M&S puts a green spin on beach litter

25 Apr 2014

Beach Clean Frisbee

Hurrah! The sun is out and so the Tank has rammed its stockinged feet into sandals, perched a hilarious ‘kiss me quick' hat atop an already purpling brow and jumped on a train to the coast.

While we would usually spend the day impressing both the ladies and the local constabulary with those fraying Speedos we've proudly sported since Year 8 swim classes and kicking over children's sandcastles, this time the Tank has a new diversion. And it's not just any beach toy. No, this is an M&S beach toy.

You see, the good people at Marks and Sparks have launched a new Frisbee - a concept no doubt arising from a rather literal interpretation of a directive from on high to toss a few ideas around the boardroom.

But, as ever, there is a green spin - the Beach Clean Frisbee is made with 100 per cent recycled plastic, some of which was waste scooped from the very same beaches the disc will be lost on this summer.

Last April, M&S customers and employees helped clear 300km of coastline, with litter from six beaches segregated, cleaned and reprocessed before being transformed into Frisbee form by Leicester-based company Make a Material Difference. It all forms part of M&S's Plan A sustainability strategy, which also pioneered ‘shwopping': a scheme encouraging shoppers to drop off old clothes for recycling when buying new ones.

The Frisbee is on sale for £2.50 at six ‘coastal' M&S stores - Belfast (Abbey Centre), Bexhill, Lytham St Annes, Silverlink Retail Park, Weston Super Mare and Edinburgh Kinnaird - with 50p from each sale going to the Marine Conservation Society.

"We've managed to transform waste, taking it off beaches where it threatens marine life, into a brand new product that is fun for our customers and raises money for MCS' ongoing work to protect our seas," said Mike Barry, director of Plan A, while waving ravenous seagulls away from his 99 Flake. "That's Plan A in action, a volunteer event that engages customers, saves precious raw materials and gives back to charity - all with a business case behind it."

This year's M&S Big Beach Clean-up will aim to clear 140 UK beaches and canals from 24th to 30th April and aims to beat last year's 30 tonne haul - an aspiration that can only be thwarted by some clever clogs demanding a mass game of Frisbee.

Could bamboo stands cause panda-monium?

21 Mar 2014


So the Tank is once again late with its increasingly erroneously named 'regular' column. We'd love to say that we were engaged in other important matters, but to tell you the truth, the paper supply we use for our missives has all but dried up now Fishcotheque has stuck a recycling bin out front for chip wrappers.

But it turns out ropey-named fast food outlets are by no means the only major businesses buying into this sustainability lark, especially when it comes to pushing the brand. Some are even going beyond carving "Fish - £3.60" into the railway arches to save on paper menus, by advertising their wares at trade shows in sustainable bamboo display units.

That's right, as anyone who's seen Rush Hour 2 will be aware, bamboo is not only strong enough to support both Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, it also grows on marginal land with little or no fertilisers and takes just three to four years to grow high enough to be harvested - making it greener than aluminium, steel, most woods, and well anything else you're likely to build a trade show booth out of.

"As a business ourselves we understand the importance of being environmentally friendly and reducing our carbon footprint," said Mark Thompson, sales director of exhibition stand company PrintDesigns. "That's why we took 20 months developing this bamboo banner stand, a sustainable and greener option for commercial companies. We have created a unique product that is cost-effective, durable and attractive whilst additionally reducing environmental impact."

All of which sounds great. But the tank can't help wondering if purchasing such a stand would leave a company exposed to ravenous giant pandas, intent on devouring the structure because a cookie at the ExCeL centre costs the best part of a fiver.

And for those of you insisting you've never seen a panda at a conference - clearly you're going to the wrong events.

That was the waste that was

21 Feb 2014

Sutton council waste mountain

Waste can take many forms. When the Tank ponders the word we imagine a life lived without risk, opportunities missed, and roads left untravelled. Others might add David Bentley's footballing career. It's probably now safe to say he's not the next David Beckham.

But for the more prosaically minded, Sutton Council waste truly is a huge mound of steaming garbage.

Council officials - we assume, anyway - this month heaped an 11-tonne, 10-foot high "mountain of rubbish" in the middle of Sutton High Street in south London to highlight how much street litter it collects every day. Clearing it up costs around £4m a year, apparently - enough to run a library service for a year, repair 100,000 potholes, or build half a primary school.

According to the council, officers, people with sandwich information boards, and - having drawn the short straw - others dressed in "litter themed costumes" were on hand to talk to passers-by about the cost to the tax payer of picking up litter, litter hotspots, and how to dispose of waste correctly.

Keep Britain Tidy's chief executive Phil Barton thundered: "It is time everyone realised the scale of the task facing local authorities like Sutton in keeping the places we call home clean and tidy, and initiatives like this are vital if we are to educate people about the impact of their behaviour."

All very well and good. But we can't help wondering whether Sutton council has rather given the green-light for any Tom, Dick or Harry to chuck a large amount of bothersome rubbish in their local high street and claim it's a 'waste-saving initiative'.

Sprouts to light up your Christmas

27 Nov 2013

Brussels sprout christmas tree

Wheeled out by the truckload at Christmas, they cause groans from the dinner table, or worse, post-lunch flatulence that makes watching the zygons in the Doctor Who Christmas special an unexpectedly interactive experience.

It is a little known fact that Edwin Starr's pacifist 1970 hit War (what is it good for?) originally targeted the humble Brussels sprout. Written in his childhood when he was banned from leaving the table unless he finished every last one, the lyrics were later changed to reflect the politics of the day. Ok, it wasn't really, but perhaps it should have been.

However, now a team of scientists and engineers have finally found a use for the miniature cabbage that could keep the dreaded vegetable off dinner plates entirely, by turning them into a power source.

The so-called "sprout battery" was launched on London's South Bank this week, producing 63 volts from 1,000 Brussels sprouts cased in five cells. According to the Big Bang UK Young Scientists and Young Engineers Fair, each sprout combines with copper and zinc electrodes to create a chemical reaction, generating a current which can be stored and used to power the LEDs on an adjacent Christmas tree.

Of course, the project is bound to raise fresh concerns that crops are being used to create power rather than food, but the engineers rightly claim that when it comes to sprouts nobody really wants to eat them anyway.

Ben & Jerry's moo-ved to give cows a helping hand

25 Oct 2013

Woody the Cow hands giant piece of bovine artwork to the European Commission

Bear with the Tank. Outside it seems the very air is shaking as the drills of gold-liveried monsters pummel and pound the lot opposite to clear the way for high end flats and retail opportunities.

It's enough to make even the most fervent city mouse long for the sounds of the countryside - well, at least that part of the countryside not directly in the path of HS2 or Nick Boles.

So not for the first time, we say thank cripes for Ben and Jerry's, for the purveyors of comedy ice cream flavours to suit your each and every heartbreak have taken it upon themselves to stand up for cow health.

Shockingly to anyone who hasn't read Animal Farm, there are currently no rules in place to protect the specific welfare needs of the EU's 23 million dairy cows. Other farm animals have got themselves covered by rules and regulations, but not the humble dairy cow apparently.

Now this came as a surprise to the Tank, because cows are very much like us homo sapiens. They have small friendship groups they spend most of their time with, they hold grudges for years, and choose their leaders wisely based on intelligence, inquisitiveness, confidence, and experience. Actually, they're probably well ahead of us on that last one.

Anyway, it seems 10 million cows are currently suffering from issues such as cramped living conditions, a poor diet, health problems, and inadequate care and would benefit from the protection of an EU Directive.

Ben and Jerry's response? A 1.3 metre high by 12 metre wide work of art featuring contented cows with access to pasture and the signatures of over 293,000 cow campaigners from partner organisations Compassion in World Farming (Compassion) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA). Honestly, don't count - you'll just have to trust us on this.

Anyway, each signatory's name has been used to create the background of the painting: the sky, the clouds and every one of the 28 European flags. The artwork was handed to the European Commission in Brussels on Wednesday sparking, we imagine, hissed comments as bureaucrats struggle to find somewhere to stash it where it can be quickly fished out whenever Ben or Jerry pop by unexpectedly display it prominently.

So what's their moo-tivation, we hear you ask? (sorry).

Well, apart from general compassion for your fellow beast, something even greater is at stake. Just listen to Jerry Greenfield himself: "As ice cream experts, we understand that happy cows and happy farmers means better tasting ice cream."

So unless you want your Chunky Monkey to turn all kinds of funky, you'd better get on board with a campaign that is anything but Half Baked.


The Sceptic Tank blog provides a unique take on all the latest weird, wonderful, and downright infuriating green stories from around the world

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