Author Topic: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?  (Read 1361 times)

(split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« on: April 04, 2021, 10:57:29 AM »
It never crosses my mind that I'm doing anything remotely virtuous when I'm putting stuff in my recycle bin. It fits into the household chores/dealing with the local council compartment of my brain rather than the politics/environment bit.
But recycling has become a kind of lazy journalistic shorthand for inadequate and tokenistic nod to environmentalism made by hypocrites or dangerous distraction that blinds people to the radical and systematic changes needed to avoid climate disaster.
e.g. this from the Guardian:
" Nothing could be more depressing for the honest self-loathing liberal Brit. You know the type. Recycle assiduously but fly once a fortnight."
You'll know other examples of this, I'm sure. I remember one of Michael Moore's books saying, in all caps something like "GUESS WHAT? I DON't RECYCLE! I AM THE MOTHER OF ALL BHOPALS!", his point being that recycling made no difference at all and was a useless distraction from the other problems created by consumer society.

Is there really evidence for this, though? Has there really ever been any studies that showed that recycling is actually a cultural problem, in that people let themselves off the hook in terms of their environmental responsibilities? That people chuck a baked bean tin in a can and then imagine a little halo above their heads? I think this is, in itself, a distracting cliche and we would be better off without it.

Fambo Number Mive

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #1 on: April 04, 2021, 11:03:05 AM »
I don't think recycling is harmful, most people I know do it. It certainly doesn't make me want to consume more things. I think people are used to recycling now and don't feel virtuous about doing it, it's just something you do. I recycle as much as I can and haven't flown for nine years.


Buelligan

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #2 on: April 04, 2021, 11:07:10 AM »
I don't know about the recycling issue, haven't looked into it, except to see that the new recycling (and rubbish collection) company that does our area's shit, is throwing the stuff all over the countryside, regularly.  Which is definitely shit, it's where their drive to get money overrides the point of recycling and ends in destroying the planet.  This is not recycling, this is capitalism.

On the people behaving tokenistically by conforming to societal pressure to recycle and then fucking the planet busily in other ways, totally sure they do this (as detailed above and in lots of other ways too).  Everywhere.  IMO, again, down to capitalist culture, corporate and personal greed, cutting across almost every other kind of impulse, making sure, whatever the little people do, they keep consuming.  Making sure the overriding message, above even the life of the planet, is keep buying shit.

So, IMO, recycling is not harmful, not at all, it's good.  But a fuck sight more needs to change.

bgmnts

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2021, 11:27:37 AM »
Of course its helpful.

Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2021, 11:55:48 AM »
No, I don't do it because I think it absolves me of any duty to care for the environment, I do it out of habit. We have a blue bin for paper and cardboard, brown for plastic and glass, organic waste goes on the compost heap.

BlodwynPig

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2021, 11:56:48 AM »
There is no argument against it that holds any value - other than it could be done better.

Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2021, 12:02:52 PM »
Doesn't it all end up in a land fill in Malaysia anyway?

Buelligan

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2021, 12:03:58 PM »
I guess we all do, eventually.  I'm not ready to lie down and give up yet though.

BlodwynPig

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2021, 12:05:47 PM »
Doesn't it all end up in a land fill in Malaysia anyway?

How you doing mr. shrugs?

bgmnts

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2021, 12:08:21 PM »
Admittedly, it is a shame that a lot of our recycling is just incinerated now, but thats down to capitalism and for profit industry, as per usual. China shut its doors and now yeah it goes to Malaysia or Thailand and ends up incinerated or landfill. It's still realistically the only chance of saving the planet though, you cannot just keep producing plastics, things have to be recycled.

Thomas

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2021, 12:08:36 PM »
It is helpful, in the way that saving a bumblebee every so often is helpful. A good thing to do, but - as Buelligan says - it's only a tiny contribution to the 'fuck sight more' that needs to happen.

Recycling can be - and is - used as an individualistic distraction, when the big, world-changing requirements are structural. The doc Seaspiracy presents some startling stats about plastic straws vs. other forms of plastic pollution. The highly publicised replacement of plastic straws with paper is a good thing, and we've all seen sad images of turtles with straws wodged up their noses, but straws only account for 0.03% of ocean pollution. Reportedly, up to 46% comes from discarded fishing nets alone. Far more dolphins and turtles die in commercial fishing nets than as a result of household plastic pollution.[1]

Still, save bumblebees and don't chuck straws in the sea. When I've finished my current bottle of Worcestershire sauce I'll be up/downgrading from pescatarian to vegetarian (and putting the sauce bottle in the glass bin).
 1. These stats are disputed by associates of the fishing industry. However, I spoke to a vegan and a turtle and they said it was true.

Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2021, 12:12:22 PM »
I think avoiding single-use plastics is better. I think even the biggest libertarian would agree that recycling cans and tins has some value - they even have a cash value - and I'm practically certain that the energy involved in recycling a can or tin is less than the energy involved in digging some aluminium up and refining it. Paper seems an easy one too.

I'd think that the motivation for getting us all to recycle is probably capitalist rather than environmental in a significant way. And I'm sure it would take many millennia before a landfill site 1% the size of the Sahara was filled up. But yes, part of the motivation for the individual household is to avoid getting any criticism from the council for not doing it.

I'm sure we all know that cos of entropy n' shit, you can't turn a plastic coke bottle into another plastic coke bottle. It ends up as a polyester t-shirt or something. There'll always be a demand for freshly-made plastic until we stop using it.

BlodwynPig

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #12 on: April 04, 2021, 12:13:27 PM »
something to chew down on

Plastics

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6365/870.full
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-018-04565-2

E-waste
https://www.elsevier.com/atlas/story/resources/is-there-a-future-for-e-waste-recycling-yes,-and-its-worth-billions

Be interested to see articles that focus on the end-use (reduction, consumerism, marketing, policy) rather than advanced biopolymer alternatives to plastic

touchingcloth

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #13 on: April 04, 2021, 12:14:25 PM »
Reduce, reuse. These are as - arguably more - important. Try not to buy stuff that will need recycling whenever you can - take reusable bags to the shops, stuff things in your pockets.

Buelligan

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #14 on: April 04, 2021, 12:18:14 PM »
I think, perhaps the question about recycling needs to be, what are we doing that's making recycling necessary, is recycling fixing it?  Is it capable of fixing it[1]?  If not, what is?

If we deal with that honestly, then we can start to make changes that deal with the problem. 

Problem is, we have competing priorities, priorities that are cancelling each other out.  We need to decide what our mission is.
 1. If we do it properly, better, best

bgmnts

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2021, 12:22:33 PM »
The problem is, western identity is 'consume'. That's it. We live to consume as much as possible.

Buelligan

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2021, 12:24:47 PM »
Obviously, I agree.  So we need to ask ourselves what we want to do about that and then do it.

Chedney Honks

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2021, 12:39:42 PM »
Build more shelves!

Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #18 on: April 04, 2021, 12:40:00 PM »
Council didn't support recycling for one of my old boudoirs, and the only recycling centre in the borough didn't allow foot traffic, so saved up recycling for a year and smuggled it in via taxi. "What's recycling, princess?" asked the taximan and I was too dim to answer, I turned maroon and glubbed like a fish, the kindly taximan told me not to be so silly, wiped away my tears and drove me to a river to throw it all in there instead. We played poohsticks, very english, we must never forget our traditions, and we threw the heaviest recycling at a skein of ducklings, whooping and cheeing with each hit. Now I love throwing litter about and causing a commotion, we all love snowball fights, and it's like a snowball fight every day.

Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #19 on: April 04, 2021, 12:48:20 PM »
E-waste
https://www.elsevier.com/atlas/story/resources/is-there-a-future-for-e-waste-recycling-yes,-and-its-worth-billions

There should be a WEEE day where we all put our waste electronics into a bin and then a lorry comes and picks them all up. 99.9% of waste electronics likely end up in landfill.

Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #20 on: April 04, 2021, 01:07:43 PM »
Bring back the rag and bone man

Glebe

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #21 on: April 04, 2021, 01:10:39 PM »
John Oliver recently did a relevant piece... I've been trying to recycle shower gel bottles and the like along with everything else lately. Gotta rinse 'em out and let 'em dry.

Chedney Honks

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #22 on: April 04, 2021, 01:22:23 PM »
I definitely felt more deflated regarding my green contribution from living in China. The unfathomable avalanche of waste and destruction that I witnessed every single day, just in my neighbourhood, probably dwarfed the 'impact' of my lifetime's recycling many times over. On the other hand, I'm a refreshed Absurdist and the individual decisions I make in the face of that crushing reality are quite invigorating.

I don't feel virtuous at all, it's more a rejection of subsumption by the fatberg of ennui.


bgmnts

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #23 on: April 04, 2021, 01:46:46 PM »
Its not about feeling virtuous wtf.

Does everyone here only do good/right things to inflate their ego? Bit gutted.

Chedney Honks

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #24 on: April 04, 2021, 01:55:27 PM »
Is that a reply to me? I think you've misread my post if so.

I mentioned 'virtue' because it was raised in the OP, and it was part of the initial discussion which spawned this thread.

I explained why I do it.

pigamus

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #25 on: April 04, 2021, 02:08:08 PM »
I think during the Birmingham bin strikes the council admitted they were just chucking it all in the same wagon anyway. I still do it out of habit, bit not as assiduously as I used to.

Poirots BigGarlickyCorpse

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #26 on: April 04, 2021, 02:27:08 PM »
I would really love to know how many people are "flying once a fortnight" of their own free will and not, you know, FOR WORK.

TrenterPercenter

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #27 on: April 04, 2021, 02:41:42 PM »
Recycling is not harmful in itself as an action; do it.  The belief that because you are recycling you have done your bit morally/politically/ethically is harmful and shaming others, even if unintentionally, is limited strategically in getting people to think more morally/politically and ethically.

bgmnts

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #28 on: April 04, 2021, 02:43:09 PM »
You are doing your bit though, it's literally the least you can do.

TrenterPercenter

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Re: (split topic) Recycling: helpful or a harmful distraction?
« Reply #29 on: April 04, 2021, 02:53:18 PM »
You are doing your bit though, it's literally the least you can do.

Is it? maybe it is about raising that bar of what the minimum is, maybe overly moralising about individual decisions  (lots of which are predicated on resources) creates a climate of shame that others either tune out of or pretend they do the same just to keep face.

Not sure why this is a controversial thought; it's obvious.

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