The government constantly tells us that recycling is a wonderful idea. TV advertisements bombard us with this message. Children are taught to recycle at school. But are the environmental benefits of recycling really worth the economic cost?
That cost is growing rapidly. The landfill tax, introduced to encourage recycling, will increase by an inflation-busting 14 per cent in April. This levy will cost UK businesses and householders £900m in 2007.
Then there are the costs of collecting and reprocessing the recyclable materials an estimated £400m per year, paid for by council tax payers.
Numerous EU waste directives are also being forced on different industries. The Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment Directive alone cost British business £200m in 2006.
Despite all this expenditure, running into billions, it is difficult to identify any significant benefits from recycling except where it occurs commercially without government intervention, as in the traditional scrap metal business.
The amount of municipal waste being sent to landfill has declined, but then again modern landfill sites have few negative environmental impacts. They are lined so that pollution cannot seep into water courses. Unpleasant odours a