Quite excellent this.

Danny Finkelstein has a post about the way that the Tories are suggesting that incentives should be offered for recycling, rather than fines imposed for not doing so.

All well and good except, except, it\’s illustrated with a picture of two green glass bottles being recycled.

No, not get it?

There are some things that it\’s a really great idea to recycle…because you can make money by doing so. Catalytic converters from cars, their radiators, aluminium cans, all good stuff worth real cash on delivery. Then there\’s another group of things which are still a good idea to recycle even though they cost money to do so. This would be because there\’s some environmental damage external to the market prices that not recycling might cause. This is why we force you to pay for your sewage disposal rather than letting it run into the nearest river.

However, there\’s a third group, things which we really don\’t want to recycle at all. It might be because we have to spend more money than the environmental damage caused or, possibly, it could be, at the extreme, that the recycling both costs us a lot more and also damages the environment more.

And guess what? Green glass in the UK is in that very last group.

We don\’t bottle much in green glass in the UK (mostly because we have a very small wine industry) so said glass is expensively collected and then milled down to provide hardcore for roadbuilding. And WRAP (the experts on this issue) have noted that this has greater emissions than simply throwing the glass into landfill in the first place.

So, an article on recycling is illustrated by a photo of someone damaging the planet at great expense by doing that very recycling.

Fun, eh?

5 thoughts on “Hurrah! Hurrah!”

  1. Presumably we will still need hardcore even if we don’t make it out of green bottle and the alternative hardcore will have to be created by some sort of process.
    The relevant question is not whether grinding up bottles causes more emissions than dumping them in a hole in the ground, doing anything to them seem likely to cause more emissions than that.
    I would suggest the relevant question is whether the total emissions from (i) creating the alternative source of hardcore + (ii) dumping green bottles is greater than the total emissions from (iii) creating hardcore from green bottles + (iv) doing something else with the other potential hardcore material.
    If the answers to these two sums is that recycling bottles is more of an emissions-sin than the alternative, we then have to ask whether there is any other factor to make recycling an attractive option, it is not a simple matter of does crushing bottles cause gas (that, after all, might be what the content of the bottled did).

    tim adds: My understanding is that in this case i and ii are less than iii and iv.

  2. Doh!

    I read the Comment Central post, saw the picture, and made the same connection as you did. I was about to leave a comment, but thought I’d do a Google search on recycling green glass to get my facts right – and it brought me here!

    Now I can’t comment without it looking like I’m just pinching your stuff.

  3. Emissions are by the by. Glasphalt makes a quieter, more effective braking surface, less rolling resistant, harder wearing and longer-life road surface than plain old asphalt.

    That’s why grinding down bottles – green or otherwise – is worthwhile for this purpose.

  4. Can anyone from the industry enlighten us on how much glass actually does get recycled into containers?
    I have my suspicions, because I’ve watched two London Councils collecting sorted glass & when the containers were tipped into the trucks there were no divisions in them. it was just an open backed tipper with a Hyab. All those bottles,carefully sorted by the concientious, ended up in a heap.
    I have my suspicions about paper as well. I used to get around £40 a ton for office files back in the early 90’s. By the time we gave up on providing the clearence service I was paying the paper merchant almost that much to take it. It was only worthwhile because confidental paperwork has to be pulped rather than landfilled.

  5. Incidentally, on the incentive side, this sounds a good idea.
    I worked out that if I spent a couple of hours a month sorting recycling I’d want £80 a month to do it. That’s what my billed time is & I can’t see why I should work for nothing. There’s only so many hours in a month & I’ve only got the physical energy to work the hours I do. If I spend two of them recycling garbage then that’s two hours I’m not earning money. So I don’t sort garbage.
    If the plan is to incentivise, why can’t I give my garbage to someone else to sort? They can have the incentive with my blessing.

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