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The recycling movement has permeated our society like no other. Nearly every British home recycles at least partially, with Lancaster University being no exception – we ‘proudly’ recycle over 30% of all waste produced on campus. Chances are, you recycle. Please don’t, it’s bad for the environment. No, really.
Recycling in the UK is largely paid for by the taxpayer and organised by local authorities. One of the arguments for recycling is that, due to its efficiency, recycling waste saves vast amounts of money. It simply doesn’t. Councils now pay double the amount for rubbish disposal than they did in 2003 due to recycling, topping £4.2 billion. The excessive delivery, sorting, cleaning and manufacturing of new recycled products far outweighs the costs of making new materials and is wildly inefficient compared to making these products from scratch. The simple truth is that taking waste and disposing it in landfill is far less costly than the many procedures needed to turn our rubbish into new pens, tyres and toilet seats.
Recycling also creates more environmental damage than disposing of waste in landfill sites. Just think about the fumes and sludge created by recycling paper, for instance. When you put an old newspaper into a recycling bin, that newspaper has to be delivered (often hundreds of miles away from the bin you put it in), destroyed, bleached, pressed and re-dyed. All this creates incredible damage to the environment, compared with the relatively simple procedure of taking your waste and putting it in landfill. I’m not saying that landfill sites don’t damage the environment at all, but the effects are minimal compared to recycling. Regulations on landfill sites include metre-deep layers of clay to prevent damage to the soil underneath and the capturing of methane gas from decomposing rubbish can power thousands of homes. The waste can be buried, layer upon layer, and when the site is full, soil can be put on top and trees can be planted. There are parks in California made on top of old landfill sites, and it’s as if all that junk was never even there.
The idea that recycling saves trees is completely the opposite of what’s true. If anything, it stops trees from growing. Most paper comes from tree farms, where trees are produced all the time to make paper. If you buy and waste more paper, the companies plant more trees to meet the growing demand for paper (they are a renewable resource). By recycling paper, not only are you harming the environment in the bleaching and manufacturing process, but you’re spending less money buying new paper, so there are fewer tree farms grown. The idea that trees are ‘running out’ is pure myth created by recycling plants to increase their government funding – there are three times as many trees now as there were in 1920, and deforestation is largely contained in problem areas such as South America, and is not due to making paper.
The only really useful recycling is of aluminium cans. In this case, the high costs and negative environmental impact is reduced by recycling, but most other forms are completely inefficient and cost us a grave amount of money. Remember, if recycling was efficient and profitable, there would be private recycling businesses that would pay us for our waste, but nearly every recycling business relies on government subsidies for it to stay open.
Think twice before recycling in future, your good intentions threaten both our environment and our bank balances.