Has Recycling Jumped the Shark?

Where we live, the City government is thinking about charging to take away our garbage. We already recycle like mad, and put out far less garbage per person than most other cities, but as Robert Ouellette points out at ::ReadingToronto, changing how we pay for it isn't the issue.
"All garbage is bad garbage. There is no effective way to rid the environment of our trash. The only real answer is to not make it in the first place."

Chemist and author Paul Palmer goes much farther and suggests that recycling is dead. He says It has "become lazy, relying on yesterday's methods and advancing no new ideas to inspire the public. The practitioners have become used to income derived from the low grade collection of garbage. Their method is to pick away at garbage streams recapturing small amounts of smashed up lowgrade materials. Alternatively they profit by exacting garbage dumping surcharges, resembling guilt taxes, from the dumpers.....The currently operative theory of recycling contemplates the continual, even perpetual collection of garbage and then attempts to find innovative ways to reuse the maximum part of that garbage. In the current jargon, recycling is an end-of-pipe theory. Because end-of-pipe approaches are necessarily inefficient and difficult (since products were never designed for reuse) the best that recycling is able to hold out for in most cases is destruction of products after one use (through smashing, chopping, grinding, etc.) and the laborious recapture of only the bare materials. "

Palmer proposes zero waste as the answer.

"The basic problem that has always plagued recycling is that it accepts garbage creation as fundamental. Zero waste strategies reject garbage creation as a failure, actually an abomination that threatens the planet, an historical accident, a politically motivated defect in the design of our industrial-commercial system of production. Zero waste actually goes deeper in that it rejects waste of every kind at every stage of production. Zero waste demands that all products be redesigned so that they produce no waste at all and furthermore, that the production processes (a kind of product in themselves because they too are carefully designed) also produce no waste. Zero waste at no point interfaces with garbage but rather simply looks beyond it. In the theory of zero waste, once all waste is eliminated, there will be no garbage, no need for any garbage collection, no garbage industry and no dumps. All that superstructure of garbage management will fade away as simply irrelevant."

Read the entire article here by Paul Palmer in ::Rachel's Democracy & Health News He is also author of ::Getting to Zero Waste

You know this is a big issue when even Margaret Wente jumps on it. "If you want to be a good environmental citizen, it is no longer enough to recycle, compost, and write a cheque to the World Wildlife Fund. You've got to strive to shrink your footprint. The ideal is to waste no energy and produce no waste. As one trend-watcher says, "Zero is the new black." ::Globe and Mail

image from ::Daily Dose of Imagery

Related Content on Treehugger.com