Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Recycling questioned

The Daily Telegraph today reports that Peter Jones, former director of Biffa, a waste disposal company and now environmental advisor to London Mayor Boris Johnson, claims that much recycling contributes to "greenhouse gases" and it would be better burning the waste to generate electricity.

This comes on top of the collapse of the market for recycled commodities (hardly surprising). Jones suggests that kerbside recycling, which inevitably mixes different materials, effectively contaminates them making much useless for recycling.

Quite simply, recycling is a good idea when it is viable to do it. Planes and cars have always been recycled because the materials they are made of are in sufficient abundance that scrapping made sense, much like ripping up unused railway lines has often been worth it. However, your taxes shouldn't be taken to subsidise the supply of commodities to producers. Similarly you shouldn't be subsidising waste disposal. If landfills and kerbside rubbish collection were all privatised, then they would be user pays activities, required to make a profit. As a result, recycling as an alternative for some waste would be viable for those commodities that are worthwhile recycling.

THAT you see is the problem of rubbish disposal. Sadly in the UK, recycling has become a religion, because it is one in Brussels. Like many Green fads, it isn't driven by rational analysis, but a fervent belief that recycling is always good. However, when it costs more to recycle a bottle than it does to make one from scratch, you might ask yourself whether that difference is due to government interference (taxes or subsidies), or simply reflects that your premises of recycling are wrong.


Anonymous said...

Biffa, what a wonderful name for a waste disposal company.

Anonymous said...

ah dont be too upset about the inefficiency. Another major UK cleaning company "stores" materials for recycling in a different part of the landfill. They know where it is when it becomes economic to recycle. :^)


Once more the Greenies get it wrong.
Is it because they are more into socialism than science?
I think so.

Anonymous said...

Archeologists of the future will curse this present age and its mania for recycling. It is the unrecycled pottery, glassware and other artifacts that have provided today's archeologists with so much useful information about how our ancestors lived. Now that we are recycling glass aluminium and plastics, materials that will survive unchanged for hundreds of years, this information will not be available in the future.