Friday, August 7, 2015

Aussie E-Waste Recycling Falls Short

Like many waste related programs currently implemented in Australia, our current policies for E-Waste recycling don't capture a large quantity of E-Wastes produced in Australia. In a recent report by Economist Intelligence Unit it was highlighted that Australia is a high producer per capita of E-Wastes and that our systems for capturing this waste are in their infancy. This waste stream contains materials that are either hazardous, rare or precious which means that if manufacturers are going to persist in producing these products we must recover these materials that are a finite resource.

Over the years electronic products have become increasingly complicated and now rather than requiring a relatively small number of elements they now need many more, including rare earth elements. These rare earth elements as their name suggests are rare and are almost solely produced by China where they are used in manufacturing. At some stage these rare earth elements will no longer be able to be mined economically because there simply won't be enough left in the ground.

If we don't want to find ourselves digging up our landfills looking for rare earth elements and/or precious metals we need to make sure that we are recycling as much of our e-waste as possible. Currently there are a number of locations to take your electronic items that are not needed any more. These include local government drop off locations as well as commercially operated drop off locations such as those run by Harvey Normans and The Good Guys. Unfortunately not all Good Guys take electronic products and Harvey Normans only take TVs and not other electronics which is a real shame as often a collection point is needed where all products can be dropped off and this leaves us with government drop off locations. These locations often accept any form of electronic waste from cables all the way to computers and associated peripherals, you should check your local tip or council website for details on what they will accept for recycling.

Greater awareness of this important issue is needed in our communities because if these vital resources are locked away in our landfills which will in time be built over leading to us having to destroy our own infrastructure to recover these assets which power our modern lifestyles.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Winery Running Festival Half Marathon

As usual it was an early start so I could get a light breakfast in with enough time to digest it. After making a coffee to take with me I was off to the Hunter Valley in the car so I could arrive in plenty of time to collect my race bib and warm up. The drive there was pretty uneventful other than the road killed wombat that appeared suddenly out of the dark on my way into Cesnock.

Once I had arrived I made my way to the race HQ where I found myself some gels as I had forgotten to purchase some from Margret at The Runners Shop. After I had pinned a couple of these gels to my shorts and had my race bib on my shirt it was time to do a short 3km jog to get warmed up.

The race briefing was longer than usual as the race organisers gave a course description and it took a while to be ready to start. No body seemed to want to put themselves at the front as a fast runner when we were asked to self seed. I tried to keep myself around the 4 minute pacer but it turned out he ran alot slower that that.

The first kilometer was through the wonderful Hunter Valley Gardens and onto the Audrey Wilkenson Winery. In the Audrey Wilkinson's Winery the course acends a steep hill which I had been doing hill repeats and running some hillier runs to prepare for. Overall though the course was much hillier than I had anticipated and this slowed me down alot. Not to mention the wind on the day which made for pretty tough conditions!

I finished up the race in 94 minutes 11 seconds which seemed a bit slow to me. I came 4th in my age category and 28th overall which was an ok result considering I was 30th overall in the Bay to Bay Half Marathon which had less participants. Also I may have been a little under the weather as I realised I had a sore throat  and my heart rate had been up in the lead up to the race. You can view the log here.

All in all I had a great time and enjoyed what little of the scenic course I noticed on my way through. For those not ready for a half marathon or looking for a longer distance race in a picturesque location the Winery Running Festival is a great fit as they offer distances from a 5km wander to a ultra marathon.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What Really Boils Drivers Blood

I have been cycling the short trip to work for the last year or so using both bicycle paths and now more recently the roads. I have to commend most drivers who give plenty of room and pass when it is sensible, there are however some people who clearly should not be on the roads. These people exhibit signs of road rage and down right stupidity, being held up for at worst a few minutes behind me on my bike vs being jailed for murder or man slaughter due to negligent or dangerous driving. For most people this is a no brainer, but seriously what is it about cyclists that gets these people so upset?

On one occasion I had the opportunity to speak to one such individual who amongst issuing death threats and revving his ute at me made a coherent but ill informed argument that I should ride my bike on the footpath. It is a breach of the law for a person over the age of 12 to ride a bike on the footpath unless they are accompanying a person 12 or under. Outside of the legality issue just like on the road each person is responsible for there vehicle and any damage or injury it may cause, on the footpath I would be responsible for any injury to pedestrians in an area where there are no expected behaviours or regulations on what a pet or child may do. I have found that even shared paths are dangerous at relatively low speeds (15 - 20 km/h) as there is no telling what small children, pet or persons using headphones may do.

After I explained this to him he went on to also say that I had no right to the road because I don't pay for rego which I explained to him was not the case I infact own a registered vehicle. On that note I also pay my taxes which are what pay for the roads and every citizen in Australia has the right to use the roads in or on a valid vehicle. Plenty of people have talked about licensing or registering bikes but I'm unsure this is likely to deal with many of the issues. There are still poor drivers on the roads even though we are now extensively tested, licensed and registered. I don't have a problem if the government decided to do it but I wonder if it is really going to achieve their own policy to get more cyclists on the roads to reduce congestion.

At this point the driver in question told me that I still had no right and that he therefore did not need to take care when passing, he could just run me down! Having just skimmed me I took this to mean that he didn't care that he'd just almost knocked me off my bike by overtaking me and then promptly slowing to a crawl where I had no shoulder to enter (prior to this I had entered the left of the lane after checking for traffic and indicating). I think this meant "I don't like having to slow down for you when there isn't enough road for me to pass you". Well fair enough I guess, but what about all the other traffic though, is it a crash derby all the way to work? No one would blunder their way hulkishly through the traffic and think that it was OK behaviour would they?

Is it that some cyclists break the rules, like running red lights or riding up the shoulder? Research suggests that for some cyclists this is further risk taking for the purposes of getting a rush, other research suggests that it is simply a way of saving energy as stopping and starting is like adding 200m to the journey, yet more research suggests that it is a form of protest for being marginalised on the roads. None of these reasons is good enough to not obey road markings or signals, if you're on the roads you must obey the road rules otherwise it may as well be anarchy! As for riding up the shoulder or for that matter in the shoulder or even in turning lanes, I'm guilty of the latter two to let cars pass, if there's traffic though I'm in the lane as a vehicle. I think riding up the inside of cars even if there is a bike lane is simply dangerous. I refuse to ride in a bike lane when there is traffic as other vehicles can't see you in their blind spots and it angers some motorists causing issues later in the commute.

I think when we are on the roads we need to appreciate that there are bad road users on or in all types of vehicles, be they motorbikes, cars or bicycles, which means we have to give people plenty of room and leave reasonable gaps so when a mistake is made we can avoid an incident. It isn't reasonable to prejudice one road user with the actions of other road users, just because a few cyclists don't do the right thing doesn't mean we are all guilty. We all have to share the roads amicably so that no one gets hurt or killed.