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.

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