other countries – last week’s stats (right). A Gloucestershire reader recommends their food waste collection which began in 2016. Though some Birmingham gardeners already compost such material, other residents could make good use of a similar facility.

A Stroud newspaper recorded in 2016 that two weeks into the scheme 232 tonnes of food waste from 52,000 residents had already been collected – more than the weight of a blue whale.

Even the most careful householders have eggshells and orange peel to place in the small kitchen food waste bin provided – and the less careful dispose of ‘leftovers’ and unused, decaying food. These are emptied into a larger bin (right) kept outside. The bins are collected once a week and taken to an aerobic digester. In a few weeks it is turned into gas used in the grid and the residue is put on the fields as fertiliser.

“A great example of the renewable circular economy”, according to Green councillor Simon Pickering.

 

 

 

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Robert Kornreich (Kings Heath) recommended ‘The Third Plate’, a programme on BBC Radio 4: American Chef Dan Barber, who had early success as a ‘farm to table’ chef, is currently in the UK with a project called ‘WastED London’ – an unusual temporary restaurant taking aim at the problem of food ‘waste’.

Food is ‘Too Good To Waste’

The Priory Rooms is a busy meeting and conference venue in Bull Street, Birmingham city centre and in their latest newsletter, Joanna adds more information about their commitment to sustainable meetings.

As customers are provided with a substantial and varied catering, a huge amount of food passes through its kitchen but waste is avoided.

One of the ways they do this is by offering free, cardboard food boxes and paper bags, made of recycled or biodegradable materials. Customers can then take away leftover food to enjoy later – something they really appreciate.

Food waste is a serious national issue. For every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, nearly half a kilo of food is wasted – through preparation, spoilage and what’s left behind on the plate.

600,000 tonnes of food waste are being thrown out from restaurants every year, most of it filling up scarce landfill space. As well as the cost to the environment, this waste is costing restaurants and diners a fortune.

If this subject is of interest to other workplaces, more information is given here: www.toogood-towaste.co.uk

 

 

 

 

This news was sent by Aldo Mussi, Tutor-Activist in Health Promotion/Public Health, Public Health teaching team Birmingham City University. He writes:

“Climate change is not only a pressing public health, ecological and justice concern – it’s increasingly a financial worry. With fossils fuels increasingly seen as a liability, the shift by investors away from this old technology is growing”.

At the end of 2016 Arabella Advisors reported that 688 organizations ― including some charities, faith-based groups, universities and local governments ― and 58,399 individuals across 76 countries have committed to pulling their money out of oil, gas and coal companies.

In keeping with that trend, in November 2015 Aldo had welcomed reports that BCU was in the top 16 of British universities which had started ‘divesting’ from fossil fuels. (The top 10 were divesting completely, while the fund managers for BCU and others were merely fleeing tar sands & coal (the dirtiest fuels). Others have joined the trend since then, but BCU is still in the top 25% of universities who have made the move.

People & Planet (a national network of student eco-societies) publish a ‘green league table’ of British universities, and in the 2016 results, it’s good to see BCU placed 31 out of 150 institutions (top of the list of those awarded a ‘2.1’, but frustratingly just missing out on a ‘First’).

Birmingham City University People & Planet University League 2016 Scorecard:

1. Environmental Sustainability; Policy and Strategy 100

2. Human Resources for Sustainability 40

3. Environmental Auditing & Management Systems 100

4. Ethical Investment 0

5. Carbon Management 35

6. Workers Rights 15

7. Sustainable Food 60

8. Staff and Student Engagement 20

9. Education for Sustainable Development 35

10. Energy Sources 31

11. Waste and Recycling 76

12. Carbon Reduction 78

13. Water Reduction 50

Aldo comments, “A quick look at BCU’s scorecard (below) raises an obvious question: If we are at the forefront of divestment, why did we score a zero for ‘Ethical Investment’? It turns out that People & Planet’s criteria depend largely on being able to audit an institution’s published policies, including an Ethical Investment policy. BCU had not yet published one, so that counted against us. Interestingly, had it been published, our partial divestment would have counted for a score of 5% – possibly enough to push us up into a ‘First’ next time? It seems that BCU management may be addressing this in the near future, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to report even better news soon…”

 

 

 

milan food policy pact gatheringBirmingham is one of the C40 group of world cities which has agreed that unless the food system changes, there’s little hope of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. London’s footprint audit estimated that the food supply chain is the primary source and in March the Greater London Authority published a report on ten years’ of work done by the London Food Board and its partners to foster much needed change.

Last October, Distinctly Birmingham reported that Birmingham had become the 46th of 100 signatories of the Urban Food Policy Pact from all continents in Milan’s Palazzo Reale. The Pact was then presented to Ban-Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, in New York on World Food Day, October 16th.

The Birmingham delegation, which included the Director for Public Health for Birmingham City Council, Adrian Philips and the co-founder of the Harborne Food School, Shaleen Meelu, took part in several workshops and conferences aimed at addressing issues of sustainable food policy in urban environments.

milan 2 food policy pact gathering

Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University London, writes that the new Pact seeks a greener, healthier, more equitable food system:

“This needs a strong political voice that engages with and listens to consumers, but is firm about the need for change. The social maldistribution of food on a gargantuan scale that we have today is unacceptable. We need food systems based on full cost pricing, not cheap food and overflowing hospitals and denuded nature”.

Cheap food leads to overflowing hospitals and denuded nature

He reported that many cities have been auditing how they are fed. They now recognise their food systems are in a delicate state, symptoms include:

  • high health and environmental impacts,
  • aspirations for cheap food, ‘hard-wired’ into consumer expectations,
  • rampant waste,
  • too many government concessions to giant food companies selling sugary, salty, fatty, ultra-processed food (we add: giant food companies = prospective party funders),
  • marketing budgets far higher than those allocated to food education and
  • no-one apparently in overall control.

Lang continues: “A new urban politics is emerging, gradually recognising the need to move beyond the neoliberal era’s commitment to cheap and plentiful food which has only spawned an horrendous new set of challenges which it cannot resolve. Many of these drop onto localities’ doorsteps.  Waste. The new food poor. Rising obesity. Street litter. Inequalities. Low waged food work. But the positive news about a sustainable future needs to be grasped. Closer foodways, better jobs, healthier populations”.

Commitments have been made:

  • to develop methods for auditing their food systems,
  • to prepare local sustainable dietary guidelines
  • and to share experimental findings.

Lang asks: Is it progress for cities to fill streets with endless food offers?

Can we let fast food joints surround schools like hyenas?

What powers are needed to recalibrate urban food culture for 2030?

Must we consign workforces to ill-health?

If national governments are content to leave it to Tesco et al to shovel out cheap food, shouldn’t cities step up to the challenge?

Lang: “It’s there that the consuming mass exists. It’s there the food labour is now greatest in rich countries. It’s there that developing mega cities have massive problems – water, sanitation, food, waste, inequalities”. He points out that Britain, as first industrial nation, knows only too well the consequences of severing people from the land: “We need another package. But which is it to be?”

Many readers will opt for this one: ‘more money getting from dependent urban consumers’ purses back to the primary producers’.

Professor Lang ends:

“The schisms between big companies and millions of small enterprises is a key City challenge. The latter create jobs and diversity. And how can cities help repair ecosystems on which humanity and food depend?

“The new pact seeks a greener, healthier, more equitable food system.  This needs a strong political voice that engages with and listens to consumers, but is firm about the need for change. The social maldistribution of food on a gargantuan scale that we have today is unacceptable. We need food systems based on full cost pricing, not cheap food and overflowing hospitals and denuded nature.

“All hail to Milan and the 100 Cities”.

 

So said one of Birmingham’s most active, well-informed and caring citizens last night.  For the environment and so much more . . .

barrow cadbury blog2 logoHe is referred to the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Economic Justice Programme which is “keen to build learning to strengthen local economies and to share best practice between a range of sectors, but particularly across local authorities”.

barrow cadbury blog graphic3 KL

The economic and social references above do not even refer to the undeniable environmental benefits of vastly reduced transport of goods and to people in this area beset by premature deaths attributed to illegal levels of air pollution. To read the whole article go to the Barrow Cadbury Trust blog.

Localisation is a ‘solutions multiplier’ with political implications, reducing CO2 emissions, energy use and all kinds of waste, creating meaningful and secure employment and rebuilding the connections between people – and between people and their local environment by:

  • local trading, using local businesses, materials and supply chains,
  • linking local needs to local resources,
  • developing community and local capacity,
  • providing services tailored to meet local needs
  • and decentralising appropriate democratic and economic power

A few of the localising initiatives outlined:

Finance – where 7600 credit unions are outperforming the big banks. Business – where 30,000 small businesses in 130 American cities have formed alliances, some becoming part of larger networks, such as the Business Alliance for Local Living Alliances (BALLE). And food – where, in the ‘supermarket economy’, the farmer gets 10% of what we pay, or less, but gets 50% in the local food co-op and 100% in the farmers’ market.

In the vitally important but vastly neglected agriculture sector, studies have shown that ten times more food per acre is produced on small diversified farms and, by shortening the distance to the buyer, waste of food, refrigeration, preservatives, packaging, energy, irradiation and advertising is reduced or eliminated, the farmer earns more and the customer pays less.

the resilience imperative coverA co-founder of Localise West Midlands, Pat Conaty, makes the case for replacing the paradigm of limitless economic growth with a more decentralized, cooperative, steady-state economy in The Resilience Economy, which promotes:

  • Energy sufficiency
  • Local food systems
  • Low-cost financing
  • Affordable housing and land reform
  • Democratic ownership and sustainability

Karen Leach, co-ordinator of Localise West Midlands writes:

“This extreme vulnerability of the global economy to trade developments illustrates clearly the perils of an entirely globalised system that removes local economies’ resilience in meeting their own needs.”

As governments cut funding for basic needs while spending billions on global infrastructure for transport trade and weapons, caring and intelligent people worldwide are finding alternatives which promote economic prosperity, social harmony and environmental sustainability.