TWENTY TWENTY VISION
With the new decade and the seasonal urge to contemplate new ideas, it has never been more necessary to abandon old thinking and adopt new approaches, particularly in the wake of Copenhagen.
If our politicians need any reminding, then let’s begin by persuading them of the case for abandoning recycling and ending their subsidy of crushing (recyclates) and their plans to extend investment in incineration (energy from waste recovery).
Inevitably, we will continue crushing and incinerating waste in the absence of adequate landfill capacity.
A CHANGE OF DIRECTION
What needs to be understood is that these two policy options must cease to be our principal approaches to sustainability. We need to understand the political function of the concept of ‘recycling‘. The word recycling in the popular vocabulary of politicians is used to persuade the electorate that progress in matters of sustainability is being achieved, without ever understanding that they are supporting a lowest common denominator approach that changes very little (down cycling).
The public are encouraged by politicians to believe that recycling targets represent progress, never understanding or only obliquely explaining that we need to reduce our consumption, reuse existing materials, and reclaim wherever practicable.
What isn’t explained is that recycling (down cycling) almost invariably means crushing or burning materials to attain high return recycling rates but recovering very little of the embedded carbon.
If our problems of sustainable development are to be resolved then we must recover more embedded carbon than recyclate /incineration processes enable. Consideration of other approaches will need to be adopted or we will fail miserably to make any progress beyond providing reassurances to ignorant politicians who crave only to be told everything is alright.
THE NEW RESOLUTION
The new year resolution must be to challenge the powerful lobbyists who perpetuate the myths of recycling.
Government needs to understand that it subsidises ‘recycling’ and ignores important alternatives.
The tax incentivized crushing operations invest huge amounts of capital in advanced plant and machinery to accelerate the effectiveness of their ability to rapidly reduce buildings to rubble for processing through the crusher.
Driven by the need to justify their investments and using issues of Health and Safety to make their actions plausible, the vested interests promote their position by controlling the lobbying positions that influence Parliament.
In due course, politicians receive reports that high recycling rates are being achieved and they boast of their success to a public that is barely aware of the truth.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Our political masters would be better addressing the problem of wasted new materials, than investing more heavily in the failed down cycling policies of the last decade. 15% of all new building materials are reportedly wasted by poor site storage and over ordering.
The resolution must be to encourage up cycling and responsible purchasing whilst directing more energy to designing for end of life cycle deconstruction using recoverable high quality materials in the new build process.