At the risk of sounding like an old pessimist, I have to say that I am less than impressed with the new law that says old junked monitors, computers and televisions cannot be thrown out into the garbage anymore. They now have to be sent off to disposal centres at a cost. Its not that I object to the fact that we are not throwing them into the general garbage stream or the cost of sending them off to the disposal sites where they supposedly will not find their way into the environment, with the attendant pollution. But rather, I object to the “feel goodness” of it all. The real problem is our consumption and population that is burdening the planet beyond its means to recover. And now we are implementing yet another law that supposedly says we are “going green”, while deftly avoiding any real action that might stifle industry and consumption.
In fact, I think its even worse that doing nothing because the problem still exists after the supposed efforts, and we sidestep the obsolescence, production and consumption of the products of our industry which is the heart of the problem. Once the monitor or the TV or the computer is set to be junked it has already taxed the environment way past its abilities to absorb it on a per capita basis. Making a TV or computer have a smaller impact on the environment at the end of its life cycle is going to make very little if any difference.
By way of illustrating this conundrum, I point to the recycling charge that we have on tires for our cars. Each and every year in the Maritimes we throw away a couple of million tires, which are sent off to disposal centres. There is a charge for that when you buy the tires in the first place. Supposedly it helps the environment. But here comes the conundrum. The tires wind up being stored in vast sites, where they sit and sit and sit. A small percentage are recycled as pavement or as shoes or some other consumer item, but the vast majority don’t make it even that far and might as well be thrown into the dump for all the difference it makes. Other than the charge, nothing is different from from just throwing the tires into garbage dumps. We label it a “recycling charge” yet the tires wind up in pretty much the same place, the environment, and someone makes out like a bandit, while the rhetoric says we are do something “greener”. After it is all said and done most of us never have a further thought about the tires and believe that the world can breathe just a bit easier because we recycle.
Now we are charging for TVs et al to be “recycled”. We will have the nice fuzzy feelings that go with idea that we are doing something a bit better and the Earth will be saved from another blight. But we are still really not doing anything. The real problem that we are not tackling is our consumption, our way of life and our huge global population.
If you think this charge is going to do anything to slow human induced climate change, lower pollution and stem the tide of the vast melts in the Arctic and Antarctic, get a grip. Its something that we have concocted to make ourselves feel better, because we know deep down that we really aren’t doing anything about making a dramatic cut to climate change gases.
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