A U.K. government report released last week shows that recycling is still preferred for economic reasons, in addition to the environmental reasons, for most waste disposal. The report, summarized in a story in The Guardian, might surprise some people in the United States with its recommendations, which suggest recycling wood and plastic wrap, materials rarely collected from consumers for recycling in the United States.
Recycling has been supported somewhat grudgingly in the United States because of the suspicion that, when all the costs are considered, recycling may be more expensive than landfill disposal. The U.K. report took a broad look at costs, though, and considered both consumer effort in separating materials and transportation costs for recycled materials if they must be exported, and concluded that recycling works out well for almost all waste materials other than food and garden cuttings.
The report calls for more incineration for energy generation, incinerating materials such as low-quality paper and plastics that cannot be recycled, but cautions that this can be done successfully only if materials are separated from each other. The environmental advantage of incineration is that it may replace other means of electrical generation that generate more greenhouse gases.