This is not how people generally think of it these days but it is nonetheless true. Not all recycling that can be done should be done. As the closure of a recycling centre is showing us:
But industry leaders warn that other recycling plants across the UK could suffer the same fate or not be replaced at the end of their natural life because of financial pressures on local authorities.
When the 25-year PFI Lancashire deal was agreed in 2007, Global Renewables – the Australian-owned company behind the project – said it would treat 300,000 tons of domestic rubbish each year by extracting plastic, metal and glass, and turning garden waste into high-quality compost for land restoration and the planting of 2.5 million trees.The company claimed it would handle enough rubbish to fill Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground nearly 100 times over, and even consulted environmental pressure group Friends of the Earth during the planning stage.
But two years ago, Lancashire County Council was forced to cancel the PFI initiative and take control of the business because it was losing so much money.
The final blow came last week when it was confirmed the plant is to be mothballed this summer and turned into what one leading critic calls ‘the most expensive waste transfer station in Europe’.
Instead of material being treated on site, it will be taken by road to other locations for recycling or dumped in holes in the ground, contravening Government and EU rules aimed at reducing the quantity of rubbish that ends up as landfill.
As we've mentioned before there are three classes of possible recycling. One is where something is recycled and a profit is made by doing so. Profit is the proof that value has been added, the output is worth more than the alternative uses of the inputs. Thus it makes us all richer: this form of recycling should obviously be done.
Then there's recycling which simply should not be done. Something that loses gargantuan amounts of money for example: it's not just that this makes us poorer it's that the insistence on spending money that way detracts from our ability to do other things which might benefit us or the environment more.
The third class is that which will lose money directly in being recycled but which will have other benefits, perhaps not directly accountable. One of us has been involved in recycling some radioactive waste for example: that most certainly lost money but cleaning up the radioactivity had a value too.
When considering any recycling we need to think about which class whatever it is comes into. And the recycling of domestic waste is not profitable, so it's not class 1. It loses, as above, large amounts of money, so it's in either class 2 or 3. The current insistence is that it is in that third class: but our contention is that this is not so.
There is no valuable resource there being recycled for if there were there would be value, and profit, from recycling it. There are not even and scarce resources in there because things that are scarce are valuable and thus there would be profit. The only thing we are short of is landfill: we're not short of holes in the ground into which we can put it, we're only short of licenced holes in the ground and that's something that can be solved at the stroke of a bureaucrat's pen.
That we lose money by doing this form of recycling is an indication that we shouldn't be doing it. That there's no other pressing reason at all means we definitely shouldn't be doing it.
Finally, do note that "saving resources" simply is not a valid justification. That we lose money on the process tells us that we are using more resources than we gain. That is, the reason not to recycle domestic waste is because we don't want to waste resources.