Friday, December 10, 2010

Voluntary "Recycling"

As I'd written previously, I don't think the concept of "recycling" is useful, as it doesn't really distinguish itself from typical economic activity. And of course the idea of forced "recycling" is always wrong and uneconomic.

What some advocates of "recycling" neglect is that when people value the output of a process more than the inputs (i.e. when the benefits outweigh the costs) they voluntarily act to reuse goods. Here's an example of this from Japan where people are beginning to recycle rare earth elements because they've become relatively scarce (due mostly to Chinese distorting the market via subsidies and quotas).
It takes two Hitachi Ltd. workers eight minutes to slice open the metal casing of the used air conditioner compressor. The prize inside: four wafer-thin magnets containing about 30 grams of rare earth metals.

...

Besides Hitachi’s project, Tokyo-based chemical maker Showa Denko KK in May opened a plant in Vietnam to begin recycling dysprosium and didymium metal used to make magnetic alloys. The company, the world’s biggest producer of some components used in hard disk drives, makes 8,000 tons of the alloys a year and plans output of 800 tons at the recycling factory.

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