Archive for November 27, 2011

How corpses could power a television to save on energy


A UK crematorium wants to install turbines in two of its burners which would use the heat generated during cremation to provide enough electricity to power 1500 televisions. A third burner is to be used to heat the site’s chapel and offices.

The scheme in Durham would be the first of its kind in the UK, but experts say it could be followed by similar projects. Many crematoria are currently replacing their furnaces to meet government targets limiting the amount of mercury escaping into the atmosphere. Up to 16 per cent of mercury emitted in the UK comes from crematoria because of fillings in teeth. That figure is likely to rise to 25 per cent by 2020.

Mercury accumulates in the air and water, and can harm the brain, kidneys, nervous system and unborn children. It also affects the food chain, particularly when it is deposited in water and ingested by fish. Crematoria are required to halve such emissions by next year and eliminate them by the end of the decade.

Some have already fitted systems which use the heat from the burners to heat their buildings, nearby offices and, in one instance, a swimming pool.

Durham Crematorium, which is run by the local county council, is undergoing a £2.3 million project to install three new furnaces. The first phase, due to be completed early next year, will see a “heat recovery system” fitted to one burner to heat the building.

In a second phase, turbines on the other two burners could be installed to generate electricity.

Alan Jose, the crematorium’s superintendent and registrar, said: “We will have far more electricity than we can possibly need, so we would be feeding a reasonable amount into the grid. If there is genuine spare capacity to generate electricity, then we are certainly interested in investigating that.

“And if it was thought to be acceptable in the eyes of the public we would almost certainly pursue that. Apart from it being common sense for us to try to conserve energy, it also enables us to keep the fees down.”

Mr Jose said the crematorium did not want to upset anyone over the plans and added: “We don’t want to become known as a power station rather than a crematorium because we try to provide a reverend and decent place for people to have a cremation service.”

The amount of electricity which could be produced by the furnaces would depend on how much they are in use.

The crematorium currently has about 2100 services a year. On some days, all three burners are required. On others, only one is needed.

The turbines would be powered by steam produced from cooling the hot gases, at temperatures of at least 816 degrees Celsius, used to cremate bodies. Most heat comes from the gases used in cremation, with only a negligible amount from the bodies themselves.

Engineers estimate each turbine could produce up to 250 kWh. With both furnaces operating efficiently on full power, they could power about 1500 television sets.

In return, the crematorium would receive an income from energy companies under the feed in tariff scheme. The “heat recovery” system installed for phase one will provide about £2500 of heating per month.

In the UK, about 75 per cent of the dead are cremated.

Dr John Troyer, of the Centre for Death and Society, part of the University of Bath, said such schemes were likely to increase, but warned: “When you are talking about how to handle dead bodies, you need to take time and move slowly to avoid sounding too glib, insensitive or utilitarian.”

No more sitting on Father Christmas’ knee because volunteers aren’t checked by the CRB

It is one of the defining images of Christmas, as children cosy up to Santa on his knee to tell him exactly what presents they want.

But in an age of ‘government guidance’ and overcautious school bosses, it was only a matter of time before it became a tradition of the past.

A rising number of schools are now forbidding children from sitting on Santa’s knee, with increasing numbers of teachers banning any physically contact with Santa at all.

Thing of the past: The scene of children sitting on Santa's knee could be over after government guidance suggested there should be no physical contact between Father Christmas and children.Thing of the past: The scene of children sitting on Santa’s knee could be over after government guidance suggested there should be no physical contact between Father Christmas and children.

With those playing ‘Santa’ no longer required to pass a CRB check, more and more schools are opting to ‘err’ on the side of caution and impose strict rules on children visiting Father Christmas.

Parents who volunteer for the role of Santa don’t have to undergo CRB checks as they do not come into regular contact with children.

But those who want to don the red suit and big festive white beard can now only do in many schools as long as they are not left alone with the children and don’t let them sit on their laps.Government guidance now states: ‘Under no circumstances must a volunteer who has not obtained a CRB disclosure be left unsupervised with children.’

Russell Hobby, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, told the Daily Telegraph this ruling meant many members had decided it is better if Santa avoided all physical contact with children.

‘Err on the side of caution’

He said: ‘The climate we work in, and the risk of getting it wrong, mean many school leaders err on the side of caution.

‘And if you are going to ‘err’ on the side of caution, that’s the side most parents would prefer.’

A spokesman for the Department for Education said children could still sit on Father Christmas’s knee as long as parents were consulted and were ‘completely comfortable’ with the situation.

Christine Blower, of the National Union of Teachers, told the Telegraph: ‘It would be a great shame if misinterpretation of regulations deterred schools from traditional festive celebrations

Children sitting on santas knee may be a thing of the past

Christmas lights go dim amid Britain’s economic gloom

Cash-strapped local authorities are cutting back on festive decorations – even though they attract shoppers

Edinburgh Launches Its Christmas Light Night

Christmas lights are shining in Edinburgh, but many local authorities cannot justify the cost.

To light or not to light is proving a major seasonal dilemma for local authorities across the UK, with many deciding to pull the plug on the traditional displays of Christmas street decorations.

But the cost-cutting is seen as a further blow to businesses relying on Christmas shoppers to come out in force and bring some balance to the books after a tough year for retailers.

With budget cuts and rising pressures on services, many councils do not have the money to keep the lights on. Even those not cancelling the tree and fairy lights are cutting back on their switch-on events, replacing the usual reality TV star or pop band guest with the mayor or local school children. A survey this weekend found 38% of England’s villages would be without their Christmas decorations this year because of cost.

“It’s not about being Scrooge, but being sensible with your budgets,” said Robert Oxley of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which supports the cutbacks. “You get some local authorities spending tens or even a hundred thousand pounds of taxpayers’ cash on a huge switch-on when they are cutting back on essential services. In times where savings have to be found, it would seem sensible not to spend a fortune on fairy lights.

“Everyone wants to enjoy Christmas and lights in town centres are often part of the festivities, but that doesn’t mean taxpayers should be left footing million pound bills just for decorations.”

In Chichester, West Sussex, businesses failed to match the £15,000 the council put in, leaving the town without Christmas lights. A collection among retailers in Newquay, Cornwall also failed to raise much cash but they are drafting in volunteers to help with their Christmas celebrations. “Our parade is really important to the town,” said the clerk of Newquay council, Andrew Curtis. “It brings a lot of people every year.” He said he had asked for more from retailers but did not get much in the current climate.

Cheltenham has also cancelled its switch-on to save the £33,000 it cost the town last year. But in big cities that attract shoppers from miles around, councils are conscious they could lose custom to competing city centres.

In 2009 Birmingham city council saw crowds of 20,000 when pop stars JLS were booked to switch on their lights. This year the local newspaper featured complaints that the switch-on parade featuring tap-dancing turkeys and Darth Vader had failed local businesses and left shoppers more likely to be lured by Liverpool and Manchester where X Factor stars and Girls Aloud appeared.

“We believe in the current financial climate it is more important than ever to attract shoppers and other visitors to our city centre,” Manchester councillor Pat Karney told the BBC. His council had spent £50,000 on the event and tens of thousands turned up to see X Factor winner Joe McElderry press the button that lit up the city centre.

A spokesman for Birmingham city council defended its change of line-up: “We do not believe it is low-key. We believe it is different. We’re very much pushing the real meaning of Christmas and the traditional elements. It’s a different take more directed at families.”

The National Association of Local Councils insisted councils would be trying their hardest to find money for Christmas displays. “We know that many local councils are looking to continue Christmas lighting for their community as it brings social and economic benefits for the area,” said a spokesman.

In Brighton, along with stocking their shopping streets with low-energy bulbsthere is a new plan to help retailers face economic downturn over Christmas. A project called Dressed For Success is offering expertise in festive window dressing to shopkeepers.

Brighton and Hove city council has put £7,000 into the scheme to help the city’s unusually high number of independent shops which lack the financial might of a chain to support them.

“Unlike chain stores, independents don’t have the backing of big organisations with lots of cash and expertise,” said councillor Amy .

In my home Town Of Redditch in  Worcestershire the Town centre grotto is now the size of a garden shed located outside the Debenhams store in the Kingfisher Shopping Centre and the lights hardly shout out it’s Christmas. I took Emilia my brothers eldest child for the grand switch on but we didn’t even notice they had been switched on due to the lack of them.

But Redditch Borough Council switched on the outside lights on Saturday and scrooge seems to be in charge of the money pot. Yet again a huge let down but i have never understood why Councils cut back on the lights and decorations as it gets shoppers in the Town Centre spending money.Instead that money will be ringing in the tills of shops in Birmingham and Merry Hill when it could of been spent in Redditch.

Residents went on social networking sites calling the lights “the big turn off” and comments on the local newspapers Facebook Page were mainly complaining that the Kingfisher Shopping Centre lights were a waste of time and the grotto looks like a garden shed.