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19 May, 2006

Random queries no. 54

One of a series of genuine search engine enquiries which successfully brought visitors to the Ministry.  Can I help?

recycling - is it a good solution

Okay, not an amusingly random enquiry, but I want to comment anyway.

No, recycling isn't a solution; there is no single panacea and it's a mistake to seek one, just as speed cameras are not the single solution to all road safety issues. Recycling needs to be only one of a suite, or in fact a hierarchy, of overlapping measures.

Firstly, consider whether it's really necessary to buy an item or use a resource. It's better to avoid unnecessary usage than to use then worry about disposal. Incidentally, by 'necessary' I don't solely mean 'essential for subsistence' – pleasure and quality of life are important too!

Secondly, wherever practical, reuse an item rather than recycling it or throwing it away. Recycling consumes resources, so is less than ideal; buying once and using twice is better than buying twice and recycling twice. Consider this when selecting items. Additionally, try to buy packaging-efficient refills for existing items.
When travelling in Europe, I'll tend to buy a 500ml (plastic) bottle of Coke on the first day, then repeatedly refill it with tap water on subsequent days.

Then, the third choice, recycle whatever you can. At least in Lancaster, there are limited options (the local authority doesn't accept all categories of recyclables), but I recycle metal cans (90% of which are Coke!), glass (I don't drink alcohol, so don't actually use much glass) and all paper, from the labels on cans & bottles to phone books. The only exception is private correspondence. Plastics are a problem, as I have nowhere (practical) to take them, but I prefer to minimise usage anyway.

Finally, dispose of the remaining materials responsibly. If items must go to landfill, try to crush them small first, to take up less space in the council lorry and in the ground. Living alone, I'd be able to put out one bag for collection every fortnight if it wasn't for smelly food waste.

Isn't this all Green Party hippie sh*t? I don't think so. The Greens peddle a pseudo-religion of environmentalist ethics, and I have nothing to do with them, but I regard this as entirely rational. It's not a moral issue of doing the 'right' thing, just common-sense, even long-term self-interest.


I'd suggest getting a composter for kitchen waste and shredded correspondence/bank statements, etc, but I'm not sure whether you have any use for one. Or you could just compost anyway...

I'm still harbouring a curiosity as to whether the local allotment would like donations of kitchen scraps, as we're usually at 1.5 rubbish bags per week, and we recycle almost everything else we can manage.

Posted by Calephetos at May 20, 2006 11:29 AM
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