Is Recycling a Waste of Time, Money and Energy?

Most of us feel guilty if we do not take the trouble to wash and sort all those reusable plastics, papers and tins. We do this to avoid throwing them in the bin which then ends up in the landfill sites around the country. But how useful is recycling and can it really solve the “waste crisis”?

UK households generate a staggering thirty million tonnes of rubbish a year, of which sixty per cent comes from packaging. There has been a lot of publicity recently about waste that has been put out for recycling ending up in landfill sites. It is also clear that an increasing amount is being shipped to other countries to dispose of. It can be cheaper to transport it to other countries than to recycle it or fill up the landfill sites in the UK.

The European Union (EU) has recently ordered the citizens of the United Kingdom to roughly double their recycling rates by 2008. Governments across the European Union and America have announced plans to need more recycling. Unless the UK hits these targets, local council tax bills across the UK will soar unless local authorities hit their recycling targets to enable the UK to hit their targets set by the EU. The UK government already charges tax for dumping waste in landfill sites to encourage us to recycle more and this tax is due to increase.

This will punish local councils which continue to use landfills and council tax payers will pay the price for poor performance by not recycling themselves or by not having the facilities to do this. It’s therefore cheaper to recycle then to dump in the landfill sites. The UK currently recycles 22 per cent of its household waste while some other EU countries recycle more than half. The UK proposes cutting the amount of waste put into landfill sites from 72 per cent today to 25 per cent by 2020.

Some Thing to Think About -The Future?

  • Why do we use all that energy recycling paper to save the trees? There is the argument that paper should be recycled so that we save trees and forests but we now grow trees just to produce newsprint and other items. Is it a sustainable resource already?
  • New landfills are constructed in the USA and this should happen in the UK on a large scale which would enable the UK to pipe the methane gas that they produce to local power plants supplying homes in a green and eco way.
  • We need to make sure that any recycling programmes that are run are delivered effectively. That means tracing waste down the chain to its ultimate destination. Transparency should inform the whole waste management industry.
  • If a study in undertaken and it concludes that it costs more to recycle than to bury the used and manufacture the new from scratch, then we could start landfills just for plastic, one for glass etc. then if we do run out of them we can dig them all up in one go for recycling. For example, if the throwing away of plastic continues and continuing oil shortages mean that it is more cost effective we can recycle them all at once by mining the landfills and it would be cheaper and easier then continuous recycling.
  • At present, only an estimated fifteen per cent of UK households have access to kerbside collections, if they these collections do not cover glass, paper, plastic etc. then how far do you have to drive to the nearest recycling centre and how much do you have to collect at home to make sure that you are not making more damage by driving then the amount of energy you are saving by recycling? What about the financial cost to collect the recycling or to take it to the recycling centre? What about the energy taken to recycle it? Is oil really running out? How much landfill is available?