Monday, 28 June 2010

Things that all governments can do right now for the environment

There are a number of simple laws that the government could pass to help the environment, which, I believe, could be simply enacted.

1. Require that all plastic wrapping, disposable containers and packaging be replaced with waxed recycled paper/cardboard. E.g., cellophane/PVC-wrapped products could now go into an old-style waxed paper/newsprint wrap, and liquid cartons could be replaced by waxed cardboard (a bit like the cups one gets at takeaway places, but with a waxed surface, not with a plasticised surface).

The advantages: better for the environment in terms of biodegradability of waste, encourages planting more trees, encourages paper recycling, increases wax manufacturing and possibly beekeeping industries and further investment in apian disease control. This will create jobs.

The disadvantages: harms the petrochemical and moulded plastic industries. This will cost jobs.

2. Require that all buildings that do not have national monument status (i.e. buildings younger than 60 years), should be retrofitted with energy-saving devices:

a) black pipes on the roof to heat water, or solar heating panels
b) double glazing to keep out heat in summer and keep in warmth in winter
c) mandatory in-ceiling insulation using organic matter such as cotton, wool etc., rather than non-environment-friendly fibreglass
d) mandatory energy-saving bulbs. I mean LED, not fluorescent bulbs, because fluorescent bulbs contain mercury, a serious pollutant
e) mandatory motion/heat-sensing lights which turn on and off according to activity or the presence of a person only, so that when you leave a room it automatically turns off its lights
f) septic tank systems with natural gas piped into the building for cooking and heating purposes
g) require that waste be separated into organic, plastics, paper/cardboard, glass

Advantages: massive electrical savings and reduced carbon pollution, increase in energy-efficient technology industry creation, job creation

Disadvantages: retrofitting these devices will be costly for building owners and will meet resistance. Eskom - South Africa’s electricity supplier - has the right idea with their subsidising of solar panels.

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