Recycling – The Sacred Cow of Enviromentalism
Is the often holier-than-thou crusade to recycle everything from newspapers to beer bottles a way of saving the planet? Or is it just a modern manifestation of mass anal retentiveness?
An article in New Scientist argues that we have been misled by the Greens. Recycling paper, for example, contributes to an increase in environmental costs compared with simply burning the stuff. The action of the smug hoarders and collectors results in higher levels of carbon dioxide, methane, sulphur dioxide and other pollutants.
And what happens to the trees the things that we are supposed to be preserving when we recycle. Ironically, being 'Green' means that there are less of them. In Finland, for example, where much of the timber is grown for paper production, the forests are being left to die because increased recycling has rendered them uneconomic. And who will invest in new planting if the end products cannot be sold?
Similarly, why do we reuse or recycle bottles when the processes consume more energy that manufacturing new ones? The raw material for bottles is sand, not a commodity that is in noticeably short supply in the world at the moment.
"If all British municipal waste (including paper) were ncinerated, this would increase national emissions of the greenhouse gas by some 3 percent. But, if the wood from which the paper was originally made was replaced by new trees, then those trees would suck up the same amount of carbon dioxide as is emitted when the paper is burnt.
The research which underlies the conclusion that recycling is a danger to the environment comes not from the lunatic fringe of corporate ruthlessness. It comes from very respected environmental scientists. Professor Frank Ackerman, for example, who specialises in environment policy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, views recycling as an irrational 'religion'. Matthew Leach, an energy policy analyst at Imperial College in London, is adamant that "the higher you value the environment, the better incineration comes out." Even Richard Sandbrook, Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, previously a full-time official of Friends of the Earth, now concludes that "certain green campaigns were plainly misguided", including that which encouraged recycling. "Environmentalists refuse to countenance any argument which undermines their sacred cow."
As in so many cases, narrow ideology has replaced sensible discussion based on an even-handed evaluation of the scientific evidence. The next time you receive a leaflet from the Greens (printed of course on recycled paper) which urges you 'save the world' by transporting your household waste in the back of your Volvo to the nearest recycling centre, you will be doing the world a favour by setting fire to it on the spot.