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Author Topic: Recycling
Stumpy Pepys
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I've been thinking about this of late.

It's taken as read (or as dogma) that we should be doing more to recycle, at least in the UK. And the emphasis is always on glass and paper.

But why? Paper is made from trees which come from stupendously large man-made forests. And it will slowly rot if you bury it. And glass is made from sand, which is hardly a scarce resource either. And burying glass isn't exactly harmful to the environment either. Neither products are increasing in price, which leads to the assumption they're not increasing in scarcity.

Meanwhile there's far less emphasis on things which are scarce (eg metals) or toxic (eg batteries).

Can anyone explain this logic to me? And if you're going to use the 'we can't keep burying things forever' argument, could someone explain how man square kilometres of landfill a population actually needs? And does recycling glass or paper expend more or less energy than creating it in the first place?

Posts: 6400 | From: Old München Town | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Paul S
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Recycling paper is indeed a wate of time. I studied at agricultural college and I looked at the effects of recycling paper on the enviromnet as part of a forestry module.

Paper is just a slightly bleached leaf. You can make paper out of almost any living thing - wood, flowers, grass. Some of the finest paper we have comes from grass clippings, but the amount you need to make it makes the cost prohibitive. But commercial forestry is extremely sound and has increased the size of the UK's forests since an all-time low in about 1918.

All you achieve by recycling paper is the unemployment of a few Swedish foresters. Recycling paper puts more emissions into the atmosphere rather than making it, and the demand for forestry decrease - and they are not replanted. The cutting down of the Amazonian rainforests is due to ranching and the need for fine woods in carpentry etc. Recycling old furniture is actually quite beneficial.

Posts: 2400 | From: Plastered over the Maplin Sands | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Etienne
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In the "Reduce, Re-use, Recycle" order if hierarchy, recycling comes a long way behind the other two in terms of environmental effectiveness.
Posts: 7411 | From: some place more ... you know. | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
bryanattoni
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A law should be introduced saying that products can only be packed in one layer of packaging. Why a bag of cornflakes needs a cardboard box around it is beyond me.
Posts: 8126 | From: la palude di amstel | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
morgan
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In the hierarchy, the first thing is 'eliminate'.

With things like batteries, should be looking at whether disposable batteries are the best way to run your equipment, could you not use either re-chargable batteries or power by elecrical cord.

The white paper used in our office is sent away for recycling, and is used to produce paper towels, toilet paper, and packaging.

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HORN
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Apparently, if you leave your 4 wheel drive parked up for one year and do average annual miles in a "typical" family saloon instead, this has the equivalent "beneficial" effect on the environment as the average family's recycling does in 300 years.
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Twilight Johnny Atom
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i.e. none?

What a loose and unproveable statistic that is (aren't they all).

Posts: 1495 | From: Where I stand | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
garcia en dolor
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the thing that annoys me most is those plastic ice bags. you fill up a compartmentalised plastic bag with water, tie it up and stick it in the freezer, then when it's frozen you tear the ice out of it and throw the resulting plastic mess away.

for some reason, this disgustingly wasteful method of ice-making is sweeping away the age-old, vastly superior 'mould' technology which creates no environmentally damaging by-products.

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Muukalainen
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Man-made forests? Man-managed forests for sure, but they're not man made.
quote:
Recycling paper is indeed a wate of time. I studied at agricultural college and I looked at the effects of recycling paper on the enviromnet as part of a forestry module.

All you achieve by recycling paper is the unemployment of a few Swedish foresters.

Finnish ones too, presumably. Never having been to Agricultural College Paul has an advantage over me, but re-cycling of paper (also cardboard, glass, batteries and some other things) is very common over here, and I see no reason to do it unless it is cost effective. Forestry in one form or another is a huge industry here and it doesn't make sense to cut back part of it without there being some good reason to do so.

In response to Coyote's point about excessive packaging, I believe I'm right in saying that the EU demands it; the manufacturers have no choice in the matter.

Posts: 1406 | From: Pohjois-Pohjanmaa | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Croute au fromage et oeuf au plat
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That's why recycling will never catch in the UK. It has nothing to do with making a profit or reduce costs, which seems to be the bottom line of anything done in this country and the reason for many of its problems. Better bury it in a landfill, it's cheaper and less of a waste of money...

I don't think the EU has anything to do with packaging, in countries like Germany and Switzerland (them again...) there is a push to stop excess packaging and supermarkets are trying to help. This will also never catch in the UK, consumers here are more "sophisticated" than in Germany (according to an article I read a little while ago, must have been the Guardian) and packaging is here to stay, plenty of land left to fill up with rubbish anyway...

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macocha europy
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Where to start?

1. There are hardly any forests in Britain anyway, are there? Sheep done away with them. And if you talk to ecologists on the value of forests, you'd know it's much better to preserve them than to cut them down for paper. And it reduces the amount of waste.

2. Glass recycling doesn't really make much sense in terms of saving resources or energy. The energy needed to break the glass and grind it to bits isn't much of an energy advantage over producing new glass. It does, however, reduce the amount of waste. Very much what M-M wrote. Glass can be re-used too, and has been in Germany for a long time (beer, mineral water).

3. Recycling really makes sense in niches, like batteries or, cork. Or aluminium.

4. Avoiding waste is generally the best thing to do.

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Stumpy Pepys
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But that's exactly my point—what is wrong with burying paper in landfill? I'll accept the argument for metal or plastic, but paper? You bury it. It rots away.

Are we not just being made to feel guilty by the recycling lobby? I mean making high-grade office paper into bog-roll isn't going to save the world.

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Chippy
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Landfill sights don't seem to be getting any smaller, do they?
Posts: 3563 | From: Standlake | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Muukalainen
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65% of UK newsprint is from re-cycled paper and it's difficult to believe that companies like News Corp use it solely because it saves the environment; it must be cost effective.
quote:
... and supermarkets are trying to help.
Don't make me laugh, MM. That's the same supermarkets that are happy to collect small amounts of produce from farmers all around the country in great big lorries, drive them to a central point and then distribute them out again all around the country. It's obviously good for their PR though.
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Spock na Escada
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The logic behind recycling isn't simply to re-use the materials for the sake of conserving trees and sand.

Making paper and glass from raw materials uses enormous quantities of both energy and fresh water. Both processes also create large volumes of pollutants which then have to disposed of, at high cost both to the environment and ultimately to the consumer which has to pay for the finished products.

Similarly, the cost to local authorities of disposing of mixed garbage is high and must ultimately be borne by the tax/council tax payer.

Seperating recyclable waste from houshold rubbish both allows local authorities to generate revenue by selling it on to recycling companies and for more household waste to be composted, again generating income and reducing landfill.

"what is wrong with burying paper in landfill? You bury it. It rots away."

Eventually yes, but the main problem with landfill sites is that they produce toxic liquids which leech into the ground water and poison natural water courses. Also, due to the anoxic nature (sealed in clay, no oxygen) of landfill sites, rubbish rots far slower than you'd think.
I remember reading an article in National Geographic a few years ago about the science of 'garbology' - basicly archeaological excavation of garbage dumps. Garbologists in the US were working on landfill sites 30-40yrs old from which they were able to extract newspapers which were still readable and even hamburgers in recognisable condition.
They probably didn't taste any worse either.

Posts: 12057 | From: The pape's second home | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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