What is the point of recycling while greedy corporations run the show?
When you separate your cardboard from your plastic from your metal and it’s collected by the cheapest sub-contractor the council could find, what happens to it?
Is the notion of recycling in this country just a half-hearted cover-up for dumping everything in a landfill anyway? I’ve seen contractors in London haul the recycled rubbish up with the general waste and bung it all in the same compactor. So who are we kidding when we claim to be all eco and green and “do our bit” for the environment? Are our consciences appeased by letting someone else take care of it?
Sweden and Germany, among others, have got it right. Recycling and reuse is ingrained in their culture, from the humble homeowner right to the top CEOs who make product decisions that include packaging design. Sweden even burn a lot of their rubbish, I’m told, as it’s more environmentally sound.
Over here, the message is clear from the media: “It’s your fault, end users, that the environment is in a mess”. Which is hardly fair when a tiny memory card comes encased in a plastic blister pack 15 times its size, housing cardboard and umpteen bits of paper absolving responsibility for the card’s use in 12 languages.
Paper vs electricity
Our energy company wrote to us the other week. They carved a tree down, wasted resources to bleach the paper and press the sheet flat, wasted ink and electricity printing it, wasted money on a stamp and wasted fossil fuels driving it around the country until it arrived in my letterbox.
The letter said they were no longer going to send us paper bills. To save the environment, they claimed. They said it was more convenient for me to log into their system at any time of day and view my bill.
What they really meant of course is it’s more convenient for them to have me log into their system, as it saves them a bit of cash which translates to better shareholder returns.
So in their misguided attempts to save a planet that doesn’t need saving – just needs better management – they now have:
- a server farm switched on 24 hours a day
- firewalls running 24 × 7
- extra customer service staff — each with a screen in front of them — to deal with frequent system failures and customer queries when bills disappear
- IT specialists keeping it all running — each with a screen in front of them
All of the above use natural resources to manufacture, and electricity that the energy company supply. Electricity is generated by setting fire to fossil fuels such as coal. None of the components in the electronics can be readily recycled at the end of their life without further energy wasted to separate everything. And the company still have the audacity to send me junk post through my door advertising their other products and services such as “green energy”.
Are they really saving the environment or just using misdirection to move the problem elsewhere and tick a box in a random government-sanctioned international agreement:
Move all customers to e-billing by 2010