Transterrestrial Musings  

Amazon Honor System Click Here to Pay

Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Watch
NASA Space Flight
Hobby Space
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
Mars Blog
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Space Cynic
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Selenian Boondocks
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
True Anomaly
Kevin Parkin
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
Saturn Follies
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
The Ombudsgod
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
Joanne Jacobs

Site designed by

Powered by
Movable Type
Biting Commentary about Infinity, and Beyond!

« Dinerman Lauds Heinlein in Wall Street Journal | Main | "Pulled The Plug"? »

Save The Environment

Stop recycling. Or at least, stop mindless recycling.

Posted by Rand Simberg at July 26, 2007 11:23 AM
TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference this post from Transterrestrial Musings.

The best summary of the value to society of recycling is what the market price of recyclables is. In my neighborhood, we have to pay extra for the privilege of getting our trash recycled.

If it takes an extra ten seconds to recycle (ever rinse out a plastic bottle?) per item, at the average wage, that's $0.04 in time that has been used to save how much? In Simon's The Ultimate Resource 2, he notes human attention is the most precious resource and continues to appreciate. Try reclaiming expensive time by not recycling cheap trash.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at July 26, 2007 11:50 AM

I agree here. My take is that short sighted policies like recycling is one of the key reasons environmentalism isn't taken seriously in industry and commerce.

Also it points to a flaw in environmental thinking. Recycling has been around for decades now. We've had plenty of time to build recycling infrastructure and technology. Yet so much of the junk we are forced to recycle still isn't worth the effort. The argument that society will adapt to some environmental regulation (like restricting carbon output or mandating a certain fraction of solar power on the electricity grid) and become more economically efficient in the process is flawed. This is an example why.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at July 26, 2007 12:02 PM

A well-argued essay. I only regret that he didn't address arguably the costliest aspect of forced recycling programs, which is the opportunity cost.

What else could we be doing with that money and social energy? And would that something else be much more useful to the environment in the long run?

Posted by Carl Pham at July 26, 2007 01:54 PM

The recycling program here in Winnipeg isn't equipped to recycle glass. But they don't want to tell people not to throw put glass into their recycling for fear that people will somehow stop recycling altogether. So the glass is crushed to make new roadbed at the garbage dump, for more than the cost of sand.

On the other hand some of the best parks here are former garbage dumps. (Best in my opinion because they feature *hills* in our otherwise soul-suckingly flat terrain.) The garbage is mixed with lots of dirt as it's dumped, and capped with more dirt when the dump is closed. Let it sit for a couple decades while the methane leaks out, and turn it into a park.

Posted by Roger Strong at July 26, 2007 04:41 PM

Man, am I glad I don't live in the U.K. This would be one scary thin to read,

The European Union has ordered the citizens of the United Kingdom to roughly double their recycling rates by 2008...

An outside agency that they did not vote for directly is ORDERING then to do things.

Posted by Steve at July 26, 2007 05:49 PM

they did not vote

Apart from voting to join and the 4 yearly vote for Members of the European Parliament, and the vote for the government who select the members of the European Commission, and the vote for your leader who sits on the council of Europe and currently has veto rights on things they don't like?

Apart from those votes?

The problem with a lot of recycling is that it is dumb. All the paper making capacity in the UK is pretty much based on recycled and always has been because of the lack of decent virgin pulp. The problem the mills have had for years is what to do with mountains of paper they don't have the capacity to recycle.

Posted by Dave at July 26, 2007 06:00 PM

Dave, I doubt the UK could have vetoed that order. There appears to be a large bureacracy with tenuous connections to the part that is elected. Having said that, I suppose the UK can ignore it, go through EU courts, or legislate a way out assuming they can get enough cooperation.

Posted by Karl Hallowell at July 26, 2007 06:11 PM

Well to be honest I was having a pop at the idea that the British didn't/don't vote for the EU.

However, I am struggling to find a reference to this "order" to figure out what it is and from where it was issued. I've not, apparently, got the Google-Fu for it.

I will mention that item (1) in the list about Land Fill actually is a problem already for the UK which does have a shortage of landfill capacity already.

Posted by Dave at July 26, 2007 06:59 PM

Let it sit for a couple decades while the methane leaks out,

It's my impression that the changes in US landfills to address local pollution issues (such as, lining the landfill with clay and plastic, and also increase in scale) have made them even more effective as sources of methane. Some landfill operators increase the moisture level of the refuse to accelerate methane production, so that the volume of the trash is reduced, increasing landfill capacity and revenue from selling the methane or electricity generated from the methane.

A school in the county east of me is largely powered by gas from a nearby, closed landfill. They burn it in about a dozen Capstone microturbines, and use the waste heat to provide hot water to heat their buildings.

Posted by Paul Dietz at July 27, 2007 08:52 AM

In Manitoba, hydro-electricity is dirt-cheap, making it hard for alternate energy schemes to compete. About the only thing that competes is wind power.

Posted by Roger Strong at July 27, 2007 03:17 PM

Post a comment

Email Address: