War on Cyclists

It was this time last year that I wrote about how cyclists got on my nerves (sometimes), but that it wasn’t really their fault. So this BBC headline naturally grabbed my attention: Why the war between motorists and cyclists?

Whether you cycle or not, this quote should raise your temper:

Toby Hockley was on the 100-mile Boudicca Sportive ride in Norfolk when he says he was struck by a car and flung into a hedge. The driver didn’t stop. Hockley emerged from the hedge, sore but intact.

It sounds like a run-of-the-mill depressing incident from the UK’s roads. But the shocking part came later.

A young woman tweeted: “Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier. I have right of way – he doesn’t even pay road tax! #Bloodycyclists.”

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China Needs Airships

I go on about airships a fair bit but, despite the headlines, we’re still yet to see them steaming their way through the skies on a regular basis. Part of that might be down to cost (upwards of £300 million in some cases) and the fact that it’s an industry that is being reborn, so involves feeling the way.

One country that could afford those costs is China though, and it may need to. Its economy has been built on massive exports due to a large, cheap workforce that manufacturers most of what the rest of the world consumes.

That’s starting to change as rising transportation costs, greater use of robotics and, in the future, 3D printing mean it’s cheaper to manufacture in the country of consumption. Already ships are travelling slower to save fuel and sails are likely to make a comeback.

Airships aren’t exactly quick, but as fleets slow their ships down to around 17 knots (19.6 mph) to save fuel they don’t need to be greyhounds and as they can fly over land they can take far more direct routes. Continue reading

Building Down

Watching a TED talk video presented by Bjarke Ingels — who works at BIG, a Danish architecture firm — with a friend of mine, it raised a question I’ve had for a while about buildings in the UK: why don’t we build down?

I don’t know anyone who has a basement, which is strange for a nation as populous as ours, certainly one that is (relatively) land poor (actually, we only rank as the 53rd most densely populated country, though that is the UK rather than England, which is close to 30th). In London it seems basements were all the craze (back in 2009 at least) to expand your home as there was no other way, but it doesn’t seem done much anywhere else.

I’m not just talking about homes either, what about commercial buildings, why aren’t they adding floor space and parking below ground so they can better utilise the space above?  I’m not the only nutter inspired thinker to propose making better use of space below the surface either, just look at this design for an ‘Earth-scraper’ from an architect in Mexico. Continue reading

The Recycling Fiasco

I’m a big fan of recycling, I try and do my part, at least when it doesn’t involve too much effort.  A recent Dispatches programme made me realise I should probably be recycling more.  Typically I hadn’t been recycling plastic food trays, for example, or the plastic trays I buy some of my sliced meat in.  So I started giving them a rinse and putting them in.  It’s had a marked difference on my general waste, reducing it drastically.

Recently I was met with a question though, I had a piece of packaging with a recycle logo and the letters PPE.  I wasn’t sure if my council took this so decided to look it up.  It turns out PPE stands for Polyphenylene Ether, which didn’t mean much to me either.  Not that it really made any difference, as my council, Test Valley, don’t really go into much detail as to what can be recycled.  Under plastics in their A to Z Recycling Guide, for example, there is no information about the different types of plastic.  The breakdown on the What You Can and Cannot Recycle with Test Valley page is equally high level.  It does state that mixed plastics (stating some examples, like yoghurt pots and meat trays) are not recyclable and on the recycling guide it also says the same thing, apparently because the recycling technologies and markets do not exist in the UK.

Reading a BBC article from 2003 I found this quote though:

“All this food packaging of yours is recoverable but there’s no effective subsidised collection system in the UK to make it worth the effort.

“If there was, we could turn it into car parts, video cassettes, shampoo bottles – we have 1,100 product applications. Anything that can be made from virgin plastic can be made from recycled plastic. The quality is the same.”

Even the RecycleNow website it states that yoghurt pots can be recycled and that you should check with your local authority as there are limited facilities, which should improve “over the next year or so.”  But this article by The Daily Green on plastics symbols, suggests PET/PETE (a triangle with a 1 in it) is also used for ‘ovenable food trays’ which means they’re just as recyclable as plastic bottles.  So are some recyclable?  How do you tell?  The tray my ham comes in states on the back that neither the film plastic (the clear sheet on the front I assume) or the label paper are currently recycled, but says nothing about the tray itself. Continue reading