With nine out of ten having to pay for bags, are we charging enough?
Two weeks into the English tax on single use carrier bags in supermarkets, ninety percent of shoppers are still heading out for their weekly shop forgetting their reusable bags.
With millions of carriers still being issued by major stores every day, one national waste and management company is posing the difficult question: Is the carrier bag tax high enough?
The BigGreen.co.uk waste prevention company says that the first weeks of the tax has seen shoppers use all sort of ingenious tactics to avoid the tax, all to avoid paying just five pence.
“In the great scheme of things, five pence is just chicken feed,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Johnny Ratcliffe. “That kind of small change in just a minor inconvenience to most people.”
That’s why BigGreen.co.uk is suggesting an early increase in the tax, as the company is convinced that English shoppers won’t end their plastic habit unless bags are made truly undesirable.
“We get through 7 billion plastic bags every year, and that number’s not going to go down unless people genuinely switch to reusable bags.”
BigGreen.co.uk asked over 1500 shoppers about how their habits have changed in the first week of the 5p charge, and found:
• 89% forgot their reusable bags, or didn’t have bags to begin with
• 11% brought bags with them
• 73% paid 5p per bag for one or more single-use bags
• 21% bought reusable plastic or hessian bags at the till
• 6% used no bags at all, or improvised
Figures released earlier this year show how successful the policy has been in other parts of the UK where the bag tax has been a reality for one or more years.
• Scottish plastic bag use has decreased by 130 million bags, or around 80%
• In Wales, plastic bag use has dropped by 71%, with overall bag use dropping by 57%
• Plastic bag use has dropped from 190 million bags to 30 million per year in Northern Ireland
But to make the policy a success, English shoppers have to be convinced to reuse their bags, or somehow get their shopping home without using bags at all!
With the first news stories about shoppers refusing to pay the tax hitting the media, Business Waste has heard tales of people resorting to improvisation to get their groceries home without the use of bags, some more successful than others:
• Some shoppers are packing their groceries into cardboard boxes, in scenes reminiscent of the early days of supermarkets when used boxes weren’t sent to the crusher
• Another person was seen improvising a rucksack out of their coat, just to get their shopping out to the car park
• One checkout worker witnessed a grown man putting his shopping into (unused) dog poo bags produced from the customer’s pockets
• Another said they had seen families unloading trollies directly into the back of their cars, presumably to relay everything into the house once they got home
“And that’s just to save five pence per bag – or about ten quid a year for the average family,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Johnny Ratcliffe, who hopes more people come up with alternative ways of getting their goods home to get the message across that saving resources is a good thing.
“But from what we’ve heard, the huge, huge majority of people are still putting their hands in their pockets and paying out the 5p,” he says, and that’s why he feels the charge has been set far too low.
“That being the case, it looks like we’re resistant as a country to such a small charge, and that’s why it should be at least 20p – or perhaps even higher.”
But the way ahead is simple for English shoppers: Be like the rest of the UK and remember your reusable bags.
“While it’s great that 4p per bag is going to charity, the kindest thing you can do is help save the planet by using fewer throwaway bags.”
Enormous waiting lists, pigeon lofts and ‘dead man’s shoes’
Waiting lists of around six years are stopping British families from going green and taking allotments on which to grow their own produce.
That’s the opinion of an environmentally-conscious green fingered waste management company which says that many council- and committee-run allotment spaces are literally a case of “dead man’s shoes”, where the same people hold a plot for years and decades at a time.
On top of that, councils that are hard-pushed for budgets are tempted to sell off land for development, meaning there’s ever decreasing space, the BigGreen.co.uk company says.
“Just at a time and more and more people are looking to grow their own produce, they’re finding that the door has been slammed in their face,” says Big Green spokesperson Mark Hall. “So many people have small gardens or no garden at all, meaning an allotment is the only real chance they have.”
BigGreen.co.uk spoke to councils across the UK to find out how long the waiting lists were for an allotment. The authorities who released figures led Big Green to find that:
• The average waiting list for an allotment with six years
• A significant number of councils had waiting lists as high as 250 people, with waits of around nine years
• While the press made a big issue of 45-year waiting lists in 2009, there was no trace of any such figures now
• The longest wait one (unnamed) council was prepared to admit was for 12 years
“The major problem is the lack of allotments for the folk who want to work them,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall.
His solution is simple: “The average 10 pole (about 250 square metre) allotment is a lot of work for the average family. Split them in two, and double the number of available plots,” he says. “Perhaps split them into three or four to give families a taste of growing produce, but on a big enough plot to bring decent results.”
People are clearly getting impatient at the long waiting lists, and seem to think that the system is broken or skewed against new blood. BigGreen.co.uk spoke to some people on council waiting lists across the UK and heard:
• “Three years we’ve been waiting. But you look over the fence and they’ve got empty plots. What’s that about?”
• “We were told we were right at the top of the list, and then they sold the whole field off to a developer. Disgraceful. We’re still at the top of the list, but the other site’s miles away.”
• “We desperately want to grow our own veg but we live in flats, but there’s some selfish bloke who has six plots – one’s got a pigeon loft and an old car! He can give one up for us, surely?”
• “It’s an old boys’ club isn’t it? We don’t fit in, so we don’t get a plot”
Those are damning words, BigGreen.co.uk says which lead on to other arguments: “There also needs to be a national debate about preserving allotment land,” Hall says. “It’s important green space, but all too easy for councils to earmark for development. Once that land’s gone, it’s gone. And that money only fills a budget hole for a single year.”
One of the biggest problems that people on waiting lists find is people who occupy multiple allotments, or pay for a plot but don’t use it as intended (or even at all).
“There’s nothing worse than going down your local allotment site to find whole plots of land that have clearly not been cultivated for some time. The council direct debit is collected every year, so they seemingly don’t care if it’s left fallow,” says Mark Hall. “We also know of plots which are nothing but pigeons, goats and chickens, and some who cultivate flowers and ‘organic’ crops sell at a profit. That’s not what allotment ownership should be about.”
Councils should also be stricter about multiple-occupiers who have a number of plots as well as commercial operations, denying other local people the chance to cultivate some land: “It’s clear that many local authorities need to urgently reform their allotment provision. It’s easy for users to abuse the system, when keen people are left kicking their heels, waiting for their turn,” Hall says.
Unfortunately, such is the way the system works, new tenants have to wait for the previous person to actually die before they can take over a plot. There must be a better way of dividing up land and introducing new blood, BigGreen.co.uk says – “Dead Man’s Shoes” just isn’t good enough.
BigGreen.co.uk says they recently heard of a council debating whether to increase the annual fee from £5 to £6 per year, and failing to come to a decision. And that’s just goes to show how badly allotments are being handled by authorities.
“We’d pay ten times that much,” says Mark, “If only we could get to the front of the queue!”
Tiny plastic particles in beauty products causing chaos in ecosystems
The battle to ban microbeads – the tiny plastic balls used in face washes and beauty creams – has crossed the Atlantic and is heading for Britain.
While they are banned in some states in the US, a Yorkshire-based company says they are still perfectly legal in Britain, and are steadily causing damage to the environment because they can’t be filtered out by water treatment plants.
According to BigGreen.co.uk, the tiny plastic pieces end up in waterways, where fish end up being poisoned after mistaking them for food. They also carry other pollutants into the food chain.
“These microbeads may be great for cleansing your skin and making you feel younger, but they are a nightmare for the environment,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “There are natural alternatives available, so why aren’t the beauty care companies using them?”
What are microbeads?
They’re the tiny balls of plastic found in many beauty products, from skin creams, shampoos and even some brands of toothpastes.
Microbeads are used to make your product more abrasive to help with exfoliation and cleansing, often marketed as “age defying” products that make the user look or feel younger.
The problem with microbeads is that they really are tiny – about one millimetre in diameter – and pass straight through the filters at water processing plants. This means they are pumped straight back into watercourses, where accumulations of plastic cause environmental damage. They also absorb other pollutants, which makes them even more deadly.
The US state of Illinois – which borders the environmentally important Great Lakes – was the first to ban them, and several other states have joined them. More states, as well as Canada, are considering their own bans.
Natural alternatives like apricot shells, jojoba beans, and pumice are available.
BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall says: “These tiny pieces of plastic build up in their billions in waterways and lakes. We’re only just beginning to realise the damage that they do, and it’s time we acted over here in the UK.”
A ban for Britain?
Yorkshire-based environmentally-aware waste company Big Green is joining calls for more research that could lead to a ban on microbead products in the UK before irreversible damage is done to our environment.
The problem is that a ban may only come as the result of consumer pressure, and a lack of publicity about this issue in the UK means that could take some time to happen, Hall says.
“British consumers are pretty sophisticated when it comes to green issues, and we’re sure that if the damage done by microbeads were more visible there’d be a public outcry,” says Mark.
While natural alternatives are available, manufacturers still use plastic balls because they’re easier and cheaper to produce, and are less abrasive on the skin, meaning that customers use more of the “scientific” product.
BigGreen.co.uk urges customers to look for greener alternatives to microbead products. The company also hopes that the beauty and fashion press picks up on the campaign to put pressure on suppliers to put an end to the scourge of the plastic beads.
“The greener alternatives actually work better, and you’re not smearing little balls of plastic all over your face,” says Mark. “So why are we still using these ridiculous products?”
It all comes down to one simple question, Hall says: “Is your beauty regime really worth killing the planet?”
Just what happened to the ‘Greenest government ever’?
The latest government statistics for the recycling of waste managed by local authorities show that the UK is in danger of missing its 50% target set for the year 2020.
While the figures show a slight rise in the rate of recycled household waste, they have remained in the low forties for the entirety of the 2010-2015 coalition government, despite Prime Minister David Cameron declaring in May 2010 that we would see ‘the greenest government ever’, a nationwide waste and recycling company says.
The Big Green company, which specialises in commercial waste management on an environmentally and sustainable basis, says that much has gone wrong in the last five years, and blames ‘Green Fatigue’ in national and local government, which has been reflected in public attitudes to recycling.
“It’s clear that the coalition gave up on green policies the moment they realised the way the political wind was blowing,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall.
“The appointment of climate change-sceptic ministers in the second half of the government showed that they thought green policies were a vote loser. They might even have thought that the average voter didn’t care about the environment and recycling, and we think the UK is worse off for that.”
Statistics for the year ending September 2014, released by DEFRA and National Statistics show:
• The rate of recycled waste from households, year-ending Sept 2014 was 45.0%
• The figure for year-ending Sept 2013 was 43.9%
• British households produced 4% more waste in 2014 compared to 2013
• Between Sept 2011 and Sept 2014, the amount of household waste sent to recycling rose by only 268,000 tonnes from 22,085,000 to 22,353,000 tonnes
• The only recycling sector to have significantly increased between 2011-2014 is food waste, which rose by about 50% to only 294,000 tonnes
• Between 2012 and the beginning of 2014, household recycling rates actually declined
BigGreen.co.uk says there are a number of factors which explain why household and business recycling rates have effectively stalled in the last five years.
“The first of these is simple,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall, “It’s government-driven austerity.”
Hall says that reduced budgets for local authorities have meant that there is less to spend on everyday services such as refuse collection, and councils would rather concentrate on their statutory requirement to collect waste before embarking on the expense of recycling projects.
“This explains why some councils underperformed so badly,” says Hall, “They’re busy playing catch-up after posting recycling rates of less than 25%.”
With no uniform standard for the collection of waste for recycling in England and Wales, it’s little surprise that there are vast variations up and down the country. It’s when you go north of the border to Scotland, where commercial collections are governed by law, and domestic recycling is openly encouraged, that you see far higher recycling rates.
“While England and Wales are struggling to hit that 50% recycling target by 2020, Scotland’s assembly is already talking about being a 100% recycled economy,” Hall says.
BigGreen.co.uk thinks that the UK government’s case of ‘Green Fatigue’ is rubbing off on the public at large, with increasing numbers choosing to believe climate sceptics, and thinking that recycling is a “big con”.
“Climate sceptics are wrong, a view backed by 100% of climate change scientists,” says Big Green, “And recycling isn’t simply about stopping climate change anyway.
“Recycling makes financial sense for the UK as a whole. It’s cheaper than mining and constantly manufacturing new materials, and far, far better than burying waste or sending it for incineration.”
With the myth that recycling doesn’t benefit the everyday life of the average man on the street in England and Wales well-and-truly busted, Big Green asks why we don’t all recycle as much as possible.
“Every bottle or tin you recycle becomes another bottle or tin eventually”, says Hall. “It’s not a waste of time or money, it’s actually saving British companies millions of pounds and creating jobs every year.”
“As our American friends say: Get with the programme. It’s a great programme.”
Bins Я Us: Wheelie Bin Store launches to boost business recycling
Drop-in shop could offer advice and raise public awareness
Town centre stores promoting recycling and selling waste management services could be the answer to Britain’s stalled efforts to hit national recycling targets, while saving companies big money into the bargain.
According to a nationwide, environmentally-conscious waste management company, redundant retail units could be let cheaply to get the message across to local businesses – as well as passing members of the public – that recycling saves money.
The Big Green company says the UK looks like it will fall short of national and European targets for recycling, and reluctant or unwitting business owners are one of the major reasons that our recycling levels are low compared to more enlightened European nations.
“The big problem is that many businesses just don’t know how to recycle,” says Big Green spokesperson Mark Hall, “And it’s costing them hundreds and thousands in extra waste management charges, and costing the British economy in terms of raw materials.
“We need to literally sell recycling to companies. From a shop.”
Latest government statistics for both domestic and business waste show Britain bumping along, recycling around 45% of its waste for the third year in a row. With some of our European partners coming close to a 100% recycled economy, it simply isn’t good enough says Big Green.
These statistics are borne out by Big Green’s own experience of waste management for businesses right across the UK. According to Big Green:
• More than 50% of companies do not have appropriate recycling facilities for the waste they produce
• Some 20% of companies only have a single general waste bin, and do not recycle at all
• This figure comes down to less than 10% in Scotland where companies are required by law to recycle waste, and there’s been a huge awareness programme
“The worst part is that some bosses don’t realise that they are paying extra through not recycling effectively,” says Big Green’s Mark Hall. “And there is a small hard core of companies who hang the expense, and refuse to recycle as they think it too much effort.”
The answer, says Mark Hall, is to put sound waste management and recycling right in the face of local businesses.
“That’s why we’re suggesting a shop or showroom premises that is simply full of bins,” says Hall. “Business owners can come in, take a look at what’s available, listen to impartial advice, and then make decisions based on their company needs.”
Big Green says that the showrooms could be run by councils, or a partnership of local waste management companies. Not only would companies be able to see for themselves the kinds of bins and receptacles they could and should be using for their organisations, they could also get clear advice on what works best for them.
“And – of course – there’s the all-important bottom line,” says Hall, “Clear, jargon-free advice on how recycling saves them cold, hard cash through not paying the landfill tax.”
Big Green says the idea would inevitably attract public attention, and there’s no stopping the scheme being extended to help members of the public recycle their domestic waste better.
“The simple fact is that the more we recycle as a nation, the less money our businesses have to pay on importing and processing raw materials,” says Hall.
“If 100% of our glass was recycled instead of less than half, there’d be a genuine reduction in the sale price of goods in jars and bottles. By throwing things into landfill, we’re literally throwing away cash as well.”
Big Green says that the bin store idea would be cost effective from the start, with organisations saving themselves money within days.
“We’re falling behind and wasting money by not recycling properly,” says Mark Hall. “A bin shop would be a ‘wheelie’ good idea.”
Inconsiderate hikers and day-trippers leaving filthy trail of destruction across our countryside
Some of Britain’s best-known beauty spots are being destroyed by hikers, walkers and day-trippers who think nothing of defecating, urinating and leaving nappies behind them.
A Leeds-based waste management company has seen the filth for itself, finding human mess all over the Yorkshire Three Peaks area of the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales.
The BigGreen.co.uk company says that the damage being done risks the health of both humans and wildlife; and that local businesses will eventually lose customers when people are put off from visiting.
“Yorkshire has had some of the best advertising it can get over the last couple of years with the Tour de France and the Tour of Yorkshire bringing crowds to this beautiful part of the world,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But when you get up into the Dales, it’s like there’s a soiled nappy or a filthy surprise under every rock.”
“It’s got so bad that some corners of car parks and lay-bys positively smell of human urine.”
In a straw poll of over 1200 walkers and day-trippers in Yorkshire, BigGreen.co.uk found:
• Some 70% of walkers admit to urinating in the woods or a field when caught short;
• 44% say they’ve defecated in the open
• 15% said they buried their poop
• 4% say they’ve changed a child’s nappy and left it behind
• Only 3% said they’d bag up their poop and take it somewhere to be disposed of properly
“We’re not surprised,” says Hall. “You can go all day without seeing a public toilet or a friendly pub – but that means you really ought to take measures to ensure that you don’t damage the environment or cause a health hazard.
“Leaving a dirty nappy behind is simply thoughtless, but no less than taking a poop in the open and leaving it there.”
Dedicated walkers tend to be more careful of their surroundings, and choose their toilet sites well, and leave as little mess as possible, clearing up after themselves when the worst comes to the worst. And it’s a common view among people who enjoy the country on a regular basis that it’s the casual visitor and weekend day-tripper that is the worst for leaving their toilet mess behind.
“They seem to think the whole area is teeming with shops and public loos,” one walker told us, “It comes as a bit of surprise to some that it’s pretty wild within minutes of leaving the car park. No preparation, that’s their problem.”
Hall says he’s seen with his own eyes as walkers clean up assiduously after a picnic lunch, only to then go to the toilet behind a hedge.
“We’re still fighting a losing battle against those dog walkers who bag their pet’s poop only to throw the bag into a tree, now we’ve got people who are cutting out the dog altogether and just leaving their own mess lying around in the National Parks,” he says. “Think of the disease risk – not just for other people, but also the animals that roam the country.”
BigGreen.co.uk says it’s a problem that’s not just limited to the Yorkshire Three Peaks – virtually every National Park suffers from careless walkers doing the wrong thing when caught short for the toilet.
“One of our staff members went to Dartmoor last year, and found a nappy and soiled wet wipes wedged into a crack in the park’s iconic Hay Tor,” says Hall. “Just think – millions of years in the making, only for somebody to use it as a toilet.”
The problem is being made worse by cash-strapped authorities closing public toilets and removing waste bins because they cost too much to empty on a regular basis. That being the case, the onus is on the visitor to remember their Country Code and plan ahead.
“Be like a Scout and be prepared,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall, “Take paper, clean-up wipes, and good quality black bags. Only the worst people on Earth leave their mess behind.”
Essentially, BigGreen.co.uk says, people have to swallow their pride and think about what’s best for the environment around them: “If you can’t find a loo, take it home. If you can’t take it home, bury it.”
“Better still, put a cork in it.”
Tiny plastic pots of convenience turn into a mountain of waste
The rise and rise of the coffee pods – those tiny plastic and foil single-serving capsules that mean making a cup of fresh filter coffee is as easy as pressing a button – are emerging as one of Britain’s biggest environmental headaches, it seems.
With millions being used across the UK, one expert on recycling and waste disposal says that they’re a horrendous waste of resources which can only be burned or sent to landfill.
The BigGreen.co.uk company says that coffee pods, increasingly popular in both places of work and in the home might seem the most convenient way to enjoy a cup of coffee, but this convenience is wrapped up in waste throughout the process, a fact of which 95% users are ignorant.
“Coffee pod machines always struck us as the solution to a problem that didn’t exist in the first place,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “It wasn’t as if using a filter coffee machine was that difficult anyway.”
That hasn’t stopped the surge in sales of coffee pods. According to a report in The Grocer trade magazine, UK sale of the capsules were nearly £87million in the year to August 2014, and are expected to top £100million in 2015.
• That’s approximately 350million empty pods going in the bin in the last year alone.
• Laid end-to-end, that’s the distance from London to Calcutta
• The rise in coffee pods corresponds to a 10% fall in sales of instant coffee
Businesses now seem to be the biggest culprit for the tide of coffee pod waste, BigGreen.co.uk says. Not only are they ubiquitous in waiting and reception areas, but they’re also being offered to staff as a means to replace canteen facilities.
A straw poll by BigGreen.co.uk found:
• 35% of businesses had changed from filter coffee to pod coffee
• Another 38% said they were considering a move to pod coffee this year
• 95% said they were unaware that the used pods couldn’t be recycled
“It seems the coffee pod has taken over,” says Hall, “And BigGreen.co.uk operators say that general waste from companies is now heaving with used coffee capsules.
“There’s very little we can do to recycle these things, and they end up either going straight to landfill, or being directed to energy recovery.”
• UK landfill sites are fast reaching capacity, with only very limited scope for opening new sites due to complex planning regulations and local opposition
• ‘Energy recovery’ is the burning of waste to generate electricity
On the other hand, at least glass jars from good old-fashioned instant coffee are readily recycled, while used grounds from filter coffee can be composted, BigGreen.co.uk says, adding that everything about coffee pods is convenience at a greater all-round expense.
Coffee pod machines appear to be all about offering a “premium experience” to the user, usually at a premium price, BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall says.
“You need to buy an expensive machine,” says Hall, “And then you need to buy the pods that go with it, and they’re usually more expensive per cup than filter coffee.
“What happens when they stop making the pods for that machine? Another electrical item for the scrap heap, which creates more WEEE.”
BigGreen.co.uk urges both householders and businesses to think carefully before investing in coffee pods.
“If you’re the kind of person that cares about the environment, you might want to wait until a green alternative emerges,” says Mark Hall.
“And right now, the paper filter machine IS that green alternative.”
Save our seas from human rubbish
The oceans of the world are filling up with human waste that is destroying sea life at an alarming rate, it’s been revealed.
One British waste management and recycling company says that human activity is almost entirely to blame for a grim death toll as virtually no place on Earth is left untouched by our rubbish.
The situation is made even worse when you take into account that waste can end up being bought, sold and shipped abroad resulting a tons of waste being dumped at sea – either accidentally or on purpose – everyday, BigGreen.co.uk says.
“Most of us tend to forget about our rubbish as soon as it has gone in the bin,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But the truth is that our refuse is steadily killing the planet.”
Citing a recent report by the World Wildlife Fund that says Earth has lost half of its wild animals in the last 40 years, BigGreen.co.uk says that we should all take stock of how we deal with our waste and look for less damaging alternatives.
The three greatest causes of sea life death at the hands of humanity are food, pollution and destruction of habitats, with dumped refuse being one of the major factors in the latter two.
“Managed properly, no British business should need to transport its waste abroad,” says Mark Hall. “We’ve got extensive recycling facilities, and as more energy recovery plants come online, there’s no need to export our rubbish.”
This comes amid news that Denmark takes in 200,000 tons of British waste every year for energy recovery purposes. “That’s refuse that could and should be dealt with at home,” says Hall.
Denmark isn’t the only customer for cargo containers full of British rubbish, with ships crossing the globe carrying waste sold as a commodity.
But it’s not just the risky global trade in rubbish that’s the problem. Even more dangerous is the threat from rubbish being dumped directly into the sea.
Researchers have found human rubbish on even the deepest sea beds around Europe, while what should be spotless beaches on Pacific islands are sometimes knee-deep in plastics.
“If it’s just one person throwing a beer can, or rogue authorities and companies dumping tons of rubbish, virtually all of us bear some responsibility,” says Business Waste’s Mark Hall.
Sea life and birds cannot tell refuse from food, which results in millions of needless deaths every year, often in great pain. Autopsies of dead sea birds have found stomachs so full of plastic that they have starved to death.
There simply has to be tougher global enforcement to prevent marine dumping, says Business Waste. The company says this cannot be done without the major economies of the world taking an immediate lead.
“In 2010, our coalition government say they would be the greenest in history,” says BigGreen.co.uk’s Mark Hall. “We all know that they haven’t delivered on this promise, but it’s not too late for them to take a stand on marine pollution.”
“We’ve got to stop killing our seas, because it could mean the death of us all.”
Threat or opportunity for producers?
Changes in the Earth’s climate will bring about changes in the taste and production of wines with some calling it a ‘grape-ocalypse’ as traditional growing areas are lost, it’s been predicted.
Whether global warming is man-made or a natural phenomenon or a combination of the two, vine growers are already reporting that they’re having to adapt to changes in the climate to ensure quality and timely harvests, a UK-based company says.
However, it’s not all bad news for producers: The BigGreen.co.uk company has also found that global warming is also contributing to larger yields, with wine production opening up in geographic areas that were not considered particularly profitable before.
“The bottom line is that the wine connoisseur will have to get used to the idea that their favourite label is going to taste different,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall. “And given a few decades, it might even disappear altogether to be replaced by completely new wines.”
It’s already known that prolonged higher temperatures have a negative effect on aroma and production of sugar in grapes. With climate change bringing a wider variation of temperatures, harsher and more unpredictable winter frosts lasting later into the spring also bring huge implications during the budding season.
“We’ve spoken to one medium-size California producer who tells us that his wines from 2013 and 2014 are already vastly different from those of previous years,” says Hall. “He acknowledges climate change’s part in this, telling us that it made it nigh on impossible to choose the right time for harvest.”
“He went on to tell us the 2014 production was particularly difficult due to the long, dry summer, and his end product is significantly different, but surprisingly high quality.”
BigGreen.co.uk says this is a problem that is challenging wine producers right across Europe and North America, as hotter summers and harsher winters bring changes across tradition wine-producing areas.
In fact, one of the most devastating predictions came in 2013’s Conservation International study, which predicts that many traditional areas across southern and central Europe could be lost within 35 years, as the “belt” of prime wine-growing moves northward.
“It’s not going to be what some people are calling a ‘grape-ocalypse'”, says Hall, “Existing wine-makers are rapidly getting used to the fact that their product is going to change over the years, while whole new areas will open up that will bring new tastes onto the market.”
In fact, some regions are seeing global warming-led climate change as an opportunity rather than a threat. There are reports that more savvy producers are purchasing land further north as an insurance policy for the coming years; while those in Bordeaux have seized changes with both hands, calling the improved ripening in their region a “good problem” to have.
Bordeaux wines now contain more alcohol than they did thirty years ago, and that’s a change producers in other regions are noticing as well. As one Australian wine pundit put it, wines are “bolder-tasting… and pack a boozier wallop”. Stronger wines may not be an entirely good thing, as customers consume less to avoid getting drunk, it’s been remarked.
“Whatever the future brings, it’s clear that global wine production is in for big changes in the coming years,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall.
“We need to get used to the fact that favourite names could disappear while new classics may emerge.”
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Who pays as bikes, ribbons and graffiti still there months after the event
The Tour de France may have left incredible memories of hundreds of thousands lining the route during its triumphant visit to Yorkshire last July, but the county is still clearing up the mess six months later.
That’s the view of a Yorkshire-based waste management company which says signs of Le Tour are still visible, as the cost of the clear-up vies with increased interest in cycling as the true legacy of the event.
With the Tour de Yorkshire cycling event looming this spring, there’s still the chance that Tour de France rubbish and graffiti will still be visible to visitors, the BigGreen.co.uk company says, “like a neighbour leaving his Christmas lights up.”
“We’re based right in the heart of last year’s Tour de France route,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “and it pains us to see that the clear-up from last year’s events still hasn’t been completed.”
Hall says that you only need to take a short drive around the Tour route to see graffiti still on the roads, as well a weather-worn and increasingly tatty promotional bikes and ribbons all over the area.
“Don’t get us wrong, we loved the Tour, and it brought out the very best from England’s best county, but it’s getting a little embarrassing to see so much Tour promotional stuff still in place.
“It’s like your lazy neighbour leaving his Christmas lights up until Easter.”
The problem is that finishing the Tour clear-up will cost local councils money that they just haven’t got in their budgets, BigGreen.co.uk says, which means that it is increasingly likely that nothing will be done.
The irony is that the county made millions from the Tour’s visit, but the environmental legacy of the event has apparently stalled. This being the case, the Leeds-based company says that local people should take pride in their local areas, and at least clear the streets of the detritus of the Tour before the tourist season starts again.
“We’ve got another world-class event coming this May in the shape of the Tour de Yorkshire,” Hall says, “and once again the eyes of the world will be upon us as some of the best cyclists in the world return to the county.”
“Who’s going to pay for the clean-up from last year’s events? It shouldn’t cost much to make that final effort, and it will be cash well spent.”
While the enduring legacy of Le Tour includes greater numbers abandoning cars for cycling, bike banks which allow every child to have access to bikes, along with the boost to local tourism, BigGreen.co.uk says more should be done to protect the environment and present Yorkshire at its best.
“We hate to be seen as the local grinches in what has been one of the great Yorkshire success stories of recent years,” says Hall, “But first impressions are everything, and at the moment, we’re looking a little tatty.
“Let’s pull together and make the county look great for the summer.”