Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ask three questions, get zero answers!! A perfect combination of ignorance and dismissiveness!!

I've been investigating the environmental decision making surrounding the introduction of corn starch bags into Bristol's food waste recycling system for a while. Recently I put the three questions below to the Cabinet. I received just one response - and that did not give the information requested!

The figures given by Cllr Hopkins are certainly not carbon footprint figures and I am still looking into what they actually imply. He completely ignores my second question about other environmental impacts (carbon footprints make up less than half the total environmental impact of a product). He also completely ignores my third question which asks about economic as well as environmental assessment. Despite not backing anything he says with anything like full and accurate facts Cllr Hopkins still asserts 'this shows that there will be an overall positive impact to the environment.'!! A perfect combination of ignorance and dismissiveness.

C3. Glenn Vowles to ask Gary Hopkins, Executive Member for Environment and Community Safety

Environmental decision making and corn starch bags

In a debate on Cllr Bolton’s blog I said ‘…the decision on the [corn starch] bags has been taken without full information being sought! This is irrational. Environmental decision making should be put on a firm evidence-based process. This has not been done by any party running the council…’ to which you Cllr Hopkins replied ‘I do not base my judgements on guesses but on evidence’. My subsequent request for data on the total environmental impacts of the corn starch bags in this debate was not replied to and so I doubt that full information has in fact been sought.

Q1. What figures does the council have for the carbon footprint of these corn starch bags, in order to assess whether they more than make up for their carbon cost?

Q2. What figures does the council have for any other environmental costs the corn starch bags may have eg water footprint, land take, biodiversity impacts?

Q3. Can you outline if/how you intend to quantitatively and fully assess the net effects of corn starch bag introduction: on the environment; on the economics of waste management for Bristol?

C3. Reply:
For the plans we have regarding potential roll out of corn starch liners across Bristol, the environmental costs of liner production is summarised as:
- 45t of bags will need to divert 540t - 1125t of organic waste from landfill to make the CO2 equivalent net saving, which will require approximately 3% increase in organic recycling. This is a very realistic estimate.

In summary this shows that there will be an overall positive impact to the environment.

For clarity, this calculation does not take into account the further expected reduction in waste arisings, as previous evidence has shown that when residents start recycling food waste for the first time, they are surprised at the amount they throw away which tends to make them reduce their waste in the future.


  1. You ever have time to sneeze? Seems you like to have your say on everything.

  2. My say on everything - hardly. But what's wrong with getting involved? Its often hard work putting myself and my views forward but the stakes are high. It can be stressful - but I feel I have to speak my mind even if, at times, my voice shakes.

    Would you not expect involvement, in particular, of someone who wants to and is seeking to be elected?? I wish more people would make an effort to find out about issues and get involved - participation in politics is at a very low level and this has contributed to the poor quality of elected councillors and MPs.

    I work hard to try to get as involved in issues as I can, especially those that relate to my community/neighbourhood and my city but there are always things I'd like to do/say that I run out of time for.

    Look at the job I do, teaching/tutoring environmental decision making and environmental science and technology to undergraduates and post-graduates for the Open University. Look at the dire state of our society and our environment. It would very hypocritical of me to spend the working day portraying the facts and debates on these things and then the rest of my time not getting involved wouldn't it!?!?


Genuine, open, reasonable debate is most welcome. Comments that meet this test will always be published.