Tim Worstall has a challenge to all advocates of recycling in this morning's Times:
Recycling is based on the near-religious belief that everything has value, everything is worth saving, except your time.
He quotes a study in Seattle which showed a household spending an average of 44 minutes a week to sort rubbish. He then projects this to estimate the cost for the UK:
The Worstall Calculator (envelope, 1, pencil, 1) tells us that our time spent in sorting our rubbish by these new rules has a cost of between £1.7 and £4.5 billion.
The solution being proposed is thus that we should spend more money than the cost of the entire waste disposal process in sorting the rubbish, before we spend still more collecting it, recycling or incinerating it and then tipping the remainder into the same holes in the ground that we’ve always used. The system will cost more in total than the old one in the name of saving money.
There is a legitimate concern about methane emissions from food rotting in landfills. Fortunately, as Elliot Morley (at that time a Defra minister) told the Commons in 2004, this has already been solved: all modern landfills collect this greenhouse gas and use it to create energy.
I can't help thinking that Monsieur Worstall has gone a little OTT here. He doesn't seem to recognise that recycling saves the energy and resources to make new products, that there is a shortage of land for landfill and that 50% of the waste in an average bin could be composted thereby feeding new plant growth.
I am also not entirely sure if the Seattle study gives a fair view of the extra time spent recycling compared to traditional waste disposal. If you are just slinging bits in a few recycling bins that you keep outside your kitchen door, it is not really more time-consuming than putting it in a waste bin and then carrying it to your wheely bin is it?