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EUROPE BEHIND ON GREEN EFFORTS Other capitals lead the way as England stalls


ngland is falling behind in implementing green policies, and is being overtaken by other countries as a leader in environmental awareness.

That’s the stark warning from a leading British waste management company which is dismayed at repeated delays to good sense green policies while European neighbours forge ahead. According to the company, at least two countries will overtake English plans to implement a charge on single-use plastic bags, with one high-profile mayor promising a complete ban. “It’s quite clear that while our politicians drag their feet, their colleagues across the continent are pressing on regardless,” spokesperson Mark Hall says. Hall notes that England is already playing catch-up with the rest of the United Kingdom, with a plastic ban surcharge, with some of the most enlightened waste laws already a reality thanks to the Scottish government.

A plastic bag surcharge in not expected in England until at least October 2015, and even then small businesses (such as your local corner shop) will be exempt. The much-delayed regulations come as UK government figures say that 8billion single-use bags are issued every year. That’s an average of 120 per person. “Compare this to France”, says Hall. “They’ve voted to ban

single-use plastic bags completely from supermarkets by 2016. “A ban is end-to-end green thinking. A surcharge could be seen by cynics as a money-raising exercise in a country that is already taxed up to its eyeballs.”

On top of the French supermarket ban, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced that the city is to ban single use sacs plastiques altogether. This is part of a raft of green policies which include a ban on older, more polluting cars, and the encouragement of smog fighting roof gardens.

In Israel, legislation is working its way through the Knesset which would eliminate plastic bags, while giving out free reusable alternatives through coupons attached to householders’ utility bills. “Israel’s in an elegant solution that invests in alternatives while enforcing a surcharge followed by a ban,” says Hall, “But that’s nothing compared to Denmark, where they’ve been on top of the problem for a decade. “The average Dane uses four plastic bags per year. Four.” According to, these moves amply illustrate

foot-dragging by officials in England, who only acted after long running campaigns in the press and by many in the waste management industry. “It’s taken years for Whitehall to even acknowledge there’s a problem that needs addressing,” says Hall, “and now we are far, far behind – not just on supermarket plastic bags but on other environmental targets as well.”

The company is calling on ministers and officials to speed up implementation of environmental policies which would save British businesses millions of pounds in the long term. “We should be at the forefront of this battle,” Mark Hall says, “But once again, we’re the sick man of Europe.”

Grade II building meets sustainable technology: Innovative rainwater harvester installed in SOAS Senate House North Block building


onstruction on Senate House North Block has begun in earnest with work on one of the most innovative features of the re-development, a rainwater harvester, signalling the

start of the project.

Senate House has an iconic status as one of London’s major landmarks. The rainwater harvester will give the Grade II listed site even greater significance bringing sustainable technology into the historical building.

Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting rainwater in a large tank and channelling it for use elsewhere. A 14000 litre capacity tank has been lifted by crane over the side of Senate House into a space created by a 10 tonne excavator below the courtyard – which will eventually become the central feature of the building with its free-standing glass roof. This tank will collect rainwater from the glass roof, cleanse it using ultraviolet light before the water is re-directed to a tank situated on the 6th floor. Here it will provide a regular supply of water to the building’s toilets, and play a role in reducing the building’s carbon footprint. Professor Trevor H J Marchand, Professor of Social Anthropology, has an interest in this type of technology and its origins. Professor Marchand said: “The fitting of a rainwater harvester as part of the refurbishment project for the Senate House North Block is welcome news indeed. This sets a strong precedent for the ways that sustainable technologies can be harmoniously integrated with London’s architectural heritage. It’s vital that we conserve our historic


buildings, but perhaps even more importantly that we do so in ways that are environmentally responsible.”

This is a notable construction project as it is one of only a handful of times that a rainwater harvester has been retrofitted into a listed building, a fact the project team is extremely proud of. It also represents a major first step in the construction process at Senate House and, along with the glass roof, will be an important feature of a site that aims to seamlessly integrate state-of-art-facilities with traditional character.

Senate House North Block is scheduled to open in June 2016 to coincide with the start of the centenary celebrations, and the building will be a symbol of the exciting vision of the School’s future.



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