Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Royal Mail, Rubber bands, and Recycling

If you laid all the red rubber bands on Bristol's streets end to end, they'd stretch.......

And if any council enforcement officers, anywhere in Britain, brought just one action against a postie for dropping those red rubber bands, it would be national news and the problem would go away. Of course, they should do the decent thing and give warning first.

Meantime, on the Royal Mail website you can 'Ask Sarah' if Royal Mail recycles rubber bands.

Sarah, who evidently works 24 hours a day without sleep (and it shows), will reply "Do you mean: Can you tell me more about your new Simply Drop service?".

Then she confidently goes on to answer her own question by describing the Royal Mail's brand new 'Simply Drop' service, and providing a link to it.

Turns out that it's not a new public service to simply drop free rubber bands for community use on every corner.

It's about mobiles, digital cameras, ink cartridges and other 'value' goods. For that, the Royal Mail has a dedicated commercial service, and will even pay you to be a good recycler and send them your old device every time you upgrade. How conscientious is that? What's more, they assure you that you needn't even pay for a stamp. (I rushed to check what they'd pay for my camera and mobile. Nothing, comes the answer. If I sent them these valueless items, heaven knows what they'd do with them.)

They even anticipate you cynics asking "But what about the envelopes - what's the environmental cost of that?". Royal Mail have thought of that, too - and they don't go for the simple solution of using paper. They'll send you their special free Simply Drop™ envelopes (thoughtfully 'designed to fit simply into a pillar box'!). These are 'made from naturally oxy-degradable polythene. Oxy-degradable means they degrade and disappear in a short period of time, leaving no fragments, no methane, no harmful residues, and therefore no lasting impact upon the environment'

Hmmm... that's not what research commissioned by DEFRA says. Apparently oxy-degradable is very different from biodegradeable (itself a fairly meaningless term) and is certainly not compostable. It's simply oil-based polyethylene plastic with metallic additives to make sure it falls to pieces rather faster than it would otherwise do.

This means it can't be reused, and it can't be recycled along with mainstream plastics, for fear of making the end product vulnerable to early breakdown. It can't be composted. They reckon the only real options are incineration, landfill, or just letting it degrade over time, and under the influence of light or heat, into a very fine powder - though the impacts of that are uncertain.

I'll hang on to my phone and my camera. Ink cartridges aren't so easy, since they have a built in 'killer chip' to stop me just putting more ink in.

I've picked up the rubber bands from Burgis Road. There were 40 at this corner.


woodsy said...

It looks like the Royal Mail hasn't changed its sloppy attitude to litter since my FoI request on PO red rubber bands in December 2008.

Stockwood Pete said...

Yes, Google found that for me when I was writing this post.

They're a dead loss, aren't they?

Paul Bemmy Down said...

Hi Pete. It's the same up here on BD. Why is this happening? I've also picked up quite a few and as I am an avid collector of nails and screws, am beginning to wonder if I walk around looking at the ground allday. Still, better in my pocket than in my tyre, and it's years since I've had to buy any.