Is green really green?

There are two trends that are becoming increasingly prevalent, both claiming to help save the environment, but for both of which I haven’t seen sufficient data to show whether this is indeed the case. They are: household recycling and electric cars.

For household recycling, there are a number of environmental costs associated with the model. The garbage truck that picks the orange bags up from outside our house each week makes a fair racket and I assume uses fuel along the way. The men that work that truck also have an associated carbon footprint. Once at the recycling centre, the materials needs to be sorted before the process begins to turn those recycled bottles, newspaper, tin cans etc. into a recycled item, a process that also demands energy. My question: is the environmental impact of this process in producing, say, a recycled bottle, less than that associated with producing a similar unrecycled bottle from its raw materials? And if so, by what percent?

Similarly, electric cars are marketed based on their environmental credentials. But the majority of electricity in the UK is produced by burning fossil fuels. Whilst I appreciate that long term, electric cars will give us the opportunity to fuel them in a greener way, as an increasing proportion of the Grid’s energy is sourced from wind farms etc., I’d like to understand the current relative impact of a petrol/diesel car and an electric or hybrid car.

Maybe the data’s there and I haven’t found it. But I fear that the data does not paint a particularly rosy picture, and is therefore not made available. I hope this supposition is wrong.

By Dan on 13 August, 2011 · Posted in General

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