Title: [GreenYes] Re: Recycle when Energy
Alan, your response is politically correct, but your answer #2 ignores
the premise of the question, which is what can/should be done with the
portion which is NOT economically recyclable. For ink cartridges
which are rejected (not refurbishable) my understanding is that the
toner is bad for the recycling process, and they would have to be
shredded and washed prior to recycling, which might in fact be less
ecologically advantageous than incinerating them.
One decent response I remember hearing, (I think it was from Urban Ore
in SF via Brooke Nash), is that separating economically non-recyclable
streams into cells in a landfill, to be dug up and recycled later when
there is new technology or a sufficient quantity, might be better (you
could always incinerate them later if it proved a mistake). Another
is that for materials which abound but are not yet commercially
recyclable, that recycling at an economic or environmental
disadvantage is "priming the pump" and will be justified in the long
run. In 1994 I remember a Cape Cod community showed the cost of
recycling their first load of HDPE plastic cost them $900 per ton, and
said it would have been better to incinerate. If there is enough
supply, the extra expense of recycling is part of "scaling" which
exists in any business, it's the cost of producing the very first
widget. Arguably in either of these cases, we could store up enough
of the un-refurbishable ink cartridges to eventually recycle them when
demand is there. But that's also known as "speculative accumulation"
which is (rightly) frowned on by environmental agencies.
In any case my broader point is that I don't really think recyclers or
environmentalists do ourselves good in the long run just saying that
the reasons not to incinerate are "well-known". I am a critic of
"zero waste" when it is used to justify sending a boat for the last
aluminum can on an island... at some point the cost of recycling the
last can will cost more environmentally than recycling it.
For analogy, consider a hospital with a "Zero Death" policy... it
sounds good to say that the hospital will not accept a single patient
dying, but using the last of the hospital's resources to prolong the
life of a one-hundred year old patient will lead to a shortage and
more deaths in the long run. When "zero waste" means that waste is
never a preferred outcome, that's fine. But a lot of rotten meat got
disposed of in New Orleans when the refrigerators stood idle in the
Louisiana heat without electricity after Hurricane Katrina. I would
hate to see limited environmental currency used to avoid disposal or
incineration of rotten meat.