Monday, October 09, 2006

 

Why Can't we Recycle More Waste?

Jackie Ashley is right to focus on the topic of waste disposal in today's Guardian. Such topics are often regarded with the ennui with which many reserve for local politics, but if we are honest, we all care about the issue and recognize its importance. The green arguments in favour of recycling do not need repeating but it always strikes me as pathetic that while countries like Austria, Germany, Holland and Belgium can recycle over half of their waste, we can manage only a measly 23 per cent.

An EU directive-essentially with statutory effect- states landfill sites must not be used so prodigally; within 15 years only one third of our waste can be so disposed. So, as in so many respects regarding the environment, we have to change our ways. In Stockport we now have black plastic bins for the purpose-collected fortnightly- but only for bottles and tins; I have to drive to the local tip to recycle other materials like cardboard and plastics. Ireland introduced a tax on plastic bags- only a small tax- and it has led to a 90 per cent reduction in usage with consequent benefits for the environment. Ashley says Michael Meacher was about to introduce the same scheme in the UK but was prevented by being reshuffled out of government. Why on earth cannot wunderkind David Miliband introduce a measure which is both easy, necessary and proven to work?

German Rubbish Disposal Practice
Everyone knows the Germans are 'relentlessly efficient', but that often pejorative stereotype should not prevent us from admiring the good things they do. My sister lives in a small village in Bavaria and tells me she has separate bins for recycling paper, glass, tins, cardboard, plastic and various species of wrapping. These are then regularly taken to recycle depots in each village where volunteers assist with loading into the respective skips and bins. In addition they have 'compost' bins for biodegradable material-food and the like- which are collected fortnightly in winter and weekly in summer. This helps explain why such a commendably high percentage of waste is recycled in Deutchland.

But, I hear you object, Brits are not like our beach colonizing Teutonic cousins; we would never take the trouble to sort out so many different items. Well, in Germany the incentive is financial; the more you recycle, the less you pay for the rubbish which is collected. Each household chooses a size of bin- small, medium ahnd large-and pay different annual fees for each size; the average family of four pay about £100 a year for rubbish collection. If you overfill your bin, it will be refused- and we all know how corporation operatives over here would love doing that. If it hit our pockets, as in Germany, we would, I suspect, soon change our habits to the advantage of the environment. Why on earth are we so slow to adopt best practice?

Comments:
Even better would be not to generate so much waste in the first place.

How about cars that last for more than eight years? - No good we need to go on making the things to keep the Japanese economy buoyant.

Or how about bringing back the canvass shopping bag?

I work for a tiny charity which campaigns on such matters. One of our activities involves 'recycling' furniture (re-using would be a better term). But if IKEA, DFS and the like were to stop making so much of the stuff we wouldn't have to 'save' so much of it from going to landfill.

And what was wrong with returnable bottles? Oh yes, it was such a fag to take them back ...
 
"And what was wrong with returnable bottles? Oh yes, it was such a fag to take them back ..."

I think that's the point. We all know it is better to reuse stuff and not produce so much waste but for the vast majority or people it is far too easy not to.

A 5p tax on Plastic bags is so easy to implement and will have a dramatic effect.

People respond to incentives. And if they are charged more for producing waste that will go to landfill then they might change their habits. The problem is when the Daily Hate Mail and such trite run stories about computer chips in bins, Middle England throws up its arms about the invasion of the nanny state.
 
I doubt the Japanese economy relies entirely on the motoring habits of the UK. And Ikea is making too many sofas? Companies profit maximise, welcome to planet earth.

On the subject of planet earth, I think the truth is most people are very suspicious about the pseudo science that passes for environmentalism. Unproven speculative rubbish, often deliberately misleading, and consequently treated accordingly.

Most of the propositions mentioned smack of nanny statism, and no doubt the hatred directed towards Middle England is all the more venomous because they spot the ruse. If you want to "save the planet", go ahead, just don't expect me to waste my time in this nonsense.

Perhaps the green brigade and assorted lental munchers would have more success if they didn't come across as such protectionist, paternalist, anti-capitalist and anti-freedom nutcases. But then that isn't my problem is it?
 
Michael Oakeshott - you have to be taking the p***.
 
I think - we should pile it all into huge rockets and blast it to the outer reaches of the solar system. And beyond.

http://bucket-of-shit-from-china.blogspot.com/
 
One of the more sensible ideas I have heard in the environmental debate. Though that isn't saying a lot...
 
MO

Charging households different amounts depending on how much waste they produce is not nanny-statism - on the contrary, the idea is to contrive the ethos of a free market economy within a monolithic council-controlled industry. If rubbish-collection was a private industry, the likelihood is that the companies involved would levy different charges for different levels of service. Being a free-marketeer, you would doubtless welcome this natural relationship of price, supply and demand. So why, if the state attempts to contrive (albeit artificially) a free-market effect, do you deride it as paternalism?
 
SPL

You rather said it yourself. The state is attempting to contrive a market. When has ANY state ever successfully done this in ANY area? I would rejoice if the market was applied to this problem, and look forward to the saving I would get when the market drove down prices and my council tax was adjusted accordingly. Until that joyous day, I reserve the right to ridicule(and evade) the silly schemes contrived by people who think they know best, but in fact know little.
 
You're right, of course. But nevertheless, would you accept that a flexible pricing structure would still be better than the current monolithic construction?
 
Yes I would.
 
That was me by the way.
 
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