Wednesday, 8 August 2012

NCMD Wants to See Stop to Composting Green Waste?

The National Council of Metal Detecting (NCMD) tends to keep away from things like surveys and conferences, Codes of Practice and stuff. But they are getting interested in "Grean Waist", all that metal that accidentally goes on fields and blocks the signals from the Treasure. John Wells and "Byron" of the NCMD have got themselves a meeting with Sir Bob Russell (Liberal MP for Colchester) who reportedly is willing to seek an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons on the topic of "banning green waste" to suit the metal detectorists in his constituency. Sir Bob has previously expressed his opinion on the "Rubbish" concerns of his constituents, but seems more willing to listen to John and Byron in their efforts to get composting banned. So they are gathering information from detectorists about what problems composting causes for metal detecting collectors of archaeological artefacts from rural archaeological sites.

They report that so far all they have heard from Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and DEFRA in reply to their concerns about the threat to the hobby of metal detecting is "platitudes". They put this down to "not being headline grabbing enough", but perhaps the problem is that conservation organizations see the self-seeking motives of these site-wreckers and feel that masking artefacts to stop them being hoiked out is a good idea. The campaigners do not report whether they have approached the PAS or CBA for support and what reply they got.

Anyway the pro-hoiking campaigners want detectorists to give them the "ammunition" to fight this Green Waste Problem by getting it banned:
I am collating as much information as I can possibly get. That includes photos, locations, verifiable testamonies, witness statements (sites etc.) I would prefer that these were sent to me by post (good pictures) but will take alternatives. [ ...] There may be reluctance on the part of some of our Members not to rock the boat and upset friendly farmers. Just tell them that if Green Waste becomes the rule rather than the exception there won't be any friendly farmers or farms to go on.
They are of course only concerned with losing good detecting fields, they couldn’t actually give a tinkers about composting green waste, after all its been around for years now. So far it has not been adequately explained why the detectorists want to ban composting entirely rather than petitioning to have more investment in getting it screened more effectively.

I urge everyone who lives in the constituency  of Colchester who cares about the archaeology to contact their MP and express their concern about the damage done to archaeological sites of the region by uncontrolled metal detecting - Colchester was and is very archaeology (and historic preservation) conscious. Maybe the Essex FLO (have they got one still?) can write to the MP and explain how metal detecting in the region can not all be considered as beneficial, and - for example - the incidental metal in the green waste this group is complaining about keeps the nighthawks off some sites. After all that is the kind of outreach on portable antiquities the PAS and its FLOs should be doing, n'est-ce pas?

Detecting Under the Microscope: How Green Was my Metal Detector? - Friday, 29 June 2012

Metal Detecting Under the Microscope: They Must Think we were Born Yesterday - Friday, 29 June 2012

Vignette: Is this the face of an MP that is going to stand up in the House of Commons and support plunderers of archaeological sites? Does he look that stupid? 


gandalf said...

Mr Barford
Everyone is familiar with your opinion of metal detecting but don't let your fervour on this subject cloud your judgement on what is a totally seperate issue.
I dabbled with metal detecting for a short while (and, yes, properly recorded my finds as you would demand). I came across extremely responsible and totally irresponsible detectorists and have sympathy with some (not all) of your opinions on the subject.
I also encountered
'green' (sorry if i stifle a guffaw) waste. As regards the 'incidental metal' you refer to, if you feel comfortable having the land which provides your foodstuffs strewn with broken syringes, electrical circuit boards (i.e. mercury nickel etc) aluminium and all other manner of disgusting non metallic detritus in your fervour to inconvenience metal detectorists then thats fine. I suggest however you need to reconsider your stance that everything that is bad for detecting is a by default a good thing and stick to your core arguments.

Paul Barford said...

Hi, thanks for your comment.

Well, first of all we have to recognize that the problem is not with composting.

Farming basically has only existed for millennia in many regions because of the stuff spread on fields to put back what the crops take out.

In that 'stuff' were many objects gathered up with midden material, off farmyard surfaces with the poo and so on. That's what metal detectorists in part find. And you are not going to tell me that anyone who's actually walked across a field in Britain is going to believe that the non-organic rubbish in the ploughsoil all started getting there only twenty years ago. It's Jethro Tull at the latest.

Now, I am all for composting, that has nothing to do with my thoughts on metal detecting (though there is a conservation undercurrent in both). I think millions of tonnes of organic waste should not be going into landfill, but back into the soil system. Soil is so precious and fragile (that's the archaeologist in me speaking).

So millions of tonnes of leaves, grass cuttings, hedge clippings, and all the rest surely SHOULD be recycled as nutrient-rich fertiliser, not thrown away. Don't you agree?

I think a fundamental issue is distinguishing between compost, and the accidental inclusions (including those which you mention). Surely though the next question is how the latter got there. That is fundamental to working out how to deal with the problem, surely. And yet that is not a question I see being addressed by metal detectorists, who just want to "ban" composting. That seems very narrow minded to me.

Paul Barford said...

... [contd.]

And how much of it is there, really?

Of those millions of tonnes of organic waste going back into the soil, how many tonnes of electrical circuit boards are there going into the fields annually? How are they getting there? ARE they in fact all getting there as green waste? In the woods and hedgerows of your wonderful country I've seen oiks dumping all sorts of stuff, including old TVs. I've seen other oiks have found them and smashed them up, some for the hell of it, some for the parts/scrap. Perhaps one or two fragments might get caught up in the clippings when the council men use those machines to massacre the hedgerows and verges. But how many?

And what about the bits that do not get swept up? They are out there still, now aren't they? In the hedgerows and woods of the once Green and Pleasant land, along with a whole load of other festering and rotting rubbish. As a metal detectorist you must have seen it.

Is the problem Green Waste or slovenly litter louts and fly tippers?

Hypodermic needles. How many tonnes and how are they getting there? I've heard tekkies blame it on diabetics. Most of them now have machines. Do British diabetics irresponsibly throw them around or deliberately and spitefully put them in the green waste bins? I inject one of my cats daily and we have a box for the used ones which is then taken to the hospital for proper disposal (took the last one two days ago). If the problem is stupid and thoughtless people then don't blame the compost. In any case, is there a possibility that some of them could be veterinary in origin, accidentally dropped and not retrieved? And what about drug addicts, hiding in the bushes injecting themselves? Seen that in England? I have. The litter of drug paraphernalia too could be gathered up in leaves, verge clippings etc. Do we stop composting because England has mess-making druggies? Again, how many tones of hypodermics are going onto the fields each year?

And what about the hypodermics broken glass and other things lying around in the bushes and which are not collected up (accidentally or on purpose) and are lying out there today, to be trodden on, ingested by animals? The problem is not just green waste, it is again those who do not dispose of potentially dangerous objects properly and leave them lying around in the open in general. Are we to ban composting because of a minority of people like that?

The million dollar question - on the level of conservation - is whether there is more of this sort of stuff that has accidentally got into green waste from lying around in woods, hedgerows, bushes, churchyards, road verges etc etc. Or is there more which has NOT been collected up still lying out there in woods, hedgerows, bushes, churchyards, road verges etc etc, where it is just as damaging as in the fields.

So if the busted TVs and MDF and all the rest are getting into compost by accident because of fly-tipping, then why not tackle the problem of fly tipping instead of banning organic fertilisers?

In any case, not so long ago detectorists were banging on about how damaging artificial fertilisers were for the artefacts. Now you want organic fertilisers to be dropped and return to the damaging artificial one?

gandalf said...

Thank you for your response and for posting my comments.
Believe me from experience i can tell you the majority of cultivated fields in the UK do not contain large volumes of the 'refuse' items we are discussing here. We all know its unlikely you have ventured out with a metal detector in the UK to conduct a personal survey of the situation so i hope you can accept my knowledge and experience on this specific matter. Items disposed of in hedgerows are a seperate issue and they are not potentially finding their way into the foodchain which i think is the important issue here. Items disposed of in the past do not contain high levels of modern industriual toxic metals (aluminium, cadmium, mercury, nickel etc) and i am not referring to just the odd broken up circuit board and syringe here and there either as you state. I do not approaching this issue from a metal detecting stance at all as i have no loyalties one way or the other, but i think any decent person would be horrified to see the content and level of inorganic and potentially toxic 'trash' which is being dumped on 'green waste' fields. If they were to see it at first hand they would definitely not be comfortable consuming a bowl of weetabix produced from a crop on such a site !! When i experienced this as a detectorist i was 'inconvenienced' as you rightfully observe but this was a minor concern compared to the major shock of what was being 'dumped' on agricultural land ironically as a 'green' policy !! I'm sure some detectorists have more selfish motivations - i cannot and do not want speak for them! I just hope you can have a re-think on this specific subject. I realise you are eager to support anything which prevents or restricts metal detecting but this should not be at the cost of permanently damaging the British Countryside and contaminating the food chain.

Paul Barford said...

Let's be clear, I am all for composting. I am dead against careless Brits (or anyone else) fly-tipping, littering, and failing to properly segregate their waste. This problem needs to be resolved not by "banning green waste", that solves nothing. It needs to be tackled at source.

Every time I get back to the UK and take a walk in the countryside Gandalf (and yes I do, though without a metal detector), I am appalled at the litter, the dirt, the vandalism that is now a commonplace of British urban and now rural life. It's everywhere, bottles, cans, carrier bags, crisp packets, sofas, old tyres, demolition debris. Just dumped by roadsides, in hedges, in copses and woodland. In ditches and streams.

What you are describing is just part of the general malaise. Britain is now a disgustingly dirty place, a dump. So what is getting into your fields is no surprise to me.

Therefore I do not accept your suggestion that "Items disposed of in hedgerows are a seperate issue" its the general attitudes that need cleaning up, rather than banning composting.

It seems to me the problem is in lack of quality control, surely that is what MDs need to be campaigning about and taking steps to get something done. Why aren't they?

gandalf said...

Paul, so you are saying that because Britain is in your words 'a disgustingly dirty place, a dump' (i actually agree!) we should encourage practices that make the situation even worse ? Sorry, I just don't follow your logic here? The technology with 'green' composting at the moment obviously does not allow for 'improved quality control' i.e. the removal of non-organic items so in that scenario a temporary ban until the technology improves is not an unreasonable request is it ? Though MD's motivations are somewhat different it doesn't invalidate the argument.

Paul Barford said...

"we should encourage practices that make the situation even worse ?"

Where do I say that? I say you should find ways to encourage practices which allow composting and make the situation better, aren't I?

[How do you propose financing the technological change in an industry you have first shut down? What kind of "technology" do you have in mind?]

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