Letter from the Editor: 12 months in review

This week, we look back over the last 12 months of environmental activities and political hot air. 2002 was a fabulous year for innovations, with slugs and the moon generating electricity, a method of irrigation that uses only half the usual amount of water, and soundwaves cooling fridges. However, international attempts to save the world wavered in Johannesburg and Bali, but the Kyoto Protocol made steady progress, with 33 countries ratifying throughout the year.

Highlights (or in some cases, lowlights) included the continued wrangling over the controversial US energy policy. For some issues, the international talks leading up to, and at, the long-awaited Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, were a damp squib. For others, such as access to sanitation and world fish stocks, the talks were an important milestone.

In the UK, after years of being taken for granted, fridges made headline news as they stacked up in their own graveyards across the country, waiting to be disposed of in a manner fit for a member of the European Union. Government ministers were left red-faced, but blamed Europe for its lack of clarity on the issue.

An oil spill off the cost of Spain dominated the European headlines at the end of the year, but the silver lining was a ban on single-hull tankers carrying heavy fuel oil.

One of the big issues of the year was electrical waste, as the region geared up for the forthcoming Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive, and its sister directive on the removal of harmful substances from them. Final agreement was reached on a target of collecting 4kg of electrical waste per person per year, with producers being responsible for their products.

Fortunately, a Japanese company developed a method of recycling the hard plastic in electronic equipment, so let’s hope that the next few years won’t see discarded televisions and computers stacking up across the British countryside in a fridge-like fashion.

Have a happy, safe and green 2003.

Best wishes

Helen André


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