Recycling is a Waste of Time at the 2007 Battle of Ideas conference hosted by the Institute of Ideas.
With rubbish a major political issue, and threats from councils that residents might be fined if they do not sort their waste correctly, recycling has become a hot political issue. But, why bother to recycle? The benefits are far from indisputable. According to advocates of the new green orthodoxy, recycling is essential if we are to reduce pollution and alleviate global warming, but given its limited impact on CO2 emissions, it often seems as if the imperative to recycle has more to do with conspicuous 'good citizenship' than efficient waste management. Perhaps recycling is not only an inconvenient, but an unnecessary part of our daily routines.
Some have hailed the recycling industry of Mumbai as an economic model that we should all take notice of. Many inhabitants of the Indian city spend their time sorting dumped rubbish for recycling. But, how does this resource efficiency match up to our standards of human efficiency? Might a certain amount of wasted material be a price worth paying for the freedom to spend time on other things?- Institute of Ideas
Suzy Dean recently graduated from the LSE with a BSc in Government. She is Sales Manager at cScape, a digital agency, and helps out with Debating Matters, the debating competition for sixth form students, on a regular basis. In her spare time Suzy is currently writing a chapter on multi-culturalism for the forthcoming book Future Cities. She has previously conducted research for The Times Educational Supplement and Conscience magazine, and has written for Culture Wars, spiked and LSEâ€™s Script magazine.
Thomas Deichmann is founder and since 1992 Editor in Chief of the bi-monthly German magazine Novo, published in Frankfurt. Since 1993 he has worked as a freelance journalist and researcher for numerous quality papers across Europe, including Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Focus, Die Zeit, Financial Times Deutschland, Die Welt, Brand eins, Suddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Die Tageszeitung, Ernaehrungsdienst (all Germany), Der Standard (Austria), Profil (Austria), Weltwoche (Switzerland), De Groene Amsterdammer (Netherlands), Trouw (Netherlands), De Morgen (Belgium), Helsingborgs Dagblad (Sweden), spiked (UK).
During the 90s, Deichmann's journalism covered international relations and the civil war in the former Yugoslavia. Since 1999 he has focused his research and writing on science topics, and modern biotechnology in particular. His investigative journalism and his "enlightenment" approach repeatedly cause international and national wide debates. He has appeared on radio and TV repeatedly. He has lectured at universities and journalism schools such as the Henri Nannen Schule (Berlin), Schule fair Publizistik (Cologne) and Technische University Berlin on reporting and journalistic standards.
He studied Civil Engineering at Darmstadt University and was awarded his diploma in 1989, spending some years working at Darmstadt University and as a freelance engineer.
Julia Hailes MBE is author of The New Green Consumer Guide. She works with several different panels, advising major corporations such as Proctor and Gamble on environmental issues. She is also a blogger for the Daily Telegraph.
She began her career at the end of 1986 at Earthlife, and then helped to establish organisations such as SustainAbility, going on to organise Green Consumer Week. She co-founded and is a trustee of the Haller Foundation. She was the vice-chair of the ACCPE (the Advisory Committee on Consumer Products), and served as a District Councillor in South Somerset 1999-2003, and was until last year a non-executive director of the Jupiter Global Green Investment Trust. Julia was awarded the MBE in 1999.
Julie Hill is former Director of, and now an Associate of, Green Alliance â€“ one of the UKâ€™s foremost environmental policy organisations. Her areas of expertise are biotechnology, waste and resources policy, and sustainable buildings. She has recently been Deputy Chair of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission (AEBC), a member of the Governmentâ€™s GM Science Review Panel, and is currently a member of the Governmentâ€™s Commission on Environmental Markets and Performance.
Julie is a non-executive director of the Eden Project in Cornwall; a member of the Environmental Advisory Board for Shanks plc, a large waste company; a member of the Governmentâ€™s Waste and Resources Research Advisory Group; and a member of the Advisory Committee to the Innogen Centre at Edinburgh University. She was awarded an MBE in 2001.
She has authored and co-authored a number of publications on business and the environment, biotechnology and waste policy, including A Zero Waste UK (Green Alliance/IPPR, November 2006).
Rob Lyons is a writer for the online publication spiked. Topics of interest include science and health issues, particularly the panic about obesity and the way food has been treated as a problem in recent years.
Recovery and reuse of materials from consumed products. The main motives for recycling have been the increasing scarcity and cost of natural resources (including oil, gas, coal, mineral ores, and trees) and the pollution of air (seeair pollution), water (seewater pollution), and land by waste materials. There are two types of recycling, internal and external. Internal recycling is the reuse in a manufacturing process of materials that are a waste product of that process, and is common in the metals industry (seescrap metal). External recycling is the reclaiming of materials from a product that is worn out or no longer useful; an example is the collection of old newspapers and magazines for the manufacture of newsprint or other paper products.
I think this discussion touches some critical issues, such as how can we work more efficiently together having such conflicting ideas on what reality is.
I support the stand of Thomas, in terms of having engineers and chemist etc come up with smarter ways for us to literally stop creating waste, as these are specialist trained in such issues. By wanting everyone engaged in recycling is like wanting everyone to grow their tomatoes themselves.
To use our waste for heat production is somehow a method of recycling as well. If not upcycling.
Why use energy and oil to turn our used products into inferior, and perhaps still hazardous products? It doesn't halt pollution but, as one member in the audience has said, slows it only down, meaning “being less bad but still no good”.
However, on the other hand, I agree with the ladies when stressing the importance of informing the greater community with such issues, making them aware of the consequences of their behaviour and dilemmas they bring up.
But, governments, elites or intellectuals should not place the burden on consumers only. Because governments are the key players in making this a fair game. Industries need to see an incentive in wanting to deal with their own waste, or come up with more intelligent solutions of eliminating any of their industrial waste.
And the eco/green movement is not a sect or religion at all, as it main production is not fear but creativity and encouragement to use smart technology not to turn natural ecosystems upside but to develop the already exploited and materialised.
I can see the piont in burning waste and get some energy out of it while doing so. This seems to be the easiest way: no hassle for the individual and no energy wasted on recycling facilities.
Then we could focus on something more important (whether we would do this is another question)! Improtant questions like: What happens when we burnt up all the useable materials we have on earth (and even Tom Dichman can't deny this would be happening - someday way in the future.)
Technology can always fix many problems and humans are very inventive. But isn't it exactly technology that put us into today's very complex mess? We keep fixing the mistakes of earlier bad (i.e. not wholistic) engineering. Why is there waste anyways? When did we start wasting? Nature doesn't know this concept!
Personal empowerment and the feeling of being able to help to solve a big problem is deep psychology. Recycling can be good for a person's soul. The soul is important (at least as important as ratio) and shouldn't be laughed at.
In the end it's all a matter of how much energy we use - human or/and electronic energy. I personally think, human energy is the more natural energy and we should focus first on the natural than on technology.
I am leaning in agreement with chemicalhaggis.
There are two problems with this piece. First, the inability of the pro-recycling panelists to argue the important reasons to recycle. Second, the inability of the audience to grasp what little that's being talked about. But I can't really fault the audience too much since the pro-recycling panelists can't seem to argue beyond the butterflies and rainbows recycling creates in your heart and mind. Cue rolling of the eyes.
The pro-recycling panelists do make a couple of strong points, such as the fact the planet has limited resources, but, in the end, if someone were undecided on recycling (when they shouldn't even question it), this piece would probably convince them recyclers are part of a weird religious-like cult and that people have a right to use up the resources of the planet without regard.
How can you fault the audience too much when the leaders on the subject can't even make a strong case for a strong cause?
I actually disagree. The debate focuses on both sides of the issue, intelligently framing whether recycling should be an essential part of everyone's daily lives, or if it's just a way to make people feel better about themselves.
This debate is a waste of time! It is poorly chaired so points are not adequately discussed. The panel do not get to grips with surely the most important issues i.e. is the segregation and recycling of household waste more trouble than it is worth? What are the alternatives? Are some materials better suited to disposal in landfill?
To make matters worse the most of the audience's questions are off topic as they seem incapable of making the distinction between the recycling and other environment issues.
Very poor, there are far better debates on Fora!