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Clean up your act

We get richer and richer in filthier and filthier communities until we reach a final state of affluent misery

This might turn into something of a rant, but bear with me.

I did two things at the weekend which made me question just what the hell we think we are doing to our planet.

I went to the beach and was absolutely astonished at the amount of litter lying around. Plastic bottles, glass bottles, drink cans, paper and heaven knows what else. I staggered around picking up what I could but had to give up as it was too big a job. Much of it had come from people on the beach but it was obvious that a load of it was actually washed up with the tide (we were there just after high tide). What the hell are we putting into our seas? Why is it so hard to take rubbish home or hang onto it until you find a bin?

Then when we got home we watched WALL-E, the children’s cartoon film where the Earth has been abandoned by humans because it’s so full of rubbish. I know it’s fiction and set in the future a gazillion years hence but, still, it struck a chord.

So when I subsequently saw the YouTube clip of the Wolseley van involved in fly-tipping a radiator over a fence, I rather saw red. The clip has now been taken down from YouTube by its creator as it has made the statement it was intended to. Our story about it certainly wasn’t intended as a pop at Wolseley, the management of which takes this sort of thing extremely seriously and who are investigating it at the moment.

Now I don’t know the ins and outs of this at all and I am just guessing here that the radiator had been returned by the customer because it was the wrong one (quite possibly the customer’s fault). But seeing the clip got me wondering how we have got to the stage of business management when it is easier for someone to throw away a brand new radiator, with delivery note, rather than deal with the paperwork generated by having to return it into the system.

The building materials supplies industry has actually been pretty good in its initiatives to reduce waste and conserve energy. After all, it’s one of the biggest users of energy in the country.

The cement manufacturers have made incredible steps forward in reducing carbon emissions and using recycled materials as fuel, plasterboard and paint manufacturers have set up recycling schemes for their products and glasswool insulation is stuffed full of old wine bottles. And there’s loads more , most of which will be on show at EcoBuild in March.

So there are lots of good things happening in terms of helping to save energy and help the environment. But looking at the beach at Camber on Saturday, you realise that there is so much further still to go.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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