Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Bank of England redefines recycling!

As regular readers of this blog will know, from time to time I write about issues which are of more general interest than just paper and print.  This article concerns paper, print and money....

Today the Bank of England announced that after public consultation it would introduce polymer (plastic) banknotes in 2016.

However it looks like the bank has been involved in some rather dodgy "greenwashing". Don't take my word for it, judge for yourself...

It was only on reading my November issue of Private Eye (No 1353) this weekend, that I actually heard about the introduction of these notes and the Bank of England consultation. Given that I keep my eyes and ears open with regards to paper and print news, it has occurred to me that this hasn't exactly been promoted very widely!
Anyway, you can read the Private Eye article here:

Personally I would prefer to keep the existing paper notes as I think they serve us pretty well. Paper is a natural product and so, in general, I would always prefer paper over a synthetic, oil based, product. However, I'm not a complete luddite and so was interested to quickly read the published research.
Chris Salmon

A press release which was the forward of the consultation quotes Chris Salmon, the Bank’s Executive Director, Banking Services and Chief Cashier: “The forthcoming consultations demonstrate the Bank’s commitment to transparency in relation to banknote issues, and are aimed at enhancing awareness and understanding of polymer so that the public can feed into the Bank’s decision in an informed way. I am looking forward to participating in a number of consultation events over the next two months.”

I was looking forward to the transparency, understanding and awareness that the report would shed and approached it with an open mind.

Unfortunately there is one paragraph in the environmental impact document which made my blood boil!

"At the end of their life, current Bank of England banknotes are shredded, compacted and then used with other organic materials in the manufacture of agricultural compost. The Bank will recycle polymer banknotes. There are a number of viable options and we are considering these in more detail. For the purposes of the study we assumed that polymer banknotes would be recycled by creating energy directly from waste in a specially designed plant....."

Yes, you might want to read that underlined sentences again...
Yes, you are correct. Burning the plastic notes (to make energy) has been called RECYCLING!

Some people might look at this as a case of semantics, others (definitely me included) think this is deliberately misleading. This report has been written by the Bank of England, by intelligent, well paid, highly educated, literate people, yet this is the most cynical piece of "greenwash" writing I've ever read! You can read the full report here:

Now don't get me wrong, I do understand that burning plastics in an efficient and controlled way using the latest combined heat and power (CHP) technology is considered a very environmentally friendly way of disposing of waste, however, burning something surely, CANNOT BE DESCRIBED AS RECYCLING. Even if, in the world of the large eco-cost/benefit analysis companies (which lets face it, is big business these days) they describe burning as recycling, it certainly is NOT what the general public understands by the use of the word.

The problem is that using this potentially misleading sentence in a report makes one doubt the veracity of the rest of the report. This sentence alone, surely overshadows any genuinely positive points about the polymer notes.

Something that is further concerning me is that the Polymer notes are being supported by Two Sides, which is the print and paper industry initiative. They appear to have regurgitated the BofE press release and swallowed the lot! In the Two Sides article on their site they state "polymer banknotes are more environmentally friendly..." sounds like they're stating a fact to me! do the BPIF (British Printing Industries Federation

In conclusion: I don't know if the proposed polymer notes are a good idea or not - there are bound to be pros and cons. However I object to the fact that burning plastic is called "Recycling" and no one apart from me seem to be disputing it!

I shall be writing to the Governor of the Bank of England. If you would like to do the same please do.

Further reading:
Posted by Justin Hobson 18.12.2014

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