Fancy some contrary thinking? Try this; if you want to save the planet from global warming, don't recycle.
There is lots of muddled thinking around global warming. The UK government is proposing to have all goods marked with a carbon index to indicate their friendliness or antipathy to global warming. The index would measure the amount of carbon emitted during the goods' manufacture and whether it can be recycled or not.
Recycled? What has that got to do with global warming? My instinctive reaction was: none. Why on earth should sticking broken disk drives and keyboards in landfill have anything at all to do with global warming? It was suggested to me that if the they could be repaired then new ones wouldn't have to be made, thus saving energy. Sounds feasible but that argument goes away when you think about it.
Disk drives, keyboards, etc. are made on highly efficient production lines. Disk drive and keyboard repairs are carried out by individuals at a workbench and take time, time in which their electric lights are switched on, their office is heated or cooled and their diagnostic equipment uses electricity. Recycling is not free in a carbon emissions sense.
In fact, thinking about recycling of goods and manufacturers taking them back, it sounds good again but ...
- The goods to be recycled have to be collected and transported to the recycling point, meaning energy is used and fuel burnt.
- The goods have to be un-manufactured, meaning more energy is used.
- The recovered components have to be collected, sorted, stored and transported to wherever they are going to be re-used, meaning more energy use.
Looked at this way recycling is no way to reduce global warming. In fact, by increasing energy use, it worsens it.
GreenPeace and Friends of the Earth would want us to increase recycling rates, as does the EEC, because .... well why? Okay, waste is a shame and Chinese tearing computer components apart by hand and smelting them for precious metals releases hazardous substances in the air but ....
The said Chinese are recycling keyboards and chassis, etc. So improve the way they do it to cut hazardous emissions and that sorts out the hazardous substance pollution. But we're still left with the point that recycling has nothing to do with stopping global warming.
There will be, I'm convinced, much conflating of global warming and recycling and hazardous substance pollution into an overall warm and friendly fuzzy green case. But warm and friendly fuzziness is no friend to clear, rational decision-making. Recycle if you want to recycle. Support the quasi-moral crusades against waste and landfill if that's your bag. But realise what you are doing and don't conflate recycling with global warming. Think chalk and cheese. In fact it's worse than two separate issues as the one affects the other.
Recycling has an energy cost and - it's as clear as night and day isn't it? - because of that recycling accelerates global warming. If you want to save the planet from global warming, don't recycle.