Economies of Scale – #WATWB

Economies of Scale

A couple lawyer friends and I have decided to meet weekly to talk about plastics recycling. Ever since I was in law school, so many moons ago, I’ve been thinking about this issue and am disappointed that our government still hasn’t taken it on.  So we’re going to draft a little recycling bill and see what happens next.

Now before you go rolling your eyes 🙄 about already having too many laws on the books, let me just say this about that. Nobody in business ever does anything just to be nice. If there’s no ROI – return on investment – then it’s not going to happen no matter how much of a goody do-gooder is in charge. Even Ben and Jerry’s wants to see a profit.

So how do you convince people that plastics recycling is important, probably on the top ten list of important things if we are ever going to reverse the dire predictions of doom and gloom that have come to depict 21st century society?

Without a recycling law, you don’t.  And here’s another fun fact:  a law with no enforcement authority is just a suggestion, and we are way past the time for that kind of experiment.

The typical definition of economy of scale is “a proportional saving in cost gained by an increased level of production,” meaning, for example, the more widgets you make the less they cost to make because all your set up costs will be incurred only once. What if we turned this concept on its side and applied it to recycling? What would that look like?

Well, for starters, virgin products would cost more than recycled ones — because of a tax scheme, of course — which would encourage business to buy recycled plastics. For such a big change to work, though, the government has to be involved because they are the only ones who can write laws and make people pay taxes.

On the island of Dominica, the government is not only banning some single use plastics like straws, utensils, plates and styrofoam, but they are also making their island climate-change ready by burying utility lines and generally increasing the island’s sustainable nature.  Why are they taking such extraordinary measures?  Well, a year after Hurricane Maria, Dominica is still working through the aftermath and the rubble.  They see the future and it looks like more of the same so they are taking steps to ensure the next hurricane doesn’t wipe them out for good.

What if we could get a few other countries to follow their lead?  Maybe we could make a dent in this climate change crisis thing coming in hard and fast.  Let’s get our economies of scale hats on and find a way to make recycling profitable for the consumers, manufacturers, recyclers and end users.  If the tiny island of Dominica can do it, so can the rest of us.

I’ve created this post for the monthly We Are the World Blogfest.

Our co-hosts for this month’s #WATWB are:
Sylvia McGrath,
Susan Scott,
Shilpa Garg,
Eric Lahti,
and Belinda Witzenhausen.  Please head over to their pages and read awhile.

pam lazos 6.29.19

About Pam Lazos

writer, blogger, environmentally hopeful
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33 Responses to Economies of Scale – #WATWB

  1. Excellent, Pam! Considering how many plastics are already in the system, no business can tell me they don’t have enough recyclable material. It’s out there. But you’re right that the gov’t has to make the incentive for businesses to jump onto recycling.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ally Bean says:

    Interesting how so many people understand what the problem is with plastic, but few are able to change the ways in which we, as a society, use it. Your post is a good reminder that it’s the small things that we each do that’ll help [I hope] in the long run. What a mess, eh?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. All the recycling in the world is useless unless we stop the production of lasting at source: and that needs some very strict and effective laws. Good on you for working on this.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. cath says:

    Yes, please. When you’ve got it moving in your system, spread the word, please. Our government only thinks about green issues occasionally, and are very good with empty promises. Good luck, though I’m sure you’ll be making your own.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Pam, a definitive write on bureaucracy. Bravo!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I think its a great idea having a recycling law, but I find so much that we buy can’t be recycled anymore. I also like the idea of making plastics etc. out of stuff that will break down like in a year. Wouldn’t it be great if they made disposable diapers that once used start to break down. Look at all the diapers in the land fields!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. hilarymb says:

    Hi Pam – great idea … you’ve probably seen the “Please Tax Us More, 19 U.S. Billionaires Plead In Letter To Presidential Candidates: We “enjoy uncommon fortunes, but each of us wants to live in an America that solves the biggest challenges of our common future,” notes the plea.” I read the article in the BBC by Ian and Liesel Symons (I have no idea who they are … but obviously have a conscience) …

    Plastic is so ‘invasive’ it’s used for everything … and is everywhere … but every little helps. Great idea to write up your bill – good luck …

    Also you’ll probably develop something appropriate for your area than can more easily be applied … good luck – cheers Hilary

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Meredith Pool Burnett says:

    Our landfill recently published an article noting that recycling of glass and aluminum is profitable, while plastics operate at a tremendous loss. They also noted that if there is food or liquid residue which contaminates the plastic aka 1/2″ olive oil in bottom of bottle contaminates rest of items that whole thing goes to landfill anyway. I’m currently focusing on elimination of use. Buying soda in cans or glass bottles. Buying any products I can (lotion, mayonnaise, etcetera) in glass instead of plastic. It is often more expensive. In Connecticut they have “vending” machines where you can take your glass and plastics for a .3 or .5 cent return (I may be wrong on the amount; haven’t looked in awhile) on anything returned to be recycled. They pay you to recycle! We could be doing much much better.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pam Lazos says:

      Yay for Connecticut! They should be doing that everywhere. The plastic bottle recycling rate is only like 10% or something. Imagine what a vending machine to return bottles would reap if they were everywhere!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Susan Scott says:

    Banning of single use plastics would be a great way to start – and when given a straw with your cool drink, refuse it and pull out your own transportable one … there are plenty of them around, made of bamboo, glass etc. Likewise with your take away coffee. The container may be made of eg a recyclable material but the lid probably isn’t … take your own thermos. There is much the individual can do. It would be great if laws were passed to ban the use of single use plastic … thanks Pam, always food for thought 🙂 x

    Liked by 2 people

  10. TanGental says:

    Hey what a splendid idea. More power to your elbow!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ken Dowell says:

    Can’t see this happening here on the national level. There are towns that have banned single-use plastic bags. So maybe in some states a recycling bill could work.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pam Lazos says:

      I really believe that some things are so important that they need to be handled at the national level — so I guess that makes me a federalist, Ken — things like the environment and women’s and civil rights. If we left those things to the states we may be in worse shape than we are now. You can see just in the last 2.5 years how the devolution of the federal govt. has opened the space for allowing the states to do the same. It’s heartbreaking. :0(

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Jan Groft says:

    You go, girlfriend! Your energy and commitment are amazing & a great example for all of us! xo

    Liked by 2 people

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