Why don’t we recycle yoghurt pots?

I gather that despite having a recycling policy, the local council doesn’t recycle yoghurt pots. This policy strikes me as surprising. We don’t recycle them and yet we bin 1.3M yoghurt pots a day.

The prevailing parties implement Green policies only so very slowly. Indeed I have never seen a government convinced of the need for a green economy.

Green economic policies

Some think the best way to implement green strategies is by stating the economic case for moving to green production.

Oil prices will continue to rise as supply drops and to harvest the remaining reserves becomes costlier. But we will continue to use fossil fuels until solar power is cheaper. The cost of renewable energy is, however, coming down, although we should already be using renewables on ethical and philosophical grounds.

Measuring resource usage

We should measure the total energy usage of various systems and items, products and commodities from the cradle to the grave.

For instance, a yoghurt pot. How much energy does it cost to produce, distribute and recycle compared to a locally produced apple? I’m wondering even whether the cost is a motivation. We import exotic fruits and goods produced far away in China, rather than to favour locally produced goods.

Money is power. People seem to make and spend their money as if to say, ‘look at me, I can bring goods halfway around the world. I’m powerful.’

Eating pears from around the corner isn’t glamorous enough for some and economics is a factor only for poor people. Environmentally-friendly production methods aren’t cheaper, and we have favoured mass production.

Use river transport again

The world seems to be the wrong way up when we no longer use the waterways and yet this is the most ecologically friendly way to transport goods.

We have favoured road transport because of its speed and flexibility despite using petrol, and the cost of road maintenance. Time is money, but planning and patience can pay. Water transport isn’t appropriate for all types of goods.

Could we refrigerate boats to bring our yoghurts to market? Transportation by ship is economical for make-to-stock items such as building materials, animal feed and large bulky items. What economic factors could bring goods off the roads and back onto rivers or canals?

Canals require maintenance, but at least they don’t consume large quantities of petrochemical and quarried products.

Yoghurt pots heavy on resources

Consider what the humble yoghurt pot consumes from production to disposal.

It takes plastic from the petrochemical industry, press moulding, aluminium and paper, glue, yoghurt, transport, expensive refrigerated storage in shops, lorries and homes. Disposal requires trucks to collect rubbish using roads and infrastructure, and yet we can’t recycle yoghurt pots, only incinerate or bury them.

Considering how much yoghurt we eat and waste each year, this seems a high price to pay. Are the arguments for eating locally produced fruit sufficiently heard or sufficiently made?

What will it take for people to understand the costs involved in our environment based on the choices that they make? What may convince them to do otherwise, economics or ethics?

For further reading, see our discussion on using chemicals or natural products.

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