Here is an article from The Economist (June 7, 2007) on how to get people recycling more-even if they do not particularly want to.

Plastics here, newspapers there, bottles in that pile, tin cans over there. Across the rich world tonight a small army of worthy householders will pick through their rubbish to ready it for the recyclers. It is hardly pleasant work, but at least recyclers bear the mark of civic virtue-unlike those ghastly, unrecycling planet-wreckers next door.

That mix of indignation and righteousness is an odd attitude to hold towards a week‘‘s yellowing copies of the Times and a few empty wine bottles. But it is what Ken Livingstone, London‘‘s mayor, taps into when he condemns expensive four-by-four “Chelsea tractors” for the petrol they consume and the fumes they emit (even if sports cars are more extravagant). When free-riders, unrestrained and undertaxed, are thought to trample over the diligence of others, the others soon become peeved. Why should you recycle if the extra room in the landfill is taken up by the rubbish of those too selfish or lazy to care? It is the moral expression of a market failure.

Unfortunately, it is also an invitation to bureaucracy to do its worst. Recycling is too often too complex-paper but not cardboard, plastic or no plastic, and so on. It is littered with targets and directives, requiring this and mandating that, without much sign that the thresholds are well-founded. Indeed, plenty of people suspect that lorry-loads of stuff collected for recycling end up in landfill instead. That is a pity, because it discourages a useful practice.

It should not be taken for granted that recycling is more efficient than chucking something away. Comparing all the costs, including collection, landfill, disposal, pollution and the value of new materials is difficult. But the signs are that recycling usually does make sense. A study by the Technical University of Denmark looked at 55 products and compared the effects of burying, burning or recycling them. More than 80% of the time, the researchers found, recycling was the most efficient thing to do with household rubbish. There were exceptions-Britain imports too much green glass (all that wine), which is wastefully ground into aggregates and sand for building; it would be more economically efficient and environmentally friendly to throw the bottles away. But the savings are mostly worthwhile. Recycling aluminium requires 95% less energy that making it from scratch; the figure is 70% for plastics and 40% for paper.

So what is the best way to get more people to recycle more? The first step is to use new technologies that allow for a “single stream” of recyclable waste which is sorted on a conveyor belt using an arsenal of hands, “spinning disc” screens and sorting machines. People are more inclined to recycle things if they do not have to sort them into different bins. San Francisco switched to single-stream recycling a few years ago and now boasts one of the highest recycling rates in America.

The second step is to acknowledge that the best way of recycling waste may well be to sell it, often to emerging markets. That is controversial, because of the suspicion that the waste will be dumped, or that workers and the environment will be poorly protected. Yet recycling has economies of scale and the transport can be virtually free-filling up the containers that came to the West full of clothes and electronics and would otherwise return empty to China. What‘‘s more, those who are prepared to buy waste are likely to make good use of it.

The last step is to make people pay for their unrecyclable waste and reward them for what they recycle. Electronic tags fixed to bins can weigh each household‘‘s waste and bill for it accordingly. Recycling, even if cheaper than outright disposal, will not usually pay for itself,<

Ano da Publicação:
WARMER BULLETIN ENEWS #33-2007-August 17, 2007
Kit Strange/Warmer Bulletin
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