If recycling doesn't work then why not stop recycling?

A quite delightful tale of a complete failure to understand what the universe is telling you from Australia:

Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of glass are being stockpiled and landfilled instead of being recycled, threatening to seriously damage the community's faith in the billion-dollar recycling industry.

Key industry insiders interviewed by Four Corners have described an "unsustainable situation" with glass which has "nowhere to go" because there is "no viable market".

Australia consumes about 1.36 million tonnes of glass packaging per year: wine and beer bottles, glass jars and containers.

Glass consumption is at its highest in New South Wales, which produces about 460,000 tonnes of used glass per year.

One recycling company, Polytrade, has decided to go public in an effort to raise awareness about the issues being faced by industry due to what it describes as a failure of regulation.

Yes, you're right, it does indeed end up as a demand for subsidy.

But as we've pointed out before there's a larger piece of pigheadedness here. There's nothing wrong with recycling of course, but then again nor is there inherently anything good nor holy about it. When it saves resources this makes us richer, when it doesn't save resources it makes us poorer. We should thus want to do it when it makes us richer and we have a good guide to that. If it is profitable to do then that profit is the amount it is making us richer and thus we should be doing it. For profit is the amount by which the output is valued at more than the alternative uses of the inputs.

This is not to say that market prices are perfect of course. There are indeed things they don't contain, public goods and externalities. But they are already corrected for, Oz has a landfill tax. And yet still glass recycling loses money - therefore we shouldn't be doing glass recycling.

Not that we see much problem with landfilling glass to be honest. Glass is, after all, merely boiled sand and if we're digging up sand to make glass then we've a strong assumption of having a hole to put used glass into.

Some recycling is just bonzer but the type, as here with glass, that makes us poorer, uses more resources, just shouldn't be done. That the process makes a loss is the universe's way of trying to tell us this.