Make Stupidity Sustainable Again

Posted On: Tuesday - October 6th 2020 4:44PM MST
In Topics: 
  China  Economics  Environmental Stupidity

2 3/4 years back, Peak Stupidity came up with our favorite title so far, for the post Toward Sustainable Stupidity. A more accurate title would have been "Stupid Sustainability" or something like that, but we couldn't help it. This post is sort of a vindication of what the point of that old post was - why do recycling when it doesn't pay off.

See, the free market will do a helluva job in allocating where the trash goes, based on a lot of factors, all then can be quantified in terms of money. I'm gonna excerpt about 1/3 of that post to explain:
Are we going to run quickly out of areas to bury our stuff? No, take a look at google earth aerial pics sometimes and I doubt you'll find one landfill without making an effort. The cntrl-left enviros really don't care about that part, as most of them just want to feel good about themselves and know they are a BETTER PERSON than you are. Were they to go talk to the city managers who probably know the real problem, they'd know that it's hard to build a smelly landfill close in to the city. You can build them farther out, but that requires more money to continuously truck the trash much further. Is that sustainable? That depends on how much wasteful crap the city does with the rest of the budget, but I would not have any problem with any of the treehuggers who are in favor of charging for trash based on weight (Oh, no! Free markets! Ewwwww!). Sure, though, let's recycle what PAYS to recycle, as in stuff that the city can get enough money back for to cover what it would have cost to truck it to a far-out landfill (Landfills. FAR OUT, MAN!) That's what I call sustainable.

Instead of letting a free market take care of decisions about what to do with our trash, based on a concept called "pricing", we have these treehuggers pushing for decisions based on their emotions. They feel very good seeing these big cans filled with supposed "recyclables" in some citiies, when lots of it gets sent right to the landfill from the transfer station. See, not many treehuggers work at the transfer station to see this, just regular working people work there. Some of the process doesn't pay off at all, as in, it would still be cheaper to gather up the unsuitable-for-reuse trash normally and bring it straight way out of town to a landfill. That means that the taxpayers are on the hook, of course. Is that sustainable? At some point we're gonna' run out of taxpayers. Yeah, there are indeed bigger boondoggles than the recycling process in some progressive cities, and yes, you need to know how to pick your battles. The point here is to debunk this whole meme of "sustainability, sustainability".
In the on-line magazine Quillette, about which I don't know too much otherwise, one Mr. Howard Husock, of the Manhattan Institute says As City Budgets Shrink, It’s Time to Rethink Recycling Programs. Well, obviously if a recycling program paid off or broke even, there wouldn't have to be cuts along with the associated city budget. (You may even want to expand it.) These Quillette people are right on my wavelength, it seems (might be worth reading in general):
The COVID recession has caused tax revenues to plummet, forcing cities and states to make painful budget cuts. But as they struggle to fund schools, parks, public safety, and other essential services, there’s one simple and painless way for governments to save money: Rethink recycling. The goal should be to transform the practice from a virtuous-seeming exercise that drains funds from core public services, to one by which price signals assure taxpayers that diverted materials are actually recycled.

When recycling programs became common three decades ago, they were sold to taxpayers as a win-win, financially and environmentally: Cities expected to reap budget savings through the sale of recyclable materials, and conscientious taxpayers expected to reduce ecological destruction. Instead, the painful reality for enthusiastic, dutiful recyclers is that most recycling programs don’t make much environmental sense. Often, they don’t make economic sense, either.
We are not running out of room for landfills. That's a key point that Mr. Husock doesn't quite get to. However, he discussed the significant cost differences, depending very much on the materials, and the current market for different materials, that favor dumping them vs. recycling in the current climate.

Speaking of climate, Mr Husock had to bring up the carbon emission crap that I don't want to get into in this post (see Global Climate Stupidity for plenty of that) as a factor in decisions to recycle based on environmental reasons alone. Even with that bogus climate-change reasoning, his Manhattan Institute calculates that nothing but metal, cardboad, and some paper is not worth recycling for "the climate's sake" either. Of course, that can change with demand and also is based on location, since there are certain locations where the landfills must be far out enough to make other options more competitive.

Here's what has really changed in the last few years, beside, the COVID recession, as the man calls it: China won't take our crap anymore. That's really not fair, man, as we pay money for plenty of their crap.
The chief buyers of American recyclable materials used to be Asian countries, chiefly China, where wages were low enough to justify labor-intensive recycling operations. But as part of Beijing’s “National Sword” policy, China began banning imports of “foreign trash” in 2017. Other Asian countries also began imposing their own restrictions. Meanwhile, reduced demand sent prices tumbling. The market price for mixed paper, for example, dropped from $160 to $3 per ton from March 2017 to March 2018.

[My bolding]
China used to REALLY be short on paper*. Yeah, you overpopulate your land for hundreds of years, ant that kind of stuff is gonna happen. (Shouldn't that be a lesson for (us) treehuggers here?) There weren't so many real forests left, though the Chinese are getting on a real environmental kick now. They need it.

Look, readers, I'm as much of a treehugger as the next guy (though there's never been any penetration). However, the virtual signalling going on with those big trash cans being the recycling while the little ones are for trash is just that, a show of virtue. Lots of that stuff in the big can may go to the landfill too, but just a longer and more expensive way.
As a result, cities that once collected some revenue for bales of recyclables (though typically not enough to cover the extra costs that recycling introduces into a municipal budget) must now pay to get rid of them. In many cases, they simply send them to landfills.
Ahaaa! See? What is done with your trash should depend on economics and the current market, not "makes us feel good". If that money wasted doesn't go to a more primary function of city government, it won't feel that good when your Volvo gets its front end bent up from that big-ass pot hole they didn't have money to fix.

I don't think I really need a guy from the Manhattan Institute to vindicate a Peak Stupidity post, but it feels kind good that someone else is getting around to it.

* At the restaurant, they would make you pay a small fee for another small pack of napkins if the few they gave you didn't suffice.

Wednesday - October 7th 2020 3:02PM MST
PS: Thank you, Robert. I had no problem, even when I clicked a link that I temporarily put in here and on another device too. I don't get it! I know that I had to switch, though.

BTW, if you want to not have your address in the comments here, I can wipe it off the comment, no problem.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 2:38PM MST
PS: Mr. Moderator:
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 2:18PM MST
PS: Robert, I just remembered you wrote you have your own site. Give me the URL, pasted here, and I'll just see if there's no warnings and such when I go to it. Thanks.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 2:16PM MST
PS: Robert, what I ran into is that the http (no "s") version of the site would give anybody who clicked on links to it those same warnings. Actually, I think that it was worse than that, as the site would not be reachable via any https (with "s") sites at all, which is what almost all are anymore.

As I recall, John Derbyshire mentioned that he had to change his site over (not any big deal if you UNDERSTAND it) a few months before I realized the same thing.

Mr. Smith, thank you for what you've written so far. Again, I mostly want free-ware to keep anonymity up. $8 per year is just chump change, of course, so I was just asking if Comodo is a reliable source and the certificates will work without any scams or nonsense.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 12:48PM MST
PS: Mr. Moderator, as Mr. Cloudbuster was probably implying, Why have an SSL Certificate at all? What do you have to secure? Just use plain old HTTP. It's all I use on my Site.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 12:04PM MST
PS: Mr. Blanc, yes, aluminum has always been worth it to recycle, though maybe not always worth driving to the place with bags of empty beer cans (I assume that's what you have, haha?) Steel has gone way down, but (there's another post) autos are pretty much the most recycled actual products around. It's amazing. (Again, "Mighty Machines" videos for the education)

On, the paper, though the Chinese aren't taking any of the trash, I guess the biggest factor for paper is the near end of newspapers. The pulp business has got to be way down - I could see it getting slowly worse too, as offices and individuals who were supposed to go paperless, though it seemed to go the other way, actually do.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 11:59AM MST
PS Robert: Interesting idea about separating waste types for when future recycling technologies emerge. Ganderson: I sure do remember returnable bottles. Back in the 1950s, a kid could keep himself in candy bars and bubble gum by scavenging for empty pop bottles. I can’t say as I recall refillable bottles. My grandfather told me that when he was a boy—first decades of the 20th century, his dad would take an empty pail to the local bar to have it filled up with beer. And they gave free sandwiches with the beer at lunch time. Sorry I missed that. I remember my elders buying beer in quarts when I was a kid, and while I’m sure that they returned the bottles, I’m pretty sure they took a different bottle home with them. When I stayed for a few weeks in Paleochora, on the southwest coast of Crete in April 1976, you brought an empty bottle to the grocery for them to fill up with the local wine out of 5-gallon jerry-cans. Mme B says that when the late lamented Chicago-area microbrewer, Baderbrau, first started operating the beer was only available draft, but if she brought empty bottles to Famous Liquors, they’d fill them with Baderbrau. Everything in plastic bottles is an abomination.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 11:42AM MST
PS I do my bit, recycling-wise. It’s only rational to keep things that have value and can be re-used out of the landfills. When I lived in a co-op, I was on the recycling committee. In fact, I pretty much was the recycling committee, making sure that the right waste went into the right container. Now that I’m a suburban homeowner, I make sure that all and only what is wanted is in my container. But, as anyone else who has the brainpower to do a bit of poking about, I know that very little of what goes to “recycling” is actually recycled. There’s simply no market for most of it. Aluminum and steel cans, you betcha. In fact, aluminum cans pay enough that it’s worth my driving up to Melrose Park with a couple of garbage bags full every once and awhile. I guess that they can use some plastics. I’ve seen garden items made from recycled plastic on offer, but they seemed over-priced to me. I understand that the market for paper has collapsed. Let the “environmentalists” figure out economical uses for used plastic and paper. Of course, they’re all much to important to do any such thing. So stuff will continue to wind up in the landfill.
Adam Smith
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 10:38AM MST
PS: Good afternoon Mr. Moderator and fellow PSers...

I agree with Mr. Cloudbuster...

What are we hiding in transport?

But, many/most new readers might not feel safe when their browser informs them that your certificate expired.

Most webhosts offer free ssl certificates from the dashboard, unfortunately godaddy does not do this yet. (That I know of.)

Comodo does offer a free ssl certificate, but it is only good for 30 days...

Trustworthy? I suppose it depends who you ask...

Letsencrypt is opensource. Some people don't trust it either. But it's pretty obvious that you do not require an ev ssl certificate. I think a free ssl would work just fine for you. You may consider migrating to a different webhost that offers free ssl certificates someday.

I wish I could answer your question more thoroughly, but I am a little pressed for time this afternoon. I will have time this evening to help answer any questions you may have.

If it were up to me I would install a free certificate and see how it goes. It really does not look difficult. Some people had good luck with the first few links.

I hope you all have a great afternoon.

Wednesday - October 7th 2020 10:10AM MST
PS: If I would stop writing comments and Pope posts ... maybe I could take care of it ... haha!
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 10:10AM MST
PS: Cloudbuster, I know you get this, but just to clear it up, yeah, there's nothing much for a hacker to do to cause any economic damage of any sort. I just don't want to turn off any new viewers, and I'd say 90% of at least not savvy-like-you clickers would bail out - some may never come back, as in "oh, that one's a scam of some sort, I remember..." It's not that I blame them either.

So, I'll have to take care of this very soon. Thanks for your info though.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 10:07AM MST
PS: Mr. Ganderson, I was in a hurry and wanted to reply and get Adam Smith's input, so I missed your longer comment (also trying to get a post written about our so-called Pope - OK not MY Pope of any sort).

Anyhoo, I had a post in mind (picture already done) with exactly that good experience. It was at a gas station too, and both women behind the counter were maskless. They did have a bunch of plexiglass, the normal anti-bullet type around.

Yes, maybe most of the wives are more concerned - can't be too careful!

I liked your recycled joke the 1st time. Perhaps later, it becomes like those recycled-plastic boardwalks at the beach that I think are going to start falling apart from the UV and make a big mess after a while (more than natural wood).

There was a big a garbage incinerator somewhat in the South many years ago, but it had some big fire (as in not part of the process), which caused a permanent shutdown.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 8:23AM MST
PS The ironic thing is that for most purposes SSL/TLS, like recycling is simply a "feel-good" measure. Unless you are at work trying to hide your browsing from your boss, very few people are in a position to intercept your data before the endpoint (and even with TLS they know your endpoint IP). Man in the middle data capture is almost never how bad actors get your data. Usually the use phishing or URL/domain hijacking and long ago developed phishing schemes that avoid invalid certificate warnings.

TLS mostly just adds extra processing load to all the servers involved.

I mean, think about it If you are posting here, everyone sees what you post anyway. What are you hiding in transport?

If our gracious host gets hacked on the server side, the server has access to all the decrypted data and the TLS does nothing.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 7:55AM MST
PS: Mr. Ganderson, that was a coincidence you wrote your comment just now. I did have my SSL certificate expire on my (no, I don't read so much email)

Mr. Adam Smith, paging Mr. Adam Smith: This is an easy job, but I'd like your advice on whether to just pay 8 bucks a year to Comodo (are they trustworthy), or do you have an open source deally that's simple. I need simple, honestly!

It's not the $8, but its the paying by card, that leads me to want to go open source.

Yes, for all here, thank you for bringing this up. This probably won't stop frequent readers, for long, but new readers would probably close the window and GTFO. I gotta take care of this soon.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 7:52AM MST
PS Oh, and Mr. Moderator, Safari is telling me that your site “may not be safe”. Figured you might want to know.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 7:49AM MST
PS. Greetings, fellow stupids, from Central Minnesota, Crow Wing County, to be more precise!

Ray of hope: Last night, on our way from MSP to Nisswa, MN, we stopped at a Holiday gas station/convenience store in Royalton, MN, hometown of the late former Dolphins’ center Jim Langer. The gal working there was maskless! As a result so was I, although Mrs. Ganderson put on her face diaper. She works in higher education, so...

IIRC: incineration is illegal or at least frowned upon in most jurisdictions, no? Seems a sensible solution to me.

And I know that at least a few of you here remember when virtually all beverages came in, not just returnable bottles, but REFILLABLE bottles. Did it just become cheaper to make the “no deposit, no return” containers? Or was the environmental cost of recycling (of a sort) socialized by “Big Beverage”?

More reports from a blue part of a red state to come.
There’s a recycling club at the school where I used to teach- I. Used to joke that I should be a member, because I reused the same jokes every year (including that one). I also used to call them the (“Padding My Resume to Impress the Admission Office at Williams and Amherst“ Club)
No one disputed my characterization.

Wednesday - October 7th 2020 6:31AM MST
PS: Just to add to that bout of virtue signaling by moi, I will say that we, bring a big can to the road (well, actually, I'm the one doing it) to the road only once in 2 months rather than weekly. It might stink a bit, but I just like efficiency. I wait till it's packed.

Granted, that saved more money and work before the engineers designed those strap-grappling hydraulic lifts for the trucks. As I wrote in my early "Sustainable Stupidity" post, I wish they WOULD go by weight. That would not only encourage re-use, efficiency in shopping, etc, but that would let the free market reign again. I see one problem in that people may offload into others' trash cans, but there are probably computer-tech ways around that, if the neighbors aren't so trustworthy.

Wednesday - October 7th 2020 6:26AM MST
PS: Hello all PSers!

As I wrote, I'm pretty sympathetic to the environmental movement, but some things not only don't pay, but they end up being nothing but virtue signaling.

We generate lots of organic trash at our house*, as eat so much fruit and veggies and don't end up with all the plastic and other trash from packaging of all the other items not on the fringe of the grocery store. We throw it all in the backyard. It's unfortunately not very orderly, but we do have what should be a lot of good soil for a garden (just had hardly any sunlight till recently)

I also break down every cardboard box and put it in the recycling. I have a post on bottled water, but don't get me started (with my wife again) on "2,000 freakin' years ago, the Romans had pipes. Why are we going backwards?!" Here:"

I grew up with parents who didn't believe in wasting anything, and that's the way we are too. To me, it irks me to waste stuff rather than my being worried about the landfills.

Hey Robert, these transfer stations do amazing stuff with the trash in terms of sorting (watched a lot of "mighty machines" videos with my boy when he was smaller. Perhaps the best way would be to just sort stuff there and take separate loads to separate areas of the landfill. That is, rather than people having 4 or 5 cans to sort to, then the recycling truck may have to be more manual again (i.e. more $$)

* I'm not trying to brag as health nuts, but my wife knows I NEED to eat healthy for reasons.
Wednesday - October 7th 2020 12:00AM MST
PS: Mr Smith, that is a really good version of 'house of the rising sun', but Joan Baez (before Dylan got his hands on her) is still my favorite:

For the combination of modern female beauty and purity of voice:

As I get older, I find that most music has 'too many notes'.
Tuesday - October 6th 2020 11:43PM MST
PS: Mr. Smith,

You said:
Food and yard waste make great compost.

Yes. For the last 50 years my Mother has had a compost pile. About ten years ago, when my parents moved to a somewhat rural location, small animals eating (and scattering) the compost became a problem. Foxes really like watermelon (and other) rinds.
Adam Smith
Tuesday - October 6th 2020 11:18PM MST
PS: ☮
Adam Smith
Tuesday - October 6th 2020 11:10PM MST
PS: Good evening Robert, Mr. Moderator...

Food and yard waste make great compost.

Plastic and tires should probably be incinerated at very high temperatures in giant kilns and the heat used for something productive like manufacturing portland or to generate electricity.

Surely there is a way to economically recycle most metal, even relatively inexpensive metal like aluminum. If so many of the costs of mining were not externalized the scrap would be more valuable.

Tuesday - October 6th 2020 8:45PM MST
PS: Although I can see no short-term economic benefit, I would like to see trash separated into categories before burial. Plastic; metal; paper, food waste, yard waste; maybe a couple others --- bury them in different places. A hundred years or so, and we could recycle then, when we have better technology and a more pressing need (assuming we are still here). At the very least, the food waste might make good fertilizer.
WHAT SAY YOU? : (PLEASE NOTE: You must type capital PS as the 1st TWO characters in your comment body - for spam avoidance - or the comment will be lost!)