Northern Rail Recycling Revisited

I travelled on Northern Rail trains on several occasions this week, and spotted their latest recycling poster about newspapers, with the quote: “It’s rubbish when you leave it” – meaning you should take your newspaper home and recycle it, rather than leaving it on the train for someone else to read.

This reminded me about my previous post about their last poster on this theme, which I disagree with. They claim that leaving newspapers on trains is littering, while I claim that it saves paper because people pick up newspapers on the train to read rather than picking up another copy of the Metro from the pile at the station. If there were no newspapers on the train because everyone had taken them home (as Northern Rail want) then Metro would have to print a load more copies. That’s hardly very green.

When I contacted Northern Rail about this previously they defended the policy saying they wanted the trains kept clean, however they did let me know that they prefer to collect rubbish from trains and stations and segregate it “off site”, ie. separate it out afterwards. That sounds like a pretty messy job, but I’m glad they’re doing it. Apparently the 2009 figures reveal that 354 tonnes of general waste was removed from trains at the West Yorkshire depot of which 265 tonnes was recycled.

But what about stations? Last year they had one paper recycling point on the whole network, pictured. It’s at Manchester Victoria station which I visit regularly – but it’s on a platform inaccessible to the general public as it’s behind a ticket check point. My trains usually arrive at a different platform so I can’t use it.

So the verdict. On train recycling – good but invisible. Station recycling – could do better.

Free to be young – and other great stuff from Spring Conference

I made the trip to Birmingham yesterday, getting up at some ungodly hour, for the Lib Dem Spring Conference. Unfortunately I could only stay for the one day, but what a great day it was.

The highlight of the day was our policy paper on young people, entitled Free to be Young. This policy is overwhelmingly positive, focusing on why we should celebrate our young people, and help them to make a positive contribution to society. I know loads of teenagers who are brilliant role models, and get so frustrated when certain sections of the media portray them as nothing better than ‘hoodies’ hanging round causing trouble. Of course there are a few people of all age groups that cause trouble – but the Labour government spend vast amounts of money locking up young offenders, and hardly anything on schemes to prevent them offending in the first place. Where’s the logic in that?

But what else went on…?

I got to hear the main speech by Vince Cable, which was extraordinarily competent as ever. The prospect of George Osborne being our next chancellor of the exchequer, frankly, fills me with dread.

I also attended the Q&A session with Nick Clegg. Which other party leader is brave enough to offer himself up for open questions from the audience? Nick does this up and down the country, and was grilled just as hard (if not harder) by Liberal Democrats in Birmingham. He answered all questions well and showed just how well he has grown into the role of leader since his election.

At lunchtime, I attended a fringe meeting by ALDES with no particular agenda, but speeches by the great Evan Harris and also Julian Huppert from Cambridge. Two excellent speakers, and real assets to the party. There are not enough scientists in the House of Commons. Hopefully that will change come May!

Unfortunately I missed the debate on Freedom, Creativity and the Internet this morning, being back in Yorkshire, but I needn’t have worried. After a slightly embarrassing episode in the House of Lords a couple of weeks ago, many technologically-minded Lib Dems were up in arms. This motion, passed overwhelmingly, puts us back on the right course to develop some sound policy on IT and the Internet, which is sorely needed.

Conference is a great place to meet people. I bumped into my old friend Jane Brophy, who was preparing a speech against the main environment motion, saying it didn’t go far enough. As a regular dissenter myself (only the Liberal Democrats will let people like us stand on the main stage and speak against party policy) I tried to give a few pointers. In the end, her speech came across very well.

Overall the conference reminded me why I’m a Liberal Democrat. Not only do I agree with the overwhelming majority of our policy, but the very way we make it is completely different from the other parties. I simply can’t imagine having anywhere near as much freedom to discuss, debate and disagree in either Labour or the Conservatives. I’m now looking forward to the main conference in Liverpool in September and, of course, the general and local elections in May (or whenever!).

The only down side to the day was the train journey home. Not only was Birmingham New Street station gruesome as ever, but my train back from Manchester to Hebden was packed to overflowing. We were literally crammed in like sardines. This is partly due to the reduction in trains to Rochdale following the Oldham Loop Line’s conversion to Metrolink – however Northern Rail have shown precious little enthusiasm for actually doing anything about it.

Recycling (or not) with Northern Rail

Earlier this year, I noticed a number of the following posters appearing on Northern Rail trains. I am strongly in favour of recycling, but they seem to have the wrong end of the stick.

Recycling is just as much about reuse as it is about reprocessing materials and making something new. Leaving newspapers on the train (especially copies of Metro) is a perfect example of recycling in action. If everybody took their own copy of the Metro home to recycle, then they’d need to print twice as many.

Of course, at the end of the day, all the day’s newspapers should be recycled. However, I have never seen a recycling point (for newspapers, cans, bottles, or anything for that matter) on board a Northern Rail train, or at a Northern Rail station in West Yorkshire.

To that end, I have written Northern Rail the following letter:

Dear Northern Rail,

I am writing regarding the recycling poster that has appeared recently on your trains around West Yorkshire. It states:

“Please recycle your newspaper. Leaving it behind is littering.”

As a keen supporter of recycling, I am glad to see that you are taking the issue seriously.

The poster encourages people to recycle newspapers that they have been reading on the train, many of which will be the free papers provided in your stations.

Could you let me know what facilities are available for recycling on board your trains and at your stations?

Also, do your cleaners recycle items (eg. newspapers, cans, bottles) found on board trains when cleaning them?

I would challenge your assertion that leaving a newspaper on the train is littering. I almost never pick up a copy of Metro from the piles available at your stations, but regularly pick one up that has been left on the train. If everybody took home their own copy of the Metro, then you’d have to print twice as many, which isn’t very green.

My suggestion for addressing this issue would be that you provide areas in each train carriage, and at each station, where people can leave their newspapers. This chould be a shelf clearly marked “Leave your newspaper here”. It should not be a bin, the idea being that other people could pick up a newspaper from the shelf to read, then replace it when they’ve finished. At the end of the day, your cleaners could clear the shelf straight into a paper recycling bin. This would encourage both reuse and recycling of the newspapers, which is surely better all round.

I look forward to hearing what you think.