Sustainable Urban Living 2
Reducing and safely disposing of waste
By 2000, the UK was producing 330 million tonnes of waste each year – enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall in London every hour.
Much of this was from mining and quarrying, but 30 million tonnes was from households, many of them in cities. There is a need to reduce the amount of waste produced. The government has a target of recycling 40% of household waste by 2010. This is an ambitious target as only 18% was recycled in 2004. However, 20% of household waste is garden waste, a further 18% is paper and cardboard and 17% is kitchen waste.
A note of caution is needed, however, as the cost incurred in transporting and reprocessing some of the products needs to be considered.
It is important to reduce waste so that fewer plastic bags are used. Consumer pressure could reduce packaging in general – do apples need to come in plastic bags? Do red peppers need individual packaging? Packaging can be made so that it can be returned and reused, such as milk bottles and ‘bag for life’ carrier bags.
Even with maximum effort, some waste will still be created that needs to be disposed of. There are two main options incineration and landfill. The UK has favoured the latter option (73% of household waste is disposed of in this way), but this is not without its problems. One significant issue is that we are running out of appropriate site, with capacity available until 2015 before a shortage of sites begins to occurs. Incineration only accounts for 9% of household waste disposal. This has proved an unpopular option and created a range of issues.
Providing adequate open space
The presence of official green belts of areas where local authorities chose to restrict buildings around cities offers open space for recreation purposes. In addition, many areas within cities have designated areas of open space in the form of parks, playing fields and individual gardens.
Involving local people
If people have ownership of ideas and feel involved and in control of their own destiny, they are much more likely to respond positively and care for the building and environment in which they live. Consulting people at planning stages – before decisions are made – is essential. Planners increasingly survey opinions before putting forward plans and consult after they have been produced. Residents form associations to give them a stronger collective voice.
Where improvements are planned, asking what residents want and providing it means that the people are happy in their homes and take better care of them. This can involve apparently minor things such as colour schemes for paint and new bathroom suites. Having meetings in local halls where people are invited to see what is planned gives people the opportunity to give their views so that they feel included, not excluded.
Providing an efficient public transport system
The volume of cars as a means of private transport is a problem and a barrier to a city being sustainable. London has sought to make parts of
the city unattractive to drivers via congestion charging, However, an alternative need to be offered. This means a public transport system that is efficient, reliable and comfortable. The mayor of London is keen to ensure the provision of a public transport system which the capital can be proud of and one that is sustainable. This inevitably means a focus on the Underground and improvements. The Tube is undergoing extensive upgrading, not just to the lines, but also to the trains and stations. London over-ground links will be extended to form a complete circuit around London – the railway equivalent to the M25. Buses are being improved – bendy buses will be abandoned in the interests of safety and buses
are to be more frequent to reduce overcrowding and to make them more attractive to travellers. Faster journeys and greater frequency were key factors in encouraging bus use. By the end of 2008, all buses had CCTV to increase feelings of security and bus shelters were added at bus stops. Buses have improved in
quality – over 75% have low-floor access. The extension of bus lanes has led to quicker journeys and cash fares have been frozen. Schemes such as the Oyster card, which allows for the advanced purchase of up to £90 worth of journey on a swipe card, offer journeys at reduced rates.