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A culdesac or cul-de-sac is a dead end street. It is a street that is not connected to other roads, and it provides both a way in and out of an area. In America or Australia, it is sometimes called a court, which is a cul-de-sac with only one way in and out on the same road.

These dead end streets exist around the world, and they have existed for thousands of years. They were first seen in Egypt in an area that was found in the El-Lahun village that was estimated to be built in 1885 BCE. A law in the UK in 1875 banned the use of these streets in new developments, which implies that they must have existed there in earlier times as well.

A text written by a German architect that refers to medieval towns also points towards the existence of the cul-de-sac in this country. The text mentions streets that kept traffic away from residential streets “for the sake of the children” who were playing near their homes so they wouldn’t be run over. Before that time, residential areas sometimes had gates to keep traffic away.

In the early 1900s, the cul-de-sac was again used in the U.K. and in the U.S. as garden suburbs were planned and built. Sidewalks were also built as people took short trips by foot. The Radburn, NJ subdivision was used as a model for later developments. Culs-de-sac were recommended by the U.S. Federal Housing Authority in their 1936 guidelines.

These dead end streets were also used in Canada, but crescents or loops were often used. Today, they are sometimes formed as unplanned streets to reduce the flow of traffic through an area and to protect children who play there. A variation of the cul-de-sac is to have pathways that bicycles or pedestrians can take to get to another street, but they do not allow cars to pass through.

A cul-de-sac is different from a normal street that usually runs north and south, east and west in a grid plan. Normal streets are formed into blocks that may have stop lights at each corner to allow those travelling from the opposite direction to have a turn to go through the intersection. Businesses are usually located on normal streets, although a large company or a factory may have their company built in an open area that is accessible only by their cul-de-sac. The benefit of this type of street for a business is that they eliminate most of the traffic from coming near their business. Only those visiting the business will drive down the street.

Real estate values of houses built in culs-de-sac are generally higher than those built on regular streets. It is difficult to find any available land to build a new house on a city street because most areas are already developed, and little available land exists.

Cities in the U.S. and around the world in many countries must follow building codes that prohibit residential homes from being constructed in business districts. Private homeowners with houses on main streets are typically offered large amounts of money from the city to buy their property. Once the real estate lawyers have intervened and the city owns it, the house is usually demolished and the area is rezoned as a business district.

Culs-de-sac have many advantages over normal streets, such as the fact that they reduce noise and pollution since there is much less traffic traveling on them. Crime is also reduced because there is only one way out of the street, and this makes it easier for the criminal to be caught by neighbors or police who have been called to the scene. Additionally, very few traffic accidents occur on these streets. A cul-de-sac is much safer for children who are able to play in the street, especially if there are only four or five houses in the dead end.

Recycling and sustainability

In the US, two pro-recycling and sustainability groups are reporting on what they call ‘post consumer’ packaging recycling, and have found that some of the bigger highstreet names are already ahead of the curve in this regard.

Starbucks and McDonalds in particular were singled out for praise, using as much as 30% post-consumer materials in their paper cups and sandwich packaging.

It seems, then, that businesses large enough capture food packaging at their premises would do well to target post-consumer usage for maximum efficiency.

However, looking at takeaways and street food, biodegradable packaging and wrapping could well have the largest impact on reducing how much waste ends up in landfill.

Efra committee chair Anne McIntosh MP called on the government to set up a ‘national task force’ as part of the country’s bid to tackle excessive food waste.

Waste bins

Speaking last week after the publication of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs’ Inquiry into Food Security, Mrs McIntosh also highlighted an uneven distribution of food banks across the country as an issue that needed addressing.

The new report aims to address how demand for food can be met without extensive wastage in the supply chain, as well as looking at initiatives like WRAP and how the public can be better informed of the food waste issue.

McIntosh reserved special praise for supermarkets and charities who are helping to distribute food to grateful families before it is unfit for use saying, “Nine million tonnes of avoidable food waste goes into bins each year, yet a considerable proportion is fit for consumption when it is discarded: this level of waste is unacceptable economically, socially and environmentally.”

The Government should set up a task force to co-ordinate national work by charities, councils, retailers, food producers and manufacturers to establish an effective redistribution network across the country.

The Efra report was picked over by committee members, who highlighted how WRAP considered the EU target of reducing food waste by 30% to be ‘challenging’ but achievable’, despite Defra cuts in WRAP funding from £48.1 million in 2010/11 to £17.6 million in 2014/15.

The report states: “Despite reductions in recent years, people continue to waste significant volumes of food, and the amount of edible food being disposed of remains unacceptably high. At a time when global food systems are under pressure and the country faces its own food security challenges, this level of waste is unacceptable economically, socially and environmentally.

“There is no magic bullet for tackling this; rather measures must be diligently applied across the food supply chain from producer to consumer in order to achieve steady results.”

It concludes: “It is essential that the Government provides the Waste and Resources Action Programme with sufficient public funding such that, alongside investment from other sources such as trusts and charities, it has adequate resources to enable it to maintain momentum in its food waste reduction programmes.”

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA)’s latest report – “Food security: demand, consumption and waste” – has called on all levels of the food supply chain, as well as local and central governments to to use their influence to help reduce food waste.

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