Recycling is not always good for the environment.
This was the message from Marion Shore of the Waitaki Resource Recovery Centre to a National Party Bluegreen Environment forum at Totara yesterday.
She was speaking on waste minimisation and said that recycling is like aspirin to treat the hangover of over consumption.
“Most recycling reduces the quality of material being recycled over time. . . Recycling doesn’t make it environmentally benign,” she said.
It is much better to reduce what we use and re-use what we can.
Product and packaging design plays an important role in waste minimisation. For example, electronic goods from Korea are packed in rice husks when they’re exported to Europe and once they’re no longer needed they are turned into bricks.Ms Shore said some “green” practices weren’t necessarily as good for the environment. Low energy bulbs used less energy than the old ones but the old ones could be disposed of in landfills without the risks of mercury contamination.
“Fluorescent light bulbs contain mercury which needs to be disposed of carefully. It’s much better to turn off lights we don’t need,” she said.
Her message resonated with me because she cut through the greenwash to the facts. Recycling makes some people feel better because they’re “doing something” for the environment. But the something they’re doing is not always a good thing and never better than reducing and reusing.
This is one of the reasons I was so irritated by supermarkets charging a green tax on plastic bags which are almost always reused when they use unnecessary packaging which is almost always dumped as soon as the shopper gets home.
Ms Shore conlcuded by saying there is no planet B.
She’s right which means we have to look after the one we’ve got – but that requires differentiating between really good green practices and greenwash.