The recycling movement in 1990s-era Vancouver started as a lukewarm way to protect the environment. Then the issues started heating up until it was a sizzling hot topic.
Everyone I knew became a star recycler. We learned how to sort properly, and although I did not always compost, I really tried to be environmentally responsible in other ways. Up until 2001, I was doing my undergraduate degree in biology and I felt it was my duty to understand the issues and be proactive.
In 2005 (give or take) I read Michael Crichton’s book State of Fear. Although there is controversy as to his thesis behind this fictional story, he had some great points about whether we were all jumping on the global warming bandwagon without all the facts. Almost 10 years later I still feel that way on a daily basis.
I am conditioned to recycle. I am often pulling containers out of the waste bins when the kids throw things away. I wash and sort all my food containers and diligently take it to the depots. But now I am confused. An article on Mother Nature Network discusses how Sweden is running of out of garbage to burn, so we are importing garbage from Norway:
…the population’s remarkably pertinacious recycling habits are also a bit of a problem given that the country relies on waste to heat and to provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes through a longstanding waste-to-energy incineration program (source)
I was skeptical when I first heard about the incineration program. A trusted Swedish colleague assured me that it was probably better than recycling with respect to the amount of energy required to recycle and reuse the product compared to just burning it. But what about all those pollutants and toxins?
Sweden has had strict standards limiting emissions from waste incineration since the mid-1980s. Most emissions have fallen by between 90 and 99 per cent since then thanks to ongoing technical development and better waste sorting (source)
What are the facts? Am I a naïve recycler? As always, there is conflicting information. I generally have to trust others to do the research for me—I have a day job and I am trying to write a regular blog, which leaves me with little time to pursue an advanced degree or fully comprehend the environmental impact of my existence on this planet.
What are your thoughts about recycling in your country?
- Waste Incinerator Market Worth $16.8 billion by 2022 Forecasted in New Research Report at ReportsnReports.com (prweb.com)
- The great recycling con trick: How 12million tons of your carefully sorted waste is being dumped in foreign landfill sites (dailymail.co.uk)
- UK incinerator plans? They’re just rubbish. (independent.co.uk)
- Recycling and composting are progressing in Europe (eco-business.com)