Sunday, January 11, 2009

Invest in creating a low waste economy: create jobs, boost efficiency, cut pollution...

Bristol Evening Post columnist Suzanne Savill is someone I’ve often disagreed with (see here and here). She is hardly an advocate of green living. However, in this weekends column, leaving aside some comments that have an unfair dig at recycling, I very strongly agree with the main thrust of her argument on waste. She said ‘…the EU has rightly identified the vast amounts of waste going into limited landfill sites as a concern, it does not appear to have recognised the cause of much of our waste.’ Spot on. To solve the waste problem we need to address its roots – and we haven’t! The focus has largely been on recycling and not much on waste prevention, reduction and reuse as I’ve long and repeatedly argued eg here.

Suzanne correctly identifies the growing stockpiles of waste collected for recycling as a problem, giving Recycling UK figures of 100,000 tonnes of waste paper and cardboard currently in warehouses, growing at 8,300 tonnes every week – meaning a stockpile of 200,000 tonnes within months!! (It must be said that some feel the stockpiling reports in the media have been 'overblown' however).

She makes some very pertinent suggestions about what we should be doing as a priority eg legislation or systems of taxation to ensure that manufacturers don’t use so much packaging in the first place; not exporting waste to China and elsewhere, instead using the materials better in the UK; shops providing bags made from recycled cardboard and paper; using recycled materials to make packaging.

Yes, yes, yes – have you been reading the waste section of my blog Suzanne or perhaps the Green’s manifesto?? Some of her list of suggestions are being taken up but far too slowly and far from comprehensively. To set up the most efficient and the most sustainable systems of resource use and waste management you need to ‘complete the circle’ ie have a complete cycle of: cutting out resource use that is unnecessary; using and reusing products and resources efficiently; having localised and national reuse and recycling facilities; widespread production using reused products and recycled materials; making the consumption of products made from recycled materials commonplace and preferable…

We dont have law and taxation favouring this. We don’t have much infrastructure for doing all this. We have not had much investment in this. We’ve not had the total systems thinking needed. Masses of new jobs could be created by setting up local reduction, reuse, recycling economies and a low waste, even zero waste, national economy/society. What better time than now for putting in the government money needed (see the Green New Deal report)? It will be a massive lost opportunity if we don’t.

1 comment:

  1. Very good points. As a Toronto realtor I have been trying to promote green living in my neighborhoods for years. I think people have very nice response here, but often our wishes are bigger than technical abilities of our town. But the situation is often complicated - for example your problem with paper. Is the lack of technical equipment really the problem? Is not the real problem the DEMAND for recycled paper? Even when the government builds infrastructure, who will use it? The circle is often incomplete :(
    Take care


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