It is important to recycle that which we no longer need. We carefully separate our paper, plastic, metal and other waste. Many of us are given separate rubbish containers. There are laws requiring us to do this, because if we do not recycle our waste the two bad very undesirable things happen to it. Either it is dumped in landfill, which wrecks the environment and often produces a dangerous and unhealthy land frequently emitting greenhouse gases and pollution, or it is burnt, adding to atmospheric carbon dioxide and particulates in the atmosphere. Some atmospheric particulates are carcinogenic while others make breathing difficult, especially for the elderly and the asthmatic.
Some of our waste products end up in landfill in China; on the whole, however, most of them end up in recycling plants where they are collected, stored and then transformed into new paper and new plastic containers.
There is a large plastic recycling plant at Jayplas near Smethwick in the West Midlands. The Jayplas depot is operated by J & A Young (Leicester) Limited which company is the United Kingdom’s largest plastic recycler. It is a very big plant.
The company operates an ISO environmental standard, it is proud of its health and safety record and I have no doubt did its best to minimise its adverse environmental impact while maximising its positive environmental impact. Presumably every proper safety policy was implemented carefully and properly.
Unfortunately something went wrong at Smethwick. One hundred thousand tonnes of plastic, the product of much careful recycling by consumers and industry, has gone up in smoke. 200 brave firemen and women have attended the fire and are trying to control it, but a plume of smoke has risen more than a mile in the air, and local residents are warned to keep inside and motorists have been told to avoid the nearby motorway.
I do not know the cause of the fire, but I do think we ought to have concerns about having very large recycling plants. Things go wrong quite frequently. The problem with large is that when danger and disaster strikes it will always be large. Smaller recycling plants, serving small communities, avoids big risks of big disasters. Small is always beautiful and small is invariably safer. Businesses are so keen to chase the economies of scale to do things cheaper and more profitably that society suffers as a result.
The result of the economies of scale in banking led to the banking crisis, which is still with us today. Economies of scale in farming have led to large scale use of pesticides and to a desire to adopt genetically modified food. It has also removed much of the population from the countryside into large cities and urban conurbations where the same economies of scale creates poor living conditions. Economies of scale provide cheap consumer goods made by people who are paid a pittance and work in dangerous factories.
We chase economies of scale at the peril of our society and in achieving them endanger our future. Keep it simple, keep it small, or the economies of scale will become the scales that blind our eyes to our economy.
Filed under: climate change Tagged: | atmospheric carbon dioxide, atmospheric particulates, economies, economies of scale, environment, farming, fire, Jayplas, pesticides, recycling, small is beautiful, society