Rethinking ‘Trash’ Recap

John M. HalsteadMonday night UNH Professor John Halstead spoke at the Derry Public Library.  His talk, “Rethinking ‘Trash’: Composting, Recycling, and Sustainable Resource Use” took a look at recycling from an economic perspective; in particular the economic impact of recycling at the town level.

To begin with, consumption and waste have exponentially grown in the last 30 years. Trash has become a huge business and a major expense for towns. To be cost effective the Town of Derry recycles items like Cardboard, Paper, Aluminum and Scrap Metal; because it can make money to offset the expenses of the Transfer Station. Other Recyclables, 1–7 Plastics and glass are transferred to a recycling facility at a lessor cost than hauling it to a landfill.

Professor Halstead explained how some recyclables, for example glass, cost more for us to recycle because it is heavy and therefore expensive to transport to a facility where it can be processed for reuse; thus an economic factor that does not support recycling in all cases.  Is there a processing facility nearby to make use and profit from materials being brought to the Transfer Station to be recycled?

Professor Halstead also shared a more world-view, using an input–output theory, where natural resources, like bauxite (a natural mineral used to make aluminum) are input and pollution is output with recycling as the tool for keeping resources from being used up and minimizing the output of pollution.

This presentation made me wonder if, in order to move recycling forward in the state of NH that our state government might consider incentivizing manufacturing companies that process recycled materials to create new to move to NH.  And where that is not feasible or the pollution output from the process is not tolerable than perhaps some consumables could be eliminated.  For example banning plastic grocery bags and single use plastic bottles is gaining favor throughout the country.

All in all, thinking about reducing our consumption should be the priority and each purchase should be mindfully considered: where will this item end up when I am done using it?