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Waste: Should we buy less or dispose better?

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Our consumption of natural resources has spiralled out of control. It’s become clear that something needs to change: if not in our pace of consumption, then at least in our methods of disposal.

 

What methods do we have to slow down the production model?

What should we do about the plastics and waste that are already causing problems?

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Billy Warren
08 August 2019

Although many consumers are attempting to buy products with less packaging, a large sector of society is constrained, to a certain extent, by price. This results in consumers being forced to buy products with more packaging as it is actually cheaper. In turn, this causes a climate where people do not expect to pay the true price of their purchase in the sense that buyers only pay for the product, not the cost of the creation and disposal of packaging. To reduce excess packaging, governments should place a 'packaging tax' on poducts packaged in hard to recycle materials, meaning cheaper products are also the least impacting on the environment. Thus, to combat waste, both better disposal practices and greater government intervention in supermarket pricing are important but a focus on the latter, in my view, would make a greater impact. Intervention from the highest level at the soonest point would make the largest impact on waste and preserve the most natural resources.

marila alfano
12 November 2019

We need new real recycling politics, oriented towards a circular economy based principles. With this I am not saying that 'we should recycle better our wastes' but that we should first of all start reusing all our packaging and think twice before purchasing something that will be then immediately thrown away. New politics should be introduced for all the takeaway food shops, pushing them to start using re-usable packages. For example it could be possible to create a 'fidelity' service were the costumer uses and re-takes to the shop (or gives back to the delivery man) the package used to deliver the food. Another option would be to stop using one use cups, either via the payment of a deposit or by incouragin people to around with their own re-usable mugs. It's a complete shift in the mentality of society but those are just small necessary steps that could help for the bigger shift that, I think, is imminent.

Guilherme Azambuja
14 January 2020

What we are faced with is a classic market faillure problem where there is information assymetries and time inconsistency. As most people have realized the diagnosis of the problem has been accurately done: We produce too much waste, and in forms which are unfriendly and costly to treat in a safe way.

Lowering the amount of waste should be easy, but as we have seen over the last 3 decades of waste directives, the focus needs to change. First, the recycling market needs not only access to funds and subsidized credits in order to set up infrastruture and capacity (which is necessary given the economies of scale of the sector). But most importantly we need to remember that recycling is the last step and has, throughout the years, captured too much of the agenda. The National governments should face the fact that market intervention is not only needed but also beneficial for the circular economy but also for the environment. 2 Short examples follow:
1. Secondary raw materials (materials which result from some sort of recycling process) are rarely price competitive. If price is the deciding factor, then governments need to create incentive to push for raw materials substitution - decoupling needs to happen or else recycling brings little to the table.
2. Buying something new is often cheaper than having your items repaired (take the electric and electronic equipment). The new EC regulation 2019/2021 makes it easier for the repair market to access information and spare parts, but the fact is that repair is still far more expensive and time consuming than buying new. But if repair is the best environmental option, because it keeps all the materials in use and replaces the non functioning ones, then why is not being subject to incentive schemes, tax exemptions, etc? The repair sector is by far less environmentally damaging than producing new goods but prices fail to capture this dimension.

Adrien
25 May 2020

L'idée selon laquelle recycler nos déchets plastiques est toujours supérieure à l'incinération ne me semble pas bien justifiée. Le recyclage est elle même une activité polluante alors que l'incinération permet de produire de l'électricité et potentiellement de réduire notre consommation d'énergies fossiles. Le recyclage de nos déchets comporte des risques environnementaux, le pire étant lorsque nos déchets se retrouvent en Asie.

La primauté donnée au recyclage est une invention de l'industrie pétrochimique pour donner bonne conscience à nous consommateurs.

Le seul dogme en matière de déchet plastique et qu'il faut en produire moins. Mais attention aux effets pervers de cette décision: gâchis alimentaire, matière de substitution encore moins écoresponsable.

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