Skip to main content

Cost is as important as benefit in recycling

Not easy to clean
(Photo by Steven Lilley from Wikimedia)
The other day on the radio, some government person or other was berating the poor old householder. He was asked by the interviewer why it was that a surprisingly high percentage of plastic sent for recycling ends up in landfill. He pointed out that the lazy old taxpayer often doesn't wash out their sauce bottles properly, so they can't be recycled.

This made me think - I have never seen a proper environmental cost/benefit on recycling. I do recycle - I'm all in favour - but, for example, in the case of the sauce bottle, I generally send it straight to landfill. This is because there is a considerable energy use in washing out a sauce bottle - it usually takes a fair amount of hot water and quite possibly some washing up liquid. It also takes up some of my time, which also has a cost (I assume the reason the recycling companies don't themselves wash out sauce bottles is that the cost outweighs the benefit.)

I don't know for certain how the balance lies as I've never seen appropriate figures, but my suspicion is that more environmental damage is done by cleaning out the bottle (and transporting it far further for recycling than for landfill) than is done by sticking it in a hole in the ground.

So, yes, government, please do encourage us to recycle sensibly - but give us the data to make it sensible. When a green activity is done for show, rather than to help the environment, it's greenwash - and I think this particular complaint about the householder is exactly that.

This has been a Green Heretic production.


Popular posts from this blog

Why I hate opera

If I'm honest, the title of this post is an exaggeration to make a point. I don't really hate opera. There are a couple of operas - notably Monteverdi's Incoranazione di Poppea and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas - that I quite like. But what I do find truly sickening is the reverence with which opera is treated, as if it were some particularly great art form. Nowhere was this more obvious than in ITV's recent gut-wrenchingly awful series Pop Star to Opera Star , where the likes of Alan Tichmarsh treated the real opera singers as if they were fragile pieces on Antiques Roadshow, and the music as if it were a gift of the gods. In my opinion - and I know not everyone agrees - opera is: Mediocre music Melodramatic plots Amateurishly hammy acting A forced and unpleasant singing style Ridiculously over-supported by public funds I won't even bother to go into any detail on the plots and the acting - this is just self-evident. But the other aspects need some ex

Is 5x3 the same as 3x5?

The Internet has gone mildly bonkers over a child in America who was marked down in a test because when asked to work out 5x3 by repeated addition he/she used 5+5+5 instead of 3+3+3+3+3. Those who support the teacher say that 5x3 means 'five lots of 3' where the complainants say that 'times' is commutative (reversible) so the distinction is meaningless as 5x3 and 3x5 are indistinguishable. It's certainly true that not all mathematical operations are commutative. I think we are all comfortable that 5-3 is not the same as 3-5.  However. This not true of multiplication (of numbers). And so if there is to be any distinction, it has to be in the use of English to interpret the 'x' sign. Unfortunately, even here there is no logical way of coming up with a definitive answer. I suspect most primary school teachers would expands 'times' as 'lots of' as mentioned above. So we get 5 x 3 as '5 lots of 3'. Unfortunately that only wor

Which idiot came up with percentage-based gradient signs

Rant warning: the contents of this post could sound like something produced by UKIP. I wish to make it clear that I do not in any way support or endorse that political party. In fact it gives me the creeps. Once upon a time, the signs for a steep hill on British roads displayed the gradient in a simple, easy-to-understand form. If the hill went up, say, one yard for every three yards forward it said '1 in 3'. Then some bureaucrat came along and decided that it would be a good idea to state the slope as a percentage. So now the sign for (say) a 1 in 10 slope says 10% (I think). That 'I think' is because the percentage-based slope is so unnatural. There are two ways we conventionally measure slopes. Either on X/Y coordiates (as in 1 in 4) or using degrees - say at a 15° angle. We don't measure them in percentages. It's easy to visualize a 1 in 3 slope, or a 30 degree angle. Much less obvious what a 33.333 recurring percent slope is. And what's a 100% slope