Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Throw Out What's Useful and Recycle Your Garbage*

Don't you hate it when virtue signalling suddenly becomes too much effort?  For years now I have been dutifully tossing the more obviously recyclable components of my garbage into the yellow lidded bin provided for such purposes smugly aware that I am part of the solution not part of the problem.  Well that's not entirely true.  I never completely believed that anything I tossed in that bin would be recycled.  The important thing was not that I was doing my bit to reduce human waste but that I could claim that I was if anyone asked.

Now suddenly recycling has become a lot more difficult.  It turns out that in a lot of cases recycling was code for "dumped in a landfill in the Philippines".  Don't misunderstand me, this is a perfectly valid method of recycling, it just happens to be a rather long term method.  Honestly, check back on those landfills in a million years and I'm sure they'll be covered in trees or possibly ocean.  And now it seems that the Philippines and other "recycling centres" in the third world are becoming rather precious about what they let in to their countries.  They have decided, somewhat late in the day, that they prefer ground water that doesn't melt skin.

Possibly detecting the prevailing mood our prime minister has stepped in announcing that Australia will no longer send our garbage to other countries.  Well, there goes our most successful export industry.  What this means is that we're going to have to find something to do with it here.  Although what that will actually be seems a little up in the air at the moment.  Presumably we will continue to sort our garbage into notionally recyclable and non recyclable components and then...something.

The good thing about recycling is, as I noted above, that if you take a sufficiently long term view everything is recyclable and you don't need to do anything at all.  After all trees and animals just drop their waste wherever they like and nobody complains (unless you're me at a dog park).  Even plutonium degrades over time.

However proponents of recycling aren't likely to be interested in what the world will look like in a billion years.  They're far more interested in what it looked like two and a half centuries ago and why it doesn't look like that now.  I call that a somewhat retrograde and short termist viewpoint but it was ever thus.  Eventually I presume we will get some sort of recycling centres where chunks of garbage will be broken down into something else a little less toxic, hopefully without using up too many resources in the process.  Or at least this is the ideal.  I heard recently that one company dramatically reduced the amount of non-recyclable waste it produced in my state by the simple expedient of dumping it over the border in Queensland.

In about ten or fifteen years time there will no doubt be an inquiry into the effectiveness of our recycling processes which will reveal that we've recycled virtually nothing and incidentally we have a suspiciously large extra mountain.  There will be shock and outrage and I will dribble into my sippy cup and tell the other people in the retirement home that I always knew it would come to this.  Any arguments to the contrary would be interrupted by my weekly kerosene bath.  In the meantime I will dutifully put my pizza boxes and drink containers into the yellow topped bin in our waste disposal area.  Nobody will be able to say I wasn't doing my bit although whether I'm contributing to the solution or the problem is an open question.

*Thanks to TISM for the title.

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