OECD brain eaten by environmental memes

The OECD has joined The Movement. In a new report it’s saying that plastic recycling isn’t working. So we’ve got to make it work. Fair enough. PerhapsImage result for friendly crazy clown we should. But you’d think that reading their material on it, there might be some discussion as to whether this was the most economic way to address environmental objectives, or at least the most environmentally sound way to do so. I mean recycling plastic involves a lot of pollution – with trucks running round collecting stuff, toxins being difficult to remove from the plastic on recycling. So you’d be interested to hear how it all stacks up.

And when we hear that plastic waste is converted via incineration to energy and that this emits greenhouse gas, you’d want to know what the counterfactual was wouldn’t you? You’d want some reassurance that more recycling would lower plastics in the oceans – since, though it’s referenced as an important issue in the report, it seems to be a littering, rather than a recycling problem. And when you hear about the benefits of ‘extended producer responsibility’ you’re also waiting to hear about the very substantial costs and how the benefits and costs – economic and environmental – compare. But I had a quick read of the executive summary, and I was still waiting.

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7 Responses to OECD brain eaten by environmental memes

  1. John Goss says:

    O how the mighty have fallen. Did you notice that the report, although it is badged as an OECD report, is actually authored by two people – David Lerpiniere and Ed Cook – from the ‘independent environmental consultancy business’ ResourceFutures. resourcefutures.co.uk
    I suspect OECD heads will roll – or at least be recycled.

  2. Nicholas Gruen says:


    Thx for picking that up.

  3. derrida derider says:

    So much of the environmental movement has too much posturing and not near enough economics. It makes it focussed on the highly visible and symbolic to the neglect of the less visible and substantive. And it’s the latter that is endangering the planet.

    Furnaces burning plastics will, after all, emit no more CO2 than if the same feedstock for the plastic had been burnt as (say) diesel – it’s the same number of carbon atoms. As you say, gotta get the right counterfactual.

    Quite a lot of recycling is more costly environmentally on a ‘whole of life’ basis than disposal. That, after all, is the ultimate reason the Chinese are now refusing to take a lot of it.

    • Gather that quite a bit of the plastics in recycling bins are contaminated with food waste or worse. And they are increasingly contaminated with bio degradable ‘plastic ‘ ,which cannot be recycled.
      And you’d have to wonder about the fuel carbon costs of the transportation of large amounts of glass ( dense stuf) large distances for recycling.

      • derrida derider says:

        Though I understand that glass recycling has always been thoroughly viable (ie including the cost of that transport, reheating, etc) because glass is expensive in both money and energy to make from sand. Plastics – rarely worthwhile unless you put great value on aesthetics. Paper/cardboard – depends on type and locale, but often environmentally cheaper to bury, mulch or burn it (which I suppose are all ways of recycling it anyway).

        • DD
          I gather that in Australia there are large stockpiles of glass for recycling that currently have no market demand.
          Agree about paper using it as mulch, locally seems a better way to recycle it.

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