Tuesday, July 19, 2005

One man's trash 

...says the son of parents who've made a living the last twenty years by speculating on other people's stuff at a yard sale and putting it antique malls in New England. All economic exchange is about getting goods from lower-valued uses to higher ones. Thos who interfere in the process do so at risk of reducing human happiness. Such a case is found in this review of a book about rubbish.
The classic case is the fridge mountain. Your old fridge used to be taken away by the supplier of the new one, refurbished and sent to Africa. This brought benefits to the consumer, the exporter and the Nigerian housewife, with no apparent harm to the environment.

But then we found out about CFCs and the hole in the ozone layer. In 1998 the EU announced that with effect from January 2002 old fridges could no longer be exported and would only be allowed to go to landfill after 'controlled substances' were removed. Brussels took three years to answer a query about whether it was just the cooling-motor or the insulation as well that had to be stripped out before disposal. Whitehall did not see fit to prepare local authorities for both contingencies, with the result that we were not ready when the ban came into force. England's green and pleasant land became dotted with piles of rusting white goods.

So instead of recycled refrigerators in Africa we have piles of garbage in the UK, still with CFCs.

(h/t: Arts and Letters Daily.)