UK business briefs: Environmental taxes, Hazardous waste landfill alternative, Sustainable centre, Diesel clean-up register, Organic growing programme

Increasing tax on gas-guzzling vehicles, including 4x4s, giving cash incentives for motorists to buy greener cars, and helping householders to be more energy efficient, are just some of the measures Friends of the Earth is urging Chancellor Gordon Brown to adopt in his forthcoming pre-Budget statement (2 December) as part of the Government's pledge to tackle climate change. Friends of the Earth is calling on the Chancellor to introduce four new road tax bands - with £50 between each band - to encourage people to buy less-polluting cars, as well as financial incentives for installing renewable energy - such as solar panels - in the home.

The Environment Agency (EA) this week issued a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permit to Minosus, a waste disposal company in Winsford, Cheshire. Minosus proposes to fill a worked out part of the Winsford Rock Salt Mine with hazardous industrial wastes, which requires a PPC Permit. The wastes, which cannot be reused or recycled, would previously have been sent to surface landfill sites. However, recent changes in legislation mean that there are very few landfill sites in the North West region which can accept such wastes, and so the Minosus site at Winsford can now provide a much-needed, safe and unobtrusive route for disposal.

Somerset College of Arts and Technology, Taunton, has welcomed the first stage of the Genesis project, a pioneering regional sustainable construction centre for education and learning. The new resource centre will deliver training and act as a one-stop shop on sustainable construction techniques, providing education at all levels. The single-storey centre will comprise several ‘pavilions’ built from environmentally friendly materials such as straw, timber, earth and clay, along with a water pavilion made out of perspex that will allow visitors to see how rainwater can be recycled. The pavilions will contain seminar rooms and lecture theatres with exhibition space promoting the very latest in sustainable technology, along with a construction area where visitors can see practical demonstrations of sustainable construction techniques.

The Energy Saving Trust (EST) has added two new emission reduction technologies to its TransportEnergy CleanUp register, now making it easier for UK operators of commercial and public sector diesel vehicles to ‘clean up’ their act. The register, intended as a buyer’s guide to the technologies and vehicle types eligible for CleanUp grant funding, now includes Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technologies. Fitting EGR or SCR to an approved diesel engine costs around £10,000, but a CleanUp grant can help to reduce these costs.

And finally, HDRA, the organic organisation, is urging people across the country to discover the huge health benefits of growing their own fruit and vegetables, and is looking for people to join its Organic Food for All (OFfA) programme. Gardeners are invited to become OFfA mentors, so they can share their skills with complete beginners to growing their own food. Mentors must have some gardening experience, but more importantly they need to have heaps of enthusiasm to inspire people in their own community to get growing. Before setting up local initiatives, they are invited to take part in a free training course at HDRA’s headquarters in Coventry to learn about organic gardening methods and working with their community.

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