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Author Topic: Recycling is bad for the environment  (Read 29395 times)

Offline The Silurian Prince

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Recycling is bad for the environment
« on: 19/04/2006 21:48:44 »
Not so long ago there was a push to use biological products like papers and such for packaging.  Then recycling came along and everything was put into plastic blister packs and cheap plastic containers.  All of the people that previously only bought items packaged in biodegradeable packages didn't think twice.  What harm can there be in simply remolding the container.

Well how much of the container actually makes it to the next one and how much gets pumped into the atmosphere when cooked.    

Recycling has been bad for the environment because people now use plastics with disregard because they assume that the process is efficient.  It's not my thing so tell me if I'm wrong.  How efficient is the process.  Should we go back to using paper.  Then use the by products as fertilizers for soils in reforesting areas.

Enjoy diversity.


 

another_someone

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #1 on: 19/04/2006 22:37:55 »
I think the problem is when religious environmentalism takes over from pragmatism.

People have always recycled things, when it was efficient to do so (whether it was passing things on through second hand shops, whether it was taking apart old machinery to make new machines, or whether it was just throwing old newspapers onto the fire to make some heat).

The problem is when recycling becomes an obsession, and like any obsession (like washing your hands – which is a good thing to do, but not a good thing when it becomes obsessive), then recycling can become highly wasteful.



George
 

Offline wim

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #2 on: 20/04/2006 00:32:19 »
Did you know we only recycle 7% of our total plasticwaste?

Did you know that recycled plastic isn't only better for our environment but also cheaper to produce?

So these two facts are indeed facts, how come we don't recycle more?

grtz
 

another_someone

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #3 on: 20/04/2006 01:00:53 »
quote:
Originally posted by wim

Did you know we only recycle 7% of our total plasticwaste?

Did you know that recycled plastic isn't only better for our environment but also cheaper to produce?

So these two facts are indeed facts, how come we don't recycle more?



Please explain what the above means?

Are you really trying to say there is such a generic thing as recycled plastic – that plastic, whether it be polythene, nylon, polycarbonate, teflon, etc. is all one and the same thing, that can all simply be substituted for by some generic recycled plastic?



George
 

Offline The Silurian Prince

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #4 on: 20/04/2006 03:39:55 »
Recycled plastic is better for the environment because the person for whom it is cheaper to make told you so.  The only plastic that is better for the environment is no plastic.

If your point about 7% is true then my argument only stands firmer.  It's not that we have to recycle more.  We have to phase out plastic.  

I have no idea about how the different plastics recycle.  I was hoping someone could fill me in.

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Offline daveshorts

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #5 on: 20/04/2006 09:16:33 »
Plastics are increadably good materials. Phasing them out wouldn't necessarily be better for the environment in all cases. For example the energy required to make a plastic pop bottle is hugely less than that required to make a glass one, and it is much lighter so you use less energy in transport, etc, etc. Often it involves less energy to make something out of plastic than to wash the equivalent glass container...
 

another_someone

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #6 on: 20/04/2006 13:25:47 »
quote:
Originally posted by daveshorts

Plastics are increadably good materials. Phasing them out wouldn't necessarily be better for the environment in all cases. For example the energy required to make a plastic pop bottle is hugely less than that required to make a glass one, and it is much lighter so you use less energy in transport, etc, etc. Often it involves less energy to make something out of plastic than to wash the equivalent glass container...



From a wider environmental standpoint, I can well imagine the above is correct.

From the point of view of preference of a consumer of food, my experience is that glass is the container of choice because it least alters the flavour of the food, and the change in flavour must imply that the food is in some way contaminated by material leaking from the container into the food.



George
 

Offline wim

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #7 on: 20/04/2006 22:48:36 »
[quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Originally posted by wim

Did you know we only recycle 7% of our total plasticwaste?

Did you know that recycled plastic isn't only better for our environment but also cheaper to produce?

So these two facts are indeed facts, how come we don't recycle more?

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Please explain what the above means?

Are you really trying to say there is such a generic thing as recycled plastic – that plastic, whether it be polythene, nylon, polycarbonate, teflon, etc. is all one and the same thing, that can all simply be substituted for by some generic recycled plastic?


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
][/quote]

No that is absolutely not what I was trying to say, my reply was merely ment to the topicstarter who was stating that recycling plastics isn't that good at all, well in my opinion it is.
We have this class at school called plastics, me and a fellow student recently gave a small presentation about the recycling of plastics and the different types etc. If we could conclude one thing in our way to our final presentation, it is that plastic is a beautiful discovery but we still need to learn how to use it to our best profit(s). One of the things is better recycling and recycling every plastic that is recycable. Excuse me if my explanation isn't really clear but english isn't my motherlanguage. Feel free to ask for more explanation.

grtz
 

another_someone

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #8 on: 20/04/2006 23:55:19 »
quote:
Originally posted by The Silurian Prince
 The only plastic that is better for the environment is no plastic.




But cellulose is a plastic – not so commonly used, and even when it used to be more commonly used, it was commonly modified to such things as nitrocellulose, which was eminently biodegradable if you did not mind its tenancy to spontaneous combustion, if not explosion.

For a tree lover such as yourself to condemn cellulose as something bad – what is one to think [D]



George
 

another_someone

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #9 on: 21/04/2006 00:01:32 »
quote:
Originally posted by wim
If we could conclude one thing in our way to our final presentation, it is that plastic is a beautiful discovery but we still need to learn how to use it to our best profit(s). One of the things is better recycling and recycling every plastic that is recycable.




As I indicated above, I tend to take a middle ground.  I don't believe that obsessive recycling is a good thing, but equally I can see that there are circumstances where recycling can be of benefit – it is a matter of judging each situation on its own merit.

One thing I do not like in the modern trend in plastics is the trend towards biodegradability.  It may save on land fill sites, but no-one explains what happens to the by-products of biodegradation.





George
 

Offline Andrew K Fletcher

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #10 on: 21/04/2006 10:14:15 »
What happened to the good old glass milk and fizzy drink bottles that were washed and reused time and time again?

As Kids in the Blackcountry we made a fair amount of pocket money returning bottles for a refund to the local pop factories.

Now we put the bottles into a skip, they get crushed and a huge amount of energy is required to reform them into another glass product. The World has gone bonkers!

Even the cars on the roads are covered with non-recylclable plastics. Having been a tatter (scrap collector) in the Midlands making a modest living from taking old cars etc to the local scrap yard, everything on the car was put through the crusher. Now we can't do this, everything has to be separated because of the toxicity of the plastic products, many of which produce cyanide gas when burned.

Good point about paper bags used instead of plastic bags to dispense foods. Our recycle bin gets to overflow every week with a massive range of plastics. In the good old days, the only rubbish in the small Galvanised dustbin could have easily been recycled on the garden, with most of it being foodstuffs and ashes from the coal fires, which made good additives for the garden after rotting down for a year or so. Even the soot was used around leeks and other veg to keep slugs n snails off the garden crop. But now the majority of us are ourselves galvanized to supporting the massive petrochemical plants who sell us everything and anything that can be gleaned from this non-renewable resource.

quote:
Originally posted by another_someone

quote:
Originally posted by wim
If we could conclude one thing in our way to our final presentation, it is that plastic is a beautiful discovery but we still need to learn how to use it to our best profit(s). One of the things is better recycling and recycling every plastic that is recycable.




As I indicated above, I tend to take a middle ground.  I don't believe that obsessive recycling is a good thing, but equally I can see that there are circumstances where recycling can be of benefit – it is a matter of judging each situation on its own merit.

One thing I do not like in the modern trend in plastics is the trend towards biodegradability.  It may save on land fill sites, but no-one explains what happens to the by-products of biodegradation.





George




"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most likely to be correct."
K.I.S. "Keep it simple!"
 

Offline daveshorts

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #11 on: 23/04/2006 23:05:38 »
I thought the reason that it now costs money to scrap a car isn't because the plastics would be harmful if disposed of but more to do with the EU directive that says that they all have to be recycled. In may cases is makes more sense to burn the plastics to get energy rather than trying to seperate and recycle them.
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #12 on: 24/04/2006 03:35:23 »
As someone who has been doing a fair bit of recycling for a number of years, I must contribute to this thread.
First, I will concede that recycling like anything else can be taken too far. However, it should be pointed out that recycling in the USA is almost never taken too far, but is almost always not taken far enough. Example: we recycle less than half of our aluminum waste, despite the fact that scrap aluminum is currently worth between 45 and 70 cents per pound. Yes indeed, we are so obsessed with convenience that we toss our soft drink or beer cans into landfill instead of turning them in once per month for a bit of cash. I submit that that is both anti-environment and anti-common sense. The end result is increased air pollution from smelting aluminum ore that should not need to be smelted, plus a wasted economic resource that could be used to keep unskilled laborers employed.
Plastic is a tougher material to recycle effectively, I grant. But we should be doing far better than we are with aluminum. Remember that we used to discard all our used newsprint a generation ago. The fact that we no longer waste that resource should show us that we can do better with other materials.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #13 on: 24/04/2006 04:40:10 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian
Example: we recycle less than half of our aluminum waste, despite the fact that scrap aluminum is currently worth between 45 and 70 cents per pound. Yes indeed, we are so obsessed with convenience that we toss our soft drink or beer cans into landfill instead of turning them in once per month for a bit of cash. I submit that that is both anti-environment and anti-common sense. The end result is increased air pollution from smelting aluminum ore that should not need to be smelted, plus a wasted economic resource that could be used to keep unskilled laborers employed.



I don't know what percentage of aluminium we recycle in this country, but in general, I would say that if you can achieve almost 50% of what is possible then you can't be doing too badly.  There is always a law of diminishing return, and while you may argue that that level may be 75% rather than 45%, it certainly is unlikely that getting close to 99% will ever be optimum.

The problem is not a matter of how many coke cans you throw out, but the dispersed nature of the problem.  Getting one centralised source of recycled material is relatively easy, but achieving the same when your sources are geographically dispersed, and each source only contributes a very small amount to the total, will always incur inefficiencies.

I am not saying that the balance is right or wrong, only saying that the matter is far more complex than merely assuming it boils down to ill will.

That having been said, one of the things I think one has to be careful about even when looking at figures like 50% recycling is that are we talking here about end-of-life recycling, or recycling at source.  Recycling at source (i.e. recycling wastage in the manufacturing process, rather than recycling materials used in goods after the goods have completed their normal life) is a perfectly valid form of recycling, and is often easier and cheaper to implement than end-of-life recycling; but clearly is a very different sort of recycling, and can cause confusing statistics.

quote:

Remember that we used to discard all our used newsprint a generation ago. The fact that we no longer waste that resource should show us that we can do better with other materials.



Actually, the situation is far more complex than that.

Firstly, paper for recycling is now so readily available that paper manufacturers are becoming ever more choosy about the quality of paper they are willing to recycle, and so as far as I am aware much newsprint still does not get recycled because it is not of high enough quality (not clean enough).

Secondly, recycled paper costs in other ways, like having to use more chlorine to bleach the paper, and like producing inferior quality paper.

Thirdly, fast growing soft wood trees that were grown for the paper industry was scarcely a limited resource.  The effect of increasing the amount of paper that is recycled is to reduce the amount of forest that is grown for the paper industry.

It is true that farmed forests do not have the diversity of natural forests, but in Europe there are not that many natural forests that this would be a major problem.  An indication of how artificial is any of Britain's forests is that the forestry commission was set up in 1936 in anticipation that if another world war were to erupt then Britain would need to increase its timber supplies in order to build all the trenches it would need (in the naοve assumption that WWII would be fought along the same lines was WWI).

One of the differences between Britain and America is that our man-made constructions tend to be older than our forests, whereas yours tend to be the other way around.


One other thing I would add to all of the above – the issue about a throwaway society is not so much about convenience, it is about cheapness.  We want high wages and cheap products, and that is only possible if labour costs are high and material costs are low, thus it becomes cheap to use more material, but expensive to implement a labour intensive infrastructure to recycle old material.



George
« Last Edit: 24/04/2006 04:51:08 by another_someone »
 

Offline VAlibrarian

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #14 on: 27/04/2006 03:53:51 »
The economic points you raise are all important ones. But.....
I do believe that "ill will" is a factor in the American failure to embrace recycling. I have a brother who refuses to recycle aluminum on political grounds. It's not that he is lazy, it's that recycling is an activity that he associates with environmentalist tree-huggers and he therefore refuses to accept it even though he was issued a bin and would simply need to fill it and leave it out at the curb once per week.

Another example of our attitudes towards sustainability can be seen in the recent outrage concerning gasoline prices. Gas has reached $3 per gallon recently and the populace is truly outraged. This may seem odd to you in the UK since you are paying $8 per gallon for gasoline. But on this side of the pond we actually think that cheap gasoline is God-given, or at least a legal right of citizenship. Are any of us willing to drive our cars less in order to drive down prices? No.

My point here is that logic is a factor in recycling- but illogic is also a major factor.

chris wiegard
 

another_someone

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
« Reply #15 on: 02/05/2006 00:52:03 »
quote:
Originally posted by VAlibrarian
I do believe that "ill will" is a factor in the American failure to embrace recycling. I have a brother who refuses to recycle aluminum on political grounds. It's not that he is lazy, it's that recycling is an activity that he associates with environmentalist tree-huggers and he therefore refuses to accept it even though he was issued a bin and would simply need to fill it and leave it out at the curb once per week.



There are two issue with the above.

I am not going get concerned about the image issue (whether recycling is associated with tree-hugging), since I am not by nature very image concious, and hence find it difficult to argue how much such image issues might impact upon popular support for an issue.  Clearly, there are people (on both sides of the argument) who are more concerned with being seen to be one thing or another, but that is not something I relate to easily.

Where I do understand is I too can get a very negative response if I am faced with what I perceive as emotional blackmail (i.e. do this or we will think you are a horrible person).  I am not saying that you are by any means coming across as that, but there certainly are environmentalists who do come across in that way (although this is true of a good number of political issues, not merely environmentalism – most of those issues are loosely under the umbrella of what the Germans would regard as the 'red-green alliance' – I am not saying the reds and greens are the same, but both groups share a view of the role of government in managing the lives of the populace).

As for the issue of just filling a bin and leaving it on the curb – it is slightly more complex than that, because it also requires that the householder also segregate and store separately the different kinds of waste (in this case, aluminium, but over here, we also collect separately paper, glass, and garden waste).  This, when placed on top of the ever increasing bureaucracy that imposes demands on the time of the average householder/wage earner, then it just becomes another straw on the camels back.  If the government could decide what were the most important things they need to demand of the householder, and the householder then knows what is expected of him, and does not expect that next year some else will be added as well, then there might be more willingness for some co-operation in the matter.

Another factor to bear in mind is the European houses tend to be smaller than American houses, and the space to store all this segregated waste is somewhat at a premium.


quote:

Another example of our attitudes towards sustainability can be seen in the recent outrage concerning gasoline prices. Gas has reached $3 per gallon recently and the populace is truly outraged. This may seem odd to you in the UK since you are paying $8 per gallon for gasoline. But on this side of the pond we actually think that cheap gasoline is God-given, or at least a legal right of citizenship.



One slight point – bear in mind that the British gallon is 20% larger than the American gallon.

But that is only really a side issue.  The real difference is not in the price we and you are willing to pay, but at the rate at which it rises.  Because we have far more of a tax component, the actual rate of price increase over here, while it is painful, is less so than it is for you.

What is more politically sensitive at the moment is the issue with domestic energy (gas (not gasoline) and electricity).  Because domestic energy was never taxed as much as motor fuel (it was not politically acceptable to tax domestic fuel, while the motorist is an easy target), so the actual percentage increase in the price of domestic fuel in this country has been greater than the percentage increase in the price of motor fuel.

I wonder if the French, with their greater reliance on nuclear power, are noticing any significant rise in the cost of electricity in the way the Britain, which is predominantly powered by gas generators, is feeling it?

quote:

 Are any of us willing to drive our cars less in order to drive down prices? No.



I suspect this is not totally true, but the question is, given the nature of the US transportation systems, and the nature of the spread of the US population, how much car mileage is actually discretionary?

quote:

My point here is that logic is a factor in recycling- but illogic is also a major factor.



I accept that there is a mix of emotional as well as economic issues, although the problem is that emotion effects both sides of the argument, and causes an equal reaction from both sides of the argument.

The reality is that we are dealing with what is substantially a matter of faith (insofar as the amount of hard fact is still very incomplete, and open to multiple interpretation; so people have to decide to believe one interpretation over another).

Beyond that, we are also dealing with politics, which also engenders intense emotion – not least, because you are trying to tell other people how to live their lives, and people don't like being told how to lead their lives.  All of these are addition social factors that have to be added on to the economic and scientific factors.  If the economic and scientific arguments were unequivocal, then the social issues could be addressed more easily; but so long as there is such wide scope for alternative interpretations of the economic and scientific data, you cannot expect an easy ride with the socio-political issues.



George
« Last Edit: 02/05/2006 00:54:40 by another_someone »
 

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Re: Recycling is bad for the environment
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