In the inbox, from our Professor of Finance:
Oh the irony – the ‘sustainability’ of recycling
Ratepayers are going to be charged more to keep producing a ‘good’ that nobody apparently wants or needs! Now that’s certainly a ‘sustainable’ policy…
The ODT article forwarded me by the good Professor Glenn Boyle notes:
As a stockpile of the city’s plastic waste grows ever bigger, the Dunedin City Council is being warned it may have to increase rates if returns from recycling do not improve.
The amount Dunedin people recycle has increased by a third since a new service was introduced in 2011.
That increase, combined with the high New Zealand dollar and a four-month stay on sending some plastics to the main Chinese market following a crackdown on contaminants in recyclables that has put traders off selling to China, resulted in the council running the service at a loss last year.
…The situation has prompted council solid waste manager Ian Featherston to warn the council this week that although the exchange rate was falling and new markets for the materials were being sought, the reduced target of a $210,000 return this financial year might also be difficult to achieve.
In that case, the kerbside recycling targeted rate would need to be increased next year from $64 to $69, he said.
Mr Featherston said Dunedin people recycle about 30 tonnes of material a month.
The stockpile of plastics being held had now reached about 150 tonnes.
Recycling programmes can still make sense even if they run at a loss, but only if the costs of disposing of this kind of plastic via the recycling system is lower than the costs of disposing of it via landfill. If it costs $30/tonne to get rid of waste at the landfill and the net costs of a recycling programme are $20/tonne, we’re still $10/tonne better off by having it.
When I’d run some ballpark numbers on Christchurch’s system in 2009, it looked like we were paying at least twice as much to get rid of waste via recycling, on average, as we were paying for disposal at Kate Valley. Some recyclables are of high value and are worth sending through a recycling system, but most of it is not worth the cost.
The numbers in Christchurch have likely changed with our newer bin system that separates out composting waste; the Otago numbers too could vary. I’d be surprised if it made sense to be stockpiling plastics in hopes of shipping them to China, but it’s not impossible.