Monday, July 03, 2006

Latest Green fascism - compulsory recycling

GMTV has reported that Barnet Council - North London - has made it illegal to put glass bottles, tins, jars, paper and magazines in the rubbish instead of recycling, with £1000 fines. Harrow and Bromley are about to do the same.
.
Quite how this works is beyond me. Contaminated paper isn't worth recycling, because once you get rid of the fat or other fluids the fibre has degraded too much. I wonder if some decent investigative reporting would discover how much recycled material is dumped.
.
People feel good about recycling, because what you don't want is going to be used again and that is rational. Indeed it is, recycling isn't new. The car industry has been recycling the metal from car bodies for decades, so has the aviation industry for planes.
.
However, this approach by councils is simply fascist. Who gives a damn what you do with your rubbish as long as you aren't dumping it on someone else's land without their permission. The answer to concerns about waste involves two steps (New Zealand is part way along this path already):
.
1. Charge for rubbish collection. In NZ this is done with council rubbish bags that cost enough to pay for the collection. Rubbish collection could then be operately privately, and revenue generated by the number of bags collected. The incentive to produce less rubbish comes from paying for the cost of collection (if it is free, as it is in the UK, it doesn't matter), the privately run rubbish collectors are incentivised to keep the cost down and collect frequently - making the local environment more pleasant. If landfill space is scarce, then let the private sector find more and charge for using it.
.
2. Run recycling commercially. Recycling is not good per se - it depends on whether it is more economic to recycle than to source materials as new. Remember paper is a renewable resource, and glass comes from sand - hardly that scarce! For both it is whether it is cheaper to pick it up, transport it and refine it from paper and glass to fresh materials, than to source it directly. Metals are the same, it may or may not be cheaper to recycle aluminium, tin and steel, depending on the price. If it costs more to pick up, store and reuse, then it doesn't matter if it is rubbish. You could reuse all your clothes again and again too.
.
and don't give me arguments about externalities. The externality is that land is used for rubbish dumping - as long as it is privately owned and there is no resulting trespass of pollutants from that land onto neighbouring properties, it is not a problem. The world is not running out of resources.

No comments: