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[greenyes] The environmental impacts of recycling according to the London Daily telegraph
Those of you interested in some actual life cycle data on the environmental
benefits of recycling, developed through a project with the Washington State
Department of Ecology using life cycle assessment data from the EPA's WARM
and MSW DST tools and databases, can download the Mar/Apr (Vol. 4, No. 2)
issue of my newsletter The Monthly UnEconomist from our website at  Access and downloading is free, just follow the instructions
to get your password.  The article is entitled "The Pollution Prevention and
Biodiversity Enhancing Benefits of Curbside Recycling." It analyzes
environmental impacts/benefits of curbside recycling versus both landfill
and waste-to-energy (WTE) incineration.

The Swedish analysis would have to really bend some numbers to get the
results claimed in the London Daily Telegraph news article.  The
environmental advantages of recycling shown in my article are calculated
using ridiculously overly conservative assumptions in favor of disposal such
as that 75% of landfill methane is captured by landfill gas collection
systems, and that WTE substitutes for only fossil fuel energy generation
while the upstream energy conservation from using recycled materials in
place of virgin materials to manufacture products substitutes for the
average mix of power generation sources.  Because close to 40% of
electricity generation comes from nuclear and hydro, which have no
greenhouse gas emissions, this latter assumption in the EPA's WARM and MSW
DST models gives WTE a 167% advantage for every BTU of energy generation
offset by burning MSW versus offsets from conserving energy by using
recycled materials in place of virgin materials.  And still curbside
recycling, including the energy to run trucks and the pollution from those
trucks, wallops WTE and landfill.  That's why I say the Swedish study must
have really bent the numbers because the EPA models almost lie on their
backs to favor disposal and they still show recycling beats landfilling and
WTE by a large margin for (1) energy conservation, (2) reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions, (3) reductions in acidifying gases emissions
(e.g., sulfur dioxide), (4) reductions in eutrophication emissions (that
promote e.g., algae blooms in waterways), and (5) reductions in emissions of
substances toxic to humans.

Resource Recycling ran a very summary version of my article in its August
2002 issue. That article is titled "Measuring the advantages of curbside

What has as yet not been adequately developed is an environmental assessment
of organics diversion that includes the benefits of using compost to reduce
the usage of petroleum based fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and
fungicides and to improve the water retention in soils thereby reducing use
of this increasingly scarce natural resource.  I'm convinced based on the
scattered bits and pieces of evidence I've assembled, and that others have
shown me they've assembled, that the results for organics diversion will be
similarly strong.  But we need to develop that analysis definitively as part
of our evidence for continued expansion of recyclables and organics
diversion programs and policies.

Jeffrey Morris, Ph.D.
Sound Resource Management - Durham
2219 Whitley Drive
Durham, NC 27707

WA: 360-319-2391
NC: 919-401-4444

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