A SCARBOROUGH councillor is urging people to think carefully when they chose greener options and avoid potential harm.
The news followed reports this week that recycled cardboard used for food packaging contain harmful chemicals which could be absorbed and ingested.
It was revealed that the packaging contained mineral oils – which are found in newspaper inks – and cereal companies including Jordans, Kellogg’s and Weetabix have all expressed concern about the issue.
This week Jordans confirmed that it had halted the use of recycled cardboard in its packaging while the other two companies were taking steps to reduce the level of oils.
Cllr Godfrey Allanson, a Conservative who represents the Hartford Ward, said he had been a committed environmentalist for the past 30 years but was concerned about long term effects.
He said: “We all want to recycle. I am passionate about recycling. We read a magazine or a newspaper and recycle to keep it out of landfill. But this news shows that we need to be very careful.”
Cllr Allanson added that he has seen the effects of climate change when he visited the Alps but it was also important to think carefully before inflicting unseen dangers onto future generations.
Research, led by Dr Koni Grob of the Food safety Laboratory in Zurich, has shown that the mineral oils could migrate into the food – even through an inner bag. And in some cases the mineral oils present were between 10 and 100 times higher than the regulation limit for foodstuffs such as cereals, pasta and rice.
Scarborough Council introduced its current blue bin recycling collection in 2007 and items which can be collected include newspapers, magazines and cardboard.
Harry Briggs, the council’s recycling and waste enforcement manager, said that recent reports were unlikely to change the current arrangements.
He said: “Scarborough Council collects many thousands of tonnes of paper and card each year to be recycled, this material is made into a variety of products and packaging, much of which is for non-foodstuffs.
“Should the industry seek to alter the balance of recycled content in food packaging then I’m confident another area of the packaging industry will increase it’s recycled percentage.
“There is insufficient virgin material to supply the whole packaging industry so it is likely that as one area reduces the amount used another will increase.
“It may affect prices longer term however prices are variable currently due to the global economic slowdown.”
Cllr Allanson said that he was also concerned about other green issues such as low energy lightbulbs and renewable energy.
He said: “I am concerned about climate change and using less energy. It is about the use of the earth’s resources.
“But if you are an elderly person or a young person with a family are they in danger or does it cost more money?”
He added that the European legislation governing the compulsory introduction of low energy light bulbs did not come into effect for four more years and that the UK had rushed ahead with the policy.
“I’ve had a 100W equivalent bulb which had a claim on the packet that it would last for 15 years – I’ve had three in the past eight years,” he said.
And he said that the low energy bulbs cost a lot more than standard bulbs making them a difficult purchase for pensioners or struggling families. He said: “At a supermarket you could buy a pack of for standard bulbs for £1.50 compared with £2.50 for one of the low energy equivalent bulbs.”
Cllr Allanson said that low energy bulbs also contained high levels of mercury which needed to be disposed of correctly.
He said that, according to the German Federal Environment Agency, if a low energy bulb broke it would produce mercury which was 20 times higher than safe guidelines. “The mercury bulbs are dangerous, expensive and inefficient. LED bulbs are a better alternative,” he said.
Cllr Allanson highlighted the issue of windfarms and said that they were not used effectively. “They are being built because energy companies get substantial grants. They cause all sorts of problems in the countryside,” he said.
“During November and December, when it was the coldest it had been for a number of years, there wasn’t one megawatt generated through wind power. The conventional power stations were working flat out and we had to buy power from – which would probably have been generated through nuclear power.
“I have no problem with a farmer having a couple of turbines to generate energy for himself but vast windfarms that are not producing anything I do have a problem with.”