As we have pointed out more than once there's a certain use to the price system. It tots up for us, free and gratis, whether we are using more resources to produce something than it is worth or fewer. And, of course, using more resources to produce something of less value than those resources is also known as making us poorer.
As with recycling takeaway coffee cups:
A scheme to boost disposable coffee cup recycling has been launched in the City of London in an attempt to prevent 5m cups a year from the Square Mile ending up in landfill.
The City of London Corporation, in conjunction with Network Rail, coffee chains and some employers, are introducing dedicated coffee cup recycling facilities in offices, shops and streets.
Hmm, perhaps we don't want coffee cups in landfill. Perhaps we do. Perhaps they should be recycled, perhaps they shouldn't. This is, of course, an economic question.
Our aim, as always, is to produce the maximum value from the scarce resources available to us. Recycling can certainly aid with this - the vast majority of gold ever mined has been recycled many times over because it is profitable, it adds value, to do so. Sticking the cow shit on the fields also adds value which is why we have done that for millennia as well, we recycle it. What we want to know is, well, does recycling coffee cups add value?
Which is where our price system comes in. If we get more revenue coming out of coffee cup recycling than we have to put into the system then it adds value - that's what profit is, the value added in a process. If we have to stick more money in that we get out then the process is subtracting value. At which point:
The first 30 businesses with more than 500 employees to sign up to the Square Mile challenge will receive a year’s free membership to collection services provided by Simply Cups, while all other businesses involved can access discounted rates for collections. The coffee cups collected can be remade into a range of items, from pencils to park benches, which will be donated to local community projects and schools. Insurance broker Lloyd’s has signed up.
The programme does not make a profit. Those who offer up coffee cups for recycling must pay extra to do so. This is on top of the normal waste disposal fees and yes, even on top of the normal landfill tax already charged. The programme is unprofitable and thus makes us all poorer.
And note what the meaning of that is. We are spending more of our scarce resources by recycling than we would by not recycling. We are wasting resources to save them.
Another way to describe this is flat out idiocy but then that's the modern world for you with the mantra about recycling. It's the latest mass delusion to have taken hold of society.
We should recycle what is profitable to recycle, this makes us richer. We can even argue that we should recycle some things because externalities. But once we have already included the externalities in the price system we should not recycle those things where we make a loss doing so.