Evidence that recycling does not save resources

The fact that it is more expensive:

Fortnightly bin collections are to be extended across the country to save money.

We already have the taxes in place to cover the externalities of waste disposal: landfill tax for example.

So, if recycling did indeed save resources as a whole, given that we\’ve already internalised the externalities, it would be cheaper to recycle than it is to simply landfill. That it isn\’t shows that recycling is not, over the whole system, saving resources.

Thus these moves to save money by reducing the collection service.

5 thoughts on “Evidence that recycling does not save resources”

  1. I think you’re right- but bear in mind that the income from recycling may be being allocated elsewhere. After all the councils have a monopoly- they don’t have to worry about service levels.

  2. Our local council tried fortnightly collections for a while but gave up when people proved simply unable to work out which bin to put out on any particular week.

    They’re back to weekly collections now.

  3. An aside.

    The local authority where I live has the capacity to collect only three types of waste that householders preselect for recycling (ie the collection vehicles only have three hoppers). A couple of years ago, we were given green bags for plastic bottles, paper and metal cans. Today, we have a box scheme that takes plastic bottles, paper and glass bottles that are popped into the appropriate hopper on the lorry.

    The difference is metal cans and glass bottles. Cullet from glass bottles is almost worthless. Metal cans have value, so my local authority mechanically sorts them from the general waste that goes into landfill.

    So why collect pre-sorted glass rather than more valuable metal? Because the rules on how much recycling local authorities perform are determined on the basis of mass rather than economic value. Collecting glass increases recycling mass, so pick that up even if extra cost is incurred to sort out the metal cans.

    And why not add a fourth hopper to the collection lorries? I presume that it isn’t worth it until the waste service provider renews their fleet.

  4. @Pat,

    There is no income from recycling, it is a cost, not a profit centre.

    Not much mention of the dead hand of the EU either, or the fact that the amount that’s ‘allowed’ to go to landfill is dropping by 50% or so, with 200 quid and more a ton ‘fines’ for anything exceeding the EU decreed limits?

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