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Report Identifies Top 10 Plastic Pollutants in Europe's Rivers & Lakes

Posted 1st May 2019

The top 10 types of consumer plastics polluting European freshwater lakes and rivers have been identified in a new report from Earthwatch Europe and Plastic Oceans UK.
Published today, the Plastic Rivers report analyses data from nine studies of freshwater sources across the UK and Europe. It ranked types of macroplastic by prevalence, focusing on consumer items and excluding items relating to fishing, agriculture and industry.

The top 10 plastic pollutants in rivers and lakes are:

  1. Plastic bottles and lids
  2. Food wrappers (crisp packets and sweet wrappers)
  3. Cigarette butts
  4. Sanitary items (nappies, sanitary towels, tampons and wet wipes)
  5. Plastic or polystyrene takeaway containers
  6. Cotton bud sticks
  7. Plastic or polystyrene cups
  8. Smoking-related packaging

The plastics focus, has been on the shocking impact pollution is having on ocean species, but up to 80% of the plastic in our seas actually comes from rivers. Understanding the situation in freshwater environments is an essential but often overlooked factor in stemming the tide of plastic reaching our oceans.

It's really encouraging that plastic pollution is now at the forefront of many people's minds, but with so much information out there it can be hard to understand the best ways to make a difference. The report provides simple, evidence-based recommendations to show people exactly what changes they can make - and the positive impact those changes will have on our waterways.

PlasticRiversReport.pdf

The Plastic Rivers report shows that the products we buy every day are contributing to the problem of ocean plastic. Our discarded plastic enters rivers from litter generated by our on-the-go lifestyle and items we flush down our toilets. This throw-away approach is having much more serious consequences and the report shows really simple ways to avoid this problem and stop plastic pollution.

The report aims to help consumers make a real difference by providing practical alternative options. By changing peoples lifestyle and behaviours to prevent this insidious pollution. It is accompanied by a free downloadable guide to the top pollutants and the best ways to reduce their prevalence, alongside a sheet for households to pledge the changes they're going to make.

For businesses and policy makers the report provides suggestions for how to make it easier for consumers to make more sustainable choices.

If implemented quickly, our recommendations have the potential to significantly reduce plastic pollution in the UK well in advance of any impact that will be achieved from policy changes, and to inform the policies themselves.

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Government announce new regulations after Grenfell fire

Posted 1st April 2019

The Government has said there will be "no hiding place" for builders who fail to protect high-rise residents, as plans to overhaul regulations are revealed following the Grenfell tragedy which killed 72 people last year.

A "radically-new system" would be the best tribute for the victims of the fire and that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will establish "stronger sanctions to prevent and punish wrongdoing".

This follows recommendations by Dame Judith Hackitt from her report in May, which she found that indifference and ignorance led to a race to the bottom in building safety practices.

Before the fire, a cladding system using highly flammable rainscreen panels had been installed on the block. In September the Government banned the use of combustible cladding on new high-rise homes, which is due to come into force this week, 18 months after the fire.

The Government have committed to reforming four key areas:

They are set to work with firms and tenants to trial more rigorous ways of monitoring developers, contractors and landlords, with an emphasis on public safety. Successful approaches will then contribute to fresh legislation to tighten-up building regulations which will include more punitive sanctions for those who disregard regulations.

Campaign group Grenfell United called it a "long overdue shake up" of the industry but warned against urgent changes being forgotten about and not prioritised.

They stated "we must be vigilant to ensure Government industry, that so badly failed us, do not water down these changes".

"Resident voices must be given weight and Parliament must keep a watchful eye on progress".

The new regulatory framework will apply to multi-occupancy buildings of at least ten storeys, with a consultation in Spring 2019 on whether additional buildings should be included.

The Government will also consult on proposals to create dutyholders, who will ensure resident safety in each stage of building development and strengthen accountability. Their responsibilities will be determined by regulations that would require gateways at key stages, to demonstrate they are actively managing safety risks.

A Standards Committee will be established to advise on construction product and system standards, as well as a Joint Regulators Group that will consist of bodies like the Health and Safety Executive, the Local Government Association (LGA), fire and rescue authorities and local authorities.

The LGA has welcomed the Governments commitment to implement the recommendations and where necessary go beyond them, as they have with the use of combustible materials.

"The tragedy at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again and we look forward to working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to make sure the new system of building regulations work".

Brokenshire pushes for a culture change and confirms "by making people responsible and more accountable for safety, we will create a more rigorous system so residents will always have peace of mind that they are safe in their own homes".

For more information on this subject, see:
Building Regulations SI 2010/2214;
Building (Amendment) Regulations SI 2018/1230

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Government announces new Code of Practice to tackle sexual harassment at work

Posted 1st March 2019

The Government will introduce a new Code of Practice so employers better understand their legal responsibilities to protect their staff as part of a package of commitments to tackle sexual harassment at work. Responding to the Women and Equalities Select Committee report, the Government Equalities Office also promised to carry out awareness raising work with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), the Equality and Human Rights Commission and employers on how to prevent and address sexual harassment at work; to work with regulators to ensure they are taking action; and commission survey data on the prevalence of sexual harassment at work. The government will also consult on:

ComRes, in their 2017 research for the BBC, claim that 40% of women and 18% of men have experienced unwanted sexual behaviour at work at some point.

Going beyond the recommendations in the WESC report, the government has also promised to consult on whether additional protections are needed for volunteers and interns, (looking at all the protections in the Equality Act 2010, not just those on sexual harassment), and to explore the evidence for extending the time limits to bring any workplace discrimination and harassment case under the Equality Act 2010 to an employment tribunal.

The government is developing next steps on this package. It will:

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Latest News

Government announce new regulations after Grenfell fire

Posted 1st February 2019

The Government has said there will be "no hiding place" for builders who fail to protect high-rise residents, as plans to overhaul regulations are revealed following the Grenfell tragedy which killed 72 people last year.

A "radically-new system" would be the best tribute for the victims of the fire and that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will establish "stronger sanctions to prevent and punish wrongdoing".

This follows recommendations by Dame Judith Hackitt from her report in May, which she found that indifference and ignorance led to a race to the bottom in building safety practices.

Before the fire, a cladding system using highly flammable rainscreen panels had been installed on the block. In September the Government banned the use of combustible cladding on new high-rise homes, which is due to come into force this week, 18 months after the fire.

The Government have committed to reforming four key areas:

They are set to work with firms and tenants to trial more rigorous ways of monitoring developers, contractors and landlords, with an emphasis on public safety. Successful approaches will then contribute to fresh legislation to tighten-up building regulations which will include more punitive sanctions for those who disregard regulations.

Campaign group Grenfell United called it a "long overdue shake up" of the industry but warned against urgent changes being forgotten about and not prioritised.

They stated "we must be vigilant to ensure Government industry, that so badly failed us, do not water down these changes".

"Resident voices must be given weight and Parliament must keep a watchful eye on progress".

The new regulatory framework will apply to multi-occupancy buildings of at least ten storeys, with a consultation in Spring 2019 on whether additional buildings should be included.

The Government will also consult on proposals to create dutyholders, who will ensure resident safety in each stage of building development and strengthen accountability. Their responsibilities will be determined by regulations that would require gateways at key stages, to demonstrate they are actively managing safety risks.

A Standards Committee will be established to advise on construction product and system standards, as well as a Joint Regulators Group that will consist of bodies like the Health and Safety Executive, the Local Government Association (LGA), fire and rescue authorities and local authorities.

The LGA has welcomed the Governments commitment to implement the recommendations and where necessary go beyond them, as they have with the use of combustible materials. "The tragedy at Grenfell Tower must never be allowed to happen again and we look forward to working with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to make sure the new system of building regulations work".

Brokenshire pushes for a culture change and confirms "by making people responsible and more accountable for safety, we will create a more rigorous system so residents will always have peace of mind that they are safe in their own homes".

For more information on this subject, see:
Building Regulations SI 2010/2214;
Building (Amendment) Regulations SI 2018/1230

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UK's first national crisp packet recycling scheme launched by Walkers

Posted 1st January 2019

The UK's largest crisp brand has this week launched a UK-wide crisp packet recycling scheme, after partnering with TerraCycle to develop a recycling solution for the packaging.


Under the scheme, Walkers will install hundreds of packet collection points at community hubs and retail outlets.

Following months of consumer protests against its hard-to-recycle packaging, which typically consists of a flexible plastic layer and metallised film, PepsiCo subsidiary Walkers has opened the scheme's first collection points today.

The method involves cleaning and shredding the crisp packets, allowing them to be melted into small plastic pellets that can then be incorporated into products such as fence posts and furniture.

Under the scheme, consumers will be encouraged to deposit used crisp packets at one of the hundreds of public collection points that will be developed, or to post them to TerraCycle free of charge. Packaging from any crisp brand will be accepted.

It is an important step for Walkers towards our ambition to make all of our packaging 100% recyclable, compostable or biodegradable by 2025."

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Sentencing guidelines for manslaughter introduced

Posted 1st December 2018

Sentencing guidelines for manslaughter came into force in courts on 1 November 2018. This is the first time that comprehensive guidelines have been drawn up for these very serious and difficult cases, which could range from an unintended death resulting from an assault, to a workplace fatality caused by a negligent employer.

The serious nature of manslaughter, combined with the great variation in cases, and the fact that cases do not come before individual judges very frequently, means the introduction of guidelines will be particularly useful in promoting consistency in sentencing and transparency in terms of how sentencing decisions are reached.

Overall, the guideline is unlikely to change sentence levels, but it is expected that in some gross negligence cases, sentences will increase. This could be in situations where, for example, an employer's long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed. Formerly, sentencing practice in these sorts of cases has been lower in the context of overall sentence levels for manslaughter than for other types.

The types of manslaughter covered by the guideline are:

Unlawful Act manslaughter - this is the most commonly prosecuted form of manslaughter and includes deaths that result from assaults where there was no intention to kill or cause very serious harm. It can vary greatly. For example, it could involve a situation where two friends briefly argue and one pushes the other, causing him to fall and hit his head with fatal results. It could involve someone going out looking for a fight and attacking someone forcefully but not intending to kill. It could also include unintended deaths that result from other crimes, such as arson or robbery. One hundred and five offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Gross negligence manslaughter - this occurs when the offender is in breach of a duty of care towards the victim which causes the death of the victim and amounts to a criminal act or omission. The circumstances vary greatly. In a domestic setting it could include parents or carers who fail to protect a child from an obvious danger. In a work setting, it could cover employers who completely disregard the safety of employees. Ten offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Manslaughter by reason of loss of control - this arises if the actions of an offender, who would otherwise be guilty of murder, resulted from a loss of self-control, for example arising from a fear of serious violence. Twelve offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

Manslaughter by reason of diminished responsibility - someone guilty of this offence would have been suffering from a recognised mental condition that affected their responsibility at the time of the offence, without which they would have been convicted of murder. Twenty-six offenders were sentenced for this offence in 2016.

The guideline ensures comprehensive guidance where previously it was very limited. Until now, there has been a guideline only for corporate manslaughter, which comes under the Council's health and safety offences guideline, and a guideline by the Council's predecessor body for manslaughter by reason of provocation, which is now out of date following legislative changes to the partial defences to murder.

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