Monday, 18 June 2018

Storing resources for the future

In this week's NBR, I made the case for storing materials until it proves economical to recycle them. I think that is consistent with Auckland Council's declared zero-waste mission.

Think about bauxite deposits. Some of those deposits are economical to mine now for aluminium production; some may become worth mining in the future. It would be a mistake to try and pull all of the bauxite out of the ground today just because somebody doesn't like that it's sitting down there in the ground, waiting to be pulled out later when it's profitable to pull it out. Prices do a great job in helping people figure out which deposits should be saved for later.

Some waste materials are eminently profitable to recycle now. Copper is so profitable to recycle that some folks try pulling it from live power lines. But other materials are not currently profitable to recycle.

I suggest that we should store those materials safely, in a clay-lined hole, covered up so they cannot blow away and cause issues elsewhere. That the fee for storing the materials should cover the costs of building and maintaining the storage facility. And that doing things that way minimises overall waste - just as we waste resources mining difficult bauxite deposits before their time, so too do we waste resources when trying to recycle difficult materials before technology has made that recycling profitable.

Those with a subscription can read it here.

One reader emailed me to note that if tip resource storage facility fees are too high, it can encourage illegal dumping. He's right. I like how Christchurch handled that problem when I first moved there: each household gets 26 rubbish resource storage bags free for the year, but has to pay for any extras.

The problem shouldn't be too big though where tip resource storage facility fees aren't that high. But it could be more substantial if tip resource storage facility fees were set to punish evil rather than to just recoup the costs of running a tip resource storage facility.

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