Recycling is authoritarian, demeaning and an unutterable waste of time, energy and money. No surprise, then, that the European Union is planning to force its vassal states to do much, much more of it.
Last week, the European Commission proposed its most draconian waste disposal legislation yet: a plan requiring 70 per cent of all municipal waste and 80 per cent of packaging waste to be recycled by 2030; a total ban of the landfill of recyclable waste by 2025, aiming “to virtually eliminate landfill” by 2030.
As even the Guardian quietly concedes, this is an impossible ambition:
The new targets will be difficult for the UK to meet, as recycling rates have recently stagnated after a period of rapid growth in the past decade. According to figures released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in November, 43.2% of waste in England was recycled in 2012-13. That figure was just 12% in 2001 but the UK is still well behind Austria and Germany, which recycle 63% and 62% of their waste respectively.
But that won’t, of course, stop the green activists who have hijacked our councils (in accordance with Local Agenda 21) using it as an excuse to inflict further hairshirt misery on householders. On average, councils in Britain expect residents to sort their waste into four separate containers; but with some local authorities it’s as many as seven boxes or multi-coloured bags. The record is held by Newcastle-under-Lyme which has nine different bins, bags and boxes.
This is the most extraordinary imposition on people’s time. Research from Seattle suggests that it takes a typical household about 45 minutes per week to recycle its rubbish. In the US that works out at ninety million hours expended every week dividing green glass from brown glass from cardboard from aluminum from paper from plastic, etc. In the UK, that’s about 18.2 million man-hours per week which we’re never going to get back.
It is, of course, a petty authoritarian’s dream come true: councils have acquired for themselves the powers to fine taxpayers (yes, note, taxpayers: people who ought to be treated like customers not supplicants) who fail to put the right rubbish in the correct bag on the right day. Academics have even developed a BinCam – a camera inside a dustbin – which one day could be used by councils to spy on people to enforce environmental correctness.
If it weren’t for the gloss of environmental faux-righteousness covering these eco-fascistic measures, we’d recognise them for what they were: state-endorsed slavery. Since when, outside the penal system, did government acquire the power to force citizens to perform menial, useless tasks for free?
What’s worse is that these tedious tasks are entirely unnecessary.
The point was made very well in a Spectator article – The Great Recycling Myth – earlier this year which began:
My frail elderly mother has recently moved in with us in Epsom and in so doing has joined the 15 million people worldwide who spend their days sorting through rubbish. Mum, however, does not get paid $1 a day. She does it for nothing. This is because we now have five separate bins and every morning she and the other 10,000-plus members of Surrey’s army of housewives sort through their rubbish to make sure it all goes into the right one.
Yet, as the author Michael Ware pointed out, all this sorting can be done much more quickly, easily and economically by machine. He should know: he works in the waste industry.
We are the generation that built the large hadron collider. Do you really think that it has been beyond human ingenuity to invent a simple and cheap machine that can distinguish a tin can from a glass bottle? Of course it hasn’t, and there is now a whole industry supplying clever bits of technology to separate your unsorted rubbish into the component parts of glass, metal, food, paper and plastic. One of my clients even has a machine that uses reflected light to distinguish between different types of plastic and different colours.
That presupposes, of course, that any of this recycling is even necessary in the first place. Which on the whole it isn’t because the economic and energy costs of recycling outweigh any benefits. Greens often try to wriggle round this awkward fact by presenting it as a “space” issue. But in Britain, certainly, this argument holds no water, as Richard North notes here.
Far from running out of space, as the Commission constantly asserts, the UK is producing approximately 70 million cubic metres of municipal waste each year, while it has over 819 million cubic metres available for landfill and is creating about 114 million cubic metres of new space each year, mainly from quarrying and gravel extraction.
Given that refuse could also be used for reclaiming land from the sea, there is no likelihood of any shortage of landfill space, now or in the foreseeable future.
That does not, of course, stop multitudinous media outlets prattling about a “shortage”, but this is entirely artificial, driven by the refusal of licensing authorities to permit the development of new sites, and because of the swingeing “landfill tax” imposed by central government, aimed at deterring the use of landfill for waste disposal.
If you’re still in any doubt that recycling is a complete waste of time, read this classic article on the subject by John Tierney in the New York Times.
Recycling has nothing to do with saving the planet. It’s about asceticism, control-freakery and obeisance to the green religion.