Category Archives: pollution

Waste Regulation Paralysis

“Too much analysis c an case paralysis.”

That is a quote from “The Yellow Book” by Robert Holden.  Spot on in our society where government seeks to write regulations to cover all eventualities.  Now, you do not have to be very bright to understand that is impossible and what happens is the stifling of innovation and inhibition of entrepreneurial activity which, in turn, pays taxes to fund government.  For “government”, read elected and, most certainly, civil service.

Logically, this observation applies to the waste industry, to the health service, welfare services, health and safety. The answer is simple.  A new environmental protection Act might only have one sentence; “Thou shalt not pollute”.

Wastes, fertilisers and sustainability.



Urban waste could, safely, be sufficient fertiliser to feed the people who made the waste in the first place. If we do not do this, soon, then, logically, the human race will die out.

Nearly all we have came from the land and must eventually go back.  Nearly all municipal wastes, including sewage, will make good compost and good compost can be used to reclaim the desert and make arid land productive.  “Nearly all” does, of course, mean some exceptions such as lead or Cadmium-based batteries.  However, many hydrocarbons and plastics are bio-degradable provided the right process and the right bugs are available in the bio-population or can be added. (Mealy bug larvae will live and multiply quite happily on expanded polystyrene.) Sewage is a great source of nutrients and micro-organisms for a successful bio-process.  Of course, testing and controls are a necessary part of a professional operation but it really is true that most urban waste scan safely be used to make enough fertiliser to feed the people who made the wastes in the first place.  That is sustainability. The challenge is to get the instruments of governments to understand and find a way of constructive regulation.  Soon rather than somewhen.

Oh, and by the way, composts will absorb and hold between 5 and 16 times their own weight of water.  That might be useful in creating jobs in upland composting in Cumbria, Lancashire, and anywhere in the upland catchment areas for any of our rivers running through urban areas, including London.

“Survival – Sustainable Energy, Wastes, Shale Gas and The Land” by Bill Butterworth, published by Land Research, has just been released and is available in paperback from good bookshops or Amazon on the web as paperback (at around £10) or electronic version (at only £2.46) for computer or Kindle.


Safe Shale ?


The lights WILL go out if we do not hurry up and do something.

Safe Shale 1; Integrity of the drill way.

I frequently get asked about the safety of shale gas exploration and its effect on land, groundwater and pollution. Well, here is a short discussion on drilling the top hole.

The vertical shaft of a drill down to shale gas is quite likely to be a kilometer, maybe two, or (in old money) a mile or so.  Maybe more. That, in itself, is not that much of a new thing.  Deep drilling for all sorts of reasons (such as geothermal drilling to bring “free” hot water to heat homes, offices and shops) has been going on, even deeper,  for a long time. (And geothermal drilling is often “fracked” and yet nobody complains about that!) What is different about drilling for shale gas is that when the vertical shaft has got to the depth that the geologist thinks is right, the drill turns, in a giant “J” shape, from being vertical to horizontal.  In the horizontal bit, the engineers want the hole to leak – inwards to collect the gas!

Common sense tells us that whatever the pollution risks are of leakage from a mile or so down back to the surface, they are very, very small.  In practice, it just is not going to happen for one very simple reason.  If it was going to happen, it would have done so already during the last few hundred, million years.

That still leaves the worry about the integrity of the vertical shaft. That certainly might travel through strata near the surface which might leak back up to the top, certainly it might drill through aquifers which might be used for human consumption; leakage certainly might cause pollution.  How likely is that “might” and can it be controlled?

Leakage of the vertical shaft after construction is known but it is rare.  After all, sinking just the vertical shaft is quite likely to cost over £10 million in the UK and, therefore, the investors and engineers are going to be quite careful.  The way of covering this risk is to pressure test the vertical shaft before turning to the horizontal drilling.  If it leaks, abandon it. In the UK. that is inflicted, independently, by law.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 27 December 16




Red Light “antibiotic” for bees


Pink peony close up

Find the bee. how much does human survival depend on bees?

Bees, globally, have suffered serious numbers reduction from a range of diseases and this has potentially dramatic effects on pollination and food production.  Enter City, University of London with red light at 670nm shining on diseased bees and claiming “significantly reduced bee death rates and improved cell energy levels, mobility and visual function in animals exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides such as Imidacloprid which are widely used in agriculture worldwide,”

In this case, we have the LED’s which will provide the wavelengths and the control systems to actually apply the technology in hives with low energy input. What food production now has which heralds a new era, is new technologies.  The last century put in tractors and diesel power.  This century will put in a whole new range of technologies; electronics, genetics, gene editing, more efficient photosynthesis, new forms of disease control, new energy sources. Let’s hope it is not too late.

HMIP, NRA and LA’s


In its day 30 years ago, the NRA managed flood risk substantially and successfully. Where is the NRA now?

Some of us are old enough to remember that until the grandness of the Environment Agency was created as a monument in Whitehall, there were a number of smaller bodies.

HMIP, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Pollution, was widely respected as doing a pretty good job. The NRA, National Rivers Authority, similarly and after being beefed up after the 1954 floods, did a really good job in managing water supply and preventing floods. The LA’s, Local Authorities, took care of wastes at a local level – officers patrolled their local patch and if there was a complaint they sorted it. (Anybody heard of “localism?)

Why is it that the Civil Service thinks it has the management skills to run big, centralised organisations? Mostly, centralisation doubles costs and halves effects. Why not just go back to HMIP, NRA and LA waste management?

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd, 2 Nov 16