Why Recycling Is A Waste Of Time! – We Look At The Evidence
If you are a regular reader of our blogs – you will be surprised to see a blog entitled – “why recycling is a waste of time”. The recycling is a waste of time argument is more common than you may expect – and we believe that some very valuable conclusions can be gained from it.
In today’s blog – we will cover issues such as misconceptions in the recycling is a waste of time debate, some good points in this argument and an analysis of whether recycling is really all its cracked up to be.
A bit about Waster:
Waster is an Australian business that helps small and medium companies maximise their recycling, save money and benefit from flexible 30 day agreements for their waste services.
You can access all waste and recycling services in your city – from all suppliers – and not be tied to one restrictive long term contract.
Click the links at the bottom or top of this page to find out much more on our services.
How recycling is promoted as a benefit and complete solution
If you read the press – or listen to your local council or waste provider – you would almost believe that recycling is perfect – and creates new materials that can be constantly re-used. It almost takes away any guilt you may feel from using lots of resources – and throwing away the waste – whether it be old items or packaging etc.
This almost sounds too good to be true – i.e. the term recycling makes it sound like the commodity is being reprocessed for real and beneficial re-use, but how true is this?
The concept of recycling and a recycling industry makes it feel like we are not that bad – i.e. it minimises our guilt at a throw away lifestyle that is prevalent all over the developed world.
All traditional societies had a concept of guilt at behaving outside social norms – in our modern world – we can consume and dispose of as much as we like as long as we “recycle”.
Does it sound too good to be true? Well then…..
A common misconception that feeds the “why recycling is a waste of time” debate
Many people in Australia assume that pretty much all waste and recycling basically ends up in landfill – i.e. that recycling in any form is basically a con job.
This has been encouraged to some extent by recent TV exposes of the Aussie recycling industry such as ABC’s War On Waste.
Despite some isolated incidents – this is not true. When a bin is picked up as recycling – it nearly always is recycled – i.e. does not go to landfill. This is certainly true when it contains valuable resources such as cardboard, certain types of glass, valuable metals etc.
This recycling is driven by the cost saving by not dumping at landfill – i.e. which now costs c.$300 a tonne in Sydney metro as of Dec 2018.
No profit maximising waste or recycling business will charge you a recycling collection rate (lower than general waste) – and then dump it at a loss in landfill.
When we question recycling – we do not question whether it happens – we sometimes question the real benefit to the economy and the planet.
It is not just down to recycling – is it shifting the blame – or not telling the truth?
The ABC TV show took the position that the general public really want recycling – and shady corporates were not delivering what they wanted.
However – as The Jam sang: “And the public gets what the public wants”.
As we saw in the public push back on the plastic bag fees in Coles and Woolies – the people may be less keen on recycling than we are led to believe.
At the end of the day – companies reflect society.
The Western world has chosen consumption and convenience above responsibility and environmentalism.
And with this consumption – this means waste.
Is recycling just a convenient mis-truth or fake news to make us all feel better?
Does recycling actually create useful products in the right place at right time?
Let’s be honest – a lot of what is called recycling basically creates items that no one really wants – and just delays their eventual dumping at landfill.
For example – in Australia we turn plastic bags etc into items like playground and garden furniture that can not be sold and is pretty much donated to councils etc.
Is this really recycling? Sooner or later we need to either burn it for energy or dump it at landfill.
Nearly all developed countries have seen huge decreases in manufacturing in recent years. We have outsourced the dirty work of making things to other countries such as China.
The problem is that if we recycle in Australia – there is basically no manufacturing bases to actually use the recycled products.
We then have to subsidise their export to China or a country that actually makes stuff!
Is that sensible from an economic perspective?
However – we have no intention as a nation of reinvigorating our manufacturing base -we prefer the modern slight of hand – where we do not see the dirty work.
Why recycling is a waste of time: Does landfill have an unfairly bad image?
The funny thing is that landfill used to be seen as a great thing. It was originally a way of filling in old mines.
In a landfill – waste decays – emits gas – which can be captured for electricity generation and can power thousands of homes.
As long as landfill is properly managed – it is not really that bad.
Think about it – organic food waste recycling – which is not subject to a landfill levy and described as recycling – involves bringing the waste to a facility where it decays and emits gas which is used to generate electricity.
This is called recycling – but is it not pretty similar to a modern landfill?
Is the landfill levy misguided?
The landfill levy – as being introduced in Queensland is a real tax on business – it basically makes business pay for the cost of plastics – and can be a real hindrance to business.
It is called a levy – but is really a tax. Does it really lead to recycling – and if it does , does it really work and how does it impact the economy.
After years of a waste levy in Victoria and NSW – we still have no facilities capable of recycling nappies – despite a know technology being available!
We need to basically stop using plastic
Why hide from reality – we basically need to stop using plastic.
Plastic lives forever. We can, and always have recycled metal, wood, cardboard etc – but plastic is a totally different game
It pollutes everything and lasts pretty much forever.
Trying to solve a problem – rather than avoiding it in the first place is basically insanity.
Developing incredibly complex collection and processing systems for plastic – when we could just avoid using it is crazy (makes you ask why recycling is a waste of time).
If we just used glass, metal, wood, cardboard etc or compostable alternatives – we would avoid huge issues.
When we say “why recycling is a waste of time” – what we are really saying is – shouldn’t we just avoid plastic in the first place?
The waste hierarchy as below over argues for the point of recycling (why recycling is a waste of time debate) – it is a science fiction recycling in many ways. The chart should be 95% avoidance and minimisation and recycling / disposal for the other 5%.
Why recycling is a waste of time: Should we not consider incineration?
Many countries like Sweden and Japan basically burn their waste plastic for energy generation (for them why recycling is a waste of time is an answered question -they even import waste to burn). Is this not a smarter plan than ” fake recycling” it into garden furniture that is impossible to sell – or export at subsidised rates to China.
Let’s also be honest – the why recycling is a waste of time debate also asks about the chemicals and energy involved in the recycling process – because that is also not neutral.
We have asked lots of questions – not to be depressing – but to make us all think.