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May 18, 2006

Recycling Insanity

Crippled JC on a Crutch!

I’m just reading through the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit report on domestic waste, Waste Not Want Not, and came across this little delight:

3.8 England spends about 60% of the EU average on waste management and disposal (i.e. around 0.5% of GDP in the UK versus 1.0% in the Netherlands)29 and around 40% of those at the leading edge of waste management (Figure 4). Because of England’s reliance on landfill, householders pay some of the lowest rates for waste collection and disposal in Europe – around £50 per year on average,

They think this is a bad thing. Seriously they are complaining that our method of dealing with domestic waste is too cheap and efficient. We should spend more because, well, isn’t it a good thing when the punters have to give the Government more money?

Are we actually ruled by raving idiots?

May 18, 2006 in Environmentalism | Permalink


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"Are we actually ruled by raving idiots?"

You really think that statement requires a question mark?

Posted by: AntiCitizenOne | May 18, 2006 12:51:33 PM

I think that the point is that landfill disposal has external costs which are not priced out to householders, and thus that the government is implicitly providing a subsidy.

Posted by: dsquared | May 18, 2006 12:56:41 PM

I think these 'I'm going to deliberately miss the point' posts have rather past their sell by date.

You know full well that the argument is that landfill is a cheap system, but not a good one, for other reasons. Routine dumping of untreated sewage in the Thames in central London was cheap and (on your apparent definition of the term) 'efficient', but the banning of it was not the act of 'raving idiots'.

Tim adds: Tsk. The proof is rather that someone has to prove those other reasons why landfill might not be a good system. Which involves a cost benefit analysis. Which is what I trying to find out about, who included what costs and what benefits when they did so?

To which the answer, as far as I have found out, is that they did not include the largest of the costs, the time taken to sort rubbish.

Posted by: Matthew | May 18, 2006 12:58:16 PM

Well I think you're missing the point accidentally now. Your argument about missing costs might be right, but it's clearly not right that the report is attacking it for being too cheap and efficient.

Posted by: Matthew | May 18, 2006 1:43:10 PM

Tim, thanks for your reply on my site.

Surely one of the 'costs' is the unknown cost to future generations of having lots of mixed up chemicals stored under the ground for a long period of time. I wonder whether it might be worth £1.25 a week to avoid this.

Tim adds: That may well be true. That’s why you do a cost benefit analysis, including ALL of the costs and ALL of the benefits. But on this issue, I have yet to see a report that includes the costs that I am talking about. So none of them actually do what they are supposed to do.

Posted by: Dave Walker | May 18, 2006 1:43:23 PM

The trouble with the cost-benefit thing is that landfills are like GM foods: We have no way of knowing what sort of costs will be associated with them, ultimately. All we can know for certain is that something truly terrible will happen if we don't do whatever it is the nice green people are telling us to. If nothing terrible should happen, that only means it'll be even worse when it finally does. And there's no time to waste! Every moment you spend arguing, Gaia kills an innocent child!

You're not in favor of killing children, are you?

Posted by: P. Froward | May 18, 2006 2:04:38 PM

Perhaps then, given that there is a possibility that the costs of landfill might outweigh the benefits (were a true cost benefit analysis to be done) your post "Recycling, Waste of Time and Money" would have been better entitled "Recycling, quite possibly a Waste of Time and Money".

Tim adds: Almost....but as they have already included the benefits of not having landfills, and have not included the costs of sorting...my way is correct.

Posted by: Dave Walker | May 18, 2006 2:09:35 PM

How about, "Landfill investing in future sources of methane"

Posted by: AntiCitizenOne | May 18, 2006 3:09:38 PM

An economist who forgets about external costs when making an argument about cost-benefit analysis. Now I've seen everything.

(You think so? Have you seen a man eat his own head?
Er, no.
So you admit you haven't seen everything. And neither have I.)

Posted by: ajay | May 18, 2006 3:49:56 PM

[That’s why you do a cost benefit analysis, including ALL of the costs and ALL of the benefits]

Well perhaps so, but as far as I can see you are in fact only talking about the costs of recycling.

Posted by: dsquared | May 18, 2006 4:08:14 PM