Azara Blog: Lib Dems publish more recycling propaganda in Cambridge

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Date published: 2005/10/23

The Lib Dems are keen on dropping propaganda through the door every now and again. The latest example, the Cambridge Herald number 15, a 4-page tabloid-sized newsletter, arrived a day or two ago. It's the usual kind of stuff. For example, the Lib Dems now seem to be opposing the upgrade to the A14. (Having discovered that if you have more cars on the A14 this means you probably also have more cars in Cambridge, and you can't possibly have that, since we're so precious, or at least the rich residents of Huntingdon Road are. Of course the traffic projections are almost certainly wrong, but that is another matter.)

This past week the Lib Dems have changed the way rubbish is picked up in Cambridge. Instead of a pick up every week we now have the rubbish picked up every other week, and in the alternate weeks plastic bottles are now picked up. (There is also an every-other-week picking up of organic waste and glass/tins/paper.) What a wonderful town Cambridge is, so wonderfully "green". Unfortunately this idea of picking up plastic bottles is rather controversial. So what do the Lib Dems say in the Cambridge Herald about this:

Lib Dem plans for plastic recycling in Cambridge will cut emissions - the main cause of global warming. Estimates for the plastic collections show that the City Council will collect over 450 tons of plastic bottles in the coming year. With the oil content of plastic at over 60%, the oil saving is at least ten times the 25-30 tons of diesel which the bin lorries will use collecting the plastic bottles from the blue boxes.

Wouldn't you be embarrassed publishing such drivel? Apparently the MP for Cambridge, David Howarth, a Lib Dem, is not, since his face is plastered all over the newsletter so presumably he agrees with the content. Let's see, the Lib Dems are claiming there are around 250 to 300 tons of "oil content" in the plastic bottles they are recovering. Well of course this is the amount of oil saved only if the plastic bottles miraculously (and with no cost of energy) make it back to the manufacturers who used the bottles in the first place and they can re-use them (with no additional cost of energy). Needless to say this does not happen. Indeed the Labour Party in Cambridge supposedly has claimed that the bottles are being shipped to China. And who knows what will happen to them once they arrive there. Supposedly they will be "recycled", perhaps they might just be dumped. How much energy does "recycling" in China cost, and does it actually save any oil when the total sum is done? Indeed, on the other side of the equation, just quoting 25 to 30 tons of diesel is also misleading. How many tons of oil are required to make that? And what about all the indirect energy costs, such as maintenance of the collection vehicles and labour costs. (So-called environmentalists and most transport planners also make this mistake when calculating the energy cost of so-called public transport, since they only count the direct energy cost and never the vast indirect costs.) All in all, the Lib Dem claim is not worth the paper it is printed on.

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