Bristol-Bath Cyclepath: relief and hope, or false dawn?

The BBC is reporting a change of heart by the councillor who was pushing the idea of converting the wonderful, first-of-its-kind Bristol-to-Bath Cyclepath to dual-use as a bus lane. You can get the story here. If they’re right, the idea is dead in the water, with a face-saving climb-down for Councillor Mark Bradshaw after seeing a similar bus scheme in Cambridge (and also implying that he’d never actually looked at the width of the required route – yes, right…)

However, last time the BBC reported on this story, they gave the false impression that the council had done an about-face, when in fact it hadn’t. So I’m not opening the champagne until I hear confirmation from Sustrans and CTC. But here’s hoping that, this time, the Beeb have got the facts right.

Rapid Bus transport scheme and the Bristol to Bath cycle route

Many in Bristol will be aware of the worrying draft plan to convert the Bristol end of the Bristol-Bath cyclepath into shared use with a Rapid Bus Transport scheme. Over 9000 people have signed a petition against the idea, and tomorrow there is a celebration of the path for walkers and cyclists, to indicate how precious a part of Bristol this is.

The BBC today have posted a news items called “Bus Lane Scheme hits buffers“, indicating that Mark Bradshaw, Executive Member for Access and Environment, has said that it would now “be focusing on other priorities”. However, in his video statement, he appears to say no such thing: he refuses to rule out consideration of the plan as part of the whole consultation process, so I don’t really see what has changed. I’m hoping that lots of people show up in support of leaving the path exactly as it is …

You can see Cllr Bradshaw’s statement here …

Recycling in Bristol isn’t working

OK – here’s the rant about recycling which I threatened earlier.

Tracey has already described her woes. For us, E-day happens on 8 August, but we’ve known it’s been coming for some months now. From that day, routine garbage collection moves from a weekly to a fortnightly basis. The present situation is already a shambles, and it looks like this:

In addition to our wheelybins, everyone in Bristol has a little black box, presented by our municipalia, which will take: paper, glass and metal, shoes and old clothes. It’s about the size of an old cardboard box. It’s just big enough to salve everyone’s consciences, but not big enough to be particularly useful in removing a significant amount of waste from a family household. For that, we’ve got the wheelybin. The little black box won’t take: cardboard or plastic. It is emptied weekly.

We are a household of four, including two teenagers. They consume huge quantities of food at the moment. Most of this food comes in cardboard or plastic packaging. None of this can presently be recycled. It accounts for about 3/5ths of our total rubbish, with a slight bias towards plastic rather than cardboard packaging. I also have a composting bin, which I use, but others in the family have been reluctant to use.

From 8 August, our wheelybins will be emptied fortnightly. The little black boxes will continue to be emptied weekly. In addition, we will have a little plastic bin for perishable food waste. And cardboard will henceforth be collected for recycling. But not in the little black box. It’s got to be left loose, by the side of the perishable food box. Presumably, it’s the responsibility of a different department from the black box emptiers. If it’s rainy, this will turn into a sodden mush. If it’s windy, it will blow all over the street. Nice.

Plastic will not be collected. The only plastic being recycled in Bristol is plastic bottles. To recycle plastic bottles, we must please make our way to the local Recresco bottle recycling skips. Our nearest is tucked away by an out-of-the-way bar in Clifton. I never go near the place – neither do most of the local residents. Even if we were so keen to recycle that we were to make the trip, most of households of more than one person will take our bulky plastic bottles in our cars about once per month. Probably thereby burning up more by way of fossil fuel than will ever be saved through the recycling of our puny little load. Households can also pay for a fortnightly garden waste collection service, if they can’t compost themselves.

Two of Bristol City Council's recycling partnersNow this is a bit of a curate’s egg: it encourages more recycling, but doesn’t offer effective solutions for its collection – and crucially, doesn’t offer effective recycling of plastic. This is the real bin-filler which could cause the whole waste-collection system to break down. This afternoon I was driving along the Muller Road – one of those areas first to experience this new regime. Overflowing wheely bins lined the route: a serious public health hazard. The rat population, already high, will benefit greatly (perhaps rats are going to be the great recyclers).

The policy is a shambles, driven by government targets which offer local councils financial incentives based on the percentage of household waste being recycled. Bristol have tried to get their hands on the money, without – it would appear – really thinking through what effective recycling really means. There is little evidence that the policy was thought through by anyone who lived in a largish household who was serious about the need to find a way to get everyone recycling – I’m reminded of the council’s policy on cycling (oh don’t get me started on that!). The bottom line is that effective recycling only happens when you bring the service to the end of the gate. Local mini “recycling centres” are an outdated approach which doesn’t take the matter seriously.

So here’s what I think they should be doing:

  1. All houses should have a recycling-only wheelybin, which will hold paper, cardboard metal and plastic. This will be emptied fortnightly. These will be the existing big wheelybins. We can cope that they’re not coloured green.
  2. All houses will have a general waste-bin – this will emptied weekly – new, smaller bins will be provided. Thus providing the incentive to recycle whatever is possible in the larger wheelybin.
  3. All these silly bottle banks and plastic recycling centres should be removed – save the money to pay for effective home-collected plastic recycling. Ditto the ridiculous black boxes.
  4. The garden waste collection should be more expensive – encouraging everyone to compost far more. Much better to rot it at home, then pay a lorry to pick it up to rot elsewhere.

Websites giving more information:

Bristol City Council’s Silly New Policy

A Helpful Composting Guide (yes, my compost bin is presently hot!)

POSTSCRIPT: The only sensible thing I can see written on the web is on the local Green Party site, which shows the truly abysmal recycling record of Bristol, and comments:

It doesn’t help that the city has got itself in such a financial mess that it daren’t pay the price for decent recycling facilities, and it’s stuck with a contract that gives its waste contractor a virtual monopoly when it comes to new recycling initiatives. We’d like to see much more effort made to reduce waste at source; that means acting locally and nationally to cut down on throwaway goods, and to make sure that what there is can be easily recovered for reuse. Meanwhile, the council must take things like composting and plastics recycling more seriously, for starters.”

Meanwhile, in 2004/5, Bristol was sitting at 364 out of 393 on the County Council recycling league issued by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Sorry, have to stop now, can’t stop laughing …

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